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Chip, of the Flying U

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<SPAN name="link2HCH0004" id="link2HCH0004"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> CHAPTER IV. &mdash; An Ideal Picture. </h2> <p> "I guess I'll go down to Denson's to-day," said J. G. at the breakfast table one morning. "Maybe we can get that grass widow to come and keep house for us." </p> <p> "I don't want any old grass widow to keep house," protested Della. "I'm getting along well enough, so long as Patsy bakes the bread, and meat, and cake, and stuff. It's just fun to keep house. The only trouble is, there isn't half enough to keep me busy. I'm going to get a license to practice medicine, so if there's any sickness around I can be of some use. You say it's fifty miles to the nearest doctor. But that needn't make a grass widow necessary. I can keep house&mdash;it looks better than when I came, and you know it." Which remark would have hurt the feelings of several well-meaning cow-punchers, had they overheard it. </p> <p> "Oh, I ain't finding fault with your housekeeping&mdash;you do pretty well for a green hand. But Patsy'll have to go with the round-up when it starts, and what men I keep on the ranch will have to eat with us. That's the way I've been used to fixing things; I was never so good I couldn't eat at the same table with my men; if they wasn't fit for my company I fired 'em and got fellows that was. I've had this bunch a good long while, now. You can do all right with just me, but you couldn't cook for two or three men; you can't cook good enough, even if it wasn't too much work." J. G. had a blunt way of stating disagreeable facts, occasionally. </p> <p> "Very well, get your grass widow by all means," retorted she with much wasted dignity. </p> <p> "She's a swell cook, and a fine housekeeper, and shell keep yuh from getting lonesome. She's good company, the Countess is." He grinned when he said it "I'll have Chip ketch up the creams, and you get ready and go along with us. It'll give you a chance to size up the kind uh neighbors yuh got." </p> <p> There was real pleasure in driving swiftly over the prairie land, through the sweet, spring sunshine, and Miss Whitmore tingled with enthusiasm till they drove headlong into a deep coulee which sheltered the Denson family. </p> <p> "This road is positively dangerous!" she exclaimed when they reached a particularly steep place and Chip threw all his weight upon the brake. </p> <p> "We'll get the Countess in beside yuh, coming back, and then yuh won't rattle around in the seat so much. She's good and solid&mdash;just hang onto her and you'll be all right," said J. G. </p> <p> "If I don't like her looks&mdash;and I know I won't&mdash;I'll get into the front seat and you can hang onto her yourself, Mr. J. G. Whitmore." </p> <p> Chip, who had been silent till now, glanced briefly over his shoulder. </p> <p> "It's a cinch you'll take the front seat," he remarked, laconically. </p> <p> "J. G., if you hire a woman like that&mdash;" </p> <p> "Like what? Doggone it, it takes a woman to jump at conclusions! The Countess is all right. She talks some&mdash;" </p> <p> "I'd tell a man she does!" broke in Chip, tersely. </p> <p> "Well, show me the woman that don't! Don't you be bluffed so easy, Dell. I never seen the woman yet that Chip had any time for. The Countess is all right, and she certainly can cook! I admit she talks consider'ble&mdash;" </p> <p> Chip laughed grimly, and the Old Man subsided. </p> <p> At the house a small, ginger-whiskered man came down to the gate to greet them. </p> <p> "Why, how&mdash;de-do! I couldn't make out who 't was comin', but Mary, she up an' rek'nized the horses. Git right out an' come on in! We've had our dinner, but I guess the wimmin folks can scare ye up a bite uh suthin'. This yer sister? We heard she was up t' your place. She the one that set one uh your horse's leg? Bill, he was tellin' about it. I dunno as wimmin horse doctors is very common, but I dunno why not. I get a horse with somethin' the matter of his foot, and I dunno what. I'd like t' have ye take a look at it, fore ye go. 'Course, I expect t' pay ye." </p> <p> The Old Man winked appreciatively at Chip before he came humanely to the rescue and explained that his sister was not a horse doctor, and Mr. Denson, looking very disappointed, reiterated his invitation to enter. </p> <p> Mrs. Denson, a large woman who narrowly escaped being ginger-whiskered like her husband, beamed upon them from the doorway. </p> <p> "Come right on in! Louise, here's comp'ny! The house is all tore up&mdash;we been tryin' t' clean house a little. Lay off yer things an' I'll git yuh some dinner right away. I'm awful glad yuh come over&mdash;I do hate t' see folks stand on cer'mony out here where neighbors is so skurce. I guess yuh think we ain't been very neighborly, but we been tryin' t' clean house, an' me an' Louise ain't had a minute we could dast call our own, er we'd a been over t' seen yuh before now. Yuh must git awful lonesome, comin' right out from the East where neighbors is thick. Do lay off yer things!" </p> <p> Della looked appealingly at J. G., who again came to the rescue. Somehow he made himself heard long enough to explain their errand, and to emphasize the fact that they were in a great hurry, and had eaten dinner before they started from home. In his sister's opinion he made one exceedingly rash statement. He said that he wished to hire Mrs. Denson's sister for the summer. Mrs. Denson immediately sent a shrill call for Louise. </p> <p> Then appeared the Countess, tall, gaunt and muscular, with sallow skin and a nervous manner. </p> <p> "The front seat or walk!" declared Miss Whitmore, mentally, after a brief scrutiny and began storing up a scathing rebuke for J. G. </p> <p> "Louise, this is Miss Whitmore," began Mrs. Denson, cheerfully, fortified by a fresh lungful of air. "They're after yuh t' go an' keep house for 'em, an' I guess yuh better go, seein' we got the house cleaned all but whitewashin' the cellar an' milk room an' kals'minin' the upstairs, an' I'll make Bill do that, an' 't won't hurt him a mite. They'll give yuh twenty-five dollars a month an' keep yuh all summer, an' as much longer as his sister stays. I guess yuh might as well go, fer they can't git anybody else that'll keep things up in shape an' be comp'ny fer his sister, an' I b'lieve in helpin' a neighbor out when yuh can. You go right an' pack up yer trunk, an' don't worry about me&mdash;I'll git along somehow, now the house-cleanin's most done." </p> <p> Louise had been talking also, but her sister seemed to have a stronger pair of lungs, for her voice drowned that of the Countess, who retreated to "pack up." </p> <p> The minutes dragged by, to the tune of several chapters of family history as voluminously interpreted by Mrs. Denson. Miss Whitmore had always boasted the best-behaved of nerves, but this day she developed a genuine case of "fidgets." Once she saw Chip's face turned inquiringly toward the window, and telegraphed her state of mind&mdash;while Mrs. Denson's back was turned&mdash;so eloquently that Chip was swept at once into sympathetic good-fellowship. He arranged the cushion on the front seat significantly, and was rewarded by an emphatic, though furtive, nod and smile. Whereupon he leaned comfortably back, rolled a cigarette and smoked contentedly, at peace with himself and the world&mdash;though he did not in the least know why. </p> <p> "An' as I told Louise, folks has got t' put up with things an' not be huntin' trouble with a club all the time, if they expect t' git any comfort out uh this life. We ain't had the best uh luck, seems t' me, but we always git along somehow, an' we ain't had no sickness except when&mdash;" </p> <p> A confused uproar arose in the room above them, followed, immediately by a humpety bump and a crash as a small, pink object burst open a door and rolled precipitately into their midst. It proved to be one of the little Densons, who kicked feebly with both feet and then lay still. </p> <p> "Mercy upon us! Ellen, who pushed Sary down them stairs? She's kilt!" </p> <p> Della sprang up and lifted the child in her arms, passing her hand quickly over the head and plump body. </p> <p> "Bring a little cold water, Mrs. Denson. She's only stunned, I think." </p> <p> "Well, it does beat all how handy you go t' work. Anybody c'd see t' you know your business. I'm awful glad you was here&mdash;there, darlin', don't cry&mdash;Ellen, an' Josephine, an' Sybilly, an' Margreet, you come down here t' me!" </p> <p> The quartet, snuffling and reluctant, was dragged ignominiously to the middle of the floor and there confessed, 'mid tears and much recrimination, that they had been peeping down at the "comp'ny" through various knot-holes in the chamber floor; that, as Sary's knot-hole was next the wall, her range of vision was restricted to the thin spot upon the crown of J. G.'s head, and the back of his neck. Sary longed for sight of the woman horse doctor, and when she essayed to crowd in and usurp Ellen's point of vantage, there ensued a war of extermination which ended in the literal downfall of Sary. </p> <p> By the time this checked-apron court of inquiry adjourned, Louise appeared and said she believed she was ready, and Miss Whitmore escaped from the house far in advance of the others&mdash;and such were Chip's telepathic powers that he sprang down voluntarily and assisted her to the front seat without a word being said by either. </p> <p> Followed a week of dullness at the ranch, with the Countess scrubbing and dusting and cleaning from morning till night. The Little Doctor, as the bunk house had christened her, was away attending the State Medical Examination at Helena. </p> <p> "Gee-whiz!" sighed Cal on Sunday afternoon. "It seems mighty queer without the Little Doctor around here, sassing the Old Man and putting the hull bunch of us on the fence about once a day. If it wasn't for Len Adams&mdash;" </p> <p> "It wouldn't do you any good to throw a nasty loop at the Little Doctor," broke in Weary, "'cause she's spoken for, by all signs and tokens. There's some fellow back East got a long rope on her." </p> <p> "You got the papers for that?" jeered Cal. "The Little Doctor don't act the way I'd want my girl t' act, supposin' I was some thousand or fifteen hundred miles off her range. She ain't doing no pining, I tell yuh those." </p> <p> "She's doing a lot of writing, though. I'll bet money, if we called the roll right here, you'd see there's been a letter a week hittin' the trail to one Dr. Cecil Granthum, Gilroy, Ohio." </p> <p> "That's what," agreed Jack Bates. "I packed one last week, myself." </p> <p> "I done worse than that," said Weary, blandly. "I up and fired a shot at her, after the second one she handed me. I says, as innocent: 'I s'pose, if I lost this, there'd be a fellow out on the next train with blood in his eye and a six-gun in both hands, demanding explanations'&mdash;and she flashed them dimples on me and twinkled them big, gray eyes of hers, and says: 'It's up to you to carry it safe, then,' or words to that effect. I took notice she didn't deny but what he would." </p> <p> "Two doctors in one family&mdash;gee whiz!" mused Cal. "If I hadn't got the only girl God ever made right, I'd give one Dr. Cecil Granthum, of Gilroy, Ohio, a run for his money, I tell yuh those. I'd impress it upon him that a man's taking long chances when he stands and lets his best girl stampede out here among us cow-punchers for a change uh grass. That fellow needs looking after; he ain't finished his education. Jacky, you ain't got a female girl yanking your heart around, sail in and show us what yuh can do in that line." </p> <p> "Nit," said Jack Bates, briefly. "My heart's doing business at the old stand and doing it satisfactory and proper. I don't want to set it to bucking&mdash;over a girl that wouldn't have me at any price. Let Slim. The Little Doctor's half stuck on him, anyhow." </p> <p> While the boys amused themselves in serious debate with Slim, Chip put away his magazine and went down to visit Silver in the box stall. He was glad they had not attempted to draw him into the banter&mdash;they had never once thought to do so, probably, though he had been thrown into the company of the Little Doctor more than any of the others, for several good reasons. He had broken the creams to harness, and always drove them, for the Old Man found them more than he cared to tackle. And there was Silver, with frequent discussions over his progress toward recovery and some argument over his treatment&mdash;for Chip had certain ideas of his own concerning horses, and was not backward about expressing them upon occasion. </p> <p> That the Little Doctor should write frequent letters to a man in the East did not concern him&mdash;why should it? Still, a fellow without a home and without some woman who cares for him, cannot escape having his loneliness thrust upon him at times. He wondered why he should care. Surely, ten years of living his life alone ought to kill that latent homesickness which used to hold him awake at nights. Sometimes even of late years, when he stood guard over the cattle at night, and got to thinking&mdash;oh, it was hell to be all alone in the world! </p> <p> There were Cal and Weary, they had girls who loved them&mdash;and they were sure welcome to them. And Jack Bates and Happy Jack had sisters and mothers&mdash;and even Slim had an old maid aunt who always knit him a red and green pair of wristlets for Christmas. Chip, smoothing mechanically the shimmery, white mane of his pet, thought he might be contented if he had even an old maid aunt&mdash;but he would see that she made his wristlets of some other color than those bestowed every year upon Slim. </p> <p> As for the Little Doctor, it would be something strange if she had gone through life without having some fellow in love with her. Probably, if the truth was known, there had been more than Dr. Cecil Granthum&mdash;bah, what a sickening name! Cecil! It might as well be Adolphus or Regie or&mdash;what does a man want to pack around a name like that for? Probably he was the kind of man that the name sounded like; a dude with pink cheeks. </p> <p> Chip knew just how he looked. Inspiration suddenly seizing upon him, he sat down upon the manger, drew his memorandum book out of his inner coat pocket, carefully sharpened a bit of lead pencil which he found in another pocket, tore a leaf from the book, and, with Silver looking over his shoulder, drew a graphic, ideal picture of Dr. Cecil Granthum. </p> <p>
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