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CHAPTER XVI. — Weary Advises.
"I have a short article here which may interest you, Miss Della," said
Dunk, coming out on the porch a few days later with a Butte paper in his
hand. The Little Doctor was swinging leisurely in the hammock.
"It's about the picture," he added, smiling.
"The picture? Oh, let me see!" The Little Doctor stopped the hammock with
her toe and sat up. The wind had tumbled her hair about her face and drawn
extra color to her cheeks, and she looked very sweet, Dunk thought. He
held out the paper, pointing a well-kept finger at the place he wished her
to read. There was a rather large headline, for news was scarce just then
and every little thing was made the most of. The eyes of the Little Doctor
clung greedily to the lines.
"It is reported that 'The Last Stand' has been sold. The painting, which
has been on exhibition in the lobby of the Summit Hotel, has attracted
much attention among art lovers, and many people have viewed it in the
last week. Duncan Gray Whitaker, the well-known mine owner and cattleman,
who brought the picture to Butte, is said to have received an offer which
the artist will probably accept. Mr. Whitaker still declines to give the
artist's name, but whoever he is, he certainly has a brilliant future
before him, and Montana can justly feel proud of him. It has been rumored
that the artist is a woman, but the best critics are slow to believe this,
claiming that the work has been done with a power and boldness undoubtedly
masculine. Those who have seen 'The Last Stand' will not easily forget it,
and the price offered for it is said to be a large one. Mr. Whitaker will
leave the city to-morrow to consult the unknown artist, and promises, upon
his return, to reveal the name of the modest genius who can so infuse a
bit of canvas with palpitating life."
"What do you think of that? Isn't the 'modest genius' rather proud of the
hit she has made? I wish you could have seen the old stockmen stand around
it and tell wolf stories to one another by the hour. The women came and
cried over it—they were so sorry for the cow. Really, Miss Della,
she's the most famous cow in Butte, just now. I had plenty of smaller
offers, but I waited till Senator Blake came home; he's a crank on Western
pictures, and he has a long pocketbook and won't haggle over prices. He
took it, just as I expected, but he insists that the artist's name must be
attached to it; and if you take his offer, he may bring the picture down
himself—for he's quite anxious to meet you. I am to wire your
decision at once."
The Little Doctor watched a pale green "measuring worm" loop its way
hurriedly along the floor of the porch. She was breathing rather quickly
and unevenly, and she seemed to be thinking very fast. When the worm,
reaching the end, doubled out of sight, she started the hammock swinging
and leaned back upon her cushions.
"You may tell him to come—I should like very much to see him," she
said. "And I am very much obliged to you for the service you have
performed." She became very much interested in a magazine, and seemed to
dismiss Dunk and the picture entirely from her mind. Dunk, after waiting
till he was convinced she had no intention of saying more, went off to the
stables to find a messenger for the telegram, telling himself on the way
that Miss Della Whitmore was a very cool young person, and not as grateful
as he would like her to be.
The Little Doctor went immediately to find Chip, but that young man, who
had been just inside the window and had heard every word, was not so
easily found. He was down in the bunk house, thinking things. And when she
did find him, near supper time, he was so utterly unapproachable that her
courage and her patience failed together, and she did not mention the
picture at all.
"Hello, Doctor!" It was a heartening voice, sounding very sweet to the
ears of the Little Doctor just then. She turned eagerly, her arms still
clasping Silver's neck. She had come down to the corral to feed him sugar
and tell him what a very difficult young man his master was, and how he
held her at arm's length with his manner, and yet was nice and friendly
and sunny enough—like the sun shining on an iceberg. But human
sympathy was within reach of her hand, and it was much more satisfying
than the mute sympathy of a horse.
"Weary Willy Davidson, you don't know how glad I am to see you! As the
sayin' is: 'Yuh think of angels an' their opposets ain't fur off.' I AM
glad to see you."
"Dirt and all?" grinned Weary, for he had ridden far in the heat, and was
dust-grimed and travelworn. He pulled the saddle off Glory, also,
travelworn and sweat-grimed, and gave him an affectionate slap of
"I'd chance money you wasn't thinking of me," he said, pointedly. "How is
the old ranch, anyhow? Splinter up, yet?"
"You must think I'm a feeble excuse for a doctor," retorted she. "Of
course he's up. He walks all around the house and yard with a cane; I
promoted him from crutches yesterday."
"Good shot! That was sure a bad foot he had on him, and I didn't know—What's
he been putting in the time at? Making pictures—or love?"
"Pictures," said the Little Doctor, hastily, laying her cheek against
Silver's mane. "I'd like to see him making love!"
"Yuh would?" said Weary, innocently, disregarding the irony of her tone.
"Well, if yuh ever do, I tell yuh right now you'll see the real thing. If
he makes love like he does other things, there won't any female girl dodge
his loop, that's straight. What about the pictures?"
"Well, he drew a picture of J. G. sliding down the kitchen steps, before
he was out of bed. And he made a picture of Dunk, that time Banjo bucked
him off—you saw that happen, I suppose—and it was great! Dunk
was standing on his head in front of his horse, but I can't show you it,
because it blew out of the window and landed at Dunk's feet in the path,
and he picked it up and tore it into little bits. And he doesn't play in
Chip's yard any more."
"He never did," grinned Weary. "Dunk's a great hand to go around shooting
off his mouth about things he's no business to buy into, and old Splinter
let him down on his face once or twice. Chip can sure give a man a hard
fall when he wants to, and not use many words, either. What little he does
say generally counts."
The Little Doctor's memory squirmed assentingly. "It's the tone he uses,"
she said, reflectively. "The way he can say 'yes,' sometimes—"
"You've bumped into that, huh? Bert Rogers lit into him with a tent peg
once, for saying yes at him. They sure was busy for a few minutes. I just
sat in the shade of a wagon wheel and laughed till I near cracked a rib.
When they got through they laughed, too, and they played ten games uh pool
together that night, and got—" Weary caught himself up suddenly.
"Pool ain't any gambling game," he hastened to explain. "It's just
knocking balls into the pockets, innocent like, yuh see."
"Mr. Davidson, there's something I'd like to tell you about. Will you wait
a few minutes more for your supper?"
"Sure," said Weary; wonderingly, and sat down upon the edge of the
The Little Doctor, her arms still around Silver's neck, told him all about
"The Last Stand," and "The Spoils of Victory," and Chip, and Dunk, and
herself. And Weary listened silently, digging little trenches in the hard
soil with the rowels of his spurs, and, knowing Chip as he did,
understanding the matter much better than did the Little Doctor.
"And he doesn't seem to know that I never meant to claim the picture as my
work, and I can't explain while he acts so—oh, you know how he can
act. And Dunk wouldn't have sold the picture if he had known Chip painted
it, and it was wrong, of course, but I did so want Chip to have some real
encouragement so he would make that his life work. YOU know he is fitted
for something better than cow-punching. And now the picture has made a hit
and brought a good price, and he must own it. Dunk will be furious, of
course, but that doesn't matter to me—it's Chip that I can't seem to
Weary smiled queerly down at his spurs.
"It's a cinch you could manage him, easy enough, if you took the right way
to do it," he said, quietly.
"Probably the right way would be too much trouble," said the Little
Doctor, with her chin well up. "Once I get this picture deal settled
satisfactorily, I'm quite willing to resign and let him manage himself.
Senator Blake is coming to-morrow, and I'm so glad you will be here to
"I'd sure like to see yuh through with the deal. Old Blake won't be hard
to throw—I know him, and so does Chip. Didn't he tell yuh about it?"
"Tell me!" flashed the Little Doctor. "I told him Senator Blake was
coming, and that he wanted to buy the picture, and he just made him a
cigarette and said, 'Ye—e-es?' And after that there wasn't any
conversation of any description!"
Weary threw back his head and laughed.
"That sure sounds just like him," he said, and at that minute Chip himself
hobbled into the corral, and the Little Doctor hastened to leave it and
retreat to the house.