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قراءة كتاب The She Boss: A Western Story

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‏اللغة: English
The She Boss: A Western Story

The She Boss: A Western Story

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 2

href="@public@vhost@g@gutenberg@html@files@19129@[email protected]#chap27" class="pginternal" tag="{}a">UNDER THE DRIPPING TREES


The She Boss



Spring was manifest in the vast big-timber country of Mendocino County. "Uncle" Sebastian Burris felt the moist warmth of it oozing from the slowly drying road as he trudged along. The smell of it emanated from the white, pale-yellow, and pink fungi that flourished on the soaked and ancient logs along the way. He heard the voice of it in the soft murmuring of the South Fork of the Eel, which went twinkling down Bear Valley through firs and redwoods straight as telegraph poles; in the caress of the soft south wind soughing in the tree-tops. Chipmunks and gray squirrels darted across his path.

A quarter of a mile from Wharton Bixler's store he turned off on a narrow road which led into the deeper forest. He passed through groves of redwoods which towered three hundred feet above him, and whose girth was over sixty feet. A half mile more the old man trudged on sturdily, muttering occasionally to himself. Then he struck a cross trail which paralleled Ripley Creek, and this he followed into the sunshine of an open spot.

Across this, through thickets of whitethorn, manzanita, alder, and bay he limped along, following deer trails. The deeper forest was left behind in the lowlands. A grass-grown bark road, which he eventually found, followed the creek, ascending sharply through shade and sunshine, crossing and recrossing the creek on wooden bridges, twisting, always climbing.

On one of the bridges Uncle Sebastian Burris halted. A great snarl of bleached driftwood had collected just above the bridge, and through it the clear water roared in a dozen tiny cataracts. Beyond the drift Uncle Sebastian had caught a glimpse of some living, moving object. He wiped his watery blue eyes with a red handkerchief, looked once more, then crossed the bridge and wound through a thicket of huckleberry bushes till abreast the drift.

A little later he was peering down a steep bank into the boulder-studded bottom of Ripley Creek, where lay a fine young specimen of the genus homo idly tossing pebbles into the crystal water. A smile half sardonic grew in the features of Uncle Sebastian as he stood looking down at him.

The youth, unconscious of the presence of another, kept on idly tossing the pebbles, recumbent on one elbow. His long sinewy legs were incased in slick jean trousers of stovepipe lines and stiffness. He wore no coat. A faded blue shirt covered his barrel of a body, and his slouch hat was off, exposing long, light, wiry hair and a freckled neck. His lean jaws were covered by a two weeks' growth of beard. About him drooped hazels and alders. From one end to the other Ripley Creek was beautiful; there was no lovelier spot in all of California.

"Hello, Hiram!" Sebastian Burris called at last.

The youth started perceptibly and sat up. He turned his head over his left shoulder. Big, bulging blue eyes laughed back at Sebastian. The good-naturedly twisted mouth that grinned at him was suggestive of a sluggish drawl. The long legs twined themselves, and Hiram Hooker flopped over on his stomach, facing his friend.

"Why, hello, Uncle Sebastian!" he cried in a tone which bore true welcome. "What're you doin' 'way up here? Come on down an' look at the young trout!"

Without remark, Uncle Sebastian, grasping roots and low-hanging branches, clambered stiffly down the bank. He sat down by the side of Hiram Hooker and glanced at three old, dirty backless magazines that lay on the pebbles and smiled.

"Ain't seen ye down to th' store at stage time in I dunno when, Hiram," he remarked, surveying the handsome young Hercules with admiration.

Hiram skimmed a flat piece of slate across a riffle.

"I never get any mail, Uncle Sebastian," he drawled.

"They's a heap o' us don't go to Bixler's fer th' mail, Hiram."

"Heaven knows there's nothin' else to take me there," and there was just a shade of bitterness in the twist of Hiram's good-natured mouth.

In place of tossing pebbles, Uncle Sebastian chose to pick up a redwood splinter on which to whittle. He took out a slick-handled jackknife, blew a clot of pocket lint from the springs, opened a whetted pruning blade, and began shaving the brittle wood. His watery blue eyes were far-off and thoughtful.

"Jest come from there," he resumed. "We was talkin' about ye down there, Hiram. Put me in mind to come up an' see ye. Hiram, ye ain't any too popular in Bear Valley—d'ye know it?"

"You know I do," promptly replied Hiram.

"D'ye know what they're sayin' agin' ye?" Uncle Sebastian continued after a long pause.

"Don't know as I'm carin'."

"Yes, ye are, Hiram," said Uncle Sebastian positively. "Don't tell me that. Ye c'n tell yerself ye don't keer, Hiram, but ye're lyin' to yerself. It ain't in human nature not to keer what folks thinks about a fella. Gosh! where'd we be if it wasn't so?"

Hiram flipped a pebble. "I reckon you're right, Uncle Sebastian, and I reckon I know you're aimin' at somethin'. You came 'way up here to spring somethin' on me, didn't you? Well, le's have it."

"Ye're right, Hiram—I did. In the first place, then, they're sayin' ye're the laziest fella in Bear Valley."

Hiram laughed mirthlessly. "There's nothin' new in that, Uncle Sebastian. They've said the same since paw died. I reckon I am, maybe."

"Hiram," patiently persisted the old man, "I didn't walk 'way up here to listen to such talk. I tell ye, ye're playin' insincere, Hiram. Down in yer heart ye know as well as anythin' it makes ye hot to be talked about an' called th' laziest man in Bear Valley. I'd druther see ye hoppin'