It was still early in the afternoon when Jack Chapin and the youthful chaperon found the other young people together on the gallery.

"Here's a telegram from Speed," began Jack.

"It's terribly funny," said Mrs. Keap. "That Mexican brought it to us down at the spring-house."

Miss Blake lost her bored expression, and sat up in the hammock.

"'Mr. Jack Chapin,'" read the owner of the Flying Heart Ranch. "'Dear Jack: I couldn't wait for Covington, so meet with brass-band and fireworks this afternoon. Have flowers in bloom in the little park beside the depot, and see that the daisies nod to me.—J. Wallingford Speed.'"

"Park, eh?" said Fresno, dryly. "Telegraph office, water-tank, and a cattle-chute. Where does this fellow think he is?"

"Here is a postscript," added Chapin.

"'I have a valet who does not seem to enjoy the trip. Divide a kiss among the girls.'"

"Well, well! He's stingy with his kisses," observed Berkeley.
"Who is this humorous party?"

"He was a Freshman at Yale the year I graduated," explained Jack.

"Too bad he never got out of that class." It was evident that Mr. Speed's levity made no impression upon the Glee Club tenor. "He hates to talk about himself, doesn't he?"

"I think he is very clever," said Miss Blake, warmly.

"How well do you know him?"

"Not as well as I'd like to."

Fresno puffed at his little pipe without remarking at this.

"Well, who wants to go and meet him?" queried Jack.

"Won't you?" asked his sister.

"I can't. I've just got word from the Eleven X that I'm wanted.
The foreman is hurt. I may not be back for some time."

"Nigger Mike met me," observed Fresno, darkly.

"Then Nigger Mike for Speed," laughed the cattle-man. "I've told
Carara to hitch up the pintos for me. I must be going."

"I'll see that you are safely started," said the young widow; and leaving the trio on the gallery, they entered the house.

When they had gone, Jean smiled wisely at Helen. "Roberta's such a thoughtful chaperon," she observed, whereupon Miss Blake giggled.

As for Mrs. Keap, she was inquiring of Jack with genuine solicitude:

"Do you really mean that you may be gone for some time?"

"I do. It may be a week; it may be longer; I can't tell until I get over there."

"I'm sorry." Mrs. Keap's face showed some disappointment.

"So am I."

"I shall have to look out for these young people all by myself."

"What a queer little way you have of talking, as if you were years and years old."

"I do feel as if I were. I—I—well, I have had an unhappy experience. You know unhappiness builds months into years."

"When Jean got up this house-party," young Chapin began, absently, "I thought I should be bored to death. But—I haven't been. You know, I don't want to go over there?" He nodded vaguely toward the south.

"I thought perhaps it suited your convenience." His companion watched him gravely. "Are you quite sure that your sister's guests have not—had something to do with this sudden determination?"

"I am quite sure. I never liked the old Flying Heart so much as I do to-day. I never regretted leaving it so much as I do at this moment."

"We may be gone before you return."

Young Chapin started. "You don't mean that, really?" Mrs. Keap nodded her dark head. "It was all very well for me to chaperon Helen on the way out from the East, but—it isn't exactly regular for me to play that part here with other young people to look after."

"But you understand, of course—Jean must have explained to you. Mother was called away suddenly, and she can't get back now. You surely won't leave—you can't." Chapin added, hopefully: "Why, you would break up Jean's party. You see, there's nobody around here to take your place."


"Nonsense! This is an unconventional country. What's wrong with you as a chaperon, anyway? Nobody out here even knows what a chaperon is. And I'll be back as soon as I can."

"Do you really think that would help?" Roberta's eyes laughed humorously.

"I'm not thinking of the others, I'm thinking of myself," declared the young man, boldly. "I don't want you to go before I return. You must not! If you go, I—I shall follow you." He grasped her hand impulsively.

"Oh!" exclaimed the chaperon. "This makes it even more impossible. Go! Go!" She pushed him away, her color surging. "Go to your old Eleven X Ranch right away."

"But I mean it," he declared, earnestly. Then, as she retreated farther: "It's no use, I sha'n't go now until—"

"You have known me less than a week!"

"That is long enough. Roberta—"

Mrs. Keap spoke with honest embarrassment. "Listen! Don't you see what a situation this is? If Jean and Helen should ever discover—"

"Jean planned it all; even this."

Mrs. Keap stared at him in horrified silence.

"You do love me, Roberta?" Chapin undertook to remove the girl's hands from her face, when a slight cough in the hall behind caused him to turn suddenly in time to see Berkeley Fresno passing the open door.

"There! You see!" Mrs. Keap's face was tragic. "You see!" She turned and fled, leaving the master of the ranch in the middle of the floor, bewildered, but a bit inclined to be happy. A moment later the plump face of Berkeley Fresno appeared cautiously around the door-jamb. He coughed again gravely.

"I happened to be passing," said he. "You'll pardon me?"

"This is the most thickly settled spot in New Mexico!" Chapin declared, with an artificial laugh, choking his indignation.

Fresno slowly brought his round body out from concealment.

"I came in to get a match."

"Why don't you carry matches?"

Fresno puffed complacently upon his pipe. "This," he mused, as his host departed, "eliminates the chaperon, and that helps some."

Still Bill Stover lost no time in breaking the news to the boys.

"There's something comin' off," he advised Willie. "We've got another foot-runner!"

If he had hoped for an outburst of rapture on the part of the little gun man he was disappointed, for Willie shifted his holster, smiled evilly through his glasses, and inquired, with ominous restraint:

"Where is he?"

Being the one man on the Flying Heart who had occasion to wear a gun, Willie seldom smiled from a sense of humor. Here it may be said that, deceived at first by his scholarly appearance, his fellow-laborers had jibed at Willie's affectation of a swinging holster, but the custom had languished abruptly. When it became known who he was, the other ranch-hands had volubly declared that this was a free country, where a man might exercise a wide discretion in the choice of personal adornment; and as for them, they avowed unanimously that the practice of packing a Colts was one which met with their most cordial approbation. In time Willie's six-shooter had become accepted as a part of the local scenery, and, like the scenery, no one thought of remarking upon it, least of all those who best knew his lack of humor. He had come to them out of the Nowhere, some four years previously, and while he never spoke of himself, and discouraged reminiscence in others, it became known through those vague uncharted channels by which news travels on the frontier, that back in the Texas Panhandle there was a limping marshal who felt regrets at mention of his name, and that farther north were other men who had a superstitious dread of undersized cow-men with spectacles. There were also stories of lonesome "run-ins," which, owing to Willie's secretiveness and the permanent silence of the other participants, never became more than intangible rumors. But he was a good ranchman, attended to his business, and the sheriff's office was remote, so Willie had worked on unmolested.

"This here is a real foot-runner," said Stover.

"Exactly," agreed the other. "Where is he?"

"He'll be here this afternoon. Nigger Mike's bringin' him over from the railroad. He's a guest."


"Yep! He's intercollegit champeen of Yale."

"Yale?" repeated the near-sighted man. "Don't know's I ever been there. Much of a town?"

"I ain't never travelled East myself, but Miss Jean and the
little yaller-haired girl say he's the fastest man in the world.
I figgered we might rib up something with the Centipede." Still
Bill winked sagely.

"See here, do you reckon he'd run?"

"Sure! He's a friend of the boss. And he'll run on the level, too. He can't be nothin' like Humpy."

"If he is, I'll git him," said the cowboy. "Oh, I'll git him sure, guest or no guest. But how about the phonograph?"

"The Centipede will put it up quick enough; there ain't no sentiment in that outfit."

"Then it sounds good."

"An' it'll work. Gallagher's anxious to trim us again. Some folks can't stand prosperity."

Willie spat unerringly at a grasshopper. "Lord!" said he, "it's too good! It don't sound possible."

"Well, it is, and our man will be here this evenin'. Watch out for Nigger Mike, and when he drives up let's give this party a welcome that'll warm his heart on the jump. There's nothin' like a good impression."

"I'll be on the job," assured Willie. "But I state right here and now, if we do get a race there ain't a-goin' to be no chance of our losin' for a second time."

And Stover went on his way to spread the tidings.

It was growing dark when the rattle of wheels outside the ranch-house brought the occupants to the porch in time to see Nigger Mike halt his buck-board and two figures prepare to descend.

"It's Mr. Speed!" cried Miss Blake. Then she uttered a scream as the velvet darkness was rent by a dozen tongues of flame, while a shrill yelping arose, as of an Apache war-party.

"It's the boys," said Jean. "What on earth has possessed them?"

But Stover had planned no ordinary reception, and the pandemonium did not cease until the men had emptied their weapons.

Then Mr. J. Wallingford Speed came stumbling up the steps and into the arms of his friends, the tails of his dust-coat streaming.

"Really? This is more than I expected," he gasped; then turning, doffed his straw hat to the half-revealed figures beyond the light, and cried, gayly: "Thank you, gentlemen! Thank you for missing me!"

"Yow—ee!" responded the cowboys.

"How do you do, Miss Chapin!" Speed shook hands with his hostess, and in the radiance from the open doorway she saw that his face was round and boyish, and his smile peculiarly engaging.

She welcomed him appropriately; then said: "This reception is quite as startling to us as to you. You know, Mr. Speed, that we have with us a friend of yours." She slightly drew Helen forward. "And this is Mrs. Keap, who is looking after us a bit while mother is away. Roberta, may I present Mr. Covington's friend, and ask you to be good to him?"

"Don't forget me," said Fresno, pushing into the light.

"Mr. Berkeley Fresno, of Leland Stanford University."

"Hello, Frez!" Speed thrust out his hand warmly. Not so the
Californian. He replied, with hauteur:

"Fresno! F-r-e-s-n-o"; and allowed the new-comer to grasp a limp, moist hand.

"Ah! Go to the head of the class! I'm sorry you broke your wrist, however." The Eastern lad spoke lightly, and gave the palm a hearty squeeze, then turned to Jean.

"I dare say you are all disappointed, Miss Chapin, that Culver didn't come with me, but he'll be along in a day or so. I simply couldn't wait." He avoided glancing at Helen Blake, whose answering blush was lost in the darkness.

"I did think when you drove up that might be Mr. Covington with you," Miss Chapin remarked, wistfully.

"Oh no, that's my man." Speed glanced around him. "And, by-the-way, where is he?"

The sound of angry voices came through the gloom, then out into the light came Still Bill Stover, Willie, and Carara, dragging between them a globular person who was rebelling loudly.

"Stover, what is this?" questioned Miss Chapin, stepping to the edge of the veranda.

"This gent stampedes in the midst of our welcome," explained the foreman, "so we have to rope him before he gets away." It was seen now that Carara's lariat was tightly drawn about the new arrival's waist.

Then the valet broke into coherent speech, but he spoke a tongue not common to his profession.

"Nix on that welcome stuff," he burst forth, in husky, alcoholic accents; "that goes on the door-mat!" It was plain that he was very angry. "If that racket means welcome, I don't want it. Take that clothes-line off of me." Carara loosened the noose, and his captive rolled up the steps mopping his face with his handkerchief.

"What made you run away?" demanded Speed.

"Any time a bunch of bandits unhitch their gats, I'm on my way," sputtered the fat man. "I'm gun-shy, see? And when this hold-up comes off I beat it till that Cuban rummy with the medals on his dicer rides a live horse up my back."

"You don't appreciate the honor," explained his employer; then turning to the others, he announced: "Will you allow me to introduce Mr. Lawrence Glass? He isn't really a valet, you know, Miss Chapin, and he doesn't care for the West yet. It is his first trip."

"I have heard my brother speak of Larry Glass," said Jean, graciously.

Mr. Glass courtesied awkwardly, and swinging his right foot back of his left, tapped the floor with his toe. "You were a trainer at Yale when Jack was there?"

"That's me," Mr. Glass wheezed. "I'm there with the big rub, too. Wally said he was going to train during vacation, so he staked me to a trip out here, and I came along to look after him."

"Come into the house," said Jean. "Stover will see to your baggage."

As they entered, Mr. Berkeley Fresno saw the late arrival bend over Helen Blake, and heard him murmur:

"The same unforgettable eyes of Italian blue."

And Mr. Fresno decided to dislike Wally Speed, even if it required an effort.


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