Only a Trami>.
fAY after day ])a.>^scMl, bringini; no rain to the thirsty, windblown valley. The snn earne np every morning into a dry, (in])ty sky, and every evening sank down behind the brown hills in a perfcet bla/e of glory. The dronth held full sway. Tanks weri' <lry, cistern- were drained, and for all the thirsting cattle in tlu' |)ar('hing pastnres there ^vas left only the water of the little cress-grown creek, which, skirting the town, bore on to the river the salt and snlphnrons How from Lampasas' never-failing springs.
From north and sonth and ea>t and we>t, through all the sun-strnek valley, came cowboys driving their herds down the ntirrow streets to the cool creek-side.
One quiet evening down the western hill-slope^ there came a band in full swing, the dry grass breaking crisply beneath the cattle's tread and the fine dust stirred into a dense cloud. Straight on eastward, toward the ford, spurred the leading horseman, calling out his musical halloo; but the grateful smell of the salt water near at hand reached the eager nostrils
of the thirsty cattle, and down an unprotected alleyway running southward, the head of the band turned sharply. In a moment, with digging of spurs, with whoop and halloo and shout and whistle, the horsemen were after, and some even gained the head of the onrushing column. But, 'Met ^ em go,'' called the leader, above the mingle of voices, and the stampeding drove, with five hundered parching throats, followed panting down the narrow lane between lines of barbed wire fence.
A man coming through the alley from the other end, saw the onrushing drove and waited, looking about him frightened and helpless. A pitiful figure he must have been at any time with his poor, stooped shoulders, and his ragged, dust-stained clothes, but in the face of the oncoming danger, he stood a picture of utter impotency.
"Head off the idiot struck dumb there," yelled a cowboy from the rear.
''Gome off! He's only a tramp. Let him run for it," called back the leader, cutting at the man with his quirt as he galloped by. " Clear out of this, can't you ? "
At first the man only started; then, reaching up his arm, he grasped the stout limb of a mesquite under which he was standing, and pulled himself up into the tree, his long legs dangling.
" Take in your shanks, you bloomin' coward," said the cowboy spurring past. There was a sharp whistle as the riata sped through the air, and the man in the tree felt the well-aimed rope whirr across his feet, cutting and burning into the thin ankles that
showed betwoL'ii the ragged trousers and h)\v, loppiug shoes.
But there was someone else in the narrow street besides the tramp wlio saw with consternation the onrushing, nuuhlened cattle. In the middle of the alley, halt-hidden by a clump of green-white milkweed, a child, a little thing, scarce more than a babe, stopped her gathering of" prickly cactus apples, and stood unmoving with wide-open, startled eyes. One of the galloping cowboys, casting his eye backward over his shoulder, caught sight of the little white still figure, and turned his pony sharply, but the mad cows were coming with frantic pace, snorting and bellowing in the dust-cloud.
And the man up in the tree? Looking down from his perch of safety, he saw the child almost beneath him. The rose-red juice of the cactus fruit had stained her lips and dripped down upon her white dress. My God I It looked like blood. The blood of a young child—O God I O God !
With one wild leap through the feathery mescpiite boughs the man was on his feet, a ])istol in each outstretched hand, between the child and the on-coming death. Above the tumult of shout and bellow the bullets sang out clear and sharp: the two foremost cows snorted, sprang their length, and dropped dead in the dust. There was gained only a second's interval, but with sudden swerve the cowboy had caught the child up before him and was galloping on in safety.
And the tramp?
They picked him up by and by w^hen the moving mass of hoofs and horns had passed in the dust-cloud.
his poor mangled body begrimed with his own life's blood.
It was the longest procession Lampasas had ever seen which followed up the northern hill-slope to the little cemetery next day. The cowboys, with big spurs rattling and high heels clinking against the stones, bore the cofBn all the way on their shoulders. In no other way could they so honor the man whom, in the pride of their centaur-like horsemanship, they had taunted as " a tramp.'^
They knew no name to carve upon the marble shaft they reared above him, taller than any in the whole grave-yard, but on the stone one reads now":
^^ To the memory "—not of a tramp, but '^ of a hero.''