Good Indian - B.M. Bower - ebook

Good Indian ebook

B.M. Bower

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Good Indian is a foster son of a western ranch owner. Considered as the eldest son, Good Indian plays a pivot role when the family ranch is attacked by scheming, gold prospectors. He is taken by the beauty of one fragile girl who cannot understand the western customs. His partner and supporter, Georgie Howard, quells her love for him, when they both go through the legal battle of the family ranch. Bower gives the reader an excellent portrayal of a man loved by more than one woman. All that entwined with three lovely women with completely different characters, a group of native Americans, and some interesting family dynamics transformed this saga into a good read.

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Liczba stron: 398

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Contents

I. PEACEFUL HART RANCH

II. GOOD INDIAN

III. OLD WIVES TALES

IV. THE CHRISTMAS ANGEL

V. "I DON'T CARE MUCH ABOUT GIRLS"

VI. THE CHRISTMAS ANGEL PLAYS GHOST

VII. MISS GEORGIE HOWARD, OPERATOR

VIII. THE AMIABLE ANGLER

IX. PEPPAJEE JIM "HEAP SABES"

X. MIDNIGHT PROWLERS

XI. "YOU CAN'T PLAY WITH ME"

XII. "THEM DAMN SNAKE"

XIII. CLOUD-SIGN VERSUS CUPID

XIV. THE CLAIM-JUMPERS

XV. SQUAW-TALK-FAR-OFF HEAP SMART

XVI. "DON'T GET EXCITED!"

XVII. A LITTLE TARGET-PRACTICE

XVIII. A SHOT FROM THE RIM-ROCK

XIX. EVADNA GOES CALLING

XX. MISS GEORGIE ALSO MAKES A CALL

XXI. SOMEBODY SHOT SAUNDERS

XXII. A BIT OF PAPER

XXIII. THE MALICE OF A SQUAW

XXIV. PEACEFUL RETURNS

XXV. "I'D JUST AS SOON HANG FOR NINE MEN AS FOR ONE"

XXVI. "WHEN THE SUN GOES AWAY"

XXVII. LIFE ADJUSTS ITSELF AGAIN TO SOME THINGS

I. PEACEFUL HART RANCH

IT was somewhere in the seventies when old Peaceful Hart woke to a realization that gold-hunting and lumbago do not take kindly to one another, and the fact that his pipe and dim-eyed meditation appealed to him more keenly than did his prospector’s pick and shovel and pan seemed to imply that he was growing old. He was a silent man, by occupation and by nature, so he said nothing about it; but, like the wild things of prairie and wood, instinctively began preparing for the winter of his life. Where he had lately been washing tentatively the sand along Snake River, he built a ranch. His prospector’s tools he used in digging ditches to irrigate his new-made meadows, and his mining days he lived over again only in halting recital to his sons when they clamored for details of the old days when Indians were not mere untidy neighbors to be gossiped with and fed, but enemies to be fought, upon occasion.

They felt that fate had cheated them–did those five sons; for they had been born a few years too late for the fun. Not one of them would ever have earned the title of “Peaceful,” as had his father. Nature had played a joke upon old Peaceful Hart; for he, the mildest-mannered man who ever helped to tame the West when it really needed taming, had somehow fathered five riotous young males to whom fight meant fun–and the fiercer, the funnier.

He used to suck at his old, straight-stemmed pipe and regard them with a bewildered curiosity sometimes; but he never tried to put his puzzlement into speech. The nearest he ever came to elucidation, perhaps, was when he turned from them and let his pale-blue eyes dwell speculatively upon the face of his wife, Phoebe. Clearly he considered that she was responsible for their dispositions.

The house stood cuddled against a rocky bluff so high it dwarfed the whole ranch to pygmy size when one gazed down from the rim, and so steep that one wondered how the huge, gray bowlders managed to perch upon its side instead of rolling down and crushing the buildings to dust and fragments. Strangers used to keep a wary eye upon that bluff, as if they never felt quite safe from its menace. Coyotes skulked there, and tarantulas and “bobcats” and snakes. Once an outlaw hid there for days, within sight and hearing of the house, and stole bread from Phoebe’s pantry at night–but that is a story in itself.

A great spring gurgled out from under a huge bowlder just behind the house, and over it Peaceful had built a stone milk house, where Phoebe spent long hours in cool retirement on churning day, and where one went to beg good things to eat and to drink. There was fruit cake always hidden away in stone jars, and cheese, and buttermilk, and cream.

Peaceful Hart must have had a streak of poetry somewhere hidden away in his silent soul. He built a pond against the bluff; hollowed it out from the sand he had once washed for traces of gold, and let the big spring fill it full and seek an outlet at the far end, where it slid away under a little stone bridge. He planted the pond with rainbow trout, and on the margin a rampart of Lombardy poplars, which grew and grew until they threatened to reach up and tear ragged holes in the drifting clouds. Their slender shadows lay, like gigantic fingers, far up the bluff when the sun sank low in the afternoon.

Behind them grew a small jungle of trees-catalpa and locust among them–a jungle which surrounded the house, and in summer hid it from sight entirely.

With the spring creek whispering through the grove and away to where it was defiled by trampling hoofs in the corrals and pastures beyond, and with the roses which Phoebe Hart kept abloom until tho frosts came, and the bees, and humming–birds which somehow found their way across the parched sagebrush plains and foregathered there, Peaceful Hart’s ranch betrayed his secret longing for girls, as if he had unconsciously planned it for the daughters he had been denied.

It was an ideal place for hammocks and romance–a place where dainty maidens might dream their way to womanhood. And Peaceful Hart, when all was done, grew old watching five full-blooded boys clicking their heels unromantically together as they roosted upon the porch, and threw cigarette stubs at the water lilies while they wrangled amiably over the merits of their mounts; saw them drag their blankets out into the broody dusk of the grove when the nights were hot, and heard their muffled swearing under their “tarps” because of the mosquitoes which kept the night air twanging like a stricken harp string with their song.

They liked the place well enough. There were plenty of shady places to lie and smoke in when the mercury went sizzling up its tiny tube. Sometimes, when there was a dance, they would choose the best of Phoebe’s roses to decorate their horses’ bridles; and perhaps their hatbands, also. Peaceful would then suck harder than ever at his pipe, and his faded blue eyes would wander pathetically about the little paradise of his making, as if he wondered whether, after all, it had been worth while.

A tight picket fence, built in three unswerving lines from the post planted solidly in a cairn of rocks against a bowlder on the eastern rim of the pond, to the road which cut straight through the ranch, down that to the farthest tree of the grove, then back to the bluff again, shut in that tribute to the sentimental side of Peaceful’s nature. Outside the fence dwelt sturdier, Western realities.

Once the gate swung shut upon the grove one blinked in the garish sunlight of the plains. There began the real ranch world. There was the pile of sagebrush fuel, all twisted and gray, pungent as a bottle of spilled liniment, where braided, blanketed bucks were sometimes prevailed upon to labor desultorily with an ax in hope of being rewarded with fruit new-gathered from the orchard or a place at Phoebe’s long table in the great kitchen.

There was the stone blacksmith shop, where the boys sweated over the nice adjustment of shoes upon the feet of fighting, wild-eyed horses, which afterward would furnish a spectacle of unseemly behavior under the saddle.

Farther away were the long stable, the corrals where broncho-taming was simply so much work to be performed, hayfields, an orchard or two, then rocks and sand and sage which grayed the earth to the very skyline.

A glint of slithering green showed where the Snake hugged the bluff a mile away, and a brown trail, ankle-deep in dust, stretched straight out to the west, and then lost itself unexpectedly behind a sharp, jutting point of rocks where the blufF had thrust out a rugged finger into the valley.

By devious turnings and breath-taking climbs, the trail finally reached the top at the only point for miles, where it was possible for a horseman to pass up or down.

Then began the desert, a great stretch of unlovely sage and lava rock and sand for mile upon mile, to where the distant mountain ridges reached out and halted peremptorily the ugly sweep of it. The railroad gashed it boldly, after the manner of the iron trail of modern industry; but the trails of the desert dwellers wound through it diffidently, avoiding the rough crest of lava rock where they might, dodging the most aggressive sagebrush and dipping tentatively into hollows, seeking always the easiest way to reach some remote settlement or ranch.

Of the men who followed those trails, not one of them but could have ridden straight to the Peaceful Hart ranch in black darkness; and there were few, indeed, white men or Indians, who could have ridden there at midnight and not been sure of blankets and a welcome to sweeten their sleep. Such was the Peaceful Hart Ranch, conjured from the sage and the sand in the valley of the Snake.

II. GOOD INDIAN

THERE is a saying–and if it is not purely Western, it is at least purely American–that the only good Indian is a dead Indian. In the very teeth of that, and in spite of tho fact that he was neither very good, nor an Indian–nor in any sense “dead”– men called Grant Imsen “Good Indian” to his face; and if he resented the title, his resentment was never made manifest–perhaps because he had grown up with the name, he rather liked it when he was a little fellow, and with custom had come to take it as a matter of course.

Because his paternal ancestry went back, and back to no one knows where among the race of blue eyes and fair skin, the Indians repudiated relationship with him, and called him white man–though they also spoke of him unthinkingly as “Good Injun.”

Because old Wolfbelly himself would grudgingly admit under pressure that the mother of Grant had been the half-caste daughter of Wolfbelly’s sister, white men remembered the taint when they were angry, and called him Injun. And because he stood thus between the two races of men, his exact social status a subject always open to argument, not even the fact that he was looked upon by the Harts as one of the family, with his own bed always ready for him in a corner of the big room set apart for the boys, and with a certain place at the table which was called his–not even his assured position there could keep him from sometimes feeling quite alone, and perhaps a trifle bitter over his loneliness.

Phoebe Hart had mothered him from the time when his father had sickened and died in her house, leaving Grant there with twelve years behind him, in his hands a dirty canvas bag of gold coin so heavy he could scarce lift it, which stood for the mining claim the old man had just sold, and the command to invest every one of the gold coins in schooling.

Old John Imsen was steeped in knowledge of the open; nothing of the great outdoors had ever slipped past him and remained mysterious. Put when he sold his last claim–others he had which promised little and so did not count–he had signed his name with an X. Another had written the word John before that X, and the word Imsen after; above, a word which he explained was “his,” and below the word “mark.” John Imsen had stared down suspiciously at the words, and he had not felt quite easy in his mind until the bag of gold coins was actually in his keeping. Also, he had been ashamed of that X. It was a simple thing to make with a pen, and yet he had only succeeded in making it look like two crooked sticks thrown down carelessly, one upon the other. His face had gone darkly red with the shame of it, and he had stood scowling down at the paper.

“That boy uh mine’s goin’ to do better ‘n that, by God!” he had sworn, and the words had sounded like a vow.

When, two months after that, he had faced–incredulously, as is the way with strong men–the fact that for him life was over, with nothing left to him save an hour or so of labored breath and a few muttered sentences, he did not forget that vow. He called Phoebe close to the bed, placed the bag of gold in Grant’s trembling hands, and stared intently from one face to the other.

“Mis’ Hart, he ain’t got–anybody–my folks–I lost track of ‘em years ago. You see to it–git some learnin’ in his head. When a man knows books–it’s–like bein’ heeled–good gun–plenty uh ca’t’idges– in a fight. When I got that gold–it was like fightin’ with my bare hands–against a gatlin’ gun. They coulda cheated me–whole thing–on paper–I wouldn’t know–luck–just luck they didn’t. So you take it–and git the boy schoolin’. Costs money–I know that–git him all it’ll buy. Send him– where they keep–the best. Don’t yuh let up–n’er let him–whilst they’s a dollar left. Put it all–into his head–then he can’t lose it, and he can–make it earn more. An’–I guess I needn’t ask yuh–be good to him. He ain’t got anybody–not a soul–Injuns don’t count. You see to it–don’t let up till–it’s all gone.”

Phoebe had taken him literally. And Grant, if he had little taste for the task, had learned books and other things not mentioned in the curriculums of the schools she sent him to–and when the bag was reported by Phoebe to be empty, he had returned with inward relief to the desultory life of the Hart ranch and its immediate vicinity.

His father would probably have been amazed to see how little difference that schooling made in the boy. The money had lasted long enough to take him through a preparatory school and into the second year of a college; and the only result apparent was speech a shade less slipshod than that of his fellows, and a vocabulary which permitted him to indulge in an amazing number of epithets and in colorful vituperation when the fancy seized him.

He rode, hot and thirsty and tired, from Sage Hill one day and found Hartley empty of interest, hot as the trail he had just now left thankfully behind him, and so absolutely sleepy that it seemed likely to sink into the sage-clothed earth under the weight of its own dullness. Even the whisky was so warm it burned like fire, and the beer he tried left upon his outraged palate the unhappy memory of insipid warmth and great bitterness.

He plumped the heavy glass down upon the grimy counter in the dusty far corner of the little store and stared sourly at Pete Hamilton, who was apathetically opening hatboxes for the inspection of an Indian in a red blanket and frowsy braids.

“How much?” The braided one fingered indecisively the broad brim of a gray sombrero.

“Nine dollars.” Pete leaned heavily against the shelves behind him and sighed with the weariness of mere living.

“Huh! All same buy one good hoss.” The braided one dropped the hat, hitched his blanket over his shoulder in stoical disregard of the heat, and turned away.

Pete replaced the cover, seemed about to place the box upon the shelf behind him, and then evidently decided that it was not worth the effort. He sighed again.

“It is almighty hot,” he mumbled languidly. “Want another drink, Good Injun?”

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