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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 264 pages of information about Under Handicap.

UNDER HANDICAP

CHAPTER I

Outside there was shimmering heat and dry, thirsty sand, miles upon miles of it flashing by in a gray, barren blur.  A flat, arid, monotonous land, vast, threatening, waterless, treeless.  Its immensity awed, its bleakness depressed.  Man’s work here seemed but to accentuate the puny insignificance of man.  Man had come upon the desert and had gone, leaving only a line of telegraph-poles with their glistening wires, two gleaming parallel rails of burning steel to mark his passing.

The thundering Overland Limited, rushing onward like a frightened thing, screamed its terror over the desert whose majesty did not even permit of its catching up the shriek of the panting engine to fling it back in echoes.  The desert ignored, and before and behind the onrushing train the deep serenity of the waste places was undisturbed.

Within the train the desert was nothing.  Man’s work defied the heat and the sand and the sullen frown outside.  Here in the Pullman smoking-car were luxury, comfort, and companionship.  Behind drawn shades were the whir of electric fans, an ebon-faced porter in snowy linen, the clink of ice in long, misted glasses, the cool fragrance of crushed mint.  Even the fat man in shirt-sleeves reading the Denver Times, alternately drawing upon his fat cigar and sipping the glass of beer at his elbow, was not distressing to look upon.  The four men busy over their daily game of solo might have been at ease in their own club.

At one end of the long car two young men dawdled in languid comfort, their bodies sprawling loosely in two big, soft arm-chairs, a tray with a couple of half-emptied high-ball glasses upon the table between them.  They had created an atmosphere of their own about them, an atmosphere constituted of the blue haze from cigarettes mingled with trivial talk.  The immensity outside might have bored them, so their shade was drawn low.  For a moment one of the two men lifted a corner of it.  He peered out, only to drop it with a disgusted sigh and return to his high-ball.

He was slender, young, pale-eyed, pale-haired, white-handed, anemic-looking.  He was patently of the sort which considers such a thing as carelessness in the matter of a crease in one’s trousers a crime of crimes.  His tie, adjusted with a precision which was a science, was of a pale lavender.  His socks were silk and of the same color.  His eyes were as near a pale lavender as they were near any color.

“The devilish stupid sameness of this country gets on a man’s nerves.”  He put his disgust into drawling words.  “Suppose it’s like this all the way to ’Frisco?”

His companion, stretching his legs a bit farther under the table, made no answer.

“I said something then,” the lavender young gentleman said, peevishly.  “What’s the matter with you, Greek?”

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