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THE TERMS OF SURRENDER

CHAPTER I

AT “MAGONIGAL'S”

"H Ή

ULLO, Mac!"

“ Hullo, Derryt"

“ What's got the boys today? Is there a round-up somewhere?"

“ Looks that-a way,” said Mac, grabbing a soiled cloth with an air of decision, and giving the pine counter a vigorous rub. At best, he was a man of few words, and the few were generally to the point; yet his questioner did not seem to notice the noncommittal nature of the reply, and, after an amused glance at the industrious Mac, quitted the store as swiftly as he had entered it. But he flung an explanatory word over his shoulder:

“ Guess I'll see to that plug myself-he’s fallen lame.”

Then John Darien Power swung out again into the vivid sunshine of Colorado (“ vivid ” is the correct adjective for sunshine thereabouts in June about the hour of the siesta) and gently encouraged a dispirited mustang to hobble on three legs into the ironroofed lean-to which served as a stable at “MacGonigal's.” Meanwhile, the proprietor of the store gazed after Power's retreating figure until neither man nor horse was visible. Even then, in an absent-minded way, he continued to survey as much of the dusty sur

face of the Silver State as was revealed through the rectangle of the doorway, a vista slightly diminished by the roof of a veranda. What he saw in the foreground was a whitish brown plain, apparently a desert, but in reality a plateau, or “park," as the local name has it, a tableland usually carpeted not only with grama and buffalo grasses curing on the stem, but also with flowers in prodigal abundance and of bewildering varieties. True, in the picture framed by the open door neither grass-stems nor flowers were visible, unless to the imaginative eye. There was far too much coming and going of men and animals across the strip of common which served the purposes of a main street in Bison to permit the presence of active vegetation save during the miraculous fortnight after the spring rains, when, by local repute, green whiskers will grow on a bronze dog. Scattered about the immediate vicinity were the ramshackle houses of men employed in the neighboring gold and silver reduction works. The makeshift for a roadway which pierced this irregular settlement led straight to MacGonigal's, and ended there. As every man, woman, and child in the place came to the store at some time of the day or night, and invariably applied Euclid's definition of the nearest way between two given points, the flora of Colorado was quickly stamped out of recognition in that particular locality, except during the irrepressible period when, as already mentioned, the fierce rains of April pounded the sleeping earth and even bronze dogs into a frenzied activity. Further, during that year, now nearly quarter of a century old, there had been no rain in April or May, and precious little in March.

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