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Madame Bo-Peep, Of The Ranches
by [?]

“A ranch in Texas,” sighed Aunt Ellen. “It sounds to me more like a liability than an asset. Those are the places where the centipedes are found, and cowboys, and fandangos.”

“‘The Rancho de las Sombras,'” read Octavia from a sheet of violently purple typewriting, “‘is situated one hundred and ten miles southeast of San Antonio, and thirty-eight miles from its nearest railroad station, Nopal, on the I. and G. N. Ranch, consists of 7,680 acres of well-watered land, with title conferred by State patents, and twenty-two sections, or 14,080 acres, partly under yearly running lease and partly bought under State’s twenty-year-purchase act. Eight thousand graded merino sheep, with the necessary equipment of horses, vehicles and general ranch paraphernalia. Ranch-house built of brick, with six rooms comfortably furnished according to the requirements of the climate. All within a strong barbed-wire fence.

“‘The present ranch manager seems to be competent and reliable, and is rapidly placing upon a paying basis a business that, in other hands, had been allowed to suffer from neglect and misconduct.

“‘This property was secured by Colonel Beaupree in a deal with a Western irrigation syndicate, and the title to it seems to be perfect. With careful management and the natural increase of land values, it ought to be made the foundation for a comfortable fortune for its owner.'”

When Octavia ceased reading, Aunt Ellen uttered something as near a sniff as her breeding permitted.

“The prospectus,” she said, with uncompromising metropolitan suspicion, “doesn’t mention the centipedes, or the Indians. And you never did like mutton, Octavia. I don’t see what advantage you can derive from this–desert.”

But Octavia was in a trance. Her eyes were steadily regarding something quite beyond their focus. Her lips were parted, and her face was lighted by the kindling furor of the explorer, the ardent, stirring disquiet of the adventurer. Suddenly she clasped her hands together exultantly.

“The problem solves itself, auntie,” she cried. “I’m going to that ranch. I’m going to live on it. I’m going to learn to like mutton, and even concede the good qualities of centipedes–at a respectful distance. It’s just what I need. It’s a new life that comes when my old one is just ending. It’s a release, auntie; it isn’t a narrowing. Think of the gallops over those leagues of prairies, with the wind tugging at the roots of your hair, the coming close to the earth and learning over again the stories of the growing grass and the little wild flowers without names! Glorious is what it will be. Shall I be a shepherdess with a Watteau hat, and a crook to keep the bad wolves from the lambs, or a typical Western ranch girl, with short hair, like the pictures of her in the Sunday papers? I think the latter. And they’ll have my picture, too, with the wild-cats I’ve slain, single-handed, hanging from my saddle horn. ‘From the Four Hundred to the Flocks’ is the way they’ll headline it, and they’ll print photographs of the old Van Dresser mansion and the church where I was married. They won’t have my picture, but they’ll get an artist to draw it. I’ll be wild and woolly, and I’ll grow my own wool.”

“Octavia!” Aunt Ellen condensed into the one word all the protests she was unable to utter.

“Don’t say a word, auntie. I’m going. I’ll see the sky at night fit down on the world like a big butter-dish cover, and I’ll make friends again with the stars that I haven’t had a chat with since I was a wee child. I wish to go. I’m tired of all this. I’m glad I haven’t any money. I could bless Colonel Beaupree for that ranch, and forgive him for all his bubbles. What if the life will be rough and lonely! I–I deserve it. I shut my heart to everything except that miserable ambition. I–oh, I wish to go away, and forget–forget!”