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Title: Desert Conquest - or, Precious Waters
Author: Chisholm, A. M. (Arthur Murray), 1872-1960
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Desert Conquest - or, Precious Waters" ***

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DESERT CONQUEST

Or

Precious Waters

by

A. M. CHISHOLM

Author of The Boss of Wind River, Etc.

Illustrated by Clarence Rowe



[Illustration: "I'LL MAKE THIS ONE QUIET!" SNAPPED SHEILA, FOR THE HARD
PACE HAD TOLD ON HER TEMPER THROUGH HER BRUISES]



New York
Grosset & Dunlap
Publishers

Copyright, 1913, by
Doubleday, Page & Company
All rights reserved, including that of
translation into foreign languages,
including the Scandinavian

Copyright, 1912, 1913, by Street & Smith, Publishers



DESERT CONQUEST

or

PRECIOUS WATERS



CHAPTER I


Miss Nita Hess flattened a snub nose against the Pullman window, and
stared at the expressionless face of the plains with an avidity to be
explained only by the fact that her acquaintance with them up to then
had been principally through the medium of light literature perused
surreptitiously in a select school for young ladies in the extreme
East. But her remarks from time to time would have shocked the
ultra-correct preceptresses of that excellent seat of learning.

"Oh, gee, Clyde," she exclaimed suddenly, "look at the cute little
deer! Oh, see 'em scoot!"

Her companion glanced from the window, and stifled a yawn. "Antelope,"
she commented, without interest. "Yes, I see them, Nita," and leaned
back again, closing her eyes.

In fact, Miss Clyde Burnaby was bored by the journey, and a little--a
very little--by her fifteen-year-old cousin, daughter of the celebrated
James C. Hess, of the equally celebrated Hess Railway System. Nita was
a good little girl, and a nice little girl--in spite of occasional
lingual lapses--but only a sense of duty to dear old Uncle Jim had
induced Clyde to forego her European trip that she might accompany Nita
to the Pacific coast for the benefit of that young lady's health, which
Clyde privately considered as sound as the national currency system.

In a democratic moment she had refused Hess' offer of a private car,
and she now rather regretted it. She had a headache, and the great
coils of red-gold hair seemed to weigh tons. It would have been a
relief to have it taken down and brushed by a deft-fingered maid. But
the maid also had been left behind. And that, she decided, was a
mistake, also.

Clyde Burnaby was alone in the world. Her father's modest fortune,
under the able management of his executor, Jim Hess, had expanded
wonderfully. So far as money was concerned, no reasonable wish of hers
need remain ungratified. She was accomplished, travelled, and very
good-looking. She had refused half a dozen offers of hands, hearts,
and fortunes--the latter equal to her own--and also two titles
unaccompanied by fortunes, with hearts as doubtful collateral. She
kept her own bachelor establishment in Chicago, gave to charity with
discretion, took a quiet part in the social life of her set, dabbled
in art and literature, had a few good friends, and was generally
considered a very lucky, amiable, and handsome young woman.

But just then she was bored with the trip and with Nita, whose
enthusiasms she could not share. The heat of the Pullman seemed
stifling, the odour of coal unbearable. The land was dead-brown, flat,
dreary, monotonous. Leaning back with closed eyes, she longed for the
deck of a liner, the strong, salt breezes, the steady pulse of the
engines--even for cold rain from a gray sky, sullen, shouldering seas,
and the whip of spindrift on her cheeks. Beside her Nita prattled
steadily.

"We're going to stop, Clyde. Here's a station. Look at the yard with
all the cows in it. I wonder if those men are cowboys. They don't look
like the pictures. But isn't it funny how those ponies stand with the
reins hanging down and not tied at all? I wish _my_ pony would stand
that way. Here come two men on horseback. My, but they're riding fast!
I wonder if they are trying to catch the train?"

Two blown ponies bore down on the station at a dead run. One of the
riders jumped off and ran for the office. The other unstrapped a
bundle, apparently mostly slicker, from his companion's saddle cantle.
In a moment the first emerged. The energetic Nita had opened the
window, and Clyde overheard their conversation.

"I'm shy my grip," said the first. "The agent doesn't know where she
is, and I can't wait. Round up Rosebud soon as you can, and find out
what's become of it."

The other swore frankly at Rosebud, who appeared to be an individual.
"I'll bet he's drunk, somewheres. I'll express your war bag when I find
it."

The engine bell clanged a warning, and the conductor shouted
cryptically. The two men shook hands.

"So long, Joe," said the younger. "I've had a whale of a time. Come up
to my country and see me next year. Come any old time. We'll bust
things wide open for you."

The other grinned widely. "The missus ain't lettin' me range like I
used to. So long. Keep sober, old-timer. Don't play none with
strangers. Say, d'you remember the time when we----"

Clyde lost the remainder in the shudder and grind of the trucks as the
coaches began to move. The two men disappeared from her field of
vision. Nita closed the window. Once more she leaned back, resigning
herself to the weariness of the journey.

But a moment afterward the man of the platform appeared at the end of
the aisle, accompanied by the porter who carried his bundle. Instantly
he became the cynosure of a battery of disapproving eyes.

For his apparel would have been more in place in the bare colonist cars
of the first section than in the vestibuled, luxurious rear coaches of
the second. From the battered and stained old pony hat on his head to
the disreputable laced boots into which his trousers were shoved, he
was covered with the gray dust of the plains. Apart from his costume
and the top dressing of dust, he was tall, cleanly built, and evidently
as hard as a wire nail. His hair missed red by the merest fraction, and
his eyes were a clear blue, level and direct. He moved as lightly as a
prowling animal, and he met the supercilious and disdainful glances of
his fellow passengers with a half smile of amused comprehension.

The porter, with a deference betokening an unusually large advance tip,
ushered him to a seat across the aisle from Clyde's. But the stranger,
catching a glimpse of himself in the panel mirror, stopped suddenly.
Instantly Clyde's nostrils were assailed by a strong odour of leather
and horseflesh. She shuddered in spite of herself. It was the last
straw. As a rule she was not overparticular, but just then she was in
that state of nerves when little things fretted her. She said to
herself that a cattle car was the proper place for this young man. As
he spoke to the porter she listened resentfully, prepared to disapprove
of anything he might say. Said he:

"Mistuh Washin'ton Jeffe'son Bones, look at me carefully. Do you see
any dust upon my garments?"

"Yassuh, yassuh," chuckled the porter. "Don't see much else, suh."

"And could you--on a bet of about a dollar--undertake to put me in a
condition not to damage the seats?"

"Yassuh; sho' could, suh!"

"Go to it, then," said the stranger. "I'm after you."

He did not return for an hour. Then he was noticeably cleaner, and the
odour of horse was replaced by that of cigars, less objectionable to
Clyde. As he took his seat he glanced at her frankly, a shade of
drollery in his eye, as if he were quite aware of her disapproval, and
was amused by it. She stiffened a trifle, ignoring him utterly. Not by
a hair's breadth would she encourage this free-and-easy person.

For some hours she had been annoyed by the behaviour of a man several
seats away. Whenever she had glanced in his direction he had been
looking at her. Once he had smiled ingratiatingly. Clyde's life had not
included first-hand experiences of this kind, but she was able to
classify the man accurately. Still, there had been nothing definite to
complain of. Now this individual arose and came down the aisle. In his
hand was a book. He halted by her side.

"Beg pardon," said he. "Would you care to look at this?"

"No, thank you," she replied frigidly.

"It isn't bad," he persisted. "I'll leave it with you."

"Thank you, I don't want it," said Clyde. But nevertheless he dropped
the volume in her lap, smiling offensively.

"Look it over," said he. "I'll get it later."

Paying no attention to her indignant refusal, he walked down the aisle
to the smoking compartment. Clyde, a bright spot of anger on either
cheek, turned to Nita.

"I think I shall speak to the conductor."

"It's because you're so pretty," said Nita, with an air of vast
experience. "I've had the same thing, almost, happen to me. Back at
college--in the town, I mean--there was a boy----But perhaps I'd better
not say anything about it. He was very bold indeed!" She pursed her
lips primly, but her eyes belied their expression.

"I beg your pardon," said the man across the aisle.

Once more Clyde froze indignantly. Never before had she felt the need
of an escort in her travels. Never again, she told herself, would she
travel alone with merely a fifteen-year-old kid for her sole companion.
She honoured the new offender with a haughty stare. He smiled
unaffectedly.

"Nothing like that," he disclaimed, as if he had read her thoughts.
"I'll take that book if you don't want it. He can get it back from me."

He stretched a long arm across, and thanked her as she handed him the
book mechanically. Forthwith he opened it, and began to read. And he
was still absorbed in it when the donor returned.

That gentleman paused uncertainly beside Clyde, who was haughtily
unconscious of his presence.

"Did you--er----" he began.

At that moment the man across the aisle twitched his coat sleeve.
"Looking for the book you left with me?" he asked casually. "Here it
is."

The other stared at him in uneasy surprise. "I didn't----"

"Oh, yes, you did," the man across the aisle interrupted. "Anyway, you
meant to. You'll remember if you think a minute. You didn't leave it
with that young lady, because you don't know her, and you're not the
kind of man to butt in where you're not wanted. Now, are you?"

"Of course not," the other replied, with a show of indignation. "I
don't know----"

"Then that's all right," said the stranger quietly. "Here's your book.
And there's your seat. And don't make any more mistakes."

The gregarious gentleman accepted this advice and his book meekly.
Thereafter he avoided even looking in Clyde's direction. To her relief
the stranger did not presume on the service he had rendered. He
stretched his long legs upon the opposite seat, leaned back, and gazed
silently at the roof. The afternoon dragged on. Clyde and Nita went to
the diner and returned. Afterward the stranger presumably did likewise,
spending a decent interval in the smoker. Darkness fell, and the
Limited thundered on westward across the plains to the country of the
foothills, the mountain ranges, and its goal at the thither end of the
Pacific slope.

Suddenly, with a scream of air and a grinding of brake shoes, the train
came to a stop. Clyde looked out. The level, monotonous plains were no
longer there. The country was rolling, studded with clumps of
cottonwoods. The moon, close to the full, touched the higher spots with
silver, intensifying the blackness of the shadows.

Clyde peered ahead to the limit of her restricted area of vision, for
the lights of a station or a town. There was none. Not even the lighted
square of a ranch-house window broke the night. Five minutes passed,
ten, and still the train remained motionless. Suddenly, at the forward
end of the coach, appeared the porter. Followed the occupants of the
smoking compartment, each with his hands on the shoulders of the man in
front of him in impromptu lockstep. Behind them came an apparition
which caused the passengers, after a first gasp of incredulity, to vent
their feelings in masculine oaths and little feminine screams of alarm.

This intruder was a large man, powerfully built. His hat was shoved
back from his forehead, but his face was concealed by a square of dark
cloth, cut with eyeholes. In his right hand he dandled with easy
familiarity an exceedingly long-barrelled revolver. His left hand
rested upon the twin of it, in a holster at his thigh. At his shoulder
was another man, similarly masked.

"Everybody sit quiet!" the first commanded crisply. "Gents will hook
their fingers on top of their heads, and keep them there. No call to be
frightened, ladies, 'long's the men show sense. My partner will pass
along the contribution bag. No holding out, and no talk. And just
remember I'll get the first man that makes a move."

Clyde had joined in the gasp of surprise, but she had not screamed.
Nita was trembling with excitement.

"I wouldn't have missed it for worlds!" the girl whispered. "Oh, Clyde,
isn't he a duck of a holdup? Will there be shooting? Haven't any of
these men got any nerve?"

Clyde became aware that the man in the seat opposite was speaking to
her out of the corner of his mouth, his hands prudently crossed on his
pate.

"If you have anything of special value--rings, watch, that sort of
stuff--get rid of it. Put it on the floor if you can, and kick it under
the seat ahead. Don't cache it in your own seat. Give him what money
you have--that's what he wants. Tell the kid next you to do the same.
And don't be nervous. You're as safe as if you were at home."

Clyde wore no rings. The few articles of jewellery she had brought with
her were already safely concealed beyond the masculine ken of any mere
train robber. But her watch was suspended around her neck by a thin
gold chain. The watch could be detached, but the chain itself must be
lifted over the head; and that would attract attention. To leave the
chain would be to admit the existence of the watch. Without an
instant's hesitation she tugged sharply. The frail links broke.
Lowering the watch to the floor of the car, she shoved it forward with
her foot.

Meanwhile the second masked man was making swift progress down the
aisle. In his left hand was a gunny sack, in his right a formidable
six-shooter. He was a gentleman of humorous turn, and he indulged in
jocose remarks as he went, which, however, fell on an unappreciative
audience. Because time pressed he did not attempt to skin each victim
clean. He took what he could get, and passed on to the next; but he
took everything in sight, and, moreover, each man was forced to turn
his pockets inside out. This brought to light several pocket-edition
firearms, which likewise went into the bag. With infinite humour he
declared his intention of taking them home to his children. They were
toys, he explained, with which the darlings could not hurt themselves.

"Thank you, miss," was his acknowledgment of the roll of bills which
Clyde handed him. "You're sure an example to a lot o' these tinhorn
sports. I reckon you got some pretty stones cached somewheres too, but
I won't force your hand, seein's you've acted like a little lady. Just
get up till I look at the seat. Now, partner"--he turned on the man
across the aisle--"it's you to sweeten!"

That individual produced a very attenuated roll. "Sorry I can't go to
the centre any stronger, old-timer. You've got me at the wrong end
between pay days."

"Huh!" The holdup eyed him suspiciously. "Keep your hands stric'ly away
from your pockets for a minute." He slapped them in quick succession.
"No gun," said he, "and that's lucky for both of us, maybe. Business is
business, partner, but I hate to set an old-timer afoot complete. Keep
out about ten for smokes and grub."

"Yours truly," responded the other. "When you land in the calaboose for
this racket I'll keep you in tobacco. What name shall I ask for?"

"If I land there you can ask for a damfool--and I'll answer the first
time," laughed the holdup over his shoulder. "Next gent! Here's the
little bag. Lady, keep your weddin' ring. You fat sport, stand up till
I see what you're sittin' on. Why, was you tryin' to hatch out that
bunch of money? I'll surely do that incubatin' myself."

He levied tribute swiftly, in spite of his badinage, and the gunny sack
sagged heavier and heavier. As he reached the end, his companion, who
had dominated the passengers with his gun, abandoned his position and
came down the aisle. At the rear door he turned.

"Keep your seats till the train moves," he ordered harshly. "I'm layin'
for the first man that sticks his head out of this car."

Behind him the coach buzzed like a disturbed hive. Its occupants
bewailed their losses, vowed vengeance on both holdups and railway.
Women reproached men with cowardice. Men told each other what they
would have done if---- But not one attempted to leave his seat.

Nita turned to Clyde with sparkling eyes. "And now I've been in a
holdup!" she exclaimed. "Won't that be a thing to tell the girls? Were
you frightened, Clyde? _I_ wasn't."

"I don't think so," Clyde replied. "I'm glad we saved our watches." The
words recalled the man across the aisle. He was leaning back, listening
to odd bits of conversation, a smile of amusement on his face. Clyde
leaned across.

"I want to thank you," she said. "We should never have thought of
hiding our watches."

He nodded pleasantly. "No, not likely. I hope you didn't lose much
money. He left me ten dollars. I don't want to be misunderstood, but
that's very much at your service until you can get more."

"And what shall you do--till pay day?" she asked, obeying a sudden
mischievous impulse.

"Oh, I'll worry along," he replied. His long arm stretched across, and
a ten-dollar bill fell in her lap.

"No, no," she said, "I was joking. I have plenty----"

She stopped suddenly. Somewhere toward the head of the train a revolver
barked, and barked again. Then came a staccato fusillade.

Swiftly the man across the aisle reached for his bundle, tore it open,
and plucked from it a long-barrelled, flat-handled, venomous automatic
pistol and a box of cartridges. He slid out the clip, snapped it back,
and went down the car in long pantherlike bounds, bending half double.

Up forward the shooting, which had ceased, began again. Suddenly there
broke into it the voice of another weapon, rapid and sustained as the
roll of an alarm clock. Other guns chimed in. A miniature battle seemed
to be in progress. And then it died. An occasional shot came from the
distance. Silence ensued.

Men whose curiosity got the better of prudence left the car and
returned. The train robbers were gone. It was thought that two or three
were wounded. It was the express messenger who had started the
shooting. He had got loose, somehow, in his rifled car, got a gun from
a drawer, and opened fire. He was shot through the shoulder. A brave
fellow, that. The company should do something for him. Two others of
the train crew were hit.

Clyde awaited the return of the man across the aisle. The train began
to move, gathered way, and thundered on. Still he did not return. The
porter began to make up the berths. To him she applied for information.
He knew nothing. The conductor was in equal ignorance. Inquiries
throughout the train were fruitless. The man of the seat across the
aisle was not forthcoming. His few belongings, which threw no light on
his identity, were gathered up to await his appearance. It was
suggested, to Clyde's indignation, that he was an accomplice of the
robbers, but in what manner was not clear.

And so Clyde Burnaby went on to the coast with ten dollars which she
did not in the least need. She neither saw nor heard more of their
owner; but, though it was unlikely she should meet him again, she kept
the identical bill. On her return she tucked it away in a drawer in her
writing desk; and when occasionally she noticed it there it was merely
to wonder, with some self-reproach, how its owner had fared until the
next pay day.



CHAPTER II


In a secluded corner of a certain club billiard room two middle-aged
gentlemen padded around and around a table, and poked at balls. Both
appeared bored by the amusement. Their skill was little, and their luck
was rather less, so that a ball rarely found a pocket. Between strokes
they carried on a conversation having to do with such light and
frivolous topics as bond issues, guarantees thereof, sinking funds,
haulage rates, and legal decisions and pending legislation affecting
transportation. Or it might be more accurate to say that one
endeavoured to engage the other in conversation on these esoteric
matters, at which the other repeatedly shied, evincing a preference for
those of more general human interest.

Not that he was uninformed on these topics. Quite the reverse. He was a
rotund, florid little man, with twinkling, humorous eyes, which could
bore like augers on occasion, and a mouth as firm and close as a steel
trap. His name was William Bates Rapp, and his specialty was
corporation law. He was counsel for the Western Airline Railway, and
just then he was pretending to play billiards with its president,
Cromwell York.

York, who also was pretending to play billiards with Rapp, was a dogged
gentleman who was accustomed to take his pound of flesh whenever he
could not obtain, on some pretext, two pounds. His subordinates said
that he worked twenty-five hours a day, which gives, if you consider
it, an advantage of some fifteen days per annum. He was in the grip of
his business, body and soul. It fascinated him, dominated him more and
more as the years went on, as his own fortune and his interests
increased. He was continually reaching out for more territory, and in
so doing he came in hostile contact with other railway men, also
gunning for the same game. Occasionally, therefore, they gunned for
each other. When York was hit he took his medicine; when he hit the
other fellow he chose as vital a spot as he could. Even as he played
billiards his mind was elsewhere, which accounted in part for his poor
success at the game.

"Speaking about Prairie Southern," said he, "we have about decided to
take it over."

Rapp sighed. "I'm not a perpetual-motion legal machine, York. Won't
that keep till to-morrow?"

"We pay you a big enough retainer," said York, with the frankness of
years of intimacy. "What do you suppose we do it for?"

"Principally, I imagine, to keep you out of jail," Rapp retorted, with
equal frankness. "I've done it so far, but----" He shook his head
forebodingly. "Well, if you _will_ talk, come and sit down. I'm tired
of this. Now, then, about Prairie Southern: have they come to the end
of their rope, or did you pull it in a little for them?"

"I didn't need to," said York. "They have tied themselves up in hard
knots. We don't particularly want the road; but, as matters stand, we
can buy it cheaply. Later we might want it, and it would undoubtedly
cost more. Besides, I don't want Hess to get hold of it as a feeder to
his lines."

"Jim Hess is a sort of bugbear to you," said Rapp. "You'll keep
prodding him till he horns you one of these days."

"Two can play at that," York replied grimly.

"There's mighty little play about Jim Hess when he goes on the
warpath," Rapp commented. "Well, let's get the worst over. There's
short of three hundred miles of this Prairie Southern, as I understand
it. It runs somewhere near the foothills. The country doesn't grow
anything yet. The only reason for its building was a coal-mine boom
that petered out. Its bonding privilege was one of the most disgraceful
bits of jobbery ever lobbied through a corrupt little legislature. It
was a political scandal from its birth. It is burdened with a multitude
of equities. It never has paid, and likely it never will pay. You know
these things as well as I do. I'm hanged if I see why you want it."

"If we don't get it some one else will," said York. "I wish you'd look
into their affairs, and see what sort of a legal bill of health they
have. I am putting our accountants on their finances."

"All right," said Rapp. "I'll give 'em a bill of health like a
pest-house record. Their bonded indebtedness is shocking, and they have
all sorts of litigation pending against them."

"I'll tell you one thing," York said. "They have a large land grant."

"Which they got because the land was worthless."

"Supposed to be worthless," York amended.

Rapp cocked his head like a terrier that suddenly discerns a large and
promising rat hole. "Come through," he said.

"This land," York explained, "is in the dry belt. It was supposed to be
worth nothing when the P.S. charter was granted, and so the government
of that day was generous with it. As a matter of fact, the land is good
when irrigated; and it can be irrigated--or most of it can."

"How do you know it's any good?"

"There are some first-class ranches down there."

"If that is so, why don't P.S. put the lands on the market? They need
the money."

"No advertising or selling machinery, and not enough money to put in an
irrigation system, and no credit. They can't afford to wait."

Rapp considered. "Plenty of water for these lands?"

"That's a question," York admitted. "The main water down that way is a
river called the Coldstream. The ranchers have their water records,
which of course take precedence of any we might file. There may be
enough--I don't know. That will have to be ascertained. But if this
stuff can be irrigated it can be sold. Our land department will look
after that."

"Almost any sort of an irrigated gold brick can be sold nowadays," said
Rapp cynically. "I admit that you have some pretty fair con men in your
land department."

"We never put anything on the market that wasn't a perfectly legitimate
proposition," said York, with dignity.

"Depends on what you call 'legitimate,'" said Rapp. "I've read some of
your land advertising. If you sold shares by means of a prospectus no
more truthful, you'd do time for it. You know blame well you unload
your stuff on people who depend on selected photographs and pretty pen
pictures of annual yields per acre. Of course, any man who buys land
without seeing it deserves exactly the sort of land he gets. I'm not
criticising at all--merely pointing out that I know the rudiments of
the game."

"Help us play it, then," said York. "Dig into Prairie Southern, and see
what we get for our money."

William Bates Rapp did so. By various complicated and technical
documents he grafted the moribund Prairie Southern upon the vigorous
trunk of Western Airline, after which he washed his hands of the
operation by a carefully worded letter accompanying a huge bill of
costs, and dismissed the matter from his mind; for it was only one
transaction among a score of more important ones.

Later, the experts of the Airline descended on the carcass of poor old
Prairie Southern, to see what had best be done with the meat upon its
bones, and the result was fairly satisfactory. The traffic was
inconsiderable, but showed signs of improvement. The land hunger was
upon the people, frightened by the cry that cheap lands were almost at
an end. Many were stampeded into buying worthless acres which they did
not want, in the fear that if they delayed there would be nothing left
to buy. Fake real-estate schemes--colonies, ten-acre orchard tracts,
hen farms, orange groves, prune plantations--flourished over the width
and length of a continent, and promoters reaped a harvest. Land with a
legitimate basis of value doubled and trebled in price between seasons.

It was a period of inflation, of claim without proof, of discounting
the future. Men raw from the city bought barren acres on which
practical farmers had starved, in the expectation of making an easy,
healthful living. And in this madness the lands of the old Prairie
Southern grant, at one time supposed to be worthless, justified the
foresight of Cromwell York by reaching a value in excess of even his
expectations. For, given water, they were very good lands indeed, and
Western Airline was prepared to sell them with a water guarantee.

This took time; and it was two years after the acquisition of Prairie
Southern that York, a trifle grayer and a shade more dictatorial than
before, was one morning handed a card by his secretary. He frowned at
it, for the name was strange.

"Who's this Casey Dunne, and what does he want?"

Dunne, it appeared, wished to see him in connection with the Coldstream
irrigation project, then well under way. He owned property in that
vicinity; he also represented certain other ranchers.

"Lawyer?" snapped York. The secretary thought not. "Show him in."

When Dunne entered York did not immediately look up from his papers.
This was for general effect. When he did look he became conscious that
even as he was measuring so was he being measured.

Casey Dunne carried an atmosphere of outdoors. From the deep tan of his
neck, against which the white of his collar lay in startling contrast,
to the slender, sinewy brown hands, he bore token of wind and sun and
activity in the open. His clothes were new, excellent in fit and
material; but, though he did not wear them awkwardly, one gathered the
impression that he was accustomed to easier, more informal garments.
His manner was entirely self-confident, and betrayed neither awe nor
embarrassment. Which gave York an unfavourable impression to start
with.

"Take a chair, Mr. Dunne," he said. "I can give you five minutes or
ten. Not more. What can I do for you?"

"I may have to ask you to stretch that time limit a little," said
Dunne, smiling as if York were an old friend. "Let me start at the
beginning, and then I won't have to go back. I live down on the
Coldstream, on the line of the old Prairie Southern, which you acquired
a couple of years ago. With it you got their land grant. Your land
department, after looking the Coldstream blocks over, decided to
irrigate and sell these lands; and they undertook a main ditch and a
system of ditches, and they are selling the lands at the present time."

"I know all this," said York impatiently. "Carrol runs our land
department, and he deals with these matters. He's the man you want to
see."

"He referred me to you," said Dunne. "I know this is ancient history,
but I'm cleaning up as I go along. You will get your water for these
lands from the Coldstream. I and others own property there, and we get
our water from the river below your intake. Are you aware that your
ditch system is capable of carrying, and that the lands you are selling
with a guarantee of an adequate water supply will require, _almost the
entire normal flow of the Coldstream_?"

"I have understood from our land department"--York chose his words
carefully--"that the river contains ample water to irrigate our lands."

"Which, I need scarcely point out, is not an answer to my question,"
Dunne commented quietly.

"But which," York countered, "is all that I am concerned with, Mr.
Dunne."

The railway man and the younger, bronzed out-of-doors man eyed each
other in silence while one might count ten. In the last words the
railway's policy had been laid down, an issue defined, a challenge
given.

Casey Dunne's eyes narrowed a little, and his mouth tightened. He spoke
very quietly, but it was the exercised quiet of self-restraint:

"I had hoped that you would not take that ground, Mr. York. Let me show
you how this concerns myself and others. Take my own case: I have a
ranch down there; I have my water record. I have gone on working the
ranch, making improvements from year to year, and every dollar I could
scrape up I put into more land. I wasn't speculating. I can gamble with
any man when I have to; but this wasn't gambling. There was the land,
and there was the water. The increase of value was merely a question of
time. Others bought as I bought. We put our money and our years of work
into lands along the Coldstream. Our whole stake is there. I want you
to appreciate that--to get our viewpoint--because with us this isn't a
question of greater or less profit, but a question of existence itself.
If you take away our water our lands are worthless, and we go broke. I
can't put it any plainer than that."

"And without water," said York, "the railway's lands are worthless--or
so I am told. The unfortunate feature, according to what you say, seems
to be that there is not water enough for you and for us. Therefore each
must stand upon his legal rights."

"You raise the point," said Dunne. "It is a question of legal and moral
right against what I think--and I don't want to be offensive--but what
I think is an attempt to read into a clause of an old charter a meaning
which it was never intended to carry."

York's eyebrows drew down. "The clause in the Prairie Southern's
charter to which I presume you refer is perfectly clear. It states that
the railway company may take from the Coldstream or any other running
stream 'sufficient water for its own purposes.' Those are the exact
words of the charter. It saves existing rights, but there were none
then existing. Therefore the railway's right is first, and all water
records are subject to it. The charter further empowers the company to
improve, buy, sell, and deal in land. These, then, are purposes of the
company, according to its charter, and for these purposes it may
construct and maintain all necessary works. Could anything be clearer?
We acquired every right that Prairie Southern possessed. The rights
were in existence when you bought your land. Therefore I do not think
you should complain when we exercise them, even though they may affect
you to some extent."

"I follow your argument," Dunne observed, "but the words 'sufficient
water for its own purposes' were never intended to mean that the
railway should take the whole river."

"What do you think they meant?"

"What any sensible man would think. You may take sufficient water to
run your trains, to fill your tanks, to use in any way in connection
with your business of transportation, and nobody will object to that;
but when you undertake to divert a whole river to irrigate lands in
order to sell them, you go too far. That is the business of a
real-estate company, and not of a railway company."

Cromwell York, who had obtained the unanimous opinions of three eminent
corporation counsel upon that very point, smiled tolerantly.

"You are not a lawyer, Mr. Dunne?"

"No."

"Nor am I. But I have had this clause passed upon, and I tell you that
we are quite within our rights. The charter covers the case completely,
according to the best legal opinion."

"But nobody thought of irrigation when this charter was granted,"
objected Dunne. "The land was supposed to be worthless. That was why
Prairie Southern got such a large land grant. You know that."

"That has nothing to do with the case. Let us stick to the point. What,
so far, have you to complain of?"

"This," said Dunne shortly. "You have a charter which you say entitles
you to all the water in the river. You are constructing ditches
sufficient to carry it all; you are constructing a dam to divert it
all; and you are selling land to an acreage which, if cultivated, will
require it all. You admit your intentions. When that dam is built and
those ditches are filled our ranches must go dry. It spells our ruin.
We are living on sufferance. And yet you ask us what we have to
complain of!"

"I need scarcely assure you," said York, "that unless and until we
require the water it will not be taken."

"Not nearly good enough," Dunne returned. "We can't work and improve
our ranches with that hanging over us. Such an assurance is of no
practical value."

"It is all I can give you."

Casey Dunne nodded as one who sees things turning out as he expected.
"Then naturally we shall be forced to fight you."

"As you like," said York indifferently. "You will lose, that's all. I
can't do any more for you. It is my duty to my shareholders to increase
the value of those lands if I can do so legally."

"I wish I could get your viewpoint," said Casey Dunne, and for the
first time his voice lost a shade of its calm and began to vibrate with
anger. "I'd like to know just how much it differs from a claim jumper's
or a burglar's. You know as well as I do that you have no earthly right
to take that water. You know you are taking advantage of the careless
wording of an old charter. You know that it means the utter ruin of men
who went into a God-forsaken land without a dollar, and took a brown,
parched wilderness by the throat, and fought it to a standstill--men
who backed their faith in the country with years of toil and privation,
who made the trails and dug the ditches, and proved the land. And you
have the colossal nerve to set a little additional dividend on watered
stock against the homes of those men--old, some of them, now--and the
rights of their wives and children to the fruits of their work!"

The railway man surveyed him with quiet amusement. To him this
resembled the vicarious indignation of a very young country lawyer at a
client's wrongs.

"Are you," he asked, with quiet sarcasm, "one of those who made the
trails and dug the ditches and endured the privations? If so, they seem
to have agreed with you."

Casey Dunne's blue eyes narrowed, and his voice fell to a level. He
leaned forward across the desk with an ugly set to his jaw.

"If you want to know just how strong I'm in on this I'll tell you," he
snapped. "I'm thirty-four years old. I've made my own living since I
was fifteen. I've roughed it because I had to, and I've gone low enough
at times. I've starved and blistered and frozen in places you never
heard of; and out of it all I got together a little stake. I put that
into Coldstream land. Do you think I'm going to let you take it without
a fight? I'm _not_."

York, who never let go himself, drummed on his desk thoughtfully. This
was a sentiment he understood and appreciated. A fighter, he recognized
a kindred spirit. Also if this man were influential, as appeared
likely, among the Coldstream ranchers, it might be well to make terms
with him.

"You haven't a chance," he said. "I'll be quite frank with you. We have
the best legal advice, and our position is quite unassailable. Even if
it were not, we could appeal you into bankruptcy. Still, though I don't
admit that you have the least claim on us, we might possibly buy in
your holdings at a fair present price."

"That's freeze-out," Dunne returned bluntly. "You force us to sell, and
afterward you include our lands in your ditch system, and clean up a
thousand per cent. It won't do. We proved that country, and we want
that profit ourselves."

"I'm making the offer to you alone," said York. "I don't care about the
others. We don't want their land."

"Then why are you trying to make a deal with me?" rasped Casey Dunne.
"You think I'll go home and tell my neighbours that they have no show
at all to buck the railway, and the best thing we all can do is to sell
out for what we can get--and then I keep my mouth shut on the fact that
I'm getting more than the rest of them."

"Nothing of the sort," snapped York, who did not like to hear his
thought done into plain English. "My offer was made in good faith, but
I withdraw it. Keep your land."

"And the devil do me good with it, I suppose!" said Casey Dunne,
picking up his hat and rising. "Very well, Mr. York. I know now where
you stand. And here's where we stand: Not one of us will sell an acre
or a foot. We are going to keep our land, and we are going to keep our
water--somehow."

"The best advice I can give you is to see a good lawyer," said York.

"I'll take the advice," Dunne replied. "But whether we take the
lawyer's advice or not is another matter entirely."

"What do you mean by that?" York demanded.

"I mean," said Dunne, who had quite recovered his usual manner, which
contained a spice of mockery that York found irritating, "that we're
not very strong on law down where I come from. Some of us have got
along pretty well with what law we carried around with us. Good
morning, Mr. York."



CHAPTER III


Considerably more than a year after her experience with the train
robbers, Clyde Burnaby received a dinner invitation from the Wades.
Kitty Wade was an old friend; her husband, Harrison Wade, was a lawyer
just coming into prominence. They had an unpretentious home on the
North Side, and such entertaining as they did was on a modest scale.
Nevertheless, one met there people worth while, coming people, most of
them, seldom those who had "arrived" in the French signification of the
word--young professional and business men, authors, playwrights, and
politicians in embryo--comparatively unknown as yet, but who, in a few
months or a few years, might be famous.

"Oh, Clyde," said Kitty Wade, as Clyde, having removed her wraps, was
arranging her hair before the mirror, "I had planned to have Van Cromer
take you in to dinner, but at the last moment he couldn't come, and
Stella Blake couldn't come either. I had a Mr. Casey Dunne for her. And
so, if you don't mind----"

"Of course not," said Clyde. "But post me a little, Kitty. What has Mr.
Casey Dunne done, or what is he going to do? What does one talk about
to him?"

"Crops," replied Mrs. Wade.

Clyde sighed resignedly. "My dear, I don't mind for once, but I never
could understand the market. May wheat, September options, war and
rumours of wars, and the effect on prices of the weather sent by divine
Providence, probabilities of a large or short crop--these be sealed
mysteries to me."

"But Mr. Dunne isn't a broker," said Mrs. Wade. "He's a farmer."

"A--a _farmer_!" Clyde repeated, in much the same tone she would have
used if her hostess had informed her that she was to be paired with a
Zulu.

Mrs. Wade laughed. "Not the 'Old Homestead' kind, dear. It's the fault
of my Eastern bringing up. I should have said a 'rancher.' He comes
from somewhere near the Rockies, and I believe he grows wheat and hay
and cattle and--oh, whatever else ranchers grow."

"Oh!" said Clyde doubtfully. "And is he excessively Western? Does he
exude the 'God's-own-country' and 'land-of-opportunity' line of
conversation? Will he try to sell me land? And how old is he?"

"I have never seen him," Mrs. Wade replied. "He did Harrison a good
turn once--gave him some information about lands or something. Harry
assures me that he doesn't wear big revolvers or spurs, or eat with his
knife--in fact, he is quite presentable. But if you like I'll give you
some one else."

"Oh, no," said Clyde. "Mr. Dunne will do very well. I think I shall
prefer him to a broker."

"So good of you, dear," smiled Kitty Wade. "Shall we go down? I think
the others will be arriving."

Clyde endeavoured to construct an advance portrait of Casey Dunne, but
without much success. Unconsciously she was influenced by the
characters of alleged Western drama, as flamboyant and nearly as
accurate as the Southerners of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." She was genuinely
surprised when she found him to be a rather good-looking young man in
irreproachable evening clothes.

At that moment dinner was announced. He offered his arm without
hesitation. Clyde intercepted a glance from her hostess, brimming with
laughter. She laughed back with relief. She had rather dreaded the
experience of a dinner companion who would be guilty of all manner of
solecisms. Clearly her fears had been groundless. Save in the matter of
tan, which was rather becoming, Wade's Western friend differed in no
outward detail from the other men in the room.

When they were seated came the embarrassing moment--when it became
necessary to find a conversational topic of common acquaintance. But
this passed easily. From the table decorations Clyde turned deftly to
flowers in general, to trees, to outdoor things. Casey Dunne laughed
gently.

"You are trying to talk of things I am expected to know about, aren't
you, Miss Burnaby?"

She evaded the charge, laughing also. "What _shall_ we talk about, Mr.
Dunne? You shall choose for both of us."

"No, I won't do that. Talk of whatever interests you. I'll follow your
lead if I can."

She took him at his word, finding that his acquaintance with current
literature and topics of the day was rather more intimate than her own.
He seemed to have ideas and opinions formed by his own thought, not
mere repetitions of reviews or newspaper comment.

As she glanced at his profile from time to time she became aware of an
odd familiarity. He resembled some one she had seen before, but the
identity eluded her. Their conversation gradually took a more personal
form. Dunne told a story, and told it well. He spoke casually of the
West, but instituted no comparisons.

"You are really an exception," Clyde told him. "The average Westerner
is such a superior mortal. He looks down on the East, and when he comes
among Easterners he condescends."

"It's a relief to have some one admit that Chicago is in the East," he
laughed. "No, I don't brag about the West. It's a good country, and it
will be better when we have approximated more to Eastern conditions. We
are undeveloped as yet. In twenty years----"

"Ah, there it is!" she interrupted. "Scratch a Russian, and find a
Tartar. And I took you for an exception!"

He laughed. "I plead guilty. The microbe is in the air. We all have it.
Can you blame us? Do you know the West?"

"Only what I have seen from the train. I have told you of every one
here. In return tell me about yourself. Mrs. Wade says that you are a
rancher."

"Yes, I have a good little ranch in the dry belt, within sight of the
mountains."

"The dry belt?" she queried.

"Yes. We call that part of the country which has little or no rain the
'dry belt.' Formerly, for that reason, it was supposed to be useless.
But since irrigation has been discovered--you see, it's really a recent
discovery with us in America, whatever it is with other peoples--we
dry-belt ranchers are in a better position than any others. For we are
able to give the land moisture whenever it needs it. Whereas others
have to depend on the uncertainties of rainfall. About once in five
years their crops are ruined by drought. But we are able to water our
fields as the city man waters his lawn."

"So that you are certain of a good crop every year."

"No, not certain. We have merely eliminated one cause of failure. We
are still at the tender mercies of hot winds, hail, and frosts late and
early."

These things were but names to her. They called up no concrete visions
of the baking, siroccolike winds that curdled the grain in the milk,
the hail that threshed it and beat it flat, of the late frosts that
nipped the tender green shoots in spring, and the early ones in fall
that soured the kernels before the complete ripening. But she saw that
to him they typified enemies, real, deadly, ever threatening,
impossible, so far, to guard against.

Dimly she began to perceive that while certain forces of nature made
always for growth, still others, equally powerful, made for
destruction. Between the warring forces stood the Man of the Soil,
puny, insignificant, matching his own hardly won and his forefather's
harder-won knowledge against the elements; bending some to his
advantage, minimizing the effects of others, openly defying those he
could neither control nor avoid. And she partly realized his triumph in
having vanquished one of these inimical forces, one of his most dreaded
enemies, Drought.

"You like the life?"

"Yes, I like it. It's idyllic, compared with some phases of existence
that I have experienced."

"You have had varied experiences?"

"'Varied!' Yes, I suppose you may call them that."

"Won't you tell me about them?"

"There isn't much to tell, and that little not very entertaining. You
see, Miss Burnaby, if my youthful mouth was ever acquainted with a
silver spoon it was snatched away at a tender age."

"I beg your pardon," said Clyde quickly. "I'm afraid my request was
impertinent."

"Not at all. I went West when I was a kid, and I've seen quite a bit of
country. Then, when I had money enough, I put it into land, and went to
ranching. That's all there is to it."

She was quite certain, somehow, that there was a great deal more to it.
She fell to studying his hands. The fingers were long and slender, but
flat, sinewy, and powerful. They seemed to express tenacity of purpose,
a grip of whatever they undertook. Once more she looked at his profile,
and again she was struck by an elusive familiarity.

"You remind me of somebody--of something," she said. "I can't place
it."

"Indeed!" he responded. "Now, I hope the unplaced recollection is not
unpleasant."

"It's not definite enough. But it is there. It's not so much when you
face me--it's the side view. I've never met you before, of course."

"Of course not," he agreed, but his eyes laughed at her.

"Have I?" she exclaimed. "Surely not! I'm not forgetful, as a rule."

"I was wondering," he said, "if you would remember me. I knew you at
once, but I can't claim the honour of having been presented before
to-night. Our acquaintance, if I may call it that, was very informal."

"But when--where?" she demanded. "I don't recall----"

"Well, it's not surprising," he admitted. "I was dressed differently.
Naturally you wouldn't expect to see me in these." He glanced down at
his evening clothes. "The fact is, I sat across the aisle from you in
the car when----"

"Oh!" she cried. "Now I know. When the train was held up. Why, of
course it _was_ you. I'm so glad to meet you again. I've always wanted
to thank you for relieving me of the attentions of that--that----"

"That fresh guy," he supplied gravely.

"Thank you! That 'fresh guy,'" she smiled. "But for you I should have
lost my watch. And then you lent me ten dollars."

"Well, you see, they got all your cash."

"I don't know whatever made me take it. I have it still. I didn't need
it. I had a book of travellers' checks and credits at the coast. I
intended to give it back to you at once. I hope it didn't
inconvenience----"

She stopped, conscious that her estimate of the finances of the man in
the train had probably been mistaken.

"Not a bit," he replied. "I had a small roll stowed away."

"But what became of you?" she asked. "You didn't come back. I asked the
conductor and the porters--everybody. What happened?"

"Why, the explanation is very simple, though I'm not proud of it. When
I heard the shooting up in front I thought it was up to me to help the
train boys, and I went out with the best intentions. The holdups were
backing off, burning a lot of powder but doing no harm, and I guessed
that their horses were in a bluff about five hundred yards from the
track. Of course, once they got in the saddle they would make a
get-away, so far as we were concerned, and I thought if I could beat
them to the horses and turn the animals loose we would practically have
them rounded up. That's what I tried to do. But as I was running I
tripped, and went headfirst into a stump or a stone. Anyway, it knocked
me out, and when I emerged from dreamland the train was moving, and I
couldn't catch it. So I just tramped the ties to the next station. And
there I had a job explaining that I wasn't a holdup myself. It didn't
strike those boneheads that no sane holdup would come walking along the
track a few hours after a robbery."

Clyde was disappointed at the baldness of his narration. Almost any man
would have made some effort at description. Dunne had made none
whatever. He had confined himself to the barest of bare facts.

"You make a poor raconteur, Mr. Dunne."

"Really, that's all there was to it," he replied. "'We fit and they
fit; and they ran and we ran'--or at least I did till I tripped."

Mrs. Wade rose.

"After you have had your cigar we will continue our conversation, if
you care to," said Clyde.

"Just what I was going to ask. I hope Wade's cigars are small."

When the ladies had gone, Harrison Wade drew his chair beside Dunne's.

"I've been thinking over that matter of yours, Casey, and the more I
think it over the less I like it. That charter, backed by Airline money
and influence, will be a hard thing to get over. I hate to discourage
you, but the best advice I can give to you and your neighbours is to
put a fair price on your holdings, and offer them to the railway _en
bloc_."

"But we don't want to sell, Wade. Couldn't you get an injunction or
something, and tie up their operations?"

"No, I'm afraid not. You can't bring an action until you have something
to found it on--that is to say, some wrong to complain of--some actual
interference with your rights to water. And you can't get an injunction
unless you can show that your rights are beyond question. It's a
toss-up whether that charter takes precedence or not. I'm speaking
frankly to you. With an ordinary client I'd throw a professional front
of profound knowledge, but as it is I own up that it's a complicated
question, depending almost entirely on the court. And courts are just
as uncertain as other human institutions."

Casey Dunne frowned through the spreading fog of cigar smoke. "I'm
quite aware of it, Wade. But here it is: We don't want to sell. Even if
they gave us a fair present price, we would be losers, for land out
there is going to double in value in the next couple of years. And what
they intend to do is simply to freeze us out and force us to sell at
dry-land prices. Therefore, we've _got_ to fight. Go ahead and try for
an injunction. If that is refused, bring an action as soon as you can.
And meanwhile we'll hang on to our water somehow."

"Don't do anything to prejudice your case in the courts," Wade warned.

"According to you York will do that, anyway," said Dunne. "No, Wade,
that's flat, final, whatever. We won't let go till we have to. We won't
be skinned out of the profit we are entitled to by foresight and hard
work. Speaking for myself, I've put my whole stack on this bet, and
with a straight deal it's a sure winner. And if the deal's going to be
crooked I'll break up the game any way that comes handy."

"Go to it, my friend," said the lawyer. "It's your affair. I've told
you what I think, and I'll not add to it. I hope you have water when I
come out this summer to make you that long-promised visitation." He
changed the subject abruptly. "You and Clyde Burnaby seemed to be
getting on swimmingly."

"Clyde--is that her name?" said Dunne. "Seems like a nice girl."

"She's all of that. You know who she is, of course?"

"Not a bit. Just her name."

"Niece of old Jim Hess, with a fortune of her own."

"Pretty_ lucky_," Dunne commented.

"Pretty _and_ lucky," said his host. "Old York hates Hess like poison,
a sentiment which Hess returns, according to rumour. I don't suppose
you've told Clyde Burnaby your troubles?"

Dunne stared at him. "Of course not! What do you take me for?"

"That's all right, my son; don't swell up so. Why don't you tell her?"

"Why the deuce should I? Do you think I go yawping my business affairs
to every female I meet?"

"Well, Clyde Burnaby's good stuff," said Wade. "She has a level head.
If it comes up that way, Casey, tell her all about it. She'll
sympathize with you."

"I'm not looking for sympathy."

"And she might give you some good advice."

"Rats!" Casey Dunne commented, inelegantly but forcibly, and Wade said
no more.

Dunne was glad when the cigars were ended. He found Clyde Burnaby at
the piano, barely touching the keys. A faint melody seemed to flow from
her finger's tips.

"Do you sing, Mr. Dunne?"

"Only very confidentially. When I was riding for a cow outfit I used to
sing at night, when the cattle were bedded down. Sort of tradition of
the business that it kept 'em quiet. They didn't seem to mind my voice.
And that's really the most encouragement I ever got."

Mrs. Wade asked Clyde to play. She complied at once, without
hesitation. They applauded her. Afterward one of the men sang, to her
accompaniment. Then she and Dunne drifted together once more.

"I liked your playing," he said, "but not what you played. It had no
tune."

"It was Beethoven!"

"All the same, it had no tune. I like the old songs--the ones I can
follow in my mind with the words I know."

"Why, so do I," she admitted; "but, my Philistine friend, I was
expected to play the other kind."

"I understand that. But I like to hear what is low grade enough for me
to appreciate. I don't get much music at home."

"Tell me about your ranch. I'd like to know what you do and how you
live. To begin with, beggin' yer honour's pardon in advance, is there a
Mrs. Dunne?"

"No such luck," he replied. He sketched the ranch routine briefly. She
was interested, asking many questions. The evening wore away. The
guests began to depart. But Clyde had arranged to stay the night with
the Wades.

"By the way," she said, "I still have your ten-dollar bill. I will send
it to you."

"Don't do that. Keep it."

"I couldn't."

"Of course you can. You may pay me interest if you like."

"At what per cent?"

"Current rates in my country--eight."

"Very well," she laughed. "It's a bargain. But where is your security?"

He considered gravely. "Certainly I should have something. I will be
satisfied with that rose you are wearing."

Clyde coloured slightly, glancing at him swiftly.

"Kitty," she called to Mrs. Wade, "I want you as a witness. Mr. Dunne
has made me a loan. His security is this rose--and nothing more. Please
witness that I give it to him."

And later that night Kitty Wade said to her lord:

"For a rancher, Harry, your Casey Dunne has class. I never knew Clyde
Burnaby to give a flower to any man before."

"And you see a case of love at first sight," said Wade, scornfully and
sleepily. "Pshaw, Kitty, you're barking at a knot. Casey's a fine chap,
but Lord! she's got too much money for him. Suppose she did give him a
rose! Didn't she call you over to chaperon the transaction? That puts
the sentimental theory out of business."

"And that's all a lawyer knows!" said his wife. "Why, you old silly,
don't you see that she couldn't have given it to him any other
way--with all those people in the room? Clyde Burnaby can think about
as fast as anybody I know."



CHAPTER IV


Casey Dunne pulled a fretful buckskin to a halt as he topped a rise and
looked down on Talapus Ranch. It lay before him, the thousand-odd acres
of it, lush and green beneath the sloping, afternoon sun, an oasis in a
setting of brown, baked earth and short, dry grasses which seldom felt
the magic of the rains. The ranch was owned by Donald McCrae, a pioneer
of the district, and it was the show place of the country. It was
Exhibit A to incomers, a witness to the results of irrigation. The
broad, fat acres were almost level. There was no waste land, no
coulées, no barren hills to discount its value. Every foot of it could
be irrigated, and most of it was actually irrigated and cultivated.

Dunne's eye followed the lines of the ditches, marked by margins of
green willows. They cut through the fields of wheat, of oats, of
alfalfa, timothy, and red clover. They were the main arteries. From
them branched veins supplying the fields with the water that gave them
life--the water without which the land was waste and barren; but with
which it bore marvellously with the stored fertility of fallow
centuries. Away at one end of the ranch, sheltered to north and west by
low hills, was the ranch house itself, surrounded by young orchards,
the stables, the corrals, the granaries, the cattle sheds, tool and
implement houses. At that distance, in the clear, dry air, they looked
like toys, miniatures, sharply defined in angle and shadow. So, too,
the stock grazing in the fields were of lilliputian dimensions.

From where he sat in the saddle Dunne could see the Coldstream,
scarcely more than a large creek, dignified in that land of dryness by
the name of river, whose source was in the great green glaciers and
everlasting snows of the hills. Its banks were green with willow and
cottonwood. It was a treasure stream of untold value. With it the land
prospered; without it the land and the men who peopled the land must
fail.

"And that ranch, and others like it," Dunne muttered through his teeth,
"must go dry and back to brown prairie unless the owners sell out to
that old holdup, York, at his own price. Well, Mr. York----You yellow
devil!"

The last words did not refer to Cromwell York. For, without provocation
or preliminaries, the buckskin's head had dived between his legs, his
back arched like an indignant cat's, and with a vicious squeal he began
to pitch.

Dunne drew his quirt and let him have it. The brown, plaited leather
played like lightning on quarters, flanks, cached head, and flattened
ears.

"No work, and a bellyful of oats three times a day!" he gritted.
"Forgotten who's your boss, hey? I'll show you, you hammer-headed,
saffron-hided----"

"Stay with him, Casey!"

Dunne turned his head, and shut his teeth upon forthcoming references
to his steed's pedigree. A girl, brown, lean, aquiline of feature, sat
astride a big slashing bay, and watched the contest with amusement.
Dunne's face, red from exertion, deepened in colour; for some of his
remarks, though exceedingly apposite, had not been intended for
feminine ears. He answered, between pitches, in the vernacular:

"You bet I will, Sheila! Go to it, old son! Bump to glory if you like!"

But as suddenly as he had begun the buckskin desisted. He heaved a
sigh, stood still, and turned a mildly inquiring, backward eye on his
rider. It was as if he had said: "What! Still there? You surprise me!"

Sheila McCrae laughed. "He's passing it off as a joke, Casey."

"He nearly got me, the old sinner," said Dunne. "Now he'll be good till
next time. You miserable, imitation bad horse, some day I'll manhandle
you."

"Shiner knows you won't," the girl commented.

"He knows you're fond of him. You'll quirt him when he pitches, and
then give him an extra feed."

"Well, maybe," Casey admitted shamelessly. "I like the old hyena. I've
frazzled out leather on his hide that cost more than he did, but I
never went after him right. He certainly can drift when he has to.
What's the news, Sheila? All well at the ranch?"

She nodded, running a keen eye over his face. "All well. But you're the
news bureau, Casey."

"Am I?" he said. "Well, then, I haven't a piece of good news in my
saddlebags--not one."

"I knew it," she said. "Well, it can't be helped, Casey. There will be
some way out. Let's go on to the ranch. Supper will be ready. Most of
the men won't come till afterward. I won't be at your council of war,
but I want you to let me know just what you decide on."

"Of course," he replied. "You've got a better head than most men,
Sheila. I don't know what we will do--haven't a notion. It looks as
though we were up against a tough proposition."

His dejection was apparent, and, womanlike, she tried to cheer him.
Some way would be found. The action of the railway was so high-handed
and unjust that it could not succeed. But though she spoke cheerfully,
her keen eyes were troubled, and her face was clouded as they rode up
to the ranch.

They found Donald McCrae at the stables. He was a dark-faced giant of a
man, and for all his years carried himself as straight as a young pine.
All his life had been spent on the frontier. He had seen it move
westward, and had moved with it from the Great Lakes across the Great
Plains. He had seen it vanish, as the wild pigeon and the buffalo had
gone--mysteriously, in a season, almost. Wheat fields, etched in green
and gold, lay where he had made his lonely camps; orchards nestled by
little lakes and in mountain valleys where he had trapped the beaver;
strings of brass-bound, vestibuled coaches whirled where he had ridden
his pony with the pack train shuffling behind. And here, on the
Coldstream, he had made his last stand, taken up land, and turned, when
past his prime, to the quiet life of a rancher.

"Light down, light down, Casey!" he called. "Put your cayuse in the
stable. Give me Beaver Boy, Sheila. Go up to the house and fix us some
whiskey with a chip of ice in it, like a good girl. Stir up the Chink
as you go through, and make him rustle supper in a hurry. We'll be
right in." He took his daughter's horse, and in the stable turned to
Dunne.

"Well?" he demanded tersely.

"Nothing," Casey replied. "They stand their hand."

"I was afraid of it," said McCrae. "And they outhold us, Casey."

"Yes. Too much money."

"Will they buy us?"

"No. York offered to buy me. I was to be a decoy for the rest, I think.
I refused. Now he will freeze us out."

"Will he?" said McCrae heavily. "Will he? Maybe so. And maybe----" He
did not complete the sentence, but stood at the door, scowling at the
fair fields. "Twenty years back, Casey--yes, ten, even--if a man jumped
my staking I'd have known what to do. We own this water. What's the
difference? Can't the law help us? Do we have to help ourselves?"

"It may come to that," Casey replied. "Yes, it's pretty nearly come to
that, McCrae. I saw a lawyer--one of the best in the business. He says
the odds are against us. They will appeal and appeal--carry it up to
the highest court. Meanwhile our land will be dry likely. We're out on
a limb. If we hang on they shoot, and if we drop off they skin us."

"I guess that's so," said McCrae. "It's a bad fix any way you look at
it. There's the ranch. That ain't so much, far's I'm concerned. I've
been broke before, and I can rustle for myself for years yet. But
there's my wife and Sheila and Alec. It's theirs. I worked for them.
It's all I've got to leave them. You see, Casey, I can't stand to lose
it."

"I know," said Casey sympathetically. "It's a hard position. Look here,
Donald, if you wish it I'll vote for breaking our pool, and each man
doing the best he can for himself."

"No, I didn't mean that," said McCrae. "The railway wouldn't give us a
fair price, and nobody else would buy with this hanging over. I'll
stick. But you, now, it's some different with you. You're young, you
ain't married. It's your stake, of course, but then you've got time
left you to get another. They offered to buy you out. I don't know but
you'd best take their offer. That'll give you something to start on.
None of us will think the less of you for it."

"The agreement was that we were to fight this to a finish. If we sold
out the railway was to buy all or none. If you can stay with that I
can."

"But then, you see, Casey----"

"I see, Donald. You know me better than that."

McCrae slapped him on the shoulder with a huge hand, and his voice took
on the Gaelic accent of his childhood learned from his father, that
McCrae who had in his time ruled a thousand miles of wilderness for the
great fur company.

"I do know ye, boy, and it is proud I will be of it. There's Sheila at
the door, callin' us. A toss of liquor and a bite--it will put the
heart in us again. We must cheer up for the women, lad."

But in spite of this resolution supper was not a merry meal. Talk was
spasmodic, interrupted by long silences. Mrs. McCrae--slight, gentle,
motherly, with wavy silver hair--was plainly worried. Her husband
brooded unconsciously over his plate. Sheila and Casey, conversing on
topics which neither was thinking about, blundered ridiculously. And
the son of the house, Alec McCrae, a wiry, hawk-faced young man of
twenty-two, strongly resembling his sister, was almost silent.

Soon after supper the ranchers who had banded together for mutual
protection began to arrive by saddle and buckboard. Men of all ages,
they comprised a dozen descents and nationalities, the Celtic and
Anglo-Saxon strains predominating.

There was Oscar Swanson, heavy, slow-moving, blond as Harold Haarfagar,
a veritable Scandinavian colossus; Wyndham, clean-bred, clean-built, an
English gentleman to his fingers' tips; old Ike James, whose tongue
carried the idiom and soft-slurring drawl of his native South; Eugéne
Brulé, three parts Quebec French and one part Cree; Carter, O'Gara,
Bullen, Westwick, and half a dozen others.

One and all they were wind-and-sun tanned, steady of eye, mostly quiet
and brief of speech. Life was a serious business with them just then.
Their ranches were their all. They had given hostages to competence. Up
to a year ago they had believed themselves lucky, independent, on the
way to modest fortune. Then came alarming rumours; next, construction
of works confirming the rumours. Now they were come to hear the worst
or best from the lips of their envoy, Casey Dunne.

They listened as he gave details of his interviews with York and Wade,
lips grimly wrapped around cigars and pipe stems, troubled eyes
straining through the blue smoke at the speaker.

"And you couldn't get an injunction?" said Wyndham.

"No. The judge said that the mere fact of building a dam did not show
an intention to interfere with anybody's rights."

"Didn't--eh?" snapped Carter, at high tension. "Then I'd like to know
what would show it!"

"So would I," said Dunne. "Anyway, what the judge said went. The long
and short of it is that we can't go to law till they actually take our
water. Wade advises us to sell out if we can get a fair price. And
that's all I have to report, gentlemen."

"A fair price!" exclaimed Carter. "That's all right to talk about--but
who'll give us one? The railway won't buy--it's cheaper to freeze us
out. Nobody else will. And, if it comes to that, what is a fair price?
Land is boosting everywhere. If we sold now we'd just be robbing
ourselves."

"S'pose they starts to rustle our water and we go to law," said old
James, "does this here lawsuit tangle up things so's't we get plenty of
water till the case is tried?"

"I'm afraid not," Casey replied. "That's the worst of it. Wade seemed
to think that once they got the water they could keep it until the case
was settled by the last court of appeal. And that would put us out of
business."

"It's sure a mean jack pot," said James. "It looks like they have it on
us every way. The prospects for our emergin' winners ain't cheerin'
none, but, gents, speakin' for myself alone, I wouldn't sell at no
price. I'm aimin' to live where I be till you-alls beds me down for
keeps. I reckon I'll stay with the game while I got a chaw and a
ca'tridge left. I may be froze out, but dog-gone my ol' hide if I'll be
bluffed out. This here ain't none different from claim jumpin'. I own
my water, and I'm goin' to keep on havin' it. And the man that shets it
off will be mighty apt to see how they irrigate them green fields 'way
over yander 'cross the River Jordan."

His words were like fire in dry straw.

"That's right, Uncle Ike!" cried Carter.

"By George I'm with you myself!" cried Wyndham.

"_Moi aussi!_" exclaimed Brulé. "By damn, yes!"

"Yes, let 'em try it!" cried young Alec McCrae, his eyes gleaming like
those of a fierce young hawk that sights its first quarry. "Let 'em try
it!" he repeated ominously, nodding to himself.

But on the excitement of the others Donald McCrae's words fell like an
icy douche: "Men, this is plain foolishness. Alec, let me hear no more
of it from you. James, you should know better. We can't enforce claim
law here. The old days are gone."

"I ain't gone yet, nor you ain't," old James replied, his eyes gleaming
balefully through slitted lids. "I give it out now that I don't set
quiet and see my ditches go dry. Long's the law won't help us--and the
law never gave no action in the West nohow--I'm goin' to help myself. I
ain't raisin' the long yell for partners, neither!"

"You can't bring back the old days," McCrae repeated. "I stand to lose
as much as any man here, but shooting one or two men who are doing what
they are paid to do won't help us. You all know that."

"That's so," Casey admitted. "That's the last thing we can afford to
do."

"Well, maybe you boys are right," said the old man reluctantly. "Maybe
I ain't up to date. But what you goin' to do? You got to do somethin'."

"Yes," said Wyndham. "They are getting ahead with their work. It won't
be long till that dam is finished. Then they'll take the water from us,
that's certain."

But here Big Oscar received an inspiration. He had been listening
carefully, casting mildly inquiring blue eyes on the speakers. He was a
good listener, was Oscar, and he seldom spoke. His mental engine, so
far as could be judged by its verbal expression, turned over stiffly.
Apparently it had never been run enough to be smoothed down--at least
in English. But his contribution to the debate at this juncture was
noteworthy. Said he:

"Say, Ay tenk Ay blow dat dam, easy!"

They stared at him for a moment, while the suggestion took root. It was
obvious that if the dam were destroyed the water would remain theirs
until it was rebuilt. True, its destruction would be a lawless act,
amounting to a declaration of war; but war on them had already been
declared. They would be merely striking the first blow, and here was
the logical spot to strike.

"Good boy, Oscar," said Carter. "I believe that's the answer."

"What do you think, McCrae?" asked Wyndham.

"I'm against violence in any form," said McCrae slowly. "But they are
forcing it on us. They want to steal our ranches. It amounts to that.
This is the only thing we can do, and when we do it we'll do it right."

A round of applause greeted his concluding words. Old Ike James
whispered to his neighbour:

"This here Highland Scotch stock is sure a funny proposition. What they
start with a pra'ar they're mighty apt to end with a gun. Ol' Donald's
a sure-'nough wolf when he gets goin'."

"And you, Dunne?" asked Wyndham.

"I'm in. I guess it's a case. Oscar, you have a great head. When shall
we start the fireworks, and who's to start 'em?"

Oscar, flattered by the compliment and the unusual attention, picked up
his hat. "Ay ban good powder man. Ay tenk Ay start him now when Ay gat
some powder," said he. He smiled at them serenely. "Mebbe if t'ree,
four you faller come by me you svear Ay ban home all night?" he
suggested ingenuously.

But there was an objection to the immediate execution of the plan. They
were just then getting all the water they needed. The farther ahead
they could set the date of the destruction of the dam while retaining
the water, the farther off would be the date when it could be rebuilt,
as they had no doubt it would be. Thus they might tide through the hot,
dry summer. Whereas, if it were blown up now it might be repaired and
their water taken when they needed it most.

Just then it seemed wise to pursue a policy of masterly inactivity. But
the mere fact of having settled on a course of action cleared the air,
cheered them. In place of a despondent lethargy there was a nervous
tension, as before a battle. They laughed and joked amid the bobbing
stable lanterns as they harnessed and saddled; and they rode away from
Talapus Ranch one and all in better spirits than they had come.



CHAPTER V


No one has ever satisfactorily explained the rapidity with which news
travels in sparsely settled communities. But the fact remains
undisputed. Also the further fact that its accuracy is in inverse ratio
to its rapidity, which does not need so much explanation. The men who
had been at Talapus said nothing of the meeting, nothing of the purpose
of it. And yet the gathering was speedily known from one end of the
country to the other in conjunction with startling rumours, none of
them authentic or traceable, but all disquieting. The report gained
currency that the ranchers contemplated nothing less than an armed
attack on the ditch and dam construction camps, for the purpose of
running the workmen out of the country.

This came to the ears of Sleeman, who was the local sales agent of the
railway's land department; and Sleeman passed it on to his chief, who
thought it of sufficient importance to put up to York, seeing that that
gentleman was responsible for the conception of the department's policy
in this instance.

York, while not attaching much importance to the story, thought of the
remarks of Casey Dunne. It was just possible that the ranchers might
perpetrate some hostile act. It happened, too, that at this time the
engineer in charge of the Coldstream irrigation project took sick,
necessitating the appointment of a new man. And it further happened
that another engineer in the railway's employ, named Farwell, had got
through with a difficult piece of tunnelling, and was ready for fresh
work.

"I'll send Farwell down there," said York, speaking to Carrol, who was
the head of his land department.

Now, Farwell was altogether too good a man to waste on a little,
puttering job like this. He had seen service in half a dozen countries,
always with credit to himself, and he was in line for big promotion.
But against his undoubted ability and the fact that he was a tremendous
driver, who spared no one, not even himself, was the further fact that
he was harsh, domineering, impatient, lacking tact or diplomacy. He was
a fighter by instinct. He preferred to break through than to go around.
He antagonized rather than conciliated. But in the event of real
trouble he was there with the genuine, hall-marked goods, as he had
shown on several occasions when a hard man had been needed. The land
department, however, had it's own staff, and Carrol did not like the
importation of an outsider.

"No need to send Farwell," said he. "We can look after it ourselves."

"Farwell's the best man we can have there if anything goes wrong," said
York positively. "He'll bring these ranchers to time. I'll send him."

Farwell descended on the Coldstream country in a bitter temper, for the
job was far beneath his professional dignity as he looked at it, and he
knew that in the meantime others would get better work to which he
considered himself entitled. Indeed, he had come within an ace of
resigning, and had insisted, as a condition, on a definite promise of
something very good in the immediate future.

When he stepped off the train at the little Coldstream station he was
already prejudiced against the country, its inhabitants, and its
future; and what he saw as the train rumbled away into the distance did
not tend to improve his temper.

Coldstream itself for years had amounted to little more than a
post-office address. From the time of its building in the days of a
boom which had no foundation, and therefore no permanence, it had
retrogressed steadily. Now it was picking up. But although times were
beginning to improve, it still bore many of the earmarks of an
abandoned camp. The struggle for life during the lean years was more
apparent in outward sign than was the present convalescence. Most of
the houses were now occupied, but almost all were unpainted, stained
gray and brown by wind and sun and snow, forlorn and hideous things of
loosened boards and flapping ends of tarred sheeting.

Although it was only spring, the road which wound from nowhere between
the unsightly shacks was ankle deep in dust. The day was unseasonably
warm, the air still. The dust lay on the young leaves of the occasional
clumps of cottonwoods, and seemed to impregnate the air so that it was
perceptible to the nostrils--a warm, dry, midsummer smell, elusive, but
pervasive. The whole land swam and shimmered in hot sunshine. The
unpainted buildings danced in it, blurring with the heat waves. Save
for the occasional green of cottonwoods, the land lay in the brown
nakedness of a dry spring, wearying the eye with its sameness.

Farwell swore to himself at the prospect, feeling his grievance against
his employers and the world at large become more acute. He considered
himself ill-used, slighted, and he registered a mental vow to rush his
work and be quit of the accursed place at the earliest possible moment.

The individual who seemed to combine the functions of station agent and
baggage hustler approached, wheeling a truck. He was a small man,
gray-headed, with a wrinkled, wizened face, and eyes of faded blue. To
him the engineer addressed himself.

"I'm Farwell," said he.

The agent halted the truck, smiled in friendly fashion, swung around,
and presented his left ear cupped in his left hand. At the same time a
strange, pungent odour assailed Farwell's nostrils.

"What did yez say?" he asked. "Onforch'nately me right a-cowstick organ
is temp'rar'ly to the bad from shootin' a po-o-olecat. The gun busted
on me, and I massacreed the marauder wid an ax. Did iver ye disthroy a
skunk wid an ax? Then don't. Avoid mixin' it wid the od'riferous
animals. Faix, I've buried me clothes--it was a new nightshirt, a
flannel wan that I had on--and scrubbed meself wid kerosene and
whale-oil soap that I keep f'r the dog, and I'm no bed of vi'lets yet.
I can see ye wrinkle yer nose, and I don't blame yez. I'll move to the
down-wind side of yez. Ye see, it was like this: The t'ief iv the
wurruld was in me chicken house----"

"I said I was Farwell," that gentleman interrupted.

"Farrel, is ut?" said the station agent. "I knowed a Farrel thirty
years gone. W'u'd he be yer father, now? His people come from Munster,
if I mind right. Ye do not favour him, but maybe ye take after yer
mother. Still, I'm thinkin' ye can't be his son, on account of yer age;
though he turned Mormon, and I heerd----"

"I said Farwell, not Farrel," the engineer interpolated. "Richard K.
Farwell." He thought it all the introduction necessary.

The station agent extended a welcoming hand. "Me own name is C. P.
Quilty," said he, "the initials indicatin' Cornelius Patrick, and I'm
glad to know ye. There's mighty few drummers stops off here now, but
trade's bound to pick up, wid the land boom an' all." A sidelong glance
at the perfecto clenched between Farwell's teeth. "W'u'd seegyars be
yer line, now? I'm a judge of a seegyar meself, though the bum smokes
they do be makin' nowadays has dhruv me to the pipe. No offense to you,
Mr. Farrel, for no doubt ye carry a better line nor most. If ye like
I'll introduce ye to Bob Shiller, that keeps the hotel----"

"Look here," snapped Farwell, at the end of his patience, "I'm Farwell,
the engineer come down to take charge of this irrigation job. I want to
know if there are any telegrams for me, and where the devil the camp
is, and how I get to it. And that's about all I want to know, except
whether I can get a bath at this hotel of Shiller's."

And Cornelius Patrick Quilty shook hands with him again.

"To think iv me takin' ye fur a drummer, now!" he exclaimed in
self-reproach. "Sure, I've often heard of yez. I live over beyant, in
the shack wid the picket fince on wan side iv ut. The other sides
blowed down in a dust storm a year gone, and I will erect them some day
when I have time. But ye can't miss me place, more be token half the
front iv the house was painted wanst. They say the paint was stole, but
no matter. Bein' both officials iv the comp'ny, Mr. Farrel, we will
have much to talk over. No doubt ye have been referred to me for
details iv the disturbin' rumours. Well, it's this wa-ay: I am in the
service iv the comp'ny, and I dhraw me pay wid regularity, praise be,
so that I w'u'd not for a moment think of questionin' the wisdom iv the
policy iv me superiors----"

"That's right--don't!" snapped Farwell. "Now, get me those telegrams,
if there are any, and tell me what I want to know."

A hurt look crept into Mr. Quilty's eyes of faded blue.

"I regret that I have no messages for ye, _sor_," said he. "The
comp'ny's land agent, Mr. Sleeman, will take ye wherever ye want to go
in his autymobile. Ye will see his sign as ye go uptown. But, speakin'
as man to man, Mr. Farwell, and havin' the interests of thim that pays
me to heart, I w'u'd venture on a little advice."

"Well, what is it?" asked Farwell.

"It's this," said Quilty. "The men hereabouts--the ranchers--is sore.
Don't make them sorer. Duty is duty, and must be done, iv coorse. But
do ut as aisy as ye can." He broke off, eying two riders who were
approaching the station.

"Who are those people?" asked Farwell.

"The man is Misther Casey Dunne, and the young leddy is Miss Sheila
McCrae," Quilty informed him.

"I've heard of Dunne," said Farwell, who had done so from York. "Who's
the McCrae girl? Is she one of the same bunch?"

"_Miss_ McCrae is a _leddy_," said Quilty, with quiet dignity. "And
Casey Dunne is--is a dom good friend of mine."

The riders drew up at the platform, and Casey Dunne hailed the agent.
"Hallo, Corney! Any freight for Talapus or Chakchak?" The last was the
name of his own ranch, and in the Chinook jargon signified an eagle.

"Freight for both iv yez," Quilty replied. "But sure ye won't be takin'
it on the cayuses. Howdy, Miss Sheila! Will ye 'light and try the
comp'ny's ice wather wid a shot iv a limon, or shall I bring ye a
pitcher?"

"I'll 'light, Mr. Quilty, thank you," said Sheila. She swung down from
Beaver Boy, letting the lines trail, and Dunne dropped off Shiner.

Quilty introduced the engineer punctiliously. Farwell raised his hat,
and bowed to the girl, but did not offer his hand to Casey Dunne.

"I've heard of you--from York," he said meaningly.

"I've heard that Mr. York has a wonderful memory for faces and names,"
said Casey. "Quite flattering to be remembered by him. I've only met
him once."

"He remembers you very well," Farwell returned dryly.

Sheila McCrae stood by, watching them, hearing the rasp of steel
beneath the apparently casual words. And unconsciously she measured the
men, one against the other.

Farwell was slightly the taller and much the heavier. He created the
impression of force, of dominance. The heavy, square chin, the wide,
firm mouth, the black, truculent eyes beneath heavy brows, all marked
the master, if not the tyrant. His body was thick and muscular, and he
stood solidly, confident of himself, of his position, a man to command.

Casey Dunne was lighter, leaner, more finely drawn. Lacking the
impression of pure force, of sheer power, he seemed to express the
capacity for larger endurance, of better staying qualities, of greater
tensile strength. He was cast in another mould, a weapon of a different
pattern. Farwell might be compared to a battle-axe; Dunne to a rapier.

And being of the battle-axe type Farwell saw no reason to mince matters
with Dunne, whom he looked upon as a leader of the alleged trouble
makers, and therefore directly responsible for his, Farwell's, presence
in that confounded desert.

"No," he said, "York doesn't forget much. And he hears quite a lot,
too. I've come down to finish this dam, and complete the irrigation
ditches, and I'm going to rush the job."

"It's pretty well along, I hear," Dunne commented. "You'll be putting
the finishing touches to it pretty soon. Quite a nice piece of work,
that. You want to be careful of the sidehill ditches, though. They
wash, sometimes."

Farwell was taken aback. There was no hint of insincerity in the
other's tone. It was impersonal, as if he were not at all concerned.

"I'll be careful enough," he returned. He would have liked to tell
Dunne that he was also prepared to take care of any trouble that might
arise, but on second thought he decided to wait for a better opening.
"I'll be plenty careful of a good many things," he added significantly.

"Nothing like it," Dunne rejoined. "Water finds the weak spots every
time. Well, good morning, Mr. Farwell. Glad to see you at my ranch any
time. Ask anybody where it is."

Farwell stared after him for a moment, a little puzzled and by no means
satisfied with himself. He had come openly contemptuous of the
ranchers, thinking of them as rough, unlettered farmers who must
necessarily stand in awe of him. But here was a different type. "Pretty
smooth proposition, that Dunne," he growled to himself. "'Water finds
the weak spots,' hey! Now, I wonder what he meant by that?"

He picked up his grip, and walked up into the town, finding the
company's office without difficulty, and introduced himself to Sleeman,
the sales agent, whom he had never met.

Mr. Sleeman possessed a shrewd eye, and a face indicative of an ability
to play a very good game. He was in his shirt sleeves for greater
comfort, and he smoked particularly strong plug tobacco in a brier
pipe.

"What's in these yarns, anyhow?" Farwell asked, when they had got down
to business.

"Ask me something easier," Sleeman replied. "I gave headquarters all I
heard. If I were you I'd keep my eyes open."

"I'll do that," said Farwell. "These fellows always do a lot of
talking, and let it go at that."

"Not here," said Sleeman. "The men who will be affected aren't doing
any talking at all. That looks bad to me. They are just standing pat
and saying nothing. But you can bet they are doing some thinking.
Mighty bad lot to run up against if they start anything--old-timers,
ex-punchers, prospectors, freighters, and fur men, with a sprinkling of
straight farmers. The worst of it is that these rumours are hurting us
already, and they'll hurt us worse."

"How?"

"Landlookers hear them, and shy off. No man wants to buy into a feud
with his neighbours--to buy land with water that somebody else thinks
he ought to have. Before I can make a showing in actual sales this
thing has got to be settled."

"Huh!" said Farwell. "Well, I'll finish the job, and turn the water
down the ditches, and that's all I have to do. I met one of these
fellows at the station--Dunne, his name is."

"Oh, you met Casey Dunne. And what do you think of him?"

"Don't like him; he's too smooth. Looked me square in the eye, and told
me to be careful with sidehill ditches, and so on, just as if it didn't
affect him at all. Too innocent for me. I had a notion to tell him he
wasn't fooling me a little bit."

"H'm!" said Sleeman. "Well, I give Casey credit for being a good man.
He has a big stake here--owns a lot of land besides his ranch. It's
make or break with him."

"Then I'm sorry for him. He had a girl with him--McCrae her name is.
Who's she?"

"Her father owns Talapus Ranch. It's the biggest and best here. Good
people, the McCraes."

"And I suppose Dunne's going to marry her? Is that it?"

"I never heard so. But if he is I don't blame him; she's all right,
that girl."

Farwell grunted. He had rather liked Sheila's looks, but, being a man
of violent prejudices, and disliking Dunne instinctively, he found it
easy to dislike his friends. "I'll tell you what I'm going to do," he
announced. "I'm going to put it up to these fellows straight the first
chance I get that we don't care a hang for anything they may do. If
they want trouble they can come a-running."

"Well," Sleeman commented, "of course, I'm here to sell land. The
company is my boss, and naturally I back its play. But my personal
opinion is that it would have been better to have bought those fellows
out, even at fancy prices, than to ride over them roughshod. They're
sore now, and you can't wonder at it. If I were you I'd go easy--just
as easy as I could."

"Nonsense!" snorted Farwell. "That's what that old fool of a mick down
at the station told me. How the devil does the company happen to have
such an old fossil on the job?"

"Quilty's a left-over from construction days. He's been here ever since
steel was laid. They say he averted a bad smash once by sheer nerve or
pure Irish luck. Anyway, he has a sort of guarantee of his job for
life. Not a bad old boy when you get to know him."

"He ought to be fired, and a younger man put in his place," said
Farwell. "He talks too much. Good Lord! He's like an endless record!"

"Pshaw! What do you care?" said Sleeman. "He's better than a talking
machine in this place. Well, come over to the hotel, and afterward I'll
run you out to the camp."



CHAPTER VI


Sheila McCrae and Beaver Boy and Casey Dunne and Shiner drifted through
the golden afternoon just ahead of a dust cloud of their own making.
Sheila rode astride, in the manner of a country where side saddles are
almost unknown. Her stiff-brimmed pony hat was pushed back because of
the heat. Sometimes she rode with it in her hand, careless of the dust
which powdered her masses of dark, neatly coiled hair. The action
revealed her keen, cleanly cut features, so strongly resembling her
brother's. But the resemblance was softened by femininity; for young
McCrae's visage was masculine and hawklike, and under excitement
fierce, even predatory; while his sister's, apart from sex, was more
refined, more thoughtful, with a grave sweetness underlying the
firmness.

The two were unusually silent as the horses kicked off mile after mile.
Sheila roused herself first, and looked at her companion. Because his
hat was pulled low she could see but little of his face save the mouth
and chin; but the former was compressed and the latter thrust out at a
decidedly aggressive angle.

"A penny for them, Casey!"

"Take 'em free," he returned. "I was wondering whether we had any
chance to beat this game, and I can't see it. The bank roll against us
is too big. It will get our little pile in the end, just as sure as
fate."

"Well, you can't help that, can you?" she commented sharply. "What do
you want to do--lie down and quit? You wouldn't do that. Brace up!"

"That's the talk," he acknowledged. "That's what I need now and then.
Perhaps I get a pessimistic view when I'm trying for an impartial one."

"What do you think of this Farwell person?"

"Farwell represents the railway in more ways than one. He takes what he
wants--if he's strong enough. He's some bully--and so is the railway.
But he isn't a bluff--and neither is the railway. He's had
experience--plenty of it--and, on a guess, I should say that he is sent
down here to take care of any trouble that may start. He is hostile
already. You can see it."

"Yes." And after a moment's silence she asked: "What is going to start,
Casey?"

"I don't know exactly."

"Of course you know. Dad won't say a word, and Sandy makes wise remarks
about girls who try to butt into men's affairs. I'm left out, and it's
the first time _that_ has ever happened to me. Nice, isn't it?"

"No, it's confoundedly annoying. All the same, Sheila, they're quite
right."

"But why? I'm no silly kid--no chattering, gossipy young lady. I have
as much interest in the ranch as Sandy. I know as much about it and the
work of it as he does, and I do my share of it. Even Mr. Dunne has
occasionally honoured me by asking for my opinion. And now I'm left out
like a child. It isn't fair."

"From that angle it looks rather raw," he acknowledged. "Still, it's
better that you shouldn't know. In that case you can't be forced to
give evidence against your own people and your friends."

She glanced at him, a little startled. "What rot, Casey!"

"Not a bit of it. Anything we can do must be against the law. Suspicion
will be directed at us from the outset. You must see that."

"Yes, I see it," she assented thoughtfully. "Very well, I'll be good to
the extent of not asking questions. But you can't expect me to be deaf
and blind."

"Of course not," he assented and began to talk of the ranch work. She
listened, making occasional shrewd comments, offering suggestions which
showed that she understood such matters thoroughly.

"Why shouldn't we ride around by Chakchak?" she asked. "I haven't seen
it for a month, and there's plenty of day left. And then I can go on to
Talapus by myself."

"Trying to shake me?"

"No. But why should you trail along with me? I've ridden all over the
country alone. I do it every day."

"Hush, Sheila! Let me tell you a secret. I ride with you because I like
to."

"Oh, blarney! That's what it is to have a mick ancestry. I suppose I'll
have to own up that if I didn't like you to ride with me I wouldn't let
you do it."

Casey grinned. Their mutual liking was genuine and so far
unsentimental. They were of the same breed--the breed of the
pioneer--and their hearts held the same seldom-voiced but deeply rooted
love for the same things; the great, sun-washed spaces winnowed by the
clean winds, the rosy dawns, violet dusks and nights when the earth
scents hung heavy, almost palpable, clinging to the nostrils, the
living things of fur and feather bright of eye and wary of habit. But
most of all unconsciously they loved and cherished the feeling of room,
of space in which to live and breathe and turn freely.

"The present time being inopportune, and Shiner's temper too uncertain
for a further avowal of my sentiments," he said, "I suggest that we
turn off here and hit a few high spots for Chakchak. Stir up that
slothful cayuse of yours. Maybe there's a lope left in him somewhere.
See if you can comb it out with a quirt."

"I like your nerve!" she exclaimed. "Beaver Boy can run the heart out
of that old buzzard-head of yours and come in dry-haired. Come on, or
take my dust!"

The hoofbeats drummed dull thunder from the brown earth, and the dust
cloud behind drew out and lengthened with the speed of their going.
Side by side they swept through the silent land, breasting small rises,
swooping down slopes, breathing their horses whenever they came to
heavier ascents.

Sometimes as they rode knee touched knee. It gave Casey Dunne a strange
but comfortable feeling of comradeship. He looked at the woman beside
him, appreciating her firm, easy seat in the stock saddle, her
management of Beaver Boy, now eager to prove his prowess against the
buckskin's. He noted the rich colour lying beneath the tan of the
smooth cheeks, the rounded brown throat, the poise of the lithe, pliant
body and the watchful tension of the strong arms and shoulders as the
big bay fought hard for his head and a brief freedom to use his full
strength and speed in one mad heartbreaking burst. But most of all he
noted and was attracted by the level, direct, fearless stare beneath
the slightly drawn brows into the distances.

A brown girl in a brown land! It came to Casey Dunne, who was
imaginative within the strict seclusion of his inner self, that she
typified their land, the West, in youth, in fearlessness, in
potentialities yet lying fallow, unawakened, in fruitfulness to come.
What of the vagrant touch of the woman, the gold of the day, the clean,
dry air and the glory of motion, the chord of romance within him
vibrated and began to sing.

It invested her momentarily with a new quality, a new personality. She
was no longer the Sheila McCrae he had known so well. She was the
Spirit of the Land, a part of it--she was Sheila of the West; and her
heritage was plain and mountain, gleaming lake and rushing river, its
miles numbered by thousands, its acres by millions--a land for a new
nation.

How many Sheilas, he wondered--young, strong, clean of blood, straight
of limb--had ridden since the beginning of time into the new lands, and
borne their part in peopling them. Fifty years before, her prototypes
had ridden beside the line of crawling, creaking prairie schooners
across the great plains toward the setting sun; little more than fifty
years before that they had ridden down through the notches of the blue
Alleghenies into the promised land of Kain-tuck-ee, the Dark and Bloody
Ground, beside buckskin-clad, deckard-armed frontiersmen. Perhaps,
centuries before that, her ancestresses had ridden with burly,
skin-clad warriors out of the great forests of northern Europe down to
the pleasant weaker south. But surely she was the peer of any of
them--this woman riding knee to knee with him, the sloping sun in her
clear, brown eyes, and the warm, sweet winds kissing her cheeks!

And so Casey Dunne dreamed as he rode--dreamed as he had not dreamed
waking since the days when, a little boy, he had lain on warm sands
beside a blue inland sea on summer's afternoons and watched the patched
sails of the stone hookers, and the wheeling, gray lake gulls, and
heard the water hiss and ripple to the long, white beaches. And, as he
dreamed, a part of boyhood's joy in mere life awoke in him again.

Chakchak Ranch came into view. Its cultivated area smaller than that of
Talapus, it was nevertheless as scrupulously cared for. The one might
have served as model for the other. Here, also, were the straight lines
of the ditches, the squares of grain fields beginning to show green,
the young orchards, the sleek, contented stock, the corrals, and
outbuildings.

But, as became the residence of a bachelor, the ranch-house itself was
less pretentious. It was a small bungalow, with wide verandas which
increased its apparent size. There Casey lived with Tom McHale, his
right-hand man and foreman. The hired men, varying in number
constantly, occupied other quarters.

Casey would have helped Sheila to alight, but she swung down,
stretching her limbs frankly after the hard ride.

"That's _going_," she said. "Beaver Boy was a brute to hold; he wanted
to race Shiner. He nearly got away from me once. My wrists are actually
lame." She drew off her long buckskin gauntlets, flexing her wrists
cautiously, straightening her fingers, prolonging the luxury of
relaxing the cramped sinews.

"Let us now eat, drink, and be merry," said Casey, "for
to-morrow--well, never mind that. But what would you like? Coffee, tea,
claret lemonade? Tell me what you want."

"Too hot for tea. I'd like a dust eraser--a cold drink about a yard
long."

"Hey, you, Feng!" Casey cried, to a white-aproned, grinning Chinaman,
"you catch two ice drink quick--_hiyu_ ice, you savvy! Catch claret
wine, catch cracker, catch cake. Missy _hiyu_ dry, _hiyu_ hungry. Get a
hustle on you, now!"

Feng, understanding perfectly the curious mixture of pidgin and
Chinook, vanished soft-footed. They entered the living room of the
bungalow.

"Stretch out and be comfy while he's rustling it," said Casey,
indicating a couch. He himself fell into a huge wicker chair, flung his
hat carelessly at the table, and reached for a cigar box.

Sheila dropped on the couch with a satisfied sigh, stretching her arms
above her head, her hands clasped, every muscle of her relaxing. The
comparative coolness, the quiet, the soft cushions were good after a
day in the saddle. Down there on the Coldstream the strict proprieties
did not trouble them. If any one had suggested to Sheila McCrae that
she was imprudent in visiting a bachelor's ranch unchaperoned, she
would have been both amazed and indignant. And it would have been
unsafe to hint at such a thing to Casey Dunne. Indeed, the desirability
of a chaperon never occurred to either of them; which was, after all,
the best guarantee of the superfluity of that mark of an advanced
civilization.

But in a moment Sheila was on her feet, arranging, straightening.
"You're awfully untidy, Casey!" she said.

Indeed her comment was justified. The long table in the centre of the
room was a litter of newspapers, magazines, old letters, pipes, and
tobacco. Odd tools--a hammer, a file, a wrench, and a brad awl--mingled
with them. On top of the medley lay a heavy revolver, with the cylinder
swung out and empty, a box of cartridges, a dirty rag, and an oil can.
In one corner stood half a dozen rifles and shotguns. From a set of
antlers on the wall depended a case of binoculars, a lariat, and a pair
of muddy boots. The last roused Sheila's indignation.

"Whatever do you hang up boots in your sitting room for?" she demanded.

"Why, you see," he explained, "they were wet, and I hung 'em up to dry.
I guess I forgot 'em. It's not the right place, that's a fact." He
rose, took down the offending footgear, and tossed them through the
open door into the next room. They thumped on the floor, and Sheila was
not placated.

"That's just as bad. Why, they were covered with dried mud, and now
it's all over the floor. You're shockingly careless. Don't you know
that that makes work?"

"For Feng, you mean. That's what I pay him for--only he doesn't do it."

But she shook her head, brushing the excuse aside as trifling,
unsatisfactory. "It's a bad habit. I pity your wife, Casey."

"Poor thing!"

"When you get one, I mean."

"Time enough to sympathize then. Now, Sheila, if it's all the same to
you, don't muss that table up. I know where to find everything the way
it is."

"Muss it up! I like that!" she responded. "Why, of all the old _junk_!
Haven't you got a tool house? And it's an inch deep in dust." She
extended her fingers in proof. "That dirty rag! And a gun and
cartridges there for any one to pick up! You ought to be ashamed of
yourself. Don't you know better than that? Don't you know you shouldn't
leave firearms and ammunition together? It's as bad as leaving them
loaded, almost."

"That's Tom's gun. Sail into him."

"You shouldn't allow it."

"Allow it! I never touch another man's gun. Nobody comes in here but
Feng, and he doesn't matter. What's a Chink more or less?"

"But it's the _principle_. And what's this--down here? Why, Casey,
it's--it's a _hen!_"

It was a hen. In a space between two piles of newspapers, flanked by a
cigar box, squatted a white fowl, very intent upon her own affairs.

"Shoo!" said Sheila. But the bird merely cocked a bright eye at her,
and uttered a little warning, throaty sound. Casey laughed.

"That's Fluffy, and she's a lady friend of mine. Poor old Fluff, poor
old girl! Don't scare her, Sheila. Can't you see she's busy?"

"Casey Dunne, do you mean to tell me that you allow a hen to lay in
your sitting room, on your _table?_"

"Of course--when she's a nice little chicken like Fluffy. Why not? She
doesn't do any harm."

"I never heard of such a thing. The place for hens is in the chicken
run. Casey, you're simply _awful!_ Your wife--oh, heavens, what a life
she'll have!"

"Nobody could help liking Fluff," he replied. "She's really good
company. I wish I could talk her talk. She has a fine line of
conversation if I could only savvy it."

Sheila sat down with a hopeless gesture. Fond of all living things as
she was, she could not understand the tolerance that allowed a hen the
run of the house. To her a hen was a hen, nothing more. She could name
and pet a horse or a dog or any quadruped. But a hen! She could not
understand.

But Feng entered with the two "ice drink"--a tray containing long
glasses, tinkling ice, claret, lemons, cake, and biscuits. He set the
tray upon the table. As he did so his hand came in contact with Fluffy.
With a rasping cry of indignation she pecked him.

"Hyah!" cried Feng, startled, and reached for her impulsively.

Fluffy bounded from her nest, and fled shrieking for the door. Her
fluttering wings brushed the contents of the tray. The long glasses and
bottle capsized, rolled to the floor, and smashed, the crash of glass
mingling with her clamour.

"What foh?" yelled Feng, in a fury. "Jim Kli, dam chickum spoiley icey
dlink. _Hiyu_ no good--all same son of a gun! S'pose me catch him, ling
him neck!" And he darted after the hen, on vengeance bent.

But Casey caught him by the collar. "Never mind, Feng. That chicken all
same my _tillikum_, you savvy. _Hiyu_ good chicken; lay _hiyu_ egg. You
catch more ice drink!"

And when the angry Celestial had gone he lay back in his chair, and
laughed till he was weak. Sheila laughed, too, at first half-heartedly,
then more heartily, and finally, as she reconstructed Feng's expression,
in sheer abandonment of merriment, until she wiped her eyes and gasped
for breath.

"Oh--oh!" she protested weakly; "my side hurts. I haven't had such a
laugh for ages. Oh, Casey, that chicken all same my friend now, too.
It's coming to her. That Chink--how mad he was! But what a mess! And
claret stains so. Your rug----"

She rose, impelled by her housewifely instincts to do what she could,
and, glancing through the door, she saw a man standing by the veranda
steps.

This was Tom McHale, Casey's friend and foreman. He was lean with the
flat-bellied leanness that comes of years of hard riding, and a but
partially subdued devil of recklessness lurked in his steady hazel
eyes. He was a wizard with animals, and he derived a large part of his
nourishment from Virginia leaf. He and Sheila were the best of friends.

"Howdy, Miss Sheila!" he greeted her. "I sure thought there was
hostiles in the house. What you doin' to that there Chink? He's cussin'
scand'lous. Casey been up to some of his devilment?"

"Come in and join us, Tom," said Casey. "Feng had a run-in with Fluff.
Result, one bottle of claret and two glasses gone to glory."

"Also one Chink on the warpath," McHale added. "If I was in the
insurance business I wouldn't write no policy on that there hen. She's
surely due to be soup flavourin'. She ain't got no more show than if
the Oriental was a coon. He's talkin' now 'bout goin' back to China."

"He always does when he gets a grouch. I wish I could get a white man."

"A white man that _can_ cook hates to stay sober long enough to build a
bannock," said McHale. "Chink grub has one flavour, but it comes
reg'lar, there's that about it."

Feng entered with fresh supplies, and they drank luxuriously, tinkling
the ice in the glasses, prolonging the satisfaction of thirst. McHale
went about his business. Sheila picked up her hat and gloves, declaring
that she must be going. Casey insisted on accompanying her. He shifted
his saddle to Dolly, a pet little gray mare; not because Shiner was
tired, but because there was a hard ride in store for him on the
morrow.

They rode into Talapus in time for supper. Afterward Casey and McCrae
discussed the coming of Farwell, and its significance.

"I pumped Corney Quilty a little," said Casey. "This Farwell is a
slap-up man, and they'd never waste him on this little job without some
good reason. I'm told he's bad medicine. Unpleasant devil, he seems. I
wonder if they've got wise at all? If they have it will be mighty
interesting for us."

"I'll chance it," said McCrae. "Anyway, we'll all be in it."

"That's a comforting thought," said Dunne. As he rode home that night
he went over the ranchers one by one; and he was quite sure that each
was trustworthy.



CHAPTER VII


Farwell took charge of his construction camps, and immediately began to
infuse some of his own energy into his subordinates.

But as a beginning he rode over the works, blue prints in hand, thus
getting to know the contour of the country, and the actual location and
run of the main canal and branch ditches, constructed and projected.
With this knowledge safely filed away in his head, he proceeded to
verify the calculations of others; for he had once had the bitter
experience of endeavouring to complete work which had been based on the
erroneous calculations of another man. He had been blamed for that,
because it had been necessary to find a scapegoat for the fruitless
expenditure of many thousands. So, having had his lesson, he was ever
after extremely careful to check all calculations, regardless of the
labour involved.

These things occupied him closely for some weeks. He saw scarcely
anybody but his own men, nor did he wish to see anybody else. He
intended to finish the job, and get out at something better. Therefore
he plugged away day and night, and, so far as he could, forced others
to do the same.

But the current of his routine was changed by so small a thing as a
wire nail. He was returning from an inspection of his ditches, when his
horse pulled up dead lame. Farwell, dismounting, found the nail
imbedded to the head in the animal's hoof; and he could not withdraw
it, though he broke his knife blade in repeated attempts. He swore
angrily, not because it meant temporary inconvenience to himself, but
because he sympathized with his horse; and, looping the reins over his
arm, began to walk, the animal limping after him.

Half an hour of this slow progress brought him in sight of Talapus
Ranch. It had been pointed out to him before; but it was with
considerable reluctance that he decided, for his mount's sake, to turn
into the trail to the house.

Sheila was on the veranda, and Farwell raised his hat.

"Miss McCrae, I think. You may remember me--Farwell. I'm sorry to
trouble you, but my horse has picked up a nail. If I could borrow a
pair of pliers or shoeing pincers----"

"Of course. Father is at the stable. I'll show you."

Donald McCrae, just in from a day of irrigating, shook hands, and took
the horse's hoof between his knees with the certainty of a farrier.

"Right bang to the head," he observed, as he tried for a grip. "I'll
have it in a minute. Hold him, now! Steady, boy! There you are!"

With a twist and an outward wrench he held up the nail between the tips
of the pincers. He released the hoof, but the horse held it clear of
the ground.

"Sore," said McCrae. "A nasty brute of a piece of wire, too. That's a
mighty lame cayuse. You won't ride him for a week--maybe two."

"He'll have to take me to camp, or I'll have to take him."

"And that might lame him for two months. Leave him here. I'll poultice
the foot if it needs it. You stay and have supper. Afterward we'll
drive you over."

Farwell demurred, surprised. He considered all the ranchers to be
leagued against the railway, and in that he was not far wrong. In his
mind it followed as a corollary that they were also hostile to him, as
he was hostile to them.

"Thanks! It's very good of you, but, under the circumstances--you
understand what I mean."

"You needn't feel that way," McCrae returned. "When this country was
just country, and no more, a white man was always welcome to my fire,
my blankets, and my grub, when I had it. It's no different now, at
Talapus. You're welcome to what we have--while we have it. There's no
quarrel between us that I know of."

"No, of course not," said Farwell, not quite at his ease. If McCrae
chose to put it on that footing he could not reasonably object. "Well,
thanks very much. I'll be glad to accept your offer."

An excellent meal put him in better humour. By nature he was a hard
man, who took life seriously, engrossed in his profession. He led a
nomadic existence, moved continually from one piece of work to another,
his temporary habitations ranging from modern hotels to dog tents and
shacks. In all the world there was no spot that he could call home; and
there was no one who cared a button whether he came or went. His
glimpses of other men's homes were rare and fleeting, and he was apt to
thank Heaven that he was not thus tied down.

But the atmosphere of the ranch appealed to him. Its people were not
silly folk, babbling of trivial things which he neither understood nor
cared to understand. Mrs. McCrae, as he mentally appraised her, was a
sensible woman. In her husband--big, quiet, self-contained--he
recognized a man as hard as himself. Young McCrae, silent, too grim of
mouth for his years, was the makings of another hard man. But it was at
Sheila that he looked the most, and at her if not to her his
conversation was directed.

So much for the simple magic of a white dress. When he had seen her
with Dunne, in a dusty riding costume, he had not been especially
attracted. He had not thought of her since. Now, she seemed a different
person. He liked her level, direct glance, her low, clear voice, the
quiet certainty of each movement of her brown hands. Farwell, though
his acquaintance with the species was slight, recognized the hall mark.
Unmistakably the girl was a lady.

Sheila, listening, felt that her estimate of Farwell needed revision.
He was a bigger man than she had thought, stronger, and therefore a
more formidable opponent. It seemed to her monstrous, incongruous, that
he should be sitting there as a guest and yet be carrying out a project
which would ruin them. But since he was a guest he had the rights of a
guest.

Afterward she found herself alone with him on the veranda. Her father
and brother had gone to the stables, and her mother was indoors
planning the next day's housework.

"You smoke, Mr. Farwell?" she said. "I'll get you some cigars."

"I have some in my pocket, thanks."

"No. Talapus cigars at Talapus. That's the rule."

"If you insist on it." He lit a cigar, finding to his relief that it
was very good indeed. "Well, Miss McCrae, I must say your hospitality
goes the full limit. I'm rather overwhelmed by it."

"What nonsense! Supper, a cigar--that's not very burdensome surely."

"It's the way things are, of course," he explained. "I'm not blind. I
know what you were thinking about--what you are thinking now."

"I doubt it, Mr. Farwell."

"Yes, I do. You are wondering how I have the nerve to eat your food and
smoke your tobacco when I'm here on this irrigation job."

It was her thought stripped naked. She made a little gesture, scarcely
deprecatory. Why protest when he had guessed so exactly?

"I'm glad you don't feel called on to lie politely," said Farwell. "I'm
pretty outspoken myself. I don't blame you at all. I merely want to
point out that if I weren't on this job some one else would be. You see
that. I'm just earning my living."

She was silent. He went on:

"I'm not apologizing, you understand, and I'm not saying anything about
the rights of the ranchers or of my employers, one or the other. I
don't care about either. I'm just concerned with my own business."

"That is to say, the railway's," Sheila commented.

"I'm trying to point out that I'm a hired man, with no personal
interest. But of course I'll do what I'm paid to do--and more. I never
saw the time I didn't give full value for every dollar of my pay."

"I don't question it," said Sheila.

"You think I'm talking too much about myself," he said quickly. "That's
so. I'm sorry. You people have treated me well, no matter what you
thought, and I appreciate it. I've enjoyed the evening very much. I
wonder"--he hesitated for a moment--"I wonder if you'd mind my riding
over here once in a while?"

"Of course not--if you care to come," Sheila replied. Intuitively she
divined that she had interested him, and she guessed by his manner that
it was not his custom to be interested in young women. Apart from the
ranchers' grievance against the corporation he represented, she had no
reason for refusal. She rather liked his downrightness. Casey Dunne had
said that he was a bit of a bully, but not a bluff. His extreme
frankness, while it amused her, seemed genuine.

"Thank you!" he said. "I don't flatter myself that you want me
particularly, and I'm quite satisfied with the bare permission. I'm not
entertaining or pleasant, and I know it. I've been busy all my life. No
time for--for--well, no time for anything but work. But this little job
isn't going to keep me more than half busy. I've done all the hard work
of it now."

"I didn't know it was so nearly finished."

"I mean I've been over the ground and over the figures, and I know all
that is to be done. Now it's merely a question of bossing a gang. A
foreman could do that."

Sheila could find no fault with the last statement. Obviously it was a
fact. But the tone more than the words was self-assertive, even
arrogant. She was unreasonably annoyed.

"Naturally you consider yourself above foreman's work," she commented,
with faint sarcasm.

"I don't consider myself above any work when it's up to me to do it or
see it left undone," he replied. "I've held a riveter and driven spikes
and shimmed up ties before now. But a concern that pays a first-class
man to do third-class work is robbing itself. This is the last time
I'll do it. That's how I feel about it."

Sheila was not accustomed to hear a man blow his own horn so frankly.
The best men of her acquaintance--her father, Casey Dunne, Tom McHale,
and others--seldom talked of themselves, never bragged, never mentioned
their proficiency in anything. She had been brought up to regard a
boaster and a bluff as synonymous. To her an egotist was also a bluff.
His bad taste repelled her. And yet he did not seem to stress the
announcement.

"A first-class man should not waste his time," she observed, but to
save her life she could not keep her tone free from sarcasm. He took up
her meaning with extraordinary quickness.

"You think I might have let somebody else say that? Pshaw! I'm not
mock-modest. I _am_ a good man, and I'm paid accordingly. I want you
to know it. I don't want you to take me for a poor devil of a line
runner."

"What on earth does it matter what I take you for?" said Sheila. "I
don't care whether you have a hundred or a thousand a month. What
difference does it make to me?"

"None--but it makes a whole lot to me," said Farwell. "I'm interested
in my profession. I want to get to the top of it. I'm halfway up, and
time counts. And then to be sent down here on this rotten job! Pah! it
makes me sick."

"I'm glad to hear you admit that it's rotten," said Sheila. "It's
outrageous--a straight steal."

He stared at her a moment, laughed, and shook his head.

"You don't understand me. It's rotten from my standpoint--too trivial
to waste time on."

"It's rotten from our standpoint. Can't you get away from your supreme
self for a moment? Can't you appreciate what it means to us?"

"I know exactly what it means, but I can't help it. You know--but you
can't help it. What are you going to do, anyway?"

"I don't know," she admitted, thinking of her conversation with Casey
Dunne.

"You're sure you don't? We heard rumours--I may as well tell you--that
the ranchers were prepared to make trouble for us."

"Then you've heard more than I have."

He eyed her a moment in silence. She returned his glance unwaveringly.

"I'm glad to know it," he said at length. "I don't want a row. Now, you
people here--on this ranch--why don't you sell and get out?"

She thought it brutally put. "In the first place, we don't want to sell
out. And in the next place who would buy?"

"That's so," he said. "I guess you wouldn't find many buyers. Still, if
you got the chance----"

Whatever he was about to say was lost in a clamour of wheels and hoofs.
Donald McCrae appeared in a buckboard drawn by a light team which he
was holding with difficulty. He pulled them to a momentary halt.

"Now, if you're ready, Mr. Farwell. Jump in quick. These little devils
won't stand. They haven't had any work for a week. All set? G'lang,
boys!"

They started with a rear and a furious rush that flung Farwell back
against the seat. In two hundred yards McCrae had them steadied,
hitting a gait that fairly ate up the miles.

Farwell sat silent, chewing an unlighted cigar, turning a new idea over
and over in his mind. This idea was to arrange for the purchase of
Talapus Ranch by the railway's land department. None knew better than
he that the taking of their water would mean absolute ruin to the
McCraes, as it did to others. For the others he cared nothing. But he
told himself that he owed something to the McCraes. They had treated
him decently, like a white man. He was under a certain obligation, and
here was a chance to return it many thousandfold. Also it would show
the McCrae girl that he was no common employee, but a man of influence.
He thought he had pull enough. Yes, when he came to think about it, it
was a shame that people like the McCraes should lose everything. Nobody
but the railway would buy their ranch, under the circumstances. But the
railway could do so, and likely make a profit. That would be fair to
everybody.

Once Farwell came to a conclusion he was prompt to act. He said,
without preliminary:

"McCrae, what do you want for that ranch of yours?"

"It's not for sale now," McCrae replied.

"Everything's for sale at some price," Farwell commented. "What's a
fair figure for it? I don't mean what you'll take--but what's it
worth?"

McCrae considered.

"There's a thousand acres, and all good. There's no better land in the
world. Then there's the buildings and fencing and stock and implements.
Hard to say, nowadays. Why, raw land in little patches is selling at
fancy figures. I should say as it stands--stocked and all--it's worth a
hundred and fifty thousand of any man's money."

"If I can find a buyer at that figure will you take it?"

"No I'm not selling."

"Now, look here," said Farwell, "you say your place is worth one
hundred and fifty thousand. That's with plenty of water for irrigation.
Say it is. But what's it worth without water?"

"Without water," said McCrae slowly, "the land itself is worth about
one dollar an acre. Twenty-five thousand would be an outside price for
a crazy man to pay for Talapus."

"Exactly," said Farwell. "McCrae, you'd better let me try to find you a
purchaser. For, if you hang on, just as sure as God made little red
apples you'll be praying to Him to send you a crazy man."

McCrae was silent for a long minute, his eyes fixed on his horses'
ears. "This is the first time," he said, "that it's been put up to me
straight. I knew, of course--we all knew--but nobody had the nerve to
come here and tell us so."

"Well, I have the nerve," said Farwell. "But I'm not saying it the way
you think I am. I'm not talking as an official; I'm talking as a
friend--as I'd like a man to talk to me if I were in your fix. I'm
trying to get you to stand from under. Here's the situation, as plainly
as I can put it: If you can't get water you will be forced to sell, and
the best you can get is grazing-land prices. You know that. On the
other hand, if you will sell now I think I can get you the price you
named. Understand, I'm not doing this for a commission. I don't want
one, and I wouldn't take one. I think the railway would buy on my
recommendation if I put it strongly enough; and I'd do that for you
people because--oh, well, just because I would. Now, there it is,
McCrae, and it's up to you."

McCrae eased his team. His big shoulders seemed to droop, as if a heavy
weight had been laid upon them. He fought his temptation in the
darkness.

"No," he said at last, "I won't sell. But I'm obliged to you all the
same. If the railway would buy us all out----"

"No!" snapped Farwell. "So that's why you won't sell. You think your
friends will hold out, too. You've got a sort of a pool. It won't do
you any good. The rest of them haven't the sand. I'll bet there isn't
another man who would turn down such an offer as I've made to you. It
will be each man for himself pretty soon."

"You're wrong," said McCrae. "We'll stay with each other. Casey Dunne
had an offer from York. He didn't take it."

"Dunne is a fool!" rasped Farwell. Never guarded in speech, his
instinctive hostility flared into hot words. "He won't get the chance
again. He's one man we _won't_ buy."

"I'm another," McCrae retorted swiftly. "Look here, Mr. Farwell, I was
in this country when its only crop was buffalo hides and bad Indians.
Land!--you couldn't give it away. I can show you a town with hotels and
banks and paved streets and electric lights--a fine little town.
Twenty-odd years ago I was offered the section that town now stands on,
for a team and a two weeks' grubstake for a man and his wife. They
wanted to get out, and they couldn't. I gave 'em the grub, and told 'em
it was worth the price of it to me not to own the land. Yes, sir--and I
meant it. I was that shortsighted. So were others. We thought the
country would never fill up, just as we thought the buffalo would never
be killed out, and we kept on drifting. When I woke up, the cheap lands
were about gone. And then, ten years late, I made my grab for a piece
of what was left. I hiked for this country that I knew ahead of
everybody, and I picked out the best bunch of stuff there was in it,
and I sat down to wait for the rush to catch up to me. Now it's caught
me and the rest of us who came in early. And now you people tell me
I've got to move off my reservation, and go away somewhere and begin
again. I won't do it--I tell you I won't! And, what's more, don't you
crowd me too hard--me and the rest of the boys--or there'll be hell
a-popping right here. Now, you mind what I'm telling you."

He spoke deliberately, evenly, without raising his voice. His manner,
even more than his words, expressed fixed determination. Farwell lifted
his eyebrows, and puckered his lips in a silent whistle. His diplomacy
was turning out badly, and he repressed an inclination to retort.

"Well, I'm sorry," he said. "I hoped we could fix this up. Think it
over, anyway."

"I've done my thinking."

"But, man, you're on the wrong side of the fence, and you know it. The
railway is too strong for you. What's the sense of bucking it?"

"Not much, maybe. I guess you mean well, and I take it friendly, but
this ain't a question of sense."

"Of what, then?"

"Of a man's right to keep what he's worked for, and to live on the land
he owns." McCrae replied. "That's the way I look at it."

It was the old question once more--older than the country, older than
the _Mayflower_, older than the Great Charter wrested from John the
King----the eternal battle between the common man and class or
privilege. Here, in the new country, in place of the divine right of
kings and the hereditary power of nobles, was substituted the might of
money, the power of the corporate body, itself a creation of law,
overriding the power which created it.

"Well, it's your funeral," said Farwell. "I can't help my job, just
remember that. And of course I've got to earn my pay."

"Sure," said McCrae; "sure, I understand."

They were at the camp. Farwell jumped out inviting McCrae to put his
team up and come to his quarters. McCrae refused. It was late; he must
be getting back.

"Just as you say," said Farwell. "I'm coming over to your ranch now and
then, if you don't mind."

"Come along," said McCrae. "Latchstring's always out. You, Jeff; you,
Dinny! G'lang, boys!"

The buckboard leaped to the sudden plunge of the little road team.
Farwell stood for a moment listening to the diminishing drum roll of
hoofs, whir of spokes, and clank of axles in their boxes.

"The blamed fool!" he thought. "Well, I gave him his chance. But it's
going to be hard on his folks." He shook his head. "Yes, it will be
pretty hard on his wife and the girl--what do they call her? Sheila.
Nice name that--odd! Sheila!" He repeated the name aloud.

"Hello, did you speak to me?" said the voice of his assistant, Keeler,
in the darkness.

"No!" snapped Farwell, with unnecessary curtness; "I didn't."



CHAPTER VIII


At the end of a week Farwell told Keeler that he was going to ride over
to Talapus. He added unnecessarily that he wanted to see how his horse
was getting on. Whereat his assistant, who had very good ears, grinned
internally, though outwardly he kept a decorous face. He did not expect
his chief back till late.

But Farwell returned early, and spent a busy half hour in blowing up
everybody from Keeler down. On this occasion he had not seen Sheila at
all. She and Casey Dunne, so Mrs. McCrae informed him, were at the
latter's ranch. Mr. Dunne, it appeared, was buying some house
furnishings, and wanted Sheila's advice. Farwell took an abrupt
departure, declining a hospitable invitation. He barely looked at the
lame horse.

For another week he sulked in a poisonous temper. He was done with
Talapus. He thought that McCrae girl had some sense, but if she was
going traipsing all over the country with Dunne, why, that let him out.
Maybe she was going to marry Dunne. It looked like it. Anyway, it was
none of his business. But the end of it was that he went to Talapus
again.

This time he found Sheila alone. The elder McCraes were gone to
Coldstream in the buckboard. Young Alec was somewhere on the ditch.
Sheila, flanked by clothesbasket and workbasket, sat on the veranda
mending his shirts. The occupation was thoroughly unromantic, little
calculated to appeal to the imagination. Nevertheless, it appealed to
Farwell.

Largely because it is the perverse nature of man to believe that the
Fates have set him in the wrong groove, Farwell, like many others whose
lives have been spent in exclusively masculine surroundings, believed
his tastes to be domestic. Not that he had ever pushed this belief
beyond the theoretical stage; nor would he have exchanged places with
any of his confrères who had taken wives. But he railed inwardly at the
intense masculinity of his life, for the same reason that the sailorman
curses the sea and the plainsman the plains. Just as the tragedian is
certain in his inmost soul that his proper rôle is light comedy, while
the popular comedian is equally positive that he should be starring in
the legitimate; so Farwell, harsh, dominant, impatient, brutal on
occasion, a typical lone male of his species, knowing little of and
caring less for the softer side of life, cherished a firm belief that
his proper place was the exact centre of a family circle.

Although he had never seen a home that he cared beans about--including
the one of his childhood--the singing of "Home, Sweet Home" invariably
left him pensive for half an hour. Theoretically--heretofore always
strictly theoretically--he possessed a strong _dulce domum_ impulse.
And so the spectacle of Sheila mending her brother's shirts was one of
which he thoroughly approved. It gave him a feeling of intimacy, as
though he had been admitted to the performance of a domestic rite.

Sheila picked up a second shirt, inspected it critically, and frowned.
"Now, isn't that a wreck?" she observed. "Sandy's awfully hard on his
shirts." She nipped a thread recklessly between her teeth, shot the end
deftly through the needle's eye, and sighed. "Oh, well, I suppose I
must just do the best I can with the thing."

"Your brother is lucky," said Farwell. "My things get thrown away. No
one to look after them when they begin to go."

"That's very wasteful," she reproved him. "Why don't you send them
somewhere?"

"Where, for instance?"

"Oh, anywhere. I don't know. There must be women in every town who
would like to earn a little money."

"Well, I haven't time to hunt for them. If you know any one around here
who would undertake the job, I could give her quite a bit of work. So
could the others."

"You don't mean me, do you?" laughed Sheila. "Sandy gives me all I can
handle."

"Of course I never thought of such a thing," said Farwell seriously.
"Did it sound like that?"

"No, I am joking. I think you take things seriously, Mr. Farwell."

"I suppose so," he admitted. "Yes, I guess I do. I can't help it. I'm
no joker; no time for that. Jokers don't get anywhere. Never saw one
that did. It's the fellow who keeps thinking about his job and banging
away at it who gets there."

"The inference being that I won't get anywhere."

Farwell, puzzled momentarily, endeavoured to remember what he had said.

"I guess I made another break. I wasn't thinking of you. Women don't
have to get anywhere. Men do--that is, men who count. I've seen a lot
of fellows in my own profession--smart, clever chaps--but, instead of
buckling down to work, they were eternally running about having a good
time. And what did any of them ever amount to? Not that!" He snapped
his fingers contemptuously.

"But wasn't that the fault of the men themselves? I mean that, apart
from their liking for a good time, perhaps they hadn't the other
qualities to make them successful."

"Yes, they had," said Farwell positively. "Didn't I say they were
clever? It wasn't lack of that--it was their confounded fooling around.
Almost every man gets one chance to make good. If he's ready for it
when it comes, he's made. If he isn't--well, he isn't. That was the way
with these fellows. When they should have been digging into the
ground-work of their profession they weren't. And so, when good things
were given them, they fell down hard. They lost money for other people,
and that doesn't do. Now they're down and out--lucky to get a job with
a level and one rodman to boss. There's no sympathy coming to them. It
was their own fault."

He spoke positively, with finality, beating the heel of his clenched
fist against his knee to emphasize his words. Evidently he spoke out of
the faith that was in him. Not a line of his face suggested humour or
whimsicality. Not a twinkle of the eye relieved its hardness. He was
grave, dour, purposeful, matter-of-fact. He took himself, his life, and
the things of life with exceeding seriousness.

Sheila regarded him thoughtfully. Somehow she was reminded of her
father. There was the same gravity, marching hand in hand with tenacity
of purpose, fixity of ideas; the same grim scorn of the tonic wine of
jest and laughter. But in the elder man these were mellowed and
softened. In Farwell, in the strength of his prime, they were in full
tide, accentuated.

"Every man should have a good chance, and be ready for it," she
replied; "but some men never get it."

"Yes, they do; yes, they do," he asseverated. "They get it, all right.
Only some of them don't know it when it comes; and others are ashamed
to own up that they've missed it. We all get it, I tell you, sooner or
later."

"It may come too late to some."

"No, no, it comes in time if a man is wide awake. It's about the only
square deal creation gives him. And it's about all creation owes him.
It's right up to them then. If he's asleep, it's his own fault. I don't
say it doesn't happen more than once; but it does happen once."

Plainly he was in deep earnest. He had no tolerance of failure, no
excuse for it. According to his theory, every man at some time was
master of his fate.

"Have you had your chance?" she asked.

"Not the big chance that I want. I've done some good work, here and
there. But the big thing is coming to me. I feel it. And I'm in shape
to handle it, too. When I do that, I'll quit working for other people.
I'll work for myself. Yes, by George! they can come to me."

Sheila laughed at him. His absolute cocksureness was too ridiculous.
But in spite of herself she was impressed by the sincerity of his
belief in himself. And she realized that opportunity was apt to knock
at the door of a man who believed in his own capacity for success and
let others know it.

"I probably make you tired," said Farwell. "You asked me, and I told
you. I'm not worrying about _my_ future. Now, let's talk about yours.
You were away when I was here last week."

"Yes, I was over at Chakchak."

"That's Dunne's ranch. Your mother said you were helping him choose
some things from a mail-order catalogue."

"Furniture, linen, dishes, and a lot of other things." There was no
embarrassment in her tone.

"Oh!" said Farwell; and as he uttered the word it resembled a growl.
"Well, when is it to be?"

"When is what to be?"

"Why, the wedding, of course."

"What wedding?" She laid down her work and stared at him. Then she
laughed, though the colour surged to her cheeks. "Oh, I see. You think
I was choosing these things for Mr. Dunne's prospective bride?"

"Of course."

"Not a bit of course--unless Casey has deceived me shamefully. Can't a
man furnish his house better without having a wedding in view?"

"He can, but usually he doesn't. That's my experience."

"I wasn't aware that you were married."

"Married?" cried Farwell. "Me? I'm not. I'm glad of it. I have enough
to worry me now. I----" He came to an abrupt stop. "Oh, well, laugh
away," he added. "I'll tell you what I thought. I thought you were
going to marry Dunne."

Sheila's laughter closed suddenly. "You haven't the least right to
think that or say it," she said coldly. "It's strange if I can't help a
friend choose a few house furnishings without impertinent comment."

"Oh, come!" said Farwell. "I didn't mean to be impertinent, Miss
McCrae. I know I'm too outspoken. I'm always putting my foot in it."

"Very well," said Sheila. "I think you said you wanted to speak to me
of my future?"

"Yes. I spoke to your father about selling the ranch. He refused
point-blank. What can we do about it?"

She shrugged her shoulders. "'We?' If he told you he won't sell, he
won't. I didn't know you had spoken to him."

"Couldn't you persuade him?"

"I wouldn't try. I don't want Talapus sold. What right have you to hold
us up? That's what it amounts to."

"There's a woman for you!" cried Farwell to the world at large. "Hold
you up? Great Scott, that's just what I'm not doing! I offered him the
value he put on the ranch himself, not a holdup price. I mean I offered
to get it for him. I want you to put it up to him, and get your mother
to help you. You ought to have some say in this. He ought to think of
you a little."

"It's his ranch," Sheila returned loyally. "He knows what he's doing.
When a man has made up his mind, women shouldn't make things harder for
him by whining."

"That's right enough, too," said Farwell, whose masculinity was in
thorough accord with the last sentiment. "But he is just the same as
throwing away a hundred thousand dollars. I don't want to see it. I
know what he's up against. I want him to get out while he can break
even."

"What about the rest of the ranchers?"

"I don't care a hang for the rest of the ranchers."

"And why do you make a distinction in our favour?"

Farwell was not prepared with an answer, even to himself. Her bluntness
was disconcerting. "I don't know," he replied. "It doesn't matter. The
main thing is to make your father get out of the way of the tree, for
it's going to fall right where he's standing. He can't dodge once it
starts. And what hits him hits you."

"Then I won't dodge, either," she declared bravely. "He's right not to
sell. I wouldn't if I were in his place."

Farwell slid back in his chair and bit his cigar savagely.

"I never saw such a family!" he exclaimed. "You've got nerve a-plenty,
but mighty poor judgment. Get it clear now, what's going to happen.
You'll have enough water for domestic purposes and stock, but none for
the ranch. Then it won't be worth a dollar an acre. Same way with the
rest. And now let me tell you another thing: Just as soon as the water
is turned off, every rancher will fall all over himself to sell. That's
what your father doesn't believe. He'll see when it's too late. It's
rank folly."

"It's our own folly, Mr. Farwell!"

"You mean it's none of my business. Well, I make it my business. I butt
in on this. I'll put it right up to him. I'll shove the money right
under his nose. If he turns it down I'm done. I'll quit. And if you
don't do your best to make him take it, you won't be dealing fairly
with him, your mother, or yourself."

Sheila stared at him, quite unused to such a tone. He, an utter
stranger, was arrogating to himself the position of friend to the
family, presuming to criticise her father's wisdom, to tell her what
she should do and should not do. But withal she was impressed by his
earnestness. His advice, she could not believe, was entirely
disinterested. At the same time, inconsistently, she was angry.

"Well," she said. "I must say you _are_ 'butting in.' You--you--oh, you
don't lack nerve, Mr. Farwell!"

"Don't worry about my nerve," he retorted grimly. "You'll have other
troubles. For Heaven's sake have some sense. Will you do as I tell you,
or won't you?" He leaned forward, tapping the arm of her chair with
tense fingers.

"No," she answered positively, "I won't."

Young McCrae came around the corner of the house. He was hatless,
coatless, muddy from his work in the ditches. A pair of faded blue
overalls were belted to his lean middle by a buckskin thong, and his
feet were incased in wet moccasins. He came noiselessly but swiftly,
not of purpose, but from habit, with a soft, springy step; and he was
level with them before they were aware of him. He came to an abrupt
halt, his eyes on Farwell, every muscle tensing. For an instant he
resembled a young tiger about to spring.

"Oh, Sandy," cried his sister, "what a mess! For goodness sake don't
come up here with those muddy moccasins."

"Just as you say," drawled young McCrae. "I thought you might want me.
Anything I can do for you, sis? Want anything carried in--or _thrown
out?_" He accented the last words.

Farwell, who had read danger signals in men's eyes before, saw the
flare of enmity in the young man's, and raised his shoulders in a faint
shrug. He smiled to himself in amusement.

"No, there's nothing, thanks," said Sheila, quite unconscious of the
hidden meaning of his words. "Better get cleaned up for supper."

McCrae swung on silently, with his rapid, noiseless step. Farwell
turned to Sheila.

"Do this for me, Miss McCrae," he pleaded. "Give me a fair chance with
your father if you won't help me with him. Don't tell your brother of
what I'm trying to do. If you do that, his influence will be the other
way."

"If my father has made up his mind, none of us can change it," said
Sheila. "But I'll give you a fair field. I won't tell Sandy."

Farwell, in spite of previous virtuous resolutions, remained for
supper. The elder McCraes had not returned. The young people had the
meal to themselves; and Sheila and Farwell had the conversation to
themselves, for Sandy paid strict and confined attention to his food,
and did not utter half a dozen words. Immediately afterward he
vanished; but, when Farwell went to the stable for his horse, he found
the young man saddling a rangy, speedy-looking black.

"Guess I'll ride with you a piece," he announced.

"All right," Farwell replied carelessly. He did not desire company; but
if it was forced on him he could not help it.

The light was failing as they rode from the ranch house. The green
fields lay sombre in the creeping dusk. Nighthawks in search of food
darted in erratic flight, uttering their peculiar booming notes.
Running water murmured coolly in the ditch that flanked the road.
Cattle, full of repletion, stood in contented lethargy by the watering
place, ruminating, switching listlessly at the evening flies which
scarcely annoyed them. The vivid opalescent lights of the western sky
grew fainter, faded. Simultaneously the zenith shaded from turquoise to
sapphire. In the northeast, low over the plains, gleaming silver
against the dark velvet background of the heavens, lay the first star.

But Farwell paid no attention to these things. Instead, he was thinking
of Sheila McCrae--reconstructing her pose as she bade him good-bye, the
direct, level gaze of her dark eyes, the contour of her face, the
cloudy masses of her brown hair. He was unconsciously engaged in the
perilous, artistic work of drawing for his sole and exclusive use a
mental "portrait of a lady"; and, after the manner of man attracted by
woman, he idealized the picture of his creation. By virtue of this
absorbing occupation, he quite forgot the presence of the brother of
the woman. But a mile beyond the ranch young McCrae pulled up.

"I turn off here," he said.

"That so? Good night," said Farwell.

"There's something I came to tell you," McCrae pursued. "I'm not making
any grand-stand play about it; but you'd better be a lot more careful
when you're talking to my sister. Understand?"

"No, I don't," said Farwell. "I never said anything to Miss McCrae that
her father and mother mightn't hear."

"Oh, _that!_" said young Sandy, and spat in disgust. "No, I guess you
didn't--and you hadn't better. But you told her to do something--fairly
ordered her. I heard you, and I heard her tell you she wouldn't.
Perhaps you'll tell me what it was?"

"Perhaps I won't."

"Why not?"

"Because I don't want to, mostly," said Farwell impatiently. "Also
because it's none of your business. Your sister and I understand each
other. Our conversation didn't concern you--directly, anyway."

"I'll let it go at that on your say-so," Sandy returned, with
surprising calmness. "I'm not crowding trouble with you, but get this
clear: You know why you're hanging around the ranch, and I don't. All
the same, if you are up to any monkey business, you'll settle it with
me."

Farwell's temper, never reliable, rose at once.

"Quite a Wild West kid, aren't you?" he observed, with sarcasm. "You
make me tired. It's a good thing for you your people are decent." He
crowded his horse close to the other. "Now, look here, young fellow, I
won't stand for any fool boy's talk. You're old enough to know better.
Cut it out with me after this, do you hear?"

"Where are you coming with that cayuse?" demanded young McCrae, and
suddenly raked a rowelled heel behind the animal's shoulder.

Ensued five strenuous minutes for Farwell, wherein he sought to soothe
his mount's wounded feelings. When at last the quadruped condescended
to allow his four hoofs to remain on the ground simultaneously for more
than a fraction of a second, young McCrae was gone; and Farwell,
somewhat shaken, and profane with what breath was left him, had nothing
for it but to resume his homeward way.



CHAPTER IX


The astute Mr. Sleeman's prediction to Farwell--namely, that the
attitude of the ranchers would affect land sales--proved correct.
Naturally, owing to a perfect advertising machinery, a number of sales
were made to people at distant points, who bought for speculation
merely. But these, though well enough in their way, were not entirely
satisfactory. The company needed actual settlers--men who would go upon
the lands and improve them--to furnish object lessons from the ground
itself to personally conducted, prospective buyers, who in turn should
do the same, and ultimately provide the Prairie Southern branch of
Western Airline with a paying traffic in freight and humanity.

But prospective buyers proved annoyingly inquisitive. After looking at
the company's holdings, they naturally wished to see for themselves
what the country was good for; and the obvious way to find out was to
visit the established ranches.

Sleeman could not prevent it--nor appear to wish to prevent it. In
fact, he had to acquiesce cheerfully and take them himself. That was
better than letting them go alone. But the very air seemed to carry
rumours. In vain he assured them that there was no fear of trouble,
that in any event the company would protect them; in vain he showed
them the big canal and beautiful system of ditches, and pointed with
much enthusiasm to the armour-belted, double-riveted clause in the sale
contracts, guaranteeing to the lucky buyer the delivery of so many
miner's inches or cubic feet of water every day in the year.

"It's like this," said one prospective buyer: "They ain't enough water
for the whole country, and you're certainly aimin' to cinch some of the
men that's here already so tight they can't breathe. If I buy water
they're gettin' now, they're mighty apt to be sore on me. Dunno's I
blame them, either. I like to stand well with my neighbours. Your
land's all right, but I can't see where we deal."

And the attitude of this individual was fairly representative.
Landlookers came, saw; but, instead of remaining to conquer the soil,
the majority of them went elsewhere.

This was hard on Sleeman. He was a good salesman, and he had a good
proposition; but he was handicapped by conditions not of his creating
and beyond his control. And he knew quite well that, while a
corporation may not give an employee any credit whatever for
satisfactory results, it invariably saddles him with the discredit of
unsatisfactory ones.

He foresaw that sooner or later--and very probably sooner--he would be
asked to explain why he was not making sales. And he came to the
conclusion that, as something was sure to start, he might as well start
it himself.

His cogitations crystallized in the form of a letter to his chief, the
head of the land department, wherein he told the bald and shining truth
without even a mental reservation. And he intimated tactfully that if
the department had another man whom they considered better fitted to
deal with the unfortunate local conditions, he, Sleeman, would be
charmed to assist him, or to go elsewhere in their service, if that
seemed best to their aggregate wisdom. He worded his part of this
letter very carefully, for he had seen as good men as himself
incontinently fired merely because they could not deny themselves the
luxury of a petulant phrase.

His letter bore fruit; for Carrol, the mighty head of the land
department, came down to see things for himself.

Carrol, however, suffered from a species of myopia not uncommon among
gentlemen who have for a long time represented large interests. He had
so come to look upon Western Airline as an irresistible force, that the
concept of an immovable body was quite beyond him. He had nothing but
contempt for any person or set of persons--corporations with equal
capital always excepted--rash enough to oppose any of its plans.

"Now, see here," he said at a conference with Sleeman and Farwell. "We
can't afford to have our sales blocked this way. Our ditches will carry
water now, and the dam itself is nearly completed. Open up the ditches
and take all the water you can. Then we'll see whether there is
anything in these yarns."

"But if we take water before we need it, we simply stiffen their hand,"
Sleeman objected. "We give them legitimate grounds to kick."

"They'll kick, anyway," said Carrol. "We need water to grow grass--if
anybody should ask you. The sooner we take it the sooner we shall be
able to acquire these ranches. Once the men see what they're up against
they'll ask us to buy, which we'll do on our own terms. That's the
programme. What do you think, Farwell?"

"You're the doctor," Farwell replied.

"You don't anticipate any trouble?"

"Not a bit," said Farwell contemptuously. "They'll howl, of course. Let
'em. In a month they'll eat out of your hand."

"Quite so," said Carrol; "that's how I look at it."

"There's one man, though," said Farwell, "whom I'd like to see get a
fair price. That's McCrae, who owns Talapus Ranch. It's the biggest and
best in the country."

"Will he sell now?"

"He might."

"What has he got, and what does he want for it?"

Farwell told him.

"What is it worth, Sleeman?" And at his agent's appraisal, Carrol
looked shocked and grieved. "Why, good Lord! Farwell," he said, "he
wants almost what his ranch is worth."

"Funny that he should, isn't it?" sneered Farwell, who stood in no awe
of Carrol. "Well, and that's what I want him to get."

"Can't do it," said Carrol decisively. "No money in it. Show me how I
could make a profit."

"Cut it up into little chunks and sell it to those marks back East,"
Farwell replied. "I don't have to tell you your business. Make another
Sentinel of it if you like."

The reference was to the town site of Sentinel, a half section of
prairie which had been bought for three thousand dollars and sold as
town lots on paper at a couple of hundred thousand to confiding,
distant investors. It was still prairie, and apt to remain so. Carrol
had engineered the deal, and he would have blushed if he had not
forgotten how. As it was, he smiled sourly.

"I wish I could. Is this McCrae a friend of yours?"

"Put it that way," Farwell replied, frowning at the quizzical
expression of Sleeman's eye. "He doesn't want to sell, but I want him
to have the chance of refusing real money. He may take it, or he may
not. Anyway, I make it as a personal request."

Carrol eyed him for a moment. He knew Farwell's reputation for
uncompromising hostility to any one who thwarted his plans,
accidentally or otherwise. Also Farwell was a good man. He was bound to
rise. Some day, he, Carrol, might require his help and he kept a sharp
eye on possibilities of that nature. So he said:

"It isn't business, but to oblige _you_, Farwell--all right, I'll take
the chance that he won't accept. But it's sudden death, mind. No
dickering. He accepts, or he doesn't. If not, he'll get just dry-belt
prices with the rest when they surrender."

And so a few days afterward Farwell, armed with a check representing
one hundred and fifty thousand dollars of lawful money, procured
because he considered it likely to have a good moral effect, sought
Talapus Ranch and Donald McCrae. And McCrae, as he feared, turned the
offer down.

Farwell had calculated on producing the check at the proper
psychological moment, in practically stampeding him. The trouble was
that the psychological moment failed to arrive. McCrae showed no
symptoms of vacillation. The issue was never in doubt.

"I told you before," he said, "I don't want to sell, and I won't sell."

"It's a hundred and fifty thousand cold cash--your own value," urged
Farwell. "At 6 per cent. it's nine thousand a year from now to eternity
for you and your wife and children. If you refuse, the best you can
hope for is dry-land prices. It's your only salvation, I tell you."

"My word is passed," said McCrae. "Even if it wasn't, I wouldn't be
harried off the little bit of earth that's mine. It's good of you to
take this trouble--I judge you had trouble--but it's not a bit of use."

"Look here," said Farwell. "Will you talk it over with your
family--your wife and daughter particularly? It's due to them."

"I will not," McCrae refused, with patriarchal scorn. "_I_ am the
family. I speak for all."

"The old mule!" thought Farwell. Aloud he said: "I want to tell you
that in a few days you'll lose half your water. The rest will go when
the dam is finished. This is final--the last offer, your last chance.
I've done every blessed thing I could for you. Right now is when you
make or break yourself and your wife and children."

"That's my affair," said McCrae. "I tell you no, and no." He plucked
the oblong paper from Farwell's unresisting fingers. "A lot of money,
aren't you?" he apostrophized it. "More than I've ever seen before, or
will see again, like enough." Suddenly he tore the check in half, and
again and again, cast the fragments in the air, and blew through them.
"And there goes your check, Mr. Farwell!"

"And there goes your ranch with it," Farwell commented bitterly. "One
is worth just about as much as the other now."

"I'm not so sure about that," said McCrae.

"I'm sure enough for both of us," Farwell responded.

With a perfunctory good-bye, he swung into the saddle, leaving McCrae,
a sombre figure, leaning against the slip bars of the corral. He had
anticipated this outcome; but, nevertheless, he was disappointed,
vaguely apprehensive. In vain he told himself that it was nothing to
him. The sense of failure persisted. Once he half turned in his saddle,
looking backward, and he caught, or fancied he caught, the flutter of
white against the shade of the veranda of the distant ranch house. That
must be Sheila McCrae.

For the first time he realized that his concern was for her alone, that
he did not care a hoot for the rest of the family. All this bother he
had been to, all his efforts with old McCrae, his practical holdup of
Carrol, even--he owned it to himself frankly--his failure to push the
construction work as fast as he might had been for her and because of
her. And what was the answer?

"Surely," said Farwell, straightening himself in the saddle, "surely to
blazes I'm not getting fond of the girl!"

As became a decent, respectable, contented bachelor, he shied from the
idea. It was absolutely ridiculous, unheard-of. The girl was all right,
sensible, good-looking. She suited him as well as any woman he had ever
met; but that, after all, was not saying much. He liked her--he made
that concession candidly--but as for anything more--nothing to it!

But the idea, once born, refused to be disposed of thus summarily; it
persisted. He found himself recalling trivial things, all pertaining to
Sheila--tricks of manner, of speech, intonations, movements of the
hands, body, and lips--these avalanched themselves upon him, swamping
connected, reasonable thought.

"What cursed nonsense!" said Farwell angrily to himself. "I don't care
a hang about her, of course. I'm dead sure she doesn't care for me.
Anyway, I don't want to get married--yet. I'm not in shape to marry.
Why, what the devil would _I_ do with a wife? Where'd I put her?"

A wife! Huh! Instantly he was a prey to misgivings. He recalled
shudderingly brother engineers whose wives dragged about with them,
living on the edge of construction camps under canvas in summer, in
rough-boarded, tar-papered shacks in the winter; or perhaps in
half-furnished cottages in some nearby jerk-water town.

He had pitied the men, fought shy of the women. Most of them had put
the best face upon their lives, rejoicing in the occasional streaks of
fat, eating the lean uncomplainingly. They led a migratory existence,
moved arbitrarily, like pawns, at the will of eminent and elderly
gentlemen a thousand or so miles away, whom they did not know and who
did not know them. Continually, as their temporary habitations began to
take on the semblance of homes, they were transferred, from mountains
to plains, from the far north to the tropics. Their few household goods
bore the scars of many movings--by rail, by steamer, by freight wagon,
and even by pack train.

And there were those whose responsibilities forced them to abandon life
at the front. These set up establishments in the new, cheap residential
districts of cities. There the wives kept camp; thither, at long
intervals, the husbands took journeys ranging from hundreds of miles to
thousands. True, there were those who had attained eminence. These
lived properly in well-appointed houses in eligible localities; and
their subordinates kept the work in hand during their frequent
home-goings. But the ruck--the rank and file--had to take such marital
happiness as came their way on the quick-lunch system.

Now Farwell was a bachelor, rooted and confirmed. He had always shunned
married men's quarters. When his day's work was done, he foregathered
with other lone males, talking shop half the night in a blue haze of
tobacco around a red-hot stove or stretched in comfortable undress in
front of a tent. This was his life as he had lived it for years; as he
had hoped to live it until he attained fame and became a consulting
engineer, a man who passed on the work of other men.

His theory of his own capacity for domesticity, though sincere, was
strictly academic. He had no more idea of putting it into practice than
he had of proving in his own person, before his proper time, the
doctrine of eternal life.

Now, into the familiar sum of existence, which he knew from divisor to
quotient, was suddenly shot a new factor--a woman. He experienced a new
sensation, vague, unaccountable, restless, like the first uneasy throbs
that precede a toothache. He lit a cigar; but, though he drew in the
smoke hungrily, it did not satisfy. He felt a vacancy, a want, a
longing.

He became aware of a dust cloud approaching. Ahead of it loped a big,
clean-limbed buckskin. In the straight, wiry figure in the saddle he
recognized Casey Dunne. Dunne pulled up and nodded.

"Fine day, Mr. Farwell."

"Yes," said Farwell briefly.

"Work coming on all right?"

"Yes."

"That's good," Dunne commented, with every appearance of lively
satisfaction. "Been to Talapus? See anything of Miss McCrae there?"

"She's at home, I believe," said Farwell stiffly.

"Thanks. Come around and see me some time. Morning." He lifted the
buckskin into a lope again.

Farwell looking after him, experienced a second new
sensation--jealousy.



CHAPTER X


Casey Dunne, busily engaged in strengthening a working harness with
rivets, looked up as a shadow fell across the morning sunlight. The
shadow belonged to Tom McHale.

McHale, like Dunne himself, had seen rough times. Older than his
employer, he had wandered up and down the West in the good old days of
cheap land and no barbed wire, engaged in the congenial, youthful
occupation of seeing as much country as he could. In the process, he
had turned his hand to almost everything which had fresh air as a
collateral, from riding for a cattle outfit to killing meat for railway
camps. He and Dunne had come into the Coldstream country at nearly the
same time; but Dunne had some money and McHale none at all. Dunne
bought land and hired McHale. They worked side by side to make the
ranch. McHale bought forty acres from Dunne and worked out the price,
bought more, and was still working it out. But apart from financial
matters they were fast friends, and either would have trusted the other
with anything he possessed.

"Say," said McHale, "there's something wrong. Our ditches ain't runnin'
more'n half full."

Casey put down the hammer. "Maybe the ditch is plugged somewhere."

"She may be, but it ain't likely. I've followed her quite a piece. So I
come to get me a cayuse to go the rest of the way."

"I'll go with you," said Casey, throwing the harness on a peg.

In five minutes they were loping easily along the ditch, with sharp
eyes for possible obstructions. As McHale had said, it was running not
half full, and seemed to be falling. The strong, deep, gurgling note of
a full head of water was gone. Instead was a mere babble.

So far as they could see, the flow was unhindered by obstacles; there
was no break in the banks. Even around the treacherous sidehill there
was no more than the usual seepage. And so at last they rode down to
the Coldstream itself, to the intake of the ditch, a rude wing dam of
logs, brush, and sand bags, which, nevertheless, had served them
excellently heretofore.

"I'm an Injun," McHale, ejaculated, "if the whole durn creek ain't
lowered!" Because he came from a land of real rivers, he invariably
referred to the Coldstream thus slightingly.

But unmistakably it had fallen. Half the dam appeared above the
surface, slimy, weed-grown, darkly water-soaked. Naturally, with the
falling of the water, the ditch had partially failed.

The two men looked at each other. The same thought was present in the
mind of each. It was barely possible that a land or rock slide
somewhere high upstream had dammed or diverted the current; but it was
most improbable. The cause was nearer to seek, the agency extremely
human.

McHale bit into fresh consolation and spat in the direction of the
inadequate dam.

"I reckon they've started in on us," he observed.

"Looks like it," Casey agreed.

"We need water now the worst way. I was figurin' on shootin' a big head
on to the clover, and after that on to the oats. They sure need it.
What's runnin' now ain't no use to us. We got to have more."

"No doubt about that, Tom," said Casey. "We'll ride up to their
infernal dam and see just what's doing."

"Good enough!" cried McHale, his eyes lighting up. "But say, Casey,
them ditch-and-dam boys ain't no meek-and-lowly outfit. Some of 'em is
plumb hard-faced. How'd it be if I scattered back to the ranch first. I
ain't packed a gun steady since I got to be a hayseed, but----"

"What do you want of a gun? We're just going to look at things and have
a talk with Farwell."

"You never know when you'll need a gun," McHale asserted, as an
incontrovertible general proposition.

"You won't need it this time. Come along."

It was almost midday when they came in sight of the construction camp
beside the dam. To their surprise, a barbed wire fence had been thrown
around it, enclosing an area of some twenty acres. On the trail, a
space had been left for a gate, but it had not yet been hung. Beside it
stood a post bearing a notice board, and, sitting with his back against
the post, a man rested, smoking. As they came up, he rose and sauntered
into the trail between the gate-posts.

"Hey you, hold on there!" he said.

Dunne and McHale pulled up.

"Look a-here, friend," said the latter, "do you think you're one of
them never-sag gates, or a mountain, or what? You want to see a doctor
about them delusions. They'll sure get you into trouble some day."

"That'll be all right about me," the big guardian of the gate returned.
"Just read that notice. This is private property."

They read it. It was of the "no-admittance" variety, and forbade
entrance to all individuals not in the company's employ.

"We've got business here, and we're going in," said Casey, and began to
walk his horse forward.

The man caught the bridle with one hand. The other he thrust into his
pocket.

"You get back now," he ordered, "or you'll walk home."

Dunne stopped instantly. His companion's hand made one lightninglike
motion, and perforce came up empty.

"And this," said Mr. McHale mournfully--"this was the time I didn't
need a gun!"

"Well, you don't need it, do you?" said Casey. "Observe, the gentleman
still keeps his sawed-off yeggman's delight in his pocket. Pull it,
friend, pull it! Don't scorch the cloth by pressing the trigger where
it is. Steady, Shiner, while the gentleman shoots you!"

The guardian smiled sardonically. "Amuse yourselves, boys, but don't
crowd in on me."

"Just as you say," replied Casey. "By the way, you needn't tire your
arm holding my horse. He'll stand. Besides, I don't like it."

The man released the bridle and stepped back. "Make this easy for me,
boys, I don't want trouble, but I got my instructions."

"Now, you listen here," said McHale. "Lemme tell you something: It's
just hell's tender mercy on you I ain't got a gun. If I'd 'a' had it,
you'd been beef by the trail right now."

"There's always two chances to be the beef," the other returned,
unmoved. "Go fill your hand before you talk to me."

McHale grinned at him. "I like you better than I did, partner. Next
time you won't have no kick on what I hold."

"We want to see Farwell," said Casey.

"Why couldn't you say that before?" the guardian returned. "I'll take a
chance on you. Go in."

They found Farwell at his quarters before a table covered with prints
and tracings.

"What can I do for you?" he asked curtly.

"My ditch has gone half dry," Casey replied. "I observe, too, that the
river is lower than usual; which, of course, accounts for the ditch. It
occurred to me that perhaps you might account for the river."

"We have begun to take water for our lands," Farwell told him.
"Possibly that has something to do with it."

"I shouldn't wonder," Casey agreed dryly. "Why are you taking water
now?"

"That," said Farwell deliberately, "is entirely our own affair."

"It affects us. You can't possibly use the water, because your lands
are not cultivated."

"The water benefits the land," Farwell rejoined coldly. "It shows
intending purchasers that we are actually delivering a sufficient
quantity of water. Our use of it is legitimate."

"It's a low-down, _cultus_ trick, if you ask me!" McHale interjected
forcefully.

"I didn't ask you," snapped Farwell; "but I'll tell you what I'll do.
You make another remark like that, and I'll fire you out through that
door."

McHale ignored Casey's significant glance.

"That door there?" he asked innocently. "That big, wide door leadin'
right outside into all that fresh air? You don't mean that one?"

"That's the one," Farwell returned angrily.

"Well, well, well!" said McHale, in mock wonder. "You don't say? And it
looks just like a common, ordinary door, too. Do you reckon you got
time right now to show me how it works?"

"Quit it, Tom," said Casey. "Farwell, I want to get right down to case
cards. This is a raw deal. I ask you not to take water that you can't
use."

"Not to mince matters with you, Dunne," Farwell returned, "I may as
well say that we intend to take as much as we like and when we like.
There's plenty of water left in the river. It's merely a question of
building your dams to catch it."

"Will you say that there will be plenty when your big dam is finished?"

Farwell lifted his big shoulders in a shrug which coupled utter
indifference with an implication that the future was in the hands of
Providence.

"Good Lord, Dunne, there's no use talking about that!" said he. "We
will take what water we want. You get what is left. Is that plain?"

"Yes," said Casey quietly. "I won't bother you any more."

"But I will," said McHale. "I'll just bother you to make good that
bluff of yours about firin' me out of here. Why, you durn,
low-flung----"

"Quit it!" Casey interrupted. "Stay where you are, Farwell, I'm not
going to have a scrap. Tom, you come with me."

"Oh, well, just as you say, Casey," grumbled McHale. "I ain't hostile,
special. Only I don't want him to run no blazers on me. He----"

But Casey got him outside and administered a vitriolic lecture that had
some effect.

"I'm sorry, Casey," McHale acknowledged, contritely. "I s'pose I ought
to known better. But that gent with the gun and Farwell between them
got me goin'. Honest, I never hunted trouble in my life. It just
naturally tracks up on me when I'm lyin' all quiet in camp. Course, it
has to be took care of when it comes."

"There'll be enough to keep you busy," said Casey grimly. And
apparently in instant fulfilment of the prophecy came the short,
decisive bark of a six-shooter. By the sound, the shot had been fired
outside the camp, in the direction of the gate.

"It's that cuss that held us up!" snarled McHale, and swore viciously.

Both men went up into their saddles as if catapulted from the earth.
McHale yelled as he hit the leather--a wild, ear-splitting screech, the
old trouble cry of his kind in days gone by--and both horses leaped
frantically into motion, accomplishing the feat peculiar to cow and
polo ponies of attaining their maximum speed in three jumps. They
surged around the medley of tents and shacks, and came into the open
neck and neck, running like singed cats.

A few hundred yards away, where the new sign-board stood beside the
trail a horse struggled to rise, heaved its fore quarters up, and
crashed down again, kicking in agony, raising a cloud of dust. Facing
it, bending slightly forward, stood a man, holding a gun in his right
hand.

Suddenly out of the dust cloud staggered a second, who rushed at the
first, head down, extended fingers wildly clutching, and as he came he
bellowed hoarsely the wild-bull cry of the fighting male, crazed with
pain or anger. The gun in the hand of the first man flashed up and cut
down; and, as it hung for an instant at the level, the report rapped
through the still air. But the other, apparently unhurt, charged into
him, and both went down together.

[Illustration: AS HE CAME HE BELLOWED HOARSELY THE WILD-BULL CRY OF THE
FIGHTING MALE, CRAZED WITH PAIN OR ANGER]

"It's big Oscar!" cried McHale. "That feller downed his horse. Holy
catamounts! Look at them mix it! And here's the whole camp a-boilin'
after us! Casey, did I hear you say this was the day I didn't need a
gun?"

Before they could pull up they almost ran over the fighting men. The
two were locked in ferocious grips. The big guardian of the gate was
fighting for his life, silently, with clenched teeth, every cord and
muscle and vein standing out with the heartbreaking strain put upon
them.

For the big Swede was the stronger man. Ordinarily mild and
sweet-tempered, he was now a wild beast. Foam blew from his mouth and
flecked his soft, golden beard, and he rumbled and snarled, beast-like,
in his throat. He made no attempt to strike or to avoid the blows which
beat against his face; but with one arm around his enemy's neck, the
hand gripping the nearer side of the jaw, and the other hand pushing at
it, he strove to break his neck. Little by little he twisted it.
Gradually the chin pointed to the shoulder, almost past it. It seemed
that with the fraction of an inch more the vertebral column must crack
like a stick of candy. But the hand on the jaw slipped, and the chin,
released, shot back again, to be tucked desperately down against the
breastbone.

"Get in here and pull Oscar off!" cried Casey as he leaped from his
horse.

"Not in a thousand years," McHale responded. "He can kill him. Let him
do it. Serve the cuss right."

"You cursed fool!" snarled Casey. "That gang will be here in half a
holy minute. They'll pound Oscar to death if he's fighting then. Here,
you crazy Swede, let go! Let go, I say! It's me--Casey Dunne!"

But Oscar was past reason. Once more he had got the palm of his hand
beneath that stubborn chin and was lifting it from its shelter. As he
put forth his huge strength, he roared out a torrent of Scandinavian
oaths, interspersed with the more hardy varieties of Anglo-Saxon
epithets.

"Catch hold of him," Casey ordered. "Jam your arm into his windpipe
while I break his grip." As he spoke, he kicked the big Swede sharply
on the left biceps. For an instant that mighty arm was paralyzed. Casey
grasped his wrists and dragged them loose, while McHale, his forearm
across the huge, bull-like throat, heaved back.

Oscar came apart from his victim slowly and reluctantly, as a deeply
rooted stump yields to the pull of a purchase.

"He kel my Olga! He kel my Olga!" he vociferated. "He shoot her yust
like she ban von vulf! By the yumpin' Yudas, you let me go!"

"Keep quiet, keep quiet, I tell you!" cried Casey. "You can get him
later. See this bunch coming? They'll kill you with their shovels in
half a minute."

The rush of men was almost upon them. They carried the tools which were
in their hands the moment the shots were fired--mixing shovels, hoes,
axes, pinch bars, and odd bits of wood and iron caught up on the
impulse of the instant. Behind, straining every muscle to reach the
front, ran Farwell.

Meanwhile Oscar's opponent had risen unsteadily to his feet. His eyes
searched the ground, and he made a sudden dive. But McHale was before
him.

He swooped on the revolver half buried in the dust, and whirled on the
first comers, holding the weapon jammed tightly in front of his right
hip.

"Don't crowd in on us with them shovels and things," he advised grimly.
"There's lots of room right where you are."

The rush stopped abruptly. An ugly, short-barrelled gun in the hand of
a man who bore all the earmarks of a hip shot was not to be treated
lightly. There were rough and tough men in the crowd who were quite
ready for trouble; but their readiness did not extend to rushing a
gunman unless an urgent necessity existed.

Farwell broke through them, breathless from a sprint at top speed. He
paid no attention whatever to McHale's weapon.

"What's the matter here?" he demanded. "You, Lewis, speak up!"

"This batty Swede tried to ride over me," Lewis replied. "I give him
fair warnin', and then I downed his horse. When he hits the dirt he
goes on the prod. These fellers pulled him off of me. That one's got my
gun."

"You bet I have!" McHale interjected. "You tried to plug Oscar. I seen
you cut down on him at about ten feet--and miss. Looks like you ain't
got the nerve to hit anything that's _comin'_ for you. You sorter
confines your slaughter to harmless cayuses and such."

"Guess again," said Lewis, unmoved. "I thought I could stand the Swede
off, that's why. I shot two foot high on purpose."

"You kel my Olga!" shouted Oscar. "Yust wait, you faller. Ay gat my
goose gun, and Ay blow you all to hal! By Yudas, Ay gat skvare kvick!"

"This is crowding things," said Casey. "Mr. Farwell, you really must
not plant gunmen by the trails with instructions to shoot our horses."

"Nobody has any such instructions," said Farwell. "This man tried to
ride Lewis down, and he protected himself. I'm sorry it occurred, but
we are not to blame."

"Without arguing that point," said Casey, "I warn you that we won't
stand this sort of thing."

"If you fellows will keep off our lands there will be no trouble,"
Farwell responded. "We don't want you, and we won't have you. If you
come on business, of course, that's different. Otherwise keep away.
Also we don't want your stock grazing on our property."

"We may as well have an understanding while we're about it," said
Casey. "The next man who pulls a gun on me--this Lewis, or anybody
else--will have to beat me to the shooting. If you don't want your
lands used as part of the range, fence them off. Don't interfere with a
single head of my stock, either. And, if I were in your place, I'd
offer this man about two hundred dollars for his mare, and throw in an
apology."

"But you're not in my place," snapped Farwell. "Nobody is going to pull
a gun on you if you behave yourself. If this man puts in a claim for
his horse, I'll consider it, but I won't promise anything." He turned
to his men. "You get back to work, the lot of you." Without further
words, he strode off to the camp.

Lewis stepped up to McHale. "I'll take my gun if you're through with
it."

McHale handed him the weapon.

"I don't reckon she's accurate at much over ten yards," he observed.
"If I was you, I'd fix myself with a good belt gun. It ain't unlikely I
packs one myself after this, and we might meet up."

"Organize yourself the way you want to," said Lewis carelessly,
slipping the weapon in his pocket. "And if you're a friend of that big
Swede, tell him not to look for me too hard. I don't want to hurt him;
but I ain't taking chances on no goose guns." He nodded and marched off
after the others.

The three men, left alone, stood in silence for a moment. Then Oscar,
with a rumbling curse, began to strip saddle and bridle from his dead
pet mare, the tears running down his cheeks.

"And now what?" asked McHale.

"Now," Casey replied, "I guess we've got to make good."



CHAPTER XI


Some two miles distant from the construction camp at the dam, a little
cavalcade moved slowly through the darkness of a moonless, cloudy
night. A southeast wind was blowing, but it was a drying wind, with no
promise of rain. It had blown for days steadily, until it had sucked
every vestige of moisture from the top earth, leaving it merely powdery
dust. Because of it, too, no dew had fallen; the nights were as dry as
the days.

In the grain fields, the continued blast had stripped the surface soil
away from the young plants, wrenching and twisting them, desiccating
their roots, which, still too feeble to reach what dampness lay lower
down, sucked ineffectually at the dry breast of the earth. The plants
they could not feed took on the pale-green hue of starvation. There,
among the young grain, the stronger gusts lifted dust clouds acres in
extent. Low down along the surface, the soil sifted and shifted
continually, piling in windrows in spots, burying the young plants,
leaving others bare. Odd little devils of whirlwinds, marked by
columnar pillars of dust, danced deviously across the fields and along
the trails. From the standpoint of a disinterested person, the
ceaseless wind would have been unpleasant in its monotony; but from
the viewpoint of a rancher it was deadly in its persistence.

The moving figures were so strung out that it appeared almost as though
they were riding in the same direction fortuitously, without relation
to each other. First came two horsemen; then, at an interval of five
hundred yards, came a buckboard, with two men and a led horse. In the
rear, five hundred yards back, were two more riders.

This order, however, was not the result of accident, but of
calculation. The buckboard held Oscar and the elder McCrae. Also it
contained a quantity of dynamite. Naturally, it was drawn, not by
McCrae's eager road team, but by a pair of less ambition. And the
riders, front and rear, were in the nature of pickets; for, though it
was unlikely that any one would be met at that time of night, it was
just as well to take no chances.

The riders in the lead were Casey Dunne and Tom McHale. Each had a
rifle beneath his leg. In addition, McHale wore two old, ivory-handled
Colts at his belt, and Dunne's single holster held a long automatic,
almost powerful as a rifle. They rode slowly, seldom faster than a
walk, peering ahead watchfully, their ears tuned to catch the slightest
suspicious sound.

"This here is like old times," said McHale. "Durn me if I hadn't about
forgotten the feel of a gun under my leg. I wish we could have our
photos took now. We sure look plenty warlike."

"I don't want any photo," said Casey. "If I can get home without
meeting any one, it will suit me down to the ground. I wish we hadn't
brought these guns. It's safer every way."

"It's safer for some people," McHale commented. "S'pose we struck hard
luck to-night and got backed into a corner or followed up too close--how'd
we look without guns? 'Course, I'd take awful long chances before I
shot _at_ anybody; but all the same a Winchester helps out a retirin'
disposition a whole lot."

"No doubt about that. But the devil of packing a gun is the temptation
to use it before you really have to. That accounts for a lot of
trouble. Why, even in the old days, a man who didn't pack a gun was
safe, unless he tracked up with some mighty mean specimen of a killer.
And those dirty killers usually didn't last long."

"That's so in one way," McHale admitted, "but I look at it different.
If nobody but the killers had packed guns they'd have run the whole
show. Some of them gents killed for the fun of it, like a mink in a
chicken coop. The mean sort'd pick out some harmless, helpless party,
and stomp up and down, r'arin' and cussin' till they got up a big mad.
The chances was about even they'd shoot. Usual they didn't try them
plays on men that wore their artillery in plain sight."

"Well, we haven't any killers now, anyway," said Dunne. "This is about
as far as it's safe to go with the horses. We'll wait till the others
come up."

In a few minutes, the faint straining of leather, creak of springs, and
subdued clank of axles came to them. The buckboard loomed out of the
darkness, and halted suddenly.

"That you, boys?" McCrae's voice asked.

"Yes. We won't take the horses any farther. If that watchman is on the
dam to-night he might hear something. We can pack the powder the rest
of the way ourselves."

The rear riders, young Sandy McCrae and Wyndham, arrived. Then a
dispute arose. No one wished to remain with the horses. Casey Dunne
settled it.

"There's only one man going to plant powder and cut fuses, and that's
Oscar," said he. "If we all go messing around with it in the dark, half
the shots won't fire, and we may have an accident. Outside of that
there's nothing to do except take care of the watchman if he's there;
and he's sure to be. Wyndham, you're not cut out for that sort of work.
You will stay with the ponies. Now, McCrae, you'd better turn around
and drive home."

McCrae pulled the team around. "Good luck, boys," said he quietly, and
was gone. The spare horse which had been tied to the buckboard remained
for Oscar.

The Swede proceeded to load himself with dynamite, placing it around
his legs in the high socks he wore, in the breast of his shirt, and in
his pockets. This was the overflow from a gunny sack in which he
carried the rest. He resembled a perambulating mine.

"Ay ban ready now," he announced.

"I say, Oscar, don't trip," said Wyndham facetiously.

"Nor interfere," McHale added. "Plant them number twelves of yours
plumb wide apart, Oscar, and don't try to scratch your ankle with your
boot."

Oscar grinned at them, his big, white teeth shining in the darkness. He
attempted the repartee of his adopted country.

"You faller tenk you mek big yoke--vat!" said he. "You go to hal,
please."

"Sure--if you bump anything hard," McHale retorted.

"Come on, come on!" said Casey impatiently.

Wyndham remained with the horses. He was to allow the others half an
hour, and then bring the animals down nearer the dam, so that no time
should be lost in getting away. His companions vanished in the
darkness.

Young McCrae took the lead. In the moccasins he affected he trod
noiselessly, making no more sound than a prowling, nocturnal animal.
Casey Dunne followed, almost as light-footed. Behind him Oscar clumped
along, planting his heavy boots solidly at every step. McHale brought
up the rear. Soon they struck an old cattle trail which wound down a
short coulée and brought them to the bank of the river immediately
below the dam. McCrae halted.

"There she is," he announced.

Across the river lay the huddled, black shapes of the camp buildings,
with here and there a pallid spot which marked a tent. Not a light was
visible there. Evidently the camp slept, and that was as it should be.
But nearer at hand, beside the bank of the river where the bulk of the
dam reared itself, a solitary light gleamed.

"That's the watchman," McCrae whispered. "We're in luck, boys. He's on
this side."

"Say, Ay sneak up on dat faller," Oscar proposed. "Ay mek von
yump--so!--and Ay gat him in de neck." He uttered a horrible sound,
suggestive of death by strangulation.

"Shut up!" hissed young McCrae fiercely. "_Keep_ him quiet, Tom!"

"Shut up, Oscar!" growled McHale. "Don't you savvy nothing? You and me
ain't in on this. Stand right still now, and don't breathe no harder
than you have to. Go to it, boys!"

If young McCrae had been a prowling animal before, he was now the ghost
of one. Casey Dunne, behind him, endeavoured to copy his noiseless
method of progress. Gradually they drew near the light.

They could discern the figure of the watchman beside it. He was sitting
on a stick of timber, smoking. McCrae drew from his pocket a long
canvas bag, of about the dimensions of a small bologna sausage, and
weighed it in his hand. They crept nearer and nearer. They were not
more than ten feet away. The guardian of the dam laid his pipe on the
timber, rose to his feet, and stretched his arms high above his head in
a huge, satisfying yawn.

At that instant McCrae sprang like a lynx on a fawn. The sandbag
whistled as it cut down between the upstretched arms, and the watchman
dropped as if hit by lightning.

"That was an awful crack, Sandy," said Casey reprovingly. He flashed
the lantern at the face, and slipped his fingers to the wrist. To his
relief, the pulse was strong.

"I had to get through his hat, hadn't I?" said McCrae. "I wasn't taking
any chances. He's got a head like a bull. Come on, let's fix him up."

The watchman came out of their hands trussed up like a fowl for
roasting, securely gagged, with a gunny sack drawn over his head and
tied at the waist. They lifted him between them and bore him away from
the dam to what they considered a safe distance.

"'Watchman, tell us of the night,'" chuckled Casey. "He's all right, by
the way he kicks, and nothing can hit him away out there. They'll see
him first thing in the morning. Hustle up Oscar, now. This is where he
gets action."

Oscar, when he came up, got to work at once. Because the planting of
shots by different men would have been both unsatisfactory and
dangerous he worked alone. The others lay flat in the gloom, watching
the lantern which he had appropriated flitting here and there along the
structure.

"Oscar's some powder man, you bet," McHale observed. "He don't look
like he had the savvy, but he'll cut them fuses so's the shots'll come
mighty near together. Blamed if I know why a Swede takes to powder.
Seems to come natural to 'em, like pawin' snow to a cayuse."

The light blinked and disappeared as Oscar descended. Followed a long
interval of silent waiting. Then across in the camp a dog began to
bark, at first uncertainly, with what was almost a note of
interrogation, and then, as the wind brought confirmation of suspicion
to his nostrils, with savage vigour. By the sound, he was apparently
approaching the dam.

Some sleeper, awakened by the noise, yelled a profane command to the
animal, which had no effect. It merely awakened another, who cursed the
first sleepily.

"Hey, Kelly," he called, "hit that dog with a rock!" A pause. "Hey,
Kelly, wake up, there!"

"I guess we've got Kelly," Casey whispered to Sandy. He called out
hoarsely: "He'll quit in a minute! G'wan to sleep. You don't know your
own luck."

But the dog continued to bark, jumping up and down frantically. A light
appeared in a window of one of the shacks.

"Blazes!" muttered McHale, "somebody's getting up."

A low whistle came from behind them. It was significant of the tension
of the moment that both McHale and McCrae jumped. But Dunne was cooler.

"That's only Wyndham with the horses," he said.

Suddenly a long aperture of light appeared in the dark wall of the
shack. For a moment it was partially obscured by a figure, and then it
vanished utterly. The door had closed. The light from the window
remained.

"Somebody's come out," said McHale. "That's about where Farwell's shack
is. What's keepin' Oscar? He's had time enough. Maybe I'd better go
across and hold up this feller? We don't want----"

The lantern bobbed into view once more. Oscar was coming at last, but
he was taking his time about it. Had he placed the powder? Had he fired
the fuses? Or had something gone wrong at the last moment? They asked
themselves these questions impatiently. It would be just like him to
have forgotten his matches. It might not occur to him to use the
lantern flame. In that case----

"Come on, hurry up there!" McCrae called softly.

Oscar clambered up beside them. "Ay tal you somet'ing----" he began.
But the dog yelped suddenly. A sharp voice cut across to them:

"Kelly! What the devil's going on here? What are you about? Who's that
with you?"

"Farwell!" Dunne whispered. "Did you light the fuses, Oscar?"

"Sure t'ing," Oscar replied. Proud of the phrase, he repeated it. "She
ban light, all right."

"When'll she fire? Quick, now?"

"Mebbe fema minute. We ban haf lots of time to gat out of har. Say,
Kessy, what faller----"

An oath cracked in the darkness like a rifle shot.

"You, Kelly, answer me! Come across here at once!" He paused for a
moment. "By thunder! Kelly, I'll come over there and----"

Casey Dunne did not hear the conclusion of the sentence. His mind was
working swiftly. For, if Farwell tried to come across, he would
probably be killed by the coming explosions; and that must be prevented
at any cost. The destruction of the dam was justifiable, even
necessary. But homicide with it would never do. To shoot in
self-defence or to protect his rights was one thing; to allow a man to
be killed by a blast was quite another. But just how to prevent it was
the question.

"Come along, Casey," McHale urged. "We ain't got too much time."

"Time or not, we can't have Farwell hurt. You go. I'll be after you in
a minute."

"If you stay we all stay," said McHale. "Let him take his chance. Come
on!"

"Git, I tell you," Casey insisted. "I've got to keep him where he is
till the first shot goes." He called out: "All right, Mr. Farwell. You
don't need to come. I'll be there."

"That's not Kelly's voice," snapped Farwell. "What deviltry's going on
here?"

By his voice, Casey guessed that he was advancing. He dropped the
pretence as useless. "Get back, there!" he ordered sharply, but
endeavouring to disguise his natural voice. "Get back to your shack,
you, or I'll drill you!"

Farwell's response came with surprising promptness in the form of a
revolver bullet that sang just above Casey's head. By the momentary
flash of the weapon his big figure was just discernible standing bent
forward, legs wide apart, tense and watchful.

As Casey's hand dropped to his automatic, McHale clutched his wrist.
"Don't shoot!" he whispered.

"I'm not going to hit him," Casey replied. "I'm just going to make him
stay where he is."

"Let me," said McHale, and fired as he spoke. Farwell's revolver
answered. They emptied the guns in the darkness; but as one shot high
by accident and the other low by design, no damage ensued.

The camp, aroused by the shooting, buzzed like a hornet's nest. Lights
appeared everywhere. Dark figures streamed out of doorways and thrown
tent flaps; and, once outside, stood in helpless uncertainty.

"Coom, coom!" cried Oscar. "Ve gat out of har!" They rose and ran in
the dark.

A mighty roar drowned the echoes of the pistol shots, as the bass
bellow of his sire might dominate the feeble bleatings of a new-born
calf. A vivid flash split the night. In the momentary illumination
details were limned sharply--the buildings, the groups of men on one
side, the running figures on the other. And poised, stationary, as it
seemed, in mid-air, above the instant eruption, hung a mushroom cloud
of smoke and dust, specked with fragments of riven wood and shattered
concrete. Through the succeeding contrasted blackness the débris
thudded upon the earth. With scarcely an interval followed a second
shot, a third, a fourth. The air became alive with hurtling masses
raining from the heavens.

The four dynamiters reached Wyndham, who, cursing in his excitement,
was straining every muscle and a comprehensive vocabulary in an effort
to hold the frightened horses.

Casey, McHale, and Sandy seized their nigh stirrups, shot them at their
left toes, gripped saddle horns, and went up in an instant. Oscar, less
expert, fumbled for a hold with his toe, hopping on his right leg as
his horse sidled and backed.

"Stand still, Ay tal you!" he gritted. "By Yudas, Ay club hal from you
purty kvick!"

Young McCrae wheeled his horse on the off side and gripped the
headstall by the bit. "Up you go!" he cried, and Oscar fell into the
saddle, the horn striking him amidships and momentarily checking a
torrent of oaths. "Hang on, now!" McCrae ordered and let go.

They shot away with a wild plunge and a scurry of panicky hoofs. The
going was rough, but luck was with them. They surged up the coulée,
emerging on the higher bench land by the trail.

"Look here, Tom," said Dunne, "what did you want to do the shooting for
back there? Afraid I'd get rattled and hit somebody?"

McHale grinned in the darkness. "Not hardly. Mostly, Casey, you _mamook
tumtum_ a heap--you look ahead and savvy plenty. You're foolish--the
way an old dog fox is. But onct in a while you overlook a bet. You're
too plumb modern and up to date."

"What's that got to do with it?"

"A lot. I don't know no other man hereabouts that packs a forty-four
automatic. See, now?"

"No."

"Why, Casey," said McHale, "I'm surprised at you! It's clear as gin.
Them guns spits out the empty shells right where you stand. Farwell
finds 'em, and he goes lookin' for a gun to fit 'em. You've got it.
There ain't no other gun hereabouts that takes forty-four automatic
ammunition. Now, my old gun don't leave no trail of ca'tridges to
follow unless I breaks her open. So I just naturally horned in and
played the hand myself."



CHAPTER XII


When daylight fully disclosed the wreck, and also his night watchman
lying helpless out of harm's way, Farwell was in a savage temper. Never
before, in all his career, had anything like that been put over on him.
And the knowledge that he had been sent there for the express purpose
of preventing anything of the kind did not improve matters. He hated to
put the news on the wire--to admit to headquarters that the ranchers
apparently had caught him napping. But, having dispatched his telegram,
he set his energies to finding some clew to the perpetrators of the
outrage.

He drew a large and hopeless blank in Kelly, the watchman. Mr. Kelly's
films ran smoothly up to a certain point, after which they were not
even a blur. The Stygian darkness of his hiatus refused to lift by
questioning. He had neither seen nor heard anything suspicious or out
of the ordinary. About one o'clock in the morning he had laid down his
pipe to rest his long-suffering tongue. Immediately afterward, so far
as his recollection went, he found himself tied up, half smothered,
with aching jaws and a dull pain in his head.

Farwell metaphorically bade this unsatisfactory witness stand aside,
and proceeded to investigate the gunny sack, the rope that had tied
him, and the rag and stick that had gagged him. Whatever information
these might have given to M. Lecoq, S. Holmes, or W. Burns, they
yielded none to Farwell, who next inspected the ground. Here, also, he
found nothing. There were footmarks in plenty, but he could not read
them. Though in the first flare of the explosion he had glimpsed three
or four running figures, his eyes had been too dazzled to receive an
accurate impression.

"Maybe an Australian nigger or a Mohave trailer could work this out,"
he said in disgust to his assistant, Keeler. "I can't."

"Well, say," said young Keeler, "talking about Indians--how about old
Simon over there? Might try him."

He pointed. Just above the dam an Indian sat on a pinto pony, gazing
stolidly at the wreck. His hair streaked with gray, was braided, and
fell below his shoulders on either side. His costume was that of
ordinary civilization, save for a pair of new, tight moccasins. Having
apparently all the time there was, he had been a frequent spectator of
operations, squatting by the hour watching the work. Occasionally his
interest had been rewarded by a meal or a plug of tobacco. These things
he had accepted without comment and without thanks. His taciturnity and
gravity seemed primeval.

"Huh! That old beat!" said Farwell contemptuously. "Every Indian can't
trail. However, _we_ can't, that's sure. Maybe he can make a bluff
at it. Go and get him."

Keeler brought up old Simon, and Farwell endeavoured to explain what
was wanted in language which he considered suited to the comprehension
of a representative of the original North American race. He had a
smattering of Chinook,[1] and for the rest he depended on gestures and
a loud voice, having the idea that every man can understand English if
it be spoken loudly enough.

      [1] AUTHOR'S NOTE.--Chinook, the trade jargon of the Pacific
      coast, is similar in origin to the pidgin English of China. It is
      composite, its root words being taken from various tribal
      vocabularies and from the French and English languages. The
      spelling conforms to the pronunciation; and the latter in most
      cases is merely the Indian rendering of French and English word
      sounds. It is, in fact, an Indian Volapuk, used extensively by
      the tribes of Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska.
      The number of words is comparatively small, probably not
      exceeding nine hundred. Therefore each has various meanings,
      rendered by shades of pronunciation or by combination with other
      words. Thus the word "_mamook_," signifying to do, to make, to
      perform, or anything denoting action, begins some two hundred
      phrases, for each of which there is one equivalent English word.
      Its nearest parallel is the French verb "_faire_," and its use is
      much the same. It is impossible in this space to attempt a
      vocabulary. "_Halo_" is the general negative. Throughout I have
      endeavoured to supply the meaning by the context.

"Simon," said he, "last night bad man come and _mamook_ raise heap
hell. Him blow up dam. You savvy 'dam,' hey?"

"Ah-ha!" Simon grunted proudly. "Me _kumtuks_. Me _kumtuks_ hell. Me
_kumtuks_ dam. Dam good, dam bad; godam----"

"No, no!" rasped Farwell. "_Halo_ cuss word--no bad word--no. D-a-m,
'dam.' Oh, Lord, the alphabet's wasted on him, of course. What's Siwash
for dam, Keeler?"

"Search me," said Keeler; "but 'pence' is Chinook for fence, and
'chuck' means water. Try him with that." And Farwell tried again.

"Now, see, Simon! Last night _hiyu cultus_ man come. Bring dynamite--_hiyu
skookum_ powder. Put um in dam--in _chuck pence_. Set um off. _Mamook
poo!_--all same shoot. Bang! Whoosh! Up she go!" He waved his hand at
the wreck. "You _kumtuks_ that?"

Simon nodded, understanding.

"_Mamook_ bang," said he; "_mamook_ bust!"

"Right," Farwell agreed. "_Cultus_ man come at night. Dark. Black. No
see um." He made a footprint in the earth, pointed at it, and then to
Simon, and waved a hand at the horizon generally. "You find trail,
follow, catch um. Hey, can you do that, Simon? And I'll bet," he added
to Keeler, "the infernal old blockhead doesn't understand a word I've
said."

But Simon's reply indicated not only comprehension, but a tolerable
acquaintance with modern business methods. Said he:

"How moch you give?"

Keeler grinned. "I think he gets you," he commented.

"I guess he does," Farwell admitted. "How much you want?"

"Hundred dolla'!" Simon answered promptly.

"Like blazes!" snapped Farwell. "You blasted, copper-hided old Shylock,
I'll give you five!"

Simon held out his hand. The gesture was unmistakable.

"And they say an Indian doesn't know enough to vote!" said Farwell. He
laid a five-dollar bill in the smoky palm. "Now get busy and earn it."

Simon inspected the ground carefully. Finally he took a course straight
away from the dam.

"That's about where those fellows ran," said Farwell. "Maybe the old
rascal can trail, after all."

Simon came to a halt at a spot cut up by hoofs. He bent down, examining
the tracks carefully. Farwell, doing likewise, caught sight of a single
moccasin track plainly outlined. It lay, long and straight-footed, deep
in the soft soil; and where the big toe had pressed there was the mark
of a sewn-in patch.

"Here, look here!" he cried. "One of 'em was wearing moccasins, and
patched moccasins at that."

"Sure enough," said Keeler.

"Here, Simon, look at this," said the engineer. "You see um? One
_cultus_ man wear moccasin. Was he white man or Indian?"

Simon surveyed the track gravely, knelt, and examined it minutely.
"Mebbyso Injun," he said.

"Mebbyso white man," Farwell objected. "What makes you think it's an
Indian?"

"Oleman moccasin, him," Simon replied oracularly. "White man throw him
away; Injun keep him, mend him--_mamook tipshin klaska_."

"Something in that, too," Farwell agreed. "It's a straight foot--no
swing-in to the toe. Still, I don't know. I've seen white men like
that. I wonder----" He broke off abruptly, shaking his head.

Simon gave a correct imitation of mounting a horse. "Him _klatawa_," he
announced. "Him Injun."

"Got on his horse and pulled out, hey?" said Farwell. "Yes, of course,
that's what he did. That's why the track is pressed in so deep. That's
all right. Simon, how many men stop last night?"

"Four, five cayuse stop," Simon answered. "Mebbyso four, five, man
stop."

"Well, four or five cayuses must have left a trail of some kind. You
find it. Follow--catchum. Find where they live--their _illahee_, where
they hang out. You get that?"

Simon nodded and went to his horse. Farwell frowned at the lone
moccasin track, and, lifting his eyes, beheld Simon in the act of
mounting. Contrary to the custom of white men, the old Indian did so
from the off side. Farwell swore suddenly.

"What?" Keeler asked.

"Hey, Simon!" said Farwell. "This man with oleman moccasin--him make
track getting on cayuse? Him stand so to get on cayuse. You sure of
that?"

Simon nodded. "Ah-ha!" he agreed.

"Then he's a white man," Farwell exclaimed. "This is the track of a
right foot, made while he was standing reaching for the stirrup with
the left. An Indian always gets on his horse from the wrong side, and
puts his right foot in the stirrup first."

"So he does," said Keeler.

"So this fellow is a white man," Farwell concluded triumphantly. "We
want a white man with a patched moccasin. You _kumtuks_, Simon? Injun
mount so. White man so--left foot up, right foot down. White man's
moccasin, Simon."

"Huh!" Simon grunted gravely. "Mebbyso white man; mebbyso _sitkum
Siwash_."

"Half-breed nothing!" Farwell declared. "Straight white, I tell you.
Now get ahead on the trail."

But whatever Simon's skill as a trailer, it availed little. In half a
mile the hoofprints merged with many others in a beaten track, and so
were lost. Simon halted.

"_Halo mamook!_" said he, signifying that he had done his possible. The
fact was so self-evident that Farwell could not gainsay it.

"That's an easy five for you," he grumbled. "We might as well get back,
Keeler. I never took any stock in that old buck, anyway. He's a gold
brick, like all the rest of them."

But Simon, when they had gone, kept along the beaten track. And shortly
he came to where McCrae had turned the buckboard around. Simon, after
examining the tracks, took pains to efface them entirely; after which
he ambled on, his usually grave countenance illumined by a grin.

Following the road, peering narrowly at either side, he finally came in
sight of Talapus Ranch. Halting, he surveyed the fields.

The ditches of Talapus were once more running rap-full; and Donald
McCrae, his son, and half a dozen men were busy with shovels and hoes
turning the water down among the young grain in marks already prepared
which followed the natural slope of the land; taking care that the
little rivulets should be of sufficient strength to run the length of
the field, but not so strong as to wash out the soil; adjusting the
flow to a nicety with miniature dams of sods and stones.

Old Simon rode slowly along the ditch until he came to where Sandy
McCrae was working.

"Hello, Simon!" said the latter carelessly. "How you makin' it this
morning? You keeping _skookum?_"

"Ah-ha!" Simon responded gutturally. "_Skookum_, you?"

"You bet," Sandy replied. "_Hiyu skookum_ me." He leaned on his shovel
for a moment, stretching his young, sinewy body, grinning at the
Indian. The latter dismounted, and, stooping down, touched the young
man's worn footgear.

"_Mamook huyhuy_ moccasin," said he.

"Swap moccasins?" Sandy repeated. "What for? Yours are new. _Chee_
moccasin, you; oleman moccasin, me. What are you getting at? That's
fool talk."

But Simon insisted. "_Mamook huyhuy_," said he. "_Halo mitlite oleman_
moccasin."

"Why shouldn't I wear my old moccasins?" asked Sandy.

Simon lifted McCrae's right foot and placed his finger on a patch
beneath the ball of the great toe. His features expanded in a knowing
grin. Sandy McCrae's face suddenly became grave and his mouth grim. His
voice, when he spoke, was hard and metallic.

"Quit this sign business and spit it out of you," he ordered. "_Mamook
kumtuks!_ Tell me what you mean!"

Simon condescended to a measure of English which he knew well enough,
but which he usually disdained on general principles. He pointed back
whence he had come.

"_Tenas_ sun (early morning) me stop along camp. Boss _tyee_ man
goodandam mad. Him say _cultus_ man _mamook_ raise _hiyu_ hell. Catch
_hiyu skookum_ powder--bang! Whoosh! Upshego!" He mimicked Farwell's
words and gestures to a nicety. "Him say, s'pose me catch _cultus_ man
me catch _kwimnum_ dolla'." He exhibited the five-dollar bill, grinning
once more. "Good! Me _nanitch_ 'round me find trail. Boss _tyee_ man
see track of oleman moccasin." He pointed to Sandy's right foot.

Young McCrae, his face black as the heart of a storm cloud, said
nothing; but his eyes glinted dangerously. The Indian continued:

"Me _klatawa kimta_ on trail. _Tyee_ man him come, too. Bimeby come to
_hiyu_ trail, all same road. Me lose trail. Me tell _tyee_ man '_halo
mamook_.'" He grinned broadly. "Him _klatawa_ back _yaka illahee_. Me
come along alone. See where _chik-chik_ wagon turn around. All right.
Me come tell you _mamook huyhuy_ moccasin."

It was very plain to Sandy now. The old Indian had recognized the track
of his moccasin at the dam; had followed the trail to the travelled
road where he had deliberately quit; and had come on to warn him to get
rid of the incriminating moccasins which were even then on his feet.
The suggestion of exchange was merely polite diplomacy.

"Simon," he said slowly, "blamed if you ain't a white Injun!"

Simon acknowledged the compliment characteristically. He produced a
pipe and examined the empty bowl with interest.

"_Halo_ smokin', me!" he observed gravely.

Sandy nodded and handed him a large plug. The Indian filled his pipe
and put the tobacco in his pocket.

"You my _tillikum,_" he announced. "When you _tenas_ boy I like you,
you like me. Good, _Konaway_ McCrae (every McCrae) my _tillikum_." He
made a large gesture of generous inclusion, paused for an instant, and
shot a keen glance at his friend. "Cas-ee Dunne my _tillikum,_ too."

"Sure," said Sandy gravely. "We're all friends of yours, Simon."

Simon nodded and considered.

"All rancher my _tillikum_," he continued after an interval. "Ah-ha!
Good! S'pose some time me _mamook_ sick, me feel all same oleman--no
more grub stop, no more smokin' stop--mebbyso all rancher _potlatch_
grub, _potlatch_ smokin', send doctin', send med'cin'? You _kumtuks?_"

He formulated this general scheme of pension and old-age insurance
gravely. With five dollars in hand and a future provided for by
grateful ranchers, he would be able to worship the _Saghalie Tyee_
at the mission with a good heart.

"You don't want much," Sandy commented. "I guess we'd chip in, though,
if you got up against the iron any time. Sure. S'pose you _mamook_
sick, all rancher _mamook_ help, give you _muckamuck_ and smokin',
stake you to doctor and dope; s'pose you go _mimoluse_, bury you in
style."

Simon nodded, well pleased. A fine funeral thrown in for good measure
suited his ideas perfectly. It was no more than his due for this
evidence of friendship. So much for the future. Now for the present. He
surveyed the five-dollar bill and chuckled.

"_Tyee_ man _hyas_ damfool!" said he. He cast a shrewd eye at the sun,
which stood near the meridian. "_Sitkum sun!_" he announced.

"Noon--and that means you're hungry," said Sandy. "I never saw you when
you weren't. Go on up to the house, and say I sent you. _Muckamuck mika
sick yakwahtin._ Eat till your belly goes back on you, if you want to."

Simon grinned again; but he pointed to Sandy's feet.

"You _mamook hyuhuy_ moccasin dam quick!" he warned once more.



CHAPTER XIII


Casey Dunne crossed from the Coldstream Supply Company's store--which
was also the post office--to Bob Shiller's hotel. His pockets bulged
with mail, for it was his first visit to town since the destruction of
the dam a week before, and there was an accumulation of letters,
newspapers, and periodicals. Ever since then he had been irrigating,
throwing upon his thirsty fields every drop of water he could get.

As he came upon the veranda, he saw Shiller in conversation with a
stranger.

"Oh, Casey," said Shiller, "I want you to shake hands with Mr. Glass.
Mr. Glass--Mr. Dunne. Mr. Glass," the genial Bob went on, "has some
notion of locating here if he can get a place to suit him. He likes the
land, and he likes the climate; but the recent--the events--er--the way
things shape at present has a _leetle_ undecided him. Anything Mr.
Dunne tells you, Mr. Glass, will be straight. He has land to burn, and
one of our best ranches. Yes. I'll just leave you to talk it over
together." And so saying, he executed a masterly retreat.

Glass was a mild, colourless, middle-aged man, attired in worn
hand-me-down garments. His blue eyes, clear and direct enough, seemed
to hold a little of the pathetic apprehension and appeal of a lost
puppy. He hesitated when he spoke, repeatedly qualifying his
statements. His was the awkwardness of the man who, having spent his
life in familiar surroundings in some small community, suddenly finds
himself in new places among strangers. And, lacking adaptability, is
constrained and ill at ease.

"You see, Mr. Dunne, it's this way with me," he began. And, appearing
to remember something suddenly, he asked: "Hadn't we better have a
drink?"

"Not unless you need it in your business," said Casey. "Sit down and
smoke a cigar with me and tell me your trouble."

"Well, I'd just as soon," said Glass, plainly relieved. "I don't drink
much myself. My wife don't like it. It's a bad example for the
children. But I thought that out here, maybe from what I'd heard----"

"Current Western fiction!" Casey laughed. "No, we don't drink every
time we shake hands. Couldn't stand it. Well, what can I do for you?"

And thereupon Mr. Glass unbosomed himself ramblingly, with much detail,
which included a sketch of his life and family history. Casey saw that
Shiller had unloaded a bore on him.

Glass, it appeared, hailed from Maine, from the vicinity of one of the
"obscots" or "coggins." He had followed various callings--carpenter,
market gardener, and grocer--with indifferent success; but he had
succeeded in accumulating a few thousand dollars. His eldest girl was
not well. Consumption ran in her mother's family. The doctor had
ordered a dryer climate, a higher altitude. For some years Glass had
been thinking of migrating westward; but he had stuck in the narrow
groove, lacking the initiative to pull up stakes and see for himself
the land in which others had prospered. This sickness had decided
him--and here he was.

He liked the climate, which he was sure would be just the thing for his
daughter; and he liked the land. But here was the point--and it was the
point which was worrying Sleeman grayheaded. There was trouble between
the ranchers and the land company. Not that it was for him to say who
was right or wrong. But there _was_ trouble. Now, he was a man of small
means, and he was forced to put all his eggs in one basket. Which was
to say, that if he bought land, and subsequently was unable to get
water for it, he would be ruined. Also he had heard that the ranchers
were unfriendly to those who bought land from the company.

"And I'm a man that has kept out of trouble all my life, Mr. Dunne," he
concluded plaintively. "I'm on good terms with everybody at home, and I
wouldn't want, right at the start-off, as you might say, to have
anybody think I was trying to take water away from him. And yet I like
the country. I thought maybe you could advise me what to do. It seems
like a lot of gall asking you, too; you having land for sale and me
thinking of buying the company's. But, then, I saw their advertising.
It was only right I should go to them, wasn't it?"

"Of course," said Casey. "I haven't any land for sale now. I'm holding
what I have. But as to advising you, it's a difficult thing. Here's the
situation: The amount of the total water supply is limited. The railway
claims the right to take it all, if it likes. We claim enough to
irrigate our properties. Right there we lock horns. There is a lawsuit
just starting; but the Lord only knows which way it will be settled, or
when. And now you know as much about it as I do."

"It don't look good," said Glass, shaking his head. "No, sir, it don't
look good to me. And here's another thing. They tell me that there was
trouble out here a ways the other night. I mean with the company's dam.
Of course, I don't know anything about it myself; it's just what I've
heard. I hope you don't mind me speakin' of it."

"Not in the least. Well, what about it, Mr. Glass?"

"It was a turrible risky thing to do--to blow up a dam," said Glass.
"It'd be against the law, wouldn't it? Of course, I don't say it was.
It might not be. I don't claim to know, and likely whoever done it had
reasons. All the same, I wouldn't choose to be mixed up in doin's like
that."

"Good thing to keep out of," Casey agreed.

"I wouldn't want anything of mine to be blown up."

"But who would blow up anything of yours?"

"I don't say anybody'd do it, of course," Glass protested hastily.
"Only, you see, men that'd blow up a dam are--I mean, if I bought land
off of the company and started in to use water and farm, they might
blame me. I wouldn't want to get my neighbours down on me, Mr. Dunne."

"Does that mean you think that some of your prospective neighbours blew
up the dam?"

"No, no," Glass disclaimed, in a flurry. "I don't know who did it, of
course. I'm not saying anybody did. Only somebody must of. That's just
common sense. You'll admit that yourself."

"Why, yes, that's a pretty safe conclusion," Casey agreed. "I don't
think you need worry about that, though. The only point is whether the
company will be able to keep an agreement to supply you with water. I
can't tell you whether they will or not. If you buy you take a chance.
If you bought from me, you'd take almost the same chance."

"I don't know what to do," said Glass, picking nervously at his
white-metal watch chain. "It's hard to tell--there's so many things to
be considered. I can't afford to lose money. This irrigation's new to
me. I never saw it working. Would you mind if I came out to your farm
and sort of looked around? I could learn a lot that way. Maybe if you
had time, you could explain what I didn't understand? But, then, I
wouldn't want to trouble you."

But Casey Dunne was already tired of Glass, of his timidity, his
indecision, his self-effacement, his continual air of apology for
existence.

"Come any time," he said. "Glad to see you. Sorry I can't do any more
for you; but you'll have to decide for yourself."

"Yes, I know," Glass agreed dismally. "I'll look around first. I'm
obliged to you. You--you're sure you won't have a drink? No. Well, I
guess I'll go in and write a letter to my wife. I write to her twice a
week. I'll see you later, maybe."

Casey nodded, glad to be rid of him. He put his feet on the rail and
proceeded to go through his correspondence, which, though bulky, was
not especially important.

"The mails would be a whole lot lighter if it wasn't for fake oil and
cement propositions and special offers of the world's best authors," he
grumbled. "Promoters and publishers seem to consider the small post
office the natural breeding ground for suckers. Maybe they're right,
too. Hello! Here's something different."

It was a large, square, white envelope, perfectly plain, but of
aristocratic finish and thickness.

"Wedding--for the drinks!" growled Casey. "Not so different, after
all." He ripped it open ruthlessly with his thumb. "Here's where I get
set back a few dollars starting another domestic plant. Blamed if it's
any better than--hello!"

It was not a wedding announcement. Instead, it was a check. The amount
thereof was the surprising sum of eighty cents, exchange added; and the
signature, firm, square, clear-cut as lettering, was "_Clyde Burnaby_."

"Now what the devil?" Casey exclaimed, and jerked out the accompanying
letter.

It was merely a short, friendly note. Miss Burnaby inclosed her check
for one year's interest, at 8 per cent. on the loan from Mr. Dunne. She
referred to the Wades. Gave an item or two of unimportant personal
news. Hoped that his ranch was flourishing, and that he was well: and
was his very cordially.

In feminine fashion followed a postscript:

    Kitty Wade tells me that you are having trouble with some company
    which is taking water that you need for your ranch. I hope it isn't
    serious trouble, though she hinted as much. Do you care to tell me
    about it?

Casey Dunne sat for some minutes, the check and letter across his
knees, while he gazed unblinkingly through the hot sunshine. It was
some time since he had given Clyde Burnaby more than an occasional
thought; his immediate affairs had been too pressing. Now the vision of
her, as he had seen her last, rose before his eyes, and he found it a
pleasant recollection. He, whose life since childhood had been passed
in the outposts and beyond them, treasured the memories of the few
occasions when chance had permitted him to sit with his own kind, to
talk to them, to live as he would have lived had not fate forced him to
hoe his own row, and chosen for him a row in the new lands.

Of the women he had met in these rare incursions he could recall none
who pleased him as well as Clyde Burnaby. Her interest in his affairs
pleased him also. He recalled her as she had sat across the aisle in
the Pullman, her absolute frigidity to the advances of the would-be
Lothario, her haughty stare when she had suspected him of like intent,
her perfect composure during the holdup. Little things like that showed
the stuff a girl was made of. Nothing foolish or nervous or hysterical
about her. And then, subsequently, when he had met her on her own
ground, she had endeavoured to put him at his ease. Funny that, but he
appreciated it, nevertheless. And she could talk. She didn't giggle and
ask inane questions. Nor did she treat him as some sort of a natural
curiosity, who might be expected to do something shocking but
entertaining at any moment. She was sensible as--well--as sensible as
Sheila McCrae herself.

And that, Casey reflected, was by way of being a high compliment; for
Sheila had more sense than most men. He would take her opinion on any
subject as well worth consideration. She and Clyde Burnaby were two
young women very much above the ordinary run--in his opinion, at least.

Idly he wondered if chance would ever bring them together. Unlikely.
Because he had nothing else to do at the moment, he amused himself by a
process of transposition, of transmigration. He imagined Clyde Burnaby
in Sheila's place, riding Beaver Boy over the brown swells, along the
narrow trails and abrupt rises of the foothills, raising several
hundred chickens, helping with the housework, the mending--all the
daily feminine chores that fell to the lot of a rancher's womenkind.
Would she be as good a friend to him as Sheila had been? And he fancied
Sheila in her place--tailor-mades and evening gowns instead of riding
skirts, Paris instead of pony hats, with nothing in particular to do
but have a good time and spend money. Make good? Of course she would.
She was clean-cut, thoroughbred, smart as a whip. Perhaps she wasn't
quite as good-looking as Miss Burnaby; but, after all, that was largely
a matter of taste. She was a different style.

He looked at the check lying on his knee, and laughed at the idea of
interest on ten dollars. He had forgotten all about that conceit, but
she had not. He would frame the check--yes, that was what he would do.
In time there would be quite a bunch of them--that is, if she
remembered to send them. Well, anyway, he would have to acknowledge it,
and he might as well do it at once.

He went indoors and began to write. He had intended but a brief note,
but in construction it lengthened. With him letter writing was never an
effort. He wrote as easily as he talked, colloquially, without any
attempt at style or set phrase. Soon he found himself tersely
describing the water situation, forecasting the probabilities. As these
were not too cheering, he frowned and added an optimistic sentence or
two for general effect. He concluded with a hope that she would some
time honour his country with a visit, when his ranch and all it
contained--including its owner--would be entirely at her service.

On his way to post the letter he passed Glass, still struggling with
his own composition. That poor devil! A perfect type of incompetent. He
was too slow and timid for the West--too old to learn the lessons of
self-reliance and adaptability of a new land. However, that was his own
affair. If he would work he could make a living, and that was all that
he or those like him could make anywhere.

Dunne strolled down to the station to mail his letter in the box there;
and, as he turned the corner of the building, he came full upon Farwell
and another burly individual in conversation with Quilty, the station
agent.

"Tell them to start a tracer from the other end after those car
numbers," Farwell was commanding; "and you start one from here. I've
got to have them right away; work's at a standstill. Those cursed
fatheads in the freight department don't know enough to shovel ballast.
Get after them with a sharp stick."

"I'll do me best for ye," Quilty promised; "but freight on this line
comes whin ut comes."

"It will come when I want it, or somebody will lose a job," said
Farwell. "I'm not the ordinary consignee, and you can tell them that,
too."

"I'll do that same," said Quilty; "but I misdoubt if a cyar wheel turns
the faster for ut. I mind back in eighty-five--or maybe 'twas
eighty-three ut was--whin O'Brien--'Flapjack' O'Brien they called him
then, though he's climbed high enough since--well, whin O'Brien was a
plain, iveryday, thievin' conthractor, and a dom bad wan at that, he
had a nephew named Burke that married a Finnegan--or maybe ut was
Finucane--whose father pulled ould Sivinty-six, a wood-burnin'
monsthrosity iv an ingin' that be th' grace iv God an' a full sand box
might be good for a 3-per-cent grade anny dry day in summer but a
Friday. Annyways, as I started to tell ye, Danny Powers fired for
Finnegan or Finucane, whichever ut was, and him and this Burke----"

But Farwell cursed Powers and Burke. "You burn the wires getting those
cars for me!" he ordered. "What the devil do I care for all those
construction-days micks? You talk too much. Get busy!" With which he
turned and walked away with his companion.

"Pleasant gentleman, Corney!" Casey ventured.

The little station agent winked. "Th' black dog is on him sure enough,"
he observed. "Since his dam was blowed up, he has th' civil word for
nobody. Listen, now, Casey. Somebody will pay for that night's work."

"I don't quite get you, Corney."

"Oh, divil th' fear iv yez not gettin' me. I'm not speakin' now in me
official capacity; for praise God this dam is outside th' duties iv me
jurisdiction. I'm tellin' ye as a friend."

"I know, Corney; but tell me a little plainer."

"Plainer is ut? Yez are a man grown. Do yez think yez can crim'nally
an' wid conthributory vi'lence aforethought dynymite me employers'
property, an' no comeback at all? Have sinse!"

"Hold on," said Casey. "Go slow, Corney." But Mr. Quilty dismissed this
preliminary objection with a wave of his hand.

"Thim's figgers iv speech. I assume yez are innocent until yez are
caught. Faix, it's not me'd give th' hot tip iv a warnin' to a
crim'nal. But whisper now! Th' comp'ny is for siftin' this outrageous
outrage to th' bottom, an' then liftin' th' bottom to look under it.
Havin' put its hand to th' plow, it will l'ave no stone unturned to
probe th' mysthry. Ye seen that felly wid Farwell. He's th' railway
detective!"

"Meaning that they're out to round up somebody, eh?" said Casey. "All
right, Corney; let 'em go to it."

"In me official capacity," said Mr. Quilty, looking him sternly in the
eye, "I hope th' dirty blagyards is caught red-handed and soaked hard
for th' shameless and di'bolical atrocity they have perpetuated. For
such abandoned miscreants hangin' is too dom ladylike a punishment. I
want yez to understand me official sintimints in me official capacity
clearly. Yez may quote me exact words if ye feel so disposed."

"In your official capacity," said Casey, "your official sentiments do
you great credit."

"I'm glad ye think so," said Mr. Quilty; "for in me private capacity,
speakin' widout prejudice to me salary and as a true son iv dear, ould,
dirty Dublin to a friend, me private sintimints is these: Th' man that
invinted dynymite should have a set iv goold medals th' size iv a
compound's dhrivers. But if iver ye mintion me private sintimints to a
soul, I'll have yer life!"



CHAPTER XIV


Farwell was by nature obstinate; he was also resourceful, and
accustomed to carrying out his instructions by hook or by crook. That
was one reason why he was such a valuable man. He accomplished his ends
or his employers' ends after some fashion. Therefore, when the almost
completed dam was destroyed, he recognized merely a temporary, if
expensive, setback. The company could afford to pay for any number of
dams; but, in order to push their sales, and, as a first step toward
acquiring other properties at a minimum figure, they wanted the water
on their lands at once. Very well, they should have it.

Though the dam was practically wrecked, the main canal was intact. Its
intake was just above the dam, solidly built of masonry, with sluice
gates to control the volume of water. Without the dam it carried a
comparatively small stream. With the dam, and the consequent raising of
the water level, it would roar full from wall to wall, a river in
itself.

Just at its lower lip Farwell began to drive piles at an angle
upstream. He sank brush with hundreds of bags of sand, made cribwork
filled with whatever rubbish came to his hand, and soon he had the
makings of a temporary dam, rude, but effective. It would serve three
purposes: It would fill the company's ditches; it would practically
empty the ranchers'; and it would render the rebuilding of the
permanent dam easier. Farwell was quite satisfied with himself.

Meanwhile, he found time to ride over to Talapus occasionally. His
footing there was anomalous, and he felt it. On the one hand he wished
the McCraes well and had done all he could for them; on the other he
was ruthlessly carrying out a project which would ruin them. Under
these circumstances he looked for no more than tolerance. He now owned
frankly to himself that he was in love with Sheila. He had made little
progress with his wooing, nor did he expect to make more just then. His
blunt assertiveness covered a natural shyness where women were
concerned, and he had about as much idea of the fine points of the game
as a logger has of cabinet-making. Still, he was drawn to her by a
desire which he was unable to resist. He had a profound belief in
himself and in his capacity for material success; he considered himself
an eligible match for any girl, and he relied on Sheila's good sense to
realize what he had taken pains to make plain--that while his loyalty
to his employers forced him to carry out their instructions, his
sympathies were with her and her family. Of this he had given
indubitable proof. He had no intention of dropping out of sight, of
discontinuing his visits, so long as they were tolerated, of leaving
the field clear to another, perhaps to Dunne. With her he bore a white
flag always, insisting that between them there was friendly truce.

He was of the opinion that the McCraes, father and son, had no hand in
the dynamiting; though he conceded that they could make an excellent
guess at the perpetrators. But Farwell thought he could do that
himself; he fixed the responsibility on Casey Dunne.

The McCraes did not mention the dam, but Farwell had no hesitation in
broaching the subject. He predicted speedy and exemplary punishment for
the guilty.

Donald McCrae listened gravely, his face expressionless. Sandy wore a
faint, ironic smile which irritated Farwell.

"You don't think so?" asked the engineer pointedly.

"You're doing the talking--I'm not," said Sandy.

Farwell reddened angrily. There was more in the tone than in the words.
It implied that talk was Farwell's long suit. Farwell disliked Sandy
extremely, but with a self-control which he rarely exercised, forbore
to retort. Hot-tempered as he was, he realized that he could not
declare his belief in the guilt of any person without some evidence.
His smouldering eye measured Sandy, taking him in from head to foot,
and rested on the smoky golden tan of a pair of new moccasins which he
wore.

Now, Sandy had acquired the moccasin habit in childhood and retained
it. It was rarely that he wore boots around the ranch. Farwell, looking
at the new moccasins, which were handsomely embroidered with silk
thread, noted the straight inner line of the foot, from toe to heel. It
was like the foot of an aborigine; undeformed, undeflected from
nature's lines by fashionable footgear. By suggestion the moccasin
track at the dam occurred to him. He recalled its straight inner line.
McCrae's moccasined foot would make just such a track. Was it possible
that he, at least, was one of the dynamiters?

Not only possible, Farwell decided, after a moment's reflection, but
probable. The elder man he exonerated mentally. The son, young,
hostile, possessing unlimited nerve, was just the man for such an
enterprise. And if he were concerned in it, and the fact were
ascertained what a devil of a mess it would make!

For a moment he was tempted to test his suspicion by some pointed
allusion, but thought better of it. And shortly after the two men
withdrew, leaving him with Sheila.

"This is a nasty business," said Farwell, after a long pause, reverting
to the former topic. "I wouldn't like it--no matter what turns up--to
make any difference between us."

"There isn't much difference to make," she reminded him.

"No, I suppose not," he admitted, slightly disconcerted. "We're merely
acquaintances. Only"--he hesitated--"only I thought--perhaps--we might
be friends."

Which was going very strong--for Farwell. He said it awkwardly,
stiffly, because he was quite unaccustomed to such phrase. Sheila
smiled to herself in the growing darkness.

"Well, friends if you like. But then we are of different camps--hostile
camps."

"But I'm not hostile," said Farwell. "That's nonsense. Business is
business, but outside of that it cuts no ice with me."

"Doesn't it?"

"Not with me," he declared stoutly. "Not a bit. You didn't blow up the
dam. Even if you had----"

"Even if I had----"

"I wouldn't care," Farwell blurted. "Thank the Lord I'm not
narrow-minded."

Sheila laughed. Her estimate of Farwell did not credit him with
wideness of outlook. But her reply was prevented by the _thud-thud_ of
rapid hoofs. A horse and rider loomed through the dark.

"Hello, Sheila!" the rider called.

"Why, Casey, this is luck!" she exclaimed. Farwell scowled at the
evident pleasure in her voice. "Light down. Better put your horse in
the stable."

"That you, McCrae?" said Dunne, peering at the glow of Farwell's cigar.
"I want to see you about----"

"It's Mr. Farwell," Sheila interjected quickly.

A pause. Casey's voice, smooth, polite, broke it.

"I didn't recognize you, Mr. Farwell. How are you?" He dismounted,
dropped his reins, and came upon the veranda. "Lovely night, isn't it?
Well, and how is everything going with you?"

"I'm fairly busy," Farwell replied grimly, "thanks to the actions of
some persons who imagine themselves unknown."

Casey Dunne lit a cigar and held the match in his hand till the flame
touched his fingers. He spoke through the ensuing greater darkness:

"I heard that your dam wasn't holding very well."

"Not very well," Farwell agreed, struggling with his temper. "Perhaps
you _heard_ that it was dynamited?"

"I think I've heard most of the rumours," Dunne responded calmly.

"I have no doubt of that," Farwell observed with meaning.

"Great country for rumours," Casey went on. "Somebody always knows your
inmost thoughts. Your intentions are known by others before you know
them yourself. You are no exception, Mr. Farwell. The mind readers are
busy with you. No action you might take would surprise them. They are
quite ready for anything."

"I may surprise these wise people yet," said Farwell. "I suppose they
counted on depriving our lands of water by destroying our dam?"

"That's certainly an original way of putting it," said Casey. "Well?"

"Well, they didn't foresee that, though our permanent work is wrecked,
and will take time to rebuild, we would put in a temporary wing of
logs, brush, and sand which would give us a partial supply."

"No, they didn't foresee that, likely," Casey admitted. "This wing dam
of yours is quite an idea. By the way, I'm not getting enough water
now, myself. Couldn't you get along with less than you are taking?"

"No," Farwell returned shortly.

"These wise people thought you could or would," said Casey, and,
turning to Sheila, asked for her father. A few minutes afterward he
strode off in search of him.

Farwell endeavoured to pick up the broken thread of conversation with
Sheila. But this proved difficult. She was preoccupied; and he himself
found Dunne's concluding words sticking in his memory. Did they hide a
sinister meaning? He disliked Dunne heartily, and he was jealous of him
besides, without having any definite cause; but he no longer underrated
him.

On his way to camp he turned the problem over and over in his mind, but
could make nothing of it, unless the words foreshadowed an attempt on
the temporary dam. But there seemed to be little chance for the success
of such an undertaking. Big acetylenes flared all night by the
makeshift structure, and two men with shotguns watched by it. The whole
camp was under almost martial law.

Farwell walked down to the river before he retired, to find the
watchman very wide awake and a torrent booming through the stone-faced
canal intake, to be distributed through a network of ditches upon the
company's lands miles away. Farwell, satisfied, instructed the watchmen
to keep a bright lookout, and turned in.

Once in the night he awoke with the impression that he had heard
thunder, but as the stars were shining he put it down to a dream and
went to sleep again. In the morning one of the watchmen reported a
distant sound resembling a blast, but he had no idea where it was.
Farwell attached no importance to it.

But in the middle of the morning his ditch foreman, Bergin, rode in
angry and profane. And his report caused similar manifestations in
Farwell.

The main canal and larger ditches had been blown up in half a dozen
places, usually where they wound around sidehills, and the released
water had wrought hideous damage to the banks, causing landslides,
washing thousands of tons of soil away, making it necessary to alter
the ditch line altogether or put in fluming where the damage had
occurred.

Nor was this all. Some three miles from the camp the main canal crossed
a deep coulée. To get the water across, a trestle had been erected and
a flume laid on it. The fluming was the largest size, patent-metal
stuff, half round, joined with rods, riveted and clinched. To carry the
volume of water there were three rows of this laid side by side,
cemented into the main canal at the ends. It had been a beautiful and
expensive job; and it reproduced finely in advertising matter. It was
now a wreck.

Farwell rode out with Bergin to the scene of devastation. Now trestle
and fluming lay in bent, rent, and riven ruin at the bottom of the
coulée. The canal vomited its contents indecently down the nearest
bank. A muddy river flowed down the coulée's bed. And the peculiarly
bitter part of the whole affair was that the water, following the
course of the coulée, ran back into the river again, whence it was
available for use by the ranchers. It was as if the river had never
been dammed. What water was diverted by the temporary dam got back to
the river by way of the canal and coulée, somewhat muddied, but equally
wet, and just as good as ever for irrigation purposes.

Bergin cursed afresh, but Farwell's anger was too bitter and deep for
mere profanity. He sat in his saddle scowling at the wreck.

Once more it had been put over on him. He thought he had taken every
possible precaution. Of course, ditches might be cut at any time; short
of a constant patrol there was no way of preventing that. But this
coulée was a thing which any man with eyes in his head and a brain back
of them might have seen and thought of. And he had allowed this costly
bit of fluming to lie open to destruction when it was the very key to
the situation, so far as the ranchers were concerned!

His instructions had been to take the water to bring them to a properly
humble frame of mind. It was part of his job to protect his employers'
property; that was what he was there for. He had taken ordinary
precautions, too, so far as the dam was concerned. But he had entirely
overlooked the fact, as obvious as that water runs downhill, that if
his canal were cut at the coulée its contents must flow back into the
river. Everything was now set back. With this second outrage land sales
would stop altogether. It was a sickening jolt. He thought of the
questions he would have to answer. He would be asked why he hadn't done
this. It would be no answer to point out that he had done that. People
were always so cursed wise after the event!

And then he remembered Casey Dunne's words. Dunne had said that he was
not getting enough water, had asked for more, had practically given him
warning. Now every rancher's ditches were running full, and all he had
to show for his work was a horrible mass of wreckage.

Farwell had disliked Dunne at first sight; now he hated him. He would
have liked to come to actual grips with him, to break that lean, wiry
body with his own tremendous strength, to bruise and batter that
quietly mocking face with his great fists.

But the worst of it all was that he had nothing to go on. There was not
a shred of evidence to connect Dunne with the destruction of the dam
and flume. The detective sent down by the company had looked wise but
had found out nothing. The only thing in the nature of a clew was a
moccasin track, and that led to young McCrae, whom, for Sheila's sake,
he did not wish to involve. He felt that through no fault of his own he
had made a mess of everything. The ranchers had won every round. As
Africa had been the grave of countless military reputations, so Farwell
saw his own repute interred along the Coldstream.

Something had to be done. He was tired of taking unavailing
precautions, of sitting passively waiting for attacks. In the nature of
things it was impossible to guard adequately works extending over miles
of uninhabited country. Guerilla warfare could not be met by regular
tactics.

As he scowled down at the muddy torrent an idea began to germinate in
his mind. The main thing was to crush these ranchers, to bring them to
their knees. After that all would be easy, there would be an end of
difficulties. The engineering problems were the least. He had a free
hand; he was backed by an enormous corporation which would go the
limit. He resolved to fight fire with fire--to give the ranchers a dose
of their own medicine.



CHAPTER XV


When Clyde Burnaby entered Wade's office, that busy lawyer was much
surprised. "I thought you had gone away," he said as they shook hands.
"It beats me how any young woman with the price of an elsewhere can
stay in this town in summer."

Clyde laughed as she sat down. She looked deliciously cool, though the
mercury was in the nineties, and the dusty cañonlike streets were like
ovens. "I was on the point of going," she admitted, "but I don't know
where to go. I came for some information on another point, Mr. Wade."

"Yes?" said Wade interrogatively. "We carry a very complete stock of
information here." He waved a hand at the formidable rows of half-calf
and circuit bindings in his bookcase. "What particular shade, model, or
style may I show you? Something seasonable and yet durable? Here is a
very attractive and well-bound ten-pound creation covering most of the
common or garden varieties of contract, including breach of promise to
marry. Nice summer reading. Or, perhaps----"

"Now _do_ you think any sensible man would break such a promise to me?"
she laughed.

"You know the answer already," Wade replied. "You are a very
good-looking young woman--almost as good-looking as Kitty."

"Model husband," Clyde commented approvingly. "Kitty is a darling. But
to come to the point, Mr. Wade, I want some information about Mr.
Dunne."

"Casey Dunne?" inquired Wade, with a slight lift of his brows. "What
has he been doing? What do you want to know about him?"

"I want to know about his business affairs--or perhaps I should say his
business troubles."

"Why?" Wade asked bluntly, eying her with curiosity.

Clyde's colour heightened a little but she met his gaze directly. "I
had a letter from him," she replied, "in which, among other things, he
referred to his troubles with the railway company that owns land in his
district--troubles about water. It seems to be a serious matter."

"How did he happen to write you about it?" asked Wade. "Do you
correspond? I beg your pardon. It's none of my business, but Casey
isn't given to telling his troubles."

"I think," said Clyde, "I had better tell you how I first met Mr.
Dunne." She did so, considerably to Wade's surprise.

"That's just like Casey all through," he commented. "Close as a clam.
Never told me about meeting you before. And so he lent you ten dollars!
You!" He chuckled at the idea. "Well, later he may have a use for that
same ten."

"You really mean that? If money would help him now----"

"It isn't necessary just yet. I'll tell you how matters stand." He did
so with brevity and lucidity. "The situation now is that the government
leaves the right to water to be determined by the courts. The court
won't sit till some time in September. So there you are. Meanwhile the
company is trying to take the water and the ranchers are trying to
prevent them. So far nobody has been hurt, but I'm afraid, with the
bitterness which is sure to develop, there may be serious trouble at
any time."

"Mr. Dunne and his friends have not funds for a long legal fight?"

"No. Casey himself is land poor--that is, he has put every dollar he
could rake together into land. He will either go broke or make a
killing. The others have good ranches, but no money. And they can't
raise any on their land, for nobody would lend under these conditions.
Their very existence is involved."

"I have plenty of money," said Clyde. "More than I know what to do
with; more than I can ever spend, living as I do. I will give you a
check now for whatever sum you require to take this case to the very
highest court."

"That's a very generous offer," said Wade, "but I can't accept it. It's
not merely a case of lack of the sinews of war. It's a case of a huge
corporation against a few individuals with as little influence as they
have money. You might put up law costs to an enormous extent uselessly.
You see, you would be bucking Western Airline. Your respected uncle
might do that, but you can't."

Clyde's smooth forehead wrinkled thoughtfully. But she merely said: "If
I can do anything--with money or in any other way--for Mr. Dunne and
his friends, I'm ready to do it."

"I don't know what you can do just now," said Wade. "I'm going on a
vacation for a few weeks. Most of it I intend to spend out in that part
of the country. When I return I'll know more about it."

"Is Kitty going, too?" Clyde asked.

"She wants to, but I don't like the idea. It's a little rough there.
I'd prefer her to go where she'd be more comfortable."

"She wouldn't enjoy it alone."

"Suppose you keep her company," Wade suggested. "She'd be delighted."

"Suppose," said Clyde, "we both keep you company?"

"Eh!" said Wade.

"Well, why not? We're both sick of dressed-up summer resorts. I want to
see this country of Mr. Dunne's. We can rough it if we have to. We'll
have a camp or take a house--we'll get along somehow."

"Oh, nonsense!" Wade objected. "You wouldn't like it. It's as hot as
perdition in the daytime. You'd be sick of it."

"If we don't like it we can leave. If Kitty will go and doesn't object
to me, will you take us both?"

"You'll both go if you want to, whether I say 'no' or not," said Wade.
"Is this a put-up job? Have you fixed it with Kitty?"

"Not yet," said Clyde, her eyes twinkling, "but I'm going to."

From Wade's office Clyde went straight to the headquarters of the Hess
System, finding its chief in the act of leaving.

Jim Hess was big, carelessly dressed, kindly faced, and the gray of his
close-clipped moustache was yellowed by smoke. He sat down and motioned
his niece to a seat, his hand mechanically searching for a cigar.

"Well, young lady, what's the trouble?" he asked.

"I want about fifteen minutes of your time, Uncle Jim."

"Easy," Hess commented. As a rule he was sparing of words. "I was
afraid you wanted to borrow money." Nevertheless he eyed her shrewdly.
She was a great favourite of his, and he devoted much more time to her
affairs than she suspected.

Beginning at the beginning, she told him of Casey Dunne, her meeting
with him, the water trouble, and the attitude of the Western Airline.
Her memory was good and her understanding excellent. Therefore she was
able to state the case clearly.

"This Dunne and his friends," Hess commented, "seem to me to be up
against it."

"I thought that you might be able to do something to help them."

"What?"

"I didn't know. But you are a railway man. You may have some influence
with Mr. York or his directors. Perhaps you might bring influence to
bear."

Hess smiled grimly. "Old Nick has more influence with York than I have.
He crosses the street when he sees me. I like him about as much as he
likes me. He's boss of his own show--his directors cut no ice. Anyway,
it's none of my business. I've no excuse for butting in." Her face
showed her disappointment. "I'm sorry," said Hess. "I'd do anything I
could for you, little girl, or for any one who ever did you a good
turn. But you see how it is. I can't ask favours of York and his crowd.
If I did they'd only refuse."

"Of course not--if it's that way," Clyde acknowledged. "I didn't know.
I thought you might be able to do something or suggest something."

Hess was silent, smoking meditatively, drawing aimless lines on a
blotter. "Got much money loose?" he asked suddenly.

"Plenty," Clyde replied. "Why?"

"Well," said Hess slowly, "just at present Western Air looks to me like
good buying."

"Does it? I'll buy a little, if you say so."

"Don't say I said so; don't mention my name. Tell your brokers to buy
quietly at the market just as much as you can stand. Tell 'em to buy
till you countermand their instructions. I'll let you know when to do
that. Tell 'em to buy at the present market. If the price breaks keep
on buying. And if you go away anywhere let me know where a wire will
get you."

"Thanks, Uncle Jim," said Clyde. "You think Western Air is a good
investment, then?"

"I didn't say that--I said it was good buying," said Hess. "It's not
high now. Some day"--he hesitated--"some day it ought to be worth as
much as Hess System--as much as one of our own stocks."

With this prophecy, which he appeared to regret, Jim Hess patted his
niece on the shoulder, told her not to worry about other people's
troubles, and departed to keep his engagement.

Clyde immediately rang up Mrs. Wade, and, finding her at home,
proceeded there at once, to "fix" matters; a thing by no means hard to
accomplish, for Kitty Wade found the prospect of a lonesome vacation
very unattractive, and was a willing conspirator.

"We'll just _make_ Harrison take us," she declared. "We'll have all
sorts of a good time, too, riding and driving and fishing and whatever
else they do. Won't it be a relief not to have to dress up? And I'll be
an ideal chaperon, dear, upon my word."

"Oh, my liking for Mr. Dunne hasn't reached that stage," laughed Clyde,
flushing a little, but too wise to pretend density. She had ever found
that the best defence against such badinage lay in frankness. "But
don't leave me alone with him, Kitty. It might end with his endowing me
with his name and worldly goods. 'Mrs. Casey Dunne!' Euphonious, don't
you think? I wonder if I should like to hear myself announced in that
way?"

Kitty Wade glanced at her narrowly. Clyde's face expressed nothing but
laughing amusement.

"Harrison has a high opinion of him," she said. "I believe his father
was supposed to be wealthy until after his death, when Mr. Dunne was a
boy. And he is very presentable. I think he deserves a great deal of
credit."

"So do I," Clyde agreed heartily. "I told Mr. Wade that I was prepared
to furnish whatever money was needed for this lawsuit of Mr. Dunne's."

"You did!" exclaimed Mrs. Wade. "Why, Clyde whatever for? How does it
concern you?"

And Clyde told her for the first time of her first meeting with Casey
Dunne.

"And you never told me!" Kitty Wade commented, as her husband had done.
"It's a real romance in real life. But I think you are the most
generous girl I ever heard of. If you were in love with him, of course
that would explain it. Aren't you, now--a little?"

"I'm not in love with him, Kitty--honestly I'm not," Clyde responded.
"I don't know whether I shall ever be or not. He did me a service which
I would like to repay. I have more money than I know what to do with.
If money would help him over a rough place it was up to me. At least,
that's how I looked at it. And as for going out to his country--why, I
want to, that's all. I want to see the country which produces that sort
of man. He's different from the others, somehow. I don't think he cares
whether I have money or not. He wasn't going to recall himself to me
till I practically recognized him. I know I'm good-looking and I know
he knows it, but I don't think he cares. And he'd never have written me
in this world or told me a thing about it himself if I hadn't written
him first and asked him to."

"Why, Clyde!" Kitty Wade exclaimed in amazement.

"That's exactly what I did," Clyde asseverated. "If I were in love with
him that would be the last thing I'd own up to, wouldn't it? Heavens
above! Kitty, I know it's unmaidenly by all the old standards. You're
married; you have your husband and your home and your interests. I have
none of these things. You can't realize how utterly purposeless and
idle and empty my life is. Just killing time. That was well enough a
few years ago, and I enjoyed it. But now I'm as old as you are. I want
something different from the daily and yearly round of sameness. If I
were a man I'd work sixteen hours a day. If I had any special talent
I'd cultivate it. But I haven't. I'm just an ordinary rich girl, in
danger of physical and mental stagnation--in danger of marrying some
equally rich man whom I don't love, in order to provide myself with new
interests."

"Casey Dunne is a new interest, I suppose," said Kitty Wade dryly.

"I wish you wouldn't, Kitty," said Clyde.

"Then I won't," said Kitty Wade, "for I think you believe what you say.
Which," she added to herself, "is more than I do, young lady."



CHAPTER XVI


On all the ranches along the Coldstream there was water in plenty. The
ditches ran brimful. In the fields the soil was dark with grateful
moisture; the roots of the grain drank deep, fed full on the stored
fertility of ages magically released by the water, and shot suddenly
from small, frail plants, apparently lying thinly in the drills, into
crowding, lusty growths, vigorous, strong-stemmed, robust, throwing
millions of green pennants to the warm winds. Down the length of the
fields at narrow intervals trickled little streams like liquid silver
wires strung against a background of living emerald. Pullulation was
forced, swift, marvellous; one could almost hear the grain grow.

Though everything pointed to a bumper crop, this depended on a
continued water supply, and the ranchers took full advantage of the
present, for none could tell how long the conditions would endure. As
soon as one piece of land had sufficient moisture the water was shifted
elsewhere; they allowed no overflow, no waste. This meant long hours,
continuous, if not arduous work.

Naturally each ranch's main ditch was the heart of its water supply.
From these, smaller ditches carried the supply to the different fields.
These represented the arteries. The small streams trickling down the
long irrigation marks through the grain and root crops might be likened
to veins. To supply these it was necessary to tap the arteries every
few yards; and the adjustment of these outlets, as ditches always lower
during the heat of the day when suction and evaporation are the
greatest and rise in the cooler hours of the night, was a matter of
some skill and difficulty.

Dunne and his entire force worked overtime, taking all they could get
while they could get it. Glass, the timorous would-be investor, paid
him several visits. The first time Casey himself showed him over the
ranch, explaining the theory and practice of irrigation, telling him
what crops could be grown, what could not be grown, and what might
perhaps be grown but as yet had not been proven. Glass absorbed this
information like a sponge. Once more he recited his doubts and fears,
going over the same ground with wearying detail. Casey, on the second
visit, handed him over to Tom McHale, who listened pityingly.

"This here Glass sure needs a guardian or a nursemaid or something," he
told Casey afterward. "He don't seem to know which way to string his
chips. He makes me that tired I sorter suggests maybe he'd better pray
about it; and he says he's done that, too, but don't seem to git no
straight answer. So I tells him if the Lord don't know I surely don't.
And then he says he'll ask his wife. His wife! Whatever do you think of
that? I quit him right there!"

But Glass wandered from ranch to ranch, a harmless bore, relating his
perplexities to people too busy to listen. Finally he announced that he
had bought land and sent for his family. And on the strength of this
began his rounds again, eager for agricultural information.

At this time Casey received a letter from Wade giving the date of his
long-promised visit to Coldstream. He added that his wife and Miss
Burnaby would accompany him. They would stay, he said, in town, at the
hotel. Immediately Casey went into committee with Tom McHale.

"Wade was coming here," he said. "The ladies complicate matters, but
we'll have to do the best we can. It's the house that worries me. It's
not furnished the way I'd like to have it. And then it's small. I guess
we'll have to move out, Tom."

"Sure," McHale agreed at once. "We can bed down anywheres. I'll rig up
a couple of bunks in the new tool house. We're pretty well along with
the water. I can 'tend to that while you show 'em the country."

Straightway Casey commanded Feng, his Chinaman, to clean and scrub,
much to that Celestial's disgust.

"What foh?" he demanded. "Housee plenty clean. Las spling me _hiyu_
sclub, _hiyu_ wash, _hiyu_ sweep undeh bed. All light now."

"All right for man; no good for woman," Casey explained. "Two lady come
stop, Feng."

"Ho!" said Feng, adjusting his mind to a new situation. "You and Tom
mally him?"

"No," Casey responded. "One married already. Ladies all same my
friends, Feng."

"No good." Feng announced with certainty. "Woman fliend no good. All
time makee too much wo'k. All time kick at glub. Mebbyso want blekfust
in bed. Mebbyso bling baby. Neveh give Chinaboy a dolla'. No good.
S'pose you bling woman fliend me quit. Me go back to China."

"If you quit me now, one dead China boy stop," Casey threatened. He
added craftily: "This lady _tyee_ lady. All same mandarin's daughter.
_Hiyu_ rich!"

"Ho!" said Feng thoughtfully. "_Hiyu_ lich, eh? All light. Me clean
housee."

But, though he had won this diplomatic victory, Casey was not
satisfied. Finally he took his perplexities to Sheila, enlisting her
aid in problems of decoration and the like.

"Where does this Miss Burnaby come in?" she asked. "Who is she?"

Casey told her, and she frowned dubiously.

"Seems to me you butted into real society when you went outside, Casey.
If she has all that money she's apt to be pernickity. I hate fussy
women. Is she pretty?"

"Why--yes, I think so," he admitted. "Oh, yes, she's pretty--no doubt
about that. But I don't think she's fussy. You'll like her, Sheila. She
doesn't scare or rattle easily. In some ways she reminds me of you."

"Thank you. And how do you know she doesn't scare or rattle?"

He evaded the question. "I don't think she would."

"Why didn't you ever mention her before?"

"Never thought of it. I hadn't the least notion that Mrs. Wade was
coming, let alone Miss Burnaby. You see, it puts me up against it. I'll
be ever so much obliged if you'll help me out."

"I'll come over and arrange things in the rooms, of course," Sheila
acquiesced.

And so, when Casey awaited the coming of the train which bore his
guests, it was with the knowledge that his rough-and-tumble, quarters
had been made as presentable as possible.

Wade and his party descended, attended by an obsequious porter laden
with bags, and in a moment Casey was shaking hands.

"And so this is your country!" said Mrs. Wade eying her surroundings
rather dubiously. In her heart she was appalled at the prospect of
passing several weeks in such a place.

"Well, some of it isn't mine," he laughed. "I wish it were. This is
only the makings, Mrs. Wade. Wait a few years. Now, here's what we do.
We have dinner at the hotel. Afterward we drive out to the ranch where
you are all to stay."

Wade and his wife protested. They couldn't think of it. Clyde said
nothing. Casey appealed to her.

"What do you say Miss Burnaby? Will you brave the discomforts of a
shack in the dry belt?"

"I'm in the hands of my friends," she laughed.

"That includes me," said Casey. "Everything's fixed for you. This is my
stamping ground, and I'm boss. What I say goes." He introduced Mr.
Quilty, who was hovering in the background, and chuckled as that
garrulous gentleman proceeded to unwind an apparently endless welcome.

"I like him," Clyde whispered.

"Pure gold," said Casey, and created a diversion. He helped Quilty
deposit the bags in the station.

"Thon's a fine gyurrl," said the latter, with a jerk of his thumb
toward the platform."

"Right," Casey replied.

"Oh, trust a quiet devil like yourself to pick wan out," said the
little station agent. "I was the same meself, whin I was more younger
nor what I am now. I fell dead in love with a fine, big gyurrl be th'
name iv--iv--dom'd if I don't forget the name iv her, onless it was
Mary or Josephine--no, thim came afther. What th' divil are ye laughin'
at? Annyways, me an' this gyurrl that I loved that I forget the name
iv, was strollin' wan night be moonlight, d'ye see me, now? And we come
to where there was a stump risin' maybe two fut clear iv th'
ground--ye'll wonder what th' stump had to do wid ut, but listen--and I
stopped and put me arrm around her waist--or tried to; for a fine
circumferenshus waist she had. Faix, a wan-arrmed man'd've been up
against it intirely wid her--and I sez to her, 'Lena'--that was her
name, Lena, I remimber now, and she was a Swede--'Lena,' I sez, 'luk at
the moon!' 'Ay see him,' she sez. 'Turn yer sweet face a little more to
the southeast,' I sez, that bein' to'rd the stump I mintioned before;
an' when I had her at the right angle I made a lep up on the stump and
kissed her. Faix, and the same was a forced play, me bein' the height I
am, and her over six fut. 'I love yez,' I sez; 'say yez love me!'"

"Well, what did she say?" asked Casey, as Mr. Quilty paused for breath.

"She concealed her feelin's," Mr. Quilty replied sadly. "She said, 'Ay
tenk ve go home now. Ay don't vant no feller vat have to mek love med a
step-ladder!' And afther that, mind ye, what does she do but take up
wid another little divil wid no legs at all, havin' lost them under a
shuntin' ingin. But his artfulness is such that he gets extra-long
imitation wans, like stilts, to do his coortin' on. An', though he
looks like a cross bechune a sparrow and a crane and has to carry an
oil can when he walks or else creak like a stable door in Janooary, she
marries him and keeps him in luxury be takin' in washin' for the camps.
And so, ye see, though I had stood on wan stump to kiss her, ivery time
he done the likes he had to stand on _two_!"

"Corney," said Casey gravely, "you are an awful liar."

"I will not be insulted by yez," Mr. Quilty retorted with equal
gravity. "I will consider the soorce from which ut comes. G'wan out of
here, before I do yez injury."

Immediately after dinner Casey brought up his road team, two wiry,
slashing chestnuts. The Wades occupied the rear seat. Clyde sat beside
Casey. The horses started with a rush that brought a gasp from Mrs.
Wade. Clyde involuntarily caught the seat rail.

"It's all right," Casey assured them. "A little fresh, that's all. They
know they're going home. It's their way of saying they're glad. You,
Dick--you, Doc! Behave, behave!" He had them in hand, checking their
impatience to an easy jog, holding them fretting against the bit. "I'll
let them out in a mile or two. Do you know horses, Miss Burnaby?"

"A very little. I ride and drive; but I like quiet animals."

"Oh, these are quiet." He smiled back at Mrs. Wade.

"Are they?" that lady commented. "Then I don't want to drive behind
wild ones."

A light wind was in their faces, blowing the dust backward. The town
vanished suddenly, lost behind swells of brown grasses. The road wound
tortuously onward, skirting little groves of cottonwoods, swinging
along gulches, sometimes plunging down them and ascending in long
grades on the thither side.

Clyde drank in the sweet, thin air eagerly. The city and her everyday
life seemed far behind. Heretofore her holidays had been passed in
places where pleasure was a business. This was to be different. She
would not look for amusement; she would let it come to her. She felt
that she was entering a world of which she knew little, peopled by
those whose outlook was strange. It seemed, somehow, that this journey
was to be fateful--that she had placed herself in the grip of
circumstances which moved her without volition. Where and how, she
wondered vaguely, would it end?

She glanced at Dunne's profile, shaded by the hat brim tilted over his
eyes against the sun; at his buckskin-gloved hands holding the reins
against the steady pull of the big chestnuts; downward over the
dashboard at their hoofs falling with the forceful impact of hammers
and yet rising with the light springiness of an athlete's foot,
throwing the miles behind them scornfully. And she was dreamily
content.

"You're going to like it," said Dunne suddenly.

"Am I?" she smiled. "How do you know? How did you know?"

"It's largely a guess. I was nervous at first."

"And now?"

"No. This is a plain, dusty trail, the grass is so dry it's almost
dead, the scenery is conspicuously absent, the smell of leather and
horseflesh isn't especially pleasant--and yet you are not noticing
these things. The bigness and the newness of the land have got you,
Miss Burnaby. You don't know it and you can't put it into words--I
can't myself--but the feeling is there. You are one of us at heart."

"Of 'us'?"

"The people of the new lands--the pioneers, if you choose, the modern
colonists, the trail blazers."

"I wonder." The idea was new. She considered it gravely. "My parents
were city folks; I have lived in the city all my life. And yet I think
I have the feeling you speak of. Only I can't put it into words
either."

"If you could you would be the most famous person in the world. The
song is there, waiting the singer. It has always been there, waiting,
and the singer has never come. We who hear it in our hearts have no
voices. Now and then some genius strikes the chord by accident, almost,
and loses it. I don't think any one will ever find it completely. But
if some one should! Heavens! What a grand harmony it would be."

She glanced at him curiously. He was not looking at her. His eyes were
on a little cloud, a white island in a sapphire sea. He seemed to be
paying no attention whatever to the road, to his surroundings. But as
one of the chestnuts stumbled over a loose stone he lifted him
instantly with the reins and administered a sharp word of reproof and a
light cut of the whip.

"He didn't mean to stumble," said Clyde.

"He should have meant not to. A horse that isn't tired and is paying
attention to business should never stumble on a road. It's the slouchy
horse that breaks his kind owner's neck some day. Now I'm going to let
them out."

So far as Clyde could observe, he did absolutely nothing. But
immediately, as though some subtle current had passed from his hands
along the lines, the horses' heads came up, their ears pricked forward,
their stride quickened and lengthened, and the measured beat of their
hoofs became a quickstep. The horses themselves seemed to exult in the
change of pace, filling their great lungs through widened nostrils and
expelling the air noisily, shaking their heads, proud of themselves and
their work.

Mrs. Wade laid a nervous hand on her husband's arm as the light wagon
rattled down a descent. But Clyde sat quietly, her lips slightly
parted, her eyes shining as the warm wind poured past in a torrent
plucking at vagrant strands of her coppery golden hair.

"Fifteen miles an hour," said Casey. "Like it?"

"It's better than fifty in a car," she replied.

"The difference between God-made and man-made horsepower. Some people
can't appreciate it."

"I can. It isn't the end--the pace alone. It's the means to the end."

"Plus the love of human flesh and blood for other flesh and blood.
You've got it. I won't keep them at this. Too warm."

It was late afternoon when Chakchak came into view. It appeared
suddenly as they swung around the corner of a butte, lying below them,
the emerald of its fields drenched with the gold of the sloping sun.

"My kingdom!" said Casey. "Welcome to it!"

Clyde was surprised, in a measure disappointed. She had pictured it
differently. With her the word "ranch" had connoted large prairie
areas, bald landscapes, herds of cattle, lonely horsemen, buildings
more or less ugly, unrelieved by any special surroundings. Here were
green fields, trees, water, painted barns, and a neat little house of
the bungalow type.

"Why," she exclaimed, "it's a farm!"

"Thank you," he responded; "that's what we're trying to make it. Only
out here we call them 'ranches.' Slightly more picturesque term,
glorified by fiction, calculated to appeal to the imagination. Gives
the impression of a free, breezy life in which the horse does all the
work. Invaluable in selling land. But in strict confidence I may say
that work on a farm in the East and on a ranch in the West are
twins--you can't tell t'other from which."

McHale appeared as they drove up, to relieve Casey of the horses. He
was freshly shaven, and dressed with unusual care. Feng, in white
jacket and apron, grinned from his quarters, appraising the "_hiyu_
lich gal," with an eye to possible dollars.

"Now, this house," Casey explained, as they entered, "belongs to you
three. It's yours to have, hold, and occupy for your sole use and
benefit while you are here. Is that sufficiently legal, Wade? The
Chinaman is yours, too. He takes his orders from you. Mrs. Wade, your
room is there. Miss Burnaby, that one is intended for you. But if you
like to change about, do so, by all means."

"And which is your room?" Wade asked.

"I'm bunking in one of the other buildings."

"What? We're putting you out of your own house!" Wade exclaimed. "That
won't do, Casey, really it won't. We won't let you."

"Of course not," his wife concurred.

"Indeed we won't," said Clyde.

But Casey was firm. He explained that he came and went at all hours,
rose early, had to be where he could confer with McHale. He insisted on
his fictions, and ended by half convincing them.

Clyde, entering the room he had pointed out as hers, was struck by its
absolute cleanness and daintiness. The curtains were tastefully draped,
tied with ribbon; there were scarfs on dresser and stand, pin-cushion
and pins, little trays for trifles. The bed was made with hospital
neatness.

A moment afterward Kitty Wade entered, looking around.

"Yours, too," she said. "No mere bachelor ever did these things, Clyde.
The Chinaman is out of the question. It is to find the woman."

"We'll ask Mr. Dunne," said Clyde.

But it was not till after dinner that Kitty Wade did so.

"Miss McCrae was kind enough to fix up the rooms for you," Casey
replied.

"Who is Miss McCrae?"

Casey pulled a handful of photographs from a drawer, and shuffled them.
He handed one to Mrs. Wade.

"That's Sheila McCrae. I'll drive you over to Talapus, her father's
place, one of these days."

Clyde, moved by an interest which she could not understand, bent over
Kitty Wade's shoulder. The picture was an enlarged snapshot, but a
splendid likeness. Sheila was standing, one hand by her side holding
her riding hat, the other, half raised to her hair, as if to arrange it
when the shutter had opened. Her dark, keen face with its touch of
wistfulness looked full at them.

"What a nice-looking girl!" Kitty Wade exclaimed. "Don't you think so,
Clyde?"

Clyde agreed perfunctorily. But, looking into the steady, fearless eyes
of the pictured girl, she felt a vague, incomprehensible hostility.
Kitty Wade glanced at her quickly, detecting the strained note. Clyde
felt the glance, and inwardly resented it. Kitty Wade's eyes were
altogether too observant.



CHAPTER XVII


When Clyde awoke next morning she lay for some time in dreamy content.
She was deliciously rested. The cold, clear, early morning air pouring
in through the open window beneath the partially drawn blind was like
an invigorating draught. Outside, beyond the shade of the veranda, she
could see sunlight. Somewhere a horse whinnied. In the house she could
hear an occasional rattle of dishes. She rose and dressed, humming a
song. She felt strangely happy, as though she had attained a
long-sought goal. Life that morning seemed to take on a new meaning to
her; to be sweeter and cleaner, good in itself, a thing to rejoice in.
The very air she breathed seemed charged with the indistinguishable
odours of growing things, as it might strike the unspoiled, sensitive
nostrils of a child. She felt a child's joy in merely being.

"How well you are looking, Clyde," said Kitty Wade, as she entered the
breakfast room.

"Positively blooming," said Wade.

"Positively bloomin' hungry," laughed Clyde. "I haven't had such an
appetite since I left boarding school."

"God save all here!" said Casey, from the door. "How did you sleep? No
need to ask you ladies, and it doesn't matter about Wade. Hey, you,
Feng! You catch breakfast quick!"

During the meal they made plans for the day. In the morning Casey was
going to shift the water to his oats; in the afternoon he would drive
them over to Talapus. They would have supper there, and return by
moonlight. Meanwhile they were to consider the place theirs, to go
where and do what they liked.

"I'll help you," Wade offered.

"We'll all help you," said Clyde.

"I can rig Wade out for irrigating," Casey replied, "but not you
ladies. It's too muddy a job for you."

"But I should like to see how it is done," said Clyde.

She had her way, and accompanied them to the field, watching the
turning of the water down the rows, the careful adjustment of its flow,
and the progress of the streams. In spite of her care she became wet
and muddy--and enjoyed herself the more.

"I told you so," said Casey. "No sympathy, Miss Burnaby."

"I don't want it. I'm enjoying myself. I'd like to play in the water,
to sail sticks down the ditch, and pretend that they were boats."

"Shocking!" he laughed. "But I'd like to play with you."

"Nice pair of kids you are," Wade commented. He was perspiring from
unaccustomed exertion. "'Pon my soul, though, I feel the same. To think
of me messing away my life in a tenth-story office worrying about other
people's business and quarrels! What do you keep in this air, Casey?
Old Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth?"

"I keep some very fair Scotch in a cupboard at the house," Casey
responded. "The water is all right now. Suppose we adjourn."

"I'll go you once," said Wade.

"Where do I come in?" Clyde asked. "I'm thirsty, too."

"Feng shall produce Chakchak fizzes for both of us."

They trooped into the house, thirsty, hungry, and laughing, and Kitty
Wade exclaimed at Clyde's dress.

"Thank Heaven I didn't go!" she cried. "Mr. Dunne, you should get a
commission from her dressmaker."

"Oh, this will wash. And I'm so beautifully hungry and thirsty."

"Thirsty! With all that water?" said Kitty Wade.

"What's water got to do with real thirst?" her husband demanded. "Come
on, Casey; don't muzzle the ox, you know. Produce that Wonderful Remedy
from the Land o' Cakes. It was oats we were irrigating, wasn't it? Very
appropriate. Here's to Oats--oatmeal, rolled oats, wild oats, and Titus
Oates. 'Tak' a wee bit drappie----'"

"Whatever has got into you?" his wife demanded.

"I feel like a pup off a chain," Wade admitted.

After dinner Clyde went to her room to prepare for the drive to
Talapus. She inspected her limited wardrobe thoughtfully, finally
selecting the plainest and most unpretentious attire in her possession;
so that when she took a last look in the mirror she saw a girl wearing
a panama hat, a white shirtwaist, and a tweed golf skirt. Kitty Wade,
rather more elaborately costumed, eyed her critically.

"Oh, bother!" she said. "This isn't fair. You make me feel all dressed
up, but it's too much trouble to change."

"I looked at it the other way--it was too much trouble to dress up,"
Clyde replied. "I don't suppose one needs to, out here. I'm going to
be comfy, anyway."

Kitty Wade forebore comment, but she smiled wisely to herself. Inwardly
she reflected that simplicity of dress was Clyde's long suit. With her
hair, complexion, and figure the less fussiness there was to distract
the eye the better. And Mrs. Wade was inclined to attribute to the
fortunate owner of these things a perfect knowledge of this fact.

Mrs. Wade had the front seat, beside Casey, while Clyde sat with Wade.
Clyde experienced a distinct feeling of disappointment. Wade was a good
companion and a good friend, _but_--and the "but" was a big one.

She found herself listening to Casey's voice, watching the set of his
shoulders, noting the deep, living bronze of his skin. From time to
time he turned, including them in the conversation, pointing out things
of interest to Wade. But nevertheless she did not enjoy the drive.

"I sent word that we were coming," said Casey, as they sighted the
ranch. "That was in the interests of the ladies mostly."

"Of course," Wade agreed. "Women always like people to find them all
togged up, as if they never did a day's work in their lives. I catch it
from Kitty if I bring any one home with me without due notice. If women
only knew how much better they look in ordinary clothes!"

Kitty Wade, turning her head to retort, surprised a quiet, enigmatic
smile on Clyde's face. Their eyes met, and keen question and defiant
answer leaped across the glance. Kitty Wade let the retort remain
unspoken, and contemplated the nigh chestnut's ears, for her husband's
last words had given her a clew.

"Oh, Clyde Burnaby, Clyde Burnaby!" she said to herself with a little
shake of the head. "Now I know. What a deep finesse! You think
that this McCrae girl will put on her best country-maid--or
country-made--finery; and you, in your studied simplicity, will show
the better by contrast--to the masculine eye, at least. I give you full
credit, my dear. Not one woman in a thousand would have thought of it.
_I_ shouldn't, and I know men better than you do. But why did you do
it? Are you _jealous_ of a girl you've never seen? And does that mean
you care--seriously care--for our pleasant but likely impecunious Mr.
Dunne?"

She was still puzzling over this problem when they drove up to the
house. Donald McCrae and his wife welcomed them, and he and Casey took
the team to the stable. But as the others reached the welcome shade of
the veranda Sheila emerged from the house and came forward. At sight of
her Kitty Wade smiled to herself.

For Sheila had not donned finery. She was clad in simple white,
unrelieved by any touch of colour. Not a ring adorned her slim, brown
hands. Her masses of glistening, brown hair were dressed low on her
head, giving an effect almost girlish, softening the keenness of her
face. She was as composed, as dignified, as essentially ladylike as
Clyde herself.

Clyde thanked her gracefully for the arrangement of their rooms. It was
very good of her to take such trouble for strangers.

"Oh, but I'm afraid I did that for Casey, and not for the strangers,"
laughed Sheila. "I hope old Feng didn't undo my work. He thought I was
butting in. Anyway, Casey would have seen that you were comfortable,
though some of his ideas of domestic arrangements are masculine, to say
the least of them." She told the story of the hen, and set them
laughing.

Later Casey, having stabled the horses, came up with McCrae. "Well,
Sheila, what's the good word?" he asked. "What yarns have you been
telling Miss Burnaby?"

"I was telling her of your poultry system."

"Miss McCrae has been suggesting all sorts of things for our
amusement," said Clyde; "from a dance to riding lessons."

"I didn't say a word about lessons," Sheila protested.

"But I need them," Clyde admitted. "I never pretend to know what I
don't know."

"Sheila can give most men lessons," said Casey. "The only objection I
have is that I intended to instruct you myself."

Clyde laughed. "Which offer shall I accept?"

"Casey's," said Sheila promptly. "I won't be selfish. Besides,
educational statistics prove that we women imbibe knowledge faster from
men than from each other."

Clyde darted a swift glance at her. But Sheila's face told nothing. If
the words were intended to bear an added meaning she did not show it.

"Statistics are good for something, at last," said Casey.

"Give her Dolly," said Sheila. "Don't let her coax you into letting her
try that old brute, Shiner. He's almost an outlaw."

"Love me, love my horse!"

The quotation seemed careless. Sheila's face told Clyde nothing.

"'Like master, like horse' is more appropriate," said Sheila.

"Oh, I'm not an outlaw--yet," he said, with just the slightest pause
before the word.

Slight though it was, Clyde noticed it; noticed, too, the instant
shadow on Sheila's face, the quick contraction of her dark brows, the
momentary silence, transient but utter. It was as if the chill and
gloom of night had suddenly struck the summer's noonday.

But in a moment the conversation was resumed, and became general. Sandy
McCrae joined them, silent as usual, but evidently attracted by Clyde.
Presently Sheila took Casey to diagnose the case of a favourite, sick
collie.

"My heavens, Casey, did you see the kid?" she asked. "I never knew him
to look twice at a girl before."

"Every boy has to start some time," he laughed. "She's well worth
looking at."

"That's so. Yes, she's very pretty, Casey."

"I'm glad you like her."

It was on the tip of her tongue to disclaim, but she checked herself.
"She's different from what I expected. No airs. And she _looks_
sensible. Is she?"

"I think so."

"Yes, I think so, too. She dresses very simply. I was prepared to be
reduced to a condition of helpless feminine envy by her clothes. As it
is, I feel quite of the same clay."

"You don't need to envy anybody's clothes. That white dress looks good
to me. I never saw you looking better."

The rich blood crept up under her tanned cheeks. Such compliments were
rare in her life. Casey himself seldom paid them. Frank friendship was
very well; but now and then, womanlike, she longed for such current
coin of courtesy.

"Really, Casey?"

"Of course," he assured her. "You know how to wear clothes. And you
know you look particularly well in white. I've told you so before."

"Once."

"Half a dozen times."

"No--once. I remember it very well, because you don't often notice what
I have on. Perhaps that's lucky, too."

"If it's you in the clothes, that's good enough."

"That's just the trouble. You accept me as part of the everyday
scenery. I might wear a blanket, for all you'd care."

"I've seen some mighty becoming blanket costumes."

"I'm not a _klootch_," she flashed. "I'm a white woman, and when I wear
a becoming dress I like somebody to tell me so."

"And didn't I just tell you?"

"So you did--and I'll put a ring around the date. It's the first time
you've condescended to pay me a compliment in a year. You men are the
limit. You take it as a matter of course that a girl should be neat and
spick and span. If she wasn't you'd notice it soon enough. It's easy
for a girl like this Miss Burnaby. I don't suppose she ever did a day's
work or anything useful in her life. She orders her clothes from the
best places, and gets them fitted and sent home, and that's all there
is to it. But how about me? I've got a hundred things to attend to
every day. I've got to make my own clothes, or take a long chance on a
mail-order house. That's why, when I do get anything that looks
passable, I like it to be noticed."

"That's so," he admitted. "That's natural. I never thought of it,
Sheila, and that's the truth. Why didn't you tell me before?"

"Oh, heavens! Casey, I'm sorry I did now. Why do men have to be _told_?
I don't get taken this way often. Women and dogs have to be thankful
for small mercies. Only a dog can shove a cold, wet nose into his
master's hand and get a pat and a kind word; but a woman----"

She broke off, colouring furiously. The red tide surged over cheeks and
brow to the roots of her hair. For the first time, with him, she was
afraid of being misunderstood.

But Casey's perceptions, fairly acute where men and affairs were
concerned, quite failed to grasp the situation. He saw only that
Sheila, ordinarily sensible and dependable, had flown off the handle
over something, and he metaphorically threw up his hands helplessly at
the vagaries of women.

"Well, well, now, never mind," he said, in blundering consolation. "You
look well in anything. I've often noticed, but I didn't think you cared
for compliments. Anyway"--he grasped eagerly at something safe--"anyway,
you can't beat that white dress."

She turned to him again, once more the everyday Sheila.

"All right, old boy, we'll let it go at that. Forget it. And now I'll
tell you something: I wore this white dress--absolutely the plainest
thing I have--because I didn't want to come into a finery contest with
Miss Burnaby. And now let's look at the old dog. I'm afraid he'll have
to be shot."

Farwell put in an appearance after supper. It was plain that the big
engineer had not expected to find other guests; also that their
presence embarrassed him. Quite unused to dissembling his feelings, he
took no pains to hide his dislike for Dunne. Casey, on the other hand,
was polite, suave, quiet, wearing the mocking smile that invariably
exasperated the engineer.

"You and Mr. Farwell are not friends," Clyde ventured on the way home.

"He doesn't think much of me," Casey admitted. "I rub him the wrong
way."

"As you were doing to-night."

"Was I?"

"You know you were. Is there a private quarrel between you, apart from
the water matter?"

"Not exactly. But it would come to that if we saw much of each other."

"Then I hope you won't. It's embarrassing to others."

"I'm awfully sorry. It was very bad form, of course. But somehow I
couldn't help it."

"Never mind. The McCraes are affected by this water trouble, aren't
they?"

"As much as I am. You are surprised that Farwell goes there. I have
never mentioned it to them, nor they to me. It's none of my business."

"Nor of mine."

"I didn't mean that."

"I know you didn't. Still, I think I could guess why Mr. Farwell goes
to Talapus."

"So could I," said Casey dryly, and the subject dropped.

But Kitty Wade came to Clyde's room for a chat before retiring. "Those
McCraes," she said, "are very nice. Mr. McCrae is one of the real
pioneers. He told us some of the most interesting things. How did you
like Miss McCrae?"

"I think she's a very nice, sensible girl. Good-looking, too."

"H'm!" said Kitty Wade. "Yes, I think she is. Dresses nicely and
simply. No imitation fine things. Shows the correct instinct. You and
she might have been having a plain-clothes competition."

Clyde did not respond. Kitty Wade resumed, after a brief pause: "I'll
tell you one thing, Clyde; this man Farwell is in love with her."

"I could see that, Kitty."

"And she doesn't care for him."

"I thought that, too."

"I wonder," Kitty Wade went on, "if there is anything between her and
Mr. Dunne? Do you suppose he and Mr. Farwell are jealous of each other?
They were like two dogs with one bone."

Clyde yawned. "Oh, mercy, Kitty," she said wearily, "ask me something
easier. I wouldn't blame either of them. She seems to be a thoroughly
nice girl."

Kitty Wade on her way to her room nodded wisely. "You don't fool me a
little bit, Clyde," she said to herself. "This Sheila McCrae is
probably just as nice as you are, and you own up to it like a little
lady. But all the same you hate each other; and, what's more, you both
know it."



CHAPTER XVIII


Clyde lay stretched at length in sweet, odorous hay. There was no
reason why she should not have taken the hammock in the shade of the
veranda that morning, save that she wanted to be alone. Therefore she
had taken a book and wandered forth. Behind the corrals she had come
upon a haystack, cut halfway down and halfway across, and on impulse
she had climbed up a short ladder and lain down. Her hands clasped
behind her head, her book forgotten, she stared up into the blue sky,
and dreamed daydreams. And then she went to sleep.

She was aroused by the sound of hammering. Peeping over the edge of the
stack, she recognized Tom McHale. McHale was putting a strand of wire
around the stack, and as she looked he began to sing a ballad of the
old frontier. Clyde had never heard "Sam Bass," and she listened to
McHale's damaged tenor.

    "Sam was born in Indianner, it was his native home,
    And at the age of seventeen young Sam began to roam;
    And first he went to Texas, a cowboy for to be--
    He robs the stage at----"

He stopped abruptly, and Clyde saw two mounted men approaching. They
bore down on McHale, who lifted his coat from a rail, and put it on. To
Clyde's amazement the action revealed a worn leather holster strapped
to the inner side of the garment, and from it protruded the ivory butt
of a six-shooter. McHale was apparently unarmed; in reality a weapon
lay within instant reach of his hand.

The two horsemen were roughly dressed. Each wore a gun openly at his
belt. One was large, sandy-haired, gray-eyed. The other was dark,
quick, restless, shooting odd, darting glances from a pair of sinister
black eyes.

"Is your name Dunne?" asked the first roughly.

"Dunne?" queried McHale, as if the name were strange to him. "Did you
say Dunne, or Doane?"

"I said Dunne."

"Oh," McHale responded. "Lemme think. No, I guess not. I never used
that name that I remember of. No, partner, my name ain't Dunne."

"We want Dunne. Where'll we find him?"

"Why, now," said McHale, "that's a right hard question. You might find
him one place, and then again you mightn't. I reckon I wouldn't be
misleading you none if I was to tell you you'd find him wherever he's
at."

"You workin' for him?" the dark man put in quickly.

"I was, a minute ago. Now I got a job with an inquiry office. Anything
else I can tell you?"

"No," said the dark man. "But you can tell Dunne that up to a minute
ago he had a ---- ---- fool workin' for him!"

Dead silence while a watch could tick off ten seconds. Clyde scarcely
breathed. At different times in her life she had heard noisy quarrels
in city streets, quarrels big with oath and threat. This was different.
She experienced a sensation as though, even in the bright sunshine
beneath the blue, unflecked summer sky where all was instinct with
growth and health and life, she were watching a deathbed.

The two strangers sat motionless, their eyes on McHale, their right
hands resting quietly by their waists. McHale stood equally still,
facing them, his eyes narrowed down to slits, his left hand holding the
lapel of his coat, his right hand, a half-smoked cigarette between the
first and second fingers, on a level with his chin. He expelled a thin
stream of smoke from his lungs, and spoke:

"I reckon you can tell him yourself. Here he come now."

The eyes of the first man never shifted. The other instantly looked
over his shoulder. McHale laughed.

"You're an old-timer," he said to the gray-eyed man; "but him"--he
jerked a contemptuous thumb at the second--"it's a wonder to me he ever
growed up. Don't you do it no more, friend. Don't you never take your
eyes off a man you've called a ---- ---- fool, or maybe the next thing
they beholds is the Promised Land!"

But his words had not been intended as a ruse. Casey was riding over on
his little gray mare to see who the strangers were, and what they
wanted.

"This man tells me you're Dunne," said the gray-eyed man.

"That's correct," Casey admitted.

"My name is Dade; his name is Cross." He indicated his companion by a
sidewise nod. "We've bought land from this here irrigation outfit. So
have half a dozen other men, friends of ours. Now we can't get water."

"Well?"

"Well, the company puts it up that some of you fellows is to blame.
You've cut the ditches so they won't carry. We've come to tell you that
this has got to stop."

"That's kind of you, anyway," Casey observed quietly. He and Dade eyed
each other appraisingly.

"What I want to make plumb clear," said the latter, "is that this don't
go no more. It's no good. You'll leave the ditches alone, or else----"

"Or else?" Casey suggested.

"Or else we'll make you," said Dade grimly. "We want water, and we'll
have it."

"I wonder," said Casey, "if you are trying to hang a nice little bluff
on me, Mr. Dade? Suppose, for instance, you have no land, and don't
need any water."

"I can show you my deed."

"That's quite possible. All right, Mr. Dade. Is there anything more you
want to say?"

"I reckon that's all," said Dade. "If you'll say that the ditches will
be let alone there'll be no trouble; if not, there will be."

"What kind of trouble, Mr. Dade?"

"You'll see when it comes."

"Very well," said Casey. "Now, listen to me, Mr. Dade. You and your
friend there and your whole outfit can go plumb. Get that? Every ranch
here has water, and we're going to keep it. How we keep it is our own
business. If you've bought land you may look to the company for water,
and not to us. If you haven't bought land--if you're hired to come here
to start something--why, let it start!"

He and Dade looked straight into each other's eyes in the silence that
followed. Cross made a sudden movement.

"Be careful, partner!" McHale warned him in hard tones.

Once more Clyde, an involuntary listener, felt the presence of a
crisis, the chill of fate impending. But, as before, it passed.

"You're barking up the wrong tree," said Dade. "Nothing starts--now.
Better remember what I told you. Come on, Sam, we'll get going."

Clyde heard the trample of hoofs dying in the distance, and then
McHale's voice:

"You run the bluff, but you took an awful chance. That there Cross come
mighty close to making a break."

"Nervous kind?"

"Yep. He's apt to be too blamed soon. T'other one, Dade, is cold-drawn.
I judge he's bad. Ever hear of him?"

"No."

"Nor me," said McHale; "but he has the earmarks."

Casey's reply was lost as they turned away. Clyde waited until they
were out of sight, and then descended. The morning adventure had given
her food for thought. Until then she had been deceived by the smooth
current of life at Chakchak. It had seemed an idyllic, carefree
existence. Although she had known of the trouble, it had seemed far in
the background; it was a skeleton which had not obtruded itself. Now,
by accident, she had surprised it stalking abroad in the glare of day.

That afternoon she and Casey rode together. He was in his usual
spirits, laughing, joking, full of whimsical good humour. But back of
it she thought she detected a preoccupation. Occasionally he would be
silent and his eyes would narrow as if he were working out some
problem.

Far up beneath the shoulder of a butte a little spring of delicious
water bubbled from the gravelly soil, trickled a few hundred yards, and
disappeared. It was hidden by willow and cottonwood, draped with
greenery, an oasis. Here they dismounted, drank the sweet spring water,
watered the horses, and rested. Clyde sat down, leaning against a
convenient tree. Casey stretched himself against another, his hands
clasped behind his head, a long, thin cigar clenched between his teeth.

Through the fragrant smoke he eyed his companion in lazy content,
noting how the mottled sunlight, filtering through the leaves, touched
her glorious hair to living, coppery gold.

"Did you ever have your picture painted?" he asked suddenly.

"Why, no," she replied. "Whatever made you think of that?"

"Your hair and the sunlight on it. If I were a painter I should like to
paint you now--and keep the picture."

"The first compliment you have ever paid me," she laughed, pleased
nevertheless. "I shall remember it."

"And that's a compliment to me," he responded. "Funny what we recollect
and what we don't. There doesn't seem to be any rule for it. But I
think I shall always remember just how you look at this moment."

"That's very nice."

"I wonder if I may ask you something without offending you?"

"I don't think you would ask anything that should offend me."

"Thanks! It's this: I want to make things pleasant for you all. I've
been wondering in my own mind why you came here. You won't
misunderstand me. But why?"

"Have you forgotten your invitation?"

"No. But its acceptance was an unexpected piece of luck. There isn't
much here to amuse you. What's the real reason?"

She looked full at him, and then dropped her eyes; her fingers plucked
blades of grass and cast them aside.

"I don't think I know the answer," she replied at last. "For one thing,
I thought I might help you--if you'd let me."

"Help me! How?"

"With money. You and the others."

"Good Lord!" he ejaculated. "Whatever put that in your head?"

"The only letter you ever wrote me. I could read between the lines.
Afterward Mr. Wade told me more. But he wouldn't take what I offered."

"I should say not--if you offered money. He was right."

"Do you mean that you wouldn't let me help you if you needed money?"

"Certainly I wouldn't."

"Because I'm a woman, I suppose."

"Partly. But I wouldn't let any one throw money away on what is apt to
be a losing game."

"You think it that?"

"Size it up for yourself. You talked with Wade. Didn't he tell you so?"

"Practically, yes."

"Then you see! It wouldn't do at all."

"But it's my money. I can afford to lose it. I'll not have a pleasure
or a luxury the less. And this is my pleasure. Would you refuse me this
one thing? You lent _me_ money!"

"Ten dollars--pshaw! This is different. I'm more grateful than I can
tell you. But there's no necessity--just yet, anyway."

"Then I won't consider it a definite refusal. That was one reason why I
came. And then I wanted to see your country. I wanted something new. I
can't explain it very well. I had to come; something made me."

She flushed, but the eyes that met his inquiring gaze were entirely
steady.

"Something made me. If the Wades had not been coming I should have come
alone. I'm frank with you, you see."

"Yes, I understand the feeling," Casey said. "I have had it myself.
I've had to get out of old surroundings sometimes. And I've always
gone. Sometimes it has turned out well; sometimes not."

"We shall see how this turns out," she said, with a nod and a little
laugh. "I've a feeling that I shall bring you luck."

"I believe you will," he agreed. "We'll say so, anyway. Just now I
wouldn't trade places with any man on earth."

[Illustration: "JUST NOW I WOULDN'T TRADE PLACES WITH ANY MAN ON
EARTH"]

She laughed in pure pleasure, bending toward him. "I appropriate that
to myself. Don't dare to explain it. Do you come here often?"

"Not very often. That maze of coulée and butte you see is a good cattle
range. I come this way looking for strays. The last time I was here
Sheila McCrae was with me."

Suddenly, for Clyde, the sunlight lost its golden charm. In an altered
tone she said:

"Indeed!" And she added deliberately: "I don't think I ever met a nicer
girl than Miss McCrae."

"No nicer anywhere," he agreed heartily. "Well, perhaps we'd better be
moving. We have a long ride yet."

Their way led by devious cattle trails along the coulées, over ridges,
into other coulées. Clyde lost all idea of direction, but her companion
was never at a loss, and finally they emerged upon a broad,
well-travelled trail. Then Clyde, after much inward debate, told Casey
of her presence that morning at the interview with Dade and Cross.

"Well, they're quite a pair," said Casey. "They came to run some sort
of a bluff, but concluded not to push it to a show-down. They'll make
trouble for us, I suppose. They're simply hired men, and that's their
job."

"What kind of trouble?"

"I wish I knew," he replied, shaking his head.

"Is it all worth while?" she asked. "I haven't asked a question about
the blown-up dam and the cut ditches. I'm not going to. But where will
it end? You admit that there may be violence--even bloodshed. Why not
avoid it?"

"How?"

"By letting the courts settle it."

"If we could have our water till then, that's what we'd do. As it
is--well, I'm afraid we can't afford to."

"I've already offered----"

"I know, I know," he interrupted; "but that's out of the question."

That evening dragged. There were long silences. Nobody seemed inclined
to talk. Wade went to sleep in his chair, his cigar dropping from his
relaxing fingers. He grumbled when his wife woke him.

"I'm dead sleepy. I'm going to bed. I'm too sleepy to care whether it's
polite or not; I'm all in."

"So am I," said Kitty, yawning frankly. "I shall follow my lord and
master."

"And I my amiable chaperon," said Clyde.

"I'm afraid all I have to follow is an example," said Casey. He came
close to her in the moonlight. "Perhaps I seemed ungrateful this
afternoon. I didn't mean to be. I can't tell you how much I appreciated
your offer, your generosity; none the less because I can't possibly
accept it."

"It is nothing," she said. "It is not even generosity. Real generosity
must cost something in renunciation."

"No," he replied; "the cost has little to do with it. It is the spirit
of the offer that counts. Don't belittle it."

"It cost me something to make the offer," she said impulsively. "The
money would have been the least part of it."

"I don't think I understand."

"I'm glad you don't; and I can't explain now. Some day, perhaps. And
now--good night."

He took her hand and looked down into her eyes. He could feel the hand
tremble slightly, but the eyes were steady. Darkened by the moonlight
they seemed unfathomable pools, deep, mysterious, holding something
which he could almost but not quite discern. In the pale light her face
lost colour. It was idealized, purified, the face of a dream. Her
marvellous crown of hair shone strand by strand as of twisted gold; it
shimmered with halolike glory. Her slightly parted lips, vivid against
the white of the face, seemed to invite him.

He bent forward, and plucked himself angrily back from the temptation.
She released her hand.

"Good night," she said softly.

"Good night," he responded, hesitated, and turned away to his own
quarters.

But as Clyde sought her room she seemed to walk on air. She trembled in
every fibre of her strong, young body, but her blood sang in her veins.
The woman within her called aloud triumphantly. It was long before she
slept, and when she did so her slumber was a procession of dreams.

She awoke somewhere in the night, with a strange sound in her ears, a
detonation distant but thunderous. She rose, went to the window, and
peered out.

As she stood, she commanded a view of Casey Dunne's quarters. The door
opened, and two men emerged, running for the stables. It seemed not a
minute till two horses were led out, ready saddled. The two men went up
instantly. They tore past her window in a flurry of hoofs. She
recognized Casey Dunne and McHale. Neither was completely dressed. But
around the waist of each was a holster-weighted belt, and across each
saddle was slanted a rifle. Because of these warlike manifestations
Clyde slept no more that night.



CHAPTER XIX


As the night air vibrated with the first explosion Casey Dunne and
McHale leaped from their beds, and rushed for the door, opened it, and
stood listening. There they heard another and another.

"Dynamite!" cried McHale, reaching for his clothes. "I'll bet it's our
dam. Jump into some pants, Casey. There's just a chance to get a sight
of somebody."

They threw on clothes with furious haste, caught up weapons, and raced
for the stables. Their haste communicated itself to their horses, which
bolted before the riders were firm in the saddles. Casey, as they tore
past the house, thought he caught a glimpse of white at Clyde's window;
but just then he had his hands full with Shiner, who was expressing his
disapproval of such unseemly hours by an endeavour to accomplish a
blind runaway.

Halfway to the river they came upon the first evidence of dynamite in
the form of a bit of wrecked fluming. Water poured down a sidehill from
a mass of shattered boards and broken, displaced timbers. They scarcely
paused to view the ruin, but rode for the dam. There was no dam. Where
it had been, remained only a few forlorn and twisted posts between
which the muddied water whispered softly. The work had been very
complete. McHale swore into the night.

"Our own medicine! Well, watch us take it. We ain't like boys that
can't build a little thing like a dam. Which way do you reckon them
fellers went?"

"Try the old ford," said Casey. "It's all chance, anyway."

A mile downstream they came to the ford, where the river for a brief
distance had broadened and shallowed. Fresh tracks of one horse led
down to the water's edge. On the other side, where they emerged, they
were still filled with muddy water.

"That's the cuss that blowed the flume," said McHale. "He's met up with
another one or two here. They've gone on downstream, but we sure can't
trail them in this light. What do we do?"

"Ride ahead and trust to luck," said Casey. "It's all we can do."

"I guess that's so," McHale agreed. "But if we run up on 'em----"

He paused abruptly. Out of the distance came the unmistakable sound of
a blast, closely followed by a second.

"Another dam!" Casey exclaimed. "That's Oscar's, or Wyndham's. Our own
medicine, sure enough!"

"If I can put a gunsight on to one of them fellers I'll fix him so's he
won't hold medicine nohow," said McHale savagely. "No use followin' the
river. They'll quit it now, and strike for somewheres. Let's take a
chance and hike out sorter southeast. It's as good as any other way."

They struck southeast at a steady jog, angling away from the river. The
night was absolutely cloudless; the moon, near the full, bathed the
landscape in a flood of white light which threw objects into startling
relief, but intensified the shadows. Beneath it the land slumbered in a
silence broken only by the soft drumming of hoofs. But for an
occasional small band of cattle lying quietly on the slopes, it seemed
devoid of life.

They rode in silence, but with eyes and ears keenly alert. At the top
of each rise they paused to search the surrounding country. Now and
then they drew up to listen. But their watchfulness availed nothing.

"Looks like we're out o'luck," McHale observed finally.

"Looks that way," Casey admitted. "All the same, we'll keep going."

"If we happen across 'em," McHale continued, "I s'pose we round 'em
up?"

"Of course. But they may take some rounding."

"Sure! Only I'll tell you, Casey, I'm awful tired of having it put all
over me by fellers that ain't got no license to. Some of these gents
that allow they're hard citizens ain't so dog-goned much. I s'pose they
figure on us peaceable farmers bein' bluffed out by a hard face and a
hostile talk. That's an awful bad bet for 'em to make."

They were approaching a region of broken ground, carved and ridged with
coulées and low hills, worthless save for range purposes. There Casey
decided that he would turn back. At best it was like looking for the
proverbial needle in a haystack. Chance only could serve them. Suddenly
McHale checked his horse.

"Listen!" he said sharply.

They were riding by the base of a low hill. At one side the ground
sloped away in a shallow depression which marked the head of a coulée.
As they sat listening intently the stillness was broken by a hollow,
muffled sound, the unmistakable trampling of hoofs. Faint at first, it
increased in volume. Plainly, horses were coming up the draw.

Four horsemen came into view. They were riding carelessly, slouching in
their saddles. One struck a match to light a pipe. The flame of it
showed for an instant above his cupped hands. At a hundred yards they
perceived the waiting horsemen, and halted abruptly.

"You there!" Casey hailed. "We want to talk to you!"

A vicious oath came as answer, distinct in the stillness. Then: "You
get back and mind your own business!"

McHale's rifle action clicked and clashed as he levered a cartridge
from magazine to chamber. "Up with your hands, the bunch of you," he
ordered, "or----"

[Illustration: SO QUICK WAS HIS PIVOTING MOTION THAT CASEY WAS ALMOST
UNSEATED]

The remainder was lost in the bark of a gun as one of the other party
fired. McHale's horse jumped as though stung, just as he pulled the
trigger, bumping into Shiner. Immediately that uncertain quadruped
wheeled and kicked at him. So quick was his pivoting motion that Casey
was almost unseated. He saved himself, but lost his rifle, which fell
to the ground. With a furious curse and a jerk of the bit he wheeled
Shiner around, drawing his automatic belt gun.

But the four strangers had taken advantage of the incident to turn and
plunge back into the coulée. They were almost out of sight. Casey's gun
spat a continuous jet of flame across the night, the rapid reports
blending into a roll of sound. McHale, cursing his unsteady horse,
fired again and again. But the strangers, apparently unhurt, swept out
of sight.

Casey leaped to the ground, secured his rifle, and was back in the
saddle again in an instant. They sailed into the shallow head of the
coulée at a dead run, Casey struggling to refill the clip of his
automatic, McHale cursing his horse and himself because he had used the
rifle instead of his six-shooter.

At its head the coulée was merely a slight depression. Farther on it
broadened and deepened. Down the middle of its length ran a sinuous
grove of cottonwoods. On either side its flanks were bare, white with
clay and alkali, rising to steep banks of yellow earth, bald and
bleached in the moonlight.

Through this natural theatre thundered pursuers and pursued. The latter
had secured a good lead. The windings of the coulée hid them from view.

Suddenly Casey became aware that there was no one ahead--that he and
McHale were riding madly, to no purpose. At the same moment the latter
made the like discovery. Their horses' hoofs slid and cut grooves in
the earth as the riders dragged them to a halt. Usually considerate, in
the excitement of the moment they used the brutal methods of the
"buster."

"They've doubled back on us!" cried McHale. "Cut through them
cottonwoods somewheres and let us go by a-hellin'. Fooled us, by glory,
like we was a pair of hide-an'-go-seek kids. Yes--there they go now!
Look up by the top past that cut bank!" He lifted his rifle as he
spoke.

High up at the coulée's rim, some hundreds of yards away, figures
moved. At that distance, even in the brilliant moonlight, details were
lost. The eye could discern black spots merely; but it seemed that the
men had dismounted for the ascent, and were helping the horses to
scramble upward.

McHale fired, shoved down the lever, drew it home, and fired again.
Since the light did not serve to show the dust puffs of the bullets, he
could not tell whether he was shooting high or low. The main thing was
that he did not hit. Casey chimed in. The bluffs and banks echoed to
the reports of the high-powered rifles; but the figures gained the rim
and vanished. Immediately afterward a tongue of flame leaped from the
spot where they were last seen, and a bullet sang in close proximity to
Casey's head. They wheeled into the shelter of the trees, where the
shadows effectually concealed their whereabout. At short intervals
bullets searched for their position. McHale bit large consolation and
spat in disgust.

"I reckon it's a get-away," he said. "I ain't fool enough to go up that
bank while they're there. And by the time we'd get around they'd be a
couple of miles 'most anywheres."

"We've got ourselves to blame," said Casey.

"Well, that first shot burned up this cayuse of mine," McHale grumbled.
"How could I shoot, with him jumpin' around? And that blasted,
yeller-hided buzzard head of yours, he don't know no better'n to whale
into him with both heels. It wouldn't happen again, not in a million
years."

"It doesn't need to," said Casey sourly. "We found our meat, and we
couldn't stop it."

"The laugh is on us," McHale admitted. "For the powder we burned we
sure ought to have a scalp or two to show. Still, moonlight shootin' is
chance shootin', and when a cussed mean cayuse is sashayin' round if a
man hits anything but scenery he's lucky!"

"I thought that old-timer, Dade, was doing the talking."

"Sure he was. And I'll bet it was his _tillikum_, Cross, that took the
first crack at us. Didn't waste no time. He's some soon, that feller. I
s'pose they got a camp, somewheres. No use tryin' to find it. We can't
prove that they used the powder on our dams. Well, what say if we point
out for home? Daylight's breakin' now."

A pale light was spreading in the east, underneath the stars that
rimmed the horizon. Objects became more visible. As they rode
unmolested from the coulée the pale light began to flush faintly. Rosy
shafts shot upward, and the stars vanished. Here and there birds began
to twitter. An old grouse scuttled away, wings a-trail, as if mortally
hurt, to distract attention from her young brood hidden in the short
grass. A huge owl sailed ghostlike on silent wings, homeward bound from
midnight foray. A coyote yipped shrill protest against the day. Away to
the west, where the mountains loomed grandly, bright lights lay on
peaks still white with the remnants of winter snows. Suddenly, driving
the shadows before it, the sun seemed to leap above the rim of the
world.



CHAPTER XX


During the next twelve hours there was much riding from ranch to ranch.
Of all the small dams constructed and maintained by the ranchers for
irrigation purposes but one remained; and that one was Donald McCrae's.

McCrae himself considered this an invidious distinction. He would have
preferred to suffer with his neighbours. He did not know why his
structure had been spared, and he lent men and teams to others,
labouring hard himself in the task of rebuilding.

The temper of the ranchers was at the breaking point. Naturally the
blame fell on Farwell; he was the villain of the piece. He had expected
unpopularity, but he had no idea of the depth of it. The black looks he
met did not disturb him in the least; nor, to do him justice, would he
have been seriously alarmed if he had known that more than one man was
quite ready to pick a deadly quarrel with him. For some time he had not
seen Sheila McCrae, but he found himself thinking of her constantly.
And so, one evening he rode over to Talapus.

Somewhat to his relief, neither McCrae nor Sandy was visible. Mrs.
McCrae was calmly civil. Her manner gave no hint that he was unwelcome.
Sheila, she told him, had gone for a walk somewhere along the ditch.

"Oh," said Farwell, with elaborate carelessness, "then I think I'll
just stroll along and meet her."

At the end of ten minutes' walk he came upon the girl. She was sitting,
her chin propped on her hands, beside the stream where a little
bordering grove of willows had sprung up. The deep murmur of the
running water muffled his footsteps so that she neither saw nor heard
him till he was at her side.

"Good evening," he said.

She turned her head slowly, without start or exclamation.

"I did not expect to see you, Mr. Farwell."

"I thought I'd run over," he said awkwardly. "I intended to come
before."

She allowed a long minute of silence to lie between them. "And why have
you come now?" she asked.

"Why?" Farwell repeated the word. "Why? I wanted to see you. Why
shouldn't I come?"

"You ought to know why. It's one thing to do your work; but it's quite
another to blow up our dams!"

"Why do you think I did that?"

"Because I have ordinary common sense. I don't suppose you did it with
your own hand. But you've brought in a bunch of toughs and gunmen to
overawe us and do your dirty work. It will lead to serious trouble."

"I can handle trouble," said Farwell grimly. "Has anybody meddled with
your dam?"

"No."

"Then I don't see what you have to complain of. I don't admit anything.
But when you get indignant at blowing up dams you ought to remember
what happened to ours."

"Oh, as for that"--she shrugged her shoulders. "We had to have water.
Nobody blamed you before. But these dams that did you no harm--that's
different."

"But you _have_ water. Your own dam is all right," he insisted.

"Yes. And do you know what people are saying? They say that the reason
is because we have some sort of an understanding with you. They
say----" She stopped abruptly.

"What else do they say?"

"Other things. I've told you enough."

"What do you care?"

"Well, I do care. This is the only house you come to. Your visits must
end now."

"End?" Farwell echoed. "I guess not. Not unless you absolutely forbid
me to come. And then I don't know. I'd find it pretty hard."

"Nonsense!"

"I tell you I would," he protested. "You don't know."

"Bosh! We're not so fascinating as that."

Now Farwell was of the battle-axe type. He was accustomed to take what
he wanted, to smash through opposition. He looked at the girl facing
him in the fading light, and a great desire swelled within him. Her
words gave the needed spur to his courage, and he went to the point as
he would have gone in to quell a riot in a camp.

"'We,'" he said. "Who's talking of 'we'? I'm not. I come to see _you_.
You ought to know that. Of course you know it. I didn't think I'd ever
fall in love, but I _have_. You might as well know it now. I don't know
whether you think anything of me or not; it would be just my luck if
you didn't. Anyway, that's how I feel, and I'm not going to give up
seeing you just because some people have set a crazy yarn going."

The words boiled out of him like steam from a hot spring. He scowled at
her ferociously, his eyes hot and angry. It would have been difficult
to imagine a more unloverlike attitude. And yet she had no doubt of his
sincerity. She would have been less than woman if she had not suspected
his feelings before. But she had not expected this outbreak.

"I'm sorry you said that," she told him quietly. "It's quite
impossible. I can tell you now what I couldn't tell you before. People
say that I have promised to marry you in exchange for your promise that
we shall have water for the ranch."

"If you'll tell me the name of a man who utters an infernal lie like
that I'll wring his neck," he growled.

"I believe you would. But what good would it do? You can't fight
rumours and gossip in that way. That's the trouble with you--you depend
on force alone. Can't you see the position this puts us in--puts _me_
in? You can't come here any more."

"I don't see that at all," he objected. "I'll blow up your dam myself
if you think it will help, but as for not seeing you--why, it's out of
the question. I've got to see you. I'm going to see you. I can't help
it. I tell you I think of you all the time. Why, hang it, Sheila, I
think of you when I ought to be thinking of my work."

She would have laughed if she had not seen that he was in deadly
earnest. His work was a fetish, all-absorbing, demanding and receiving
the tribute of his entire attention and energy. That thought of a woman
should come between him and it was proof positive of devotion
extraordinary.

"You must not do that," she said, gently.

"But I can't help it," he reiterated. "It's new to me, this. I can't
concentrate on my work. I keep thinking of you. If that isn't being in
love, what in thunder is? I'm talking to you as straight as I'd talk to
a man. I believe I love you as much as any woman was ever loved. You
don't know much about me, but I'm considered a good man in my
profession. From a material point of view I'm all right."

"If I cared for you that would be the last thing I'd think of."

"Why can't you care for me?" he demanded. "I don't expect much. We'd
get along."

"No," she said decidedly. "No. It's impossible. We're comparatively
strangers. I think you're going to be a big man some day. I rather
admire you in some ways. But that is all."

"Well, anyway, I'm not going to quit," he announced doggedly. "I never
gave up anything yet. You talk as if it didn't matter! Maybe it doesn't
to you, but it does to me. You don't know how much I care. I can't tell
you, either. This talk isn't my line. Look here, though. About ten
years ago, down in the desert of the Southwest, my horse broke his leg,
and I was set afoot. I nearly died of thirst before I got out. All
those blistering days, while I stumbled along in that baking hell, I
kept thinking of a cool spring we had on our place when I was a boy. It
bubbled up in moss at the foot of a big cedar, and I used to lie flat
and drink till I couldn't hold any more. It was the sweetest water in
the world. All those days I tortured myself by thinking of it. I'd have
given my soul, if I have one, to satisfy my thirst at that spring. And
that's how I feel about you. I want your love as I wanted that water."

"I'm very sorry," she said. "It's out of the question."

"But why?" he demanded. "Give me a chance. I'm not a monster. Or do you
mean that you care for somebody else? Is that it? Do you care anything
for that Dunne? A fellow that's in love with another woman!"

Even in the dying light he could see the dark flush that surged over
cheek and brow. She rose to the full height of her lithe figure, facing
him.

"No, I don't!" she flamed. "But if I did what business would it be of
yours? Casey Dunne is my friend--a gentleman--which is more than you
seem to be, Mr. Farwell."

She took a step toward him in her indignation. Suddenly, with a sweep
of his arm, he clipped her to him, kissing her on forehead and cheek.
She struck him in the face with her clenched fist driven by muscles as
hard as an athlete's.

"You great brute!" she panted.

With the blow and the words, Farwell's moment of madness passed. He
held her from him at arm's length.

"A brute!" he said. "You're right. I didn't know it before. Now, I do.
How can I put myself right with you?"

"Let me go!" she cried.

As he released her she heard the quick pad of running feet. Out of the
dusk behind her bounded young Sandy McCrae. He came like a young wolf
to its first kill, his lips lifted in a snarl. In his right hand lay a
long-barrelled, black Colt's.

"Sheila!" he cried. "What's the matter? Who's this? What in--ah!"

The gun leaped up. Instinctively she threw out her hand, striking it as
he pulled the trigger. A thin stream of flame blazed almost into
Farwell's face, and the sharp report split the evening silence into
fragments. Something like a questing finger of death ran through his
hair, and his hat twitched from his head, to flutter down softly ten
feet away. But he was unhurt.

Sheila locked both arms around her brother's, dragging it down.

"No, no, no!" she cried. "I tell you no, Sandy! Don't shoot again. It's
a mistake."

He wrenched furiously to free his hand. "Mistake!" he shouted. "He was
holding you! I saw him. I heard you. Let go. I'll blow his heart out!"

But she clung to his arm. "It's a mistake, Sandy, I tell you! Can't you
understand me? Don't use that gun. I won't let you. Give it to me!"

He ceased his attempts to free his arm. "All right, Sheila. I won't
shoot--this time. You, Farwell, what have you got to say for yourself?"

"Mighty little," Farwell replied. "I asked your sister to marry me, and
she refused. I kissed her against her will. That's all--and plenty. If
you want my opinion, I think I ought to be shot."

Sandy glared at him, taken aback by this frank admission.

"If she hadn't jolted my hand you sure would have been," he said
grimly. "You're mighty lucky to be alive right now. After this if I see
you----"

"Shut up, Sandy!" Sheila interrupted authoritatively, with sisterly
directness. "I'm quite able to look after my own affairs. Mr. Farwell
is sorry. You be white enough to let it go that way."

"It's up to you, if you want it," Sandy replied. "If you can stand for
a thing like that once I can. But not twice."

"There won't be any twice. Shall we go to the house, Mr. Farwell?"

Farwell, amazed, fell into step with her. He had expected to be
overwhelmed with reproaches, to face a storm of feminine anger. Still,
he could not think that she was palliating his offence; and he was
quite aware that she had saved his life. Young McCrae, in offended
dignity, stalked in front.

"I want you to know," said Farwell, "that I'm utterly ashamed of
myself. To prove it I'm going to do the best I can. I'm going to wire
in my resignation, and I'm going away."

"Don't."

"What?" he exclaimed incredulously.

"Don't. You are sorry, and that's the main thing. We won't mention it
again. And neither will Sandy. But for a while you must not come here."

"I'll do anything," he said. "I think you are the best girl on earth."

Sheila did not reply; but she did not reprove him.

Mrs. McCrae, looking somewhat anxious, met them at the house.

"I heard a shot," she said. "Was it you, Sandy?"

"Yes," her son replied.

"What did you shoot at?"

The young man glanced at Farwell from the corner of his eye.

"A skunk," he replied. "I missed him."

Sheila bit her lip angrily. Farwell took his medicine in silence.



CHAPTER XXI


A week sufficed to put the ranchers' ditches and dams in condition to
take care of water; but at the end of that time there was little water
to take care of. It was being diverted into the company's ditch system.
Their ditches were running full, emptying upon lands on which scarcely
a pretence of cultivation was being made, while the actual farmers,
just when they needed it most, had barely sufficient water for their
domestic purposes, for stock, and for their small gardens. There was
none for the main crops in the fields.

Naturally the crops suffered, the grain most of all. A series of hot,
dry winds came. With water they would have done little or no damage;
without it the leaves curled, shrivelled, and turned pale, starving for
lack of moisture. And the peculiarly galling feature of it was that the
water which would have meant so much was practically running to waste.

In spite of these troubles Casey managed to devote time to his guests.
His projected excursion to the foothills was abandoned, but he and
Clyde rode almost daily. He had reserved his little gray mare, Dolly,
for her use, and she was becoming, if not expert, at least confident in
the saddle.

She grew to love the long evenings, the soft twilights, the warm, sweet
scent of the grasses, and the great stillness broken only by an
occasional word and the beat of willing hoofs. On these evening rides
she allowed her imagination to run riot. It pleased her to pretend that
she and Casey were the only inhabitants of the land--an Eve and Adam of
the West, pioneers of a remote civilization. All day she looked forward
to this hour or two; at night, in her bed, she lived them over,
recreating each mile, each word, each little thing--how the great owl
had sailed ghostly across their path, the gray shape of a coyote fading
into the dusk, the young broods of grouse hiding in the grass.

Occasionally she undertook to analyze her feelings toward Casey Dunne,
but the result was indefinite. She enjoyed his companionship, looked
forward to it, remembered his words, his tricks of manner and speech.
But these things, she told herself, were not conclusive.

His sentiments she had no means of judging. He was forever doing little
things to please her; but then he did as much for others. At times he
was confidential; but he seldom talked of himself, his confidences
taking the form of allowing her to share his private viewpoint,
revealing to some extent his mental processes. But he had never said
one word which indicated more than friendship. Clyde saw little of
Sheila McCrae. The latter had ridden over once or twice to see, as she
said, how Casey was treating them. On these occasions Clyde experienced
a recurrence of latent hostility. Sheila took no pains whatever with
her appearance. She came in a worn riding costume, plain, serviceable,
workmanlike; and she talked water and crops and stock with Casey and
McHale, avoiding more feminine topics. If there was any understanding
between her and Casey it did not appear to Clyde. But it was this
unreasoning hostility more than anything else which made Clyde doubt
herself. Was it, she wondered, in reality jealousy?

She put the thought from her indignantly, but it refused to be
banished. She even catalogued her attractions, comparing them with the
other girl's. The balance was in her favour; but in the end she felt
ashamed of herself. Why should she do this? She found no satisfactory
reply.

After a week of the water famine she saw a change in her host. He was
more silent, thoughtful. Often when they rode together he had nothing
to say, staring at the horizon with narrowed eyes.

"Do you ever tell anybody your troubles?" she asked abruptly one
evening. They were riding slowly homeward, and the silence had been
especially marked.

"Not very often," Casey replied. "People I've met have usually had
enough of their own. They didn't want to hear mine."

"Well, I haven't many troubles, and I'd like to share yours, if I may.
I suppose it's this water question."

"Why, yes," he admitted. "It's getting to be a mighty hard thing to
swallow--and look pleasant."

"I know." She nodded sympathetically. "You feel helpless."

"Not that exactly. The difficulty is to know just what to do--whether
to do anything or not. The boys are very hostile. It wouldn't take much
to start them."

"In what direction?"

"In any that would give action. They'd like nothing better than open
war."

She exclaimed at the words. "Surely there's no possibility of that?"

"More than a possibility," he returned gravely. "Water is a necessity
to us. The people who have taken it do not require it. They have
established what is practically an armed camp. Also they have brought
in a number of hard citizens--what are known as 'gunmen'--to overawe
us. These patrol their ditch system, and warn us to keep away from it.
It is guarded at every important point. Not satisfied with this, some
of these fellows have been apparently looking for trouble in town and
elsewhere. One of these fine days they will get it."

He shook his head forebodingly. They topped a rise as he spoke. Below
them lay the line of the company's main canal. As they rode down to it
a man on a horse seemed to appear from nowhere in particular, and came
toward them. As he drew nearer Casey recognized the man Cross.

Cross raised his hat in acknowledgment of Clyde's presence. But his
words to Casey were very much to the point.

"You got notice to keep off this property," said he.

"Well?" said Casey.

"Do it," said Cross. "Hike--meanin' _you_, understand, and not the
lady. She's plumb welcome to ride where she likes. I savvy your game,
Dunne. You ain't got nerve enough to ride out here alone, and you bring
a woman with you to play safe."

Casey paled with anger beneath his tan. "Mr. Cross," he said quietly,
"that goes--because the lady is with me. But I rather think one of us
will stay in this country a long time."

"Cheap bluff," Cross sneered. "You ain't goin' to prospect round these
ditches, linin' them up for powder. Come here alone, and I'll make you
eat the sights off of my gun."

Casey laughed softly--with him most dangerous of signs.

"Mr. Cross, you really amuse me. I won't argue the point just now.
Later, perhaps. Good evening."

Clyde had listened in amazement. Once more she had experienced the
sensation of standing on the brink of tragedy. Once more it had failed
to occur.

"And that's one of the gunmen," said Casey. "That's what we have been
putting up with. I think it will have to stop."

"Don't get into any trouble," she begged. "Promise me you won't. What
do you care what men like that say?"

"I'm partly human," he replied grimly. "I can stand as much as most
men, but there are some things I won't stand. I'm not going to climb a
tree for any man. However, I won't crowd things with Cross, though I
know plenty of men that would, on that provocation. I'm all for peace
and a quiet life. You won't think I'm afraid, I hope."

"Certainly not," she said indignantly. "You don't give me much of your
confidence, but I know you better than to think such a thing. I wish
you would tell me more of what is going on. Let me be your friend, and
not merely your guest. Talk to me as you would to--Miss McCrae."

It was the first time she had spoken to him of Sheila. It was her
challenge. She would be on the same footing.

"Sheila's different," he replied. "Sheila's one of us. I've known her
for years. She's a good deal like a sister."

"Oh," she said, "a _sister_?"

To have saved her immortal soul she could not have kept the note of
sceptical interrogation from the word. He laughed.

"Yes, a sister. Why, great Scott! you didn't think I was in love with
her, did you, just because I call her by her first name? I think
everything of her, but not in that way. She's a thousand times too good
for me. Besides, she knows me too well. That's usually fatal to
sentiment. That's why no man is a hero to his wife."

"How do you know he isn't? Kitty Wade simply worships her husband."

"Maybe. But I'll bet his pedestal isn't nearly so high as it was before
they were married. When you marry, Miss Burnaby"--he smiled at her
frankly--"you will occupy the pedestal yourself."

"Doesn't your rule work both ways?" she laughed.

"I won't admit it--to you, anyway."

"Why not--to me?"

"Because Wade tells me no man can be forced to incriminate himself," he
replied.

Clyde glanced at him swiftly, flushing in the dusk. But she did not
press for an explanation. She was satisfied. She was no longer jealous
of Sheila McCrae.

When they arrived at the ranch Dunne took the horses to the stables.
Clyde, entering the house, found Wade alone, deep in newspapers, the
accumulation of a week which he had just received. There was a package
of letters for Clyde.

"Look here, Clyde," said the lawyer. "Here's a funny thing." He held a
newspaper open at the market page. "This Western Airline stock is as
jumpy as a fever chart. For a while it went down and down and down,
away below what I should think to be its intrinsic value. There was a
rumour of a passed dividend. Nothing definite--merely a rumour. Then
came another rumour of an application for a charter for a competing
line. Both these stories seem to have brought out considerable stock.
There was heavy selling. Likely the traders went short. I'll bet some
of them were nipped, too, for the market went up without warning--yes,
by George! bounced like a rubber ball."

Clyde looked up from a letter which enclosed a formal-looking
statement. "What would send it up?"

"Buyers in excess of sellers--in other words, demand in excess of
supply," Wade responded. "That's on the face of it. Probably not half a
dozen men know the inside. Orders may have been issued to support the
stock--that is, to buy all offered in order to keep the price from
declining farther. It's hard to say, at this distance. It's possible
that the depressing rumours may have originated with the very men who
are now supporting the stock."

"Why should they do that?"

"To buy more cheaply shares which would be offered in consequence. It's
funny, though," he continued, opening another paper. "Now, here's a
later date--let's see--yes, here we are. The market opened five points
higher than it closed on the preceding day, and it closed ten points
above that opening. Holy Moses! do you know what that means?"

"Demand in excess of supply."

"Demand! Supply!" Wade echoed contemptuously. "Economics be hanged! It
means a fight for Western Air. It means that somebody is willing to pay
a fancy price for shares. Why? Because a few shares one way or the
other mean the ownership of the road, the dictation of its policy.
There's no other explanation. I wonder who----"

"Look at this," said Clyde. She handed him a telegram. He read:

    Sell nothing whatever until you hear from me. Instruct Bradley &
    Gauss.

    JIM.

Wade's lips puckered in a noiseless whistle. He did not need to be told
that "Jim" was Clyde's uncle, wily old Jim Hess, of the Hess System. It
was he who was out gunning for York and Western Air, and he had the
reputation of getting what he went after. What his tactics had been
Wade could only surmise. But the antics of the stock were proof that he
was in earnest.

"Well," he queried, "what do you know about this, young lady? Have you
been holding out on me?"

"I haven't much information," she replied. "Bradley & Gauss are my
brokers. They have been buying Western Air for me as it was offered.
There's their statement. Uncle Jim told me to buy it--said that it
ought to be worth as much as Hess System some day."

"Heavens! What a tip!" Wade exclaimed. "This will be good news for
Casey."

"I don't want him to know."

"Why not?"

"Well, he--he--that is, he might be disappointed. Uncle Jim may not get
control. If he does he'll treat everybody fairly, of course. I don't
want to raise false hopes."

"Considerate of you," said Wade, "not to say ingenious."

She flushed angrily for a moment, and then laughed.

"It's all the reason you'll get. Be a good friend, do. Promise! Also
you are to say nothing to Kitty."

"Afraid of being jollied?"

"Mr. Wade, you are impertinent!" But her eyes laughed at him.

"I'll keep your dark secret," said Wade. "It will be a joke on Kitty!"

And so Casey Dunne was left in ignorance.



CHAPTER XXII


Tom McHale ambled into Coldstream one afternoon, and dropped his pony's
reins behind the station. Thence he clanked his spurs into Mr. Quilty's
sanctum. That gentleman, nodding somnolently above a blackened clay
pipe, rolled an appraising eye at him.

"Fwhere in Hiven's name is the maskyrade at?" he queried sourly. "An'
do yez riprisint Wild Bill Hickox--rest his sowl--or th' 'Pache
Kid--th' divil burn him!"

Tom glanced down at his ancient regalia of worn leather chaps, spurs,
and the old forty-one that sagged from his right hip, and grinned.

"Guns is coming into style again out our way," he replied. "All the
best families wears 'em. There's so many of these here durn hobos and
railway men and Irish and other low characters----"

"Th' nerve of yez!" snorted Mr. Quilty. "And the name iv yez
'McHale!'--as Irish, be hivins, as Con iv th' Hundred Battles!"

McHale chuckled to himself, having succeeded in his purpose of getting
Mr. Quilty going.

"Irish? Not on your life!" he denied gravely. "What put that notion in
your head? The McHales is high-grade Scotch. Always was. They come from
Loch Lomond or Commarashindhu or them parts. Annie Laurie married a
McHale. Of course we're Scotch. You can tell by the Mac. The only
McHale that ever was in Ireland went there to civilize it."

"To civ'lize Ireland!" Mr. Quilty cried in derision. "Hear till him!
And Ireland the owldest civ'lization in the wurruld, barrin' none, and
the best! Faix, we was givin' lessons in it to all mankind whin th' dom
raggety-britched tattherdemalions iv Scotchmen hadn't th' dacincy to
wear kilts, even, but wint about bare to th' four winds iv hivin, a
barbarious race lower nor a Digger Injun, a scandal to God, man, and
faymales black and white."

"Well, maybe you're right about them old times, Corney," admitted
McHale, with an innocent face. "I meant a little later than that. This
here McHale was with William the Conqueror at the Battle of the
Boyne----"

Mr. Quilty spat at the mention of this historic event.

"Bad scran till him, then!" he exclaimed. "Yez do be a high-grade liar,
and ign'rant as well. Willyum th' Conq'ror was Irish on his mother's
side, an' he bate th' heads off iv th' bloody Sassenach, an' soaked
their king wan in th' eye wid a bow 'n' arry at a fight I disremimber
th' name of, back a thousand years before Willyum th' Dutchman--may his
sowl get its needin's!--come out iv his swamps. I tell yez th' McHales
come from Galway. In th' good owld days they hanged thim be th' dozen
to th' glor iv God an' th' greater safety iv all live stock. An th'
pity is they didn't make a cleaner job iv ut."

McHale, who was enjoying himself hugely, sifted tobacco into paper.

"I won't say you ain't right, Corney," he observed mildly. "I always
understood we was Scotch, but I ain't noways bigoted about it. That
hangin' business seems to point to us bein' Irish. Did you ever notice
how many Irishmen is hanged? Of course, there's lots ain't that ought
to be, but the general average is sure high."

"I hope to glory ye boost it wan higher yerself," Quilty retorted.
"Small loss 'tw'u'd be to anny wan. A divil iv a desp'rado yez are, wid
yer gun an' all! I'm a good mind to swipe yez over th' nut wid me
lanthern an' take ut away from yez!"

McHale drew the weapon gently, and spun it on his finger, checking the
revolutions six times with startling suddenness. Mr. Quilty watched him
sourly.

"Play thricks!" he commented. "Spin a gun! Huh! Why don't yez get a job
wid a dhrama that shows the West as it used to wasn't? I knowed wan iv
thim gun twirlers wanst. He was a burrd pluggin' tomatty cans an'
such--a fair wonder he was. But wan day he starts to make a pinwheel iv
his finger forninst a stranger he mistakes fer a tindherfut, an' he
gets th' face iv him blowed in be a derringer from that same stranger's
coat pocket."

"Sure," McHale agreed. "It was comin' to him. He should have stuck to
tomatter cans. Them plays is plumb safe."

"They's no safe play wid a gun," Mr. Quilty declared oracularly. "I'm
an owlder man nor ye, an' I worked me way West wid railway
construction. I knowed th' owld-time gunmen--the wans they tell stories
of. Where are they now? Dead, ivery mother's son iv thim, an' most iv
thim got it from a gun. No matther how quick a man is, if he kapes at
ut long enough he meets up wid some felly that bates him till
it--wanst. And wanst is enough.

"Plenty," McHale agreed. "Sure. The system is not to meet that sport. I
don't figure he lives in these parts."

Mr. Quilty blinked at him for a moment, and lowered his voice. "See,
now, b'y," said he, "I'm strong for mindin' me own business, but a
wink's as good as a nod to a blind horse. Nobody's been hurted
hereabouts yet, but keep at ut and some wan will be. I don't want ut to
be you or Casey. Go aisy, like a good la-ad."

"I'm easy as a fox-trot," said McHale. "So's Casey. We ain't crowdin'
nothin'. Only we're some tired of havin' a hot iron held to our hides.
We sorter hate to smell our own hair singein'. We ain't on the prod,
but we don't aim to be run off our own range, and that goes as it
lies."

He rose, flipping his cigarette through the open window, and inquired
for freight. They were expecting a binder and a mower. These had not
arrived. McHale looked at the date of his bill of lading, and stated
his opinion of the railway.

"Be ashamed, bawlin' out me employers in me prisince," said Mr. Quilty.
"G'wan out o' here, before I take a shotgun to yez."

"Come up and have a drink," McHale invited.

"Agin' the rules whin on duty," Quilty refused. "An' I do be on duty
whiniver I'm awake. 'Tis prohibition the comp'ny has on me, no less."

McHale rode up the straggling street to Shiller's hotel, and
dismounted. Bob Shiller in shirt sleeves sat on the veranda.

"They's a right smart o' dust to-day, Bob," said McHale. "S'pose we
sorter sprinkle it some."

"We'll go into one of the back rooms, where it's cooler," proposed
Shiller.

"Oh, I'd just as soon go to the bar," said McHale. "Might be some of
the boys there. I like to lean up against the wood."

"Well----" Shiller began, and stopped uncertainly.

"Well--what?" McHale demanded.

"Just as well you don't go into the bar right now," Shiller explained.
"You had a sort of a run-in with a feller named Cross, hadn't you--you
or Casey? He's in there with a couple of his friends--hard-lookin'
nuts. He's some tanked, and shootin' off his mouth. We'll have Billy
bring us what we want where it's cooler."

McHale kicked a post meditatively three times.

"There's mighty little style about me, Bob," he said. "I'm democratic a
lot. Havin' drinks sent up to a private room looks to me a heap like
throwin' on dog."

"I asked you," said Shiller. "It's my house. The drinks are on me."

"I spoke of the dust," McHale reminded him. "That makes it my drinks.
And then I done asked a man to meet me in the bar. I wouldn't like to
keep him waitin'."

"I don't want trouble here," said Shiller positively. "I ask you in a
friendly way not to make it."

"Well, I ain't makin' it, am I?" said McHale. "That's all right about
not wantin' trouble, but I got other things to think of. This here
Cross and Dade and that bunch don't run the country. Mighty funny if I
have to drink in a back room for them gents. Next thing you'll want me
to climb a tree. I'm allowin' to stop my thirst facin' a mirror with
one foot on a rail. I'll do it that way, or you and me won't be friends
no more."

"Go to it, then," said Shiller. "You always was a bullhead."

McHale grinned, hitched his holster forward a trifle, and walked toward
the bar. As he entered he took a swift survey of its half dozen
occupants.

Three of them were regulars, citizens of Coldstream. The others were
strangers, and each of them wore a gun down his thigh. They were of the
type known as "hard-faced." Cross, a glass in his right hand, was
standing facing the door. As it pushed open he turned his head and
stared at McHale, whom he did not immediately recognize.

"Come on, friend," said he; "get in on this."

"Sure," said McHale promptly. "A little number nine, Billy. Here's a
ho!" He set his glass down, and faced Cross. "Come again, boys. What'll
you take with me?"

But Cross swore suddenly. "Well!" he exclaimed. "Look at what blowed in
off of one of them dry-ranch layouts!"

McHale smiled blandly, pushing a bottle in his direction.

"Beats all how some things drift about all over the country," he
observed. "Tumbleweeds and such. They go rollin' along mighty gay till
they bump into a wire fence somewheres."

"It's sure a wonder to me your boss lets you stray this far off," said
Cross, with sarcasm. "He needs a man to look after him the worst way.
He don't seem to have no sand. I met up with him along our ditch a
while back, and I told him to hike. You bet he did. Only that he'd a
girl with him I'd have run him clean back to his reservation."

"You want to get a movin'-picture layout," McHale suggested. "That'd
make a right good show--_you_ runnin' Casey. You used to work for one
of them outfits, didn't you?"

"No. What makes you think I did?"

"Your face looked sorter familiar to me," McHale replied. "Studyin' on
it, it seems like I'd seen it in one of them picture shows down in
Cheyenne. Right good show, too. It showed a bunch of boys after a hoss
thief. He got away."

"Haw-haw!" laughed one of the regulars, and suddenly froze to silence.
Billy, behind the bar, stood as if petrified, towel in hand. Cross's
face, flushed with liquor, blackened in a ferocious scowl.

"You ---- ---- ----!" he roared. "What do you mean by that?"

"Mean?" asked McHale innocently. "Why, I was tellin' you about a show I
seen. What's wrong with that?"

"You called me a horse thief!" cried Cross.

"Who? Me?" said McHale. "Why, no, Mr. Cross, you ain't no hoss thief. I
know different. If anybody says you are, you just send him right along
to me. No, sir; I know you ain't. There's two good reasons against it."

Cross glared at him, his fingers beginning to twitch.

"Let's hear them," he said. "If they ain't good you go out of that door
feet first."

"They're plumb good--best you ever heard," McHale affirmed. "Now,
listen. Here's how I know you ain't no hoss thief: For one thing, you
got too much mouth; and for another you ain't got the nerve!"

Out of the dead silence came Shiller's voice from the door:

"I'll fill the first man that makes a move plumb full of buckshot. If
there's any shootin' in here, I'm doin' it myself." He held a pump gun
at his shoulder, the muzzle dominating the group. "You, Tom," he
continued, "you said you wouldn't make trouble."

"Am I makin' it?" asked McHale.

"Are you makin' it?" Shiller repeated. "Oh, no, you ain't. You're a
gentle, meek-and-mild pilgrim, you are. I ain't goin' to hold this gun
all day, neither. You better hit the high spots. I'll give you time to
get on your cayuse and drift. At the end of two minutes this man goes
out of that door, and I ain't responsible for what happens. I'm sure
sorry, Tom, to treat you like this, but I got my house to consider."

"That's all right, Bob," said McHale. "Looks like you hold the ace.
I'll step. Far's I'm concerned you needn't keep them gents two minutes
nor one." He turned to the door.

"I'm lookin' for you, McHale," said Cross.

"Come a-runnin'," said McHale. "Bring your friends."

He walked into the middle of the road, turned, and waited. His action
attracted little attention. Coldstream was indoors, somnolent with the
afternoon heat. Across the street the proprietor of the general store
commented lazily to a friend:

"What's Tom McHale doin'?"

"Some fool joke. He's full of them. I reckon he wants us to ask him."

McHale called to them: "Boys, if I was you I'd move out of line of me
and Bob's door."

"What did I tell you?" the wise one commented. "You bet I don't bite.
I----"

Out of the door of Shiller's surged Cross, gun in hand. Uncertain where
to find McHale, he glared about. Then, as he saw him standing in the
middle of the road, the weapon seemed to leap to a level.
Simultaneously McHale shot from the hip.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

Pale-pink flashes stabbed the afternoon light. Coldstream echoed to the
fusillade. Its inhabitants ran to doors and windows, streaming into the
streets. One of the store windows suddenly starred. Long lines, like
cracks in thin ice, appeared in it, radiating from a common centre. The
proprietor and his friend, electrified, ducked and sprang for shelter.
A woman screamed in fright.

Suddenly Cross staggered, turning halfway around. The deadly rage in
his face changed to blank wonder. His pistol arm sagged. Then he
collapsed gently, not as a tree falls, but as an overweighted sapling
bends, swaying backward until, overbalanced, he thudded limply on the
ground.

McHale, half crouched like a fighting animal awaiting an attack, peered
with burning eyes over the hot muzzle of his gun at the prostrate
figure. Swiftly he swung out the cylinder of the weapon, ejected the
empty shells, refilled the chambers, and snapped it shut. Shiller's
door opened. McHale covered it instantly, but it was Shiller himself.

"So you done it, did you?" he said.

"Sure," said McHale. "He comes a-shootin', and I gets him. Likewise I
gets them two _tillikums_ of his if they want it that way."

"Billy's keepin' them quiet with the pump gun," Shiller informed him.
"You better get out o' town. I'll clean up your mess, darn you! Git
quick. Them fellers expects some more in."

McHale nodded. "I ain't organized to stand off a whole posse with one
gun. So long, Bob. I'm plumb sorry I mixed you into this. They won't
like you much now."

"They don't need to," said Shiller. "Want any money? Want another gun?
I got a handy little three-ought-three carbine."

"No. I'll get my own outfit. I may have to lie out for a spell. Well,
I'll be movin'."

He mounted swiftly. Men crowding up to the scene of the affray stopped
suddenly. Few of them had seen the like before. They shrank back, awed,
from the killer. He rode down the street, gun in hand, casting swift
glances right and left, ready for any attempt to stop him. There was
none. He vanished in the swells of brown grasses, riding at an easy
lope, as unhurried as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.



CHAPTER XXIII


Tom McHale reached Chakchak, stabled his horse, made a hasty toilet,
and attacked a belated supper. While he was eating with hearty appetite
Casey and Wade strolled in.

"Did that freight come?" asked Casey.

"Nope," said McHale. "I got a tracer started after her."

"Anything doing in town?"

"Why, I reckon there was a _leetle_ excitement there for a few
minutes," said McHale. "Sort of an argument in front of Bob Shiller's."

Casey, from his knowledge of McHale, came to attention at once. "Well?"
he asked abruptly.

"Well, it was me and this here Cross," McHale explained. "I downed
him."

"In the argument?" laughed Wade, who did not comprehend. But Casey
asked quickly: "Gun?"

McHale nodded.

"You did! How'd it happen? Is he dead?"

"I miss once, but three times I'm pretty near centre," McHale replied.
"Course, I didn't wait to hold no inquest, but if he ain't forded
Jordan's tide by now he's plumb lucky; also tough. Only thing makes me
doubt it is the way he goes down. He don't come ahead on his face the
way a man does when he's plugged for keeps; but he sorter sags
backward, so he may have a chance. Still, I reckon she's a slim one."

Casey got the full story with half a dozen brief questions.

"Clear case of self-defence, isn't it, Wade?"

"Looks that way, if the evidence corroborates what he says," the lawyer
replied. "Are you sure he shot first, Tom?"

"Better put it he meant to shoot first," McHale responded. "Naturally,
I ain't standin' round waitin' for no sightin' shots. It comes close to
an even break."

"That's good enough," Wade declared. "If his actions left no doubt of
his hostile purpose in your mind you were justified in protecting
yourself."

"They sure didn't," said McHale. "He's out to down me, and I know it.
There ain't no Alphonse and Gaston stuff when he comes boilin' out,
pullin' his gun. I just sail in to get action while I got the chance."

"Exactly," said Wade. "Well, Tom, you'll be arrested, of course. If
Cross isn't dead, likely you can get bail. If he is, I'm afraid you'll
have to remain in custody till the trial. I'll defend you myself, if
you'll let me. Or maybe it would be better to get a man whose practice
is more on the criminal side. I'll get the best there is for you."

"I'm obliged," said McHale. "I'll stand a trial all right, but I ain't
figurin' on bein' arrested for a while."

"Nonsense!" said Wade. "You don't mean to resist arrest? That's
foolish."

"Oh, I dunno," said McHale. "Depends on how you look at it. I ain't
goin' to resist to speak of; I'm just lyin' low for a spell. I reckon
I'll pack old Baldy with a little outfit, Casey. 'Bout two days from
now you'll find him out by Sunk Springs if you ride that way."

"I don't get the idea."

"It's this way," McHale explained. "This Cross is one of a bad bunch.
They'll be out for my scalp. They don't want no law in this. I been
hearin' 'bout Cross and this old-timer, Dade. They're great tillikums,
and Dade is the old he-coon of the bunch. I ain't takin' a chance on
some little tin-starred deputy standin' them off. Furthermore, I figure
it ain't unlikely they'll come after me some time to-night. If it was
just you and me, Casey, we could stand the hand, and whatever hangin'
there was would come off in the smoke. But with women on the place it
wouldn't be right. So I'll just point out for a little campin' spot
somewheres, and save everybody trouble. If any of these here sheriffs
or deputies gets nosin' around, you tell 'em how it is. I'll come in
when the signs is right, and not before. Tell them not to go huntin'
me, neither, but to go ahead and get everything set for a proper trial.
I'll send word when I'll be in."

Wade chuckled. "They can't arrange a trial without somebody to try,
Tom."

"They'll have to make a stagger at it, or wait," McHale responded
seriously.

It was dusk when he headed westward, old Baldy, lightly packed,
trotting meekly at the tail of his saddle horse.

Casey, coming back from a final word with him, met Clyde strolling
toward the young orchard. He fell into step.

"Nice evening."

She regarded him quizzically. "I won't ask a single question. You
needn't be afraid."

"Did you think I meant to head off your natural curiosity? Not a bit of
it. You want to know where Tom is going at this time of night, and
why?"

"Of course I do. But I won't ask."

"You may just as well know now as later." He told her what had
happened, omitting to mention McHale's real reason for leaving the
ranch. Even in the darkness he could see the trouble in her eyes.

"You really mean it?" she questioned. "You mean that he has killed a
man?"

"Either that or shot him up pretty badly."

"I can scarcely believe it. I like McHale; he's droll, humorous, so
cheerful, so easy-going. I can't think of him as a murderer."

"Nonsense!" said Casey. "No murder about it. It was a fair gun
fight--an even break. This fellow came at Tom, shooting. He had to
protect himself."

"He could have avoided it. He had time to get on his horse and ride
away. But he waited."

"He did right," said Casey. "This man would have shot him on sight. It
was best to settle it then and there."

"That may be so," she admitted, "but life is a sacred thing to me."

"No doubt Tom considered his own life tolerably sacred," he responded.
"As an abstract proposition life may be sacred. Practically it's about
the cheapest thing on earth. It persists and repeats and increases in
spite of war, pestilence, and famine. The principal value of the
individual life is its service to other life. Cross wasn't much good.
That old Holstein over there in the corral, with her long and
honourable record of milk production and thoroughbred calves, is of
more real benefit to the world. You see, it was Tom or Cross. One had
to go. I'm mighty glad it was Cross."

"Oh, if you put it that way----"

"That's the way to put it. Of course, we aren't sure that he's more
than shot up a little. Still, knowing what Tom can do with a gun, I'm
inclined to think that Cross is all same good Indian."

For some moments they walked in silence. It was rapidly becoming dark.
A heavy bank of cloud, blue-black in the waning light, was slowly
climbing into the northwestern sky, partially obscuring the last tints
of the sunset. The wind had ceased. The air was hot, oppressive, laden
with the scents of dry earth. Sounds carried far in the stillness. The
stamp of a horse in a stall, the low, throaty notes of a cow nuzzling
her calf, the far-off evening wail of a coyote--all seemed strangely
near at hand, borne by some telephonic quality in the atmosphere.

"How still it is!" said Clyde. "One can almost feel the darkness
descending."

"Electrical storm coming, I fancy. No such luck as rain."

"I don't suppose it affects you," she remarked, "but out here when
night comes I feel lonely. And yet that's scarcely the right word. It's
more a sense of apprehension, a realization of my own unimportance. The
country is so vast--so empty--that I feel dwarfed by it. I believe I'm
afraid of the big, lonely land when the darkness lies on it. Of course,
you'll laugh at me."

"No," he assured her. "I know the feeling very well. I've had it
myself, not here, but up where the rivers run into the Polar Sea. The
vastness oppressed. I wanted the company of men and to see the things
man had made. I was awed by the world lying just as it came from the
hand of God. The wilderness seemed to press in on me. That's what
drives men mad sometimes. It isn't the solitude or the loneliness
exactly. It's the constant pressure of forces that can be felt but not
described."

"I think I understand."

"The ordinary person wouldn't. There are no words to express some
things."

"I'm glad of it; I don't want the things I feel the most cheapened by
words."

"Something in that," he agreed. "Words are poor things when one really
_feels_. Providence seems to have arranged that we should be more or
less tongue-tied when we feel the most."

"Is that the case?"

"I think so--with men, at any rate. It's especially so with most of us
in affairs of love and death."

"But some men make love very well, you know," she smiled.

"I defer to your experience," he laughed back.

"Oh, my experience!" She made a wry face. "And what do you know of my
experience?"

"Less than nothing. But from some slight observation of my fellow men I
am aware that a very pretty and wealthy girl is in a position to
collect experience of that kind faster than she can catalogue it."

"Perhaps she doesn't want to do either."

"Referring further to my fellow man, I beg to say that her wishes cut
very little ice. She will get the experience whether she wants it or
not."

"Accurate observer! Are you trying to flatter me?"

"As how?"

"Do you think me pretty?"

"Even in the darkness----"

"Be serious. Do you?"

"Why, of course I do. I never saw a prettier girl in my life."

"Cross your heart?"

"Honest Injun--wish I may die!"

"Oh, well," said Clyde, "that's something. That's satisfactory. I'm
glad to extract something of a complimentary nature at last. You were
far better when I met you at the Wades'. You did pay me a compliment,
and you asked me for a rose. Please, sir, _do_ you remember asking a
poor girl for a rose?"

"I have it still."

"Truly?" A little throb of pleasure shot through her and crept into her
voice. "And you never told me!"

"I was to keep it as security. That was the bargain."

"But how much nicer it would be to say that you kept it because I gave
it to you. Are you aware that I made an exception in your favour by
doing so?"

"I thought so at the time," said Casey. "I expected a refusal. However,
I took a chance."

"And won. Are you sure that you have the rose still? And where among
your treasures do you keep it?"

He hesitated.

"You don't know where it is! That's just like a man. For shame!"

"You're wrong," Casey said quietly. "I keep it with some little things
that belonged to my mother."

She put out her hand impulsively. "Oh!" she exclaimed. "I--I beg your
pardon!"

His strong fingers closed on hers. She did not withdraw her hand. He
leaned forward to look into her upraised eyes in the growing darkness.

"That seemed the proper place to keep it. I value your friendship very
much--too much to presume on it. We are at opposite ends of the
world--I'm quite aware of that. When this little holiday of yours is
over you'll go back to your everyday life and surroundings, and I don't
want you to take with you one regret or unpleasant memory."

"I don't know what I shall take," she replied gravely. "But I'm not at
all sure that I shall go back."

"I don't understand."

"Suppose," she said, "suppose that you were a moderately rich man, in
good health, young, without business or profession, without any special
talent; and that your friends--your social circle--were very much like
yourself. Suppose that your life was spent in clubs, country houses,
travel--that you had nothing on earth to do but amuse yourself, nothing
to look forward to but repetitions of the same amusement. What would
become of you?"

"To be perfectly truthful," he replied, "I should probably go to the
devil."

"The correct answer," said Clyde gravely. "_I_ am going to the devil.
Oh, I'm strictly conventional. I mean that I'm stagnating
utterly--mentally, morally, and physically. I'm degenerating. My life
is a feminine replica of the one I suggested to you. I'm wearied to
death of it--of killing time aimlessly, of playing at literature, at
charity, at uplifting people who don't want to be uplifted. And there's
nothing different ahead. Must I play at living until I die?"

"But you will marry," he predicted. "You will meet the right man. That
will make a difference."

"Perhaps I have met him."

"Then I wish you great happiness."

"And perhaps he doesn't care for me--in that way."

"The right man would. You're not hard to fall in love with, Clyde."

"Am I not--Casey?" She smiled up at him through the dark, a little
tremor in her voice. She felt his fingers tighten on hers like bands of
steel, crushing them together, and she was conscious of a strange joy
in the pain of it.

"You know you are not!" he said tensely. "I could----" He broke off
abruptly.

"Then why don't you?" she murmured softly.

"Why not?" he exclaimed. "I'd look pretty, wouldn't I, a busted land
speculator, falling in love with you! I've some sense of the fitness of
things. But when you look at me like that----"

He stooped swiftly and kissed her, drawing her to him almost fiercely.
"Oh, girl!" he said, "why did you tempt me? I've forgotten what was due
you as my guest. I've forgotten all that I've been remembering so
carefully for weeks. Now it's over. Some day the right man will tell
you how he loves you."

"I am waiting," she whispered, "for the 'right man' to tell me now!"

"Why," he exclaimed incredulously, "you don't mean----"

"But I do mean," she replied. "Oh, Casey, boy, didn't you know?
Couldn't you guess? Must I do all the love-making myself?"

The answer to this question was in the nature of an unqualified
negative, and extended over half an hour. But Casey retained many of
his scruples. He could not, he insisted, live on her money. If he went
broke, as seemed likely, he must have time to get a fresh stake. Clyde
waived this point, having some faith in Jim Hess. Of this, however, she
said nothing to him.

"We had better go," she said at last. "It is quite dark. Kitty will
wonder where we are."

"Shall you tell her? Better."

"Not to-night, anyway. She--you see----"

"She'd jolly you, you mean. Of course. But We may as well have it
over."

"Not to-night," Clyde repeated. She was uncomfortably conscious of her
confidences to Kitty Wade, made without much thought.

They approached the house from the rear, passing by the kitchen, whence
issued the sound of voices.

"Let's take a peep at Feng's company?" Casey suggested.

The kitchen was built apart from the house, but attached to it by a
covered way. Standing in the outer darkness, they could look in through
the open window without risk of being seen, and were close enough to
overhear every word.

Feng was resting from the labours of the day, sitting smoking on the
kitchen table. Facing him, a pipe between his wrinkled lips, sat old
Simon. His face was expressionless, but his eyes, black, watchful, were
curiously alert.

"What foh you come, Injun?" Feng demanded. "Wantee glub? Injun all time
_hiyu_ eat, all same hobo tlamp. S'pose you hungly me catch some
_muckamuck_. Catch piecee blead, catch col' loast beef--loast
_moosmoos_!"

"You catchum," Simon agreed. "Casey--where him stop?"

"Casey!" Feng's features expanded in a grin. "Him stop along gal--_tenas
klootchman_, you savvy. Go walkee along gal. P'laps, bimeby, two, tlee
hou', him come back."

Simon grunted gutturally. "Ya-as," he drawled.

"_Hiyu_ lich gal," Feng proceeded. "Have _hiyu_ dolla'. You bet. She
one _hiyu_ dam' plitty gal, savvy?"

"Hush!" Clyde whispered, as Casey would have put an end to this risky
eavesdropping. "I didn't think that Feng had such good taste. I'm
getting compliments from everybody to-night. I'm really flattered. I
want to hear some more."

"Better not," he advised apprehensively.

"But I want to."

"Ya-as," Simon drawled again. "_Hyas kloshe tenas klootchman_--ah-ha.
What name you callum?"

"Missee Clyde Bullaby," Feng replied, making a manful attempt at
Clyde's surname, which was quite beyond his lingual attainments.

"Clyde!" Simon repeated, in accents of incredulity. "Me savvy 'Clyde.'
Him big man-horse _hyas skookum_ man-horse. Him _mammook_ plow,
_mammook_ haul wagon!"

"You _hyas_ damfool Injun!" said his host politely. "Missee Clyde
Chlistian gal's name, catchum in Chlistian Bible; all same Swede Annie,
all same Spokane Sue, all same Po'tland Lily."

Simon digested this information with preternatural gravity. "Ya-as,"
said he. "Casey like Clyde?"

"Clyde likee Casey," Feng responded knowingly. "Casey call um woman
fliend. Lats! All same big Melican bluff, makee me sick. Bimeby some
time she makee mally him. Bimeby baby stop. Then me quit. Me go back to
China."

The prophet's last words blurred in Clyde's ringing ears. The friendly
darkness hid her flaming cheeks. Why, oh why, had she listened? She
was not even shocked by Casey's muttered curse. She felt his hand on
her arm, drawing her gently back into the deeper shadows. In silence
she followed.

"I'll fire that infernal yellow scoundrel to-morrow," he growled.

"No, no, it was my own fault," she declared. "Absolutely and entirely
my own. I--I----Oh, don't _look_ at me, please!"

"I won't," he promised, but his voice shook slightly.

"You're laughing!" she accused him tragically.

"Indeed I'm not," he denied; but with the words came an involuntary
sound strongly resembling a chuckle.

"Shame!" she cried.

"Yes, yes!" he gasped. "I know it. It's too bad. Ha-ha! I really beg
your pardon. I----Oh, good Lord!"

But Clyde gathered up her skirts and fled, whirling up the veranda
steps and into the house like a small cyclone, never pausing until a
locked door lay between her and a ribald, unfeeling world.



CHAPTER XXIV


It was after midnight when Clyde awoke. She passed from slumber to
wakefulness instantly, without the usual intervening stages of
drowsiness.

Outside a gale was blowing, and volleys of rain pattered like spent
shot on windows and roof. Thunder rumbled ceaselessly. A vivid flash
rent the outer darkness, illuminating the room, and the succeeding
crack shook the house. It was a storm, rare in the dry belt, of which
there were not more than one or two in the year. For Casey's sake she
hoped that there would be no hail with it. Better continued drought
than a ruinous bombardment of frozen pellets from the heavens which
would beat the crops to the ground, utterly destroying them.

As she lay listening she seemed to hear sounds not of the storm, as of
some one moving on the veranda. Then came a loud, insistent knocking.
She heard the door of Wade's room open, and a long crack of light
beneath her own showed that he had lit a lamp.

"Hello! Who's there?" he asked.

The reply was indistinguishable. A violent blow on the door followed
it. She sprang out of bed, threw on a dressing gown, thrust her feet
into slippers, opened her door, and peered out.

A single hand lamp on the table showed Wade, clad in pajamas and
slippers, standing before the door. His attitude expressed uncertainty.
He glanced back and saw Clyde.

"What is it?" she asked. "Who is there?"

"I don't know," he replied. "There are men out there. They want me to
open the door. Do you know where there's a gun in the house? I
haven't----"

The impact of a heavy body cut him short. The lock gave way, and the
door swung inward. Wade sprang back and caught up a chair. Framed in
the door, silhouetted against the outer blackness, appeared a man. His
hat was pulled low over his eyes. A handkerchief cut with eyeholes
concealed his face. His right hand held a six-shooter, with which he
covered Wade. Back of him, pressing forward, were other armed men.

"Put that chair down!" he ordered. "Nobody's goin' to hurt you."

"Glad to hear it!" snapped Wade, who was the fortunate owner of
unlimited sand. "What do you mean by breaking into a house in the
middle of the night and frightening women? If you want money I've got
about fifty dollars, and that's all. You're welcome to it if you'll
clear out."

"Keep it," the intruder returned contemptuously. He stepped into the
room, followed by four others. "I guess your name is Wade. We don't
want you. We want McHale."

"Well, I haven't got him," said Wade.

"Where is he?"

"What do you want with him?"

"That's none of your business."

"All right. If that's so it's none of my business where he is."

"You'd better make it your business," said the other suggestively.

"Well, I won't," Wade retorted. "He isn't here, and that'll have to do
you."

"On general principles it don't do to believe a lawyer. Where's Dunne?"

"He isn't here, either."

"I reckon we'll make sure of that." He took a step in the direction of
Clyde's room. Wade stepped in front of him.

"No, you don't, my friend," said he. "That room belongs to a lady. You
keep out of it."

The leader stopped. "Well," he said, "I don't want to scare no women;
but all the same I'm goin' to see the inside of every room in this
house. S'pose you knock and tell that lady to fix herself up so's she
won't mind my takin' a look in. I'm goin' to make mighty sure her name
ain't McHale."

Clyde opened the door, and walked into the room. She was surprised to
find that she was not in the least frightened. Said she:

"Good evening, gentlemen. Do you think I resemble Mr. McHale?"

"No, ma'am," said the leader; "I don't reckon you favour him much."

Admiration was apparent in his voice. Clyde smiled at him.

"Then perhaps you'll take a look at my room now, and allow me to retire
again."

"I don't need to look there, ma'am," the man replied. "I'm awful sorry
we troubled you."

"That's the way to talk," said a quiet voice from the door.

The leader whirled instantly to look into the ominous muzzle of a heavy
automatic held by Casey Dunne.

"Put that gun down, and your hands up!" snapped Casey. "Quick! No
nonsense! I'll kill the first man that tries anything."

The quiet had gone from his voice; it bit like acid. Strange, hard
lights danced in his eyes. The hand that held the gun had not a tremor.
Clyde, looking at him, saw and recognized in his face the cold
deadliness which she had once seen in McHale's.

Without an instant's hesitation the leader put his weapon on the table.
"You win once," he observed.

"That's sensible," Casey commented. "Now, perhaps you'll tell me what
this means?"

"No objection in the world," the other replied coolly. "We wanted to
interview McHale."

"Is that so? Well, Tom isn't here to-night Mr. Dade. By the way, unless
you really like it you needn't wear that transformation scheme across
your face. Same remark applies to the other gentlemen. I like to know
my visitors."

Dade laughed, removing the handkerchief. "Take a good look. You may see
me again."

"Any time you like, Mr. Dade. And what did you want with McHale?"

"Well," Dade answered calmly, "we figured that he'd help us take the
stretch out of a new rope."

"Nobody else would do?" queried Casey.

"We wanted him."

"I see. And had our mutual friend, Mr. Cross, anything to do with your
desire? By the way, how _is_ Mr. Cross? Or should I say the late Mr.
Cross?"

"Not yet," Dade replied. "He's got a chance."

"Then aren't you too previous?"

"McHale laid for him, and plugged him as he came out of Shiller's,"
Dade declared.

"Cross came out of Shiller's with his gun in his hand to get McHale,"
said Casey. "McHale was entitled to shoot. It was an even break."

"That's not how I heard it."

"That's what McHale says, and it goes with me."

"It don't go with me," Dade declared. "Me and Cross is partners--has
been for years. I'm out to get McHale, and you can send him word. I
reckon he ain't here, or he'd be obvious."

"He'd be mighty obvious," Casey agreed. "I may as well tell you, Mr.
Dade, that this feud business makes me tired. It's sinful, and, worse
than that, it's out of date. You take notice, now, that we won't stand
for it. You've pretty well played out your string here, anyway."

Dade stared at him. "I reckon you'll have to talk a little plainer,
Dunne."

"Isn't that plain enough? This shooting was square. You let it go as it
lies. Otherwise we'll clean up your whole bunch."

Dade laughed. "That's sure plain," he admitted. "I like nerve, and
you've got it a-plenty, but you ain't got me buffaloed at all. You
heard what I said. It goes."

"Suit yourself," said Casey. "I'll send McHale word. Anything else I
can do for you to-night?"

"Not a thing," Dade replied. "We'll be going--unless you want us to
stay. I'm sorry we disturbed the lady, but I sure thought McHale was in
here."

"She'll forgive you," said Casey. "That part of it's all right. Better
think over what I said. I mean it."

"So do I," said Dade grimly. "You can send McHale word."

As Casey closed the door and set a chair against it in place of the
damaged fastenings, Kitty Wade peeped from her room.

"Are the outlaws g-gone?" she asked.

"They have went," her husband replied. "You are saved, m'dear. Your
little heart may now palpitate in normal palps."

His wife, looking altogether charming and girlish, emerged.

"Well, I _was_ frightened," she admitted. "I'd give worlds to be as
brave as Clyde."

Clyde, feeling Casey's eyes upon her, flushed and gathered her dressing
gown closer, conscious for the first time of her attire. "Oh, nonsense,
Kitty!" she responded. "I was really shaking in my shoes."

"You didn't show it," Casey commented. "There isn't one girl in a
thousand who would have been as cool."

"I agree with you," said Wade. He put his arm around his wife. "Better
go back to roost, little girl."

"Not until I hear all about it," said Kitty. "Go and get a bath robe or
something, like a good boy. Pajamas are very becoming, and all the best
people wear 'em, but----"

"I beg everybody's pardon!" Wade exclaimed in confusion. "I thought I
had on my--er--that is, it never struck me that I wasn't clad in
orthodox garments." He was back in a moment, swathed in a bath robe.
"Now, Casey, tell us how you happened to make that stage entrance?"

"Not much to tell about it," Casey replied. "I had an old Indian bedded
down in the hay in the stable, and he saw or heard this outfit riding
in and woke me up. As a matter of fact, the old boy was just outside
with a shotgun all the time. We had that much moral support. He came to
tell me that this outfit meant to get Tom."

"This McHale business is serious," said Wade.

"Very serious. I don't mean so far as Tom is concerned; he can take
care of himself. But you can see that we can't allow these men to
bulldoze us. It's McHale now. To-morrow it may be some one else."

"Yes, I see. But what can you do about it? The law----"

"It's outside the law," said Casey. "The law is too slow. We'll make
our own law. Hello! What's that?"

He jumped to his feet, gun in hand, as the chair set against the door
scraped back from it. Out of the darkness staggered Sheila McCrae.

Water dripped from her old pony hat and ran in little rivulets from a
long, yellow slicker. From head to foot she was spattered with mud. Her
face was pale, drawn, and dirt-smeared, and blood oozed slowly from a
jagged cut above her left eye. She swayed from side to side as she
walked.

Kitty Wade cried out; Clyde rose swiftly in quick sympathy. But Casey
was before her.

"Sheila--girl--what's the matter?" he exclaimed.

She stretched out her arms to him gropingly.

"Where's Tom, Casey? They're after him. Maybe they're after you.
Father's hurt. Sandy----I can't talk, Casey. I guess--I'm--all in."

He caught her as she fell forward, lifting her in his arms as easily as
if she had been a child, and laid her on a couch.

"No, no," he said, as Clyde would have put cushions beneath her head.
"Let her lie flat." He unbuttoned the slicker, and opened her dress
halfway from throat to waist, stripping it away with ruthless hand. A
bare shoulder and arm showed bruised and discoloured. "She's been in
some mix-up--had a fall or something. Wade, get me some whiskey and
water!" His long fingers closed on her wrist. "She'll be all right in
five minutes, unless something's broken. Mrs. Wade, get in here and
loosen her corsets. Give her a chance."

Kitty stooped obediently, and straightened up in amazement.
"Why--she----"

"Well, how did I know?" snapped Casey. He ran his hand down her side.
"No ribs broken; arms all right. Good!"

Sheila's long lashes fluttered against her cheeks, she sighed and
opened her eyes.

"Casey," she said, "never mind me. Look out for yourself. Where's Tom?
There are men coming to-night. I was afraid----"

"All right, Sheila," he interrupted. "Tom is safe. The men have gone.
No trouble at all. Just lie quiet till things steady a little. Have a
drink of this."

Clyde brought water, sponge, and towels. She cleansed Sheila's face and
hands, and deftly dressed the cut in her forehead.

"You make me feel like a baby," said Sheila. "I never fainted before in
my life. I didn't think I could faint. I'm all right now. May I sit up,
please?"

"You may lie up, if you like," Casey replied. "Let me put some pillows
under you. You've had a bad shake-up, old girl."

"Beaver Boy fell," she explained, "and threw me. I must have struck my
head. I don't know how I caught him again. I don't remember very
clearly. I had to hang on to the horn sometimes--dizzy, you know. I
never had to pull leather before. He was afraid of the lightning, and I
wasn't strong enough to handle him afterward. The fall took it out of
me. I just had to let him go. He knew it, and acted mean. I'll show him
whose horse he is next time."

"You rode on your nerve," said Casey. "Tell us all about it. Tell us
about your father and Sandy. You were going to say something when you
keeled over."

The girl's keen face clouded. "Oh, heavens! Casey, my head can't be
right yet. I'd clean forgotten my own people. There's been nothing but
trouble in bunches all day. The drivers ran away this morning, smashed
the rig, threw father out, and broke his leg. This afternoon this man
Glass, whom we all took for a harmless nuisance, arrested Sandy."

"What?" Casey exclaimed.

"Yes, he did. Glass is a railway detective. He worked quietly, nosing
around the ranches talking to everybody, while the other detective
attracted all the attention. Nobody suspected Glass. Who would? Anyway,
he and another man arrested Sandy for blowing up the dam."

Casey whistled softly, casting a side glance at Wade.

"Where's Sandy now? Where did they take him?"

Sheila laughed, but there was little mirth in it.

"They didn't take him anywhere, but I don't know where he is. I saw him
with the two men down by the stable. I thought they were talking about
land. Half an hour afterward he came to the house with his parfleches,
and asked me to put him up a couple of weeks' grubstake. He had the men
locked up in the harness room, but he didn't tell me how he had done
it. He took his pack horse and his blankets and hunting outfit, and
pulled out. I didn't know what to do. I didn't tell the folks. The
ranch hands know, but they won't let the men out. And then it must have
been after ten o'clock when one of our men told me of the shooting. He
had heard it from somebody on the road. He said that Cross' friends
were talking of lynching McHale, and perhaps you. I didn't believe it
at first, but after a while I got nervous. Everybody was asleep, and
anyway there was nobody I could ask to go; so I came myself."

"And Tom and I will never forget it, Sheila," said Casey. "I don't know
another girl who could have made it after a fall like that in this
storm."

"It was perfectly splendid of you!" cried Kitty Wade, with hearty
admiration.

Clyde, obeying a sudden impulse, leaned forward and kissed the bruised
forehead. Sheila was unused to such endearments. She had no intimates
of her own sex; with the women she was courteously distant, repelling
and rather despising them. She had felt Clyde's instinctive hostility,
and had returned it. Surprised and touched by her action, the tears
started to her eyes. Clyde put her arms around the slender, pliant
waist.

"Come with me, dear, and get some sleep. You're badly shaken up. We'll
sleep in, in the morning."

"But I have to go back," Sheila objected. "Nobody knows I've gone. I
have to be back by morning. And then there's Beaver Boy! My heavens! I
left him standing outside. Oh, I've got to----"

Casey gently pressed her back as she would have risen.

"I'll stable the horse, old girl; and I'll be at Talapus by daylight to
tell them where you are. Don't you worry, now, about anything--not even
Sandy. If he's gone back to the hills I'll bet he finds Tom. They'll be
all right."

"Do you think so, Casey? And will you do that much for me? I'm awfully
sore and tired. Every bone and muscle of me aches."

"You poor little girl." He raised her in his arms. "Come on, girls, and
put her to bed. I'll carry her in."



CHAPTER XXV


With the first streaks of dawn Casey and Simon mounted and rode for
Talapus. But before they had ridden five hundred yards Casey discovered
an extraordinary thing. In his ears sounded a sustained, musical
murmur, nothing less than the happy laugh of running water.

"By the Lord Harry!" he ejaculated. "There's water in the ditches."

Simon nodded. "Ya-as. _Hiyu chuck_ stop, all same _skookum chuck_," he
observed, signifying that there was a full head of it, like a rapid.

The ditches were running to the brim. After the soaking rain of the
night the water was not immediately needed, but it showed that the
irrigation company's works no longer controlled the supply. When they
reached the river they found a swirling, yellow torrent running
yeasty-topped, speckled with débris.

"S'pose cloud _kokshut_!" Simon observed.

"Cloudburst, eh!" said Casey. "Looks like it. Then either the company's
dam has gone, or it can't take care of the head."

The former supposition seemed the more likely. Somewhere up in the
heart of the hills the black storm cloud had broken, and its contents,
collected by nameless creeks and gulches, had swooped down on the
Coldstream, raising it bank high, booming down to the lower reaches,
practically a wall of water, against which only the strongest
structures might stand. Temporary ones would go out before it, washed
away like a child's sand castle in a Fundy tide.

Ignoring trails, they struck straight across country. The land had been
washed clean. Beneath the brown grasses the earth lay dark and moist. A
hundred fresh, elusive odours struck the nostrils, called forth from
the soil by the rare moisture, a silent token of its latent fertility.
On the way there were no houses, no fences, no cleared fields. The land
lay in the dawn as empty as when the keels of restless white men first
split the Western ocean; and more lifeless, for the great buffalo herds
that of old gave the men of the plains and foothills food and raiment
were gone forever.

The sun was up when they reached Talapus. Mrs. McCrae had just
discovered her daughter's absence; and her husband was cursing the leg
that held him helpless. Casey told them the events of the night, and
Donald McCrae was proud of his daughter, and but little worried about
his son.

"Show me another girl would have ridden in that storm!" he exclaimed.
"She's the old stock--the old frontier stock! And Sandy, locking the
detective in the harness room!" He chuckled. "Go down and let them out,
Casey, and give them breakfast. A fine pair of children we've got,
mother."

"Sandy can take care of himself," said Mrs. McCrae practically. "He
always did, since he could walk, and he took his own ways, asking
nobody. And Sheila, for a girl, is the same. They take after you,
Donald, not me. But now, Casey, Mrs. Wade is at Chakchak, isn't she?"

"Mrs. Wade and Miss Burnaby," Casey replied. "It's all right, Mrs.
McCrae."

"Sheila needs no chaperon," said her father.

"Not with Casey," said her mother. "But there's the gossip, Donald, and
the dirty tongues. It's not like the old days."

"True enough, maybe," McCrae admitted. And he added, when his wife had
left the room: "What have they got hold of to arrest the boy, Casey?"

"I don't know," Casey replied. "But we'll face the music, Donald."

When Casey entered the harness room Glass and another man, a stranger,
lay in one corner on a heap of sacks. Sandy had done a most workmanlike
job, and he had put a neat finish to it by strapping each man to a
stanchion with a pair of driving reins.

"Good morning, gentlemen," said Casey.

"Is it?" said Glass, sourly. His old hesitating manner had quite
vanished.

"Beautiful," Casey replied. "Sun shining, birds singing, crops growing.
'God's in His heaven; all's well with the world.' Like to take a look
at it? Or are you too much attached to your present surroundings?"

"You can cut out the funny stuff," said Glass. "I don't ever laugh
before breakfast."

"Quite right, too," Casey replied. "Just roll over a little till I get
at those knots. There you are, Mr. Glass. Now your friend here. Don't
think I know him."

"Jack Pugh, sheriff's officer," said Glass, rising stiffly, with
considerable difficulty.

"I'll have him in shape to shake hands in a minute," said Casey, as he
worried at the knots. "And so, Mr. Glass, instead of an innocent
landlooker you are a real live, mysterious detective. You don't look
the part. Or perhaps you are still disguised."

"I can stand a josh better now," said Glass. "Maybe I'm not such a live
proposition as I might be. When two grown men let a kid hogtie them it
sort of starts them thinking."

"It sure does," Pugh agreed. He was a saturnine gentleman, with a
humorous eye. "I been wantin' to scratch my nose for eight solid
hours," he affirmed irrelevantly, rubbing that organ violently with his
free hand.

"He's some kid," said Glass. "Where is he?"

"I haven't seen him. He left word where to find you."

"Beat it somewhere, I suppose," Glass commented. "He fooled us up in
great style, I'll say that much. At first he acted about the way you'd
expect a country kid to act--scared to death. He wanted to change his
overalls for pants before we took him anywhere. Said they were hanging
up in here. We fell for it. We came in, and there was a pair of pants
hanging on a nail. He walked over to them, and the next thing we knew
he had a gun on us. I hope I know when a man means business--and he
did. He had half a notion to shoot anyway."

"That's right," Pugh confirmed. "He's one of them kids that makes
gunmen. No bluff. I know the kind."

"So when he told me to tie Pugh I did it," Glass continued. "Then he
dropped a loop over me, and that's all there is to tell. The joke's on
us just now."

"So it is," said Casey. "Whatever made you think that kid had anything
to do with blowing up the dam?"

"Hadn't he?"

Casey smiled genially. "Why, how should I know, Mr. Glass? I was just
asking what you were going on."

"I'm not showing my hand. I don't say the kid did it alone."

"And so you thought you'd round him up and sweat some information out
of him. That was it, wasn't it?"

"You're quite a guesser and you show a whole lot of interest in the
answer," retorted Glass. "Keep on guessing."

"I don't need to. Come up to the house and have breakfast. And for
Heaven's sake don't say anything to frighten the kid's mother."

"What do you take us for?" said Glass. "We'll treat the whole thing as
a joke--to her."

Casey breakfasted with them, and after they had gone sought Simon. The
old Indian, full to repletion, was squatting on the kitchen steps,
smoking and blinking sleepily.

"No see um Sandy," he observed. "Where him stop?"

"No more Sandy stop this _illahee_," Casey replied. "Sandy _klatawa
kopa_ stone _illahee_, all same Tom." Meaning that Sandy had gone in
the direction of the hills, as had McHale.

"Why him _klatawa_?" Simon asked.

Casey explained, and Simon listened gravely. His receptiveness was
enormous. Information dropped into him as into a bottomless pit,
vanishing without splash.

"Sandy _hyas_ young fool," he commented. "Me tell him _mamook huyhuy_
moccasin. S'pose moccasin stop, _ikt_ man findum, then heltopay.
Polisman _mamook_ catchum, put um in _skookum_ house, maybeso hang um
_kopa_ neck."

"What are you talking about, anyway?" Casey demanded. And Simon told
him of the track of the patched moccasin and of his warning to Sandy.

Casey immediately fitted things together. He knew that Sandy's right
moccasin was almost invariably worn through at the toe. Before they
left he had seen him patching them, and because they wore through at
the same place the patches were of nearly the same shape. So that if
Glass had found a patched moccasin it was not necessarily the one which
had made the track. But that would make little difference. Either
Farwell or his assistant must have told Glass about this track. If he
had found a pair of Sandy's moccasins to correspond with the footprint
he had come very near getting Sandy with the goods. But Farwell or
somebody must have directed Glass's suspicions to Sandy.

However that was, Sandy had made a clean get-away into a region where
he would be hard to catch. He was familiar with the trails, the passes,
the little basins and pockets nestling in the hills. He was well
provisioned and well armed. And the last caused Casey some uneasiness,
for having once resisted arrest Sandy would be very apt to do so again.

"Simon," he said, "I want you to take papah letter to Tom."

"Where Tom stop?" Simon asked naturally enough.

"Maybe at Sunk Springs," Casey replied. "Maybe not. You try Sunk
Springs. S'pose no Tom stop there, you _nanitch_ around till you find
him."

"All right," said Simon. "Me _nanitch_, me find Tom." He considered a
moment. "_Halo_ grub stop me?"

"I'll tell them to grubstake you here," Casey reassured him. "I'll pay
you, too, of course."

"You my _tillikum_," said Simon, with great dignity. "Tom my _tillikum_.
Good! Me like you. How much you pay?"

"Two dollars a day," said Casey promptly.

Simon looked grieved and pained. "You my tillikum," he repeated.
"S'pose my _tillikum_ work for me, me pay him five dolla'."

But Casey was unmoved by this touching appeal to friendship. "I'll
remember that if I ever work for you," he replied. "Two dollars and
grub is plenty. You Siwashes are spoiled by people who don't know any
better than to pay what you ask. That's all you'll get from me. Your
time's worth nothing, and your cayuses rustle for themselves."

And Simon accepted this ultimatum with resignation.

"All right," said he. "You my _tillikum_; Tom my _tillikum_. S'pose you
catch _hiyu_ grubstake."

Having arranged for a message to McHale, it occurred to Casey that he
should see whether the sudden rise of the river had swept the company's
temporary dam. Accordingly he rode thither.

The storm had entirely passed, and the sun shone brightly. Great,
white, billowy, fair-weather clouds rolled up in open order before the
fresh west wind, and the shadows of them trailed across the face of the
earth, moving swiftly, sharply defined, sweeping patches of shade
against the green and gold of a clean-washed, sunny summer world. Off
to the westward, where the ranges thrust gaunt, gray peaks against the
sky line, the light shimmered against patches of white, the remnants of
the last winter's snows. Far away, just to be discerned through a notch
in the first range, was a vivid point of emerald or jade, the living
green of a glacier.

It was a day when it was good to be alive, and Casey Dunne, hard,
clean, in the full power of his manhood, the fresh west wind in his
face, and a strong, willing horse beneath him, rejoiced in it.

As he rode his thoughts reverted to Clyde Burnaby. Indeed, she had
never, since the preceding night, been entirely absent from them; but
because his training had been to do one thing at a time, and think of
what he was doing to the exclusion of all else, he had unconsciously
pigeonholed her in the back of his mind. Now she emerged.

"Shiner, m'son," he apostrophized his horse, "if things break right
you're going to have a missus. What d'ye think of that, hey, you
yellow-hided old scoundrel? And, by the Great Tyee! you'll eat apples
and sugar out of her hand, and if you so much as lay back your ears at
her I'll frale your sinful heart out with a neck yoke. D'ye get that,
you buzzard-head?"

Shiner in full stride made a swift grab for his rider's left leg, and
his rider with equal swiftness kicked him joyously in the nose.

"You would, hey? Nice congratulations, you old man-eater. I'll make a
lady's horse of you if you don't behave; I sure will. And we'll build a
decent house and break two thousand acres, and keep every foot of it as
fine and clean as a seed bed, and have it all under ditch, the show
place of the whole dry belt. You bet we will. We won't sell an acre.
Fancy prices won't tempt us. We'll keep the whole shootin' match till
we cash in." His mood changed.

"Cash in! It's funny to think of that, old horse, isn't it? And yet ten
years from now you'll be no good, and thirty years from now I'll be
near the end of the deal. And Clyde! Why, Shiner, we can't think of her
as an old lady, can we? With her smooth cheeks a little withered and
the suppleness gone from her body, and her eyes dim and her glorious
hair white. Lord, horse, we mustn't think of it! She'll always be the
same dear Clyde to us, won't she? 'Sufficient unto the day,' my equine
trial and friend. Others will come after us, and there will be
evil-tempered buckskins loping this foothill country and maybe a Casey
Dunne cursing them when you and I are ranging the happy hunting
grounds!"

Out of the sunlit distances a horse and rider appeared, rapidly
approaching. It was Farwell, and, recognizing Dunne, he pulled up.

"In case you don't know it," he said, without preliminary or greeting,
"I'll tell you that our dam went out with the flood. You didn't need to
use dynamite this time."

"Providence!" Casey suggested.

Farwell's comment consisted of but one word, which, unless by contrast,
is not usually associated with providential happenings.

"Call it that if you like," he growled. "We'll get the men responsible
for it one of these days."

"You made a beginning with young McCrae," Casey reminded him.

"I don't know what you mean."

"Don't you know that Glass tried to arrest him?"

"What?" cried Farwell.

His surprise was too genuine to be feigned. Thereupon Casey told him
what had occurred in the last few hours both at Talapus and Chakchak.

Farwell listened, biting his lips and frowning. And his first words
were an inquiry as to Sheila.

"Miss McCrae rode through that storm last night!" he exclaimed. "Good
Lord! Is she badly hurt?"

"Only shaken up, I think."

"Thank God for that," said Farwell, with evident sincerity. He
hesitated for a moment. "See here, Dunne, do you mind if I ask you an
impertinent question?"

"Fire away."

"Are you going to marry her?"

"Certainly not. What put that notion in your head?"

"It got there. You were pretty thick. And if she rode there in that
storm--unless she thought a lot of you----"

"I'm mighty proud of it. We're good friends--like brother and sister.
No more. She has the best brand of clean-strain pluck of any girl I
know."

"So she has," Farwell agreed. "She's a girl in a million. She's----" He
stopped, reddening.

"By George, Farwell," said Casey, "is it that way with you?"

"She doesn't care a tinker's dam for me," said Farwell bluntly. "That's
not saying what I think of her. I'm no ladies' man--don't pretend to
be. Let that go. I suppose I'll be blamed for young McCrae's arrest.
Well, I didn't know a thing about it. I've tried to give the family a
good deal--better than the rest of you, anyway. I don't like the boy,
and he doesn't like me. Pulled a gun on me once--well, never mind that.
Here, you've been straight with me, and I'll tell you: When the dam was
blown up we found the track of a patched moccasin in soft earth. Keeler
took an impression of it, or made a cast or something--I don't know
just what, but I do know that he photographed it. Since then I've
noticed young McCrae's foot, and I believe he made the track, though it
didn't strike me at the time. That was about the only clew we found.
Mind you, Dunne, I believe you were in it yourself, but I haven't a
thing to go on. If Glass has found a patched moccasin of McCrae's he's
pretty near got him to rights. I don't know what he's got, though.
About Cross and McHale, I don't care a curse which shot the other.
These men--Cross, Dade, Lewis, and some more--were protecting our
property. And that's all."

"Not quite all. They blew up our dams."

"Just as man to man," said Farwell, "let me ask you if you expected to
run a dynamite monopoly?"

"I'm not kicking," said Casey. "I'm merely stating facts. I can take my
medicine."

"You're a good deal of a man," Farwell acknowledged grudgingly. "I hate
a squealer. Anyway, it was no part of their job to break into your
house. See here, Dunne, the last five minutes has got us better
acquainted than the last two months. I'll fire these fellows to-morrow
if you'll promise me that our ditches won't be interfered with again."

"As long as we have water there will be no trouble," said Casey. "I'll
promise nothing more."

"That's good for some weeks, anyway," Farwell predicted. "I guess we'll
have to fight it out in the end. Still, I'm glad to have had this talk.
I like you better than I did. And I can tell you there was lots of room
for it--is yet, for that matter. Good-bye."

Without waiting for a reply, he dug a heel into his horse and swept on.
Casey watched him go, with a thoughtful smile.

"Odd devil!" he muttered. "Queer combination. I don't like him,
but--well, he's a fighter, and I believe he's straight. To think of him
being fond of Sheila! I wonder if he has a chance there? She never
mentions him now. H'm!" Finding no answer to the question, he wheeled
Shiner and headed for home.



CHAPTER XXVI


Just before utter blackness shut down on the land, Sandy McCrae
dismounted and stripped saddle and pack from his horses. He looked up
at the sky, shook his head, and, taking a light axe, cut two picket
pins; after which he staked the horses out in the abundant pasture at
the bottom of the draw, driving the pins in solidly beyond the
possibility of pulling. Then he set about making a hasty camp.

Beside him a little spring bubbled out of the bottom of the draw and
seeped away under tangled roots and fallen brush. A thirst-parched
stranger might have ridden past twenty times on the bench above without
suspecting its presence. The faint cattle trail leading to it entered
the draw a quarter of a mile away, and led along under low but almost
perpendicular banks.

Sandy's camp preparations were simple, but much more elaborate than if
the night had been clear. Then he would have made his fire, boiled
coffee, spread his bed, and gone to sleep beneath the stars; but
because of the ominous storm cloud he constructed a lean-to by driving
two forked stakes and joining them with a crosspiece. From these he
slanted two poles to the ground, and on the poles laid a tarp, lashing
it in place. The mouth of the lean-to faced away from the cloud bank.
In addition it had the partial shelter of cottonwoods in full leaf. In
this lean-to be collected his outfit. Next he made a fire and cooked
supper. Afterward he smoked, squatting in the mouth of his shelter,
staring silently at the dying embers, listening to the rising wind
sighing above him sweeping across the bare grasslands, but scarcely
fanning the coals in his protected camp.

He felt no loneliness whatever. Solitary camps and the love of them
were his by right of inheritance. He neither required nor desired
companionship. Fire, food, tobacco, and solitude satisfied his inmost
soul. This was the life he loved. The fact that he was a fugitive from
the law did not trouble him at all; it merely gave an added zest to the
situation. Just once he chuckled grimly as he recalled the faces of
Glass and Pugh when he had whirled on them, gun in hand. Glass had
interpreted his intentions very correctly; he would have shot either or
both on the slightest provocation. He was of the breed of the wolf,
accustomed from childhood to deadly weapons, brought up in tradition of
their use, and, like many outlaws who have bulked large in the history
of the West, young enough to act on impulse without counting the
ultimate cost.

As his little fire burned down he stepped out and regarded the darkened
heavens. A heavy drop of rain struck his face and a flash of lightning
ripped the black curtain, outlining bare banks, trees, and grazing
horses for a brief instant. Sandy shrugged his shoulders
philosophically. His shelter was good enough. He unrolled his bed, and,
by the simple process of removing moccasins and gun belt, was ready to
retire. He got into his blankets, taking his gun with him, and rolled
them around him, leaving his face exposed until the last.

"Now, darn you rain!" he muttered. With which "now-I-lay-me" he drew
the blanket completely over his head as a protection against
mosquitoes, and, heedless of the smothering effect of it, which would
have been unsupportable to a city youth, was asleep in ten seconds.

He slept for, perhaps, an hour. At the end of that time he suddenly
became wide awake. He could not have told what had aroused him, but he
was sure something had. He threw back the smothering blanket from his
head and lay listening.

Overhead the wind threshed the tops of the trees, and roared hollowly
as it rebounded from the farther side of the gulch. Rain, driven by the
wind, slashed through the foliage and pattered against his primitive
shelter. Thunder rolled in an endless fusillade, punctuated by flashes
of lightning. But Sandy, without considering the matter, was quite sure
that none of these things had awakened him. In a momentary lull of the
storm, as he lay with his ear close to the ground, he thought he could
hear the sound of hoofs coming up the draw, along the hard-beaten
cattle trail.

It was barely possible that some wandering stock, drifting with the
storm, were seeking the shelter of it; but it was more likely that
range stock would have found cover to suit them before dark, and would
stay in it till morning. Now, there is a difference between the tread
of ridden and riderless animals, and Sandy thought that he had heard
the former. Also, they were coming as he had come.

His route led from the settlements back to the hills where there was
nobody and nothing. There was no road, no trail. Few people went there,
not even Indians, and they not until the fall hunt, after the first
snow. Therefore, it was suspicious that, on such a night, a rider or
riders should be in his vicinity. His mind leaped to the conclusion
that Glass had been released, had secured the services of somebody who
knew the country, and had somehow made a good guess at the location of
his first night's camp, for which they were now searching in the
darkness, hoping that the remains of his fire would betray him.

As he reached this conclusion, Sandy rolled out of his blankets,
buckled his belt around his lean waist, slipped on his moccasins, and
stepped out into the darkness.

Not a red spark showed where his fire had been, and Sandy smiled
grimly. He would do all the surprising himself. He did not intend to be
taken. Once more he heard the sound of hoofs, nearer. They seemed to
approach a few yards, then to stop. He heard the sound of a breath
blown from a horse's nostrils.

The storm, which had lulled momentarily, began again. The wind hit
the draw viciously, with spatters of rain. Other sounds were
indistinguishable. Sandy, crouching low to get any advancing object
against what sky line there was, made out the shape of a mounted man.
Horse and man stood like an equestrian statue, barely distinguishable,
though but a few yards away.

The rider disappeared from the saddle. Sandy heard his feet crashing in
the low bushes, heard him stumble and swear.

"Ought to be about here," words came faintly to Sandy's ears. "If ever
I try to find ... on a night like this...."

"Looking for me, sure," thought Sandy. "Maybe it's Glass; maybe it
isn't. Wonder how many there are. Anyway, I'll fix this one."

Soft-footed as a great cat, he crept toward the voice. The man loomed
in front of him; his back was turned. Sandy rose soundlessly behind
him. With a sudden vicious sweep his left arm shot across the
stranger's left shoulder and around his throat. His right hand shoved
the muzzle of his gun beneath the man's right ear.

"Don't move or let one yip out of you!" he hissed tensely.

After one convulsive start the stranger stood motionless. "Nary move
nor yip," he whispered confidentially into the night. "And if that
gun's a light pull, be mighty careful of the trigger!"

"Talk and talk quiet," said Sandy. "How many are there of you?"

"Be mighty careful of that gun if you're seein' double that way!" the
stranger admonished again nervously. "Was you expectin' twins or
somethin'?"

"You alone?"

"Yep."

"What's your name?"

"Smith."

"What you doing here?"

"Lookin' for the spring to camp by."

"Where you heading for?"

"Into the hills, prospectin'."

"Where's Glass?" Sandy asked suddenly.

"Search me. I got nothin' to do with that durn fool."

The tone and the words gave Sandy the surprise of his life. His arm
dropped away from the stranger's throat, and his gun ceased to threaten
the base of his skull.

"Tom McHale!" he cried.

"You sound some like a _cultus_ young devil named McCrae," said McHale,
peering at him in the dark. "Say, what in the flarin' blazes you doin'
here?"

"Take some yourself," Sandy responded. "Are they after you, too?"

McHale shook his head sadly. "Sonny," said he, "you're too young to be
havin' them cute little visions of things bein' after you. I reckon
maybe we're pullin' two ways on one rope. Also, we ain't gettin' no
drier standin' here chewin' about it. Maybe you got a camp somewheres.
S'pose you find the latchstring. Then we'll have a talk."

Thus admonished, Sandy led the way to his lean-to, rekindled the fire,
helped picket McHale's horses, and set the coffee-pot to boil. They
drank coffee and smoked, going into details of their experiences of the
preceding day. McHale was amazed to hear of Sandy's arrest by Glass,
whom he had held in contempt. Sandy was jubilant over the shooting of
Cross, regretful that he had not had a hand in it.

"You won't be so durn stuck on a gun fight after you've been in one or
two," said McHale grimly. "Now let's see how she stacks up. I'm goin'
to hide out for a spell, but if I was you I'd go back and stand the
racket."

"I guess _not_," said Sandy positively. "I don't want to do time if
they've got me with the goods. And then some darn lawyer might make me
give somebody else away by accident. You can't tell. I'll stay out with
you. Where are you heading for?"

"I was aimin' to hit Bull's Pass, drop over the summit into the valley
of the Klimminchuck, and camp somewheres. There was two trappers in
there winter before last, and they told me they built them a right good
cabin."

"That suits me."

"This will fix us up with water for the next two weeks," said McHale as
he listened to the rain. "I'll bet Casey's got a grin on him a yard
wide." He yawned. "Well, kid, we've got all that's comin' to us out of
this one day. Let's hit them blankets. We better make an early start."

They were up in the early dawn, breakfasted, saddled, and packed, and
headed for the hills. At noon they reached the foot of the pass. A
narrow trail, often choked by fallen timber and small landslides, led
them upward, winding in and out, sometimes near the bottom of an always
ascending gorge, sometimes forsaking it for broad, flat benches
parklike with stately trees, sometimes clinging precariously to
shoulders of bare rock where a slip would have been fatal.

They camped that night near the summit, and next day dropped down into
a valley, narrow, wooded, picturesque, where the Klimminchuck raced
southward; and, following its course, camped at the edge of a beaver
meadow, feasting on trout fresh caught from a deep pool beneath a short
fall. And in the morning, still following the stream, they came to the
trappers' cabin, set in a grove of young spruce.

It was built of small logs chinked with moss and clay, and most of the
chinking had fallen out. Its roof was of poles covered with earth. A
two-man bunk occupied much of the interior. The remainder was taken up
by a rough table, a bench, and a rusty wreck of a little sheet-iron
stove. There was room to get in and stay in, and that was all. And yet
two men had lived in that pen all winter, and emerged healthy and
fairly good-tempered in the spring.

The companions peered through the door at the uninviting interior. The
floor was a litter of rubbish, old clothes in a state of decomposition,
leaves, bones, and rusty cans and pans. Young McCrae wrinkled an
outraged nose.

"Pfaugh!" he snorted. "The shack's filthy. We can't use it."

"The smell _is_ some obvious," McHale agreed. "Which bein' so, I reckon
we build us a wickiup several nose lengths off."

They found a suitable spot, and there they built an elaborate lean-to.
Having established themselves, they rested, smoked, and slept. In the
evening they caught trout for supper and breakfast. There was
absolutely nothing to do unless they created employment for themselves.

At the end of another day Sandy became restless; his capacity for
loafing was exhausted.

"Let's go get a bear," he proposed.

"Deer's better meat," said McHale; "also easier to get. I won't climb
after no bear."

Nevertheless, he accompanied Sandy down the valley. They saw no bear;
but they shot a young buck, and returned to camp with the carcass
lashed behind Sandy's saddle. Although it was closed season, they
needed the meat, and game wardens were not likely to intrude.

But when they came in sight of their camp they saw old Simon reclining
in grandeur on their blankets, smoking.

"The nerve of that buck!" snorted McHale. "Get off of that bed, you old
copperskin. Think I want to wash them blankets?"

Simon obeyed, but he drew a letter from his pocket.

"Papah," said he. "Casey."

McHale read Casey's warning as to Dade, and whistled softly, passing
the letter to Sandy.

"So this here Dade makes it a feud, does he?" he said meditatively.
"All right, he can have it that way. Same time, I'm goin' to keep out
of trouble long as I can. I'll stay cached mighty close, and I'll run
like blazes before I'll fight. Simon, how'd you find this camp?"

"Find um easy," said Simon scornfully. He pointed to the carcass of the
deer. "S'pose you _mamook_ cook um."



CHAPTER XXVII


In the morning Sheila awoke stiff and sore, but rested. Her strong
young body, hard and well conditioned by a life in the open and much
healthy exercise, refused to indulge in the luxury of after effects of
shock. Looking around, she found that her clothes were gone. But spread
ready for her was a dainty morning costume, which she knew for Clyde
Burnaby's. Dressing quickly, she entered the breakfast room.

Clyde, sitting by the window, rose, smiling, as she entered.

"I hope they fit," she said. "How do you feel, Miss McCrae?"

"They fit very well, and I feel first rate," said Sheila. "I'm sore in
spots, but I'll limber up when I get moving. Where is Mrs. Wade? I
suppose Casey has gone to Talapus."

"Kitty's busy cleaning your riding clothes," Clyde replied. "Casey has
gone; I haven't seen him."

It was the first time she had used his given name to a third person. It
slipped out naturally, and she coloured a trifle, but Sheila did not
appear to notice. They breakfasted together, and later sat on the
veranda enjoying the perfect morning after the storm. Naturally, they
spoke of the events of the preceding day and night. Sheila took a
practical view.

"It was lucky Tom McHale wasn't here," she said. "Somebody would have
been hurt. That's what I was afraid of."

"It was very brave of you," said Clyde. "I admire you more than I can
say. I want you to know it, Miss McCrae."

"Oh, that"--Sheila dismissed the warm praise with a wave of her brown
hand--"why, it wasn't anything; only a wet ride in the dark. If my
horse had kept his feet it would have been all right. I simply had to
come. Don't try to make me think myself a heroine. You'd do the same
thing yourself for a friend."

"I'm afraid I couldn't. I'm not much of a rider, and I couldn't have
found my way in the dark."

"Well, that's no credit to me. I've been riding all my life, and I know
every foot of this country. Of course, I'd do anything for Casey or
Tom."

"Yes," said Clyde, "they both think a great deal of you, I know."

"No more than I think of them--especially Casey. Some day I suppose
he'll get married, and then I'll have to call him 'Mr. Dunne.'"

"That won't be necessary."

"Oh, yes, it will. His wife wouldn't stand for 'Casey.'"

"Yes, she will," said Clyde. Sheila turned and looked at her keenly.
"We are going to be married," Clyde added.

"You don't mean it!" Sheila exclaimed. "Well, you are a lucky girl, if
you don't mind my saying so. Casey's _white_. I congratulate you with
all my heart. And he's lucky, too; yes, he is."

"You--you don't mind?" Clyde ventured. She thought it quite possible
that Sheila might care for Casey, although convinced that he did not
love her.

"Mind? Why should I mind?"

"You know I thought once"--Clyde hesitated--"you see you were such
great friends----"

"You thought I might be fond of him? Why, so I am. Not in that way,
though. I might have been if he had tried to make love to me, but he
never did. You see, Miss Burnaby----"

"I wish you'd call me Clyde."

"If you'll call me Sheila. You see, Clyde, Casey and I are too much two
of a kind. We'd never get on. You'll idealize him; I'd call him down.
He'll talk out of his heart to you; he'd talk irrigation, and crops,
and horses to me. You'll accept his judgment in most things as final;
I'd want him to take my opinion instead of his own. Oh, we'd make an
awful mess of it! And so, my dear, don't you think that I'd want his
love, even if I could get it. But at that he's the whitest man I know,
and the best friend I ever had. You're lucky. I don't wonder that he
fell in love with you, either. I wish to goodness _I_ were as pretty."

"I'm glad," said Clyde, "that you haven't said anything about money.
Thank you."

"It's not because I didn't think of it," Sheila admitted frankly. "But
I know it makes no difference to Casey. Fact is, I wonder, knowing him
as I do, that he hadn't some absurd scruples on that point."

"He had. He says we can't be married if he loses this ranch and the
other lands."

"Nonsense," said Sheila practically. "He won't stay with that if you
coax him; he couldn't."

Clyde laughed happily. "That's the nicest compliment I ever had. You're
absolutely the first person I've told."

"Well, I'm much flattered," said Sheila. "When did it happen?"

"Last night."

"Everything happened last night. Was he--er--convincing in the part?"

But Clyde, laughing and blushing, refused details. Sheila wished to go
home at once, but Clyde prevailed on her to wait for Casey. It was his
wish.

"And that settles it from your point of view, of course," said Sheila.
"Well, I'll wait."

Casey returned at noon. Clyde met him halfway between the stable and
the house, bareheaded, the fresh wind fluttering her skirts and
spinning little tendrils of coppery gold across her forehead. He would
have taken both her hands, but she put them behind her, laughing.

"Not here, sir!"

"It's my ranch and my girl."

"In order of merit?"

"My girl and my ranch, then. But tell me: How is Sheila?"

"Quite well, except for her bruises. What a plucky girl she is, Casey!"

"I should say she is," he agreed heartily. "You must be friends.
Somehow you never seemed to like her."

"I understand her better now. I've told her about--us."

"Fine! And Kitty Wade?"

"Yes. Come in and face the music yourself."

But Casey got off lightly. They lunched without Wade, who had gone to
town for mail; but as they were finishing the meal he entered.

"Casey," he cried, "I hope to Heaven I haven't foundered your horse,
but I have all kinds of news for you!"

Casey's mouth tightened a little. "Let it go, Wade. Maybe it's all for
the best."

"Part of this is, anyway. Don't look so glum; it's all right, I tell
you. Now, this was the way of it: When I got my papers at the post
office I saw that Western Air stock, which had been playing antics
before, had gone clean crazy. It's been boosted sky high. All sorts of
rumours, the chief being that the Hess System people were responsible.
So I wired for the latest. Got a reply that it was impossible to
confirm rumours. Then, just as I was leaving, in comes a wire for Clyde
which I herewith produce and put in as Exhibit A, and which, I strongly
suspect, throws light on the situation. Open it, Clyde, for Heaven's
sake, and put us out of our misery!"

Clyde tore the envelope with fingers which trembled slightly. She read
the message and handed it to Casey.

"Aloud?" he asked, and she nodded. He read:

    Sending you power of attorney and proxy to vote shares recently
    purchased by your brokers. We now control corporation. Advise
    friends to drop lawsuit. They will get a square deal.

    JIM.

Casey looked up. He did not understand. Wade struck him a violent blow
on the back.

"Hooray!" he shouted. "It's blamed unprofessional, but I was never so
glad to discontinue an action in my life. Clyde, you're a darling!" He
caught her in his arms and whirled her around the room.

"Harrison!" Kitty cried, "have you gone crazy?"

Wade released Clyde, breathless, and sank into a chair.

"Bring me an expensive drink!" he commanded. "This needs celebrating."

"Will somebody tell me what's the matter with him?" Casey asked.

"What!" exclaimed the lawyer. "Don't you see it?"

"Not yet," Casey admitted.

"Why, you old dub," cried Wade, "the wire is from Jim Hess, Clyde's
uncle. His interests control Western Air. He promises you a square
deal."

"Eh!" Casey ejaculated, staring at him.

"You blamed idiot!" snapped the lawyer, "why don't you thank Clyde? She
started the old chief on the warpath after York's scalp."

Casey turned to her. "Tell me he isn't raving mad! Is it so?"

"It's so," she said, "but I----" He interrupted by catching her in his
arms.

"Here, hold on, old man!" Wade protested. "Gratitude's a fine thing,
but you're too----"

His wife took him by the arm. "Come on, Harrison, you stupid! You're
worse than he is. Can't you understand anything?" Sheila's skirts were
already fluttering through the door.

"Great Scott!" Wade exclaimed, "you don't mean----"

"You--you _bonehead_!" she cried, exasperated, and hustled him outside.

Careless of them, Casey held Clyde, looking down into her eyes.
"Sweetheart," he said, "you never told me!"

"I was afraid."

"Of raising false hopes?"

"Not that, so much. But you wouldn't let me help you with money. And I
was afraid that if you knew, you'd consider yourself under an
obligation and wouldn't--wouldn't----"

"Wouldn't what?"

"Wouldn't be sensible and tell me you loved me," she said softly.
"You're so funny about such things, Casey. You aren't angry now, are
you?"

"Angry?" he said. "Dear, I'd put the savings of years into this
land--years when I'd worked like a very slave to get enough cash
together to swing some good deal when I should see it. That was my
stake. And the others! Why, girl, you've saved Talapus to the McCraes,
and their ranches for the men who made them. We can't repay you; we
won't try."



CHAPTER XXVIII


"Excuse _me_," said Wade, who had anticipated his entrance by many
preliminary noises, "excuse me, my dear young friends, and,
incidentally, accept my sincerest congratulations, felicitations,
and--er--jubilations. Kindly listen to the following observations.
Ahem! Far be it from me to horn in where I am as welcome as a wet dog.
Nothing is farther from my desire than to short circuit two hearts----"

"Come right in, old man," said Casey. "What's the trouble?"

"I want my dinner," said Wade plaintively. "I Paul Revered on a
shoestring. I Sheridaned without a commissariat. I brought the good
news to Ghent on an empty tummy. Is thy servant a dog, that he should
eat with a Chinaman? And I'd do that willingly; but, Casey, you know as
well as I do that the only thing fit to drink Clyde's health in is in
this room, and I warn you that if there is much more delay in doing so
nothing which may occur hereafter will be either lucky or legal. While
it is possibly true that a dinner of herbs where love is has a
porterhouse, rare, and hashed brown spuds backed clean off the board, I
submit, not being in love myself----"

"What's that?" cried Kitty Wade from the door.

"Why, it's a shame!" said Clyde. "He must be starving. It's all Casey's
fault, too."

"Wouldn't he break away?" asked Wade. "I remember----?"

"Harrison!" cried Kitty, warningly.

"Well, then, do I eat?" he demanded.

"Yes. Anything to keep you quiet. I'll get your dinner myself."

Half an hour later Wade pushed back his chair with a sigh of
satisfaction, lit a cigar, and joined the others.

"I feel better," he announced. "A child could play with me in
comparative safety. Now let me tell you what else I discovered. In the
first place, Cross is dead. I was talking to Shiller. He says that Tom
wasn't to blame--corroborates his story, in fact, in every material
particular. So Tom's all right on that score. My advice to him would be
to come in and have his trial over."

"That isn't what's bothering him so much. It's these friends of
Cross's. I don't blame him. Some sheriffs are mighty weak-kneed about
such things."

"Well, I'm told that officers will be after him. Now as to your
brother, Miss McCrae: Glass and Pugh are starting out to find him as
soon as they get an outfit. Likely they've got started now."

"But they don't know where he is. That Glass--I should think he'd get
lost if he left a trail."

"Pugh is different. They may get another man or two."

"I hope they don't find him," said Sheila gravely.

"So do I," Wade concurred. "I don't suppose a prosecution would be
pushed now; but he resisted an officer, and anyway I wouldn't like to
see him under arrest."

"You don't understand. Sandy wouldn't submit quietly."

"You think he'd try to bluff them again?"

"He isn't a bluff," said Casey. "The kid is serious-minded. That's the
trouble. However, I've sent Tom word about Dade. Sandy may be with him;
and Tom is cool. When Simon comes in we'll know more, and send him out
again if he knows where the boy is."

Sheila declared that she must be going home. She refused Casey's offer
to drive her over. She wanted to take the edge off Beaver Boy. His
actions rankled in her mind. He needed a lesson, and she was going to
give him one. And she refused absolutely to allow Casey to ride with
her.

He had her horse saddled, and was giving a final pull at the latigos
when she came out in her riding clothes.

"Cinch him up tight," she commanded. "Take a good pull at it; he's
getting too foxy."

Beaver Boy grunted as Casey put his strength on the strap and the broad
cinch bit into his glossy skin.

"And that's loose a-plenty," said his mistress. "He blows himself up
like a turkey gobbler. I need a block and tackle to cinch him right."
She shaded her eyes with her hand. "Somebody coming. I'll wait and see
who it is."

Much to their surprise, it was none other than Farwell. He rode
briskly, head up, shoulders back, with the air of a man whose mind is
made up. But he refused to get off his horse, asking Sheila's
permission to ride with her.

"I wanted to tell you," he said, "that you'll have water for the summer
anyway. I've just had a wire from headquarters to shut down, and to
turn the normal flow of the river back into its old channel." He smiled
grimly. "They didn't know that the elements had attended to that.
Thought you'd like to know. Might save you worry. Don't know the
company's reason, and it's none of my business. I'm paying off the
whole outfit to-night, including the men we were speaking of. To-morrow
I'll pull out myself. Glad to do it."

"Sorry to have you go," said Casey.

"You say it all right, but I know better," said Farwell bluntly. "I
don't want to keep Miss McCrae waiting. Will you shake hands?"

Casey put out his hand. It was caught, thumb crotch to thumb crotch, in
a grip of steel. He laughed as he threw every ounce of strength into
his own fingers.

"Good man," said Farwell. "I like a man with a handgrip, and you've got
it. Any time you're ready, Miss McCrae?"

Sheila went up as lightly as a boy. Beaver Boy was off as she touched
the saddle. Farwell followed. They melted into the distance, galloping
side by side, the dust, in spite of the night's rain, puffing up from
the flying hoofs.

At the end of a mile Beaver Boy's exuberance had not subsided. He
thrashed out with his heels, and gave a tentative pitch. Farwell, who
had been riding slightly behind, ranged up alongside.

"I should think you'd get a quiet horse," he said.

"I'll make this one quiet!" snapped Sheila, for she was still sore, and
the hard pace had told on her temper through her bruises. "He's
actually beginning to think he can do as he likes with _me_." Beaver
Boy shied to show his independence, and she slashed him mercilessly
with the quirt, setting her teeth as he plunged. "You would, would you,
you brute? I'll show you!"

Farwell, riding in, grabbed for the headstall.

"Get away!" she flamed. "I'll fight this out with him now."

The question of supremacy took five minutes to settle. At the end of
that time Beaver Boy relapsed ignominiously into servitude, smarting
from the quirt and dripping sweat. Sheila put all her strength into a
final cut. The big bay took it meekly with what was almost a sigh and a
trembling quiver.

Farwell had watched the struggle with anxiety. "You won't have any more
trouble with him for a while. He's afraid of you now."

"He'd better be. He's been obstinate for months, getting worse all the
time. He had some notion in his head that he was merely _allowing_ me
to ride him. He did what he liked for a while last night when I was
shaken up, and he had to have his lesson. No use letting any one else
give it to him. He had to be shown that _I_ was able to do it."

"That's so," said Farwell, "that's sense. The idea of you going out in
the storm last night on that brute. No other girl would have done it.
It was fine, but it was foolish."

"Nonsense! I'm not afraid of rain or a horse. Could I do anything else?
It was up to me."

"Maybe. Well, you heard what I told Dunne about the water. That ought
to be satisfactory to all you people."

"Naturally I'm glad."

"I'm going away," he continued. "Also, I'm chucking up my job. I'm
sorry I ever took it. It was sheer waste of time. I'm going to work for
myself now. I hoped I would catch you at Dunne's place. I wanted to say
good-bye."

"I am sorry you are going."

"That's what Dunne said--and he didn't mean it. Do you?"

"I usually mean what I say."

"Well, I didn't know. I wouldn't blame you if you were glad. I behaved
like a--well, like a blackguard once."

"We needn't talk about that," said Sheila quietly. "That's over; I
don't think of it."

"But I do. I'm rough, but I'm not that kind--usually. You let me down
easy. If I could undo it I would; but I can't."

"No, it can't be undone. Why talk about it?"

"Because I keep thinking about it. I've kept away, as you wanted me
to--and because I was ashamed of myself. Honestly, I've tried to do the
best I could for your people--for your father. I tried my best to be a
friend. And the end of it was that I started gossip, and you told me to
keep away. That was pretty hard lines. It made me angry. And then I was
jealous of Dunne."

"He is going to marry Miss Burnaby."

"Lucky devil!" growled Farwell dejectedly. "Things run smooth for
_him_. I'll bet he doesn't think half as much of her as I do of you."

Sheila smiled for the first time. "You wouldn't tell her that."

"I'd tell it to anybody. It's a fact. Why, look here: I'm a practical
man; I've no more imagination than a stump. And yet I've lain awake
nights pretending to myself that you had let me kiss you willingly.
How's that?"

Sheila laughed softly. "That's certainly going some, Mr. Farwell!"

"Well, it's what I do, anyway. It's about all the consolation I've
got."

"Is it? Couldn't you get something better than that?"

"I could if you'd give me half a chance," he declared. "You turned me
down hard and cold. There's a fine show for consolation, isn't there?"

"Perhaps some other girl----?" she suggested demurely.

"No!" Farwell rapped out bluntly. "I don't want any other girl. I don't
like other girls. They make me tired. I'd rather work than fuss with
them. It's easier. If I can't have you I don't want anybody."

Sheila laughed again. The colour was high in her cheeks, and a strange
light was shining in her clear eyes. She shot a glance at him, half
amused, half serious.

"And if you had me you'd be tired of me in no time. I'm just plain
girl."

"Plain girl nothing! You're the prettiest----"

"I'm not; I'm not even average."

"And the best and the most sensible and the pluckiest one I ever saw,"
he pursued, unheeding. "Don't tell me; I know. I've seen whole rafts of
women. Dolls! Flirts! Gigglers! Fainters! Talking slush and thinking
slop! Soft, too, like dough. Eating filthy coloured and flavoured
glucose by the pound. Yah! Not a sane idea, or a sound digestion, or a
healthy body in the bunch. And as for dress, the average woman piles a
lot of truck on her like a _klootch_ at a potlatch, and cinches
herself up in a----"

"Hush!" said Sheila.

"Huh!" said Farwell. "Why shouldn't I call things by their names? I
never could see----"

"You aren't supposed to see. That's plenty. I won't be lectured on the
follies of my sex."

"You're different from the others," said Farwell. "That's just it.
You've got ideas apart from dress and gossip, the same as a man has.
You're in good hard condition physically. You don't giggle, and titter,
and make eyes, and expect a man to talk like a da--er--ah--that is, you
don't expect a lot of silly compliments. I've never seen anybody like
you. Talk of another girl! Bah! I couldn't stand one in the same house.
It's you or no one."

"I don't think I'd wear well, Mr. Farwell. You'd get tired of me."

"No, I wouldn't; no, I wouldn't. I know what I'm talking about. I tell
you, I love you, Sheila. Do you think it's easy to say good-bye and
leave you? It's the hardest job I ever had. It's--it's--oh, it's hell,
that's what it is. I used to love work just for the work's sake. But
now, to think of grubbing away year after year, to get money that I
can't use, that I don't want--that can't get me what I want! Oh, Lord!
the hopeless years ahead! What's the good of them? What's the use? I
wish I'd never seen this place--or you."

His deep voice rose, and fell, and rumbled uncertainly, shaken by
feeling. He slouched dejectedly in his saddle, looking straight ahead
as if his eyes beheld the emptiness of the years to come.

"Then why do you say good-bye?" said Sheila.

Farwell started, half turning in the saddle. "Why? Because it's best.
What's the use of hanging around? I have to take my medicine, don't I?
I can take it easier away from here."

"I'm not so sure," she said hesitatingly, "that there will be any
medicine to take."

Farwell's eyes opened wide as he stared at her.

"What do you mean by that? Don't fool with me, Sheila, for Heaven's
sake. It's too serious a matter."

"Yes, it's serious," she agreed. She faced him frankly, the rich blood
mounting beneath the tan of her cheeks. "What's the use of beating
around the bush? When you kissed me I hated you. I struck you. But when
Sandy came--and afterward--you seemed a good deal of a man. And so--I
don't know--but it need not be good-bye for good."



CHAPTER XXIX


In the evening a stranger drove up to Chakchak. He was long and lean,
and his hair was flecked with gray. His eyes were blue and clear, set
rather wide apart, holding a calm, disconcerting stare. His clothes
were much worn, frayed, and dusty. His movements were quiet and
deliberate, and so was his speech.

"I am lookin'," he said, "for Mr. Dunne."

"That's my name," said Casey.

"Then I'd like a little private talk with you. My name is Dove; I'm
actin' sheriff of this county while Fuller's sick." Evidently Acting
Sheriff Dove was a man of direct speech.

"Glad to meet you, sheriff," said Casey. "Come right into my quarters.
I've guests at the house, and I'm bunking here. Have a cigar, and tell
me what I can do for you."

The sheriff lit a cigar very deliberately, and carefully pinched out
the flame of the match with his fingers, surest of signs of one
accustomed to the plains and woods. He removed the cigar, eyed it with
approval, replaced it, and turned to his host.

"That's a right good smoke. I come to see you about this killin'. This
here McHale worked for you, I'm told."

"He's my foreman."

"Where is he now?"

"I don't know."

"He come back here after the killin', collected up his outfit, got a
pack horse, and made his get-away?"

"Yes."

"Told you about it, maybe?"

"Yes."

"But not where he was goin'?"

"No."

"Still, you can make a tol'able guess."

"I'm not guessing," Casey replied. "That killing was square, sheriff."

"I don't say it wasn't," Dove admitted. "I got nothing to do with that.
My rule is, when there's a killin', to bring in the man who done it,
and let the law 'tend to his case."

"Good rule, theoretically."

"And so," Sheriff Dove continued, with calm finality, "I'm out to bring
in this here McHale."

Casey thereupon gave Tom's reasons for leaving, and expressed his
opinion that he would come in and give himself up within a short time.
The sheriff listened, smoking impassively.

"I dunno but what McHale acted pretty sensible," he commented. "He
needn't worry about my not protectin' him. I've give a prisoner a gun
and let him help stand off a mob before now. Likewise, I've got lead in
my system doin' it. However, that ain't the point. I can't wait 'round
for him to come in. I got to get him. There's been quite a bunch of
things happenin' down in this country, far as I can hear, that ain't
none too law-abidin'."

Casey merely smiled genially.

"Mind you, I ain't no busybody," said the sheriff. "I get trouble
enough in a regular way without huntin' for it. I've been hearin'
things, but there bein' no complaint I've sat tight. Up to this Cross
killin' nobody's been hurt. But that's serious and brings me in to take
a hand. One of my deputies, Jack Pugh, is after a young feller named
McCrae. There's lots of things don't speak well for respect for the law
down here. I represent the law, and what hits it hits me."

"I understand. You've been straight with me, sheriff, and I appreciate
it. I don't know exactly where McHale is, but I think if you found him
and gave him a straight, decent talk he'd come in without any trouble.
He doesn't want any. And I think you'll find him somewhere in the
hills. That's all I can tell you now."

"Him and this young McCrae is tillikums, they tell me," the sheriff
suggested. "You think maybe they've met up?"

"They may. There's a chance of it."

The sheriff considered. "This McCrae is a leetle mite headstrong, I'm
told. Sorter apt to act rash."

"I'm afraid so."

The sheriff shook his head regretfully. "I'd ruther deal with a sure
'nough bad man than with a young feller like that," he observed, "They
lack judgment, as a rule. I'm told he savvies a gun right well?"

"He's a centre shot and quick," said Casey. "And, remember this,
sheriff, if you run across him: he doesn't bluff. When he goes after a
gun he goes after it to shoot with. I tell you this because I don't
want to see anybody hurt. There's no harm in him, handled right, but
he's a kid, and you want to make allowances."

"I'm obliged to you, and I'll do it. Jack Pugh and Glass have started
out after him already. They allow to prospect 'round in the hills till
they find him. That's what I'll do with McHale."

Casey considered, and suddenly came to a decision.

"Anybody going with you?"

"No."

"Don't you want a deputy?"

"Any time I got to pack a deputy 'round with me to bring in one man
there'll be a job open," the sheriff returned grimly. "I don't keep no
corral full of deputies. I got Pugh and another, and they're both busy.
I allow not to get lost. I've been out by myself before now."

"The reason I ask," said Casey, "is that I'd like to go with you
myself. The boys might listen to me, and not to you. Mind, I'm not
offering to guide you to them. You find your own trail. But I'll make
all the peace talk I can if you do find them. Besides, there's this
Dade. If he goes after Tom, there will be trouble. It's a feud. I
declare myself in on it."

"I hate trouble and I love peace," said the sheriff. "No feuds is goin'
to flourish around where I am. But you come along. You're actin' right.
I'm glad to have you. Can you start in the mornin'?"

"Make it afternoon; I've things to see to first. How are you fixed for
a horse?"

"I've got my own hoss back yander in town. I hated to use him till I
had to. That's why I hired a team."

"I have a pack horse. That's all we'll need. Bring your own outfit.
I've plenty of grub here."

"That's mighty kind," said the sheriff. "The county will pay for your
hoss and the grub."

"I don't want pay. This is my shout. I'm doing it for my friends."

"Well, your friends ought to be right obliged. I'll remember it. You
won't find me makin' things harder. And now I'll pike along back to
town."

They shook hands and the sheriff climbed back into the sagging
buckboard and departed. Casey returned to his quarters and began to
gather an outfit by the only practical method; that is to say, by
piling everything he wanted in a heap. He was engaged in this
occupation when Clyde knocked and entered.

"Why, Casey, whatever are you doing?"

He told her, and she approved his plan. She began to examine the heap
he had thrown together on the table--knife, cartridges, fishhooks and
line, compass, matches, sweater, poncho--with a girl's interest in such
masculine possessions. But she exclaimed at the lack of toilet
articles. Where were his razors, his hairbrushes?

"I'll get along without them."

"My goodness, boy, you'll be scrubby. Aren't you going to take even
a--a toothbrush?"

"Yes, I'll do that," he laughed. "There, that's enough for to-night.
Feng will put up grub in the morning. What have you done with Kitty
Wade and her husband? Hadn't we better look them up? They may be making
love on the sly."

"Do you need a chaperon so badly?" She slipped her arm in his. "Come
on, then. They've gone for a walk up the ditch. We'll meet them and
come back together. Only I want to impress upon you, Casey, that they
must walk ahead of us--unless it gets very dark, indeed."

"I think I get you," he laughed. "We'll arrange that detail. Kitty Wade
is a most sympathetic young matron."

They found the Wades, and their evening stroll became an inspection of
the ranch. The effects of the rain were already visible in the colour
of the grain. It was darker, more vigorous, sending forth new shoots.
The grass lands, where the network of roots had retained the earlier
moisture, were lush and knee deep. Soon it would be ready to cut.

The beauty of the evening held them out of doors. It was good to idle
in the twilight with the scent of clover in the nostrils, to walk among
the growing things. It was sweet to exchange confidences, to plan for
the future as man and woman have from the beginning, painting it
brightly, draping it in rose and gold, a perfect picture wherein all
the colours harmonized.

It was the time of dreams. They gazed into the future as children might
look across an unknown sea, seeing in fancy its stately galleons, its
tall treasure ships, its white-winged pleasure craft, its wondrous,
palm-fringed islands, where summer abode always; but they had no eyes
for leaden skies and sullen shouldering swells spouting on hidden
reefs, the great, gray bergs fog-hidden in the ship track, the drifting
derelicts whose hopes were once as fair as their own. For God has
mercifully arranged that these things shall be hidden from our eyes
until the proper time.

Even when they reached the house they were not inclined to go indoors.
They sat in the darkness, in pairs, apart, conversing in low tones, and
so another hour slipped away. Back of them the house was dark; not a
lamp was lighted. Only from Feng's kitchen a path of light streamed
from the door. But as they were about to leave the veranda they heard
the sound of hoofs approaching.

"Who on earth is coming at this time of night?" Wade asked.

"Sit quiet and we'll see," said Casey. His hand closed on the butt of a
gun in his pocket, which he now carried constantly.

The hoofs slowed to a walk, and a shadowy horse and rider halted a few
yards away. In the darkness of the veranda, with the deeper background
of the building, they were invisible.

"Be th' mortal! but they've all gone to bed," muttered a disgusted
voice. "An' what do yez know about that? 'Airly to bed an' airly to
rise,' as the kids' dope books has it. Maybe ut makes a man healthy,
but all the wealthy wise guys iver I knowed wint on th' well-known
principle that home was the last place to close up. Faix, a man'll go
home whin he's in no state f'r anny other place. Whoa! Howld still,
there's a good harrse, till I see what's best to do. Don't be so
onaisy. Whoa, darlin'! Bad cess to ye, ye roachbacked Prodestan' baste,
kape off iv thim flower beds! Have yez no manners at all, at all? Be
all th' saints in glory I'll larrup th' head off iv yez--or I w'u'd if
I wasn't afraid ye'd buck me onto the roof. Yez have me crippled
intirely as ut is."

"Not a word, for your life!" Wade whispered. "That's a star monologue!"

Feng, attracted by the voice, came to the door.

"Hallo! What wanchee?" he demanded.

"The country's overrun wid them yelly divils!" Mr. Quilty muttered.
"What wanchee? Th' nerve iv him! Ye weathered-ivory monkey face, I've
business wid yer betters!"

"You keepee hossee off flowah bed," commanded Feng. "What foh you lidee
him all oveh?"

"Ask th' harrse!" Quilty retorted. "The sight iv yez onsettles him,
lowgrade baste as he is. Dom a Chinaman dead or alive, annyway!"

"You no good!" retorted Feng. "Me savvy you. You Ilishman, all same
mick, all same flannel mout', all same bogtlotteh! You bum lailway man!
You get dlunk, fo'get switch, thlain lun off tlack; you swingee
lante'n, yellee 'All aboa'd!' you say, 'Jim Kli! what keepee Numbeh
Eight?' You sellee ticket, knockee down change. No good, lailway man!
Me savvy you, all light."

"Ye cross iv a limon peel and a case iv jandhers!" cried Mr. Quilty in
wrath at these aspersions on an honourable calling, "I'm a notion to
get down an' slug the head off iv yez! Faix, ut's no murder to kill a
Chinaman, but a bright jewel in me starry crown, ye long-nailed,
rat-eatin', harrse-haired, pipe-hittin' slave iv th' black pill! I'll
make yez think I'm a Hip Sing Tong or a runaway freight on th' big
hill. I'll slaughter yez, mind, if I get off. Do yez know where yez
will go whin yez die at my hands?"

"Me go to heaven," said Feng, with comfortable conviction.

"Th' ---- ye say!" ejaculated Mr. Quilty, in shocked amazement. "I
think I see ye there!"

"You no see me," said Feng. "No Ilish lailway man stop in heaven. Me
catchee heaven all light. Missionally say so."

"Is ut mish-naries they send to waste time on the loikes iv yez?"
snorted Mr. Quilty. "Hivin! Fine comp'ny ye'd be f'r the holy men and
blessid saints an' martyrs an' pure, snow-white angels! Why, ye
idolatrous, stick-burnin', kow-towin', joss-worshippin' pagan son iv a
mat-sailed junk and a chopstick, they'd slam the pearly gates forninst
yer face and stick their holy fingers to their blessid noses at yez.
Hivin! Ye'll never smell ut, nor scuffle yer filthy shoes on th'
goolden streets. Purgathry! Faix, yer ticket reads straight through,
wid no stop-off priv'leges whatever. Th' cindher pit f'r yours! Be th'
Rock iv Cashel, I'll l'arn yez to insult th' heav'nly throng!"

So saying, he dropped ungracefully from his horse and made a rush for
Feng, who retreated, slammed the screen door, and, from inside,
threatened the storming party with a formidable butcher knife.

"Whurroo!" shouted Mr. Quilty, dancing on the steps. "Come out, ye
yelly plague, knife and all, an' l'ave me knock the stuffin' out iv
yez! Annyways, I'll tell ye what ye are. Ye're a----"

But Casey, fearful of Mr. Quilty's descriptive powers, saw fit to
interrupt.

"Hello! What's all the row? That you, Corney?"

"Yer owner has saved yer life," Mr. Quilty informed Feng. "Sure ut's
me, Casey. I'm after l'arnin' this Oriental curse iv the wurruld how to
talk to his betters." He mounted the steps, peering suspiciously at the
occupants of the veranda. "Who's these?" he demanded. "I can't see in
the dark. Miss Burnaby, is ut, an' Misther Wade an' his leddy? I
believe yez were here all the time!"

"We just came in from the other side," Casey lied manfully.

"Yes, ye did! I can see yez laughin', and I don't blame yez. 'Twas
funny how scared the Chink was. Well, ut does thim lower races good to
be bawled out wanst in a while by their superiors."

Casey led the way indoors, and lighted the lamps. He established Mr.
Quilty in a comfortable chair, with a cigar and a cold drink.

"Th' health and inclinations iv all here," said Mr. Quilty, waving his
glass gracefully. "I'm glad to see yez all lookin' so well, more
partic'larly the leddies."

"Thank you, Mr. Quilty," said Clyde.

"It's very nice of you, Mr. Quilty," said Kitty Wade.

"It's not often I have the good forchune to be in leddies' society,"
Mr. Quilty continued. "Me tongue has lost th' right twist for
compliments; but, sure, if ut hadn't ut wouldn't begin to do th' pair
iv yez justice. Oh, divil th' bit iv soodher am I givin' yez. It's two
pretty women yez are. Well, well, I'm an old felly who's had his day.
Ye won't mind me. Annyways, wan iv yez has a man, an' th' other is
spoken for, belike. Now whatever makes Casey, there, blush? I didn't
think he knowed how. An' Miss Burnaby, too! What'll yez do whin they's
rice lodged in yer clothes and yer hats, an' white ribbons on yer
trunks, an' th' waiters grin whin ye go into the diner? Let me tell ye,
now----"

"Please, please, Mr. Quilty!" Clyde pleaded.

"Have I rung th' bell?" he demanded.

"Bull's-eye," said Wade. "Own up to it, you two. It's obvious."

"Oh, is it?" said Clyde. "Well, if we're half as bad as you and Kitty
were----"

"Don't mind him; he was in love with me once," said Kitty.

"He is yet," said Clyde.

"Faix, I don't wonder at ut," said Mr. Quilty gallantly.

"Very skilful shift of topic," said Wade. "I admit everything. I guess
we were bad enough; but you and Casey are the limit."

"But look at th' fine excuse both iv thim has," said Mr. Quilty,
beaming. "Here's long life an' happiness, an' may yer only troubles
be--well, well, niver mind th' troubles. There's time enough to think
iv them whin they come. Which puts me in mind that I do be forgettin'
what _I_ come for. Ut's about Tom. D'ye know where he's at?"

"Not exactly. Why?"

"Mebbe ye heard that th' water comp'ny is payin' off its men an'
shuttin' down. Well, then, there's all iv thim hard-faced _tillikums_
iv Cross, deceased, paid off; an' instid iv gittin' dhrunk like dacint
Christians, what do they do but outfit thimselves an' start back fer
th' hills, six iv thim--an' a divil iv a harrd-bunch, savin' th'
leddies' presence. Wan iv thim made a brag that they'd get Tom. So I
come out to tell yez, in case ye had word from him. An' they's officers
out afther that young divil iv a brother iv Miss Sheila's. Somebody
ought to tell the boys to skin their eyes, if so be they're hangin'
around."



CHAPTER XXX


Casey and Sheriff Dove did not start the next afternoon. A telegram had
detained the sheriff, and he did not reach Chakchak till night. He
spent the evening with them, taking a great fancy to Clyde. He even
blossomed out as a story teller, spinning yarns without embellishment
and with great clearness. He told of cattle wars, of outlaws, of Indian
fighters, of strange occurrences, of strange men, primitive of mind and
of action, who had played their parts in the history of the West. It
was information at first-hand, rare nowadays, and the listeners found
the evening too short.

"Blanket time," said the sheriff, looking at his watch. "I ain't a
young nighthawk no more. If we're to git a good start----"

"We'd like to hear more, sheriff," said Clyde.

"Sho!" said Sheriff Dove, well pleased. "I could keep yarnin' half the
night to a pretty girl. I ain't too old for that. Maybe when we get
back we'll have another session."

Outside on the veranda she slipped her arm in his. "Take good care of
Casey for me, sheriff, please."

"I sure will, little girl," he replied. "Don't you go to worryin', now.
There's no call to. If it was easier travellin' you might come along,
for all the trouble there'll be." He smiled down at her in fatherly
fashion, his great, sinewy arm pressing hers, and the pressure
reassured her.

"Thank you, sheriff. You--you're a _dear_!"

"Do I git a bid to the weddin'?"

"Of course you do." Clyde blushed and laughed. "Only I don't know just
when it will be."

"Make it soon," he advised. "Life's short, little girl. Take all the
happiness you can git. Good night."

They rode westward in the morning before the sun had risen, and camped
that night in the foothills, having seen nobody. They entered the pass,
and immediately came upon the trail of horses.

"Looks like there's been some travel," said the sheriff. "This here
pass used much?"

"Not at this time of year. The Indians use it in the fall. They hunt
across the range."

"These horses is shod," the sheriff remarked. "I sh'd say there's been
half a dozen of 'em. Not less. Maybe more. I've knowed men that could
tell exact."

"Not many of them left now."

"That's so. There ain't much need for trailin' these days. Too many
telegraph wires."

They held to the pass, as did the hoofprints, eventually dropping down
into the valley of the Klimminchuck, where they camped for the night
beside the ford, cooked supper, unrolled their blankets, and lay by the
fire, smoking.

"This bunch of hosses," the sheriff observed, "seems to have split up
here. Two or three of 'em crossed over, but the most went down the
valley. What's down there?"

"Just valley. It's partly open and part heavy timber. There was a pack
trail cut through once, but it's mostly grown up."

"Nobody lives down there?"

"Not a soul. Now and then somebody traps in winter."

"Um." The sheriff was thoughtful for some moments. "Does McHale know
the country hereabouts?"

"Fairly well. Better than I do. And McCrae knows it better than he
does."

"Um." The sheriff became silent again. "When a man goes to hidin' out,"
he observed after a long pause, "he 'most always hits for the country
he knows. Seems like it's human nature. I'd do it myself, and so'd you.
Seems like a man that's wanted is suspicious of strange ground. He
don't know what's in it, and he's afraid of gettin' cornered. He don't
know what he's goin' to run up against any mile. It's a mean feelin',
that. It keeps a man on edge every minute. So he naturally makes for
the district he's at home in. It's a mistake, but they all make it.
They figure they can dodge around where they know the trails and
cut-offs. Consequently it's just a matter of time till they're caught.
It's like an old buck that won't leave his range. Any man can git him
that wants to spend a week at it."

"That's so," Casey agreed.

"So when I want a man and don't know where he's gone, I find out what
place he thinks he knows best," the sheriff continued. "The system wins
nine times out of ten. Now you say McHale's only out temporary. He's
got a clear self-defence case, or thinks he has, and he's merely
side-steppin' trouble. In that case he won't go as far as another man
might. My _tumtum_ is that he's somewheres down along this valley."

"Good reasoning," Casey admitted.

"The way to see a man down in a hole is to look over the edge," said
the sheriff; "and the way to find a man in a valley is to get up on a
hill. They ain't no such thing as a smokeless campfire invented yet,
though, if a man rustles dry sticks and does his cookin' at noon of a
bright day, he don't make much smoke. A feller fooled me once that way.
He didn't take a chance on noon, but done his cookin' at night, down in
a hole. Only way I got him, the fire burned in under a rock into some
old roots, and sorter smudged along one mornin' when he was asleep."

Casey glanced up at the bulk of the ranges outlined in blackness
against the sky. "If you say so, sheriff, we'll climb."

"I hate to," the sheriff admitted. "Couldn't you make a good guess?"

"No. I don't know any more than you do."

"Well," said the sheriff thoughtfully, "we'll try the valley first. We
may come on some sign. It's bound to take time, anyway. There's a whole
heap of country here if it was smoothed out and stretched level."

He knocked out his pipe and pulled his blanket around him, for down in
that deep, watered valley the nights were cold. Casey followed his
example. In two minutes both men were asleep, with the rush of the
water and the crunch-crunch of the horses' teeth cropping the grasses
in their ears.

They breakfasted in the dawn, saddled, and took a course downstream,
The trail petered out; the hoof marks vanished. They rode with care
through thick brush, and more easily in open, parklike glades. Grouse
rose almost under their horses' hoofs, to sit bright-eyed on adjacent
limbs, watching the travellers. Occasionally deer by twos and threes
bounded springily away, white flags waving. Once the horses snorted and
showed a disinclination to proceed, sniffing the air nervously.

"Bear," said Casey.

"Down among them berry bushes, I reckon," said the sheriff.

As he spoke, a black, furry head, short ears, and sharp muzzle rose
above the tangled bushes. A narrow, red tongue licked out. Cunning
little eyes regarded them with indignant suspicion.

"Woof!" said the bear. The sound was something between the snort of a
hog and the first interrogative note of a watchdog, which hears a noise
that requires explanation.

"Well, sport," said the sheriff, "berryin' good this mornin'?"

But at the sound of the human voice the black head disappeared beneath
the surface of foliage. There was a momentary swaying of bushes in one
spot, like the swirl of disturbed water after a fish; but there was
nothing to mark the line of the beast's flight. For all his bulk he
melted through the tangle as soundlessly as a spirit.

"Bears is learnin' manners nowadays," the sheriff commented. "Course,
these here black ones never was much different from pigs. But take
grizzlies. When I come West with my old people, a little shaver just
able to set a pony, they was plumb sassy. I never did see such
biggotty-actin' critters. Britch-loaders hadn't been in so durn long,
and men didn't go huntin' grizzlies with the little old pea rifle just
for fun. They was range bosses, and they knowed it. Now it's only once
in a while you'll find one that wants all the trail."

In the afternoon they came to an abandoned cabin, and dismounted to
investigate. Casey shook his head at the filthy litter. "Nobody's been
here," said he.

The sheriff peered narrowly about. "No?" he said. "Well, how about
that?" He pointed to the ground. "Moccasin track, or part of one. Who
wears moccasins?"

"McCrae does, most of the time."

"Then he's been here. He couldn't pass without lookin' in."

"Why not?"

"Because four men out of five can't go by an old shack without takin' a
peep inside. I can't, myself. I judge you can't, either. Do you
remember ever doin' it?"

"Why, no," Casey admitted, "now you speak of it, I don't. And I do
remember rubbering into dozens of old wikiups one place and another."

"Sure," said the sheriff. "Human nature again. Anything that's made by
a man and left behind will draw another man like molasses will a fly. I
never knew a man yet that wouldn't nose around an old camping spot. Not
that he expects to find anything, or wants to. He just can't help it.
McCrae didn't stop here. Where did he go? We might as well look around
a little."

In the process of looking around, they came on an abandoned camp. By
the quantity of ashes a number of fires had been burned. There were the
poles of a lean-to and a bough bed beneath it, and at a little distance
were other beds of boughs. The ground was trampled, and the grass
beaten down in the vicinity.

The sheriff nosed among the signs, lifting the boughs of the beds,
trying the ashes with his finger for heat, making an examination of the
ground, and wandering off in a circle around the camp, where horses had
been picketed. Finally he came back to the fireplace, filled his pipe,
and lay down. Casey, meanwhile, had been forming his own conclusions.

"Well?" he asked.

"Well," said the sheriff, "I reckon you been usin' your eyes, too.
Let's hear about it."

"It's your hunt."

"So it is. McCrae's met up with McHale. This here is their camp."

"How do you know?"

"You askin' because you don't know yourself, or because you want me to
tell you?"

"I think you're right, but I'd like to know how you get at it."

"Well, I ain't no Old Sleuth nor Sherlock Holmes," said the sheriff,
"but I've lived some years out of doors. I ain't workin' out no chain
of reasonin'; I'm just usin' my eyes and a bit of savvy. This is how
she works out:

"McHale and McCrae is both foot-loose, and both know this part of the
country. They leave about the same time, and chances is they make for
it. Then they meet. That's easy. Then we find the moccasin track. That
fits McCrae. Next we find a lean-to with a two-man bough bed. There's
the hollows where two men lay. That helps prove our first guess. It
shows that some one was with McCrae, and the only other man hidin' out
is McHale."

"But there are other bough beds. How do you know they weren't all made
by one outfit?"

"There's only one lean-to."

"Two men may have been more particular than the others."

"The boughs of them other beds were cut later than this lean-to one."

"But the boughs are all green."

"The ends where they were cut are different. There's more gum on these
than the others. That shows they were cut before. Then there's more
needles broken off and sifted through to the ground beneath this bed.
That shows it's been slept on more. Where would a man get his boughs?
The nearest trees, of course. Well, there's more gum where the limbs
were cut on the nearest trees than on them farther away. Then there's
been a bunch of horses staked out. Why didn't they bell 'em and let 'em
range? Either because they didn't have no bells, or didn't want to use
'em. McHale and McCrae would keep their hosses on a rope so's they
could make a quick get-away if they had to. They wouldn't take a chance
on their strayin'. Now the grass that's been eaten down by the hosses
is beginnin' to sprout again in some places, and not in others. Maybe
that's because the pickets were shifted, but it's more likely that some
hosses was here before the rest. That's about all. She works out all
right, don't she?"

"Down to the hock card," Casey admitted. "I saw some of the signs, but
not all. You filled in the gaps."

"It's a pity if I wouldn't savvy a few things about my own business,"
said the sheriff. "Some of it's guesswork, but the main features ain't.
Now, when we go farther, we got to do straight guessin'. Who was this
bunch that come in here where the two men was already camped? My guess
is that it was this here Dade and his outfit. But they don't find the
two here when they come, or there'd sure be sign of it. It looks to me
like them two boys got to know that somebody was on their back trail,
and moved camp sudden. But not so durn sudden they had to leave
anything behind. Question is, where have they went to--the whole
b'ilin' of 'em?"

"Down the valley. Otherwise we'd have seen some sign."

"I reckon that's so. If Dade works out things the way I have, he knows
he's close on to McHale. Say he's got four or five men with him. He can
comb the valley pretty clean. But here's another thing: How long will
them two boys let themselves be chased?"

"Not very long. It's not safe to crowd either of them."

"If it was me," said the sheriff reflectively, "and a feud party was
out on my trail, I'd be apt as not to bushwhack 'em some. You bet I
wouldn't stand on ceremony with such hostiles. If I knowed the country
I'd cache myself alongside some good open spot, wait till they got into
the middle of it, and then slam loose. With two men that savvy their
guns any one that got away would sure have a pull with Providence and
be workin' it awful hard."

"Sandy would do that in a minute; but I think Tom doesn't want any more
trouble if he can help it."

"He may get it shoved onto him. Well, seein' we're here, we may as well
eat. Then we'll move on."

When their meal was over they followed the valley. Sunset found them at
the edge of thick timber.

"How far does this run?" asked the sheriff.

"I don't know. I was never here before."

"Then we'll camp," said Dove, "and tackle her by daylight."

It was almost dark when Casey, sitting by the fire, suddenly held up
his hand. "Somebody coming."

The sheriff listened for a moment. "Two horses," he announced. "May be
Jack Pugh." Nevertheless, the old frontiersman shifted his position so
that his gun lay ready to his hand.

A moment later two shadowy horsemen appeared, resolving themselves, as
they approached, into Farwell and old Simon.

"Hello, the camp!" cried the former. "That you, Dunne?"

"Yes. What on earth are you doing here?"

"Same thing as yourself. This old Siwash missed you somehow. He found
McHale and young McCrae, and, on the way out, he ran into Dade, Lewis,
and the rest--six in all. When he got to the ranch you were gone, and
nobody could tell him where. He came over to Talapus to tell them he'd
seen Sandy. That's where I ran into him. And so, knowing that Sandy was
with McHale, I got the old man to come back with me. I wanted to be in
it if help was needed. We picked up your trail--or he did--and here we
are."

"Well, it's blamed decent of you, Farwell," said Casey. "I didn't know
that you and Sandy were such friends."

"We're not. The kid doesn't like me. I told you he pulled a gun on me
once. All the same, it was up to me this time. I'm going to marry
Sheila."

"The devil you are!" Casey exclaimed.

"You're blamed flattering," said Farwell. "You bet I'm going to marry
her."

"You're getting one of the finest girls on earth."

"I know that as well as you do," said Farwell. "Then you see how it was
up to me----"

He broke off suddenly. Rolling softly along the hills, flung back and
forth across the valley from rock wall to rock wall, repeated and
magnified a hundred times, came an echo. So distant was it that the
original sound itself was not heard; merely the reverberations of it
struck the ear. But unmistakably it was made by a far-off gun. Before
the echoes had died away others followed, until their resonance
resembled continuous thunder.

"_Hiyu_ shootum!" said Simon.

"You bet," the sheriff agreed. "I reckon the boys has got tired bein'
moved on. Or else they been jumped sudden. That shootin's all of six
miles off. Maybe more. It'll be plumb dark in no time. If there's no
more shootin' it's settled by now. If there is it's a stand-off. Either
way we have to wait till it gets light."



CHAPTER XXXI


"I been thinkin' we might as well move on a ways," said McHale. "Here's
old Simon drops in on us. Somebody else might. I don't feel right about
it. I want to git some place, like up in one o' them basins, where
strangers won't be passin' by every day."

"Well, I'll go you," Sandy agreed; "but there's an old bear that I want
first. He's got a foot as big as a fiddle; I'll bet he weighs as much
as a steer."

"What'll you do with a bear? We don't want to go packin' a green hide
about with us. The horses hate the smell of it."

"Let 'em get used to it, then," Sandy returned. "I'm starting after
that bear now. Better come along. If I don't get him I'll go
to-morrow."

But McHale refused to accompany him. He hated climbing. If he could go
on a horse that would be different. Therefore Sandy set out alone.

He ascended a shoulder of the mountain, working his way upward to where
he had located the range of the big bear. It was steady climbing, and
rough as well, but Sandy was in hard, lean condition, with the
limitless wind and springy muscles of youth. He arrived at his
objective point, a spot which gave him a clear view of the mountain
side for a mile on either hand. Somewhere in that area, he had already
decided, the bear would be feeding. He settled down for a long, careful
inspection; first with the naked eye, which yielded nothing, and next
with a pair of binoculars. Sandy, when hunting, possessed unlimited
patience. He settled himself comfortably, and kept the glasses at work.
Finally his patience was rewarded. A mile or more up the hillside a
huge, brown shape shambled into view.

"Lord! he's a big brute," Sandy muttered. "That's a hide worth getting.
I'll wait till he settles down for keeps."

Apparently the bear had found food to his liking. He was busy with paw
and tongue beside a rotten log. Sandy mapped out a route in his mind,
and decided to make a start. It was then noon. As he rose he happened
to look up the valley.

It lay below him, ashimmer in the summer sun, a panorama of green,
light and dark of shade, with the silver ribbon of the Klimminchuck
appearing and disappearing down its length. It was, perhaps, as
beautiful a mountain valley scene as eye ever beheld; but Sandy McCrae
would not have looked at it twice save for a thin, gray thread which
appeared above the treetops some miles away. It became a column,
ballooned, and then was invisible. But he knew that somebody had just
started a fire.

He picked out the spot with the glasses. Smoke was plainly visible
through the powerful lenses. It was close to the river--beside the
bank, in fact--and he could catch glimpses of one or two horses. But,
because of the trees, he could see little more.

"Darn the luck," said Sandy. "There's the biggest hide in the whole
range waiting for me, and somebody has to come butting in. Well,
there's only one thing to do."

That thing being to get back to camp as fast as possible, Sandy
proceeded to do it. He went downhill at a pace that would have shaken
an older and heavier man to pieces; for going downhill is, contrary to
the popular idea, much harder on the human frame than going up. He
broke into camp and roused McHale from a state of somnolence and
tobacco.

"I could 'a' tanned your young hide when you bulled off after that
bear," said the latter. "Now I seem to see what them salvation scouts
calls 'the finger of Providence' in the play. In other words, it's
plumb safe to keep one eye skinned. Do I look like I was scared,
Sandy?"

"Nah!" said Sandy contemptuously.

"Well, you're going to see me act like I was." He rose swiftly, his
laziness falling from him now that there was work to do. "Go and fetch
in them cayuses. I'll break camp."

The horses being on picket caused no delay. When Sandy brought them in,
McHale had their entire outfit in two heaps, ready to pack. With the
skill and swiftness of experience they made the packs, threw the
hitches, drew the lash ropes tight. The result was two compact bundles
which could not work loose.

"I dunno who our friends are," said McHale, as they rode out of camp,
"but if it's this here Dade bunch, say, what a surprise they'd have
give me all by myself. I can just see me gettin' up in time to fall
down."

"They've got no license to chase us all over," said Sandy. "We don't
have to stand for it, do we? How'd it be if we held up their camp? Or
else we could lay for them as they came along, and settle it right
there."

"Bushwhack 'em?" said McHale. "No, I reckon not. We want to keep out of
trouble. If we held 'em up what'd we do with them? We couldn't tie 'em
and leave 'em; and we couldn't pack 'em around. Nothing for it but to
run like men. The country's big enough for both of us."

Sandy grunted disapproval, but said no more. Personally he would have
welcomed a fight. He was a marvellously quick and accurate shot with
either rifle or revolver, and he was ready to make a friend's quarrel
his own. However, he deferred to McHale's views.

Farther down the Klimminchuck they turned up a nameless tributary
creek, following its course with difficulty, for the way was choked
with down timber and slides, until they reached a beautiful little
basin high up above the valley. There the creek had its source or
sources; for the drainings of the basin were collected in a little lake
lying beneath bare cliffs. The water was swarming with trout, so that
one supply of food was assured.

Beside the lake and the cliffs they made camp. They could not see the
valley, neither could they be seen thence; but by walking half a mile
they could look down into it. Sandy, mindful of his disappointment,
began to prospect for bear.

McHale relapsed once more into a morass of sleep and tobacco. But while
Sandy was ranging afield he lay on the edge of the basin drowsing and
watching the valley, for he did not intend to be taken by surprise.

But that was exactly what happened. He had withdrawn from his post of
observation earlier than usual, and he and Sandy were smoking after
supper in the fading light, when a little cavalcade rode into the
basin, preceded by one who walked slowly, studying the ground.

McHale saw them at the same moment that they perceived the camp. He
leaped to his feet with an oath, snatching up his rifle and a gunny
sack, which, among other things, contained their cartridges. His belt
gun he never laid aside.

Sandy also jumped for his gun, slamming the lever down and up as the
weapon came to his shoulder. He stood fairly in the open, covering the
foremost man. But McHale caught his arm.

"Come on and get back among them rocks," he cried. "We can't stand 'em
off here."

Behind them as they ran a sudden yell went up, and a single bullet
buzzed past like a mad bee. But they reached the shelter of the rocks
fallen from the cliff at some remote period, and dropped to cover.
Before them the great slabs formed a natural breastwork; behind them
rose the sheer cliff, gray and weather-stained. Their backs were amply
protected; in front they must take care of themselves.

The newcomers dismounted in the concealment of trees. Five minutes
afterward a man walked leisurely forward. McHale recognized Dade. At
fifty paces he halted him.

"I wouldn't come no nearer, Dade, if I was you."

"I'm coming a heap closer pretty soon."

"All right; you're expected," McHale retorted. "You call a feud on me,
do you? Now you listen here: You call it off and call your bunch off,
or there'll be doin's."

"I'm talkin' to your partner," said Dade. "I s'pose it's young McCrae.
We got nothing against you, McCrae. You come out o' there, take your
horse and your dunnage, and git. Nobody'll hurt you."

"Is that so?" sneered Sandy. "Go plumb to blazes, will you?"

"I'll think about it," said Dade coolly.

"You'll do more than think about it if you crowd in here," Sandy
retorted.

"Nobody wants to crowd you," said Dade. "We're after McHale, and we're
goin' to get him. Don't you mix up in it. If you do you may get hurt."

"That ain't such bad advice, kid," interrupted McHale. "I'm able for
'em, I reckon. Better pull your freight like he tells you. This ain't
your show, nohow, and you've got your folks to think of."

"Do you think I'm a yellow dog, or what?" Sandy snapped back, glaring
at him. "Quit? I think I see myself. I'll smash this Dade's belt buckle
right now." He lifted his rifle.

"Hold on," said McHale. "This kid is some obstinate," he called to
Dade. "His _tumtum_ is that he'll stick. _I_ don't want him in it."

"He's got his chance," said Dade. "It's up to him."

Young McCrae launched a string of epithets at him, the cream of the
vocabularies of certain mule skinners of his acquaintance. Meanwhile
his finger itched on the trigger.

"You're a durn poor persuader," said McHale. "The kid will stick. Far's
I'm concerned, if you want me, come and get me. Don't show your hide no
more. I'm surely done talkin' to you."

Dade turned and walked away. Sandy covered him.

"Not in the back," said McHale.

Immediately afterward a thirty-thirty struck a rock in front of them,
glancing off at an angle, wailing away into the distance. Sandy McCrae,
lying at full length peering along the slim barrel of his weapon,
pressed the trigger and swore in disappointment.

"Centred a stump," he said. "There it is yet. It looked like somebody."

All was quiet for five minutes. Then a sleet of lead pelted their
position, patting against the cliff behind them, and splashing upon the
rocks in front. Splinters and particles of stone, lead, and nickel flew
everywhere.

"Git down low," McHale advised, hugging a bowlder.

"I am down," said Sandy.

"Then dig a hole." McHale laughed, and then swore as a sharp fragment
of rock ripped his cheek.

"Hit you?"

"Nope. Rock sliver. I'll bet their guns is gettin' hot. This won't
last."

The fusillade ceased. McHale shoved his rifle barrel through a crevice.

"Maybe some gent will stick out his head to see how many corpses there
is of us. This light's gettin' durn bad. I wish I had an ivory
foresight, 'stead o' this gold bead. I can't see----"

His rifle muzzle leaped in recoil as he spoke. Two hundred yards away a
man making a rush forward for a closer position winced and half halted.
Instantly Sandy's rifle lanced the dimming light with a twelve-foot
shaft of flame. The man straightened, staggered, and threw both arms
upward as if to shield his face. Sandy fired again as the lever clashed
back into place. The man fell forward.

"Got him!" cried Sandy exultantly. "Centred him twice, Tom!"

"I reckon you did. That's one out of it." He fired again without
result. Sandy shot three times rapidly, and swore at the light.

"You're overshootin'," said McHale. "You can't draw the foresight fine
enough in this light. Hold lower."

"Nothing to hold on," grumbled McCrae. "They're cached close. If one of
them would only come out to fetch in that dead one I wouldn't do a
thing to him."

McHale eyed him speculatively. "Seems like your young soul ain't
swamped by no wave of remorse at killin' a man. Don't make you feel
shaky nor nothin'?"

Young McCrae smiled grimly. "Not that I can notice. All that lead they
slung at us scared remorse clean out of my system. I'm lookin' for a
chance to repeat."

But darkness settled down without that chance, making accurate shooting
impossible. Objects at fifty yards became indistinct. Only the
smoky-red reflection of the sunset remained.

"Think they've got enough?" asked Sandy.

"Why, they ain't got started yet. Lucky we had our supper. We can stand
quite a racket on a full stomach. Might as well smoke, I reckon."

Sandy shivered slightly as the chill of the mountain night air struck
through his thin clothing. "Wish I'd grabbed a blanket or a coat."

"It'll be a heap worse before mornin'," said McHale.

"You're a cheerful devil!"

"Think of how good the sun'll feel. Maybe something will happen to warm
us up before then."

A forty-pound stone suddenly crashed down to one side of them, smashing
in the rocks and bushes with terrific impact. Sandy leaped to his feet,
his revolver streaming continuous fire at the top of the cliff.

"Git down, you durn fool!" cried McHale.

Sandy dropped just in time. A volley came from in front, and a leaden
storm howled overhead.

"Talk about luck!" said McHale. "Don't you take a chance like that
again." He rolled over on his back and put his rifle to his shoulder.
"If I could only git that cuss up there against the sky line----"

But the top of the cliff was fringed with bushes. Another stone bounded
down, struck a projection, leaped out, and hit ten feet in front of
them. McHale fired by guess; but, like most guesswork shooting, without
result. Another stone struck in front. He moved in closer to the cliff
and chuckled grimly.

"We're right under a ledge. Them rocks all bounced off it. Mighty lucky
for us. You feelin' any warmer now?"

"You bet. Summer done come again. I wish I could see to shoot." He
fired at the flash of a gun, and winced suddenly.

"Burned me that time!"

A glancing bullet had ripped the flesh of his left side along the ribs.
McHale made a bandage of the handkerchief he wore around his neck.

"You'll sure have a sore side, kid. Keep down tight. Don't take no more
chances." But a moment afterward he grunted and his rifle clattered
against the rocks.

"What is it?"

"My right arm. Busted above the elbow." He breathed deeply with the
first pain throbs following the shock, and gritted his teeth. "Ain't
this hell? I'm out of it for rifle shootin'. Here, come and cut off my
shirt sleeve and tie her up some. See how much blood she's pumpin'!
Take a turn above the hole and twist her up tight. Blamed if I want to
bleed to death. I got a lot of things to see to first."

Sandy examined the wound by the feeble light of matches, which McHale
held in his left hand, and declared that the arteries were uninjured.
He cut off a leg of his trousers below the knee, and, with McHale's
shirt sleeve, organized a bandage, binding it with the thongs of his
moccasins, swearing steadily below his breath.

McHale leaned back against the rock and demanded his pipe. Sandy filled
it, and held a match to the load. McHale puffed great smoke clouds into
the darkness.

"Tobacco's sure a fine anæsthetic. She beats chloroform and tooth
jerkers' gas. And now, kid, you git!"

"Do what?"

"Make a get-away. Hike. Leak out o' this. You can do it in the dark
just as easy as a weasel."

"Say," said Sandy, "you didn't get hit alongside the head, too, did
you?"

"Not yet. This is straight goods. I mean it. There's no use you
stickin'. There's too many accidents happenin'. Come mornin' maybe you
don't git a chance."

"Come mornin'," Sandy replied, "when I can see my sights, I'll clean
the whole bunch out."

"Other people can see sights then. Kid, they got me rounded up. I ain't
no good except on a horse. If I could make a get-away I would. But I
can't. You can. There's no sense in both of us bein' wiped out. Also,
there's your folks. I ain't got any. And, then, I've lived longer than
you, and I've had a heap more fun. I'm plumb satisfied with the deal.
If I quit the game now I break better'n even. Shake hands and git out
o' here while you can."

"Forget it!" snapped Sandy. "Would _you_ quit _me_? Not any. D'ye think
I could look Casey in the face, or Sheila, or my old dad? Would one of
_them_ quit _you_? You bet they wouldn't. I'll see this through. Here,
gimme what rifle cartridges you got, and shut up that line of talk. I
won't stand for it, and I won't go."

"'Most every family has one blame fool in it," said McHale. "All right,
durn you, stay. If I could chase you out I'd do it. Reach down and pull
my belt gun for me. I can shoot left-handed some."

They passed the night miserably, waiting for an attack which did not
come. The pain of their wounds was added to the discomfort of the cold.
Dawn found them shivering, numbed, weary-eyed, staring through the
lifting gloom, their weapons ready. As the light grew they could see
their own camp, but no one occupied it. Farther off a column of smoke
rose.

"Cookin' breakfast down in a hole," said McHale. "Playin' it plumb
safe. They ain't takin' a chance on your shootin'."

"They'd better not," said Sandy. His young face showed grimed and
pinched in the growing light, but his eyes were hard and clear. "Do you
s'pose I could sneak over and get a stand on them?"

"I wouldn't try. You bet somebody's keeping cases on these rocks."

Half an hour passed, an hour. The sun struck the basin, mottling its
green with gold, striking their chilled bodies with grateful warmth.

"Say," asked Sandy, "don't you want a drink of water?"

"Quit foolin'," McHale replied. "I been thinkin' of it for hours. I
could drink that there lake dry."

Still nothing happened. The waiting began to get on their nerves.

"What d'you s'pose they're framing up?" Sandy asked.

"Don't know. Durn it! I can't do nothin' unless they run in on us,"
McHale grumbled. "Wisht I could hold a rifle."

"Let 'em try to run in," said Sandy grimly. He had McHale's rifle in
addition to his own. "They've got to come two hundred yards without
cover. I'll stop every blamed one of them in one hundred."

Suddenly he lifted his rifle, hesitated, and lay with his cheek to the
stock, staring along the sights.

"See somethin'?" McHale asked.

"Over there past those jack pines. Man on a horse. He'll come out
again."

Far off among the trees they saw not one mounted man, but several. They
could catch glimpses merely. The horsemen appeared to be making for the
valley, but not by the way in which they had come.

"By thunder!" cried McHale, "it looks like they're pullin' out."

His further remarks were lost in a rolling fire as Sandy unhooked his
entire magazine at the retreating figures. He caught up McHale's rifle
and emptied that, too.

"Save some ca'tridges for seed," advised McHale. "What's the use of
snapshootin' at that range? You can't hit nothin'."

"You never know what luck you'll have," said Sandy. "I couldn't draw a
sight with them moving in the brush. How many did you count?"

"Five--near as I could make it."

"Say, how'd it be if I went after them?"

"It'd be one durn young fool the less," McHale replied. "You want to
know when you're well off. Don't stand up yet. There may be some play
to this that we don't savvy."

"Rats! They've got a bellyful, I tell you. Five's the bunch, ain't
it?--all but that one we got. I ain't going to stay cached here all
day. I want some grub."

But McHale persuaded him to wait ten minutes. Then, after exposing a
hat and a rolled-up coat as decoys without the least result, they
emerged from their fortress.

"Didn't rustle our hosses," said McHale. "That's luck. I wonder what
they done with that feller you downed. Let's look at their camp."

Down in the hollow where the besiegers had built their fire they found
what they sought. It lay covered by a blanket. Sandy stripped the
covering away.

"Dade, by thunder!" he exclaimed. McHale looked down thoughtfully at
the dead man.

"I'm sure glad it was him," he observed. "I reckon that settles this
feud business. That's why them fellers pulled out. It was his war, and
when he got downed they didn't see no sense carryin' it on."

"Well, they might have buried him, anyway," Sandy grumbled.

"Maybe they figured you'd want to peel off his scalp," said McHale,
with mild sarcasm. "I'm sure willing to take a little trouble like
buryin' Dade."

"So'm I," Sandy admitted, replacing the blanket. "I guess we're pretty
lucky. Come on while I rustle some grub. We want to pull out of here.
You've got to get to a doctor as soon as you can."

They were eating breakfast when Casey, Farwell, the sheriff, and Simon
rode into the basin, causing Sandy to snatch up his rifle under the
impression that their assailants were returning. The four had made the
best time they could, but had been at a loss to know the exact point
until Sandy's farewell fusillade.

"You sure missed a heap of fun, Casey," said McHale.

"Well, some of it didn't miss you," said Casey. "I'm blame sorry about
that arm, Tom. It'll be a tough ride for you."

"I'm able for it, I reckon. I wish you'd run into them fellers."

"Never saw hair nor hide of them. Just as well, maybe. Now, Tom, this
is Sheriff Dove. He wants you, and I think he wants Sandy. I told him
that you both had too much sense to make things hard for him."

"Far's I'm concerned I'm his meat," said McHale. "I'd have to come in,
anyway, now. Sandy was a durn fool ever to hide out. I shouldn't have
let him. Lucky for me I did, though."

"That's sense," said the sheriff. "You boys will find I'm all right to
get on with. I haven't heard you say anything, McCrae?"

"I guess I don't need to say anything," said Sandy. "Casey came along
with you, didn't he? That's good enough for me."

"I'm right obliged to him, too," said Dove. "He's sure saved me a lot
of trouble. Lemme see that arm of yours, McHale. I savvy a little about
them things. Anyway, I'll fix up some splints for it till you can get
hold of a regular medicine man."



CHAPTER XXXII


"And so you're going to marry this Casey Dunne," said old Jim Hess. He
and Clyde sat on the veranda at Chakchak, and they had been discussing
the ranch, its owner, and the events that had led up to his absence.

"Yes, Uncle Jim, I'm going to marry him."

"Well," said the big railway man, "making allowance for your natural
partiality, his stock seems to be worth about par. I'll know better
when I've had a look at him. I tell you one thing, I'm glad he isn't a
foreigner. I never liked those fellows who tagged about after you. This
country can produce as good men as you'll find. The others weren't my
sort. All right in their way, perhaps, but they seemed to go too much
on family and ancestry. That's good enough, too, but it seems to me
that the ancestors of some of them must have been a blamed sight better
men than they were. After all, a girl doesn't marry the ancestor. Dunne
seems to have hoed his own row. That's what I did. I'm prepared to like
him. Only I don't want you to make any mistake."

"There's no mistake, Uncle Jim," she said, patting his big hand.
"Casey's a _man_. You _will_ like him. Look away out there where the
dust is rising! Aren't those men on horseback? Yes, they are. It must
be Casey coming home." Her pleasure was apparent in her voice.

The dust cloud resolved itself into four mounted men and three pack
animals. They moved slowly, at a walk almost, the dust puffing up from
the hoofs drifting over and enveloping them.

"Which is your Casey Dunne?" asked Hess.

Clyde stared with troubled eyes.

"I--I don't see him. There's Tom McHale, and the sheriff, and Sandy
McCrae, and the old Indian. Why, Tom McHale has been hurt. His arm is
in a sling. How slowly they ride! It's--it's like a funeral. Surely
nothing can have happened. Oh, surely----" She caught her breath
sharply, her eyes dilating. "Look!" she cried. "The last pack horse!"

The load on the last horse was a shapeless thing, not compact and built
up like a pack, but hanging low on either side, shrouded by a canvas.
From under this cover a hand and arm dangled, swinging to and fro with
each motion of the animal.

Clyde felt a great fear, cold as the clutch of a dead hand itself,
close on her heart, driving the young blood from her cheeks. "It can't
be!" she said to herself. "Oh--it _can't_ be."

Hess swore beneath his breath. If it were Casey Dunne lying across that
pack horse----He put a huge protective arm around Clyde's shoulders, as
if to shield her from the evil they both feared.

But she slipped from beneath his arm and fled down the steps toward the
party who would have passed in the direction of the stables without
halting. The sheriff, seeing her, pulled up. She caught McHale's
hardened paw in both her hands, searching his eyes for the truth. But
McHale's face, though weary and lined with pain, and, moreover,
rendered decidedly unprepossessing by a growth of stubble, contained no
signs of disaster.

"Where's Casey, Tom?"

"Casey?" McHale replied. "Why, he hiked on ahead to git a medicine man
to fix up this arm of mine. Arm's done busted. He ought to be here most
any time now."

To Clyde it was as if the sun had shot through a lowering, ominous
cloud. She was faint with the joy of relief. "Thank God! Thank God!"
she murmured.

"You seem to be upset about something, ma'am," said the sheriff gently.
"Has anything went wrong?"

Hess answered for her. "What have you got on that last pack horse,
sheriff?"

Jim Dove looked around and muttered an oath. "If that ain't plumb
careless of me! I thought I had him all covered up. Rope must have
slipped. That's Jake Betts, holdup and bad man, that's been callin'
himself Dade around here. There's five hundred reward for him, and to
collect the money I had to pack him in. I sure didn't allow to scare
any women by lettin' an arm hang loose. And the little lady thought it
was Dunne? Dunne's all safe and rugged. We thought he'd be here ahead
of us."

Hess followed the sheriff to the stable and introduced himself, going
directly to the point, as was his custom.

"Sheriff," he said, "I've just come, and naturally I don't know all
that has happened, but there are two or three things I want you to
know. In the first place, my niece, Miss Burnaby, is going to marry
this man Dunne. And, in the second place, I'm now running this
irrigation company and the railway that owns it, and so far as any
prosecutions are concerned I won't have anything to do with them. Does
that make any difference to you?"

"Some," said the sheriff. "It lets young McCrae out, I reckon."

"How about McHale?"

"That's a killin'. You got nothin' to do with that. Anyway, he's got a
good defence."

"I'll sign his bail bond to any amount."

"I reckon there won't be no trouble about that," said the sheriff. "I
know a man when I see him. McHale's all right. You won't find me makin'
things hard for anybody around here, Mr. Hess."

In half an hour Casey rode up, bringing with him a man of medicine in
the person of Doctor Billy Swift. And Billy Swift, whose chronic
grievance was that Coldstream was altogether too healthy for a
physician to live in, greeted his patients with enthusiasm and got busy
at once.

Hess, strolling up from a confidential talk with Sheriff Dove, ran into
Clyde and Casey snugly ensconced in a corner of the veranda, where
thick hop vines shaded them from the public gaze.

"Excuse _me_!" said Hess, with little originality, but much
embarrassment.

"Not at all," Casey replied, under the impression that he was carrying
off matters very nonchalantly. Clyde laughed at both of them.

"We don't mind you, Uncle Jim, do we, Casey?"

"Look here," said Hess, "if this is the young man who has been raisin'
Cain around here, and destroying my property before I owned it, suppose
you introduce me?"

The two men shook hands, gripping hard, measuring each other with their
eyes. And Clyde was tactful enough to leave them to develop their
acquaintance alone.

"I want to thank you for your wire to Clyde," said Casey. "You can
guess what it meant to all of us here."

"I've a fair notion," said Hess. "Of course, I only know what Clyde has
told me, but I can see that you people have been up against a hard
proposition. After this I hope you won't have much to kick at. We won't
take advantage of that clause in the old railway charter--at least not
enough to interfere with men who are actually using water now. But I
want you to be satisfied with enough to irrigate, used economically."

"That's all we ever wanted."

"I'm glad to hear it. Now I've fixed up this matter of young McCrae's.
That's settled. No more trouble about it. As to your man, McHale, I'm
told that his trial will be a mere matter of form. Wade will look after
that. Now, about Clyde."

"Yes," said Casey.

"She's her own mistress--you understand that. You have a good property
here--not as much money as she has, but enough to get along on if she
hadn't anything. That's all right. I suppose her money's no drawback,
eh? Don't look mad about it, young man. You're fond of her, of course.
I understand you made what you've got yourself?"

"Every cent. I've been out for myself since I was about fifteen. This
is what I've got to show for it."

"And it's a good little stake," said Hess heartily. "I made my own
pile, too. That's what I like. Now, I'm going to ask you a personal
question: What sort of life have you behind you? You understand me.
There must be no comeback where Clyde is concerned. I want a straight
answer."

"You'll get it. I've always been too busy to be foolish. My habits are
about average--possibly better than average. I'm absolutely healthy.
I've not had a day's sickness--bar accidents--since I grew up. There's
absolutely no reason why I shouldn't marry Clyde."

"That's the boy!" said old Jim Hess, with satisfaction, gripping his
hand again. "Your stock's par with me, remember, and I want you to
consider me your friend, even if I am to be a relation by marriage."

Shortly afterward Sheila and Farwell arrived on hard-ridden horses.

"She hustled me right over here," said the latter. "Didn't even give me
time to shave. I told her McHale and Sandy were all right, but she had
to come to see for herself."

"Seeing that Sandy has eaten six fried eggs with bacon and bread buns
to match, I imagine he may be regarded as convalescent," laughed Casey.
"Tom has the tobacco trust half broken already."

Sandy McCrae squirmed uneasily in his sister's embrace, finding it
embarrassing.

"That's plenty, that's plenty!" he growled. "You'd think I was a sole
survivor or something. Say, what are you trying to do--choke me? There,
you've kissed me three times already. Ouch! Darn it, don't hug me. My
side's sore. Try that hold on Farwell. He looks as if he wouldn't
mind."

Casey laughed. Sheila and Farwell reddened. A smothered chuckle from
McHale showed that he was enjoying himself. He grinned over Sandy's
shoulder.

"Howdy, Miss Sheila? Brothers don't know their own luck. Wisht I had a
sister about your size."

"I'll adopt you right now!" she declared, and proceeded to give
practical proof of it, somewhat to his confusion.

"You're an awful bluff, Tom," she accused him. "Really, I believe
you're bashful with girls. I never suspected it before."

"It's just want of practice," grinned McHale. "Some day when I have
time I'm going out to get me a girl like you. There was one down
at----"

But Clyde's appearance interrupted McHale's reminiscences. She and
Sheila, arms about each other, strolled away to exchange confidences.
Casey and Farwell followed.

"We ain't in it," said McHale.

"Well, who wants to be?" said Sandy.

"A few weeks ago," McHale mused, "them two girls warmed up to each
other about as much as two wet sticks of wood; and them two sports
would have locked horns at the bat of an eye. Look at 'em now! What
done it?"

"Does your arm hurt you much?" Sandy asked.

"Sortin' out the hand done it," McHale continued, unheeding. "Each girl
finds out that the other ain't organizin' to be hostile. And the men
find out that they're playin' different systems; likewise, that each
has a good point or two."

"She sure must have been a hard trip for you down from the hills,"
Sandy commented, with much sarcasm.

"Love," said McHale sentimentally, "is a durn funny thing."

Sandy's disgusted comment consisted of but one word not usually
associated with the tender passion. "Well, may be--sometimes," McHale
admitted.

It was a merry party that sat down to the best supper Feng could
prepare on short notice. Wade was in great form. He outdid himself,
keeping up a rapid fire of jokes and conversation. The sheriff,
infected by his example, uncovered a vein of unsuspected humour.
McHale, who referred to himself as "a temp'rary southpaw," contributed
his quota. Sandy was silent and dour, as usual. Jim Hess said little,
but he beamed on everybody, enjoying their happiness.

When Sheila insisted that she must go, Casey saddled Dolly for Clyde
and Shiner for himself. He rode with Sheila, temporarily relinquishing
Clyde to Farwell. A couple of hundred yards behind the others, just
free of their dust, they jogged easily side by side.

"Our rides together are about over, Casey," she said, with a little
sigh.

"How is that?"

"You know as well as I do. The blessed proprieties are butting in here
nowadays; and, besides, we both belong to other people. Dick wants to
be married soon. Of course, I'll have to go where he goes. Thank
goodness, he hasn't got any people to be my people, and to pass
judgment on me."

"I'll be sorry to lose you, Sheila; and I think you'll be sorry to go."

"Yes. I'll miss the rolling country, and the hills to the west, and the
long days outdoors. Oh, heavens, how I'll miss them! And yet it's worth
while, Casey!"

"I'm awfully glad, for your sake, that you think so much of him, old
girl. He's a fine chap--when you get to know him. But I'll miss you.
How long is it since we had our first ride together?"

"Seven years--no, eight. I was riding a bad pinto. Dad traded him
afterward. You wouldn't let me go home alone. Remember?"

"Of course. Awful brute for a girl to ride!"

"He never set me afoot," she said proudly. "But you'll be leaving here,
too, Casey."

"I don't think so."

"Oh, yes, you will. Clyde's money----"

"Hang her money! Don't throw that up to me."

"Nonsense! Don't be so touchy. I wish _I_ had it. You'll go where
there are people and things happening. You'll keep the ranch, but Tom
will look after it."

"No, no."

"Yes, yes. You won't be idle--you're not that kind--but you'll find
other interests, and the money may be a stepping-stone. She's a dear
girl, Casey. Be good to her."

"I couldn't be anything else. You needn't tell me I'm not worthy of
her; I know it."

"You're worthy of any girl," she said firmly. "Not a bit of hot air,
either, old boy. I almost fell in love with you myself."

"By George!" he exclaimed, "there were times when I wondered how much I
thought of you."

She laughed, well pleased. "We know the difference now, don't we? What
a mistake it would have been! I'm glad we kept these thoughts to
ourselves--glad we never played at being in love. Now we can talk
without fear of misunderstanding. Somehow, now, the years here seem
like a dream to me. Yes, I know they've been busy years, crowded with
work for both of us; but just now they don't seem real. We seem--I
seem--to be standing at the boundary of a new life. All that is over
was just preparation for it--the long days in the sun and the wind, the
quiet nights beneath the stars, the big, lonely, brown land, and the
hazy blue of the hills. The girl that lived among them seems like a
little, dead sister. And yet I love these things. Wherever I go,
whatever happens to me, I shall think of them always."

"That's absolutely true. They are in your heart--a part of you. I
understand. The little boy that lay on a lake shore years ago and
watched the old stone hookers wallowing through the long swells doesn't
seem to be Casey Dunne. And yet I can smell the wet sand and the clean
lake breezes now. These are the things that keep our hearts young. You
were born in the West, Sheila, and I in the East; but the roots of our
beings fed on the clean things of the earth that mothered us some
thousands of miles apart, and the taste will never be forgotten. In the
years to come we will think of the years here as to-night we think of
our childhood."

She held out her hand. Gauntlet met gauntlet in the hard grip of
comradeship.

"Good-bye, Casey. It's not likely we'll ever talk of these things
again. I'm glad you've been a part of my life."

"Good luck to you always, Sheila."

"They've left us behind," she said. "Come on! One last good run,
Casey!"

Clyde and Farwell, riding decorously at an easy jog trot, heard the
thunder of hoofs behind them, and turned to see the bay and the
buckskin sweep past, encouraged by voice and heel.

"She'll kill herself some day," Farwell ejaculated, and he scolded her
roundly when they rode up to where she and Casey had finally halted
their blown steeds.

"Listen to him!" cried Sheila, in derision. "As if I didn't savvy a
horse! All right, my lord, I won't do it again till next time. And now,
Casey, you and Clyde must not come any farther. It will be dark before
you get back."

"If you want to be rid of us----" he suggested.

"You've been sorry for yourself for the last hour, and you needn't deny
it," she retorted.

Clyde and Casey rode slowly homeward through the falling dusk. For the
first time since his return they were really alone together. She made
him tell her all that had occurred, down to the minutest detail.

"But now there will be no more trouble of any kind," she predicted.

"Thanks to you."

"Thanks to Uncle Jim."

"Both of you. He's a big man--a nation builder--but if his niece hadn't
had the good taste to fall in love with me his interest would have been
less personal. He wouldn't have got around to a little matter like this
for months. Anyway, we bracket you together. Do you know that some of
the kids are being taught to pray for you?"

"Not really?"

"Fact. Doctor Swift told me. 'God bless pa, and ma, and Mister Jim
Hess, and Miss Burnaby.' That's the formula. Swift predicts that the
next batch of christenings will include a 'Yim Hess' Swanson and a
'Clyde Burnaby' Brulé. Such is fame! Think you can stand the dizzy
popularity?"

"Lovely!" cried Clyde. "I'll order silver mugs to-morrow, and start a
savings account for each baby."

"Go slow!" he laughed. "You'll have 'em all named after you at that
rate."

"I'll get the mugs and a spoon, anyway. I never was so flattered
before. I've just begun to _live_ since I came out here. Why, Casey, my
life was absolutely empty. You can't imagine how lonely and bored I
was."

"What a shame! We'll see that it doesn't occur again. Which opens an
interesting question: When are you going to marry me?"

"Why--I hadn't thought. I suppose we should think of it."

"Well, it's usual, under the circumstances."

"Next June? I think I should like to be a June bride."

"See here, young lady," said Casey severely, "what sort of a gold brick
is this? Are you aware that we are in the fag end of July?"

"It's really not a long engagement. A year soon passes."

"And the years soon pass. I'm not going to be defrauded of a year's
happiness. I'll stand for any time in September, but not a day later."

"September! But, my dearest boy, that's only a few weeks."

"That's why I said September."

She laughed happily. "Very well, September. But I'll have a thousand
things to do. I'll have to go back with Uncle Jim."

"What's the use? Stay here. Kitty Wade will stay, too. I'll coax her."

"But I've all sorts of things to buy?"

"Order 'em by mail."

"My trousseau _by mail_!" she exclaimed, in horror. "It would be
sacrilege."

"Oh, well, suit yourself," said Casey, with a sigh of resignation.
"Thank the Lord it only happens once."

She laughed. "And then there's our honeymoon to plan. Where shall we
spend it?"

"It's up to you. Wherever you say."

"You've never been to Europe?"

"No. But I'd rather do my honeymooning where I can ask for what I want
with some chance of getting it."

"But I speak French, German, and Italian--not fluently, but well enough
to get along on."

"And I talk United States, Chinook, and some Cree--we ought to get
along almost anywhere," he laughed. "Let's leave this Europe business
open. Now here's a really serious question: When our honeymoon is
over--what?"

"I don't understand."

"Where shall we live? I can sell out here, if you like."

"But you wouldn't like?"

"I'd hate to," he admitted.

"I know. So should I. We'll live here, at Chakchak. It shall be our
home."

"Would you be contented? It's lonely at times. The winters are long.
You'd miss your friends and your old life."

"I ran away from both. I love your country because it's yours. It shall
be mine, too. Look!" Away in the distance a tiny point of light
twinkled. "There are the lights of Chakchak--our home lights, dear!"

Her hand sought his in the darkness, met, and clasped it. A star shot
in a blazing trail across the velvet blackness of the sky. The first
breath of the night breeze, cold from the mountain passes, brushed
their cheeks. Save for the distant light the world was dark, the land
lonely, silent, devoid of life. The great spaces enfolded them, wrapped
them in silence as in a vast robe. But the old, sweet song was in their
hearts as they rode slowly forward--to the Light!



STORIES OF RARE CHARM BY

GENE STRATTON-PORTER

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset and Dunlap's list


LADDIE.

[Illustration]

Illustrated by Herman Pfeifer.

This is a bright, cheery tale with the scenes laid in Indiana. The
story is told by Little Sister, the youngest member of a large family,
but it is concerned not so much with childish doings as with the love
affairs of older members of the family. Chief among them is that of
Laddie, the older brother whom Little Sister adores, and the Princess,
an English girl who has come to live in the neighborhood and about
whose family there hangs a mystery. There is a wedding midway in the
book and a double wedding at the close.


THE HARVESTER. Illustrated by W. L. Jacobs.

"The Harvester," David Langston, is a man of the woods and fields, who
draws his living from the prodigal hand of Mother Nature herself. If
the book had nothing in it but the splendid figure of this man it would
be notable. But when the Girl comes to his "Medicine Woods," and the
Harvester's whole being realizes that this is the highest point of life
which has come to him--there begins a romance of the rarest idyllic
quality.


FRECKLES. Decorations by E. Stetson Crawford.

Freckles is a nameless waif when the tale opens, but the way in which
he takes hold of life; the nature friendships he forms in the great
Limberlost Swamp; the manner in which everyone who meets him succumbs
to the charm of his engaging personality; and his love-story with "The
Angel" are full of real sentiment.


A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST.

Illustrated by Wladyslaw T. Brenda.

The story of a girl of the Michigan woods; a buoyant, lovable type of
the self-reliant American. Her philosophy is one of love and kindness
towards all things; her hope is never dimmed. And by the sheer beauty
of her soul, and the purity of her vision, she wins from barren and
unpromising surroundings those rewards of high courage.


AT THE FOOT OF THE RAINBOW.

Illustrations in colors by Oliver Kemp.

The scene of this charming love story is laid in Central Indiana. The
story is one of devoted friendship, and tender self-sacrificing love.
The novel is brimful of the most beautiful word painting of nature, and
its pathos and tender sentiment will endear it to all.

GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK



MYRTLE REED'S NOVELS

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list

LAVENDER AND OLD LACE.

[Illustration]

A charming story of a quaint corner of New England where bygone romance
finds a modern parallel. The story centers round the coming of love to
the young people on the staff of a newspaper--and it is one of the
prettiest, sweetest and quaintest of old fashioned love stories, * * *
a rare book, exquisite in spirit and conception, full of delicate
fancy, of tenderness, of delightful humor and spontaneity.


A SPINNER IN THE SUN.

Miss Myrtle Reed may always be depended upon to write a story in which
poetry, charm, tenderness and humor are combined into a clever and
entertaining book. Her characters are delightful and she always
displays a quaint humor of expression and a quiet feeling of pathos
which give a touch of active realism to all her writings. In "A Spinner
in the Sun" she tells an old-fashioned love story, of a veiled lady who
lives in solitude and whose features her neighbors have never seen.
There is a mystery at the heart of the book that throws over it the
glamour of romance.


THE MASTER'S VIOLIN.

A love story in a musical atmosphere. A picturesque, old German
virtuoso is the reverent possessor of a genuine "Cremona." He consents
to take for his pupil a handsome youth who proves to have an aptitude
for technique, but not the soul of an artist. The youth has led the
happy, careless life of a modern, well-to-do young American and he
cannot, with his meagre past, express the love, the passion and the
tragedies of life and all its happy phases as can the master who has
lived life in all its fulness. But a girl comes into his life--a
beautiful bit of human driftwood that his aunt had taken into her heart
and home, and through his passionate love for her, he learns the
lessons that life has to give--and his soul awakes.

Founded on a fact that all artists realize.


_Ask for a complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction_

GROSSET & DUNLAP, 526 WEST 26TH ST., NEW YORK



AMELIA E. BARR'S STORIES

DELIGHTFUL TALES OF OLD NEW YORK

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset and Dunlap's list.


THE BOW OF ORANGE RIBBON. With Frontispiece.

This exquisite little romance opens in New York City in "the tender
grace" of a May day long past, when the old Dutch families clustered
around Bowling Green. It is the beginning of the romance of Katherine,
a young Dutch girl who has sent, as a love token, to a young English
officer, the bow of orange ribbon which she has worn for years as a
sacred emblem on the day of St. Nicholas. After the bow of ribbon
Katherine's heart soon flies. Unlike her sister, whose heart has found
a safe resting place among her own people, Katherine's heart must rove
from home--must know to the utmost all that life holds of both joy and
sorrow. And so she goes beyond the seas, leaving her parents as
desolate as were Isaac and Rebecca of old.


THE MAID OF MAIDEN LANE; A Love Story. With Illustrations by S. M.
Arthur.

A sequel to "The Bow of Orange Ribbon." The time is the gracious days
of Seventeen-hundred and ninety-one, when "The Marseillaise" was sung
with the American national airs, and the spirit affected commerce,
politics and conversation. In the midst of this period the romance of
"The Sweetest Maid in Maiden Lane" unfolds. Its chief charm lies in its
historic and local color.


SHEILA VEDDER. Frontispiece in colors by Harrison Fisher.

A love story set in the Shetland Islands.

Among the simple, homely folk who dwelt there Jan Vedder was raised;
and to this island came lovely Sheila Jarrow. Jan knew, when first he
beheld her, that she was the one woman in all the world for him, and to
the winning of her love he set himself. The long days of summer by the
sea, the nights under the marvelously soft radiance of Shetland
moonlight passed in love-making, while with wonderment the man and
woman, alien in traditions, adjusted themselves to each other. And the
day came when Jan and Sheila wed, and then a sweeter love story is
told.


TRINITY BELLS. With eight Illustrations by C. M. Relyea.

The story centers around the life of little Katryntje Van Clyffe, who,
on her return home from a fashionable boarding school, faces poverty
and heartache. Stout of heart, she does not permit herself to become
discouraged even at the news of the loss of her father and his ship
"The Golden Victory." The story of Katryntje's life was interwoven with
the music of the Trinity Bells which eventually heralded her wedding
day.

                    *      *      *      *      *

_Ask for complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction_

GROSSET & DUNLAP, 526 WEST 26TH ST., NEW YORK



CHARMING BOOKS FOR GIRLS

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list


WHEN PATTY WENT TO COLLEGE, By Jean Webster.
Illustrated by C. D. Williams.

One of the best stories of life in a girl's college that has ever been
written. It is bright, whimsical and entertaining, lifelike, laughable
and thoroughly human.


JUST PATTY, By Jean Webster.
Illustrated by C. M. Relyea.

Patty is full of the joy of living, fun-loving, given to ingenious
mischief for its own sake, with a disregard for petty convention which
is an unfailing source of joy to her fellows.


THE POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL, By Eleanor Gates.
With four full page illustrations.

This story relates the experience of one of those unfortunate children
whose early days are passed in the companionship of a governess, seldom
seeing either parent, and famishing for natural love and tenderness. A
charming play as dramatized by the author.


REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM, By Kate Douglas Wiggin.

One of the most beautiful studies of childhood--Rebecca's artistic,
unusual and quaintly charming qualities stand out midst a circle of
austere New Englanders. The stage version is making a phenomenal
dramatic record.


NEW CHRONICLES OF REBECCA, By Kate Douglas Wiggin.
Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

Additional episodes in the girlhood of this delightful heroine that
carry Rebecca through various stages to her eighteenth birthday.


REBECCA MARY, By Annie Hamilton Donnell.
Illustrated by Elizabeth Shippen Green.

This author possesses the rare gift of portraying all the grotesque
little joys and sorrows and scruples of this very small girl with a
pathos that is peculiarly genuine and appealing.


EMMY LOU: Her Book and Heart, By George Madden Martin.
Illustrated by Charles Louis Hinton.

Emmy Lou is irresistibly lovable, because she is so absolutely real.
She is just a bewitchingly innocent, huggable little maid. The book is
wonderfully human.

                    *      *      *      *      *

_Ask for complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction_

GROSSET & DUNLAP, 526 WEST 26TH ST., NEW YORK



TITLES SELECTED FROM
GROSSET & DUNLAP'S LIST

RE-ISSUES OF THE GREAT LITERARY SUCCESSES OF THE TIME

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list


BEN HUR. A Tale of the Christ. By General Lew Wallace.

This famous Religious-Historical Romance with its mighty story,
brilliant pageantry, thrilling action and deep religious reverence,
hardly requires an outline. The whole world has placed "Ben-Hur" on a
height of pre-eminence which no other novel of its time has reached.
The clashing of rivalry and the deepest human passions, the perfect
reproduction of brilliant Roman life, and the tense, fierce atmosphere
of the arena have kept their deep fascination.


THE PRINCE OF INDIA. By General Lew Wallace.

A glowing romance of the Byzantine Empire, showing, with vivid
imagination, the possible forces behind the internal decay of the
Empire that hastened the fall of Constantinople.

The foreground figure is the person known to all as the Wandering Jew,
at this time appearing as the Prince of India, with vast stores of
wealth, and is supposed to have instigated many wars and fomented the
Crusades.

Mohammed's love for the Princess Irene is beautifully wrought into the
story, and the book as a whole is a marvelous work both historically
and romantically.


THE FAIR GOD. By General Lew Wallace. A Tale of the Conquest of Mexico.
With Eight Illustrations by Eric Pape.

All the annals of conquest have nothing more brilliantly daring and
dramatic than the drama played in Mexico by Cortes. As a dazzling
picture of Mexico and the Montezumas it leaves nothing to be desired.

The artist has caught with rare enthusiasm the spirit of the Spanish
conquerors of Mexico, its beauty and glory and romance.


TARRY THOU TILL I COME or, Salathiel, the Wandering Jew. By George
Croly. With twenty illustrations by T. de Thulstrup.

A historical novel, dealing with the momentous events that occurred,
chiefly in Palestine, from the time of the Crucifixion to the
destruction of Jerusalem.

The book, as a story, is replete with Oriental charm and richness, and
the character drawing is marvelous. No other novel ever written has
portrayed with such vividness the events that convulsed Rome and
destroyed Jerusalem in the early days of Christianity.

                    *      *      *      *      *

_Ask for complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction_

GROSSET & DUNLAP, 526 WEST 26TH ST., NEW YORK



NOVELS OF SOUTHERN LIFE

By THOMAS DIXON, JR.

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list


THE LEOPARD'S SPOTS: A Story of the White Man's Burden, 1865-1900. With
illustrations by C. D. Williams.

A tale of the South about the dramatic events of Destruction,
Reconstruction and Upbuilding. The work is able and eloquent and the
verifiable events of history are followed closely in the development of
a story full of struggle.


THE CLANSMAN. With illustrations by Arthur I. Keller.

While not connected with it in any way, this is a companion volume to
the author's "epoch-making" story _The Leopard's Spots_. It is a novel
with a great deal to it, and which very properly is going to interest
many thousands of readers. * * * It is, first of all, a forceful,
dramatic, absorbing love story, with a sequence of events so surprising
that one is prepared for the fact that much of it is founded on actual
happenings; but Mr. Dixon has, as before, a deeper purpose--he has
aimed to show that the original formers of the Ku Klux Klan were modern
knights errant taking the only means at hand to right intolerable
wrongs.


THE TRAITOR. A Story of the Fall of the Invisible Empire. Illustrations
by C. D. Williams.

The third and last book in this remarkable trilogy of novels relating
to Southern Reconstruction. It is a thrilling story of love, adventure,
treason, and the United States Secret Service dealing with the decline
and fall of the Ku Klux Klan.


COMRADES. Illustrations by C. D. Williams.

A novel dealing with the establishment of a Socialistic Colony upon a
deserted island off the coast of California. The way of disillusionment
is the course over which Mr. Dixon conducts the reader.


THE ONE WOMAN. A Story of Modern Utopia.

A love story and character study of three strong men and two
fascinating women. In swift, unified, and dramatic action, we see
Socialism a deadly force, in the hour of the eclipse of Faith,
destroying the home life and weakening the fiber of Anglo Saxon
manhood.

                    *      *      *      *      *

_Ask for a complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction_

GROSSET & DUNLAP, 526 WEST 26TH ST., NEW YORK





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