A Man And His Job

: The Range Boss

Just what Ruth's sensations were the next morning she could not have

told. She could correctly analyze one emotion: it was eager anticipation.

Also, she could account for it--she wanted to see Randerson. But her

reason for wanting to see him was a mystery that she could not fathom,

though between the time of arising and the moment when she got downstairs

she devoted much thought to it. She knew she did not like Randerson well

enough to wish to see him merely on that account--that was ridiculous, in

spite of the vivid recollection of him that still lingered with her, for

she had met him only once, and she assured herself that she was too

practical-minded to fall in love with anyone at first sight. Yet by

afternoon Ruth had tired of waiting; she had no special reason for

certainty that Randerson would arrive that day, and so she went riding.

She went alone, for Masten seemed to have hidden himself--at least, she

could not find him. She rode to the break in the wall of the canyon that

he had told her about, found it, sent her pony through it and over a

shallow crossing, emerging at length in a tangle of undergrowth in a wood

through which wound a narrow bridle path. She followed this for some

distance, and after a while came to a clearing. A little adobe house

stood near the center of the clearing. Ruth halted her pony, and was

debating whether to call out or to ride boldly up, when a dog came out of

the door of the cabin, growling, its hair bristling belligerently. The

dog was big, black, and undoubtedly savage, for the pony instantly

wheeled, and when the dog came closer, lashed out with both hind hoofs at


"Nig, you ol' duffer, git in hyeh where you b'long! Can't you see that

that there's a lady!" came a voice, unmistakably feminine. And the dog,

still growling, but submissive, drew off.

Ruth urged the pony on and rode the remaining distance to the door. A

girl, attired in a ragged underskirt and equally ragged waist of some

checkered material, and a faded house-apron that was many sizes too small

for her, stood in the open doorway, watching. She was bare-footed, her

hair was in tumbling disorder, though Ruth could tell that it had been

combed recently. But the legs, bare almost to the knees, were clean,

though brown from tan, and her face and arms glowed pink and spotless, in

spite of the rags. In her eyes, as she watched Ruth, was a strange

mixture of admiration and defiance.

"Dad ain't hyeh this mornin'," she volunteered as Ruth climbed off her


"I came to see you," said Ruth, smiling. She threw the reins over the

pony's head and advanced, holding out a hand. "I am Ruth Harkness," she

added, "the new owner of the Flying W. I have been here almost a month,

and I just heard that I had a neighbor. Wont you shake hands with me?"

"I reckon," said the girl. Reluctantly, it seemed, she allowed Ruth to

take her hand. But she drew it away immediately. "I've heard of you," she

said; "you're a niece of that ol' devil, Bill Harkness." She frowned. "He

was always sayin' dad was hookin' his doggoned cattle. Dad didn't steal

'em--ol' Bill Harkness was a liar!" Her eyes glowed fiercely. "I reckon

you'll be sayin' the same thing about dad."

"No indeed!" declared Ruth. "Your dad and I are going to be friends. I

want to be friends with you, too. I am not going to charge your dad with

stealing my cattle. We are going to be neighbors, and visit each other. I

want to know your dad, and I want you to come over to the Flying W and

get acquainted with my aunt and uncle. Aren't you going to invite me

inside? I would if you came to visit me, you know." She smiled winningly.

The girl flushed, and cast a glance at the interior of the cabin, which,

Ruth had already noted through the open door, was scantily furnished but

clean. Then the girl led the way in, motioned Ruth to a chair near a

rough-topped table, and stood over beside a cast-iron stove, her hands

hanging at her sides, the fingers crumpling the cloth of the ragged

apron. Her belligerence had departed; she seemed now to be beginning to

realize that this visit was really meant to honor her, and she grew

conscious of her rags, of the visible signs of poverty, of the visitor's

raiment, gorgeous in comparison with her own--though Ruth's was merely a

simple riding habit of brown corduroy.

Ruth had set out for this visit with a definite intention: she wanted to

discover just how the girl and her father lived, and if conditions were

as she suspected she was determined to help them. Conditions were worse

than she had expected, but her face gave no indication. Perhaps Ruth's

wisdom was not remarkable where men were concerned, but she had a wealth

of delicacy, understanding and sympathy where her own sex was in

question. She stayed at the cabin for more than an hour and at the end of

that time she emerged, smiling happily, her arm around the girl, with the

girl's pledge to visit her soon and an earnest invitation to come again.

Best of all, she had cleverly played upon the feminine instinct for fine

raiment, slyly mentioned a trunk that she had brought with her from the

East, packed to the top with substantial finery which was not in the

least needed by her--an incumbrance, rather--and which, she hinted, might

become the property of another, if suitable in size.

The girl followed her to the edge of the clearing, walking beside the

pony. There they took leave of each other, a glow in the eyes of both

that gave promise of future sincere friendship.

"Good-bye, Hagar," said the Flying W girl.

"Good-bye, lady," said the girl. "Ruth," she changed, as the Flying W

girl held up an admonishing finger. And then, with a last smile, Ruth

rode down the bridle path homeward, pleasure and pity mingling in her


Randerson reached the Flying W ranchhouse late in the afternoon. He rode

first to the bunkhouse, and seeing nobody there he made a round of the

buildings. Still seeing no one, he urged Patches toward the house, halted

him at the edge of the front porch and sat in the saddle, looking at the

front door. He was about to call, when the door opened and Uncle Jepson

came out. There was a broad grin on Uncle Jepson's face.

"I cal'late you've got here," he said.

"Looks mighty like it," returned the horseman. "You reckon my new boss is

anywheres around?"

"She's gone off ridin'," Uncle Jepson told him. "It's likely she'll be

back shortly."

"I reckon I'd better wait," said Randerson. He wheeled Patches.

"There's plenty of sittin' room on the porch here," invited Uncle Jepson,

indicating the chairs.

"Thank you--reckon the bunkhouse will be my quarters."

He spoke to the pony. Uncle Jepson spoke at the same instant, and Patches


"I cal'late you'd better wait here."

"If you insist," said Randerson. He swung off and walked to the edge of

the porch, grinning mildly at Uncle Jepson. The handclasp between them

was warm, for Uncle Jepson had been strongly attracted to this son of the

plains; and the twinkle in Randerson's eyes as his met Uncle Jepson's was

not to be mistaken.

"So Vickers has gone," said Randerson as he dropped into a chair. "He's a

mighty fine man."

"Willard wanted Chavis to have his job," whispered Uncle Jepson.

"You don't say!" Randerson's eyes gleamed. "An' Miss Ruth didn't want

him, I reckon." He caught Uncle Jepson's nod. "She's allowin' that she's

goin' to be boss. But of course she would," he added. He stood up, for

Aunt Martha had opened the door and was standing in it, looking at him.

He removed his hat and bowed to her, his eyes gleaming with something

near affection, for Aunt Martha had found a place in his heart. He

stepped forward, took her hand, and escorted her to the largest and most

comfortable of the rockers on the porch, and when she sat down she looked

up at him and smiled.

"I reckon you like it here?" he said gently to Aunt Martha.

"I like it very much. But there are differences--after Poughkeepsie. One

doesn't notice them so much at first."

"I expect you find it sort of rough here," he said, looking at her. "They

tell me that in the East folks live pretty close together--that there's

conveniences. There ain't a heap of conveniences here." He pronounced the

word slowly and laboriously. It was plain that he was trying to put on

his best manners.

"No--no conveniences," said Aunt Martha. "But it's a wonderful country,

my boy--wonderful!"

A pulse of something shot through him at the word, "boy."

"I'm glad you like it," he said gravely.

Aunt Martha folded her hands in her lap and looked long at him over the

rims of her glasses. There was interest in her eyes, and kindliness. For

she saw something in this figure of a new type that sat before

her--something that the two big guns, at his hips did not hint at--nor

his leather chaps, the cartridge belt, the broad hat, the spurs, the

high-heeled boots, the colored scarf at his throat. These things were the

badges of his calling, and were, of course, indispensable, but she saw

them not. But the virile manhood of him; the indomitability; the quiet

fearlessness, indicated by his steady, serene eyes; the rugged, sterling

honesty that radiated from him, she saw--and admired. But above all she

saw the boy in him--the generous impulses that lay behind his mask of

grimness, the love of fun that she had seen him exhibit at Calamity.

"You were born here?" she asked.

"In Colfax, ma'am."

"Is that a city?"

"Bless yu', ma'am, no. It's a county."

"And you were born on a ranch, then."

"Yes, ma'am."

She was asking questions that a man would not have dared to ask him, and

he was answering them as a boy might have answered. It did not seem an

impertinence to him or to her, so great was her interest in him, so deep

was his admiration of her.

"And your parents?"

"Both dead, ma'am." A shadow crossed his face, a look of wistfulness, and

she abruptly ceased questioning. And when, a little later, they saw Ruth

coming across the plains toward them, Aunt Martha got up. He held the

screen door open for her, and she paused on the threshold and patted his

bare head.

"If I had had a son, I could have wished he would be like you," she said.

He blushed crimson. "Why, ma'am--" he began. But Aunt Martha had gone in,

and he turned to face Ruth, who was dismounting at the edge of the porch.

"Oh!" she said, as though his appearance had surprised her, though she

had seen him from afar, "you are here already!"

"I expect it's me, ma'am," he said gravely. "You see, Wes Vickers stopped

at the Diamond H last evenin', an' I come right over."

It was quite evident that he would not attempt to be familiar. No longer

was he the free lance rider of the plains who had been at liberty to

exchange words with her as suited his whim; here was the man who had been

given a job, and there stood his employer; he would not be likely to step

over that line, and his manner showed it.

"Well," she said, "I am glad you decided to come right away; we miss

Vickers already, and I have no doubt, according to his recommendation,

that you will be able to fill his place acceptably."

"Thank you, ma'am. I reckon I'm to take up my quarters in the bunkhouse?"

He paused. "Or mebbe the foreman's shanty?"

"Why," she said, looking at him and noting his grave earnestness, so

strikingly in contrast to his wild frolicksomeness at Calamity that day.

"Why, I don't know about that. Vickers stayed at the ranchhouse, and I

suppose you will stay here too."

"All right, ma'am; I'll be takin' my war-bag in." He was evidently

feeling a slight embarrassment, and would have been glad to retreat. He

got his war-bag from its place behind the saddle, on Patches, shouldered

it, and crossed the porch. He was opening the door when Ruth's voice

stopped him.

"Oh," she said, "your room. I forgot to tell you; it is the one in the

northwest corner."

"Thank you, ma'am." He went in.

"Come down when you have straightened around," she called to him, "I want

to talk with you about some things."

"I'll have to put Patches away, ma'am," he said, "I'd sure have to come

down, anyway."

That talk was held with Uncle Jepson looking on and listening and smoking

his pipe. And when it was over, Randerson took the saddle and bridle off

Patches, turned him loose in the corral and returned to the porch to talk

and smoke with Uncle Jepson.

While they sat the darkness came on, the kerosene lamp inside was

lighted, delicious odors floated out to them through the screen door.

Presently a horseman rode to the corral fence and dismounted.

"One of the boys, I reckon," said Randerson.

Uncle Jepson chuckled. "It's Willard," he said. He peered into

Randerson's face for some signs of emotion. There were none.

"I'd clean forgot him," said Randerson.

Masten came in a few minutes later. He spoke a few words to Uncle Jepson,

but ignored Randerson.

Supper was announced soon after Masten's entrance, and Uncle Jepson led

Randerson around to the rear porch, where he introduced him to a tin

washbasin and a roller towel. Uncle Jepson also partook of this luxury,

and then led the new range boss inside.

If Ruth had any secret dread over the inevitable meeting between Masten

and the new range boss, it must have been dispelled by Randerson's

manner, for he was perfectly polite to Masten, and by no word or sign did

he indicate that he remembered the incident of Calamity.

Ruth watched him covertly during the meal, and was delighted to find his

conduct faultless. He had not Masten's polish, of course, that was not to

be expected. But she noticed this--it was quickly impressed upon her--he

was not self-conscious, but entirely natural, possessing the easy grace

of movement that comes of perfect muscular and mental control. He seemed

to relegate self to the background; he was considerate, quiet, serene.

And last--the knowledge pleased her more than anything else--he continued

to keep between himself and the others the bars of deference; he made

them see plainly that there would be no overstepping his position. It was

his job to be here, and he had no illusions.