Drama on the polo field - Kyle Medlin up on the blue roan-Adair Strange driving them both from the sidelines
J. PAUL LOOMIS
I SAID. "I like that buckskin gelding. He looks to me like he'd play polo every minute he's on the field." "He'll play till he drops." The old horse dealer's shrewd, faded blue eyes warmed toward me. He pushed back his weathered hat. "I aim to handle that kind of ponies. Only time I got fooled had was when I sold one I knew would quit." I us eyes ranged reminiscently past me. across the swelling foothills to the mountains that stand, high and sharp, above Calgary.
“That was ...” I urged.
“On a blue roan named Qu’Appelle,” he answered. “Sold him back to Kyle Medlin. Yes, the Kyle Medlin. Eight goals now, isn’t it, they rate him? But mister, you take that buckskin—”
"Maybe I will,” I said, “after I try him. And after you tell me why Kyle Medlin named a horse Who Calls?”
IT WAS not (I learned) for geographical reasons, which seem to apjieal to Westerners so. The blue horse hadn’t come from the Qu’Appelle Valley, but had been foaled here in the high foothills. He was five years old when Kyle played him in a match between the Rangemen here, and a team from Spokane. That was when Adair Strange first saw either of them, Kyle or Qu’Apixrlle.
Adair knew ponies. And jx»lo. It had been the air she’d breathed ever since she could sit in a saddle, at Peigan River Ranch. And she saw' Kyle, on the blue pony, take the ball in the shadow of the Rangemen’s goal posts, ride off one opponent, outdistance two more, and when blocked by the back, send a slashing shot under the blue’s neck sixty yards for a winning goal.
Adair was at the hitching racks when Kyle rode his dripping |x>ny off the field. She met the lanky, grey-eyed rider with a frank smile and a cool, firm hand.
“You don’t know me.” she said. “I’ve been East for two years. But you know my father, Hugh Strange.”
Kyle guessed he did. The Peigan River outfit raised more and better horses than any other in the foothills, and its owner was a strong backer of the Rangemen’s jx>!o team. They did say that Hugh put up lots of front, but if hard times had left him on a narrow f;x>ting that was none of Kyle’s affair.
"I do wish dad could have seen this game,” the girl continued. “You played great |>o!o, and that’s a grand horse.” Kyle didn’t know what he replied if anything. He did know that it was hard for him to breathe, and that clear, smooth cheeks and deep brown eyes and soft hair that had a hint of eopj>er in the sun, were the reasons for it. Also that the girl’s coo! slenderness was increased by her white slacks suit that was set off by a wide belt of bright blue. “Where did you get such a jxmy?” he heard her ask. “Found him,” Kyle answered. A trace of hardness crept into his voice. He’d grown bitter at not being believed on that.
“Found him! How? When?”
"In a snowbank,” he said. "Five years ago there was a big snowstorm late in the spring ...”
”1 remember,” the girl said, and the quick widening of those brown eyes told him she had some reason not to forget. Then a pucker drew between her arched brows. "What’s his name?” she asked.
"I called him Qu'Appelle.” he told her. “I heard a snuffling nicker in the dark as I was riding in. that night, to the 7Y. And there was a dav-old foal, down to his shoulders in a snowdrift. His mother was gone. While I was carrying him to the ranch something made me think of that legend about the voice calling in the storms and the voyageur’s answer: Qu'appelle? Who calls?”
“Did you train him to play X)lo?” she asked next. “Yes.” he said.
“We have games at home every Saturday. Will you bring Qu'Appelle to Peigan River Ranch?”
Kyle said he would, and st;xxl looking after her till she got into a racy-lined coupé, picked up Morgan Carr, and soon was lost in dust on the prairie road.
That last had hardened Kyle's jaw and balled his big brown lists. Adair was something so new and wonderful to him it was a jolt to realize she could lx* known by anyone else Esjxxially Morgan Carr!
Morgan hadn’t been in the game that day because of an injured hand. But he usually was, and when he finished a match there were flecks of red froth on his exjxnsive riding boots. Once in a practice game. Kvle had seen him strike a pony between the ears with his mallet. He’d pulled him from his saddle and knocked him flat. Which had meant Kyle’s suspension from the team for the rest of that season. Now, when the two met. a smoky look came to Morgan's black eyes and frost glinted in Kyle’s gunpowder ones.
"V\7TIEN Hugh Strange had seen Qu’Appelle play and VV had ridden him in one chukker, he came straight to Kyle.
“Here’s a pony that’s trained right," he said. “Keeps his neck out and his jaw against the bit without pulling. Changes lead perfectly. Follows the ball.” Something pressed on the inside of Kyle’s chest. Hugh asked: “What are you doing now?”
“Breaking broncs for the 7Y ” Kyle answered.
“I’ll double your wages,” Hugh stated. "Come and train
polo ponies for me. Some day.” he added, his eyes going back to the alert, lean head, powerful chest and quarters and clean legs of the horse. "I hope to raise a lot like this roan for you to work on.”
From then on, Adair asked every day if she might ride Qu’Appelle in practice. And for the first time since Kyle— a slim kid then - had succeeded in making a half-dead colt drink warm milk out of a bottle, his pride in his horse was matched by a greater thrill. That was when he watched Adair play jxilo. Though while she was on the field, his mui game wasn’t so good.
He thought that his admiration was all for her skill with a mallet and her way of riding -as if she and her horse were one. But once when Morgan’s frantic pony crashed hers to the ground. Kyle was stabbingly conscious of the warmth and soft suppleness of the limp form that was suddenly in his arms. What he would give then, to see the bright color in her cheeks again ! And to hear her laugh !
Which he did hear somewhat shaky, but soon. And that was lucky for Morgan. Because, deep in Kyle, a fury was growing that would have flamed out to meet the black cloud settling on Morgan’s handsome face as he followed while Kyle carried Adair to the house.
It wasn’t only on the polo field that Kyle and Adair met. With the brown-eyed girl always on Qu’Appelle, they rode high into the foothills. Shrilling hawks wheeled against the blue sky above them, and plover whistled on the ridges ahead. And since Carr’s ranch, with its new white stables and paddocks and its stuccoed house, was next to the Strange holdings, Morgan sometimes saw' two figures against a sunset skyline. It made him cut roughly at the horse he rode.
Hugh Strange came home from a trip East with ponies. The market had broken. He’d had a hard time to get rid of the stock. Morgan took him by the buttonhole.
“Did it never strike you as queer that a ranch hand rides
a thoroughbred?” he asked. “You know that blue roan is that. You can see it with your eyes shut.”
Hugh rubbed his chin. He’s the sort that’s slow to believe hard things of anyone. But when his mind's made up . . .
“Your mare, Hill Queen,” Morgan went on, "the prizewinner you bought at the show in Toronto, jumped your pasture fence and went away with some range broom-tails, didn't she? Just before that blizzard five years ago. And you found her after the storm near the 7Y? She’d foaled— and lost her colt?”
“And caught pneumonia,” Hugh finished glumly. “We never got her home.”
"She was a deep grey.” Morgan continued, “and you said she was in foal to your young stallion, Black Gold. That’s the color match that sometimes throws the blue roan.” He looked at Hugh and one corner of his fuli lips lifted. “Well?” he said.
“Says he found him, I believe,” Hugh admitted.
“Found him!” Morgan sneered. “Who ever heard of a mare deserting her foal? And what difference if she did? You don’t need a brand on a horse that’s the only one of his kind.”
T-TUGH claimed the blue pony just before the Rangemen were to play the visiting Mountaineers from Kamloops. Head up, Kyle met his look.
“Of course he’s not a broom-tail,” Kyle agreed. “I’ve always known he was thoroughbred. And wondered till now where on earth he came from. But I did find him,” he declared, “just as I’ve always told anyone who asked. He was in a drift on the bank of a coulee. Tracks showed the mare had floundered on through to the bottom of the gulch. There she’d been out of sight of her colt, and the wind had blown away the scent of him. She couldn’t go back up the bank, and when she did get out of the coulee she’d lost him. I couldn’t track her because on the ridges the wind had blotted her trail. Ned Blair, the 7Y boss, supposed the mare was his and told me I could have the knothead, as he called it, if I wanted to bother raising it.”
The defiance left Kyle’s eyes suddenly, and with a hungry look they turned to the horse. But they were proud when they came back to Hugh.
“Qu’Appelle is all I’ve had to care for since dad was killed by a bronc,” he said soberly. “But I’m glad to turn him over to you—for Adair.”
Hugh straightened and blinked like someone had hit him unexpectedly. When he spoke, his words were low.
“I can’t take him that way, Kyle,” he said. “You see. I’ve a good offer for him and—” He saw Kyle stiffen; he hurried on: “It’s from a party that ferried me over some pretty wide gaps during the hard times. And now, with
the market falling again, selling him this particular horse is the only way I can hold him off.”
Kyle’s face had a drained look now, under his tan. But he had admitted the horse was Hugh’s. Hugh could hear his breath.
Adair and Morgan came up then. She was in lxx>ts and breeches, for there had just been a women's jx>lo match. Her cheeks were flushed with the zest of the game and the thrill of winning. To Kyle, she had never seemed more wonderful -or, suddenly, farther away. He threw her a drowning sort of look.
He saw Morgan, with saddle on his arm and whip in his hand. Then he knew. But it was the whip that filled him with helpless rage.
"I’ve come for my horse,” Morgan said.
Adair's startled eyes went from one to another of the three men. Her father’s eyes were bleak, Morgan's exultant. But Kyle’s blazed and his knuckles were white.
He took one swift step toward Morgan—and caught himself. He’d learned that lesson. He whirled, and flung out both hands to Qu'Appelle. But he’d also outgrown throwing arms around a pony’s neck. Then he was going toward the stables, striding blindly. Suddenly Adair ran after him.
“Kyle,” she cried, “what is it? Why are you selling Qu’Appelle?”
“I’m not selling him !” Pain made his voice like a snarl. He jerked his arm from the grip of her earnest hand. “1 tried to give him to you and couldn’t. Anyway, I reckon you'd rather have him from your fine-feathered Morgan Carr.”
Then Kyle was gone. Not just from the polo grounds, but out of the foothills. He didn’t even send for the wages due him at Peigan River Ranch.
TT WASN’T on account of having to get a last-minute
substitute that the Rangemen lost that day. Morgan had flattered himself when he thought he could be a Kyle Medlin if he rode Medlin 's horse. The chukkers he played on Qu’Appelle were the ones in which the game was lost. The roan even threw him as high as a kite, he got so frantic at the whip.
In a year Morgan sold the roan. His next owner kept him less than a summer. His third brought him to the old horse dealer in disgust.
“You’re going to the Coast, I hear, with three cars of ponies. Take this one,” he said, “and get what you can out of him. He's known for a quitter around here.”
“I don’t do that kind of business,” came the stout objection.
“Guard, turn out!” shouted the roan’s owner. He was a
captain in Strathcona’s Horse. “That’s the record for an 'unusual occurrence.’ To find an honest horse trader!” “I'll take your nag,” the dealer suggested, “but I’ll advertise him under his right name.”
Which he did, in the Vancouver pajx?rs. In the crowd that gathered for the sale was the lean, brown face of Kyle Medlin. It cracked in a grin at sight of the man from beyond the mountains. Kyle was training jxilo jxmies, he said, for Pine Shadows Ranch. And that, by the way, was the biggest horse outfit on the Coast.
Kyle o|X‘ned on Qu’Appelle at SoOO. With such a start, and tlie blue’s grand looks and flashy action on the tanbark. men bid like they thought he was Man-o'-War. Not till Kyle said “Sixteen hundred." did the auctioneer’s hammer fall.
When the sale was over, the old dealer found Kyle in a near-by pen of the stockyards. He was on Qu’Appelle without a strap. By knee only. Kyle made the pony dodge and twist. The pride in his face brought a keen struggle to the old horseman's breast.
“You’re goin’ to take back a thousand bucks of this money,” he said grufllv. "I hate to tell you. but you’re stung, at that.”
Kyle slid to the ground. There was a bewildered look on his face. He said: “What d’you mean?”
“Qu'Appelle isn't the horse you thought he was,” came the answer. “He quits when a game gets hot.”
No reply. But Kyle's brows drew down and his jaw hardened. Then, as though determined to ignore the insult, he said defiantly: "The deal stands. This time no man’ll say I didn't get him fair.”
He turned away, then swung back with a sudden fierceness. "They think that, do they, at Calgary? That he’s a quitter?” He paused again, then said: “I’ve an invitation from Macharen to go up there with his Tyees for the Western Canada Tournament. I'll go. And I’ll show ’em there’s not a yellow hair in Qu’Appelle.”
Kyle had told himself that if he never saw the foothills again, it would be soon enough. Yet when the train rolled down from the mountains through the rolling prairie swells to Calgary, it made him tingle inside. The light air was heady. It was good to see a long way.
But he didn’t thrill when he reached the stables or stood again in the Rangemen s clubhouse, (¡reelings were: "So you’re back again! Well, well Sometimes men
turned their hacks as he approached or conversations stopjxxl.
’ I MIK Rangemen won from the Mountaineers. Then the Tyees took it by a narrow |xnnt from the Strathconas. That was a game that had them still buzzing at the dance
in the Rangemen'» Club,
Kyle stixxl by the big fireplace. His eye ran idly over the familiar trophies in cabinets and on the mantel that were proof of the skill and pluck of foothills men and horses. It was a record that went back through the years to the first |x>lo played in North America, when Calgary was a little log cowtown drowsing beside the Bow.
But he wasn’t thinking of that, nor of the dancing throng gliding past him. He was still in the sixth ehukker of the game that afternoon. It was then that the blue jxmv, whose grand playing in the third had made it |X)ssible for Kyle twice to click the ball between the Strathconas’ goal posts, that QuApjxdle had broken and wheeled before that wedge of hard-riding cavalrymen, driving down on the Tyees’ goal. It had only been that Macharen, on his deepflanked grey, had rocketed in and caught the ball with a slashing backhand that had kept the score from being tied.
“He quits. Quits when a match gets hot!” drummed endlessly in Kyle's brain.
But something did snap him to the present. Near him, Adair and Morgan danced by. The golden gown she wore heljxxl make her vivid as spring sunlight chasing cloud shadows across the foothills.
She saw him. Her smile struck him deep.
Also, the possessive look on Morgan’s face roused something in Kyle that belled back as to a challenge. When twice the music
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had stopped and Morgan did not release Adair, Kyle stepped forward and tapped him on the shoulder.
“Surely the prettiest girl in the hall isn’t to be claimed by one man all evening.’’ he said firmly. He let the resentment on Morgan’s face go for the satisfaction he got in the little twist Adair gave to free herself. She lifted her arms to dance and he took her, scarcely sure that this could be himself.
“It was good to see you on the polo field again,” she said. “It’s good to see you now. I knew you’d come back.”
They turned through a softly throbbing waltz. The lights dimmed. Her brown head was close to his shoulder, and the faint fragrance of her hair was sweeter to him than the scent of a wild prairie rose. Before he knew it he had bent and kissed those curls.
She glanced up at him, startled. Her color deepened. But they danced on in silence for Kyle’s thoughts were whirling and he would not trust his voice. Her tone, though, was even when she finally asked: “How did you get Qu’Appelle again?” He told her. She exclaimed:
“Oh, I’m glad you brought him back to Calgary !”
The way her hand in his tightened with her earnestness seemed to stab him. The bitterness that had been for the time smothered, surged up in him again.
“I’m not glad.” he said harshly. “You saw what Qu’Appelle did today?”
“Yes, I saw it.” Then, after a pause: “But once I saw you stamp away from this polo field ten minutes before you were to play in a big match.”
Light broke suddenly in Kyle. That was the reason then, for the turned backs; the indifferent eyes. He had been so stunned, that day, by the loss of Qu’Appelle that he had never realized till now how it must have looked for him to cave in and run away. But Adair was saying now:
“I know the disappointment you’re feeling in Qu’Appelle. Because,” her voice lowered, “I’ve felt it, Kyle—in you. But I am counting on you, tomorrow, to make them forget everything they’ve ever said about you. Will you give Qu’Appelle the same chance?”
NEXT afternoon the Rangemen and the Tyees took the field. Kyle saw Morgan shift from the number two position to number three. Opposite him, Morgan’s surly lip pressed out, but his beady eyes failed to hold. Kyle glanced swiftly along to the other Rangemen— Tyson, Hargreave and Wright. His old comrades in many a hard-fought polo match. Now, when their eyes met his it was as though he wasn’t there.
The knots at the angles of Kyle’s jaws tightened. He’d show’em! Stage a comeback they’d remember! But the gritted resolve left him wire-edged. Like Fox, the pawing bay pony under him. Kyle knew the brittle polo that bred.
He hadn’t thought much about it, but he realized now how much else this game might also mean to him. To make good with MacLaren, who was a power in polo on three continents. Yet his chance was cluttered with this grudge of Morgan’s and the emptiness where his faith in Qu’Appelle should have been.
How much he risked on that promise he’d made to try the roan again, he knew when he eyed MacLaren. He saw the intent lines in that bronzed face deepen, graving it to a warrior’s mask. No lenience there, for man or horse. Likewise the ruddy Wyman, and lean dark Bennett, beside him. Their deep-set eyes were on the referee whose hand behind him held the ball.
In file of opposing pairs they rode toward the referee. His hand shot forward. The white ball bounded between the ponies’ hoofs. There was a mad reaching; the
whickety-whack of sticks on sticks. Kyle crooked Morgan’s mallet as he struck for it. Then he caught the ball with his own and it spun down the field. The closebunched teams broke into stubbornly jostling pairs of riders, and swooped away after it. Hoofs purred. Shouts rang.
Kyle set himself for the thrust of Morgan's shoulder. It came, elbow out. Kyle missed the ball. But Wyman sent it on. A clean shot! No, Hargreave backed it, inches from the goal.
Away it whisked, up the field in the other direction. Darting ponies flattened out in long neck-and-neck runs as fierce as the finish of a six-furlong heat. Seven and a half minutes of that cut a horse to the marrow. And because of the long way they had come, the Tyees had brought only three ponies per man.
In the second chukker the Tyees scored. Kyle, though crowded fiercely by Morgan, cleared the ball from the side boards. His neat backhand sent it straight to Wyman, who was right before the goal.
The Rangemen bounded back as though taunted. Tyson blocked Kyle’s knock-in after the ball had gone over the Tyees’ back line. He clicked it across the goal. Wright lifted a lucky shot clear above MacLaren’s head that sailed between the posts.
The third chukker was Qu’Appelle’s turn to play. MacLaren spoke to Kyle, curtly.
“Better skip that blue of yours. Take my brown mare, Linda, and then ride Fox three times.”
KYLE was obdurate, yet uncertain. He knew Linda was a flighty thing and that Fox, after the way he had given himself in the first chukker, could never play two more. Besides, there was his promise to Adair. So he mounted the blue roan and rode upon the field. His eyes were fixed on the pony’s ears. He wished with all his might that his own confidence in Qu’Appelle justified this defiance of an order from the stern leader of his team.
More than ever in this chukker Kyle and Morgan were shoulder against stubborn shoulder, stick crooking stick, blocking, riding one another off the ball. Morgan cut in from the left as Kyle stopped a swift backhander. He struck at the ball savagely across the front legs of Qu’Appdle. The blue pony crow-hopped on after the ball. The referee’s whistle cut the air.
“Foul by Mr. Carr,” he called sharply. “Mr. Medlin gets a free shot at the goal.” He set the ball where the foul had occurred and the teams fell into position. It was an easy shot.
But when Kyle rose from examining the bruised fetlock of his pony, he strode to Morgan. His eyes were like bits of glass.
“I didn’t think I’d have to manhandle you again for hitting a horse,” he said. “Not my horse!”
Morgan’s cheeks blanched, but he twisted insolent lips.
“Don’t worry.” Kyle’s voice was scornful. “I know how to wait now—till after the game. I know too why this pony has been called a quitter. It’s because you owned him a year. Look at the bloody mouth of the one under you. And the way you rode him, just now, straight into Mac’s backhand. You’d break the nerve of any horse!”
“Mr. Medlin,” the referee said meaningly. Kyle swung to his saddle and rode at the ball savagely. But his stick scuffed the turf and the slowed shot was blocked. In the swirl of play that followed, Morgan crooked Kyle’s mallet in front of his pony, and Kyle narrowly escaped being jerked from his saddle, headlong.
Now Morgan had the ball, and Kyle closed in to back it. Bending low, Morgan slashed at Qu’Appelle’s nose. No one but
Kyle could see the whip; only the way the horse shied out of the play. Morgan passed the ball ahead to Wright. It bounded from his mallet and the goal judge waved his flag. A moment after the next throw-in. Kyle tried to ride Hargreave off the ball. But the sing of Morgan’s whip had been like vitriol on the already smarting nerves of Qu’Appelle. He refused to close in, and for the fourth time the Rangemen scored.
Kyle’s face was like flint when at last he swung down from the blue pony. MacLaren’s silence was more accusing than a savage outburst would have been. It didn’t help to see a slim, booted figure with brown hair that glinted coppery in the sunlight, running along the field to where Morgan’s ponies stood.
‘‘Congratulating him,” Kyle gritted. “Hasn’t even she got eyes?”
The game roared on. Scoring rushes were checked by either side time and time again. Suddenly Kyle realized that it was the fifth period that had just ended. One chukker left, and the score still four to one. And he would have to ride that flighty thing of MacLaren’s. But what difference did it make now!
He threw on his saddle, scarcely seeing the mare before him. A voice, clear and commanding, cried:
“No. Take Qu’Appelle!”
Kyle’s head came up. Vaguely, he saw Adair slip from the hack of the blue roan. She had been riding him up and down, slowly. Talking to him and stroking his neck.
“I’m not quite crazy.” Kyle said thickly.
“Of course not !” she cried. "That’s why you’ll ride him. So I’ve been calming him down.”
With a strength that amazed Kyle she pushed him aside, jerked the saddle off Linda and threw it on the blue roan.
“Qu'Appelles been treated dirty,” she cried fiercely. “No wonder he flinched. Oh. what haven’t I told that Morgan Carr for the kind of a game he’s playing! For the way he’s treating his own jxmies!” She paused and when she spoke again her voice had grown more hitter. “I know what it means to make him mad. He’ll foreclose now. We’re horse-poor. There’s still no decent market for the stock.”
A haze seemed to lift from behind Kyle’s eyes then and it was more than the glaze of battle. He saw many things more clearly. But mostly, he saw her face—its lips twisting and eyes dilated with her earnestness. He heard her voice, low and tense.
"Qu’Appelle is not a quitter! No more than you are. Kyle Medlin. But you lost what confidence you had in him. What could he do then?”
She stamped her foot. Her fingers dug into his arms.
“Believe in him. I tell you! Go back there—togetherand win!”
npilEN Kyle was racing down the -*■ field, both his hands on the neck of Qu’Appelle. And he knew something had happened. To the blue roan horse and to himself as well. They were, suddenly, sure of each other. That old confidence, that old zest of fight, flowed between them. With that, Kyle could ignore the angry oath from MacLaren when he saw the roan on the field again, and Morgan’s surprised, exultant sneer.
Kyle’s powerful hand was still hard against Qu'Appelle’s neck when they met the first charge. It was Morgan’s sorrel that gave. Kyle took the ball away from Morgan. One after another, three Rangemen could not ride him off it. He scored a second time, still in the first three minutes of play.
Morgan’s whip and spurs had driven his own pony frantic. All over the field Kyle shouldered him. Between Kyle's knees was the Qu Appelle of the old Peigan River days. The Tyees saw it. Even MacLaren shouted approval when he got a chance. The foothills men set jaws harder, but their eyes glinted with admiration and surprise.
Down before their own goal now. they were playing desperate polo. They had
only to hold their superb defense another five minutes . . . Another three . . .
MacLaren took the ball on a quick pass from Kyle and slashed it eighty yards to cut the Rangemen's goal at dead centre between the posts. Score, four all!
Then a gathering together, a lifting rush of a team at last clicking together perfectly. With twenty seconds till the final bell, the Tyees swept down on the goal once more.
I hx)fs drummed to thunder. Breath rasped hoarsely through flaring red nostrils. Out of sweat-streaked faces, the men’s sunken eyes glared on a universe that had narrowed to a goal and a three-inch willow ball.
Kyle had it. The teams were on the heels of Qu’Appelle. All but Morgan, who had never even got to position for the throw-in. Now, reckless of rules or his own neck, he drove in from the left—across the attack. His whip snarled, but Qu'Appelle did not swerve a hair till he heard Kyle’s mallet meet the ball.
It was a score. The game was over. But the goal judge forgot to wave his flag. And the crowd, too, gasped instead of cheering. There was a stillness, cut by a few sharp shouts. Then they untangled the heap of kicking, grunting horses. The ambulance whirled in.
It was Morgan they put in it.
“He’ll be off the polo field awhile,” one of the Rangemen said, in a voice that had not a great deal of regret in it. “But he’s lucky to get only a broken thigh for a trick like that.”
Two ponies were led away, limping. The blue roan didn’t get up. Kyle bent above him, dizzily. He dropped on the lean neck to stop useless struggles to rise.
A breathless someone was on her knees beside him. His ringing ears heard Adair’s voice.
“Kyle—Kyle! Tell me, is Qu’Appclle badly hurt?”
“His back’s sprained—if it isn’t broken,” he said bleakly. “It was his last twist that did it—and threw me clear.”
“Oh. it mustn’t be broken,” she cried. She caught the arm of the club veterinarian who was making an examination. “He will play polo again, won’t he?”
“M-m, I believe he will. With good care,” he said.
"You hear that!” Adair was shaking Kyle. “Do you? He’ll get that care too, at Peigan River Ranch.”
Kyle looked at her then, and found something in her eyes that turned the hardness in his to wonder. “May I come too?” he asked.
“Then I don’t have to ask you!” she cried softly. Then remembering the ring of polo players around them, she colored delectably but laughed a glad defiance at them as she felt the grip of Kyle’s arm.
One of the players stepped forward. It was MacLaren. His lined face was not ! softened by the scene.
“Did you say that blue horse was bred here?” he demanded.
Kyle nodded toward the approaching Hugh Strange. "That man,” he said, “has plenty more ponies by the same sire.”
“Then he’s got a gold mine.” MacLaren's words came from over his shoulder. “And I'm going to remount this team.”
Kyle looked at Adair meaningly, but her smile was preoccupied. She seemed to have forgotten the importance of selling horses. When she spoke, it was to the three Rangemen.
“We’ll never let him go away again,” she said, “will we?”
"No,” they answered solemnly, though their eyes twinkled. “We can’t afford to let Kyte Medlin leave the foothills again !"
“Oh yes. he has left them,” my horse dealer friend told me in conclusion. “He’s known at Midwick and Montreal, at Meadow Brook and Hurlingham. They are, I mean. Kyle and Adair and Qu’Appelle. Yet the foothills always call them back . . And now, about that buckskin pony ...”
“Yes.” I said, and spread my hands subj missively. “For I knowr you're bound to ! tell me he’s a brother to Qu’Appelle.”