Wherein Andy Green Lies To A Lady





In the soft-creeping dusk came Andy Green, slouched in the saddle with

the weariness of riding since dawn; slouched to one side and singing,

with his hat far back on his head and the last of a red sunset tinting

darkly the hills above him. Tip-toe on a pinnacle a great, yellow star

poised and winked at him knowingly. Andy's eyes twinkled answer as he

glanced up that way. "We've got her going, old-timer," he announced

lazily to the star.



Six miles back toward the edge of the "breaks" which are really the

beginning of the Badlands that border the Missouri River all through

that part of Montana, an even five hundred head of the Flying U's best

grade cows and their calves were settling down for the night upon a

knoll that had been the bed-ground of many a herd. At the Flying U

ranch, in the care of the Old Man, were the mortgages that would make

the Happy Family nominal owners of those five hundred cows and their

calves. In the morning Andy would ride back and help bring the herd upon

its spring grazing ground, which was the claims; in the meantime he was

leisurely obeying an impulse to ride into One Man coulee and spend

the night under his own roof. And, say what you will, there is a

satisfaction not to be denied in sleeping sometimes under one's own

roof; and it doesn't matter in the least that the roof is made of

prairie dirt thrown upon cottonwood poles. So he sang while he rode, and

his voice boomed loud in the coulee and scared long stilled echoes into

repeating the song:



"We're here because we're here, because we're here,

because we're here,



"We're here because we're here, because we're here,

because we're here--"



That, if you please, is a song; there are a lot more verses exactly

like this one, which may be sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne with much

effectiveness when one is in a certain mood. So Andy sang, while his

tired horse picked its way circumspectly among the scattered rocks of

the trail up the coulee.



"It's time you're here, it's time you're here,

It's time that you were here--"



mocked an echo not of the hills.



Andy swore in his astonishment and gave his horse a kick as a mild hint

for haste. He thought he knew every woman-voice in the neighborhood--or

had until the colony came--but this voice, high and sweet and with a

compelling note that stirred him vaguely, was absolutely strange. While

he loped forward, silenced for the moment, he was conscious of a swift,

keen thankfulness that Pink had at the last minute decided to stay in

camp that night instead of accompanying Andy to One Man. He was in

that mood when a sentimental encounter appealed to him strongly; and a

woman's voice, singing to him from One Man cabin, promised undetermined

adventure.



He did not sing again. There had been something in the voice that held

him quiet, listening, expectant. But she also was silent after that

last, high note--like a meadow lark startled in the middle of his song,

thought Andy whimsically.



He came within sight of the cabin, squatting in the shadow of the grove

at its back. He half expected to see a light, but the window was

dark, the door closed as he had left it. He felt a faint, unreasoning

disappointment that it was so. But he had heard her. That high note that

lingered upon the word "here" still tingled his senses. His eyes sent

seeking glances here and there as he rode up.



Then a horse nickered welcomingly, and someone rode out from the deeper

shadow at the corner of the cabin, hesitated as though tempted to

flight, and came on uncertainly. They met full before the cabin, and the

woman leaned and peered through the dusk at Andy.



"Is this--Mr. Mallory--Irish?" she asked nervously. "Oh dear! Have I

gone and made a fool of myself again?"



"Not at all! Good evening, Miss Allen." Andy folded his hands upon the

saddle horn and regarded her with a little smile, Keen for what might

come next.



"But you're not Irish Mallory. I thought I recognized the voice, or I

wouldn't have--" She urged her horse a step closer, and Andy observed

from her manner that she was not accustomed to horses. She reined as if

she were driving, so that the horse, bewildered, came sidling up to him.

"Who are you?" she asked him sharply.



"Me? Why, I'm a nice young man--a lot better singer than Irish. I guess

you never heard him, did you?" He kept his hands folded on the horn, his

whole attitude passive--a restful, reassuring passivity that lulled her

uneasiness more than words could have done.



"Oh, are you Andy Green? I seem to connect that name with your

voice--and what little I can see of you."



"That's something, anyway." Andy's tone was one of gratitude. "It's two

per cent. better than having to tell you right out who I am. I met you

three different times, Miss Allen," he reproached.



"But always in a crowd," she defended, "and I never talked with you,

particularly."



"Oh, well, that's easily fixed," he said. "It's a nice night," he added,

looking up appreciatively at the brightening star-sprinkle. "Are you

living on your claim now? We can talk particularly on the way over."



Miss Allen laughed and groped for a few loose hairs, found them and

tucked them carefully under her hatcrown. Andy remembered that gesture;

it helped him to visualize her clearly in spite of the deepening night.



"How far have you ridden today, Mr. Green?" she asked irrelevantly.



"Since daylight, you mean? Not so very far counting miles--We were

trailing a herd, you see. But I've been in the saddle since sunrise,

except when I was eating."



"Then you want a cup of coffee, before you ride any farther. If I get

down, will you let me make it or you? I'd love to. I'm crazy to see

inside your cabin, but I only rode up and tried to peek in the window

before you came. I have two brothers and a cousin, so I understand men

pretty well and I know you can talk better when you aren't hungry."



"Are you living on your claim?" he asked again, without moving.



"Why, yes. We moved in last week."



"Well, we'll ride over, then, and you can make coffee there. I'm not

hungry right now."



"Oh." She leaned again and peered at him, trying to read his face. "You

don't WANT me to go in!"



"Yes, I do--but I don't. If you stayed and made coffee, tomorrow you'd

be kicking yourself for it, and you'd be blaming me." Which, considering

the life he had lived, almost wholly among men, was rather astute of

Andy Green.



"Oh." Then she laughed. "You must have some sisters, Mr. Green." She was

silent for a minute, looking at him. "You're right," she said quietly

then. "I'm always making a fool of myself, just on the impulse of the

moment. The girls will be worried about me, as it is. But I don't want

you to ride any farther, Mr. Green. What I came to say need not take

very long, and I think I can find my way home alone, all right."



"I'll take you home when you're ready to go," said Andy quietly. All at

once he had wanted to shield her, to protect her from even so slight an

unconventionality as making his coffee for him. He had felt averse to

putting her at odds with her conventional self, of inviting unfavorable

criticism of himself; dimly, because instinct rather than cold analysis

impelled him. What he had told her was the sum total of his formulated

ideas.



"Well, I'm ready to go now, since you insist on my being conventional.

I did not come West with the expectation of being tied to a book of

etiquette, Mr. Green. But I find one can't get away from it after all.

Still, living on one's own claim twelve miles from a town is something!"



"That's a whole lot, I should say," Andy assured her politely, and

refrained from asking her what she expected to do with that eighty

acres of arid land. He turned his tired horse and rode alongside her,

prudently waiting for her to give the key.



"I'm not supposed to be away over here, you know," she began when they

were near the foot of the bluff up which the trail wound seeking the

easiest slopes and avoiding boulders and deep cuts. "I'm supposed to

be just out riding, and the girls expected me back by sundown. But I've

been trying and trying to find some of you Flying U boys--as they call

you men who have taken so much land--on your claims. I don't know that

what I could tell you would do you a particle of good--or anyone else.

But I wanted to tell you, anyway, just to clear my own mind."



"It does lots of good just to meet you," said Andy with straightforward

gallantry. "Pleasures are few and far between, out here."



"You said that very nicely, I'm sure," she snubbed. "Well, I'm going

to tell you, anyway--just on the chance of doing some good." Then she

stopped.



Andy rode a rod or two, glancing at her inquiringly, waiting for her to

go on. She was guiding her horse awkwardly where it needed only to be

let alone, and he wanted to give her a lesson in riding. But it seemed

too early in their acquaintance for that, so he waited another minute.



"Miss Hallman is going to make you a lot of trouble," she began

abruptly. "I thought perhaps it might be better for you--all of

you--if you knew it in advance, so there would be no sudden anger and

excitement. All the settlers are antagonistic, Mr. Green--all but me,

and one or two of the girls. They are going to do everything they can to

prevent your land-scheme from going through. You are going to be watched

and--and your land contested--"



"Well, we'll be right there, I guess, when the dust settles," he filled

in her thought unmoved.



"I--almost hope so," she ventured. "For my part, I can see the

side--your side. I can see where it is very hard for the cattle men to

give up their range. It is like the big plantations down south, when

the slaves were freed. It had to be done, and yet it was hard upon those

planters who depended on free labor. They resented it deeply; deeply

enough to shed blood--and that is one thing I dread here. I hope, Mr.

Green, that you will not resort to violence. I want to urge you all

to--to--"



"I understand," said Andy softly. "A-course, we're pretty bad when we

get started, all right. We're liable to ride up on dark nights and shoot

our enemies through the window--I can't deny it, Miss Allen. And if it

comes right to a show-down, I may as well admit that some of us would

think nothing at all of taking a man out and hanging him to the first

three we come to, that was big enough to hold him. But now that ladies

have come into the country, a-course we'll try and hold our tempers

down all we can. Miss Hallman, now--I don't suppose there's a man in the

bunch that would shoot her, no matter what she done to us. We take pride

in being polite to women. You've read that about us, haven't you, Miss

Allen? And you've seen us on the stage--well, it's a fact, all right.

Bad as we are, and wild and tough, and savage when we're crossed, a lady

can just do anything with us, if she goes at it the right way."



"Thank you. I felt sure that you would not harm any of us. Will you

promise not to be violent--not to--to--"



Andy sat sidewise in the saddle, so that he faced her. Miss Allen could

just make out his form distinctly; his face was quite hidden, except

that she could see the shine of his eyes.



"Now, Miss Allen," he protested with soft apology "You musta known what

to expect when you moved out amongst us rough characters. You know I can

make any promises about being mild with the men that try to get the best

of us. If you've got friends--brothers--anybody here that you think a

lot of Miss Allen, I advise you to send 'em outa the country, before

trouble breaks loose; because when she starts she'll start a-popping.

I know I can't answer for my self, what I'm liable to do if they bother

me; and I'm about the mildest one in the bunch. What the rest of the

boys would do--Irish Mallory for instance--I hate to think, Miss Allen.

I--hate--to--think!"



Afterwards, when he thought it all over dispassionately, Andy

wondered why he had talked to Miss Allen like that. He had not done

it deliberately, just to frighten her--yet he had frightened her to a

certain extent. He had roused her apprehension for the safety of her

neighbors and the ultimate well-being of himself and his fellows. She

had been so anxious over winning him to more peaceful ways that she had

forgotten to give him any details of the coming struggle. Andy was sorry

for that. He wished, on the way home, that he knew just what Florence

Grace Hallman intended to do.



Not that it mattered greatly. Whatever she did, Andy felt that it would

be futile. The Happy Family were obeying the land laws implicitly,

except as their real incentive had been an unselfish one. He could not

feel that it was wrong to try and save the Flying U; was not loyalty a

virtue? And was not the taking of land for the preservation of a fine,

fair dealing outfit that had made itself a power for prosperity and

happiness in that country, a perfectly laudable enterprise? Andy

believed so.



Even though they did, down in their deepest thoughts, think of the

Flying U's interest, Andy did not believe that Florence Grace Hallman or

anyone else could produce any evidence that would justify a contest for

their land. Though they planned among themselves for the good of

the Flying U, they were obeying the law and the dictates of their

range-conscience and their personal ideas of right and justice and

loyalty to their friends and to themselves. They were not conspiring

against the general prosperity of the country in the hope of great

personal gain. When you came to that, they were saving fifty men from

bitter disappointment--counting one settler to every eighty acres, as

the Syndicate apparently did.



Still, Andy wondered why he had represented himself and his friends to

be such bloodthirsty devils. He grinned wickedly over some of the things

he had said, and over her womanly perturbation and pleading that they

would spare the lives of their enemies. Oh, well--if she repeated half

to Florence Grace Hallman, that lady would maybe think twice before she

tackled the contract of boosting the Happy Family off their claims. So

at the last he managed to justify his lying to her. He liked Miss Allen.

He was pleased to think that at least she would not forget him the

minute he was out of her sight.



He went to sleep worrying, not over the trouble which Florence Grace

Hallman might be plotting to bring upon him, but about Miss Allen's

given name and her previous condition of servitude. He hoped that she

was not a stenographer, and he hoped her first name was not Mary; and

if you know the history of Andy Green you will remember that he had a

reason for disliking both the name and the vocation.





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