Now that the possibility of escape from the Flying Heart was cut off, the young man felt agonizing regret that he had not yielded to his trainer's earlier importunities and taken refuge in flight while there was yet time. It would have been undignified, perhaps; but once away from these single-minded cattle-men, his life would have been safe at least, and he could have trusted his ingenuity to reinstate him in Miss Blake's good graces. Everything was too late now. Even if he made a clean breast of the whole affair to Jean, or to her brother when he arrived, what good would that do? He doubted Jack's ability to save him, in the light of what had just passed; for men like Willie cared nothing for the orders of the person whose pay-roll they chanced to grace. And Willie was not alone, either; the rest of the crew were equally desperate. What heed would these nomads pay to Jack Chapin's commands, once they learned the truth? They were Arabs who owed allegiance to no one but themselves, the country was wild, the law was feeble, it was twenty miles to the railroad! And, besides, the thought of confession was abhorrent. Physical injury, no matter how severe, was infinitely preferable to Helen Blake's disdain. He cast about desperately for some saving loophole, but found himself trapped—completely, hopelessly trapped.

There were still, however, two days of grace, and to youth two days is an eternity. Therefore, he closed his eyes and trusted to the unexpected. How the unexpected could get past that grim, watchful sentry just outside the door he could not imagine, but when the breakfast-bell reminded him of his hunger, he banished his fears for the sake of the edibles his custodians had served.

"Don't you want anything to eat?" he inquired, when Larry made no move to depart for the cook-house.


"Not hungry, eh?"

"I'm hungry enough to eat a plush cushion, but—"




"Sure. She's been chasin' me again. If somebody don't side-track that Cuban, I'll have to lick Carara." He sighed. "I told you we'd ought to tin-can it out of here. Now it's too late."

Willie thrust his head in through the open window, inquiring, "Well, how's the breakfast goin'?" and withdrew, humming a favorite song:

"'Sam Bass was born in Indiany;
It was his natif home.
At the early age of seventeen
Young Sam commenced to roam.'"

"Fine voice!" said Lawrence, with a shudder.

It was perhaps a half-hour later that Helen Blake came tripping into the gymnasium, radiant, sparkling, her crisp white dress touched here and there with blue that matched her eyes, in her hands a sunshade, a novel, and a mysterious little bundle.

"We were so sorry to lose you at breakfast," she began.

Wally led her to the cosey-corner, and seated himself beside her.

"I suppose it is a part of this horrid training. I would never have mentioned that foot-race if I had dreamed it would be like this."

Here at least was a soul that sympathized.

"The only hardship is not to see you," he declared softly.

Miss Blake dropped her eyes.

"I thought you might like to go walking; it's a gorgeous morning. You see, I've brought a book to read to you while you rest—you must be tired after your run."

"I am, and I will. This is awfully good of you, Miss Blake." Speed rose, overwhelmed with joy, but the look of Glass was not to be passed by. "I-I'm afraid it's impossible, however." The blue eyes flew open in astonishment. "Why?" the girl questioned.

"They won't let me. I—I'm supposed to keep to myself."

"They? Who?"


Miss Blake turned indignantly upon Larry. "Do you mean to say Mr.
Speed can't go walking with me?"

"I never said nothing of the sort," declared the trainer. "He can go if he wants to."

"Just the same, I—oughtn't to do it. There is a strict routine— "

A lift of the brows and a courteous smile proclaimed Miss Blake's perfect indifference to the subject, just as Willie sauntered past the open window and spoke to Glass beneath his breath:

"Git her out!"

"I'm so sorry. May I show you a surprise I brought for you?" She unwrapped her parcel, and proudly displayed a pallid, anaemic cake garlanded with wild flowers.

Speed was honestly overcome. "For me?"

"For you. It isn't even cold yet, see! I made it before breakfast, and it looks even better than the one I baked at school!"

"That's what I call fine," declared the youth. "By Jove! and I'm so fond of cake!"

"Have a care!" breathed Larry, rising nervously, but Speed paid no attention.

"Break it with your own hands, please. Besides, it's too hot to cut."

Miss Blake broke it with her own hands, during which operation the brown face of the man outside reappeared in the window. At sight of the cake he spoke sharply, and Lawrence lumbered swiftly across the floor and laid a heavy hand upon the cake.

"Mr. Speed!" he cried warningly.

"Here, take your foot off my angel-food!" fiercely ordered the youth. But the other was like adamant.

"Bo, you are about to contest for the honor of this ranch! That cake will make a bum of you!"

"Oh—h!" gasped the author of the delicacy. "Stop before it is too late!" Glass held his hungry employer at a distance, striving to make known by a wink the necessity of his act.

"There is absolutely nothing in my cake to injure any one," Helen objected loyally, with lifted chin; whereupon the corpulent trainer turned to her and said:

"Cake would crab any athlete. Cake and gals is the limit."

"Really! I had no idea I was the least bit dangerous." Miss Blake, turning to her host, smiled frigidly. "I'm so sorry I intruded."

"Now don't say that!" Speed strove to detain her. "Please don't be offended—I just have to train!"

"Of course. And will you pardon me for interrupting your routine?
You see, I had no idea I wasn't wanted."

"But you are, and I do want you! I—"

"Good-bye!" She nodded pleasantly at the door, and left her lover staring after her.

When she had gone, he cried, in a trembling voice: "You're a fine yap, you are! She got up early to do something nice for me, and you insulted her! You wouldn't even let me sit and hold her hand!"

"No palm-readin'." Speed turned to behold his trainer ravenously devouring the cake, and dashed to its rescue.

"It's heavier than a frog full of buckshot. You won't like it,

"It's perfectly delicious!" came the choking answer.

"Then get back of them curtains. Willie'd shoot on sight."

All that morning the prisoner idled about the premises, followed at a distance by his guard. Wherever he went he seemed to see the sun flash defiance from the polished surface of those lenses, and while he was allowed a certain liberty, he knew full well that this espionage would never cease, night or day, until—what? He could not bear to read the future; anything seemed possible. Time and again he cursed that spirit of braggadocio, that thoughtless lack of moral scruple, which had led him into this predicament. He vowed that he was done with false pretences; henceforth the strictest probity should be his. No more false poses. Praise won by dissimulation and deceit was empty, anyhow, and did he escape this once, henceforth the world should know J. Wallingford Speed for what he was—an average individual, with no uncommon gifts of mind or body, courage or ability.

Yet it was small comfort to realize that he was getting his just deserts, and it likewise availed little to anathematize Fresno as the cause of his misfortune.

At noon Wally went through the mockery of a second blood-rare meal, with no cake to follow, and that afternoon Glass dragged him out under the hot sun, and made him sprint until he was ready to drop from exhaustion. His supper was wretched, and his fatigue so great that he fell asleep at Miss Blake's side during the evening. With the first hint of dawn he was up again, and Friday noon found him utterly hopeless, when, true to his prediction, the unexpected happened. In one moment he was raised from the blackest depths to the wildest transports of delight. It came in the shape of a telegram which Jean summoned him to the house to receive. He wondered listlessly as he opened the message, then started as if disbelieving his eyes; the marks of a wild emotion spread over his features, he burst into shrill, hysterical laughter.

"Do tell us!" begged Roberta.

"Covington—Covington is coming!" Wally felt his head whirl, and failed to note the chaperon's cry of surprise and see the paling of her cheeks. "Covington is coming! Don't you understand?" he shouted. After all, the gods were not deaf! Good old Culver, who had never failed him, was coming as a deliverer.

Even in the face of his extraordinary outburst the attention of the beholders was drawn to Lawrence Glass, who caused the porch to shake beneath his feet; who galloped to his employer, and, seizing him by the hands, capered about like a hippopotamus.

"I told you 'Allah' was some guy," he wheezed. "When does
Covington arrive?" Wally reread the message. "It says 'Noon
Friday.' Why, that's to-day! He's here now!"

"'Rah! 'Rah! 'Rah! Covington!" bellowed the trainer, and Mrs.
Keap sank to a seat with a stifled moan.

"Why all the 'Oh joy! Oh, rapture!' stuff?" questioned Berkeley

"As Socrates, the Hemlock Kid, would put it, 'Snatched from the shadow of the grave,'" quoth Glass, then paused abruptly. "Say, you don't think nothin' could happen to him on the way over from the depot?"

"I'm so sorry we didn't know in time to meet him," lamented Miss

"And I could have run over to the railroad to bid him welcome," laughed Speed. "Twenty miles would do me good."

Still Bill and Willie approached the gallery curiously, and in subdued tones inquired:

"What's the matter, Mr. Speed?"

"You ain't been summoned away?" Willie stared questioningly upward. "No, no! My running partner is on his way here, that's all."

"Running pardner?"

"Culver Covington."

"Oh, we was afraid something had happened. You see, Gabby Gallagher has just blowed in from the Centipede to raise our bets."

"We think it's a bluff, and we'd like to call him."

"Do so, by all means!" cried the excited athlete. "Come on, let's all talk to him!"

The entire party, with the exception of Mrs. Keap, trooped down from the porch and followed the foreman out toward the sheds, where, in the midst of a crowd of ranch-hands, a burly, loud- voiced Texan was discoursing.

"I do wish Jack were here," said Jean nervously, on the way.

Gabby Gallagher seemed a fitting leader for such a desperate crew as that of the Centipede, for he was the hardest-looking citizen the Easterners had beheld thus far. He was thickset, and burned to the color of a ripe olive; his long, drooping mustaches, tobacco-stained at the centre, were bleached at the extremities to a hempen hue. His bristly hair was cut short, and stood aggressively erect upon a bullet head, his clothes were soiled and greasy beneath a gray coating of dust. A pair of alert, lead- blue eyes and a certain facility of movement belied the drawl that marked his nativity. He removed his hat and bowed at sight of Miss Chapin.

"Good-evenin', Miss Jean!" said he. "I hope I find y'all well."

"Quite well, Gallagher. And you?"

"Tol'able, thank you."

"These are my friends from the East."

The Centipede foreman ran his eyes coldly over Jean's companions until they rested upon Speed, where they remained. He shifted a lump in his cheek, spat dexterously, and directed his remark at the Yale man.

"I rode over to see if y'all would like to lay a little mo' on this y'ere foot-race. I allow you are the unknown?"

Speed nodded, and Stover took occasion to remark: "Them's our inclinations, but we've about gone our limit."

"I don't blame you none," said Gallagher, allowing his gaze to rove slowly from top to toe of the Eastern lad. "No, I cain't blame you none whatever. But I'm terrible grieved at them tidin's. Though we Centipede punchers has ever considered y'all a cheap an' poverty-ridden outfit, we gives you credit for bein' game, till now." He spat for a second time, and regarded Stover scornfully.

A murmur ran through the cowboys.

"We are game," retorted Stover, "and for your own good don't allow no belief to the contrary to become a superstition." Of a sudden the gangling, spineless foreman had grown taut and forceful, his long face was hard.

"Don't let a Centipede bluff you!" exclaimed Speed. "Cover anything they offer—give 'em odds. Anything you don't want, I'll take, pay or play, money at the tape. We can't lose."

"I got no more money," said Carara, removing his handsome bespangled hat, "but I bet my sombrero. 'E's wort' two hondred pesos."

Murphy, the Swede, followed quickly:

"Aye ban' send may vages home to may ole' moder, but aye skall bat you some."

"Haven't you boys risked enough already?" ventured Miss Chapin.
"Remember, it will go pretty hard with the losers."

"Harder the better," came a voice.

"Y'all don't have to bet, jest because I'm h'yar," gibed

"God! I wish I was rich!" exclaimed Willie.

But Miss Chapin persisted. "You are two months overdrawn, all of you. My brother won't advance you any more."

"Then my man, Lawrence, will take what they can't cover," offered

"That's right! Clean 'em good, brothers," croaked the trainer.

"If you'll step over to the bunk-house, Gabby, we'll dig up some personal perquisites and family heirlooms." Stover nodded toward his men's quarters, and Gallagher grinned joyously.

"That shore listens like a band from where I set. We aim to annex the wages, hopes, and personal ambitions of y'all, along with your talkin'-machine."

"Excuse me." Willie pushed his way forward. "How's she gettin' along?"


"You mule-skinners ain't broke her?"

"No; we plays her every evenin'."

The little man shifted his feet; then allowed himself to inquire, as if regarding the habits of some dear departed friend:

"Have you chose any favorite records?"

"We all has our picks. Speakin' personal, I'm stuck on that baggage coach song of Mrs. More's."

"Mo_ray!_" Willie corrected. "M-o-r-a! Heleney Mo_ray_ is the lady's name."

"Mebbe so. Our foot-runner likes that Injun war-dance best of all." Carara smiled at Cloudy, who nodded, as if pleased by the compliment. Then it was that the Flying Heart spokesman made an inquiry in hushed, hesitating tones.

"How do you like The Holy City"—he removed his hat, as did those back of him. "As sung by Madam-o-sella Melby?"

"Rotten!" Gallagher said promptly. "That's a bum, for fair."

During one breathless instant the wizened man stood as if disbelieving his ears, the enormity of the insult robbing him of speech and motion. Then he uttered a snarl, and Stover was barely in time to intercept the backward fling of his groping hand.

"No voylence, Willie! There's ladies present."

Stover's captive ground his teeth and struggled briefly, then turned and made for the open prairie without a word.

"It's his first love," said Stover, simply. The other foreman exploded into hoarse laughter, saying:

"I didn't reckon I was treadin' on the toes of no bereafed relatif's, but them church tunes ain't my style. However, we're wastin' time, gents. Where's that bunk-house? Nothin' but money talks loud enough for me to hear. Good-day, white folks!" Gallagher saluted Miss Chapin and her friends with a flourish, and moved away in company with the cowboys.

"I never," said Glass, "seen so many tough guys outside of a street-car strike."

"Gallagher has been in prison," Jean informed him. "He's a wonderful shot."

"I knew it!"

Speed spoke up brightly: "Well, let's go back to the house and wait for Covington."

"But you were getting ready to go running," said Helen.

"No more running for me! I'm in good enough shape, eh, Larry?"

"Great! Barring the one thing."

"What's that?" queried Fresno.

"A little trouble with one of his nerve-centres, that's all. But even if it got worse during the night, Covington could run the race for him."

The Californian started. At last all was plain. He had doubted from the first, now he was certain; but with understanding came also a menace to his own careful plans. If Covington ran in Speed's place, how could he effect his rival's exposure? On the way back to the house he had to think rapidly.

Mrs. Keap was pacing the porch as the others came up, and called Speed aside; then, when they were alone, broke out, with blazing eyes:

"You said you had stopped him!"

"And I thought I had. I did my best."

"But he's coming! He'll be here any minute!"

"I suppose he learned you were here." Wally laughed.

"Then you must have told him."

"No, I didn't."

"Mr. Speed"—Roberta's cheeks were pallid and her voice trembled —"you—didn't—send that telegram—at all."

"Oh, but I did."

"You wanted him to get here in time to run in your place. I see it all now. You arranged it very cleverly, but you will pay the penalty."

"You surely won't tell Helen?"

"This minute! You wretched, deceitful man!"

Before he could say more, from the front of the house came the rattle of wheels, a loud "Whoa!" then Jean's voice, crying:

"Culver! Culver!" while Mrs. Keap clutched at her bosom and moaned.

Her companion bolted into the house and down the hall, shouting the name of his room-mate. Out through the front door he dashed headlong, in time to behold Fresno and the two girls assisting the new arrival toward the veranda. They were exclaiming in pity, and had their arms about the athlete, for Culver Covington, Intercollegiate One-Hundred-Yard Champion, was hobbling forward upon a pair of crutches.

The yell died in Speed's throat, he felt himself grow deadly faint.

"Crippled!" he gasped, and leaned against the door for support.


Top of Page
Top of Page