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Going Some

Going Some

Author:Rex Beach


Four cowboys inclined their bodies over the barbed-wire fence which marked the dividing-line between the Centipede Ranch and their own, staring mournfully into a summer night such as only the far southwestern country knows.
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  Four cowboys inclined their bodies over the barbed-wire fencewhich marked the dividing-line between the Centipede Ranch andtheir own, staring mournfully into a summer night such as onlythe far southwestern country knows. Big yellow stars hung thickand low--so low that it seemed they might almost be plucked by anupstretched hand--and a silent air blew across thousands of openmiles of land lying crisp and fragrant under the velvet dark.

  And as the four inclined their bodies, they inclined also theirears, after the strained manner of listeners who feel anguish atwhat they hear. A voice, shrill and human, pierced the night likea needle, then, with a wail of a tortured soul, died away amiddiscordant raspings: the voice of a phonograph. It was their own,or had been until one overconfident day, when the Flying HeartRanch had risked it as a wager in a foot-race with theneighboring Centipede, and their own man had been too slow. As ithad been their pride, it remained their disgrace. Dearly had theyloved, and dearly lost it. It meant something that looked likehonor, and though there were ten thousand thousand phonographs,in all the world there was not one that could take its place.

  The sound ceased, there was an approving distant murmur of men'svoices, and then the song began:

  "Jerusalem, Jerusalem,Lift up your voice and sing--"

  Higher and higher the voice mounted until it reached again itsfirst thin, ear-splitting pitch.

  "Still Bill" Stover stirred uneasily in the darkness. "Why 'n'ell don't they keep her wound up?" he complained. "Gallagher'sgot the soul of a wart-hog. It's criminal the way he massacresthat hymn."

  From a rod farther down the wire fence Willie answered him, in aboy's falsetto:

  "I wonder if he does it to spite me?"

  "He don't know you're here," said Stover.

  The other came out of the gloom, a little stoop-shouldered manwith spectacles.

  "I ain't noways sure," he piped, peering up at his lanky foreman."Why do you reckon he allus lets Mrs. Melby peter out on myfavorite record? He done the same thing last night. It looks likean insult."

  "It's nothing but ignorance," Stover replied. "He don't want notrouble with you. None of 'em do."

  "I'd like to know for certain." The small man seemed torn bydoubt. "If I only knew he done it a-purpose, I'd git him. I bet Icould do it from here."

  Stover's voice was gruff as he commanded: "Forget it! Ain't itbad enough for us fellers to hang around like this every nightwithout advertising our idiocy by a gun-play?"

  "They ain't got no right to that phonograph," Willie averred,darkly.

  "Oh yes, they have; they won it fair and square."

  "Fair and square! Do you mean to say Humpy Joe run that foot-raceon the square?"

  "I never said nothin' like that whatever. I mean we bet it, andwe lost it. Listen! There goes Carara's piece!"

  Out past the corral floated the announcement in a man's metallicsyllables:

  "_The Baggage Coach Ahead,_ as sung by Helena Mora for theEcho Phonograph, of New York and Pa-a-aris!"

  From the dusk to the right of the two listeners now issued softSpanish phrases.

  "_Madre de Dios!_ 'The Baggage Car in Front!' T'adora Mora!God bless 'er!"

  During the rendition of this affecting ballad the two cow-menremained draped uncomfortably over the barbed-wire barrier, lostin rapturous enjoyment. When the last note had died away, Stoverroused himself reluctantly.

  "It's time we was turnin' in." He called softly, "Hey, Mex!"

  "_Si, Senor!_"

  "Come on, you and Cloudy. _Vamos!_ It's ten o'clock."

  He turned his back on the Centipede Ranch that housed thetreasure, and in company with Willie, made his way to the ponies.Two other figures joined them, one humming in a musical baritonethe strains of the song just ended.

  "Cut that out, Mex! They'll hear us," Stover cautioned.

  "_Caramba!_ This t'ing is brek my 'eart," said the Mexican,sadly. "It seem like the Senorita Mora is sing that song to me.Mebbe she knows I'm set out 'ere on cactus an' listen to her. Ah,I love that Senorita ver' much."

  The little man with the glasses began to swear in his highfalsetto. His ear had caught the phonograph operator in anothermusical mistake.

  "That horn-toad let Mrs. Melby die again to-night," said he."It's sure comin' to a runnacaboo between him and me. If somebodydon't kill him pretty soon, he'll wear out that machine before wegit it back."

  "Humph! It don't look like we'd ever get it back," said Stover.

  One of the four sighed audibly, then vaulting into his saddle,went loping away without waiting for his companions.

  "Cloudy's sore because they didn't play _Navajo,"_ saidWillie. "Well, I don't blame 'em none for omittin' that war-dance. It ain't got the class of them other pieces. While it'sdevised to suit the intellect of an Injun, perhaps; it ain't inthe runnin' with _The Holy City,_ which tune is the sweetestand sacredest ever sung."

  Carara paused with a hand upon the neck of his cayuse.

  "Eet is not so fine as _The Baggage Car in Front,"_ hedeclared.

  "It's got it beat a mile!" Willie flashed back, harshly.

  "Here you!" exclaimed Stover, "no arguments. We all have ourfavorites, and it ain't up to no individual to force his likesand dislikes down no other feller's throat." The two men headdressed mounted their broncos stiffly.

  "I repeat," said Willie: "_The Holy City_, as sung by Mrs.Melby, is the swellest tune that ever hit these parts."

  Carara muttered something in Spanish which the others could notunderstand.

  "They're all fine pieces," Stover observed, placatingly, whenfairly out of hearing of the ranch-houses. "You boys have eachgot your preference. Cloudy, bein' an Injun, has got his, and Irise to state that I like that monologue, _Silas on FifthAvenoo_, better than all of 'em, which ain't nothin' ag'instmy judgment nor yours. When Silas says, 'The girl opened hervalise, took our her purse, closed her valise, opened her purse,took out a dime, closed her purse, opened her valise, put in herpurse, closed her valise, give the dime to the conductor, got anickel in change, then opened her valise, took out her purse,closed her valise-'" Stover began to rock in his saddle, thenburst into a loud guffaw, followed by his companions. "Gosh!That's awful funny!"

  "_Si! si!_" acknowledged Carara, his white teeth showingthrough the gloom.

  "An' it's just like a fool woman," tittered Willie. "That's sureone ridic'lous line of talk."

  "Still Bill" wiped his eyes with the back of a bony hand. "I knowthat hull monologue by heart, but I can't never get past thatspot to save my soul. Right there I bog down, complete." Again heburst into wild laughter, followed by his companions. "I don'tsee how folks can be so dam' funny!" he gasped.

  "It's natural to 'em, like warts," said Willie; "they're bornwith it, the same as I was born to shoot straight with eitherhand, and the same as the Mex was born to throw a rope. He don'tknow how he does it, and neither do I. Some folks can say funnythings, some can sing, like Missus Melby; some can runfoot-races, like that Centipede cook--" Carara breathed an eloquentMexican oath.

  "Do you reckon he fixed that race with Humpy Joe?" inquiredStover.

  "Name's Skinner," Willie observed. "It sure sounds bad."

  "I'm sorry Humpy left us so sudden," said Still Bill. "We'd oughtto have questioned him. If we only had proof that the race wascrooked--"

  "You can so gamble it was crooked," the little man averred. "ThemCentipede fellers never done nothin' on the square. They gotHumpy Joe, and fixed it for him to lose so they could get thattalkin'-machine. That's why he pulled out."

  "I'd hate to think it," said the foreman, gloomily; then after amoment, during which the only sound was that of the muffledhoof-beats: "Well, what we goin' to do about it?"

  "Humph! I've laid awake nights figurin' that out. I reckon we'lljust have to git another foot-racer and beat Skinner. He ain'tthe fastest in the world."

  "That takes coin. We're broke."

  "Mebbe Mr. Chapin would lend a helpin' hand."

  "No chance!" said Stover, grimly. "He's sore on foot-racin'. Saysit disturbs us and upsets our equalubrium."

  Carara fetched a deep sigh.

  "It's ver' bad t'ing, Senor. I don' feel no worse w'en mygran'mother die."

  The three men loped onward through the darkness, weighted heavilywith disappointment.

  Affairs at the Flying Heart Ranch were not all to Jack Chapin'sliking. Ever since that memorable foot-race, more than a monthbefore, a gloom had brooded over the place which even thepresence of two Smith College girls, not to mention that of Mr.Fresno, was unable to dissipate. The cowboys moped about likemelancholy shades, and neglected their work to discuss thedisgrace that had fallen upon them. It was a task to get any ofthem out in the morning, several had quit, the rest werequarrelling among themselves, and the bunk-house had already beenthe scene of more than one encounter, altogether too sanguinaryto have originated from such a trivial cause as a foot-race. Itwas not exactly an auspicious atmosphere in which to entertain ahouseful of college boys and girls, all unversed in the ways ofthe West.

  The master of the ranch sought his sister Jean, to tell herfrankly what was on his mind.

  "See here, Sis," he began, "I don't want to cast a cloud overyour little house-party, but I think you'd better keep yourfriends away from my men."

  "Why, what is the matter?" she demanded.

  "Things are at a pretty high tension just now, and the boys havehad two or three rows among themselves. Yesterday Fresno tried to'kid' Willie about _The Holy City;_ said it was written as acoon song, and wasn't sung in good society. If he hadn't been aguest, I guess Willie would have murdered him."

  "Oh, Jack! You won't let Willie murder anybody, not evenBerkeley, while the people are here, will you?" coaxed MissChapin, anxiously.

  "What made you invite Berkeley Fresno, anyhow?" was therejoinder. "This is no gilded novelty to him. He is a Westernman."

  Miss Chapin numbered her reasons sagely. "In the first place--Helen. Then there had to be enough men to go around. Last andbest, he is the most adorable man I ever saw at a house-party.He's an angel at breakfast, sings perfectly beautifully--you knowhe was on the Stanford Glee Club--"

  "Humph!" Jack was unimpressed. "If you roped him for Helen Blaketo brand, why have you sent for Wally Speed?"

  "Well, you see, Berkeley and Helen didn't quite hit it off, andMr. Speed is--a friend of Culver's." Miss Chapin blushedprettily.

  "Oh, I see! I thought myself that this affair had something to dowith you and Culver Covington, but I didn't know it had lapsedinto a sort of matrimonial round-up. Suppose Miss Blake shouldn'tcare for Speed after he gets here?"

  "Oh, but she will! That's where Berkeley Fresno comes in. Whentwo men begin to fight for her, she'll have to begin to form apreference, and I'm sure it will be for Wally Speed. Don't yousee?"

  The brother looked at his sister shrewdly. "It seems to me youlearned a lot at Smith."

  Jean tossed her head. "How absurd! That sort of knowledge isperfectly natural for a girl to have." Then she teased: "But youadmit that my selection of a chaperon was excellent, don't you,Jack?"

  "Mrs. Keap and I are the best of friends," Jack averred, withsupreme dignity. "I'm not in the market, and a man doesn't marrya widow, anyhow. It's too old and experienced a beginning."

  "Nonsense! Roberta Keap is only twenty-three. Why, she hardlyknew her husband, even! It was one of those sudden, impulsiveaffairs that would overwhelm any girl who hadn't seen a man forfour years. And then he enlisted in the Spanish War, and waskilled."

  "Considerate chap!"

  "Roberta, you know, is my best friend, after Helen. Do be nice toher, Jack." Miss Chapin sighed. "It is too bad the otherscouldn't come."

  "Yes, a small house-party has its disadvantages. By-the-way,what's that gold thing on your frock?"

  "It's a medal. Culver sent it to me."


  "Yes, he won the intercollegiate championship again." Miss Chapinproudly extended the emblem on its ribbon.

  "I wish to goodness Covington had been here to take Humpy Joe'splace," said the young cattle-man as he turned it over. "The boysare just brokenhearted over losing that phonograph."

  "I'll get him to run and win it back," Jean offered, easily. Herbrother laughed. "Take my advice, Sis, and don't let Culver mixup in this game! The stakes are too high. I think that Centipedecook is a professional runner, myself, and if our boys werebeaten again--well, you and mother and I would have to move outof New Mexico, that's all. No, we'd better let the memory of thatdefeat die out as quickly as possible. You warn Fresno not tojoke about it any more, and I'll take Mrs. Keap off your hands.She may be a widow, she may even be the chaperon, but I'll do it;I will do it," promised Jack--"for my sister's sake."