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ALVIN Roberts and his black pony, Spitfire, were wandering through the sage-brush, looking for nothing in particular, when they found a small alfalfa field which no man seemed to own.

"We might as well have this," said the man to the horse, after they had stopped to take a "snack" and consider the matter. The consequence was that on the next day he brought a load of lumber for a "shack" to cover his bed and fryingpan, also the pony, and soon thereafter he went to the land office and filed on that forty, as well as three adjoining ones.

It happened, or was ordered, that Molly Saunders and her white pony, Blanche, had also been wandering through the sage-brush, and finding this small alfalfa field, immediately made a similar remark about taking possession, and being a woman of quick action, she also bought a load of lumber and sought the land office and filed on that forty, together with three adjoining, but not the ones that Cal Roberts had chosen.

Then the fun commenced. She went into the office just as Cal came out, but neither knew the other's business, and each was thoroughly amazed on seeing a little cabin go up on the other side of that alfalfa field, yet they said nothing until Spitfire and Blanche were picketed. inside the fenced field, then one remarked: "What gall!" and the other exclaimed: "What a cheek!" and each resolved to go over and have it out before another night.

That afternoon Spitfire pulled up his picket stake and pranced across the forty for a chat with Blanche. She received him politely, and they

had such a pleasant visit and looked so beautiful together that Cal and Molly, when they went to part them, at once forgot the sharp things they had meant to say and were civil though cool in manner and sparing of words.

But this was only a truce. Before many days it became evident to each that the other had serious intentions

in regard to that forty. They learned, too, that in both cases these intentions had been duly put on file, but which was first? That would decide the point. Molly was not sure, but she suspected, for she had taken quick and careful notice of the lean, indolent but obstinate looking stranger who was going when she was coming; she suspected who had a legal right to that forty, but she believed that she would make a better use of it than he, and “anyhow the lazy, contrary thing" shouldn't have it. Both wrote to the land office and received an apologetic letter from the clerk, each an exact copy of the other, except for names, and giving the date as 2 o'clock on May 10th, but adding that the records showed another entry which included the forty in dispute, made at the same hour of the same day. He confessed that the mistake must have been owing to carelessness on his part, but his excuse was that a great personal trouble had just come upon him and must have made him absent-minded. Reporting the mistake would cost him his position and do them no good, so he advised them to fight it out between themselves, which they proceeded to do.

That was the only way, for there was no more unoccupied land adjoining and without that forty nei


ther claim would have been worth half so much. So they tried to tire each other out by petty worrying, open hostility, and secret persecution. If one bought horses, cattle, sheep or hogs, geese, ducks chickens, the other straightway straightway bought the same, or better, in quality and kind. Cal even waited until Molly had chosen and recorded her brand, then had his made the same, with an added bar, so that by careful handling of the iron the brand might be changed from hers to his. Not that he ever did or meant to do such a thing, but the constant suspicion kept her irritated, as he knew it would, and to pay him back she did the same with the ear-mark on her hogs, and when the little pigs with their mothers were turned in to feast on the alfalfa roots it was very easy to make mistakes and drive them all into one corral. When the young ducks and geese went sailing down the ditch it was the same; even the bees as they swarmed from both sides over the sage and the purple blooms of the alfalfa, fought for possession and robbed each other's hives-and oh, such a time as this old maid and old bachelor did have!

In spite of all his longing to keep even, Cal's flocks and herds did not increase so fast as Molly's, for she had judged him correctly. He was not so energetic and he was obstinate, sometimes to his own loss. Then, too, she was quicker and surer with the lariat, and when out on the range, or at the annual roundup, she could rope, tie and brand two mavericks to his one. Cal laughed and said he didn't care, or afterwards threatened to vent her brand by applying his own.

So it went on, and neither would give up. They were prompt in paying the installments of their purchase money, each trying to beat the other at the office and often meeting, as at first, but only to resume the quarrel.

But all this time Spitfire and Blanche had done their best to bring about a pleasanter state of things. They called to each other across the forty, and when they met on the range would persist in trying to see each other home.

At length the final payment and real trial of titles was due. Each was determined to conquer this time and by another happening or ordering, chose the same moonless morning for an early start. They slept lightly at first, then heavily, until an hour or two before before daylight, when their dreams were disturbed by a hum that almost instantly became a roar, a whirl, a crash, a deluge, a general mix-up and washaway of apparently all things on the earth, above the earth and in the earth. Any one who was ever sucked into a water-spout knows what it was like.

As soon as the air cleared and he could see, Cal crawled, half drowned, out of the sage-brush where he had been tossed with the ruins of his cabin, and looked about. He stared, rubbed his eyes and stared again, amazed at what he saw and didn't see.

The precious forty was gone, literally and almost completely. Only a few feet of alfalfa fringe clung to the edges, and their long, threadlike roots dangled over a brand-new canyon with muddy water and huge sods still rolling out at the lower end.

"Well, I'll be darned!" stuttered. Cal. He looked again. "Molly Sanders has vamosed. I've won the pile." She and her cabin had disappeared as completely as had the forty.. But just then he saw Blanche

poor, forlorn, mud-bespattered Blanche, trying to climb the soft bank of that terrible gully, and forgetting that she belonged to the enemy, he hurried to help her. The beautiful creature whinnied. piteously, pointing with her nose to a great bleeding gash in her shoulder,

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then looked back into the pit, calling as she had so many times called across the forty to Spitfire. He wouldn't answer. Poor Spitfire! He couldn't, for his mouth was full of muddy alfalfa. But he didn't chew it; he couldn't, and he never would try any more.

As the man bent down over his dead horse, sobbing out a big hard word, he heard a voice above him say: "Oh, I'm so sorry!" He looked around and up, then with the tears still in his eyes, began laugh-laughed till more came, and when he could stop long enough, shouted: "Oh, Molly, hung up to dry? Are ye well pinned on?"


"Shut up!" snapped the voice, and Cal slowly climbed the slippery bank again and walked along the brink of the chasm. The barbed wire fence, still clinging to its posts, had been torn from the upper end of the enclosure and flung across the gap, forming an impromptu suspension bridge, sagging in the center, but held by the remaining fence. this prickly, shaking bridge lay the mattress of Molly's bed, and curled up on that, hugging her dripping blankets, was Molly herself, "hung up to dry," surely, helpless yet defiant as ever.


Fortunately, as it proved, a great cottonwood tree had stood just inside the fence and now stretched a long, huge arm over the bridge which had tightly clasped the trunk and stuck its barbs full length into the bark, as if to keep from falling Beside this tree Cal stopped and considered, while the woman lay below, as if asleep. Finally he called: "Woo-hoo!" But only Blanche answered that remark; then he tried again. "Molly, Molly Saunders, time to get up." Still there was no sound except the soft roll of the alfalfa sods in the thin mud. He tried again.

"Oh, Molly, I'm going to the land office."

"Go 'long, then!" came in a

scream from the roll of blankets. He looked down at Spitfire, who was to have gone with him on that errand, and the sight brought a lump into his throat that made his voice sound harsh even to himself, as he shouted: "Don't you want to go, too?"

"No," she screamed, and covered her head with the blanket. Blanche limped painfully to his side and peered over the bank, whinnied and turned her great, pleading eyes toward him.

"Well, what can I do about it?" he asked her. "She is contrary as they make 'em." Then he called again: "Say, Molly, how are you going to get out of that?"

The roll of blankets began to shake and quiver, but still her answer was ready, though not quite so distinct in tone.

"It's none of your-your ness."


"Then stay there till you blow away, if you want to!" he growled. "Just like a woman-determined to hang on to the hole where that forty was if she dies for it; but I've got the cinch on her this time."

After a tiresome hunt he found his lariat, now quite dry, tangled about a clump of sage. He coiled it carefully upon his arm, went back to the cottonwood, climbed it, crept out on that long limb and waited. After a while Molly raised her head. The bridge swayed, but she persevered, till she was sitting bolt upright with her back toward him. Instantly he flung his lariat and the coils dropped gently around her and tightened.

"Now, then, up she comes!" he called cheerily, as he hauled in the rope and she swung clear of the mattress, that somersaulted into the mud below, while she kicked and scolded at the end of the rope. He hauled her up to within easy range, then he said coaxingly: "Say, Molly, wil ye give up that forty?" "No, I won't."

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And once again my chafing soul made moan:
"These chains, O Lord, that shackle feet and hands,
Must my galled spirit ever feel the weight
And fret of linked steel and iron bands?"

"The growing seed hath power," the Voice replied, "To burst its shell." My soul with joyous start Proclaimed it lived. And now it marvels oft At sight of earth-forged fetters rent apart.

Once, twice. Then thrice my sore-tried spirit cried: "These stings, O Lord! These tiny poisoned spears

From envious minds! All bleeding do I walk

Beset with thorns made fertile with my tears!"

"What need hath winged bird," the Voice replied, "To court the venomed fang?" When hopefully I upward looked-and now from heights serene I wonder that such darts had wounded me!


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