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The Belle Of San Miguel

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It was down on the Pecos that Capt. Dick Mos'.er first met and adopted him. Capt ( Dick was riding over from the X Bar X ranch to the Barzee, of wbich hewas the general manager, one pleasant morning in October, and had just reached the ford by : the Laberde grant, intendinz to cross the river, when npon the opposlte bank he spied a stranger. A citizen oí New Mexico approaohes his fellow man with caution. Almost the first thing an acquaintance with the best society in that country teaches him is narrowly to inspect a chance comrade, and i to loosen his pistol in its holster when coming within range. And so, before starting his horse into the water, Capt Dick had a look at the man across the stream. The two were not very far apart - flfty yards or so, for the Pecos was not wide there - and at that distance Dick saw that the other was a tall, gaunt man of about 50. His face was partly hidden behinda thin, scraggy beard that grew randomly out of a dark, sun burnt skin; a tangled forest of hair hung from his chin, while his cheeks were like the open prairie, with only an occasional sage brush spear to break the monotony. Tlie j narrowness of his face was accentuated by ; two small eyes, set in close to either side of a thin, pointed nose;and his head covering still further exaggerated this effect, for in place of the customary sombrero he wore a small, i knit skull cap that fitted tight to his head. This cap had once been black, but the sun and the rain had faded it until it had become a rusty brown, and so near the color of his clayey hair that at a glance he appeared to be bareheaded. Altogether the first impression he created was his resemblance to a straight Jine - length without breadth or thickness. But he seemed harmless enough, and Capt. Dick started to cross the river, giving bis bronco a needless touch with the steel to basten him. When he reached the bank, and halted there a moment, the stranger gravely saluted him, and said slowly : "Mornin' cap - it's 'bout 'leven o'clock, ain't it?" A nearer view disclosed several things that Dick had not noticed before - his dress for one thing. A ragged, faded velveteen jacket ineffectually covered the upper part of his person, while his lower limbs were cased in a pair of heavy leather "shapps." They had evidently been made for a much shorter man than their present owner, for there was a yawning gap between the lower ends and the deer skin moccasins that covered his feet He was armed cap-a-pie, with a Winchester carbine over his shoulder, a heavy Colt's forty-flve revolver and a knife at his waist, and enormous rusty spurs, with jingling chains on his feet His saddle had once been a gorgeous affair of stamped leather, with silver trimmings, one a grandes might have used ; but no w it was tattered and torn, hopelessly beyond respectability. The leather was worn away in huge patches and the naked wood of the tree appeared unblushingly in sight. The horse matched the saddle and the rider. Altogether the stranger looked like a bandit who had beeu unf ortunate in business, yet his smile was cherubic in its sweetness. "If you're goin' to Santy Kosy, we might ride 'long together," be said in a mild voice, and, although Dick much preferred to go alone, he assented and they rode on. "I heard teil down to the Cross Circle Diamond ranch that they was wantin' a cook up to the Barzee," the stranger said, slowly, "so I just pulled my freight to strike the job. Know if it's sof' "Yes, it is so," Dick answered; "I'm from the Barzee myself. Can you cook?" "Yes," he said, slowly; "I kin cook, if you ain't too perticler. I ain't fond of cookin', but I kin do it. I kin fry beef, make a tol'able sallyratus biscuit, an' a middlin' fair pie outen most anythin'. But I ain't enjoyed cookin' much since I reformed. I used to be as bad as any of 'em," he continued, leaving Dick in some doubt as to whether he referred to his cooking or his moráis, "but I Been th' error of my way an' stopped on tb.' brink. I got religión" - he spoke of it as if it were an article he had purchased- "I got religión with a feller I was herdin' sheep with down on the Gallinas four year ago. He let me into the ways of the righteous an' I'm walkin' in the straight path now an' f orevermore. Leastways, I'm walkin' when I ain't ridin'," he adeed, solemnly and accurately. They soon reached Santa Rosa. Capt, Dick had to stop there a short time on business with the blacksmith and the harness maker (the two were one in Santa Rosa), and so, riding up in front of the Maveriek Inn, he dismounted. His uew friend called af ter him: "I reekon Til just nachally wait 'round till you come out, an' look over the sights." A half hour later Dick walked out to hil horse, drawing on his gloves preparatory to mounting, and then discovered that his new companion had a weakness. In the language of Governor Walker, "he was gellorious." He had employed his half hour well, and he stood at that moment leaniug heavily against a post and singing in lugubrious and waverjng tones: "Touched with a sympathy within, How weak our feeble frame.'' Dick was puzzled at first to know what to do with him. He had previously determined to take him to the ranch, for he did need a cook there, yet when he saw his condition he hesitated. Not just because the man was drunk, lookiiig from a moral standpoint, but because, being drunk, he was difBcult of transportation. But Dick knew that a cowboy eau of ten ride when he cannot walk; so with a little assistance he rolled the stranger into his saddle and the two started. For the first few miles they proceeded on a walk; then, as the stranger grew slightly sober, and his seat in the saddle became more assured, they brote into a trot and were riding at this gait when, making a sudden turn in the road, around the poKit of a mesa, they carne upon a herd of burros, driven by three Mexicans; two boys and an old man. ïliese buri'iedly ecattered out of the way, and as the two riders rattled by, the old man saluted them with a respeetful: "Buenos dias, señores!" They had passed (them but ai few yards when Dick's companion pulled up, and turning to him, said with drunken gravity: "Did ye see tha' greaser make face 't mef He 'sult me, an' lm goin' t' rebuke 'im," and he unslung bis rifle. "No, nol he didn't make a face at you," Dlck said, endeavoring to quiet him; "that was at me." "Thas' all ri', but ain't you goin' t'ave as'fas'hun?" "No, not now; to-morrow, perhaps." "Thas' all ri', but you're my frien' an' goo' fier, an' I'll 'ave sas'fas'hun for you," and before Dick could stop him the stranger threw his rifle to his shoslder and fired. It was a chance shot, of course, but it was a true one, and down went the old man and the burro he was riding, both apparently dead. The avenger of bis honor lookod smilingly at ! Dick, and then at his victims, lying in the ' dust, and said pleasantly: "Th' man t' wont do that f ur fren aint worth name o' man. i How'a that fur a shot, ehr Dick was seriously alarmed, for not only did he realizo the sin of killing an unarmed man, even in New Mexico, but he knew the fellow countrymen of the victim would work I reprisals on him by stealing his stock and annoying his men in every possible way. And he was still more disturbed when he saw his companion preparing to shoot again. "Hold on!" hecried; "you've killed him; that's enough. You'd better get out of here now, as quick as you can." "lied him all ri', on'y he ain't th' one. Í Here goes fur 'nuther- wash th' lili fier jump." And Dick had just time to strike up the muzzle of the rifle when it was discharged again. Then, in desperation, he eized his companion's bridle, and facing him down the road, laid his "cuert" smartly uver the horse's back, and in another moment they had rattled out of sight around a turn In the road. It afterwards turned out that the buiTO was killed, but the Hexican was unhurt beyond a very bad fright. That evening the men sat around the fire In the bunk room at the ranch house, tolking and passing the time as usual. The new arrival had been installed as cook, with a monthly compensatiou of $40 and board, i and he was at that moment in the kitchen attending to his duties. Jim Carroll, the oreman - who was popularly believed to ossess fine literary acquirements, shameully wasted in cow punching - was quite aken with the cook's appearance and with 3apt. Dick's adventure of the morning, and ie declared that henceforth the newcomer should be known as Don Quixote de Santa losa, whieh name was adopted by acclamation, and promptly shortened to Don. Day by day the men learned to like the Don. He had such a modest way about him; he was never blustering, never Drofane. but alwavs auiet and cheerful. He iras not didactic or puritanical, but he had a angular habit of interspersing seriptural seections through his conversations that at Irst was very puzzling to the men. He did his without the slightest notion of the inconjruity, or of the unpleasant effect it had on ome, for he did it all in a deeply reverent way. He never drank again, and was deeply tnortified at his one unfortunate lapse. It is true he could not cook- true, indeed, that he made worse failures than any cowboy ever coade bef ore - but, somehow, no one could find fault with him. "Them biscuits hev got consid'able sallyratus in 'em, I expect," he used to say, apologetically, as he daily laid a pan of heavy, Baffron colored lumps of dough ou the table, "but it seems to take a heap of it t' opérate on this flour. I cal'late there's f our parts sallyratus to three of flour - fear ye not death - but you won't mind it with a littleraw onion and plenty o' salt." His mode of cooking beef, too, was darkly mysterious. There would appear on the table, three times a day, a dingy, blackened pan, filled with a something or other, floating in melted grease, and as the Don laid it down he would smile benevolently, seeming to say that no one could guess what that contained, DOt if he were to try a week. "Th1 foundation fur it is fried beef,-'he would say, "but there is other things in it tur to give it twang - I bring ye good tidings of great joy - such as chopped pertaties an' pork. It's got consid'able nourishment into it, though it dont look so very good." One day there was great excitement at the Barzee - the Don had been tbere about four months then - for a neighbor rode up and reported that there was to be a dance the next night at the "Widder Davis'," four miles up os Tanos. The "widder" was the relict of the late Jim Davis, who came to an untimely end some ive years before by reason of thepistol's missing fire. Besides the "widder," Davis had eft behind him a son and a daughter. The ion was a harum scarum fellow, even for a sow puncher; the "widder" was admitted to be a rustier. As for the daughter, Mirandy, she was the belle of San Miguel county. Few who saw her could resist her fascinations. She was none of your sickly, wee things; that kind does not flourish on the frontier. No, Mirandy was stout, strong and handsome withaL And yet, frontier born and bred though she was, she had all the coquettish ways that some think are only acquired by a society training, but which are, in truth, as much a part of woman's make op as her back hair. It was a liberal áon to see Mirandy modestly drop her eyeIid3 when one of her admirers was touching an dangerous ground, or to hear lier say, "Get along now, Bill, or I'll lam ye," and to note thestalwart cuff she administered to Bill if he attempted to steal a kiss. Admirers she had by the score, soitors by the dozen, but never an accepted lover among them all. She was believed to be heart whole and fancy free, a condition which added an indefluable charm to her society. Of course, such an event as a dance was hailed with pleasure, and every one at once made ready. There was a greasing of boots, and a polishing of spürs, and a dusting of clothing all that day and the next. The time for starting was impatiently waited. but at last it came, and the party was off- a cavalcade of six, iucluding the Don. The dance did not difïer greatly from the usual affairs of that kind. No one was shot, no one was even physically hurt, but there was one of the party who was apparently wounded In a serious way. I refer to the Don, and the Don's very susceptible heart. The attentions that he lavisbed upon both the widder and Mirandy that night were the cause of much remark. With what grace did he lead the matron out on the floor, and take his place at the head of the reel; with what a stately bow did he salute her, as the accordion and fiddle struck up "Money Musk;" with what ease and dignity did he guide his buxom partner down the middle, his huge spurs and chaina playing a jingling accompaniment to the music, and then, wheu the danca was over, how gallantly did he lead her to a' seat and hurry tö get her some negus. To seo him you'd have tbouglit he was a carpet night born and bred, instead of the cook of the Barzee ranch. And then, when he appealed to Miss Mirandy for the favor of her hand in the bolero, how cleverly he showed his versatility. With the dame he had been dienified; with the maiden he was as agile and gracef ui as José Garcia, the handsome yfung Mexican, said to be the best dancer and the worst liar in San Miguel county. The other dancen paused to watch the two as they swayed and pirouetted to the music, and when, at last, Ure Btopped, chewed tbm rightly hartdi)r. Itwould beworth agood deal to you could you have seen the gallant way in which the )on led his breathless partner to a seat, and tood by her side, fauning her with a huge lalm leaf that raised such a breeze in the oom as to blow out one of the lights. And uot the worst part of it all, either, was to see ;he sa vage scowl that carne over José Garcia's warthy face at flnding himself beaten by a cook. The Don treated Joes's ill humor with he haughty disdain that it merited- and led out Mirandy to supper. As they rode back to the ranch af ter the ball was over, the Don was the only silent one in the party. He was evidently turning something over in his mind, and gave no heed to what was said to him, though Jim Carroll swore that he heard him mutter to himself something about maiden's tears and lover's fears, and so it was promptly agreed that the Don was in love. The effect of his new attachment became at once notieeable in his cooking. lnstead of the biscuits having four parts saleratus to three of flour, the proportion became as flve to two. His "Irish stew" degenerated into gomething beyond belief or description; his dishes were never washed. "I don't want you waddys to git too blame finicky - take no thought 'bout what ye shall eat," he explained. "Look here. Don !" roared Jim one morning, as the Don absent mindedly emptied a pot of boiling coffee on his wrist; "what d'ye mean? I ain't a cup!" "I know it, Jimmie, I know it," said the Don, mildly; "fight ye the good flght- ril make some more in a minute," and Jim had to be contented with that apology. Every evening after supper the Don would mount Rozinante and ride away to court his Sulcinea del Taños. No one ever knew what ime he returaed, but he always had break!ast- of a certain kind - ready by sunrise. Se was extremely reticent about his affaira uid gave no hint coneerning them, nor could ;he men judge from his manner how he prospered. ït wasn't even known wbether it was ;he mother or the daughter he sought. But one morning he appeared at breakfast looking but the battered wreek of his formar selí. Dark circles of black framed his eyes, rad one was swoUen shut. His ve) veteen jacket was torn up the back and a sleeve was gone. His right wrist seemed to be sprained and he limped as he walked. He received the chaffing in silence. "Hullo, Don!" cried Rube, "what'g upf Widder must hev bin extry 'f ectionate last oight" "lt's all along of his bronk, that is," said Bhorty. "He's bin feedin' it some of his cussed sallyratus biscuit on the sly, till the beast got to feeiin' so good it most kicked the hèadoft"n him." The Don resolutely refused to disclose the cause of his dilapidated appearance, and went about his duties wearing a piece of raw beef tied over his eye, but otherwise as if nothing unusual had happened. But that evening, instead of mountiug Rozinante and riding away, he took his seat by the fire, and briefly told his story. "It'll set your minds at rest, maybe, if I teil you 'bout it," he said, "an' so 1 cal'iate to do it. That night - spell ago - whpn we went over to the Davis' to the dance, I was quite took with the lcoks of Mis' Davis an' Mirandy, an' I says to myself- like as not you need convertin', most every one does in this country - an' for brass will 1 give you gold, I says, yea, much gold, says I. Well, last night a young feller rode up an' got ofl"u his norse an' come in. The widder didnt eem to shine to him, but Mirandy called him Bobby." Here the Don paused, and repeated, thoughtfully: "Yes, sir, she called him Bobby, right before my eyes." Then resuming his story: "Well, he talked a goed deal, an' acted's if he owned San lligell county; indulgin' freely in ripartee an'other little things, till finaUy I says: 'My friend, ire you lookin' to be savedP an' then he says he wasn't thinkin' about himself, but he reckoned he'd hev to keep his eye on bis horse, so long as' I was about, If he wanted to save him. Then Mirandy laughed, so I turued to her an' I says: 'It would seern as if that young man's been poorly brought up; he's & Mexikin, ain't heV Well- that's 'bout ai: I distinetly remernber now; there's a interval In my life wbere all is naught." Here the Don made an attempt to smile tbat was lost tn the welling of his cheek. "Th1 only way you can be free with any one In this country is to get th' drop on him. I reckon I wont go there so of ten af ter this." And from that day his visits ceased altogether. Spring came at last, and with the -warmer weather came the usual work 011 the range. More riders were needed, and the Don was relieved from his duties as cook and sent out to look up stray cattla This change in his labors he hailed with pleasure, although it meant a loss of $10 a month and harder work. 'Tve allers held that cookln' warn't no proper business f ur a white man," he said; "but I done it - blessed are the meek- an' it's conquered my pride in great sbape." iTeparations tor che spring round up wer rapidly made; the wagons were examined and repaired, the horses were driven up f rom the pasture and corralled in a convenient place, new horses were broken in and old ones shod. Men were sent out over the range to examine the watering places, with orders to pull out of the boggy ground about them any Barzee cattle that had become mired and unable to extricate them'selves. These duties were both hard and disagreoable, not having either the excitement or the ! social pleasures incident to a round up, but the Don performed his part willingly. One morning he rode away from the ranch with instructions to examine oarefully a certain specified teiTitory that lay in the west. His route led up Los ïanos, and as he started, Rube, who was preparing to ride 6outh, called out to him, in uneoiiscious quotation of Tony Weller: "Beware o' th' widder, DonI" To which the Don replied, with a wave of his hand: "Thanks, Reuben - judge ye not others," and disappeared around a bend in the stream. It was the afternoon of the Becond day of hls excursión that found him approaching Horseshoe V 8 ranch. It had been a perfect day in April, that best of all months in New Mexico. The gramma grass had exchanged lts winter coat of silver for a fresher one of green ; the few trees that grew along the ri ver were bright In leaf and blossom. Even tba - - ..._ - _ , . . J"". .i omber sagebush had put off its mournful gray, and the cactus was gorgeous in its yellow flowers. The cattle, too, seemed to feel the benign influence of spring, and as the )on drew near, hurried helter skelter acros ihe vegas, followed infrisky content by their wabbly, long eared calves. The Don dismounted at the ranch house, and having unsaddled Rozinante and turned him into the corral, strode into the bunk room. "l'm from the Barzee," he said to one ol two occupants there, "an' I'll put up with y- the birds of the air hev nesta- tiü to-morrer." "Well," said one of the men, "what's the news over to the Barzee wayï" "Nothin' much," said the Don, as he took a seat on a bnnk and commenced to whittle. Bed time comes early at a ranch, and there were a dozen men packed away in the bunk room that night, when Texas, the foreman, shied his spurred boot at the candle. Yet, although the Don was tired, for he had ridden far and hard, he could not sleep. He was dissatisfled with his lot. He had a soul above his work, and yet he had succeeded in nothing else. He had always had a lofty ideal in woman- an ideal that had been rudely shaken several times, but still stood upright- aud yet he had not been fairly treated by the sex. There was that little incident at the Widder Davis'- he still recollected the details of that perfectly. Indeed, there were one or two black and blue spots on his bodv vet. Still, for all that, his rous regard f or woman - as woman - was unabated, though when you come to particularize- well, that was a different matter. He was partially roused from his rêverie by hearing a voioe over in the darkest corner oL the room say: . "Wal, Jim was sayin' you punched the feller's head till he didn't know nothin'." "Guess I didn't hurt him very much then, fur he didn't know nothin' afore." "Haw! haw! best I ever heard; must teil Jim that." "Why, the feller called me a Slenkin," eaid the second voice. 'Td a right t' pump l lead into him fur that, hedn't I?" "Surely, but Jim was sajón' you called the feller a boss thief." "Don't recoUec' 'bout that. Migbt 'a done bo; never coiüd recollec' littlo things." "Haw! hawl When did you say you was goin' to run the gal off V' "To morrer, I expec'. She'll be all alone up to the place. Th' widder's gone to Vegas, and Tom Da vis- well, you know him?" "Yes, I know him. So you cal'late to run her off to-morrow, when her nat'eral guardeen is away, eh, Bob?" "Yes, an' makO f or Santy Rosy." said Bob. "And I'd like mighty well if you could bt there then, Billy." The Don saw it all. This was the young man he had had thetrouble with at the widder's that nlght last wiuter, and now he was going to forcibly abduct Mirandy in the abienceof ber inother and brother. All the hivalry in the Don's nature was roused at ;his. He determinad to thwart thescheme and save the lovely damsel from the clutche of the viUain. Ho would- his thoughts were again interrupted. "How was you 'lowin' to do it, ïf it's a lalr luestion, Bob!" said the first voice. "It surely is. Why, I was just a-goin' to put her on a pony and then dust f or Santy iosy. I Cggered to foller the overland stage rail till we come to the Montezumy marshes, and then- cross lots. There is a path over that bog, near the spring, that only two felers- I and Rube Priday- know, an' I"ll save ive mile over follerin' the rud, that way. Shouldn't care to try it with a female gen"rally, but ez we ain't hed rain in sixnionths, t reckOD the bog ain't very shaky." "Yes, you can do it, I guess. Well, good night, Bob!" I "Well, good night, BU11 Sar, Billl" "Huh!" "You'd orter been there to the widder a that night and seen old Ten Commandments. One- two- three- down he went One- two - three- down again. No guns drawed ; iust stan' up an' knock down. Hawl haw!" The humor of the situation evidently appealed to Bill as well as Bob, and for some time nothing was heard but the sound of subdued chuckling. "Bill Ransoin!" said voice río. 2 at lengtn. ''I want you to be over to Santy Rosy tomorrow at 3 o'clock. You're goin' to stand by me, ain't you?" "You bet ril be there; if I ain't, I dont want anothercent in this world." Silenca folio wed for a wh i le; then Bill drewalong Blghand murniured; "Well, good night, Bob; good luck." "Well, good night, BUI, old boy," and the camp slept. n. Before sunrise the next morning the Don left the Horseshoe V 3 ranch. He had passed a sleepless night thinking over what he had heard, and as he placed his left foofc in the stirrup and mounted Rozinante, he pwore a reverential oath that, come what Tiight, Hirandy should be saved. It was true he had not been well treated either by the widder or Mirandy, he told hiinself again, yet love your enemies- be'd heap coals of fire on their heads and do them good Lor evil. That had beou his principie in life ever since he reformed. Besides, what man of spirit and honor could see such an oufrnge committed and not interfere? Eveü ïf the girl were a stranger to him, he could not do less than shoot the villain and restora her to her weeping family. But when she was his heart's ease- Mirandy 1 Rejoice, for the hour is at hand. He pulled out his carbine Trom its holster under his leg to see if it ivas all right. And yet, wasu't shooting too good for aman who would treat a woman as Bob Green was going to treat Mirandyí Shouldn't he be hanged? Then he examined the rawhide lasso that hung from his saddle hom, in painful doubt on this queïtion. He would iutercept the party at the Montezuina ei'ossing, he told himself, and show Bob Green that there was one man of honor and courage still left in San Miguel county. And he'd do the deed single handcd; perhaps Mirandy would smile "upon him a liít lo for that- perhaps she'd- marry him. B'hold th' bridegroom cometh- perhaps. His head grew dizzy at this thought, and he pushed his horse into a hard gallop and rode out of sight of the ranch. When the sim rose that morning it lit up a perfect day. Here and there on the rolling mesas stood a sentinel cactus or pinion that ! split up the yellow light into long lanes that lay sof tly on the lea. As the day grew older and the shadows shorter, one might have noticed a small, cumulus cloud in th west, bauging closo to the line where land andsky joined. This cloud gTewlarger and darker as it sailed up toward tho zenith, and others folio wed it until the bluo was bidden bebind tho ray. Then swift, zigzag streaki of gold darted from one part of tho heaveni to another, and dull, rumbling pcals of thunder followod the flashes. Tuero was a coming storm in April- au extraordinary occurrence in Naw Mexico. Dovru the road that ekirted Los Tanos might have been seen two persons - a man and woniaii - liding at full speed. The man sat bolt upi'ight in his saddle - a perpendicular line froui his shoulder would have touclied hia hip, lus knee and bis heel - and he ituck as close to the leather as if he had been tied there. Beside hún galloped the womiu, uiouutcl upoua spiritedchestaut mare, whlsl she rode on a side saddle. TTpon ber head she wore a huge white sombrero, tied tightly under ber chin, and from beneath this her hair had slipped and hung in masses down her back. Hor riding habit was a long, üowing skirt of some dark brown material, and her left foot- although concealod by ber dress - carried a spur, with which she now and then urged her steed onward. The man looked anxiously up at the sky, and turning to his compam'on, said: "Can't you git a little more outen the mare, Mirandy; We must git aci-oss the Montezumy bog afore the rain comes, if we want to git marrted thia year. Least bit o' water there'll make the mud too soft." "I don't 'low I kin do anythin' better, Bob," said Mira: dy; "still I'U try." She spurred the mustang again and again. To each prick of the steel the animal responded with a few vicious jumps, then settled back again into the lope. "It's no use, Bob," she said; "I can't git her outen this gait." "Well, we must take our chances, then," said Bob. "We can't turn back now; the widder '11 be af ter us in two hours with a possy." Before them stretched the low, flat expanse of the marsh, extending to the right and left for several miles. To look at, the surface of the bog appeared to be a hard crust, baked dry and stiff and covered with a white coatiug of alkali, through which grew no rnanner of living plant. So parched had the land become that it was split and seamed with cracks that yawned for moisture. Down through the middle of this desert flowed the sluggish stream that came from the Montezuma spring, a curious natural phenomenon that yielded a water as bitter and heavy as that of the Dead sea, yet, strange to say, nourished a row of trees, willow and pine, with here and there a scaly, narrow chested cypress that grew along the edges óf the creek. These trees were the only green things for miles; the land elsewhere presented a bare, desolate appearance. Across the bog there was a faint path which could be traversed in the dry season ; but once let the crust become wet, and it turned to a slimy mud that yielded to the weight of a man or horse, and gripped so tightly what it seized that self relief was impossible. Just before the two riders reached the edge of the bog, the storm which had been gathering all the morning suddenly burst upon them. Sharp flashes of lightning darted from one black cloud to another, and loud, rumbling thunder answered the flashes. Then came the rain. The man hurriedly sprang from his horse, and untying his "slicker," which he had carried tightly bound to his saddle, wrapped the huge yellow oil cloth coat about the girl, and mounting again, pulled bis sombrero down over his face. "Wal, we got to go on, Mirandy. No use stoppin' here. In half an hour the creek will be up so's we can't cross anyhow. How's your mare- skittish, least bit?' "Wal, yes, special when there's storm like this yer." "Wal, I reckon I'd better slip a backamoor over head an' lead her, then; jest give her a loóse rein an' she'll go all right." Thus they advanced across the bog. The rain poured down in sheets, as it does in the tropics. The water soon obliterated the path, and the dry earth greedily drank up the moisture. The ground grew sof ter and sof ter every moment. Twice Bob's horse sank to the knees, and once the mare narrowly escaped. But at length they reached the stream that flowed through the mareh and gave it its name. It was perhaps fifty feet wide; shallow, sluggish and evil looking, with rocky banks that gave refuge to innumerable rattlesnakes and lizards. Pausing a moment on the edge to assure himself that his companion was all right, Bob started to ride into the creek. "Don't you foller me, Mirandy," he said, "tül I pull on th' tug; the bottom's nasty 'long here, special since this rain begun." All this time the Don had been concealed in ambush a few yards off, and dripped disconsolately in the rain which was falling. He had reached his present position with great difficulty. The trail across thebog was quite unknown to him, and he had been obliged to dismount and lead his horse. The storm that followed had washed out hi8 tracks and prevented those who came after from suspecting his presence. He was too far away to hear what Bob said to Mirandy, but he could see her sad face- her eyes seemed big with tears- and her long, brown hair which hung down her back, resting in wet masses on the yellow "slicker," gave her the look of some lovely martyr maiden in the grasp of a vicious giant. He burned to distinguish himself, to rescue helpless virginity from the power of the monster. Not only was here an innocent femaJe being carried off by force, but she was his inamorata, Dulcinea del Tanos whom he had so loag worshiped, silently but faithfully. Hewatehed Bob ride into the stream;he saw his horse lifted off his feet and carried down by the flood current; he saw him recover a foothold again; then he heard Bob shoutto Mirandy: "Go back! go back!" and he realized that the horse was fast in the bog, for Bob was eutting him right and left with his heavy riding whip, while the animal was churning the water into foam in his frantic efforts to escape. Now was the Don's chance. There was the wicked monster, helpless to harm his Dulcinea, while here was he, her savior, free and unfettered. So touching Rozinante with bis heel, he dashed out from behind the chaparral and rode straight at Mirandy. She gave a little scream when she saw him coming; it was not like Mirandy to indulge in such feminine weakness, but jusfc then her nerves were quite upset. The Don endeavored to reassure her. "Fear not, maiden; fly with me. I will save you," he said, and he laid his hand upon her bridle rein. "Halt!" cried a voice. TheDonlooked up and his eye caughtsight of a shining object that seemed suspended in the air without support, like the coffln of Mahomet. It appeared to occupy space to the exclusión of everything else, for the Don could see nothing but the sinister looking which glistened behind it. He saw it was a pistol, and although he Bhowed no emotion, he mentally raved at his own raskness. He had stupidly put his head into the lion's mouth ; Bob had got the drop on him with a forty-ftve, at ten yards. A nice predicament, truly, for one who wished toappear well bef ore Mirandy, "What you raonkeyin' 'bout here fur?' asked Bob, stemly, and his gray eyes looked wickedas he snapped out his words. "Put yer hands up - put em up, I say!" The Don reluctantly obeyed. It was a most humiliating position for a knight like himself to be placed in - just as he was about to rescue bis Dulcinea - but what could he do? He was not afraid, he was simply vielding to oircumstauces. Bob's persuasive air and six sliooter- when he raised his hands and sat there on Rozinante, dripping from every angle. Bob studied the situation a moment. 'Wlat hed we better do, Mirandy?' he asked. "I've a notion to turn my f orty-five loose into him - fur mixin' himself up in fam'ly afïairs. How'd he get here, anyway?" "Better get outen that quag first, Bob," said Mirandy, with good sense; "you kin snoot him most any time." ' "That's 'bout so, I guess. Look here, you," he said to the Don, "wliat you hangin' round here fur, anyliow;" "I coine here to rescue Innercence - from a villain, au' to have- Vengeance," said the Don, with an effort, for his position, with his hands above his head, was a tiresome as well as a ridiculous one. "Hawt haw!" laughed Bob, hoarsely. "You seem to be doin' it in great shape. None o' that! Put 'eni up!" headded sharply, as the Don lowored hisaching arms a little. "Wal, you are a tenderfoot," said Mirandy, looking at him seornfuily. "Fust place, I ain't innercent, an' Bob ain't a villain. We're ou our way to Santy Rosy to get married!" Married! The Don was thunderstruck. He had not expected this. It was not an abduction, but au elopement after all. Here was he blocking the wheels of Love's chariot, when he beüeved he was pushing them out of the slough of despond. Mirandy going to marry BobI Then she could no longer be his Dulcinea! What should he do? At first he trembled with indecisión and doubt, but in a moment, like the true knight he was, he bowed to the lady's choice and saluted her gracefully. Mirandy watched his face attentively, and, as he bent forward in obeisance, said: "X reckon you kin put up your gun, Bob. He's all solid,1' and Bob returned his pistol to its holster. Then the Don sat manfully to work to smooth the path of true love, which thus f ar had been rough enough. If he could not be the very best man, he would be the next best, and he hurriedly untied the raw hide lasso that hung in a neat coil from the saddle horn, just in front of his right kuee. All this time Bob had been seated on his mired horse in midstream, quite powerless to help himself or his animaL The Don rode to the edge of the bank and said: "I cal'late to chuck this over ye, Bob, and git ye outen thar. Look out!" Bob nodded his acquiescence. Very deftly the Don swung the loop about his head, opening it at each turn with a gentle movement of his wrist, then, when it had acquired just the right mornentum, he let it slip from his hand. It went weaving and twisting through the air, and settled down over Bob's shoulders. Taking a turn of the free end about his saddle horn the Don backed Rozinante away from the stream and in another second Bob, wet and muddy, stood by Mirandy's side. The Don did notuing by halves, and when he saw Mirandy jump to the ground to greet her lover, he discreetly turned his head aside and endeavored, though ineffectually, not to hear the sounding smack that foliowed. That little matter over, once more he swung his lasso, and once more it shot snakily through the air. This time the open loop dropped over the head of the horse. Now the Don had his hands full; the animal reared, and struggled, and snorted, but the effect of the strong, steady pull was appareut in time, and at last the horse stood upon the bank muddy, trembling and weak. About 4 o'cloek that af ternoon a party of three rode into Santa Rosa. In spite of their wet and bedraggled appearance it wás plain that two of them were in excellent spirits. The third was silent and preoccupied. The rain had long since ceased; the warm sun had dispersed thé clou}s, and the blue sky was without spot or speek. The party rode straight to the little adobe chureh- built years ago by an over sanguine missionary, but now a long time unoccupied. It stood gable end to the plaza, its ridge ornamented with a bell tower which sheltered a voiceless belL To the rail in front of the church were hitched three or tour saddled ponies, whüe loitering in the shade were as many men, dressed in their best, with freshly greased boots and clean shaven faces, that showed white by contrast with their sun bumed necks and foreheads. "Well, boys! here we be!"cried Bob, cheerily, as he drew up. "Everythin' all right, iJül?' ' 'Yes," said Bill Ransom, as he stepped up and laying his hand on Mirandy's rein, helped her to dismount. ;'How d'ye do, ma'am? You're iookin' well. " Then noticing the Don, he leaned over to Bob and whispered: "Good Gawdl Bob! What's that? Some new kind of fam'ly ghost?' "He's my hated rival," said Bob, complacently; "an' he's goin' togive the bride away, owin' to the unavoidable absence of her mother." Here he winked at Bill in a very facetious manner. "Give us all away, you mean," growled Bill. "Look's if he'd bin locoed," but no one seemea to near tum. "Wal, come on now, boys," said Bob, as he gallantly tueked Mirandy's arm through his. "Corneal; I Less get this little exper'ment over. Is tae Hon'able Justice Parker on deck an' sober. Bill?" "The Hon'able Justice Parker, I regret to say," said Bill slowly, "is on deck - re-markably so- but far from sober. He attempted to clean out the 'Maverick' at exaetly 2 p. m., an' we liad to tie him an' put hini to bed, where he now is, a raviu' maniac from too much strong drink." Bob uttered a very profane ejaculation. "Curse him! I give him $5 in advance 'cause he promised to keep straight till after the weddin'," he said. "What we goin' tó do? Torn Davis an' the widder'll be here in an hour with a possy, an' I want to git married 'fore they come. There's sure to be a fight, an' I want to leave Miraady all right in case I git hit." The Don stepped forward. "If you're lookin' fur some ono to marry ye," he said, "I reckon I kin help ye out - do good fur evü - as I'm qualifiod to that extent, hevia' a license to preach an' marry." It was a very short ceremony as the Don performed it, and he brought it to a close in a style that some of the guests thought a little abrupt. "Walk yein the narrer rud- I pronounce y e both one an' the same." Indeed, Bill Ransom was much dissatisfied with the whole affair. "Les's make him do it over agaio," he said; " 'taint more'n half bindin' as 'tis now. I could've done it better'n that rayself." But Bob would not hear of it. "Xb, siree!" he said; "we're marriod, an' thet's enough. There's no doublé or quits about this. I'm satisfied, if Mirandy is," and Mirandy said she was, entirely so. "Ad,1 now, gen'lemen," said Bob, a few momoits later, standing in front of the erick bar, "here's ray thanks to all, au' goodby." He slowly raised his glass and held it au instant beween his eye and the light. "Mirandy au' I cal'late to ride over to Porty de Luny to-mght; it's only twenty-flve mile, an' we've boYrowed a couple o' fresh hosses, an' to-morrów we' II go on up to ray place on th' 'Lupy creek. A weok frora today we'll hev a dance, an' you're all to come. By that time the widder '11 be all solid, I reckon. lm sorter glad we did not meet her today ; she's so devilisu sensitivo she'd shot some one, sure." As Bob and and Mirandy rode away, thay were sped on their journey by a salúte from a dozen revolvers. Bill Ransom, who feit that he occupied the position of best man, was determined that the affair should come nothing short of complete success, and he hurriedly pulled off his huge riding boot and threw it after them, spur and all. "Not hevin' a slipper," he said, "I fired my boot - ■ fur luek - though it's God's mercy it didn't hit 'em." A year from that day saw very few changes in San Miguel county. The widder and Tom had long smce forgiveu Bob and Mirandy, who were living quietly at Bob's ranch on the 'Lupy creek. With what Miraudy had brought him, added to his om, Bob found himself ownerof 350 cows, which made him quite a man of property. But then there was every reason why he should be, slnce he was a man of faniily' also. "Yes, sir;it'sa boy, just as certain as the world," he had announoed at Santa Rosa; "but he's redder an' softern what I s'posed babies gen'rally was. I'm sorter 'fraid to touch him, fear he:ll break in two, but he's a healthy breather." This addition to his responsibilities made Bob more sédate and steady going than beEore. He worked hard, early and late, and ais only play time was at night, when he took his seat 03' the fire and watched Mirandy and the baby. "Lordl it's the queerestest ;hing to set here an' see you fixin' that there dd, Mirandy, just as if you'd never done nothin' else all yer life. Wherever you learned it, I can't think." Aad Mirandy would look up at Bob and smile, but not in her old, coquettish way. She was still the same buxom, stalwart Mirandy she had ever been, but uow she had a new object in life; she feit that new responsibilities required new manuers. It was quite a picture to see those three - Mirandy seated in a low mg chair bcfore the huge, open fireplace, fllled with a roaring wood re, with her baby on her lap, and Bob by her side, watching her with a smile of gratified pride as she fussed and cooed over the boy. "It beats all," he used tosay, "which likesit the best - you or him - or me." Sometimes the Don would ride over from the Barzee, where he was still attached as eook, and spend the evening. His regard for Mirandy was as deep as ever, but since her rnarriage ithad taken a different f onn, being now more of a paternal nature, for he had come to look upon her almost as a daughter. The Don- he was still known by that name -had appropriated the empty little chapel at Santa Rosa, wherein Bob and Mirandy had been married, and every Sunday morning during the winter, he had ridden over from the Barzee Ranch and preached there. His success in that direction had been nobetter than his attempts at cooking, but he was not cast down, and perseverad faithfully. "San Migell is pretty stony ground, but it aint all rock," he would say, hopef ully. The new spring opened promisingly. The price of cattle was unusually high; a very severe winter had raged over the northern ranges in Dakota, Montana and Wyoming, and the losses among the cattle there had been enormous, in soms instances entire lerds having died from cold and starvation. The stockmen of San Miguel county were iubilant, for their own losses had been very 'ew, the Barzee estímate being less than 2 Der cent. ; and this, added to the f act that ï-year-old steers were bringing $30 and likely to bring $35, made every one happy and }rospectively rich. With the return of spring, as in former years, men started out over the range on preliminary surveys, in preparation for the round up. Tbus it happeued that Bob left Mirandy and the baby at his ranch one morning and rode away. He had keptno assistants all winter; he did his own work, knowing it was his duty to economize for his family's sake, and so Mirandy was left alone, but they were neither troubled about this. Mirandy was quite able to take care of herself. The nosrt afternoon,, about 5 o'clock, a horseman rode at a hard gallop over the prairie toward Bob's ranch, and checked his horse in front of the door. Mirandy stepped out to see vvho it was, but not until she had shaded her eyes with her hand did she recognize the Don. "Wal, Ideclar'I" she said, "ef taint youl ■Wor.'t ye 'light?" But the Don declined the invitation rather abruptly. "Mirandy," he said, "I hearn down on th' Peeos that there was a band of Injuns out from the reservation, loose, and" "Injuns!" cried Mirandy, incredulously; "why, there aint no Injuns within two hundred miles of this yere!" "Ef you'd seen the things I've seen," said the Don, slowly, "you'd say there was Injuns within ten rnile of this yere - broke out of the Mescalero reservatiou- they shot at Rube Priday, and they're runnin' off stock an' killin' anyone they kin ketch. You must git your baby and come with me to the Barzee till this thing's settled." Mirandy demurred at first- "she warn't afraid of no Injuns," she said- but the recollection of her baby decided her, and in a few micutes they were riding rapidly toward the Barzee, tvelve miles away. Very tenderly the Don carried the child, wrapped in a heavy blanket, while Mirandy rode at his side, her eyes constantly on the bundie. As they reached the top of a mesa, two miles from their destination, they paused a moment to breathe their horses. Suddenly the Don noticed a commotion in a bunch of cattle behind him; they were running in evident alarm ; then he heard a rifle shot and then another. His keen little eyes instautly detected the cause of the disturbance. "There theybe! Ridel Mirandy, ridel" and away they dashed down the hill. Spur, spur, and spare notl Ride, ride - for your lives, ride! They had a good half mile the start, and if they could only maintain itthey were safe. itiraudy's horse was fresher and speedier than the Don's, and she had constantly to slow up for him, but lio rode steadily along, giving his entire attention to the child. And yet they had to ride carefully, too, for if a horse should step into a prairio dog's hole, or even tumble, it would be fatal. On they went through the dust- tbeir pursuers very slowly gaining on them and keeping up a continued firing. It seemed as if they must be hit, but they rode on and on, never swerving nor halting a moment. Once a rifle bali furrowed the rim of Mii-andy's sombrero; once the Don's right stiiTup was splintered; but stiil they kepton, on, on, with the yeliing fiends behind them. At last they neared the ranch (the dusk was slowly turning into night), and once there they were safo, for it was garrisoned by a dozen men- good shots, well armed, and daring, every one. As they dashed along the trail, they carao to a place where it forked; the main track ran around a mesa bluff and down into the valley where the house stood, jbut there was a shcrter patJi, leadiiig straight over the cliff, down which it was possible witb great care, to lead a horse. It was rooky and steep, there belng a straight jum of flve feet in one place. As they ap proached the fork, the Don motionec Mirandy to take thi path, and with out hesitation sbe rode for the blui and disappeared over the edge with the Do cloee after. How they ever reached th bottom alive is stül a mystery in the county but they did, and a few moments later pulle up in front of the Barzee Ranch. The men crowded to the door- one bearing a lantern - to see who the new arrivals were, and t learn what the flring had been about. No one suspected then that the Don had been hit; he still bore the baby very tenderly on his left arm, whüe with his right he steadie himself by the saddle hom. It was no nntü his charge had been transferred to Mirandy's care that he reeled, and Rube Priday had just time to catch him as he lurched heavily f rom his horse. As they lak him gently on the ground, he fainted and the blood welled through his lips, which he ha till then kept tightly closed. They carriec him into the house and endeavored to stanch the blood, but it was a hopeless case - he hac been shot through the lung. It was a solemn scène that the dim rays from the smoky lantern lit up in the Barzee Ranch that night. Around the dying man were grouped the stern faced riders, while at his head knelt Rube, vainly endeavoring to force some stimulants past his lips. After a little he revived, and looked about him on familiar faces. "Boys," he said, very faintly, "they're safe, Mirandy an' th' baby- deliver me from - mine offenses - an' forgive"- - That's all. One of the men turned to the couoh where the baby lay. "He's asleep!" he whispered. "So is the Don," said Rube, as he revently drew the rough blanket over the poor old fellow's face.


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