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Bondsman slipped from beneath Dorothy's hand as she stooped to pat him.
He trotted to Shoop's cabin, and stood looking up at the door.

"Would you be playin' 'Annie Laurie' for us?" queried Shoop.

Dorothy played for them, unaccompanied by Bondsman. Shoop shook his
head. Either the tune had lost its charm for the Airedale or else
Dorothy's interpretation differed from Bud's own.

"Thanks, missy," said Shoop when she had finished playing. "Guess I'll
be movin' along."

"Oh, no! You'll stay to-night. I'll play for you. Make him stay,
father."

"I wish you would, Shoop. I'd like to talk with you about the election."

"Well, now, that's right neighborly of you folks. I was aimin' to ride
back this evening. But I reckon we'll stay. Bondsman and me ain't so
spry as we was."

After supper Dorothy played for them again, with no light except the
dancing red shadows from the pine logs that flamed in the fireplace.

Shoop thanked her. "I'll be livin' in town," - and he sighed
heavily, - "where my kind of piano-playin' would bring the law on me,
most-like. Now, that ole piano is hacked up some outside, but she's got
all her innards yet and her heart's right. If you would be takin' it as
a kind of birthday present, it's yours."

"You don't mean _me_?"

"I sure do."

"But I couldn't accept such a big present. And then, when we go away
this winter - "

"Listen to your Uncle Bud, missy. A little lady give me a watch onct. 'T
wa'n't a big watch, but it was a big thing. 'Cause why? 'Cause that
little lady was the first lady to give me a present in my life. I was
raised up by men-folks. My mammy she wa'n't there long after I come.
Reckon that's why I never was much of a hand with wimmin-folks. I wa'n't
used to 'em. And I don't care how old and ornery a man is; the first
time he gets a present from a gal, it kind of hits him where he
breathes. And if it don't make him feel warm inside and mighty proud of
bein' who he is, why, it's because he's so dog-gone old he can't think.
I ain't tellin' no secret when I say that the little lady put her name
in that watch alongside of mine. And her name bein' there is what makes
that present a big thing - bigger than any piano that was ever built.

"Why, just a spell ago I was settin' in my office, madder'n a cat what
had tore his Sunday pants, 'cause at twelve o'clock I was goin' over to
the saloon to fire that young ranger, Lusk, for gettin' drunk. I pulled
out this here watch, and I says to myself: 'Bud, it was clost around
twelve o'clock by a young fella's watch onct when he was filled up on
liquor and rampin' round town when he ought to been to work. And it was
the ole foreman's gal that begged that boy's job back for him, askin'
her daddy to give him another chanct.' And the boy he come through all
right. I know - for I owned the watch. And so I give Lusk another
chanct."

Dorothy stepped to Shoop's chair, and, stooping quickly, kissed his
cheek. Bondsman, not to be outdone, leaped jealously into Bud's lap and
licked the supervisor's face. Shoop spluttered, and thrust Bondsman
down.

"Things is comin' too fast!" he cried, wiping his face. "I was just
goin' to say something when that dog just up and took the words right
out of my mouth. Oh, yes! I was just wishin' I owned a piano factory."




CHAPTER XXXIII


_The Fires of Home_


Bud Shoop read the newspaper notice twice before he realized fully its
import. The Adams House at Stacey was for sale. "Then Jim and Annie's
patched it up," he soliloquized. And the genial Bud did not refer to the
Adams House.

Because his master seemed pleased, Bondsman waited to hear the rest of
it with head cocked sideways and tail at a stiff angle.

"That's all they is to it," said Shoop.

Bondsman lay down and yawned. He was growing old. It was only Bud's
voice that could key the big Airedale up to his earlier alertness. The
office was quiet. The clerk had gone out for his noon meal. The fall
sunshine slanted lazily through the front-office windows. The room was
warm, but there was a tang of autumn in the air. Shoop glanced at the
paper again. He became absorbed in an article proposing conscription. He
shook his head and muttered to himself. He turned the page, and glanced
at the livestock reports, the copper market, railroad stocks, and passed
on to an article having to do with local politics.

Bondsman, who constituted himself the guard of Shoop's leisure, rapped
the floor with his tail. Shoop glanced over the top of his paper as
light footsteps sounded in the outer office. Dorothy tapped on the
lintel and stepped in. Shoop crumpled the paper and rose. Bondsman was
at her side as she shook hands with the supervisor.

"My new saddle came," she said, patting Bondsman. "And father's latest
book. Why don't you cheer?"

"Goodness, missy! I started cheerin' inside the minute I seen you. Now,
I reckon you just had to have that new saddle."

"It's at the store. Father is over there talking politics and war with
Mr. Handley."

"Then you just set down and tell your Uncle Bud the news while you're
waitin'."

"But I am not _waiting_. I am visiting _you_. And I told you the news."

"And to think a new saddle could make your eyes shine like that! Ain't
you 'shamed to fool your Uncle Bud?"

"I haven't - if you say you know I have."

"'Course. Most any little gal can get the best of me."

"Well, because you are so curious - Lorry is back."

"I reckoned that was it."

"He rode part-way down with us. He has gone to see his father."

"And forgot to repo't here first."

"No. He gave me the reports to give to you. Here they are. One of Mr.
Waring's men, that young Mexican, rode up to the mesa last week and left
word that Lorry's father wanted to see him."

"I aim to know about that," chuckled Shoop. And he smoothed out the
paper and pointed to the Adams House sale notice.

"The Adams House for sale? Why - "

"Jim and Annie - that's Jim Waring and Mrs. Waring now - are goin' to run
the ranch. I'm mighty glad."

"Oh, I see! And Lorry is really Laurence Waring?"

"You bet! And I reckon Lorry'll be fo'man of that ranch one of these
days. Cattle is sky-high and goin' up. I don't blame him."

"He didn't say a word about that to me."

"'Course not. He's not one to say anything till he's plumb sure."

"He might have said _something_" asserted Dorothy.

"Didn't he?" chuckled Shoop.

Dorothy's face grew rosy. "Your master is very inquisitive," she told
Bondsman.

"And your little missy is right beautiful this mawnin'," said Shoop.
"Now, if I was a bow-legged young cow-puncher with curly hair, and
looked fierce and noble and could make a gal's eyes shine like stars in
the evenin', I reckon I wouldn't be sittin' here signin' letters."

"He _isn't_ bow-legged!" flashed Dorothy. She was very definite about
that. "And he's not a cowboy. He is a ranger."

"My goodness! I done put my foot in a gopher hole that shake. I sure am
standin' on my head, waitin' for somebody to set me up straight ag'in.
You ain't mad at your Uncle Bud, be you?"

Dorothy tossed her head, but her eyes twinkled, and suddenly she
laughed. "You know I like you - heaps! You're just jealous."

"Reckon you said it! But I only got one ear laid back yet. Wait till I
see that boy."

"Oh, pshaw! You can't help being nice to him."

"And I got comp'ny."

"But really I want to talk seriously, if you will let me. Lorry has been
talking about enlisting. He didn't say that he was going to enlist, but
he has been talking about it so much. Do you think he will?"

"Well, now, missy that's a right peart question. I know if I was his age
I'd go. Most any fella that can read would. I been readin' the papers
for two years, and b'ilin' inside. I reckon Lorry's just woke up to
what's goin' on. We been kind of slow wakin' up out here. Folks livin'
off in this neck of the woods gets to thinkin' that the sun rises on
their east-line fence and sets on their west line. It takes somethin'
strong to make 'em recollec' the sun's got a bigger job'n that. But I
admire to say that when them kind of folks gets started onct they's
nothin' ever built that'll stop 'em. If I get elected I aim to tell some
folks over to the State House about this here war. And I'm goin' to
start by talkin' about what we got to set straight right here to home
first. They can _feel_ what's goin' on to home. It ain't all print. And
they got to feel what's goin' on over there afore they do anything."

"It's all too terrible to talk about," said Dorothy. "But we must do our
share, if only to keep our self-respect, mustn't we?"

"You said it - providin' we got any self-respect to keep."

"But why don't our young men volunteer. They are not cowards."

"It ain't that. Suppose you ask Lorry why."

"I shouldn't want to know him if he didn't go," said Dorothy.

"Missy, I'm lovin' you for sayin' that! If all the mothers and sisters
and sweethearts was like that, they wouldn't be no conscription. But
they ain't. I'm no hand at understandin' wimmin-folks, but I know the
mother of a strappin' young fella in this town that says she would
sooner see her boy dead in her front yard than for him to go off and
fight for foreigners. She don't know what this country's got to fight
for pretty quick or she wouldn't talk like that. And she ain't the only
one. Now, when wimmin talks that way, what do you expect of men? I
reckon the big trouble is that most folks got to see somethin' to fight
afore they get goin'. Fightin' for a principle looks just like poundin'
air to some folks. I don't believe in shootin' in the dark. How come,
I've plugged a rattlesnake by just shootin' at the sound when he was
coiled down where I couldn't see him. But this ain't no kind of talk for
you to listen to, missy."

"I - you won't say that I spoke of Lorry?"

"Bless your heart, no! And he'll figure it out hisself. But don't you
get disap'inted if he don't go right away. It's mighty easy to set back
and say 'Go!' to the other fella; and listen to the band and cheer the
flag. It makes a fella feel so durned patriotic he is like to forget he
ain't doin' nothin' hisself.

"Now, missy, suppose you was a sprightin' kind of a boy 'bout nineteen
or twenty, and mebby some gal thought you was good-lookin' enough to
talk to after church on a Sunday; and suppose you had rustled like a
little nigger when you was a kid, helpin' your ma wash dishes in a hotel
and chop wood and sweep out and pack heavy valises for tourists and fill
the lamps and run to the store for groceries and milk a cow every night
and mornin'.

"And say you growed up without breakin' your laig and went to punchin'
cattle and earnin' your own money, and then mebby you got a job in the
Ranger Service, ridin' the high trails and livin' free and independent;
and suppose a mighty pretty gal was to come along and kind of let you
take a shine to her, and you was doin' your plumb durndest to put by a
little money, aimin' to trot in double harness some day; and then
suppose your daddy was to offer you a half-interest in a growin' cattle
business, where you could be your own boss and put by a couple of
thousand a year. And you only nineteen or twenty.

"Suppose you had been doin' all that when along comes word from 'way off
somewhere that folks was killin' each other and it was up to you to stop
'em. Wouldn't you do some hard thinkin' afore you jumped into your
fightin' clothes?"

"But this war means more than that."

"It sure does. But some of us ain't got the idee yet. 'Course all you
got to do to some folks is to say 'Fight' and they come a-runnin'. And
some of that kind make mighty good soldier boys. But the fella I'm
leavin' alone is the one what cinches up slow afore he climbs into the
saddle. When he goes into a fight it's like his day's work, and he don't
waste no talk or elbow action when he's workin'."

"I wish I were a man!"

"Well, some of us is right glad you ain't. A good woman can do just as
much for this country right now as any man. And I don't mean by dressin'
up in fancy clothes and givin' dances and shellin' out mebby four per
cent of the gate receipts to buy a ambulance with her name on it.

"And I don't mean by payin' ten dollars for a outfit of gold-plated
knittin'-needles to make two-bit socks for the boys. What I mean is that
a good woman does her best work to home; mebby just by sayin' the right
word, or mebby by keepin' still or by smilin' cheerful when her heart is
breakin' account of her man goin' to war.

"You can say all you like about patriotism, but patriotism ain't just
marchin' off to fight for your country. It's usin' your neighbors and
your country right every day in the week, includin' Sunday. Some folks
think patriotism is buildin' a big bonfire once a year and lettin' her
blaze up. But the real thing is keepin' your own little fire a-goin'
steady, right here where you live. And it's thinkin' of that little fire
to home that makes the best soldier.

"He's got a big job to do. He's goin' to get it done so he can go back
to that there home and find the little fire a-burning bright. What do
some of our boys do fightin' alongside of them Frenchmen and under the
French flag, when they get wounded and get a furlough? Set around and
wait to go back to fightin'? I reckon not. Some of 'em pack up and come
four, five thousand miles just to see their folks for mebby two, three
days. And when they see them little fires to home a-burnin' bright, why,
they say: 'This here is what we're fighting for.' And they go back,
askin' God A'mighty to keep 'em facin' straight to the front till the
job is done."

Dorothy, her chin in her hand, gazed at Bud. She had never known him to
be so intense, so earnest.

"Oh, I know it is so!" she cried. "But what can I do? I have only a
little money in the bank, and father makes just enough to keep us
comfortable. You see, we spent such lots of money for those horrid old
doctors in the East, who didn't do me a bit of good."

"You been doin' your share just gettin' well and strong, which is savin'
money. But seein' you asked me, you can do a whole lot if Lorry was to
say anything to you about goin'. And you know how better'n I can tell
you or your daddy or anybody."

"But Lorry must do as he thinks best. We - we are not engaged."

"'Course. And it ain't no time for a young fella to get engaged to a gal
and tie up her feelin's and march off with her heart in his pocket.
Mebby some day she's goin' to want it back ag'in, when he ain't livin'
to fetch it back to her. I see, by the Eastern papers Torrance has been
sendin' me, that some young fellas is marryin' just afore they go to
jine the Frenchmen on the front. Now, what are some of them gals goin'
to do if their boys don't come back? Or mebby come back crippled for
life? Some of them gals is goin' to pay a mighty high price for just a
few days of bein' married. It riles me to think of it."

"I hadn't thought of it - as you do," said Dorothy.

"Well, I hope you'll forgive your Uncle Bud for ragin' and rampin'
around like this. I can't talk what's in my heart to folks around here.
They're mostly narrow-gauge. I reckon I said enough. Let's go look at
that new saddle."

"Isn't it strange," said Dorothy, "that I couldn't talk with father like
this? He'd be nice, of course, but he would be thinking of just me."

"I reckon he would. And mebby some of Lorry."

"If Lorry should ask me about his going - "

"Just you tell him that you think one volunteer is worth four conscripts
any time and any place. And if that ain't a hint to him they's somethin'
wrong with his ears."

Shoop rose and plodded out after Dorothy. Bondsman trailed lazily
behind. Because Shoop had not picked up his hat the big dog knew that
his master's errand, whatever it was, would be brief. Yet Bondsman
followed, stopping to yawn and stretch the stiffness of age from his
shaggy legs. There was really no sense in trotting across the street
with his master just to trot back again in a few minutes. But Bondsman's
unwavering loyalty to his master's every mood and every movement had
become such a matter of course that the fine example was lost in the
monotony of repetition.

A dog's loyalty is so often taken for granted that it ceases to be
noticeable until in an unlooked-for hazard it shines forth in some act
of quick heroism or tireless faithfulness worthy of a greater tribute
than has yet been written.

Bondsman was a good soldier.




CHAPTER XXXIV


_Young Life_


Ramon was busy that afternoon transferring mattresses and blankets from
the ranch-house to the new, low-roofed bunk-house that Waring had built.
Ramon fitted up three beds - one for the cook, one for an old range-rider
that Waring had hired when his men had left to enlist, and one for
himself.

The partitions of the ranch-house had been taken down, the interior
rearranged, and the large living-room furnished in a plain, comfortable
way.

As Ramon worked he sang softly. He was happy. The señora was coming to
live with them, and perhaps Señor Jim's son. Señor Jim had been more
active of late. His lameness was not so bad as it had been. It was true
the Señor Jim did not often smile, but his eyes were kindly.

Ramon worked rapidly. There was much to do in the other house. The bale
of Navajo blankets was still unopened. Perhaps the Señor Jim would help
to arrange them in the big room with the stone fireplace. The señora
would not arrive until to-morrow, but then the home must be made ready,
that she would find it beautiful. And Ramon, accustomed to the meagerly
furnished adobes of old Mexico, thought that the ranch-house was
beautiful indeed.

Waring ate with the men in the new bunk-house that evening. After supper
he went over to the larger building and sat alone in the living-room,
gazing out of the western window. His wounds ached, and in the memory of
almost forgotten trails he grew young again. Again in Old Mexico, the
land he loved, he saw the blue crest of the Sierras rise as in a dream,
and below the ranges a tiny Mexican village of adobe huts gold in the
setting sun. Between him and the village lay the outlands, ever
mysterious, ever calling to him. Across the desert ran a thin trail to
the village. And down the trail the light feet of Romance ran swiftly as
he followed. He could even recall the positions of the different adobes;
the strings of chiles dark red in the twilight; the old black-shawled
señora who had spoken a guttural word of greeting as he had ridden up.

Back in Sonora men had said, "Waring has made his last ride." They had
told each other that a white man was a fool to go alone into that
country. Perhaps he had been a fool. But the thrill of those early days,
when he rode alone and free and men sang of him from Sonora to the
Sweetgrass Hills! And on that occasion he had found the fugitive he
sought, yet he had ridden back to Sonora alone. He had never forgotten
the face of the young Mexican woman who had pleaded with him to let her
lover go. Her eyes were big and velvet black. Her mouth was the mouth
of a Madonna.

Waring had told her that it was useless to plead. He remembered how her
eyes had grown dull and sullen at his word. He told her that he was
simply doing his duty. She had turned on him like a panther, her little
knife glittering in the dusk as she drove it at his breast. The Mexican
lover had jerked free and was running toward the foothills. Waring
recalled his first surprise at the wiry strength of her wrist as he had
twisted the knife from her. If the Mexican lover had not turned and shot
at him - The black figure of the Mexican had dropped just where the road
entered the foothills. The light had almost gone. The vague bulk of the
Sierras wavered. Outlines vanished, leaving a sense of something
gigantic, invisible, that slumbered in the night. The stars were big and
softly brilliant as he had ridden north.

The old wound in his shoulder ached. The Mexican had made a good
shot - for a Mexican.

Out on the Arizona mesa, against the half disk of gold, was the black
silhouette of a horseman. Waring stepped to the doorway. Ramon was
seated just outside the door, smoking a cigarette. The southern stars
were almost visible. Each star seemed to have found its place, and yet
no star could be seen.

"It is Lorry," said Ramon. "He has ridden far."

Waring smiled. Fifty miles had not been considered a big day's ride in
his time. _In his time!_ But his day was past. The goddess he had
followed had left him older than his years, crippled, unable to ride
more than a few hours at a time; had left him fettered to the monotony
of the far mesa levels and the changeless hills. Was this his
punishment, or simply a black trick of fate, that the tang of life had
evaporated, leaving a stagnant pool wherein he gazed to meet the blurred
reflection of a face weary with waiting for - what end?

Unused to physical inactivity, Waring had grown somber of mind these
latter days. Despite the promise of more comfortable years, he had never
felt more lonely. With the coming of Lorry the old order would change.
Young blood, new life would have its way.

The sound of pattering hoofs grew louder. Waring heard the old familiar,
"Hi! Yippy! Yip!" of the range rider. Young blood? New life? It was his
own blood, his own life reincarnate in the cheery rider that swung down
and grasped his hand. Nothing had changed. Life was going on as it
always had.

"Hello, dad! How's the leg?"

Waring smiled in the dusk. "Pretty fair, Lorry. You didn't waste any
time getting here."

"Well, not much. I rode down with Bronson and Dorothy."

"Do you call her 'Dorothy'?"

"Ever since she calls me 'Lorry.'"

"Had anything to eat?"

"Nope. I cut across. How's mother?"

"She will be here to-morrow. We have been getting things ready. Let
Ramon take your horse - "

"Thanks. I'll fix him in two shakes."

And in two shakes bridle and saddle were off, and Gray Leg was rolling
in the corral.

While Lorry ate, Ramon laid a fire in the big stone fireplace. Alter
supper Lorry and his father sat gazing at the flames. Lorry knew why he
had been sent for, but waited for his father to speak.

Presently Waring turned to him. "I sent for you because I need some one
to help. And your mother wants you here. I won't urge you, but I can
offer you Pat's share in the ranch. I bought his share last week. You'll
have a working interest besides that. You know something about cattle.
Think it over."

"That's a dandy offer," said Lorry. "I'm right obliged, dad. But there's
something else. You put your proposition straight, and I'm going to put
mine straight. Now, if you was in my boots, and she liked you enough,
would you marry her?"

"You haven't told me who she is."

"Why - Dorothy Bronson. I thought you knew."

Waring smiled. "You're pretty young, Lorry."

"But you married young, dad."

"Yes. And I married the best woman in the world. But I can't say that I
made your mother happy."

"I guess ma never cared for anybody but you," said Lorry.

"It isn't just the caring for a person, Lorry."

"Well, I thought it was. But I reckon you know. And Dorothy is the
prettiest and lovin'est kind of a girl _you_ ever seen. I was wishin'
you was acquainted."

"I should like to meet her. Are you sure she is your kind of girl,
Lorry? Now, wait a minute; I know how you feel. A girl can be
good-looking and mighty nice and think a lot of a man, and yet not be
the right girl for him."

"But how is he goin' to find that out?"

"If he must find out - by marrying her."

"Then I aim to find out, if she is willin'. But I wanted to tell
you - because you made me that offer. I was askin' your advice because
you been through a lot."

"I wish I could advise you. But you're a man grown, so far as taking
care of yourself is concerned. And when a man thinks of getting married
he isn't looking for advice against it. Why don't you wait a year or
two?"

"Well, mebbe I got to. Because - well, I didn't ask Dorothy yet. Then
there's somethin' else. A lot of the fellas up in the high country have
enlisted in the regulars, and some have gone over to Canada to join the
Foreign Legion. Now, I don't want to be the last hombre on this mesa to
go."

"There has been no call for men by the Nation."

"But it's comin', dad. Any fella can see that. I kind of hate to wait
till Uncle Sam says I got to go. I don't like going that way."

"What do you think your mother will say?"

"Gosh! I know! That's why I wanted to talk to you first. If I'm goin', I
want to know it so I can say to her that I _am_ goin' and not that I aim
to go."

"Well, you will have to decide that."


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