Chapter 7




"TO THE WEST, TO THE WEST, THE LAND OF THE FREE."


"Bully for Donald!"

"Thar ain't no flies on him, boys, is thar?"

"Warn't it neat?"

"Knocked him out in one round, too!" The scene was a saloon in Montana. Six men were gathered round a table playing poker. The light was dim, the liquor was villainous, and the air was dense with tobacco smoke. It was a cowboy party, and one of the cowboys was Donald Morrison. He had adopted the free life of the Western prairies. He had learned to ride with the grace and shoot with the deadly skill of an Indian.

'Twas a rough life, and he knew it. He mixed but little with the "Boys," but the latter respected him for his manly qualities. He was utterly without fear. Courage is better than gold on the plains of Montana. He took to the life, partly because it was wild and adventurous, partly because he found that he could save money at it. The image of Minnie never grew dim in his heart, and he looked forward to a modest little home in his native village, graced and sweetened by the presence of a true woman.

On this night he had yielded to the persuasion of a few of the boys, and went with them to "Shorty's" saloon for a game of "keerds."

"Shorty" had a pretty daughter, who was as much out of place amid her coarse surroundings as violets in a coal mine.

She was quite honest, and she served her father's customers with modesty. Kitty--that was her name--secretly admired the handsome Donald, who had always treated her with respect upon the infrequent occasions of his visits.

On this night, while the party were at cards, "Wild Dick" Minton entered. He was a desperado, and it was said that he had killed at least two men in his time.

"Wild Dick" swaggered in, roughly greeted the party, called for drink, and sat down in front of a small table close to the card players.

Kitty served him with the drink.

"Well, Kitty," he said with coarse gallantry, "looking sort o' purty to-night, eh? Say, gimme a kiss, won't yer?"

Kitty blushed crimson with anger, but said nothing.

"Wild Dick" got up and took her chin in his hand.

"How dare you?" she said, stamping her foot with indignation.

"My! how hoighty-toighty we are! Well, if yer won't give a feller a kiss, I must take it," and Dick put his arm round her waist, and drew her towards him.

At that moment Donald, who had been watching his behaviour with increasing disgust and anger, leaped up, caught him by the throat with his left hand, and exclaimed: "Let her go, you scoundrel, or I'll thrash the life out of you."

Without a word Dick whipped out his shooter from his hip pocket; Donald's companions leaped from the table, concluding at once there was going to be blood, while "Old Shorty" ducked behind the counter in terror.

Kitty stood rooted to the spot, expecting to see her defender fall at her feet with a bullet through his brain or heart.

Donald, the moment that Dick pulled out the pistol, grasped the arm that held it as with a vice with his right hand, and, letting go his hold, of his throat, with his left he wrenched the weapon from him.

Then he dealt him a straight blow in the face that felled him like an ox.

Dick rose to his feet with murder in his eyes.

With a cry of rage he rushed upon Donald. The latter had learned to box as well as shoot. He was quite calm, though very pale. He waited for the attack, and then, judging his opportunity, let out his left with terrific force. The blow struck Dick behind the ear, and he fell to the ground with a heavy thud.

He rose to his feet, muttered something about his time coming, and slunk out.

Donald's victory over "Wild Dick," who was regarded as a bully, was hailed in the exclamations which head this chapter.

Donald never provoked a quarrel, but, once engaged, he generally came out victorious.

His prowess soon became bruited abroad, and he had the goodwill of all the wild fellows of that wild region.




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