Truth Crushed To Earth Etc





Andy, only half awake, tried to obey both instinct and habit and reach

up to pull his hat down over his eyes, so that the sun could not shine

upon his lids so hotly; when he discovered that he could do no more than

wiggle his fingers, he came back with a jolt to reality and tried to sit

up. It is surprising to a man to discover suddenly just how important a

part his arms play in the most simple of body movements; Andy, with his

arms pinioned tightly the whole length of them, rolled over on his face,

kicked a good deal, and rolled back again, but he did not sit up, as he

had confidently expected to do.



He lay absolutely quiet for at least five minutes, staring up at the

brilliant blue arch above him. Then he began to speak rapidly and

earnestly; a man just close enough to hear his voice sweeping up to a

certain rhetorical climax, pausing there and commencing again with a

rhythmic fluency of intonation, might have thought that he was repeating

poetry; indeed, it sounded like some of Milton's majestic blank

verse, but it was not. Andy was engaged in a methodical, scientific,

reprehensibly soul-satisfying period of swearing.



A curlew, soaring low, with long beak outstretched before him, and

long legs outstretched behind cast a beady eye upon him, and shrilled

"Cor-reck! Cor-reck!" in unregenerate approbation of the blasphemy.



Andy stopped suddenly and laughed. "Glad you agree with me, old sport,"

he addressed the bird whimsically, with a reaction to his normally

cheerful outlook. "Sheepherders are all those things I named over,

birdie, and some that I can't think of at present."



He tried again, this time with a more careful realization of his

limitations, to assume an upright position; and being a persevering

young man, and one with a ready wit, he managed at length to wriggle

himself back upon the slope from which he had slid in his sleep, and, by

digging in his heels and going carefully, he did at last rise upon his

knees, and from there triumphantly to his feet.



He had at first believed that one of the herders would, in the course

of an hour or so, return and untie him, when he hoped to be able to

retrieve, in a measure, his self-respect, which he had lost when the

first three feet of his own rope had encircled him. To be tied and

trussed by sheepherders! Andy gritted his teeth and started down the

coulee.



He was hungry, and his lunch was tied to his saddle. He looked eagerly

down the coulee, in the faint hope of seeing his horse grazing somewhere

along its length, until the numbness of his arms and hands reminded him

that forty lunches, tied upon forty saddles at his side, would be of no

use to him in his present position. His hands he could not move from his

thighs; he could wiggle his fingers--which he did, to relieve as much

as possible that unpleasant, prickly sensation which we call a "going to

sleep" of the afflicted members. When it occurred to him that he could

not do anything with his horse if he found it, he gave up looking for it

and started for the ranch, walking awkwardly, because of his bonds, the

sun shining hotly upon his brown head, because his hat had been knocked

off in the scuffle, and he could not pick it up and put it back where it

belonged.



Taking a straight course across the prairie, he struck Flying U coulee

at the point where the sheep had left it. On the way there he had

crossed their trail where they went through the fence farther along

the coulee than before, and therefore with a better chance of passing

undetected; especially since the Happy Family, believing that he was

forcing them steadily to the north, would not be watching for sheep. The

barbed wire barrier bothered him somewhat. He was compelled to lie down

and roll under the fence, in the most undignified manner, and, when he

was through, there was the problem of getting upon his feet again. But

he managed it somehow, and went on down the coulee, perspiring with the

heat and a bitter realization of his ignominy. What the Happy Family

would have to say when they saw him, even Andy Green's vivid imagination

declined to picture.



He knew by the sun that it was full noon when he came in sight of the

stable and corrals, and his soul sickened at the thought of facing that

derisive bunch of punchers, with their fiendish grins and their barbed

tongues. But he was hungry, and his arms had reached the limit of

prickly sensations and were numb to his shoulders. He shook his hair

back from his beaded forehead, cast a wary glance at the silent stables,

set his jaw, and went on up the hill to the mess-house, wishing tardily

that he had waited until they were off at work again, when he might

intimidate old Patsy into keeping quiet about his predicament.



Within the mess-house was the clatter of knives and forks plied by

hungry men, the sound of desultory talk and a savory odor of good

things to eat. The door was closed. Andy stood before it as a

guilty-conscienced child stands before its teacher; clicked his teeth

together, and, since he could not open the door, lifted his right foot

and gave it a kick to strain the hinges.



Within were exclamations of astonishment, silence and then a heavy

tread. Patsy opened the door, gasped and stood still, his eyes popping

out like a startled rabbit.



"Well, what's eating you?" Andy demanded querulously, and pushed past

him into the room.



Not all of the Happy Family were there. Cal, Jack Bates, Irish and

Happy Jack had gone into the Bad Lands next to the river; but there were

enough left to make the soul of Andy quiver forebodingly, and to send

the flush of extreme humiliation to his cheeks.



The Happy Family looked at him in stunned surprise; then they glanced at

one another in swift, wordless inquiry, grinned wisely and warily, and

went on with their dinner. At least they pretended to go on with

their dinner, while Andy glared at them with amazed reproach in his

misleadingly honest gray eyes.



"When you've got plenty of time," he said at last in a choked tone,

"maybe one of you obliging cusses will untie this damned rope."



"Why, sure!" Pink threw a leg over the bench and got up with cheerful

alacrity. "I'll do it now, if you say so; I didn't know but what that

was some new fad of yours, like--"



"Fad!" Andy repeated the word like an explosion.



"Well, by golly, Andy needn't think I'm goin' to foller that there

style," Slim stated solemnly. "I need m' rope for something else than to

tie n' clothes on with."



"I sure do hate to see a man wear funny things just to make himself

conspicuous," Pink observed, while he fumbled at the knot, which was

intricate. Andy jerked away from him that he might face him ragefully.



"Maybe this looks funny to you," he cried, husky with wrath. "But I

can't seem to see the joke, myself. I admit I let then herders make

a monkey of me.... They slipped up behind, going down into Antelope

coulee, and slid down the bluff onto me; and, before I could get up,

they got me tied, all right. I licked one of 'en before that, and

thought I had 'en gentled down--"



Andy stopped short, silenced by that unexplainable sense which warns us

when our words are received with cold disbelief.



"Mh-hm--I thought maybe you'd run up against a hostile jackrabbit, or

something," Pink purred, and went back to his place on the bench.



"Haw-haw-haw-w-w!" came Big Medicine's tardy bellow. "That's more

reasonable than the sheepherder story, by cripes!"



Andy looked at them much as he had stared up at the sky before he began

to swear--speechlessly, with a trembling of the muscles around his

mouth. He was quite white, considering how tanned he was, and his

forehead was shiny, with beads of perspiration standing thickly upon it.



"Weary, I wish you'd untie this rope. I can't." He spoke still in that

peculiar, husky tone, and, when the last words were out, his teeth went

together with a snap.



Weary glanced inquiringly across at the Native Son, who was regarding

Andy steadily, as one gazes upon a tangled rope, looking for the end

which will easiest lead to an untangling.



Miguel's brown eyes turned languidly to meet the look. "You'd better

untie him," he advised in his soft drawl. "He may not be in the habit of

doing it--but he's telling the truth."



"Untie me, Miguel," begged Andy, going over to him, "and let me at this

bunch."



"I'll do it," said Weary, and rose pacifically. "I kinda believe you

myself, Andy. But you can't blame the boys none; you've fooled 'em till

they're dead shy of anything they can't see through. And, besides, it

sure does look like a plant. I'd back you single-handed against a dozen

sheepherders like then two we've been chasing around. If I hadn't felt

that way I wouldn't have sent yuh out alone with 'em."



"Well, Andy needn't think he's goin' to stick me on that there story,"

Slim declared with brutal emphasis. "I've swallered too many baits,

by golly. He's figurin' on gettin' us all out on the war-path, runnin'

around in circles, so's't he can give us the laugh. I'll bet, by golly,

he paid then herders to tie him up like that. He can't fool me!"



"Say, Slim, I do believe your brains is commencin' to sprout!" Big

Medicine thumped him painfully upon the back by way of accenting the

compliment. "You got the idee, all right."



Andy stood quiet while Weary unwound the rope; lifted his numbed arms

with some difficulty, and displayed to the doubters his rope-creased

wrists, and purple, swollen hands.



"I couldn't fight a caterpiller right now," he said thickly. "Look at

them hands! Do yuh call that a josh? I've been tied up like a bed-roll

for five hours, you--" Well, never mind, he merely repeated a part of

what he had recited aloud in Antelope coulee, the only difference being

that he applied the vitriolic utterances to the Happy Family instead of

to sheepherders, and that with the second recitation he gained much in

fluency and dramatic delivery.



It is not nice for a man to swear; to swear the way Andy did, at any

rate. But the result perhaps atoned in a measure for the wickedness, in

that the Happy Family were absolutely convinced of his sincerity, and

the feelings of Andy greatly relieved, so that, when he had for the

third time that day completely exhausted his vocabulary, he sat down and

began to eat his dinner with a keen appetite.



"I don't suppose you know where your horse is at, by this tine," Weary

observed, as casually as possible, breaking a somewhat constrained

silence.



"I don't--and I don't give a darn," Andy snapped back. He ate a few

mouthfuls, and added less savagely: "He wasn't in sight, as I came

along. I didn't follow the trail; I struck straight across and came down

the coulee. He may be at the gate, and he may be down toward Rogers'."



Pink reached for a toothpick, eyeing Andy side-long; dimpled his cheeks

disarmingly, and cleared his throat. "Please don't kill me off when you

get that pie swallowed," he began pacifically. "Strange as it may seem,

I believe you, Andy. What I want to know is this: Who owns them Dots?

And what are they chasing all over the Flying U range for? It looks

plumb malicious, to me. Did you find out anything about 'en, Andy, while

you--er--while they--" His eyes twinkled and betrayed him for an arrant

pretender. (Pink was not afraid of anything on earth--least of all Andy

Green.)



"I will kill yuh by inches, if I hear any remarks out of yuh that

ain't respectful," Andy promised, thawing to his normal tone, which was

pleasant to the ear. "I didn't find out much about 'em. The fellow I

licked told me that Whittaker and Oleson owned the sheep. He didn't

say--"



"Well--by--golly!" Shin thrust his head forward belligerently.

"Whittaker! Well, what d'yuh think uh that!" He glared from one face

to the other, his gaze at last resting upon Weary. "Say, do yuh reckon

it's--Dunk?"



Weary paid no heed to Slim. He leaned forward, his face turned to Andy

with that concentration of attention which means so much more than mere

exclamation. "You're sure he said Whittaker?" he asked.



His tone and his attitude arrested Andy's cup midway to his mouth.

"Sure--Whittaker and Oleson. I never heard of the outfit--who's this

Whittaker person?"



Weary settled back in his place and smiled, but his eyes had quite lost

their habitually sunny expression.



"Up until four years ago," he explained evenly, "he was the Old Man's

partner. We caught him in some mighty dirty work, and--well, he sold

out to the Old Man. The old party with the hoofs and tail can't be

everywhere at once, the way I've got it sized up, so he turns some of

his business over to other folks. Dunk Whittaker's his top hand."



"Why, by golly, he framed up a job on the Gordon boys, and railroaded

'em to the pen, just--"



"Oh, that's the gazabo!" Andy's eyes shone with enlightenment. "I've

heard a lot about Dunk, but I didn't know his last name--"



"Say! I'll bet they're the outfit that bought out Denson. That's why old

Denson acted so queer, maybe. Selling to a sheep outfit would make the

old devil feel kinda uneasy, talking to us--" Pink's eyes were big and

purple with excitement. "And that train-load of sheep we saw Sunday,

I'll bet is the same identical outfit."



"Dunk Whittaker'd better not try to monkey with me, by golly!" Slim's

face was lowering. "And he'd better not monkey with the Flying U either.

I'd pump him so full uh holes he'd look like a colander, by golly!"



Weary got up and started to the door, his face suddenly grown careworn.

"Slim, you and Miguel better go and hunt up Andy's horse," he said with

a hint of abstraction in his tone, as though his mind was busy with more

important things. "Maybe Andy'll feel able to help you set those posts,

Bud--and you'd better go along the upper end of the little pasture with

the wire stretchers and tighten her up; the top wire is pretty loose, I

noticed this morning." His fingers fumbled with the door-knob.



"Want me to do anything?" Pink asked quizzically just behind him. "I

thought sure we'd go and remonstrate with then gay--"



Weary interrupted him. "The herders can wait--and, anyway, I've kinda

got an idea Andy wants to hand out his own brand of poison to that

bunch. You and I will take a ride over to Denson's and see what's going

on over there. Mamma!" he added fervently, under his breath, "I sure do

wish Chip and the Old Man were here!"





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