Puslapio vaizdai

reached the brook. Blaine raced up with his spade, and slapped the boughs frantically. Sparks rose and floated. The handle of the spade became hot, but the fire gave back. He whooped and chased it. The bridge was now scarlet. The iron bands joining cedar trunks in the pillars seemed red and molten. He had a fancy that the flame had heated them and that the timber would break into flame. He saw a train slide from the south, and he quivered, hoping the bridge would hold. He stood with his arms raised, his mouth open, glaring up through the smoke. Faces showed in the windows of the coaches; the glass sparkled brilliantly. Blaine waved his spade to hurry the train from its danger, and yelled in ecstasy as the tail light vanished. Then he swung, and saw the whole margin of the brook lurid: the flame had fully reached the barrier. He ran along, beating vainly at the brush. His chest hurt, facing the brightness. For a time the length of the brook was a furnace. Long boughs fell on the wet pebbles, and hissed as he stamped them out. Then the brightness ebbed slowly. Consuming its fuel, the flame dwindled. The seared space behind smoked dully. He stood upright and gazed. He had his second of glory before brush crackled on his side of the barrier, and he swung to fight down a lighted spire of dead birch.

It went on endlessly. Here and there separate little fires rose in the boneset and laurel. He stamped them out, and sometimes squatted to see if sparks lived below. When no fire showed for a moment, he would run to fill his pail and moisten patches. He was aware of chills on his back. His shirt had vanished except for sweated rags

about his shoulders. His trousers were ripped by brush; the corduroy hung in snakes, its texture shredded to single strands. No fire showed at all now. He thought, "Layin' low, are you?" and with full pails dashed water up the bulks of the pillars. The sky became green; the bridge was as gray as shingle in the sunrise. Blaine patted his chest and found it cold. He crumpled down, with the pail under his arm, and fell asleep by a pillar.


He woke in shouting, and sat up, naked, on his cot. A man pushed him down. Another burly man was standing in the door, shaking a red fist at something and bawling.

"Yeh, all you folks did was to go to bed and leave this here feller to put the fire out! S'posin' the wind had turned, and you an' your dam' settlement 'd went up? Yeh, you 're a fine lot!" A voice thinly answered:

"What I wanted to tell you was we found a coal-oil can right where she started burnin'. Somebody must of put the bushes on fire. Y' see"

"I care the hell of a lot if some one put the bushes on fire! The p'int is, they burned, and all you folks downtown stayed in your beds and let this feller get near roasted to death keepin' the fire off'n the bridge. Yeh, I'm goin' to have it reported to the first fed'ral judge I can get at."

Blaine sat up and looked through the window. Men of the settlement were grouped near the creek, staring witlessly at the mad man in the door. Some had taken off their hats. bare-legged boy was miserably shifting his feet. The orator slammed the door and spoke to Blaine:


"You lay still! Rub some more of the rocks darkened by smoke. Outthat ile on him, Murphy."

He lay still, and a hairy young Irishman rubbed olive-oil on his legs, where the white skin rose in painful streaks. The official walked about swearing wonderfully. The engineer and fireman of the locomotive came in and swore, staring at Blaine.

"The folks on Number Fourteen seen you workin'," the official explained, "and reported. I come down as fast as I could. What we got to do is get protection for this property. The comp❜ny owes you somethin'; it kind of does, seein' this bridge cost eighty-nine thousand dollars and some. Murphy, you stay here with Mr. Blaine. I got to get back to Denver."

The official stamped out after hurting Blaine's hand. The engine backed from sight. The Irishman began to cook a meal on the oil-stove. He talked. His voice ran melodious; he called Blaine "general." Blaine beamed at him, and sat fingering his singed hair. It lay over his head in curls now that the fire had cut it.

"You ain't a married man?" the Irishman asked. "Now, I am." He pried open the back of his silver watch and showed Blaine the photograph of a dark woman, with a baby on each shoulder. "She 's gone home to Saint Jo to her folks right now."

Blaine said:

"I got to go down to the settlement." The man protested. The pay engine arrived, and the paymaster protested. Blaine took a bath in the creek and pulled on fresh clothes when the Irishman had oiled his burns again. He rode the mule slowly down the valley, which bewildered him. It looked incredible in the afternoon light, with its brush shorn away and

side the settlement boys were wandering in the unburned tract from the turn of the gorge to the houses. They looked at Blaine, with their mouths awed ovals. He timidly nodded to them, and one came to hold his mule before the store. Blaine limped up the steps.

He opened the door, covered with limp netting, and passed in. The girl looked up from the counter and then recoiled, her arms slack at her sides, down the length of the store to a doorway. Blaine grinned, and walked after her, fingering his hat. As he came up, tears rolled out of her black eyes. She sobbed, and laced her hands across her mouth. Blaine's heart began to thump; she must like him. He said:

"I'm all right."

Her hands dropped, and struck the wall behind her as she stiffened and stared at Blaine. She said: "I did it." "What?"

"Took a can of coal-oil, after everybody 'd gone to bed, and I went out and put the bushes on fire."

His hat fell at his feet. He stood rigid, gaping at her. The girl turned and hid her face on the wall, her body writhing under its plaid. Her sobs made Blaine shiver. He asked:

"Why-what for?"

"I hated the bridge."

He stood exploring this. His conscience assured him that it was wrong, but a sense of the vast compliment made him blush. He began several speeches that never rose to words; he grinned at her shaking back. After a time he sighed heavily and leaned on the wall. When she turned, their cheeks met.

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SORREL bronk was led into the Bar T Bar's. Ya ought to have been

A middle of the street, a puncher here last year; they had some shore

chewed his ear while the saddle was

eased on; the rider swung up and caught his stirrups.

"Turn him loose!" he yelled.

"Ain't much of a show this year," said a slit-eyed puncher standing beside me. A woman in an automobile shrieked. The sorrel bronk, his eyes bulging, was headed straight toward the car. Two punchers spurred their horses alongside and turned him down the street again.

"This country was about blowed up before the rain came," said the puncher. Still pitching and bawling, the sorrel bronk turned back again, while the rider raked him in the shoulders with the spurs and waved his hat at the crowd..

"Who 's the twister?" I asked.
"Wayne Honeycutt; works for the

enough pitchin' horses. Ace Gardner's the next man up in the ropin'."

At the head of the street a corral had been built. As a calf was cut out of the corral, the two punchers charged him across the line. The starter

dropped his flag. dropped his flag. On came the roper on the dead run, his "piggin" string between his teeth, his rope swinging. The fourth puncher tied his calf in twenty-two seconds.

"Looks like the money," I said. "George Cline ain't roped yet,' said the puncher.

Two more calves were cut out of the corral, but the time was slow.

"George Cline's up next," said my neighbor.

The calf came out of the corral on the run. As he crossed the line, the flag dropped. Down the middle of

the street they came. Cline made his throw in front of the old saloon. He

was off his horse before the rope tightened. As he raised his hands through the cloud of dust the crowd yelled.

bawled a


stood some cow-ponies. Some Apache squaws were eating hamburger and ice-cream cones at a stand close by. The buck was drinking near. "Bellywash," the puncher called it. The ice had been hauled from Globe, for Payson is a hundred miles from the

"Twenty-one," through a megaphone. The puncher railroad. beside me grinned.

A horse-race was starting at the head of the street when a man in a white apron came out of the eatinghouse. An iron bar, shaped like a triangle, hung on the porch. On this he pounded.

"Chuck," said the puncher, and we headed up-street with the crowd. On one side of the street was parked a long line of automobiles; on the opposite side, in front of the old saloon,

"We was n't goin' to have any rodeo this year on account of the drought; then the dance-hall burned down. But after the rains came and the country started greenin' up, we decided to have her, anyway. Of course the purses ain't much this year, but every one put up what they could. And 'most every man in town worked on the dance-hall, so it would be ready in time. in time. There's a pretty good crowd, though."

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