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Duke of Chimney Butte, The

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<SPAN name="Page_81" id="Page_81">[Pg 81]</SPAN></span> <br /> <hr /> <br /> <h2>CHAPTER VI</h2> <h3>ALLUREMENTS OF GLENDORA</h3> <br /> <p>In a bend of the Little Missouri, where it broadened out and took on the appearance of a consequential stream, Glendora lay, a lonely little village with a gray hill behind it.</p> <p>There was but half a street in Glendora, like a setting for a stage, the railroad in the foreground, the little sun-baked station crouching by it, lonely as the winds which sung by night in the telegraph wires crossing its roof. Here the trains went by with a roar, leaving behind them a cloud of gray dust like a curtain to hide from the eyes of those who strained from their windows to see the little that remained of Glendora, once a place of more consequence than today.</p> <p>Only enough remained of the town to live by its trade. There was enough flour in the store, enough whisky in the saloon; enough stamps in the post office, enough beds in the hotel, to <span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_82" id="Page_82">[Pg 82]</SPAN></span>satisfy with comfort the demands of the far-stretching population of the country contiguous thereto. But if there had risen an extraordinary occasion bringing a demand without notice for a thousand pounds more of flour, a barrel more of whisky, a hundred more stamps or five extra beds, Glendora would have fallen under the burden and collapsed in disgrace.</p> <p>Close by the station there were cattle pens for loading stock, with two long tracks for holding the cars. In autumn fat cattle were driven down out of the hidden valleys to entrain there for market. In those days there was merriment after nightfall in Glendora. At other times it was mainly a quiet place, the shooting that was done on its one-sided street being of a peaceful nature in the way of expressing a feeling for which some plain-witted, drunken cowherder had no words.</p> <p>A good many years before the day that the Duke and Taterleg came riding into Glendora, the town had supported more than one store and saloon. The shells of these dead enterprises stood there still, windows and doors boarded up, as if their owners had stopped <span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_83" id="Page_83">[Pg 83]</SPAN></span>their mouths when they went away to prevent a whisper of the secrets they might tell of the old riotous nights, or of fallen hopes, or dishonest transactions. So they stood now in their melancholy, backs against the gray hill, giving to Glendora the appearance of a town that was more than half dead, and soon must fail and pass utterly away in the gray-blowing clouds of dust.</p> <p>The hotel seemed the brightest and soundest living spot in the place, for it was painted in green, like a watermelon, with a cottonwood tree growing beside the pump at the porch corner. In yellow letters upon the windowpane of the office there appeared the proprietor's name, doubtless the work of some wandering artist who had paid the price of his lodging or his dinner so.</p> <p class="cen"> <span style="margin-left: 1em;">ORSON WOOD, PROP.</span><br /> </p> <p class="noin">said the sign, bedded in curlicues and twisted ornaments, as if a carpenter had planed the letters out of a board, leaving the shavings where they fell. A green rustic bench stood across one end of the long porch, such as is seen in <span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_84" id="Page_84">[Pg 84]</SPAN></span>boarding-houses frequented by railroad men, and chairs with whittled and notched arms before the office door, near the pump.</p> <p>Into this atmosphere there had come, many years before, one of those innocents among men whose misfortune it is to fall before the beguilements of the dishonest; that sort of man whom the promoters of schemes go out to catch in the manner of an old maid trapping flies in a cup of suds. Milton Philbrook was this man. Somebody had sold him forty thousand acres of land in a body for three dollars an acre. It began at the river and ran back to the hills for a matter of twenty miles.</p> <p>Philbrook bought the land on the showing that it was rich in coal deposits. Which was true enough. But he was not geologist enough to know that it was only lignite, and not a coal of commercial value in those times. This truth he came to later, together with the knowledge that his land was worth, at the most extravagant valuation, not more than fifty cents an acre.</p> <p>Finding no market for his brown coal, Philbrook decided to adopt the customs of the <span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_85" id="Page_85">[Pg 85]</SPAN></span>country and turn cattleman. A little inquiry into that business convinced him that the expenses of growing the cattle and the long distance from market absorbed a great bulk of the profits needlessly. He set about with the original plan, therefore, of fencing his forty thousand acres with wire, thus erasing at one bold stroke the cost of hiring men to guard his herds.</p> <p>A fence in the Bad Lands was unknown outside a corral in those days. When carloads of barbed wire and posts began to arrive at Glendora men came riding in for miles to satisfy themselves that the rumors were founded; when Philbrook hired men to build the fence, and operations were begun, murmurs and threats against the unwelcome innovation were heard. Philbrook pushed the work to conclusion, unmindful of the threats, moved now by the intention of founding a great, baronial estate in that bleak land. His further plan of profit and consequence was to establish a packing-house at Glendora, where his herds could be slaughtered and dressed and shipped neat to market, at once assuring him a double profit and reduced expense. But that was one phase of his dream <span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_86" id="Page_86">[Pg 86]</SPAN></span>that never hardened into the reality of machinery and bricks.</p> <p>While the long lines of fence were going up, carpenters were at work building a fit seat for Philbrook's baronial aims. The point he chose for his home site was the top of a bare plateau overlooking the river, the face of it gray, crumbling shale, rising three hundred feet in abrupt slope from the water's edge. At great labor and expense Philbrook built a road between Glendora and this place, and carried water in pipes from the river to irrigate the grass, trees, shrubs and blooming plants alien to that country which he planted to break the bleakness of it and make a setting for his costly home.</p> <p>Here on this jutting shoulder of the cold, unfriendly upland, a house rose which was the wonder of all who beheld it as they rode the wild distances and viewed it from afar. It seemed a mansion to them, its walls gleaming white, its roof green as the hope in its builder's breast. It was a large house, and seemed larger for its prominence against the sky, built in the shape of a T, with wide porches in the angles. And to this place, upon which he had <span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_87" id="Page_87">[Pg 87]</SPAN></span>lavished what remained of his fortune, Philbrook brought his wife and little daughter, as strange to their surroundings as the delicate flowers which pined and drooped in that unfriendly soil.</p> <p>Immediately upon completion of his fences he had imported well-bred cattle and set them grazing within his confines. He set men to riding by night and day a patrol of his long lines of wire, rifles under their thighs, with orders to shoot anybody found cutting the fences in accordance with the many threats to serve them so. Contentions and feuds began, and battles and bloody encounters, which did not cease through many a turbulent year. Philbrook lived in the saddle, for he was a man of high courage and unbending determination, leaving his wife and child in the suspense and solitude of their grand home in which they found no pleasure.</p> <p>The trees and shrubs which Philbrook had planted with such care and attended with such hope, withered on the bleak plateau and died, in spite of the water from the river; the delicate grass with which he sought to beautify and <span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_88" id="Page_88">[Pg 88]</SPAN></span>clothe the harsh gray soil sickened and pined away; the shrubs made a short battle against the bleakness of winter, putting out pale, strange flowers like the wan smile of a woman who stands on the threshold of death, then failed away, and died. Mrs. Philbrook broke under the long strain of never-ending battles, and died the spring that her daughter came eighteen years of age.</p> <p>This girl had grown up in the saddle, a true daughter of her fighting sire. Time and again she had led a patrol of two fence-riders along one side of that sixty square miles of ranch while her father guarded the other. She could handle firearms with speed and accuracy equal to any man on the range, where she had been bearing a man's burden since her early girlhood.</p> <p>All this information pertaining to the history of Milton Philbrook and his adventures in the Bad Lands, Orson Wood, the one-armed landlord at the hotel in Glendora told Lambert on the evening of the travelers' arrival there. The story had come as the result of questions concerning the great white house on the mesa, the two men sitting on the porch in plain view of it, <span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_89" id="Page_89">[Pg 89]</SPAN></span>Taterleg entertaining the daughter of the hotel across the show case in the office.</p> <p>Lambert found the story more interesting than anything he ever had imagined of the Bad Lands. Here was romance looking down on him from the lonely walls of that white house, and heroism of a finer kind than these people appreciated, he was sure.</p> <p>"Is the girl still here?" he inquired.</p> <p>"Yes, she's back now. She's been away to school in Boston for three or four years, comin' back in summer for a little while."</p> <p>"When did she come back?"</p> <p>Lambert felt that his voice was thick as he inquired, disturbed by the eager beating of his heart. Who knows? and perhaps, and all the rest of it came galloping to him with a roar of blood in his ears like the sound of a thousand hoofs. The landlord called over his shoulder to his daughter:</p> <p>"Alta, when did Vesta Philbrook come back?"</p> <p>"Four or five weeks ago," said Alta, with the sound of chewing gum.</p> <p>"Four or five weeks ago," the landlord <span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_90" id="Page_90">[Pg 90]</SPAN></span>repeated, as though Alta spoke a foreign tongue and must be translated.</p> <p>"I see," said Lambert, vaguely, shaking to the tips of his fingers with a kind of buck ague that he never had suffered from before. He was afraid the landlord would notice it, and slewed his chair, getting out his tobacco to cover the fool spell.</p> <p>For that was she, Vesta Philbrook was she, and she was Vesta Philbrook. He knew it as well as he knew that he could count ten. Something had led him there that day; the force that was shaping the course of their two lives to cross again had held him back when he had considered selling his horse and going West a long distance on the train. He grew calmer when he had his cigarette alight. The landlord was talking again.</p> <p>"Funny thing about Vesta comin' home, too," he said, and stopped a little, as if to consider the humor of it. Lambert looked at him with a sudden wrench of the neck.</p> <p>"Which?"</p> <p>"Philbrook's luck held out, it looked like, till she got through her education. All through the <span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_91" id="Page_91">[Pg 91]</SPAN></span>fights he had and the scrapes he run into the last ten years he never got a scratch. Bullets used to hum around that man like bees, and he'd ride through 'em like they <i>was</i> bees, but none of 'em ever notched him. Curious, wasn't it?"</p> <p>"Did somebody get him at last?"</p> <p>"No, he took typhoid fever. He took down about a week or ten days after Vesta got home. He died about a couple of week ago. Vesta had him laid beside her mother up there on the hill. He said they'd never run him out of this country, livin' or dead."</p> <p>Lambert swallowed a dry lump.</p> <p>"Is she running the ranch?"</p> <p>"Like an old soldier, sir. I tell you, I've got a whole lot of admiration for that girl."</p> <p>"She must have her hands full."</p> <p>"Night and day. She's short on fence-riders, and I guess if you boys are lookin' for a job you can land up there with Vesta, all right."</p> <p>Taterleg and the girl came out and sat on the green rustic bench at the farther end of the porch. It complained under them; there was talk and low giggling.</p> <p>"We didn't expect to strike anything this <span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_92" id="Page_92">[Pg 92]</SPAN></span>soon," Lambert said, his active mind leaping ahead to shape new romance like a magician.</p> <p>"You don't look like the kind of boys that'd shy from a job if it jumped out in the road ahead of you."</p> <p>"I'd hate for folks to think we would."</p> <p>"Ain't you the feller they call; the Duke of Chimney Butte?"</p> <p>"They call me that in this country."</p> <p>"Yes; I knew that horse the minute you rode up, though he's changed for the better wonderful since I saw him last, and I knew you from the descriptions I've heard of you. Vesta'd give you a job in a minute, and she'd pay you good money, too. I wouldn't wonder if she didn't put you in as foreman right on the jump, account of the name you've got up here in the Bad Lands."</p> <p>"Not much to my credit in the name, I'm afraid," said Lambert, almost sadly. "Do they still cut her fences and run off her stock?"</p> <p>"Yes; rustlin's got to be stylish around here ag'in, after we thought we had all them gangs rounded up and sent to the pen. I guess some of their time must be up and they're comin' home."</p> <p><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_93" id="Page_93">[Pg 93]</SPAN></span>"It's pretty tough for a single-handed girl."</p> <p>"Yes, it is tough. Them fellers are more than likely some of the old crowd Philbrook used to fight and round up and send over the road. He killed off four or five of them, and the rest of them swore they'd salt him when they'd done their time. Well, he's gone. But they're not above fightin' a girl."</p> <p>"It's a tough job for a woman," said Lambert, looking thoughtfully toward the white house on the mesa.</p> <p>"Ain't it, though?"</p> <p>Lambert thought about it a while, or appeared to be thinking about it, sitting with bent head, smoking silently, looking now and then toward the ranchhouse, the lights of which could be seen. Alta came across the porch presently, Taterleg attending her like a courtier. She dismissed him at the door with an excuse of deferred duties within. He joined his thoughtful partner.</p> <p>"Better go up and see her in the morning," suggested Wood, the landlord.</p> <p>"I think I will, thank you."</p> <p>Wood went in to sell a cowboy a cigar; the <span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_94" id="Page_94">[Pg 94]</SPAN></span>partners started out to have a look at Glendora by moonlight. A little way they walked in silence, the light of the barber-shop falling across the road ahead of them.</p> <p>"See who in the morning, Duke?" Taterleg inquired.</p> <p>"Lady in the white house on the mesa. Her father died a few weeks ago, and left her alone with a big ranch on her hands. Rustlers are runnin' her cattle off, cuttin' her fences&mdash;&mdash;"</p> <p>"Fences?"</p> <p>"Yes, forty thousand acres all fenced in, like Texas."</p> <p>"You don't tell me?"</p> <p>"Needs men, Wood says. I thought maybe&mdash;&mdash;"</p> <p>The Duke didn't finish it; just left it swinging that way, expecting Taterleg to read the rest.</p> <p>"Sure," said Taterleg, taking it right along. "I wouldn't mind stayin' around here a while. Glendora's a nice little place; nicer place than I thought it was."</p> <p>The Duke said nothing. But as they went on toward the barber-shop he grinned.</p> <br /> <br /> <br /><span class='pagenum'>
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