On the Trails of the Old Kaibab
By Elsie C. Carroll
Helen was puzzled. Ought she to tell Steve who she was and claim her part of the ranch he had unwittingly admitted was hers? Should she write to Kendall, her lawyer, and ask him to come out and help solve the mystery of the cattle stealing? Should she make herself known to Uncle Billy and ask his advice?
She finally decided to wait for the present, but to make friends with the people at the Park and learn all she could.
One day she called on Mrs. Carter, the woman who on the evening of her arrival had been pointed out as a gossip who knew everything about everybody.
She found she could guide her hostess into any conversational channel she chose.
No, Mrs. Carter hadn’t known Sam Huntsman. She’d only been coming to the mountain the past five or six years. But she’d heard all about the triangle with him and Steve Heyden’s father and mother. Steve’s mother, she believed, had died a few years ago in a sanitarium near Salt Lake City. His father had lived only a few years after that queer accident – if it was an accident. Of course the Powell Trail was narrow in those days, but good heavens, hadn’t cattle men been riding over it for years and years before, and nobody else had ever gone over.
Molly Dean? Oh, yes, she knew Molly. Everybody treated her just as if she were white. She’d kept house for Steve and his father after the mother “went off” and took care of Steve just as if he’d been her own child. But no telling what she’d be now if she kept living at Tess Morley’s. Hadn’t Helen heard? Why, the awful creature kept open house for all the roadhands and cowboys. She oughtn’t to be allowed on the mountain.
No, she didn’t exactly know just where Tess came from. She’d bought an abandoned ranger’s cabin over in Aspen Flat and had fixed it up like a palace. Called it The Retreat – the brazen huzzy. Had couches and rugs and pictures – even a piano and radio and telephone – away out there. She kept blooded dogs and polo horses and rode all over the country just like a man; tagged along with the men with her movie camera, pretending that taking pictures was what she was interested in.
Molly? Oh, yes, she had been talking about Molly. Well, she was a born nurse even if she was a squaw. A kind of Indian medicine woman. She’d gone to take care of Tess three years ago when the creature was so sick – and all the men were afraid she was going to die, and all the women were afraid she wouldn’t. Molly had been with her ever since, poor old thing. Of course she didn’t understand what Tess was.
Lon? Well, Lon was Molly’s boy, working for Steve Heyden. Steve was awful good to him and if he wasn’t careful Tess would get him yet through Lon. She was after Steve, everybody knew that, and she’d get him yet – offering a lot of prizes to keep the rodeo going because it was Steve’s hobby. Wait until the rodeo –
Helen wasn’t so much interested in the coming rodeo as in learning what Lon was doing that day with a stranger on the opposite side of the mountain from Steve Heyden’s ranch.
Why not ride out to Tess Morley’s place? She’d like to know this woman. Perhaps Tess, as herself, had for some reason found her environment intolerable and had fled to the freedom of the West. An attractive woman would be misjudged by such minds as Mrs. Carter’s. She wanted also to know Molly Dean, the Indian woman who had mothered Steve Heyden when he was a little boy.
If Russell had a map of the mountain, she’d go to Tess Morley’s place the next day.
That night Bernice Hawley barely responded to Helen’s greeting as the two met in the entertainment hall – jealous because Helen had been with Steve. Helen only smiled and looked about the room.
Mrs. Hawley sat in a corner with Mrs. Carter, who was leaning forward, screening her mouth with one hand and looking furtively about as she talked. Helen wondered who the victim of the moment might be.
She learned a moment later when she walked toward the fireplace and caught the words: “Dr. Grosbeck – the night she came – her husband.” Fred had evidently made quite a stir, that night of her arrival.
She dreaded her first meeting with him. Of course he would make himself a missionary to try to bring about a reconciliation between her and George.
“Mrs. Carter was just telling me that Dr. Grosbeck is a friend of yours and that he thought your husband must be with you the night you came,” Mrs. Hawley said. “A man should think twice before letting as pretty a wife as you go so far away without him. I live in Salt Lake City, but I don’t trust that bald-headed old man of mine out here alone.”
The dance music started. There was a stir about the door as Tess Morley entered. She was instantly surrounded by men and boys.
“I should like to meet Miss – or is it Mrs. Morley,” Helen told Russell. He seemed surprised.
“Sure. Tess is an unusual person. The women all hate her like poison. But I guess that’s natural, when she’s so attractive to the men and can ride and rope with the best of them. And you ought to see the place she’s fixed up away out here in the sticks.”
“I should like to. Where is it?”
“Over in Aspen Flat – about twenty miles from here. Just a nice ride. You’ll have to get one of the fellows to take you over some day. Come on I’ll make you acquainted with her. You two might be friends.”
Tess’s black hair was parted in the middle and pinned severely back in a shining coil at the nape of her neck. Her skin was smooth and brown. She wore no rouge, but her lips, habitually parted in a smile that revealed white, even teeth, were painted a deep orange to match her earrings, bracelet, and nail polish. Her eyes, dark and heavily lashed, revealed her capacity for intense feeling either of love or hate.
“Hello, Wood,” she said. “Where are all the fellows?”
“Aren’t they all here?” he laughed, waving to the group about her.
She means Steve, thought Helen, and wondered why she resented the fact.
“This is Mrs. Latimer from Chicago, Tess. She is going to spend the summer with us, Mrs. Morley.”
The woman looked at Helen with cool indifference.
“How do you do.” She was about to turn to one of the men at her side when Helen said,
“I have heard so much of your unusual summer home, Mrs. Morley. I wonder if you won’t invite me out to see it sometime?”
Tess seemed surprised at her friendliness, but she did not respond. Instead she looked at her with an air of suspicion.
“I doubt if you would be interested, but come if you’d like to. It isn’t far.” But there was no cordiality in her forced invitation.
Helen, however, was determined not to be defeated in her new purpose. She must find out about Lon Dean, and how could she do it better than by becoming acquainted with his mother?
“I understand you have an unusual Indian woman for your housekeeper. Do you know, I have never seen a squaw?”
“She had better be careful about calling Molly a squaw, hadn’t she, Wood?”
“That’s right. Neither Molly nor Lon consider themselves Indians.”
The music started again and Tess went onto the floor with Ham Grimes who swayed with a rhythm inspired more by alcohol than by the orchestra.
Helen resented the woman’s incivility, but she was undaunted in her plan to see the Retreat and to meet Molly Dean.
The next morning Russell gave her a map of the mountain and pointed out Tess’s place. He showed her two ways she might go. The road was plainly marked on the map, but there was a trail more direct.
Steve’s horse was brought for her, and Helen rode out of Pleasant Valley.
The ride through the trees was glorious. The road led her from ridge to ridge, each very much like the one before. Finally she reached the top of one and saw The Retreat below her.
The original rangers’ cabin had been enlarged, wings added to the south and west. The house was painted white with green trimmings, and there were white fences and trellises for roses and vines. The building was surrounded by rock gardens, grottos, and beds of perennials. Strewn throughout the grounds were garden-chairs, tables, hammocks and bright umbrellas. Picturesque as the place was, it seemed incongruous. The rough log buildings at the V.T. Park seemed more in keeping with the surroundings.
For a little while she sat in her saddle with no definite plans. She only knew that she had come hoping to learn something about Lon Dean, whom she felt was in some way connected with the cattle thieves. But she had no idea how to proceed now she was here.
The place seemed deserted. Tess Morley with her camera was probably with the rangers Helen had heard were going to mark trees to be taken from the forest.
At last she rode down to the house and dismounted. She would try to find Molly Dean.
She was fastening Maje to a hitching post when she heard a horse coming down the ridge opposite her. In a moment the rider came into view. He was small and dark and was hunched over the pommel of his saddle. He wore no hat and his head was bound with a red bandana handkerchief.
Helen looked with growing excitement as he came nearer. At last she was sure it was Lon.
It was evident that he was injured. His hands had dropped the bridle reins and were clinging to the saddle, and he swayed dangerously as his horse descended the rough trail. when the horse reached the foot of the ridge he walked to a gate at the south side of the house and stopped. Helen heard the rider groan as he lurched in the saddle.
As she started toward him, a door of the cabin opened and a fat dark woman in a bright print dress hurried down the path.
The two women reached the boy at the same moment. Molly was too intent on her son to pay much attention to Helen. At sight of his face, covered with dried blood, and the wild fevered look in his eyes, she emitted a queer guttural cry. Helen could not be sure whether it was of anger or pity.
The boy slid from the saddle and stood clinging weakly to the horse’s mane. Molly shook him gently and demanded,
“What matter? You get more bad whisky?”
The boy roused himself and shook his head.
“No. Hurt. Try find about cattle thieves. They think I tell and knock me in head. I got to find Steve – but – I –”
He swayed and would have fallen had not Molly caught him. Helen helped her get him to the porch. He was burning with fever. His eyes had a wild expression again. He kept muttering. She caught a few words – “calves – cave – House Rock – Canyon rim,” but she could make nothing of it.
Her first impulse was to hurry away to find Steve, but the boy was desperately ill. She must help Molly care for him.
They got him to a couch on the porch and Molly brought water and bandages from the house. She took the colored handkerchief from his head, revealing a deep, jagged gash near his right temple.
“There is a doctor at Bright Angel,” Helen said as Molly worked. “I’ll go back to the Park and telephone for him.”
“Yes. Queek. He hurt bad.”
Helen started toward her horse. The Indian woman called after her.
“Find Steve, too. Tell him ’bout thieves.”
Helen hurried back over the trail, trying to think what could have happened to Lon and how his injury might be connected with the cattle-stealing mystery.
She would telephone to Fred Grosbeck as soon as she reached the hotel and then try to find House Rock Valley. Could she find Steve’s ranch from the map Russell had given her, or would she have to ask the hotel proprietor for a guide? From Steve’s behavior on the day they had seen Lon with the red bearded stranger, she knew he desired to keep what was happening secret. Evidently he had some plan upon which he was working.
She was riding as fast as she dared along the rocky trail when she became aware that another horseman was coming toward her through the trees at her right. It was Bernice Hawley. How pretty she was in her red shirt and khaki trousers, her yellow curls and wide sombrero framing her face – a bright dryad of the woods.
She joined Helen on the trail.
Helen greeted her genially. The girl’s dislike for her was only foolish jealousy because Steve had taken her to Point Sublime. She would cultivate the child’s friendship. “Do you know I almost called you, Bernice. There’s something about this country that makes one want to do away with formalities.”
“That’s what everybody says.” Bernice looked questioningly back over the trail. “Isn’t Steve with you?”
“No. I haven’t seen him since the day he took me to see Point Sublime. I wish you had gone with us; it was a marvelous experience for me. I suppose, though, you have seen the canyon so often it doesn’t affect you as it does a stranger.”
“I wasn’t invited to go,” Bernice pouted childishly.
“You should have come along anyway. This is a free country, isn’t it?” She could see the girl’s hostility giving way.
“Steve doesn’t like me around. He acts as if I’m nothing but a baby.”
“What’s your name?”
“You’ll laugh. It’s Sammy – Sammy Latimer. I was named for my father. But everybody calls me Helen.”
No wonder Steve called Bernice a pest.
“You’re a widow, aren’t you?”
“What did you come out here for?”
“Why, to see the country, of course.”
Bernice was silent a moment, studying Helen critically.
“Steve’d fall for your type a lot quicker than he would for Tess Morley’s,” she said glumly.
“What a child you are. Steve Heyden isn’t the kind of a man who’d be falling in love with any married woman.”
The mention of Steve reminded Helen of her grim errands.
“I must hurry to the hotel and send a doctor to Lon Dean,” she said, and urged her horse on.