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Chip, of the Flying U

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<SPAN name="link2HCH0019" id="link2HCH0019"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> CHAPTER XIX. &mdash; Love Finds Its Hour. </h2> <p> "Bay Denver's broke out uh the little pasture," announced the Old Man, putting his head in at the door of the blacksmith shop where Chip was hammering gayly upon a bent branding iron, for want of a better way to kill time and give vent to his surplus energy. "I wish you'd saddle up an' go after him, Chip, if yuh can. I just seen him takin' down the coulee trail like a scared coyote." </p> <p> "Sure, I'll go. Darn that old villain, he'd jump a fence forty feet high if he took a notion that way." Chip threw down the hammer and reached for his coat. </p> <p> "I guess the fence must be down som'ers. I'll go take a look. Say! Dell ain't come back from Denson's yit. Yuh want t' watch out Denver don't meet her&mdash;he'd scare the liver out uh her." </p> <p> Chip was well aware that the Little Doctor had not returned from Denson's, where she had been summoned to attend one of the children, who had run a rusty nail into her foot. She had gone alone, for Dr. Cecil was learning to make bread, and had refused to budge from the kitchen till her first batch was safely baked. </p> <p> Chip limped hurriedly to the corral, and two minutes later was clattering down the coulee upon Blazes, after the runaway. </p> <p> Denver was a beautiful bay stallion, the pride and terror of the ranch. He was noted for his speed and his vindictive hatred of the more plebeian horses, scarcely one of which but had, at some time, felt his teeth in their flesh&mdash;and he was hated and feared by them all. </p> <p> He stopped at the place where the trail forked, tossed his crinkly mane triumphantly and looked back. Freedom was sweet to him&mdash;sweet as it was rare. His world was a roomy box stall with a small, high corral adjoining it for exercise, with an occasional day in the little pasture as a great treat. Two miles was a long, long way from home, it seemed to him. He watched the hill behind a moment, threw up his head and trotted off up the trail to Denson's. </p> <p> Chip, galloping madly, caught a glimpse of the fugitive a mile away, set his teeth together, and swung Blazes sharply off the trail into a bypath which intersected the road further on. He hoped the Little Doctor was safe at Denson's, but at that very moment he saw her ride slowly over a distant ridge. </p> <p> Now there was a race; Denver, cantering gleefully down the trail, Chip spurring desperately across the prairie. </p> <p> The Little Doctor had disappeared into a hollow with Concho pacing slowly, half asleep, the reins drooping low on his neck. The Little Doctor loved to dream along the road, and Concho had learned to do likewise&mdash;and to enjoy it very much. </p> <p> At the crest of the next hill she looked up, saw herself the apex of a rapidly shortening triangle, and grasped instantly the situation; she had peeped admiringly and fearsomely between the stout rails of the little, round corral too often not to know Denver when she saw him, and in a panic turned from the trail toward Chip. Concho was rudely awakened by a stinging blow from her whip&mdash;a blow which filled him with astonishment and reproach. He laid back his ears and galloped angrily&mdash;not in the path&mdash;the Little Doctor was too frightened for that&mdash;but straight as a hawk would fly. Denver, marking Concho for his prey and not to be easily cheated, turned and followed. </p> <p> Chip swore inwardly and kept straight ahead, leaving the path himself to do so. He knew a deep washout lay now between himself and the Little Doctor, and his only hope was to get within speaking distance before she was overtaken. </p> <p> Concho fled to the very brink of the washout and stopped so suddenly that his forefeet plowed a furrow in the grass, and the Little Doctor came near going clean over his head. She recovered her balance, and cast a frightened glance over her shoulder; Denver was rushing down upon them like an express train. </p> <p> "Get off&mdash;your&mdash;H-O-R-S-E!" shouted Chip, making a trumpet of his hands. "Fight Denver off&mdash;with&mdash;your whip!" </p> <p> The last command the Little Doctor did not hear distinctly. The first she made haste to obey. Throwing herself from the saddle, she slid precipitately into the washout just as Denver thundered up, snorting a challenge. Concho, scared out of his wits, turned and tore off down the washout, whipped around the end of it and made for home, his enemy at his heels and Chip after the two of them, leaning low over his horse as Blazes, catching the excitement and urged by the spurs, ran like an antelope. </p> <p> The Little Doctor, climbing the steep bank to level ground, gazed after the fleeing group with consternation. Here was she a long four miles from home&mdash;five, if she followed the windings of the trail&mdash;and it looked very much as if her two feet must take her there. The prospect was not an enlivening one, but she started off across the prairie very philosophically at first, very dejectedly later on, and very angrily at last. The sun was scorching, and it was dinner time, and she was hungry, and hot, and tired, and&mdash;"mad." She did not bless her rescuer; she heaped maledictions upon his head&mdash;mild ones at first, but growing perceptibly more forcible and less genteel as the way grew rougher, and her feet grew wearier, and her stomach emptier. Then, as if her troubles were all to come in a lump&mdash;as they have a way of doing&mdash;she stepped squarely into a bunch of "pincushion" cactus. </p> <p> "I just HATE Montana!" she burst out, vehemently, blinking back some tears. "I don't care if Cecil did just come day before yesterday&mdash;I shall pack up and go back home. She can stay if she wants to, but I won't live here another day. I hate Chip Bennett, too, and I'll tell him so if I ever get home. I don't see what J. G.'s thinking of, to live in such a God-forgotten hole, where there's nothing but miles upon miles of cactuses&mdash;" The downfall of Eastern up-bringing! To deliberately say "cactuses"&mdash;but the provocation was great, I admit. If any man doubts, let him tread thin-shod upon a healthy little "pincushion" and be convinced. I think he will confess that "cactuses" is an exceedingly conservative epithet, and all too mild for the occasion. </p> <p> Half an hour later, Chip, leading Concho by the bridle rein, rode over the brow of a hill and came suddenly upon the Little Doctor, sitting disconsolately upon a rock. She had one shoe off, and was striving petulantly to extract a cactus thorn from the leather with a hat pin. Chip rode close and stopped, regarding her with satisfaction from the saddle. It was the first time he had succeeded in finding the Little Doctor alone since the arrival of Dr. Cecil Granthum&mdash;God bless her! </p> <p> "Hello! What you trying to do?" </p> <p> No answer. The Little Doctor refused even to lift her lashes, which were wet and clung together in little groups of two or three. Chip also observed that there were suggestive streaks upon her cheeks&mdash;and not a sign of a dimple anywhere. He lifted one leg over the horn of the saddle to ease his ankle, which still pained him a little after a ride, and watched her a moment. </p> <p> "What's the matter, Doctor? Step on a cactus?" </p> <p> "Oh, no," snapped the Doctor in a tone to take one's head off, "I didn't step on a cactus&mdash;I just walked all over acres and acres of them!" </p> <p> There was a suspicious gurgle from somewhere. The Little Doctor looked up. </p> <p> "Don't hesitate to laugh, Mr. Bennett, if you happen to feel that way!" </p> <p> Mr. Bennett evidently felt that way. He rocked in the saddle, and shouted with laughter. The Little Doctor stood this for as much as a minute. </p> <p> "Oh, no doubt it's very funny to set me afoot away off from everywhere&mdash;" Her voice quivered and broke from self-pity; her head bent lower over her shoe. </p> <p> Chip made haste to stifle his mirth, in fear that she was going to cry. He couldn't have endured that. He reached for his tobacco and began to make a cigarette. </p> <p> "I didn't set you afoot," he said. "That was a bad break you made yourself. Why didn't you do as I told you&mdash;hang to the bridle and fight Denver off with your whip? You had one." </p> <p> "Yes&mdash;and let him gnaw me!" </p> <p> Chip gurgled again, and drew the tobacco sack shut with his teeth. "He wouldn't 'gnaw' you&mdash;he wouldn't have come near you. He's whip trained. And I'd have been there myself in another minute." </p> <p> "I didn't want you there! And I don't pretend to be a horse-trainer, Mr. Bennett. There's several things about your old ranch life that I don't know&mdash;and don't want to know! I'm going back to Ohio to-morrow, so there!" </p> <p> "Yes?" He drew a match sharply along his stamped saddle-skirt and applied it to the cigarette, pinched out the blaze with extreme care, and tossed the match-end facetiously against Concho's nose. He did not seem particularly alarmed at her threat&mdash;or, perhaps, he did not care. The Little Doctor prodded savagely at her shoe, too angry to see the thorn, and Chip drove another nail into his coffin with apparent relish, and watched her. After a little, he slid to the ground and limped over to her. </p> <p> "Here, give me that shoe; you'll have it all picked to pieces and not get the thorn, either. Where is it?" </p> <p> "IT?" sniffed the Little Doctor, surrendering the shoe with hypocritical reluctance. "It? There's a dozen, at the very least!" </p> <p> Chip emptied his lungs of smoke, and turned the shoe in his hands. </p> <p> "Oh, I guess not&mdash;there isn't room in this little bit of leather for a dozen. Two would be crowded." </p> <p> "I detest flattery above all things!" But, being a woman, the brow of the Little Doctor cleared perceptibly. </p> <p> "Yes? You're just like me in that respect. I love the truth." </p> <p> Thinking of Dr. Cecil, the Little Doctor grew guiltily red. But she had never said Cecil was a man, she reflected, with what comfort she could. The boys, like Dunk, had simply made the mistake of taking too much for granted. </p> <p> Chip opened the smallest blade of his knife deliberately, sat down upon a neighboring rock and finished his cigarette, still turning the shoe reflectively&mdash;and caressingly&mdash;in his hand. </p> <p> "I'd smile to see the Countess try to put that shoe on," he remarked, holding the cigarette in some mysterious manner on his lip. "I'll bet she couldn't get one toe in it." </p> <p> "I don't see that it matters, whether she could or not," snapped the Little Doctor. "For goodness sake, hurry!" </p> <p> "You're pretty mad, aren't you?" inquired he, shoving his hat back off his forehead, and looking at her as though he enjoyed doing so. </p> <p> "Do I look mad?" asked she, tartly. </p> <p> "I'd tell a man you do!" </p> <p> "Well&mdash;my appearance doesn't half express the state of my mind!" </p> <p> "Your mind must be in an awful state." </p> <p> "It is." </p> <p> Two minutes passed silently. </p> <p> "Dr. Cecil's bread is done&mdash;she gave me a slice as big as your hat, with butter and jelly on it. It was out of sight." </p> <p> The Little Doctor groaned, and rallied. </p> <p> "Butter and jelly on my hat, did you say?" </p> <p> "Not on your hat&mdash;on the bread. I ate it coming back down the coulee&mdash;and I sure had my hands full, leading Concho, too." </p> <p> The Little Doctor held back the question trembling on her hungry, parched lips as long as she could, but it would come. </p> <p> "Was it good?" </p> <p> "I'd tell a man!" said Chip, briefly and eloquently. </p> <p> The Little Doctor sighed. </p> <p> "Dr. Cecil Granthum's a mighty good fellow&mdash;I'm stuck on him, myself&mdash;and if I haven't got the symptoms sized up wrong, the Old Man's GOING to be." </p> <p> "That's all the good it will do him. Cecil and I are going somewhere and practice medicine together&mdash;and we aren't either of us going to get married, ever!" </p> <p> "Have you got the papers for that?" grinned Chip, utterly unmoved. </p> <p> "I have my license," said the Little Doctor, coldly. </p> <p> "You're ahead of me there, for I haven't&mdash;yet. I can soon get one, though." </p> <p> "I wish to goodness you'd hurry up with that shoe! I'm half starved." </p> <p> "Well, show me a dimple and you can have it. My, you are cranky!" </p> <p> The Little Doctor showed him two, and Chip laid the shoe in her lap&mdash;after he had surprised himself, and the doctor, by planting a daring little kiss upon the toe. </p> <p> "The idea!" exclaimed she, with a feeble show of indignation, and slipped her foot hurriedly into its orthodox covering. Feeling his inscrutable, hazel eyes upon her, she blushed uncomfortably and fumbled the laces. </p> <p> "You better let me lace that shoe&mdash;you won't have it done in a thousand years, at that gait." </p> <p> "If you're in a hurry," said she, without looking at him, "you can ride on ahead. It would please me better if you did." </p> <p> "Yes? You've been pleased all summer&mdash;at my expense. I'm going to please myself, this time. It's my deal, Little Doctor. Do you want to know what's trumps?" </p> <p> "No, I don't!" Still without looking at him, she tied her shoelaces with an impatient twitch that came near breaking them, and walked haughtily to where Concho stood dutifully waiting. With an impulsive movement, she threw her arms around his neck, and hid her hot face against his scanty mane. </p> <p> A pair of arms clad in pink-and-white striped sleeves went suddenly about her. Her clasp on Concho loosened and she threw back her head, startled&mdash;to be still more startled at the touch of lips that were curved and thin and masterful. The arms whirled her about and held her against a heart which her trained senses knew at once was beating very irregularly. </p> <p> "You&mdash;you ought to be ashamed!" she asserted feebly, at last. </p> <p> "I'm not, though." The arms tightened their clasp a little. </p> <p> "You&mdash;you don't SEEM to be," admitted the Little Doctor, meekly. </p> <p> For answer he kissed her hungrily&mdash;not once, but many times. </p> <p> "Aren't you going to let me go?" she demanded, afterward, but very faintly. </p> <p> "No," said he, boldly. "I'm going to keep you&mdash;always." There was conviction in the tone. </p> <p> She stood silent a minute, listening to his heart and her own, and digesting this bit of news. </p> <p> "Are you&mdash;quite sure about&mdash;that?" she asked at length. </p> <p> "I'd tell a man! Unless"&mdash;he held her off and looked at her&mdash;"you don't like me. But you do, don't you?" His eyes were searching her face. </p> <p> The Little Doctor struggled to release herself from the arms which held her unyieldingly and tenderly. Failing this, she raised her eyes to the white silk handkerchief knotted around his throat; to the chin; to the lips, wistful with their well defined curve; to the eyes, where they lingered shyly a moment, and then looked away to the horizon. </p> <p> "Don't you like me? Say!" He gave her a gentle shake. </p> <p> "Ye&mdash;er-it doesn't seem to matter, whether I do or not," she retorted with growing spirit&mdash;witness the dimple dodging into her cheek. </p> <p> "Yes, it does&mdash;it matters a whole heap. You've dealt me misery ever since I first set eyes on you&mdash;and I believe, on my soul, you liked to watch me squirm! But you do like me, don't you?" </p> <p> "I&mdash;I'd tell a man!" said she, and immediately hid a very red face from sight of him. </p> <p> Concho turned his head and gazed wonderingly upon the two. What amazed him was to see Chip kissing his mistress again and again, and to hear the idolatrous tone in which he was saying "MY Little Doctor!" </p> <p> THE END. </p> <div style="height: 6em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <pre xml:space="preserve"> End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Chip, of the Flying U, by B. M. Bower
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