It was usually a procedure not alone of difficulty but of diplomacy as well, to rout out the ranch-hands of the Flying Heart without engendering hostile relations that might bear fruit during the day. This morning Still Bill Stover had more than his customary share of trouble, for they seemed pessimistic.

Carara, for instance, breathed a Spanish oath as he combed his hair, and when the foreman inquired the reason, replied:

"I don' sleep good. I been t'ink mebbe I lose my saddle on this footrace."

Cloudy, whose toilet was much less intricate, grunted from the shadows:

"I thought I heard that phonograph all night."

"It was the Natif Son singin' to his gal," explained one of the hands. "He's gettin' on my nerves, too. If he wasn't a friend of the boss, I'd sure take a surcingle and abate him considerable."

"Vat you t'ank? I dream' Mr. Speed is ron avay an' broke his leg," volunteered Murphy, the Swede, whose name New Mexico had shortened from Bjorth Kjelliser.

"Run away?"

"Ya-as! I dream' he's out for little ron ven piece of noosepaper blow up in his face an' mak' him ron avay, yust same as horse. He snort an' yump, an' ron till he step in prairie-dog hole and broke his leg."

"Strange!" said Willie.


"My rest was fitful and disturbed and peopled by strange fancies a whole lot. I dreamp' he throwed the race!"

A chorus of oaths from the bunks.

"What did you do?" inquired Stover.

"I woke up, all of a tremble, with a gun in each hand."

"I don't take no stock in dreams whatever," said some one.

"Well, I'm the last person in the world to be superstitious,"
Still Bill observed, "but I've had sim'lar visions lately."

"Maybe it's a om-en."

"What is a om-en?" Carara inquired.

"A om-en," explained Willie, "is a kind of a nut. Salted om-ens is served at swell restaurants with the soup."

In the midst of it Joy, the cook, appeared in the doorway, and spoke in his gentle, ingratiating tones:

"Morning, gel'mum! I see 'im again."


"No savvy who; stlange man! I go down to spling-house for bucket water; see 'im lide 'way. Velly stlange!"

"I bet it's Gallagher."

"Vat you tank he vants?" queried Murphy.

"He's layin' to get a shot at our runner," declared Stover, while Mr. Cloudy, forgetting his Indian reserve, explained in classic English his own theory of the nocturnal visits. "Do you remember Humpy Joe? Well, they didn't cripple him, but he lost. I don't think Gallagher would injure Mr. Speed, but—he might—bribe him."

"Caramba!" exclaimed the Mexican.

"God 'lmighty!" Willie cried, in shocked accents.

"I believe you're right, but"—Stover meditated briefly before announcing with determination—"we'll do a little night-ridin' ourselves. Willie, you watch this young feller daytimes, and the rest of us'll take turns at night. An' don't lose sight of the fat man, neither—he might carry notes. If you don't like the looks of things—you know what cards to draw."

"Sixes," murmured the near-sighted cow-man. "Don't worry."

"If you see anything suspicious, burn it up. And we'll take a shot at anything we see movin' after 9 P.M."

Then Berkeley Fresno came hurriedly into the bunk-house with a very cheery "Good-morning! I'm glad I found you up and doing," he said blithely. "I thought of something in my sleep." It was evident that the speaker had been in more than ordinary haste to make his discovery known, for underneath his coat he still wore his pajama shirt, and his hair was unbrushed.

"What is it?"

"Your man Speed isn't taking care of himself."

"What did I tell you?" said Willie to his companions.

"It seems to me that in justice to you boys he shouldn't act this way," Fresno ran on. "Now, for instance, the water in his shower- bath is tepid."

There was an instant's silence before Stover inquired, with ominous restraint:

"Who's been monkeying with it?"

"It's warm!"

"Oh!" It was a sigh of relief.

"A man can't get in shape taking warm shower-baths. Warm water weakens a person."

"Mebbe you-all will listen to me next time!" again cried Willie, triumphantly. "I said at the start that a bath never helped nobody. When they're hot they saps a man's courage, and when they're cold they—"

"No, no! You don't understand! For an athlete the bath ought to be cold—the colder the better. It's the shock that hardens a fellow."

"Has he weakened himself much?" inquired the foreman.

"Undoubtedly, but—"


"If we only had some ice—"

"We got ice; plenty of it. We got a load from the railroad yesterday."

"Then our only chance to save him is to fill the barrel quickly.
We must freeze him, and freeze him well, before it is too late!
By Jove! I'm glad I thought of it!"

Stover turned to his men. "Four of you-all hustle up a couple hundred pounds of that ice pronto! Crack it, an' fill the bar'l." There was a scramble for the door.

"And there's something else, too," went on Berkeley. "He's being fed wrong for his last days of training. The idea of a man eating lamb-chops, fried eggs, oatmeal, and all that debilitating stuff! Those girls overload his stomach. Why, he ought to have something to make him strong—fierce!"

"Name it," said Willie, shortly.

"Something like—like—bear meat."

"We ain't got no bear." Willie looked chagrined.

"This ain't their habitat," added Stover apologetically.

"Well, he ought to have meat, and it ought to be wild—raw, if possible."

"There ain't nothin' wilder 'n a long-horn. We can git him a steer."

"You are sure the meat isn't too tender?"

"It's tougher 'n a night in jail."

"There ain't no sausage-mill that'll dent it."

"Good! The rarer it is the better. Some raw eggs and a good strong vegetable—"


"Fine! We'll save him yet!"

"We'll get the grub."

"And he'll eat it!" Willie nodded firmly.

Stover issued another order, this time to Carara. "You 'n Cloudy butcher the wildest four-year-old you can find. If you can't get close enough to rope him, shoot him, and bring in a hind quarter. It's got to be here in time for breakfast."

"Si, Senor!" The Mexican picked up his lariat; the Indian took a
Winchester from an upper bunk and filled it with cartridges.

"Of course, he'll have to eat out here; they spoil him up at the house."

"Sure thing!"

"I'd hate to see him lose; it would be a terrible blow to Miss
Blake." Fresno shook his head doubtfully.

"What about us?"

"Oh, you can stand it—but she's a girl. Ah, well," the speaker sighed, "I hope nothing occurs between now and Saturday to prevent his running."

"It won't," Stover grimly assured the Californian. "Nothin' whatever is goin' to occur."

"He was speaking yesterday about the possibility of some business engagement—"

The small man in glasses interrupted. "Nothin' but death shall take him from us, Mr. Fresno."

"If I think of anything else," offered Berkeley, kindly, "I'll tell you."

"We wish you would."

Fresno returned to the house, humming cheerily. It was still an hour until his breakfast-time, but he had accomplished much. In the midst of his meditation he came upon Miss Blake emerging upon the rear porch.

"Good-morning!" he cried. She started a trifle guiltily. "What are you doing at this hour?"

"Oh, I just love the morning air," she answered. "And you?"

"Same here! 'Honesty goes to bed early, and industry rises betimes.' That's me!"

"Then you have been working?"

Fresno nodded. He was looking at four cowboys who were entering the gymnasium, staggering beneath dripping gunny-sacks. Then he turned his gaze searchingly upon the girl.

"Were you looking for Speed?" he asked accusingly. "The idea!"
Miss Blake flushed faintly.

"If you are, he has gone for a run. I dearly love to see him get up early and run, he enjoys it so. To give pleasure to others is one of my constant aims. That is why I learned to sing." "I have been baking a cake," said Helen, displaying the traces of her occupation upon hands, arms, and apron, while Fresno, at sight of the blue apron tied at her throat and waist, felt that he himself was as dough in her hands. "I had a dreadful time to make it rise."

"Early rising is always unpopular."

"How clever you are this morning."

"If I were a cake I would rise at your lightest word."

"The cook said it wouldn't be fit to eat," declared Helen.

"Jealousy! She hadn't been up long."

"And I did leave a lot of dishes to wash after I had finished," Miss Blake admitted.

"I should love to eat your cooking."

"Once in a while, perhaps, but not every day."

"Every day—always and always. You know what I-mean, Miss Blake— Helen!" The young man bent a lover's gaze upon his companion until he detected her eyes fastened with startled inquiry upon his toilet. Remembering, he buttoned his coat, but ran on. "This is the first chance I've had to see you alone since Speed arrived. There's something I want to ask you."

"I—I know what it is," stammered Helen. "You want me to let you sing again. Please do. I love morning music—and your voice is so tender."

"Life," said Berkeley, "is one sweet—"

"What is going on here?" demanded a voice behind them, and Mrs. Keap came out upon the porch, eying the pair suspiciously. It was evident that she, like Fresno, had dressed hurriedly.

"Mr. Fresno is going to sing to us," explained the younger girl, quickly.


"I am like the bird that greets the morn with song," laughed the tenor, awkwardly.

"What are you going to sing?" demanded the chaperon, still suspiciously. "Dearie."

"Don't you know any other song?"

"Oh yes, but they are all sad."

"I'm getting a trifle tired of Dearie, let's have one of the others." Mrs. Keap turned her eyes anxiously toward the training-quarters, and it was patent that she had not counted upon this encounter. Noting her lack of ease, Fresno said hopefully:

"If you are going for a walk, I'll sing for you at some other time."

"Is Mr. Speed up yet?"

"Up and gone. He'll be back soon."

Then Mrs. Keap sank into the hammock, and with something like resignation, said:

"Proceed with the song."

Along the road toward the ranch buildings plodded two dusty pedestrians, one a blond youth bundled thickly in sweaters, the other a fat man who rolled heavily, and paused now and then to mop his purple face. Both were dripping as if from an immersion, while the air about the latter vibrated with heat waves. They both stumbled as they walked, and it was only by the strongest effort of will that they propelled themselves. As they neared the corner of the big, low-lying ranch-house, already reflecting the hot glare of the morning sun, a man's clear tenor voice came to them.

"The volley was fired at sunrise,
Just at the break of day"—

"Did you get that?" one of the two exclaimed hoarsely. "They're practising a death-march, and it's ours."

"And as the echoes lingered,
His soul had passed away."

"That's you, Wally!" wheezed the trainer.

"Into the arms of his Maker,
There to learn his fate"—

Speed broke into a run.

"A tear, a sigh, a last 'Good-bye'—
The pardon came too late."

"Here, what are you singing about?" angrily protested Speed, as he rounded into view.

"Oh, it's Mr. Speed!"

"Good-morning!" chorused Helen and the chaperon.

"Welcome to our city!" Fresno greeted.

Glass tottered to the steps. "Them songs," he puffed, "is bad for a man when he's trainin'; they get him all worked up."

"We had no idea you would be back so soon," apologized Helen.

"Soon!" Speed measured the distance to a wicker chair, gave it up, and sank beside his trainer. "We left yesterday! We've run miles and miles and miles!"

"You can't be in very good shape," volunteered the singer.

"Oh, is that so?" Glass retorted. "I say he's great. He got my goat—and I'm some runner."

"And I'd be obliged to you if you'd cut out those deeply appealing songs." Speed glowered at his rival. It was Helen who hastened to smooth things.

"It's all my fault. I asked Mr. Fresno to sing something new."

"Bah! That was written by William Cromwell."

"No more of them battle-hymns," Glass ordered. "They don't do Mr.
Speed no good."

"All I want is a drink," panted that youthful athlete, and Helen rose quickly, saying that she would bring ice-water.

But the trainer barked, sharply: "Nix! I've told you that twenty times, Wally. It'll put hob-nails in your liver." He rose with difficulty, swaying upon his feet, and where he had sat was a large, irregular shaped, sweat-dampened area. "Come on! Don't get chilled."

"I'd give twenty dollars for a good chill!" exclaimed the overheated college man longingly.

"I would like to see you a moment, Mr. Speed." Roberta rose from the hammock.

"Oh, and I've forgotten my—" Helen checked her words with a startled glance toward the kitchen. "It will be burned to a crisp." She hastened down the porch, and Fresno followed, while Speed looked after them.

"He must be an awful nuisance to a nice girl. Think of a fat, sandy-haired husband in a five-room flat with pink wall-paper and a colored janitor. Run along, Muldoon," to Glass, "I'll be with you in a moment."

When the trainer had waddled out of hearing, Mrs. Keap inquired, eagerly:

"Have you heard from Culver?"

"Didn't you know about it?" Speed swallowed.

Roberta shook her dark head.

"He's in—he's detained at Omaha for ten days. I fixed it."

The overwrought widow dropped back into the hammock, crying weakly:

"Oh, you dear, good boy!"

"Yes, I'm all of that. I—I suppose I'd be missed if anything happened to me!"

"How ever did you manage it?"

"Never mind the details. It took some ingenuity."

Mrs. Keap wrung her hands. "I was so terribly frightened! You see, Jack will be back to-morrow, and I—was afraid—"

There was a call from Glass from the training-quarters.

"How can I ever do enough for you? You have averted a tragedy!"

"Don't let Helen know, that's all. If she thought I'd been the head yeller—"

"I won't breathe a word, and I hope you win the race for her sake."

Mrs. Keap pressed the hand of her deliverer, who trudged his lonely way toward the gymnasium, where Glass was saying:

"'The volley was fired at sunrise.' That means Saturday, Bo."

"Larry, you're the best crepe-hanger of your weight in the world."

Larry bent a look of open disgust upon his employer.

"And you're a good runner, you are," said he. "Why, I beat you this morning."

The younger man glanced up hopefully. "Couldn't you beat this cook?"

"You're the only man in this world I can outrun.

"'A tear, a sigh, a last good-bye.'"

"Shut up!"

As Glass consented to do this, the speaker mused, bitterly, "'Early to bed and early to rise.' I wish I had the night- watchman who wrote those words."

"Didn't you never see the sun rise before?"

"Certainly not. I don't stay up that late."

"Well, ain't it beautiful!" The stout man turned admiring eyes to the eastward, and his husky voice softened. "All them colors and tints and shades and stuff! And New York on the other end!"

"I'm too tired to see beauty in anything." As if mindful of a neglected duty, Glass turned upon him. "What are you waiting for? Get those dog-beds off your back." He seized the slack of a sweater and gave it a jerk.

"Don't be so rough; I'll come. You might care to remember you're working for me."

"I am working"—Glass dragged his protege about the room regardless of complaints that were muffled by the thickness of the sweaters—"for my life, and I'll be out of a job Saturday. Now, get under that shower!"


Top of Page
Top of Page