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The spoilers of the valley Watson, Robert, 1882-1948 1921

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THE
CHUNG        ^M
COLLECTION   I
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f **-—^v^.   Zffi The Spoilers of the Valley
ROBERT   WATSON  THE   SPOILERS
OF   THE   VALLEY
ROBERT WATSON
AUTHOR OF "MY BRAVE  AND GALLANT GENTLEMAN,"
"THE GIRL OF O.  K.  VALLEY,"  "STRONGER
THAN HIS SEA," ETC.
u COPYRIGHT,  1921,
BY GEORGE  H.  DORAN  COMPANY
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TO
A LADY CALLED NAN  : :      J   CONTENTS.    S
CHAPTER PAGE
§1   The Man Hunt   .     .     ...     .     .     .§ . n
II   The Wolf  Note 1.  19
III At Pederstone's Forge     ........ 36
IV Wayward Langford     ....... 44
V   The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing    i|  .     H 58
a     VI   A Bird to Pluck    .     .§.    ...     .     .     . 67
s   VII    Wild Man Hanson Goes Wild    .     .     .     . . ' 74
VIII    Like Man, Like Horse   'i     .     .    §§§    . 89
IX    The Doings of Percival  101
X   Jim's Grand Toot    .             122
XI    Sol Wants a Good Wife—Bad    .     .     .     . 140
XII    The Dance    .  148
XIII The Big Steal  165
XIV The Round-Up   .     .     .    .     .     .     .     jjj 176
XV    SoPs Matrimonial Mix-Up     .     .     .     . | . 190
XVI    The Breakaway  203
XVII    Wayward Langford's Grand Highland Fling 224
XVIII    The Coat of Many Colours    .     .     .     .     . 240
XIX    Ranching De Luxe  258
• •
Vll viii Contents
CHAPTER PAGE
XX A Breach and a Confession  273
XXI A Maiden, a Lover and a Heathen Chinee   . 302
XXII Fire Begets Hot Air    ........ 320
XXIII So Deep in Love Am I  338
XXIV The Landslide    .      . 355
XXV The  Bank  Robberyf   ....... 372
XXVI The Dawn of a New Day   ...... 382 The Spoilers of the Valley -:=■» pTHE SPOILERS |
OF THE VALLEY
■$■■':      CHAPTER I |
■ .  f| '   " The Man Hunt r Jr.
TP on the hill, high above the twinkling lights of the
^ busy little ranching town of Vernock, at the open
dining-room window of a pretty, leafy-bowered, six-
roomed bungalow, a girl, just blossoming into womanhood, stood in her night robes and dressing gown, braiding her dark hair. She was slight of form, but health-
glowed from her expressive face.
She was dreamily contemplating the beauties of the
night.
Below her, stretching like a fan, was the Valley upon
which was built the merry, happy-go-lucky, scattered little town ff she loved. Everywhere around were the
eternal, undulating hills, enclosing the Valley in a world
by itself. The night had just lately closed in. The sky
was clear and presented a wall and a dome of almost
inky blue. Away due south, right over the peak of a
hill, on the wall of blue hung a great star, bright and
scintillating like a floating soap bubble, while a handspan
straight above that again a thin, crescent moon lay coldly
ii 12        The Spoilers of the Valley
on its back sending up a reflection of its own streaky,
ghostly light from the distant lake which was no more
than visible through a rift in the hills.
As the girl drank in the delights of the peaceful panorama spreading away right from her very feet, she was
aroused sharply from her meditation. She heard, or
fancied she heard, a distant shot, followed by the sound
of excited voices and the barking of dogs. She went to
the door, threw it open fearlessly and peered down the
hill; but all was silent again save for this barking which
travelled farther and farther away all the time, being
caught up and carried along in a desultory fashion by
the dogs of all the neighbouring houses and ranches.
She stood for a moment, looking about her, then,
shivering slightly with the cold, she threw a kiss to the
Valley, closed the door again and turned slowly toward
her bedroom.
Her fingers were upon the lamp to turn down the light,
when three short peremptory raps at the back door
caused her to start nervously. She took up the lamp
and tiptoed into the kitchen.
"Who's there?" she called.
The rapping was repeated; this time with a much
greater insistence.
"Quick,—quick! For God's sake let me in!" came a
hoarse, muffled voice which sounded strangely tired.
The girl set the lamp on the kitchen table and went
cautiously forward to the door.
Who's there ?" she repeated, her hand on the door
fastenings.
"Let me in!" came the voice in desperation. "If you
have a heart, please open."
"I cannot until I know who you are. I am a girl.
I am alone."
A groan escaped the man on the outside, and the an- The Man Hunt
13
guish of it struck into the bosom of Eileen Pederstone.,
Once more the voice came pleadingly:—
"And I am a man!    I am hunted,—I need help."
The girl shot back the bolt, threw wide the door and
stood back with bated breath.
A masculine figure, panting and dishevelled, staggered
in, blinking in the lamplight.
Eileen slowly pushed the door shut, keeping her frightened eyes upon the incomer who tottered weakly to the
wall and leaned against it for support.
Dirty from head to heel, he was dressed only in a pair
of ragged trousers and a torn, mud-stained shirt. His
stockingless feet were partly hidden in a pair of broken
boots. Several days' growth of beard made it hard to
guess him young or old. But his blue eyes, despite their
tired and bloodshot appearance, betrayed, as they gazed
in wonder at the girl, many characteristics of a youth-
fulness not yet really past.
While the two stood thus, the far-away sound of
voices floated up the hill from below.
The fugitive's eyes roved like those of a hunted animal. He braced himself as if ashamed of his momentary show of fear. He tried hard to smile, but the
smile was a dismal failure.
"Sorry,"   he   panted,    "but—but "      His   voice
sounded harsh and hoarse from exposure. "Is there
anywhere—any place where you could hide me till they
pass. They were only—only a little behind me. Guess
—I—shouldn't—shouldn't have got you mixed up in
this. They are coming this way. They want to take
me back—but I can't—I won't go back there.   Ah!"
He clung with his fingers against the wall to prevent
him from collapsing.
In a moment, anxious and all alert, Eileen searched
the kitchen for a place of safe hiding.    She thought of 14       The Spoilers of the Valley
the cupboards, the clothes-closets in her own bedroom,
even her bed of spotless linen; but none of these afforded security. At last, her ready eyes found what
her nimble mind was seeking.
"Quick—here!" she cried, turning to the huge box in
the corner which she used for holding the short firewood for her stove. "Help me unload this wood. The
box is good and big. You can get inside; I'll pile the
wood on top of you.    They'll never guess."
The girl, although slight in appearance, set to with a
vigour and an agility that carried a swift contagion.
The man was by her side at once. He gave a little
crackle of a laugh in his throat, and shot a glance of admiration at her. In sixty seconds more, the box was
emptied of its contents. The man clambered inside and
crouched in the bottom of it.
It was only then that the girl noticed his very great
physical weakness. |§f
"Oh, what shall I do?" she cried in sudden alarm. "I
can't leave you this way. You have been hurt. There
is blood on your shirt.    The cowards!—they've  shot
y°u-"   e       p m PSk
"Never mind me—hurry! It is nothing at all—only
a scratch!    Quick!" he gasped.
"Wait a moment then!" she whispered.
The man raised himself on his elbow and watched her
as she ran to the tap in the pantry and filled a tumbler
to the brim with water.
Greedy hands clutched the glass from her, and the
contents were swallowed in great gulps. The man
sighed like a tired child. He smiled slightly, showing
teeth of delightful regularity.
"Water's great—isn't it?" he said childishly.
And as Eileen looked into his eyes she saw that they The Man Hunt
15
were young eyes; eyes filled with tears, and eyes that
were ever so blue.
"Quick!   They're pretty nearly here."
Eileen commenced cautiously to pile the wood on top
of him.
"Don't mind me!" he whispered huskily. "Tumble it
in.    I'm—I'm only a runaway convict."
She worked fast and furiously, and had just turned
away from the innocent-looking, well-piled box of split
wood in the corner, when she heard the excited voices
of hurrying men at her front door.
They tapped sharply.
She took the lamp from the kitchen table, carried it
with her to the door, shot the bolt back again and threw
the door wide open.
Three men stepped into the semi-circle of light. All
were tall and of agile build.
"Poor boy!" was Eileen's first thought. "What
chance has he against these?"
One of the men carried a rifle. She knew him.
Everybody in Vernock knew him. She had known him
ever since his coming to the Valley five years before.
She had marked with childlike wonder—as others had
done—his meteoric progress in wealth and power. He
was a man, disliked by some, feared by many, and obeyed
by all; a land-owner; a cattle breeder; a grain dealer; a
giant in body as well as will; and—the new Mayor of
Vernock.
The other men were strangers to the girl.
All three walked straight through to the kitchen.   The
o o
one nearest to Eileen addressed her.
"Sorry miss, for intrudin' so late, 'specially as we
hear your dad's at Enderby and you're all alone to-night.
But we're after a man—a convict—escaped from Ukalla H   '
16        The Spoilers of the Valley
jail. Saw your light! Thought we saw your door
open!"
He peered about suspiciously. "Didn't see anything
of him—did you?"
Eileen looked away from the ferrety eyes that searched
hers.
"I was just going to bed," she answered nervously.
"I—I fancied I heard voices and a shot."
"Wasn't any fancy, miss!"
"I—I opened the door and looked out, but didn't hear
anything more, so I closed the door again."
"Hum!" put in her interlocutor, rubbing his chin.
"You didn't see any signs of our man when you looked
out?" § SI J||
Eileen shivered, for she did not know how much these
men knew or how much they had really seen.
"Yes or no, miss!" he snapped.
"No!—most certainly, no!" Eileen shot back at him in
defiance.    "How dare you talk to me in that way!"
Tears of vexation sprang to her eyes; vexation that
she should have had to Tie, although it was forced upon
her unless she meant to betray the man who had trusted
himself to her safe-keeping.
"Easy, officer;—easy! Miss Pederstone is all right,"
put in the man with the rifle. "What she says you can
bank on."
"Oh, pshaw!—you don't have to teach me my business," retorted the detective.
"Maybe not; but you can stand some teaching in manners," returned the other.
"See here, sir!" came the quick answer, "if you don't
like this, you had better get down the hill and home.
You village mayors give me a pain."
The man with the rifle bit his lip and remained silent.
"You don't mind me having a look round, miss?" in- The Man Hunt
17
quired the officer a little bit less brusquely, but starting
in to search without waiting for her permission.
He threw open the cupboards and the closets. He
examined every room in the house. He even went into
Eileen's bedroom. She followed him there, carrying the
lamp. He looked into her bed and searched under it.
He examined her clothes chest.
At last both returned to the kitchen.
The moment she got there, Eileen's heart stood still.
She gave vent to a startled exclamation, which, however,
she quickly covered up by stumbling slightly forward
as if she had tripped on the rug and almost upset the
lamp.
The second officer, who all along had remained silent
and simply an onlooker, was seated on the top of the wood
box, rapping his heels on the side of it and whistling
softly to himself with a look on his face which might
have been taken for one of blissful ignorance or secret
knowledge, so bland was it.
"All through, Barney?" he asked.
"Ya!"
;■   "Satisfied?"
"Ya!—come on!"
The second officer turned to the box upon w!iich he
had been sitting.
"Some box this!" he exclaimed, kicking it with his
foot. "Guess we'd better see if there's anyone under
the wood pile."
He got down and commenced to throw a few pieces
off the top.
Eileen's heart stopped beating.
The detective at the door came over with a look of supreme contempt on his face. He lifted the lid of the
stove and spat some tobacco juice into the fire, then he
went over to his companion. 18        The Spoilers of the Valley
"Say, Jim!—are you a detective or a country boob
on his vacation?"
"Why?    What's the matter with you?"
"Aw, quit! Can't you see the lady wants to get to
bed!    Why don't you look inside the teapot?"
"Oh, all right!" replied the other, dusting off his hands.
"This is your hunt:—if you are satisfied, so am I."
Eileen's heart thumped as if it would burst through
her body, and she feared for the very noise of it.
Slowly the second detective followed the other two
men out. .M CHAPTER II
The Wolf Note
AT the door, the man carrying the rifle came close
to Eileen.    He caught her hand in his and tapped
it lightly. f 1
"Don't worry, little girl!    I triecj my best to keep
them from disturbing you," he said in low tones, "but
you know what these fellows are like."
"Thank you!    You are very kind," answered Eileen
quietly.    "Father will thank you, too, when he comes
back."
The Mayor wished her good-night, raised his hat and
followed the others, who were already well on their way
down the hill.
Eileen waited at the door until they were no longer
within sight or earshot. Then she closed and bolted it.
She ran over to the wood-box. She tossed the chunks
of wood about her in frantic haste, whispering, almost
crooning, to the man underneath, who did not hear her
for he was lying there crumpled in a senseless heap.
With a cry she freed him and bent over him. Her
supple young arms went under his shoulders. She
raised him, half dragging, half lifting, until she had him
stretched upon the floor in front of the stove. She ran
for a basin of water, cut some linen into strips and, on
her knees beside him, she bathed and dressed the raw,
open wound in his side, where a bullet had ripped and
torn along the white flesh.
19 vctoaBearai!!
ii
20        The Spoilers of the Valley
When she finished, she raised his limp head and bathed
his brow with cold water.
The fugitive groaned and opened his eyes.
He smiled a wan sort of smile through a grimy, unshaven mask, as he looked into the sweet face above
him. Then he closed his eyes again, as if he feared the
picture might vanish.
"Oh, brace up!" Eileen whispered tearfully, almost
shaking him in her fear.| "You must brace up. They've
gone. But they may come back. If they do, they'll be
sure to get you."
Gathering his scattered senses, the man on the floor
raised himself with an effort on to his elbow. He struggled to his feet and swayed unsteadily. He passed his
hand over his eyes and made an involuntary movement
as if to thrust his fingers through his hair. As he did
so, a pained expression crossed his face, for his fingers
encountered nothing but a short stubble of hair close
cropped to his skin.
Eileen lent him her support, as he tried to brace himself. She set him in an armchair, then brought him
bread, butter, some cold meat and fresh milk from the
cupboard, placing them on the table before him.
Only his eyes expressed thanks, but they did it eloquently. Ravenously he turned to, while his young
hostess watched him in curiosity and wonder, for never
before had she seen one really famishingly hungry.
When not a morsel remained, the man pushed back
his chair and turned to the young lady apologetically.
"You'll excuse me if I forgot my table manners, but
—but that was my first food for three days."
He rose.
"I guess I will be able to make it now. I feel all
right;—thanks to you."
"No, no!" exclaimed Eileen, "you mustn't go just yet.
sE§*ftersgte The Wolf Note
21
You must rest if only for a few minutes. I was anxious before these men were clear away, but they have
gone.    The rest will do you good."
"No!—I must go. It—it would mean trouble for you
if they found me here."
"You shan't! Sit down!" she commanded. "You
may require all your strength before morning."
She set him in the chair again, and he obeyed her helplessly and with a sigh of weariness.
"But " he protested feebly, raising his hand.
"Trouble for me!" she interposed; "I am not afraid
of trouble."
"You are indeed a Good Samaritan," he said in a voice
which sounded less forlorn. "If I wasn't a jailbird,
I'd thank you in my prayers."
He smiled crookedly. "You know, convicts' prayers
don't seem to rise very high, miss—don't seem to reach
anywhere. We haven't got the stand-in with the Boss
that others seem to have," he said in some bitterness.
"Hush!" she whispered. "You must not say that, for
it isn't true. Those men might have caught you,—but
they didn't. But, but,"* she added seriously, "surely
you are not a convict; not a criminal, I mean?"
He turned his hands outwards with a shrug.
"You don't look like one who loved doing wrong. If
you have ever done wrong, I am sure it was done in a
moment of rashness; maybe thoughtlessness." She
clasped her hands in front of her. "You would never
do it again."
He shook his head.
"No,—never, never again!" But his voice had no
sound of contrition in it.
'When you are free—really free—you will try to
be what God meant you to be; a real man; good, honest
and earnest." ■uuiUMim
22        The Spoilers of the Valley
He moved uneasily, then he got up once more, went
over to the window and looked out into the night. He
remained with his back to her for some time, and she
did not seek to break into his thoughts.
Finally he turned, and, as he leaned against the wall
by the door, he gazed at her curiously.
"They nick-named me 'Silent' in jail, because I
wouldn't talk," he said in a husky tone. "God knows!
—what inducement had a man to talk—there ?
"Maybe I shouldn't talk now—but I might feel better
if I did, and you cared to listen."
"Yes, oh yes!—please tell me," replied the girl earnestly.
"I have never committed any crime against anyone.
The only wrong I have done is to myself. Like a fool,
I took the blame to save the other fellow, because, oh,
because I thought I was better able to—that was all.
But that other fellow skulked away, deserted me;—the
low coward!" §1|
The man's voice rose in the quiet of that little bungalow upon the hill where the only other sounds were the
ticking of the clock and the quick breathing of an anxious listener.
"God help him when we meet!"
"Hush!" cautioned the girl again.
"When I took on his troubles," he continued, more
quietly, "I did not think of anything more than a few
months in prison, but, Great God! they gave me five
years:—five years !"
His eyes widened at the awfulness of the thought and
a look of agony came into his face.
Eileen Pederstone gasped, and her lips parted.
"Five years," she whispered.
The man continued in bitterness.
"Yes! five years in hell—buried alive-^-away from The Wolf Note
23
humanity—from light—air—freedom; from the sunshine, the hills, and the valleys; from the sea, the wind,
and, and, the higher things—literature, music, art: truth
—love—life:—buried from the combination of all these,
from God himself."
He shuddered. He almost wept in his frailness.
"And now the very sunshine hurts like an electric shock,
the open spaces make me feel lost and afraid; make me
long for the confinement of a cell again."
He stopped suddenly and brushed his eyes with the
back of his hand.
Eileen went over to him, laid a hand tenderly on his
torn shirt-sleeve and led him over to the chair again,
for he still showed signs of his physical exhaustion. He
sat back and closed his eyes. When he opened them
again, Eileen spoke to him.
"And you ran away ? Why, oh, why did you do that ?
Couldn't you see that it would mean recapture; more
imprisonment? And you were probably so near the
end of it."
Her whole soul was speaking compassionately.
"Near the end!" he said bitterly. "It was the end. I
broke prison because they had no right to keep me there
any longer."
"But why? How could that possibly be?" she asked,
closing her hands nervously.
He gave expression to a sound of surprise at her innocence.
'You don't know them, miss. Anything, everything
is possible in there. They are masters, kings, gods. My
conduct was good. After three years and eight months
I was due to get out in one month more. But I was
useful to them in there. I had education. I was the
only accountant; the greatest book-lover in jail. To
keep me from thinking—for the thinking is what drives 24        The Spoilers of the Valley
men mad—I worked and slaved night and day. They
had no one to take my place. I was trusted. I did the
work of three men.
"One day I interfered in behalf of a fellow prisoner
—a horse thief—who was wrongly accused at this particular time of breaking some trivial prison law. My
good conduct sheet was cancelled. I was told that I must
serve my full time. That's what I got for trying, for
the second time, to help my fellow-man." He laughed.
"That—and a peculiar-sounding word which that strange
little jailbird gave to me, on condition that I would never
sell it, stating it was all he had and that it might be useful to me some day if I ever had the handling of horses.
"Yes!—I should have been wise that time. It was
my second offence of helping my neighbour. Three
years and nine months in jail for a kindly act! Fifteen
months more in hell in exchange for a word!    What bar-
gains!
He grew bitter again.
"The hell-hounds!—they thought I didn't tumble to
their little game."
He stopped again, closing his mouth tightly as if inquiring of himself why he should be telling this young
lady so much.
"Please—please go on," Eileen pleaded, divining his
thoughts.
"Why?" he asked bluntly, surveying the slight, lissom
figure before him.
"Oh, because—because I am interested. I am so
sorry for you and for so many others like you," she
said.
"Well!—I served my full time—five years—three
years with 365 days each and two leap years with an
extra day in them,—1,827 days and nights, 43,848 hours;
2,630,880 minutes;  157,852,800 second strokes on the The Wolf Note
25
clock.    You see I remember it all%   Great God, how I
used to figure it out!
"Eight days ago my time was up. I asked them regarding my release. And simply because I inquired instead of waiting their good pleasure, they told me I had
two weeks more to serve. The damnable lie! As if I
didn't know, as if every jailbird doesn't know the day
and the very minute his release is due! jp
"Two weeks more!" he went on, his face flushed with
indignation and his breath coming in short jerks.
The clock on Eileen's mantelshelf struck midnight,
slowly and clearly.
The convict looked at it and gasped. When it stopped
striking, he turned to Eileen and his eyes twinkled for
a second.
"The Governor of the prison has a little clock just
the same as that in his private room," he said. "Do
you know, I'm afraid all the time that I'm going to wake
up from this and find myself back there."
He jerked his torn garments together.
"Guess I'd better be going, though. I've stayed faf
too long already.    I feel rested now."
"Won't you finish your story first?" pleaded Eileen.
"I think you are safer here—for a while longer—than
you would be outside. It won't hurt to let those horrid,
prying, suspicious creatures get well away from here."
"I have already said more than I intended to," he remarked.
The pair presented a strange contrast as they sat opposite each other in the lamplight; the one, wet-eyed,
sympathetic and earnest; the other, gaunt, indignant and
breathless as he gasped out his story with the hunger of
one to whom sympathy was a rediscovered friend.
"Where was I at?" he asked.    "Ah, yes!
■mrbrriirja 26        The Spoilers of the Valley
"The Governor's dirty-worker wouldn't listen when
I tried to explain.    He ordered me back.
"At work in the office next day, I took advantage of
a warder's slackness and broke clear away.
"I didn't care what happened then. I was crazed. An
old lady in a cottage—God bless her!—fed me and gave
me these clothes—her son's castaways—and three dollars; all the money she had.
"I walked twenty miles without stop or let-up. After
that I slept during the day and walked at night. Three
days after my breakaway, I got on to a freight train
and stole a ride as far as Sicamous. I slept overnight
in a barn there. Next morning I tried to bribe a boy
to gtt me some food at the grocery store. I gave him
a dollar. He never came back. I heard some men talking at the door of the barn about a suspicious character
who had been seen skulking about. That decided me.
I got out when night came and slipped under an empty
fruit car which was being shunted on the siding. I got
off yesterday, slipping away between a little village up
the line and here. The engineer got his eye on me and
stopped the train. He let some men off: they were two
detectives, I think. They had been riding in the caboose.
They came after me. I fell exhausted somewhere in
the bush. When I came to it was broad daylight and
the men were gone."
He looked up at Eileen suddenly.
"There isn't much more. Early this morning I managed to get into a barn by the railway tracks. I got
in through a skylight in the roof. I went to sleep among
the straw there. Soon after, the sound of a key in the
padlock outside woke me. I scrambled up and through
the skylight again, and away. There were three men
—one with a rifle.    They hunted me, finding me and The Wolf Note
27
a-
(C:
losing me several times.    The devil with the rifle got
a line on me down the hill a short time ago.
"When I got to your door I was all in." He smiled.
"You're a real sport.    You didn't give me away."
He got up and threw out his hands. "Oh, what's the
good anyway! All jailbirds tell the tale and shout their
innocence."
Eileen's heart was moved. Tears welled up in her
eyes.    She was at a loss to know what to do or say.
As the man turned from her, his elbow struck something hanging on the wall. He caught at it quickly as
it was falling.
It was an old violin of very delicate workmanship.
"Sorry!" he exclaimed, handing it to her. "I am
clumsy in a house. Haven't been in one for so long.
Glad I didn't smash it."
'I almost wish you had," said Eileen enigmatically.
'Don't you like music?" he asked.
"Oh, yes!" :§e     -|||-   §   .
"Violin music?"
"Yes!—but not from that violin. It is not like other
violins: it has an unsavoury history."
"Do you play?"
"Not the violin," said Eileen, standing with her back
to the table, leaning lightly there, clad in her dressing
gown, her plaited hair hanging over her shoulder and
her eyes on her strange visitor in manifest interest.
"My father is very fond of scraping on a violin. The
one he plays is hanging up there."
She pointed to another violin beside the mantelshelf
in the adjoining room.
"And this one?" he queried curiously, pointing to the
one she had laid on the table.
"This one is several hundred years old. It has been
in the family for ever so long.    The story goes with it
11 I
ft
28        The Spoilers of the Valley
that the member of our family who owns it will attain
much wealth during his life, but will lose it again if he
doesn't pass it on when he is at the very height of his
prosperity. My father says it has always proved true,
and he is hoping for the day when its promise will be
fulfilled in his case, for he longs for wealth and all it
brings; and he has striven all his life to get it."
"I hope that he has his wish and is able to tell when
he gets to the highest point of his success, so that he
may get rid of the violin in time."
Eileen smiled.
"Daddy says that has been the trouble with our forefathers, who always got wealthy but never seemed to be
able to hold it when they got it. -'That is my daddy over
there." i ejpf ^ v .'
She pointed to framed picture on the wall.
"He is big and brawny, and not afraid of anybody.
He is—oh, so good.    He is the best in all the world."
The young man gazed at her as she expressed her admiration.
"He isn't here to-night?" he remarked.
Eileen turned her eyes on him sharply, as if she had
sensed something of a suspicious nature in his query.
But she shook the thought from her and laid her mind
bare.
"No!—daddy was called away this afternoon. He
won't be back until to-morrow, noon.
"This violin," reverted Eileen, as if endeavouring to
interest her guest and keep his thoughts away from the
misery of his own condition as long as possible, "was
the last work of a very famous Italian violin maker,
who disappeared mysteriously and was never heard of
afterwards. It has a most beautiful tone, but for one
note, and that one note is hideous.    Ugh!—I hate it."
She shuddered.    "I would have destroyed it long ago The Wolf Note 29
only my father prizes it as a great curio and as an heirloom."
The convict showed deep interest.
"Isn't it strange that a beautiful instrument like this
should have a discordant note in it that no one seems
to be able to explain away?" she asked, as they stood
together near the window, losing themselves in their
interest.
"Yes,—it is strange," returned the man, examining
the violin closely. "I have read of something similar
somewhere. The discord, I think, is called the wolf
note, and it is well named. I believe its presence is difficult to explain, and such an instrument has occasionally
been produced by the best violin makers. They usually
destroyed them, as the discord is unalterable, making
the instrument, of course, unmarketable as a music producer."
Eileen remained in thought for a while, then she held
out her hand for the violin, took it from the man and
went to the wall where she hung it up, as if dismissing
a distasteful subject.
Back to the young man's face came the hopeless look
of remembrance. "I had almost forgotten myself," he
remarked. "Thank you! I must be off. I should not
be here.    I—I should never have intruded."
"One moment!" said Eileen. "The air is chilly and
you have nothing but that thin, torn, cotton shirt on your
back. Get into this! It is an old sweater of mine; it
is loose and big.    It will keep the cold out."
"No! You have already done more than I can ever
hope to pay back.    I might get caught with it on "
"But you must," she put in imperiously. "I have several of them. This is the oldest of those I have. You
are not depriving me of anything, and you will be glad
of it before the morning, for it is cold up here at nights." frii
ml
iff 4!
B   J
I
The Spoilers of the Valley
He took it from her with reluctance, pushed his arms
into it and drew it over his head and shoulders.
"Thank you!" he said in a quiet voice. "I was sick
and in prison—I was anhungered—I was thirsty—I was
naked. I don't know exactly how it goes," he apologised, "but it is something like that and it certainly does
apply to you, miss."
His mood changed. He turned up part of the sleeve
of the sweater and put it to his lips.
Eileen's face took on a flood of colour despite herself.
A smile flitted across the unshaven face of the man,
disclosing his regular, clean teeth.
Eileen drew herself up stiffly.
She went to the door and opened it to allow him to
pass out of her life as he had come into it. But as he
turned to go, he started back at a sound in the dark.
The tall, athletic figure of a man loomed up, blocked
the way and stepped into the kitchen beside them.
Eileen gasped and clutched at her bosom in terror.
"Mr. Brenchfield," she cried in sudden anger, "what
do you mean? You—you have been watching. I
didn't think you were a spy, although after all, possibly
I did, for I intentionally held back the man you are
after." | || W
Brenchfield ignored her remark and pointed with his
finger at the fugitive, who came forward, his eyes staring as if he were seeing an apparition.
"Great God,—you!" exclaimed the young man. Then
with a catching sound in his throat, he sprang at the
burly, well-fed man before him.
Brenchfield was taken completely by surprise. He
staggered against the side of the door, as thin claw-like
fingers found his throat and tried to stop the vital air.
The fingers closed on his windpipe too tightly for comfort.
^szitigzsmz&KKslaBraK The Wolf Note
31
Eileen cried out and tried to go between, but she was
thrust aside.
The men swayed together, then Brenchfield's hands
went up, catching the other by the wrists in a firm hold.
There was a momentary struggle, the runaway's grip
was broken and he was flung to the floor.
Brenchfield turned to Eileen.
"Miss Pederstone, have you gone crazy trying to hide
this man? Don't you know he is a runaway; a dangerous convict? The police—blind fools—didn't tumble
to your nervousness, but I caught on. I knew you had
him hidden in the wood-box."
The hunted man rose slowly from the floor and staggered forward, gasping for breath. He gave Brenchfield a look of loathing.
"Graham," he said brokenly, "may the good God forgive you, for I never shall."
He threw out his thin arms and looked at them, while
tears of impotence came into his eyes. He clenched his
hands and grit his teeth. "And may the devil, your
friend, protect you," he continued threateningly, "when
these grow strong again."
Brenchfield looked him over with indifference.
"My good fellow, you'll excuse me! You have wheels
in your head. I don't know you from a hedge-fence.
Damn it!" he suddenly flared angrily, "I don't want to
know you. Get out; quick! before I help you along,
or put you in the hands of your friends down the hill
who are so anxious to renew your acquaintance."
The young man stared fearlessly into the eyes of Graham Brenchfield, wealthy rancher, cattleman, grain merchant and worthy Mayor of Vernock. Then his lips
parted in a strange smile, as he threw up his head.
He turned to Eileen. 1
32        The Spoilers of the Valley
"Guess I've got to go now. I have my marching orders."     1 I I
"Come on;—enough of this—git!" put in Brenchfield
roughly, stepping up in a threatening manner.
The fugitive ignored the interruption.
"Good-bye, Miss—Miss Pederstone—and, remember
this from a convict who doesn't count:—as surely as
there is a wolf-note in some violins, so surely is there a
wolf-note in some men. Strike the wolf-note and you
set the devils in hell jumping."
In the next moment he passed out at the door and
down the dusty highway leading to Vernock.
Graham Brenchfield stood looking after him until the
night shut him out.
Eileen Pederstone stared in front of her with eyes
that saw no outward thing.
At last Brenchfield broke the silence.
"It was rather unwise—foolish—harbouring such a
man as that; and your father from home."
"Yes?" queried Eileen, with a slow intonation of resentment.
"Unprotected as you were!"
"We girls would have little need for protection if
you men were all as gentlemanly as he was. He seemed
to be an old acquaintance of yours.    Who is he?"
Brenchfield shrugged his shoulders.
"Pshaw!—that kind would claim acquaintance with the
very devil himself. You don't suppose I ever met him
before. He is a dangerous criminal escaped from
Ukalla." §    |
"He told me so," put in Eileen, as if tired of the interview, "and he seemed quite annoyed when I refused
to believe the dangerous criminal part."
"But the police tell me he is. It was only for your
sake that I let him go." The Wolf Note
33
Brenchfield tried to turn her to the seriousness of her
misdemeanour. "For the sake of your good name, you
had no right admitting him. You know what Vernock
is like for gossip. You know the construction likely to
be placed on your action."
Eileen drew herself up haughtily.
"You'll excuse me, Mr. Brenchfield! When did you
earn the right to catechise Eileen Pederstone?"
He changed suddenly and his peculiarly strong and
handsome face softened.
"I am sorry. I did not mean it in that way, Eileen.
And this is no time to speak, but—but I hope—some
day " ■    |§ g§ . |f
The girl held up her hand, and he stopped.
He was tall, full-chested and tremendously athletic of
figure and poise, with dark eyes that fascinated rather
than attracted and a bearing of confidence begotten of
five years of triumphal success in business ventures and
real-estate transactions; a man to whom men would look
in a crisis; a man whom most men obeyed instinctively
and one to whom women felt drawn although deep down
in their hearts they were strangely afraid of him.
He held Eileen with his eyes.
"There is something I wish to ask you some day,
Eileen.    May I?"
"Nothing serious, I hope, Mr. Brenchfield?" she returned lightly, for she at least had never acknowledged
any submission to those searching eyes of his. "And
please remember, it is past midnight. My father isn't
here." § K   -
"Serious!—yes!" he returned, ignoring her admonition, "but some day will do."
"It is an old story;—some day may never come, good
sir!"    | f.    I     I |i
He smiled indulgently. Ii R
fee;
34        The Spoilers of the Vail
Eileen, despite her apparent unconcern, placed her hand
over her heart as if to stay a fluttering there.
Mayor Brenchfield was a young man, a successful
man; to many women he would have been considered a
desirable man.
He professed friendship with Eileen's father. He put
business her father's way. He was of the same political
leanings. He had met Eileen on many occasions.
Brenchfield was a tremendously energetic man; he seemed
to be everywhere at once.
Eileen, like other women, could not help admiring him
for his forceful handling of other men, for his keen business acumen, for his almost wizardly success.
He had many qualities that appealed strongly to the
romantic in her youthful nature; but, girl-like, she had
not stopped at any time to analyse the feelings he engendered in her.
And now, up there on the hill, in the chill of the night'
air, under the stars that hung so low and prominently
that one felt one might almost reach up and pluck them
from the heavens,—now there came a sudden dread.
It was this inexplicable dread that set her heart athrob.
Brenchfield took her hand from her bosom and patted
it gently.
His touch annoyed her. She drew away imperiously,
and she shivered.
"Why, little woman!—you are cold and it is very late.
How thoughtless of me!   Good night, Eileen!"
"Good night!" she returned wearily, closing the door.
The moment he heard the bolts shoot home, Brench-
field's whole nature changed. An oath came to his lips.
He crushed his hat down on his head, leapt the fence
and rushed headlong by the short cut down through the
orchards—townward. The Wolf Note
35
At the Kenora Hotel corner his low whistle brought
two men from the saloon.
The three conversed together earnestly for a few moments, then they separated to different positions in the
shadows but commanding a full view of the road leading down the hill from the east of the Main Street of
Vernock.
But of all this Eileen Pederstone—alone in the little
bungalow up on the hill—was blissfully ignorant. it
CHAPTER III
At Pederstone's Forge
PEDERSTONE the blacksmith—or, to give him his
full name which he insisted on at all times, John
Royce Pederstone—was busy on his anvil, turning a horse
shoe. His sleeves were rolled up almost to his shoulders
and his lithe muscles slipped and rippled under his white
skin in a rhythm of harmony. His broad chest was bare
as his arms, and his chubby apple-red cheeks shone with
perspiration which oozed from his every pore. He was
singing to himself in happy unconcern about his being a
jovial monk contented with his lot Two horses were
tied inside the shop waiting to be shod, chafing and
pawing in their impatience.
Pederstone's right-hand man, Sol Hanson, a great
chunk of a bachelor Swede, was at the back door swearing
volubly because an iron tire refused to fit the wooden
rim of a cart wheel to his satisfaction.
Horseshoes, ploughs, harrows, iron gates and cart and
buggy wheels of all kinds were lying about in disorderly
profusion.
The noonday sun was pouring in aslant at the front
door, while at the back door, away from Hanson, a Russian wolf-hound was stretched out lazily gnawing at a
bone which it held between its fore paws.
The furnace fire was blazing, and Pederstone's anvil
was ringing merrily, when suddenly the melodious sounds
were interrupted by a deep growl and then a yelp of pain
from the hound as it sprang away from the spurred
36 At Pederstone's Forge
37
boot of a great, rough, yet handsome figure of a man
of the cowboy type, who came striding in, legs apart,
dressed in sheepskin chapps.
"Say, Ped!—ain't you got that hoss o' mine shod?
Can't wait all day in this burg!"
The smith stopped suddenly and glared at the newcomer.
"None of that Ped stuff, you untamed Indian! Mr.
Royce Pederstone to you and your kind; and, if you don't
like it and can't wait your turn, take your cayuse out
of here and tie her up at the back of the hotel for an
hour or two. You're not half drunk enough yet to be
going back to Redmans Creek."
"All right, Mister-Royce-Pederstone—but I ain't Indian, and don't you forgit it. The fact that I git all the
booze I like from Charlie Mac settles that in this burg."
It was a sore point with the newcomer, for at least
three-quarters of him was white, and part of it first-class
white at that.
He took off his hat.
"Ever see an Indian with hair like that ?"
He pushed a tousled head of flaring red hair under the
blacksmith's nose. He struck his chest dramatically with
his fist.
"Donald McTavish McGregor, that's my name. And
I'm off to take your advice, but you can keep the mare
till she's shod." f
He swaggered out.
At the door he had to side-step—much to his disgust
—to get out of the way of one, Ben Todd, who was not
in the habit of making way for anyone but a lady. Todd
was the Editor and Manager of the Vernock and District
Advertiser, the man behind most of the political moves
in the Valley.   He was a hunchback, with a brain that Iff
i
The Spoilers of the Valley
always seemed to have a "hunch" before any other brain
in the country started to wake up.
if "Hullo, John!" shouted Todd.
"Fine day, Ben!" returned Pederstone.
"See the Government's turned down the new Irrigation Scheme!"
"What?" shouted Pederstone.    "The mean pikers!"
"Guess it's about time we had a new Government,
John!"    I '     Jj| '   elf-  H :  ■ ■
"Yes!—or at least a new member for the Valley,"
returned the smith.
"Well,—there's truth in that, too. And, as you're
President of the Association, why don't you get the boys
to change their man? The one we've got has been too
long on the job.    Seems to think he's in for life."
"The trouble is, Ben,—who could we get that would
be an improvement?"
"Why not have a try at it yourself, John, at the coming election?" suggested the editor as a feeler.
"What!—me?" exclaimed the smith in surprise, viewing the serious look on the face of the bearded hunchback.
"Sure!—why not?"
"It isn't a question of why not," laughed Royce Pederstone, "but rather one of WHY."
"Because we want you," returned the editor. "You're
one of us, and you know what this Valley requires better
than any other."
Royce Pederstone was silent.
"Would you run if we put you up?" pursued Ben
Todd. It
"Might," grinned the smith, "but I won't say where
I'd run to."
"But straight goods ?"
"No, siree!   Not for me!   A bit of ranching and At Pederstone's Forge
39
my work here in the shop keeps me busy enough. In
fact, I've been thinking lately that I would like to give
up this strenuous labour in the smithy."
Ben Todd was about to pursue the subject further
when they were interrupted by the approach of a horse,
which pulled up abruptly at the front door. A beautiful, full-blooded mare, of tremendous proportions,
reared high in the air, -then dropped to a stand-still as
docile as a lamb.
Mayor Brenchfield, groomed to perfection in leggings
and riding breeches, slid to the ground, thrust his reins
through a hitching ring and stepped inside, thus providing the third side of an interesting, triangle for conversation.
They had been talking for some fifteen minutes, when
the conversation veered to the subject that had been
uppermost in everyone's mind in the neighbourhood of
Vernock for many weeks past.
"I see the Assizes have got through with their work
at last," put in Ben Todd.
Brenchfield's eyebrows moved slightly.
"Yes?"
"Loo Yick, the chink, is to hang."
"You bet,—the yellow skunk! Imagine a fine girl like
Lottie Mays being done to death by that; and every man
that ever saw her just crazy for her."
"Well!—Lottie and her kind take chances all the time.
Somebody generally gets them in the finish," put in
Royce Pederstone. "She wasn't content with her price,
but stole his wad as well. The town would be better
quit of the bunch."
"Guess you're right," agreed Brenchfield. "But it does
seem a pity we can't cut down in the number of Chinamen we have in the Okanagan."
*Yes!" put in Todd, "but you know who brought them Er
■i
40       The Spoilers of the Valley
here. You fellows with the ranches, looking for cheap
help, did it."
He laughed. "And, by God, you got it with a vengeance ; and all that goes with it. They're likely to rout
us out of house and land before they're through with
us. You will have one high-U time getting them out,—
believe me."
"And Pierre Qu'appelle got sent down for ten years."
"Guess that ends the wholesale thieving that has been
going on around Vernock these last five years."
"Hope so!" exclaimed the Mayor. "But you can't
always sometimes tell."
"Pierre didn't have the ghost of a chance; caught with
the goods on him," remarked Todd.
"Seems funny tome that he should play a lone game,
though," said Royce Pederstone.
"Not when you know the bunch he gangs with," remarked Ben Todd. "They're generally all in it, and
one man takes the risk and the blame. He'll get his share
kept for him till he comes out again.
"Morrison of the O.K. Supply Company says he has
had over seven thousand dollars' worth of feed and flour
stolen from his warehouses inside of six months. The
Pioneer Traders never give out what they lose."
"You, yourself, have lost quite a bit, haven't you,
Brenchfield?" put in Pederstone.
"Yes!—from time to time, but I could never lay my
finger definitely on the shortage. My records have been
faulty in the past, but I'm going to keep a better watch
on it for the future."
"Well!" returned the smith, "the fewer of Pierre
Qu'appelle's thieving kind we have in the community,
the better for all of us."
"We pretty nearly had a newcomer of the same brand
when you were at Enderby, John." At Pederstone's Forge
41
"So I heard! How did it finish, Ben? I heard they
got him.    How did they manage it?"
"Better ask the Mayor," said the editor guardedly.
"He ought to know how these things finish. Who was
the man, Graham?    How did the chase end?"
"Oh!" muttered Brenchfield, "it was some runaway
from Ukalla. He landed in here under a freight train,
and the detectives were riding in the caboose and he
didn't know it."
Todd laughed.
"Pretty good copy!    What else ?"
"He gave them the slip. They got in touch with me
later* We set off on a hunt. Found the fellow in a
barn. But he got out at the skylight window and made
a run for it."
"The poor devil! He deserved to get away after
that," remarked the editor.
"Pretty nearly did, too! One of the detectives winged
him on the B. X. Road," lied the Mayor. "He beat us
to it for a time. I went home to bed after a bit, but I
heard later that they fell in with their man looking for
food in Chinatown in the early morning. He led them
another chase up over the high road and down the Kick-
willie Loop to the lake. He got into a rowing boat
and made out into the middle of the water. The detectives got into Murray's gasoline launch and were soon
within hailing distance of him. But the beggar was
game, although he must have been half-dead by that
time.
"When he saw it was all up, he took off the coat, or
sweater, or whatever it was he was wearing, wrapped it
round the little anchor in the boat, undid the rope and
plumped the lot into the lake."
"What on earth did he do that for?" asked Pederstone. SfggifiBfiggMy'- ■'w'*
42        The Spoilers of the Valley
"Oh, I guess he got the clothes from someone up
here and didn't wish to implicate them."
"By gosh! but he was game," put in Ben Todd.
"Darned if I wouldn't like a shake of his hand for that!"
The editor turned, and his expression changed. He
raised his hat.
"Eh,—excuse my language, Miss Pederstone. I,—I
didn't know you were there."
The talk stopped abruptly, as Eileen Pederstone came
forward into the centre of the shop.
"Hello, Eilie, dear!" cried her father. "Dinner time
already? and my work miles ahead of me, while we gossips are going at it like old wives at market. Why,—
what's the matter, lass?"
The girl's face showed pale in the light of the forge
fire and her eyes were moist.
She pulled herself together.
"Nothing, daddy! I was just feeling sorry for that
poor young fellow Mr. Brenchfield was telling about."
"Tuts!" exclaimed Todd, "don't waste your sorrow,
Eileen. Why,—he wasn't a young fellow. He was an^
old, grey-haired, cross-eyed, yellow-toothed, dirty, wizened-faced, knock-kneed specimen of a jailbird escaped
from Ukalla.    Look up the Advertiser Thursday, you'll
see.
tt
"Oh no, he wasn't; he—he,—Mr.  Brenchfield-
»
Eileen stopped. "Didn't I hear you say he was a youngp
man, Mr. Brenchfield?" she asked, endeavouring to cover
up her confusion, turning her big eyes full on the Mayort
"Why, eh—yes! I did mention something about him
being young," gallantly agreed Brenchfield.
"Did—he—get—away?" inquired Eileen desperately.
Brenchfield busied himself adjusting his leggings.
Eileen put her hand on his arm.
"Did he get away, Mr. Brenchfield?" she asked again. At Pederstone's Forge 43
"Better finish the yarn, Graham!" said Royce Pederstone. "Eilie is like others of her sex; you can't shake
her once she gets a grip."
"Well!" resumed Brenchfield uneasily, "as far as I
can learn the man jumped out of the rowing boat as the
launch came up on him. He tried to swim for it. He
evidently knew how to swim, too;—but he was weak as a
kitten. The detectives played him. When he was thoroughly exhausted, they let him sink."
"The beasts!" exclaimed Eileen, her body aquiver with
sudden anger.
"Guess I had better stop this stuff!" said Brenchfield.
"No, no!    Don't mind me.    Go, on!'
"He came up—and they let him sink again. Next
time he came up, they fished him out, because he might
not have come up again.
"The fellow came to after a bit. You see, that kind
won't kill. So I guess he is now safely back home, in
his little eiderdown bed, getting fed with chicken broth;
—home in Ukalla jail, where he belongs.
"Little boys always get into trouble when they run
away from home, eh, Ben!" laughed Brenchfield.
The coarse humour didn't catch on.
Eileen Pederstone laid her basket on the smithy floor,
threw a look of contempt into the youthful Mayor's face
and walked out with her head high.
"One for his nobs!" laughed Ben Todd. "And, damn
it!—you cold-blooded alligator!—she served you rightly." I
'
tjj|!
e i
CHAPTER IV
Wayward Langford
WHILE the foregoing was taking place in Pederstone's smithy at Vernock, a scene of a different
nature was being enacted in the Governor's private office
at Ukalla Prison.
Phil Ralston, somewhat refreshed from a scrubbing,
a good sleep and two prison meals, had just been ushered
into the presence of the man who held power almost of
life and death over every unfortunate confined there.
Phil expected no mercy. His feelings were blunted
by what he had already gone through, so the worst that
might happen now did not worry him; for, when hope
of relief entirely goes, what one has to face loses most
of its terrors.
The well-fed, strong-jawed governor leaned over his
desk and looked at his prisoner.
"Ay, Ralston! So you were a naughty boy and ran
away!"
The young fellow did not reply.
"Look up, man!    I'm not going to eat you."
Ralston's eyes met his calmly.
"Why did you run away?"
'Because my time was up, sir!"
(Of course it was!    Hang it all!—that's why I can't
understand your behaviour."
The governor smiled in a manner that was meant to
be reassuring—for, after all, he knew he had exceeded
his limit and, if it were known, he might have difficulty
in squaring himself.
44
(c
(ft Wayward Langford
45
"But you told me, sir, that I had still two weeks to
serve.
tt
"What? I told you that? Why, man, you're crazy.
Wake up! You foolish fellow, don't you know that the
moment you made off, your discharge papers were lying
on my desk all ready?"
"And you didn't say I had two more weeks to serve?"
"No, damn it, no! How could I? Why, Johnston
there had already been sent to the storage room for your
belongings.
'Isn't that so, Johnston?"
'Yes, sir!" nodded the chief jailer emphatically.
"Didn't I tell you number three hundred and sixteen
was due out that day?"
"Yes, sir!    Remember distinctly, sir."
Phil's lip curled contemptuously, and, although he was
in no mood for arguing under such conditions, he could
not resist one more query.
"Why then did they go after me and bring me back,
(r
tr
?"
sir:
"Why did they! Why do you think, you young fool ?
Do you imagine breaking out is the way to leave Ukalla
Jail? What kind of an institution do you think we are
running here ? Do you fancy we are going to stand still
to that kind of thing? What kind of respect have you
for my good reputation anyway? You selfish bunch are
all alike!
"Of course we went after you! Of course we brought
you back, just to teach you manners, same as a school
teacher calls back a scholar to shut the door he has left
open.
"If you got your deserts you would be back there for
a few months longer. If you don't watch yourself when
you get out, you'll be back here again.    Eh, Johnston!"
"Yes,   sir!   They   generally   do   come   back,   sir,"
i ni V;
46        The Spoilers of the Valley
gruntea that echo. "Seem to like us; can't stay away,
sir!"
"Now, Ralston! Here is your discharge. You're
free to go when you like. But Johnston will open the
gate for you this time."
In an overflow of weakness, Phil reeled at the unexpected news. He staggered against the Governor's desk
as he clutched at the paper.
That official smiled benignly. "Here is a present from
the government, a cheque for fifty dollars for your faithful services—never absent, never late," he grinned.
"Johnston has your two grips in the hall with your stuff
in them that they found in your shack at Carnaby."
He held out his hand.
"Good-bye, Ralston! You've been a good lad here
but for your one bad break fifteen months ago, and this
one.    Don't come back."
In half an hour, Philip Ralston was breathing the air
of freedom in the interurban tram speeding toward Vancouver.
It was the spring of the year. His worldly wealth was
fifty dollars. His clothes were some years behind the
latest model, but they were decent enough, clean and
serviceable.
He put up at a third-rate hotel on Cordova Street and
spent one glorious week sleeping, eating, strolling the
busy streets and lounging in the parks and on the beaches.
He spoke to few, although he had of a necessity to listen
to many. At the hotel in the evenings, several transients
told him their story, hoping thereby to hear his own as
a time-chaser, but Phil, true to the sobriquet he had
earned at Ukalla, remained silent.
At the end of a week, after paying his bed and board,
his fifty dollars had dwindled to thirty. He knew he
could not afford to let it go much lower, otherwise the Wayward Langford
47
detectives, who seemed forever spying on him, would be
arresting him on a vagrancy charge. Vancouver was
chuck-full of detectives, many of whom Phil knew by
sight, while the others he sensed. And he loathed and
abhorred their entire breed.
Too many were the stories he had heard from fellow
prisoners at Ukalla, who had tried honestly to take up
some definite occupation after leaving jail, only to be
hounded from position to position by these interfering
sleuths who fancied it their duty to inform the erstwhile
employer that the man who was working for him was
an ex-jailbird and consequently should have a keen eye
kept on him for a while. The inevitable, of course, followed; for what employer could afford to have an ex-
convict on his staff?
And so, Phil did not attempt to secure work in Vancouver. He had a horror of the rush and buzz of the
city anyway.
Policemen were everywhere; on the sidewalks watching everybody and everything; at the street corners directing the traffic.
Self-consciousness made Phil feel guilty ^almost.
These men gave him the creeps, innocent of all guilt
though he was. His one desire was to get as far away
from them and all things connected with them as was
possible.
He sat on a seat in the park one afternoon, trying to
decide his future.
He thought of Graham Brenchfield, now Mayor of
Vernock, evidently wealthy beyond Phil's wildest dreams.
He remembered the old partnership pact and the five
hundred dollars he paid for it—five years, a pool and
a straight division of the profits. He put his hand in
his pocket, took out his money and counted it over;—
twenty-four dollars and fifteen cents. K*
VI
*.  i
II  :
48        The Spoilers of the Valley
He laughed. But his laugh was void of merriment,
for he had vowed solemnly to himself in prison that
some day he would get even with Graham Brenchfield,
And, so far as Brenchfield was concerned, the iron was
still in Phil Ralston's soul.
As he sat there, the vision of an angel face came back
to him; the picture of a girl of small frame, fairylike,
agile, bending over him as he lay faint and wounded on
the floor of her little bungalow up on the hill overlooking
Vernock.    And it settled his mental uncertainty.
He would go back there! It was a free and bracing
life in that beautiful Valley, and, God knows! that was
what he required after fiYe years of confinement. He
could pick up his strength while at work on the farms,
or among the orchards, or on the cattle ranges. Lots of
things he could do there!
No one would know him,—no one had seen him before
but she and Brenchfield. She would never recognise him
—shaved and clean—for the broken, ragged wretch whom
she had befriended. As for Brenchfield—he would know
Phil anywhere, in any disguise, but Phil knew how to
close his mouth tighter than a clam.
Besides, there was the settlement to be made between
Brenchfield and himself.
Yes!—Vernock was the place of all places for Phil
Ralston.
He went back to the hotel, dressed himself in the best
clothes he had, paid his score and packed his grips. And
that night he was speeding eastward.
On the following afternoon he landed at the comparatively busy little ranching town of Vernock, where
he had decided to try out his fortune.
He left his grips at the station and sauntered down
the Main Street. There were few people about at the
time and all were evidently too intent on their own par-
iases P-#*!»«■
T\fsElja#T
P??ll Wayward Langford
49
ticular business to pay much attention to a new arrival.
He passed a commodious-looking hotel, built of wood,
typically western in style, with hitching posts at the side
of the road, a broad sidewalk and a few steps up to a
wide veranda which led into an airy and busy saloon.
For want of anything better to occupy his attention,
Phil strolled in. He called for a glass of beer at the
bar.   While waiting service, he took in his surroundings.
Several men were lounging at the bar talking loudly,
smoking, spitting carelessly and drinking. At a table,
near the window, a long-legged, somewhat wistful-looking young man, with prominent front teeth and a heavy
mop of auburn hair, was sitting in front of a glass of
liquor, gazing lazily into the vacant roadway. From an
adjoining room off the saloon rough voices rose every
now and again in argument over a poker game which
was in progress there between a number of men who
appeared to be in off some of the neighbouring ranches.
As Phil surveyed the scene, a man galloped up to the
hotel entrance, tossed his reins over his horse's head and
jingled loudly into the saloon. He was clean-cut, dark-
skinned and red-haired, and walked with a swinging gait.
He shouted the time of day to the bar-tender, as he kept
on into the inner room where the card game was in
progress.
Phil guessed him for the foreman of the cattlemen inside and conjectured that he had been giving them some
instructions regarding their departure, but passed the incident from his mind as quickly as it had cropped up:
and he was still slowly refreshing himself when half a
dozen rough-looking men tumbled out of the card room.
"Come on fellows! Drinks all round, Mack! Don't
miss a damned man in the room. Everybody's havin'
one on me."
The speaker hitched up his trousers, blew out a mouth- I  !
50        The Spoilers of the Valley
ful of chewing tobacco and waved his arm invitingly.
The counter loungers gathered round in expectation,
as the proprietor and his assistant busied themselves filling the welcome order.
"Hi, Wayward!" he continued, shouting over to the
long-legged man, sitting by the window. "What-ya
drinkin'?"    ^ \ '    f|
There was no answer.
"Oh, hell!—he's up in the clouds. Take him over a
Scotch and soda, Pete."
Phil looked up in time to intercept a wink between the
speaker and one of his gang.
"Hello, stranger!    Just blowed in?"
"Yes!" answered Phil.    "I am just off the train."
"Stayin' long?" f     §
'Possibly!"
'All right,—what's your poison? It's my deal and
your shout."
"Nothing for me, thanks!" replied Phil. "I've all I
require here."
The broad-shouldered, clean-limbed fellow came over
closer to Phil.
"Say, young man,—'tain't often Don McGregor stands
drinks all round, but when he does 'tain't good for the
health to turn him down. You've got to have one on
me, or you and me ain't goin' to be friendly,—see."
Phil looked him over good-naturedly a,nd smiled.
"Oh, all right; let her go!" he answered. "I'll have
a small lemonade."
"What?" exploded the man who called himself Don
McGregor.
A shout of laughter came from everyone in the bar-
(c
tt
room.
Didn't you ask me to name my drink?" put in Phil.
Sure!" Wayward Langford
5i
"Well,—I've named it."
"No, you ain't!    Lemonade ain't a drink: it's a bath."
More merriment greeted the sally.
Phil flushed but held down his rising temper. He had
had five years' experience of self-effacement which stood
him in good stead now.
"You're not trying to pick a quarrel with me?" he
inquired quietly.
"Me? Not on your life! I ain't pickin' scraps with
the likes of you. But, for God's sake, man,—name a
man-sized drink and be quick.    The bunch is all waitin',"
Phil immediately changed his tactics.
"Thanks!" he answered.    "I'll have a Scotch."
"That's talkin'."
The bar-tender came over with a bottle in his hand.
"Say when!" he remarked to Phil.
"Keep a-going," put in Phil.    "Up,—up!"
McGregor stood and gaped.
"That's 'nough!" said Phil easily, as the liquor was
brimming over.
The bar-tender pushed along a glass of water. Phil
pushed it back.
At a draught he emptied the liquor down his throat.
It burned like red-hot coals, for he was unused to it, but
he would have drunk it down if it had cremated him.
McGregor had made a miscalculation and he appeared
slightly crestfallen as he turned from Phil and talked
volubly to his comrades.
While they conversed, McGregor backed gradually,
as if by accident, until he was almost touching Phil.
Finally he got the heel of his boot squarely on Phil's
toe, and he kept it there, pressing harder and harder every
second, still talking loudly to those around him and apparently all oblivious of his action.
Even then Phil had no definite notion that it was not ■gSlwiSWPK.'        ggj
tsM
m
¥&
52        The Spoilers of the Valley
merely the clumsy accident of a half-intoxicated cowboy.
At last he poked the man in the back.
"Excuse me," he said, "but when you are finished with
my foot I should like to have it."
"What'n the—Oh!" exclaimed the red-haired man,
grinding his full" weight on Phil's toe as he got off.
"Was I standin' on you? Hope I didn't hurt you!" he
grinned maliciously.
The pain was excruciating, but still Phil forebore with
an effort, accepting the man's half-cocked apology.
Suddenly a new diversion appeared in the shape of a
half-witted boy of about twelve years of age, who
slouched in evidently on the look-out for any cigar ends
that might be lying about the floor.
The boy was clad raggedly and wore a perpetual grin.
"Hullo, Smiler!" cried one of the men. "Come and
have a drink."
The boy shook his head and backed away.
McGregor made a grab at him and caught him by the
coat collar. He pulled the frightened youngster to the
counter and, picking up a bottle of whisky, thrust it
under the lad's nose.
"Here, kid;—big drink!    Ginger-beer;—good stuff!"
The boy caught the bottle in his hands, tilted it and
took a gulp. Then he coughed and spluttered, and spat
it out, almost dropping the bottle as McGregor, laughing hilariously, laid hold of it.
"Come on, Smiler!—you got to finish this. Say,
Stitchy,—let's make him drunk.    Here!—you hold him."
The boy made that inarticulate cry which dumb people
make when seized suddenly with fear.
Only then did it strike Phil Ralston that the lad was
dumb, as well as half-witted.
The man whom McGregor addressed as Stitchy caught
the boy and held him securely by the arms, tilting his head Wayward Langford
53
backward until he was unable to move. McGregor
brought the bottle and was on the point of forcing the
helpless Smiler to open his mouth, when the bottle was
sent flying out of his hands and he staggered back against
the counter from a blow on the side of the face from
Phil's fist.
"Leave the boy alone!" he cried angrily, his face pale
as he laboured to stifle his excitement.
He had refrained from interfering as long as he could,
well knowing his present physical weakness and what a
mix-up might mean to him if the police happened along,
but this ill-treatment was a little more than he could stand,
despite all possible consequences.
The moment Smiler was released, the boy ran to the
door and away.
Meantime, McGregor pulled himself* together and began to laugh as" if from his stomach.
'I guess that means a scrap," he grunted.
'Not that I know of," put in Phil.    "But I like to see
fair play.    The youngster wasn't hurting you."
For answer McGregor unbuckled his belt and handed
it to his friend called Stitchy, spitting noisily on the saw-
dusted floor.
The hotel proprietor jumped over the counter and interfered.
"There's going to be no rough-house here. If you
fools want to fight get out on the back lot where there's
plenty of room. Come on,—out you go! The whole
caboodle of you!"
He and his assistant—both burly men—cleared the
bar.
Phil was among the last to leave, and, in a faint hope
of avoiding trouble, he turned aside, but McGregor sprang
after him and laid hold.
"Not by a damn-sight!" he cried. "Here, stick them up!"
a-
tf -JH
54        The Spoilers of the Valley
He feinted round Phil, then ran in on him. Phil had
no alternative. He put up his arms, jumped aside and
dealt the cattleman a stiff blow on the mouth.
The crowd gathered round and made a ring. For a
time, Phil more than held his own, getting in blow after
blow, while McGregor tried his best to come to grips.
"Don't ever let him get his arms round you," cautioned a friendly voice, the owner of which Phil had no
time to note.
The stout-chested cattleman had no science, but he
possessed an unlimited amount of vital energy and
strength.    Phil had science, but nothing else to back it up.
The ultimate issue was beyond all question and Phil
knew it, for five minutes had not gone ere he was gasping for breath and had black specks floating in hundreds
before his vision. He sprang aside and circled time and
again, trying to avoid his antagonist's determination to
get to grips, but at last, just after a particularly close
escape, someone pushed him suddenly from behind and,
before he was aware of it, two great arms were round
him crushing the life out of him. He struggled frantically, but felt like a puppy-dog in the paws of a grizzly.
He was whirled round and round till he grew dizzy. He
was crushed and hugged until he became faint. When
his bones were cracking and the very life seemed oozing
out of him, he felt himself suddenly catapulted somewhere in glorious release, then his senses gave way and
he remembered no more for a time.
When he came to, he was lying on the bar-room floor.
Someone, whose face he recollected, was bending over
him, holding up his head and mopping his brow with a
wet cloth. He looked into the face and remembered it.
It was the long-legged man with the mop of wavy, auburn hair, whom he had noticed sitting by the window
in abstraction a short time before. Wayward Langford
55
tt'
tf
"letting better, old man ?" said the young fellow good-
naturedly, grinning and showing his great, strong, prominent teeth.
Phil muttered a few inarticulate words of thanks and
tried to rise. The lanky man helped him u£, led him
over to a bench, set him down and then sat down beside
him.
"Sorry I didn't interfere sooner. Might have saved
you that rough handling," said the stranger. "But to
tell you the truth, I thought you were going to eat Rob
Roy McGregor up. Guess you could, too, for you handle
your fists better than any man I have ever seen;—but
you're just as weak as a half-drowned kitten. What's
the matter; been boozing?"
'No!" replied Phil.    "I seldom drink."
'Lucky you!" put in the big fellow.    "Sick then?"
"Yes!—I—I'm just recovering from a severe illness,"
answered Phil, for want of a better excuse*.
"Just come into town?"
"I came in off the noon train."
•"Any'friends?"        f    § 1,
"Say!—you don't mind me cross-examining you this
way, old man?    I—I kind of like your looks."
A big smile went over the face of the stranger, wrinkling and puckering it amusingly.
"What's your name? Mine's Jim Langford. They
call me Wayward,—because I am. I'm a B. Sc. of
Edinburgh University; a barrister, by profession only;
lazy; fond of books and booze; no darned good; always
in trouble; sent out here for the good of my health and
for the peace of mind of the family, after a bit of trouble;
had ten thousand dollars to start with; spent it all before
I woke up. I get fifty dollars a month to keep away
from the Old Land.
iii as
•
I
t '>'
aft
I
''■
1
56        The Spoilers of the Valley
"Have you a place to sleep to-night ? Got any baggage?"
"No!" said Phil, in answer to the second last question. "I haven't had time to look around yet. My
baggage is at the station."
"Come then! Let's get your stuff. My landlady has
a spare room. I guess she'll be glad to let you have it.
She's a decent sort, too."
Phil hesitated a moment.
"If you haven't got the money, that won't matter."
"I have a little;—a very little,—enough for a few
days.    I'm up here to find work."
"Well,—come along with me for the time being,"
said Langford.
"All right!" assented Phil. And the two walked up
Main Street together, up toward the railway tracks, past
the bam Phil had hidden in on his first, unofficial visit
to Vernock.
"How,—how did you manage to beat off those cow-
punchers?" asked Phil.
"Easy as breathing! I once punched the heart out of
that rotter McGregor. Beat a man once, good and
plenty, and it isn't hard beating him again. And that
doesn't only refer to fighting, either. But say! if I
didn't know you were a stranger hereabout, I would have
said Rob Roy's picking on you was a put up job."
A pang shot through Phil at the suggestion, and it set
him wondering.
"First thing you've got to do, young fellow, is to get
up your strength and go back and lick the stuffing out
of that scum. If you don't, your life won't be worth
living in Vernock."
Phil laughed.
"That's straight goods!" returned Langford, his Scottish burr turning the Western phrase strangely.
'Well,—I don't mind if I do," said Phil.
<r Wayward Langford
57
They called in at the railway depot, and Phil got his
two grips.
"Ralston!—what kind of business do you follow?
Hope you aren't a pen-pusher, because pen-pushing isn't
for you for some time to come. What you need is something out in the open. You seem to have played merry
hell with your constitution. I'm skin and bone myself,
but I'm not the fattening kind. I'm built for speed.
Now your frame's made for muscle and flesh, and you
haven't a pick of meat on your entire carcass."
Phil smiled in an embarrassed kind of way.
"Don't mind me," continued Langford. "You'll get
on to my way after a bit.    What's your line of trade?"
"Well, to be honest," said Phil, "I haven't any. I
came out here to try anything. I'm an M.A. of Toronto
University; have substituted in school; can clear -land if
I get my own time to it; have a pretty fair knowledge
of accounting; but haven't done much of anything so
far.    I used to be a good athlete."
It was Lang ford's turn to smile.
"Another poor, hand-fed chicken out of the University incubator, who can do everything but what he is
meant to do—lay eggs, golden, ones. Say, Ralston, the
world is full of us and we're little or no damned good.
We know too much, or think we do, to be contented with
the pick and shovel game, and we don't know enough—
because we think we know it all already—to get down
to the steady grind year in and year out, at some business
that might ultimately bring us to an armchair job. So
we go along with our noses to the ground snuffing for
a convenient hole to crawl into.
"Oh, well!" he exploded, "who the devil wants to be
tied up body and soul to some corporation all his life,
for the sake of making a little money that somebody
else is going to go to the dogs over after you have gone ?"
r CHAPTER V
a
The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
T?AR enough up the hill to view the blossoming
■*• orchards all over the Valley and the distant blue of
the lake between the hills, Langford stopped at a large,
two-storied dwelling house set in expansive grounds and
almost hidden among shade trees.
He walked right in, and Phil followed him.
A matronly woman, of portly dimensions, met them
in the hallway.
"Mrs. Qunie," cried Langford, "I've caught you a new,
live lodger fresh off the train to-day. He will just fit
the spare room over the way from mine."
Mrs. Clunie looked her prospective tenant over critically.
"Mrs. Clunie,—Mr. Ralston," continued Langford.
Phil bowed, and Mrs. Clunie nodded in a strictly noncommittal way.
"His father is Lord Athelhurst-Ralston of Eccle-
fechan, Mrs. Clunie. He has come out here for his
health." ^   1
"Mr. Langford,—that'll do," said the landlady severely. "There was no' a Ralston in the whole o' Ec-
clefechan let alone a Lord What-ye-call-him Ralston,
when I left twenty years syne, and I ha'e my doots if
there's one there noo. Don't be makin' a fool o' the
young man.
"Where do ye come frae, laddie?"
"I come from Campbeltown, Mrs. Clunie."
58 to
if
tt
The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing      59
"What?—Campbeltown on the Mull o' Kintyre,—then
you must ha'e left there before you were shortened,"
she returned quickly.
"Campbeltown, Ontario!" corrected Phil.
"Oh,—ahee!—You're sober, respectable, law-abiding,
and attentive to your work?"
fI hope so."
'As upright as Mr. Langford?"
"Oh, yes!" laughed Phil, remembering Langford's autobiography as he had heard it a short time ago.
"I hope so," she returned pointedly, repeating Phil's
own words.
"And he can say the Shorter Catechism and repeat
the Psalms of David by heart," put in Langford sonorously.
"Mr. Langford,—that'll do. Scotsmen shouldna be
flippant ower such serious subjects," the goodly Mrs.
Clunie chided.
"Come up stairs and I'll show ye your room."
She showed Phil into a comfortable little place, fixed
a price that suited his scanty purse, collected a month's
rent on the spot—lest haply Phil might run into temptation by having that much more money in his possession
—and left the newcomer to his own devices.
Half an hour later, Langford shouted to him from the
hallway.
"Come on over, Ralston, if you're awake."
Phil obeyed.
"We've all had to go through what you did," said
Langford, "but Mrs. Clunie is worth it;—she's a cracker-
jack.    How do you like the lay-out?"
Phil was busy taking in the physical features of Lang-
ford's room.
But for the bed and the bureau, the room was more
WW 60       The Spoilers of the Valley
like a study than a bedroom.    It contained bookcases
from floor to ceiling, packed with literary treasures.
"My pals," said Langford, pointing to two of them
containing the classics of fiction, poetry and essays."
"My enemies," he continued, nodding at the third bookcase, packed with books on law.
"Friends of mine," he went on, pointing to a pen and
ink-well on a small writing table.
He went over to one of the trunks that graced the
window as seats. He raised the lid. It was filled to
overflowing with rolls of paper, loose sheets and scraps,
all closely written upon.
"My babies," he laughed. "Behold in me the most
prolific mother in all literature!"
"What are they?" inquired Phil.
"The offsprings of fancy," returned Langford, grandiloquently; "essays, short stories, dramas, poems—all of
no financial value. Dime novels worth fifty dollars a
time, but all cashed. Advice to the Love Sick—five dollars a column—alas also unconvertible."
Phil stood before him a little nonplussed, while Langford grinned and smoked on.
"I suffer continually the mental pangs of literary childbirth." |:
He sat in a chair and lounged dreamily as he puffed
out clouds of smoke, his long legs sprawling out in front
of him.
"You're lucky to have such a talent," put in Phil at
last.
"Lucky!    Talent!" exclaimed Langford.
"I always understood literature was a lucrative pursuit."
Pursuit,—yes;—but lucrative!    Ye gods!
You see, Ralston, I suffer with my thoughts until I
relieve myself by getting them down as best I can on
tf
tr The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing     61
paper, then I bury them in my trunk along with their
elder brothers. I know I ought to burn them, but I
haven't the heart to murder my children born in such
travail. Some day, however, it will have to be done,
otherwise they'll crowd their father-mother out of house
and home."
"Don't you try to market your work?"
"I did once—many times once—but they would have
none of my high-faluting flights, although as Captain
Mayne Plunkett, the writer of penny dreadfuls for the
consumption of England's budding pirates and cowpunch-
ers, I am not without a following, and I have a steady
contract for one per month at fifty dollars straight. To
a New York girls' journal, I am not unkindly thought
of as Aunt Christina in the Replies to the Love Lorn
column,—five dollars per—."
He laughed reflectively.
cBut don't you work?" asked Phil innocently.
Work!    Lord, isn't that work aplenty?"
fYes, but work that pays in real dollars and cents."
'Ah!" Langford's eyes swept the ceiling. "Meantime, I am what you might call Assistant to the Government Agent. God knows how long he will suffer me.
He is a real good sort, and doesn't expect too much for
his money either in time or in ability. I knock about
fifty dollars a month out of him when I work, and that,
with the fifty with which my old dad so benevolently pensions me, together with fifty for every 'penny horrible'
I write, I contrive to eke out a scanty living.
"You've got to work, too, Ralston; haven't you?"
"Work or starve!" answered Phil.
"I hate to think of any man having to work," mused
Langford, "but if starve is the only alternative, why, I
guess you've got to find a job.    Got anything in view?"
"No!"
tf
tf
tf
tt tf
ft'
62        The Spoilers of the Valley
"Particular about what you tackle ?"
"Not at all!"
"All right! I've to be at the Court House at five
o'clock. Kick your heels around this little burg for a
few hours and I'll try to scare up something for you.
But don't get into mischief."
He rose, knocked the ashes out of his pipe on the heel
of his boot at the stove, and put on his hat.
He turned at the door.
"Say, Ralston! It won't be any pen-pushing job, mark
you. You have to get your muscle up, for there's something I want you to do when you are good and fit."
fAnd what is that?"
Tell you later.    So long!"
A few minutes later Phil got his hat from the hall-
rack and strolled leisurely out, taking the road down the
hill toward the main street of the town.
He passed a red brick building which bore the aristocratic title on a large painted sign over the doorway,
"Municipal Hall." He looked at the windows. Hanging on one of them, in the inside, was a black card with
gilt letters, "Mayor Brenchfield."
Phil's under lip shot out and his brow wrinkled. His
hand travelled to his hip pocket, as a nervous man's does
when he sees a sign in a railway station, "Beware of Pickpockets."
He swung on his heel and walked up the wooden steps
into the main office, as calm and collected as could be.
"Is the Mayor in?" he asked one of the officials.
"Yes!    Wish to see him?    What name, please?"
"Oh, just tell him it's an old friend."
The office man went into the inner room and soon returned.
"He is very busy on some special work. Would you
mind calling in again?"
s^ias
aWWw:;:1"f.*^fi^ttIiV!., The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing      63
"Anybody with him?"
"No!"
Phil brushed past the man and walked straight into
the Mayor's office, closing the door behind him.
Brenchfield was sitting in an armchair, behind a desk,
smoking a huge cigar and blowing clouds in the air; the
very picture of municipal overwork.
"Thought it might be you! Heard you were in town*
Sit down, Phil!"      I | §|      -. j|
"Thanks, no!" returned Phil brusquely.
Brenchfield reached over, opened a cheque book, took
up a pen, dipped it in an inkwell, turned his cigar savagely to a corner of his mouth and looked up at his
visitor inquiringly.
"How much do you want?"
Phil smiled on him, half-pityingly. Physically, he
was tremendously weak, but he despised the man before
him so much that it gave him courage and strength.
'How much have you?" he asked.
'None of your damned business!"
"Oh!—I guess you've forgotten that our five years'
partnership is up:—a pool and a fair divide, wasn't it?
Share and share alike!    Well,—there's mine!"
He threw a few bills and a little silver on the table.
Brenchfield pushed back his chair.
"So that's your game, you poor miserable—you know
the name!"
"Poor and miserable, all right,—like the fool I was.
But I'm not a fool any more. I know you. I know
the world just a little better than I did five years ago."
"Shut up, man! Do you wish the whole town to
hear ?"
'What if they do hear? I've nothing to hide;—I'm
not like you."
'And you'll be getting a little more of what you have
ti
ff
tt I
1:1
The Spoilers of the Valley
already had, if you don't go easier than you are doing.
See here!—I'm busy, but I'm willing to start you off.
What's your price to get out of here for good and forget
you ever knew me, and to forget me for all time to
come?"
"One-half of all you have, and interest to date,—I
to stay here as long as I please."
The Mayor looked at Phil as if he were looking at a
lunatic, then he smiled and started in to fill up a cheque.
"I owTe you five hundred. I've tacked on a thousand
more. There! The train leaves at 3:15 p. m. to-morrow.    You get out on it.    Do you understand?"
"Thank you!—but this place suits me. I like it and
I'm going to stay."
"You are,—eh! If you don't get out with to-morrow's
train you'll go out the day following, in a box, feet first."
"Yes!   Judging from what happened early this afternoon, I daresay you are quite equal to that kind of thing,
said Phil quietly.    "But I'm going to stay all the same.
"You won't get a job within twenty miles of Vernock",
If you do, you won't hold it, for every man in the district will know you for what you are,—an ex-jailbird,"
"Who will tell them?" f f
"I will."
"No, you won't!"
"Won't I? Try it out and I'll show you quick
enough."
Phil went over to Brenchfield's desk.
"I suppose you think your tracks are pretty well covered up after five years."
"I have none to cover," retorted Brenchfield. "I don't
know you personally; never did know you;—don't want
to know you. I do know you by reputation for an escaped jailbird and a would-be blackmailer, who will be
back where he belongs before he is much older. Get that?"
tt
tt The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing     65
"Yes,—I got it," answered Phil, desperate, and almost
beaten, when an imp in his mind set him busy,
"I'm going to stay here, Graham, and you're not going
to try to prevent me or say a word that would injure
my standing.    If you do, then God help you."
Brenchfield laughed up at the ceiling.
"Five years ago," went on Phil, "you wrote a little
note in cypher and left it with me when you turned tail
and ran away. Maybe you have forgotten about that
note.    Well,—written things have a habit of turning up."
Brenchfield's  bravado  oozed  away.    His hard  face
grew pale.
"You're lying.    You burned that note."
"Did I?" I
"If you didn't, it would have been found and would
have come out in the evidence."
"Perhaps!"
Phil put his hand in the inside pocket of his jacket,
as if to bring out the paper, then he appeared to change
his mind, for he desisted and made as if to leave.
Brenchfield jumped up quickly, sprang for the door
and stood with his back to it.
"Damn you!    How much do you want?"
"Nothing!"
"Name your price and give me that note."
"It is priceless,"
"Good heavens, man!—you need money. You're a
pauper. I can make you comfortable. I can get you
a position that will make you secure for life."
Phil slowly picked up his own money that he had
thrown on the desk and put it in his trouser pocket.
"Much obliged!" he remarked, "but I have no intention of remaining a pauper for long. I wouldn't insult
my conscience by taking any position you could find for
me.    Do you mind letting me out?" III
III
m I i'lii
66
The Spoilers of the Valley
For answer, Brenchfield was on him like a wild-cat.
Phil wriggled, but the Mayor got behind him, with an
arm pressing his throat and a hand over his mouth. With
a quick movement and without the slightest noise he bore
Phil backward full length on the thickly carpeted floor.
He moved his grip and, half strangling him with one
hand as he knelt heavily on Phil's chest, he went through
Phil's inside pocket.
The pocket was empty.
|5 Phil could not cry out, and would not have done so
had he been able.
Slowly Brenchfield searched every pocket in turn. He
failed to find a document of any kind.
He released him at last, rose and brushed the dust from
his trousers, breathing heavily.
"Damn you!—I knew you lied."
Phil got up also.
"Guess you take me for a fool such as I used to be,"
he panted. "I don't carry my valuables with me now
when I visit your kind. I have more sense. Now, do
you mind letting me out?"
Brencfifield made as if he were going to strike Phil
in his anger.
"If I thought you had that paper, I'd kill you for it."
"Ajid, if you thought I hadn't, you'd hound the life
out of me.   Well,—do your darnedest."
"The money offer still holds good," said Brenchfield
in a more conciliatory tone. "Keep your mouth shut and
I'll do the same. Let me know when you are ready to
name your price for that paper."
"When I need the money, I'll let you know," replied
the other.
Brenchfield opened the door, and smiling an urbane
mayoral "Good afternoon," that all in the main office
could hear, he ushered Phil out CHAPTER VI
A Bird to Pluck
AS he walked down Main Street toward the Kenora
■^ w. Hotel, where it was his intention to have a bite to
eat, Phil congratulated himself inwardly, on the one
side, on the more than ordinary success of his gigantic
bluff—for he knew that so long as he was able to hold
this bogey of a confession as a club over the head of
Brenchfield, he was safe from open interference:—-on
the other side, he cursed his arrant stupidity and childlike simplicity in destroying a document which, even if
he never used it, proved beyond the shadow of a doubt
his innocence of the crime for which he had been imprisoned.
He tried hard to recollect exactly what had happened
that fatal morning after Brenchfield had left the shack
on the side of the road at Carnaby, but all was more or
less hazy and indistinct. He remembered deciphering
the note and crumpling it up in his despair and worry.
Later, he recollected gathering up the loose papers and
other material evidences of Brenchfield's guilt, stuffing
them into the stove and setting them alight.
As he walked along his musings were brought to an
abrupt stop, as his eye caught sight of a tall, straight, picturesque-looking individual coming toward him. The
man was dressed in what at one time had been an immaculate sporting suit, but which, in its now battered
and tattered state, gave the wearer the look of a bookmaker who had been dragged through a mud puddle and
then hung out to dry.
67 68
The Spoilers of the Valley
The man's wide sombrero was battered, his stock
around his neck was dirty, the brass buttons on his robin-
redbreast waistcoat were dull and tarnished, his riding
breeches and leggings seemed sworn enemies of brush
and polish. But despite all this, one could not get away
from the fact that* everything the man wore was of the
very best and most expensive materials.
He stepped up in front of Phil apologetically. His
voice was attractively musical and exceedingly English,
"Excuse me, old chap! I'm a stranger here. I'm
deuced dirty and devilish hungry. Do you mind directing me to a good hotel where I could get a wash and a
jolly good tuck in?"
"Certainly," said Phil. "I think the Kenora's all right.
I'm going that way myself for a snack, if you care to
come along."
"Thanks!   Jolly decent!   Don't mind if I do!"
He turned with Phil, and as they went on together he
took a little silver case from his pocket and handed a
card to Phil.
"My name!   What's yours?"
Phil scanned the card and smiled.
Percival DeRue Hannington
The Oaks     Mount Raeburm
Hants
"Sorry I haven't a card," he said. "My name's
Ralston, Phil Ralston."
"Don't mention it, old chap! They don't cotton much
to cards out here, I notice."
He wrung Phil's hand heartily.
A little cord was hanging round Percival Hanning-
ton's neck and led to a top pocket of his vest. Phil
felt positive it terminated in a monocle and, as the stranger's fingers wandered down the cord, Phil, in his dread A Bird to Pluck
69
of what was about to happen, laid his hand restrainingly
over the travelling fingers.
"Don't!" he pleaded. "They don't cotton to that,
either, out here."
The stranger flushe4 a little.
"By jove,—you're right. Thanks! Habits are beastly
things, you know. Better rid myself of all my old ties
if I'm to start afresh, eh!"
He pulled out the monocle, jerked the cord from his
neck, snapped the glass between his fingers and tossed
the lot into the roadway.
Something in the spontaneous act went to Phil's heart
and he felt from that moment that here was a man he
could like despite his strange exterior.
They passed through the bar of the Kenora, which
was the only way one could get admittance to that hotel
unless by the back door among empty cans and kitchen
garbage. The strange apparition of the Englishman reduced everyone in the saloon to funereal silence. Phil
bravely led the way, however, without mishap, except
for a distant shout of laughter which reached them at
the dining-room.
Phil spoke to the hotel clerk, who shouted for the bell
boy.
"Follow that boy," said Phil.   "He will fix you up."
"Thanks! If you don't mind, I should like to have
my bite with you, old chap.   I won't be a jiffy."
And off he strutted after the grinning boy, while Phil
sat in five minutes' dreamy contemplation.
Back came Percival DeRue Hannington, spick and
span as far as a clothes-brush and soap and water could
make him.
"By jove! It's a corker how much dirt can stick
to a fellow without falling off," he remarked. "What
are you having?" !   1
ff
tf
70        The Spoilers of the Valley
Phil named something light.
"That all?" asked Hannington. "I'm hungry as a
blooming hawk. I haven't had a decent bite for three
months.
"Everything on the blessed calendar for me, miss,
frills and extras included," he went on, addressing the
waitress, who went away with the end of her apron in
her mouth.
'You know,  Mister—Mister "
, 'Phil Ralston!"       ■
"Ah, yes!    Mister Phil "
■ "Just plain Phil!"    - §       §
"Phil—yes, excuse me! You know, I came out to
this bally country on false pretences, as it were. Oh,—
the country's all right! Don't misunderstand me. It's
a regular ripper, but, damme, I got done, you know."
The soup came along, and DeRue Hannington fumbled for his monocle but suddenly seemed to remember
that it was no longer a part of him. He blundered awkwardly a while, as if he had suddenly been deprived of
one of his active members.
"It's this way, Mister, eh, Phil. The guv'nor thought
I was going the pace too hard and becoming a bally
rotter, so he said I had to go out West and be a rawncher.
He said it just like that,—as if being a rawncher was as
easy as being a rotter.
"Are you a rawncher?"
"No!    It takes money to be that."
"You're a foreman, or a cowboy, or something?"
"No,—I'm not anything yet," smiled Phil. "I'm just
starting in.   I've lately finished my college training."
The irony in his voice was lost on DeRue Hannington who was too full of his own troubles to worry about
those of anyone else. A Bird to Pluck
71
"Well, you see,—when the dad and I had that tiff, I
just took him on.
"I saw an advertisement of a rawnching chap in a
London journal, offering to take on an Englishman as
an apprentice and teach him everything about rawnching
for three years for five hundred dollars a year. I just
cabled that fellow and got his answer to come right away.
And here I got three months ago."
All the time he was speaking, Hannington was eating
ravenously but with the ease and daintiness of one whose
table manners were an eternal part of him.
"The rawncher met me at the station with two horses.
Not a blessed wagon or a thing to carry my luggage did
the bounder have. It is lying at the station yet;—at
least it was last time I called in there. The fellow took
my five hundred dollars, then took me twenty miles up
over these everlasting hills. A thousand miles in the
bally wilderness!
"Of course, you know, Phil, I will admit I was deuced
raw.
tt
Phil laughed. DeRue Hannington's good nature asserted itself and he laughed, too.
After a while, he went on.
"This rawnching Johnnie's name was Duff. You
don't happen to know him?"
Phil shook his head.
"Well,—he put me in the charge of Mrs. Duff, and she
set me to paring potatoes, washing the floors, scouring pots
and pans, wringing clothes and all that sort of rot; till,
one day, I just said to Duff that I'd come West to rawnch,
not to skivvy.
"Of course, I'll admit, I didn't know an apple tree
from a cauliflower, but, damme, I was game to learn,
Phil. Don't you think I did right to jolly-well remonstrate?"
ii fl
72        The Spoilers of the Valley
"You certainly did!"
Thus encouraged, DeRue Hannington continued:
"He then put me to digging, and digging, and digging,
till the cows came home, then to weeding, and weeding,
and weeding, miles and miles of rows and rows of beastly
carrots and things until I can't look an honest carrot in
the face or a potato in the eye without feeling faint.
"I really didn't seem to be learning anything, but I
stuck it gamely until three days ago, when Mr. and Mrs.
Duff went off to visit a neighbour five miles up the Valley. They left me to look after the blooming squawking
baby. That just got me real mad, so when it started in
to bawl, I sat down and wrote a note saying I was
through.   I pinned it to the baby,—and, here I am.
"Don't you think I did the right thing?"
"You bet!" answered Phil, striving hard to suppress
his bubbling merriment.
"They cawn't make me serve my three years out, can
they, Phil?" queried DeRue Hannington, anxiously.
"Not they! Why, all they wanted was your five hundred dollars.    They'll be glad to be quit of you."
The Englishman perked up.
"They're welcome to the money. But I'm not through
rawnching, you know. You see I've got the worst over
now and I'm feeling quite a Westerner. You don't
happen to know anyone who has a good rawnch for sale?
—one with a decent sort of a house and stables, and lots
of fruit trees on it. I've got the money in the bank,
you know, and could pay cash for it. I really think I
could run a rawnch now."
"No,—I haven't the slightest idea!" returned Phil.
"But it shouldn't be a hard job getting a ranch, if you
have the money. There are always lots of people ready
to sell goods for cash. Take my advice, though; don't
be in too great a hurry." A Bird to Pluck
73
Phil rose to go.
DeRue Hannington followed him to the saloon, where
Phil shook hands and left him.
As he passed out at the door he heard the voice of the
stranger raised above the general conversation of the
saloon.
"Excuse me, but have any of you good fellows any
idea where a chap could buy a good rawnch for cash?"
Phil threw up his hands in despair and walked on,
knowing that Percival DeRue Hannington had still a lot
to learn about ranching and about those who had ranches
to sell.
1 CHAPTER VII
Wild Man Hanson Goes Wild
:ta
if
ff
TIM   LANGFORD   was   waiting   for   Phil  at   Mrs.
**   Clunie's.
"Where the Sam Hill have you been, Phil ? I've been
looking for ydu everywhere.    Got a job yet?"
'No,—not even the scent of one!"
'Want one?" ' If;   it
. ' "You bet I    ■      ■ |        p; •   .
"Hard work and start to-morrow?"
"Sure thing! Where is it? what is it? who is it?
Tell me quick! I'm aching to work for real money, for
more reasons than one."
"Royce Pederstone, the blacksmith, is quitting being
an active blacksmith any more. He is putting Wildman
Hanson in charge, and Hanson's job is going a-begging."
"Wildman Hanson! That sounds good for a start,
Jim."      I      . J Hi
"And it's as good as it sounds, too, young fellow, my
lad. I'm not going to tell you anything about his 'wild-
man' tricks. You'll find that out for yourself in good
time. But he's a cracker jack blacksmith and can show
you all of the trade that is worth showing."
"I haven't the strength to be a smith."
"Not now;—but you have the frame and you've got
to build on it.
"The job's worth twenty dollars a week to start, and
it's yours for the taking. I did the asking from Hanson
this morning.    Are you on?"
74
W-WLr JS^^fgiaW^CSS '.V" RSSittJifty Wild Man Hanson Goes Wild     75
"Of course I'm on."
"All right!—six o'clock to-morrow morning at Peder-
stone's shop, one block down the hill and two blocks to
the left."        j| ?|; -||K
Langford chuckled.
"What are you grinning at?" asked Phil.
"Oh,—just thinking what you'll be able to do with
that rusty-headed, son-of-a-gun McGregor after a month
or two under Hanson."
"Thanks! I've had some McGregor, and I'm not
greedy.    I'm not at all anxious for more."
"What? See here, Phil,—you've got to beat that lobster stiff if it takes you a year. It took me all I knew
to turn the trick, and I had to keep off drink for six
months to do it, but there was something inside of me
that just wouldn't stay quiet till I licked the stuffing out
of him. He's a bully. He's the craftiest, sneakiest,
most underhand skunk in the Valley. He's at the bottom
of most of the trouble with cattle and feed hereabout,
but he's too damned wary to be caught.
"I'm surprised at the Mayor having anything to do
with him. But, of course, the Mayor's a cattleman
himself, and, give Rob Roy McGregor his due, there
isn't a better man on stock this side of Calgary."
"And I've to go blacksmithing with the set purpose of
eating this fellow up?"
"No, you're going blacksmithing for the purpose of
setting yourself up, you rickle of bones! Licking McGregor can be your side line. When you beat him,
you'll know you are in pretty good shape."
"All right,—I'm on!" agreed Phil. "But who is this
Royce Pederstone?    Why is he giving up his work?"
'Who? why? and wherefore? At times you're a regular bairn for asking questions, but when you're wanted
*o talk you're as silent as the tomb. 1
if
!']■'■■
76       The Spoilers of the Valley
"Royce Pederstone has been here since the flood. He's
a good blacksmith, only he never finishes a job. If he
is making a gate, he stops at the last rivet and Hanson
has to drive it home. If he is shoeing a horse, he forgets a nail. If he is making a fish hook, he omits the
barb. It is the same with his land deals; he buys land
and, for the time being, forgets he owns it so far as selling again is concerned. Then he buys some more whenever he has the ready cash. It is all working for him,
—so he says. He owns more earth than he has any idea
of. He doesn't know how much stock he has; doesn't
even knows what happens to his farm implements once he
pays for them; in some cases doesn't know if they have
been delivered to him. Often he finds some of them
when the snow goes away in the spring time. There are
many things he doesn't know; all the same it isn't safe
to take too many chances on what he passes up."
"Then he has got too rich for blacksmithing?"
"Not he! Royce Pederstone is not that kind of a
man, Phil. He is just too busy. He is going to be
the next member of parliament from the Valley. Watch
and see!
"The new election comes off in three months' time.
Last week the Association met to elect their representative. Some were for Barrington of Armstrong, others
for Brenchfield the Mayor. They couldn't agree. Royce
Pederstone was chairman of the meeting. At midnight
they were as far off a decision as ever. Someone proposed John Royce Pederstone, and it carried without a
dissenting voice.
"He's a cracking good man, is Pederstone, on the platform. He is straight, honest and more or less of a
farmer. Ben Todd, the editor, is hand and glove with
him, so he will have The Vernock and District Advertiser at his back.
ap" Wild Man Hanson Goes Wild     77
"The old government is sure to be kicked out of office, if only to give the people a change; so, who is
going to keep Royce Pederstone from being the Valley's*
representative at Victoria, I should like to know?"
"And that's why he's stepping out of the blacksmith's
shop?" put in Phil.
' "Yes!—that's the why, boy." |j| w
Next morning at six o'clock Phil, in the company of
Jim Langford, presented himself at Pederstone's forge.
"Hullo!" cried Jim, "that's funny.    Not open yet!"
The front door was heavily barred across. They went
to the back entrance.    It also was firmly secured.
Langford shielded his face with his hand and peered
through the narrow, barred windows.
"Well, I'll be darned!" he exclaimed. "And on your
first morning, too!    Hard luck, Phil!"
'Why,—what is it?"
'Oh, nothing much!    Only I fancy you're going to
see why your new boss is called Wildman Hanson^
"Look in there."
Phil did so.
"What did you see ?" §.
Phil puckered his face in disgust.
"Not much wildman there," he remarked. "As far
as I can see Hanson is sound asleep on a pile of coke.
There are two empty bottles at his side. Seems to me
he might be dead drunk."
"That's what he is, too."
"Then let's go in and throw a bucket of water over
him and wake him up."
"Not on your life! Then there would be a funeral.
I guess you had better postpone your start till to-morrow.
Only one man in Vernock can handle Hanson after he's
had a night of it, and that man's the Mayor.    Man to
tf
Hi
r~~~~ i  'il
Villi
i
i
jIL
H §■
rt;;.;.
H
i-fi L
I
78        The Spoilers of the Valley
man, Hanson has him shaded. With a rope in his hand,
the Mayor is the best man."
Voices behind them made them turn round.
Royce Pederstone and Mayor Brenchfield were riding
down the side road as if on some definite bent. They
were equipped as for a round-up.
"How do, Jim! Is this Hanson's new apprentice?"
asked Pederstone, bending over his horse and shaking
hands genially with Phil.
"Glad to meet you, young man, and sorry this has
happened on your first day. Hanson only goes on the
toot once in a long while. You must just forget what
you are going to see in a few minutes and think later only
of what he shows you of blacksmithing."
Brenchfield completely ignored Phil's presence.
The two men got off their horses.
Royce Pederstone turned the water on at the tap at
the trough, to which a hose was already attached. He
directed the nozzle through a broken window pane,
squirting a thin, strong stream directly on the upturned
face of the open-mouthed and heavily-breathing Swede.
With a grunt the huge fellow spread himself.
The Mayor jerked off the water, then he and Royce
Pederstone sprang on their horses and took up positions
at different sides of the yard.
Jim and Phil in curiosity kept their eyes glued to the
dirty window.
Growling fiercely, Hanson scrambled to his feet. His
usually handsome and childlike face was contorted with
rage and horrible to see. His eyes, blood-shot and
bleared, stood out wildly in his head, his teeth showed
like the teeth of a snarling puma and a foamy lather
slithered from his mouth down on to his huge, hairy,
muscle-heaving chest.   He stood over six feet—a man of
^^ss=n
W '^■'iiiaF'WWfia^iEi Wild Man Hanson Goes Wild     79
tf
tf
gigantic proportions, with every inch of him tuned and
in perfect symmetry.
But he seemed madness incarnate.
With a fierce oath, he wiped the water from his face.
He staggered and bumped into an anvil, striking his
knee against the metal. He swore again and, in his
mounting anger, he seized the anvil in his great hands,
lifted it bodily from its stand and heaved it into a corner
—a feat which four strong men, at any time, would have
experienced difficulty in performing.
"Great Caesar!" whispered Phil in awe.
"After a booze, he's as strong as a railway engine,"
returned Jim, "and he goes plumb daffy. Murder or
anything else doesn't matter a hill of beans to him at a
time like this."
'That sounds exceedingly pleasant."
Tshaw!—you needn't mind. You'll know in lots of
time, for he's happy and gentle as a lark when he's really
boozing. It is only when he wakes up the morning after
—after a ten hours' sleep—that the fun begins.
"He killed a horse once with his bare hands. Got on
its back and strangled it somehow. He half-killed the
old Police Chief. He got a year in jail for that. They
were going to send him to an asylum afterwards, but he
was such a fine workman and so decent at an ordinary
time, that Royce Pederstone and the Mayor gave their
guarantees and promised to attend to him any time he
tried his monkey-doodle business again."
Meantime, Hanson walked over to the front door and
tested it.   Then he came toward the back one.
"Run!" shouted Langford, suiting prompt action to
his word.
Phil remained a moment or two longer, trusting to his
nimbleness of foot for emergency.
He saw Hanson stoop and pick up a great, heavy
r^ 8o
The Spoilers of the Valley
■ «
jil
I
sledge, then spring madly to the back door, swinging the
big hammer above his head* With a shivering crash the
woodwork splintered.
Phil turned to run.
Another great ,crash and the whole door and its fastenings tumbled outward, and that giant piece of infuriated humanity stood looking about him, ramed in the
broken woodwork, m
Phil heard a warning shout, as he rushed headlong.
But his toe caught on an iron girder and he came down
heavily on his face. As he sprang to his feet again he
heard further shouting all about him. He turned his
head. Hanson was springing toward him and making
on him with a speed Phil could not realise in a man so
weighty; a speed he could not begin to emulate.
The great hairy hands were almost on his coat, when
something happened.
He staggered, balanced himself and stood up
sheepishly.
Hanson was on the ground, struggling, cursing and
kicking viciously at a rope which Royce Pederstone had
cast smartly round his left foot.
Pederstone tugged with all his strength, and his horse
lent her weight, but together they could do no more than
hold their own with the fallen Vulcan. Hanson brought
out a clasp-knife from his clothes, opened it and slashed
at the rope. He had it almost cut through, when Brenchfield, who had been sitting on his horse an inactive and
silent spectator—in response to Pederstone's urgent call,
whirled his rope around his head several times and
dropped it deftly over Hanson's shoulders, pinning his
arms helplessly to his side.
Brenchfield then tugged in one direction and Royce
Pederstone in the other, each tying the end of his rope
tightly to a stake at his side of the yard, with the result
^gaMgpmHWI|iw^y_t,1wWWi^,f-1-lC*Tt?i--4aiy!'»i??W Wild Man Hanson Goes Wild      81
that the madman was half hamstrung and reduced to
impotence.
Langford came round the side of the building with
fresh ropes. These were quickly bound round Hanson,
until he was unable to move hand or foot, although he
still struggled violently, the veins in his neck and head
standing out in blue knots, the perspiration running over
his shapely forehead and the frothy slither again oozing
from his lips.
"Say, Graham!—what went wrong ? Why didn't you
rope him ?   Thought you said you would take first throw."
"Did I?" asked Brenchfield calmly.
"Sure you did! It might have been a serious accident.
It isn't often you make a forget like that, old man."
"Oh, pshaw!—what's the odds anyway?    Everything
But it might have been all day with the
was all right."
"Was—yes!
new man."
"No chance! I had that cinched. Anyway > he had no
right dawdling at the window as long as he did."
"Here, you two scrapping schoolboys—forget it!" interposed Langford. "I fancy Phil knows how to look
after himself without either of you."
On the instructions of Pederstone, the four men carried the trussed Hanson into a nearby stable, where they
made him fast with fresh ropes to some heavy stanchions.
When all was secure, Hanson was left to regain his
normal, Pederstone turning the key in the lock for further security.
Guess that's all this time, Ped," said Brenchfield.
All through—thanks, Graham!" returned Pederstone,
and Brenchfield rode off in deep thought. As a blacksmith, the Mayor felt that Phil was easy and safe for
him, although he did not like the intimacy that seemed
to have sprung up so soon between Phil and Jim Lang-
tti
tt fi
1 w
iff
It lilt
82
The Spoilers of the Valley
ford, for Langford was a strange composite, capable of
anything or nothing; clever; altogether an unknown quantity, but one well worth the watching closely.
"Do you want Phil to-day now this has happened?"
asked Jim of Royce Pederstone.
"Sure thing!—if he hasn't changed his mind about
working?"
"Not me!" answered Phil.
"All right!" said Jim. "Me for the Court House,
I'm only a couple of hours late now. See you later,
Phil!" §     |jt'
Royce Pederstone went into the forge, doffed his coat,
rolled up his sleeves and put on his leather apron.
Phil followed suit with an apron of Hanson's, and soon
the doors were wide open, the fires blowing and the anvil
ringing, drowning the groans and shouts that came from
Hanson as he lay like a trussed fowl in the adjoining
stable.
"I'm sorry this has taken place on the first day of
your apprenticeship, young man, but it has been pending
for some time. After this is over, you won't be afraid
to be left with Hanson, I hope. He'll be all right in a few
hours, and very much ashamed of himself you will find
him." , I
"I'm not afraid," said Phil. "I am just beginning to
discover that fear is the greatest devil we have to contend with and that the less we worry about it the less
real and the more a mere bogey it becomes."
"True for you, Phil. And the older you grow the
more you'll realise the wisdom of what you say.
"Well, it is just a year since Hanson had his last drinking bout. I was beginning to think he had got completely over it. He is not likely to break out again for
ever so long."
"What is it exactly that gets him?" asked Phil. ff
til
Wild Man Hanson Goes Wild     83
"Oh,—likes drink once in a while, but drink doesn't like
him;—that's all. It goes to his brain somehow. Do you
think you could manage him if he took you unawares?"
"I could try," answered Phil.
"That's the way to talk. And you've got the frame to
work on, too.   Can you throw a rope?"
"I used to when I was a kid. I guess, with a little
practice, I still could do it pretty well."
"Well,—practise in your spare time. It is handy to be
able to throw a rope in this Valley. And it doesn't cost
anything carrying the ability about with you. Can you
use your fists?" Wk
'Yes!—tolerably well."
'Good for you! Now all you need is to be able to
use your head and everything will be O. K."
All that day, Royce Pederstone worked like the real
village blacksmith he was; shoeing horses, repairing farm
implements, bolting, riveting and welding; showing Phil
all he could in the short time he had with him, telling
him—because it was uppermost in his mind—just a little
of his electioneering plans and what he intended doing for
the Okanagan Valley in the way of irrigation, railroads
and public buildings; instilling in his apprentice an enthusiasm for his new work and making for himself at
the same time another friend and political booster; for
Phil was quick to appreciate the kindliness of this sturdy,
pioneering type of man and he felt drawn to him by that
strange, attractive sub-conscious essence which flows
from all who are born to lead, an hypnotic current which
is one of the first essentials of all men who can ever
hope successfully to carry out any good or big undertaking for, or with, their fellow men; the ability with the
triple qualities—to interest, to attract, to hold,—making
one feel that it is good to be within the dominant influence, if only for a time. imt
■I
84        The Spoilers of the Valley
And all day long, in the barn at the rear of the smithy,
Wildman Hanson kept up his groaning, and moaning, and
cursing; shouting at the top of his voice that he was being murdered, and threatening a separate strangling to
half a dozen men whom he called by name, talking to them
as if they were by his side.
Towards closing time, a brilliant burst of evening sunshine flooded the smithy, and with it came one whose
radiating charm made the sun for a moment slide back to
second place.
"Hullo, dad!" she cried. "I thought you weren't going to work here any more?"
"Hullo, Eilie!   I thought so, too, but    Oh, Eileen,
this .is Phil." . jM f    I
Eileen Pederstone looked in admonishing surprise at
her father.
"I beg pardon! Mr. Ralston, our new man,—my
daughter, Miss Eileen!"
The young lady bowed sedately to Phil, who was
standing a mere dark silhouette against the glare of the
furnace fire. But Eileen was in the full glow of the flames
and, as Phil looked into her face, he gasped for breath
and his heart commenced to thump under his open shirt.
It was the face of the good Samaritan, the good fairy
that had of late so often been pictured in his mind in
the day-time, the face that smiled to him at night through
his dreams.
In a flash, he saw himself again; bearded, unkempt,
ragged, faint and hunted, groping for support against
the wall of the little kitchen in the bungalow up on the
hill; the sweet vision of the fearless maid whose heart
had opened in practical sympathy to his broken appeal
for succour, her ready response and	
But he pushed his crowding thoughts away, for he
was standing before her—pale, mute and almost foolish.
sumn lamrai if
tf
tf
if
lf
Wild Man Hanson Goes Wild      85
He bowed, not daring to raise his eyes to hers lest she
should recognise him. But he need not have feared on
that score, for to her he was merely the clean-cut outline of a shadow;—but even had it not been so, the difference between the young, beardless man before her and
the haggard, broken convict whom she had befriended
that night was greater by far than Phil even could have
imagined.
Fortunately for his peace of mind, a sudden cry from
the stable burst in on the momentary quietness.
Eileen turned her head quickly, then she ran over to
her father anxiously and held his arms.
'Dad,—what is that?"
'Hush, dearie!—it's Hanson."
'But—but where is he?" she asked.
cIn the barn, tied up good and tight,—quite safe."
'But it isn't right, daddy, to tie a man up like that.
He's not a beast, and he's a kind-hearted decent fellow
when he is well."
"When he is well, Eilie,—yes! But he isn't welL
Better for him that we tie him up for a day every once
in a while, than confine him in a lunatic asylum for the
term of his natural life. That is what would have to be
otherwise."
"Don't you think he might be better now, daddie?"
she pleaded.
"Yes!—I guess he is getting pretty nearly wised up
now. He has stopped his swearing and yelling. That's
a good sign. That last cry of his was the first for half an
hour. You run along home, girlie, and Phil and I will
go in and see how he is."
"You won't keep him tied up there all night, dad?"
"Not unless I can't help it, Eilie."
She pouted and stamped her foot impatiently.
"I just won't go home till you tell me for sure.    I ff'!
86
The Spoilers of the Valley
\m
couldn't sleep if I thought a man was roped up all night
like he is now."
Her father smiled indulgently.
"Foolish little woman! You sleep other nights, yet
every minute of the days and nights you live there are
men all over the world who, both literally and metaphorically, are chained, and roped, and lashed, and dungeoned; men whose lives are a racking agony, to whom
day and night are alike—all night—men who have no
prospect of relief to-morrow, whose only release is death,
and the release they long and pray for seems never to
come. And many of them are men who have done no
wrong, unless it be wrong to offend a potentate, to have
an opinion of your own, to have the courage to express
it; to object to laws and customs which should have been
scrapped a thousand years ago.
"Hanson there knows his weakness. He has asked and
begged us, in his sober moments, to be sure to do this
very thing to him as a personal kindness. To-morrow
his heart will be flooding with gratitude to know that
he has got through with it without doing anyone any
harm."
"Yes, daddie, yes! But won't you go to see if he
cannot be released to-night?" she pleaded.
"Sure, girlie, if it will please you.    Wait here!"
The sturdy smith took down the key from a nail in
the wall and went out.
Eileen switched her attention to Phil.
"Have you been long in the Valley, Mr. Ralston?"
Phil was afraid of his voice, so he answered in a
deeper intonation than was his usual.
"Just a few days, miss."
"And you're a blacksmith?"
"Not yet, Miss Pederstone!"    Phil grinned to him- 1
Wild Man Hanson Goes Wild      87
self and felt slightly more confident. "I hope to be,
some day."
Eileen seemed surprised.
"Haven't you been blacksmithing before? Why, my
father started to learn his trade when he was fourteen
years old."
"Do I seem so terribly old then?" asked Phil.
"Oh, no!—not that exactly, but old to be starting in
to learn a trade. Sol Hanson isn't so very much older
than you can be, but he has been a journeyman smith
ever since I have known him."    She stopped.    "Oh, I
don't know     You mustn't mind what I say, Mr.
Ralston. I guess I am a bit of a silly. I let my foolish
tongue run away with me at times. I just say what I
feel; just what comes to my mind."
"If everyone did that," remarked Phil, "we should
have less dissension in the world."
'And we would make lots of enemies," she put in.
'We might offend those we think are our friends, and
we might alarm each other by mirroring our tremendous
deficiencies, but, in the finish, it would make for sincerity and truthfulness—two qualities of nature sadly in
the background nowadays.    Don't you agree with me?"
"Of course you are right!" said Eileen, "but you talk
so earnestly one would almost imagine that you had suffered at some time through the insincerity and untruthfulness of one you had trusted."
This was getting too near home for Phil.
"None of us have to live very long to do that. I have
often thought, though, that if, when we looked into the
mirror, we could see our natures as well as our reflected
features, our conceit would suffer a severe shock."
"A woman, maybe!" said Eileen, "but nothing can
ever cure mortal man of his conceit."
'You think a man more conceited than a woman?"
tt
tf
	 88
The Spoilers of the Valley
a
'Assuredly I
Phil laughed, and the laugh rang in his own natural
tone.
Eileen Pederstone stopped. Her brows wrinkled as
if some little chord of memory had suddenly been struck.
Phil also dropped back into an awkward silence.
A noise outside roused both of them, and Royce Pederstone crossed the yard, followed by Hanson. The latter
refused to come inside when he knew Miss Pederstone
was there.
"Better run home, Eilie,—out the front way!"
'Is he all right, daddy?"
'Yes,—back to normal."
"Oh, I'm so glad.    You won't be long?"
"Fifteen minutes!"
"Good night, Mr. Ralston!" she said, scrutinizing him
in slight perplexity.
"Good night!" returned Phil, still keeping to the shadows.
tf
tt- CHAPTER VIII
Like Man, Like Horse
WITH the passing days, Phil found Sol Hanson a
man of rugged simplicity, as full of fun and frolic
as a child; a man strong as a lion, an excellent blacksmith and, what was more to Phil's advantage, a kind
and unselfish teacher who was willing to impart to his
willing pupil—as John Royce Pederstone had been—all
he knew of his ancient, noble and virile calling.
Phil, with a natural aptitude and a delight in at last
doing work of a practical nature, was soon able to shoe a
horse, temper and weld iron, bolt and rivet a gate and
mend broken farm implements with considerable skill,
much to the open-minded and childlike Hanson's pleasure
and astonishment.
Phil gloried in the knowledge of returning vigour and
in the steadily increasing size and power of his biceps.
His bones no longer showed an anxiety to burst through
his skin. The tired ache, after a little exertion, was no
longer with him. His chest broadened by inches and his
body took on the buoyancy and elasticity that were his
real birthright, but of which the close confinement of
Ukalla had almost robbed him for good.
Jim Langford delighted in this physical change even
more than did Phil himself. He insisted on sparring
and wrestling with Phil in the evenings; and, when the
latter began more and more to hold his own, Jim chuckled
and chuckled to himself in anticipation of some amusing
future event he knew was sure to come along sooner or
89
ir 90        The Spoilers of the Valley
later. When these amusements palled, they threw their
latent energies into the roping of a post in the long-
suffering Mrs. Clunie's orchard, and later the moving
and more elusive objects on the ranges.
All this time, Phil saw little or nothing of Mayor
Brenchfield, for his were busy days, and Brenchfield's
fields of operation were seldom within the confines of
the blacksmith shop.
Only once had Eileen Pederstone visited the forge since
her father had gone on his electioneering campaign, and
that was one afternoon during Phil's dinner hour when
she had run in hurriedly to- have her horse shod. She
was just mounting to ride off as Phil returned, Hanson
having attended to her needs. But her bright smile of
remembrance and the wave of salutation with her riding
crop left something pleasant with Phil that lingered near
him till closing time.
The next day he heard casually that she had joined
her father on his tour. of the Valley. And he heard
something else that disturbed him more; although, why
it should do so, he could not really understand, for it was
no affair of his. He heard that Mayor Brenchfield had
been invited—and had accepted the invitation—to attach himself to the Royce Pederstone party in order to
give the candidate the support of his fluent tongue and
widespread influence.
Somehow Phil resented Brenchfield's apparent friendliness with the Pederstones. To his mind, Eileen Pederstone was too trusting, too straight, and honest, and pure-
minded to be even for a little time in the company of a
man of the stamp of Brenchfield.
He often wondered at the tremendous wall of protection which Brenchfield seemed to have raised about
himself, and he puzzled as to where the breach in that
wall might be—for of a breach somewhere he was cer- Like Man, Like Horse
91
tain. He wondered who would be first to find it, when
it would be likely to be widened and carried. And after
his wondering came the hope and the determination that
he would be there to lend a hand at the storming of the
stronghold.
But these were not consuming desires with Phil. He
had a life of work ahead of him; he had lost time to
make up; he had ambitions to fulfil; great things to do;
there were fortunes to be won by determination, shrewdness and ability, and he was not going to be behind in
the winning of one of them.
That was the day Sol Hanson was called out to repair
some machinery belonging to The Evaporating Company, leaving Phil alone to run the smithy as best he
could.
He had been only a few hours at work when Mayor
Brenchfield flung himself from his gigantic thoroughbred
and came forward into the shop, smiling amiably.
"Well, Phil!—so you're learning to be a blacksmith.
Pretty hard work—isn't it, old man?"
Phil stopped and looked across at him.
When Brenchfield was most pleasant, he knew that was
the time for him to be most on his guard.
'It is more honest than some work I could name."
'Poof!—any fool can be a smith.    Why don't you
get into something worth while ?"
"This suits me!"
"You're devilish snappy, Phil. What the hell's the
matter with you, anyway? Can't you be civil to Royce
Pederstone's customers? Do you want to turn away
business?"
"Stick to business and it will be all right. There is4
nothing outside of that that I want to talk to you about."
Brenchfield threw out his bulky chest and smiled, as he
walked toward the back door.    Suddenly he wheeled
a-
if I1 UBlLUPU'l'iiUMV1!:.
ti
ff
92        The Spoilers of the Valley
round, put his fingers into his vest pocket and pulled out
a piece of blue paper.
"Phil,—aren't you going to let bygones be bygones?
I'll make it well worth your while. There's going to
be big things doing here and I can put you wise."
To show how little he thought of the suggestion, Phil
commenced hammering on his anvil and so drowned
Brenchfield's voice.
The latter came over and laid his hand on Phil's arm.
"If you can't stop being foolish, you might at least
be mannerly," he commented.
Si-"Yes?" J II
I   'Here,—take this!" '|    ||
'What is it?" asked Phil.
"Look and see!"
Phil took the paper and opened it out. It was a
cheque for fifteen hundred dollars.
"What's this for?"
Brenchfield threw out his arm casually. "Just to let
bygones be bygones!"
"No other tags on it, eh?" asked Phil dubiously.
"Not a damned tag!"
Phil held it in his hand as if weighing the matter
over, while Brenchfield watched him narrowly.
"Here's its twin brother, Phil!" J|
He handed another cheque over. It was for fifteen
hundred dollars also.
"And this one?    What's it for?"
"That's to get out of here on to-morrow's train and
to stay out,"
"Uhm!" answered Phil. "That makes three thousand
dollars."
Brenchfield's face took on a little more confidence.
He knew the temptation proffered money held for the Like Man, Like Horse
93
average man. Only, he forgot that he was not dealing
in averages with Phil Ralston.
"I've one more—a sort of big brother!" he remarked,
handing over cheque number three.
Phil opened it up and whistled.
"Pheugh! Seven—thousand—dollars! Coming up,
eh? This must be the price of suicide or a murder, Graham."
The Mayor frowned, but he held rein on his temper.
"That's for a little piece of paper in cipher. It is
more than you'll save all your life."
Phil put the three cheques neatly together, folded
them up and went over to the furnace. He placed them
between some glowing coals and pushed them home with
a bar of iron.
He swung round just in time, for Brenchfield was almost on him.
The latter grinned viciously for a moment, then let
his clenched hands drop to his sides.
"I can make or break you; and, by heavens! you've
made your own choice. I'll break you till you squeal,
—then there will be no ten thousand dollars. It will
be get out and be-damned to you."
"Go to it," replied Phil easily, "it's your move."
Brenchfield walked to the door.
"Come out and have a look at my horse!" he shouted
over his shoulder.    "She wants shoeing all round."
Phil followed to where the sleek, black animal was securely tied to a hitching post. Phil had heard of this
particular horse of Brenchfield's. She was the fastest
piece of horseflesh in the Valley. She was a beauty, but
as vicious with her teeth as she was treacherous with her
feet. She had the eye of a devil. No one had been
found who could ride her save Brenchfield and no one
could groom her but her owner.    Several had tried; one 94        The Spoilers of the Valley
had been killed outright, one lamed permanently and
others gave up before they were compelled to.
"So this is Beelzebub?" asked Phil.
"Yes!"
"Guess you had better bring her back to-morrow when
Hanson is here."
"Can't you shoe a horse?"
"Some horses!"
Brenchfield laughed sarcastically.
"Tie her up in the frame then," said Phil, "and I'll
do it. Hanson told me she always has to be shod in
that way."
Brenchfield laughed again.
"A bright blacksmith you are!" he grunted.
The young smith's face flushed angrily.
"All right!" he retorted, "leave her where she is.
There isn't any horse or anything else belonging to you
or connected with you,—and including you—that I can't
put shoes on."
Phil went over to look more closely at the animal, as
the Mayor went to her head and stroked her nose.
"Sure you're not scared?    She's a heller!"
Phil walked round her without answering. He was
at her rear, closer than he should have been, when Brenchfield suddenly reached and whispered a peculiar, grating, German-like, guttural sound in the mare's ear.
Like lightning her ears went back, her eyes spurted
fire, a thrill ran through her body and her two hind feet
shot into the air.    Brenchfield shouted warningly.
Phil, only half alert, sprang aside. The iron-ringed
hoofs flashed past him, one biting along his cheek and
ripping it an eighth of an inch deep. Phil staggered to
the wall, as the horse continued to plunge and rear in a
paroxysm of madness. Her owner tried to pacify her,
but he made little headway with the job. Like Man, Like Horse
95
"Good Lord, man! as a man working among horses
don't you know better than to hang around the flanks of
one of her kind like that? If she had hit you, it would
have been all day with you."
Phil pulled himself together.
"Do you think so?" he remarked in a much more casual
tone than he felt.
"It looked for a minute like a bad accident."
"It looked to me like attempted murder," retorted
Phil. § '|-' " '^H
Brenchfield frowned, but ignored the opening.
"She's a vicious devil. She takes turns like that occasionally when a stranger is near her."
"You mean you give her turns like that occasionally?"
put in Phil suggestively.
At that moment, Jim Langford sauntered round the
smithy building into the yard.
"Hullo! A love feast going on! What's the argument, fellows ?    What have you been doing to your cheek,
Phil?"     .     '    I     nf>: 1
The Mayor growled.
"This blacksmith pal of yours thought he could shoe
Beelzebub. She's got a mad streak on and pretty nearly
laid him out. Now he blames me for rousing her, as if
she needs any rousing."
"And so you did! I'm not blind or deaf. I saw
you and heard you as well."
Brenchfield laughed and tapped his forehead significantly to Langford.    But Langford did not respond.
"You mean, Phil, that the Mayor knows what they
call 'the horse word' ?"
"He seems to possess one of them, at any rate," replied Phil.
'So there are two of them?" laughed Jim.
'There ought to be, if there are any at all;—just as
at
if 96        The Spoilers of the Valley
there is hot and cold, day and night, right and wrong,
good and bad, positive and negative."
"That sounds reasonable enough, too," answered Jim,
who turned suddenly to Brenchfield as the latter was frantically endeavouring to quiet the plunging Beelzebub.
"Now then, for the land's sake, Graham Brenchfield
Lavengro, why don't you use that other word? What's
the good of creating a devil if you can't keep the curb
on him?"
Brenchfield. commenced to belabour the horse in his
irritation, but the more he struck the more nervous and
vicious she seemed to grow.
The sight set Phil's thoughts awandering. A little
door in his brain opened and he remembered the queer
little wizened-faced horse rustler in for life at Ukalla
Jail, whom he had befriended and who in return had
given him a word which he said might be useful some
day, as it was guaranteed to quiet the wildest horses. At
the time, he had grinned at it in his incredulity, but now
the thought came, "What if there might be something
in it?" §
He had not noted that little word, and now he had a
difficulty in recalling it. But, as he reviewed the scene
at Ukalla Jail in his mind once more, it came to him.
He was not quite certain, but he fancied he had it. What
if its strange power were true? It was a queer, soft,
foreign-sounding word.
There could be no harm in giving it a trial and, if by
lucky chance it proved successful, what a triumph he
would have over the arrogant Mayor of Vernock, and
over Jim Langford as well.
He smiled to himself now at his credulity, as he had
done once at his incredulity over the same peculiar word.
Then recurred to him that wonderful little saying of Will
Shakespeare's:— Like Man, Like Horse
97
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
Encouraged by the quotation and angered by Brenchfield's cruelty, he decided to take a chance. He sprang
to the mare's head.
"Let the horse alone, man," he cried. "Can't you see
you are only making her worse?"
"What the devil do you know about horses? She'll
eat you alive, you fool of a tenderfoot."
"I'm willing to take a chance. Stand back and see
what I know."
Brenchfield gazed at him in surprise, but, ever ready
to be enlightened, he stepped back.
"Jim,—go to the other end of the yard; take him with
you,—and watch."
Langford, anxious at all times to be amused; Brenchfield grinning in derision; both went some thirty yards
out of hearing, while the horse continued to kick and
plunge.
Holding out his hand, Phil drew nearer to the mad
animal.
Quietly he murmured the three-syllabled word which
he had so dearly earned from his convict friend. The
soft and soothing effect of its vowels surprised Phil
himself. Time and again he repeated the word, going
closer and closer.
Beelzebub stopped her plunging. She cocked forward
her ears, straining and listening intently. Phil kept on
—as a slow tremor passed over the horse.. Slowly the
wicked gleam died from her eyes. Phil's hand reached
out and touched her nose. He stroked it cautiously—
gently. He reached and whispered the word close in
her ear. She sighed almost like a woman. In a moment
more Phil's left hand was on her sleek neck and running ft
98        The Spoilers of the Valley
over her back.    She whinnied, then her nozzle sought
his arm and rubbed along it to his shoulder.
She became as quiet as the proverbial lamb.
Langford and Brenchfield came forward, blank amazement showing in.their faces.
"By jiminy!—where the dickens did you learn that?
Did I mention Lavengro.    Lavengro's a has been, in fact,
a never waser alongside that."
.    He slapped Phil's shoulder.    "Good old Phil!"
Surly as an old dog, Brenchfield loosened the reins
from the hitching post.
"I'll give you five thousand dollars for that word," he
said, turning suddenly to Phil.
"You're mighty free with your money to-day. You
must have a lien on somebody's fortune."
'Five thousand dollars," repeated the Mayor.
'Not on your life!" answered Phil.    "It was given me
strictly on the understanding that it was not to be sold."
"Well then,—I'll give you my 'word' in exchange for
yours."
"Your 'word,'—yours? No, Mister Mayor, I haven't
any desire to know your 'word.' Keep it,—it fits you.
The two words are just about the difference between you
and me,—and, God knows, I'm no saint."
Brenchfield laughed in his easy, devil-may-care way.
He jumped on to the back of his horse without touching
her with his hands.
"Aren't you going to let me shoe her?" asked Phil
in assumed disappointment.
For answer, the Mayor touched the horse's side with
his spur, trotted round the end of the building and away.
"Phil, old man, where did you learn to subdue horses ?"
"I got the word from an old horsey-man whom I befriended once."
"Did you ever use it before?"
ti-
tf Like Man, Like Horse
"No! I just rethought of it a moment or two before
I tried it out."
"Lordy! I shouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen
it with my own eyes. You know, Beelzebub is positively
the worst mare in the Valley. Sol Hanson will throw
a fit of delight when he hears about this.
"I've heard some queer things about horses, Phil. I
once knew an old horse dealer in the East of Scotland.
He owned a famous Clydesdale stud stallion. He used
to travel with it all over the country. Old Sommerville,
they called the man, was a terrible booze artist. He
was drunk day and night. But never so drunk that he
couldn't look after himself and his stallion. You know,
just always half-full of whisky. Well,—there wasn't a
paddock that could hold that stallion. It had killed several men and had created tremendous havoc time and
again in stables. If it had not been for its qualities as
a perfect specimen of a horse, the Government would
have ordered its destruction. A special friend of old
Sommerville's died, and, on the day of the funeral, Sommerville swore he wouldn't taste liquor for twenty-four
hours. He didn't. That night he was taking the stallion from one village to another. He failed to turn up
at the village he intended making for, and next morning
the stallion was discovered miles away, while later in
the day a farm-hand came upon a mass of bloody bones
and flesh pounded to mince meat among the earth at the
side of a road."
"I quite believe it," said Phil, "because I have heard
before somewhere that a horse—no matter how vicious
it may be—will never interfere with a man smelling of
liquor."
"Well,—I guess the horse had more sense than some
of us have," said Jim.
"Sound horse sense, I suppose," laughed Phil. Iff
ff
ff
ioo      The Spoilers of the Valley
"But say!—you and Brenchfield don't seem to love
each other exactly.    What is it, Phil?"
"Oh!—we don't pull together, that's all."
"Anybody can see that. Did you ever meet him before
coming here?"
'Yes!" answered Phil shortly.
'Well, old chum, it isn't any of my business, but the
Mayor's an oily-tongued rotter and well worth the watching. I'm lying in wait for him myself. He doesn't
love me any more than he seems to love you, so if I can
help you out any time, let me know.
"He's got the nerve of the devil. He is setting up
to little Eileen Pederstone too, the hound. I hope to
God a fine woman like she is doesn't have such putrid
luck as to marry such a miserable son-of-a-gun. But
it is generally that way though, and that coyote nearly
always gets what he goes after. He seems to be making money hand over fist. His stock is the largest and
best in the Valley. They say he owns half a dozen
mines up north and more ranch land in the Okanagan
than he can ever use.
"Eileen Pederstone has gone after her dad campaigning, and I heard up at the Court House this morning
that Brenchfield is going off in a day or so, invited by the
Party to join Royce Pederstone and help along his election with his influence and his glib tongue.
"If Pederstone gets in—as he is sure to do—the next
thing we will be hearing will be the Mayor's engagement
with Eileen.
"Honest to goodness!—I think I would p'ug him full
of bullet holes on a dark night if that happened." CHAPTER IX
The Doings of Percival
HEN Hanson returned that afternoon, his round
face was beaming.    His big blue eyes stared right
into Phil's.
"Say,—by    yiminy,—you    some    kid!    You    quiet
Brenchfield's she-devil!"
■ "And what about that?" ^||
"What about it! That no good for Sol Hanson. I
know all about him. Somebody tell me. By yiminy!
you make damn-good blacksmith. Some day we put up
signboard, 'Hanson and Ralston, General Blacksmiths.'
We get all the trade in this damn Valley."
"Who told you about she-devil, Sol ?" asked Phil curiously.
"Oh, somebody! He not speak very much but he say
plenty when he be good and ready. He watch round corner. Brenchfield make she-devil wild. You speak to
her and she get quiet."
It wasn't Jim Langford who told you, Sol?"
'Langford,—no!   Langford's mouth all stitched up.
He say nothing at all.    You wait!"
Sol put his fingers in his mouth and whistled.
In a second, the half-witted, ragamuffin Smiler bobbed
his grinning face round the door post. Hanson waved
him in and when the youngster saw that only Sol Hanson and Phil were inside he raced round and round Phil
in sheer delight, like a puppy-dog round its master. He
rubbed his hand up and down Phil's clothes, and he kept
IOI
tf
tti w
I I'
102      The Spoilers of the Valley
pointing to himself and to Phil. Phil could not make
out his meaning.
"He says you and him good pals," interpreted Hanson.
"You bet we are, Smiler!" said Phil, patting the boy's
matted hair.
"Smiler and me make a deal. We going to live together after this," said Sol. "Smiler he got nobody.
Smiler hungry most all the time; dirty, no place to sleep;
just a little mongrel-pup. I got lots of grub, nice shack,
good beds. Smiler get lots of bath. Smiler and me we
going to be pals.    What you say, Smiler?"
The boy grinned again and gurgled in happy acquiescence.
"But the kid can't talk?"
"Oh, he talk all right; you bet! He talk with his head,
and his eyes, his feet and his hands; talk every old way
only you don't savvy his kind of talk."
As soon as work was over, Phil hurried up the hill
home. He had had a trying day of it one way and another and he was longing for a refreshing bath and a
clean-up.
He popped his head into Langford's room, but Langford either had not come or had been in early and had
gone out again.
Whistling softly, he went into his own. His whistle
ended abruptly, for his bedroom looked as if it had been
struck by a cyclone. Everywhere, in wild confusion, lay
shirts, collars and clothes; books, papers and personal
belongings. The drawers of his bureau were pulled out
and the contents scattered. Someone evidently had been
in on a thieves' hunt and had been neither leisurely nor
nice about the job.
Phil could not, for the life of him, imagine why anyone would want specially to ransack his of all the choice
of rooms at Mrs. Clunie's.    He had nothing worth steal- tf
tf-
The Doings of Percival |      103
ing, while many of his landlady's boarders were fairly
well endowed in the matter of worldly possessions.
He leaned over the bannister and called excitedly for
Mrs. Clunie.
"Guid preserve us a'; what's wrang?" she exclaimed,
pulling her dress up in front and hurrying up the stairs.
Phil showed her into his room without a word. The
moment she saw the state of it, she threw up her hands
in amazement.
"Goodness sakes, Mr. Ralston! It looks as if there
had been thievin' bodies here."
'Have any strangers been in the house?"
'Not a soul, Mr. Ralston, except the man you sent wi'
the note to let him ha'e your spurs that were in the bureau
drawer."
"But I didn't send any man, and I didn't write any
note!" put in Phil.
"You didna ? Oh, the slyness o' him! As sure as my
name's Jean Clunie, he was the thief."
"Well!" said Phil ruefully, "he has made a deuce of
a jumble of my clothes. But he came to the wrong room
if he came for valuables."
"I was busy and I told him to run up and get them.
Oh, the cunnin' de'il.    Is there nothing missing?"
"Nothing that I know of; certainly nothing valuable,
for I don't own any such!"
"Bide a minute till I get that note," exclaimed the perspiring and excited landlady.
She returned in a minute with the paper.
Phil read it over.    It was written in a rough hand, in
pencil.
Mrs. Clunie,
Please allow bearer into my room to get my spurs for
me.    He will know where to find them.
Phil Ralston. tt
tf
if
104      The Spoilers of the Valley
Phil scratched his head.
"Well, that beats all!"
'And you never wrote it?"
'Not I!" J|§
'But he took your spurs, for I saw them in his hand."
Phil glanced about him.
"Yes!—I guess he has taken my spurs."
"My, but I'm the foolish woman. I never heard tell
o' the like o' it before. This place is gettin' as bad as
the ceety o' Glesca."
"What was the man like, Mrs. Clunie?"
"Oh, just a wee, short kind o' a rough lookin', dirty
kind o' a mahnie, wi' a horse."
"What kind of a horse did he have ?"
"To tell ye the truth, I didna pay muckle attention
to the beastie, but I think it was brown coloured, wi' a
white patch on its e'e. Oh, ay! and it was lame, for
when he went aff I could see it hobblin' on its fore legs
as it galloped doon the road."
"All right!" said Phil. "If you send Betsy up to put
the room in order, everything will be O.K."
"I'm right sorry I wasna more parteecular, Mr. Ralston, but I didna think for a minute except that you would
be anxious for your spurs. A letter like that would deceive the very Lord himsel'."
"Don't you worry now! I paid only a dollar and a
half for the spurs, and I have had that much wear out
of them, so they don't owe me anything."
At the same time, Phil himself worried considerably
over the matter, for closer inspection betrayed the fact
that his little box of private papers and letters had been
burst open and examined; also that his leather letter-case
—in fact everything likely to contain documents of any
kind—had been scrutinised.
As he bathed and dressed himself, he still worried, The Doings of Percival ||      105
until it occured to him that this might be some of Brenchfield's doings. He wondered, and then he laughed to
himself at the chances the would-be thief had taken to
get—nothing.
Once more Phil lost patience with himself, as he
thought of his foolishness in getting rid of that confession of Brenchfield's; and yet, in destroying it he had
merely acted up to the feeling and good intentions he
had had at the time.
He took a turn outside. At the top of the hill, at
the corner, little Smiler, with a cleaner face than usual,
ran out from the end of a house and stood up in front
of Phil.      I   §. .        W$m--' 1        1       '
"Hullo kiddie!    What's the good word?"
Smiler just grinned.
"Smiler!" inquired Phil, "you see a little man to-day
on a brown horse with a white eye?"
Smiler looked as serious as was possible for his permanently crooked face, then he nodded intelligently. He
pointed to his leg and went a few steps limping.
"Yes, yes!" exclaimed Phil, "horse got a lame leg!"
Smiler nodded.
"Where did you see him?"
Smiler pointed in the direction of the hilU
"Up near my place?"
The boy nodded again.
"Where did he go ?" H
Smiler shook his head this time.
"Too bad!" exclaimed Phil.
"If you see him again, anywhere, Smiler, run in and
tell me, will you ?    I'll be at the Kenora for a bit."
Smiler nodded, delighted that he was going to have a
chance to be of service to the big man he had taken such
a fancy to. The Spoilers of the Valley
"Here!" Phil handed him twenty-five cents, and the
boy ran off in the direction of the Chinese restaurant.
Phil continued down the street, knowing that if the
little man on the lame brown horse with the white eye
was still in town, it would not be long before Smiler
would have him wise to it.
He strolled into the dining-room of the Kenora and
ordered his lunch. And, as he waited, in came an old
acquaintance in all his high-coloured and picturesque
splendour—Percival DeRue Hannington.
Hannington spotted Phil at once and strutted over.
He shook hands with vigour and set himself down opposite.
"By gad! old chap,—but this is quite refreshing. I've
often thought about you and your good advice not to
be in too big a hurry to buy a blooming rawnch."
"Why?" inquired Phil. "I'm glad you took it and
it did you good."
"But I didn't take it;—worse bally luck. Don't you
know, I thought you might be trying to put me off the
chawnce of getting into something good. Everybody
warned me when I came out here that I wasn't to take
everything I heard for gospel. The beastly trouble
seems to be to distinguish between the gospel and the
tommyrot."
Phil laughed, and it made him forget his own troubles.
DeRue Hannington ordered dinner also, and, as he
refreshed himself he became reminiscent.
"So you did buy a ranch?" started Phil.
"I paid for one," said Hannington, "and, if that isn't
jolly-well buying one, you've got to search me, as the
Johnnies out here say.
"You see, when you toddled off that day, I was in the
saloon asking three fellows if they knew of anyone who
had a rawnch for sale.
»• smmm. m    BBS ■■    wwssKKBmBmt^
The Doings of Percival §      107
"One Johnnie said he had a good one I could have
cheap, for cash."
"What was the man's name?" asked Phil.
"Barney, Barney something-or-other; oh, yes! cawn't
forget it;—Barney Douthem.    He did me, the rotter,
"Do you know him, Mister—Mister Phil?"
"I have heard of him. He left here some time ago
for the other side of the Line."
"I fawncied so," said Hannington. "I'm looking for
that miserable thieving josser.
"Well, I hired a horse and went out with the Barney
fellow to see the rawnch, right away. A jolly nice place
it was, too—just ten miles out. The Barney chap lived
there with a Chinaman who did his housework. It was
a twenty-acre place on the side of a hill, with a decent
sort of a house and stables. There was a beautiful view
of the lake and the Valley, and a fine fishing stream
running right through the property. One could fish out
of his window, lying in bed.    A positive duck of a place!"
"Yes!" remarked Phil, "but a rancher can't live on
scenery and by fishing in bed. What kind of fruit trees
did the place have?"
"Deuced good trees, Phil! At least, they seemed all-
right.    Of course, I'm not a bally expert on fruit trees.
"The Douthem chap said he could recommend it and
I could have it for five thousand dollars cash. I gave
him a cheque right off the reel. He gave me his receipt
for the money, and the deal was closed there and then."
DeRue Hannington stopped, as if the memory of it
was somewhat painful.
"Not exactly closed, Phil! because it sort of opened
up again, two days ago, just three weeks after I was done
by Douthem, and he had cashed my cheque and jolly-
well beat it, as they say out here.
"It was like this.    I was sitting on the veranda, en- •»' !>
108      The Spoilers of the Valley
joying a smoke and admiring my property and the view,
when a collector Johnnie came up the road and asked me
where Douthem was. I told him Douthem was gone,
and I was now the proprietor.
" 'Didn't know they had changed tenants/ said he.
Tve called for the rent.'
"Do you know, Phil, I fawncied the silly owl had
gone balmy, but he insisted that he had to collect thirty
dollars a month rent.
"Of course, I showed the fellow my receipt for the
place, proving I was the owner of it. But he just looked
at it and said:—
I 'Say!—who are you making a kid of ? This might
be all right for a bunch of groceries, or electric light, or
a ton of coal, but it isn't all right for a rawnch.'
"'Why!—what's the matter with it?' I asked.
'Doesn't it say, Received from Percival DeRue Hannington the sum of five thousand dollars for one ranch of
twenty acres, with house and barns, situated ten miles
from the city of Vernock and called Douthem's Ranch?'
" 'Sure it does,' said the chap. And he was devilish
rude about it too."
By this time, Phil had all he could do to keep from
shouting with merriment. He did not dare to look at
DeRue Hannington, so he kept religiously to his food.
"Well,—he told me the rawnch belonged to some other
people; that Douthem only rented it, and that one had
to have a deed and register it when one bought property. The blooming upshot was I had to pay the collecting fellow his thirty dollars and get out. So I landed
back here to-day.
"I daresay, Phil, a man has to pay for his experience,
but you know it looks as if a fellow had to do so much
paying that when he does finish up by really owning some- The Doings of Percival    §   109
thing, he will have paid such a beastly lot for it that
he'll never be able to make it up again."
Phil showed impatience.
"Good heavens, man!—don't you know that land is
not exchanged without an Agreement for Sale, or a
Deed?" |
"How should I know?" answered the innocent. "I
never bought land before. If I pay the price for an article, it should be mine, shouldn't it ?"
"If the man you pay is honest," replied Phil, "but he
isn't always honest, hence Agreements and Deeds.
"Next time you buy a ranch, Mr. Hannington, take
my advice and hire a lawyer to see the deal through for
you." ||,
"No more bally rawnches for me, Phil. And it is
possibly just as well I lost this one, because I have learned
that one has to grub and mess among caterpillars and all
those dirty little insects and worms they call bugs, which
keep getting on the fruit trees, eating up the bally stuff
you are trying to grow. I simply cawn't stand the slimy,
squashy little reptiles, you know!"
"I am afraid you are destined to meet them in other
places besides ranches," remarked Phil.
"I have found them on my dinner table before now!"
"How disgusting!" exclaimed the horrified Englishman.
"What are you going to tackle next? Don't you think
you had better get a job for a while, working for wages,
until you get acclimatised; and so conserve your money
until you have had the necessary experience?"
"Not so long as my old dad is willing to foot the bills!
The least he can do is to keep me going here. It is
cheaper for him than letting me gad about between London, Paris and the Riviera.    Besides, my mother would WM
a
112      The Spoilers of the Valley
The Englishman called Dalton over.
"Say, old chap,—have a drink!"
Dalton had one.
"What about that horse, Dalton?    Have you sold her
yet?"     J" 1 I I
"No siree! I'll sell her when I get my price. I ain't
in no hurry."
"Well, you know I offered you two hundred and
fifty for her."
"And she's yours for five hundred bucks."
Phil interfered.
"Oh, come off the grass!    What do you take my friend
f°r?"   ■ i    It    i
"Do you know the horse we're talking about?" asked
Dalton.
"Sure I do!—the white mare. She's a good enough
horse, a beauty to look at, but there aren't any millionaires
around Vernock going to give you five hundred dollars
for her. A hundred and fifty is plenty for a good riding horse these days."
"Say!—whose horse is it, anyway?"
"Yours,—I presume!" said Phil.
"Who's buying the horse?"
"Not me!"
"All right,—keep out!"
Phil smiled.
Dalton twisted up his face and turned to Hannington.
"Well, boss,—is it a go ?"
Hannington demurred, then he showed a little decision,
which Phil was beginning to think he was entirely devoid of.
"No!—I'm dimmed if I'll pay that much for her. I
want the horse because she's white all over and there isn't
another like her in colour about the bally town.    I like trkum,       WH—IB
BHHB^B^BBSHE^
The Doings of Percival    H3
things different, by gad!    But I simply won't be put upon.
No, dim it, dim it all,—I just won't!"
Dalton walked away without a word, then he whirled
on his heel and came slowly back.
"Want a mine—a gold mine?"
Percival DeRue Hannington, ever ready to nibble,
showed interest.
"Say, Rattlesnake, forget it! Darn it all, do you think
you are talking to a crazy man?"
"See here, Ralston!—why don't you live up to your
pet name and keep your trap shut ? Butt out!" exclaimed
Dalton, curling his upper lip in evident disgust.
"It's an honest-to-goodness gold mine, Mr. Hannington, and I hold all the rights to it."
Phil addressed his friend.
"Don't be foolish now. Everybody in Vernock knows
about Dalton's mine.    He can't give it away."
"Say, Ralston! if I was big as you and as ugly, I'd
knock your face in. Mind your own dirty business and
keep out. Mr. Hannington is a man-sized man, with a
man-sized bean-pot and doesn't need a wet nurse with
him. He knows whether he wants a mine or not," said
Dalton sourly.
Phil's eyes flashed anger.
"Now, Phil, please!" put in Hannington. "Really you
mustn't quarrel. And you never know, you know;—
there really have been old, good-for-nothing mines and
things that have turned out wonderful."
Phil shrugged his shoulders.
'Go to it!" he said.    "It's your funeral."
'Oh, come now!    Don't be playing the bally Dead
March over me because of a silly mine.
"Mr. Dalton, what name does this gold mine go by?"
"The Lost Durkin Gold Mine!"
Hi
Hi It
III
M<
is
114      The Spoilers of the Valley
Hannington's face lit up as he caught an inward
glimpse of himself as the owner.
"Lost Durkin! Deuced romantic name, you know!
Isn't it, Phil?"
Phil failed to respond.
"But why Lost Durkin, Mr. Dalton?"
"It's like this: Durkin and another guy were the discoverers of this ere mine. It panned out,—well!—nobody knowed for sure certain how it panned out; only
Durkin and his pal always had lots of nuggets and dust.
Durkin's pal went away and Durkin worked it all by
hisself. They say he struck it rich in a vein and went
batty over it/ Anyway, he acted queer for a time. One
day his hat was found in the tunnel, and no sign of Durkin from that day to this.
"Durkin's pal, Don Flannigan, without ever comin'
back, sold out the mine to Jem Grierson. Grierson sold
to me. It ain't been worked to speak of since Durkin
tried it out. The gold might be lyin' there just for the
pickin' up."
'Oh, say,  Rattlesnake!—come off," interposed Phil.
'Why, Hannington,—every hobo that has come to this
Valley is open to have a go at it any old time he likes."
"Not on your tin tacks! I hold the mining rights to
it, and nobody else. Just let somebody try it on!" put
in Dalton.
"But there must be some gold in it, Phil!" remarked
Hannington.
"Sure,—about four dollars a day hard working!"
"By jove!—if there's that, there might be more, you
know."
"Yes, and there might not!"
"If the gold was absolutely sure, Phil, you know nobody would sell. Would they? A man has got to take
a chawnce.
at
tf The Doings of Percival §
"What do you want for the bally thing, Mr. Dalton?'
"One thousand plunks," remarked Dalton without a
tremor.
"Plunks?"
"Yes, plunks,—bucks!"
"Bucks?"
"Yes,—plunks, bucks, greenbacks, In-God-We-Trusts,
D-O-double L-A-R-S."
"Two hundred quid!" figured Hannington roughly,
who, for the proper realisation of actual values still had
the habit of converting his dollars into English coinage.
"'Tisn't much for a gold-mine, Phil,—is it now?'
"I could get you a dozen for that."
"Oh, now, Phil!" § §
Rattlesnake Jim was getting impatient.
"Say, mister—if you're interested, come outside and
talk. No use trying to make a deal, with this old man
of the sea out play in' buttinsky."
"Don't be a fool now," interposed Phil. "Stay where
you are!"
But DeRue Hannington was in the toils again, and the
fever was in his blood.
Dalton walked slowly to the door.
Hannington hesitated, looked sheepishly at Phil, then
exclaimed over his shoulder:
"Eh, excuse me, old chap,—won't you!" And he hurried alongside the owner of The Lost Durkin Gold Mine.
"Couldn't you come down a bit in your price, old dear ?
Your figure seems deuced steep where mines seem to be
so beastly plentiful," Phil heard Hannington say.
At the door Dalton stopped.
"One thousand for the mine, and just to show you
that I'm a real sport and playin' fair, I'll throw the white
mare in for luck."
Hannington gasped, then slapped Dalton on the shoul- ■
If''
I
116      The Spoilers of the Valley
der and grabbed his hand in ecstasy at the overflow of
generosity on the part of the mine owner.
"Done,—done!    It's a bally go!"
And the two disappeared outside in head-to-head conversation, to the accompaniment of a round of loud laughter from some old timers in the saloon who had overheard
part of the talk and who knew that once more a sheep
was about to be shorn of its wool.
Phil swung round with his back and elbows on the
counter. He surveyed the crowd dimly through the haze
of smoke in the bar-room.
Just then Jim Langford came in by the swinging doors.
Phil went over to him directly, led him to a table in
the corner, and told him in a few, quick sentences of the
thieving visit that had been made to his room at Mrs.
Clunie's.
"There's more in this than you think," said Langford,
after Phil had concluded. "Haven't you heard the news
of the other thieving in town?"
'No,—where was it?"
'A gang must have been working on the O.K. Supply
Company's premises last night. Three days ago, Morrison unloaded two carloads of feed and flour in his No.
i Warehouse. They haven't sold a nickel's worth, and
this morning there aren't fifty sacks left."
"Was the place broken into ?" asked Phil.
"Must have been, but every bolt and bar is secure, so
are all the padlocks.    It's a mighty queer thing.
"I had it on the inside that the Pioneer Traders were
shy last week, but they gave out no report; and Mayor
Brenchfield, whose Warehouse and stables lie between
the Pioneer Traders and the O.K. Supply Co. lodged a
complaint with Chief Palmer this morning that he had
lost forty bags of bran and oats from his place. Of
course, his loss isn't a patch on the loss of the other two.
a-
tt The Doings of Percival If      117
"You know, this darned thing has been going on for
several years. Somebody is getting fat on it. The O.K.
Supply Company have lost sixty thousand dollars' worth
in four or five years. They have put new locks and bolts
on, but all to no purpose. The Pioneer Traders must
be considerably shy, too.
"The Police don't do a thing, and everybody seems
scared to act for fear of being got back at in some way.
"The Indians are being blamed for it; so are some of
the wilder element who have cattle ranches and lots of
live stock to feed.    Easy way to fatten your animals, eh,
Phil! I-.'I-
"If we could lay the man by the heels who ransacked
your place, we might be able to get a clue to the others."
Phil shook his head. "No,—I don't think so!" he answered.
"Well, old man Morrison of the O.K. Company is a
decent head and these continual robberies are bleeding
him white.    He told me all about it this morning.
"I have made arrangements to quit the Court House
for a while and take a job with him as warehouseman,
just to see what I can fasten on to."
"Won't they get suspicious if they know you are on
the job?" I
Langford laughed. "Good Lord, no! I have been
in a dozen jobs in this town in as many months. Besides, nobody ever thinks of me as a Sherlock Holmes.
I'm just languishing for a little excitement anyway."
"You won't forget then to call me in to lend a hand
if there is any scrapping going?" said Phil.
"Would you really come in on it?"
"You bet!"
"All right! This old burg will have something to
wake it up one of these days."
Their attention was distracted by the rattle of gravel liiHMMWl
-'-•
lit
1
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118      The Spoilers of the Valley
on the window at which they were sitting. Langford
shook his fist at a disappearing figure.
"Who was that?" asked Phil. fj
"Don't know! Looked like Smiler, the dummy kid.
Queer little devil!"
Phil jumped up.
"Maybe he's got some information for me. Wait
here!    I'll be back directly."
Phil went outside slowly and round the corner of the
building to the back yard. Sure enough, as soon as no
one was in sight, Smiler darted up to him. He was all
excitement and kept pointing to a clump of trees down a
side road.
"Did you find the man with the lame horse?" Phil
sked.
a
Smiler nodded and grinned with pleasure, catching
Phil by the coat and leading the way cautiously to where
stood the brown mare with the white patch over her eye.
She was tethered to a tree, well hidden from view of the
road.
Phil examined her legs and saw at a glance that she
favoured her left fore foot. A look showed him that
some gravel had worked up into an old sore.
Phil pulled the strings of a bag that hung from the
saddle. The first things he came across were his own
spurs.    He took possession of them.
Meanwhile, Smiler was watching with deep interest.
"Where's the man, Smiler?" asked Phil.
The boy grinned and nodded his head, as if to say:—
"Come along,—I'll show you."
He led Phil through the back lanes to Chinatown,
stopping in front of a cheap, Chinese restaurant. He
pointed inside.    Phil made to enter.
He encountered, of all people, Brenchfield coming out.
The suddenness of the Mayor's appearance caused him The Doings of Percival 119
to catch his breath.    In Phil's mind it solved the problem
at once.
Brenchfield stopped and stared at Phil, then he glared
at Smiler who turned tail and ran off as if for his very
life. § #■
The Mayor appeared to be in one of his most sullen
moods. He turned again and looked angrily at Phil,
his eyes travelling from the young smith's face to his
boots, then back to his left hand in which he still held his
recovered spurs. B
Phil jingled them suggestively, and kept on into the
restaurant. Brenchfield remained on the sidewalk in
front of the door.
Phil knew quite well that he was taking chances, but
he risked that.
There was nothing of any moment taking place in the
main dining-room. Several diners were on stools at the
counter. Others were at tables. A Chinese waiter was
serving, while the cook was tossing hot cakes beside the
cooking range. The door of the adjoining room was
open. Some Chinamen were at a table, deeply interested
in a game of chuckaluck. In a room still farther back,
some white men were playing poker.
Phil strolled in there.    No one paid any heed to him.
His eyes travelled over the players. He did not know
any of them. But it did not take him a second to settle
in his mind which was the man he was after.
A little, stout, narrow-eyed fellow, who did not seem
to have been shaved or washed for months, was seated
at the far corner, chewing tobacco viciously. Evidently
he had just resumed his game, for Phil heard one of the
players exclaim:—
"Aw!—get a move on, Ginger! What'n the deuce do
you want to keep us here all day for, waitin' for you
and that blasted Mayor to quit chewin' the fat?" H 11
it
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SH&
120      The Spoilers of the Valley
None worried about the new arrival: they were all
too engrossed in their game.
In the middle of it, Phil went up close.
"Men,—I hate to butt in, but I want that dirty little
fellow over there."    He pointed suggestively at his man.
"Yes,—you Ginger!" he shouted, as the little man
gaped.
"Aw,—get back on your base!" was all he got for answer, for the man had no idea who had challenged him,
and drunks had a habit of interfering at cards, ultimately
to find themselves thrown out into the street. He took
Phil for one of those and left it to the man nearest to
the intruder to settle the account.
With a quick movement Phil threw his body over the
table, catching the little fellow smartly by the neck-cloth
and shirt in a grip that there was no gainsaying. By
the sheer power of his right hand and arm, he pulled the
astonished Ginger—before his more astonished partners
—right across the table, planting him on his feet in front
of him.
The little man gasped for breath and struggled, but
finding his struggling merely meant more strangling, he
commenced to feel at his hip as if for a gun.
Phil struck him on the side of the head, sending him
staggering against the wall. As Ginger recovered, Phil
held his spurs under the man's nose and jingled them.
"I guess you know these?"
The fellow's narrow eyes opened wide. He let out
a guttural sound and sprang for the door. Phil shot
after him. But the little one's speed was accelerated
by his fear. Phil's boot was all that reached him and it
did its work uncommonly well. A nicely planted kick,
just when he reached the door-step, sent Ginger in the
air and seated him on the plank sidewalk.    He jumped The Doings of Percival   ft  121
up almost before he touched the boards and tore down
the road as if the devil himself were behind him.
Brenchfield, who had been a silent spectator of what
had taken place, came into the main room of the restaurant, where a crowd of low whites and curious Chinese
had gathered.
"Look here, young man!—you don't want to be doing
much of that in this town or you'll find yourself locked
up." - I      ^ f    fj
Phil shook his spurs in the Mayor's face.
"And you don't want to be doing much of this, or
you'll find yourself my next cell neighbour."
The Mayor had no idea how far his opponent was prepared to go, and evidently afraid to risk a scene, he turned
his back on Phil with an oath.
"First time I catch that damned, sneaking little rat
I saw you with I'll thrash him within an inch of his miserable little life." §
"You just try it on,—and, God help you,—that's all,"
retorted Phil. 1
jg| '    CHAPTER X
Jim's Grand Toot
S Phil knocked the dust from his clothes and wiped
■*■ ** the perspiration from his face, it suddenly struck
him that Jim Langford must have been waiting fully
half an hour for him at the Kenora.
He hurried through Chinatown and down toward the
hotel. When he got there, he found Jim in lazy conversation with some passing acquaintance, whom he immediately left.
"Did you finish what you were after, Phil?"
"You bet!"
"Tell me about it.    I wish to size the thing up."
With the exception of his encounter with the Mayor,
Phil recounted all that had happened. He preferred keeping to himself that little bout he had had with Brenchfield, for he knew Jim already had suspicions that he
and Brenchfield had some old secret antagonism toward
each other. Some day, he thought, he might feel constrained to unburden himself on the point to Jim, but
the time for that did not appear to be ripe.
"Darned funny!" remarked Langford, when Phil concluded. "I can't recollect the man from your description and there doesn't seem to be any connection between
him and the flour and feed steal. But—what the devil
could that fellow be after, anyway?"
Suddenly, as was his habit, he dismissed the subject
and broke in on another.
"Say, Phil,—know who's in the card-room?"
122 Jim's Grand Toot
123
"No!"  f 'js:
"An old pal of yours!"   He commenced to sing a line
of an old Scot's song:—"Rob Roy McGregor O."
"Yes!"       1 I ' W
"How's your liver?"
"Don't know I have one—so it must be all right!"
"What do you think about paying off old scores?"
Mischief was lurking in his eyes.
"Oh, let's forget that, Jim!    It is too cold-blooded for
tc
tt
me.
"Cold-blooded nothing!    The dirty skunk didn't look
at it that way when you were as weak as Meeting-house
tea and hardly able to stand on your two pins."
'That's no lie, either!"
'And he'd do it again if he thought it would work."
Phil looked at Jim.
"I guess you are right,—and I feel mad enough to
scrap with anybody."
"Right! Let us work it as near as we can the way he
worked it on you."
They went over to the table near the window and rehearsed quietly their method of operation, and it was
not long before a noise in the back room signalled the
break-up of the card game. Half a dozen rough-looking
fellows from Redmans Creek followed one another out
to the saloon, headed, as usual, by McGregor, straddling
his legs and swaggering, looking round with a cynical
twist on his handsome face.    They went over to the bar.
McGregor pushed himself in at the far end, brushing
an innocent individual out of his way in the operation.
The man who followed McGregor wedged himself in
next. McGregor slid along and two more harmless men
at the bar gave way. It was an old trick and they knew
how to perform it. Still the McGregor gang pushed in,
one after another, until the entire counter was taken up t
1
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Kf
124      The Spoilers of the Valley
by the six, who stood there, legs and elbows sprawled,
laughing and jeering at the men they had displaced and
at their lack of courage in not endeavouring to hold their
own.
They stood in this fashion for possibly five minutes,
blocking the counter and not allowing anyone else to
get near it.
Suddenly Phil jumped up from his seat and walked
over to the bar.
"Say, fellows! Come on all and have a drink on me!"
he shouted.
The six at the bar swung round to look at the speaker.
"Come on,—ease up, you ginks!—unless you've hired
the Kenora saloon for the night."
No one moved, so Phil caught the man nearest to him
by the belt and yanked him out deftly. Langford, who
was immediately behind Phil, caught the next one and
repeated the performance.
There was a scramble and some of the more aggressive
bystanders joined in to Phil's and Jim's assistance. Then
the more timid followed, with the ultimate result that
five of McGregor's gang were dislodged, as a dozen
men crowded alongside and around their champion. McGregor still held his place defiantly, elbows and legs
asprawl as before. Phil was close up to him, with Jim
at Phil's left hand.
"Guess you think you're some kid!" McGregor remarked, spitting a wad of chewing tobacco on to the
floor.
"Quit your scrapping," returned Phil in assumed irritation. "Have a drink!—it's on me. It isn't often I
stand treat.    Name your poison!"
"Well,—if that's all you're up to, guess I might as
well," he answered, in reluctant conciliation.
"Come on, fellows!    This hell-for-leather blacksmith Jim's Grand Toot
125
wants to blow in his week's wages on drinks. We ain't
goin' to stop him."
The bar-tenders served as fast as they could. Phil
paid the score, then turned to have a fresh look at McGregor. The latter was watching him closely out of the
corner of his eyes.    He took up his glass.
"Guess you think you're puttin' one over," he snarled.
"Well,—you've got another guess comin'."
He put his tumbler up against Phil's jacket, tilted it
deliberately, sending the contents trickling all the way
down Phil's clothes right to his boot. He looked into
Ralston's eyes with a sneer on his face and slowly set
his tumbler on the counter, watching every movement in
the room through narrowed eyes.
Phil's temper flared out and he swung on McGregor
with tremendous quickness.
To his surprise, quick as he was, his fist fell on McGregor's wrist.
In a second, they were in the centre of the room, tables
and chairs were whirled into corners as by magic, and
the two were in a ring formed by a wall of swaying bodies
and eager faces, for more than a few of them had witnessed the previous encounter between the pair and had
been wondering just when the return match would take
place.
Phil waited with bated breath for the bull-like rush
which he expected, while Langford's voice could be heard
high over the hubbub, shouting in the Doric to which he
had risen in his excitement:—
"Mair room! Gi'e them mair room. Widen oot, can
ye no!—widen oot!"
But instead of the rush for grips that Phil anticipated,
he found himself faced by a man, strong as a lion, with
arms out in the true pugilistic attitude. He guessed it
for a ruse and a bit of play-acting, and sprang in.   He 1261   The Spoilers of the Valley
struck three times for separate parts of the cowpuncher's
body, but each time he struck he encountered a guarding
arm or fist. This more than surprised him, for it was
well known that McGregor's strong and only point was
his brute force.
In order to give himself time to think the matter out,
Phil sprang away again.
McGregor's face was sphinx-like in its inscrutable
cynicism.
They circled, facing each other like sparring gamecocks of a giant variety.
Phil, determined on having another try, jumped in on
his huge opponent.
He struck, once—twice. He was about to strike again,
when he staggered back as if he had been hit by a sledge
hammer fair on the chin. The saloon swung head over
heels in a whirligig movement. Phil's arms became
heavy as lead and dropped to his side. His legs sagged
under him.
In a state of drugging collapse, he felt himself seized
and crushed as into a pulp; a not unpleasant sensation of
swinging, a hurtling through the air and splintering,-—
then, well,—that was all.
When he came to, he was being carried up the stairs
to his bedroom, to the accompaniment of Mrs. Clunie's
repeated regrets, in broad Scotch, that it was a pity "weel
bred young chiek couldna agree to disagree in a decent
manner, wise-like and circumspectly, withoot fechtin' like
a wheen drucken colliers."
This did not prevent that good lady from washing and
binding Phil's numerous but not very deadly cuts and
bruises.
It was two days before he was able to be out of bed,
and during these two days he heard a number of stories,
through Mrs. Clunie, of what had happened at the Kenora Jim's Grand Toot
127
Hotel after his hurried exit through the window. These
stories he refused to believe, for his faith in Jim Lang-
ford's ability was too strong to be easily shaken. But
one thing he had to give credence to was, that Jim had
not shown face at Mrs. Clunie's since the night of the
trouble.
Mrs. Clunie complained that half a dozen times she
had chased "that hauf-witted, saft sannie o' a daftie,
ca'ed Laugher, or Smiler or something," from the back
door, and she was sure he was "efter nae guid."
On the morning of the third day, Phil, stiff and a little
wobbly, set out for the smithy, where big Sol Hanson
welcomed him back with an indulgent grin.
Hanson had learned all about the affray, as everyone
else in town seemed to have done,
"But has anyone seen Langford?" asked Phil in some
concern, as they discussed the matter.
"Oh, Langford go on one big booze," laughed Soh
"He turn up maybe in about one month, all shot to hell,
then he sober up again for long time."
"But doesn't anyone know where he is?"
"Sure, sometimes!—maybe at Kelowna, then Kam-
loops. Somebody see him at Armstrong, then no see him
for another while. Best thing you leave Jim Langford
till he gets good and ready to come back. Only make
trouble any other way. Everybody leave big Jim when
he goes on a big toot."
"Well," said Phil with some decision, "I'm going after
him anyway, and I'm going to stay right with him till
he's O.K." 1 ^   ■ 1
"All right, son—please yourself!
now, but I tell you it no damn good,
ford, five, maybe six year,—see!"
Phil set out to make inquiries.
At the Kenora he heard of someone who had Seen
We are not so busy
I know Jim Lang- £»«?.'
Is?
m
128      The Spoilers of the Valley
Jim the day before at the town of Salmon Arm, between
thirty and forty miles away. He took the stage there,
only to find that Langford had left presumably for Vernock. Back again he came, and it was late at night
when he got to town. On dropping off the stage, he
ran into the faithful Smiler.
"Hullo, kid!    You see Jim Langford?" he asked.
Smiler nodded.
"Know where he is?"
He nodded again excitedly, hitching up his trousers
which were held round his middle by a piece of cord.
"Might have known it," thought Phil, "and saved
myself a lot of running about.
"Lead on, MacDuff!" he cried. "Show me Jim Langford and I'll give you two-bits."
Smiler led the way in the darkness, down a side street
into the inevitable and dimly lit Chinatown. Smiler
stopped up in front of the dirty, dingy entrance of a
little hall occasionally used for Chinese theatricals. He
pointed inside with a grin, refused Phil's proffered twenty-five cents, backing up and finally racing away.
A special performance in Chinese was being given by
a troupe of actors from Vancouver and all Chinatown
who could were there.
Phil paid his admission to a huge, square-jawed Chinaman at the pay-box, and pushed through the swing doors,
inside.
The theatre was crowded with Orientals, who, for the
most part, were dirty, vile-smelling and expectorating.
About halfway down the centre of the aisle, he took a
vacant seat on the end of one of the rough, wooden,
backless benches which were all that were provided for
the comfort of the audience. The place was very badly
lighted, although the stage stood out in well-illuminated
contrast. wm
Jim's Grand Toot
129
Phil's first anxiety was to locate Jim. He scanned
the packed benches, but all he could see was stolid, gaunt-
jawed, slit-eyed Chinamen. There did not seem to be
another white man in the place.
Someone nudged him on the arm. He turned. A
sleek Chinaman, whom Phil had often seen on the streets
—the janitor, Phil remembered, for The Pioneer Traders,—grinned at him.
"You tly catch Missee Langfod?" he whispered.
"Yes!" nodded Phil.   ||        | |
"He down there, flont seat."
Phil looked in the direction indicated and, sure enough,
there was Jim—alone, in the middle of the foremost and
only otherwise unoccupied bench in the hall—all absorbed
in the scene that was being enacted on the platform.
Contented in the knowledge that he now had his friend
under surveillance, Phil directed his interest to the stage,
for he had never before been present at so strange a performance.
The opera, for such it appeared to be, was already
under way. The lady, the Chinese equivalent of a prima-
donna—dressed in silks emblazoned with gold spangles,
tinsel and glass jewels, with a strange head-dress, three
feet high, consisting of feathers and pom-pons—was holding forth in what was intended to be song. It occurred
to Phil that he had thrown old boots at tom-cats in Mrs.
Clunie's back-yard for giving expression to what was
sweet melody in comparison.
The actress's face was painted and powdered to a mere
mask. Her finger nails were two inches longer than
her four-inch-ions: feet. She rattled those fingers nails
in a manner that made Phil's flesh creep, although this
action seemed highly pleasing to the audience in general. The lady, Phil learned from the Chinaman at his
side, was a famous beauty. <W»*WK
130      The Spoilers of the Valley
The scenery required no description, being merely a
number of plain, movable partitions, draught-screens and
chairs. There was no drop-curtain, and the scene shifters worked in full view of the audience, removing furniture and knocking down partitions with hammers during the vocal rendering of some of the thrilling passages
of the opera, On another platform, behind the stage,
the orchestra was making strenuous, and at times, very
effective attempts to drown the squeals of the Leading
Lady, who did not seem to mind it a bit. The conductor,
in his shirt sleeves, was laying on, alternately, to a Chinese drum and what looked like two empty cocoanut
shells, whacking out a species of rag-time all on his own,
while the two other members of the band were performing on high-pitched Chinese fiddles, determined evidently
on keeping up the racket at all costs.
Phil noticed no evidence of sheet music, so familiar
in a white man's orchestra. These were real artists and
they played entirely from memory.
In an endeavour to be enlightened, Phil touched a
Chinaman in front of him—for the familiar one at his
side had slipped quietly to some other part of the hall.
"John,—what all this play about—you know?" he
asked.
Without turning round, the Oriental sang to him in a
top-storey voice:—
"Lu-wang Kah Chek-tho, chiu-si. Tung-Kwo chi
Ku-su.   Savvy ?"
Phil did not "savvy," but another Chinaman, more
obliging and more English, who introduced himself as
Mee Yi-ow, told him the gist of the tale in pigeon English, up to the point where Phil had come in, so that
he was able to follow the performance with some intelligence, from there on.
Away back in the middle ages, a bold, bad, blood-
———— Jim's Grand Toot
131
thirsty Drigand chief kidnapped the only daughter of the
Empress, because of that young lady's irresistible beauty
and charm and because of his own unquenchable love
for her. He, in turn, was trapped and captured by the
Royal Body Guard, who brought him-—menacled in chains
with cannon balls at the ends of them—before the haughty
Empress. He was sentenced to death by nibbling—a
little piece to be skewered out of him every two hours,
Chinese time.
The Brigand Chief, on the side, was a hand-cuff expert. One day he managed to slip out of his chains and
away from his tiresome cannon balls. He made a daring dash for liberty, disarming and killing a sentry.
Boldly, he sought out the Captain of the Royal Guard
and fought a very realistic duel with him before the Empress and all the members of her retinue who came out
from the wings specially to witness the sight.
The rank and file of the Royal Bodyguard—with em-
phasis on the rank—also stood idly by enjoying the spectacle.
At last, the Brigand Chief slew the Captain of the
Guard, and the latter, as soon as he had finished dying,
rose to his feet and walked calmly off the stage. Then,
amid the rattle of drums and empty cocoanut shells, accompanied by fiddle squeaks, the Royal Guard rushed
upon the Brigand Chief, overpowering him and loading
him up afresh with his lately lamented chains and cannon balls.
A number of influential people—Princes, Mandarins
and things, including the recently kidnapped only daughter of the Empress—pleaded for the gallant fighter's life.
But,—up to closing time that night—the Empress remained obdurate; this being absolutely necessary, as the
play continued for six successive evenings.
Throughout the most intensely dramatic incidents, Phil 181
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132      The Spoilers of the Valley
failed to hear a hand-clap or an ejaculation of admiration or pleasure from the sphinx-faced yellow men about
him. Yet they seemed intensely interested in the performance.
Cabbages and bad eggs, so dear to the heart of the
white actor, would have been preferable to that funereal
silence.
Phil was just thinking how discouraging it must be
to be a Chinese actor, when, by some signal, unintelligible
to him, the play ended for the night. He rose with the
audience, made quickly for the only exit and took up his
position on the inside, there to await Jim's arrival. When
the greater portion of the audience had passed out, Jim
rose from his seat in front, picked up a white sheet from
a corner of the stage and whirled it about him, throwing an end of it over his left shoulder in the manner of
the ancient Grecian sporting gentlemen.
From his looks, he had about three days' growth of
whiskers on his face. His eyes, big and dark-rimmed,
glowed with an intense inner fire that would have singled
him out from among his fellows anywhere.
Jim was well-known and respected among the Chinamen, the more so because of his vagaries.
Suddenly, he raised his arm in a rhythmic gesture of
appeal. He uttered one word, arresting and commanding in its intonation:—
"Gentlemen!"
There were not very many gentlemen there, but each
one present took the ejaculation as personal. The little
crowd stopped and gathered round, gazing up with interest at the erect figure in the aisle, white robed, with
hand still outstretched.
After a moment of tense silence, he commenced to
recite Burns' immortal poem on brotherly love.
Never had Phil heard such elocution.    The intonation, Jim's Grand Toot
133
the fervour and fire, the gesticulation were the perfect
interpretation of a poet, a mystic, a veritable Thespian.
On and on Jim went in uninterrupted, almost breathless
silence. Phil was anxious for his friend's well-being, but
he stood at the door listening spellbound, as did the Orientals about Jim, and the low whites who had straggled
in toward the end of the Chinese performance, half-
drunk and doped.
Vigorously, Jim concluded:—
"Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a* that,
That sense and worth o'er a' the earth
May bear the gree, and a' that.
For a' that, and a' that,
It's coming yet, for a* that,
That man to man, the world o'er
Shall brothers be for a' that."
When he finished there was a round of applause, in
which the Chinamen joined most noisily—an unusual
thing for them who had sat throughout the entire evening's play of their own without the slightest show of
appreciation.
Phil had heard somewhere that Scotsmen and Chinamen understand each other better than any other nationalities on the globe do, but this was the first time he had
had a first-hand ocular demonstration that the Chinaman
appreciated the Doric of Robbie Burns, when delivered
with the true native feeling.
Langford bowed his acknowledgement in a courtly
manner, as Sir Henry Irving might have done before a
royal audience.
Some of the maudlin white men shouted for an encore.
Nothing loth, Jim laughingly consented, and a hush ***: H
il u r-  I
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134      The Spoilers of the Valley
went over the crowd again, for there was a peculiar hypnotism coming from this erratic individual that commanded the attention of all his listeners.
A little, old, monkey-faced Chinaman, carrying a parcel in his hand, was standing close by. Langford caught
hold of him gently and stood the bashful individual before him. In paternal fashion he placed his hand on
the greasy, grey head and started impressively into the
farewell exhortation of Polonius to Laertes, out of Ham-
let:     ;||j|' -     ft 'If
"And these few precepts in thy memory.
Look thou to character.    Give thy thoughts no tongue
Nor any unproportion'd thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar" . . .
On he recited, oblivious of all but the charm of the
words he uttered, careful lest a single phrase might pass
his lips without its due measure of expression. He finished in a whisper; his voice full of emotion and tears
glistening in his deep-set eyes, much to the amazement
of the monkey-face upturned to him.
a
a
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."
Deep silence followed, until the squeaky voice of little
monkey-face broke through:—
"Ya,—you bet,—me savvy!"
It shattered the spell that was on Langford. He
laughed, and grabbed the parcel from the hand of the
little Chinaman. He pulled the string from it and the
paper wrappings, exposing a bloody ox-heart which was
destined never to fulfil the purpose for which it was
bought. ranm    —m. sb^^bbb mm amm^B
Jim's Grand Toot 135
Throwing off his sheet cloak, Langford became transformed into a figure of early history. He held the ox-
heart high in the air with his left hand and struck a soldierly attitude.
He was now the famous Black Douglas of Scotland,
fighting his last fight against the Moors in Spain, with
the heart of his beloved dead monarch, Robert Bruce, in
the silver casket in which he had undertaken to carry it
to the Holy Land.
Parrying and thrusting with his imaginary sword,
gasping, panting in assumed exhaustion, staggering, recovering and fighting again, then feigning wounds of a
deadly nature, he threw the ox-heart over the heads of
his gaping spectators toward the door, where it fell at
Phil's feet. |
"Onward, brave Heart," he cried, "as thou wert wont
to be in the field.    Douglas will follow thee or die,"
Then, casting his audience on either side of him, like
falling thistles under a sickle, he sprang toward the exit.
When he reached his objective, he stooped to pick up the
ox-heart.
Phil smartly placed his foot on it.
Slowly Jim unbent himself, his eyes travelling from
the foot that dared to interfere with his will, up the leg,
body and chest, until at last they stared into the familiar
eyes of his friend, who returned his stare with cold questioning. Thus they looked at each other for a moment,
then Jim's eyes averted. He turned quickly away and
passed into the darkened roadway.
Phil followed, a short step behind.
Jim heard him and quickened his pace. Phil did likewise. Finally he broke into a run. Phil responded.
He ran till his breath began to give out, but try as he
would, Langford could not shake his follower. ...
Iff
t
m
136      The Spoilers of the Valley
There was no sign of any recognition; no word passed
between them.
Three or four times they circled Chinatown in this
way. Langford next dropped into a long, swinging
stride and started up toward the railway tracks and out
on to the high road of Coldcreek. Doggedly, limpet-like,
Phil kept closely to him.
On, on he walked, mile after mile, untiring, apparently
unheeding, looking neither to right nor left. And on,
on, after him, almost at his side, went his determined
friend.
In an hour, Jim cut down a side road and commenced
to circle back by the low road, past the lake and once
again toward the fairy, twinkling lights of Vernock.
The Post Office clock chimed the first hour of a new
day, when they got back.
Jim stopped up in front of a stable, pushed his way
inside—for the door was ajar—tumbled down in a corner among some hay and, apparently, was soon fast
asleep.
Phil dropped down beside him, but did not close his
eyes.
And glad he was of it, for, about an hour later, very
stealthily Jim rose on his elbow, looked into Phil's face,
and, evidently satisfied that he was unconscious, rose
and made softly for the door.
But when he turned to close it behind him, Phil was
right by his side.
Without a word, Jim changed his mind and went
straight back to his hay bed on the stable floor; and this
time he tumbled into a deep sleep.
Phil must have dozed off too, for when he awoke the
light of an Autumn sun was streaming through a dirty
window on to his face.
He started up in consternation, but his fears were Jim's Grand Toot
137
soon allayed for Jim Langford was still sleeping peacefully, dead to the world, with an upturned face tranquil
and unlined, and innocent-looking as a baby boy's.
The work horses in their stalls were becoming restless.
Phil examined his watch.    It was six o'clock.
He knew that the teamster would soon be on his job
getting his beasts ready for their day's work, so he roused
Langford, who sat up in a semi-stupor, licking his lips
with a dry, rough tongue.
He gazed at Phil for a while. Phil smiled in good
humour.
"Man, but I'm a rotter!" said Jim.
"Of course you are!" agreed Phil. "We're both more
or less rotters."
"But that son of a lobster McGregor knocked you
cold," he pursued, starting in where he had left off several days before.
"He did, Jim, and threw me through the window to
wind up with."
"And I'm the man that knows it, too. Lord!—but
I'm as dry as if I had been eating salt fish for a week."
"And you can have a nice, big drink of fresh water
at the trough outside whenever you are ready."
"Water, Phil!    Have a heart!"        |
"Sure thing!    Good fresh water!"
I Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink,' §
he quoted.
And sitting up, there among the hay, a strangely assorted pair they seemed as they conversed familiarly.
"Well,—I fancy I've had about enough this trip."
"You certainly have!"
"Ay, Phil,—but think of that big shrimp knocking us
soft." J I
"Us, did you say?" put in Phil. "Then it is true, after
all?" nPMMTPSP«?CWg>'        "tHP
I:
138      The Spoilers of the Valley
"What?"
"That he finished you off after he put me to sleep!"
Langford tried to spit in disgust, but despite the greatness of his disgust his mouth and salivic glands refused
to function.
"Oh, man!—it makes me sick. The big, long-legged,
red-haired devil has been learning to box on the quiet.
And to think that he had that up his sleeve, and was just
waiting for us!"
"Tell me what happened after I got mine, Jim. I
haven't heard it right yet."
"Everything happened. I went out and picked you
up. l I got some of the boys to take you home after I
knew that you weren't really booked for 'The Better
Land.' Then I went back to lick the stuffing out of Rob
Roy. He was in there, grinning and throwing out his
chest like a pouter pigeon."
I 'You want the same dose?' he asked.
I 'That's what I came for,' said I. And, Phil, between you and me, that's just about what I got.
"We fought in the bar-room for three-quarters of an
hour. I never hit him worth a rap, for he had a defence like the Rock o' Gibraltar. He didn't hit me very
often, either, but when he did,—Oh, Lord! Well, to
make a short story for a thirsty man, we had to quit,
both of us, from sheer exhaustion. When we could
hardly stand, the Mayor came in and separated us.,
He sent McGregor and his gang slap-bang home to Redmans. And after that—well, they filled me up to the
neck. Oh, I was quite ready to be filled, Phil, for my
pride was sorely humbled. And—I've been filled up to
the neck ever since.
"What day is it, Phil?"
Wednesday!"
This week, last week or next week?"
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Jim's Grand Toot
139
"This week!"
"Is that all? And it happened only last Saturday.
Man!" he cried, springing up, "if that's the case, I've
only started."
"You have finished," said Phil decidedly, "finished
good and plenty, now and for all."
"But man,—think o' my reputation. I always have
a month of it."
"Not this time!" ,       I
"But I've done it for years.    Think o' tradition!"
"Tradition bedarned! If you do, I'll have a month of
it, too."
"That's pure blarney, Phil.   You're not that kind."
"No, but I shall be.    See if I won't, if you don't quit."
Jim looked into Phil's eyes and he saw a determination
in them that he knew he could never shake, and, knowing his own weakness, he would have killed Phil rather
than see him in the same plight.
"Man!" he exclaimed in perplexity, "I do believe you
would."
"Try me and you'll soon find out."
They sat silently for a time.    Suddenly Phil broke in.
"Come on,—what is it to be? Back into decency or
a month of hell?" he asked.
Jim Langford got to his feet.
"Lead on, old chum," he said. "Me for a bath, a
shave, a good breakfast and—honest toil." CHAPTER XI
Sol Wants a Good Wife—Bad
¥}HIL was busy in the forge one morning, all alone.
*■ Sol Hanson, for some unknown reason, had failed
to put in an appearance, and his assistant was not a little
troubled over his absence. Before starting out to make
inquiries, however, he decided to work away until noon,
for it was the day after the Provincial Election, and the
results were expected any minute and were anxiously
awaited.
He felt quite confident within himself that John Royce
Pederstone would be elected, for the candidate had received a splendid reception at all his meetings throughout the Valley, with the solitary exception of the hometown of his opponent. Furthermore, rumour had it that
Pederstone's party was sweeping the country, so, if there
was anything at all in indications, Royce Pederstone's
election was a foregone conclusion.
Phil had noticed that the nearer the election day had
drawn, the more serious, nervous and unsettled Sol had
seemed to grow, as if he dreaded the possibility of his old
master's defeat and was taking it to himself as a personal matter.
At noon time, Phil went out, took a hurried lunch,
then strolled down to the office of the Advertiser, where
a crowd was gathered reading the results from the various constituencies as they were posted up on the notice-
board outside.
Just as he got there, Ben Todd came rushing out of
140 Sol Wants a Good Wife—Bad    141
the office, his eyes jumping, his little hunched body quivering with excitement, and his long arms swinging, apelike and energetic. He mounted a chair. He could not
settle himself at the start, so all he did was to wave a
paper in the air and shout gleefully:—
"He's in, boys! He's in! Vernock is on the map
at last. Hip-hip-hurrah, for John Royce Pederstone,
M.L.A.!"       J   I
The news was received with yells of delight, cat-calls
and some real cowboy war-whoops. When the commotion subsided, Ben Todd continued.
"Our new member is coming in on the stage from
Kelowna at six-thirty. The band is going to be there, so
don't forget to be there too and give him a rouser. The
ladies are busy already at the town hall. Supper at seven-
thirty and a dance at eighty-thirty till the cows come
home. Put on your glad rags, bring your women folks
and whoop her up for a fare-you-well."
Thus relieved of his effervescence, Ben Todd threw his
slang overboard and started in to a political speech in
good English, on the immense possibilities of the Valley
in which they were privileged to dwell; the era of prosperity just ahead—in fact, with some already reached; on
the increasing demand for property everywhere, the consequent rising values and the prospect of early wealth
to the present holders of land; haranguing the good-
natured crowd on the outstanding qualities of John Royce
Pederstone, their new member; on the wonderful things
he would do for the Valley in the matter of irrigation,
railroads, public buildings and everything else; eulogising on the tremendous help Mayor Brenchfield had given
with his widespread influence and his virile oratory during the final whirlwind tour over the Valley; and last
but not least, dwelling on the unfailing support the new
member had received from the greatest of British Co- 142       The Spoilers of the Valley
lumbia's inland newspapers, The Vernock and District
Advertiser,
Phil had no time to wait to hear all of it. He threaded
his way through the crowd and back to the smithy. He
had just got his coat off and his sleeves rolled up, when
Sol Hanson swaggered in in great style. He was dressed
in a loud-checked summer suit, which fitted him only
where it touched him. Every button on it was buttoned
and straining, and in places the cloth was stretched to
bursting point—for no ordinary-sized suit ever fitted
Sol Hanson; and, never thinking of such a disloyalty
as sending out of the Valley for his clothes, he had, perforce, to content himself with the biggest suit he could
obtain in the Vernock stores.
Sol had a black bowler hat, three sizes too small for
him, sitting jauntily on the back of his head. His great
shock of fair hair was streaming from under it, all
round, like a waterfall. It was a new hat, but it looked
as if it had had an argument with a dusty roadway.
Later information proved that appearances, so far as
the hat was concerned, were not deceptive.
Sol's trousers were tight and straining. They were
turned up, high above a pair of flaring yellow boots,
displaying some four inches of lavender socks. A red
necktie, a walking stick, a huge red rose and a pair of tan
gloves completed the external extravaganza. Sol had
succeeded in getting one glove on his great ham-like hand,
but the other had proved too much for him and he carried it loosely in his hand.
He strutted up and down in front of Phil, with a look
of inordinate pride on his big, porridge-soft, Simple-
Simon face.
Phil gaped in wonder, then, when he could restrain
himself no longer, he burst out laughing, much to the
dandified Sol's disappointment. Sol Wants a Good Wife—Bad    143
"What's the matter?" he asked, straightening up.
This caused Phil to laugh the more.
"Why, Sol!—you're all dolled up something awful,"'
he remarked.
"Well!—that's all right,—ain't it?"
"Sure thing,—go to it! Mr. Pederstone won't know
you when you go up to congratulate him on his victory."
"Ya!—Mr. Pederstone win. I pretty dam-glad. But
that ain't any reason why a fellow put on his fine clothes."
"What is it then, Sol ? You might tell a fellow. You
haven't come into a fortune?"
"No such dam-luck as that! But this my birthday,
PhiU    I been thirty-three years old to-day."
"Well now!—and I never knew." Phil reached and
shook the big Swede's big hand heartily. "Leave it there,
—many happy returns, old man!"
Sol's good nature bubbled over, but his face took on
a clouded expression shortly after. " 'Old man'!" he
repeated. "Ya!—you right, Phil, thirty-three, I soon
be old man and I not been got married yet. If I wait
two-three year more, nobody have me."
"Oh, go on, you old pessimist. You're a young fellow
yet.   There's lot of time."
"Maybe—maybe not! Yesterday I think all pretty
girl here soon be snapped up. Gretchen Gilder, she get
married to that slob Peters last year, and Peters he no
dam-good. I never ask Gretchen, or maybe I have her
now. I think she been too good. Peters he ask her and
get her right off. All them Johnson girls get married;
five fine big girl too! Now little Betty McCawl—you
know little Irish girl—God bless me!—I just been crazy
for her. She go get married day before yesterday to
that other Swede, Jan Nansem"
Phil laughed at Sol's rueful countenance, as the latter recounted his matrimonial misses. ■' i
lilli'
144      The Spoilers of the Valley
tr
'Why!—you're too slow."
"You bet!—too dam-slow to catch myself getting out
of bed. I scared to tell little Betty. Think maybe she
not like to marry big Swede. Jan Nansen catch her first
time. Jan Nansen,—land sakes!—I got more money,
more sense, more hair on top my head, more clothes;—
I could put Jan in my jean's pocket. Now little Betty,
she Mrs. Jan Nansen.    Good night and God bless me!"
Sol spat among the hoof parings on the floor in his
annoyance.
"Yes, too bad, Sol!" Phil put in.
"Yesterday I say too bad too! I got fine house. Build
him all myself too. I got three room, with chairs, tables,
fine stove, everything. But I got nobody to keep it nice.
Then that dam-fool of a fine little fellow Smiler, he going
all plumb toboggan to hell because nobody look after him
all day long. Soon no more pretty girl be left, I say to
myself:—'Sol Hanson, to-morrow your birthday. You
get all dressed up and first girl you meet you ask her if
she marry Sol Hanson.' See! Maybe she not take me.
All right! I keep on ask next one, then another one,
till some girl take me. First one take me, she get me,
—see!"
Phil raised his eyebrows in amusement, wondering
what next he was about to hear.
"Well, last night I go down to Morrison's store and
buy all these. This morning, I have a fine bath, with
fine baby soap. I get good shave, dress up swell like
this, and come out about one o'clock. One o'clock all
fine girl be going back to work after dinner,—see!
"I open front door and get down sidewalk, then come
down street. Nobody there; nobody pass me. But when
I get ten yard from corner Snider Avenue, who come
slap-bang pretty near head-on collision:—big Martha
Schmidt." Sol Wants a Good Wife—Bad   145
tt
fit
Phil yelled uproariously as Sol stood there the picture of seriousness.
"Ya,—you laugh. I laugh now,—ha, ha! You know
Martha. She maybe thirty, maybe thirty-six. I don't
know. She got one good eye; other eye all shot to hell
sometime. Just got one big tooth and he stick out
good and plenty.    Ugh!
"Well,—Sol Hanson every time he dam-good sport and
do what he say he do. But I not meet her. I stop quick,
—think for one little time,—then Martha cry, 'Hullo,
Sol!' I never hear her. I turn quick, walk back all the
same as if, maybe, I left my pipe home. I hurry into
house, slam door hard and stand inside all shivers like
one pound of head cheese waiting to get cold."
'And what then, Sol?"        '
fOh,—after while, I peep out and see Martha go up
the road. Little while more, all clear, I come out and
have one more try.
"This time, first girl for sure, I say. Well—first girl
happen to be black buck-nigger Ebenezer Jones's coon
kid, Dorothea. Dorothea she dam-fine girl all right.
She say, 'Hullo, Kid,—nice day!'
"I look away down the street to corner. I make her
think I not see her. I keep on going. She stand on sidewalk, one big fist on each hip and she look after me and
say, 'Wal— I like dat!' " «     §f|
"Dirty trick!" remarked Phil.
"What? Holy Yiminy!—that fair enough. You
don't expect decent white man ask nigger coon wench to
marry him. I maybe not mention it to myself when I
make deal with myself, but no black nigger, no Chink
or Jap for Sol Hanson.    I keep single first,—you bet!"
"Quite right!" switched Phil. "Keep the colour
scheme right anyway, Sol."
"Well—then white girl come along.    'By gosh!' I say. 146      The Spoilers of the Valley
She Miss Gladys Tierney,—you know,—she work typewriter for Commercial Bank,
"I raise my hat and say, 'Good morning, lady!'
"She look me up and down,    'Are you crazy?' she
ask.    'You bet!' I say, 'been crazy for you, sweetheart.'
"She sniff and give me regular freeze-out; leave me
standing dam-fool foolish.
"Little while more, pretty fine Jane she come along. I
see her sometimes; but not know her name.
"Big,—uhm! Work in steam laundry. She wear her
sleeves all rolled up; walk very quick like she been going
some place. She look good to me, so I step up in front.
I take off my hat.
" 'How do you do, Jane V
"She look at me and laugh, Half-smile, half laugh,
—you know, Phil. I guess, maybe, it all right. So I
try, little bit more.
'Very nice day, ma'am,' I say.
'It is,' she say.
'You look pretty nice!' I say next.
'That's comforting!' she say next back, very quick.
'This my birthday.'    And I smile to her.
'It is written all over you,' she answer,
'You think I look pretty good to you, eh?' I ask.
'Swell!' she say.
'You think somebody like to marry me?    I got dam-
fine house, and furniture, and Smiler.'
'Somebody might,' she say.
'Well, Phil,—I seem to be getting on pretty good, so
I take the bull by the tail and say right bang off the wrong
side of the bat, 'You be my wife?'
" 'What ?' she say, as if maybe she make a mistake
in her ear-drums.
'You marry me ?' I ask again.
'She pull the blinds down all over her face just like
a f
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a*. Sol Wants a Good Wife—Bad    147
biff. She take one swing on me, Phil, right there, and
pretty near break my jaw;—knock my four dollar hat
all to hell in the middle of the road and walk away laughing like, like—oh, like big, fat, laundry maid laugh."
Very seriously, Phil asked his further adventures.
"Ain't that plenty for one day? No dam-good catch
wife that way. I try another trick, though. Maybe it
work better."
"What's the other trick, Sol?"
The big simpleton drew a pink coloured, badly frayed
newspaper out of his pocket. It was The Matrimonial
Times, a monthly sheet printed in Seattle and intended
for the lonely, lovesick and forlorn of both sexes; a sort
of agony column by the mile.
"You don't mean to say you correspond with anybody
through that?"
'You bet!"
'And can't you land anyone ?"
"Not yet! Everybody say, 'Send photo.' I send it,
then no answer come back."
"Never mind!" commiserated Phil. "One of these
days your picture will reach the right one and she'll think
you're the only man on earth."
"Well,—she have to be pretty gol-darn quick now,
for I'm all sick inside waiting."
'Meantime, hadn't you better get back to work, Sol?"
'Guess, maybe just as well."
He went into a corner, took off his glad rags, folded
them and laid them carefully on a bench, then donned
his working trousers, shirt and leather apron, and was
soon swinging his hammer and making the sparks fly
as if he had no other thought in the world but the welding of the iron he handled to its fore-ordained shape.
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CHAPTER XII
The Dance
I
H "^HAT night, Phil and Jim attired themselves in their
■*■   best clothes and set out for the town hall.    There
was no missing the way, for Chinese lanterns and strings
of electric lights led there, and all pedestrians were mak-«
ing for that important objective.
The two comrades were late in getting there; much
too late to be partakers of the supper and listeners to the
toasting and speech-making so dear to the hearts of politicians, aspiring politicians, lodge men, newspaper men,
parsons, lawyers, ward-committee chairmen and the less
pretentious, common-ordinary soap-box orator—whom
no community is without. The long-suffering and patient public had evidently been hypnotised into putting
up with the usual surfeit of lingual fare by the nerve-
soothing influences of a preceding supper with a dance
to follow.
Outside the town hall, horses, harnessed and saddled,
lined the roadway, hitched to every available post, rail
and tree in the vicinity. The side streets were blocked
in similar fashion.
The hall inside was a blaze of coloured lights and was
bedecked with flags and streamers. The orchestral part
of the town band was doing its best. Everybody, his
wife and his sweetheart, were conspicuously present, despite the fact that it was the height of the harvest season and most of them had been hard at work in the
orchards since early morning, garnering their apple crops,
148 The Dance
149
and would have to be hard at it again next day, as if
nothing had happened between times to disturb their evening's recuperations.
A number of dances had been gone through, evidently,
for the younger ladies were seated round the hall, fanning themselves daintily, while the complexions of the
more elderly of them had already begun to betray a
perspiry floridness.
The men, young and old alike, mopping their moist
foreheads with their handkerchiefs and straining at their
collars in partial suffocation, crowded the corridors in
quest of cooler air and an opportunity for a pipe or a
cigarette. Only a few of the younger gallants lingered
in the dance room to exchange pleasantries and bask for
several precious extra moments in the alluring presence
of some particular young lady with whom, for the time
being, they were especially enamoured.
A cheery atmosphere prevailed; both political parties
had buried their differences for the night. All were out
for a good time and to do honour to the Valley's new
parliamentary representative.
The men who congregated in the corridors presented
a strange contrast; great broad fellows, polite of manner and speaking cultured English, in full evening dress
but of a cut of the decade previous; others in their best
blue serges; still others in breeches and leggings or
puttees; while a few—not of the ballroom variety—refused to dislodge themselves from their sheepskin chapps,
and jingled their spurs every time they changed position.
For the most part, the eyes of these men were clear
and bright, and their faces were tanned to a healthy brown
from long exposure to the Okanagan's perpetual sunshine.
The pale-faced exceptions were the storekeepers, clerks,
hotel-men and the bunco-dealers, like Rattlesnake Jim 150      The Spoilers of the Valley
Dalton, who spent their days in the saloons and their
nights at the card-tables.
The ladies, seated round the hall, compared favourably
with their partners in point of healthy and virile appearance; and many of them, who a few years before, in
their former homes in the East and in the Old Land,
had not known what it meant to dry a dish, cook a meal
or make a dress, who had trembled at the thought of a
warm ray of God's blessed sunshine falling on their
tender, sweet-milk complexions unless it were filtered
and diluted through a parasol or a drawn curtain, now
knew, from hard, honest experience, how to cook for
their own household and, in addition, to cater for a dozen
ever-hungry ranch hands and cattlemen:—knew not only
how to make a dress but how to make one over when
the necessity called for it; could milk the cows with the
best of their serving-girls; could canter over the ranges,
rope a steer and stare the blazing summer sun straight
in the eye, with a laugh of defiance and real, live happiness.
The feminine hired-help chatted freely with their mistresses in a comradeship and a kind of free-masonry that
only the hard battling with nature in the West could
engender.
Phil was leaning idly against the doorpost at the entrance to the dance-room, contemplating the kaleidoscope,
when Jim's voice roused him.
"Phil,—I see your dear, dear friend, Mayor Brenchfield, is here."
"You've wonderful eyesight!" Phil answered.
"Brenchfield is hardly the one to let anyone miss seeing
him.    His middle name is publicity, in capital letters."
"Little chatterbox Jenny Steele tells me he has Had
three dances out of the last five with Eileen Pederstone,"
was the next tantaliser. mmmaamasamm
■iwnwHwrwii ,
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The Dance
151
"That shows his mighty good taste!"
"You bet it does! But he shows darned poor breeding, unless he's tied up to her."
"It is up to her, anyway, and maybe they are engaged," returned Phil, lightly enough.
"I don't doubt that he would like to be. Guess he
will be too, sooner or later. Gee!" he continued in disgust, "I wish some son-of-a-gun would cut the big, fat,
over-confident bluffer out."
"Why don't you have a try, Jim?" laughed his companion.
"Me? I never had a lass in my life. I'm—I'm not
a lady's man. They are all very nice to me, and all that;
but I never feel completely comfortable unless it happens to be a woman who could be my great-grandmother."
"You're begging the question, Jim. Why don't you go
over and claim a dance or two from Miss Pederstone,
seeing you are so anxious over her and Brenchfield?"
"I would,—-bless your wee, palpitating, undiscerning
soul, but I don't dance."
'Go and talk to her, then."
'And have somebody come over and pick her up to
dance with, from under my very nose? No, thanks!
This is a dance, man; and the lassies are here to dance.
It would be ill of me to deprive her of all the fun she
wants.
'You can dance, Phil? I know you can by the way
you've been beating your feet every time the band plays.
Go on, man!"
"I could dance, once," said Phil, "but "
"Once! Spirit of my great-great-grandfather! You
talk like Methuselah." 8
"I haven't danced for five years."
"Good heavens, man!    This five years of yours gets
Hi
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ri
152      The Spoilers of the Valley
on my nerves.    You must have Rip Van Winkled five
years of your precious life away."
The remark bit deep; and Phil grew solemn and did
not reply.
Jim looked into his face soberly, then placed his arm
on Phil's shoulder.
"Sorry, old man! I'm an indiscreet idiot. Didn't
mean to be rude," he said.
Phil smiled.
"But say," Jim urged, still bent on providing himself
with some amusement, "go to it and enjoy yourself. Go
on, man;—don't be scared!" he goaded.
Phil undoubtedly was scared, although he felt fairly
sure, after that first interview in the smithy, that Eileen
Pederstone had not recognised him. But he knew he
would be running a risk. As he looked at her across
the dancing floor, as she sat there in her soft, shimmering
silks, her cheeks aglow, her eyes dancing with happiness
and her brown curls straying over her forehead—elfish-
like rather than humanly robust—he was tempted, sorely
tempted indeed.
"Gee, but you're slow!" went on Jim.
"Oh, go to the devil!" Phil muttered irritably.
But Jim grinned the more; the imp in him uppermost.
'You've met her, haven't you, Phil?"
'Yes,—I spoke to her once only, in the smithy."
"Well—that's good enough for a start."
'Do you think so?"
'Sure thing! Eileen Pederstone turn you down!
Man alive,—Eileen wouldn't have the heart to turn you
down if you had a wooden leg. I'll tell you what! If
she turns you down, I'll ask her for a dance myself; and
I never danced in my life."
The music was starting up. It was a good, old-fashioned waltz.    How Phil's heart beat to the rhvthm of
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in The Dance
153
it! The men commenced to swarm from the corridors.
He took a step forward. Jim pushed him encouragingly
from behind with a "Quick, man, before somebody else
asks her up!" and he was in the stream and away with
the current. He started across, his heart drumming a
tattoo on his ribs. Halfway over the floor—and he
would have turned back but for the thought of Jim. He
kept on, still somewhat indeterminately. When he got
near to Miss Pederstone, she looked up almost in surprise, but the smile she bestowed on him was ample repayment for his daring. It was the dancing waters of the
Kalamalka Lake under a sunburst.
She held out her hand.
"Good evening, Mr. Ralston! Everybody seems to be
here to-night."
"Of course,—isn't this your night?" Phil ventured.
She beckoned him to sit down by her side.
'It isn't my night," she answered; "it is my daddy's."
'You must be very happy at his wonderful victory."
'Yes,—I am very happy, just for father's sake, he
was so set on it toward the finish. He is just like a boy
who has won a hard race. And now he is being buttonholed by everybody. I shall never have him all to myself
any more."
The dancers were already on the floor and gliding
away.
'May I have this dance?" asked Phil.
'With pleasure!" she answered. # And his heart raced
on again, in overwhelming delight.    "But first, let us sit
just for a moment or so.
"Is Jim Langford with you to-night?" she asked.
"Yes,—he is over there by the door."
"He is a great boy, Jim," she said. "Everybody likes
him, and yet he is so terribly foolish at times to his own
interests.    He doesn't seem to care anything for money,
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154      The Spoilers of the Valley
position or material progress. And he is so clever; he
could accomplish anything almost, if he set his mind to
iL   And,—and he is always a gentleman."
"Yes! Jim's pure gold right through," Phil answered
with enthusiasm.
"Mr. Ralston, I think you are the only man he has
ever been known really to chum with.    And he doesn't
dance," she added.
■ "So he tells me."
"Sometimes I fancy he can dance, but refuses to admit
it for some particular reason of his own.. He looks like
a dancer."
"Quite possible!" Phil returned. "I never thought of
it in that light*"
"He does not seem to hanker after a lady's company
very much.   He is most at home with the men folks."
"He told me, only a few minutes ago, that he was not
a lady's man."
"Ah, but he is!" she differed. "It is true he does not
show any inclination for the company of young ladies,
but he is very much a lady's man all the same. There
isn't a young lady in this hall but would be proud to have
the honour of Jim Langford's company and companionship at any time. He is of that deep, mercurial disposition that attracts women. It is good for Jim Langford
that he does not know his own power," she said, nodding
her dainty head suggestively.
"Shall I tell him?" teased Phil.
"No!—let him find that out for himself. He will enjoy
it all the more when he does. Some day, I hope, the right
young lady will wake him up. Then maybe he won't be
'Wayward' Langford any more.
"I have heard them call you 'Silent' Ralston."
Her remark startled Phil. In the first place, he fancied the nick-name that had been given him was known HHM
The Dance
155
tf
tf
merely by the rougher element about town, and it
sounded strangely coming from her. Again, that was
the name they had given him in Ukalla, and it created
an uncanny feeling in him that it, of all nick-names,
should again fasten to him.
'But you aren't really so silent,—are you now?"
'No!—I can hold my own in the field of conversation.
It is just a foolish name some one tagged on, one day,
for lack of brains to think of anything more apt;—and
it has stuck to me ever since, as such things have a habit
of doing."
I 'Wayward' Langford and 'Silent' Ralston!" She
turned the words on her tongue reflectively. "What a
peculiar combination!"
Phil laughed, but refused to be drawn further,
"Are you as wayward as he?" she asked.
Phil did not answer.
"Are you?" she asked again,
"Jim and I are chums," he answered*
"Which means ?"
tt t
Birds of a feather-
»tt
How long they would have chatted on, Phil had no
notion, for the lights, the music, the gliding dancers, the
gaiety and the intoxicating presence of Eileen Pederstone
had him in their thrall. However, he was interrupted
by the stout but agile figure of Graham Brenchfield
weaving in and out among the dancers and coming their
way.
He stopped up in front of them, giving Phil a careless nod.   He held out his bent arm to Miss Pederstone.
"This is ours, I think, Eileen," he said. "Sorry I was
late.   Excuse us, Ralston!"
Phil gasped and looked over to Miss Pederstone.
"No, sireel" answered the young lady, quite calmly
and naturally.    "I  have promised  this  dance  to  Mr. '
•
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156      The Spoilers of the Valley
Ralston, and was just resting a little bit before starting
out."
"Pshaw!—Ralston doesn't dance," he bantered. "This
is a dandy waltz,—come!"
"But you do dance, Mr. Ralston?" she put in.
"Of course I do!" said Phil, springing up. And, in a
moment, they sailed away from hurt whose very presence tainted the atmosphere for Ralston.
A backward glance showed Brenchfield glooming after
them, the fingers of one hand fumbling with the pendant
of his watch-chain, the fingers of the other pulling at
his heavy, black moustache.
But who had any desire to keep the picture of one
such as he in memory, in the new delights that were
swarming in on Phil?
He held Eileen Pederstone lightly within the half-hoop
of his arm. She was but a floating featherweight. But,
ah! the intoxication of it, he could never forget: the
violins singing and sighing in splendid harmony and
time; the perfume of the lady's presence; the soft, sweety
white, living, swaying loveliness; the feeling of abandonment to the pleasure of the moment that enveloped
him from his partner's happy heart. Great God!—and
Phil a young man in the first flush of his manhood, exiled
from the presence of womanhood for five years, shut away
from the refining of their influence and in all that time
never to have felt the charm of a woman's voice, the
delight of a woman's happy laugh, never to have felt
the thrill of the touch of a woman's hand;—and suddenly
to be released at the very Gates of Heaven: little wonder
he was dumb, sightless and deaf to all else but the
bewitchment of the waltz.
Phil thought he had forgotten the way, but, ah! how
they danced as they threaded their way through and The Dance
157
round. No one touched them; none stopped the swing,
rhythm and beat of their movements.
Once Eileen spoke to him, but he did not comprehend.
She looked up into his face and, as he gazed down into
her eyes, he thought she must have understood his feelings, for she did not attempt conversation again.
He was as a soul without a body, soaring in the vast-
nesses of the heavens, in harmony and unison with the
great and perfect God-created spirit world of which he
formed an infinitesimal but perfect and necessary part.
Gradually, and all too soon, alas!—for it seemed to
him that they had hardly started—the music slowed and
softened till it died away in a whisper, and he was
awakened to his surroundings by the sudden burst of
applause from the dancers on every side of them.
He did not wait to ascertain if there might be a few
more bars of encore. He did not know, even, that there
was a possibility of such. Still in a daze, he led Eileen
Pederstone to her seat. He thanked her, bowed and
turned to cross the floor. But she did not sit down. She
laid a detaining hand gently on his arm.
"Thank you so much!" she said. "I enjoyed it
immensely. And Mr. Brenchfield dared to say you
couldn't dance!"
Phil smiled, but did not reply. The spell of the dance
had not yet entirely gone from him.
"Are you afraid to ask me if there might be another?"
she inquired, with a coy glance and just a little petulance
in her voice.
"Can you—can you spare another?"
"Of course, I can!"
"Another waltz?" he queried eagerly.
"The dance fourth from now is a waltz," she answered.
"May I have it?"        1
"Yes!" 1 Iff
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158      The Spoilers of the Valley
'Brenchfield—surly watch-dog that he was—was at their
heels again. This time, the refreshment buffet was his
plea.
Phil abandoned his partner to him with good grace,
for even Graham Brenchfield could not quench his good
spirits over the great enjoyment he still had in store;—
another waltz with Eileen Pederstone.
In the hallway, he encountered Jim, who twitted him
for a moment for his great courage, but Phil could see
thaf Jim had something on his mind that had not been
there when he had left him. They went to the outside
door and stood together in the cool, night air.
"Gee Phil!—but this is a grand night for these feed
sneaks to pull off something big," he said, in that mixture of Scotticisms and Western Canadian slang that he
often indulged in.
"What makes you think of that?"
"Look at the sky, man!—black as ink and not a moon
to be seen. Everybody is at the dance; Chief Palmer
and Howden are here; the Mayor, the Aldermen, Royce
Pederstone, Ben Todd; why, man,—the town outside
there is empty.
"Did you notice anything peculiar in the gathering in
there, Phil?" | .      M
"No!   How do you mean?"
"Not a mother's son of that Redman's bunch is present."    I 1
"But they're not much of a dancing crowd."
"You bet they are!—when it suits them. You never
saw a crowd of cowpunchers that weren't.
"I have the keys to the O.K. Supply Company's Warehouse on the tracks. Are you game for a nose around,
just to see if there's anything doing?"
"What's the good of worrying over a thing like that
to-night, Jim?   Let's forget it and have a good time." The Dance
159
Jim laughed. "Well,—I'm going anyway. Say, Phil!
I've not only got the keys to the O. K. Warehouse, but
I have keys that fit Brenchfield's and the Pioneer Traders'
as well."
"Better watch you don't get pinched yourself," Phil
cautioned.
"De'il the fear o' it, Phil! But I'm going to get one
over that bunch if it is only to satisfy my own Scotch
inquisitiveness. At the same time, I would like to help
out Morrison of the O.K. Company. He's a good old
scout, and this thieving is gradually sucking him white.
Palmer and his crowd don't seem to be able to make anything of it—or don't want to—-yet it has been going on
for years."
"I should like to come," Phil answered, "only I've
promised to have another dance with Miss Pederstone,
and I couldn't possibly think of disappointing myself in
the matter. Give me a line on where you'll be, and I'll
come along and join you as soon as that particular dance
is over. Won't you stick around till then, and we can
go together?" he suggested.
"No! I have a kind of hunch there is things doing.
You hurry along as soon as you can. Keep your eyes'
open and, if all is quiet, come round to the track door
of the middle Warehouse, Brenchfield's. You should be
up there by eleven-thirty. I'll be there then, sharp at that
time, and will let you in if all is jackaloorie."
'Have you a gun?"
cSure!" replied Jim, "and one for you. Here!—stick
it in your pocket now. It is loaded. Darned handy;
thing!" |- -'fffiEif      I
Phil walked part of the way up the back streets with
Jim.
It was noisy as usual round Chinatown, with its
squeaky fiddle, tom-tom and cocoanut-shell orchestras,
if
Hi ■■■■■■P6*''*'
«
160      The Spoilers of the Valley
intensified by a fire-cracker display on the part of the
more aristocratic Chinese in honour of John Royce
Pederstone's victory. The remainder of the town, apart
from the neighbourhood of the dance-hall, was in absolute quietness.
Phil parted from Jim near the railway tracks and
slowly retraced his steps toward the town hall, whose
blaze of lights stood out in high contrast with the surrounding darkness.
When Phil got back, the band had just concluded a
cheery two-step and the dancers were scattering in all
directions for seats round the hall and for the buffet.
Eileen Pederstone caught sight of him as soon as he
entered, and signalled him over.
"I thought you had gone home, Mr. Ralston," she
remarked, her eyes sparkling with enjoyment and her
breath coming fast with the exertion of the dance.
Phil took in her slender, shapely, elfin beauty, and his
heart beat a merry riot of pleasure as he sat down by her
side.
"I went along the road a bit with Jim," he answered.
"He had some business he wished to see to."
"Poor Jim," laughed Eileen, "he takes life so
strangely; at times tremendously seriously; at others as
if it meant nothing at all. Now he plays the solemn and
mysterious, and again he assumes the role of the irresponsible harlequin. I don't think anyone really understands Jim Langford."
'I don't think anyone does," agreed Phil.
'Are you awfully anxious that we should dance this
next waltz?" she asked, suddenly changing the subject.
'Why?" asked Phil, a little crestfallen.
'I should like to have a little stroll in the fresh air,
if you don't mind. It is dreadfully warm in here and
I have been dancing continuously.    Do you mind?"
fi
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a- The Dance
161
"Not at all!" said Phil.
He helped her with her cloak. She put her arm through
his and they went out into the open air together.
It was eleven o'clock. The street lights went out suddenly, leaving everything in inky blackness.
It was a night with a shudder in it.
Eileen clung tightly to Phil's arm as they strolled
leisurely along, leaving the lights of the dance-hall and
the noise behind them, and going down the main avenue
in the direction that led to the Okanagan Lake.
"Do you know, Mr. Ralston," remarked Eileen suddenly, during a lull in what had been a desultory, flippant,
bantering sort of conversation, "I can't explain how it is
and I know it is ridiculous on the face of it; but sometimes
I have the feeling that I have met you before."
Phil felt a tightening in his jaws, and he was grateful
for the darkness.
"Do you ever feel that way about people?"
"Oh, yes,—occasionally;—with some people!" Phil
stammered. "I feel that way with Jim Langford all the
time."
"But I can't ever have met you before you came to
Vernock ?"
"No,—oh no!    I am quite sure of that," said Phil.
"Haven't you ever been here before?"
"No,—never!"    Phil had to say it.
"You've never seen me in Vancouver for instance,—
or in Victoria?"
"No,—I can't remember ever having seen you till I
came up here. Of course, I was only a short time in
Vancouver before coming to Vernock," he hedged.
"Then your home isn't in the West?"
"No,—it is away back in a town in Ontario."
"Mr. Brenchfield is an Ontario man," put in Eileen
innocently. %
'
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162      The Spoilers of the Valley
"Is he?" returned Phil, on guard.
"But it is the funniest thing, Mr. Ralston," she
reverted, "sometimes it is your voice; while in the hall
to-night it seemed to be your eyes that reminded me of
someone I had known before. A trick of the mind, I
daresay!"
"Just a trick of the mind!" agreed Phil, "unless maybe
you believe in the transmigration of souls,"
Eileen shivered suddenly.
"Guess we'd better get back," said Phil, "for the air
is chilly."  "   - fj m j| ..
They turned and sauntered toward the town.
"Are you waiting until the end of the dance, Mr.
Ralston?"    -;| . %M 1        f|l|
"No! I promised to meet Jim round about eleven-
thirty." I:   J§§
"Jim!" she repeated. "You and Jim seem to be thick
as sweethearts."
"Thicker!" responded Phil, "because we never fall
out." I I
"Do sweethearts fall out so often?"
'I fancy so, from what I hear."
'Then you think two men can be greater friends than
a man and a woman can?"
"Greater friends,—truer friends,—more sincere friends
and faithful,—yes!"
Eileen's hold on Phil's arm loosened.
'What makes you think so?" she asked.
'Well,—with men it is purely and simply a wholehearted attraction of congenial tastes and manly virtues or
evil propensities, as the case may be. There is no question
of sex coming between. When that enters into the reckoning, everything else goes by the board* Not that I
infer that man and woman cannot be true friends and
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The Dance
163
fast friends, but everything has to take second place to
that question of sex."
Eileen did not answer.
"Don't you agree?" asked Phil with a smile.
"No,—I do not, but I don't feel that I can argue the
point."
They were silent once more. Then again Eileen broke
into the quiet.
"Oh, dear!—I almost forgot. I wonder, Mr. Ralston,
if you would care to come to our place the week after
next. Daddy, you know, has bought Baron DeDillier's
house on the hill, and we are going to have a house-
warming and a big social time for all daddy's friends.
Would you care to come if I send you an invitation?
Jim will be there. He seldom gets left out of anything,
pleasant or otherwise."
Phil was not so very sure of himself, and he would
have preferred rather to have been omitted, but he could
not, in good grace, decline such an invitation.
"Why, certainly!" he replied., "It will give me the
greatest of pleasure."
"Good! We shall have a nice dance together to make
up for the one we missed to-night,—and a talk. Maybe
that night I shall be in better frame of mind for meeting
your arguments on the relations of sex and friendship."
Phil laughed in his own peculiar way.
Eileen Pederstone stopped up with a start and looked
at him with half frightened eyes, as if endeavouring to
recall a bad dream yet half afraid lest it should return to
her.
Phil knew that an echo had touched her memory from
that laugh.
He was about to speak of something else, to take
away her thoughts, when a shadow crept up to Phil's
side and a hand pulled at his coat sleeve. f
-j  1
164      The Spoilers of the Valley
He turned quickly and caught at the hand. He pulled
its owner round sharply.
It was Smiler—the never-fading grimace on his face,
through which penetrated an expression of fear.
"What is it? What is the matter?" asked Phil
quickly.
Smiler moved his hands excitedly, trying desperately
to make himself understood thereby.
He kept tugging at Phil's coat, as a dog might do, and
endeavoured to get him to go along with him.
Phil tried him with several questions.
"Is it Jim Langford?" he asked at last.
Smiler nodded excitedly and pulled at Phil's coat more
desperately than ever.
"Jim Langford has sent Smiler for me, Miss Pederstone. I know you will excuse me. Let me hurry you
back to the hall."
"It can't be anything serious?" she queried anxiously,
"no accident or anything like that?"
"Oh, no!—but Jim's a queer fish and I guess it will
be best to get to him as quickly as possible. No saying
what trouble he gets into in the course of five minutes."
Phil saw her safely back to the hall, wished her "Good
night," and darted after Smiler who was waiting for him
in the shadows. CHAPTER XIII
The Big Steal
/^\N Phil went through the back lanes of the town and
^^ up the hill toward the railway tracks, almost trotting in his endeavour to keep pace with the tireless
Smiler.
They went past the three Warehouses,—Brenchfield's,
The Pioneer Traders' and that of The O.K. Supply
Company,—till Smiler came to a stand-still in front of
an old, unused barn which stood in the yard in front of
the central Warehouse belonging to Graham Brenchfield.
Phil pushed his way inside and looked about him
inquiringly.
Smiler pointed to a coal-oil lamp which hung—a dark
shadow—from a nail on the wall.
Phil closed the barn door tightly, struck a match and
set the lantern alight.
The barn floor was littered with damp, stale-smelling
straw. Smiler kicked some of it away and knelt down.
He commenced to work his fingers into the flooring
boards. He gave an inarticulate chuckle when he came
to a certain part, gave a tug, and immediately half of
the floor swung up on well-oiled hinges, disclosing a
cellar or vault almost big enough to let down a dray-load
of merchandise at a time.
Phil whistled.
Smiler seized the lamp and started down by a wooden
ladder, but Phil grabbed him by the coat collar, pulled
him sheer out, planting him down on the floor by his side.
165 166      The Spoilers of the Valley
"After me, my dear Alphonso?" he commanded,
going down the ladder with the lamp in one hand and
his revolver in the other, holding on to the side of the
ladder at the same time with a few of his fingers, as
best he could.
He had hardly reached the bottom when Smiler was
tumbling beside him. The boy ran over to a corner of
the cellar.   Phil followed.
A huddled bundle lay on the damp ground. Phil
dropped beside it and turned it over, setting down his
lantern.
It was the unconscious form of Jim Langford,
trussed with knotted ropes until it looked more like a bale
of cast-off clothing than a human being. Jim's face was
white and all bloody-streaked at the forehead and mouth.
Phil took out his knife and slashed at the ropes. He
chafed the arms and legs. He tossed his hat to Smiler
and said one word:
"Water!"
Smiler ran off up the ladder and was back in less than
a minute.
Phil seized the hat and splashed some of the cold
water on the upturned face, wiping the blood from Jim's
mouth with his handkerchief.
After a bit, Jim sighed and opened his eyes. Phil held
his hat to the oozy lips and Jim drank greedily. Soon
he was all alert. He sprang to his feet, staring around
him wildly.
"Damn them, the Siwashes! Damn them,—they got
me!   And they've got awa'. "
Then he sagged at the knees and collapsed.
He did not lose consciousness again.
"Take your time!—take your time!" cautioned Phil.
Slowly Jim's strength returned and his brain cleared.
He wanted to be up and away at once, but Phil, with I
The Big Steal
167
his usual caution, insisted on hearing everything that
had happened before he would move a foot, knowing
that if anything had still to be done Jim would be none
the worse for half an hour's rest.
"Stay where you are and tell me all about it," he
insisted.
"Stay! Hang it, man,—I canna stay. Come on! I'll
show ye. It will be better than sitting here and talking.
But bide a bit! We'll gtt them yet or my name's no'
Jim Langford.
"Smiler," he cried, "come here laddie!"
The boy came forward.
"Go up to Mrs. Clunie's. Shut the barn door up there
after ye. Don't make a noise. Saddle our two horses
and bring them doon to the corner. Our rifles as well;—
they're in the locker behind the stable door! Quick!
Awa' wi' ye!"
Smiler nodded his head rapidly and was up the ladder
and off like a shot.
"Come along here!" Jim continued to Phil.
Phil sucked his breath at what he saw, or rather did
not see.
It was not a cellar after all,—but a tunnel.
"Weel ye may gasp!" ejaculated Jim, holding up the
lantern and peering ahead.    "Come on!
"Have you your revolver?"
■ "Yes!" §
"Keep a grip of it then. I hardly think there'll be a
body here now. But it's as well to keep your wits
about ye."
Jim went on first and Phil followed.
Phil's foot struck metal.    He looked down.
Two rails ran along the bottom of the tunnel.
"Nothing obsolete about this bunch!" whispered Jim
jocularly. ■mrr
168      The Spoilers of the Valley
They followed along in caution till they came to a
truck on the rails capable of holding twenty sacks of
flour or feed at a time.
On either side of them were walls of sacked flour and
other grain.
"The Lord only knows how far this underground warehouse extends," remarked Jim, "and how many thousands
of dollars worth of stuff is cached away in it, ready to
haul away as the chance comes along."
They passed on until they must have been under
Brenchfield's warehouse, when the tunnel dead-ended,
branching off to the right and to the left.
Jim stopped.
"That's about all," he said. "Brenchfield's warehouse
is above us. The Pioneer Traders' is at the end that
way.   The O.K. Supply Company's is at the other end.
"See! There is a trap door in each, like this up here,
that drops inward and acts as a chute for sliding down
the stuff right onto the track. Simplest thing on earth,
and it has been going on for years with devil a body the
wiser."
"Well!—of all the elaborate thieving schemes!"
exclaimed Phil, dumbfounded.
"Elaborate nothing! Why, man, thousands and thousands of dollars worth of feed and flour have been stolen
from these three places in the last five years—as much
as ten thousand dollars at a crack.
"I'm thinking they've got off with that much right
this very night. It is just a great big organised, dirty
steal,—that's all. Little wonder some folks get rich
quick in this Valley, without any apparent outward reason for their luck either in themselves or in what they
seem to be engaged in."
"How did you find all this out?" inquired Phil, his
face white with excitement. The Big Steal
169
"Oh,—easy enough in a way! I was in Brenchfield's
warehouse, hiding. I told you I had the key to it. By
good or bad luck—I don't know which—I was hiding
on top of the darned trap door without being aware of it.
I heard a noise, and thought it was in the warehouse
where I was. Suddenly the flour sacks on every side of
me began to slide. I had just to slide with them; there
was nothing else for it; and before I could wink I was
down here and in among the gang,—Rob Roy McGregor,
Summers, Skookum, and half a dozen others; the whole
of that Redmans gang; half-breeds and dirty whites.
"I shot a hole in one of them, then my gun got struck
out of my hand. I knocked down two with my fists and
made a dash for it. I got to the ladder at the old barn
there and ran up, but I forgot about a man who happened
to be at the top. He dropped the trap-door crash on my
head, and that's the last I can mind."
'Good Lord!" cried Phil. ||
'And the murdering hounds, not content with that,
trussed you up and left you here like a rat in a sewer."
"Ay!—to come back later, maybe, when they had more
time, finish me off and bury me in the bowels o' the
earth." f:
Jim pulled himself together.
"Phil," he cried, "come on! We're wasting time here.
I'm going to get that bunch before I sleep."
Once outside, they reclosed the barn-door, leaving
everything exactly as they had found it. Up the road a
little, the faithful Smiler was standing with the two
rifles, two cartridge belts, and the two horses from Mrs.
Clunie's saddled and bridled to perfection.
"Smiler!—go home to bed," said Jim.
Smiler nodded, grinned and ran off.
"Phil, do you know where Jack McLean, the manager
of The Pioneer Traders, lives?"
Hi
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170     The Spoilers of the Valley
"Yes!"
"Then tear up there and put him wise. Get hold of
Blair, their grocery man, as well. He's a grand scrapper.
Get them to bring their rifles.
"Don't tell a soul but these two what the game is."
"What else?" §
"I'm going to rustle up Morrison of the O.K. Supply,
then down to the Town Hall for two or three who are
game for a free-for-all. Make hell-bent-for-leather down
to Allison's Wharf at Okanagan Landing. We can leave
our horses there, cross the lake to the other side below
Redmans, and be on the main road there that leads from
Vernock to Redmans a full hour ahead of them; and
collar the bunch—men, wagons, feed and every damned
thing, as they come sliddering along thinking they're
safe."
"Jee-rusalem!" cried Phil, as the plan dawned on him.
"But are you sure they are taking the road that way
and that Redmans will be where they are making for?"
"You bet I'm sure! And the long way round the hills
and the head of the lake is the only way they can make
Redmans with heavy wagons. Any bairn knows that
they'll reckon to get there just before dawn. The whole
bunch are breeds and klootchmen from there, and they're
not likely to cache their steal any place but where they
can get at it handy.   Now, off you go!"
Phil sprang into his saddle.
"Say!" whispered Jim, straining upwards, "I'm going
to bring the Mayor along."
"Oh, hang the Mayor!" cried Phil hotly. "If we are
going to be helping him in any way, I guess you can
count me out."
"But, Phil, laddie;—McLean of the Pioneer Company
is coming, and Morrison of the O.K. Company is coming. The Big Steal
171
We can hardly leave Brenchfield out." Jim's voice was
somewhat sarcastic in its tone.
"Oh, I suppose not!" said Phil sourly, and unconvinced.
Jim laughed.
"Man, but you're thick in the skull. Eh, but it's a
lark!" he remarked, giving Phil's mare a whack on the
flank and sending her galloping off without further words
of elucidation.
Phil found Jack McLean in his front parlour—late as
it was—reading a book to his last pipe before turning in.
In as few words as possible, he told him of what had
happened and of the plan for the capture of the thieves.
McLean required no persuading. In five minutes he was
on his horse, ready for any escapade and swearing as
volubly as only a hardened official of the Pioneer Traders
can who has been systematically robbed without being
able to lay the thieves by the heels.
In ten minutes more, McLean, big Blair and Phil were
heading west, galloping hard for the Landing at the head
of the Okanagan Lake.
The night was dark as pitch; there wasn't a star in the
sky nor was there a breath of moving air anywhere.
They reached Allison's Wharf in quick time, roused
the complaining lake-freighter and got him busy on his
large gasoline launch. Not long after that a clatter of
hoofs on the hard roadway, a sudden stoppage, and the
sound of deep voices, betrayed the arrival of the others:
Langford, Morrison, Thompson the Government Agent,
and the one police official whom Phil felt was absolutely
above suspicion,—Howden, who was Chief Palmer's
deputy—and Brenchfield, surly as a bear;—all powerful
men and capable of giving a good account of themselves
in a tight place.
They were eight, all told, with Allison in addition look- H SIB
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172      The Spoilers of the Valley
ing after his own affairs, and they set out across the lake
for the quiet little landing below the Redmans settlement, leaving their horses at Allison's place.
"Howden,—why didn't you bring the Chief?" asked
Phil.
"Wish to hell we had! Might have saved me the
trouble of coming. He's up on the ranges somewhere.
There's a lot of cattle missing up there lately and he's
keen on catching some of the rustlers redhanded."
"Or red-headed," grinned Jim. "This trip might
prove the way to catch them too."
"Do you think the same bunch is operating both jobs?"
asked Howden.
"Sure!" replied Jim.
"Oh, give us a rest!" broke in Brenchfield. "A smart
lot you wise-Alicks know about it. To hear you talk,
one would think you had been raised on a detective farm."
Jim laughed good-naturedly.
"All right, old man! Don't get sore. You've been
a grouch ever since we asked you to come along. One
would think you didn't have any interests tied up in this
affair."
"Then I guess that one has another think coming,"
answered the Mayor.
"Well,—you're devilish enthusiastic over it; that's all
I've got to say," interjected Morrison, who was simply
bubbling over with excitement and expectancy,—not so
much from the thought of recovering his stolen property
as from a hope that, if the thieves were captured, he
would at last have a chance to reap the benefits of his
labours, unmolested.
"Who wants to be enthusiastic on a wild-goose chase
like this?" commented Brenchfield. "I've been on the run
these last three weeks, dancing all this evening, and now
the delightful prospect of lying in a ditch till morning, &ggMMWK& HHE     ■■■HBBR
The Big Steal   | 173
and nothing at all at the end of it but the possibility of
a rheumatic fever. You juvenile bath-tub pirates and
Sherlock Holmeses give me a pain."
"And I'll bet you a new hat we'll land the whole rotten
bunch of them before we're through," challenged
Morrison.
"Forget it!" grouched Brenchfield, "I've lost as much
as any man here, but I haven't made a song and dance
about it like some people I know. I am just as anxious
as any of you to see the thieves in jail."
Evidently it was not a night for pleasant conversations,
and tempers seemed to be more or less on edge, so little
more was said until the launch ran quietly alongside the
old, unused wharf a quarter of a mile east of the new one
at Redmans.
The men got out, one after another, leaving Allison to
make his way back to his own side, alone; as they did not
require him further.
Jim led the way through the bush and up the trail
toward the main highway.
They had not gone more than two hundred yards, when
a muttered oath, a noise of stumbling, and a crash,
brought them to a stand-still. It was Brenchfield who
had stumbled into a hole or over a log. Ready hands
helped him up, but he immediately dropped back on the
ground with a groan, in evident pain from his ankle.
"Hell mend it!" he growled. "I've turned my ankle
in a blasted gopher hole or something."
He writhed about in agony.
"Guess I'm out this trip," he moaned.
"Toots!" put in Jim. "You'll be all right in a minute.
Let us give your foot a bit of a rub!"
"Strike a light and let me see what's what," suggested
the Mayor.
Someone started in to do so. I
174      The Spoilers of the Valley
"Not on your life!" cried Jim. "Haven't you got
more savvy than that? Do you want the whole of that
gang up there in on our top?"
A dog barked in the distance and the bark was taken
up ominously by other dogs around the settlement.
"Lower your voices and don't make any racket, for
God's sake!" pleaded Jim. "Come on, make a try,
Brenchfield!"
"What else do you think I'm doing?" growled the
Mayor between his teeth. He did make a strong effort
then, but was unable to bear his foot on the ground.
"Darn it! It's no good!" he exclaimed, sitting down
disgustedly on a log.
"Well, boys," returned Jim, in a hopeless tone, "I
guess we've got to leave him. One of us will have to
stay with the Mayor. That will leave six for the job
ahead of us. Guess we can manage! Will you stay with
him, Blair?"
"Sure thing!" came the ready reply, "but I hate to
miss the fun."
The Mayor's face could not be seen, but his voice
broke in rather too quickly:
"Good heavens!—my own ranch is just up there over
the hill. I can creep there on my hands and knees inside
of half an hour;—and I won't have to do that.
"No, siree! Nobody's going to stay with me. I'm all
right. I'll get along nicely by myself. Every man-jack
of you is needed for the job,, Go on! Beat it! Don't
worry about me."
"We're not worrying about you, Graham," retorted
Jim, not sufficiently suggestive to set the Mayor at discomfort. "But you know the rule of the trail, same as
we do. When a man get's hurt on a hunting trip,
another of the bunch stays with him. Joe Blair is willing
to stay behind." Jfc.
The Big Steal
175
"He won't stay with me, I tell you;—this thing isn't
going to be held up or spoiled for me," exclaimed the
Mayor.   "I'll crawl with you on my fours, first."
He started to carry out his threat.
Three times he fell and groaned in pain, until Jim
became convinced that Brenchfield's foot was really badly
sprained.
"Won't you leave me here? I'll be all right in a while,"
cried out Brenchfield, "then I can make my own place in
my own time."
"Oh, let's leave him, Jim. We may need every man
we've got," said Morrison, "and if any of us take him
to his place, it might arouse suspicion."
"Yes!—what's the good of losing two men when one
is all we need let go?" added McLean.
"All right, all right!" said Jim. "Here's the flask,
Mayor. "Come on, boys! Time's passing and we've a
goodish bit to go yet." i;t?
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CHAPTER XIV
The Round-Up
HE remainder of the journey was made in silence,
and without further mishap. The thick of the crude
trail was left behind and they got on to the well-beaten
highway, trudging along at a fast gait until they came
to the Snake Loop with its two roads—one leading for a
mile or so along the lower shore line; the other running
round Big Horn Hills.
Jim stopped at the forks.
"Say!—I'm thinking three of us had better go by
one way and four of us by the other;—just in case of
accidents.
"McLean, Phil and I can go the low way. You four
go by the high road. tWe can wait for each other at the
junction further on."
The crowd split up and parted.
Jim, Phil and McLean had only got along about half
a mile, when they stopped up at the sound of the fast
beating of horse hoofs on the highway behind them.
They listened intently.
"Coming from Redmans," whispered McLean.
"Run on ahead and get in among the bushes at the
bend there," shouted Jim. "I'll keep to the road, and
whoever he may be I'll stop him as he comes up. If he
tries to beat me to it,—shoot! See your ropes are O.K.,
Mack, for you might have to use them quick."
The two hurried ahead and disappeared.    Jim kept
176 9HB      BU
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The Round-Up
177
jogging along in the middle of the road, slowly and innocently.
The clatter of the oncomer grew louder and louder,
and beat faster.
A horseman came tearing along at break-neck speed.
When he was some twenty paces off, Jim swung round,
levelled his rifle and shouted.
"Stop!    Throw up your hands!    Quick!"
The horse drew back on its haunches and sprang up in
fear, but the rider had it in check and held his seat. He
steadied his beast and put his hands up slowly.
Jim went forward. As he drew closer he recognised
the rider—Red McGregor.
"Get down!" ordered Jim, smiling grimly to himself.
McGregor seemed to recognise Langford at the same
time and, thinking Jim was alone, took a chance.
His off hand lowered and he pulled a gun quickly,
but a shot and a flash from the side of the road were
quicker still. His arm dropped limply and he yelled in
pain and surprise.
"Get down!" ordered Jim again.
"You be damned!" cried McGregor, swinging his horse
round and setting spurs.
The horse sprang in response. Jim thought he was
going to make it, when a lariat flew out like a long snake,
poised for a second over Red's head and, in a second
more, stretched him on the roadway, half-choked.
McLean held the rope taut, while Jim and Phil ran in
and secured their prisoner.
"What'n the hell's the matter with you bunch," gasped
Red. "Can't a man go to Vernock when he damned-well
wants to?"
"Not always, Red!" answered Jim. "It isn't always
healthy to want to go to Vernock."
'By God!—let me go and I'll take you on one at a
tf mmmmmmmmm
178      The Spoilers of the Valley
time—two at a time if you like.   You, Langford,^—I'll
fix you for this anyway."
"We're going to fix you first, Rob Roy McGregor O!"
"I pretty near done you in last time, Langford, I'll
make good and sure next time,—you bet!"
"Oh, shut up!" exclaimed Jim, "you're wearing your
windpipe out talking."
They half pulled McGregor and half dragged him to a
nearby tree, to which they tied him securely, divesting him
of his knife and other articles that they considered he
might feel constrained to use.
He cursed them roundly, until Jim tied Red's cravat
round his mouth.
"Come on, boys! That's good enough! We don't
want to take him along. If we don't hurry up, that
bunch may beat us to it yet."
They reached the junction of the two roads without
further   adventure.     Five   minutes   later,   along   came
Morrison, Thompson, Deputy Chief Howden and Blair,
with one more—an unrecognised—in their company.
SJltll "What did you catch?" asked Jim.
"Just little Stitchy Summers!" replied Howden. "We
found him out for a constitutional, hoofing it for Vernock. Says he does it every morning early for the good
of his health.    So we brought him along."
"We found a somnambulist, too," said Jim, "Rob Roy
McGregor. We tied him up at the roadside, in case he
might wake up and hurt himself."
"Foxy trick that all the same—one each way to make
sure of one getting through!"
"Say!—you don't suppose they're wise?" asked
Morrison.
Sure they are!"
But who could give the show away?"
"I'm thinking that sprained ankle of Brenchfield's was
Hi
if The Round-Up
179
a darned lame excuse," Jim answered. And that was all
they could get out of him on the subject.
It was sufficient, however, to set all of them a-wonder-
ing. But no shadow of suspicion had ever before crossed
their minds, and they soon dismissed the suggestion as
one more distorted ridiculous romance from the fertile
brain of Jim Langford.
The whimpering Stitchy—like most of his kind; never
a hero when alone—was secured in the same way as Red
had been, then the men hunters continued to the top of the
hill, where, as soon as dawn came up, a good view would
be had of the single road as it wound, snake-like, for
half a mile on the incline.
"It is five o'clock," remarked Jim. "With no mishaps,
they should be here any time now."
The seven men distributed themselves in the ditches
and bushes—three on one side and four on the other, at
intervals of ten yards, covering a distance of seventy
yards in all.
As they lay there in the ditches by the roadside, the
early morning air bit sharp and chilly, having a touch
of frost in it—the harbinger of colder weather to come
—but still retaining a dampness that searched into the
marrow.
A grey light was just beginning to spear the darkness
on the top of Blue Nose Mountain away to the east.
A heavy blanket of cold fog completely enveloped the
low-lying lands. Suddenly, the dark leaden sky seemed
to break up into ten thousand sections of gloomy puff-
clouds, all sailing hap-hazard inside a dome of the lightest, brightest blue. The sun, cold to look at but shining
with the light of a blazing ball, rode up over the hills,
sending great shafts of searchlight down the sides of
the hills and filling the ghostly valley below, with its
tightly-packed firs and skeleton-like pine trees, with a '     ti
180      The Spoilers of the Valley
warm, yellow mist, suggestive of luminous smoke rising
from some fairy cauldron of molten gold; transforming
the dead, chilly night into a crisp, living, moving, late-
autumn morning.
As the mists completely melted away, Jim signalled
to Phil and Phil repeated to McLean. The sign was
passed along the other side as well.
Away down the roadway, at the turn between the low-
lying hills, a heavy team appeared, struggling in front
of a great wagon, piled high with produce of some kind.
Another came into view, and still another, until eight of
them, following closely on one another, crept along in
what seemed to be a caterpillar movement.
As they came unsuspectingly onward, the drivers
urging their horses—cheerful in the knowledge that the
worst of their journey was successfully over—the silent
watchers crept closer to cover, fearful that the brightening day would betray their whereabouts. But nothing
untoward happened, except that a closer view of the
oncomers gave out the fact that every wagon was loaded
high with alfalfa, while what were looked for were
wagon-loads of flour and feed.
McLean wormed his way past Phil and along to Jim.
"Dommit,—we're fooled!" he whispered angrily.
"Deevil the fool!   Get back, Mack,—get back!"
"But it's alfalfa they've got. You canna risk holding
them up when maybe the bunch we're after are comin'
along hauf a mile ahin'."
Jim bit his lip. This was something he had not reckoned on.
All at once his knowledge of Scottish History came
to his aid.
"Something tells me they're the crowd we're after,"
he answered in a low voice. "And we've got them—
every mother's son o' them.    Lord sake, Mack!    I'm I
The Round-Up
181
surprised .at ye. You a Scot and you canna remember
the takin' o' Linlithgow Castle! What was under the
hay-carts then, laddie?—what? but good, trusty high-
landers. And what's under the alfalfa now but good feed
and flour that'll show in your next Profit and Loss
Account in red figures if you don't recover it. It's a
fine trick, but it is too thin.
"Go back! Signal the others to hold them up at all
costs."
And McLean went back, bewildered but as nearly
convinced as a Scot can be who has not the logical proof
right under his nose.
Slowly the teams came straggling up the incline,
coming nearer and nearer the men in ambush, until the
latter could see clearly that every driver was a half-breed
and that every man of them had a rifle across his knees.
When they were well within the line, the preconcerted
signal—Howden's rifle—rang out.
Taking chances, the deputy chief sprang out into the
centre of the road and shouted, covering the leader.
Three men on one side and three on the other sprang up
and covered six of the drivers.
Some of the half-breeds immediately threw up their
hands, taken completely by surprise. But a shot, fired
by one of the uncovered drivers, sang out and big McLean
dropped with a bullet through his thigh.
Howden sprang on to the first wagon, knocked the
driver over, kicked his rifle aside and climbed right on
top of the load, bringing down the man who shot McLean
as neatly as could be with his revolver.
That ended what little fight there was in the gang.
The half-breeds had no chance, with their horses getting
excited and their heavy loads beginning to back on them
down-hill.
In a short time, they were all unarmed and secured. If'
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182      The Spoilers of the Valley
McLean and the wounded half-breed were made comfortable on top of some alfalfa, the other seven drivers
were set in front of their wagons, under guard, and the
entire outfit was soon making its return trip to Vernock.
"Cheer up, Mack!" shouted Jim, by way of heartening.
"Tell me," groaned McLean, "what is under the
alfalfa?" |j
"Just what I told you already, Mack,—good honest
flour and feed in one hundred pound sacks, which will
help to swell the credit side of your next balance sheet."
"The Lord be thankit!" he groaned. "But I wish one
of them had been loaded up with King George's Special."
Jim shot out his tongue.
"Me too!" he answered pawkily.
They had not got very far on their journey, when a
lone horseman came dashing toward them over the hill
from the direction of Vernock.
It was Chief Palmer. His horse was in a lather and
the Chief looked as if he had ridden hard and had been
out all night to boot. He wore a crestfallen expression
when he drew up alongside.
"Hullo!" he cried, with an assumption of gaiety.
"Holding up the quiet farmer on the public highway?
Captured the gang, eh?"
Immensely proud of himself and his achievement,
Howden jumped down, intending to give his chief a full
account of the capture, but Palmer seemed in no mood
to listen, and told him he had better keep his story for
later on, and look after his prisoners.
"You don't seem particularly gay over it, Chief!"
commented Jim.
"Why should I?" he replied. "I've ridden for two
hours, hoping to be in time for the scrap, and you fellows
beat me to it."
The journey town ward continued.
1 The Round-Up
183
When nearing their destination, they were joined by
two more horsemen, Brenchfield—his left foot heavily
bound round the ankle—and one of his white ranch
hands. The Mayor was surly as usual and seemed in
desperation to get in touch with Chief Palmer, who
obligingly dropped behind with him. As they brought
up the rear, they indulged in a very earnest conversation.
When the wagons were safely harboured in the Police
Yard and the thieves safely jailed under lock and key,
the Chief, as if to make amends for his previous surliness,
shook hands all round and congratulated the men on their
coup. f||
"This will help to make an interesting calendar for
the next Assizes, boys. I'll be after all of you for witnesses, so don't get on the rampage anywhere in between
times."
"I guess, Morrison, old chap," broke in Brenchfield,
"this will end the flour and feed racket for some time to
come. We fellows will have a chance to make a little
profit out of our businesses at last."
"Oh, you haven't much to worry over," replied
Morrison. "You haven't all your eggs in one basket
like I have. It is just pin-money for you, but it means
bread and butter and bed for me and mine."
Brenchfield steered his horse alongside and laid his
hand sympathetically on the old man's shoulder.
"Never mind, Morrison! It is all over now,—so here's
to better days."
Morrison was not very responsive, and the Mayor
excused himself on the plea of his ankle, his want of sleep
and the further pressure of mayoral business.
"Darn it!" exclaimed Morrison to Jim and Phil, as
he left them at the end of the avenue, "I used to like
Brenchfield, but I don't know what's come over me lately
with him.   When he laid his hand on me a few minutes V 9
184      The Spoilers of the Valley
ago, I felt as if a wet toad was squatting on the back of
my neck."
When they reached home, Jim did not go to his own
room immediately. He followed into Phil's and sat down
on the edge of the bed as Phil commenced to get out of
his clothes preparatory to having a bath.
"Well!—what did you think of it, Phil?" he asked,
glad, evidently, to be alone with his comrade where he
could at last express his thoughts and pent-up feelings
freely.
"Pretty work!"
"What?"
"I said I thought it was pretty work. tWe did a clean
job;—got all we went out for."
"Like the devil we did!" shot out Jim.
"Why!—what did we forget, grouchy?"
"Everything! They're too blamed wise for us, that
bunch, and they're too many."
Phil stopped pulling off a sock and looked over at
Jim. I
"Aw, come off!" cried the other. "Let in the daylight,
man!   What did we get anyway?"
"We got the thieves, didn't we?"
"Not by a jugfull! Half a dozen half-breed teamsters,—that's all!"
"Armed and driving stolen goods!"
"Yes! I grant that, but what good is that going
to do?"
"Well, Jim,—you've discovered the plan they have
been operating for doing away with the stuff. That is
something."
"Sure!—that too, and it will end the wholesale thieving for a bit, till they find another way. It will give
poor old Morrison a chance to recoup." The Round-Up
185
"Then I guess you always expect too much, Jim.
You're never contented."
"Why should I be;—with Brenchfield's foreman and
head-boss rotter Red McGregor, and that sneaky little
devil Stitchy Summers not among the casualties."
"But Palmer will get them, won't he?"
"Not on your life!"
"Why not? We stopped each of them making for the
gang to warn them off."
"How are we to prove that? They might have been
going anywhere. Why man!—that pair could pretty
nearly nail us for unprovoked assault."
Phil laughed.
"And they were the men who were conducting the
entire steal when I fell in among them in the cellar;—
but I can't prove it."
"You're sure they were, Jim?"
"Of course I'm sure. Red hit me on the head with
the butt-end of his quirt. I'll get him one for it too,
before I'm done."
"And they engineered the whole affair, set the teamsters on their journey, then beat it ahead for Redmans?"
" 'Oh noble judge! O excellent young man,' " Jim
quoted sarcastically.
Phil felt the thrust. He went over to the bed, tilted
up Jim's chin with his forefinger and looked straight into
his mischievous eyes.
"Seeing you know so much, Jim Langford,—tell me
more.   What side is Brenchfield on in this affair?"
Jim grew serious all of a sudden.
"Now you're talking!" he exclaimed, his eyes snapping angrily and his voice throwing fire. "I've had no
darned use for that son-of-a-gun for some considerable
time. He has his nose in everything. He pretty nearly
bosses the whole Valley.    He's political boss, Mayor, ..
11
Ik
186     The Spoilers of the Valley
rancher, and God knows what else. If he isn't crooked,
why does he have his biggest ranch right in the thick
of that Indian settlement? He has the whole of the
breeds on the reservation under his thumb. He's a party
heeler, a grafter from away back, and everybody falls
for him. And yet,—good Land!—if you did so much
as open your mouth against him, you'd get run out of
town."
"Go on! Go on!" applauded Phil. "I like to hear
you." §
"Yes!—arid you've got the biggest grudge against him
of any for something or other, or I'm not Wayward
Langford.   But you're so darned tight about it."
Phil's applause ended abruptly.
"Thought that would stop you!" grinned Jim. "But
that man, and the blindness of the so-called wise men
of this wee burg make me positively sick in the stomach.
"Who's at the back of the whole feed steal?—Brenchfield! Half-breeds didn't make that tunnel. It is a
white man's job all through. It was all nicely done.
Oh, ay! A tunnel to the three warehouses, Brenchfield's
included! Thieving right and left and Brenchfield always
losing a bit—to himself—every time; just to keep up
appearances; and getting richer and richer every theft
until he owns about as much land and gear as Royce
Pederstone does!"
"Well then, Jim;—why can't that fertile brain of
yours devise something to land him on this?"
"Weel ye may ask!" answered Jim, breaking into the
Doric, "and I canna answer ye.
"We can't prove a thing on him. He would plead
absolute ignorance of the entire affair; that he had been
away for weeks and only got in yesterday with Royce
Pederstone, and was at the dance when it happened.
Everybody would believe him and sympathise with him The Round-Up
187
too because of an apparent endeavour to blacken the
character of a public man, a prominent citizen and a
local benefactor—one who himself had lost so much
by the thefts—for, mark you, Brenchfield has made much
of it in his conversations."
"Can't Chief Palmer make the half-breeds talk? They
will surely be pretty sore over the raw deal that has been
handed out to them."
"Palmer be jiggered! He is another of Brenchfield's
cronies, and is feathering his nest like the rest of them.
I'll be very much surprised if the innocent Howden isn't
fired by this time for his share in this morning's work.
I'm half sorry I dragged him into it."
"Couldn't a good lawyer wriggle something out of
the Indians at the trial?"
"He might,—but the Indians will be darned well paid
to keep their mouths shut. Believe me!—it'll fizzle out.
You watch and see!"
Jim sat quiet for a bit, then he began again.
"And that kind of animal has the nerve to want to
marry little Eilie Pederstone. Oh, hell!—I'd better stop
or I'll burst a blood-vessel or something.
"Say!"    I     mf§'       I    ]»- '    M-
"Speak on!"
"Are you going to work after breakfast?"
'Of course!" answered Phil.    "Aren't you?"
fNo!" ;1
'Are you going to bed?"
"Not yet! This is Saturday morning, man. My usual
monthly 'Penny Horrible' is only half finished and it has
to be ready before mail time."
Phil laughed.
What is the name of it this month, Jim?"
'Two  Fingered   Pete's   Come-back,   a   Backwoods
Mystery.'"
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n f 188      The Spoilers of the Valley
"Sounds exciting!" remarked Phil. "I think I would
like to read that one. Save a copy for me, Jim, when it
comes along."
"De'il the fear! It'll never be said that Jim Langford,
alias Captain Mayne Plunkett, alias Aunt Christina, ever
put anything your way that would fire you, in your rashness, to disgrace me and make a fool of yourself."
Jim changed the subject again.
"Phil, why don't you cut that bluffer, Brenchfield,
out?"
"Me?   What harm have I done, Jim?"
"That'll do, laddie. You can't brazen it out that way.
Man, I'd give my wee pinkie to see it happen."
"Oh, don't talk rot!" returned Phil, serious as an
owl, nevertheless pale at the lips. "What chance has
an impecunious day-labourer like me with Miss Pederstone ?
"Why don't you try yourself? You're mighty good
at arranging things for your friends."
Jim laughed.
Phil turned his head and glared at him; and Jim
laughed more uproariously.
'What are you yelling your Tom-fool head off for?
I don't see anything funny about the proposition."
'What? You can't see anything funny in it? Gee,
Phil!—but you're dull. Eileen Pederstone hitched to
Wayward Langford, booze fighter, ne'er-do-weel, good-
for-nothing, never-worked-and-never-will; a-penny-a-
liner; Aunt  Christina and  Captain  Mayne  Plunkett!"
He became sober again.
"Man,  Phil!—I'm ashamed of you even suggesting
it.   I once fell in love.   Don't get anxious; it was a long
time ago when I had ambitions of becoming Lord Chief
Justice, or at least a High Court Judge."
'Yes!" The Round-Up
189
"The lady and I fell out over her father. He asked me
one night how much money I had in the bank. I was
eighteen.
"I told him I had twenty pounds.
I 'Tuts, tuts!' said the old fellow, who was one of
those human fireworks—all fizzle and flare,—'that isn't
enough to keep a cat.'
" 'We know it,' I answered, speaking for both of
us, 'but we thought we might manage to run along for
a while without the cat.' "
Phil laughed.
"The old chappie got angry, and the girl sacked me
because I was rude to papa and flippant about the most
serious thing in the world-
marriage.
She couldn't see
the joke. Imagine, Phil, being married to a woman that
couldn't see a joke!
"That was the very nearest I ever got.    And believe
me-
"Now you, for instance; you're different, you're just
made for married life; you're young, big, handsome,
mannerly, sober, sometimes diligent, ambitious. You
don't smoke much, you don't swear—not all the time—
and you can chop wood and brush your own boots.
You "  !..' ,| § .
But Jim got no further. A cushion, well aimed,
stopped his flow of talk.
"All right, all right! We'll say no more. Go and
have your bath! You need it. Give your soul a touch
o' soap and water when you are at it." CHAPTER XV
Sol's Matrimonial Mix-Up
FOR the few days following, the robbery and the
rounding-up of the thieves were the talk of the
district; but despite this, it was surprising how little
The Vernock and District Advertiser had to say about it.
Phil openly commented on the peculiarity, but Jim
just stuck his tongue in his cheek.
Neither McLean nor the wounded half-breed were
seriously hurt, and in a week both were well again—
the one going lamely about his business and the other
in jail beside his fellows.
The trial was placed on the calendar for the next
Assizes which had been arranged for the following
month, when most of the Fall crops would be in and
shipped, thereby leaving twelve good men and true free
to devote some of their time to the requirements of
law and justice.
Jim went back again to the Court House as Government Agent Thompson's assistant. Phil kept to the forge,
serious and tremendously earnest in following the calling
he had been so strangely thrust into.
He could not fail to notice, day by day, the gradual
change that was coming over Sol Hanson. Sol had not
been drunk for weeks. He dressed himself much more
neatly than formerly, although what it was exactly that
gave him the smarter appearance, Phil could not make
out until Smiler led him to understand by signs and
grimaces that Sol now washed his face and hands morn-
190
L BOB
arani      .mhk        BB »immMBm
SoPs Matrimonial Mix-Up    §191
ings and evenings, instead of every Sunday morning as
formerly.
But there was something else.
Sol's blue eyes had contracted a habit of gazing into
the heart of the fire while he leaned abstractedly on the
bellows handle. He became interested in the train
arrivals. He posted letters and called every day at the
post office for mail. Whether he got any or not Phil
was unable to say definitely. But he got a sneaking
suspicion after a while, that the soft-hearted, simple,
big fellow was either answering letters through the
Seattle Matrimonial Times, or corresponding with some
lady friend. He felt convinced that Sol was badly, or
rather, madly in love.
He probed the big Swede with the sharp end of a
question now and again, but Sol was wonderfully impervious.
One dayr Jim and Phil were strolling leisurely up
Main Street from the Kenora Hotel where they had been
having an early lunch together. The north train had
just come in and a few drummers, some incoming Chinamen and a number of straggling passengers were spreading themselves for their different destinations, carrying
grips and canvas bags with their samples and their belongings as the case might be.
Neither Jim nor Phil was paying any heed to what
was a daily occurrence, until they were stopped by a
buxom, fair-haired, blue-eyed maiden, with a pleasant
smile on her big, innocent face. She was cheaply but
becomingly dressed and filled her clothes with attractive
generosity. As she laid down her two hand-bags, her
smile broadened and beamed until it broke into a merry
dimple on each of her cheeks and parted her ruddy lips
to the exposure of a mouthful of fresh, creamy-looking*
well-formed teeth. MB
■■■■■
192      The Spoilers of the Valley-
There was no gainsaying who was the object of her
smiles:—it was Jim Langford and Jim alone, and there
was nothing left for either him or Phil to do but to
doff their hats and wait the lady's good pleasure.
She seemed in no hurry to speak.
As Jim gazed at her in surprise, waiting; her fingers—
hard,  red fingers  they were—began  to  twist a  little
nervously about the painfully new gloves she carried,
and her eyes dropped, looked up, and dropped again.
"Guess you don't know me!" she ventured at last.
"No!    I'm sorry!    I can't remember ever meeting
you before," he answered.
"Ho, ho!" muttered Phil under his breath.
"See you later, Jim!" he said loudly, making to move
off*      I i
"Here, you piker! You wait a minute." Jim grabbed
Phil's coat sleeve.
The young lady's cheeks began to take on the added
attractiveness of a blush.
"You ain't ever met me before, I know," she said.
"But don't you know me by my picture?"
Jim shook his head in perplexity.
"I'd a-knowed you any place."
For the first time in Phil's experience of Jim, the latter
stood abashed.
"You might have come to meet me at the train though.
Guess you was just comin'. I wrote you three days
since."
"You did, eh! Well,—I never got your letter," bantered Jim, recovering his composure.
She was a pretty piece of femininity, despite her poor
language and her somewhat tawdry finery.
"I think you're stringing me. But say!—I'm awful
hungry, and I've been two days in the train.
"Ain't you goin' to get me some eats, Sol?" Bhh
Sol's Matrimonial Mix-Up       193
"Sol!" exclaimed Jim with a gulp that spoke intense
relief.   "Why, my good girl, my name's not Sol!"
"Oh, yes it is!" she answered bravely, with the smile
fading.    "I tell you I'd a-knowed you anywheres."
"You're making a mistake, dear lassie. My name is
certainly not Sol."
A glimmer of light was beginning to break in on Phil,
but he kept that glimmer miserly to his inmost self.
"Yes it is! Oh, yes it is!" she said again, putting her
hand on Jim's arm, but with a peculiar little expression
of uncertainty in her eyes.
"You can't fool me, Sol Hanson,—and, say boy!—I've
come a long ways for you, and I'm awful tired."
"Hanson! Good Lord!" blurted out Jim. "Me—Sol
Hanson! Lassie, lassie, I didna think I was so good
looking.   Are ye looking for Sol Hanson?"
The girl did not answer. A moisture began to gather
in her big, blue eyes, and a tear toppled over.
Jim was all baby at once.
"Dinna greet!—there's a good lass! Dinna greet here
in the street," he coaxed. "If it is Sol Hanson ye want,
we can soon help ye to get him."
The girl bent down and opened up one of her handbags, bringing out a large photograph, pasted on a
creamy-coloured, gay-looking cardboard mount. She
handed it to Jim, searching his face with her tear-dimmed
eyes.
Jim gazed at it in bewilderment. Then he scratched
his head and gazed again.
"Ain't that your picture?" the young lady asked.
"Don't tell me that it ain't, for it wouldn't be true; and
I came all this way because you wrote so nice and looked
so big and good. I—I didn't think you was a bluffer
like—like other men."
Her breath caught and she began to sob. 194      The Spoilers of the Valley
"My   dear   lassie,—I   am   bewildered,—confounded.
—   That is my photo, but where in all the world
I—I	
did ye get it from?"
The girl looked at him a little angrily, for she had
pluck in plenty.
"Where do you think? I ain't stole it. You sent it
to me.   Where else could I get it?"
Jim stood foolishly.
"I certainly never sent it. Why, woman!—I never saw
ye before.    I don't know your name even.    I—I	
"There, there! Dinna start to greet again. We'll fix
you up, if you'll only tell Phil and me your trouble."
"—And your name ain't Sol Hanson?" she queried,
with a trembling lip.
"No!—I am sorry to say it is not!"
From her grip, the girl picked out a bundle of envelopes, well filled, and done up in lavender-coloured ribbon.
"—And—and you never wrote them letters to me?"
Jim looked at the writing and shook his head.
"No,—I never did!" |
"—And—and you don't know my name's Betty
Jornsen?"
"I didn't, but I do now, Betty," gallantly answered
Jim, while Phil was beside himself trying to stifle his
amusement one moment, and endeavouring to keep back
his feelings of sympathy for the girl, the next.
Several passers-by turned round and stared in open
interest at the strange meeting.
"Shut up your bag, lassie! Don't show us any more
o' your gear," appealed Jim in perturbation at the thought
of what might come out next.
The buxom, fair-haired woman began to sob again.
She turned and appealed to Phil.
"Oh, what am I to do, mister? I had a good job at
Nixon's Cafe in Seattle.    Sol wrote to me through the
m ■n
IDhBbb
j
«g&£^£
Sol's Matrimonial Mix-Up       195
Matrimonial Times. I wrote back to him. I sent him
my picture and he sent me his—this one—and now he
says he ain't him."
"That isn't his photo, woman,—it is mine," interrupted Jim.
"But he's you," she whimpered.
"Then who the mischief am I?" asked Jim in perplexity.
"You told me you had a house, and fruit trees, and a
blacksmith's shop, and plenty of money and, if I came
to Canada, we'd get married. I throwed up my good job
and I've come and now you say you ain't him," she sailed
on breathlessly, her ample bosom labouring excitedly.
"Phil," said Jim, aside. "How the devil do you suppose that big idiot got my photo? It looks like one taken
off one I used to have, and lost."
"I guess that is just what it is," grinned Phil.
"Well,—we've got to see this little woman right, and
incidentally give Sol Hanson the biggest fright he ever
got in his natural.
"Miss—Miss Jornsen,—there's a mistake somewhere.
My name is Jim Langford, and that is my photograph;
but I never sent it to you. We happen to know Sol
Hanson though. He lives here all right. This gentleman
works with him.
"Sol is a Swede?"       §
"Yes,—yes!" put in Betty, "same as I am."
"I'm thinking he was afraid he wasn't good-looking
enough and he was scared to take chances, so he sent
you my photo instead of one of his own," he went on,
without even a blush of conceit.
"And—and he ain't such a good-looker as you?" she
queried.
"Well,—well, of course, tastes differ. You might like
him fine," he grinned, with becoming modesty. f
196      The Spoilers of the Valley
"But he's got a house, and fruit trees, and a blacksmith shop, and he can work?" she asked.
"You bet! He's well fixed. Come along and we'll
see him now.   He will never be able to resist you."
Betty perked up at the compliment.
Then nervously and timidly she set herself to rights,
finally consenting to allow Jim and Phil to escort her to
the smithy.
"You wait here!" instructed Jim at the corner of the
block. "We'll go and break the news to Sol. We'll
come back for you.
"Give me that picture, though. I have a word to say
in his ear about that."
Betty opened her bag, gazed fondly on Jim's photo,
then at him, before she slowly delivered it up.
Phil went into the smithy, hung up his coat, put on
his apron and started in to work.
Jim followed him a few minutes later.
Sol Hanson was busy shoeing a horse. Jim went over
to him.
"Here, Sol," he cried, "come over and see this."
The good-natured big fellow stopped his work and
followed Jim to the dust-begrimed window.
Jim stuck the photograph under Sol's nose.
"Do you know who that is?"
"Ya,—sure thing! You bet! Dam-good picture too,
Jim!" he commented, with an innocence well assumed.
"Yes,—you certainly seem to like it. I can't say it
is very like you, you son-of-a-gun."
"Me? §No! Pretty like you though, Jim," Sol
stammered.
"Look here, you big lump of humanity;—what the
devil do you mean by sending my photo all over the
country and saying it is yours?"
"Me?—I ain't—I didn't—I "
Uli Sol's Matrimonial Mix-Up       197
"Cut it out, you big bluffer! You couldn't lie decently
to save your neck."
Sol laughed at last.
"You not been goin' for to get mad, Jim. Just a
little joke I have on some girl.   See!"
"Oh,—it was!    Darned good joke for me—and you
too!" !|. H
"Ya!—you see I find it one day on floor here. You
drop it some time. I ain't much of a swell looker for
girls. All girls like face like yours. I get Vancouver
man make me twelve pictures all same as this one. I
send them just for little joke to girls I write to some
time."
Jim clutched at his own hair despairingly, as Phil
furiously worked the bellows in his mirth,
"Great jumping Csesar! Twelve! Are you going to
start a harem?"
"Ach, no! Just have a little fun,—that's all. You
don't go and been for to get mad at that."
"Great fun! Great joke!" commented Jim, "but you've
put your foot in it this time, old cock. One of these
women is in town, looking for your scalp. She is asking
everybody in Vernock where Sol Hanson hangs out."
Sol's big face grew a shade paler and his jaw dropped.
He became excited.
"You—you didn't been for to tell her,—Jim?"
"Sure I did! Why not? You're going to marry her,
—aren't you?   She's telling everybody that."
Sol, who had been standing with his big hands spread
on his leather apron and his mouth agape, now showed
signs of anxiety.
"But,—I—I    Which one is it, Jim?   What she
call herself?"
"Oh,—there are several, you blooming Mormon?"
Sol ran to his coat and pulled a bundle of letters and ***"*»
rrf-i-inrnh.
-f-^-rrt
in
tf
198      The Spoilers of the Valley
miscellaneous    photographs    from    the    pocket.      He
handed them to Jim.
"Look at them/' he cried in excitement. "Tell me
quick which one come."
He mopped the perspiration from his brow. "By hell!
—I guess I been got in a bad fix this time for sure."
Jim slowly went over the documents and photographs.
"No! No! No! No!" he exclaimed, as he handed
them back to Sol one by one.
"Not one,—by gosh, Jim! That pretty funny. Must
be one, though.    Sure you look at every one?"
'She's not there, Sol.   Trot out the others, old man."
I  ain't got no more, Jim.    Honest!    That every
dam-one,—honest!
"Say,—maybe she tell you her name? Is it—is it
Gracie Peters?"
"No!"
"Is it Sal Larigan?"
"No!" * §
-Betty " 1
"Yes,—that's it!   Betty—Betty Jornsen!"
"What ? Betty she come ? Jumpin' Yiminy! Let me
get my hat and coat. Where is she now ? By gosh, Jim,
—she dam-fine little peach."
Sol became more and more excited. "I got her picture here.   You miss it up.    See!"
He ran over the photographs.
"There," he exclaimed, holding it up admiringly.
It was Betty's photograph, and a perfectly charming
little picture she made too. But Jim had intentionally
passed it over, for he was not through with Sol Hanson.
He had still his pound of flesh to exact.
"Ain't that dam-fine girl?" Sol went on. "See that,
Phil!   I been going to marry her.   You bet!   Tra-la-la!" Sol's Matrimonial Mix-Up
he half sang. "Come on!—let's go and find her, Jim,
Come on!"
"Wait a bit!—Bide a wee!" returned canny Scot
Langford. "That isn't the picture of the woman who
is here for you."
Sol's face fell.
"What?   But you say her name's Betty Jornsen?"
"Yes!   That is what she told me."
"Well!—that's Betty;—that's her."
"Oh, no it isn't! Don't you fool yourself, mister man.
You're mixed up in your women, Sol."
"No siree! You look on back," Sol returned triumphantly. "See that! 'With love and kisses to Sol from
Betty Jornsen.' "
Jim stood for a moment in silence.
"She nice little girl;—come up, maybe, to your shoulder?" queried Sol.
"No, Sol!—she's six feet high if she is an inch."
"She got fair hair and blue eyes; nice white teeth?"
"No, laddie!—she has carroty red hair; and her eyes,
I mean her eye—for she has only one—is a bleary, grey
colour."
Sol commenced to perspire afresh, and to hop from one
foot on to the other.
"Aw, you foolin' me, Jim!"
"Devil a fool! It is too serious for that. She's big;
she's got one eye; she's lost her teeth in front and she
is evidently a widow or she has three kids with her, two
at her skirts and one in her arms."
"Good Christopher Columbus!" exclaimed Sol, pulling
at his hair.
"And, and, Sol,—she is coming here for you, in five
minutes."
The big blacksmith was in desperation. II
tf
200      The Spoilers of the Valley
"Sol,—you're done;—you're done brown," Jim went
on relentlessly, "and it serves you darned well right."
"But, Jim,—you been a lawyer. She can't go make
me marry her?"      £
"Yes she can!"
"But she lie to me. She send me picture of nice girl
and say it her and she Betty Jornsen. I tell her to come
to me, from her picture,—see!"
"You big, blue-eyed, innocent baby! You're done;—
you're in the soup;—your goose is cooked. Take it from
me,—she's got you, and got you good.
"Didn't you send her my photo and say it was yours?"
Sol stood aghast.
'Aw,—that just a joke!" he persisted.
'Hadn't she a perfect right to do the same thing to
you?   Well—evidently she has done it.    Poor Sol!"
"But—but " /    |
"It's no good. There aren't any buts to this. She is
here. She is expecting Sol Hanson to be a fine looking
fellow like me, and the poor thing is going to get a
pie-faced, slop-eyed individual like yourself.
"Now, you're expecting a pretty little blonde and
you're getting,—well,—something totally different."
Jim slapped Sol on the back.
"Too bad! Take your medicine, though, old man I
Be a sport!   You're distinctly up against it."
Phil was metaphorically in knots by the furnace fire.
Sol rushed for his coat.
"No dam-fear!" he cried. "I go to coop first. She
ain't been going to run any bluff on Sol Hanson,—see I
You tell her, and her carrots-hair, and her one eye, and
her three dam-kids, to go plumb toboggan to hell.
"I come back sometime—maybe."
Sol made a dart for the front door. Then he changed
his mind and made for the back one.   But he guessed the Sol's Matrimonial Mix-Up       201
wrong one—or, perhaps after all, it was the right one.
As he was going out, Betty Jornsen, with her two
grips, came in and blocked up his exit.
She had evidently wearied of waiting at the corner, and
had determined to investigate matters for herself.
Sol made to brush past. Suddenly he stopped. He
looked at Betty. He stared. His eyes became big and
nearly popped out of his head in his amazement.
Betty looked up at him in surprise.
They gaped thus at each other for a few seconds,
then Sol staggered to the side of the door and leaned
against it, breathing hard as if he had run a mile.
At last he found his tongue and himself, and straightened up.
"Betty,—by gosh! Betty,—little Betty, by Yiminy!"
he exclaimed, throwing his long arms about her, knocking her grips aside and sending her hat awry. He lifted
her up high and kissed her fair on the mouth. He swung
her round and round the smithy, all oblivious of his
amused spectators.
Meantime, Betty (kicked jand struggled, and finally
succeeded in smacking his face loudly with a free hand.
Sol set her down and rubbed his cheek foolishly, while
she stamped her foot at him.
"You great big—great big—boob!" she cried.
Jim stepped out from the shadow.
"Miss Jornsen,—allow me to introduce you to Mr.
Sol Hanson!"
Betty looked at Jim querulously, and then at Sol who
was standing nervously by, gazing at her.
Slowly and shyly she sidled up to the big blacksmith.
She put her hands on the lapels of his ill-fitting coat and
slid her fingers down them tenderly; then she laid her
head on his chest, while his big arms went about her
again. ll
202      The Spoilers of the Valley
"Come on, Phil!" said Jim, "this is no place for the
proverbial parson's son."
Sol's eyes took on a new light.
"Jim,—by gosh!—maybe it been no place for a parson's son," he grinned, "but it a dam-fine place for a
parson.    What you think, eh, Betty?"
"You fellows wait. We all go together, get it over
right now.   What you think, my little Betty?"
"Sure! There ain't no good in waitin'," answered
Betty. "And say, Mister—Mister Langford!—I ain't
tryin' to be insultin', nor anything like that, but if you
think you're a better looker than my big Sol, then you've
got another think comin'."
Sol's head went up and his chest went out, as they
were entitled to do, for Jim was considered quite a
handsome fellow in his own way.
rlgfrjA.: _ CHAPTER XVI
The Breakaway
THE hour that followed was a busy one. Betty was
whisked away by Phil to Mrs. Clunie's for a good,
substantial home-made dinner and a general overhaul.
Sol rushed home for his new, check suit, then off to the
registrar's for the marriage license accompanied by Jim.
Phil next unearthed the valiant Smiler from the basement of a Chinese restaurant in Wynd Alley where he
was busy sampling the current day's bill of fare, gratis.
Phil hauled him off to the barber's for a wash and a haircut, then to the O.K. Supply Store for new clothes, over
and under, which set the poor dumb little rascal wondering as to what sin he had committed to warrant the
infliction.
The Reverend Anthony Stormer—the yenerable old
Lutheran pastor—was next informed of the expected
arrivals; and, by the time Jim came along upholding Sol
in a state of nervous prostration, all was in readiness for
the ceremony.
Ten minutes later, Mrs. Clunie arrived escorting Betty
Jornsen; pretty, buxom and beaming, and as full of confidence as Smiler was of Chinese noodles.
Smiler could not understand then what the ceremony
was all about, nor did he seem to gain any further
enlightenment on the matter at any later date.
It was all over within two hours of Betty's arrival
in Vernock.
Sol was for sending Betty to her new home till supper-
203 204      TJie Spoilers of the Valley
time, intending himself to go back to the smithy with
Phil and get down to the heavy work that lay there
awaiting completion. But Phil and Jim would have
none of it. And when Betty and Mrs. Clunie backed them
up, there was nothing left for Sol to do but to obey;
so, with three or four hand-bags—half of them borrowed
—they were bundled into the Kelowna stage, and nothing
more was heard of them for two weeks.
Smiler attended to his own needs as he had had to do
often before, and he was back in the basement of the
Chinese restaurant in Wynd Alley, finishing his dinner
sampling,—with his new rig-out rolled up in a bundle
under his arm and garbed in his much beloved rags and
tatters.
That was the first of a dozen occasions upon which
Smiler was dressed up by various well-meaning members
of the community and it was the first of twelve occasions
that Smiler resented the interference and went back, at
the earliest opportunity, to his old, familiar and well-
ventilated draperies.
The next fourteen days were desperate ones for Phil.
From the moment he got back to the smithy, repair work
piled in on him. Reapers and binders gave way in various
parts and had to be put to rights at once, for it was near-
ing the end of the harvest season and the cold weather
was already creeping along. Every horse in the Valley
seemed suddenly to require reshoeing; wagon springs
broke; buggy tires came off or wore out as they had never
done before; morning, noon and night Phil slaved trying
to cope with the emergency. There was no help that he
could call in, and he would not for worlds have sent word
to Sol to end his holiday a moment sooner that might be.
He snatched his meals when and where he could, while
everyone clamoured for the immediate execution of his
requirements.   Finally Phil got up  so early and he The Breakaway
205
worked so late, that he made his bed for the time being
on a bundle of straw covered with sacking, in a corner
beside the forge.
He was young and strong, and he knew his work. He
loved the rush of it and he gloried in the doing of things
that other men would have groaned at. Above all, he
was glad to think that he was now considered of some
value in a work-a-day community.
It did not occur to him that day and night labour,
even for a little time, had a terribly wearing effect on
the physique; that he was losing weight with every
twenty-four hours of it and that his cheeks grew paler
and a little more gaunt every day of that week or so of
extra push.
He chased Jim from the smithy as a worthless time-
waster—whenever that worthy showed face—and Jim,
for the nonce, had to find companionship and entertainment in his world of Penny Dreadful creation and his
Love Knot Untanglements.
One glorious gleam of sunshine burst in on Phil's
world of toil and set his muscles dancing and his heart
singing in merry time to the ring of his hammer on the
anvil. A perfumed note, bearing an invitation to him
from Eileen Pederstone to attend a reception on the sixth
evening of the month following, at her new home on
the hill, was the dainty messenger of joy.
And what cared Phil if Brenchfield should be there?
He had held his own before;—he could do it again.
What counted all this hard work ?—a puff of wind;—he
was going to Eileen Pederstone's. What matter it how
the world wagged?—a tolling bell;—he would dance
again with the dainty, little vision with the merry brown
eyes, the twinkling feet and the ready tongue. Ho!—life
was good; life was great!   Life was heaven itself!
Come on!    JrTill the smithy and the yard with your B
*l
rf
I
i
[
ijfc*
206     The Spoilers of the Valley
horses, and I'll shoe all of them! Block the roads and
the by-ways with your wagons and buggies;—what care
I for toil? Heap your broken reapers and binders a
mountain high, and I'll stand on top of them before nightfall, with my hammer held defiantly to the heavens and
shout "Excelsior, the work is done." The Fairy Princess
has stopped in her procession; she looks my way; she
smiles: her galloping courier brings a perfumed favour;
she beckons me. Ah, surely! what a Paradise, after all,
is this we live in!
In a sweet little world of dreams—in which even a
blacksmith may live at times—Phil battled with his tasks
and overcame them one by one.
And it was little he cared about the week's growth of
beard that sat on his gaunt face, or for the sweat that
ran over his forehead and splashed to his great, bared
chest. Pride did not chide him for hands that were
horny and begrimed, nor for arms that were red and
scarred from the bite of flying sparks.
But it was thus that the lady of his dreams found
him, as she wafted in from a gallop over the ranges, with
a shoe in her hand and leading a horse that wore only
three.
A smile was on her happy face, her cheeks were aglow
and her eyes were dancing in childish delight.
Little wonder then that Phil's heart stopped, then
raced with all the mad fury of a runaway; little wonder
his face grew pale and his eyes gleamed as he moved
back against the wall beside his furnace.
And Eileen's merry smile faded away like the heat of
an Indian Summer's day before the cool of the approaching night. She stared with widening eyes at the figure
before her, for she saw, not the young, sturdy, country
blacksmith, but a picture of the past, a fugitive from The Breakaway
207
the police, a gaunt tired man, spent and almost beaten,
seeking sanctuary.
And on this occasion, she did not take time to consider how much the man before her still craved for
sanctuary.
Her lips parted in fear. Her hand went to her heart
and she stepped slowly backward toward the door.
"Oh,—oh,—oh!" was all she uttered.
She dropped the horseshoe at her feet, and, pressing
her hands to her eyes as if to shut out a sight that was
unwelcome, she ran the remaining distance to the door,
pulled herself into her saddle and rode quickly away. •
She did not come back, as some might have done, to
view the havoc she had wrought. She did not know
even that she had wrought havoc; but three hours later,
faithful, dumb, little Smiler found the man he so much
adored lying on a pile of horse-shoes, breathing scarcely
at all, and strangely huddled.
That was the day that big, happy Sol Hanson came
back to bear his share of the load—and, for the week
that followed, he had to bear all of it, for Phil's overtaxed brain refused to awaken for seventy-two hours and
his overworked body declined to limber up for seventy-
two hours more.
On the morning of Phil's return to the smithy, at a
moment when Sol's back was turned, the little perfumed
note—which had brought the message from Fairyland—
was dropped on the glowing furnace fire and thrust with
an iron deep into the red coals.
With it, Phil fancied he was thrusting the little fairy
dream, and he felt ever so glad of it. But he did not
know, foolish man, that the fires have never been
kindled that can burn dreams from Fairyland; that
nothing can keep them from whispering back, at unexpected moments, and beckoning to the dreamer through TtMMfr
208      The Spoilers of the Valley
the flames; ay, even through the cold, grey, dead ashes,
when these are all that remain of the dancing passion-
fires that have revelled and rioted themselves to
exhaustion and oblivion.
On the evening of the reception at John Royce Pederstone's, Phil failed to land home from work at his usual
time, and, as the hour drew near when they should be
leaving, Jim Langford worried himself not a little, for
he knew that Phil had received an invitation—the same
as he had done—and he had noticed also how happy his
friend had seemed over it. Of course, of the recognition
at the smithy between Eileen and Phil he knew nothing,
and even if he had known he would not have understood,
for, so far, he had not even guessed at Phil's previous
history nor at the connection there was between Phil and
Graham Brenchfield.
Before going up to Pederstone's, Jim called at the
smithy, but found the place closed up for the night. He
hurried along to Sol Hanson's little home, but the lovebirds there could tell him no more than that Phil had
quit work at the accustomed hour, that Smiler was also
a truant; which made it possible that the two had gone
off together on some boyish adventure. There was nothing left for Jim to do after that but to go to Royce
Pederstone's alone, in the hope that Phil would be there
or would show up later.
Everyone in Vernock of any importance was at the
reception, in the company of his wife or sweetheart; but
there was no sign of Phil. And the hours wore quickly
on without his appearing.
Eileen—bright, blushing, buoyant and busy—found
time to corner Jim.
"What has happened to Mr. Ralston? I—I thought he
would be sure to be here." The Breakaway
209
Jim thought her tone was just a little strained and
that her colour went somewhat suddenly.
"I haven't the slightest idea! He didn't show up
to-night at home; yet he has been aching for this little
affair since he received your invitation."
"Oh, I—I hardly think so, Jim. He is riot the man
to ache much over this kind of thing. You don't suppose anything serious could have happened?" she asked
with a show of anxiety.
"I don't. But I'm sure only something serious would
keep him away. However,—what's the good of worry-
ins:!—Phil can look out for himself pretty good."
'Yes,—I daresay!" she said absently, staring at the
dancers as they glided round in the next room.
Jim put his hand on her arm and moved her round
to him.
"Eileen,—what is it that is troubling you? You are
not so terribly interested in Phil as all that,—are you?"
She roused herself.
"Me? Oh dear no! Not any more than I am in
Sol Hanson, in,Mr. Todd, in—in Jim Langford," she
bartered. "Why should I? I know him only in the
most casual of casual ways."
"Have you seen him since he was invited here?" Jim
asked bluntly.
"Ye-yes!—just for a moment in the smithy the day
he took sick. I thought,—oh Jim!—I thought possibly
he might have misunderstood something—something that
happened there at that time,—but—ah well!—anyway,
it doesn't matter now.
"He does not say very much at any time, does he,
Jim?   He's a queer fellow."
"Ay!" said Jim drily, "and you're a queer little fellow yourself, Eileen,-—eh!"
'Do you know anything of him before he came to
H' it
a-
tf
210      The Spoilers of the Valley
Vernock?" she inquired suddenly, with a change of tone.
"Practically nothing! He has kept that a sealed book,
and it is none of my affairs; but I do know that since
he came here he has been the real stuff, and that is good
enough for Jim Langford."
She smiled.
"Oh you men! You stand by your pals to the very
last ditch; while a woman will desert her woman friend
at the first one.
'Never mind! Let us forget Mr. Ralston meantime.
'Did you hear the news, Jim?—the great news!
Daddy,—my own daddy has been offered the portfolio
of Minister of Agriculture on the new Cabinet. He will
be the Honourable John Royce Pederstone. And this
his first session in Parliament too!   Isn't it great?"
"Je—hosephat!" Jim jumped up. "And I never
heard a thing."
"I don't wonder at that, Jim. Dad only got the wire
an hour ago making the definite offer."
"By jingo!—I must go and give him my congratulations. Here's the Mayor looking for you, Eileen. I'll
leave you to him.   I must find your dad."
And while the reception at John Royce Pederstone's
was at its height, Phil Ralston was trudging the hills
alone, coming over the ranges from Lumby, a village
which lay several miles distant, where he had gone
by stage direct from the smithy. He walked in the
melancholy enjoyment of his own thoughts. It did him
good—and he knew it—to get off in this way when
things were not going to his liking. It gave him an
opportunity to review himself in the cold blood of
retrospect, without interference; and it gave him time
quietly to review the conduct of others about him; a
chance to decide whether he was right or wrong in the The Breakaway
211
position he had assumed; a chance to plan his future
course from what had already taken place.
It was a crisp, frosty night, with a deep blue velvet
dome of cloudless sky overhead, with star-diamonds that
flashed and twinkled with ever varying colours, until
a crescent moon, shaped like the whip of an orange, rose
up over the hills to the east, cold, luminous and silvery,
and paled the lesser twinkling lights into insignificance
and ultimate obscurity.
As Phil topped the last hill overlooking Vernock, his
head was high and so were his spirits, for he had made
up his mind that come what might he would pursue his
way calmly and earnestly to the end as he thought fit,
and, if Eileen Pederstone cared to betray his secret, he
would meet that difficulty as he had met others.
He looked down into the town before him, but its
usual fairy-like aspect was absent, for the town fathers
were beginning to get frugal and did not use their electricity on the main streets when the moon was up or
when the snow was lying. Only the smaller lights of the
dwelling houses gave out any signs of life.
He dropped gradually down, then across an orchard
and on to the main highway leading to Vernock.
As he was passing the town jail, his attention was attracted by an unusual commotion there. Voices were
gabbling noisily and quite a crowd was gathered at the
main entrance. He hurried over. The first man he ran
against was Langford, who accosted Phil in a rush of
Doric, which at once informed him that something serious must be wrong.
'Where ha'e ye been, man? I've been pryin' for ye
everywhere."
"Walking!" answered Phil shortly. "What's the matter?" 212      The Spoilers of the Valley
"Matter!    De'il tak' it,—I thocht the whole toon kent
by this time.    I thocht maybe ye were efter them."
"Well, I'll be hanged!" exclaimed Phil as the truth
dawned on him.
«Ay,—ye may weel say it! What did I tell ye ? Didna
I say they'd never face trial? The eight o' them broke
awa' three or four hours ago. It was real nicely planned.
fl| "Ye see the airshaft there! It runs richt into the
top o' the wall and ventilates the prison where the men
sleep. There was ootside collusion, of coorse. Standin'
on a horse, I guess they threw a rope into the airshaft
from the ootside and it slid richt doon to the passageway,
inside. They say one of the prisoners was a good hand
at pickin' locks and that he did them a' wi' a hairpin.
Maybe he did. But they got oot o' their cells anyway,
climbed the rope one at a time, crawled up the airshaft
and out. Just look at that airshaft—it would hold a
half a dozen men at a time nearly. They might as well
have left an open door for them as have that contraption,—no wire protection over the ends, nothing but
hinged lids that anyone can raise at any time."
'And they're gone?" asked Phil helplessly.
'Gone,—ay! good and gone! Like as no' they're 'ower
the border' by this time, like 'a' the blue bonnets' in the
it
tit
song.
"They had horses waitin' for them."
"But,  land sakes,  Jim!—where the deuce were the
jailerb, the police, all this time?" asked Phil.
Jim laughed.
"Where did ye expect them to be ? Chief Palmer was
at Royce Pederstone's reception. Howden—well, it
seems Howden had a date on with one of the Kenora
waitresses. Ryans, the jailer, says everything was quiet.
He happened to open an unused cell, where he kept his
brooms and things, and, when he was inside somebody SbbbbB HaBHsB
The Breakaway
213
slammed the door on him and locked him in. A trump-
up from beginning to ending, and too thin to keep a
draught out even. Phil, it sure would make one's stomach turn; politics, justice, protection, the whole thing
would seem to be a farce from start to finish, and we
are parties to it ourselves, aiding and abetting it; too
weak or else too lazy to issue even a mild protest."
"And what is being done now? Who put you on to
it?" - >
"Oh,—that youngster Smiler, as usual. He knows
everything that goes on. The wee deevil came up to
Pederstone's. They wouldn't let him in, but he shot
through the door and made for me. Brenchfield was
standing by and saw the dumb show, and understood it
quicker than I did, for he was off like a greyhound, and
so was Palmer.
"Before I got down here, he had his own pursuit gang
working and they were away, hot-foot, after the runaways,—perhaps."
"Well,—I guess that ends it," lamented Phil.
"I guess it just does," agreed Jim. "Palmer leading
the chase, and Brenchfield at his ear telling him how to
do it before he set out. Gee, man!—I wish we had been
in it, though. There would have been hell apopping
for somebody, for I'm just in the mood."
"But didn't Brenchfield go, too?"
"Not so far as I know! He was here, got them started
after much pow-powing with Palmer; then someone came
for him and he went off again in a hurry. One of the
gang, no doubt!    Damn them!"
"Oh, oh, oh,—Jim Langford!" interrupted a well-
known, melodious voice at Jim's elbow.
Jim and Phil turned quickly to the speaker.
It was Eileen Pederstone, wrapped up snugly in a
warm, fur coat.    Apparently she was alone. HHHS^bbshsbBHHSsI
214      The Spoilers of the Valley
"Great Scot, lassie!—what are you doing here?"
"Good evening, gentlemen!" she said politely.
Phil returned her salutation, with a very uneasy feeling inside.
"Little ladies should be sleeping in their beds," put in
Jim in a tone of admonition."
"I wouldn't mind if I were now," she returned. "1
just couldn't resist coming down here when I heard of
the breakaway from jail, and so many of the men felt
they had to rush off from our place.
"I coaxed daddy to bring me down. I lost him somewhere in the crowd half an hour ago."
"Ugh-huh!—and what else?" inquired Jim.
"Well, I am positively sick of having my dad for a
member of parliament. I never seem to have him to myself for five minutes on end. -I don't know where he
has gone to, I'm tired and,—and I'm looking for some
big, strong man to see me home up the hill. Would you
mind, Jim?"
"No, indeed, Eileen! I would be glad to do so,—
but unfortunately I have promised Thompson, the Government Agent, to stay here in charge till he gets back.
But Phil here will see you home, and be delighted to do
so.    Eh, Phil?"    §
"Why—why, certainly! Only too pleased!" said Phil,
although he could have punched Jim's head for putting
him in such a predicament. He half hoped that Eileen
Pederstone would find an excuse, but instead, she accepted the proffered service without demur.
They started off immediately. Neither spoke for a
hundred yards or so, for a constraint seemed to be holding both back; the one did not know of anything fitting
to say, and the other had so much to say that she was
at a loss to know how or where to begin.
Womanlike, Eileen was first to break the silence. The Breakaway
215
"I was sorry, Mr. Ralston, that you were too busy to
come to our place to-night—or, I should say, last night,
for it is morning now."
"I wasn't exactly too busy," returned Phil frankly,
"I walked the hills for the good of my health, and I
enjoyed myself splendidly."
"Oh!—I thought—I thought you would be sure to
come, if only for daddy's sake,—unless something serious would prevent you," said the young lady slowly.
It was dark and impossible for either one to see the
other clearly, so they had to be guided by the voice alone.
"Yes,—I guess probably I should have come, but "
Eileen interrupted him.
"Mr. Ralston,—don't let us fence any more. That's
what everybody does nowadays. It isn't honest. Can't
we be honest?"
"Of course we can, Miss Pederstone! I am glad you
put it so plainly. Now, if you had been in my shoes,—
would you have come?"
"Oh, please don't put it that way. We have gone
through too much for that. We know too much of each
other for argument."
"You mean, you know too much about me," corrected
Phil, a little bitterly.
"Yes!—and, believe me or not as you will, I never
thought, I never guessed—until—until I saw you that
afternoon in the smithy, tired-out, begrimed, your hair
awry and your clothes loose about you—I never dreamed
that you—that you—that "
"That I was the escaped convict you befriended!"
Eileen put her hand on his arm.
"Mr. Ralston,—why do you have to be so callous; why
are you so severe with yourself?"
There was a touch of irony in the short laugh Phil gave.
"One can't afford to be otherwise with one's self," ; i
JLi
tf
tti
216      The Spoilers of the Valley
he retorted.    "It is a privilege one is permitted to take."
"It is a privilege you have no right to take and—and
I am so sorry if I hurt your feelings that afternoon. I
did not think for a second how you might misconstrue
my behaviour, although—although I could see it all afterwards. Won't you please understand me ? I was so surprised, so taken aback,—the picture returned to me so
suddenly—that I could not think properly. I just had
to run out into the open and away, in order to pull myself
together."
Phil walked along by her side, up the hill, without answering.
'Won't you believe me?" she pleaded.
'I can never forget that you were kind to me when I
needed it most."
"Then you believe me," she reiterated, "and you will
believe that I shall never, never, never tell anyone your
secret?"
The moon sailed out behind the clouds, and Phil looked
down and saw a pale, earnest face searching his,
"Yes!—I do believe you," he answered. "I could not
do anything else now."
"Thanks ever so much!" Eileen smiled.
And with that smile, the ache that had been at Phil's
heart for some days took wings and flew away to the
Land of Delusion from whence it came.
"May I ask just one little question before we bury
tha_ small bit of the past?" Eileen asked.
II "Yes!—what is it?"
"Does anyone else up here know that you are the same
person who—who was recaptured that night?"
"Yes!—one other knows."
'Jim Langford?"
'No, not Jim—although I think I may have to tell him
some day.    It is awkward at times/'
tf
tf The Breakaway
217
if
tf
tt-
"Your secret would be safe with him."
"I know it would."
"If it isn't Jim who knows, it can be only one other,"
she reasoned, "Mayor Brenchfield."
'Yes!" I J|
'Is he likely to betray you?"
'He would if he felt free to do it;—but as things
stand, he daren't."
"Oh!"
That simple little word which can mean so many
things, was Eileen's answer.
She sighed, then she brightened up again.
"Well!—that has been got rid of, anyway."
On climbing the steepest part of the hill road, she
questioned Phil once more.
"Do you intend making blacksmithing your life's business ?"
"Why?    Isn't it a good calling?"
"Oh, yes! My dad was a blacksmith for the most of
his life. But I think you are intended for something
different, something bigger than that. You have had
more education, for one thing, than my dear old daddy
had." I '    .  t§|
Phil laughed.
"That is quite flattering—but your dad has my education beaten a thousand miles by his experience and
shrewdness. I guess I shall have to keep to blacksmithing until I get some money ahead and until that 'something different' that you speak of, turns up."
"I should dearly love to see you and Jim in partnership. You would make a great team, for you never quarrel." f 1
Is that the secret of successful business partnership?"
I think it is an important one of them."
(<*
tf 2i8      The Spoilers of the Valley
"I daresay you are right," said Phil. "But what are
we to do?"
"What do others do ? Look at the men without brains,
without even business ability, who have made money—-
heaps of it—buying and selling land right in this Val
ley, in this town, and who started in without a dollar
Why,—I could name them by the score;—Fraser &
Somerville; McWilliams; Peter Brixton; Mclntyre & Anderson, and even that good-for-nothing, Rattlesnake
Dalton;—why, the town swarms with them. If they can
do it, what could not two smart men, honest, with up-to-
date business methods, do? Property has been changing
owners hand-over-fist lately and I know it is merely the
beginning. Next year property will move faster than
ever; money for investment is pouring in; the people are
flocking westward; values are rising; the ranches are producing more than ever; prices are improving; irrigation
schemes are afoot;—why, it simply cannot be held back.
Dad, Mayor Brenchfield, Ben Todd,—they are all anticipating it."
Phil almost gasped at Eileen's enthusiasm.
"They are the monied land-owners, the vested interests," he put in.    "It suits them to anticipate."
"And, believe me, they will realise," retorted Eileen.
"Almost thou persuadest me to be a real estate-agent,"
he bantered.
"Well,—one thing I do know; no man ever got very
far ahead working for the other fellow. If a man isn't
worth more to himself than he is to someone else, you
can bet that someone else is not going to employ him."
"You talk as if you had worked it all out, Miss Peder^
stone."
"I have, too!" she went on. "If you are holding down
a job at a fair price, it ought to be a sufficient indication
to you that you should be at it on your own account." ■«■■ *»
■«;; The Breakaway 219
Eileen's ardour set a spark aglow in Phil, but, manlike,
he was prone to ignore it and even to argue against her
conclusions.
"You must pardon me if I have said too much," apologised Eileen at last, "only, only I have tried to speak for
your own good, and Jim's, for there is so much good in
Jim that just wants elbow room;—and besides, knowing what I know, I should like so much to see you make
good." if' '.|
"I haven't any fear at all of the ultimate 'making
good,' I replied Phil. "I have always known that it
would come sooner or later. It has never been merely a
hope with me, it has been an inward knowledge since I
was quite a little chap."
"Why then, that knowledge, backed by your every
endeavour, cannot fail to realise great success for you. It
is fear of failure that kills so many successful ventures before their birth. Without fear—which is at best a cowardly bugaboo, the world would be heaven."
"Well,—heaven is where the devil isn't," said Phil,
so fear must be the very devil himself."
Fear is the only devil I know," asserted Eileen.
I am afraid I have the misfortune to be acquainted
with quite a lot of other little devils," he laughed.
They crossed the road together, along the west-end
of Mayor Brenchfield's local ranch and town house, which
was divided from the new Royce Pederstone property by
the big house and grounds which that eccentric Englishman, Percival DeRue Hannington, had bought for
himself and now occupied in lordly bachelordom.
Several of Brenchfield's stables and out-houses were
situated quite close to the roadway.
In passing, Phil observed a faint light in one of these,
which swung as if in the hands of someone moving about.
tt
it
ti -
I
U  1
\* rfl r
1
11
220      The Spoilers of the Valley
As they continued along, he fancied he heard the sound
of voices, one of which rose and fell as if in anger.
His momentary curiosity caused him to stop conversing and to listen more intently.
One of the voices rose again; there was the distinct
sound of the crack of a whip, followed by a high-pitched
throaty articulation as of an animal in pain. It sounded
so helpless and piteous, that Eileen drew herself up
nervously and shuddered.    She gripped at Phil's arm.
Ever suspicious where Brenchfield or any of his followers were concerned, and quickly roused to anger at
the slightest abuse shown to any of the lower creation,
Phil acted on the impulse of the moment.
"Please stay here for a second, Eil—Miss Pederstone.
I am going over to see what is doing there."
He turned, vaulted the fence, and bending low he crept
cautiously over to the barn. At the window, he rose
slowly upright and peered inside.
The horror of what he saw there remained focussed
on his mind ever afterwards; and always when he turned
to that picture in the album of his memory, his gorge
rose and a murderlust that could hardly be stifled filled
his entire being.
He darted to the door of the barn. It was unfastened.
He flung it open and rushed inside, throwing himself
with mad fury on Brenchfield, who had his coat off and
his sleeves rolled up. He had a long whip in his hand,
poised high in the air, and was about to continue his devilish cruelty.
The Mayor swung round and, before Phil got to him,
the downward stroke of the whip caught the latter across
the head and shoulders. He staggered for the fraction
of a second, then closed with his adversary, catching the
right arm that held the whip and, turning it smartly over
his shoulder in a trick Jim Langford had taught him, BBB     :«m
The Breakaway 221
had Brenchfield groaning with the pain of the strain
on his elbow. He relaxed his fingers and the whip
dropped to the strawed floor.
Phil released his hold, whirled round and shot his right
fist full in the face of his opponent. His left hand followed, sending Brenchfield backward. Recovering
quickly, the Mayor came back at Phil, cursing roundly.
But strong and heavy as he was, he was no match now
for the sturdy, young blacksmith before him. And it
was not very many minutes before he knew it.
They fought around the stable like wild cats. Time
and again Brenchfield got in on Phil, but for every time
he did Phil got in on him half a dozen. The heavier
man's breath began to give out. His face was cut and
bleeding and his vision was becoming more and more
faulty as time went on.
"Skookum!" he cried furiously. "What the hell's the
matter with you ? Brain this fool with the lantern, can't
you?"      §     I     -
But his henchman, Skookum, had already perceived
how the fight was going and his discretion proved much
greater than his valour. He dropped the lantern and
darted out at the door. As good luck would have it, the
lantern fell right-end up and, after wobbling precariously
on its rim, sat upright in the corner, blinked, then continued to shed a fitful light over the scene.
Phil, with anger unabated, darted in on Brenchfield,
smashing at him right and left. The latter tottered.
Phil sprang in and clutched at his throat. Both went
forcibly to the ground, with Brenchfield undermost. Phil
gripped and squeezed and shook with almost ferocious
brutality, until the Mayor's struggles became less and less
violent, and finally ceased. And after that, Phil's grip
did not relax, for that murderlust, which he had read «*Mi«HHBHBaS»EiUMH*?i
222      The Spoilers of the Valley
of and heard of but had never before understood, was
on him.
Had it not been for a quiet, pleading voice and a little
hand that slipped over his and along his fingers, pushing
its way between his and the soft throat of his adversary,
the sunlight would have gone out of his life for all time.
B "Please, Phil,—please!" she cried. "Don't! Phil,—
you would not kill him! You must not,—for my sake,
for my sake!    He isn't worth it.    Phil, Phil,—let him
go!"
And the murderlust—as it had done so often before
at the gentle but all powerful pleading of God's women
—shrank back, dwindled down, then faded into its native oblivion.
Phil's fingers relaxed and he rose slowly, working his
hands convulsively, then pushing his wet hair back from
his forehead, as he looked first down at the gasping figure
of his hated adversary and then in open-eyed amazement
at Eileen.
"Thanks!" he said, very quietly.
"Why did you do that?" she said. "What has he
done?"
For answer, Phil caught her by the arm and turned
her about-face.
A bundle of rags was trussed against the post of one
of the stalls. Phil lifted the lantern from the ground
and held it up.
"Oh!—oh, dear God!" she wailed piteously, running
forward with hands outstretched. "Quick, Phil!—loose
the ropes. The hound!—oh, the miserable, foul hound!"
she continued.
Phil drew a pocket knife and slashed the ropes that
held poor, little, half-unconscious Smiler.
They set the boy gently in a corner; and slowly, in
response to crooning words and loving hands that stroked The Breakaway
223
his dirty, wet brow, he came to; and what a great smile
he had for Eileen as she laid her tear-stained cheek against
the cold, twisted face.
Phil turned as Brenchfield was slowly rising on his
arm.    He went over and picked up the whip.
"What are you going to do?" anxiously cried Eileen.
"Just three!" said Phil, "for the three he gave that
poor, helpless little devil.    Say 'No' and I won't."
It was a challenge.
For answer, Eileen hid her face among Smiler's rags.
And three times, with all the force of a young blacksmith's arm behind it, that whip rose and fell across the
shoulders of Vernock's Mayor, ere it was broken with a
snap and tossed by Phil among the straw.
A little later and Smiler was on his feet, little the
worse.
Eileen led him outside.
Phil and Brenchfield were then alone.
"Damn you, for an interloping jail-breaker! I'll fix
you for this before you're much older," growled the
Mayor.
"Damn all you like," answered Phil, "but one word
of any kind from you of what has happened here to-night
and you are the man who will be trying to break jail.
Keep your mouth shut, and we are square on what has
happened. Say as much as a word and—well,—it's up
to you."
"Oh, you go to hell!" exclaimed Brenchfield. SSSttHB
Pi
CHAPTER XVII
Wayward Langford's Grand Highland Fling
TIM LANGFORD did not make an appearance until
J breakfast time that morning, and then there was dirt
on his clothes, fire in his eyes and venom on his tongue.
"What do you know?" asked Phil as soon as they
were alone.
"Know? What did I tell you, man? Darn them for
the four-flushing hypocrites that they are. An hour ago
Palmer came trotting back quite calmly with his crew.
" 'The bunch got away on us, across the Line,' he
whimpered.
"A put-up game from start to finish! Oh, don't let
me talk about it, Phil. It makes me positively crazy.
For ten cents I'd go and shoot up the town."
Phil tried to get Jim to sit down and eat, but it was
useless, for Jim kept walking Mrs. Clunie's dining-room
like something in a cage.
Knowing the danger of the mood, Phil kept a wise silence and, much as he disliked it, he had to leave his
angry chum and get along to his work.
At the smithy, things were little better. Sol Hanson
had, in a roundabout way, gathered that Smiler had been
abused, and, in some inexplicable manner, had arrived
at the truth, that Brenchfield was responsible for it.
Sol was vowing vengeance in no uncertain tones.
What you know about it, Phil ?"
1 Guess he's just been in a scrap with some other kids,"
answered Phil in an off-hand way.
224
tf
Hi Langford's Grand Highland Fling 225
"Scrap nothing! You just about as dumb as Smiler.
All the same, some day I kill that big blow-hard Brenchfield. Maybe he Mayor; maybe he got all kinds of
money. Dirty son-of-a-gun, that's all! I know him,—
see! Next time he tie Sol Hanson up, by gar!—I finish
him.    He what you call,—all cackle, no egg.,}
Phil laughed.
"All right!—you laugh away. Some day I get drunk,
—good and drunk—just for fun to break his big fat
neck.    You watch me,—see!"
"Forget it, Sol! You can't afford to do that kind of
thing now.    You're a married man, you know."
"Sure I am," he answered proudly. "And my Betty,
she says, 'Go to it!' Anybody hurt Smiler, hurt Betty,
—see! Anybody hurt my Betty,—well,—by gar!—he
only hurt her one time,—that's all."
Truly Phil had his hands full, and when he got back
home he met with furtner disquieting news. Jim Langford, with his horse, and a cheque he had just received
that day in payment for some of his dime novels, was
off on the rampage.
For the three days following, Phil tried hard, but
could find no trace of his chum.
On the fourth day news reached him that Jim was
out on the race-track, a mile from town, racing a band
of Indians for their horses. He hurried over, and got
there just in time to see the last horse added to the lot,
tethered to a fence, that Jim had already won. The
moment Jim set eyes on Phil, he put spurs to his mare,
vaulted the fence right on to the highway, and set off
full tear for Vernock, leaving his live