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Dorothy on a Ranch By Evelyn Raymond Characters: 13573

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

They were both so excited that at first they couldn't talk, but could only stare at each other in speechless delight. Jim was trembling, for he was still weak from his long illness, and he steadied himself by attentions to Zaraza and by bidding José in Spanish to bring the stranger a drink.

Dorothy dropped down upon the stones where they had been sitting and watched the child.

He did not now dip water from the tank at the cabin door but from a nearby spring, which Jim had found and cleared of rubbish. The spring had always been there; but it had been easier for lazy Alaric, the herder, to fill the barrel now and then-or let the rain do it for him-and use from that till the supply failed. He did not yet understand how the stagnant water had had anything to do with his own fever, that had followed on Jim's partial recovery.

Children are quick witted. José came running back with the dipper, after having carefully rinsed and filled it at the spring, as Jim had taught him. His eyes were bright and there was a winning smile on his chubby face, now clean. He recognized Dorothy as the girl to whom he had given his pet lamb and promptly demanded:

"El cordero? Donde?"

Dorothy stared at him, then put her hands on each side his chubby face and kissed him. The child screamed with delight and repeated his question. At which the girl also laughed and turned to Jim, asking:

"What does he say? What does he want?"

"I reckon he wants his lamb. He's asking you where it is," answered the lad, gladly using this chance to air his own new knowledge.

That broke the spell of not knowing how to begin and their loosened tongues wagged fast enough after that. Dorothy forgot all about her lost company and seizing a piece of the coarse bread her old friend had been eating devoured it as if it had been a great delicacy.

Jim laughed, glad to see her so hungry and so eager, and obeyed her command:

"Now begin just as we used to do at home at Deerhurst. 'I went from here' and don't you miss a single thing until you come to 'and here I am.' I'll help you start. You went from San Leon the very night you got there. Now why?"

"I shall never know why, girlie. I was crazy with fever, I guess. I hadn't been real well before I came west and that was one reason Dr. Sterling made me come. He thought the change would cure me. It didn't. I must have got out the window but I don't really know, only I half remember that. Then the next thing I did know I was in Alaric's cabin yonder with him and little José here. I was pretty sick. I couldn't write but I was wild to tell you where I was and not to worry nor think me terrible mean. I didn't want to act that way, you know, even though I did find myself in the wrong box with those other rich boys--"

"No such thing, Jim Barlow! That was all your own self-consciousness. They're the nicest boys in the world and the friendliest. And it seems you can remember some things-bad ones-even if not how you ran away and got away up here to this peak. Jim, I'm ashamed of you. I certainly am!"

But the way in which she reached out and clasped his hand in both of hers disarmed the words of all offence. Jim threw back his head and laughed as he hadn't done in many a day. It was just glorious to be scolded again by his old comrade! It was so homelike that he felt "more himself" than any softer speech would have made him.

"Well, go on! Do go on!"

"Alaric isn't half bad. I reckon I'd have died but for him. An old Indian chief, of the Utes, White Feather Alaric called him-his brother-in-law--"

"Oh! I'm well acquainted with him. Don't stop to tell that part, but just do go on."

Jim stared and retorted:

"Oh! you are, eh? But I've got to tell about him 'cause it was he who found me and brought me here. Picked me up on the road somewhere. I've had a suspicion-just a suspicion, don't you know?-that Alaric wasn't any too glad to see me. It's a mighty little house and he's a mighty lazy man. But he had to do it. He's afraid of White Feather, though I tell you, Dolly Doodles, he's a splendid Indian. If all red men were like him--"

"I don't care at all about Indians. Go on."

"Alaric dressed my arm with leaves and stuff and fed me the best he could, but after I'd got that basket sent to you with the lamb and the stones-Did you get it? Did you understand?"

"Yes, I understood-part. I knew that only Jim Barlow could make such a curious D as was on the stone and the basket. I supposed you were alive somewhere and I tried to think you were all right. By the way, the lambkin is thriving and we've named it after you-Netty!"

"What? Why Netty, if you please?"

Dorothy laughed and explained. She was ready now to laugh at anything and so was he: she made him finish his story, which he promptly did.

After he had sent the basket-message he had grown worse. He was delirious and did not know what went on about him. He thought it was the bad water from the old tank that increased his fever, and was sure it was that which had made the sheep herder himself fall ill. So before his strength came back he had to turn nurse himself and attend upon Alaric. He had now recovered enough to go away to his employer's ranch for a few days. Meanwhile Jim was keeping the sheep for his host with little José for company.

Dorothy listened, asking questions now and then, and finally inquired:

"Is this Alaric an Indian?"

"No. A Mexican, a Greaser. He married an Indian princess, the sister of White Feather."

"How came you by that Indian rig? costume, I mean."

Jim laughed. "White Feather again. At first I hadn't anything to wear but a ragged pair of trousers which Alaric lent me, though he hated to, and a blanket for a coat. But a few days ago White Feather and his braves came this way again. He brought quite a collection of old duds and gave 'em to Alaric. That paid him for what he'd lent me, I guess. And some of White Feather's folks have always given little José his Indian fixings, too. Else-Well, he wouldn't have had much to wear. Ain't he cute?"

"Indeed, he is. Looks exactly like a tiny White Feather himself. The dear!" answered Dorothy, helping herself to another piece of bread and breaking it in bits to feed the child, who smiled and swallowed in great glee. "But your suit? You haven't told about that yet."

"Isn't it fine? I begin to feel like a red man myself, wearing it. White Feather gave this to me with his own hands. It looks as if it had been worn a long time but it's a mighty comfortable rig, especially after a fellow's had-nothing at all."

Then Dorothy talked, her words fairly tumbling over each other in her haste to tell all that had happened at San Leon while he was gone. She ended with the question:

"Will you go back

with me now, Jim? or with all of us, when we find them! My heart! How glad, how glad they'll be!"

Jim shook his head.

"I can't, Dolly, not yet. I've got to stay till Alaric comes. Nobody knows when that'll be, he's so lazy; and so sure now that I'll do his work for him. Besides-I've got something on my mind. Even if-even if-Well, I shan't go back to San Leon till I take a peace offering with me. I think-anyway I hope-I've-No matter. Where are the others, do you think? How did you get so far away from 'em, alone?"

"I don't know. But I wish-I wish they'd come. Ah! Hark!"

Dorothy stood up and listened. They could hear a horse moving somewhere, the dull thud of hoofs on soft ground, and a whinny of recognition to Zaraza feeding near. A moment later Silent Pete came into sight, and in another moment had dismounted beside them.

He hadn't a word to say but stared at Jim with what would seem reproach except for a kindly gleam in his blue eyes. Up and down the lad's tall form the old man's eyes roved many times and then he gave one of his rare laughs.

"Fits good, hey?"

"First class! Did you ever wear an Indian costume?" asked Jim.

"Huh! I've wore that one more years 'n you're old," said the ex-hunter, and sitting down helped himself to the bread.

Perhaps the man had never talked so freely as he did now. Of hunting, of savage fights, and of mining-of anything and everything connected with Colorado's past as he had known it. Because he had never had such interested listeners. Jim's eyes shone, and when the subject touched on mining, he got up and went into the shack, coming back a moment later with some bits of stones lying on his palm. He held these out to Silent Pete who accepted them with sudden interest. Until he finally exclaimed:

"Glory! Where?"

Jim walked a little distance from that point of the mesa and the others followed him wondering. Then digging away some earth from the small hillock where he had paused, pointed downward.

Silent Pete gazed without speaking for a full moment. Then he stooped and gathered a few fragments of insignificant stone, while Dorothy watched him wondering. Presently the hunter looked up-his face transformed-the brilliancy of youth restored to his faded eyes.

"Silver! by gum! And-and-all the land this side that shack belongs to San Leon! Of all the dum luck-Let's go home! Let's go home!"

He couldn't move fast enough. The youngsters followed him at an equal pace so excited that they scarcely knew what they were doing. Jim had found silver! Jim had discovered a mine! This meant untold wealth to their beloved host!

There was no thought in their minds of a possible mistake. It could not be. It was all as clear as daylight to Dorothy, whose reverent heart always traced "leadings" in that chain of events which we call life.

Jim had been "led" to all and through all that had happened. If he hadn't wandered here-no use thinking about that. He had wandered, he had found the silver, it had been ordered, even the pain and suffering and grief. Oh! to get back to where they could send the good news flying to the absent owner of San Leon!

"Let's go home!" cried the girl, running to the Zaraza's side and trying to saddle her.

But Jim would not let her do that, though he did not seek to hinder her from going, and when she had sprung to her seat upon the filly's back, he held out his hand, saying:

"I'll come soon's I can, Dolly Doodles! This is a big day for me!"

"Why-why-aren't you coming too? You can ride part of the way and I part."

"No, girlie. I promised Alaric I'd take care of José and the sheep. I've got to-duty, you know."

"Oh! Duty! I hate duty! Oh! Jim, you ought to be the one, the very one to carry the good news straight to 'Boss Dan!' It should be you to send this glorious message!"

But Jim shook his stubborn head.

"I'd like to-shucks! But I ain't never seen how neglectin' the duty 't lies to hand helps a fellow to do the one 't is further off. It's all right, Dolly. You speed the good word and watch out for Jim. He'll be coming-sure. Good-by-good-by."

Meanwhile Peter had placed the lunch baskets on the ground, leaving them for Jim and the child.

Not until they had passed out of sight and were well on the downward trail did Dorothy remember her absent mates and to ask how Silent Pete had chanced to find her. He scarcely paused to reply; for though he spoke no word, except to answer her questions, he was fairly quivering with excitement. It isn't every day one stumbles on a silver mine, even in Colorado!

"Oh! I saw where you'd passed by the trompled brush. I knew the calico's tread. I saw 't you was off the line an' I blazed that so's the rest'd see and not get scared. We shan't see no more o' them till nightfall, only you an' me-we must get home. Don't waste breath talkin'-just travel."

Travel they did and, their own dispatches sent from San Leon, another came flashing back-crossed each other on the way, so to speak.

"Reach the ranch to-morrow. D. F."

Well, this story is about told. Such a wonderful home-coming that was! Messengers had been quickly sent to the sheep herder's hut to act as substitutes for Jim in his "duty" and to bring him and José "home," where he found himself welcomed as a hero-he who had thought himself despised.

Thus was discovered the famous "Bygum Mine," so named for the first words uttered by Silent Pete, when Jim showed him the site. Those who remember the energy of "Dan Ford, Railroad Boss" will understand how promptly matters were set in motion for the opening of "Bygum;" and those who know his generosity will guess how he made each young guest a sharer, to some degree, in this fresh prosperity. All except Jim Barlow: for that too independent youth promptly refused any further benefit from his great discovery than a simple "Thank you." How that refusal affected the lad's pursuit of "knowledge" will be told in another story of "Dorothy's House Boat," upon which, a few weeks later, he had to "work his passage."

But now, with Lady Gray's dear presence among them and the master's hand at the helm, there was nothing but happiness for all at San Leon: until, all suddenly it seemed, the three months of their stay had passed and the parting came. If there was sadness in their hearts that morning, when they mounted the buckboards for their journey back to Denver, there was also anticipation and delight; for, to quote the words of their genial host:

"The world is but a little place. We have met and loved each other-we shall meet and love again."



Minor changes have been made to correct typesetters' errors; otherwise, every effort has been made to remain true to the author' words and intent.

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