THE RESCUE OF MISS SPENCER
While Hampton lingered between life and death, assiduously waited upon by both Naida and Mrs. Guffy, Brant nursed his burns, far more serious than he had at first supposed, within the sanctity of his tent, longing for an order to take him elsewhere, and dreading the possibility of again having to encounter this girl, who remained to him so perplexing an enigma. Glencaid meanwhile recovered from its mania of lynch-law, and even began exhibiting some faint evidences of shame over what was so plainly a mistake. And the populace were also beginning to exhibit no small degree of interest in the weighty matters which concerned the fast-culminating love affairs of Miss Spencer.
Almost from her earliest arrival the extensive cattle and mining interests of the neighborhood became aggressively arrayed against each other; and now, as the fierce personal rivalry between Messrs. Moffat and McNeil grew more intense, the breach perceptibly widened. While the infatuation of the Reverend Mr. Wynkoop for this same fascinating young lady was plainly to be seen, his chances in the race were not seriously regarded by the more active partisans upon either side. As the stage driver explained to an inquisitive party of tourists, “He ’s a mighty fine little feller, gents, but he ain’t got the git up an’ git necessary ter take the boundin’ fancy of a high-strung heifer like her. It needs a plum good man ter’ rope an’ tie any female critter in this Territory, let me tell ye.”
With this conception of the situation in mind, the citizens generally settled themselves down to enjoy the truly Homeric struggle, freely wagering their gold-dust upon the outcome. The regular patrons of the Miners’ Retreat were backing Mr. Moffat to a man, while those claiming headquarters at the Occidental were equally ardent in their support of the prospects of Mr. McNeil. It must be confessed that Miss Spencer flirted outrageously, and enjoyed life as she never had done in the effete East.
In simple truth, it was not in Miss Spencer’s sympathetic disposition to be cruel to any man, and in this puzzling situation she exhibited all the impartiality possible. The Reverend Mr. Wynkoop always felt serenely confident of an uninterrupted welcome upon Sunday evenings after service, while the other nights of the week were evenly apportioned between the two more ardent aspirants. The delvers after mineral wealth amid the hills, and the herders on the surrounding ranches, felt that this was a personal matter between them, and acted accordingly. Three-finger Boone, who was caught red-handed timing the exact hour of Mr. Moffat’s exit from his lady-love’s presence, was indignantly ducked in the watering-trough before the Miners’ Retreat, and given ten minutes in which to mount his cayuse and get safely across the camp boundaries. He required only five. Bad-eye Connelly, who was suspected of having cut Mr. McNeil’s lariat while that gentleman tarried at the Occidental for some slight refreshments while on his way home, was very promptly rendered a fit hospital subject by an inquisitive cowman who happened upon the scene.