Lawrence Glass was beginning to like New Mexico. Not only did it afford a tinge of romance, discernable in the deep, haunting eyes of Mariedetta, the maid, but it offered an opportunity for financial advancement—as, for instance, the purchase of Willie's watch. This timepiece cost the trainer twenty-one dollars, and he sold it to Speed for double the amount, believing in the luck of even numbers. Nor did young Speed allow his trainer's efforts to cease here, for in every portable timepiece on the ranch he recognized a menace, and not until Lawrence had cornered the market and the whole collection was safely locked in his trunk did he breathe easily. This required two days, during which the young people at the ranch enjoyed themselves thoroughly. They were halcyon days for the Yale man, for Fresno was universally agreeable, and seemed resigned to the fact that Helen should prefer his rival's company to his own. Even when Speed had regretfully dragged himself off to bed in the evening, the plump tenor amused Miss Blake by sounding the suitor's praises as an athlete, reports of which pleased Wally intensely. Mr. Fresno was a patient person, who realized fully the fact that a fall is not painful unless sustained from a considerable height.

As for Glass, he recounted tales of Mariedetta's capitulation to his employer, and wheezed merrily over the discomfiture of the Mexican girl's former admirers.

"She's a swell little dame," he confided to Speed one afternoon, as they lounged luxuriously in the shade at their customary resting-place. "Yes, and I'm aces with her, too." They had set out for their daily run, and were now contesting for the seven-up supremacy of the Catskill Mountains. Already Glass had been declared the undisputed champion of the Atlantic Coast, while Speed on the day previous had wrested from him the championship of the Mississippi Valley.

"But Mariedetta is dark!" said the college man, as he cut the cards. "She is almost a mulatto."

"Naw! She's no dinge. She's an Aztec, an' them Aztec's is swell people. Say, she can play a guitar like a barber!"

"Miss Blake told me she was in love with Carara."

Glass grunted contemptuously. "I've got it on that insurrects four ways. Why, I'm learning to talk Spanish myself. If he gets flossy, I'll cross one over his bow." The trainer made a vicious jab at an imaginary Mexican. "He ain't got a good wallop in him."

Like all New Yorkers, no matter what their station, Lawrence cherished a provincial contempt for such people as are not of Manhattan. While he was woefully timid in the presence of firearms, and the flash of steel reduced him to a panic, he was a past master at the "manly art," and carried a punch in which he reposed unlimited faith. The deference with which the cowboys treated him, their simple, child-like faith in his every utterance, combined to exaggerate his contempt for them. Even Carara, disappointed in love, treated him with a smiling, backward sort of courtesy which the trainer misconstructed as timidity.

"I thought cowboys was tough guys," continued he, "but it's a mistake. That little Willie, for instance, is a lamb. He packs that Mauser for protection. He's afraid some farmer will walk up and poke his eye out with a corn-cob. One copper with a night- stick could stampede the whole outfit. But they're all right, at that," he acknowledged, magnanimously. "They're a nice bunch of fellers when you know how to take 'em."

"The flies are awful to-day," Speed complained. "They bite my legs."

"I'll bring out a bath robe to-morrow, and we'll hide it in the bushes. I wish there was some place to keep this beer cool." Glass shifted some bottles to a point where the sunlight did not strike them. "I'm getting tired of training, Larry," acknowledged the younger man, with a yawn. "It takes so much time."

Glass shook his head in sympathy. "Seems like we'd ought to hear from Covington," said he.

"He's on his way, no doubt. Isn't it time to go back to the ranch?"

Glass consulted his watch. "No, we ain't done but three miles.
Here goes for the rubber."

It was Berkeley Fresno who retreated cautiously from the shelter of a thicket a hundred yards up the arroyo and started briskly homeward, congratulating himself upon the impulse that had decided him to follow the training partners upon their daily routine. He made directly for the corral.

"Which I don't consider there's no consideration comin' to him whatever," said Willie that evening. "He ain't acted on the level."

"Now, see here," objected Stover, "he may be just what he claims he is. Simply because he don't go skally-hootin' around in the hot sun ain't no sign he can't run."

"What about them empty beer bottles?" demanded Willie. "No feller can train on that stuff. I went out there myself and seen 'em. There was a dozen."

"Mebbe Glass drank it. What I claim is this: we ain't got no proof. Fresno is stuck on Miss Blake, and he's a knocker."

"Then let's git some proof, and dam' quick."

"Si, Senores," agreed Carara, who had been an interested listener.

"I agree with you, but we got to be careful—"

Willie grunted with disgust.

"—we can't go at it like we was killin' snakes. Mr. Speed is a guest here."

Again the little gun man expressed his opinion, this time in violet-tinted profanity, and the other cowboys joined in.

"All the same he is a guest, and no rough work goes. I'm in charge while Mr. Chapin is away, and I'm responsible."

"Senor Bill," Carara ventured, "the fat vaquero, he is no guest.
He is one of us."

"That's right," seconded Willie. "He's told us all along that Mr. Speed was a Merc'ry-footed wonder, and if the young feller can't run he had ought to have told us."

Mr. Cloudy showed his understanding of the discussion by nodding silently.

"We'll put it up to him in the morning," said Stover.

"If Mr. Speed cannot r-r-run, w'at you do, eh?" questioned the

Nobody answered. Still Bill seemed at a loss for words, Mr.
Cloudy stared gloomily into space, and Willie ground his teeth.

On the following morning Speed sought a secluded nook with Helen, but no sooner had he launched himself fairly upon the subject uppermost in his mind than he was disturbed by a delegation of cowboys, consisting of the original four who had waited upon him that first morning after his arrival. They came forward with grave and serious mein, requesting a moment's interview. It was plain there was something of more than ordinary importance upon their minds from the manner in which Stover spoke, but when Helen quickly volunteered to withdraw, Speed checked her.

"Stay where you are; I have no secrets from you," said he. Then noting the troubled face of the foreman, quoted impatiently:

"'You may fire when ready, Gridley.'"

Still Bill shifted the lump in his cheek, and cleared his throat before beginning formally.

"Mr. Speed, while we honor you a heap for your accomplishments, and while we believe in you as a man and a champeen, we kind of feel that it might make you stretch your legs some if you knew just exactly what this foot-race means to the Flying Heart outfit."

"I assured you that the Centipede cook would be beaten," said the college man, stiffly.

"Isn't Mr. Speed's word sufficient?" inquired the girl.

Stover bowed. "It had sure ought to be, and we thank you for them new assurances. You see, our spiritual on-rest is due to the fact that Humpy Joe's get-away left us broke, and we banked on you to pull us even. That first experience strained our credulity to the bustin' point, and—well, in words of one syllable, we come from Joplin."

"Missouri," said Willie.

"My dear sirs, I can't prove that you are going to win your wagers until the day of the race. However, if you are broke to start with, I don't see how you can expect to lose a great deal."

"You ain't got the right angle on the affair," Stover explained. "Outside of the onbearable contumely of losin' twice to this Centipede outfit, which would be bad enough, we have drawn a month's wages in advance, and we have put it up. Moreover, I have bet my watch, which was presented to me by the officials of the Santa Fe for killin' a pair of road-agents when I was Depity Sheriff."

Miss Blake uttered a little scream, and Speed regarded the lanky speaker with new interest. "It's a Waltham movement, solid gold case, eighteen jewels, and engraved with my name."

"No wonder you prize it," said Wally.

"I bet my saddle," informed Carara, in his slow, soft dialect. "Stamp' leather wit' silver filagree. It is more dear to me than —well—I love it ver' much, Senor!"

"Seems like Willie has made the extreme sacrifice," Stover followed up. "While all our boys has gone the limit, Willie has topped 'em all: he's bet his gun."

"Indeed! Is it a good weapon?"

"It's been good to me," said the little man, dryly. "I took it off the quivering remains of a Sheriff in Dodge City, up to that time the best hip shot in Kansas."

Speed felt a cold chill steal up his spine, while Miss Blake went pale and laid a trembling hand upon his arm.

"You see it ain't intrinsic value so much as association and sentiment that leads to this interview," Stover continued. "It ain't no joke—we don't joke with the Centipede—and we've relied on you. The Mex here would do murder for that saddle," Carara nodded, and breathed something in his own tongue. "I have parted with my honor, and Willie is gamblin' just as high."

"But I notice Mr.—Willie still has his revolver."

"Sure I got it!" Willie laughed, abruptly. "And I don't give it up till we lose, neither. That's the understandin'." His voice was surprisingly harsh for one so high-pitched. He looked more like a professor than ever.

"Willie has reasons for his caution which we respect," explained the spokesman.

J. Wallingford Speed, face to face with these serious-minded gentlemen, began to reflect that this foot-race was not a thing to be taken too lightly.

"I can't understand," he declared, with a touch of irritation, "why you should risk such priceless things upon a friendly encounter."

"Friendly!" cried Willie and Stover in a tone that made their listeners gasp. "The Centipede and the Flying Heart is just as friendly as a pair of wild boars."

"You see, it's a good thing we wised you up," added the latter.

Carara muttered fiercely: "Senor, I works five year' for that saddle. I am a good gambler, si, si! but I keel somebody biffore I lose it to the Centipede."

"And is that Echo Phonograph worth all this?" inquired Helen.

"We won that phonograph at risk of life and limb," said Willie, doggedly, "from the Centipede-"

"—and twenty other outfits, Senor."

"It's a trophy," declared the foreman, "and so long as it ain't where it belongs, the Flying Heart is in disgrace."

"Even the 'Leven X treats us scornful!" cried the smallest of the trio angrily. "We're a joke to the whole State."

"I know just how these gentlemen must feel," declared Miss Blake, tactfully, at which Stover bowed with grateful awkwardness.

"And it's really a wonderful instrument," said he. "I don't reckon there's another one like it in the world, leastways in these parts. You'd ought to hear it—clear as a bell—"

"And sweet," said Willie. "God! It's sure sweet!"

"Why, we was a passel of savages on this ranch till we got it—no sentiment, no music, no nothin' in our souls—except profanity and thirst. Then everything changed." Stover nodded gravely. "We got gentle. That music mellered us up. We got so we was as full of brotherly love as a basket of kittens. Some of the boys commenced writin' home; Cloudy begin to pay his poker debts. You'd scarcely hear enough profanity to make things bearable. I tell you it was refined. It got so that when a man came steamin' in after a week's high life and low company in town, his wages gone, and his stummick burnin' like he'd swallered all his cigar- butts, it didn't make no difference if he found a herd of purple crocodiles in his blankets, or the bunk-house walls a-crawlin' with Gila monsters. Little things like that wouldn't phaze him! He'd switch on the Echo Phonograph and doze off like a babe in arms, for the tender notes of Madam-o-sella Melby in The Holy City would soothe and comfort him like the caressin' hand of a young female woman."

"I begin to feel your loss," said Speed, gravely. "Gentlemen, I can only assure you I shall do my best."

"Then you won't take no chances?" inquired Willie, mildly.

"You may rely upon me to take care of myself."

"Thank you!" The delegation moved away.

"What d'you think of him?" inquired Stover of the little man in glasses, when they were out of hearing.

"I think he's all right," Willie hesitated, "only kind of crazy, like all Eastern boys. It don't seem credible that no sane man would dast to bluff after what we've said. He'd be flyin' in the face of Providence."

But this comforting conclusion wavered again, when Berkeley
Fresno, who had awaited their report, scoffed openly.

"He can't run! If he could run he'd be running. I tell you, he can't run as fast as a sheep can walk."

"Senor, you see those beautiful medal he have?" expostulated

"Sure," agreed Willie. "His brisket was covered with 'em. He had one that hung down like a dewlap."


"I've killed men for less," muttered the stoop-shouldered man.

"Did you see his legs?" Fresno was bent upon convincing his hearers.

"Couldn't help but see 'em in that runnin'-suit."

"Nice and soft and white, weren't they?"

"They didn't look like dark meat," Stover agreed, reluctantly.
"But you can't go nothin' on the looks of a feller's legs."

"Well, then, take his wind. A runner always has good lungs, but I'll bet if you snapped him on the chest with a rubber band he'd cough himself to death."

"Mebbe he ain't in good shape yet."

Fresno sneered. "No, and he'll never get into good condition with those girls hanging around him all the time. Don't you know that the worst thing in the world for an athlete is to talk to a woman?"

"That's the worst thing in the world for anybody," said Willie, with cynicism. "But how can we stop it?"

"Make him eat as well as sleep in his training-quarters; don't let him spend any time whatever in female company. Keep your eyes on him night and day."

Willie spoke his mind deliberately. "I'm in favor of that. If this is another Humpy Joe affair I'm a-goin' to put one more notch in my gun-handle, and it looks like a cub bear had chawed it already."

"There ain't but one thing to do," Stover announced, firmly.
"We've got to put it up to Mr. Glass and learn the truth."

"You'll find him in the bunk-house," directed Fresno. "I think
I'll trail along and hear what he has to say."


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