« PreviousContinue »
and straight-backed — a typical rancher - body was always covered with a thin cotton laughed at Bromley, but never interfered. fly-blanket. "You and the boy are doing this,” he said, “so At last the eventful day arrived. Shortly run it to suit yourselves.”
after breakfast Houston and Don Juan walked Saturday afternoon, Juan Sanchez, better to the track so they could look things over. known as Don Juan, the famous Silver Plume, Before crossing the starting-line, Don Juan and an escort of six Mexicans, arrived. Don stopped and critically surveyed the two sixJuan was a Spaniard, quite bald and very fat, foot strips of cleared ground extending more and seemed to take great pride in his long than a half-mile out on the floorlike valley. black mustache and spiked goatee. He was Waist-high brush flanked all sides, while a soon installed in Page's best room, and pound- hedgelike growth separated the tracks for ing Houston on the back with his pudgy hand. their full length. "Ha, ha," he chuckled; "a real sportsman! It "It 's father's idea," Houston explained.
“This is where he tries out the polo ponies he hats in the air, and rush onward to the finish. ships back East. He says that brush in the Never had any of them seen a fairer start. middle keeps the hosses apart and gives each There had been no jockeying for position. one an equal show."
Like one horse, Rusty and Silver Plume shot Don Juan pulled at his goatee. “Good idea,” across the line, their pounding hoofs raising he said, and they moved on.
the dust-clouds that quickly rolled into one. The race was to be at three o'clock, but long Neck and neck they tore onward, Pancho before noon the valley was dotted with an crouching low over Silver Plume's withers, eager crowd. The Mexicans were the first to his beady eyes on the clear strip ahead. Housarrive; coming on foot, astride patient little ton likewise leaned far forward, until his head burros, horses, mules, and in creaking, heavy was over Rusty's neck. Neither rider had as wagons, fashionable rigs, and automobiles. yet called for greater speed. Each one was They selected a spot about half-way between waiting for the final spurt that would spell the starting-line and finishing-post, but a few victory. rods from the track, and settled down for a Pancho, watch ful, cool, a jockey for years, real holiday.
was overlooking nothing. Houston, just as Exactly at three o'clock the expectant throng cool, with the utmost confidence in his own had their first look at Silver Plume, as the gallant mount, was tense, expectant, waiting. Mexican champion was paraded over the track. On they rushed, faster and faster. SomeAnd a handsome picture he made, wide be times a red nose would be ever so slightly in tween the eyes, full at the nostrils, broad the lead, then a silver; but the relative posichested, high-hipped, a shining silver beauty. tion was not changed. Three hundred yards Perched upon his back, riding native fashion were covered in a whirlwind burst of speed. with a surcingle strapped over his knees, was The first quarter-mile had just come to an end Don Juan's noted jockey, Pancho Guzman. when something happened that almost made
Pancho was also a study. A wily, dried-up Houston's heart stand still. A black-haired Chihuahua Indian, well past thirty, but weigh Mexican child of two, who had been left asleep ing only ninety pounds. Stripped to the waist, under one of the wagons, while the mother a bright red handkerchief tied around his
eagerly watched the race, toddled from the head, and his long, skinny arms grasping the brush on Houston's side and wonderingly took bridle-reins, the little jockey greatly resembled in the onrushing horse. a crouching brown monkey. Cheer after cheer Houston's first thought was to guide Rusty arose from Americans and Mexicans alike as
off the track, later swing back again, then do he guided Silver Plume onward.
his best to win, anyway. He had barely pulled Soon the onlookers were greeted by the on the rein when something, until the moment sight of another thoroughbred, a trim-built entirely forgotten, came to him. Some place sorrel. A true head, full brown eyes, tremen behind was that troop of wild-riding horsedous depth of chest, slim-barreled, and a coat men, who in all probability would never see that shone like rusty gold. In points there the child, enveloped in the dust raised by was little difference, but Silver Plume was Rusty's hoofs. There was but one thing to do somewhat the heavier, perhaps by a hundred —and Houston did it. Leaning far over, he pounds, while Houston weighted forty pounds grabbed an outstretched arm, hoisted the little more than
Pancho. The advantage was all one in front of him, and prepared for the best with Silver Plume, but as Rusty gingerly finish he could put up. But as the child's trotted toward the starting-line, his reception frightened squawk trailed off into a plaintive was deafening
wail, he knew that the chances of winning Houston's only preparation for the race had were very meager. Rusty had not only been been to clean up a light jockey saddle, have thrown off his stride, but had been further his hair cut, and put on a clean suit of khaki. handicapped by a good twenty-five pounds; He would ride without whip or spur, knowing and Silver Plumc was now two lengths ahead. that Rusty would do his best for the half-mile When the sorrel settled down to business dash with but little urging.
again, Pancho was grinning back over his Grouped on each side of the starting-line shoulder, sure that the race was practically
more than a hundred mounted men, won. Others thought the same, but it was still partly Mexicans, and all of whom were there quite a distance to where John Page and Don to see fair play. The instant the racers should Juan held a tightened cord across the track. start, all hands would charge in behind them, Suddenly Pancho realized that the race was yelling at the top of their voices, waving their not over, by any means, for the gap had in
RUSTY ON THE TRACK
some way narrowed. He was the old Pancho In vicious, long-arm swings Pancho brought at once, alert, crafty, with his free hand swing his quirt whistling down; still he could not ing his snake-like quirt.
shake off that red streak, always creeping Silver Plume increased his gait. So did toward the lead. Never before had he been Rusty. Like a shadow, red crept closer to obliged to use the whip so freely. silver. The Mexican child screamed, wiggled, Another hundred yards at the same whirland clawed, increasing the handicap, but still wind clip, and the lead had been cut down still
The eyes of every spectator set, breath
held back, while a thousand hands convulsively opened and closed. Houston hugged the child to his chest and whispered between set teeth, “Be quiet ! Be quiet!" at the time inwardly groaning on account of the little he could do.
Head to shoulder now, with Silver Plume running as he had never run before, and the finish a scant hundred feet distant. “Silver-red, silver-red," seemed to be the tune that was pounded out by the twinkling hoofs. Down Swished the quirt, but before it was upraised again Rusty': head was half-way along the silver neck. Two more strides and
even with the throat-latch. Another, and the horses neck and neck. The next, and a red nose struck the taut cord ever so slightly in advance of a silver one. and the immense crowd broke into wild
cheers that echoed and “THERE WAS BUT ONE THING TO DO-AND HOUSTON DID IT"
reëchoed far out
the valley, Rusty of his the red nose grew closer to a shining flank. own accord slowed down a winner! But no one thought that the sorrel could win; The crowd was still cheering when, a few the lead was too great. Rusty thought differ moment's later, an excited Mexican woman ently, however, and he was doing the running. snatched up her child; but every one became Little by little, he closed the gap until his head silent as Don Juan elbowed his way to Houswas even with Silver Plume's hindquarters, ton's side, grasped an extended hand, and while that taut piece of cord seemed tearing broke out, “I feel honored in knowing you, toward them.
Señor; so fine a lad, and as true a sportsman!”
By BETH B. GILCHRIST
Author of "Cinderella's Granddaughter”
SYNOPSIS OF THE FIVE PREVIOUS INSTALMENTS
Elliott CAMERON, petted American girl, came to her Uncle Bob's in Highboro while her father went overseas for a year on business for the Government. She had not wanted to come and she planned to go away again just as soon as the scarlet fever quarantine, which had banished her and her cousin Stannard to Highboro, should be listed from her Uncle James's house. But in spite of herself she liked the people at Cameron Farm, and after a while she liked the farm. There must have been magic in it, for actually, when the six weeks are up, she did not want to go away at all! She couldn't face a bit happily any prospect of leaving Uncle Bob and Aunt Jessica and Laura and Harry and Gertrude and Tom and Priscilla
-not excepting Bruce Fearing, who was n't a cousin at all, but who, with his brother Pete, now flying in France with Bob Cameron, had been adopted by the Robert Camerons when the Fearings were children. And, of course, there was no reason, aside from her own wish, why Elliott should go away.
It was on the very day she made this discovery that she cooked her first dinner, that word came that Sidney, Laura's twin brother, was ill at Camp Devens. “Mother Jess" went to him at once, and with her went Laura, because Elliott had said she was sure that, with all the help the Camerons and their neighbors, the Gordons, would give her, she could keep house in their absence. But, oh, how different it was from having Mother Jess there! And Sidney's illness increased daily, and word came to Bruce that Pete was "missing,” and Elliott cabled her father and got no word in reply. Then the world grew very black indeed.
The Camerons felt as badly as though Peter Fearing had been their own brother.
"The telegram does n't say that he's dead," Trudy declared over and over again.
“Maybe he 's a prisoner," Tom suggested.
"Perhaps he had to come down in a wood somewhere," Henry speculated, "and will get back to our lines.”
“The Government makes' mistakes - sometimes,” Stannard said. “There was a woman in Upton—” He went on with a long story about a woman whose son was reported killed in France on the very day the boy had been in his mother's house on furlough from a cantonment. “So you never
can tell," he
SURE enough, in the morning came better news, Father Bob's face, when he turned around from the telephone, told that, even before he opened his lips.
"Sidney is holding his own," he said.
You may think that was n't much better news, but it meant a great deal to the Cam
“Sidney is holding his own,” they told every one who inquired, and their faces were hopeful. If Father Bob had any fears, he kept them to himself. The rest of the Camerons were all young, and it did n't seem possible to them that Sidney could do anything but get well. Last night had been a bad dream, that was all.
The next morning's message had the word “better" in it. "Little” stood before "better," but nobody, not even Father Bob, paid much attention to “little.” Sidney was better. It was a week before Mother Jess wrote that the doctors pronounced him out of danger and that she and Laura would soon be home. Meanwhile, many things had happened.
You might have thought that Sidney's illness was enough trouble to come to the. Camerons at one time, but as Bruce quoted, with a twist in his smile, “It never rains but it pours.” This time Bruce himself got the message which came from the War Department and read, “Regret to inform you that Lieutenant Peter Fearing has been reported missing since September fifteenth. Letter follows.”'
“No, you never can tell,” Bruce agreed; but he did n't look convinced.
"Don't anybody write Mother Jess," he said. “She and Laura have enough to worry about with Sid.”
"What if they see it in the papers?” Elliott asked.
“They ’re busy. Ten to one they won't see it, since it is n't head-lined on the front page. Wait till we get the letter.”
After all, the letter, when it came, did n't tell them much. The letter said that Lieutenant Peter Fearing had gone out with his squadron on a bombing expedition well within the enemy lines. The formation had successfully accomplished its raid and was returning when it was taken by surprise and surrounded by a greatly superior force of enemy 'planes, which gave the Americans a running fight of thirty-nine minutes to their lines. Lieutenant
THE CAMERONS OF HIGHBORO
1123 Fearing's was one of two 'planes which failed
“I think so. Oh, there was n't anything to return to the aërodrome. When last seen, definite between her and Pete—nothing, at his machine was in combat with four Hun least, that they told the rest of us! But a 'planes over enemy territory.
fellow who had eyes—” He left the sentence "What did I tell you?" interrupted Tom. unfinished and walked over to Elliott's chair. “He's a prisoner.”
"You know I told you,” he said, “that I should An airplane had been reported as falling in n’t go into this war unless I was called. Of flames near this spot; but whether it was Lieu course I 'm registered now, but whether or tenant Fearing's machine or another, nothing not they call me, if Pete is out of it, and I was yet at hand to prove. The writer begged can possibly manage it, I 'm going in.” to remain, etc., etc.
A queer little pain contracted Elliott's heart. No, that letter only opened up fresh fields And then that odd heart of hers began to for Cameron imaginations to torment Cam swell and swell until she thought it would eron hearts. Nobody had happened to think burst. She looked at the boy with proud eyes. before of Petc's machine catching fire. It did n't occur to her to wonder what she
“Gracious !” said Henry, “if that 'plane was was proud of. Bruce Fearing was no kin of his”
hers, you know. “I knew you would.” Some"There's no certainty that it was," said how it seemed to the girl that she could alBruce, quickly.
ways tell what Bruce Fearing was going to do "If that machine was Pete's," Father Bob and that there was nothing strange in such mused, “Hun aviators may drop word of him knowledge. How strong he was, how splendid within our lines. They have done that kind and understanding and fine! “Oh,” she cried, of thing before.”
“I wish, how I wish I could help you !” “Would n’t Bob cable if he knew anything "You do help me,” he said. more than this letter says?" Gertrude ques “I?” Her eyes were lifted in real surprise. tioned,
“How can I?” “I expect Bob's waiting to find out some "By being you." thing certain before he cables,” said Father His hand had only to move an inch to touch Bob. “Doubtless he has written. We shall hers, but it lay motionless. His eyes, gray just have to wait for his letter.”
and steady and clear, held the girl's. She "Wait-gee!" whispered Henry.
gave him back look for look. “Both the boys' letters were so awfully late “I am glad,” she said softly, and her face in the summer!" sighed Gertrude. “How can was like a flower. we ever wait for a letter from Bob?”
Bruce was out of the house before Elliott Elliott said nothing at all. Her heart was thought of the thing she could do for him. aching with sympathy for Bruce.
“Mercy me!” she cried. “You 're the person could do something, she thought, it slowest person I ever saw in my life, Elliott helped tremendously. Mother Jess and Laura Cameron!” She ran to the kitchen door, but had gone to Sidney, and she had had a chance the boy was nowhere in sight. "He must be to make Laura's going possible; but there did out at the barn,” she said, and took a step n't seem to be anything she could do for in that direction, only to take it back again. Bruce. And she wanted to do something for “No I won't. I 'll just go by myself and do it." Bruce; she found that she wanted to dread Whatever it was, it put her in a great hurry. fully. Thinking about Mother Jess and Laura As fast as she had dashed to the kitchen, she reminded her to look up and ask, “What are now ran to the front hall, but the third step we going to write them at Camp Devens?" of the stairs halted her.
Then she discovered that she and Bruce "Elliott Cameron,” she declared earnestly, were alone in the room. He was sitting at "I do believe you have lost your mind! Have Mother Jess's desk in as deep a brown study n't you any sense at all? And you a responas she had been. The girl's voice roused him. sible housekeeper!"
"The kind of thing we 've been writing Perhaps it was n't the first time a whirlhome news. Time enough to tell them about wind ever struck the Cameron farm-house. Pete when they get here. By that time, per Elliott had n't a notion that she could work haps, there will be something definite to tell."
Her feet fairly flew. Bed-covers He hesitated a minute. “Laura is going to whisked into place; dusting-cloths raced over feel pretty well cut up over this.”
furniture; even milk-pans moved with unElliott looked up quickly. “Especially cut wonted celerity. But she left them cleanup, do you mean?”
clean and shining.