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Title: Jim Waring of Sonora-Town - Tang of Life
Author: Knibbs, Henry Herbert
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 "Jim Waring of Sonora-Town - Tang of Life" ***

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JIM WARING

OF SONORA-TOWN

OR, TANG OF LIFE

BY

HENRY HERBERT KNIBBS

AUTHOR OF OVERLAND RED, ETC.


ILLUSTRATIONS BY

E. BOYD SMITH


August 1918


To

Robert Frothingham



[Illustration: Waring of Sonora-Town]



Waring of Sonora-Town

_The heat acrost the desert was a-swimmin' in the sun,
  When Waring of Sonora-Town,
  Jim Waring of Sonora-Town,
From Salvador come ridin' down, a-rollin' of his gun.

He was singin' low and easy to his pony's steady feet,
  But his eye was live and driftin'
  Round the scenery and siftin'
All the crawlin' shadows shiftin' in the tremblin' gray mesquite.

Eyes was watchin' from a hollow where a outlaw Chola lay;
  Two black, snaky eyes a-yearnin'
  For Jim's hoss to make the turnin',
Then to send a bullet burnin' through his back--the Chola way.

And Jim Waring's gaze, a-rovin' round the desert as he rode,
  Settled quick--without him seemin'
  To get wise and quit his dreamin'--
On a shiny ring a-gleamin' where no ring had ever growed.

The lightnin' don't give warnin'; just a lick and she is through;
  Waring set his gun to smokin'
  Playful like, like he was jokin',
And--a Chola lay a-chokin' ... and a buzzard cut the blue._

Contents

     I. The Cañon

    II. José Vaca

   III. Donovan's Hand

    IV. The Silver Crucifix

     V. The Tang of Life

    VI. Arizona

   VII. The Return of Waring

  VIII. Lorry

    IX. High-Chin Bob

     X. East and West

    XI. Spring Lamb

   XII. Bud Shoop and Bondsman

  XIII. The Horse Trade

   XIV. Bondsman's Decision

    XV. John and Demijohn

   XVI. Play

  XVII. Down the Wind

 XVIII. A Piece of Paper

   XIX. The Fight in the Open

    XX. City Folks

   XXI. A Slim Whip of a Girl

  XXII. A Tune for Uncle Bud

 XXIII. Like One Who Sleeps

  XXIV. The Genial Bud

   XXV. The Little Fires

  XXVI. Idle Noon

 XXVII. Waco

XXVIII. A Squared Account

  XXIX. Bud's Conscience

   XXX. In the Hills

  XXXI. In the Pines

 XXXII. Politics

XXXIII. The Fires of Home

 XXXIV. Young Life

  XXXV. The High Trail



Illustrations


Waring of Sonora-Town

A huddled shape near a boulder

"I came over--to tell you--that it was Pat's gun"

They made coffee and ate the sandwiches she had prepared


_From drawings by E. Boyd Smith_



TANG OF LIFE



Chapter I


_The Cañon_

Waring picketed his horse in a dim angle of the Agua Fria Cañon, spread
his saddle-blanket to dry in the afternoon sun, and, climbing to a
narrow ledge, surveyed the cañon from end to end with a pair of
high-power glasses. He knew the men he sought would ride south. He was
reasonably certain that they would not ride through the cañon in
daylight. The natural trail through the Agua Fria was along the western
wall; a trail that he had avoided, working his toilsome way down the
eastern side through a labyrinth of brush and rock that had concealed
him from view. A few hundred yards below his hasty camp a sandy arroyo
crossed the cañon's mouth.

He had planned to intercept the men where the trail crossed this arroyo,
or, should the trail show pony tracks, to follow them into the desert
beyond, where, sooner or later, he would overtake them. They had a start
of twelve hours, but Waring reasoned that they would not do much riding
in daylight. The trail at the northern end of the cañon had shown no
fresh tracks that morning. His problem was simple. The answer would be
definite. He returned to the shelter of the brush, dropped the glasses
into a saddle-pocket, and stretched himself wearily.

A few yards below him, on a brush-dotted level, his horse, Dexter,
slowly circled his picket and nibbled at the scant bunch-grass. The
western sun trailed long shadows across the cañon; shadows that drifted
imperceptibly farther and farther, spreading, commingling, softening the
broken outlines of ledge and brush until the walled solitude was brimmed
with dusk, save where a red shaft cleft the fast-fading twilight,
burning like a great spotlight on a picketed horse and a man asleep, his
head pillowed on a saddle.

As the dusk drew down, the horse ceased grazing, sniffed the coming
night, and nickered softly. Waring rose and led the horse to water, and,
returning, emptied half the grain in the morral on a blanket. Dex
munched contentedly. When the horse had finished eating the grain,
Waring picketed him in a fresh spot and climbed back to the ledge, where
he sat watching the western wall of the cañon, occasionally glancing up
as some dim star burned through the deepening dusk and bloomed to a
silvery maturity.

Presently a faint pallor overspread the cañon till it lay like a ghostly
sea dotted with strange islands of brush and rock; islands that seemed
to waver and shift in a sort of vague restlessness, as though trying to
evade the ever-brightening tide of moonlight that burned away their
shrouds of dusk and fixed them in still, tangible shapes upon the cañon
floor.

Across the cañon the farther trail ran past a broad, blank wall of rock.
No horseman could cross that open space unseen. Waring, seated upon the
ledge, leaned back against the wall, watching the angling shadows
shorten as the moon drew overhead. Toward morning he became drowsy. As
the white radiance paled to gray, he rose and paced back and forth upon
the narrow ledge to keep himself awake. In a few minutes the moon would
disappear behind the farther rim of the world; the cañon would sink back
into its own night, all its moonlit imageries melting, vanishing. In the
hour before dawn Waring would be unable to see anything of the farther
wall save a wavering blur.

Just below him he could discern the outline of his horse, with head
lowered, evidently dozing. Having in mind the keenness of desert-bred
stock, he watched the horse. The minutes drifted by. The horse seemed
more distinct. Waring thought he could discern the picket rope. He
endeavored to trace it from horse to picket. Foot by foot his eyes
followed its slack outline across the ground. The head of the metal
picket glimmered faintly. Waring closed his eyes, nodded, and caught
himself. This time he traced the rope from picket to horse. It seemed a
childish thing to do, yet it kept him awake. Did he imagine it, or had
the rope moved?

Dex had lifted his head. He was sniffing the cool morning air. Slowly
the tawny-golden shape of the big buckskin turned, head up and nostrils
rounded in tense rings. Waring glanced across the cañon. The farther
wall was still dim in the half-light. In a few minutes the trail would
become distinct. Dropping from the ledge, he stepped to his saddle. Dex
evidently heard him, for he twitched back one ear, but maintained his
attitude of keen interest in an invisible something--a something that
had drawn him from drowsy inanition to a quietly tense statue of
alertness. The ash gray of the farther wall, now visible, slowly changed
to a faint rose tint that deepened and spread.

Waring stooped and straightened up, with his glasses held on the far
trail. A tiny rider appeared in the clear blue circle of the binoculars,
and another, who led two horses without saddles or packs. The men were
headed south. Presently they disappeared behind a wall of brush. Waring
saddled Dex, and, keeping close to the eastern wall, rode toward the
arroyo.

The morning sun traced clean, black shadows of the chaparral on the
sand. The bloom of cacti burned in red and yellow blotches of flame
against its own dull background of grayish-green. At the mouth of the
arroyo, Waring dismounted and dropped the reins. Dex nosed him
inquiringly. He patted the horse, and, turning, strode swiftly down the
dry river-bed. He walked upright, knowing that he could not be seen from
the trail. He could even have ridden down the arroyo unseen, and perhaps
it was a senseless risk to hunt men afoot in this land. The men he
hunted were Mexicans of Sonora; fugitives. They would fight blindly,
spurred by fear. Waring's very name terrorized them. And were they to
come upon the gringo mounted, Waring knew that there was more than a
chance his horse would be shot. He had a peculiar aversion to running
such a risk when there was half a chance of doing his work on foot.

Moreover, certain Americans in Sonora who disliked Waring had said
recently that no man was quick enough to get an even break with the
gunman, which tentatively placed him as a "killer," whereas he had never
given a thought to the hazard when going into a fight. He had always
played the game to win, odds either way. The men he sought would be
mounted. He would be on foot. This time the fugitives would have more
than a fair chance. They would blunder down the pitch into the arroyo,
perhaps glancing back, fearful of pursuit, but apprehending no
ambushment.

Waring knew they would kill him if they could. He knew that not even a
fighting chance would have been his were they in his place and he in
theirs. He was deputized and paid to do just what he was doing. The men
were bandits who had robbed the paymaster of the Ortez Mines. To Waring
there was nothing complicated about the matter. It was his day's work.
The morning sun would be in their faces, but that was not his fault.

As Waring waited in the arroyo the faint clatter of shod hoofs came from
above. He drew close to a cutbank, leaning his shoulder against it
easily. With a slither of sand, the first horse took the pitch, legs
angled awkwardly as he worked down. The second rider followed, the led
horses pulling back.

At the bottom of the arroyo, the Mexicans reined up. The elder, squat,
broad of back, a black handkerchief tied round his thick neck, reached
into his pocket and drew out tobacco and cigarette papers. The other,
hardly more than a boy, urged that they hasten. Fear vibrated in his
voice. The squat Mexican laughed and began to roll a cigarette.

None had overtaken them, he said. And were they not now in the Land
Where No Man Lived?

"Si!" said Waring softly.

The half-rolled cigarette fluttered to the ground. The Mexican's heavy
lip sagged, showing broken teeth. His companion dropped the lead-rope
and turned to gaze at Waring with eyes wide, wondering, curious. The led
horses plunged up the back trail. Waring made no movement toward his
gun, but he eyed the elder Mexican sharply, paying little attention to
the youth. The horse of the squat Mexican grew restless, sidling toward
the other.

Waring's lips tightened. The bandit was spurring his horse on the off
side to get behind his companion. Evidently the numbness of surprise had
given way to fear, and fear meant action. Waring knew that the elder
Mexican would sacrifice his companion for the sake of a chance of
killing the gringo.

Waring held out his left hand. "Give me your gun," he said to the youth.
"And hand it down butt first."

The youth, as though hypnotized, pulled out his gun and handed it to
Waring. Waring knew that if the other Mexican meant to fight it would be
at that instant. Even as the butt of the gun touched Waring's hand it
jumped. Two shattering reports blended and died echoless in the
close-walled arroyo.

The Mexican's gun slipped slowly from his fingers. He rocked in the
saddle, grasped the horn, and slid to the ground. Waring saw him reach
for the gun where it lay on the sand. He kicked it aside. The Mexican
youth leaped from the saddle and stood between Waring and the fallen
man. Waring stepped back. For an instant his eyes drew fine. He was
tempted to make an end of it right there. The youth dropped to his
knees. A drift of wind fluttered the bandanna at his throat. Waring saw
a little silver crucifix gleaming against the smooth brown of his chest.

"If it is that I am to die, I am not afraid," said the youth. "I have
this!" And his fingers touched the crucifix. "But you will not kill my
uncle!"

Waring hesitated. He seemed to be listening. And as though in a dream,
yet distinct--clear as though he had spoken himself came the words: "It
is enough!"

"Not this journey," said Waring.

The Mexican youth gazed at him wonderingly. Was the gringo mad?

Waring holstered his gun with a jerk. "Get up on your hind legs and quit
that glory stuff! We ride north," he growled.



Chapter II


_José Vaca_

The young Mexican's face was beaded with sweat as he rose and stared
down at the wounded man. Clumsily he attempted to help Waring, who
washed and bandaged the shattered shoulder. Waring had shot to kill, but
the gun was not his own, and he had fired almost as it had touched his
hand.

"Get your uncle on his horse," he told the youth. "Don't make a break.
We're due at Juan Armigo's ranchito about sundown."

So far as he was concerned, that was all there was to it for the time
being. He had wounded and captured José Vaca, notorious in Sonora as
leader in outlawry. That there were no others of Vaca's kind with him
puzzled Waring. The young Ramon, Vaca's nephew, did not count.

Ramon helped his uncle to mount. They glanced at each other, Vaca's eyes
blinking. The gringo was afoot. They were mounted. Waring, observing
their attitude, smiled, and, crooking his finger, whistled shrilly. The
young Ramon trembled. Other gringos were hidden in the arroyo; perhaps
the very man that his uncle had robbed! Even now he could hear the click
of hoofs on the gravel. The gunman had been merciful for the moment,
only to turn his captives over to the merciless men of the mines; men
who held a Mexican's life worth no more than a dog's. The wounded man,
stiff in the saddle, turned his head. Round a bend in the dry river-bed,
his neck held sideways that the reins might drag free, came Waring's big
buckskin horse, Dexter. The horse stopped as he saw the group. Waring
spoke to him. The big buckskin stepped forward and nosed Waring, who
swung to the saddle and gestured toward the back trail.

They rode in silence, the Mexicans with bowed heads, dull-eyed,
listless, resigned to their certain fate. For some strange reason the
gringo had not killed them in the arroyo. He had had excuse enough.

Would he take them to Sonora--to the prison? Or would he wait until they
were in some hidden fastness of the Agua Fria, and there kill them and
leave them to the coyotes? The youth Ramon knew that the two little
canvas sacks of gold were cleverly tied in the huge tapaderas of his
uncle's saddle. Who would think to look for them there?

The gringo had said that they would ride to the ranchito of Juan Armigo.
How easily the gringo had tricked them at the very moment when they
thought they were safe! Yet he had not asked about the stolen money. The
ways of this gringo were past comprehension.

Waring paid scant attention to the Mexicans, but he glanced continuously
from side to side of the cañon, alert for a surprise. The wounded man,
Vaca, was known to him. He was but one of the bandits. Ramon, Vaca's
nephew, was not of their kind, but had been led into this journey by
Vaca that the bandit might ride wide when approaching the ranchos and
send his nephew in for supplies.

The pack on Ramon's saddle rode too lightly to contain anything heavier
than food. There was nothing tied to Vaca's saddle but a frayed and
faded blanket. Yet Waring was certain that they had not cached the gold;
that they carried it with them.

At noon they watered the horses midway up the cañon. As they rode on
again, Waring noticed that Vaca did not thrust his foot clear home in
the stirrup, but he attributed this to the other's condition. The
Mexican was a sick man. His swarthy face had gone yellow, and he leaned
forward, clutching the horn. The heat was stagnant, unwavering. The pace
was desperately slow.

Despite his vigilance, Waring's mind grew heavy with the monotony. He
rolled a cigarette. The smoke tasted bitter. He flung the cigarette
away. The hunting of men had lost its old-time thrill. A clean break and
a hard fight; that was well enough. But the bowed figures riding ahead
of him: ignorant, superstitious, brutal; numb to any sense of honor. Was
the game worth while? Yet they were men--human in that they feared,
hoped, felt hunger, thirst, pain, and even dreamed of vague successes to
be attained how or when the Fates would decide. And was this squalid
victory a recompense for the risks he ran and the hardships he endured?

Again Waring heard the Voice, as though from a distance, and yet the
voice was his own: "You will turn back from the hunting of men."

"Like hell I will!" muttered Waring.

Ramon, who rode immediately ahead of him, turned in the saddle. Waring
gestured to him to ride on.

The heat grew less intense as an occasional, vagrant breeze stirred in
the brush and fluttered the handkerchief round Waring's throat. Ahead,
the cañon broadened to the mesa lands, where the distant green of a line
of trees marked the boundary of the Armigo rancho.

Presently Vaca began to sing; softly at first, then with insane
vehemence as the fever mounted to his brain. Waring smiled with dry
lips. The Mexican had stood the journey well. A white man in Vaca's
condition would have gone to pieces hours ago. He called to Ramon, who
gave Vaca water. The Mexican drank greedily, and threw the empty canteen
into the bushes.

Waring listened for some hint, some crazy boast as to the whereabouts of
the stolen money. But Vaca rode on, occasionally breaking into a wild
song, half Yaqui, half Mexican. The youth Ramon trembled, fearing that
the gringo would lose patience.

Across the northern end of the cañon the winnowing heat waves died to
the level of the ground. Brown shadows shot from the western wall and
spread across the widening outlet. The horses stepped briskly, knowing
that they were near water.

Waring became more alert as they approached the adobe buildings of the
rancho. Vaca had drifted into a dull silence. Gray with suffering and
grim with hate for the gringo, he rode stolidly, praying incoherently
that the gunman might be stricken dead as he rode.

The raw edge of the disappearing sun leveled a long flame of crimson
across the mesa. The crimson melted to gold. The gold paled to a brief
twilight. A faint star twinkled in the north.

Dogs crowded forward in the dusk, challenging the strange riders. A
figure filled the lighted doorway of the Armigo ranch-house. The dogs
drew back.

Ramon dismounted and helped his uncle down. Waring sat his horse until
Juan Armigo stepped from the doorway and asked who came. Waring answered
with his name.

"Si! Si!" exclaimed Armigo. "The señor is welcome."

Waring dismounted. "Juan, I have two of your friends here; José Vaca and
Ramon Ortego."

Armigo seemed surprised. "José Vaca is wounded?" he queried
hesitatingly.

Waring nodded.

"And the horses; they shall have feed, water, everything--I myself--"

"Thanks. But I'll look after the horses, Juan. I'm taking Vaca and Ramon
to Sonora. See what you can do for Vaca. He's pretty sick."

"It shall be as the señor says. And the señor has made a fight?"

"With those hombres? Not this journey! José Vaca made a mistake; that's
all."

Armigo, perturbed, shuffled to the house. Waring unsaddled the horses
and turned them into the corral. As he lifted the saddle from Vaca's
horse, he hesitated. It was a big stock saddle and heavy; yet it seemed
too heavy. On his knees he turned it over, examining it. He smiled
grimly as he untied the little canvas sacks and drew them from the
tapaderas.

"Thought he showed too much boot for a hard-riding chola," muttered
Waring.

He rose and threw some hay to the horses. He could hear Ramon and Armigo
talking in the ranch-house. Taking his empty canteen from his own
saddle, he untied the sacks and slipped the gold-pieces, one by one,
into the canteen. He scooped up sand and filled the canteen half full.
The gold no longer jingled as he shook it.

While Waring had no fear that either of the men would attempt to escape,
he knew Mexicans too well to trust Armigo explicitly. A thousand
dollars was a great temptation to a poor rancher. And while Armigo had
always professed to be Waring's friend, sympathy of blood and the appeal
of money easily come by might change the placid face of things
considerably.

Waring strode to the house, washed and ate with Juan in the kitchen;
then he invited the Mexican out to the corral.

"José and Ramon are your countrymen, Juan."

"Si, señor. I am sorry for Ramon. This thing was not of his doing. He is
but a boy--"

Waring touched the other's arm. "There will be no trouble, Juan. Only
keep better track of your horses while I ride this part of the country."

"But--señor--"

"I've had business with you before. Two of your cayuses are astray down
the Agua Fria. One of them is dragging a maguey lead-rope."

"Señor, it is impossible!"

"No, it isn't! I know your brand. See here, Juan. You knew that Vaca was
trying to get away. You knew I'd be sent to get him. Why did you let him
take two spare horses?"

"But, señor, I swear I did not!"

"All right. Then when Ramon rode in here two days ago and asked you for
two horses, why didn't you refuse him? Why did you tell him you would
sell them, but that you would not lend them to him?"

"If Ramon says that, he lies. I told Ramon--"

"Thanks. That's all I want to know. I don't care what you told Ramon.
You let him take the horses. Now, I'm going to tell you something that
will be worth more to you than gold. Don't try to rope any stock grazing
round here to-night. I might wake up quick and make a mistake. Men look
alike in the moonlight--and we'll have a moon."

"It shall be as the señor says. It is fate."

"All right, amigo. But it isn't fate. It's making fool mistakes when you
or your countrymen tackle a job like Vaca tackled. Just get me a couple
of blankets. I'll sleep out here to-night."

Juan Armigo plodded to the adobe. The lamplight showed his face beaded
with sweat. He shuffled to an inner room, and came out with blankets on
his arm. Vaca lay on a bed-roll in the corner of the larger room, and
near him stood Ramon.

"The señor sleeps with the horses," said Armigo significantly.

Ramon bent his head and muttered a prayer.

"And if you pray," said Armigo, shifting the blankets from one arm to
the other, "pray then that the two horses that you borrowed may return.
As for your Uncle José, he will not die."

"And we shall be taken to the prison," said Ramon."

"You should have killed the gringo." And Armigo's tone was
matter-of-fact. "Or perhaps told him where you had hidden the gold. He
might have let you go, then."

Ramon shook his head. Armigo's suggestion was too obviously a question
as to the whereabouts of the stolen money.

The wounded man opened his eyes. "I have heard," he said faintly. "Tell
the gringo that I will say where the money is hidden if he will let me
go."

"It shall be as you wish," said Armigo, curious to learn more of the
matter.

At the corral he delivered Vaca's message to Waring, who feigned delight
at the other's information.

"If that is so, Tio Juan," he laughed, "you shall have your share--a
hundred pesos. Leave the blankets there by my saddle. We will go to the
house."

From the coolness of night, with its dim radiance of stars, to the
accumulated heat of the interior of the adobe was an unpleasant change.
The walls were whitewashed and clean enough, but the place smelled
strongly of cooking. A lamp burned on the oilcloth-covered table. Ramon,
wide-eyed with trepidation, stood by his uncle, who had braced himself
on his elbow as Waring approached. Waring nodded pleasantly and rolled a
cigarette. José Vaca glared up at him hungrily. The lower lip,
pendulous, showed his broken teeth. Waring thought of a trapped wolf.
Juan glanced from one to the other.

But the gringo seemed incurious, merely gazing at the pictures on the
walls; a flaming print of the Madonna, one of the Christ, a cheap
photograph of Juan and his señora taken on their wedding day, an abalone
shell on which was painted something resembling a horse and rider--

"The gold is hidden in the house of Pedro Salazar, of Sonora. It is
buried in the earth beneath his bed."

José Vaca had spoken, but Waring was watching Ramon's eyes.

"All right, hombre. Muchas gracias."

"And now you will let me go?" queried Vaca.

"I haven't said so." Waring's tone was pleasant, almost indifferent.

Ramon's face was troubled. Of what use was it to try and deceive the
gringo? But Waring was smiling. Did he, then, believe such an obvious
lie?

"Bueno!" Waring exclaimed. "That lets _you_ out. Now, what about you,
Ramon?"

"My uncle has spoken," said Ramon. "I have nothing to say."

"Then you will ride with me to Sonora."

"As you say, señor."

"All right. Don't sit up all night praying. That won't do any good. Get
some sleep. And you, too, Juan." And Waring turned quickly to Armigo.
"Sleep all you can. You'll feel better in the morning."

Waring turned and strode out. In the corral he spread his blankets. With
his head on the saddle, he lay gazing up at the stars.

The horses, with the exception of Waring's buckskin Dex, huddled in one
corner of the corral. That strange shape stretched quietly on the ground
was new to them.

For a long time the horse Dex stood with head lowered and one hip sagged
as he rested. Just before Waring slept he felt a gentle nosing of his
blankets. The big horse sniffed curiously.

"Strange blankets, eh?" queried Waring drowsily. "But it's the same old
partner, Dex."

The horse walked slowly away, nosing along the fence. Waring knew that
he was well sentineled. The big buckskin would resent the approach of a
stranger by snorting. Waring turned on his side and slept. His day's
work was done.



CHAPTER III


_Donovan's Hand_

Waring was up with the first faint streak of dawn. He threw hay to the
horses and strode briskly to the adobe. Juan Armigo was bending over the
kitchen stove. Waring nodded to him and stepped to the next room. The
Mexicans were asleep; young Ramon lying face down beneath the crucifix
on the wall, where he had knelt in prayer most of the night.

Waring drew back quietly.

"Let them sleep," he told Juan in the kitchen.

After frijoles and coffee, the gunman rose and gestured to Juan to
follow him.

Out near the corral, Waring turned suddenly. "You say that young Ramon
is straight?"

"Si, señor. He is a good boy."

"Well, he's in dam' bad company. How about Vaca?"

Juan Armigo shrugged his shoulders.

"Are you afraid of him, Juan?"

"No. But if he were to ask me for anything, it would be well to let him
have it."

"I see. So he sent young Ramon in here for two extra horses, and you
were afraid to refuse. I had thought you were an honest man. After I
have gone, go hunt up those horses in the cañon. And if any one from
Sonora rides in here and asks about Ramon or Vaca or me, you don't know
anything about us. Sabe? If your horses are found before you get to
them, some one stole them. Do these things. I don't want to come back to
see if you have done them."

Juan Armigo nodded, gazing at Waring with crafty eyes. So the gringo was
tempted by the gold. He would ride back to Sonora, find the stolen money
in the house of Pedro Salazar, and keep it. It would be a very simple
thing to do. Young Ramon would be afraid to speak and José Vaca would
have disappeared. The gringo could swear that he had not found the
bandits or the gold. So reasoned Juan, his erstwhile respect for the
gunman wavering as the idea became fixed. He grinned at Waring. It would
be a good trick; to steal the gold from the stealers. Of a certainty the
gringo was becoming almost as subtle as a Mexican.

Waring was not pleased as he read the other's eyes, but he said nothing.
Turning abruptly, he entered the corral and saddled Ramon's horse and
his own.

"Get José Vaca out of here as soon as he can travel," he told Armigo.
"You may have to explain if he is found here." And Waring strode to the
adobe.

Ramon was awake and talking with his uncle. Waring told him to get
something to eat. Then he turned to Vaca.

"José," he began pleasantly, "you tried to get me yesterday, but you
only spoiled a good Stetson. See? You shot high. When you go for a man
again, start in at his belt-buckle and get him low. We'll let that go
this time. When you can ride, take your cayuse and fan it anywhere--_but
don't ride back to Sonora_. I'll be there. I'm going to herd young Ramon
back home. He is isn't your kind. You are free. Don't jabber. Just tell
all that to your saints. And if you get caught, don't say that you saw
me. Sabe?"

The wounded man raised himself on his elbow, glaring up at Waring with
feverish eyes. "You give me my life. I shall not speak."

"Bueno! And you said in the house of Pedro Salazar?"

"Si! Near the acequia."

"The Placeta Burro. I know the place. You'll find your horse and a
saddle when you are able to ride."

The bandit's eyes glistened as he watched Waring depart. If the gringo
entered the house of Pedro Salazar, he would not find the gold and he
would not come out alive. The gringo gunman had killed the brother of
Pedro Salazar down in the desert country years ago. And Salazar had had
nothing to do with the Ortez Mine robbery. Vaca thought that the gold
was still safe in his tapaderas. The gringo was a fool.

Waring led the two saddled horses to the house. Ramon, coming from the
kitchen, blinked in the sunlight.

"It is my horse, but not my saddle, señor."

"You are an honest man," laughed Waring. "But we won't change saddles.
Come on!"

Ramon mounted and rode beside Waring until they were out of sight of the
ranch-house, when Waring reined up.

"Where is that money?" he asked suddenly.

"I do not know, señor."

"Did you know where it was yesterday?"

Ramon hesitated. Was this a trap? Waring's level gaze held the young
Mexican to a straight answer.

"Si, señor. I knew--yesterday."

"You knew; but you didn't talk up when your uncle tried to run me into
Pedro Salazar."

"I--he is of my family."

"Well, I don't blame you. I see that you can keep from talking when you
have to. And now is your chance to do a lot of keeping still. I'm going
to ride into Sonora ahead of you. When you get in, go home and forget
that you made this journey. If your folks ask where your uncle is, tell
them that he rode south and that you turned back. Because you did didn't
lie to me, and because you did didn't show yellow, I'm going to give you
a chance to get out of this. I let your uncle go because he would have
given you away to save himself the minute I jailed him in Sonora. It's
up to you to keep out of trouble. You've had a scare that ought to last
you. Take your time and hit Sonora about sundown. Adios."

"But--señor!"

Waring whirled his horse. "A good rider shoves his foot clear home," he
called as he loped away.

Ramon sat his horse, gazing at the little puffs of dust that shot from
the hoofs of the big buckskin. Surely the gringo was mad! Yet he was a
man of big heart. Perplexed, stunned by the realization that he was
alone and free, the young Mexican gazed about him. Waring was a tiny
figure in the distance. Ramon dismounted and examined the empty
tapaderas.

Heretofore he had considered subtlety, trickery, qualities to be
desired, and not incompatible with honor. In a flash he realized the
difference, the distinction between trickery and keenness of mind. He
had been awed by his uncle's reputation and proud to name him of this
family. Now he saw him for what he was. "My Uncle José is a bad man," he
said to himself. "The other,--the gringo whom men call 'The Killer,'--he
is a hard man, but assuredly he is not bad."

When Ramon spoke to his horse his voice trembled. His hand drifted up to
the little silver crucifix on his breast. A vague glimmer of
understanding, a sense of the real significance of the emblem heartened
him to face the journey homeward and the questions of his kin. And,
above all, he felt an admiration for the gringo that grew by degrees as
he rode on. He could follow such a man to the end of the world, even
across the border of the Great Unknown, for surely such a leader would
not lose the way.

       *       *       *       *       *

Three men sat in the office of the Ortez Mines, smoking and saying
little. Donovan, the manager; the paymaster, Quigley; and the assistant
manager, a young American fresh from the East. Waring's name was
mentioned. Three days ago he had ridden south after the bandits. He
might return. He might not.

"I'd like to see him ride in," said Donovan, turning to the paymaster.

"And you hate him at that," said Quigley.

"I don't say so. But if he was paymaster here, he'd put the fear of God
into some of those greasers."

Quigley flushed. "You didn't hire me to chase greasers, Donovan. I'm no
gunman."

"No," said Donovan slowly. "I had you sized up."

"Oh, cut out that stuff!" said the assistant manager, smiling. "That
won't balance the pay-roll."

"No. But I'm going to cut down expenses." And Donovan eyed Quigley. "Jim
Waring is too dam' high and mighty to suit me. Every time he tackles a
job he is the big boss till it's done. If he comes back, all right. If
he don't--we'll charge it up to profit and loss. But his name goes off
the pay-roll to-day."

Quigley grinned. He knew that Donovan was afraid of Waring. Waring was
the one man in Donovan's employ that he could not bully. Moreover, the
big Irishman hated to pay Waring's price, which was stiff.

"How about a raise of twenty-five a month, then?" queried Quigley.

To his surprise, Donovan nodded genially. "You're on, Jack. And that
goes the minute Waring shows up with the money. If he doesn't show
up--why, that raise can wait."

"Then I'll just date the change to-day," said Quigley. "Take a look down
the street."

Donovan rose heavily and stepped to the window. "By God, it's Waring,
all right! He's afoot. What's that he's packing?"

"A canteen," said the assistant manager. "This is a dry country."

Donovan returned to his desk. "Get busy, at something. We don't want to
sit here like a lot of stuffed buzzards. We're glad to see Waring back,
of course. You two can drift out when I get to talking business with
him."

Quigley nodded and took up his pen. The assistant manager studied a map.

Waring strode in briskly. The paymaster glanced up and nodded, expecting
Donovan to speak. But Donovan sat with his back toward Waring, his head
wreathed in tobacco smoke. He was apparently absorbed in a letter.

The gunman paused halfway across the office. Quigley fidgeted. The
assistant superintendent stole a glance at Donovan's broad back and
smiled. All three seemed waiting for Waring to speak. Quigley rather
enjoyed the situation. The assistant superintendent's scalp prickled
with restrained excitement.

He rose and stepped to Donovan. "Mr. Donovan, Mr. Waring is here."

"Thanks," said Waring, nodding to the assistant.

Donovan heaved himself round. "Why, hello, Jim! I didn't hear you come
in."

Waring's cool gray eyes held Donovan with a mildly contemptuous gaze.
Still the gunman did not speak.

"Did you land 'em?" queried Donovan.

Waring shook his head.

"Hell!" exclaimed Donovan. "Then, what's the answer?"

"Bill, you can't bluff worth a damn!"

Quigley laughed. The assistant mopped his face with an immaculate
handkerchief. The room was hot.

"Bill," and Waring's voice was softly insulting, "you can't bluff worth
a damn."

Donovan's red face grew redder. "What are you driving at, anyway?"

Quigley stirred and rose. The assistant got to his feet.

"Just a minute," said Waring, gesturing to them to sit down. "Donovan's
got something on his mind. I knew it the minute I came in. I want you
fellows to hear it."

Donovan flung his half-smoked cigar to the floor and lighted a fresh
one. Waring's attitude irritated him. Officially, Donovan was Waring's
superior. Man to man, the Sonora gunman was Donovan's master, and the
Irishman knew and resented it.

He tried a new tack. "Glad to see you back, Jim." And he rose and stuck
out a sweating hand.

Waring swung the canteen from his shoulder and carefully hung the strap
over Donovan's wrist. "There's your money, Bill. Count it--and give me a
receipt."

Donovan, with the dusty canteen dangling from his arm, looked
exceedingly foolish.

Waring turned to Quigley. "Bill's got a stroke," he said, smiling.
"Quigley, give me a receipt for a thousand dollars."

"Sure!" said Quigley, relieved. The money had been stolen from him.

Waring pulled up a chair and leaned his elbows on the table. Quigley
unscrewed the cap of the canteen. A stream of sand shot across a map.
The assistant started to his feet. Quigley shook the canteen and poured
out a softly clinking pile of gold-pieces. One by one he sorted them
from the sand and counted them.

"One thousand even. Where'd you overtake Vaca and his outfit?"

"Did I?" queried Waring.

"Well, you got the mazuma," said Quigley. "And that's good enough for
me."

Donovan stepped to the table. "Williams, I won't need you any more
to-day."

The assistant rose and left the office. Donovan pulled up a chair.
"Never mind about that receipt, Quigley. You can witness that Waring
returned the money. Jim, here, is not so dam' particular."

"No, or I wouldn't be on your pay-roll," said Waring.

Donovan laughed. "Let's get down to bed-rock, Jim. I'm paying you your
own price for this work. The Eastern office thinks I pay too high. I got
a letter yesterday telling me to cut down expenses. This last holdup
will make them sore. Here's the proposition. I'll keep you on the
pay-roll and charge this thousand up to profit and loss. Nobody knows
you recovered this money except Williams, and he'll keep still. Quigley
and you and I will split it--three hundred apiece."

"Suppose I stay out of the deal," said Waring.

"Why, that's all right. I guess we can get along."

Quigley glanced quickly at Waring. Donovan's proposal was an insult
intended to provoke a quarrel that would lead to Waring's dismissal from
the service of the Ortez Mines. Or if Waring were to agree to the
suggestion, Donovan would have pulled Waring down to his own level.

Waring slowly rolled a cigarette. "Make out my check," he said, turning
to Quigley.

Donovan sighed. Waring was going to quit. That was good. It had been
easy enough.

Quigley drafted a check and handed it to Donovan to sign. As the
paymaster began to gather up the money on the table, Waring pocketed the
check and rose, watching Quigley's nervous hands.

As Quigley tied the sack and picked it up, Waring reached out his arm.
"Give it to me," he said quietly. Quigley laughed. Waring's eyes were
unreadable.

The smile faded from Quigley's face. Without knowing just why he did it,
he relinquished the sack.

Waring turned to Donovan. "I'll take care of this, Bill. As I told you
before, you can't bluff worth a damn."

Waring strode to the door. At Quigley's choked exclamation of protest,
the gunman whirled round. Donovan stood by the desk, a gun weaving in
his hand.

"You ought to know better than to pull a gun on me," said Waring. "Never
throw down on a man unless you mean business, Bill."

The door clicked shut.

Donovan stood gazing stupidly at Quigley. "By cripes!" he flamed
suddenly. "I'll put Jim Waring where he belongs. He can't run a whizzer
like that on me!"

"I'd go slow," said Quigley. "You don't know what kind of a game Waring
will play."

Donovan grabbed the telephone and called up the Sonora police.



Chapter IV


_The Silver Crucifix_

When in Sonora, Waring frequented the Plaza Hotel. He had arranged with
the management that his room should always be ready for him, day or
night. The location was advantageous. Nearly all the Americans visiting
Sonora and many resident Americans stopped at the Plaza. Waring
frequently picked up valuable bits of news as he lounged in the lobby.
Quietly garbed when in town, he passed for a well-to-do rancher or
mining man. His manner invited no confidences. He was left much to
himself. Men who knew him deemed him unaccountable in that he never
drank with them and seldom spoke unless spoken to. The employees of the
hotel had grown accustomed to his comings and goings, though they seldom
knew where he went or definitely when he would return. His mildness of
manner was a source of comment among those who knew him for what he was.
And his very mildness of manner was one of his greatest assets in
gaining information. Essentially a man of action, silent as to his plans
and surmises, yet he could talk well when occasion demanded.

It was rumored that he was in the employ of the American Government;
that he had been disappointed in a love affair; that he had a wife and
son living somewhere in the States; that for very good reasons he could
not return to the States; that he was a dangerous man, well paid by the
Mexican Government to handle political matters that would not bear
public inspection. These rumors came to him from time to time, and
because he paid no attention to them they were accepted as facts.

About an hour after he had left Donovan's office, Waring entered the
Plaza Hotel, nodded to the clerk, and passed on down the hallway. He
knocked at a door, and was answered by the appearance of a stout,
smooth-shaven man in shirt-sleeves. They chatted for a minute or two.
Waring stepped into the room. Presently he reappeared, smiling.

After dinner he strolled out and down the street. At a corner he edged
through the crowd, and was striding on when some one touched his arm. He
turned to confront the Mexican youth, Ramon. Waring gestured to Ramon to
follow, and they passed on down the street until near the edge of the
town. In the shadow of an adobe, Waring stopped.

Ramon glanced up and down the street. "The police--they have asked me
where is my Uncle José. I have told them that I do not know. The police
they asked me that."

"Well?"

"But it is not that why I come. They told me to go to my home. It was
when I was in the prison that the policia talked in the telephone. He
spoke your name and the name of Señor Bill Donovan of the Ortez Mine. I
heard only your name and his, but I was afraid. You will not tell them
that I was with my Uncle José?"

"No. And thanks, Ramon. I think I know what they were talking about. Go
back home, pronto. If you were to be seen with me--"

"The señor is gracious. He has given me my life. I have nothing to
give--but this." And Ramon drew the little silver crucifix from his
shirt and pressed it in Waring's hand.

"Oh, here, muchacho--"

But Ramon was already hastening down a side street. Waring smiled and
shook his head. For a moment he stood looking at the little crucifix
shining on the palm of his hand. He slipped it into his pocket and
strode back up the street. For an hour or more he walked about,
listening casually to this or that bit of conversation. Occasionally he
heard Mexicans discussing the Ortez robbery. Donovan's name, Waring's
own name, Vaca's, and even Ramon's were mentioned. It seemed strange to
him that news should breed so fast. Few knew that he had returned.
Possibly Donovan had spread the report that the bandits had made their
escape with the money. That would mean that Waring had been outwitted.
And Donovan would like nothing better than to injure Waring's
reputation.

Finding himself opposite the hotel, Waring glanced about and strode in.
As he entered the hallway leading to his room three men rose from the
leather chairs near the lobby window and followed him. Waring's door
closed. He undressed and went to bed. He had been asleep but a few
minutes when some one rapped on the door. He asked who it was. He was
told to open in the name of the city of Sonora. He rose and dressed
quickly.

When he opened the door two Sonora policemen told him to put up his
hands. Donovan stood back of them, chewing a cigar. One of the policemen
took Waring's gun. The other searched the room. Evidently he did not
find what he sought.

"When you get through," said Waring, eyeing Donovan grimly, "you might
tell me what you're after."

"I'm after that thousand," said Donovan.

"Oh! Well, why didn't you say so? Just call in Stanley, of the bank. His
room is opposite."

Donovan hesitated. "Stanley's got nothing to do with this."

"Hasn't he?" queried Waring. "Call him in and see."

One of the police knocked at Stanley's door.

The bank cashier appeared, rubbing his eyes. "Hello, Bill! Hello, Jim!
What's the fuss?"

"Stanley, did I deposit a thousand dollars in gold to the credit of the
Ortez Mine this afternoon?"

"You did."

"Just show Donovan here the receipt I asked you to keep for me."

"All right. I'll get it."

Donovan glanced at the receipt. "Pretty smooth," he muttered.

Waring smiled. His silence enraged Donovan, who motioned to the police
to leave the room.

Waring interrupted. "My gun?" he queried mildly.

One of the police handed the gun to Waring.

Their eyes met. "Why, hello, Pedro!" And Waring's voice expressed
innocent surprise. "When did you enroll as a policeman?"

Donovan was about to interrupt when the policeman spoke: "That is my
business."

"Which means Bill here has had you sworn in to-day. Knew you would like
to get a crack at me, eh? You ought to know better, Salazar."

"Come on!" called Donovan.

The Mexicans followed him down the hallway.

Waring thanked Stanley. "It was a frame-up to get me, Frank," he
concluded. "Pedro Salazar would like the chance, and as a policeman he
could work it. You know that old game--resisting arrest."

"Doesn't seem to worry you," said Stanley.

"No. I'm leaving town. I'm through with this game."

"Getting too hot?"

"No. I'm getting cold feet," said Waring, laughing. "And say, Stanley,
I may need a little money to-morrow."

"Any time, Jim."

Waring nodded. Back in his room he sat for a while on the edge of the
bed, gazing at the curtained window. Life had gone stale. He was sick of
hunting men and of being hunted. Pedro Salazar was now a member of the
Sonora police through Donovan's efforts. Eventually Salazar would find
an excuse to shoot Waring. And the gunman had made up his mind to do no
more killing. For that reason he had spared Vaca and had befriended
Ramon. He decided to leave Sonora.

Presently he rose and dressed in his desert clothes. As he went through
his pockets he came upon the little silver crucifix and transferred it,
with some loose change, to his riding-breeches. He turned out the light,
locked the room from the outside, and strode out of the hotel.

At the livery-stable, he asked for his horse. The man in charge told him
that Dex had been taken by the police. That the Señor Bill Donovan and
Pedro Salazar had come and shown him a paper,--he could not read,--but
he knew the big seal. It was Pedro Salazar who had ridden the horse.

The streets were still lighted, although the crowd was thinning. Waring
turned a corner and drifted through the shadows toward the edge of town.
As he passed open doorways he was greeted in Mexican, and returned each
greeting pleasantly. The adobe at the end of the side street he was on
was dark.

Waring paused. Pedro Salazar's house was the only unlighted house in the
district. The circumstance hinted of an ambushment. Waring crossed to
the deeper shadows and whistled. The call was peculiarly low and
cajoling. He was answered by a muffled nickering. His horse Dex was
evidently corralled at the back of the adobe.

Pedro Salazar knew that Waring would come for the horse sooner or later,
so he waited, crouching behind the adobe wall of the enclosure.

Waring knocked loudly on Salazar's door and called his name. Then he
turned and ran to the corner, dodged round it, and crept along the
breast-high adobe wall. He whistled again. A rope snapped, and there
came the sound of quick trampling. A rush and the great, tawny shape of
Dexter reared in the moonlight and swept over the wall. With head up,
the horse snorted a challenge. Waring called softly. The horse wheeled
toward him. Waring caught the broken neck-rope and swung up. A flash cut
the darkness behind him. Instinctively he turned and threw two shots. A
figure crumpled to a dim blur in the corral.

Waring raced down the alley and out into the street. At the
livery-stable he asked for his saddle and bridle. The Mexican,
chattering, brought them. Waring tugged the cinchas tight and mounted.
Far down the street some one called.

Waring rode to the hotel, dismounted, and strode in casually, pausing at
Stanley's door. The cashier answered his knock.

"I'm off," said Waring. "And I'll need some money."

"All right, Jim. What's up? How much?"

"A couple of hundred. Charge it back to my account. Got it?"

"No. I'll get it at the desk."

"All right. Settle my bill for me to-morrow. Don't stop to dress.
Rustle!"

A belated lounger glanced up in surprise as Waring, booted and spurred,
entered the lobby with a man in pajamas. They talked with the clerk a
moment, shook hands, and Waring strode to the doorway.

"Any word for the Ortez people?" queried Stanley as Waring mounted.

"I left a little notice for Donovan--at Pedro Salazar's house," said
Waring. "Donovan will understand." And Waring was gone.

The lounger accosted Stanley. "What's the row, Stanley?"

"I don't know. Jim Waring is in a hurry--first time since I've known
him. Figure it out yourself."

Back in Pedro Salazar's corral a man lay huddled in a dim corner, his
sightless eyes open to the soft radiance of the Sonora moon. A group of
Mexicans stood about, jabbering. Among them was Ramon Ortego. Ramon
listened and said nothing. Pedro Salazar was dead. No one knew who had
killed him. And only that day he had become one of the police! It would
go hard with the man who did this thing. There were many surmises.
Pedro's brother had been killed by the gringo Waring down in the desert.
As for Pedro, his name had been none too good. They shrugged their
shoulders and crossed themselves.

Ramon slipped from the group and climbed the adobe wall. As he
straightened up on the other side, he saw something gleaming in the
moonlight. He stooped and picked up a little silver crucifix.



CHAPTER V


_The Tang of Life_

Waring rode until dawn, when he picketed Dex in a clump of chaparral and
lay down to rest. He had purposely passed the water-hole, a half-mile
south, after having watered the horse and refilled his canteen.

There was a distinction, even in Sonora, between Pedro Salazar, the
citizen, and Pedro Salazar, of the Sonora police. The rurales might get
busy. Nogales and the Arizona line were still a long ride ahead.

Slowly the desert sun drew overhead and swept the scant shadows from the
brush-walled enclosure. Waring slept. Finally the big buckskin became
restless, circling his picket and lifting his head to peer over the
brush. Long before Waring could have been aware of it, had he been
awake, the horse saw a moving something on the southern horizon. Trained
to the game by years of association with his master, Dex walked to where
Waring lay and nosed his arm. The gunman rolled to his side and peered
through the chaparral.

Far in the south a moving dot wavered in the sun. Waring swept the
southern arc with his glasses. The moving dot was a Mexican, a horseman
riding alone. He rode fast. Waring could see the rise and fall of a
quirt. "Some one killing a horse to get somewhere," he muttered, and he
saddled Dex and waited. The tiny figure drew nearer. Dex grew restless.
Waring quieted him with a word.

To the west of the chaparral lay the trail, paralleled at a distance of
a half-mile by the railroad. The glasses discovered the lone horseman to
be Ramon, of Sonora. The boy swayed in the saddle as the horse lunged
on. Waring knew that something of grave import had sent the boy out into
the noon desert. He was at first inclined to let him pass and then ride
east toward the Sierra Madre. If the rurales were following, they would
trail Dex to the water-hole. And if Ramon rode on north, some of them
would trail the Mexican. This would split up the band--decrease the odds
by perhaps one half.

But the idea faded from Waring's mind as he saw the boy fling past
desperately. Waring swung to the saddle and rode out. Ramon's horse
plunged to a stop, and stood trembling. The boy all but fell as he
dismounted. Stumbling toward Waring, he held out both hands.

"Señor, the rurales!" he gasped.

"How far behind?"

"The railroad! They are ahead! They have shipped their horses to
Magdalena, to Nogales!"

"How do you know that?"

"Pedro Salazar is dead. You were gone. They say it was you."

"So they shipped their horses ahead to cut me off, eh? You're a good
boy, Ramon, but I don't know what in hell to do with you. Your cayuse is
played out. You made a good ride."

"Si, señor. I have not stopped once."

"You look it. You can't go back now. They would shoot you."

"I will ride with the señor."

Waring shook his head.

Ramon's eyes grew desperate. "Señor," he pleaded, "take me with you! I
cannot go back. I will be your man--follow you, even into the Great
Beyond. You will not lose the way."

And as Ramon spoke he touched the little crucifix on his breast.

"Where did you find _that?_" asked Waring.

"In the Placeta Burro; near the house of Pedro Salazar."

Waring nodded. "Has your horse had water?"

"No, señor. I did not stop."

"Take him back to the water-hole. Or, here! Crawl in there and rest up.
You are all in. I'll take care of the cayuse."

When Waring returned to the chaparral, Ramon was asleep, flat on his
back, his arms outspread and his mouth open. Waring touched him with his
boot. Ramon muttered. Waring stooped and pulled him up.

Within the hour five rurales disembarked from a box-car and crossed to
the water-hole, where one of them dismounted and searched for tracks.
Alert for the appearance of the gringo, they rode slowly toward the
chaparral. The enclosure was empty. After riding a wide circle round the
brush, they turned and followed the tracks toward the eastern hills,
rein-chains jingling and their silver-trimmed buckskin jackets
shimmering in the sun.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I will ride back," said Ramon. "My horse is too weak to follow. The
señor rides slowly that I may keep up with him."

Waring turned in the saddle. Ahead lay the shadowy foothills of the
mother range, vague masses in the starlight. Some thirty miles behind
was the railroad and the trail north. There was no chance of picking up
a fresh horse. The country was uninhabited. Alone, the gunman would have
ridden swiftly to the hill country, where his trail would have been lost
in the rocky ground of the ranges and where he would have had the
advantage of an unobstructed outlook from the high trails.

Ramon had said the rurales had entrained; were ahead of him to intercept
him. But Waring, wise in his craft, knew that the man-hunters would
search for tracks at every water-hole on the long northern trail. And if
they found his tracks they would follow him to the hills. They were as
keen on the trail as Yaquis and as relentless as wolves. Their horses,
raw-hide tough, could stand a forced ride that would kill an ordinary
horse. And Ramon's wiry little cayuse, though willing to go on until he
dropped, could not last much longer.

But to leave Ramon to the rurales was not in Waring's mind. "We'll keep
on, amigo," he said, "and in a few hours we'll know whether it's to be a
ride or a fight."

"I shall pray," whispered Ramon.

"For a fresh horse, then."

"No, señor. That would be of no use. I shall pray that you may escape.
As for me--"

"We'll hit the glory trail together, muchacho. If you get bumped off,
it's your own funeral. You should have stayed in Sonora."

Ramon sighed. The señor was a strange man. Even now he hummed a song in
the starlight. Was he, then, so unafraid of death that he could sing in
the very shadow of its wings?

"You've got a hunch that the rurales are on our trail," said Waring, as
they rode on.

"It is so, señor."

"How do you know?"

"I cannot say. But it is so. They have left the railroad and are
following us."

Waring smiled in the dark. "Dex, here, has been trying to tell me that
for an hour."

"And still the señor does not hasten!"

"I am giving your cayuse a chance to make the grade. We'll ride an hour
longer."

Ramon bowed his head. The horses plodded on, working up the first
gentle slope of the foothills. The brush loomed heavier. A hill star
faded on the edge of the higher range. Ramon's lips moved and he crossed
himself.

Waring hummed a song. He was not unhappy. The tang of life was his
again. Again he followed a trail down which the light feet of Romance
ran swiftly. The past, with its red flare of life, its keen memories and
dulled regrets, was swept away by the promise of dawn and the unknown.
"A clean break and a hard fight," he murmured, as he reined up to rest
his horse. Turning, he could distinguish Ramon, who fingered the
crucifix at his throat. Waring's face grew grim. He felt suddenly
accountable for the boy's life.

The half-moon glowed against the edge of the world. About to ride on
again, Waring saw a tiny group of horsemen silhouetted against the
half-disk of burning silver. He spoke to his horse. Slowly they climbed
the ridge, dropped down the eastern slope, and climbed again.

In a shallow valley, Waring reined up, unsaddled Dex, and turned him
loose. Ramon questioned this. "Turn your horse loose," said Waring.
"They'll keep together and find water."

Ramon shook his head, but did as he was told. Wearily he followed Waring
as he climbed back to a rocky depression on the crest. Without a word
Waring stretched behind a rock and was soon asleep. Ramon wondered at
the other's indifference to danger, but fatigue finally overcame him and
he slept.

Just before dawn Ramon awakened and touched

Waring. "They are coming!" he whispered.

Waring shook his head. "You hear our horses. The rurales won't ride into
this pocket before daylight. Stay right here till I come back."

He rose and worked cautiously down the eastern slope, searching for Dex
in the valley. In the gray gloom he saw the outline of his horse grazing
alone. He stepped down to him. The big horse raised its head. Waring
spoke. Reassured, Dex plodded to his master, who turned and tracked back
to the pocket in the rocks. "I think your cayuse has drifted south," he
told Ramon.

The young Mexican showed no surprise. He seemed resigned to the
situation. "I knew when the señor said to turn my horse loose that he
would seek the horses of his kind. He has gone back to the horses of
those who follow us."

"You said it" said Waring. "And that's going to bother them. It tells me
that the rurales are not far behind. They'll figure that I put you out
of business to get rid of you. They'll look for a dead Mexican, and a
live gringo riding north, alone. But they're too wise to ride up here.
They'll trail up afoot and out of sight. That's your one chance."

"My chance, señor?"

"Yes. Here's some grub. You've got your gun. Drift down the slope, get
back of the next ridge, and strike south. Locate their horses and wait
till they leave them to come up here. Get a horse. Pick a good one. I'll
keep them busy till you get back."

Ramon rose and climbed to the edge of the pocket. "I go," he said sadly.
"And I shall never see the señor again."

"Don't bet all you've got on that," said Waring.

When Ramon had disappeared, Waring led Dex back from the pocket, and,
saddling him, left him concealed in the brush. Then the gunman crept
back to the rim and lay waiting, a handful of rifle shells loose on a
flat rock in front of him. He munched some dried meat and drank from the
canteen.

The red dawn faded quickly to a keen white light. Heat waves ran over
the rocks and danced down the hillside. Waring lighted a match and
blackened the front sight of his carbine. The sun rolled up and struck
at him, burning into the pocket of rock where he lay motionless gazing
down the slope. Sweat beaded his forehead and trickled down his nose.
Scattered boulders seemed to move gently. He closed his eyes for an
instant. When he opened them he thought he saw a movement in the brush
below. The heat burned into his back, and he shrugged his shoulders. A
tiny bird flitted past and perched on the dry, dead stalk of a yucca.
Again Waring thought he saw a movement in the brush.

Then, as if by magic, the figure of a rural stood clear and straight
against the distant background of brownish-green. Waring smiled. He knew
that if he were to fire, the rurales would rush him. They suspected some
kind of a trap. Waring's one chance was to wait until they had given up
every ruse to draw his fire. They were not certain of his whereabouts,
but were suspicious of that natural fortress of rock. There was not a
rural in Old Mexico who did not know him either personally or by
reputation. The fact that one of them had offered himself as a possible
target proved that they knew they had to deal with a man as crafty as
themselves.

The standing figure, shimmering in the glare, drew back and disappeared.

Waring eased his tense muscles. "Now they'll go back for their horses,"
he said to himself. "They'll ride up to the next ridge, where they can
look down on this pocket, but I won't be here."

Waring planned every move with that care and instinct which marks a good
chess-player. And because he had to count upon possibilities far ahead
he drew Ramon's saddle to him and cut the stirrup-leathers, cinchas, and
latigos. If Ramon got one of their horses, his own jaded animal would be
left. Eventually the rurales would find the saddle and Ramon's horse.
And every rural out of the riding would be a factor in their escape.

The sun blazed down until the pocket of rock was a pit of stagnant
heat. The silence seemed like an ocean rolling in soundless waves across
the hills; a silence that became disturbed by a faint sound as of one
approaching cautiously. Waring thought Ramon had shown cleverness in
working up to him so quietly. He raised on his elbow and turned his
head. On the eastern edge of the pocket stood a rural, and the rural
smiled.



Chapter VI


_Arizona_

Waring, who had known the man in Sonora, called him by name. The other's
smile faded, and his eyes narrowed. Waring thrust up his hands and
jokingly offered to toss up a coin to decide the issue. He knew his man;
knew that at the first false move the rural would kill him. He rose and
turned sideways that the other might take his gun. "You win the throw,"
he said. The Mexican jerked Waring's gun from the holster and cocked it.
Then he whistled.

From below came the faint clatter of hoofs. The rural seemed puzzled
that his call should have been answered so promptly. He knew that his
companions had gone for their horses, picketed some distance from the
pocket. He had volunteered to surprise the gunman single-handed.

Waring, gazing beyond the rural, saw the head of a horse top the rise.
In the saddle sat Ramon, hatless, his black hair flung back from his
forehead, a gun in his hand. Waring drew a deep breath. Would Ramon
bungle it by calling out, or would he have nerve enough to make an end
of it on the instant?

Although Waring was unarmed, the rural dared not turn. The gringo had
been known to slip out of as tight a place despite the threat of a gun
almost against his chest. With a despondent shrug, Waring lowered his
arms.

"You win the throw," he said hopelessly.

Still the Mexican dared not take his eyes from Waring. He would wait
until his companions appeared.

A few yards behind the rural, Ramon reined up. Slowly he lowered the
muzzle of his gun. The rural called the name of one of his fellows. The
answer came in a blunt crash, which rippled its harsh echoes across the
sounding hills. The rural flung up his arms and pitched forward, rolling
to Waring's feet. The gunman leaped up, and, snatching his carbine from
the rock, swung round and took his six-gun from the rural's limp
fingers. Plunging to the brush beyond the pocket, he swung to the saddle
and shot down the slope. Behind him he could hear Ramon's horse
scattering the loose rock of the hillside. A bullet struck ahead of him
and whined across the silence. A shrill call told him that the pursuers
had discovered the body of their fellow.

Dex, with ears laid back, took the ragged grade in great, uneven leaps
that shortened to a regular stride as they gained the level of the
valley. Glancing back, Waring saw Ramon but a few yards behind. He
signaled to him to ride closer. Together they swung down the valley,
dodging the low brush--and leaping rocks at top speed.

Finally Waring reined in. "We'll make for that ridge,"--and he
indicated the range west. Under cover of the brush they angled across
the valley and began the ascent of the range which hid the western
desert.

Halfway up, Waring dismounted. "Lead my horse on up," he told Ramon.
"I'll argue it out with 'em here."

"Señor, I have killed a man!" gasped Ramon.

Waring flung the reins to his companion. "All right! This isn't a
fiesta, hombre; this is business."

Ramon turned and put his horse up the slope, Dex following. Waring
curled behind a rock and swept the valley with his glass. The heads of
several rurales were visible in the brush. They had halted and were
looking for tracks. Finally one of them raised his arm and pointed
toward the hill. They had caught sight of Ramon on the slope above.
Presently three riders appeared at the foot of the grade. It was a long
shot from where Waring lay. He centered on the leading rural, allowed
for a chance of overshooting, and pressed the trigger. The carbine
snarled. An echo ripped the shimmering heat. A horse reared and plunged
up the valley, the saddle empty.

Waring rose, and plodded up the slope.

"Three would have trailed us. Two will ride back to the railroad and
report. I wonder how many of them are bushed along the trail between
here and Nogales?"

In the American custom-house at Nogales sat a lean, lank man gazing out
of a window facing the south. His chair was tilted back, and his large
feet were crossed on the desk in front of him. He was in his
shirt-sleeves, and he puffed indolently at a cigar and blew smoke-rings
toward the ceiling. Incidentally his name was known throughout the
country and beyond its southern borders. But if this distinction
affected him in any way it was not evident. He seemed submerged in a
lassitude which he neither invited nor struggled against.

A group of riders appeared down the road. The lean man brushed a cloud
of smoke away and gazed at them with indifference. They drew nearer. He
saw that they were Mexicans--rurales. Without turning his head, he
called to an invisible somebody in the next room.

"Jack, drift over to the cantina and get a drink."

A chair clumped to the floor, and a stocky, dark-faced man appeared,
rubbing his eyes. "On who?" he queried, grinning.

"On old man Diaz," replied the lean man.

"All right, Pat. But mebby his credit ain't good on our side of the
line."

The lean man said nothing. He continued to gaze out of the window. The
white road ran south and south into the very haze of the beyond. His
assistant picked up a hat and strolled out. A few doors down the street
stood several excellent saddle animals tied to the hitching-rail in
front of the cantina. He didn't need to be told that they were the
picked horses of the rurales, and that for some strange reason his
superior had sent him to find out just why these same rurales were in
town.

He entered the cantina and called for a drink. The lithe, dark riders of
the south, grouped round a table in one corner of the room, glanced up,
answered his general nod of salutation indifferently, and turned to talk
among themselves. Catering to authority, the Mexican proprietor
proffered a second drink to the Americano. The assistant collector toyed
with his glass, and began a lazy conversation about the weather. The
proprietor, his fat, oily face in his hands and his elbows on the bar,
grunted monosyllables, occasionally nodding as the Americano forced his
acknowledgment of a highly obvious platitude.

And the assistant collector, listening for a chance word that would
explain the presence of armed Mexico on American soil, knew that the
proprietor was also listening for that same word that might explain
their unprecedented visit. Presently the assistant collector of customs
began a tirade against Nogales, its climate, institutions, and citizens
collectively and singly. The proprietor awoke to argument. Their talk
grew loud. The assistant collector thumped the bar with his fist, and
ceased talking suddenly. A subdued buzz came from the corner where the
rurales sat, and he caught the name "Waring."

"And the whole town ain't worth the matches to burn it up," he
continued. "If it wasn't for Pat, I'd quit right now." And he emptied
his glass and strode from the room.

Back in the office, he flung his hat on the table and rumpled his hair.
"Those coyotes," he said casually, "are after some one called Waring.
Pablo's whiskey is rotten."

The collector's long legs unfolded, and he sat up, yawning. "Jim Waring
isn't in town," he said as though to himself.

"Pat, you give me a pain," said the assistant, grinning.

"Got one myself," said the collector unsmilingly. "Cucumbers."

"You're the sweetest liar for a thousand miles either side of the line.
There isn't even the picture of a cucumber in this sun-blasted town."

"Isn't, eh? Look here!" And the lank man pulled open a drawer in the
desk. The collector fumbled among some papers and drew out a bulky seed
catalogue, illustrated in glowing tints.

"Oh, I'll buy," laughed the assistant. "I reckon if I asked for a
picture of this man Waring that's wanted by those nickel-plated coyotes,
you'd fish it up and never sweat a hair."

"I could," said the collector, closing the drawer.

"Here, smoke one of mine for a change. About that picture. I met Jim
Waring in Las Cruces. He was a kid then, but a comer. Had kind of
light, curly hair. His face was as smooth as a girl's. He wasn't what
you'd call a dude, but his clothes always looked good on him. Wimmin
kind of liked him, but he never paid much attention to them. He worked
for me as deputy a spell, and I never hired a better man. But he
wouldn't stay with one job long. When Las Cruces got quiet he pulled his
freight. Next I heard of him he was married and living in Sonora. It
didn't take Diaz long to find out that he could use him. Waring was a
wizard with a gun--and he had the nerve back of it. But Waring quit
Diaz, for Jim wasn't that kind of a killer. I guess he found plenty of
work down there. He never was one to lay around living on his reputation
and waiting for nothing to happen. He kept his reputation sprouting new
shoots right along--and that ain't all joke, neither."

"Speakin' in general, could he beat you to it with a gun, Pat?"

"Speaking in general--I reckon he could."

"Them rurales are kind of careless--ridin' over the line and not
stoppin' by to make a little explanation."

The lank man nodded. "There's a time coming when they'll do more than
that. That old man down south is losing his grip. I don't say this for
general information. And if Jim Waring happens to ride into town, just
tell him who you are and pinch him for smuggling; unless I see him
first."

"What did I ever do to you?"

Pat laughed silently. "Oh, he ain't a fool. It's only a fool that'll
throw away a chance to play safe."

"You got me interested in that Waring hombre. I'll sure nail him like
you said; but if he goes for his gun I don't want you plantin' no
cucumber seed on my restin'-place. Guess I'll finish those reports."

The lank man yawned, and, rising, strode to the window. The assistant
sauntered to the inner office and drew up to his desk. "Pablo's whiskey
is rotten!" he called over his shoulder. The lank collector smiled.

The talk about Waring and Las Cruces had stirred slumbering memories;
memories of night rides in New Mexico, of the cattle war, of blazing
noons on the high mesas and black nights in huddled adobe towns; Las
Cruces, Albuquerque, Caliente, Santa Fé--and weary ponies at the
hitching-rails.

Once, on an afternoon like this, he had ridden into town with a prisoner
beside him, a youth whose lightning-swift hand had snuffed out a score
of lives to avenge the killing of a friend. The collector recalled that
on that day he had ridden his favorite horse, a deep-chested buckskin,
slender legged, and swift, with a strain of thoroughbred.

Beyond the little square of window through which he gazed lay the same
kind of a road--dusty, sun-white, edged with low brush. And down the
road, pace for pace with his thoughts, strode a buckskin horse, ridden
by a man road-weary, gray with dust. Beside him rode a youth, his head
bowed and his hands clasped on the saddle-horn as though manacled.

"Jack!"

The assistant shoved back his chair and came to the window.

"There's the rest of your picture," said the collector.

As the assistant gazed at the riders, the collector stepped to his desk
and buckled on a gun.

"Want to meet Waring?" he queried.

"I'm on for the next dance, Pat."

The collector stepped out. Waring reined up. A stray breeze fluttered
the flag above the custom-house. Waring gravely lifted his sombrero.

"You're under arrest," said the collector.

Waring gestured toward Ramon.

"You, too," nodded Pat. "Get the kid and his horse out of sight," he
told the assistant.

Ramon, too weary to expostulate, followed the assistant to a corral back
of the building.

The collector turned to Waring. "And now, Jim, what's the row?"

"Down the street--and coming," said Waring, as the rurales boiled from
the cantina.

"We'll meet 'em halfway," said the collector.

And midway between the custom-house and the cantina the two cool-eyed,
deliberate men of the North faced the hot-blooded Southern haste that
demanded Waring as prisoner. The collector, addressing the leader of the
rurales, suggested that they talk it over in the cantina. "And don't
forget you're on the wrong side of the line," he added.

The Captain of rurales and one of his men dismounted and followed the
Americans into the cantina. The leader of the rurales immediately
exhibited a warrant for the arrest of Waring, signed by a high official
and sealed with the great seal of Mexico. The collector returned the
warrant to the captain.

"That's all right, amigo, but this man is already under arrest."

"By whose authority?"

"Mine--representing the United States."

"The warrant of the Presidente antedates your action," said the captain.

"Correct, Señor Capitan. But my action, being just about two jumps ahead
of your warrant, wins the race, I reckon."

"It is a trick!"

"Si! You must have guessed it."

"I shall report to my Government. And I also demand that you surrender
to me one Ramon Ortego, of Sonora, who aided this man to escape, and who
is reported to have killed one of my men and stolen one of my horses."

"He ought to make a darned good rural, if that's so," said the
collector. "But he is under arrest for smuggling. He rode a horse
across the line without declaring valuation."

"Juan," said the captain, "seize the horse of the Americano."

"Juan," echoed Waring softly, "I have heard that Pedro Salazar seized
the horse of an Americano--in Sonora."

The rural stopped short and turned as though awaiting further
instructions from his chief. The collector of customs rose and sauntered
to the doorway. Leaning against the lintel, he lighted a cigar and
smoked, gazing at Waring's horse with an appreciative eye. The captain
of rurales, seated opposite Waring, rolled a cigarette carefully; too
carefully, thought Waring, for a Mexican who had been daring enough to
ride across the line with armed men. Outside in the fading sunlight, the
horses of the rurales stamped and fretted. The cantina was strangely
silent. In the doorway stood the collector, smoking and toying with his
watch-charm.

Presently the assistant collector appeared, glanced in, and grinned.
"The kid is asleep--in the office," he whispered to the collector.

Waring knew that the flicker of an eyelid, an intonation, a gesture,
might precipitate trouble. He also knew that diplomacy was out of the
question. He glanced round the room, pushed back his chair, and, rising,
stepped to the bar. With his back against it, he faced the captain.

"Miguel," he said quietly, "you're too far over the line. Go home!"

The captain rose. "Your Government shall hear of this!"

"Yes. Wire 'em to-night. And where do you get off? You'll get turned
back to the ranks."

"I?"

"Si, Señor Capitan, and because--_you didn't get your man_."

The collector of customs stood with his cigar carefully poised in his
left hand. The assistant pushed back his hat and rumpled his black hair.

All official significance set aside, Waring and the captain of rurales
faced each other with the blunt challenge between them: "You didn't get
your man!"

The captain glanced at the two quiet figures in the doorway. Beyond them
were his own men, but between him and his command were two of the
fastest guns in the Southwest. He was on alien ground. This gringo had
insulted him.

Waring waited for the word that burned in the other's eyes.

The collector of customs drew a big silver watch from his waistband.
"It's about time--to go feed the horses," he said.

With the sound of his voice the tension relaxed. Waring eyed the captain
as though waiting for him to depart. "You'll find that horse in the
corral--back of the customs office," he said.

The Mexican swung round and strode out, followed by his man.

The rurales mounted and rode down the street. The three Americans
followed a few paces behind. Opposite the office, they paused.

"Go along with 'em and see that they get the right horse," said the
collector.

The assistant hesitated.

The collector laughed. "Shake hands with Jim Waring, Jack."

When the assistant had gone, the collector turned to Waring. "That's
Jack every time. Stubborn as a tight boot, but good leather every time.
Know why he wanted to shake hands? Well, that's his way of tellin' you
he thinks you're some smooth for not pullin' a fight when it looked like
nothing else was on the bill."

Waring smiled. "I've met you before, haven't I?"

Pat pretended to ignore the question. "Say, stranger," he began with
slow emphasis, "you're makin' mighty free and familiar for a prisoner
arrested for smuggling. Mebby you're all right personal, but officially
I got a case against you. What do you know about raising cucumbers? I
got a catalogue in the office, and me and Jack has been aiming to raise
cucumbers from it for three months. I like 'em. Jack says you can't do
it down here without water every day. Now--"

"Where have you planted them, Pat?"

"Oh, hell! They ain't _planted_ yet. We're just figuring. Now, up Las
Cruces way--"

"Let's go back to the cantina and talk it out. There goes Mexico leading
a horse with an empty saddle. I guess the boy will be all right in the
office."

"Was the kid mixed up in your getaway?"

"Yes. And he's a good boy."

"Well, he's in dam' bad company. Now, Jack says you got to plant 'em in
hills and irrigate. I aim to just drill 'em in and let the A'mighty do
the rest. What do you think?"

"I think you're getting worse as you grow older, Pat. Say, did you ever
get track of that roan mare you lost up at Las Cruces?"

"Yes, I got her back."

"Speaking of horses, I saw a pinto down in Sonora--"

Just then the assistant joined them, and they sauntered to the cantina.
Dex, tied at the rail, turned and gazed at them. Waring took the morral
of grain from the saddle, and, slipping Dex's bridle, adjusted it.

The rugged, lean face of the collector beamed. "I wondered if you
thought as much of 'em as you used to. I aimed to see if I could make
you forget to feed that cayuse."

"How about those goats in your own corral?" laughed Waring.

"Kind of a complimentary cuss, ain't he?" queried Pat, turning to his
assistant. "And he don't know a dam' thing about cucumbers."

"You old-timers give me a pain," said the assistant, grinning.

"That's right! Because you can't set down to a meal without both your
hands and feet agoing and one ear laid back, you call us old because we
chew slow. But you're right. Jim and I are getting kind of gray around
the ears."

"Well, you fellas can fight it out. I came over to say that them rurales
got their hoss. But one of 'em let it slip, in Mexican, that they
weren't through yet."

"So?" said Pat. "Well, you go ahead and feed the stock. We'll be over to
the house poco tiempo."

Waring and the collector entered the cantina. For a long time they sat
in silence, gazing at the peculiar half-lights as the sun drew down.
Finally the collector turned to Waring.

"Has the game gone stale, Jim?"

Waring nodded. "I'm through. I am going to settle down. I've had my
share of trouble."

"Here, too," said the collector. "I've put by enough to get a little
place up north--cattle--and take it easy. That's why I stuck it out down
here. Had any word from your folks recent?"

"Not for ten years."

"And that boy trailing with you?"

"Oh, he's just a kid I picked up in Sonora. No, my own boy is straight
American, if he's living now."

"You might stop by at Stacey, on the Santa Fé," said the collector
casually. "There's some folks running a hotel up there that you used to
know."

Waring thanked him with a glance. "We don't need a drink and the sun is
down. Where do you eat?"

"We'll get Jack to rustle some grub. You and the boy can bunk in the
office. I'll take care of your horse."

"Thanks, Pat. But you spoke of going north. I wouldn't if I were you.
They'll get you."

"I had thought of that. But I'm going to take that same chance. I'm
plumb sick of the border."

"If they do--" And Waring rose.

The collector's hard-lined face softened for an instant. He thrust out
his bony hand. "I'll leave that to you, Jim."

And that night, because each was a gunman unsurpassed in his grim
profession, they laughed and talked about things trivial, leaving the
deeper currents undisturbed. And the assistant collector, eating with
them in the adobe back of the office, wondered that two such men found
nothing more serious to talk about than the breeding of horses and the
growing of garden truck.

Late that night the assistant awoke to find that the collector was not
in bed. He rose and stalked to the window. Across from the adobe he saw
the grim face of the collector framed in the office window. He was
smoking a cigar and gazing toward the south, his long arm resting on the
sill and his chin in his hand.

"Ole fool!" muttered the assistant affectionately. "That there Jim
Waring must sure be some hombre to make Pat lose any sleep."



Chapter VII


_The Return of Waring_

The interior of the little desert hotel at Stacey, Arizona, atoned for
its bleached and weather-worn exterior by a refreshing neatness that was
almost startling in contrast to the warped board front with its painted
sign scaled by the sun.

The proprietress, Mrs. Adams, a rosy, dark-haired woman, had heard the
Overland arrive and depart. Through habit she listened until the distant
rumble of the train diminished to a faint purr. No guests had arrived on
the Overland. Stacey was not much of a town, and tourists seldom stopped
there. Mrs. Adams stepped from the small office to the dining-room and
arranged some flowers in the center of the long table. She happened to
be the only woman in the desert town who grew flowers.

The Overland had come and gone. Another day! Mrs. Adams sighed, patted
her smooth black hair, and glanced down at her simple and neat attire.

She rearranged the flowers, and was stepping back to view the effect
when something caused her to turn and glance toward the office. There
had been no sound, yet in the doorway stood a man--evidently a rider. He
was looking at the calendar on the office wall. Mrs. Adams stepped
toward him. The man turned and smiled. She gazed with awakening
astonishment at the dusty, khaki-clad figure, the cool gray eyes beneath
the high-crowned sombrero, and last at the extended hand. Without
meeting the man's eyes, she shook hands.

"Jim! How did you know?" she queried, her voice trembling.

"I heard of you at Nogales. I wasn't looking for you--then. You have a
right pleasant place here. Yours?"

She nodded.

"I came to see the boy," he said. "I'm not here for long."

"Oh, Jim! Lorry is so big and strong--and--and he's working for the
Starr outfit over west of here."

"Cattle, eh? Is he a good boy?"

"A nice question for you to ask! Lorry rides a straighter trail than his
father did."

The man laughed and patted her shoulder affectionately. "You needn't
have said that, Annie. You knew what I was when I married you. And no
man ever said I wasn't straight. Just what made you leave Sonora without
saying a word? Didn't I always treat you well?"

"I must say that you did, Jim. You never spoke a rough word to me in
your life. I wish you had. You'd be away for weeks, and then come back
and tell me it was all right, which meant that you'd 'got your man,' as
they say down there. At first I was too happy to care. And when the baby
came and I tried to get you to give up hiring out to men who wanted
killing done,--for that's what it was,--you kept telling me that some
day you would quit. Maybe they did pay big, but you could have been
anything else you wanted to. You came of good folks and had education.
But you couldn't live happy without that excitement. And you thought I
was happy because you were. Why, even up here in Arizona they sing
'Waring of Sonora-Town.' Our boy sings it, and I have to listen, knowing
that it is you he sings about. I was afraid of you, Jim, and afraid our
boy would grow up to be like you."

Waring nodded. "I'm not blaming you, Annie. I asked why you left
me--without a word or an address. Do you think that was square?"

Mrs. Adams, flushed, and the tears came to her eyes. "I didn't dare
think about that part of it. I was afraid of you. I got so I couldn't
sleep, worrying about what might happen to you when you were away. And
you always came back, but you never said where you'd been or what you'd
done. I couldn't stand it. If you had only told me--even about the
men--that you were paid to kill, I might have stood it. But you never
said a word. The wives of the American folks down there wouldn't speak
to me. And the Mexican women hated me. I was the wife of Jim Waring,
'the killer.' I think I went crazy."

"Well, I never did believe in talking shop, Annie."

"That's just it. You were always polite--and calling what you did,
'shop'! I don't believe you ever cared for a single person on this
earth!"

"You ought to know, Annie. But we won't argue that. Don't act as though
you had to defend yourself. I am not blaming you--now. You have
explained. I did miss the boy, though. Are you doing well here?"

"It was hard work at first. But I never did write to father to help me."

"You might have written to me. When did the boy go to work? He's
eighteen, isn't he?"

Mrs. Adams smiled despite herself. "Yes, this fall. He started in with
the Starr people at the spring round-up."

"Couldn't he help you here?"

"He did. But he's not the kind to hang round a hotel. He's all man--if I
do say it." And Mrs. Adams glanced at her husband. In his lithe,
well-set-up figure she saw what her son would be at forty. "Yes, Jim,
he's man size--and I've raised him to go straight."

Waring laughed. "Of course you have! What name will I sign, Annie?"

"Folks here call me Mrs. Adams."

"So you're Annie Adams again! Well, here's your husband's name, if you
don't mind." And he signed the register, "James Waring, Sonora, Mexico."

"Isn't that risky?" she queried.

"No one knows me up here. And I don't intend to stay long. I'd like to
see the boy."

"Jim, you won't take him away!"

"You know me better than that. You quit me down there, and I won't say
that I liked it. I wondered how you'd get along. You left no word. When
I realized that you must have wanted to leave me, that settled it.
Following you would have done no good, even if I had known where you had
gone. I was free. And a gunman has no business with a family."

"You might have thought about that before you came courting me."

"I did. Didn't you?"

"You're hard, Jim. I was just a girl. Any woman would have been glad to
marry you then. But when I got sense enough to see how you earned your
money--I just had to leave. I was afraid to tell you--"

"There, now, Annie; we'll let that go. I won't say that I don't care,
but I've been mighty busy since you left. I didn't know where you were
until I hit Nogales. I wanted to see you and the boy. And I'm as hungry
as a grizzly."

"Anita is getting supper. Some of the folks in town board here. They'll
be coming in soon."

"All right. I'm a stranger. I rode over. I'd like to wash up."

"You _rode_ over?"

"Yes. Why not? I know the country."

Mrs. Adams turned and gestured toward the stairway. She followed him and
showed him to a room. So he hadn't come in on the Overland, but had
ridden up from Sonora. Why had he undertaken such a long, weary ride?
Surely he could have taken the train! She had never known him to be
without money. But he had always been unaccountable, coming and going
when he pleased, saying little, always serene. And now he had not said
why he had ridden up from Sonora. "Why not?" was all that he had said in
explanation.

He swung out of his coat and washed vigorously, thrusting his fingers
through his short, curly hair and shaking his head in boyish enjoyment
that was refreshing to watch. She noticed that he had not aged much. He
seemed too cool, too self-possessed always, to show even the ordinary
trace of years. She could not understand him; yet she was surprised by a
glow of affection for him now that he had returned. As he dried his head
she saw that his hair was tinged with gray, although his face was lined
but little and his gray eyes were as keen and quick as ever. If he had
only shared even that part of his life with her--down there!

"Jim!" she whispered.

He turned as he took up his coat. "Yes, Annie?"

"If you would only promise--"

He shook his head. "I won't do that. I didn't come to ask anything of
you except to see the boy But if you need money--"

"No. Not that kind of money."

"All right, girl." And his voice was cheery. "I didn't come here to make
you feel bad. And I won't be here long. Can't we be friends while I'm
here? Of course the boy will know. But no one else need know. And--you
better see to the folks downstairs. Some one just came in."

She turned and walked down the hall, wondering if he had ever cared for
her, and wondering if her boy, Lorry, would ever come to possess that
almost unhuman quality of intense alertness, that incomprehensible
coolness that never allowed him to forget what he was for an instant.

When Waring came down she did not introduce him to the boarders, a fact
that sheriff Buck Hardy, who dined at the hotel, noted with some
interest. The men ate hastily, rose, and departed, leaving Hardy and
Waring, who called for a second cup of coffee and rolled a cigarette
while waiting.

Hardy had seen the stranger ride into town on the big buckskin. The
horse bore a Mexican brand. The hotel register told Hardy who the
stranger was. And the sheriff of Stacey County was curious to know just
what the Sonora gunman was doing in town.

Waring sat with his unlighted cigarette between his fingers. The sheriff
proffered a match. Their eyes met. Waring nodded his thanks and blew a
smoke-ring.

"How are things down in Sonora?" queried Hardy.

"Quiet."

Mrs. Adams questioned Waring with her eyes. He nodded. "This is Mr.
Waring," she said, rising. "This is Mr. Hardy, our sheriff."

The men shook hands. "Mrs. Adams is a good cook," said Waring.

A clatter of hoofs and the sound of a cheery voice broke the silence.

A young cowboy jingled into the room. "Hello, Buck! Hello, mother!" And
Lorry Adams strode up and kissed his mother heartily. "Got a runnin'
chance to come to town and I came--runnin'. How's everything?"

Mrs. Adams murmured a reply. Buck Hardy was watching Waring as he
glanced up at the boy. The sheriff pulled a cigar from his vest and
lighted it. In the street he paused in his stride, gazing at the end of
his cigar. Lorry Adams looked mighty like Jim Waring, of Sonora. Hardy
had heard that Waring had been killed down in the southern country. Some
one had made a mistake.

Waring had risen. He stood with one hand touching the table, the tips of
his fingers drumming the rhythm of a song he hummed to himself. The
boy's back was toward him. Waring's gaze traveled from his son's head to
his boot-heel.

Lorry noticed that his mother seemed perturbed. He turned to Waring
with a questioning challenge in his gray eyes.

Mrs. Adams touched the boy's arm. "This is your father, Lorry."

Lorry glanced from one to the other.

Waring made no movement, offered no greeting, but stood politely
impassive.

Mrs. Adams spoke gently: "Lorry!"

"Why, hello, dad!" And the boy shook hands with his father.

Waring gestured toward a chair. Lorry sat down. His eyes were warm with
mild astonishment.

"Smoke?" said Waring, proffering tobacco and papers.

Lorry's gaze never left his father's face as he rolled a cigarette and
lighted it. Mrs. Adams realized that Waring's attitude of cool
indifference appealed to the boy.

Lorry remembered his father dimly. He was curious to know just what kind
of man he was. He didn't talk much; that was certain. The boy remembered
that his mother had not said much about her husband, answering Lorry's
childish questionings with a promise to tell him some day. He recalled a
long journey on the train, their arrival at Stacey, and the taking over
of the run-down hotel that his mother had refurnished and made a place
of neatness and comfort. And his mother had told him that she would be
known "Mrs. Adams." Lorry had been so filled with the newness of things
that the changing of their name was accepted without question. Slowly
his recollection of Sonora and the details of their life there came back
to him. These things he had all but forgotten, as he had grown to love
Arizona, its men, its horses, its wide ranges and magic hills.

Mrs. Adams remembered that her husband had once told her he could find
out more about a man by watching his hands than by asking questions. She
noticed that Waring was watching his son's hands with that old,
deliberate coldness of attitude. He was trying to find out just what
sort of a man his boy had grown to be.

Lorry suddenly straightened in his chair. Mrs. Adams, anticipating his
question, nodded to Waring.

"Yes," said Waring; "I am the Waring of Sonora that you are thinking
about."

Lorry flushed. "I--I guess you are," he stammered. "Mother, you never
told me _that_."

"You were too young to understand, Lorry."

"And is that why you left him?"

"Yes."

"Well, maybe you were right. But dad sure looks like a pretty decent
hombre to me."

They laughed in a kind of relief. The occasion had seemed rather
strained.

"Ask your mother, Lorry. I am out of it." And, rising Waring strode to
the doorway.

Lorry rose.

"I'll see you again," said Waring. And he stepped to the street, humming
his song of "Sonora and the Silver Strings."

Mrs. Adams put her arm about her son's shoulders. "Your father is a hard
man," she told him.

"Was he mean to you, mother?"

"No--never that."

"Well, I don't understand it. He looks like a real man to me. Why did he
come back?"

"He said he came back to see you."

"Well, he's my father, anyway," said Lorry.



Chapter VIII


_Lorry_

In the low hills west of Stacey, Lorry was looking for strays. He worked
alone, whistling as he rode, swinging his glasses on this and that
arroyo and singling out the infrequent clumps of greasewood for a touch
of brighter color in their shadows. He urged his pony from crest to
crest, carelessly easy in the saddle, alive to his work, and quietly
happy in the lone freedom of thought and action.

He felt a bit proud of himself that morning. Only last night he had
learned that he was the son of Waring of Sonora; a name to live up to,
if Western standards meant anything, and he thought they did.

The fact that he was the son of James Waring overcame for the time being
the vague disquietude of mind attending his knowledge that his mother
and father had become estranged. He thought he understood now why his
mother had made him promise to go unarmed upon the range. His
companions, to the last man, "packed a gun."

Heretofore their joshing had not bothered him. In fact, he had rather
enjoyed the distinction of going unarmed, and he had added to this
distinction by acquiring a skill with the rope that occasioned much
natural jealousy among his fellows. To be top-hand with a rope among
such men as Blaze Andrews, Slim Trivet, Red Bender, and High-Chin Bob,
the foreman, was worth all the patient hours he had given to persistent
practice with the reata.

But to-day he questioned himself. His mother had made him promise to go
unarmed because she feared he would become like his father. Why hadn't
she told him more about it all? He felt that she had taken a kind of
mean advantage of his unwavering affection for her. He was a man, so far
as earning his wage was concerned. And she was the best woman in the
world--but then women didn't understand the unwritten customs of the
range.

On a sandy ridge he reined up and gazed at the desert below. The bleak
flats wavered in the white light of noon. The farthest hills to the
south seemed but a few miles away.

For some time he focused his gaze at the Notch, from which the road
sprang and flowed in slow undulations to a vanishing point in the blank
spaces of the west. His pony, Gray Leg, head up and nostrils working,
twitched back one ear as Lorry spoke: "You see it, too?"

Gray Leg continued to gaze into the distance, occasionally stamping an
impatient forefoot, as though anxious to be off. Lorry lowered his glass
and raised it again. In the circle of the binoculars he saw a tiny,
distant figure dismount from a black horse and walk back and forth
across the road directly below the Notch. Lorry wiped his glasses and
centered them on the Notch again. The horseman had led his horse to a
clump of brush. Presently the twinkling front of an automobile
appeared--a miniature machine that wormed slowly through the Notch and
descended the short pitch beyond. Suddenly the car swerved and stopped.
Lorry saw a flutter of white near the machine. Then the concealed
horseman appeared on foot. Lorry slipped the glass in his shirt.

"We'll just mosey over and get a closer look," he told his pony. "Things
don't look just right over there."

Gray Leg, scenting a new interest, tucked himself together. The sand
sprayed to little puffs of dust as he swung to a lope.

Lorry was curious--and a bit elated at the promise of a break in the
monotony of hunting stray cattle. Probably some Eastern tourist had
taken the grade below the Notch too fast and ditched his machine. Lorry
would ride over and help him to right the car and set the pilgrim on his
way rejoicing. He had helped to right cars before. Last month, for
instance; that big car with the uniformed driver and the wonderfully
gowned women. He recalled the fact that one of them had been absolutely
beautiful, despite her strange mufflings. She had offered to pay him for
his trouble. When he refused she had thanked him eloquently with her
fine eyes and thrown him a kiss as he turned to go. She had thrown that
kiss with two hands! There was nothing stingy about that lady!

But possibly the machine toward which he rode carried nothing more
interesting than men; fat, well-dressed men who smoked fat cigars and
had much to say about "high" and "low," but didn't seem to know a great
deal about "Jack" and "The Game." If _they_ offered to pay him for
helping them--well, that was a different matter.

The pony loped toward the Notch, quite as eager as his rider to attend a
performance that promised action. Within a half-mile of the Notch, Lorry
pulled the pony to a walk. Just beyond the car he had seen the head and
ears of a horse. The rider was afoot, talking to the folks in the car.
This didn't look quite right.

He worked his pony through the shoulder-high brush until within a few
yards of the other man, who was evidently unwelcome. One of the two
women stood in front of the other as though to shield her.

Lorry took down his rope just as the younger of the two women saw his
head above the brush. The strange horseman, noting her expression,
turned quickly. Lorry's pony jumped at the thrust of the spurs. The rope
circled like a swallow and settled lightly on the man's shoulders. The
pony wheeled. The blunt report of a gun punctured the silence, followed
by the long-drawn ripping of brush and the snorting of the pony.

The man was dragging and clutching at the brush. He had dropped his gun.
Lorry dug the spurs into Gray Leg. The rope came taut with a jerk. The
man rolled over, his hands snatching at the noose about his neck. Lorry
dismounted and ran to him. He eased the loop, and swiftly slipped it
over the man's feet.

Gray Leg, who knew how to keep a rope taut better than anything else,
slowly circled the fallen man. Lorry picked up the gun and strode over
to the car. One of the women was crouching on the running-board. In
front of her, pale, straight, stiffly indignant, stood a young woman
whose eyes challenged Lorry's approach.

"It's all right, miss. He won't bother you now."

"Is he dead?" queried the girl.

"I reckon not."

"I heard a shot. I thought you killed him."

"No, ma'am. He took a crack at me. I don't pack a gun."

"You're a cowboy?" And the girl laughed nervously, despite her effort to
hold herself together.

"I aim to be," said Lorry, a trifle brusquely.

The elder woman peered through her fingers. "Another one!" she moaned.

"No, mother. This one is a cowboy. It's all right."

"It sure is. What was his game?"

"He told us to give him our money."

"Uh-uh. This is the second holdup here at the Notch this summer."

"He's trying to get up!" exclaimed the girl.

"My hoss'll take care of him."

"But your horse might drag him to death."

"Well, it's his own funeral, ain't it?"

The girl's eyes grew big. She stepped back. If she had only said
something Lorry would have felt better. As it was he felt decidedly
uncomfortable.

"If you'll say what is right, ma'am, I'll do it. You want me to turn him
loose?"

"I--No. But can't you do something for him?"

Lorry laughed. "I reckon you don't sabe them kind, miss. And mebby you
want to get that car on the road again."

"Yes," said the girl's mother. "I think this young man knows what he is
about."

Lorry stepped to the car to examine it.

The girl followed him. "I think there is nothing broken. We just turned
to come down that hill. We were coasting when I saw a rope stretched
across the road. I didn't know what to do. I tried to stop. We slid off
the edge."

"Uh-uh. He had it all ribbed up to stop you. Now if you had kept on
goin'--"

"But I didn't know what the rope meant. I was frightened. And before I
knew what had happened he stepped right on the running-board and told
us to give him our money."

"Yes, ma'am. If you can start her up, I'll get my rope on the axle and
help."

"But the man might get up!" said the girl.

Lorry grinned. A minute or two ago she had been afraid that the man
wouldn't get up. Lorry slipped the rope from the man's ankles and tied
it to the front axle. The girl got in the car. The pony buckled to his
work. The machine stuttered and purred. With a lurch it swung back into
the road. The girl's mother rose, brushed her skirt, and stepped to the
car. Lorry unfastened the rope and reined to one side.

The car steered badly. The girl stopped it and beckoned to Lorry.

"There's something wrong with the steering-gear. Are the roads good from
here to the next town?"

"Not too good. There's some heavy sand about a mile west."

She bit her lip. "Well, I suppose we'll have to turn back."

"You could get to Stacey, ma'am. You could get your car fixed, and my
mother runs the hotel there. It's a good place to stop."

"How far?"

"About eight miles. Three miles back the road forks and the left-hand
road goes to town. The regular automobile road don't go to Stacey."

"Well, I suppose there is nothing else to do. I'll try and turn
around." And the girl backed the car and swung round in a wavering arc.
When the car faced the east she stopped it.

Lorry rode alongside. She thanked him for his services. "And please
don't do anything to that man," she pleaded. "He has been punished
enough. You almost killed him. He looked so wretched. Can't you give him
a good talking to and let him go?"

"I could, ma'am. But it ain't right. He'll try this here stunt again.
There's a reward out for him."

"But won't you--please!"

Lorry flushed. "You got a good heart all right, but you ain't been long
in the West. Such as him steals hosses and holds up folks and robs
trains--"

"But you're not an officer," she said, somewhat unkindly.

"I reckon any man is an officer when wimmin-folk is gettin' robbed. And
I aim to put him where he belongs."

"Thank you for helping us," said the girl's mother.

"You're right welcome, ma'am." And, raising his hat, Lorry turned and
rode to where the man lay.

The car crept up the slope. Lorry watched it until it had topped the
ridge. Then he dismounted and turned the man over.

"What you got to say about my turnin' you loose?" he queried as the
other sat up.

"Nothin'."

"All right. Get a movin'--and don't try to run. I got my rope handy."



Chapter IX


_High-Chin Bob_

The man's rusty black coat was torn and wrinkled. His cheap cotton shirt
was faded and buttonless. His boots were split at the sole, showing part
of a bare foot. He was grimy, unshaven, and puffed unhealthily beneath
the eyes. Lorry knew that he was but an indifferent rider without seeing
him on a horse. He was a typical railroad tramp, turned highwayman.

"Got another gun on you?" queried Lorry.

The man shook his head.

"Where'd you steal that horse?"

"Who says I stole him?"

"I do. He's a Starr horse. He was turned out account of goin' lame. Hop
along. I'll take care of him."

The man plodded across the sand. Lorry followed on Gray Leg, and led the
other horse. Flares of noon heat shot up from the reddish-gray levels.
Lorry whistled, outwardly serene, but inwardly perturbed. That girl had
asked him to let the man go and she had said "please." But, like all
women, she didn't understand such things.

They approached a low ridge and worked up a winding cattle trail. On the
crest Lorry reined up. The man sat down, breathing heavily.

"What you callin' yourself?" asked Lorry.

"A dam' fool."

"I knew that. Anything else?"

"Waco--mebby."

"Waco, eh? Well, that's an insult to Texas. What's your idea in holdin'
up wimmin-folk, anyhow?"

"Mebby you'd hold up anybody if you hadn't et since yesterday morning."

"Think I believe that?"

"Suit yourself. You got me down."

"Well, you can get up and get movin'."

The man rose. He shuffled forward, limping heavily. Occasionally he
stopped and turned to meet a level gaze that was impersonal; that
promised nothing. Lorry would have liked to let the other ride. The man
was suffering--and to ride would save time. But the black, a rangy,
quick-stepping animal, was faster than Gray Leg. But what if the man did
escape? No one need know about it. Yet Lorry knew that he was doing
right in arresting him. In fact, he felt a kind of secret pride in
making the capture. It would give him a name among his fellows. But was
there any glory in arresting such a man?

Lorry recalled the other's wild shot as he was whirled through the
brush. "He sure tried to get me!" Lorry argued. "And any man that'd hold
up wimmin ought to be in the calaboose--"

The trail meandered down the hillside and out across a barren flat.
Halfway across the flat the trail forked. Lorry had ceased to whistle.
At the fork his pony stopped of its own accord. The man turned
questioningly. Lorry gestured toward the right-hand trail. The man
staggered on. The horses fretted at the slow pace. Keen to anticipate
some trickery, Lorry hardened himself to the other's condition. Perhaps
the man was hungry, sick, suffering. Well, a mile beyond was the
water-hole. The left-hand trail led directly to Stacey, but there was no
water along that trail.

They moved on across a stretch of higher land that swept in a gentle,
sage-dotted slope to the far hills. Midway across the slope was a bare
spot burning like white fire in the desert sun. It was the water-hole.
The trail became paralleled by other trails, narrow and rutted by
countless hoofs.

Within a hundred yards of the water-hole the prisoner collapsed. Lorry
dismounted and went for water.

The man drank, and Lorry helped him up and across the sand to the rim of
the water-hole. The man gazed at the shimmering pool with blurred eyes.

Lorry rolled a cigarette. "Roll one?" he queried.

The man Waco took the proffered tobacco and papers. His weariness seemed
to vanish as he smoked. "That pill sure saved my life," he asserted.

"How much you reckon your life's worth?"

Waco blew a smoke-ring and nodded toward it as it dissolved. Lorry
pondered. The keen edge of his interest in the capture had worn off,
leaving a blunt purpose--a duty that was part of the day's work. As he
realized how much the other was at his mercy a tinge of sympathy
softened his gray eyes. Justice was undeniably a fine thing. Folks were
entitled to the pursuit of happiness, to life and liberty he had read
somewhere. He glanced up. Waco, seated opposite, had drifted back into a
stupor, head sunk forward and arms relaxed. The stub of his cigarette
lay smouldering between his feet. Lorry thought of the girl's appeal.

"Just what started you to workin' this holdup game?" he queried.

Waco's head came up. "You joshin' me?"

"Nope."

"You wouldn't believe a hard-luck story, so what's the use?"

"Ain't any. I was just askin' a question. Roll another?"

Waco stuck out his grimy paw. His fingers trembled as he fumbled the
tobacco and papers.

Lorry proffered a match. "It makes me sick to see a husky like you all
shot to pieces," said Lorry.

"Did you just get wise to that?"

"Nope. But I just took time to say it."

Waco breathed deep, inhaling the smoke. "I been crooked all my life," he
asserted.

"I can believe that. 'Course you know I'm takin' you to Stacey."

"The left-hand trail was quicker," ventured the tramp.

"And no water."

"I could ride," suggested Waco.

Lorry shook his head. "If you was to make a break I'd just nacherally
plug you. I got your gun. You're safer afoot."

"I'll promise--"

"Nope. You're too willin'."

"I'm all in," said Waco.

"I got to take you to Stacey just the same."

"And you're doin' it for the money--the reward."

"That's my business."

"Go ahead," said the tramp. "I hope you have a good time blowin' in the
dough. Blood-money changes easy to booze-money when a lot of cow-chasers
get their hooks on it."

"Don't get gay!" said Lorry. "I aim to use you white as long as you work
gentle. If you don't--"

"That's the way with you guys that do nothin' but chase a cow's tail
over the country. You handle folks the same as stock--rough stuff and to
hell with their feelin's."

"You're feelin' better," said Lorry. "Stand up and get to goin'."

As Waco rose, Lorry's pony nickered. A rider was coming down the
distant northern hillside. In the fluttering silken bandanna and the
twinkle of silver-studded trappings Lorry recognized the foreman of the
Starr Rancho; Bob Brewster, known for his arrogance as "High-Chin Bob."

"Guess we'll wait a minute," said Lorry.

Waco saw the rider, and asked who he was.

"It's High Chin, the foreman. You been ridin' one of his string of
horses--the black there."

"He's your boss?"

"Yes. And I'm right sorry he's ridin' into this camp. You was talkin' of
feelin's. Well, he ain't got any."

Brewster loped up and dismounted. "What's your tally, kid?"

Lorry shook his head. "Only this," he said jokingly.

Brewster glanced at Waco. "Maverick, all right. Where'd you rope _him_?"

"I run onto him holdin' up some tourists down by the Notch. I'm driftin'
him over to Stacey."

High Chin's eyes narrowed. "Was he ridin' that horse?" And he pointed to
the black.

Lorry admitted that he had found the horse tied in the brush near the
Notch.

High Chin swung round. "You fork your bronc and get busy. There's eighty
head and over strayin' in here, and the old man ain't payin' you to
entertain hobos. I'll herd this hombre to camp."

With his arm outflung the tramp staggered up to the foreman. "I come
back--to tell you--that I'm going to live to get you right. I got a
hunch that all hell can't beat out. I'll get you!"

"We won't have any trouble," said Waring.

High Chin whirled his horse round. "What's it to you? Who are you,
buttin' in on this?"

"My name is Waring. I used to mill around Sonora once."

High Chin blinked. He knew that name. Slowly he realized that the man on
the big buckskin meant what he said when he asserted that there would be
no trouble.

"Well, I'm foreman of the Starr, and you're fired!" he told Lorry.

"That's no news," said Lorry, grinning.

"And I'm goin' to herd this hoss-thief to camp," he continued, spurring
toward Waco, who had started to walk away.

"Not this journey," said Waring, pushing his horse between them. "The
boy don't pack a gun. I do."

"You talk big--knowin' I got no gun," said High Chin.

Lorry rode over to the foreman. "Here's your gun, High. I ain't no
killer."

The foreman holstered the gun and reined round toward Waring. "Now do
your talkin'," he challenged.

Waring made no movement, but sat quietly watching the other's gun hand.
"You have your gun?" he said, as though asking a question. "If you mean
business, go ahead. I'll let you get your gun out--and then I'll get
you--and you know it!" And with insulting ease he flicked his burned-out
cigarette in the foreman's face.

Without a word High Chin whirled his horse and rode toward the hills.

Waring sat watching him until Lorry spoke.

"They say he's put more than one man across the divide," he told his
father.

"But not on an even break," said Waring. "Get that hombre on his horse.
He's in bad shape."

Lorry helped Waco to mount. They rode toward Stacey.

Waring rode with them until the trail forked. "I was on my way to the
Starr Ranch," he told Lorry. "I think I can make it all right with
Starr, if you say the word."

"Not me," said Lorry. "I stand by what I do."

Waring tried to conceal the smile that crept to his lips. "All right,
Lorry. But you'll have to explain to your mother. Better turn your man
over to Buck Hardy as soon as you get in town. Where did you pick him
up?"

"He was holdin' up some tourists over by the Notch. He changed his mind
and came along with me."

Waring rode down the west fork, and Lorry and the tramp continued their
journey to Stacey.



Chapter X


_East and West_

Mrs. Adams, ironing in the kitchen, was startled by a peremptory ringing
of the bell on the office desk. The Overland had arrived and departed
more than an hour ago. She patted her hair, smoothed her apron, and
stepped through the dining-room to the office. A rather tired-looking,
stylishly gowned woman immediately asked if there were comfortable
accommodations for herself and her daughter. Mrs. Adams assured her that
there were.

"We had an accident," continued the woman. "I am Mrs. Weston. This is my
daughter."

"You are driving overland?"

"We were. We have had a terrible time. A man tried to rob us, and we
almost wrecked our car."

"Goodness! Where did it happen?"

"At a place called 'The Notch,' I think," said Alice Weston, taking the
pen Mrs. Adams proffered and registering.

"I can give you a front double room," said Mrs. Adams. "But the single
rooms are cooler."

"Anything will do so long as it is clean," said Mrs. Weston.

Mrs. Adams's rosy face grew red. "My rooms are always clean. I attend
to them myself."

"And a room with a bath would be preferable," said Mrs. Weston.

Her daughter Alice smiled. Mrs. Adams caught the twinkle in the girl's
eyes and smiled in return.

"You can have the room next to the bathroom. This is a desert town, Mrs.
Weston. We don't have many tourists."

"I suppose it will have to do," sighed Mrs. Weston. "Of course we may
have the exclusive use of the bath?"

"Mother," said Alice Weston, "you must remember that this isn't New
York. I think we are fortunate to get a place as comfortable and neat as
this. We're really in the desert. We will see the rooms, please."

Mrs. Weston could find no fault with the rooms. They were neat and
clean, even to the window-panes. Alice Weston was delighted. From her
window she could see miles of the western desert, and the far,
mysterious ranges bulked against the blue of the north; ranges that
seemed to whisper of romance, the unexplored, the alluring.

While Mrs. Adams was arranging things, Alice Weston gazed out of the
window. Below in the street a cowboy passed jauntily. A stray burro
crossed the street and nosed among some weeds. Then a stolid Indian
stalked by.

"Why, that is a real Indian!" exclaimed the girl.

"A Navajo," said Mrs. Adams. "They come in quite often."

"Really? And--oh, I forgot--the young man who rescued us told us that he
was your son."

"Lorry! Rescued you?"

"Yes." And the girl told Mrs. Adams about the accident and the tramp.

"I'm thankful that he didn't get killed," was Mrs. Adams's comment when
the girl had finished.

Alone in her room, Alice Weston bared her round young arms and enjoyed a
real, old-fashioned wash in a real, old-fashioned washbowl. Who could be
unhappy in this glorious country? But mother seemed so unimpressed! "And
I hope that steering-knuckle doesn't come for a month," the girl told a
framed lithograph of "Custer's Last Fight," which, contrary to all
precedent, was free from fly specks.

She recalled the scene at the Notch: the sickening sway of the car; the
heavy, brutal features of the bandit, who seemed to have risen from the
ground; the unexpected appearance of the young cowboy, the flash of his
rope, and a struggling form whirling through the brush.

And she had said "please" when she had asked the young cowboy to let the
man go. He had refused. She thought Western men more gallant. But what
difference did that make? She would never see him again. The young
cowboy had seemed rather nice, until just toward the last. As for the
other man--she shivered as she wondered what would have happened if the
cowboy had not arrived when he did.

It occurred to her that she had never been refused a request in her life
until that afternoon. And the fact piqued her. The fate of the tramp was
a secondary consideration now. She and her mother were safe. The car
would have to be repaired; but that was unimportant. The fact that they
were stranded in a real desert town, with Indians and cowboys in the
streets, and vistas such as she had dreamed of shimmering in the
afternoon sun, awakened an erstwhile slumbering desire for a draught of
the real Romance of the West, heretofore only enjoyed in unsatisfying
sips as she read of the West and its wonder trails.

A noise in the street attracted her attention. She stepped to the
window. Just across the street a tall, heavy man was unlocking a door in
a little adobe building. Near him stood the young cowboy whom she had
not expected to see again. And there was the tramp, handcuffed and
strangely white of face. The door swung open, and the tall man stepped
back. The tramp shuffled through the low doorway, and the door was
closed and locked. The cowboy and the tall man talked for a while. She
stepped back as the men separated.

Presently she heard the cowboy's voice downstairs. She flushed, and
gazed at herself in the glass.

"I am going to make him sorry he refused to let that man go," she told
the mirror. "Oh, I shall be nice to him! So nice that--" She did not
complete the thought. She was naturally gracious. When she set out to be
exceptionally nice--"Oo, la, la!" she exclaimed. "And he's nothing but a
cowboy!"

She heard Lorry clump upstairs and enter a room across the hall. She
knew it was he. She could hear the clink of his spurs and the swish of
his chaps. While she realized that he was Mrs. Adams's son and had a
right to be there, she rather resented his proximity, possibly because
she had not expected to see him again.

She had no idea that he had been discharged by his foreman, nor that he
had earned the disapproval of his mother for having quarreled. Of course
he had ridden to Stacey to bring the prisoner in, but he knew they were
in Stacey, and Alice Weston liked to believe that he would make excuse
to stay in town while they were there. It would be fun--for her.

After supper that evening Mrs. Weston and Alice were introduced to
Waring, who came in late. Waring chatted with Mrs. Weston out on the
veranda in the cool of the evening. Alice was surprised that her mother
seemed interested in Waring. But after a while, as the girl listened,
she admitted that the man was interesting.

The conversation drifted to mines and mining. Mrs. Weston declared that
she had never seen a gold mine, but that her husband owned some stock
in one of the richest mines in Old Mexico. Waring grew enthusiastic as
he described mine operating in detail, touching the subject with the
ease of experience, yet lightly enough to avoid wearisome
technicalities. The girl listened, occasionally stealing a glance at the
man's profile in the dusk. She thought the boy Lorry looked exceedingly
like Mr. Waring.

And the person who looked exceedingly like Mr. Waring sat at the far end
of the veranda, talking to Buck Hardy, the sheriff. And Lorry was not
altogether happy. His interest in the capture and reward had waned. He
had never dreamed that a girl could be so captivating as Alice Weston.
At supper she had talked with him about the range, asking many
questions; but she had not referred to that morning. Lorry had hoped
that he might talk with her after supper. But somehow or other she had
managed to evade his efforts. Just now she seemed to be mightily
interested in his father.

Presently Lorry rose and strode across the street to the station. He
talked with the agent, who showed him a telegraph duplicate for an order
on Albuquerque covering a steering-knuckle for an automobile. When Lorry
reappeared he was whistling. It would take some time for that
steering-knuckle to arrive. Meanwhile, he was out of work, and the
Westons would be at the hotel for several days at least.

There was some mighty fine scenery back in the Horseshoe Range, west.
Perhaps the girl liked Western scenery. He wondered if she knew how to
ride. He was rather inclined to think that her mother did not. He would
suggest a trip to the Horseshoe Mountains, as it would be pretty dull at
the hotel. Nothing but cowboys and Indians riding in and out of town.
But there were some Hopi ruins over in the Horseshoe. Most Easterners
were interested in ruins. He wished that the Hopis had left a ruin
somewhat nearer town.

Yet withal, Lorry was proud to think that his father could be so
interesting to real Easterners. If they only knew who his father was!
Lorry's train of thought was making pretty good time when he checked it
suddenly. Folks in town didn't know that Waring was his father. And "The
whole dog-gone day had just been one gosh-awful mess!"

"Weston, you said?" Waring queried.

"Yes--John Archibald Weston, of New York." And Mrs. Weston nodded.

Waring smiled. J.A. Weston was one of the stockholders in the Ortez
Mine, near Sonora.

"The principal stockholder," said Mrs. Weston.

"I met him down there," said Waring.

"Indeed! How interesting! You were connected with the mining industry,
Mr. Waring?"

"In a way. I lived in Sonora several years."

"That accounts for your wonderful descriptions of the country. I never
imagined it could be so charming."

"We have some hill country west of here worth looking at. If you intend
to stay any length of time, I might arrange a trip."

"That's nice of you. But I don't ride. Perhaps Alice would like to go."

"Yes, indeed! But--"

"We might get Mrs. Adams to come. She used to ride."

"I'll ask her," said Alice Weston.

"But, Alice--" And Mrs. Weston smiled. Alice had already gone to look
for Mrs. Adams.

Lorry, who had heard, scowled at a veranda post. He had thought of that
trip to the Horseshoe Range long before it had been mentioned by his
father. Wimmin made him tired, he told the unoffending post.

Shortly afterward Alice appeared. She had cajoled Mrs. Adams into
promising that she would ride to the Hopi ruins with them, as the
journey there and back could be made in a day. Alice Weston was aglow
with excitement. Of course the young cowboy would be included in the
invitation, and Alice premeditated a flirtation, either with that
good-looking Mr. Waring or Mrs. Adams's son. It didn't matter much which
one; it would be fun.

The Westons finally went to their rooms. Lorry, out of sorts with
himself and the immediate world, was left alone on the veranda.

"She just acted so darned nice to me I forgot to eat," he told the post
confidentially. "And then she forgot I was livin' in the same
county--after supper. And she did it a-purpose. I reckon she's tryin' to
even up with me for jailin' that hobo after she said 'please.' Well, two
can play at that even-up game."

He rose and walked upstairs quietly. As he entered his room he heard the
Westons talking. He had noticed that the door of one of their rooms was
open.

"No, I think he went away with that tall man," he heard the girl say.
"Cowboys don't go to bed early when in town."

"Weren't you a little too nice to him at dinner?" Mrs. Weston said.

Lorry heard the girl laugh. "Oh, but he's only a boy, mother! And it's
such fun to watch his eyes when he smiles. He is really good-looking and
interesting, because he hasn't been tamed. I don't think he has any real
feeling, though, or he wouldn't have brought that poor creature to
Stacey and put him in jail. But Mr. Waring is different. He seems so
quiet and kind--and rather distinguished."

Lorry closed his door. He had heard enough for one evening.

He did not want to go to bed. He felt anything but sleepy, so he tiptoed
downstairs again and out into the night. He found Buck Hardy in a saloon
up the street. Men in the saloon joked with Lorry about his capture. He
seldom drank, but to-night he did not refuse Hardy's invitation to
"have something." While they were chatting a rider from the Starr Rancho
came in. Edging up to Lorry, he touched his arm. "Come on out a minute,"
he whispered.

Outside, he told Lorry that High Chin, with several of the men, was
coming to town that night and "put one over" on the sheriff by stealing
the prisoner.

"And you know what that means," said the Starr cowboy. "High Chin'll get
tanked, and the hobo'll be lucky if the boys don't string him up. High
Chin's awful sore about something."

Lorry's first idea was to report all this to Buck Hardy. But he feared
ridicule. What if the Starr cowboys didn't come?

"Why don't you tell Buck yourself?" he queried.

His companion insisted that he dare not tell the sheriff. If High Chin
heard that he had done so, he would be out of a job. And there was the
reward. If the prisoner's identity was proven, Lorry would get the
reward. The cowboy didn't want to see Lorry lose such easy money.

The subject seemed to require some liquidation, and Lorry finally
decided that he himself was the only and legal custodian of the
prisoner. As for the reward--shucks! He didn't want blood-money. But
High Chin would never lay a hand on the hobo if he could help it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Alice Weston, anticipating a real ride into the desert country and the
hills, was too excited to sleep. She drew a chair to the window, and sat
back where she could view the vague outline of the hills and a world
filled with glowing stars. The town was silent, save for the occasional
opening or closing of a door and the infrequent sound of feet on the
sidewalk. She forgot the hazards of the day in dreaming of the West; no
longer a picture out of books, but a reality. She scarcely noticed the
quiet figure that came round the opposite corner and passed into the
shadows of the jail across the street. She heard the clink of a chain
and a sharp, tearing sound as of wood being rent asunder. She peered
from her window, trying to see what was going on in the shadows.

Presently a figure appeared. The hat, the attitude, and manner seemed
familiar. Then came another figure; that of the tramp. She grew tense
with excitement. She heard Lorry's voice distinctly:--

"The best thing for you is to fan it. Don't try the train. They'll get
you sure if you do. No, I don't explain anything. Just ramble--and keep
a-ramblin'."

She saw one of the figures creep along the opposite wall and shuffle
across the street. She felt like calling out. Instead she rose and
opened her door. She would tell her mother. But what good would that do?
She returned to the window. Lorry, standing on the street corner, seemed
to be watching an invisible something far down the street. Alice Weston
heard the sound of running horses. A group of cowboys galloped up. She
heard the horses stop. Lorry had disappeared.

She went to bed. It seemed an age before she heard him come in.

Lorry undressed in the dark. As he went to bed he grinned. "And the
worst of it is," he soliloquized, "she'll think I did it because she
asked me to let him go. Guess I been steppin' on my foot the whole
dog-gone day."



Chapter XI


_Spring Lamb_

Mrs. Adams had decided to have roast spring lamb for dinner that
evening. Instead, her guests had to content themselves with canned
salmon and hot biscuit. And because ...

Lorry appeared at the breakfast table in overalls and jumper. He had
purposely waited until the Westons had gone downstairs. He anticipated
an invitation to ride to the hills with them. He would decline, and
smile as he did so. If that girl thought he cared anything about _her_!

He answered their greeting with a cheery "Good-mornin'," and immediately
turned his whole attention to bacon and eggs.

Alice Weston wondered that his eyes should be so clear and care-free,
knowing what she did of last night's escapade.

Mrs. Adams was interested in the girl's riding-habit. It made her own
plain riding-skirt and blouse appear rather countrified. And after
breakfast Lorry watched the preparations for the ride with a critical
eye. No one would know whether or not he cared to go. They seemed to
have taken it for granted that he would. He whistled softly, and shook
his head as his mother suggested that he get ready.

"Of course you're coming with us," said Alice Weston.

"I got to look after the hotel," he said with conclusive emphasis.

Lorry disappeared, and in the bustle of preparation and departure Mrs.
Adams did not miss him until they were some distance out on the mesa.

"Where's Lorry?" she queried.

"He said he had to look after the hotel," said Alice Weston.

"Well, he didn't. I had everything arranged for. I don't know what's got
into him lately."

Back at the hotel Lorry was leaning against the veranda rail, talking to
Mrs. Weston. "I reckon it will be kind of tame for you, ma'am. I was
wondering, now, if you would let me look over that machine. I've helped
fix 'em up lots of times."

"Why, I don't know. It wouldn't do any harm to look, would it?"

"I guess not."

Mrs. Weston gazed at Lorry curiously. He had smiled, and he resembled
Waring so closely that Mrs. Weston remarked it aloud.

Lorry flushed. "I think Mr. Waring is a right good-lookin' man, don't
you?"

Mrs. Weston laughed. "Yes, I do."

"Yes, ma'am. But honest, Mrs. Weston, I never did see a finer-lookin'
girl than your girl. I seen plenty of magazine pictures like her. I'd
feel some proud if I was her mother."

The morning was not so dull, after all. Mrs. Weston was not used to such
frankness, but she was not displeased. "I see you have on your working
clothes. If you really think you can repair the car--"

"I got nothin' else to do. The sun is gettin' round to the front. If you
would like to sit in the car and watch, I would look her over; there, in
the shade."

"I'll get a hat," said Mrs. Weston, rising.

"Your hair is right pretty without a hat. And besides you would be in
the shade of the top."

It had been some time since any one had complimented Mrs. Weston about
her hair, and especially a man young enough to be her son. What was the
cowboy going to say next?

Mrs. Weston stepped into the car, which was parked on the south side of
the building. Lorry, whistling blithely, searched until he found a
wrench in one of the forward-door pockets. He disappeared beneath the
car. Mrs. Weston could hear him tinkering at something. She leaned back,
breathing deep of the clean, thin air. She could not recall having felt
so thoroughly content and keenly alive at the same time. She had no
desire to say or do anything.

Presently Lorry appeared, his face grimy and his hands streaked with
oil. "Nothin' busted," he reported cheerfully. "We got a car over to
the ranch. She's been busted a-plenty. I fixed her up more times than I
can remember. Cars is like horses ma'am; no two just alike, but kind of
generally the same. The steering-knuckle ain't broke. It's the left axle
that's sprung. That won't take long to straighten."

Mrs. Weston smiled. Lorry thought she was actually pretty. She saw this
in his eyes, and flushed slightly.

"And I'll just block her up and take off the wheel, and I reckon the
blacksmith can straighten that axle easy."

"It's very nice of you. But I am wondering why you didn't go on the
picnic--with the others."

"Well, who'd 'a' kept you company, ma'am? Anita, she's busy. Anyhow, I
seen plenty of scenery. I'd rather be here."

"Talking to a woman old enough to be your mother?"

"Huh! I never thought of you like that. I'm only eighteen. Anyhow, what
difference does it make how old a lady is, if she is pretty?"

Mrs. Weston's eyes twinkled. "Do you ever pay compliments to yourself
when you are combing your hair or tying your scarf?"

"Me! Why, not so anybody could hear 'em. Now, I think my mother is right
pretty, Mrs. Weston."

"So do I. And it was nice of you to say it."

"But I don't see anything wrong in sayin' what's so," he argued. "I seen
you kind of raise your eyebrows, and I thought mebby I was bein' took as
a joke."

"Oh, no, indeed!"

Lorry disappeared again. As he worked he wondered just how long it would
be before Buck Hardy would look for him. Lorry knew that some one must
have taken food and water to the prisoner by this time, or to where the
prisoner was supposed to be. But he did not know that Hardy and his
deputy had questioned Anita, and that she had told the sheriff the folks
had all gone on a picnic to the hills. The car, at the back of the
hotel, was not visible from the street.

With some pieces of timber Lorry jacked up the front of the machine and
removed the damaged wheel and axle.

He took the bent axle to the blacksmith, and returned to the hotel.
Nothing further offered just then, so he suggested that he clean the
car. Mrs. Weston consented, deciding that she would not pay him until
her daughter returned.

He attached the hose to a faucet, and suggested that Mrs. Weston take a
chair, which he brought from the veranda. He hosed the car, and as he
polished it, Mrs. Weston asked him about Waring.

"Why, he's a friend of ours," replied Lorry.

"Of course. But I was wondering what he did."

Lorry hesitated. "Didn't you ever hear that song about Waring of
Sonora-Town? It's a whizzer. Well, that's him. All the cowboys sing that
song."

"I have never heard it."

"Well, mebby dad wouldn't like that I sing it. He's kind of funny that
way. Now you wouldn't think he was the fastest gunman in the Southwest,
would you?"

"Gunman! Your father?"

Lorry straightened up from polishing the car. "I clean forgot what I was
sayin'. I guess my foot slipped that time."

"I am sorry I asked," said Mrs. Weston. "It really doesn't matter."

"Oh, it ain't your fault. But I wasn't aimin' to tell. Dad he married my
mother, and they went to live in Sonora, down in Mexico. Some of the
minin' outfits down there hired him regular to--to protect their
interests. I guess ma couldn't stand that kind of life, for after a few
years she brought me up here. I was just a kid then. Ma she built up a
good trade at this hotel. Folks call her Mrs. Adams. Her name was Adams
afore she got married. We been here ten years. Dad didn't know where she
was till last week he showed up here. I reckon she thought he got killed
long ago. Folks would talk about it if they knowed he was her husband,
so I guess she asked dad to say nothin' about that. He said he came up
to see me. I guess he don't aim to stay long."

"I think I understand," said Mrs. Weston.

"Well, it ain't none of my business, long as ma is all right. Say, she
shines like a new hack, eh?"

"You have cleaned the car beautifully."

"Oh, I dunno. Now, if it was a hoss--And say, I guess you'll be startin'
to-morrow. That axle will be all right in about an hour."

Just then Anita came to call them to luncheon. She had heard them
talking at the rear of the hotel shortly after Sheriff Hardy had
inquired for Lorry. Several townsfolk came in, ate, and departed on
their several ways.

After luncheon Mrs. Weston went to her room. She thought she would lie
down and sleep for an hour or so, but the noon heat made the room rather
close. She picked up a book and came down, where she found it
comfortably cool on the veranda.

The town was quiet. A hand-car with its section crew of Mexicans clicked
past, and hummed on down the glittering rails. A stray burro meandered
about, and finally came to a stop in the middle of the street, where he
stood, stoically enduring the sun, a veritable long-eared statue of
dejection. Mrs. Weston turned a page, but the printed word was flat and
insignificant.

She felt as though she were in a kind of twilight valley, midway between
the hills of slumber and wakefulness. For the moment she forgot the name
of the town itself. She knew that she could recall it if she tried. A
dog lay asleep beneath the station platform opposite, one relaxed paw
over his nose. Some one was calling to some one in the kitchen. A figure
passed in the street; a young man who smiled and nodded. It was the boy,
Lorry. He had been working on the car that morning. She had watched him
work, rather enjoying his energy. A healthy young animal as
unsophisticated as a kitten, and really innately kind and innocent of
intent to flatter. He was not at all like the bright young savage who
had roped and almost choked to death that awful man.

It was impossible to judge a person at first sight and especially under
unusual circumstances. And he seemed not at all chagrined that he had
not gone with the others to the hills. Alice had enjoyed reading about
Westerners--rough, boisterous beings intolerable to Mrs. Weston even in
print. And Mrs. Weston thought that proper environment and association
might bring out their better qualities, even as the boy, Lorry, seemed
to have improved--well, since yesterday morning. Perhaps he was on his
good behavior because they were there.

It seemed past comprehension that anything startling could happen in
that drowsy atmosphere.

The young cowboy was coming back down the street, some part of the car
over his shoulder. Mrs. Weston anticipated his nod, and nodded lazily as
he passed. She could hear him tinkering at the car.

A few blocks up the street, Buck Hardy was seated in his office talking
with the undersheriff. The undersheriff twisted the end of his black
mustache and looked wise.

"They told me at the hotel that he had gone riding with them
Easterners," said Hardy. "And now you say he's been in town all day
working on that automobile."

"Yep. He's been to the blacksmith twice to-day. I didn't say anything to
him, seein' you was over to Larkins's, and said he was out of town. I'd
hate to think he done anything like that."

"That hobo was gone when I went to talk to him this morning. The lock
was busted. I can't figure it out. Young Lorry stood to win the reward,
and he could use the money."

"Hear anything by wire?" queried the undersheriff.

"Nothing. The man didn't get by on any of the trains. I notified both
stations. He's afoot and he's gone."

"Well, I guess the kid loses out, eh?"

"That ain't all. This county will jump me for letting that guy get away.
It won't help us any next election."

"Well, my idea is to have a talk with Adams," said the undersheriff.

"I'm going to do that. I like the kid, and then there's his mother--"

"And you'd hold him for lettin' the guy loose, eh?"

"I would. I'd hold my own brother for playing a trick like that."

"Well, I don't sabe it," asserted the undersheriff. "Lorry Adams always
had a good name."

"We'll have a talk with him, Bill."

"Are you sure Adams did it, Buck?"

"No, not sure, but I'm going to find out. I'll throw a scare into him
that'll make him talk."

"Mebby he won't scare."

"Then I'll run him in. He's some enterprising, if I do say it. He put
High-Chin Bob out of business over by the water-hole yesterday."

"High Chin! The hell you say!"

"That's what I thought when I heard it. High was beating up the hobo,
and Lorry claimed him as his prisoner. Jim Waring says the kid walloped
High on the head and knocked him stiff."

"Whew! Bob will get his hide for that."

"I don't know. Jim Waring is riding the country just now."

"What's that got to do with it?"

"More than I'm going to tell you, Bill. But take it from me, he's
interested in young Adams a whole lot."

       *       *       *       *       *

When Hardy and his deputy rode over to the hotel there was a pause in
the chatter. Alice Weston was describing their journey to her mother and
calling upon Waring to substantiate her vivid assertions of the
wonderful adventure. The saddle-horse still stood at the hitching-rail,
and Hardy, who had an eye for a good horse, openly admired the big
buckskin. Waring was talking with Lorry. Mrs. Adams had gone in. Hardy
indicated that he wanted to speak to Lorry, and he included Waring in
his gesture. Lorry rose and glanced quickly at Alice Weston. She was
leaning forward in her chair, suddenly aware of a subtle undercurrent of
seriousness. The undersheriff was patting the nose of the big buckskin.

The men stepped down from the veranda, and stood near the horses.

"That hobo got away," said the sheriff. "Do you know anything about it?"

"I turned him loose," said Lorry, without hesitation.

"What for?"

"I changed my mind. I didn't want any blood-money for arrestin' a
tramp."

"That's all right. But you can't change the law so easy. That man was my
prisoner. Why didn't you come to me?"

"Well, if you want to know, in company," said Lorry, "High Chin and the
boys had it framed up to give that hobo a goin'-over for stealin' a
Starr horse. They figured to bust in the jail, same as I did. I got that
straight; I didn't aim to let High Chin get his hands on my prisoner."

"Well, Lorry, I don't like to do it, but I got to hold you till we get
him."

"How do you figure that?"

"You've aided a prisoner to escape. You broke the law."

"What right had you to hold him?"

"Your own story. You brought him in yourself."

"I sure did. But supposin' I say I ain't got nothin' against him, and
the folks over there won't appear against him, how could you prove
anything?"

"He's under suspicion. You said yourself he was holding up them
tourists."

"But you can't make me swear that in court."

Buck Hardy glared at the younger man. "See here, Lorry, I don't
understand your game. Suppose the man ain't guilty. He was locked
up--and by me, representing this county. You can't prove that the Starr
boys would have done anything to him. And you can't monkey with the law
to suit yourself as long as I'm sheriff. Am I right?" And Hardy turned
to Waring.

"You're right, Hardy."

Lorry's gray eyes shone with a peculiar light. "What you goin' to do
about it, Buck?"

"Two of my boys are out looking for the man. You're under arrest till he
is brought in."

"You aim to lock me in that calaboose?"

"No. But, understand, you're under arrest. You can't leave town."

"Say, now, Buck, ain't you kind of crowdin' me into the fence?"

"I'd arrest my own brother for a trick like that."

Lorry gazed at the ground for a minute. He glanced up. Alice Weston sat
watching them. She could not hear what they were saying, but their
attitudes confirmed her apprehension.

"I'd like to speak to ma a minute," said Lorry.

"Go ahead. There's no hurry."

Waring, who had been watching his son closely, strolled to the veranda
steps and sat down.

Hardy lighted a cigar. "I hate to do this, Waring," he told the other.

"That's all right, Hardy."

The sheriff leaned close. "I figured to bluff him into telling which way
the hobo went. Mebby he'll talk later."

Waring smiled. "You have a free hand so far as I am concerned," he said.

Alice Weston was talking with her mother when she heard a cautious step
on the stairway behind her. She turned her head slightly. Lorry, booted
and spurred, stood just within the doorway. He had something in his
hand; a peculiarly shaped bundle wrapped loosely in a newspaper. Hardy
was talking to Waring. The undersheriff was standing close to Waring's
horse. Alice Weston had seen the glint in Lorry's eyes. She held her
breath.

Without a word of warning, and before the group on the veranda knew what
was happening, Lorry shot from the doorway, leaped from the edge of the
veranda rail, and alighted square in the saddle of Waring's horse, Dex.
The buckskin whirled and dashed down the road, one rein dragging. Lorry
reached down, and with a sinuous sweep of his body recovered the loose
rein. As he swung round the first corner he waved something that looked
strangely like a club in a kind of farewell salute.

Alice Weston had risen. The undersheriff grabbed the reins of the horse
nearest him and mounted. Hardy ran to the other horse. Side by side they
raced down the street and disappeared round a corner.

"What is it?" queried Alice Weston.

Waring still sat on the steps. He was laughing when he turned to answer
the girl's question.

"Lorry and the sheriff had a little argument. Lorry didn't wait to
finish it. It was something about that hobo that bothered you
yesterday."

Alice crushed her handkerchief to her mouth. "I--shall we get ready for
dinner?" she stammered.

Mrs. Weston rose. "It's nothing serious, I hope. Do you think your--Mr.
Adams will be back to-night?"

"Not this evening," replied Waring.

"You mean that he won't be back at all?"

"Not unless he changes his mind. He's riding my horse."

"He took your horse?"

"Yes. I think he made a mistake in leaving so suddenly, but he didn't
make any mistake about the best horse."

"Aren't you worried about him?" queried Mrs. Weston.

"Why, no. The boy will take care of himself. Did you happen to notice
what he had in his hand when he ran across the veranda?"

"No. It happened so suddenly. Was it a pistol?"

Waring grinned. "No. It was a shoulder of lamb. The next town is thirty
miles south, and no restaurants on the way."

"But his mother--" began Alice Weston.

"Yes," said Waring. "I think that leg of lamb was for dinner to-night."

Alice Weston said nothing further, but as she got ready for dinner she
confessed to herself that the event of Lorry's escape would have been
much more thrilling, in retrospect at least, had he chosen to wave his
hasty farewell with a silken bandanna, or even a pistol. To ride off
like that, waving a leg of lamb!



Chapter XII


_Bud Shoop and Bondsman_

As a young man, Bud Shoop had punched cattle on the southern ranges,
cooked for a surveying outfit, prospected in the Mogollons, and essayed
homesteading on the Blue Mesa, served as cattle inspector, and held for
many years the position of foreman on the great Gila Ranch, where, with
diligence and honor, he had built up a reputation envied by many a
lively cow-puncher and seldom tampered with even by Bud's most
vindictive enemies. And he had enemies and many friends.

Meanwhile he had taken on weight until, as one of his friends remarked,
"Most any hoss but a Percheron draft would shy the minute Bud tried to
put his foot in the stirrup."

And when Bud came to that point in his career when he summed up his past
and found that his chief asset was experience, garnished with a somewhat
worn outfit of pack-saddles, tarps, bridles, chaps, and guns, he sighed
heavily.

The old trails were changing to roads. The local freight intermittently
disgorged tons of harvesting machinery. The sound of the Klaxton was
heard in the land. Despite the times and the manners, Bud's girth
increased insidiously. His hard-riding days were past. Progress marched
steadily onward, leaving an after-guard of homesteaders intrenched
behind miles of barbed-wire fence and mazes of irrigating-ditches. The
once open range was now a chessboard of agricultural endeavor, with the
pawns steadying ploughshares as they crept from square to square until
the opposing cattle king suffered ignominious checkmate, his prerogative
of free movement gone, his army scattered, his castles taken, and his
glory surviving only in the annals of the game.

Incidentally, Bud Shoop had saved a little money, and his large
popularity would have won for him a political sinecure; but he disliked
politics quite as heartily as he detested indolence. He needed work not
half so much as he wanted it.

He had failed as a rancher, but he still held his homestead on the Blue
Mesa, some twenty miles from the town of Jason, an old Mormon settlement
in the heart of the mesa country.

Friday morning at sunup Bud saddled his horse, closed the door of his
cabin on the Blue Mesa, and, whistling to his old Airedale, Bondsman,
rode across the mesa and down the mountain trail toward Jason. By
sundown that night he was in town, his horse fed, and he and Bondsman
sitting on the little hotel veranda, watching the villagers as they
passed in the dusk of early evening.

Coatless and perspiring, Bud betook himself next morning to the office
of the supervisor of that district of the Forest Service. Bondsman
accompanied him, stalking seriously at his master's heels. The
supervisor was busy. Bud filled a chair in the outer office, polished
his bald spot with a blue bandanna, and waited.

Presently the supervisor called him in. Bud rose heavily and plodded to
another chair in the private office. Torrance, the supervisor, knew Bud;
knew that he was a solid man in the finer sense of the word from the
shiny dome of his head to his dusty boot. And Torrance thought he knew
why Bud had called. The Airedale sat in the outer office, watching his
master. Occasionally the big dog rapped the floor with his stubby tail.

"He's just tellin' me to go ahead and say my piece, John, and that he'll
wait till I get through. That there dog bosses me around somethin'
scandalous."

"He's getting old and set in his ways," laughed Torrance.

"So be I, John. Kind of settin' in my own way mostly."

"Well, Bud, how are things up on the mesa?"

"Growin' and bloomin' and singin' and feedin' and keepin' still, same as
always."

"What can I do for you?"

"Well, I ain't seen a doctor for so long I can't tell you; but I reckon
I need more exercise and a little salary thrown in for luck."

"I'm glad you came in. You needn't say anything about it, but I'm
scheduled to leave here next month."

"Then I reckon I'm left. Higher up, John?"

"Yes. I have this end of it pretty well whipped into shape. They seem to
think they can use me at headquarters."

Bud frowned prodigiously. The situation did not seem to promise much.
And naturally enough, being a Westerner, Bud disliked to come out
flatfooted and ask for work.

His frown deepened as the supervisor asked another question: "Do you
think you could hold down my job, Bud?"

"Say, John, I've stood for a lot in my time. But, honest, I was lookin'
for a job as ranger. I can ride yet. And if I do say it I know every
hill and cañon, every hogback and draw and flat from here to the Tonto
Basin."

"I know it. I was coming to that. The grazing-leases are the most
important items just now. You know cattle, and you know something about
the Service. You have handled men. I am not joking."

"Well, this is like a hobo gettin' up his nerve to ask for a san'wich,
and havin' the lady of the house come runnin' with a hot apple pie. I'll
tackle anything."

"Well, the Department has confidence enough in me to suggest that I name
a successor, subject to their approval. Do you think that you could hold
down this job?"

"If settin' on it would hold it down, it would never get up alive,
John. But I ain't no author."

"Author?"

"Uh-uh. When it comes to facts, I aim to brand 'em. But them reports to
headquarters--"

The supervisor laughed. "You would be entitled to a clerk. The man I
have would like to stay. And another thing. I have just had an
application from young Adams, of Stacey. He wrote from St. Johns. He
wants to get into the Service. While we are at it, what do you know
about him?"

"Nothin'. But his mother runs a right comf'table eatin'-house over to
Stacey. She's a right fine woman. I knew her when she was wearin' her
hair in a braid."

"I have stopped there. It's a neat place. Would you take the boy on if
you were in my place?"

Bud coughed and studied the ends of his blunt fingers. "Well, now, John,
if I was in your place, I could tell you."

Torrance was amused and rather pleased. Bud's careful evasion was
characteristic. He would do nothing hastily. Moreover, with Shoop as
supervisor, it was safe to assume that the natives would hesitate to
attempt their usual subterfuges in regard to grazing-leases. Bud was too
well known for that. Torrance had had trouble with the cattlemen and
sheepmen. He knew that Shoop's mere name would obviate much argument and
bickering.

"The White Mountain Apaches are eating a lot of beef these days," he
said suddenly.

Shoop grinned. "And it ain't all Gov'ment beef, neither. The line fence
crost Still Cañon is down. They's been a fire up on the shoulder of Ole
Baldy--nothin' much, though. Your telephone line to the lookout is
saggin' bad over by Sheep Crossin'. Some steer'll come along and take it
with him in a hurry one of these days. A grizzly killed a yearlin' over
by the Milk Ranch about a week ago. I seen your ranger, young Winslow,
day before yesterday. He says somebody has been grazin' sheep on the
posted country, west. He was after 'em. The grass is pretty good on the
Blue. The Apaches been killin' wild turkey on the wrong side of their
line. I seen their tracks--and some feathers. They's some down timber
along the north side of the creek over on the meadows. And a couple of
wimmin was held up over by the Notch the other day. I ain't heard the
partic'lars. Young Adams--"

"Where do you get it all, Bud? Only two of the things you mentioned have
been reported in to this office."

"Who, me? Huh! Well, now, John, that's just the run of news that floats
in when you're movin' around the country. If I was to set out to get
info'mation--"

"You'd swamp the office. All right. I'll have my clerk draft a letter of
application. You can sign it. I'll add my word. It will take some time
to put this through, if it goes through. I don't promise anything. Come
in at noon and sign the letter. Then you might drop in in about two
weeks; say Saturday morning. We'll have heard something by then."

Bud beamed. "I'll do that. And while I'm waitin' I'll ride over some of
that country up there and look around."

Torrance leaned forward. "There's one more thing, Bud. I know this job
offers a temptation to a man to favor his friends. So far as this office
is concerned, I don't want you to have any friends. I want things run
straight. I've given the best of my life to the Service. I love it. I
have dipped into my own pocket when Washington couldn't see the need for
improvements. I have bought fire-fighting tools, built trails, and paid
extra salaries at times. Now I will be where I can back you up. Keep
things right up to the minute. If you get stuck, wire me. Here's your
territory on this map. You know the country, but you will find this
system of keeping track of the men a big help. The pins show where each
man is working. We can go over the office detail after we have heard
from headquarters."

Bud perspired, blinked, shuffled his feet. "I ain't goin' to say thanks,
John. You know it."

"That's all right, Bud. Your thanks will be just what you make of this
work when I leave. There has been a big shake-up in the Service. Some of
us stayed on top."

"Congratulations, John. Saturday, come two weeks, then."

And Bud heaved himself up. The Airedale, Bondsman, thumped the floor
with his tail. Bud turned a whimsical face to the supervisor. "Now
listen to that! What does he say? Well, he's tellin' me he sabes I got a
chanct at a job and that he'll keep his mouth shut about what you said,
like me. And that it's about time I quit botherin' folks what's busy and
went back to the hotel so he can watch things go by. That there dog
bosses me around somethin' scandalous."

Torrance smiled, and waved his hand as Bud waddled from the office, with
Bondsman at his heels.

About an hour later, as Torrance was dictating a letter, he glanced up.
Bud Shoop, astride a big bay horse, passed down the street. For a moment
Torrance forgot office detail in a general appreciation of the Western
rider, who, once in the saddle, despite age or physical attributes,
bears himself with a subconscious ease that is a delight to behold, be
he lean Indian, lithe Mexican, or bed-rock American with a girth, say,
of fifty-two inches and weighing perhaps not less than two hundred and
twenty pounds.

"He'll make good," soliloquized the supervisor. "He likes horses and
dogs, and he knows men. He's all human--and there's a lot of him. And
they say that Bud Shoop used to be the last word in riding 'em straight
up, and white lightning with a gun."

The supervisor shook his head. "Take a letter to Collins," he said.

The stenographer glanced up. "Senator Collins, Mr. Torrance?"

"Yes. And make an extra copy. Mark it confidential. You need not file
the copy. I'll take care of it. And if Mr. Shoop is appointed to my
place, he need know nothing about this letter."

"Yes, sir."

"Because, Evers," Said Torrance, relaxing from his official manner a
bit, "it is going to be rather difficult to get Mr. Shoop appointed
here. I want him. I can depend on him. We have had too many theorists in
this field. And remember this; stay with Shoop through thick and thin
and some day you may land a job as private secretary to a State
Senator."

"All right, sir. I didn't know that you were going into politics, Mr.
Torrance."

"You're off the trail a little, Evers. I'll never run for Senator. I'm
with the Service as long as it will have me. But if some clever
politician happens to get hold of Shoop, there isn't a man in this mesa
country that could win against him. He's just the type that the mesa
people like. He is all human.--Dear Senator Collins--"

The stenographer bent over his book.

Later, as Torrance closed his desk, he thought of an incident in Shoop's
life with which he had long been familiar. The Airedale, Bondsman, had
once been shot wantonly by a stray Apache. Shoop had found the dog as
it crawled along the corral fence, trying to get to the cabin. Bud had
ridden fifty miles through a winter snowstorm with Bondsman across the
saddle. An old Mormon veterinary in St. Johns had saved the dog's life.
Shoop had come close to freezing to death during that tedious ride.

Bud Shoop's assets in the game of life amounted to a few acres of mesa
land, a worn outfit of saddlery, and a small bank account. But his
greatest asset, of which he was blissfully unconscious, was a big,
homely love for things human and for animals; a love that set him apart
from his fellows who looked upon men and horses and dogs as merely
useful or otherwise.



Chapter XIII


_The Horse Trade_

The following day a young cowboy, mounted upon a singularly noticeable
buckskin horse, rode down the main street of Jason and dismounted at the
Forestry Office. Torrance was reading a letter when his clerk proffered
the young man a chair and notified the supervisor that a Mr. Adams
wished to see him.

A few minutes later, Lorry was shown in. The door closed.

Torrance surveyed the strong, young figure with inward approval. "I have
your letter. Sit down. I see your letter is postmarked St. Johns."

"Yes, sir."

"Know anything about the Service?"

"No, sir."

"Why do you want to get into it?"

"I thought mebby I'd like the work."

"Have you any recommendations?"

"Nothin'--except what you're lookin' at."

Torrance smiled. "Could you get a letter from your last employer?"

"Not the kind of letter that would do any good. I had an argument with
the foreman, and he fired me."

Torrance had heard something about the matter, and did not question
further at the time.

"Do you drink?" queried Torrance.

"I never monkeyed with it much. I reckon I could if I wanted to."

Torrance drummed on the desk with his long, strong fingers. He reached
in a drawer and drew out a letter.

"How about that?"

Lorry glanced at the heading. Evidently the sheriff knew of his general
whereabouts. The letter stated that the sheriff would appreciate
information leading to the apprehension of Lawrence Adams, wanted for
aiding a prisoner to escape and for having in his possession a horse
that did not belong to him.

"What he says is right," Lorry asserted cheerfully. "I busted into the
jail and turned that hobo loose, and I borrowed the horse I'm riding. I
aim to send him back. My own horse is in the corral back at Stacey."

"What was your idea in letting the man go after arresting him?"

Lorry's clear color deepened. "I wasn't figurin' on explainin' that."

"You don't have to explain. But you will admit that the charges in this
letter are rather serious. We don't want men in the Service who are open
to criticism. You're pretty young to have such a record. It's up to you
to explain--or not, just as you like. But anything you tell me will be
treated as absolutely confidential, Adams."

"All right. Well, everything I done that day went wrong. I caught the
hobo tryin' to rob a couple of wimmin over by the Notch. I was takin'
him to Stacey when Bob Brewster butted in. The hobo was sick, and I
didn't aim to stand and see him kicked and beat up with a quirt, even if
he did steal one of the Starr horses. I told High Chin to quit, but his
hearin' wasn't good, so I had to show him. Then I got to thinkin' I
wasn't so much--takin' a pore, busted tramp to jail. And it made me sick
when everybody round town was callin' me some little hero. Then one of
the Starr boys told me High Chin was cinchin' up to ride in and get the
hobo, anyhow, so I busted the lock and told him to fan it."

"Why didn't you appeal to the sheriff?"

"Huh! Buck Hardy is all right. But I can tell you one thing; he's not
the man to stand up to High Chin when High is drinkin'. Why, I see High
shove a gun in Hardy's face once and tell him to go home and go to bed.
And Hardy went. Anyhow, that hobo was my prisoner, and I didn't aim to
let High Chin get his hands on him."

"I see. Well, you have a strange way of doing things, but I appreciate
why you acted as you did. Of course, you know it is a grave offense to
aid a prisoner to escape."

"Buck Hardy seems to think so."

"So do I. And how about that horse?"

"Well, next day I was fixin' up the machine and foolin' around--that
machine belonged to them tourists that the fella stuck up--when along
about sundown Buck Hardy comes swellin' up to me and tells me I'm under
arrest. He couldn't prove a darned thing if I hadn't said I done the
job. But, anyhow, he didn't see it my way, so I borrowed Waring's horse
and come down this way. Everybody saw me take the horse. You can't call
that stealin'."

"Did Hardy ride after you?"

"Yes, sir. But he was so far behind I couldn't hear what he wanted. That
big buckskin is a wonder. I wish I owned him."

Torrance mentally patched the fragments of evidence together. He decided
that a young man who could capture a holdup man, best the notorious High
Chin in a fight, repair a broken automobile, turn a prisoner loose, and
make his own escape all within the short compass of forty-eight hours
was a rather capable person in a way. And Torrance knew by Lorry's
appearance and manner that he was still on the verdant side of twenty.
If such a youth chose to turn his abilities in the right direction he
might accomplish much. Lorry's extreme frankness satisfied Torrance that
the boy had told the truth. He would give him a chance.

"Do you know Bud Shoop?" queried the supervisor.

"No, sir. I know what he looks like. He's been to our hotel."

"Well, you might look him up. He may be out of town. Possibly he is up
at his homestead on the Blue Mesa. Tell Mr. Shoop that I sent you to
him. He will understand. But you will have to square yourself with the
authorities before I can put you to work."

"Yes, sir. But I don't aim to ride back to Stacey just because I know
where it is. If they want me, they can find me."

"That is your affair. When your slate is clear--"

"Mr. Waring to see you," said the clerk, poking his head through the
doorway.

Torrance stepped out and greeted Waring heartily. Lorry was surprised;
both to see his father and to learn that Torrance and he were old
friends.

"I saw this horse as I rode up, and I took a fancy to him," said Waring,
after having nodded to Lorry. "Sorry to bother you, Torrance."

"Here's the man you'll bother, I think," said Torrance, indicating
Lorry. "He's riding that horse."

Lorry grinned. "Want to trade horses?"

"I don't know. Is that your horse?"

"Nope. I borrowed him. Is that your horse?" And he indicated Gray Leg.

"No. I borrowed him."

Torrance laughed. "The buckskin seems to be a pretty fair horse."

"Then I ought to get somethin' to boot," suggested Lorry.

"How much?" laughed Waring.

"Oh, I don't know. You'll find that buckskin a mighty likely rambler."

Waring turned to Torrance. "You'll witness that we made this trade,
John?"

"All right. But remember; neither of you owns the horse you are
trading."

"But we're goin' to," asserted Lorry.

Waring reached beneath his coat and unbuckled a heavy belt. From buckle
to tongue it glittered with cartridges and a service-worn holster bulged
with a short-barreled Colt's .45. He handed the belt to Lorry.

"It's a good gun," he said, "and I hope you'll never need to use it."

Lorry stammered his thanks, untied Dex, and gave the reins into Waring's
hand. "The trade goes," he said. "But we change saddles."

"Correct," said Waring. "And here's a letter--from your mother."

Lorry slid the letter in his shirt. "How's the Weston folks?"

"They were to leave this morning. Mrs. Weston asked me to pay you for
repairing their machine. She gave me the money."

"You can keep it. I wasn't workin' for pay."

"All right. Going to stay down here awhile?"

"I aim to. Did you see anything of Buck Hardy on the way down?"

"Hardy? Why, no. But I rode part way with his deputy. He's due here some
time to-day."

"That bein' the case," said Lorry, swinging to the saddle, "I reckon
I'll hunt up Bud Shoop. Thanks for my horse. Mebby I'll be back in this
town in two, three days." And he was gone.

Waring dropped Dex's reins. "Got a minute to spare, Torrance?"

"Yes, indeed. You're looking well, Jim."

In the office they shook hands again.

"It's a long time," said Torrance, proffering a cigar. "You were
punching cattle for the Box S and I was a forest ranger those days. Did
Mexico get too hot?"

"Warm. What's the boy doing down here?"

"He seems to be keeping out of the way of the sheriff," laughed
Torrance. "Incidentally he applied for a position as ranger."

"Did he? I'm glad of that. I was afraid he might get to riding the high
trails. He's got it in him."

"You seem to know him pretty well."

"Not so well as I would like to. I'm his father."

"Why, I had no idea--but, come to think of it, he does resemble you. I
didn't know that you were married."

"Yes. I married Annie Adams, of Las Cruces. He's our boy."

Torrance saw that Waring did not care to talk further on the subject of
his married life. And Torrance recalled the fact that Mrs. Adams, who
lived in Stacey, had been in Mexico.

"He's a live one," said Torrance. "I think I'll take him on."

"I don't ask you to, John. He's got to play the game for himself. He may
not always do right, but he'll always do what he thinks is right, if I
am any judge. And he won't waste time doing it. I told Hardy's deputy on
the way down that he might as well give up running after the boy. Hardy
is pretty sore. Did Lorry tell you?"

"Yes. And I can understand his side of it."

"I think that little Weston girl dazzled him," said Waring. "She's
clever, and Lorry hasn't seen many of her kind. I think he would have
stayed right in Stacey and faced the music if she hadn't been there when
Hardy tried to arrest him. Lorry is only eighteen. He had to show off a
little."

"Will Hardy follow it up?"

"Not too strong. The folks in Stacey are giving Hardy the laugh. He's
not so popular as he might be."

"I can't say that I blame Hardy, either. The boy was wrong."

"Not a bit. Lorry was wrong."

"It will blow over," said Torrance. "I had no idea he was your son."

Waring leaned back in his chair. "John, I had two reasons for coming
down here. One was to get my horse. That's settled. Now I want to talk
about leasing a few thousand acres down this way, with water-rights. I'm
through with the other game. I want to run a few cattle in here, under
fence. I think it will pay."

Torrance shook his head. "The Mormons and the Apaches will keep you
poor, Jim."

"They might, if I tried it alone. But I have a partner just up from the
border. You remember Pat. He's been customs inspector at Nogales for
some time."

"I should say I do remember him!"

"Well, he asked me to look around and write to him. I think we could do
well enough here. What do you know about the land north of here, on up
toward the Santa Fé?"

Torrance pondered the situation. The times were, indeed, changing when
men like Waring and Pat ceased to ride the high trails and settled down
to ranching under fence. The day of the gunman was past, but two such
men as Pat and Waring would suppress by their mere presence in the
country the petty rustling and law-breaking that had made Torrance's
position difficult at times.

"I'll see what I can do," said he. "About how much land?"

"Ten or twenty thousand, to begin with."

"There's some Government land not on the reservation between here and
the railroad. There are three or four families of squatters on it now. I
don't know how they manage to live, but they always seem to have beef
and bacon. You might have some trouble about getting them off--and about
the water. I'll let you know some time next month just what I can do."

"We won't have any trouble," said Waring. "That's the last thing we
want. I'll ride over next month. You can write to me at Stacey if
anything turns up."

"I'll write to you. Do you ever get hungry? Come on over to the hotel.
I'm as hungry as a bear."



Chapter XIV


_Bondsman's Decision_

Bud Shoop's homestead on the Blue Mesa lay in a wide level of grassland,
round which the spruce of the high country swept in a great, blue-edged
circle. To the west the barren peak of Mount Baldy maintained a solitary
vigil in sunshine and tempest. Away to the north the timbered plateaus
dropped from level to level like a gigantic stair until they merged with
the horizon-line of the plains. The air on the Blue Mesa was thin and
keen; warm in the sun, yet instantly cool at dusk. A mountain stream,
all but hidden by the grasses, meandered across the mesa to an emerald
hollow of coarse marsh-grass. A few yards from this pool, and on its
southern side, stood the mountain cabin of the Shoop homestead, a roomy
building of logs, its wide, easy-sloping veranda roof covered with
home-made shakes. Near the house was a small corral and stable of logs.
Out on the mesa a thin crop of oats wavered in the itinerant breeze.
Round the cabin was a garden plot that had suffered from want of
attention. Above the gate to the door-yard was a weathered sign on which
was lettered carefully:

  "The rose is red; the violet blue;
  Please shut this gate when you come through."

And on the other side of the sign, challenging the possible
carelessness of the chance visitor, was the legend:--

  "Now you've been in and had your chuck,
  Please close this gate, just once, for luck."

Otherwise the place was like any mountain homestead of the better sort,
viewed from without. The interior of the cabin, however, was unusual in
that it boasted of being the only music-room within fifty miles in any
direction.

When the genial Bud had been overtaken with the idea of homesteading, he
had had visions of a modest success which would allow him to entertain
his erstwhile cow-puncher companions when they should ride his way. To
this end he had labored with more heart than judgment.

The main room was large and lighted by two unusually large windows. The
dimensions of the room were ample enough to accommodate a fair number of
dancers. Bud knew that if cowboys loved anything they loved to dance.
The phonograph was so common that it offered no distinction in gracing
Bud's camp; so with much labor and expense he had freighted an upright
piano from the distant railroad, an innovation that at first had stunned
and then literally taken the natives off their feet. Riders from all
over the country heard of Bud's piano, questioned its reality, and
finally made it a point to jog over and see for themselves.

For a time Bud's homestead was popular. A real piano, fifty miles from
a settlement, was something worth riding far to see. But respect for the
shining veneer of the case was not long-lived. In a moment of
inspiration, a cowboy pulled out his jackknife and carved his home brand
on the shining case. Bud could have said more than he did when he
discovered it. Later another contingent, not to be outdone, followed
this cowboy's incisive example and carved its brand on the piano.
Naturally it became a custom. No visitor in boots and chaps left the
cabin without first having carved some brand.

Bud suffered in silence, consoling himself with the thought that while
there were many pianos in the lower country, there were none like his.
And "As long as you don't monkey with her works or shoot her up," he
told his friends, "I don't care how much you carve her; only leave
enough sidin' and roof to hold her together."

Cowboys came, danced long and late as Bud pumped the mechanical player,
and thrilled to the shuffle of high-heeled boots. Contingent after
contingent came, danced, and departed joyously, leaving Bud short on
rations, but happy that he could entertain so royally. Finally the
novelty wore off, and Bud was left with his Airedale, his saddle-ponies,
and the hand-carved piano.

But Bud had profited by the innovation. An Easterner sojourning with Bud
for a season, had taught him to play two tunes--"Annie Laurie" and
"Dixie." "Real hand-made music," Bud was wont to remark. And with these
tunes at his disposal he was more than content. Many a long evening he
sat with his huge bulk swaying in the light of the hanging lamp as he
wandered around Maxwelton's braes in search of the true Annie Laurie; or
hopped with heavy sprightliness across the sandy bottoms of Dixie, while
Bondsman, the patient Airedale, sat on his haunches and accompanied Bud
with dismal energy.

Bud was not a little proud of his accomplishment. The player was all
right, but it lacked the human touch. Even when an occasional Apache
strayed in and borrowed tobacco or hinted at a meal, Bud was not above
entertaining the wondering red man with music. And Bud disliked Apaches.

And during these latter days Bud had had plenty of opportunity to
indulge himself in music. For hours he would sit and gently strike the
keys, finding unexpected harmonies that thrilled and puzzled him. The
discords didn't count. And Bondsman would hunch up close with watchful
eye and one ear cocked, waiting for the familiar strains of "Annie
Laurie" or "Dixie." He seemed to consider these tunes a sort of
accompaniment to his song. If he dared to howl when Bud was
extemporizing, Bud would rebuke him solemnly, explaining that it was not
considered polite in the best circles to interrupt a soloist. And an
evening was never complete without "Annie Laurie," and "Dixie," with
Bondsman's mournful contralto gaming ascendance as the evening
progressed.

"That dog bosses me around somethin' scandalous," Bud was wont to
remark, as he rose from his labors and prepared for bed. "There I was
huntin' around for that chord I lit on the other night and almost
findin' it, when he has to howl like a coyote with a sore throat and
spile the whole thing. I ought to learned more tunes."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was almost dusk when Lorry topped the trail that led across the Blue
Mesa to Bud's cabin. Gray Leg pricked his ears, and jogged over the wide
level, heading straight for the corral. The cabin was dark. Lorry
hallooed. A horse in the corral answered, nickering shrilly. Lorry found
some loose gramma grass in the stable and threw it to the horse. If this
was Shoop's place, Shoop would not be gone long, or he'd have turned the
horse to graze on the open mesa.

Lorry entered and lighted the lamp. He gazed with astonishment at the
piano. But that could wait. He was hungry. In a few minutes he had a
fire going, plates laid for two, had made coffee and cut bacon. He was
mixing the dough for hot biscuit when he heard some one ride up. He
stepped to the door. A bulky figure was pulling a saddle from a horse.
Lorry called a greeting.

"Just a minute, friend," came from the darkness.

Lorry stepped to the kitchen, and put the biscuit pan in the oven. A
saddle thumped on the veranda, and Bud Shoop, puffing heavily, strode
in. He nodded, filled a basin, and washed. As he polished his bald spot,
his glance traveled from the stove to the table, and thence to Lorry,
and he nodded approval.

"Looks like you was expectin' comp'ny," he said, smiling.

"Yep. And chuck's about ready."

"So am I," said Bud, rubbing his hands.

"I'm Adams, from Stacey."

"That don't make me mad," said Bud. "How's things over to your town?"

"All right, I guess. Mr. Torrance--"

Bud waved his hand. "Let's eat. Been out since daylight. Them biscuits
is just right. Help yourself to the honey."

"There's somebody outside," said Lorry, his arm raised to pass the honey
jar.

"That's my dog, Bondsman. He had to size up your layout, and he's
through and waitin' to size up you. Reckon he's hungry, too. But
business before pleasure is his idea mostly. He's tellin' me to let him
in. That there dog bosses me around somethin' scandalous. When did you
get in?"

"About sundown."

"Uh-uh. I seen that your horse hadn't grazed out far yet. How do you
like this country?"

"Good summer country, all right. Too high for stock in winter."

"Yes. Four feet of snow on the mesa last winter. When you say 'Arizona'
to some folks, they don't think of snow so deep a hoss can't get from
the woods over there to this cabin." Bud Shoop sighed and rose. "Never
mind them dishes. Mornin' 'll do."

"Won't take a minute," said Lorry.

Bud's blue eyes twinkled as he waddled to the living-room. Young Adams
was handy around a kitchen. He had laid plates for two, knew how to
punch dough, was willing to wash the dishes without a hint, and had fed
the horse in the corral.

"He trots right along, like he knew where he was goin'," Bud said to
himself. "I like his looks--but that ain't always a sign."

Lorry whistled as he dried the dishes. Bud was seated in a huge armchair
when Lorry entered the room. Shoop seemed to pay no attention to
Bondsman, who whined and occasionally scratched on the door.

"Funny thing happened this mornin'," said Shoop, settling himself in his
chair. "I was ridin' down the ole Milk Ranch Trail when I looked up and
seen a bobcat lopin' straight for me. The cat didn't see me, but my hoss
stopped, waitin' for me to shoot. Well, that kittycat come right along
till I could 'a' almost roped him. Bondsman--that's my dog--never seen
him, neither, till I hollered. You ought to seen that cat start back
without losin' a jump. I like to fell off the hoss, laughin'. Bondsman
he lit out--"

"I'll let him in," said Lorry, moving toward the door.

"--After that cat," continued Shoop, "but the cat never treed, I reckon,
for pretty soon back comes Bondsman, lookin' as disgusted as a hen in a
rainstorm. 'We're gettin' too old,' I tells Bondsman--"

"Ain't you goin' to let him in?" queried Lorry.

"--We're gettin' too old to chase bobcats just for fun," concluded
Shoop. "What was you sayin'?"

"Your dog wants to come in."

"That's right. Now I thought you was listenin' to me."

"I was. But ain't he hungry?"

Shoop chuckled. "Let him in, son."

Lorry opened the door. Bondsman stalked in, sniffed at Lorry's boots,
and padded to the kitchen.

"What do you feed him?" said Lorry, hesitating.

"He won't take nothin' from you," said Shoop, heaving himself up. "I've
had him since he was a pup. You set down and I'll 'tend to him.

"And I says to him," said Shoop, as he returned to his chair,--"I says,
'Bondsman, that there cat was just passin' the buck to us to see if we
was game.' And he ain't got over it yet."

"I've roped 'em," said Lorry--"roped 'em out of a tree."

"Uh-uh. Where'd you learn to rope?"

"At the Starr Ranch. I worked there once."

"Git tired of it?"

"Nope. I had a argument with the foreman."

"Uh-uh. I reckon it ain't hard to pick a fuss with High Chin."

"I wasn't lookin' for a fuss. It was his funeral."

"So I heard; all but the procession."

"And that's why I came up to see you. Mr. Torrance told me to hunt you
up."

"He did, eh? Well, now, John sure gets queer idees. I don't need a man
round here."

"I was after a job in the Service."

"And he sends you to me. Why, I ain't ever worked a day for the
Service."

"I guess he wanted you to look me over," said Lorry, smiling.

"Well, they's lots of time, 'less you're in a hurry."

"If I can't get in the Service, I'll look up a job punchin'," said
Lorry. "I got to get somethin'."

Bondsman stalked in, licking his chops. He nuzzled Shoop's hand. Lorry
snapped his fingers. Bondsman strode to him. Lorry patted his knee. The
big dog crouched and sprang to Lorry's knees, where he sat, studying him
quizzically, his head to one side, his keen eyes blinking in the
lamplight. Lorry laughed and patted the dog.

"He's trying to get my number," said Lorry.

"He's got it," said Shoop. "You could 'a' snapped your fingers off afore
he'd 'a' come nigh you, 'less he wanted to. And while we're talkin'
about it, you can tell John Torrance I said to give you a try."

Lorry sat up quickly. "Guess you didn't know that Buck Hardy is lookin'
for me," said Lorry. "Mr. Torrance says I got to square myself with Buck
afore I get the job."

"He did, eh? Well, speakin' of Buck, how would you like to hear a little
talk from a real music-box?"

"Fine!"

Shoop waddled to the piano. "I ain't no reg'lar music sharp," he
explained unnecessarily, "but I got a couple of pieces broke to go
polite. This here piano is cold-mouthed, and you got to rein her just
right or she'll buffalo you. This here piece is 'Annie Laurie.'"

As Bud struck the first note, Bondsman leaped from Lorry's knees and
took his place beside the piano. The early dew had just begun to fall
when Bondsman joined in. Lorry grinned. The dog and his master were
absolutely serious in their efforts. As the tune progressed, Lorry's
grin faded, and he sat gazing intently at the huge back of his host.

"Why, he's playin' like he meant it," thought Lorry. "And folks says Bud
Shoop was a regular top-hand stem-winder in his day."

Shoop labored at the piano with nervous care. When he turned to Lorry
his face was beaded with sweat.

"I rode her clean through to the fence," he said, with a kind of
apologetic grin. "How did you like that piece?"

"I always did like them old tunes," replied Lorry. "Give us another."

Shoop's face beamed. "I only got one more that I can get my rope on. But
if you can stand it, I can. This here one is 'Dixie.'"

And Bud straightened his broad shoulders, pushed back his sleeves, and
waded across the sandy bottoms of Dixie, hitting the high spots with
staccato vehemence, as though Dixie had recently suffered from an
inundation and he was in a hurry to get to dry land. Bondsman's moody
baritone reached up and up with sad persistency.

Lorry was both amused and astonished. Shoop's intensity, his real love
for music, was a revelation. Lorry felt like smiling, yet he did not
smile. Bud Shoop could not play, but his personality forced its own
recognition, even through the absurd medium of an untutored performance
on that weird upright piano. Lorry began to realize that there was
something more to Bud Shoop than mere bulk.

Bud swung round, puffing. "I got that tune where I can keep her in sight
as long as she lopes on the level. But when she takes to jumpin' stumps
and makin' them quick turns, I sure have to do some hard ridin' to keep
her from losin' herself. Me and Bondsman's been worryin' along behind
them two tunes for quite a spell. I reckon I ought to started in
younger. But, anyhow, that there piano is right good comp'ny. When I
been settin' here alone, nights, and feelin' out her paces, I get so het
up and interested that I don't know the fire's out till Bondsman takes
to shiverin' and whinin' and tellin' me he'd like to get some sleep
afore mornin'."

And Bondsman, now that the music had stopped, stalked to Lorry and eyed
him with an expression which said plainly: "It's his weak spot--this
music. You will have to overlook it. He's really a rather decent sort of
person."

"I got a mechanical player in the bedroom," said Shoop. "And a reg'lar
outfit of tunes for dances."

Lorry was tempted to ask to hear it, but changed his mind. "I've heard
them players. They're sure good for a dance, but I like real playin'
better."

Bud Shoop grinned. "That's the way with Bondsman here. Now he won't open
his head to one of them paper tunes. I've tried 'em all on him. You
can't tell me a dog ain't got feelin's."



Chapter XV


_John and Demijohn_

The grass on the high mesa was heavy with dew when Lorry stepped from
the cabin next morning. His pony, Gray Leg, stood close to the corral,
where Shoop's horses were playfully biting at him over the bars. Lorry
unhobbled Gray Leg and turned Shoop's horses out to water. The three
ponies trotted to the water-hole, sniffed at the water, and, whirling,
raced across the mesa, pitching and kicking in the joy of liberation.

After breakfast Bud and Lorry sat out in the sun, enjoying the slow
warmth. The morning air was still keen in the shade. Bondsman lay
between them, watching the distant horses.

"He won't let 'em get far into the timber," said Shoop. "He sure saves
me a lot of steps, roundin' up them hosses."

"I can whistle Gray Leg to me," said Lorry. "Then the other horses'll
come."

Shoop nodded. "What you goin' to do to-day?"

"Me? Well, it's so kind of quiet and big up here I feel like settin'
around and takin' it all in. I ain't been in the high country much.
'Course I don't aim to camp on you."

"You're sure welcome," said Shoop heartily. "It gets lonesome up here.
But if you ain't got no reg'lar plan I was thinkin' of ridin' over to
Sheep Crossin'--and mebby on down to Jason."

"Suits me fine!"

Shoop heaved himself up. Lorry whistled shrilly. Gray Leg, across the
mesa, raised his head. Lorry whistled again. The pony lowered his head
and nipped at the bunch-grass as he moved slowly toward the house.
Shoop's horses watched him, and finally decided that they would follow.
Gray Leg stopped just out of reach.

"Get in the corral, there!" said Lorry, waving his arm.

The pony shied and trotted into the corral, the other horses following.

Bondsman was not exactly disgruntled, but he might have been happier.
Shoop had told him to "keep house" until they returned.

"It's a funny thing," said Shoop as he mounted. "Now, if I was to tell
that dog he was gettin' too old to ramble with me, he'd feel plumb sick
and no account. But when I tell him he's got to do somethin'--like
watchin' the house--he thinks it's a reg'lar job. He's gettin' old, but,
just like folks, he wants to think he's some use. You can't tell me dogs
don't know. Why, I've seen young folks so durned fussy about their
grandmas and grandpas, trying to keep 'em from putterin' around, that
the old folks just nacherally folded their hands and set down and died,
havin' nothin' else to do. And a dog is right proud about bein' able to
do somethin'. Bondsman there keeps me so busy thinkin' of how I can keep
him busy that I ain't got time to shine my boots. That there dog bosses
me around somethin' scandalous."

"That's right," acquiesced Lorry. "I seen a ole mule once that they
turned loose from a freight wagon because he was too old to pull his own
weight. And that mule just followed the string up and down the hills and
across the sand, doin' his best to tell the skinner that he wanted to
get back into the harness. He would run alongside the other mules, and
try to get back in his old place. They would just naturally kick him,
and he'd turn and try to wallop 'em back. Then he'd walk along, with his
head hangin' down and his ears floppin', as if he was plumb sick of
bein' free and wanted to die. The last day he was too stiff to get on
his feet, so me and Jimmy Harp heaved him up while the skinner was
gettin' the chains on the other mules. That ole mule was sure wabblin'
like a duck, but he come aside his ole place and followed along all day.
We was freightin' in to camp, back in the Horseshoe Hills. You know that
grade afore you get to the mesa? Well, the ole mule pulled the grade,
sweatin' and puffin' like he was pullin' the whole load. And I guess he
was, in his mind. Anyhow, he got to the top, and laid down and died.
Mules sure like to work. Now a horse would have fanned it."

Shoop nodded. "I never seen a animile too lazy to work if it was only
gettin' his grub and exercise. But I've seen a sight of folks too lazy
to do that much. Why, some folks is so dog-gone no account they got to
git killed afore folks ever knowed they was livin'. Then they's some
folks so high-chinned they can't see nothin' but the stars when they'd
do tol'able well if they would follow a good hoss or a dog around and
learn how to live human. But this ain't gettin' nowhere, and the sun's
keepin' right along doin' business."

They rode across the beautiful Blue Mesa, and entered the timberlands,
following a ranger trail through the shadowy silences. At the lower
level, they came upon another mesa through which wound a mountain
stream. And along a stream ran the trail, knee-high in grass on either
side.

Far below them lay the plains country, its hazy reaches just visible
over the tree-tops. Where the mountain stream merged with a deeper
stream the ground was barren and dotted with countless tracks of cattle
and sheep. This was Sheep Crossing, a natural pass where the cattlemen
and sheepmen drifted their stock from the hills to the winter
feeding-grounds of the lower country. It was a checking point for the
rangers; the gateway to the hills.

The thin mountain air was hot. The unbridled ponies drank eagerly, and
were allowed to graze. The men moved over to the shade of a blue-topped
spruce. As Lorry was about to sit down he picked an empty whiskey bottle
from the grass, turned the label toward Shoop, and grinned. He tossed
the bottle into the edge of the timber.

Shoop rolled a cigarette, and Lorry squatted beside him. Presently
Shoop's voice broke the indolent silence of noon: "Just why did you
chuck that bottle over there?"

"I don't know. Horse might step on it and cut himself."

"Yes. But you chucked it like you was mad at somethin'. Would you thrun
it away if it was full?"

"I don' know. I might 'a' smelt of it to see if it was whiskey or
kerosene some herder forgot."

"It's right curious how a fella will smell of a bottle to see what's in
it or what's been in it. Most folks does that. I guess you know what
whiskey smells like."

"Oh, some; with the boys once or twice. I never did get to like it right
well."

Shoop nodded. "I ain't what you'd call a drinkin' man myself, but I
started out that way. I been tol'able well lit up at times. But
temperance folks what never took a drink can tell you more about whiskey
than I can. Now that there empty bottle, a hundred and thirty miles from
a whiskey town, kind of set me thinkin'."

Lorry leaned back against the spruce and watched a hawk float in easy
circles round the blue emptiness above. He felt physically indolent; at
one with the silences. Shoop's voice came to him clearly, but as though
from a distance, and as Shoop talked Lorry visualized the theme,
forgetting where he was in the vivid picture the old ex-cowboy sketched
in the rough dialect of the range.

"I've did some thinkin' in my time, but not enough to keep me awake
nights," said Shoop, pushing back his hat. "That there whiskey bottle
kind of set me back to where I was about your years and some lively.
Long about then I knowed two fellas called 'John' and 'Demijohn.' John
was young and a right good cow-hand. Demijohn was old, but he was always
dressed up like he was young, and he acted right lively. Some folks
thought he was young. They met up at a saloon down along the Santa Fé.
They got acquainted, and had a high ole time.

"That evenin', as John was leavin' to go back to the ranch, Demijohn
tells him he'll see him later. John remembers that. They met up ag'in.
And finally John got to lookin' for Demijohn, and if he didn't show up
reg'lar John would set out and chase Demijohn all over the country,
afoot and ahorseback, and likin' his comp'ny more every time they met.

"Now, this here Demijohn, who was by rights a city fella, got to takin'
to the timber and the mesas, with John followin' him around lively. Ole
Demijohn would set in the shade of a tree--no tellin' how he got
there--and John would ride up and light down; when mebby Demijohn would
start off to town, bein' empty, and John after him like hell wasn't hot
enough 'less he sweat runnin'. And that young John would ride clean to
town just to say 'How' to that ole hocus. And it come that John got to
payin' more attention to Demijohn than he did to punchin' cows. Then
come a day when John got sick of chasin' Demijohn all over the range,
and he quit.

"But the first thing he knowed, Demijohn was a chasin' him. Every time
John rode in and throwed off his saddle there'd be ole Demijohn, settin'
in the corner of the corral or under his bunk or out in the box stall,
smilin' and waitin'. Finally Demijohn got to followin' John right into
the bunk-house, and John tryin' his durndest to keep out of sight.

"One evenin', when John was loafin' in the bunk-house, ole Demijohn
crawls up to his bunk and asks him, whisperin', if he ain't most always
give John a good time when they met up. John cussed, but 'lowed that
Demijohn was right. Then Demijohn took to pullin' at young John's sleeve
and askin' him to come to town and have a good time. Pretty soon John
gets up and saddles his cayuse and fans it for town. And that time him
and Demijohn sure had one whizzer of a time. But come a week later, when
John gits back to the ranch, the boss is sore and fires him. Then John
gits sore at the boss and at himself and at Demijohn and the whole
works. So he saddles up and rides over to town to have it out with
Demijohn for losin' a good job. But he couldn't lick Demijohn right
there in town nohow. Demijohn was too frequent for him.

"When young John wakes up next mornin' he is layin' under a tree, mighty
sick. He sees he is up on the high mesa, but he don' know how he got
there; only his pony is grazin' near by, with reins all tromped and the
saddle 'way up on his withers. John sets up and rubs his eyes, and there
he sees ole Demijohn settin' in the grass chucklin' to hisself, and his
back is turned to young John, for he don't care nohow for a fella when
he is sick. Ole Demijohn is always feelin' good, no matter how his
friends feel. Well, young John thinks a while, and pretty soon he moseys
over to a spring and gets a big, cold drink and washes his head, and
feels better.

"He never knowed that just plain water tasted so good till that mornin'.
Then he sets awhile, smellin' of the clean pine air and listenin' to the
wind runnin' loose in the tree-tops and watchin' the clouds driftin' by,
white and clean and proud-like. Pretty soon he rares up and walks over
to the tree where ole Demijohn sets rockin' up and down and chucklin'.
He takes a holt of Demijohn by the shoulder, and he says: 'You darned
ole hocus, you, I lost my job, and I'm broke, lopin' around this country
with you.'

"'Forget it!' says ole Demijohn. 'Ain't I good comp'ny?'

"'Mebby you be--for some folks,' says young John. 'But not for me. You
don't belong up in this here country; you belong back in town, and I
reckon you better fan it.'

"Ole Demijohn he laughed. 'You can't run me off the range that easy,' he
says.

"'I can't, eh?' says young John, and he pulls his gun and up and busts
ole Demijohn over the head. Then, bein' a likely young fella, he shuts
his jaw tight and fans it back to the ranch. The fo'man is some
surprised to see him come ridin' up, whistlin' like he owned the works.
Fellas what's fired mostly looks for work some place else. But young
John got the idee that he owed it to hisself to make good where he
started as a cow-hand. 'I busted my ole friend Demijohn over the head,'
he says to the fo'man. 'We ain't friends no more.'

"The fo'man he grins. 'All right, Jack,' he says. 'But if I see him
hangin' round the corrals ag'in, or in the bunk-house, you needn't to
wait for me to tell you which way is north.'

"Well, young John had done a good job. 'Course ole Demijohn used to come
sneakin' round in the moonlight, once in a spell, botherin' some of the
boys, but he stayed clear of young John. And young John he took to
ridin' straight and hard and 'tendin' to business. I ain't sayin' he
ever got to be president or superintendent of a Sunday School, for this
ain't no story-book yarn; but he always held a good job when he wanted
it, and he worked for a good boss--which was hisself."

Lorry grinned as he turned to Shoop. "That ole Demijohn never got close
enough to me to get busted on the head."

"Them hosses is strayin' down the creek," said Shoop, rising.

They turned and rode north, somewhat to Lorry's surprise. The trail was
ragged and steep, and led from the mesa to the cañon bottom of the White
River. Before Lorry realized where they were, Jason loomed before them
on the mesa below.

"She's a quick trail to town in summer," explained Shoop. "Snow hangs
too heavy in the cañon to ride it in winter."

At Jason they tied their horses, and entered the ranger's office. Lorry
waited while Shoop talked with Torrance in the private office. Presently
Shoop came to the door and gestured to Lorry.

"Mr. Shoop says he thinks you could qualify for the Service," Torrance
said. "We will waive the matter of recommendations from the Starr
people. But there is one thing I can't do. I can't hire a man who is
wanted by the authorities. There's a deputy sheriff in town with a
warrant for you. That is strictly your affair. If you can square
yourself with the deputy, I'll put you to work."

"I'll go see what he wants," said Lorry.

"He wants you. Understand, you'll only jeopardize your chances by
starting a row."

"They won't be a row," said Lorry.

When he returned he was accompanied by the deputy. Lorry took his stand
without parley.

"I want to ask you folks a question, and then I'm through," he asserted.
"Will you listen to what he says and what I say, and then say who is
right?"

"That might not settle it," said Torrance. "But go ahead."

"Then all I got to say is, was I right or wrong when I turned that hobo
loose and saved him from gettin' beat up by High Chin and the boys, and
mebby strung up, afore they got through?"

"Morally you were right," said Torrance. "But you should have appealed
to Sheriff Hardy to guard his prisoner."

"That's all right, Mr. Torrance. But suppose they wasn't time. And
suppose,--now Buck's deputy is here to listen to it,--suppose I was to
say that Buck is scared to death of High-Chin Bob. Everybody knows it."

The deputy flushed. He knew that Lorry spoke the truth.

Torrance turned to Shoop. "What do you think, Bud?"

Bud coughed and shrugged his heavy shoulders. "Bein' as I'm drug into
this, I say the boy did a good job and he's right about Hardy, which
you can tell him," he added, turning to the deputy.

"Then that's all I got to say," and Lorry pushed back his hat and
rumpled his hair.

The deputy was not there to argue. He had been sent to get Lorry.

"I don't say he ain't right. But how about my job if I ride back to
Stacey with nothin' to show for the trip but my expense card?"

"Buck Hardy isn't a fool," said Torrance.

"Oh, hell!" said Lorry, turning to the deputy. "I'll go back with you.
I'm sick of jawin' about the right and the wrong and who's to blame. But
I want to say in company that I'll go just as far as the county line of
this county. You're south of your county. If you can get me across the
line, I'll go on to Stacey."

Bud Shoop mopped his face with a bandanna. He was not overhot, but he
wanted to hide the grin that spread over his broad countenance. He
imagined he could see the deputy just about the time they arrived at the
county line, and the mental picture seemed to amuse him.

"The idee is, the kid thinks he's right," said Shoop presently.
"Speakin' personal, I never monkey with a man when he thinks he's
right--and he is."

"All I got to go by is the law," asserted the deputy. "As for Adams here
sayin' I won't run him in, I got orders to do it, and them orders goes."

"Adams has applied for a position in the Service," said Torrance.

"I ain't got anything against Lorry personal," said the deputy.

"Then just you ride back an' tell Buck Hardy that Bud Shoop says he'll
stand responsible for Adams keepin' the peace in Jason County, same as I
stood responsible for Buck oncet down in the Panhandle. Buck will
remember, all right."

"Can't you give me a letter to Buck, explainin' things?" queried the
deputy.

Bud glanced at Torrance. "I think we can," said the supervisor.

Lorry stepped to the door with the deputy. There was no personal feeling
evident as they shook hands.

"You could tell ma to send down my clothes by stage," said Lorry.

Shoop and Torrance seemed to be enjoying themselves.

"I put in my say," said Bud, "'cause I kind of like the kid. And I
reckon I saved that deputy a awful wallopin'. When a fella like young
Adams talks pleasant and chokes his hat to death at the same time you
can watch out for somethin' to fall."

"Do you think Adams would have had it out with him?"

"He'd 'a' rode along a spell, like he said. Mebby just this side of the
county line he'd 'a' told the deputy which way was north. And if the
deputy didn't take the hint, I reckon Adams would 'a' lit into him. I
knowed Adams's daddy afore he married Annie Adams and went to live in
Sonora."

"Then you knew that his father was Jim Waring?"

"I sure did. And I reckon I kep' somebody from gettin' a awful
wallopin'. I was a kid oncet myself."



Chapter XVI


_Play_


The installation of Bud Shoop as supervisor of the White Mountain
District was celebrated with an old-fashioned barbecue by the cattlemen
and sheepmen leasing on the reserve. While John Torrance had always
dealt fairly with them, the natives felt that he was more or less of a
theorist in the matter of grazing-leases. Shoop was a practical cowman;
one of themselves. Naturally there was some dissatisfaction expressed by
disgruntled individuals who envied Shoop's good fortune. But this was
overwhelmed by the tide of popular acclaim with which Shoop was hailed
as a just administrator of their grazing-rights.

The barbecue was a boisterous success. Although the day of large
holdings was past, the event lacked nothing in numbers or enthusiasm.
The man who owned a hundred head of cattle was quite as popular as his
neighbor who owned perhaps eight hundred or a thousand. Outfits
fraternized, ran pony races, roped for prizes, and rode bucking horses,
as their predecessors had raced, roped, and "rode 'em" in the days of
old.

Lorry, itching to enter the roping contest, was checked by a suggestion
from the genial Bud.

"I've heard you was top-hand with a rope. But you're a ranger, by the
grace of God and me and John Torrance. Let the boy's play, but don't
play with 'em yet. Keep 'em guessin' just how good you are. Let 'em get
to know you slow--and solid."

Lorry accepted Bud's advice, and made himself popular with the various
outfits by maintaining a silence when questioned as to how he "put
High-Chin Bob out of business." The story of that affair had had a wide
circulation, and gained interest when it became known that High Chin and
his men were present. Their excuse for coming was only legitimate in
that a barbecue draws no fine lines of distinction. Any one who has a
horse and an appetite is welcome. The Starr riders were from the
northern county, but they would have been quite as welcome had they come
from Alaska.

Bud Shoop was present in a suit of religiously severe black, his pants
outside his boots. He had donned a white shirt and knotted a black silk
bandanna round his short neck.

The morning was noisy with pony races, roping contests, and the riding
of pitching horses. The events were not tabulated, but evolved through
the unwritten law of precedent.

After the noon feast there was talk of a shooting-match. Few of the
local men packed guns, and none of them openly. The Starr riders were
the only exception. This fact was commented upon by some of the
old-timers, who finally accosted Bud with the suggestion that he "show
that Starr outfit what a gun was made for." Bud declined.

"I ain't had a gun in my hand, except to clean it, since I quit
punchin'," he told them. "And, anyhow, I'm no fancy gun sharp."

"High Chin and his outfit is sure handin' it to us," complained the
old-timers. "And you're about the only man here who could show 'em."

"No use provin' it to 'em when they know it," Bud said.

The committee retired and consulted among themselves. Bud was talking
with a cattleman when they again accosted him.

"Say, Bud, them Starr boys has cleaned us out on ropin' and racin'. We
trimmed 'em on ridin'. Now that makes two to one, and we're askin' you
as a old-timer if we're goin' to let them fellas ride north a-tellin'
every hay-tosser atween here and Stacey that we're a bunch of jays?"

"Oh, shucks!" was all Bud had to say.

"And that High-Chin Bob says he aims to hang young Adams's scalp on his
belt afore he gits through," asserted a townsman.

"I'll set in the game," said Bud.

And he waddled across the street to his office. In a few minutes he came
back and mingled with the crowd. The Starr boys were pitching dollars at
a mark when Bud and a companion strolled past. High Chin invited Shoop
to join in the game. Shoop declined pleasantly.

"Things is runnin' slow," said a Starr man. "Wish I'd 'a' fetched my
music along. Mebby I could git somebody to sing me to sleep."

Bud laughed. "Have a good time, boys." And he moved on.

"That was one for you--and yore piano," said his companion.

"Mebby so. We'll let that rest. I'm lookin' for a friend of mine." And
Shoop edged along the crowd.

The man that Shoop was looking for was standing alone beneath the shade
of an acacia, watching the crowd. He was a tall, heavy man,
dark-featured, with a silver-gray beard and brown eyes that seemed to
twinkle with amusement even when his lips were grim. The giant sheepman
of the south country was known to every one on account of his great
physique and his immense holdings in land and sheep. Shoop talked with
him for a few minutes. Together they strolled back to the crowd.

The Starr boys were still pitching dollars when Shoop and the sheepman
approached.

"Who's top-hand in this game?" queried Shoop genially.

"High Chin--and at any game you got," said a Starr man.

"Well, now!"

"Any game you got."

Shoop gazed about, saw Lorry, and beckoned to him.

"Here's my candidate," said Shoop. "He kep' out of the ropin' so as to
give you fellas a chance." And he turned to Lorry. "Give him a whirl,"
he said, indicating High Chin. "It's worth a couple of dollars just to
find out how good he is."

High Chin surveyed the circle of faces, poised a dollar, and threw it.
Lorry threw and lost. High Chin pocketed the two dollars. The Starr boys
grinned. High Chin threw again. The dollar slid close to the line. Lorry
shied his dollar and knocked the other's coin several feet away from the
line.

"Try him ag'in," said Shoop.

Lorry tossed again. His dollar dropped on the line. High Chin threw. His
coin clinked squarely on Lorry's, but spun off, leaving it undisturbed.

"You break even--at that game," said Shoop. "It was a good shot."

"Folks been sayin' the same of you," said High Chin, turning to the
supervisor.

"Oh, folks will talk. They're made that way," chuckled Shoop.

"Well, I got ten bucks that says High Chin can outshoot any hombre in
this crowd," said a Starr boy.

"I'm right glad you got it," said Shoop pleasantly.

"Meanin' I stand to lose it, eh?"

"Oh, gosh, no! You're steppin' on your bridle. I was congratulatin' you
on your wealth."

"I ain't seen that you been flashin' any money," said the cowboy.

"Nope. That ain't what money's made for. And I never bet on a sure
thing. Ain't no fun in that."

The giant sheepman, whose movements were as deliberate as the sun's,
slowly reached in his pocket and drew out a leather pouch. He counted
out forty dollars in gold-pieces.

"I'll lay it even," he said, his eyes twinkling, "that Bud Shoop can
outshoot any man in the crowd."

"I'll take ten of that," said the Starr man.

"And I'll take ten," said another cowboy.

"John," said Shoop, turning to the sheepman, "you're a perpendicular
dam' fool."

Word went forth that High-Chin Bob, of the Starr, and Bud Shoop were to
shoot a match for a thousand dollars a side, and some of the more
enthusiastic believed it. In a few minutes the street was empty of all
save the ponies at the hitching-rails.

In a shallow arroyo back of town the excited throng made wagers and
talked of wonderful shots made by the principals. High Chin was known as
a quick and sure shot. Shoop's reputation was known to fewer of the
crowd. The Starr boys backed their foreman to the last cent. A judge was
suggested, but declined as being of the locality. Finally the giant
sheepman, despite his personal wager, was elected unanimously. He was
known to be a man of absolute fairness, and qualified to judge
marksmanship. He agreed to serve, with the proviso that the Starr boys
or any of High Chin's friends should feel free to question his
decisions. The crowd solidified back of the line, where Shoop and High
Chin stood waiting for the test.

The marksmen faced two bottles on a rock some thirty paces away. At the
word, each was to "go for his gun" and shoot. High Chin carried his gun
in the usual holster. Bud Shoop's gun was tucked in the waistband of his
pants.

"Go!" said the sheepman.

High Chin's hand flashed to his hip. His gun jumped and spoke. Shoop's
wrist turned. Both bottles were shattered on the instant. A tie was
declared.

The men were placed with their backs toward the targets--two empty
bottles. The sheepman faced them, with his hands behind his back. When
he snapped his fingers they were to turn and fire. Many of the onlookers
thought this test would leave High Chin a point ahead.

Both men swung and fired at the signal. Again both bottles were
shattered. Although a tie was again declared, the crowd cheered for
Shoop, realizing his physical handicap. Yet many asserted that High Chin
was the faster man, won to this decision by his lightning speed of
movement and his easy manner, suggesting a kind of contemptuous
indifference to results.

In contrast to High Chin's swift, careless efficiency, Shoop's solid
poise and lack of elbow motion showed in strong relief. Their methods
were entirely dissimilar. But it was evident to the old-timers that
Shoop shot with less effort and waste motion than his lithe competitor.
And High Chin was the younger man by twenty years.

Thus far the tests had not been considered difficult. But when the
sheepman stepped off ten paces and faced the competitors with a cigar
held at arm's length, the chattering of the crowd ceased. High Chin, as
guest, was asked to shoot first. He raised his gun. It hung poised for a
second. As it jumped in his hand the ash flirted from the end of the
cigar. The crowd stamped and cheered. Shoop congratulated High Chin. The
crowd hooted and called to Shoop to make good. Even as they called, his
hand flashed up. Hardly had the report of his gun startled them to
silence when they saw that his hands were empty. A roar of laughter
shook the crowd. Some one pointed toward the sheepman. The laughter died
down. He held a scant two inches of cigar in his fingers. Then they
understood, and were silent again. They gathered round the sheepman. He
held up his arms. Shoop's bullet had nipped the cigar in two before they
had realized that he intended to shoot.

"You're havin' the luck," said High.

"You're right," said Shoop. "And luck, if she keeps steady gait, is just
as good a hoss to ride as they is."

Still, there were those who maintained that Shoop had made a chance
hit. But High Chin knew that this was not so. He had met his master at
the six-gun game.

Bud Shoop's easy manner had vanished. As solid as a rock, his lips in a
straight line, he waited for the next test while High Chin talked and
joked with the bystanders.

"You'll shoot when you see something to shoot at," was the sheepman's
word. The crowd laughed. He stood behind the marksmen, a tin can in each
hand. Both High Chin and Shoop knew what was coming, and Shoop decided
to surprise the assemblage. The main issue was not the shooting contest,
and if High-Chin Bob had not already seen enough of Shoop's work to
satisfy him, the genial Bud intended to clinch the matter right there.

Without warning, the sheepman tossed the cans into the air. Shoop and
High Chin shot on the instant. But before High Chin's can touched the
ground Shoop shot again. It was faster work than any present had ever
seen. A man picked up the cans and brought them to the sheepman. One can
had a clean hole in it. The other had two holes through it. Those
nearest the marksmen wondered why Shoop had not shot twice at his own
can. But the big sheepman knew that Shoop had called High Chin's bluff
about "any game going."

Even then the match was a tie so far as precedent demanded. Each man
had made a hit on a moving target.

The crowd had ceased to applaud.

"How about a try from the saddle?" suggested High Chin.

"I reckon I look just as fat and foolish settin' in a saddle as
anywhere," said Shoop.

The crowd shuffled over to a more open spot, on the mesa. Shoop and High
Chin mounted their horses. A tin cracker box was placed on a flat rock
out in the open.

The men were to reload and shoot at top speed as they rode past the box.
The Starr foreman immediately jumped his pony to a run, and, swaying
easily, threw a shot at the box as he approached it, another and another
when opposite, and, turning in the saddle, fired his three remaining
shots. The box was brought back and inspected. The six shots had all
hit.

Shoop, straight and solid as a statue, ran his pony down the course, but
held his fire until almost opposite the box. Then six reports rippled
out like the drawing of a stick quickly across a picket fence. It was
found that the six shots had all hit in one side of the box. The
sheepman was asked for a decision. He shook his head and declared the
match a draw. And technically it was a draw. Every one seemed satisfied,
although there was much discussion among individuals as to the relative
merits of the contestants.

As the crowd dispersed and some of them prepared to ride home, two
horsemen appeared on the northern road, riding toward town. As they drew
nearer Shoop chuckled. Lorry, standing a few paces away, glanced at him.

The supervisor was talking to Bob Brewster. "High, you're the best I
ever stacked up against, exceptin' one, and it's right curious that he
is just a-ridin' into this powwow. If you want to see what real shootin'
is, get him to show you."

"I don't know your friend," said High, eyeing the approaching horsemen,
"but he's a beaut if he can outshoot you."

"Outshoot me? Say, High, that hombre ridin' the big buckskin hoss there
could make us look about as fast as a couple of fence-posts when it
comes to handlin' a gun. And his pardner ain't what you'd call slow."

High Chin's lean face darkened as he recognized Waring riding beside a
gaunt, long-legged man whose gray eyes twinkled as he surveyed the
little group.

"Pat--and Jim Waring," muttered Shoop. "And us just finished what some
would call a ole-time shootin'-bee!"

"Who's your friend?" queried High Chin, although he knew.

"Him? That's Jim Waring, of Sonora. And say, High, I ain't his
advertisin' agent, but between you and me he could shoot the fuzz out of
your ears and never as much as burn 'em. What I'm tellin' you is
first-class life insurance if you ain't took out any. And before you go
I just want to pass the word that young Adams is workin' for _me_.
Reckon you might be interested, seein' as how he worked for you a
spell."

High Chin met Shoop's gaze unblinkingly. He was about to speak when Pat
and Waring, rode up and greeted the supervisor. High Chin wheeled his
horse and loped back to town. A few minutes later he and his men rode
past. To Shoop's genial wave of farewell they returned a whoop that
seemed edged with a vague challenge.

Pat, who was watching them, asked Shoop who the man was riding the
pinto.

"Why, that's High-Chin Bob Brewster, Starr fo'man. He's kind of a wild
bird. I reckon he came over here lookin' for trouble. He's been walkin'
around with his wings and tail spread like he was mad at somethin'."

"I thought I knew him," said Pat. And he shrugged his shoulders.

Shoop noticed that Waring was gazing at Pat in a peculiar manner. He
attached no significance to this at the time, but later he recalled the
fact that there had been trouble between Pat and the Brewster boys some
years ago. The Brewsters had then openly threatened to "get Pat if he
ever rode north again."



Chapter XVII


_Down the Wind_

Waring, several miles out from the home shack, on the new range, sat his
horse Dexter, watching his men string fence. They ran the barbed wire
with a tackle, stringing it taut down the long line of bare posts that
twinkled away to dots in the west. Occasionally Waring rode up and
tested the wire with his hand. The men worked fast. Waring and Pat had
picked their men; three husky boys of the high country who considered
stringing fence rather pleasant exercise. There was no recognized
foreman. Each knew his work, and Waring had added a foreman's pay to
their salaries, dividing it equally among them. Later they would look
after the ranch and the cattle.

Twenty thousand acres under fence, with plenty of water, would take care
of eight hundred or a thousand head of cattle. And as a provision
against a lean winter, Waring had put a mowing-machine in at the eastern
end of the range, where the bunch-grass was heavy enough to cut. It
would be necessary to winter-feed. Four hundred white-faced Herefords
grazed in the autumn sunshine. Riding round and among them leisurely was
the Mexican youth, Ramon.

Backed against a butte near the middle of the range was the broad,
low-roofed ranch-house. A windmill purred in the light breeze, its lean,
flickering shadow aslant the corrals. The buildings looked new and raw
in contrast to the huge pile of grayish-green greasewood and scrub cedar
gathered from the clearing round them.

In front of the house was a fenced acre, ploughed and harrowed to a dead
level. This was to be Pat's garden, wherein he had planned to grow all
sorts of green things, including cucumbers. At the moment Pat was
standing under the veranda roof, gazing out across the ranch. The old
days of petty warfare, long night rides, and untold hardships were past.
Next spring his garden would bloom; tiny green tendrils would swell to
sturdy vines. Corn-leaves would broaden to waving green blades shot with
the rich brown of the ripening ears. Although he had never spoken of it,
Pat had dreamed of blue flowers nodding along the garden fence;
old-fashioned bachelor's-buttons that would spring up as though by
accident. But he would have to warn Waco, the erstwhile tramp, not to
mistake them for weeds.

"Peace and plenty," muttered Pat, smiling to himself. "The Book sure
knows how to say those things."

The gaunt, grizzled ex-sheriff reached in his vest for a cigar. As he
bit the end off and felt for a match, he saw a black speck wavering in
the distance. He shaded his eyes with his hand.

"'Tain't a machine," he said. "And it ain't a buckboard. Some puncher
lookin' for a job, most likely."

He turned and entered the house. Waco, shaven and in clean shirt and
overalls, was "punching dough" in the kitchen.

"Did Jim say when he would ride in?" queried Pat.

"About sundown. I fixed 'em up some chuck this morning. Jim figures
they're getting too far out to ride in every noon."

"Well, when you get your bread baked we'll take a whirl at those
ditches. How are the supplies holding out?"

"We're short on flour. Got enough to last over till Monday. Plenty bacon
and beans and lard."

"All right. We'll hook up to-morrow and drive in."

Waco nodded as he tucked a roll of dough into the pan. Pat watched him
for a moment. Waco, despite his many shortcomings, could cook, and,
strangely enough, liked to putter round the garden.

Picked up half-starving on the mesa road, near St. Johns, he had been
brought to the ranch by Pat, where a month of clean air and industry had
reshaped the tramp to something like a man. Both Pat and Waring knew
that the hobo was wanted in Stacey. They had agreed to say nothing about
the tramp's whereabouts just so long as he made himself useful about
the ranch. They would give him a chance. But, familiar with his kind,
they were mildly skeptical as to Waco's sincerity of purpose. If he took
to drinking, or if Buck Hardy heard of his whereabouts, he would have to
go. Meanwhile, he earned his keep. He was a good cook, and a good cook,
no matter where or where from, is a power in the land.

As Waco closed the oven door some one hallooed. Pat stepped to the
veranda. A cowboy astride a bay pony asked if Waring were around.

"I can take your message," said Pat.

"Well, it's for you, I guess. Letter from Buck Hardy."

"Yes, it's for me," said Pat. "Who sent you?"

"Hardy. Said something about you had a man down here he wanted."

"All right. Stay for chuck?"

"I got to git back. How's things down this way?"

"Running on time. Just tell Buck I'll be over right soon."

"To-day?"

Pat's gray eyes hardened. "Buck tell you to ask me that?"

"Well--no. I was just wonderin'."

"Then keep right on wondering," said Pat. "You got your answer."

The cowboy swung up and rode off. "To hell with him!" he said. "Thinks
he can throw a scare into me because he's got a name for killin'. To
hell him!"

Pat climbed the hill back of the house and surveyed the glimmering
levels.

"Wish Jim would ride in. Funny thing--Hardy sending a Starr boy with
word for me. But perhaps the kid was riding this way, anyhow."

Pat shook his head, and climbed slowly down to the house. Waco was busy
in the kitchen when he came in.

After the noon meal, Pat again climbed the hill. He seemed worried about
something. When he returned he told Waco to hitch the pintos to the
buckboard.

"Get your coat," he told Waco. "We're going over to Stacey."

Waco's hands trembled. "Say, boss, if you don't mind--"

"Get your coat. I'll talk to Buck. You needn't to worry. I'll square you
with Buck. We can use you here."

Waco did as he was told. They drove out of the yard. Waco leaped down
and closed the gate.

The pintos shook themselves into the harness and trotted down the
faintly marked new road. The buckboard swayed and jolted. Something
rubbed against Waco's hip. He glanced down and saw Pat's gun on the seat
between them. Pat said nothing. He was thinking hard. The cowboy
messenger's manner had not been natural. The note bore the printed
heading of the sheriff's office. Perhaps it was all right. And if it
were not, Pat was not the man to back down from a bluff.

Several miles out from the ranch ran the naked posts of the line fence.
Pat reined in the ponies and gazed up and down the line. A mile beyond,
the ranch road merged with the main-traveled highway running east and
west. He spoke to the horses. They broke into a fast trot. Waco,
gripping the seat, stared straight ahead. Why had Pat laid that gun on
the seat?

A thin, gray veil drifted across the sun. From the northwest a light
wind sprang up and ran across the mesa, whipping the bunch-grass. The
wind grew heavier, and with it came a fine, dun-colored dust. An hour
and the air was thick with a shifting red haze of sand. The sun glowed
dimly through the murk.

Waco turned up his coat-collar and shivered. The air was keen. The
ponies fought the bit, occasionally breaking into a gallop. Pat braced
his feet and held them to a trot. A weird buzzing came down the wind.
The ponies reared and took to the ditch as a machine flicked past and
drummed away in the distance.

To Waco, rigid and staring, the air seemed filled with a kind of
hovering terror, a whining threat of danger that came in bursts of
driving sand and dwindled away to harsh whisperings. He stood it as
long as he could. Pat had not spoken.

[Illustration: A huddled shape near a boulder]

Waco touched his arm. "I got a hunch," he said hoarsely,--"I got a hunch
we oughta go back."

Pat nodded. But the ponies swept on down the road, their manes and tails
whipping in the wind. Another mile and they slowed down in heavy sand.
The buckboard tilted forward as they descended the sharp pitch of an
arroyo. Unnoticed, Pat's gun slipped to the floor of the wagon.

In the arroyo the wind seemed to have died away, leaving a startled
quietness. It still hung above them, and an occasional gust filled their
eyes with grit. Waco drew a deep breath. The ponies tugged through the
heavy sand.

Without a sound to warn them a rider appeared close to the front wheel
of the buckboard. Waco shrank down in sodden terror. It was the Starr
foreman, High-Chin Bob. Waco saw Pat's hand flash to his side, then
fumble on the seat.

"I'm payin' the Kid's debt," said High Chin, and, laughing, he threw
shot after shot into the defenseless body of his old enemy.

Waco saw Pat slump forward, catch himself, and finally topple from the
seat. As the reins slipped from his fingers the ponies lunged up the
arroyo. Waco crouched, clutching the foot-rail. A bullet hummed over his
head. Gaining the level, the ponies broke into a wild run. The red wind
whined as it drove across the mesa. The buckboard lurched sickeningly.
A scream of terror wailed down the wind as the buckboard struck a
telegraph pole. A blind shock--and for Waco the droning of the wind had
ceased.

Dragging the broken traces, the ponies circled the mesa and set off at a
gallop toward home. At the side of the road lay the splintered
buckboard, wheels up. And Waco, hovering on the edge of the black abyss,
dreamed strange dreams.

       *       *       *       *       *

Waring, riding in with the crew, found the ranch-house deserted and the
pinto ponies dragging the shreds of a broken harness, grazing along the
fence. Waring sent a man to catch up the team. Ramon cooked supper. The
men ate in silence.

After supper Waring changed his clothes, saddled Dex, and packed some
food in the saddle-pockets. "I am going out to look for Pat," he told
one of his men. "If Waco shows up, keep him here till I get back. Those
horses didn't get away from Pat. Here's a signed check. Get what you
need and keep on with the work. You're foreman till I get back."

"If there's anything doing--" began the cowboy.

"I don't know. Some one rode in here to-day. It was along about noon
that Pat and Waco left. The bread was baked. I'd say they drove to town
for grub; only Pat took his gun--without the holster. It looks bad to
me. If anything happens to me, just send for Lorry Adams at the Ranger
Station."

Waring rode out, looking for tracks. His men watched him until he had
disappeared behind a rise. Bender, the new foreman, turned to his
fellows.

"I'd hate to be the man that the boss is lookin' for," he said, shaking
his head.

"Why, he's lookin' for Pat, ain't he?" queried one of the men.

"That ain't what I mean," said the foreman.

       *       *       *       *       *

The wind died down suddenly. The sun, just above the horizon, glowed
like a disk of burnished copper. The wagon ruts were filled with fine
sand. Waring read the trail. The buckboard had traveled briskly. It had
stopped at the line. The tracks of the fretting ponies showed that
clearly. Alongside the tracks of the ponies were the half-hidden tracks
of a single horse. Waring glanced back at the sun, and put Dex to a
lope. He swung into the main road, his gaze following the
half-obliterated trail of the single horseman. Suddenly he reined up.
The horseman had angled away from the road and had ridden north across
the open country. He had not gone to Stacey. Waring knew that the
horseman had been riding hard. Straight north from where Waring had
stopped was the Starr Ranch.

He rode on, his heart heavy with a black premonition. The glowing
copper disk was now half-hidden by the western hills.

At the brink of the arroyo he dismounted. He could see nothing
distinctly in the gloom of its depths. Stooping, he noted the wagon
tracks as he worked on down. His foot struck against something hard. He
fumbled and picked Pat's gun from the sand. Every chamber was loaded.

"He didn't have a chance." Waring was startled by his own voice. He
thrust the gun in his waistband. The twilight deepened rapidly. Rocks
and ridges in the arroyo assumed peculiar shapes like those of men
crouching; men prone; men with heads up, listening, watching, waiting.
Yet Waring's instinct for hidden danger told him that there was no
living thing in the arroyo--unless--Suddenly he sprang forward and
dropped to his knees beside a huddled shape near a boulder.

"Pat!" he whispered.

Then he knew; saw it all as clearly as though he had witnessed it--the
ambushment in the blinding sandstorm; the terror-stricken Waco; the
frightened ponies; the lunging and swaying buckboard. And Pat, left for
dead, but who had dragged himself from the roadway in dumb agony.

The dole of light from the sinking sun was gone. Waring's hands came
away from the opened shirt shudderingly. He wiped his hands on the sand,
and, rising, ran back to Dex. He returned with a whiskey flask. Pat was
of tough fiber and tremendous vitality. If the spark were still
unquenched, if it could be called back even for a breath, that which
Waring knew, yet wanted to confirm beyond all doubt, might be given in a
word. He raised Pat's head, and barely tilted the flask. The spirit of
the mortally stricken man, perchance loath to leave such a brave
hermitage, winged slowly back from the far shore of dreams. In the black
pit of the arroyo, where death crouched, waiting, life flamed for an
instant.

Waring felt the limp body stir. He took Pat's big, bony hand in his.

"Pat!" he whispered.

A word breathed heavily from the motionless lips. "You, Jim?"

"Yes! For God's sake, Pat, who did this thing?"

"Brewster--Bob. Letter--in my coat."

"I'll get _him_!" said Waring.

"Shake!" exclaimed the dying man, and the grip of his hand was like
iron. Waring thought he had gone, and leaned closer. "I'm--kind of
tired--Jim. Reckon--I'll--rest."

Waring felt the other's grip relax. He drew his hand from the stiffening
fingers. A dull pain burned in his throat. He lighted a match, and found
the message that had lured Pat to his death in the other's coat-pocket.
He rose and stumbled up the arroyo to his horse.

Halfway back to the ranch, and he met Ramon riding hard. "Ride back,"
said Waring. "Hook up to the wagon and come to the arroyo."

"Have you found the Señor Pat?"

"Yes. He is dead."

Ramon whirled his pony and pounded away in the darkness.

Out on the highway two long, slender shafts of light slid across the
mesa, dipped into an arroyo, and climbed skyward as a machine buzzed up
the opposite pitch. The lights straightened again and shot on down the
road, swinging stiffly from side to side. Presently they came to a stop.
In the soft glow of their double radiance lay a yellow-wheeled
buckboard, shattered and twisted round a telegraph pole. The lights
moved up slowly and stopped again.

A man jumped from the machine and walked round the buckboard. Beneath it
lay a crumpled figure. The driver of the machine ran a quick hand over
the neck and arms of Waco, who groaned. The driver lifted him and
carried him to the car. Stacey lay some twenty miles behind him. He was
bound south. The first town on his way was thirty miles distant. But the
roads were good. He glanced back at the huddled figure in the tonneau.
The car purred on down the night. The long shafts of light lifted over a
rise and disappeared.

In about an hour the car stopped at the town of Grant. Waco was carried
from the machine to a room in the hotel, and a doctor was summoned.
Waco lay unconscious throughout the night.

In the morning he was questioned briefly. He gave a fictitious name, and
mentioned a town he had heard of, but had never been in. His horses had
run away with him.

The man who had picked him up drove away next morning. Later the doctor
told Waco that through a miracle there were no bones broken, but that he
would have to keep to his bed for at least a week. Otherwise he would
never recover from the severe shock to his nervous system.

And Waco, recalling the horror of the preceding day, twisted his head
round at every footstep in the hall, fearing that Waring had come to
question him. He knew that he had done no wrong; in fact, he had told
Pat that they had better drive back home. But a sense of shame at his
cowardice, and the realization that his word was as water in evidence,
that he was but a wastrel, a tramp, burdened him with an aching desire
to get away--to hide himself from Waring's eyes, from the eyes of all
men.

He kept telling himself that he had done nothing wrong, yet fear shook
him until his teeth chattered. What could he have done even had he been
courageous? Pat had had no chance.

He suffered with the misery of indecision. Habit inclined him to flee
from the scene of the murder. Fear of the law urged him. Three nights
after he had been brought to Grant, he dressed and crept down the back
stairs, and made his way to the railroad station. Twice he had heard the
midnight freight stop and cut out cars on the siding. He hid in the
shadows until the freight arrived. He climbed to an empty box-car and
waited. Trainmen crunched past on the cinders. A jolt and he was swept
away toward the west. He sank into a half sleep as the iron wheels
roared and droned beneath him.



Chapter XVIII


_A Piece of Paper_

In the little desert hotel at Stacey, Mrs. Adams was singing softly to
herself as she moved about the dining-room helping Anita clear away the
breakfast dishes. Mrs. Adams had heard from Lorry. He had secured a
place in the Ranger Service. She was happy. His letter had been filled
with enthusiasm for the work and for his chief, Bud Shoop. This in
itself was enough to make her happy. She had known Bud in Las Cruces. He
was a good man. And then--Jim had settled down. Only last week he had
ridden over and told her how they were getting on with the work at the
ranch. He had hinted then that he had laid his guns away. Perhaps he had
wanted her to know _that_ more than anything else. She had kissed him
good-bye. His gray eyes had been kind. "Some day, Annie," he had said.
Her face flushed as she recalled the moment.

A boot-heel gritted on the walk. She turned. Waring was standing in the
doorway. His face was set and hard. Involuntarily she ran to him.

"What is it, Jim? Lorry?"

He shook his head. She saw at once that he was dressed for a long ride
and that--an unusual circumstance--a gun swung at his hip. He usually
wore a coat and carried his gun in a shoulder holster. But now he was
in his shirt-sleeves. A dread oppressed her. He was ready on the instant
to fight, but with whom? Her eyes grew big.

"What is it?" she whispered again.

"The Brewster boys got Pat."

"Not--they didn't kill him!"

Waring nodded.

"But, Jim--"

"In the Red Arroyo on the desert road. I found him. I came to tell you."

"And you are going--"

"Yes. I was afraid this would happen. Pat made a mistake."

"But, Jim! The law--the sheriff--you don't have to go."

"No," he said slowly.

"Then why do you go? I thought you would never do that again.
I--I--prayed for you, Jim. I prayed for you and Lorry. I asked God to
send you back to me with your two hands clean. I told Him you would
never kill again. Oh, Jim, I wanted you--here! Don't!" she sobbed.

He put his arm round her shoulders. Stooping, he kissed her.

"You are going?" she asked, and her hands dropped to her sides.

"Yes; I told Pat I would get Brewster. Pat went out with his hand in
mine on that word. My God, Annie, do you think I could ride back to the
ranch and face the boys or sleep nights with Pat's hand reaching for me
in the dark to remind me of my word? Can't you see where I stand? Do you
think I could look Lorry in the face when he knew that I sat idle while
the man that murdered Pat was riding the country free?"

"Pat was your friend. I am your wife," said Mrs. Adams.

Waring's lips hardened. "Pat's gone. But I'm calling myself his friend
yet. And the man that got him is going to know it."

Before she could speak again Waring was gone.

She dropped to a chair and buried her face in her arms. Anita came to
her and tried to comfort her. But Mrs. Adams rose and walked to the
office doorway. She saw Waring riding down the street. She wanted to
call out to him, to call him back. She felt that he was riding to his
death. If he would only turn! If he would only wave his hand to show
that he cared--But Waring rode on, straight and stern, black hate in his
heart, his free hand hollowed as though with an invisible vengeance that
was gone as he drew his fingers tense.

He rode north, toward the Starr Ranch. He passed a group of riders
drifting some yearlings toward town. A man spoke to him. He did not
reply.

And as he rode he heard a voice--the Voice of his desert wanderings, the
Voice that had whispered to him from the embers of many a night fire in
the Southern solitudes. Yet there, was this difference. That voice had
been strangely dispassionate, detached; not the voice of a human being.
But now the Voice was that of his friend Pat softly reiterating: "Not
this way, Jim."

And Waring cursed. His plan was made. He would suffer no interference.
If Brewster were at the Starr Ranch, he would question him first. If he
were not, there would be no questioning. Waring determined to trail him.
If Brewster had left that part of the country, that would prove his
guilt.

Waring knew that Hardy and his men had ridden south, endeavoring to find
some clue to the murderer's whereabouts. Waring, guided by almost
absolute knowledge, rode in the opposite direction and against a keen
instinct that told him High-Chin Bob was not at the ranch. Yet Waring
would not overlook the slightest chance. Brewster was of the type that
would kill a man in a quarrel and ride home, depending on his nerve and
lack of evidence to escape punishment.

The Voice had said, "Not this way, Jim." And Waring knew that it had
been the voice of his own instinct. Yet a stubborn purpose held him to
his course. There was one chance in a thousand that Bob Brewster was at
the ranch and would disclaim all knowledge of the shooting.

Starr was away when Waring arrived. Mrs. Starr made Waring welcome, and
told him that her husband would be in that evening. He was out with one
of his men running a line for a new fence. The old days of open range
were past. And had Mr. Waring heard that Pat had been killed? Buck Hardy
was out searching for the murderer. Did Mr. Waring know of a likely
foreman? Bob Brewster had left suddenly. Jasper--her husband--was not
well: had the rheumatics again. He could hardly walk--and his foreman
had left. "Things always happened that way."

Mrs. Starr paused for lack of breath.

"When did Brewster leave, Mrs. Starr?"

"Why, the last Jasper seen of him was Wednesday morning. Jasper is
worried. I'm right glad you rode over. He'll be glad to see you."

"Do you mind if I look over the horses in your corral?"

"Goodness, no! I'll have Sammy go with you--"

"Thanks; but I'd rather you said nothing to the boys."

"You don't think that Bob--"

"Mrs. Starr, I wouldn't say so if I knew it. Bob Brewster has friends up
here. I'm looking for one of them."

"Goodness, Mr. Waring, I hope you don't think any of our boys was mixed
up in that."

"I hope not. Have you seen Tony or Andy Brewster lately?"

"Why, no. I--why, yes! Tony and Andy rode over last Sunday. I remember
it was Sunday because Bob was out to the line shack. Tony and Andy hung
around for a while, and then rode out to look for Bob."

"Well, I'll step over and look at the horses. You say Jasper will be in
this evening?"

"If he ain't too stiff with rheumatics to ride back."

Waring walked round the corrals, looking for a pony lame forward and
with half a front shoe gone. Finally he noticed a short-coupled bay that
had not moved when he had waved his arm. Waring climbed through the bars
and cornered the horse. One front shoe was entirely gone, and the pony
limped as Waring turned him loose.

Mrs. Starr was getting supper when Waring returned to the house.

"Any of the boys coming in with Jasper?" he queried.

"Why, nobody except Pete. Pete's been layin' off. He claims his horse
stepped in a gopher hole and threw him. Jasper took him along, feelin'
like he wanted some one on account of his rheumatics. Jasper gets so
stiff ridin' that sometimes he can hardly get on his horse. Mebby you
noticed Pete's pony, that chunky bay in the corral--lame forward."

"Yes, I noticed that. But that pony didn't step in a gopher hole. He was
ridden down by some one in a hurry to get somewhere. He cast a shoe and
went tender on the rocks."

Mrs. Starr stared at Waring.

He shook his head and smiled. "I don't know. I can only guess at it."

"Well, you'll stay for supper--and you can talk to Jasper. He's
worried."

"Thank you. And would you mind asking this man Pete in to supper with
us?"

"I figured to, him being with Jasper and not feeling right well."

About sundown Starr rode in. Waring helped him from his horse. They
shook hands in silence. The old cattleman knew at once why Waring had
come, but he had no inkling of what was to follow.

The cowboy, Pete, took care of the horses. A little later he clumped
into the house and took a seat in a corner. Waring paid no attention to
him, but talked with Starr about the grazing and the weather.

Just before supper Starr introduced Waring.

The cowboy winced at Waring's grip. "Heard tell of you from the boys,"
he said.

"You want to ride over to our place," said Waring pleasantly. "Pat and I
will show you some pretty land under fence."

The cowboy's eyelids flickered. How could this man Waring speak of Pat
that way, when he must know that Pat had been killed? Everybody knew
that. Why didn't Mrs. Starr or Starr say something? But Starr was
limping to the table, and Mrs. Starr was telling them to come and have
supper.

In the glow of the hanging lamp, Starr's lined, grizzled features were
as unreadable as carved bronze. Waring, at his left, sat directly
opposite the cowboy, Pete. The talk drifted from one subject to another,
but no one mentioned the killing of Pat. Waring noted the cowboy's lack
of appetite.

"I looked over your saddle-stock this afternoon," said Waring. "Noticed
you had a bay out there, white blaze on his nose. You don't want to sell
that pony, do you?"

"Oh, that's Pete's pony, Baldy," said Mrs. Starr.

Starr glanced at Waring. The horse Baldy was good enough as cow-ponies
went, but Waring had not ridden over to buy horses.

"I aim to keep that cayuse," said Pete, swallowing hard.

"But every man has his price,"--and Waring smiled. "I'll make my offer;
a hundred, cash."

"Not this evenin'," said the cowboy.

Waring felt in the pocket of his flannel shirt. "I'll go you one better.
I'll make it a hundred, cash, and this to boot." And his arm
straightened.

Pete started back. Waring's hand was on the table, the fingers closed.
His fingers slowly opened, and a crumpled piece of paper lay in his
palm. The cowboy's lips tightened. His eyes shifted from Waring to
Starr, and then back again.

Mrs. Starr, who could not understand the strange silence of the men,
breathed hard and wiped her forehead with her apron.

"Read it!" said Waring sharply.

The cowboy took the piece of paper, and, spreading it out, glanced at it
hurriedly.

"This ain't for me," he asserted.

"Did you ever see it before?"

"This? No. What have I got to do with the sheriff's office?"

"Pete," said Waring, drawing back his hand, "you had better read that
note again."

"Why, I--Pete can't read," said Mrs. Starr. "He can spell out printed
reading some, but not writing."

"Then how did you know this paper was from the sheriff's office?"
queried Waring.

The cowboy half rose.

"Sit down!" thundered Waring. "Who sent you with a note to Pat last
Wednesday?"

"Who said anybody sent me?"

"Don't waste time! I say so. That broken shoe your cayuse cast says so,
for I trailed him from my ranch to the line fence. And you have said so
yourself. This paper is not from the sheriff's office. It's a tax
receipt."

The cowboy's face went white.

"Honest, so help me, Mr. Waring, I didn't know the Brewster boys was
after Pat. Bob he give me the paper. Said it was from the sheriff, and
I was to give it to Pat if you weren't around."

"And if I happened to be around?"

"I was to wait until you was out with the fence gang--"

"How did you know I would be out with them?"

"Bob Brewster told me you would be."

Waring folded the piece of paper and tore it across.

"Starr," he said, turning to the old cattleman, "you have heard and seen
what has happened since we sat down." And Waring turned on the cowboy.
"How much did Bob Brewster give you for this work?"

"I was to get fifty dollars if I put it through."

"And you put it through! You knew it was crooked. And you call yourself
a man! And you took a letter to Pat that called him out to be shot down
by that coyote! Do you know that Pat's gun was loaded when I found it;
that he didn't have a chance?"

Waring's face grew suddenly old. He leaned back wearily.

"I wonder just how you feel?" he said presently. "If I had done a trick
like that I'd take a gun and blow my brains out. God, I'd rather be
where Pat is than have to carry your load the rest of my life! But
you're yellow clean through, and Bob Brewster knew it and hired you. Now
you will take that lame cayuse and ride north just as quick as you can
throw a saddle on him. And when you go,"--and Waring rose and pointed
toward the doorway,--"forget the way back to this country."

The cowboy shuffled his feet and picked up his hat. Starr got up stiffly
and limped to his room. He came out with a check, which he gave to the
cowboy.

Waring pushed back his chair as though to step round the table and
follow the cowboy, but he hesitated, and finally sat down.

"I'm sorry it happened this way, Mrs. Starr," he said.

"It's awful! And one of our men!"

"That's not your fault, Mrs. Starr."

Starr fumbled along the clock shelf, found his pipe, and lighted it. He
sat down near Waring as Mrs. Starr began to clear away the dishes.

"If I can do anything to help run down that white-livered skunk--"

"You can, Jasper. Just keep it to yourself that I have been here. Pete
left of his own accord. I don't want the Brewster boys to know I'm out
on their trail."

Starr nodded and glanced at his wife. "I looked to see you kill him," he
said, gesturing toward the doorway.

"What! That poor fool? I thought you knew me better, Jasper."



Chapter XIX


_The Fight in the Open_

Starr was awakened at midnight by the sound of boot-heels on the
ranch-house veranda. He lighted a lamp and limped to the door. The
lamplight shone on the smooth, young face of a Mexican, whose black
sombrero was powdered with dust.

"What do you want?" queried Starr.

"I am look for the Señor Jim. I am Ramon, of his place. From the rancho
I ride to Stacey. He is not there. Then I come here."

"And you ain't particular about wakin' folks up to tell 'em, either."

"I would find him," said Ramon simply.

"What's your business with Jim Waring?"

"It is that I am his friend. I know that he is ride looking for the men
who killed my patron the Señor Pat. I am Ramon."

"Uh-uh. Well, suppose you are?"

"It is not the suppose. I am. I would find Señor Jim."

"Who said he was here?"

"The señora at the hotel would think that he was here."

Starr scratched his grizzled head. Waring had said nothing about the
Mexican. And Starr did not like Mexicans. Moreover, Waring had said to
tell no one that he had been at the Starr Ranch.

"I don't know where Jim Waring is," said Starr, and, stepping back, he
closed the door.

Ramon strode to his horse and mounted. All gringos were not like the
Señor Jim. Many of them hated Mexicans. Ah, well, he would ride back to
Stacey. The señora at the cantina was a pleasant woman. She would not
shut the door in his face, for she knew who he was. He would ask for a
room for the night. In the morning he would search for Señor Jim. He
must find him.

Mrs. Adams answered his knock at the hotel door by coming down and
letting him in. Ramon saw by the office clock that it was past three.
She showed him to a room.

No, the señor had not been at the Starr Rancho. But he would find him.

Ramon tiptoed to the open window, and knelt with his arms on the sill. A
falling star streaked the night.

"And I shall as soon find him as I would find that star," he murmured.
"Yet to-morrow there will be the sun. And I will ask the Holy Mother to
help me. She will not refuse, knowing my heart."

Without undressing, he flung himself on the bed. As he slept he dreamed;
a strange, vivid dream of the setting sun and a tiny horseman limned
against the gold. The horseman vanished as he rose to follow. If he
were only sure that it was the Señor Jim! The dream had said that the
señor had ridden into the west. In the morning--

With the dawn Ramon was up. Some one was moving about in the kitchen
below. Ramon washed and smoothed his long black hair with his hands. He
stepped quietly downstairs. Breakfast was not ready, so he walked to the
kitchen and talked with Anita.

To her, who understood him as no gringo could, he told of his quest. She
knew nothing of the Señor Jim's whereabouts, save that he had come
yesterday and talked with the señora. Anita admired the handsome young
Mexican, whose face was so sad save when his quick smile lightened the
shadow. And she told him to go back to the ranch and not become
entangled in the affairs of the Americanos. It would be much better for
him so.

Ramon listened patiently, but shook his head. The Señor Jim had been
kind to him; had given him his life down in the Sonora desert. Was Ramon
Ortego to forget that?

Mrs. Adams declined to take any money for Ramon's room. He worked for
her husband, and it was at Ramon's own expense that he would make the
journey in search for him. Instead she had Anita put up a lunch for
Ramon.

He thanked her and rode away, taking the western trail across the
morning desert.

Thirty miles beyond Stacey, he had news of Waring. A Mexican rancher
had seen the gringo pass late in the evening. He rode a big buckskin
horse. He was sure it must be the man Ramon sought. There was not
another such horse in Arizona.

Ramon rode on next day, inquiring occasionally at a ranch or crossroad
store. Once or twice he was told that such a horse and rider had passed
many hours ago. At noon he rested and fed his pony. All that afternoon
he rode west. Night found him in the village of Downey, where he made
further inquiry, but without success.

Next morning he was on the road early, still riding west. No dream had
come to guide him, yet the memory of the former dream was keen. If that
dream were not true, all dreams were lies and prayer a useless ceremony.

For three days he rode, tracing the Señor Jim from town to town, but
never catching up with him. Once he learned that Waring had slept in the
same town, but had departed before daybreak. Ramon wondered why no dream
had come to tell him of this.

That day he rode hard. There were few towns on his way. He reined in
when he came to the fork where the southern highway branches from the
Overland Road. The western road led on across the mountains past the
great cañon. The other swept south through cattle land and into the
rough hills beyond which lay Phoenix and the old Apache Trail. He hailed
a buck-board coming down the southern road. The driver had seen nothing
of a buckskin horse. Ramon hesitated, closing his eyes. Suddenly in the
darkness glared a golden sun, and against it the tiny, black silhouette
of a horseman. His dream could not lie.

Day by day the oval of his face grew narrower, until his cheek-bones
showed prominently. His lips lost their youthful fullness. Only his eyes
were the same; great, velvet-soft black eyes, gently questioning, veiled
by no subtlety, and brighter for the deepening black circles beneath
them.

The fifth day found him patiently riding west, despite the fact that all
trace of Waring had been lost. Questioned, men shook their heads and
watched him ride away, his lithe figure upright, but his head bowed as
though some blind fate drew him on while his spirit drowsed in stagnant
hopelessness.

To all his inquiries that day he received the same answer. Finally, in
the high country, he turned and retraced his way.

A week after he had left Stacey he was again at the fork of the highway.
The southern road ran, winding, toward a shallow valley. He took this
road, peering ahead for a ranch, or habitation of any kind. That
afternoon he stopped at a wayside store and bought crackers and canned
meat. He questioned the storekeeper. Yes, the storekeeper had seen such
a man pass on a big buckskin cayuse several days ago. Ramon thanked him
and rode on. He camped just off the road that evening. In the morning he
set out again, cheered by a new hope. His dream had not lied; only
there should have been another dream to show him the way before he had
come to the fork in the road.

That afternoon three men passed him, riding hard. They were in their
shirt-sleeves and were heavily armed. Their evident haste caused Ramon
to note their passing with some interest. Yet they had thundered past
him so fast, and in such a cloud of dust, that he could not see them
clearly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Waring, gaunt as a wolf, unshaven, his hat rimmed with white dust,
pulled up in front of the weathered saloon in the town of Criswell on
the edge of the desert.

He dismounted and stepped round the hitching-rail. His face was lined
and gray. His eyes were red-rimmed and heavy. As he strode toward the
saloon door, he staggered and caught himself. Dex shuffled uneasily,
knowing that something was wrong with his master.

Waring drew his hand across his eyes, and, entering the saloon, asked
for whiskey. As in a dream, he saw men sitting in the back of the place.
They leaned on their elbows and talked. He drank and called for more.
The loafers in the saloon glanced at each other. Three men had just
ridden through town and down into the desert, going over-light for such
a journey. And here was the fourth. They glanced at Waring's boots, his
belt, his strong shoulders, and his dusty sombrero. Whoever he was, he
fitted his clothes. But a man "going in" was a fool to take more than
one drink. The three men ahead had not stopped at the saloon. One of
them had filled a canteen at the tank near the edge of the town. They
had seemed in a great hurry for men of their kind.

Waring wiped his lips and turned. His eyes had grown bright. For an
instant he glanced at the men, the brown walls spotted with "Police
Gazette" pictures, the barred window at the rear of the room. He drew
out his gun, spun the cylinder, and dropped it back into the holster.

The stranger, whoever he was, seemed to be handy with that kind of tool.
Well, it was no affair of theirs. The desert had taken care of such
affairs in the past, and there was plenty of room for more.

From the saloon doorway they saw Waring ride to the edge of town,
dismount, and walk out in the desert in a wide circle. He returned to
his horse, and, mounting, rode at right angles to the course the three
riders had taken.

One of the men in the doorway spoke. "Thought so," he said with
finality.

The others nodded. It was not their affair. The desert would take care
of that.

About the middle of the afternoon, Waring rode down a sandy draw that
deepened to an arroyo. Near the mouth of the arroyo, where it broke off
abruptly to the desert level, he reined up. His horse stood with head
lowered, his gaunt sides heaving. Waring patted him.

"Not much longer, old boy," he said affectionately.

With his last burst of strength, the big buckskin had circled the course
taken by the three men, urged by Waring's spur and voice. They were
heading in a direct line across the level just beyond the end of the
arroyo where Waring was concealed. He could not see them, but as usual
he watched Dex's ears. The horse would be aware of their nearness
without seeing them. And Waring dared not risk the chance of discovery.
They must have learned that he was following them, for they had ridden
hard these past few days. Evidently they had been unwilling to chance a
fight in any of the towns. And, in fact, Waring had once been ahead of
them, knowing that they would make for the desert. But that night he had
overslept, and they had passed him in the early hours of morning.

Slowly Dex raised his head and sniffed. Waring patted him, afraid that
he would nicker. He had dismounted to tighten the cinches when he
thought he heard voices in argument. He mounted again. The men must have
ridden hard to have made such good time. Again he heard voices. The men
were near the mouth of the arroyo. Waring tossed his hat to the ground
and dropped his gauntlets beside his hat. Carefully he wiped his
sweating hands on his bandanna. Dex threw up his head. His nostrils
worked. Waring spoke to him.

A shadow touched the sand at the mouth of the arroyo. Waring leaned
forward and drove in the spurs. The big buckskin leaped to a run as he
rounded the shoulder of the arroyo.

The three horsemen, who had been riding close together, spread out on
the instant. Waring threw a shot at the foremost figure even as High
Chin's first shot tore away the front of his shirt. Waring fired again.
Tony Brewster, on the ground, emptied his gun as Waring spurred over
him. Turning in the saddle as he flashed past High Chin, Waring fired at
close range at the other's belt buckle. Out on the levels, Andy
Brewster's horse was running with tail tucked down. Waring threw his
remaining shot at High Chin, and, spurring Dex, stood in his stirrups as
he reloaded his gun.

The rider ahead was rocking in the saddle. He had been hit, although
Waring could not recall having shot at him. Suddenly the horse went
down, and Andy Brewster pitched to the sand. Waring laughed and reined
round on the run, expecting each instant to feel the blunt shock of a
bullet. High Chin was still sitting his horse, his gun held muzzle up.
Evidently he was not hard hit, or, if he were, he was holding himself
for a final shot at Waring. Behind him, almost beneath his horse, his
brother Tony had raised himself on his elbow and was fumbling with his
empty gun.

Waring rode slowly toward High Chin. High Chin's hand jerked down.
Waring's wrist moved in answer. The two reports blended in a blunt,
echoless roar. Waring felt a shock that numbed his thigh. High Chin sat
stiffly in the saddle, his hand clasping the horn. He turned and gazed
down at his brother.

"Thought you got him," said Tony Brewster from the ground. "Sit still
and I'll get him from under your horse."

Waring knew now that High Chin was hit hard. The foreman had let his gun
slip from his fingers. Waring saw a slight movement just beneath High
Chin's horse. A shock lifted him from the saddle, and he dropped to the
ground as Tony Brewster fired. But there was no such thing as quit just
so long as Waring could see to shoot. Dragging himself to his gun, he
shook the sand from its muzzle. He knew that he could not last long.
Already flecks of fire danced before his eyes. He bit his lip as he
raised himself and drew fine on that black figure beneath High Chin's
horse. The gun jumped in his hand. Waring saw the black figure twitch
and roll over. Then his sight grew clouded. He tried to brush away the
blur that grew and spread. For an instant his eyes cleared. High Chin
still sat upright in the saddle. Waring raised his gun and fired
quickly. As his hand dropped to the sand, High Chin pitched headlong and
lay still.

Then came a soft black veil that hid the glimmering sun and the wide
desert reaches.

High Chin, his legs paralyzed by a slug that had torn through his
abdomen and lodged in his spine, knew that he had made his last fight.
He braced himself on his hands and called to his brother Tony. But his
brother did not answer. High Chin's horse had strayed, and was grazing
up the arroyo. The stricken man writhed round, feeling no pain, but
conscious of a horrible numbness across his back and abdomen.

"When it hits my heart I'm done," he muttered. "Guess I'll go over and
keep Tony company."

Inch by inch he dragged himself across the sand. Tony Brewster lay on
his back. High Chin touched him; felt of the limp arm, and gazed
curiously at the blue-edged hole in his brother's chest. With awful
labor that brought a clammy moisture to his face, he managed to drag
himself close to his brother and writhe round to a position where he
could sit up, braced against the other's body. He gazed out across the
desert. It had been a fast fight. Waring was done for. High Chin
wondered how long he would last. The sun was near the horizon. It seemed
only a few minutes ago that the sun had been directly overhead and he
and his brothers had been cursing the heat. It was growing cold. He
shivered. A long shadow reached out toward him from the bank of the
arroyo. In a few minutes it would touch him. Then would come night and
the stars. The numbness was creeping toward his chest. He could not
breathe freely. He moved his arms. _They_ were alive yet. He opened and
closed his fingers, gazing at them curiously. It was a strange thing
that a man should die like this; a little at a time, and not suffer much
pain. The fading flame of his old recklessness flared up.

"I'm goin' across," he said. "But, by God, I'm takin' Jim Waring with
me!"

He glanced toward the buckskin horse that stood so patiently beside that
silent figure out there. Waring was done for. High Chin blinked. A long
shaft of sunlight spread across the sand, and in the glow High Chin saw
that the horse was moving toward him. He stared for a few seconds. Then
he screamed horribly.

Waring, his hand gripping the stirrup, was dragging across the sand
beside the horse that stepped sideways and carefully as Waring urged him
on. Dex worked nearer to High Chin, but so slowly that High Chin thought
it was some horrible phantasy sent to awaken fear in his dulled brain.
But that dragging figure, white-faced and terrible--that was real!
Within a few paces of High Chin, Dex stopped and turned his head to look
down at Waring. And Waring, swaying up on his hands, laughed wildly.

"I came over--to tell you--that it was Pat's gun--" He collapsed and lay
still.

High Chin sat staring dully at the gunman's uncovered head. The horse
sniffed at Waring. High Chin's jaw sagged. He slumped down, and lay
back across the body of his brother.

       *       *       *       *       *

A pathway of lamplight floated out and across the main street of
Criswell. A solitary figure lounged at the saloon bar. The sharp barking
of a dog broke the desert silence. The lounger gazed at the path of
lamplight which framed the bare hitching-rail. His companions of the
afternoon had departed to their homes. Again the dog barked shrilly. The
saloon-keeper moved to a chair and picked up a rumpled paper.

The lounger, leaning on his elbow, suddenly straightened. He pointed
toward the doorway. The saloon-keeper saw the motion from the corner of
his eye. He lowered his paper and rose. In the soft radiance a riderless
horse stood at the hitching-rail, his big eyes glowing, his ears pricked
forward. Across the horse's shoulder was a ragged tear, black against
the tawny gold of his coat. The men glanced at each other. It was the
horse of the fourth man; the man who had staggered in that afternoon,
asked for whiskey, and who had left as buoyantly as though he went to
meet a friend.

"They got him," said the saloon-keeper.

"They got him," echoed the other.

Together they moved to the doorway and peered out. The man who had first
seen the horse stepped down and tied the reins to the rail. He ran his
hand down the horse's shoulder over muscles that quivered as he
examined the wound. He glanced at the saddle, the coiled rope, the
slackened cinches, and pointed to a black stain on the stirrup leather.

[Illustration: I came over--to tell you--that it was Pat's gun]

"From the south," he said. "Maguey rope, and that saddle was made in
Mexico."

"Mebby he wants water," suggested the saloon-keeper.

"He's had it. Reins are wet where he drug 'em in the tank."

"Wonder who them three fellas was?"

"Don' know. From up north, by their rig. I'm wonderin' who the fourth
fella was--and where he is."

"Why, he's out there, stiff'nin' on the sand. They's been a fight. And,
believe me, if the others was like him--she was a dandy!"

"I guess it's up to us to do somethin'," suggested the lounger.

"Not to-night, Bill. You don't ketch me ridin' into a flash in the dark
before I got time to tell myself I'm a dam' fool. In the mornin',
mebby--"

Their heads came up as they heard a horse pounding down the road. A lean
pony, black with sweat, jumped to a trembling stop.

A young Mexican swung down and walked stiffly up to Dex.

"Where is Señor Jim?" he queried, breathing hard.

"Don' know, hombre. This his hoss?"

"Si! It is Dex."

'Well, the hoss came in, recent, draggin' the reins."

"Then you have seen him?"

"Seen who? Who are you, anyway?"

"Me, I am Ramon Ortego, of Sonora. The Señor Jim is my friend. I would
find him."

"Well, if your friend sports a black Stetson and a dam' bad eye and
performs with a short-barreled .45, he rode in this afternoon just about
a hour behind three other fellas. They lit out into the dry spot. Reckon
you'll find your friend out there, if the coyotes ain't got to him."

Ramon limped to the rail and untied Dex. Then he mounted his own horse.

"Dex," he said softly, riding alongside, "where is the Señor Jim?"

The big buckskin swung his head round and sniffed Ramon's hand. Then he
plodded down the street toward the desert. At the tank Ramon let his
horse drink. Dex, like a great dog, sniffed the back trail on which he
had come, plodding through the night toward the spot where he knew his
master to be.

Ramon, burdened with dread and weariness, rode with his hands clasped
round the saddle-horn. The Señor Jim, his Señor Jim, had found those
whom he sought. He had not come back. Ramon was glad that he had filled
the canteen. If the man who had killed his Señor Jim had escaped, he
would follow him even as he had followed Waring. And he would find him.
"And then I shall kill him," said Ramon simply. "He does not know my
face. As I speak to him the Señor Jim's name I shall kill him, and the
Señor Jim will know then that I have been faithful."

The big buckskin plodded on across the sand, the empty stirrups
swinging. Ramon's gaze lifted to the stars. He smiled wanly.

"I follow him. Wherever he has gone, I follow him, and he will not lose
the way."

His bowed head, nodding to the pace of the pony, seemed to reiterate in
grotesque assertion his spoken word. Ramon's tired body tingled as Dex
strode faster. The horse nickered, and an answering nicker came from the
night. His own tired pony struck into a trot. Dex stopped. Ramon slid
down, and, stumbling forward, he touched a black bulk that lay on the
sand.

Waring, despite his trim build, was a heavy man. Ramon was just able to
lift him and lay him across the saddle. A coyote yipped from the brush
of the arroyo. As Ramon started back toward town his horse shied at
something near the arroyo's entrance. Ramon did not know that the bodies
of Tony and Bob Brewster formed that low mound half-hidden by the
darkness.

A yellow star, close to the eastern horizon, twinkled faintly and then
disappeared. The saloon at Criswell had been closed for the night.

Next morning the marshal of Criswell sent a messenger to the telegraph
office at the junction. There was no railroad entering the Criswell
Valley. The messenger bore three telegraph messages; one to Sheriff
Hardy, one to Bud Shoop, and one to Mrs. Adams.

Ramon, outside Waring's room in the marshal's house, listened as the
local doctor moved about. Presently he heard the doctor ask a question.
Waring's voice answered faintly. Ramon stepped from the door and found
his way to the stable. Dex, placidly munching alfalfa, turned his head
as Ramon came in.

"The Señor Jim is not dead," he told the horse.

And, leaning against Dex, he wept softly, as women weep, with a
happiness too great to bear. The big horse nuzzled his shoulder with his
velvet-smooth nose, as though he would sympathize. Then he turned to
munching alfalfa again in huge content. He had had a weary journey. And
though his master had not come to feed him, here was the gentle,
low-voiced Ramon, whom he knew as a friend.



CHAPTER XX


_City Folks_

Bud Shoop's new duties kept him exceedingly busy. As the days went by he
found himself more and more tied to office detail. Fortunately Torrance
had left a well-organized corps of rangers, each with his own special
work mapped out, work that Shoop understood, with the exception of
seeding and planting experiments, which Lundy, the expert, attended to
as though the reserve were his own and his life depended upon successful
results along his special line.

Shoop had long since given up trying to dictate letters. Instead he
wrote what he wished to say on slips of paper which his clerk cast into
conventional form. The genial Bud's written directions were brief and to
the point.

Among the many letters received was one from a writer of Western
stories, applying for a lease upon which to build a summer camp. His
daughter's health was none too good, and he wanted to be in the
mountains. Shoop studied the letter. He had a vague recollection of
having heard of the writer. The request was legitimate. There was no
reason for not granting it.

Shoop called in his stenographer. "Ever read any of that fella's
books?"

"Who? Bronson? Yes. He writes bang-up Western stories."

"He does, eh? Well, you get hold of one of them stories. I want to read
it. I've lived in the West a few minutes myself."

A week later Shoop had made his decision. He returned a shiny, new
volume to the clerk.

"I never took to writin' folks reg'lar," he told the clerk. "Mebby I got
the wrong idee of 'em. Now I reckon some of them is human, same as you
and me. Why, do you know I been through lots of them things he writes
about. And, by gollies, when I read that there gun-fight down in Texas,
I ketched myself feelin' along my hip, like I was packin' a gun. And
when I read about that cowboy's hoss,--the one with the sarko eye and
the white legs,--why, I ketched myself feelin' for my ole bandanna to
blow my nose. An' I seen dead hosses a-plenty. But you needn't to say
nothin' about that in the letter. Just tell him to mosey over and we'll
talk it out. If a man what knows hosses and folks like he does wa'n't
raised in the West, he ought to been. Heard anything from Adams?"

"He was in last week. He's up on Baldy. Packed some stuff up to the
lookout."

"Uh-uh. Now, the land next to my shack on the Blue ain't a bad place for
this here writer. I got the plat, and we can line out the five acres
this fella wants from my corner post. But he's comin' in kind of late to
build a camp."

"It will be good weather till December," said the clerk.

"Well, you write and tell him to come over. Seen anything of Hardy and
his men lately?"

"Not since last Tuesday."

"Uh-uh. They're millin' around like a lot of burros--and gettin'
nowhere. But Jim Waring's out after that bunch that got Pat. If I wasn't
so hefty, I'd 'a' gone with him. I tell you the man that got Pat ain't
goin' to live long to brag on it."

"They say it was the Brewster boys," ventured the stenographer.

"They say lots of things, son. But Jim Waring _knows_. God help the man
that shot Pat when Jim Waring meets up with him. And I want to tell you
somethin'. Be kind of careful about repeatin' what 'they say' to
anybody. You got nothin' to back you up if somebody calls your hand.
'They' ain't goin' to see you through. And you named the Brewster boys.
Now, just suppose one of the Brewster boys heard of it and come over
askin' you what you meant? I bet you a new hat Jim Waring ain't said
Brewster's name to a soul--and he _knows_. I'm goin' over to Stacey. Any
mail the stage didn't get?"

"Letter for Mrs. Adams."

"Uh-uh. Lorry writes to his ma like he was her beau--reg'lar and
plenty. Funny thing, you can't get a word out of him about wimmin-folk,
neither. He ain't that kind of a colt. But I reckon when he sees the gal
he wants he'll saddle up and ride out and take her." And Bud chuckled.

Bondsman rapped the floor with his tail. Bondsman never failed to
express a sympathetic mood when his master chuckled.

"Now, look at that," said Shoop, grinning. "He knows I'm goin' over to
Stacey. He heard me say it. And he says I got to take him along, 'cause
he knows I ain't goin' on a hoss. That there dog bosses me around
somethin' scandalous."

The stenographer smiled as Shoop waddled from the office with Bondsman
at his heels. There was something humorous, almost pathetic, in the
gaunt and grizzled Airedale's affection for his rotund master. And
Shoop's broad back, with the shoulders stooped slightly and the set
stride as he plodded here and there, often made the clerk smile. Yet
there was nothing humorous about Shoop's face when he flashed to anger
or studied some one who tried to mask a lie, or when he reprimanded his
clerk for naming folk that it was hazardous to name.

The typewriter clicked; a fly buzzed on the screen door; a beam of
sunlight flickered through the window. The letter ran:--

    Yours of the 4th inst. received and contents noted. In answer would
    state that Supervisor Shoop would be glad to have you call at your
    earliest convenience in regard to leasing a camp-site on the White
    Mountain Reserve.

Essentially a business letter of the correspondence-school type.

But the stenographer was not thinking of style. He was wondering what
the girl would be like. There was to be a girl. The writer had said that
he wished to build a camp to which he could bring his daughter, who was
not strong. The clerk thought that a writer's daughter might be an
interesting sort of person. Possibly she was like some of the heroines
in the writer's stories. It would be interesting to meet her. He had
written a poem once himself. It was about spring, and had been published
in the local paper. He wondered if the writer's daughter liked poetry.

In the meantime, Lorry, with two pack-animals and Gray Leg, rode the
hills and cañons, attending to the many duties of a ranger.

And as he caught his stride in the work he began to feel that he was his
own man. Miles from headquarters, he was often called upon to make a
quick decision that required instant and individual judgment. He made
mistakes, but never failed to report such mistakes to Shoop. Lorry
preferred to give his own version of an affair that he had mishandled
rather than to have to explain some other version later. He was no
epitome of perfection. He was inclined to be arbitrary when he knew he
was in the right. Argument irritated him. He considered his "Yes" or
"No" sufficient, without explanation.

He made Shoop's cabin his headquarters, and spent his spare time cording
wood. He liked his occupation, and felt rather independent with the
comfortable cabin, a good supply of food, a corral and pasture for the
ponies, plenty of clear, cold water, and a hundred trails to ride each
day from dawn to dark as he should choose. Once unfamiliar with the
timber country, he grew to love the twinkling gold of the aspens, the
twilight vistas of the spruce and pines, and the mighty sweep of the
great purple tides of forest that rolled down from the ranges into a
sheer of space that had no boundary save the sky.

He grew a trifle thinner in the high country. The desert tan of his
cheeks and throat deepened to a ruddy bronze.

Aside from pride in his work, he took special pride in his equipment,
keeping his bits and conchas polished and his leather gear oiled.
Reluctantly he discarded his chaps. He found that they hindered him when
working on foot. Only when he rode into Jason for supplies did he wear
his chaps, a bit of cowboy vanity quite pardonable in his years.

If he ever thought of women at all, it was when he lounged and smoked by
the evening fire in the cabin, sometimes recalling "that Eastern girl
with the jim-dandy mother." He wondered if they ever thought of him, and
he wished that they might know he was now a full-fledged ranger with
man-size responsibilities. "And mebby they think I'm ridin' south yet,"
he would say to himself. "I must have looked like I didn't aim to pull
up this side of Texas, from the way I lit out." But, then, women didn't
understand such things.

Occasionally he confided something of the kind to the spluttering fire,
laughing as he recalled the leg of lamb with which he had waved his
hasty farewell.

"And I was scared, all right. But I wasn't so scared I forgot I'd get
hungry." Which conclusion seemed to satisfy him.

When he learned that a writer had leased five acres next to Bud's cabin,
he was skeptical as to how he would get along with "strangers." He liked
elbow-room. Yet, on second thought, it would make no difference to him.
He would not be at the cabin often nor long at a time. The evenings were
lonely sometimes.

But when camped at the edge of the timber on some mountain meadow, with
his ponies grazing in the starlit dusk, when the little, leaping flame
of his night fire flung ruddy shadows that danced in giant mimicry in
the cavernous arches of the pines; when the faint tinkle of the belled
pack-horse rang a faëry cadence in the distance; then there was no such
thing as loneliness in his big, outdoor world. Rather, he was content in
a solid way. An inner glow of satisfaction because of work well done, a
sense of well-being, founded upon perfect physical health and ease,
kept him from feeling the need of companionship other than that of his
horses. Sometimes he sat late into the night watching the pine gum ooze
from a burning log and swell to golden bubbles that puffed into tiny
flames and vanished in smoky whisperings. At such times a companion
would not have been unwelcome, yet he was content to be alone.

Later, when Lorry heard that the writer was to bring his daughter into
the high country, he expressed himself to Shoop's stenographer briefly:
"Oh, hell!" Yet the expletive was not offensive, spoken gently and
merely emphasizing Lorry's attitude toward things feminine.

While Lorry was away with the pack-horses and a week's riding ahead of
him, the writer arrived in Jason, introduced himself and his
daughter,--a rather slender girl of perhaps sixteen or eighteen,--and
later, accompanied by the genial Bud, rode up to the Blue Mesa and
inspected the proposed camp-site. As they rode, Bud discoursed upon the
climate, ways of building a log cabin, wild turkeys, cattle, sheep,
grazing, fuel, and water, and concluded his discourse with a
dissertation upon dogs in general and Airedales in particular. The
writer was fond of dogs and knew something about Airedales. This
appealed to Shoop even more than had the writer's story of the West.

Arrived at the mesa, tentative lines were run and corners marked. The
next day two Mormon youths from Jason started out with a load of lumber
and hardware. The evening of the second day following they arrived at
the homestead, pitched a tent, and set to work. That night they unloaded
the lumber. Next morning they cleared a space for the cabin. By the end
of August the camp was finished. The Mormon boys, to whom freighting
over the rugged hills was more of a pastime than real work, brought in a
few pieces of furniture--iron beds, a stove, cooking-utensils, and the
hardware and provisions incidental to the maintenance of a home in the
wilderness.

The writer and his daughter rode up from Jason with the final load of
supplies. Excitement and fatigue had so overtaxed the girl's slender
store of strength that she had to stay in bed for several days.
Meanwhile, her father put things in order. The two saddle-horses,
purchased under the critical eye of Bud Shoop, showed an inclination to
stray back to Jason, so the writer turned them into Lorry's corral each
evening, as his own lease was not entirely fenced.

Riding in from his long journey one night, Lorry passed close to the new
cabin. It loomed strangely raw and white in the moonlight. He had
forgotten that there was to be a camp near his. The surprise rather
irritated him. Heretofore he had considered the Blue Mesa was his by a
kind of natural right. He wondered how he would like the city folks.
They had evidently made themselves at home. Their horses were in his
corral.

As he unsaddled Gray Leg, a light flared up in the strange camp. The
door opened, and a man came toward him.

"Good-evening," said the writer. "I hope my horses are not in your way."

"Sure not," said Lorry as he loosened a pack-rope.

He took off the packs and lugged them to the veranda. The tired horses
rolled, shook themselves, and meandered toward the spring.

"I'm Bronson. My daughter is with me. We are up here for the summer."

"My name is Adams," said Lorry, shaking hands.

"The ranger up here. Yes. Well, I'm glad to meet you, Adams. My daughter
and I get along wonderfully, but it will be rather nice to have a
neighbor. I heard you ride by, and wanted to explain about my horses."

"That's all right, Mr. Bronson. Just help yourself."

"Thank you. Dorothy--my daughter--has been under the weather for a few
days. She'll be up to-morrow, I think. She has been worrying about our
using your corral. I told her you would not mind."

"Sure not. She's sick, did you say?"

"Well, over-tired. She is not very strong."

"Lungs?" queried Lorry, and immediately he could have kicked himself for
saying it.

"I'm afraid so, Adams. I thought this high country might do her good."

"It's right high for some. Folks got to take it easy at first;
'specially wimmin-folk. I'm right sorry your girl ain't well."

"Thank you. I shouldn't have mentioned it. She is really curious to know
how you live, what you do, and, in fact, what a real live ranger looks
like. Mr. Shoop told her something about you while we were in Jason.
They became great friends while the camp was building. She says she
knows all about you, and tries to tease me by keeping it to herself."

"Bud--my boss--is some josher," was all that Lorry could think of to say
at the time.

Bronson went back to his cabin. Lorry, entering his camp, lighted the
lamp and built a fire. The camp looked cozy and cheerful after a week on
the trail.

When he had eaten he sat down to write to his mother. He would tell her
all about the new cabin and the city folks. But before he had written
more than to express himself "that it was too darned bad a girl had to
stay up in the woods without no other wimmin-folks around," he became
drowsy. The letter remained unfinished. He would finish it to-morrow. He
would smoke awhile and then go to bed.

A healthy young animal himself, he could not understand what sickness
meant. And as for lungs--he had forgotten there were such things in a
person's make-up. And sick folks couldn't eat "regular grub." It must be
pretty tough not to be able to eat heartily. Now, there was that wild
turkey he had shot near the Big Spring. He tiptoed to the door. The
lights were out in the other cabin. It was closed season for turkey, but
then a fellow needed a change from bacon and beans once in a while.

He had hidden the turkey in a gunny-sack which hung from a kitchen
rafter. Should he leave it in the sack, hang it from a rafter of their
veranda, out of reach of a chance bobcat or coyote, or--it would be much
more of a real surprise to hang the big bird in front of their door in
all his feathered glory. The sack would spoil the effect.

He took off his boots and walked cautiously to the other cabin. The
first person to come out of that cabin next morning would actually bump
into the turkey. It would be a good joke.

"And if he's the right kind of a hombre he won't talk about it," thought
Lorry as he returned to his camp. "And if he ain't, I am out one fine
bird, and I'll know to watch out for him."



Chapter XXI


_A Slim Whip of a Girl_

When Bronson opened his door to the thin sunlight and the crisp chill of
the morning, he chuckled. He had made too many camps in the outlands to
be surprised by an unexpected gift of game out of season. His neighbor
was a ranger, and all rangers were incidentally game wardens. Bronson
believed heartily in the conservation of game, and in this instance he
did not intend to let that turkey spoil.

He called to his daughter.

Her brown eyes grew big. "Why, it's a turkey!"

Bronson laughed. "And to-day is Sunday. We'll have a housewarming and
invite the ranger to dinner."

"Did he give it to you? Isn't it beautiful! What big wings--and the
breast feathers are like little bronze flames! Do wild turkeys really
fly?"

"Well, rather. It's a fine sight to see them run to a rim rock and float
off across a cañon."

"Did you tell him about our horses? Is he nice? What did he say? But I
could never imagine a turkey like that flying. I always think of turkeys
as strutting around a farmyard with their heads held back and all puffed
out in front. This one is heavy! I can't see how he could even begin to
fly."

"They have to get a running start. Then they usually flop along and
sail up into a tree. Once they are in a tree, they can float off into
space easily. They seem to fly slowly, but they can disappear fast
enough. The ranger seems to be a nice chap."

"Did he really give the turkey to us?"

"It was hanging right here when I came out. I can't say that he gave it
to us. You see, it is closed season for turkey."

"But we must thank him."

"We will. Let's ask him to dinner. He seems to be a pleasant chap; quite
natural. He said we were welcome to keep our horses in his corral. But
if you want to have him for a real friendly neighbor, Dorothy, don't
mention the word 'turkey.' We'll just roast it, make biscuits and gravy,
and ask him to dinner. He will understand."

"Then I am going to keep the wings and tail to put on the wall of my
room. How funny, not to thank a person for such a present."

"The supervisor would reprimand him for killing game out of season, if
he heard about it."

"But just one turkey?"

"That isn't the idea. If it came to Mr. Shoop that one of his men was
breaking the game laws, Mr. Shoop would have to take notice of it. Not
that Shoop would care about one of his men killing a turkey to eat, but
it would hurt the prestige of the Service. The natives would take
advantage of it and help themselves to game."

"Of course, you know all about those matters. But can't I even say
'turkey' when I ask him to have some?"

"Oh," laughed Bronson, "call it chicken. He'll eat just as heartily."

"The ranger is up," said Dorothy. "I can hear him whistling."

"Then let's have breakfast and get this big fellow ready to roast. It
will take some time."

An hour later, Lorry, fresh-faced and smiling, knocked on the lintel of
their open doorway.

Bronson, in his shirt-sleeves and wearing a diminutive apron to which
clung a fluff of turkey feathers, came from the kitchen.

"Good-morning. You'll excuse my daughter. She is busy."

"I just came over to ask how she was."

"Thank you. She is much better. We want you to have dinner with us."

"Thanks. But I got some beans going--"

"But this is chicken, man! And it is Sunday."

Lorry's gray eyes twinkled. "Chickens are right scarce up here. And
chicken sure tastes better on Sunday. Was you goin' to turn your stock
out with mine?"

"That's so!"

They turned Bronson's horses out, and watched them charge down the mesa
toward the three animals grazing lazily in the morning sunshine.

"Your horses will stick with mine," said Lorry. "They won't stray now."

"Did I hear a piano this morning, or did I dream that I heard some one
playing?"

"Oh, it was me, foolin' with Bud's piano in there. Bud's got an amazin'
music-box. Ever see it?"

"No. I haven't been in your cabin."

"Well, come right along over. This was Bud's camp when he was
homesteadin'. Ever see a piano like that?"

Bronson gazed at the carved and battered piano, stepping close to it to
inspect the various brands. "It is rather amazing. I didn't know Mr.
Shoop was fond of music."

"Well, he can't play reg'lar. But he sure likes to try. You ought to
hear him and Bondsman workin' out that 'Annie Laurie' duet. First off,
you feel like laughin'. But Bud gets so darned serious you kind of
forget he ain't a professional. 'Annie Laurie' ain't no dance tune--and
when Bud and the dog get at it, it is right mournful."

"I have seen a few queer things,"--and Bronson laughed,--"but this beats
them all."

"You'd be steppin' square on Bud's soul if you was to josh him about
that piano," said Lorry.

"I wouldn't. But thank you just the same. You have a neat place here,
Adams."

"When you say 'neat' you say it all."

"I detest a fussy camp. One gets enough of that sort of thing in town.
Is that a Gallup saddle or a Frazier?"

"Frazier."

"I used a Heiser when I was in Mexico. They're all good."

"That's what I say. But there's a hundred cranks to every make of saddle
and every rig. You said you were in Mexico?"

"Before I was married. As a young man I worked for some of the mines. I
went there from college."

"I reckon you've rambled some." And a new interest lightened Lorry's
eyes. Perhaps this man wasn't a "plumb tenderfoot," after all.

"Oh, not so much. I punched cattle down on the Hassayampa and in the
Mogollons. Then I drifted up to Alaska. But I always came back to
Arizona. New Mexico is mighty interesting, and so is Colorado.
California is really the most wonderful State of all, but somehow I
can't keep away from Arizona."

"Shake! I never been out of Arizona, except when I was a kid, but she's
the State for me."

A shadow flickered in the doorway. Lorry turned to gaze at a delicate
slip of a girl, whose big brown eyes expressed both humor and
trepidation.

"My daughter Dorothy, Mr. Adams. This is our neighbor, Dorothy."

"I'm right glad to meet you, miss."

And Lorry's strong fingers closed on her slender hand. To his robust
sense of the physical she appealed as something exceedingly fragile and
beautiful, with her delicate, clear coloring and her softly glowing
eyes. What a little hand! And what a slender arm! And yet Lorry thought
her arm pretty in its rounded slenderness. He smiled as he saw a turkey
feather fluttering on her shoulder.

"Looks like that chicken was gettin' the best of you," he said, smiling.

"That's just it," she agreed, nothing abashed. "Father, you'll have to
help."

"You'll excuse us, won't you? We'll finish our visit at dinner."

Lorry had reports to make out. He dragged a chair to the table. That man
Bronson was all right. Let's see--the thirtieth--looked stockier in
daylight. Had a good grip, too, and a clear, level eye. One mattock
missing in the lookout cabin--and the girl; such a slender whip of a
girl! Just like a young willow, but not a bit like an invalid. Buckley
reports that his man will have the sheep across the reservation by the
fourth of the month. Her father had said she was not over-strong. And
her eyes! Lorry had seen little fawns with eyes like that--big,
questioning eyes, startled rather than afraid.

"Reckon everything she sees up here is just amazin' her at every jump.
I'll bet she's happy, even if she _has_ got lungs. Now, a fella couldn't
help but to like a girl like that. She would made a dandy sister, and a
fella would just about do anything in the world for such a sister. And
she wouldn't have to ask, at that. He would just naturally want to do
things for her, because--well, because he couldn't help feeling that
way. Funny how some wimmin made a man feel like he wanted to just about
worship them, and not because they did anything except be just
themselves. Now, there was that Mrs. Weston. She was a jim-dandy
woman--but she was different. She always seemed to know just what she
was going to say and do. And Mrs. Weston's girl, Alice. Reckon I'd scrap
with her right frequent. She was still--"

Dog-gone it! Where was he drifting to? Sylvestre's sheep were five days
crossing the reserve. Smith reported a small fire north of the lookout.
The Ainslee boys put the fire out. It hadn't done any great damage.

Lorry sat back and chewed the lead pencil. As he gazed out of the window
across the noon mesa a faint fragrance was wafted through the doorway.
He sniffed and grinned. It was the warm flavor of wild turkey, a flavor
that suggested crispness, with juicy white meat beneath. Lorry jumped up
and grabbed a pail as he left the cabin. On his way back from the
spring, Bronson waved to him. Lorry nodded. And presently he presented
himself at Bronson's cabin, his face glowing, his flannel shirt neatly
brushed, and a dark-blue silk bandanna knotted gracefully at his throat.

"This is the princess," said Bronson, gesturing toward his daughter.
"And here is the feast."

"And it was a piano," continued Bronson as they sat down.

"Really? 'Way up here?"

"My daughter plays a little," explained Bronson.

"Well, you're sure welcome to use that piano any time. If I'm gone, the
door is unlocked just the same."

"Thank you, Mr. Adams, I only play to amuse myself now."

Lorry fancied there was a note of regret in her last word. He glanced at
her. She was gazing wistfully out of the window. It hurt him to see that
tinge of hopelessness on her young face.

"This here chicken is fine!" he asserted.

The girl's eyes were turned to him. She smiled and glanced roguishly at
her father. Lorry laughed outright.

"What is the joke?" she demanded.

"Nothin'; only my plate is empty, Miss Bronson."

Bronson grabbed up carving-knife and fork. "Great Caesar! I must have
been dreaming. I _was_ dreaming. I was recalling a turkey hunt down in
Virginia with Colonel Stillwell and his man Plato. Plato was a good
caller--but we didn't get a turkey. Now, this is as tender as--as it
ought to be. A little more gravy? And as we came home, the colonel, who
was of the real mint-julep type, proposed as a joke that Plato see what
he could do toward getting some kind of bird for dinner that night. And
when Plato lifted the covers, sure enough there was a fine, fat roast
chicken. The colonel, who lived in town and did not keep chickens, asked
Plato how much he had paid for it. Plato almost dropped the cover.
'Mars' George,' he said with real solicitude in his voice,' is you
sick?' And speaking of turkeys--"

"Who was speaking of turkeys?" asked Dorothy.

"Why, I think this chicken is superior to any domestic turkey I ever
tasted," concluded Bronson.

"Was you ever in politics?" queried Lorry. And they all laughed
heartily.

After dinner Lorry asked for an apron.

Dorothy shook her finger at him. "It's nice of you--but you don't mean
it."

"Now, ma wouldn't 'a' said that, miss. She'd 'a' just tied one of her
aprons on me and turned me loose on the dishes. I used to help her like
that when I was a kid. Ma runs the hotel at Stacey."

"Why, didn't we stop there for dinner?" asked Dorothy.

"Yes, indeed. All right, Adams, I'll wash 'em and you can dry 'em, and
Dorothy can rest."

"It's a right smilin' little apron," commented Lorry as Dorothy handed
it to him.

"And you do look funny! My, I didn't know you were so big! I'll have to
get a pin."

"I reckon it's the apron looks funny," said Lorry.

"I made it," she said, teasing him.

"Then that's why it is so pretty," said Lorry gravely.

Dorothy decided to change the subject. "I think you should let me wash
the dishes, father."

"You cooked the dinner, Peter Pan."

"Then I'll go over and try the piano. May I?"

"If you'll play for us when we come over, Miss Bronson."

Bronson and Lorry sat on the veranda and smoked. Dorothy was playing a
sprightly melody. She ceased to play, and presently the sweet old tune
"Annie Laurie" came to them. Lorry, with cigarette poised in his
fingers, hummed the words to himself. Bronson was watching him
curiously. The melody came to an end. Lorry sighed.

"Sounds like that ole piano was just singin' its heart out all by
itself," he said. "I wish Bud could hear that."

Almost immediately came the sprightly notes of "Anitra's Dance."

"And that's these here woods--and the water prancin' down the rocks, and
a slim kind of a girl dancin' in the sunshine and then runnin' away to
hide in the woods again." And Lorry laughed softly at his own conceit.

"Do you know the tune?" queried Bronson.

"Nope. I was just makin' that up."

"That's just Dorothy," said Bronson.

Lorry turned and gazed at him. And without knowing how it came about,
Lorry understood that there had been another Dorothy who had played and
sung and danced in the sunshine. And that this sprightly, slender girl
was a bud of that vanished flower, a bud whose unfolding Bronson watched
with such deep solicitude.



Chapter XXII


_A Tune for Uncle Bud_

Lorry had ridden to Jason, delivered his reports to the office, and
received instructions to ride to the southern line of the reservation.
He would be out many days. He had brought down a pack-horse, and he
returned to camp late that night with provisions and some mail for the
Bronsons.

The next day he delayed starting until Dorothy had appeared. Bronson
told him frankly that he was sorry to see him go, especially for such a
length of time.

"But I'm glad," said Dorothy.

Lorry stared at her. Her face was grave, but there was a twinkle of
mischief in her eyes. She laughed.

"Because it will be such fun welcoming you home again."

"Oh, I thought it might be that piano--"

"Now I shan't touch it!" she pouted, making a deliberate face at him.

He laughed. She did such unexpected things, did them so unaffectedly.
Bronson put his arms about her shoulders.

"We're keeping Mr. Adams, Peter Pan. He is anxious to be off. He has
been ready for quite a while and I think he has been waiting till you
appeared so that he could say good-bye."

"Are you anxious to be off?" she queried.

"Yes, ma'am. It's twenty miles over the ridge to good grass and water."

"Why, twenty miles isn't so far!"

"They's considerable up and down in them twenty miles, Miss Bronson.
Now, it wouldn't be so far for a turkey. He could fly most of the way.
But a horse is different, and I'm packin' a right fair jag of stuff."

"Well, good-bye, ranger man. Good-bye, Gray Leg,--and you two poor
horses that have to carry the packs. Don't stay away all winter."

Lorry swung up and started the pack-horses. At the edge of the timber he
turned and waved his hat. Dorothy and her father answered with a hearty
Good-bye that echoed through the slumbering wood lands.

One of Bronson's horses raised his head and nickered. "Chinook is saying
'Adios,' too. Isn't the air good? And we're right on top of the world.
There is Jason, and there is St. Johns, and 'way over there ought to be
the railroad, but I can't see it."

Bronson smiled down at her.

She reached up and pinched his cheek. "Let's stay here forever, daddy."

"We'll see how my girl is by September. And next year, if you want to
come back--"

"Come back! Why, I don't want to go away--ever!"

"But the snow, Peter Pan."

"I forgot that. We'd be frozen in tight, shouldn't we?"

"I'm afraid we should. Shall we look at the mail? Then I'll have to go
to work."

"Mr. Adams thinks quite a lot of his horses, doesn't he?" she queried.

"He has to. He depends on them, and they depend on him. He has to take
good care of them."

"I shouldn't like it a bit if I thought he took care of them just
because he had to."

"Oh, Adams is all right, Peter. I have noticed one or two things about
him."

"Well, I have noticed that he has a tremendous appetite," laughed
Dorothy.

"And you're going to have, before we leave here, Peter Pan."

"Then you'd better hurry and get that story written. I want a new saddle
and, oh, lots of things!"

Bronson patted her hand as she walked with him to the cabin. He sat down
to his typewriter, and she came out with a book.

She glanced up occasionally to watch the ponies grazing on the mesa. She
was deeply absorbed in her story when some one called to her. She jumped
up, dropping her book.

Bud Shoop was sitting his horse a few paces away, smiling. He had ridden
up quietly to surprise her.

"A right lovely mornin', Miss Bronson. I reckon your daddy is busy."

"Here I am," said Bronson, striding out and shaking hands with the
supervisor. "Won't you come in?"

"About that lease," said Shoop, dismounting. "If you got time to talk
business."

"Most certainly. Dorothy will excuse us."

"Is Adams gone?"

"He left this morning."

"Uh-uh. Here, Bondsman, quit botherin' the young lady."

"He isn't bothering. I know what he wants." And she ran to the kitchen.

Shoop's face grew grave. "I didn't want to scare the little lady,
Bronson, but Lorry's father--Jim Waring--has been shot up bad over to
Criswell. He went in after that Brewster outfit that killed Pat. I
reckon he got 'em--but I ain't heard."

"Adams's father!"

"Yes, Jim Waring. Here comes the little missy. I'll tell you later. Now
Bondsman is sure happy."

And Bud forced a smile as Dorothy gave the dog a pan of something that
looked suspiciously like bones and shreds of turkey meat.

A little later Bud found excuse to call Bronson aside to show him a good
place to fence-in the corral. Dorothy was playing with Bondsman.

"Jim's been shot up bad. I was goin' to tell you that Annie Adams, over
to Stacey, is his wife. She left him when they was livin' down in
Mexico. Lorry is their boy. Now, Jim is as straight as a ruler; I don't
know just why she left him. But let that rest. I got a telegram from the
marshal of Criswell. Reads like Jim was livin', but livin' mighty clost
to the edge. Now, if I was to send word to Lorry he'd just nacherally
buckle on a gun and go after them Brewster boys, if they's any of 'em
left. He might listen to me if I could talk to him. Writin' is no good.
And I ain't rigged up to follow him across the ridge. It's bad country
over there. I reckon I better leave word with you. If he gets word of
the shootin' while he's out there, he'll just up and cut across the
hills to Criswell a-smokin'. But if he gets this far back he's like to
come through Jason--and I can cool him down, mebby."

"He ought to know; if his father is--"

"That's just it. But I'm thinkin' of the boy. Jim Waring's lived a big
chunk of his life. But they ain't no use of the kid gettin' shot up. It
figures fifty that I ought to get word to him, and fifty that I ought to
keep him out of trouble--"

"I didn't know he was that kind of a chap: that is, that he would go out
after those men--"

"He's Jim Waring's boy," said Bud.

"It's too bad. I heard of that other killing."

"Yes. And I've a darned good mind to fly over to Criswell myself. I
knowed Pat better than I did Jim. But I can't ride like I used to.
But"--and the supervisor sighed heavily--"I reckon I'll go just the
same."

"I'll give your message to Adams, Mr. Shoop."

"All right. And tell him I want to see him. How's the little lady these
days?"

"She seems to be much stronger, and she is in love with the hills and
cañons."

"I'm right glad of that. Kind of wish I was up here myself. Why, already
they're houndin' me down there to go into politics. I guess they want to
get me out of this job, 'cause I can't hear crooked money jingle. My
hands feels sticky ever' time I think of politics. And even if a fella's
hands ain't sticky--politics money is. Why, it's like to stick to his
feet if he ain't right careful where he walks!"

"I wish you would stay to dinner, Mr. Shoop."

"So I'll set and talk my fool notions--and you with a writin' machine
handy? Thanks, but I reckon I'll light a shuck for Jason. See my piano?"

"Yes, indeed. Dorothy was trying it a few nights ago."

"Then she can play. Missy," and he called to Dorothy, who was having an
extravagant romp with Bondsman, "could you play a tune for your Uncle
Bud?"

"Of course." And she came to them.

They walked to the cabin. Bondsman did not follow. He had had a hard
play, and was willing to rest.

Dorothy drew up the piano stool and touched the keys. Bud sank into his
big chair. Bronson stood in the doorway. By some happy chance Dorothy
played Bud's beloved "Annie Laurie."

When she had finished, Bud blew his nose sonorously. "I know that tune,"
he said, gazing at Dorothy in a sort of huge wonderment. "But I never
knowed all that you made it say."

He rose and shuffled to the doorway, stopping abruptly as he saw
Bondsman. Could it be possible that Bondsman had not recognized his own
tune? Bud shook his head. There was something wrong somewhere. Bondsman
had not offered to come in and accompany the pianist. He must have been
asleep. But Bondsman had not been asleep. He rose and padded to Shoop's
horse, where he stood, a statue of rugged patience, waiting for Shoop to
start back toward home.

"Now, look at that!" exclaimed Bud. "He's tellin' me if I want to get
back to Jason in time to catch the stage to-morrow mornin' I got to
hustle. That there dog bosses me around somethin' scandalous."

When Shoop had gone, Dorothy turned to her father. "Mr. Shoop didn't ask
me to play very much. He seemed in a hurry."

"That's all right, Peter Pan. He liked your playing. But he has a very
important matter to attend to."

"He's really just delicious, isn't he?"

"If you like that word, Peter. He is big and sincere and kind."

"Oh, so were some of the saints for that matter," said Dorothy, making a
humorous mouth at her father.



Chapter XXIII


_Like One Who Sleeps_

Bondsman sat in the doorway of the supervisor's office, gazing
dejectedly at the store across the street. He knew that his master had
gone to St. Johns and would go to Stacey. He had been told all about
that, and had followed Shoop to the automobile stage, where it stood,
sand-scarred, muddy, and ragged as to tires, in front of the
post-office. Bondsman had watched the driver rope the lean mail bags to
the running-board, crank up the sturdy old road warrior of the desert,
and step in beside the supervisor. There had been no other passengers.
And while Shoop had told Bondsman that he would be away some little
time, Bondsman would have known it without the telling. His master had
worn a coat--a black coat--and a new black Stetson. Moreover, he had
donned a white shirt and a narrow hint of a collar with a black
"shoe-string" necktie. If Bondsman had lacked any further proof of his
master's intention to journey far, the canvas telescope suitcase would
have been conclusive evidence.

The dog sat in the doorway of the office, oblivious to the clerk's
friendly assurances that his master would return poco tiempo. Bondsman
was not deceived by this kindly attempt to soothe his loneliness.

Toward evening the up-stage buzzed into town. Bondsman trotted over to
it, watched a rancher and his wife alight, sniffed at them incuriously,
and trotted back to the office. That settled it. His master would be
away indefinitely.

When the clerk locked up that evening, Bondsman had disappeared.

As Bronson stepped from his cabin the following morning he was startled
to see the big Airedale leap from the veranda of Shoop's cabin and bound
toward him. Then he understood. The camp had been Bondsman's home. The
supervisor had gone to Criswell. Evidently the dog preferred the lonely
freedom of the Blue Mesa to the monotonous confines of town.

Bronson called to his daughter. "We have a visitor this morning,
Dorothy."

"Why, it's Bondsman! Where is Mr. Shoop?"

"Most natural question. Mr. Shoop had to leave Jason on business.
Bondsman couldn't go, so he trotted up here to pay us a visit."

"He's hungry. I know it. Come, Bondsman."

From that moment he attached himself to Dorothy, following her about
that day and the next and the next. But when night came he invariably
trotted over to Shoop's cabin and slept on the veranda. Dorothy wondered
why he would not sleep at their camp.

"He's very friendly," she told her father. "He will play and chase
sticks and growl, and pretend to bite when I tickle him, but he does it
all with a kind of mental reservation. Yesterday, when we were having
our regular frolic after breakfast, he stopped suddenly and stood
looking out across the mesa, and it was only my pony, just coming from
the edge of the woods. Bondsman tries to be polite, but he is really
just passing the time while he is waiting for Mr. Shoop."

"You don't feel flattered, perhaps. But don't you admire him all the
more for it?"

"I believe I do. Poor Bondsman! It's just like being a social pet, isn't
it? Have to appear happy whether you are or not."

Bondsman knew that she proffered sympathy, and he licked her hand
lazily, gazing up at her with bright, unreadable eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

Bud Shoop wasted no time in Stacey. He puffed into the hotel, indecision
behind him and a definite object in view.

"No use talkin'," he said to Mrs. Adams. "We got to go and take care of
Jim. I couldn't get word to Lorry. No tellin' where to locate him just
now. Mebby it's just as well. They's a train west along about midnight.
Now, you get somebody to stay here till we get back--"

"But, Mr. Shoop! I can't leave like this. I haven't a thing ready. Anita
can't manage alone."

"Well, if that's all, I admire to say that I'll set right down and run
this here hotel myself till you get back. But it ain't right, your
travelin' down there alone. We used to be right good friends, Annie. Do
you reckon I'd tell you to go see Jim if it wa'n't right? If he ever
needed you, it's right now. If he's goin' to get well, your bein'
there'll help him a pow'ful sight. And if he ain't, you ought to be
there, anyhow."

"I know it, Bud. I wish Lorry was here."

"I don't. I'm mighty glad he's out there where he is. What do you think
he'd do if he knowed Jim was shot up?"

"He would go to his father--"

"Uh-uh?"

"And--"

"Go ahead. You wa'n't born yesterday."

"He would listen to me," she concluded weakly.

"Yep. But only while you was talkin'. That boy is your boy all right,
but he's got a lot of Jim Waring under his hide. And if you want to keep
that there hide from gettin' shot full of holes by a no-account outlaw,
you'll just pack up and come along."

Bud wiped his forehead, and puffed. This sort of thing was not exactly
in his line.

"Here's the point, Annie," he continued. "If I get there afore Lorry,
and you're there, he won't get into trouble. Mebby you could hold him
with your hand on the bridle, but he's runnin' loose right where he is.
Can't you get some lady in town to run the place?"

"I don't know. I'll see."

Bud heaved a sigh. It was noticeably warmer in Stacey than at Jason.

Bud's reasoning, while rough, had appealed to Mrs. Adams. She felt that
she ought to go. She had only needed some such impetus to send her
straight to Waring. The town marshal's telegram had stunned her. She
knew that her husband had followed the Brewsters, but she had not
anticipated the awful result of his quest. In former times he had always
come back to her, taking up the routine of their home life quietly. But
this time he had not come back. If only he had listened to her! And deep
in her heart she felt that old jealousy for the lure which had so often
called him from her to ride the grim trails of his profession. But this
time he had not come back. She would go to him, and never leave him
again.

Anita thought she knew of a woman who would take charge of the hotel
during Mrs. Adams's absence. Without waiting for an assurance of this,
Bud purchased tickets, sent a letter to his clerk, and spent half an
hour in the barber shop.

"Somebody dead?" queried the barber as Bud settled himself in the chair.

"Not that I heard of. Why?"

"Oh, nothing, Mr. Shoop. I seen that you was dressed in black and had on
a black tie--"

Later, as Bud surveyed himself in the glass, trying ineffectually to
dodge the barber's persistent whisk-broom, he decided that he did look a
bit funereal. And when he appeared at the supper table that evening he
wore an ambitious four-in-hand tie of red and yellow. There was going to
be no funeral or anything that looked like it, if he knew it.

Aboard the midnight train he made Mrs. Adams comfortable in the chair
car. It was but a few hours' run to The Junction. He went to the smoker,
took off his coat, and lit a cigar. Around him men sprawled in all sorts
of awkward attitudes, sleeping or trying to sleep. He had heard nothing
further about Waring's fight with the Brewsters. They might still be at
large. But he doubted it. If they were--Shoop recalled the friendly
shooting contest with High-Chin Bob. If High Chin were riding the
country, doubtless he would be headed south. But if he should happen to
cross Shoop's trail by accident--Bud shook his head. He would not look
for trouble, but if it came his way it would bump into something solid.

Shoop had buckled on his gun before leaving Jason. His position as
supervisor made him automatically a deputy sheriff. But had he been
nothing more than a citizen homesteader, his aim would have been quite
as sincere.

It was nearly daylight when they arrived at The Junction. Shoop
accompanied Mrs. Adams to a hotel. After breakfast he went out to get a
buck-board and team. Criswell was not on the line of the railroad.

They arrived in Criswell that evening, and were directed to the
marshal's house, where Ramon met them.

"How's Jim?" was Shoop's immediate query.

"The Señor Jim is like one who sleeps," said Ramon.

Mrs. Adams grasped Shoop's arm.

"He wakens only when the doctor is come. He has spoken your name,
señora."

The marshal's wife, a thin, worried-looking woman, apologized for the
untidy condition of her home, the reason for which she wished to make
obvious. She was of the type which Shoop designated to himself as
"vinegar and salt."

"Reckon I better go in first, Annie?"

"No." And Mrs. Adams opened the door indicated by the other woman.

Shoop caught a glimpse of a white face. The door closed softly. Shoop
turned to Ramon.

"Let's go take a smoke, eh?"

Ramon led the way down the street and on out toward the desert. At the
edge of town, he paused and pointed across the spaces.

"It was out there, señor. I found him. The others were not found until
the morning. I did not know that they were there."

"The others? How many?"

"Three. One will live, but he will never ride again. The others, High
of the Chin and his brother, were buried by the marshal. None came to
claim them."

"Were you in it?"

"No, señor. It was alone that Señor Jim fought them. He followed them
out there alone. I come and I ask where he is gone. I find him that
night. I do not know that he is alive."

"What became of his horse?"

"Dex he come back with no one on him. It is then that I tell Dex to find
for me the Señor Jim."

"And he trailed back to where Jim went down, eh? Uh-uh! I got a dog
myself."

"Will the Señor Jim ride again?" queried Ramon.

"I dunno, boy, I dunno. But if you and me and the doc and the
señora--and mebby God--get busy, why, mebby he'll stand a chance. How
many times was he hit?"

"Two times they shot him."

"Two, eh? Well, speakin' from experience, they was three mighty fast
guns ag'in' him. Say five shots in each gun, which is fifteen. And he
had to reload, most-like, for he can empty a gun quicker than you can
think. Fifteen to five for a starter, and comin' at him from three ways
to once. And he got the whole three of 'em! Do you know what that means,
boy? But shucks! I'm forgettin' times has changed. How they been usin'
you down here?"

"I am sleep in the hay by Dex."

"Uh-uh. Let that rest. Mebby it's a good thing, anyhow. Got any money?"

"No, señor. I have use all."

"Where d' you eat?"

"I have buy the can and the crackers at the store."

"Can and crackers, eh? Bet you ain't had a square meal for a week. But
we'll fix that. Here, go 'long and buy some chuck till I get organized."

"Gracias, señor. But I can pray better when I do not eat so much."

"Good Lord! But, that's some idee! Well, if wishin' and hopin' and such
is prayin', I reckon Jim'll pull through. I reckon it's up to the missus
now."

"Lorry is not come?"

"Nope. Couldn't get to him. When does the mail go out of this
bone-hill?"

"I do not know. To-morrow or perhaps the next day."

"Uh-uh. Well, you get somethin' to eat, and then throw a saddle on Dex
and I'll give you a couple of letters to take to The Junction. And, come
to think, you might as well keep right on fannin' it for Stacey and
home. They can use you over to the ranch. The missus and me'll take care
of Señor Jim."

"I take the letter," said Ramon, "but I am come back. I am with the
Señor Jim where he goes."

"Oh, very well, amigo. Might as well give a duck a bar of soap and ask
him to take a bath as to tell you to leave Jim. Such is wastin' talk."



Chapter XXIV


_The Genial Bud_

"And just as soon as he can be moved, his wife aims to take him over to
Stacey."

So Bud told the Marshal of Criswell, who, for want of better
accommodations, had his office in the rear of the general store.

The marshal, a gaunt individual with a watery blue eye and a soiled
goatee, shook his head. "The law is the law," he stated sententiously.

"And a gun's a gun," said Shoop. "But what evidence you got that Jim
Waring killed Bob Brewster and his brother Tony?"

"All I need, pardner. When I thought Andy Brewster was goin' to pass
over, I took his antimortim. But he's livin'. And he is bound over to
appear ag'in' Waring. What you say about the killin' over by Stacey
ain't got nothin' to do with this here case. I got no orders to hold
Andy Brewster, but I'm holdin' him for evidence. And I'm holdin' Waring
for premeditated contempt and shootin' to death of said Bob Brewster and
his brother Tony. And I got said gun what did it."

"So you pinched Jim's gun, eh? And when he couldn't lift a finger or say
a word to stop you. Do you want to know what would happen if you was to
try to get a holt of said gun if Jim Waring was on his two feet? Well,
Jim Waring would pull said trigger, and Criswell would bury said city
marshal."

"The law is the law. This town's payin' me to do my duty, and I'm goin'
to do it."

"Speakin' in general, how much do you owe the town so far?"

"Look-a-here! You can't run no whizzer like that on me. I've heard tell
of you, Mr. Shoop. No dinky little ole forest ranger can come
cantelopin' round here tellin' me my business!"

"Mebby I'm dinky, and mebby, I'm old, but your eyesight wants fixin' if
you callin' me little, old hoss. An' I ain't tryin' to tell you your
business. I'm tellin' you mine, which is that Jim Waring goes to Stacey
just the first minute he can put his foot in a buck-board. And he's
goin' peaceful. I got a gun on me that says so."

"The law is the law. I can run you in for packin' concealed weapons, Mr.
Shoop."

"Run me in!" chuckled Shoop. "Nope. You'd spile the door. But let me
tell you. A supervisor is a deputy sheriff--and that goes anywhere
they's a American flag. I don't see none here, but I reckon Criswell is
in America. What's the use of your actin' like a goat just because you
got chin whiskers? I'm tellin' you Jim Waring done a good job when he
beefed them coyotes."

The marshal's pale-blue eyes blinked at the allusion to the goat. "Now,
don't you get pussonel, neighbor. The law is the law, and they ain't no
use you talkin'."

Bud's lips tightened. The marshal's reiterated reference to the law was
becoming irksome. He would be decidedly impersonal henceforth.

"I seen a pair of walkin' overalls once, hitched to a two-bit shirt with
a chewin'-tobacco tag on it. All that held that there fella together was
his suspenders. I don't recollec' whether he just had goat whiskers or
chewed tobacco, but somebody who had been liquorin' up told him he
looked like the Emperor Maximilian. And you know what happened to Maxy."

"That's all right, neighbor. But mebby when I put in my bill for board
of said prisoner and feed for his hoss and one Mexican, mebby you'll
quit talkin' so much, 'less you got friends where you can borrow money."

"Your bill will be paid. Don't you worry about that. What I want to know
is: Does Jim Waring leave town peaceful, or have I got to hang around
here till he gets well enough to travel, and then show you? I got
somethin' else to do besides set on a cracker barrel and swap lies with
my friends."

"You can stay or you can go, but the law is the law--"

"And a goat is a goat. All right, hombre, I'll stay."

"As I was sayin'," continued the marshal, ignoring the deepening color
of Shoop's face, "you can stay. You're too durned fat to move around
safe, anyhow. You might bust."

Shoop smiled. He had stirred the musty marshal to a show of feeling. The
marshal, who had keyed himself up to make the thrust, was disappointed.
He made that mistake, common to his kind, of imagining that he could
continue that sort of thing with impunity.

"You come prancin' into this town with a strange woman, sayin' that she
is the wife of the defendant. Can you tell me how her name is Adams and
his'n is Waring?"

"I can!" And with a motion so swift that the marshal had no time to help
himself, Bud Shoop seized the other's goatee and yanked him from the
cracker barrel. "I got a job for you," said Shoop, grinning until his
teeth showed.

And without further argument on his part, he led the marshal through the
store and up the street to his own house. The marshal back-paddled and
struggled, but he had to follow his chin.

Mrs. Adams answered Bud's knock. Bud jerked the marshal to his knees.

"Apologize to this lady--quick!"

"Why, Mr. Shoop!"

"Yes, it's me, Annie. Talk up, you pizen lizard!"

"But, Bud, you're hurting him!"

"Well, I didn't aim to feed him ice-cream. Talk up, you Gila
monster--and talk quick!"

"I apologize," mumbled the marshal.

Bud released him and wiped his hand on his trousers.

"Sticky!" he muttered.

The marshal shook his fist at Bud. "You're under arrest for disturbin'
the peace. You're under arrest!"

"What does it mean?" queried Mrs. Adams.

"Nothin' what he ain't swallowed, Annie. Gosh 'mighty, but I wasted a
lot of steam on that there walkin' clothes-rack! The blamed horn toad
says he's holdin' Jim for shootin' the Brewsters."

"But he can't," said Mrs. Adams. "Wait a minute; I'll be right out. Sit
down, Bud. You are tired out and nervous."

Bud sat down heavily. "Gosh! I never come so clost to pullin' a gun in
my life. If he was a man, I reckon I'd 'a' done it. What makes me mad is
that I let him get _me_ mad."

When Mrs. Adams came out to the porch she had a vest in her hand. Inside
the vest was pinned the little, round badge of a United States marshal.
Bud seized the vest, and without waiting to listen to her he plodded
down the street and marched into the general store, where the town
marshal was talking to a group of curious natives.

"Can you read?" said Bud, and without waiting for an answer shoved the
little silver badge under the marshal's nose. "The law is the law,"
said Bud. "And that there vest belongs to Jim Waring."

Bud had regained his genial smile. He was too full of the happy
discovery to remain silent.

"Gentlemen," he said, assuming a manner, "did your honorable peace
officer here tell you what he said about the wife of the man who is
layin' wounded and helpless in his own house? And did your honorable
peace officer tell you-all that it is her money that is payin' for the
board and doctorin' of Tony Brewster, likewise layin' wounded and
helpless in your midst? And did your honorable peace officer tell you
that Jim Waring is goin' to leave comfortable and peaceful just as soon
as the A'mighty and the doc'll turn him loose? Well, I seen he was
talkin' to you, and I figured he might 'a' been tellin' you these
things, but I wa'n't sure. Was you-all thinkin' of stoppin' me? Such
doin's! Why, when I was a kid I used to ride into towns like this
frequent, turn 'em bottom side up, spank 'em, and send 'em bawlin' to
their--to their city marshal, and I ain't dead yet. Now, I come peaceful
and payin' my way, but if they's any one here got any objections to how
I wear my vest or eat my pie, why, he can just oil up his objection,
load her, and see that she pulls easy and shoots straight. I ain't no
charity organization, but I'm handin' you some first-class life
insurance free."

That afternoon Buck Hardy arrived, accompanied by a deputy. Andy
Brewster again made deposition that without cause Waring had attacked
and killed his brothers. Hardy had a long consultation with Shoop, and
later notified Brewster that he was under arrest as an accomplice in the
murder of Pat and for aiding the murderer to escape. While
circumstantial evidence pointed directly toward the Brewsters, who had
threatened openly from time to time to "get" Pat, there was valuable
evidence missing in Waco, who, it was almost certain, had been an
eye-witness of the tragedy. Waco had been traced to the town of Grant,
at which place Hardy and his men had lost the trail. The demolished
buckboard had been found by the roadside. Hardy had tracked the
automobile to Grant.

Shoop suggested that Waco might have taken a freight out of town.
Despite Hardy's argument that Waco had nothing to fear so far as the
murder was concerned, Shoop realized that the tramp had been afraid to
face the law and had left that part of the country.

Such men were born cowards, irresolute, weak, and treacherous even to
their own infrequent moments of indecision. There was no question but
that Waring had acted within the law in killing the Brewsters. Bob
Brewster had fired at him at sight. But the fact that one of the
brothers survived to testify against Waring opened up a question that
would have to be answered in court. Shoop offered the opinion that
possibly Andy Brewster, the youngest of the brothers, was not directly
implicated in the murder, only taking sides with his brother Bob when he
learned that he was a fugitive. In such a premise it was not unnatural
that his bitterness toward Waring should take the angle that it did. And
it would be difficult to prove that Andy Brewster was guilty of more
than aiding his brother to escape.

The sheriff and Shoop talked the matter over, with the result that Hardy
dispatched a telegram from The Junction to all the Southern cities to
keep a sharp watch for Waco.

Next morning Shoop left for Jason with Hardy and his deputy.

Several days later Waring was taken to The Junction by Mrs. Adams and
Ramon, where Ramon left them waiting for the east-bound. The Mexican
rode the big buckskin. He had instructions to return to the ranch.

Late that evening, Waring was assisted from the train to the hotel at
Stacey. He was given Lorry's old room. It would be many weeks before he
would be strong enough to walk again.

For the first time in his life Waring relinquished the initiative. His
wife planned for the future, and Waring only asserted himself when she
took it for granted that the hotel would be his permanent home.

"There's the ranch, Annie," he told her. "I can't give that up."

"And you can't go back there till I let you," she asserted, smiling.

"I'll get Lorry to talk to you about that. I'm thinking of making him an
offer of partnership. He may want to set up for himself some day. I
married young."

"I'd like to see the girl that's good enough for my Lorry."

Waring smiled. "Or good enough to call you 'mother.'"

"Jim, you're trying to plague me."

"But you will some day. There's always some girl. And Lorry is a pretty
live boy. He isn't going to ride a lone trail forever."

Mrs. Adams affected an indifference that she by no means felt.

"You're a lot better to-day, Jim."

"And that's all your fault, Annie."

She left the room, closing the door slowly. In her own room at the end
of the hall, she glanced at herself in the glass. A rosy face and
dark-brown eyes smiled back at her.

But there were many things to attend to downstairs. She had been away
more than a week. And there was evidence of her absence in every room in
the place.



Chapter XXV


_The Little Fires_

With the coming of winter the Blue Mesa reclaimed its primordial
solitude. Mount Baldy's smooth, glittering roundness topped a world that
swept down in long waves of dark blue frosted with silver; the serried
minarets of spruce and pine bulked close and sprinkled with snow.
Blanketed in white, the upland mesas lay like great, tideless lakes,
silent and desolate from green-edged shore to shore. The shadowy caverns
of the timberlands, touched here and there with a ray of sunlight,
thrilled to the creeping fingers of the cold. Tough fibers of the
stiff-ranked pines parted with a crackling groan, as though unable to
bear silently the reiterant stabbing of the frost needles. The frozen
gum of the black spruce glowed like frosted topaz. The naked whips of
the quaking asp were brittle traceries against the hard blue of the sky.

Below the rounded shoulders of the peaks ran an incessant whispering as
thin swirls of powdered snow spun down the wind and sifted through the
moving branches below.

The tawny lynx and the mist-gray mountain lion hunted along snow-banked
ranger trails. The blue grouse sat stiff and close to the tree-trunk,
while gray squirrels with quaintly tufted ears peered curiously at
sinuous forms that nosed from side to side of the hidden trail below.

The two cabins of the Blue Mesa, hooded in white, thrust their lean
stovepipes skyward through two feet of snow. The corrals were shallow
fortifications, banked breast-high. The silence seemed not the silence
of slumber, but that of a tense waiting, as though the whole winter
world yearned for the warmth of spring.

No creak of saddle or plod of hoof broke the bleak stillness, save when
some wandering Apache hunted the wild turkey or the deer, knowing that
winter had locked the trails to his ancient heritage; that the white
man's law of boundaries was void until the snows were thin upon the
highest peaks.

Thirty miles north of this white isolation the low country glowed in a
sun that made golden the far buttes and sparkled on the clay-red waters
of the Little Colorado. Four thousand feet below the hills cattle
drifted across the open lands.

Across the ranges, to the south, the barren sands lay shimmering in a
blur of summer heat waves; the winter desert, beautiful in its golden
lights and purple, changing shadows. And in that Southern desert, where
the old Apache Trail melts into the made roads of ranchland and town,
Bronson toiled at his writing. And Dorothy, less slender, more
sprightly, growing stronger in the clean, clear air and the sun,
dreamed of her "ranger man" and the blue hills of her autumn wonderland.
With the warmth of summer around her, the lizards on the rocks, and the
chaparral still green, she could hardly realize that the Blue Mesa could
be desolate, white, and cold. As yet she had not lived long enough in
the desert to love it as she loved the wooded hills, where to her each
tree was a companion and each whisper of the wind a song.

She often wondered what Lorry was doing, and whether Bondsman would come
to visit her when they returned to their cabin on the mesa. She often
recalled, with a kind of happy wonderment, Bondsman's singular visit and
how he had left suddenly one morning, heedless of her coaxing. The big
Airedale had appeared in Jason the day after Bud Shoop had returned from
Criswell. That Bondsman should know, miles from the town, that his
master had returned was a mystery to her. She had read of such
happenings; her father had written of them. But to know them for the
very truth! That was, indeed, the magic, and her mountains were towering
citadels of the true Romance.

Long before Bronson ventured to return to his mountain camp, Lorry was
riding the hill trails again as spring loosened the upland snows and
filled the cañons and arroyos with a red turbulence of waters bearing
driftwood and dead leaves. With a companion ranger he mended trail and
rode along the telephone lines, searching for sagging wires; made notes
of fresh down timber and the effect of the snow-fed torrents on the
major trails.

Each day the air grew warmer. Tiny green shoots appeared in the rusty
tangle of last season's mesa grasses. Imperceptibly the dull-hued mesas
became fresh carpeted with green across which the wind bore a subtly
soft fragrance of sun-warmed spruce and pine.

To Lorry the coming of the Bronsons was like the return of old friends.
Although he had known them but a short summer season, isolation had
brought them all close together. Their reunion was celebrated with an
old-fashioned dinner of roast beef and potatoes, hot biscuit and honey,
an apple pie that would have made a New England farmer dream of his
ancestors, and the inevitable coffee of the high country.

And Dorothy had so much to tell him of the wonderful winter desert; the
old Mexican who looked after their horses, and his wife who cooked for
them. Of sunshine and sandstorms, the ruins of ancient pueblos in which
they discovered fragments of pottery, arrowheads, beads, and trinkets,
of the lean, bronzed cowboys of the South, of the cattle and sheep,
until in her enthusiasm she forgot that Lorry had always known of these
things. And Lorry, gravely attentive, listened without interrupting her
until she asked why he was so silent.

"Because I'm right happy, miss, to see you lookin' so spry and pretty.
I'm thinkin' Arizona has been kind of a heaven for you."

"And you?" she queried, laughing.

"Well, it wasn't the heat that would make me call it what it was up here
last winter. I rode up once while you was gone. Gray Leg could just make
it to the cabin. It wasn't so bad in the timber. But comin' across the
mesa the cinchas sure scraped snow."

"Right here on our mesa?"

"Right here, miss. From the edge of the timber over there to this side
it was four feet deep on the level."

"And now," she said, gesturing toward the wavering grasses. "But why did
you risk it?"

Lorry laughed. He had not considered it a risk. "You remember that book
you lent me. Well, I left it in my cabin. There was one piece that kep'
botherin' me. I couldn't recollect the last part about those 'Little
Fires.' I was plumb worried tryin' to remember them verses. When I got
it, I sure learned that piece from the jump to the finish."

"The 'Little Fires'? I'm glad you like it. I do.

  "'From East to West they're burning in tower and forge
       and home,
  And on beyond the outlands, across the ocean foam;
  On mountain crest and mesa, on land and sea and height,
  The little fires along the trail that twinkle down the night.'

"And about the sheep-herder; do you remember how--

  "'The Andalusian herder rolls a smoke and points the way,
  As he murmurs, "Caliente," "San Clemente," "Santa Fé,"
  Till the very names are music, waking memoried desires,
  And we turn and foot it down the trail to find the little fires.
  Adventuring! Adventuring! And, oh, the sights to see!
  And little fires along the trail that wink at you and me.'"

"That's it! But I couldn't say it like that. But I know some of them
little fires."

"We must make one some day. Won't it be fun!"

"It sure is when a fella ain't hustlin' to get grub. That poem sounds
better after grub, at night, when the stars are shinin' and the horses
grazin' and mebby the pack-horse bell jinglin' 'way off somewhere. Then
one of them little fires is sure friendly."

"Have you been reading this winter?"

"Oh, some. Mostly forestry and about the war. Bud was tellin' me to read
up on forestry. He's goin' to put me over west--and a bigger job this
summer."

"You mean--to stay?"

"About as much as I stay anywhere."

Dorothy pouted. She had thought that the Blue Mesa and the timberlands
were more beautiful than ever that spring, but to think that the
neighboring cabin would be vacant all summer! No cheery whistling and no
wood smoke curling from the chimney and no blithe voice talking to the
ponies. No jolly "Good-mornin', miss, and the day is sure startin' out
proud to see you." Well, Dorothy had considered Mr. Shoop a friend. She
would have a very serious talk with Mr. Shoop when she saw him.

She had read of Waring's fight in the desert and of his slow recovery,
and that Waring was Lorry's father; matters that she could not speak of
to Lorry, but the knowledge of them lent a kind of romance to her ranger
man. At times she studied Lorry, endeavoring to find in him some trace
of his father's qualities. She had not met Waring, but she imagined much
from what she had heard and read. And could Lorry, who had such kind
gray eyes and such a pleasant face, deliberately go out and kill men as
his father had done? Why should men kill each other? The world was so
beautiful, and there was so much to live for.

Although the trail across the great forest terraces below was open clear
up to the Blue Mesa, the trails on the northern side of the range were
still impassable. The lookout man would not occupy his lonely cabin on
Mount Baldy for several weeks to come, and Lorry's work kept him within
a moderate radius of the home camp.

Several times Dorothy and her father rode with Lorry, spending the day
searching for new vistas while he mended trail or repaired the telephone
line that ran from Mount Baldy to the main office. Frequently they would
have their evening meal in Bronson's camp, after which Lorry always
asked them to his cabin, where Dorothy would play for them while they
smoked contentedly in front of the log fire. To Dorothy it seemed that
they had always lived in a cabin on the Blue Mesa and that Lorry had
always been their neighbor, whom it was a joy to tease because he never
showed impatience, and whose attitude toward her was that of a brother.

And without realizing it, Lorry grew to love the sprightly, slender
Dorothy with a wholesome, boyish affection. When she was well, he was
happy. When she became over-tired, and was obliged to stay in her room,
he was miserable, blaming himself for suggesting some expedition that
had been too much for her strength, so often buoyed above its natural
level by enthusiasm. At such times he would blame himself roundly. And
if there seemed no cause for her depression, he warred silently with the
power that stooped to harm so frail a creature. His own physical freedom
knew no such check. He could not quite understand sickness, save when it
came through some obvious physical injury.

Bronson was glad that there was a Lorry; both as a companion to himself
and as a tower of strength to Dorothy. Her depression vanished in the
young ranger's presence. It was a case of the thoroughbred endeavoring
to live up to the thoroughbred standard. And Bronson considered anything
thoroughbred that was true to type. Yet the writer had known men
physically inconsequent who possessed a fine strain of courage, loyalty,
honor. The shell might be misshapen, malformed, and yet the spirit burn
high and clear. And Bronson reasoned that there was a divinity of blood,
despite the patents of democracy.

Bronson found that he had to go to Jason for supplies. Dorothy asked to
go with him. Bronson hesitated. It was a long ride, although Dorothy had
made it upon occasion. She teased prettily. Lorry was away. She wasn't
afraid to stay alone, but she would be lonesome. If she kissed him three
times, one right on top of the other, would he let her come? Bronson
gave in to this argument. They would ride slowly, and stay a day longer
in Jason to rest.

When they arrived at Jason, Dorothy immediately went to bed. She wanted
to be at her best on the following day. She was going to talk with Mr.
Shoop. It was a very serious matter.

And next morning she excused herself while her father bought supplies.
She called at the supervisor's office. Bud Shoop beamed. She was so
alert, so vivacious, and so charming in her quick slenderness. The
genial Bud placed a chair for her with grandiloquent courtesy.

"I'm going to ask a terrible favor," she began, crossing her legs and
clasping her knee.

"I'm pow'ful scared," said Bud.

"I don't want favors that way. I want you to like me, and then I will
tell you."

"My goodness, missy! Like you! Who said I didn't?"

"No one. But you have ordered Lorry Adams to close up his camp and go
over to work right near the Apache Reservation."

"I sure did."

"Well, Mr. Shoop, I don't like Apaches."

"You got comp'ny, missy. But what's that got to do with Lorry?"

"Oh, I suppose he doesn't care. But what do you think his _mother_ would
say to you if he--well, if he got _scalped_?"

A slow grin spread across Bud's broad face. Dorothy looked solemn
disapproval. "I can't help it," he said as he shook all over. Two tears
welled in the corner of his eyes and trickled down his cheeks. "I can't
help it, missy. I ain't laughin' at you. But Lorry gettin' scalped! Why,
here you been livin' up here, not five miles from the Apache line, and I
ain't heard you tell of bein' scared of Injuns. And you ain't no bigger
than a minute at that."

"That's just it! Suppose the Apaches did come over the line? What could
we do if Lorry were gone?"

"Well, you might repo't their trespassin' to me. And I reckon your daddy
might have somethin' to say to 'em. He's been around some."

"Oh, I suppose so. But there is a lot of work to do in Lorry's district,
I noticed, coming down. The trails are in very bad condition."

"I know it. But he's worth more to the Service doin' bigger work. I got
a young college man wished onto me that can mend trails."

"Will he live at Lorry's cabin?"

"No. He'll head in from here. I ain't givin' the use of my cabin and my
piano to everybody."

Dorothy's eyes twinkled. "If Lorry were away some one might steal your
piano."

"Now, see here, missy; you're joshin' your Uncle Bud. Do you know that
you're tryin' to bribe a Gov'ment officer? That means a pow'ful big
penalty if I was to repo't to Washington."

Dorothy wrinkled her nose. "I don't care if you do! You'd get what-for,
too."

"Well, I'll tell you, missy. Let's ask Bondsman about this here hocus.
Are you willin' to stand by what he says?"

"Oh, that's not fair! He's _your_ dog."

"But he's plumb square in his jedgments, missy. Now, I'll tell you.
We'll call him in and say nothin'. Then you ask him if he thinks I ought
to put Lorry Adams over west or leave him to my camp this summer. Now,
if Bondsman wiggles that stub tail of his, it means, 'yes.' If he don't
wiggle his tail, he says, 'no,'--huh?"

"Of course he'll wiggle his tail. He always does when I talk to him."

"Then suppose I do the talkin'?"

"Oh, you can make him do just as you wish. But all right, Mr. Shoop.
And you will really let Bondsman decide?"

"'Tain't accordin' to rules, but seein' it's you--"

Bud called to the big Airedale. Bondsman trotted in, nosed Dorothy's
hand, and looked up at his master.

"Come 'ere!" commanded Shoop brusquely. "Stand right there! Now, quit
tryin' to guess what's goin' on and listen to the boss. Accordin' to
your jedgment, which is plumb solid, do I put Lorry to work over on the
line this summer?"

Bondsman cocked his ears, blinked, and a slight quiver began at his
shoulders, which would undoubtedly accentuate to the affirmative when it
reached his tail.

"Rats!" cried Dorothy.

The Airedale grew rigid, and his spike of a tail cocked up straight and
stiff.

Bud Shoop waved his hands helplessly. "I might 'a' knowed it! A lady can
always get a man steppin' on his own foot when he tries to walk around a
argument with her. You done bribed me and corrupted Bondsman. But I'm
stayin' right by what I said."

Dorothy jumped up and took Bud's big hand in her slender ones. "You're
just lovely to us!" And her brown eyes glowed softly.

Bud coughed. His shirt-collar seemed tight. He tugged at it, and coughed
again.

"Missy," he said, leaning forward and patting her hand,--"missy, I
would send Lorry plumb to--to--Phoenix and tell the Service to go find
him, just to see them brown eyes of yours lookin' at me like that. But
don't you say nothin' about this here committee meetin' to nobody. I
reckon you played a trick on me for teasin' you. So you think Lorry is a
right smart hombre, eh?"

"Oh," indifferently, "he's rather nice at times. He's company for
father."

"Then I reckon you set a whole lot of store by your daddy. Now, I wonder
if I was a young, bow-legged cow-puncher with kind of curly hair and
lookin' fierce and noble, and they was a gal whose daddy was plumb
lonesome for company, and I was to get notice from the boss that I was
to vamose the diggin's and go to work,--now, I wonder who'd ride twenty
miles of trail to talk up for me?"

"Why, I would!"

"You got everything off of me but my watch," laughed Bud. "I reckon
you'll let me keep that?"

"Is it a good watch?" she asked, and her eyes sparkled with a great
idea.

"Tol'able. Cost a dollar. I lost my old watch in Criswell. I reckon the
city marshal got it when I wa'n't lookin'."

"Well, you may keep it--for a while yet. When are you coming up to visit
us?"

"Just as soon as I can, missy. Here's your daddy. I want to talk to him
a minute."

Three weeks later, when the wheels of the local stage were beginning to
throw a fine dust, instead of mud, as they whirred from St. Johns to
Jason, Bud Shoop received a tiny flat package addressed in an unfamiliar
hand. He laid it aside until he had read the mail. Then he opened it. In
a nest of cotton batting gleamed a plain gold watch. A thin watch,
reflecting something aristocratic in its well-proportioned simplicity.
As he examined it his genial face expressed a sort of childish
wonderment. There was no card to show from where it had come. He opened
the back of the case, and read a brief inscription.

"And the little lady would be sendin' this to me! And it's that slim and
smooth; nothin' fancy, but a reg'lar thoroughbred, just like her."

He laid the watch carefully on his desk, and sat for a while gazing out
of the window. It was the first time in his life that a woman had made
him a present. Turning to replace the watch in the box, he saw something
glitter in the cotton. He pulled out a layer of batting, and discovered
a plain gold chain of strong, serviceable pattern.

That afternoon, as Bud came from luncheon at the hotel, a townsman
accosted him in the street. During their chat the townsman commented
upon the watch-chain. Bud drew the watch from his pocket and exhibited
it proudly.

"Just a little present from a lady friend. And her name is inside the
cover, along with mine."

"A lady friend, eh? Now, I thought it was politics mebby?"

"Nope. Strictly pussonel."

"Well, Bud, you want to watch out."

"If you're meanin' that for a joke," retorted Bud, "it's that kind of a
joke what's foundered in its front laigs and can't do nothin' but walk
around itself. I got the same almanac over to my office."



Chapter XXVI


_Idle Noon_

The occasional raw winds of spring softened to the warm calm of summer.
The horses had shed their winter coats, and grew sleek and fat on the
lush grasses of the mesa. The mesa stream cleared from a ropy red to a
sparkling thread of silver banked with vivid green. If infrequent
thunderstorms left a haze in the cañons, it soon vanished in the light
air.

Bronson found it difficult to keep Dorothy from over-exerting herself.
They arose at daybreak and went to bed at dusk, save when Lorry came for
an after-dinner chat or when he prevailed upon Dorothy to play for them
in his cabin. On such occasions she would entertain them with old
melodies played softly as they smoked and listened, the lamp unlighted
and the door wide open to the stars.

One evening, when Dorothy had ceased to play for them, Lorry mentioned
that he was to leave on the following day for an indefinite time. There
had been some trouble about a new outfit that was grazing cattle far to
the south. Shoop had already sent word to the foreman, who had ignored
the message. Lorry had been deputized to see the man and have an
understanding with him. The complaint had been brought to Shoop by one
of the Apache police that some cowboys had been grazing stock and
killing game on the Indian reservation.

Dorothy realized that Lorry might be away for some time. She would miss
him. And that night she asked her father if she might not invite a girl
friend up for the summer. They were established. And Dorothy was much
stronger and able to attend to the housekeeping. Bronson was quite
willing. He realized that he was busy most of the time, writing. He was
not much of a companion except at the table. So Dorothy wrote to her
friend, who was in Los Angeles and had already planned to drive East
when the roads became passable.

Lorry was roping the packs next morning when Dorothy appeared in her new
silver-gray corduroy riding-habit--a surprise that she had kept for an
occasion. She was proud of the well-tailored coat and breeches, the
snug-fitting black boots, and the small, new Stetson. Her gray silk
waist was brightened by a narrow four-in-hand of rich blue, and her tiny
gauntlets of soft gray buckskin were stitched with blue silk.

She looked like some slender, young exquisite who had stepped from the
stage of an old play as she stood smoothing the fingers of her gloves
and smiling across at Lorry. He said nothing, but stared at her. She was
disappointed. She wanted him to tell her that he liked her new things,
she had spent so much time and thought on them. But there he stood, the
pack-rope slack in his hand, staring stupidly.

She nodded, and waved her hand.

"It's me," she called. "Good-morning!"

Lorry managed to stammer a greeting. He felt as though she were some
strange person that looked like Dorothy, but like a new Dorothy of such
exquisite attitude and grace and so altogether charming that he could do
nothing but wonder how the transformation had come about. He had always
thought her pretty. But now she was more than that. She was alluring;
she was the girl he loved from the brim of her gray Stetson to the toe
of her tiny boot.

"Would you catch my pony for me?"

Lorry flushed. Of course she wanted Chinook. He swung up on Gray Leg and
spurred across the mesa. His heart was pounding hard. He rode with a
dash and a swing as he rounded up the ponies. As he caught up her horse
he happened to think of his own faded shirt and overalls. He was wearing
the essentially proper clothing for his work. For the first time he
realized the potency of carefully chosen attire. As he rode back with
the pastured pony trailing behind him, he felt peculiarly ashamed of
himself for feeling ashamed of his clothing. Silently he saddled
Chinook, accepted her thanks silently, and strode to his cabin. When he
reappeared he was wearing a new shirt, his blue silk bandanna, and his
silver-studded chaps. He would cache those chaps at his first camp out,
and get them when he returned.

Bronson came to the doorway.

Dorothy put her finger to her lips. "Lorry is stunned, I think. Do I
look as spiff as all that?"

"Like a slim young cavalier; very dashing and wonderful, Peter Pan."

"Not a bit like Dorothy?"

"Well, the least bit; but more like Peter Pan."

"I was getting tired of being just Dorothy. That was all very well when
I wasn't able to ride and camp and do all sorts of adventures.

"And that isn't all," she continued. "I weigh twelve pounds more than I
did last summer. Mr. Shoop weighed me on the store scales. I wanted to
weigh him. He made an awful pun, but he wouldn't budge."

Bronson nodded. "I wouldn't ride farther than the Big Spring, Peter.
It's getting hot now."

"All right, daddy. I wish that horrid old story was finished. You never
ride with me."

"You'll have some one to ride with you when Alice comes."

"Yes; but Alice is only a girl."

Bronson laughed, and she scolded him with her eyes. Just then Lorry
appeared.

Bronson stooped and kissed her. "And don't ride too far," he cautioned.

Lorry drove the pack-animals toward Bronson's cabin. He dismounted to
tighten the cinch on Chinook's saddle.

The little cavalcade moved out across the mesa. Dorothy rode behind the
pack-animals, who knew their work too well to need a lead-rope. It was
_her_ adventure. At the Big Spring, she would graciously allow Lorry to
take charge of the expedition.

Lorry, riding behind her, turned as they entered the forest, and waved
farewell to Bronson.

To ride the high trails of the Arizona hills is in itself an
unadulterated joy. To ride these wooded uplands, eight thousand feet
above the world, with a sprightly Peter Pan clad in silver-gray
corduroys and chatting happily, is an enchantment. In such
companionship, when the morning sunlight dapples the dun forest carpet
with pools of gold, when vista after vista unfolds beneath the high
arches of the rusty-brown giants of the woodlands; when somewhere above
there is the open sky and the marching sun, the twilight underworld of
the green-roofed caverns is a magic land.

The ponies plodded slowly upward, to turn and plod up the next angle of
the trail, without loitering and without haste. When Dorothy checked her
pony to gaze at some new vista, the pack-animals rested, waiting for the
word to go on again. Lorry, awakened to a new charm in Dorothy, rode in
a silence that needed no interpreter.

At a bend in the trail, Dorothy reined up. "Oh, I just noticed! You are
wearing your chaps this morning."

Lorry flushed, and turned to tie a saddle-string that was already quite
secure.

Dorothy nodded to herself and spoke to the horses. They strained on up a
steeper pitch, pausing occasionally to rest.

Lorry seemed to have regained his old manner. Her mention of the chaps
had wakened him to everyday affairs. After all, she was only a girl; not
yet eighteen, her father had said. "Just a kid," Lorry had thought; "but
mighty pretty in those city clothes." He imagined that some women he had
seen would look like heck in such a riding-coat and breeches. But
Dorothy looked like a kind of stylish boy-girl, slim and yet not quite
as slender as she had appeared in her ordinary clothes. Lorry could not
help associating her appearance with a thoroughbred he had once seen; a
dark-bay colt, satin smooth and as graceful as a flame. He had all but
worshiped that horse. Even as he knew horses, through that colt he had
seen perfection; his ideal of something beautiful beyond words.

From his pondering, Lorry arrived at a conclusion having nothing to do
with ideals. He would buy a new suit of clothes the first time he went
to Phoenix. It would be a trim suit of corduroy and a dark-green flannel
shirt, like the suit and shirt worn by Lundy, the forestry expert.

At the base of a great gray shoulder of granite, the Big Spring spread
in its natural rocky bowl which grew shallower toward the edges. Below
the spring in the black mud softened by the overflow were the tracks of
wild turkey and the occasional print of a lynx pad. The bush had been
cleared from around the spring, and the ashes of an old camp-fire marked
the spot where Lorry had often "bushed over-night" on his way to the
cabin.

Lorry dismounted and tied the pack-horses. He explained that they were
still a little too close to home to be trusted untied.

Dorothy decided that she was hungry, although they had been but two
hours on the trail. Could they have a real camp-fire and make coffee?

"Yes, ma'am; right quick."

"Lorry, don't say 'yes, ma'am.' I--it's nice of you, but just say
'Dorothy.'"

"Yes, ma'am."

Dorothy's brown eyes twinkled.

Lorry gazed at her, wondering why she smiled.

"Yes, ma'am," she said stiffly, as though to a superior whom she feared.

Lorry grinned. She was always doing something sprightly, either making
him laugh or laughing at him, talking to the horses, planning some
little surprise for their occasional dinners in the Bronson cabin,
quoting some fragment of poetry from an outland song,--she called these
songs "outlandish," and had explained her delight in teasing her father
with "outlandish" adjectives; whistling in answer to the birds, and
amusing herself and her "men-folks" in a thousand ways as spontaneous as
they were delightful.

With an armful of firewood, Lorry returned to the spring. The ponies
nodded in the heat of noon. Dorothy, spreading their modest luncheon on
a bright new Navajo blanket, seemed daintier than ever against the
background of the forest. They made coffee and ate the sandwiches she
had prepared. After luncheon Lorry smoked, leaning back against the
granite rock, his hat off, and his legs crossed in lazy content.

"If it could only be like this forever," sighed Dorothy.

Lorry promptly shook his head. "We'd get hungry after a spell."

"Men are always hungry. And you've just eaten."

"But I could listen to a poem," he said, and he winked at a tree-trunk.

"It's really too warm even to speak of 'The Little Fires,' isn't it? Oh,
I know! Do you remember the camp we made?"

"Where?"

"Oh, silly!"

"Well, I ain't had time to remember this one yet--and this is the first
for us."

"Lorry, you're awfully practical."

"I got to be."

"And I don't believe you know a poem when you see one."

"I reckon you're right. But I can tell one when I hear it."

"Very well, then. Shut your eyes tight and listen:--

"'Do you remember the camp we made as we nooned on the mesa
      floor,
  Where the grass rolled down like a running sea in the wind--
      and the world our own?
You laughed as you sat in the cedar shade and said 't was the
      ocean shore
  Of an island lost in a wizardry of dreams, for ourselves alone.

"'Our ponies grazed in the idle noon, unsaddled, at ease, and
      slow;
  The ranges dim were a faëryland; blue hills in a haze of gray.
Hands clasped on knee, you hummed a tune, a melody light and
      low;
  And do you remember the venture planned in jest--for your
      heart was gay?'"

Dorothy paused. "You may open your eyes. That's all."

"Well, it's noon," said Lorry, "and there are the ponies, and the hills
are over there. Won't you say the rest of it?"

"Oh, the rest of it is about a venture planned that never came true. It
couldn't, even in a poem. But I'll tell you about it some day."

"I could listen right now."

Dorothy shook her head. "I am afraid it would spoil our real adventure.
But if I were a boy--wouldn't it be fun! We would ride and camp in the
hills at night and find all the little fires along the trail--"

"We'd make our own," said Lorry.

"Of course, Mr. Practical Man."

"Well, I can't help bein' like I am. But sometimes I get lazy and sit
and look at the hills and the cañons and mesas down below, and wonder
what's the good of hustlin'. But somehow I got to quit loafin' after a
spell--and go right to hustlin' again. It's a sure good way to get
rested up; just to sit down and forget everything but the big world
rollin' down to the edge of nothin'. It makes a fella's kickin' and
complainin' look kind of small and ornery."

"I never heard you complain, Lorry."

"Huh! You ain't been along with me when I been right up against it and
mebby had to sweat my way out of some darned box cañon or make a ride
through some down timber at night. I've said some lovely things them
times."

"Oh, I get cross. But, then, I'm a girl. Men shouldn't get cross."

"I reckon you're right. The sun's comin' through that pine there.
Gettin' too hot?"

"No, I love it. But I must go. I'll just ride down to the cabin and
unsaddle Chinook and say 'Hello' to father--and that's the end of our
adventure."

"Won't those city folks be comin' in soon?"

"Yes. And Alice Weston is lovely. I know you'll like her."

"Alice who, did you say?"

"Weston. Alice and her mother are touring overland from Los Angeles. I
know you will admire Alice."

"Mebby. If she's as pretty as you."

"Oh, fudge! You like my new suit. And Alice isn't like me at all. She is
nearly as tall as you, and big and strong and really pretty. Bud Shoop
told me I wasn't bigger than a minute."

"A minute is a whole lot sometimes," said Lorry.

"You're not so practical as you were, are you?"

"More. I meant that."

Dorothy rose and began to roll the Navajo blanket.

Lorry stepped up and took it from her. "Roll it long and let it hang
down. Then it won't bother you gettin' on or off your horse. That's the
way the Indians roll 'em."

He jerked the tie-strings tight. "Well, I reckon I'll be goin'," he
said, holding out his hand.

"Good-bye, ranger man."

"Good-bye, Dorothy."

Her slender hand was warm in his. She looked up at him, smiling. He had
never looked at her that way before. She hoped so much that he would say
nothing to spoil the happiness of their idle noon.

"Lorry, we're great friends, aren't we?"

"You bet. And I'd do most anything to make you happy."

"But you don't have to do anything to make me happy. I _am_ happy.
Aren't you?"

"I aim to be. But what makes you ask?"

"Oh, you looked so solemn a minute ago. We'll be just friends always,
won't we?"

"Just friends," he echoed, "always."

Her brown eyes grew big as he stooped and kissed her. She had not
expected that he would do that.

"Oh, I thought you liked me!" she said, clasping her hands.

Lorry bit his lips, and the hot flush died from his face.

"But I didn't know that you cared--like that! I really don't mind
because you kissed me good-bye--if it was just good-bye and nothing
else." And she smiled a little timidly.

"I--I reckon I was wrong," he said, "for I was tryin' not to kiss you.
If you say the word, I'll ride back with you and tell your father. I
ain't ashamed of it--only if you say it was wrong."

Dorothy had recovered herself. A twinkle of fun danced in her eyes. "I
can't scold you now. You're going away. But when you get back--" And she
shook her finger at him and tried to look very grave, which made him
smile.

"Then I'll keep right on ridin' south," he said.

"But you'd get lonesome and come back to your hills. I know! And it's
awfully hot in the desert."

"Would you be wantin' me to come back?"

"Of course. Father would miss you."

[Illustration: They made coffee and ate the sandwiches she had
prepared]  "And that would make you unhappy--him bein' lonesome, so I
reckon I'll come back."

"I shall be very busy entertaining my guests," she told him with a
charming tilt of her chin. And she straightway swung to the saddle.

Lorry started the pack-horses up the hill and mounted Gray Leg. She sat
watching him as he rode sideways gazing back at her.

As he turned to follow the pack-horses up the next ascent she called to
him:--

"Perhaps I won't scold you when you come back."

He laughed, and flung up his arm in farewell. Dorothy reined Chinook
round, and rode slowly down through the silent woodlands.

Her father came out and took her horse. She told him of their most
wonderful camp at the Big Spring. Bronson smiled.

"And Lorry kissed me good-bye," she concluded. "Wasn't it silly of him?"

Bronson glanced at her quickly. "Do you really care for Lorry, Peter
Pan?"

"Heaps! He's the nicest boy I ever met. Why shouldn't I?"

"There's no reason in the world why you shouldn't. But I thought you two
were just friends."

"Why, that's what I said to Lorry. Don't look so mournful, daddy. You
didn't think for a minute that I'd _marry_ him, did you?"

"Of course not. What would I do without you?"



Chapter XXVII


_Waco_

The tramp Waco, drifting south through Prescott, fell in with a quartet
of his kind camped along the railroad track. He stumbled down the
embankment and "sat in" beside their night fire. He was hungry. He had
no money, and he had tramped all that day. They were eating bread and
canned peaches, and had coffee simmering in a pail. They asked no
questions until he had eaten. Then the usual talk began.

The hobos cursed the country, its people, the railroad, work and the
lack of it, the administration, and themselves. Waco did not agree with
everything they said, but he wished to tramp with them until something
better offered. So he fell in with their humor, but made the mistake of
cursing the trainmen's union. A brakeman had kicked him off a freight
car just outside of Prescott.

One of the hobos checked Waco sharply.

"We ain't here to listen to your cussin' any union," he said. "And seem'
you're so mouthy, just show your card."

"Left it over to the White House," said Waco.

"That don't go. You got your three letters?"

"Sure! W.B.Y. Catch onto that?"

"No. And this ain't no josh."

"Why, W.B.Y. is for 'What's bitin' you?' Know the answer?"

"If you can't show your I.W.W., you can beat it," said the tramp.

"Tryin' to kid me?"

"Not so as your mother would notice. Got your card?"

Waco finally realized that they meant business. "No, I ain't got no
I.W.W. card. I'm a bo, same as you fellas. What's bitin' you, anyway?"

"Let's give him the third, fellas."

Waco jumped to his feet and backed away. The leader of the group
hesitated wisely, because Waco had a gun in his hand.

"So that's your game, eh? Collectin' internal revenue. Well, we're union
men. You better sift along." And the leader sat down.

"I've a dam' good mind to sift you," said Waco, backing toward the
embankment. "Got to have a card to travel with a lousy bunch like you,
eh?"

He climbed to the top of the embankment, and, turning, ran down the
track. Things were in a fine state when a guy couldn't roll in with a
bunch of willies without showing a card. Workmen often tramped the
country looking for work. But hobos forming a union and calling
themselves workmen! Even Waco could not digest that.

But he had learned a lesson, and the next group that he overtook
treading the cinders were more genial. One of them gave him some bread
and cold meat. They tramped until nightfall. That evening Waco
industriously "lifted" a chicken from a convenient hencoop. The hen was
old and tough and most probably a grandmother of many years' setting,
but she was a welcome contribution to their evening meal. While they ate
Waco asked them if they belonged to the I.W.W. They did to a man. He had
lost his card. Where could he get a renewal? From headquarters, of
course. But he had been given his card up in Portland; he had cooked in
a lumber camp. In that case he would have to see the "boss" at Phoenix.

There were three men in the party besides Waco. One of them claimed to
be a carpenter, another an ex-railroad man, and the third an iron
moulder. Waco, to keep up appearances, said that he was a cook; that he
had lost his job in the Northern camps on account of trouble between the
independent lumbermen and the I.W.W. It happened that there had been
some trouble of that kind recently, so his word was taken at its face
value.

In Phoenix, he was directed to the "headquarters," a disreputable
lounging-room in an abandoned store on the outskirts of the town. There
were papers and magazines scattered about; socialistic journals and many
newspapers printed in German, Russian, and Italian. The place smelled of
stale tobacco smoke and unwashed clothing. But the organization
evidently had money. No one seemed to want for food, tobacco, or
whiskey.

The "boss," a sharp-featured young man, aggressive and apparently
educated, asked Waco some questions which the tramp answered lamely. The
boss, eager for recruits of Waco's stamp, nevertheless demurred until
Waco reiterated the statement that he could cook, was a good cook and
had earned good money.

"I'll give you a renewal of your card. What was the number?" queried the
boss.

"Thirteen," said Waco, grinning.

"Well, we may be able to use you. We want cooks at Sterling."

"All right. Nothin' doin' here, anyway."

The boss smiled to himself. He knew that Waco had never belonged to the
I.W.W., but if the impending strike at the Sterling smelter became a
reality a good cook would do much to hold the I.W.W. camp together. Any
tool that could be used was not overlooked by the boss. He was paid to
hire men for a purpose.

In groups of from ten to thirty the scattered aggregation made its way
to Sterling and mingled with the workmen after hours. A sinister
restlessness grew and spread insidiously among the smelter hands. Men
laid off before pay-day and were seen drunk in the streets. Others
appeared at the smelter in a like condition. They seemed to have money
with which to pay for drinks and cigars. The heads of the different
departments of the smelter became worried. Local papers began to make
mention of an impending strike when no such word had as yet come to the
smelter operators. Outside papers took it up. Surmises were many and
various. Few of the papers dared charge the origin of the disturbances
to the I.W.W. The law had not been infringed upon, yet lawlessness was
everywhere, conniving in dark corners, boasting openly on the street,
setting men's brains afire with whiskey, playing upon the ignorance of
the foreign element, and defying the intelligence of Americans who
strove to forfend the threatened calamity.

The straight union workmen were divided in sentiment. Some of them voted
to work; others voted loudly to throw in with the I.W.W., and among
these were many foreigners--Swedes, Hungarians, Germans, Poles,
Italians; the usual and undesirable agglomeration to be found in a
smelter town.

Left to themselves, they would have continued to work. They were in
reality the cheaper tools of the trouble-makers. There were fewer and
keener tools to be used, and these were selected and turned against
their employers by that irresistible potency, gold; gold that came from
no one knew where, and came in abundance. Finally open threats of a
strike were made. Circulars were distributed throughout town
over-night, cleverly misstating conditions. A grain of truth was
dissolved in the slaver of anarchy into a hundred lies.

Waco, installed in the main I.W.W. camp just outside the town, cooked
early and late, and received a good wage for his services. More men
appeared, coming casually from nowhere and taking up their abode with
the disturbers.

A week before the strike began, a committee from the union met with a
committee of townsmen and representatives of the smelter interests. The
argument was long and inconclusive. Aside from this, a special committee
of townsmen, headed by the mayor, interviewed the I.W.W. leaders.

Arriving at no definite understanding, the citizens finally threatened
to deport the trouble-makers in a body. The I.W.W. members laughed at
them. Socialism, in which many of the better class of workmen believed
sincerely, began to take on the red tinge of anarchy. A notable advocate
of arbitration, a foreman in the smelter, was found one morning beaten
into unconsciousness. And no union man had done this thing, for the
foreman was popular with the union, to a man. The mayor received an
anonymous letter threatening his life. A similar letter was received by
the chief of police. And some few politicians who had won to prominence
through questionable methods were threatened with exposure if they did
not side with the strikers.

Conditions became deplorable. The papers dared not print everything
they knew for fear of political enmity. And they were not able to print
many things transpiring in that festering underworld for lack of
definite knowledge, even had they dared.

Noon of an August day the strikers walked out. Mob rule threatened
Sterling. Women dared no longer send their children to school or to the
grocery stores for food. They hardly dared go themselves. A striker was
shot by a companion in a saloon brawl. The killing was immediately
charged to a corporation detective, and our noble press made much of the
incident before it found out the truth.

Shortly after this a number of citizens representing the business
backbone of the town met quietly and drafted a letter to a score of
citizens whom they thought might be trusted. That was Saturday evening.
On Sunday night there were nearly a hundred men in town who had been
reached by the citizens' committee. They elected a sub-committee of
twelve, with the sheriff as chairman. Driven to desperation by
intolerable conditions, they decided to administer swift and conclusive
justice themselves. To send for troops would be an admission that the
town of Sterling could not handle her own community.

It became whispered among the I.W.W. that "The Hundred" had organized.
Leaders of the strikers laughed at these rumors, telling the men that
the day of the vigilante was past.

On the following Wednesday a rabid leader of the disturbers, not a
union man, but a man who had never done a day's work in his life,
mounted a table on a street corner and addressed the crowd which quickly
swelled to a mob. Members of "The Hundred," sprinkled thinly throughout
the mob, listened until the speaker had finished. Among other things, he
had made a statement about the National Government which should have
turned the mob to a tribunal of prompt justice and hanged him. But many
of the men were drunk, and all were inflamed with the poison of the
hour. When the man on the table continued to slander the Government, and
finally named a name, there was silence. A few of the better class of
workmen edged out of the crowd. The scattered members of "The Hundred"
stayed on to the last word.

Next morning this speaker was found dead, hanging from a bridge a little
way out of town. Not a few of the strikers were startled to a sense of
broad justice in his death, and yet such a hanging was an outrage to any
community. One sin did not blot out another. And the loyal "Hundred"
realized too late that they had put a potent weapon in the hands of
their enemies.

A secret meeting was called by "The Hundred." Wires were commandeered
and messages sent to several towns in the northern part of the State to
men known personally by members of "The Hundred" as fearless and loyal
to American institutions. Already the mob had begun rioting, but,
meeting with no resistance, it contented itself with insulting those
whom they knew were not sympathizers. Stores were closed, and were
straightway broken into and looted. Drunkenness and street fights were
so common as to evoke no comment.

Two days later a small band of cowboys rode into town. They were
followed throughout the day by other riders, singly and in small groups.
It became noised about the I.W.W. camp that professional gunmen were
being hired by the authorities; were coming in on horseback and on the
trains. That night the roadbed of the railroad was dynamited on both
sides of town. "The Hundred" immediately dispatched automobiles with
armed guards to meet the trains.

Later, strangers were seen in town; quiet men who carried themselves
coolly, said nothing, and paid no attention to catcalls and insults. It
was rumored that troops had been sent for. Meanwhile, the town seethed
with anarchy and drunkenness. But, as must ever be the case, anarchy was
slowly weaving a rope with which to hang itself.

Up in the second story of the court-house a broad-shouldered,
heavy-jawed man sat at a flat-topped desk with a clerk beside him. The
clerk wrote names in a book. In front of the clerk was a cigar-box
filled with numbered brass checks. The rows of chairs from the desk to
the front windows were pretty well filled with men, lean, hard-muscled
men of the ranges in the majority. The room was quiet save for an
occasional word from the big man at the desk. The clerk drew a check
from the cigar-box. A man stepped up to the desk, gave his name, age,
occupation, and address, received the numbered check, and went to his
seat. The clerk drew another check.

A fat, broad-shouldered man waddled up, smiling.

"Why, hello, Bud!" said the heavy-jawed man, rising and shaking hands.
"I didn't expect to see you. Wired you thinking you might send one or
two men from your county."

"I got 'em with me," said Bud.

"Number thirty-seven," said the clerk.

Bud stuffed the check in his vest pocket. He would receive ten dollars a
day while in the employ of "The Hundred." He would be known and
addressed while on duty as number thirty-seven. "The Hundred" were not
advertising the names of their supporters for future use by the I.W.W.

Bud's name and address were entered in a notebook. He waddled back to
his seat.

"Cow-punch," said someone behind him.

Bud turned and grinned. "You seen my laigs," he retorted.

"Number thirty-eight."

Lorry came forward and received his check.

"You're pretty young," said the man at the desk. Lorry flushed, but made
no answer.

"Number thirty-nine."

The giant sheepman of the high country strode up, nodded, and took his
check.

"Stacey County is well represented," said the man at the desk.

When the clerk had finished entering the names, there were forty-eight
numbers in his book. The man at the desk rose.

"Men," he said grimly, "you know what you are here for. If you haven't
got guns, you will be outfitted downstairs. Some folks think that this
trouble is only local. It isn't. It is national. Providence seems to
have passed the buck to us to stop it. We are here to prove that we can.
Last night our flag--our country's flag--was torn from the halyards
above this building and trampled in the dust of the street. Sit still
and don't make a noise. We're not doing business that way. If there are
any married men here, they had better take their horses and ride home.
This community does not assume responsibility for any man's life. You
are volunteers. There are four ex-Rangers among you. They will tell you
what to do. But I'm going to tell you one thing first; don't shoot high
or low when you have to shoot. Draw plumb center, and don't quit as long
as you can feel to pull a trigger. For any man that isn't outfitted
there's a rifle and fifty rounds of soft-nosed ammunition downstairs."

The heavy-shouldered man sat down and pulled the notebook toward him.
The men rose and filed quietly downstairs.

As they gathered in the street and gazed up at the naked halyards, a
shot dropped one of them in his tracks. An eagle-faced cowman whipped
out his gun. With the report came the tinkle of breaking glass from a
window diagonally opposite. Feet clattered down the stairs of the
building, and a woman ran into the street, screaming and calling out
that a man had been murdered.

"Reckon I got him," said the cowman. "Boys, I guess she's started."

The men ran for their horses. As they mounted and assembled, the
heavy-shouldered man appeared astride a big bay horse.

"We're going to clean house," he stated. "And we start right here."



Chapter XXVIII


_A Squared Account_

The housecleaning began at the building diagonally opposite the
assembled posse. In a squalid room upstairs they found the man who had
fired upon them. He was dead. Papers found upon him disclosed his
identity as an I.W.W. leader. He had evidently rented the room across
from the court-house that he might watch the movements of "The Hundred."
A cheap, inaccurate revolver was found beside him. Possibly he had
fired, thinking to momentarily disorganize the posse; that they would
not know from where the shot had come until he had had time to make his
escape and warn his fellows.

The posse moved from building to building. Each tenement, private
rooming-house, and shack was entered and searched. Union men who chanced
to be at home were warned that any man seen on the street that day was
in danger of being killed. Several members of the I.W.W. were routed out
in different parts of the town and taken to the jail.

Saloons were ordered to close. Saloon-keepers who argued their right to
keep open were promptly arrested. An I.W.W. agitator, defying the posse,
was handcuffed, loaded into a machine, and taken out of town. Groups of
strikers gathered at the street corners and jeered the armed posse. One
group, cornered in a side street, showed fight.

"We'll burn your dam' town!" cried a voice.

The sheriff swung from his horse and shouldered through the crowd. As he
did so, a light-haired, weasel-faced youth, with a cigarette dangling
from the corner of his loose mouth, backed away. The sheriff followed
and pressed him against a building.

"I know you!" said the sheriff. "You never made or spent an honest
dollar in this town. Boys," he continued, turning to the strikers, "are
you proud of this skunk who wants to burn your town?"

A workman laughed.

"You said it!" asserted the sheriff. "When somebody tells you what he
is, you laugh. Why don't you laugh at him when he's telling you of the
buildings he has dynamited and how many deaths he is responsible for?
Did he ever sweat alongside of any of you doing a day's work? Do you
know him? Does he know anything about your work or conditions? Not a
damned thing! Just think it over. And, boys, remember he is paid easy
money to get you into trouble. Who pays him? Is there any decent
American paying him to do that sort of thing? Stop and think about it."

The weasel-faced youth raised his arm and pointed at the sheriff. "Who
pays you to shoot down women and kids?" he snarled.

"I'm taking orders from the Governor of this State."

"To hell with the Governor! And there's where he'll wake up one of these
fine days."

"Because he's enforcing the law and trying to keep the flag from being
insulted by whelps like you, eh?"

"We'll show you what's law! And we'll show you the right kind of a
flag--"

"Boys, are you going to stand for this kind of talk?" And the sheriff's
heavy face quivered with anger. "I'd admire to kill you!" he said,
turning on the youth. "But that wouldn't do any good."

The agitator was taken to the jail. Later it was rumored that a machine
had left the jail that night with three men in it. Two of them were
armed guards. The third was a weasel-faced youth. He was never heard of
again.

As the cavalcade moved on down the street, workmen gathered on street
corners and in upper rooms and discussed the situation. The strike had
got beyond their control. Many of them were for sending a delegation to
the I.W.W. camp demanding that they disband and leave. Others were
silent, and still others voted loudly to "fight to a finish."

Out beyond the edge of town lay the I.W.W. camp, a conglomeration of
board shacks hastily erected, brush-covered hovels, and tents. Not
counting the scattered members in town, there were at least two hundred
of the malcontents loafing in camp. When the sheriff's posse appeared it
was met by a deputation. But there was no parley.

"We'll give you till sundown to clear out," said the sheriff and,
turning, he and his men rode back to the court-house.

That evening sentinels were posted at the street corners within hail of
each other. In a vacant lot back of the court-house the horses of the
posse were corralled under guard. The town was quiet. Occasionally a
figure crossed the street; some shawl-hooded striker's wife or some
workman heedless of the sheriff's warning.

Lorry happened to be posted on a corner of the court-house square.
Across the street another sentinel paced back and forth, occasionally
pausing to talk with Lorry.

This sentinel was halfway up the block when a figure appeared from the
shadow between two buildings. The sentinel challenged.

"A friend," said the figure. "I was lookin' for young Adams."

"What do you want with him?"

"It's private. Know where I can find him?"

"He's across the street there. Who are you, anyway?"

"That's my business. He knows me."

"This guy wants to talk to you," called the sentinel.

Lorry stepped across the street. He stopped suddenly as he discovered
the man to be Waco, the tramp.

"Is it all right?" asked the sentinel, addressing Lorry.

"I guess so. What do you want?"

"It's about Jim Waring," said Waco. "I seen you when the sheriff rode up
to our camp. I seen by the papers that Jim Waring was your father. I
wanted to tell you that it was High-Chin Bob what killed Pat. I was in
the buckboard with Pat when he done it. The horses went crazy at the
shootin' and ditched me. When I come to I was in Grant."

"Why didn't you stay and tell what you knew? Nobody would 'a' hurt you."

"I was takin' no chance of the third, and twenty years."

"What you doin' in this town?"

"Cookin' for the camp. But I can't hold that job long. My whole left
side is goin' flooey. The boss give me hallelujah to-day for bein' slow.
I'm sick of the job."

"Well, you ought to be. Suppose you come over to the sheriff and tell
him what you know about the killin' of Pat."

"Nope; I was scared you would say that. I'm tellin' _you_ because you
done me a good turn onct. I guess that lets me out."

"Not if I make you sit in."

"You can make me sit in all right. But you can't make me talk. Show me
a cop and I freeze. I ain't takin' no chances."

"You're takin' bigger chances right now."

"Bigger'n you know, kid. Listen! You and Jim Waring and Pat used me
white. I'm sore at that I.W.W. bunch, but I dassent make a break. They'd
get me. But listen! If the boys knowed I was tellin' you this they'd cut
me in two. Two trucks just came into camp from up north. Them trucks was
loaded to the guards. Every man in camp's got a automatic and fifty
rounds. And they was settin' up a machine gun when I slipped through and
beat it, lookin' for you. You better fan it out of this while you got
the chanct."

"Did they send you over to push that bluff--or are you talkin'
straight?"

"S' help me! It's the bleedin' truth!"

"Well, I'm thankin' you. But get goin' afore I change my mind."

"Would you shake with a bum?" queried Waco.

"Why--all right. You're tryin' to play square, I reckon. Wait a minute!
Are you willin' to put in writin' that you seen High-Chin Bob kill Pat?
I got a pencil and a envelope on me. Will you put it down right here,
and me to call my friend and witness your name?"

"You tryin' to pinch me?"

"That ain't my style."

"All right. I'll put it down."

And in the flickering rays of the arc light Waco scribbled on the back
of the envelope and signed his name. Lorry's companion read the scrawl
and handed it back to Lorry. Waco humped his shoulders and shuffled
away.

"Why didn't you nail him?" queried the other.

"I don't know. Mebby because he was trustin' me."

Shortly afterward Lorry and his companion were relieved from duty. Lorry
immediately reported to the sheriff, who heard him without interrupting,
dismissed him, and turned to the committee, who held night session
discussing the situation.

"They've called our bluff," he said, twisting his cigar round in his
lips.

A ballot was taken. The vote was eleven to one for immediate action. The
ballot was secret, but the member who had voted against action rose and
tendered his resignation.

"It would be plain murder if we were to shoot up their camp. It would
place us on their level."

Just before daybreak a guard stationed two blocks west of the
court-house noticed a flare of light in the windows of a building
opposite. He glanced toward the east. The dim, ruddy glow in the windows
was not that of dawn. He ran to the building and tried to open the door
to the stairway. As he wrenched at the door a subdued soft roar swelled
and grew louder. Turning, he ran to the next corner, calling to the
guard. The alarm of fire was relayed to the court-house.

Meanwhile the two cowboys ran back to the building and hammered on the
door. Some one in an upstairs room screamed. Suddenly the door gave
inward. A woman carrying a cheap gilt clock pushed past them and sank in
a heap on the sidewalk. The guards heard some one running down the
street. One of them tied a handkerchief over his face and groped his way
up the narrow stairs. The hall above was thick with smoke. A door sprang
open, and a man carrying a baby and dragging a woman by the hand bumped
into the guard, cursed, and stumbled toward the stairway.

The cowboy ran from door to door down the long, narrow hall, calling to
the inmates. In one room he found a lamp burning on a dresser and two
children asleep. He dragged them from bed and carried them to the
stairway. From below came the surge and snap of flames. He held his
breath and descended the stairs. A crowd of half-clothed workmen had
gathered. Among them he saw several of the guards.

"Who belongs to these kids?" he cried.

A woman ran up. "She's here," she said, pointing to the woman with the
gilt clock, who still lay on the sidewalk. A man was trying to revive
her. The cowboy noticed that the unconscious woman still gripped the
gilt clock.

He called to a guard. Together they dashed up the stairs and ran from
room to room. Toward the back of the building they found a woman
insanely gathering together a few cheap trinkets and stuffing them into
a pillow-case. She was trying to work a gilt-framed lithograph into the
pillow-case when they seized her and led her toward the stairway. She
fought and cursed and begged them to let her go back and get her things.
A burst of flame swept up the stairway. The cowboys turned and ran back
along the hall. One of them kicked a window out. The other tied a sheet
under the woman's arms and together they lowered her to the ground.

Suddenly the floor midway down the hall sank softly in a fountain of
flame and sparks.

"Reckon we jump," said one of the cowboys.

Lowering himself from the rear window, he dropped. His companion
followed. They limped to the front of the building. A crowd massed in
the street, heedless of the danger that threatened as a section of roof
curled like a piece of paper, writhed, and dropped to the sidewalk.

A group of guards appeared with a hose-reel. They coupled to a hydrant.
A thin stream gurgled from the hose and subsided. The sheriff ran to the
steps of a building and called to the crowd.

"Your friends," he cried, "have cut the water-main. There is no water."

The mass groaned and swayed back and forth.

From up the street came a cry--the call of a range rider. A score of
cowboys tried to force the crowd back from the burning building.

"Look out for the front!" cried the guards. "She's coming!"

The crowd surged back. The front of that flaming shell quivered, curved,
and crashed to the street.

The sheriff called to his men. An old Texas Ranger touched his arm.
"There's somethin' doin' up yonder, Cap."

"Keep the boys together," ordered the sheriff; "This fire was started to
draw us out. Tell the boys to get their horses."

Dawn was breaking when the cowboys gathered in the vacant lot and
mounted their horses. In the clear light they could see a mob in the
distance; a mob that moved from the east toward the court-house. The
sheriff dispatched a man to wire for troops, divided his force in
halves, and, leading one contingent, he rode toward the oncoming mob.
The other half of the posse, led by an old Ranger, swung round to a back
street and halted.

The shadows of the buildings grew shorter. A cowboy on a restive pony
asked what they were waiting for. Some one laughed.

The old Ranger turned in his saddle. "It's a right lovely mornin'," he
remarked impersonally, tugging at his silver-gray mustache.

Suddenly the waiting riders stiffened in their saddles. A ripple of
shots sounded, followed by the shrill cowboy yell. Still the old Ranger
sat his horse, coolly surveying his men.

"Don't we get a look-in?" queried a cowboy.

"Poco tiempo," said the Ranger softly.

The sheriff bunched his men as he approached the invaders. Within fifty
yards of their front he halted and held up his hand. Massed in a solid
wall from curb to curb, the I.W.W. jeered and shouted as he tried to
speak. A parley was impossible. The vagrants were most of them drunk.

The sheriff turned to the man nearest him.

"Tell the boys that we'll go through, turn, and ride back. Tell them not
to fire a shot until we turn."

As he gathered his horse under him, the sheriff's arm dropped. The
shrill "Yip! Yip!" of the range rose above the thunder of hoofs as
twenty ponies jumped to a run. The living thunder-bolt tore through the
mass. The staccato crack of guns sounded sharply above the deeper roar
of the mob. The ragged pathway closed again as the riders swung round,
bunched, and launched at the mass from the rear. Those who had turned to
face the second charge were crowded back as the cowboys, with guns
going, ate into the yelling crowd. The mob turned, and like a great,
black wave swept down the street and into the court-house square.

The cowboys raced past, and reined in a block below the court-house. As
they paused to reload, a riderless horse, badly wounded, plunged among
them. A cowboy caught the horse and shot it. Another rider, gripping his
shirt above his abdomen, writhed and groaned, begging piteously for some
one to kill him. Before they could get him off his horse he spurred out,
and, pulling his carbine from the scabbard, charged into the mob, in the
square. With the lever going like lightning, he bored into the mob,
fired his last shot in the face of a man that had caught his horse's
bridle, and sank to the ground. Shattered and torn he lay, a red pulp
that the mob trampled into the dust.

The upper windows of the court-house filled with figures. An irregular
fire drove the cowboys to the shelter of a side street. In the wide
doorway of the court-house several men crouched behind a blue-steel
tripod. Those still in the square crowded past and into the building.
Behind the stone pillars of the entrance, guarded by a machine gun, the
crazy mob cheered drunkenly and defied the guards to dislodge them.

From a building opposite came a single shot, and the group round the
machine gun lifted one of their fellows and carried him back into the
building. Again came the peremptory snarl of a carbine, and another
figure sank in the doorway. The machine gun was dragged back. Its muzzle
still commanded the square, but its operators were now shielded by an
angle of the entrance.

Back on the side street, the old ex-Ranger had difficulty in
restraining his men. They knew by the number of shots fired that some of
their companions had gone down.

The sheriff was about to call for volunteers to capture the machine gun
when a white handkerchief fluttered from an upper window of the
court-house. Almost immediately a man appeared on the court-house steps,
alone and indicating by his gestures that he wished to parley with the
guard. The sheriff dismounted and stepped forward.

One of his men checked him. "That's a trap, John. They want to get you,
special. Don't you try it."

"It's up to me," said the sheriff, and shaking off the other's hand he
strode across the square.

At the foot of the steps he met the man. The guard saw them converse for
a brief minute; saw the sheriff shake his fist in the other's face and
turn to walk back. As he turned, a shot from an upper window dropped him
in his stride.

The cowboys yelled and charged across the square. The machine gun
stuttered and sprayed a fury of slugs that cut down horses and riders. A
cowboy, his horse shot from under him, sprang up the steps and dragged
the machine gun into the open. A rain of slugs from the upper windows
struck him down. His companions carried him back to cover. The machine
gun stood in the square, no longer a menace, yet no one dared approach
it from either side.

When the old Ranger, who had orders to hold his men in reserve, heard
that the sheriff had been shot down under a flag of truce, he shook his
head.

"Three men could 'a' stopped that gun as easy as twenty, and saved more
hosses. Who wants to take a little pasear after that gun?"

Several of his men volunteered.

"I only need two," he said, smiling. "I call by guess. Number
twenty-six, number thirty-eight, and number three."

The last was his own number.

In the wide hallway and massed on the court-house stairs the mob was
calling out to recover the gun. Beyond control of their leaders, crazed
with drink and killing, they surged forward, quarreling, and shoved from
behind by those above.

"We're ridin'," said the old Ranger.

With a man on each side of him he charged across the square.

Waco, peering from behind a stone column in the entrance, saw that Lorry
was one of the riders. Lorry's lips were drawn tight. His face was pale,
but his gun arm swung up and down with the regularity of a machine as he
threw shot after shot into the black tide that welled from the
court-house doorway. A man near Waco pulled an automatic and leveled it.
Waco swung his arm and brained the man with an empty whiskey bottle. He
threw the bottle at another of his fellows, and, stumbling down the
steps, called to Lorry. The three riders paused for an instant as Waco
ran forward. The riders had won almost to the gun when Waco stooped and
jerked it round and poured a withering volley into the close-packed
doorway.

Back in the side street the leader of the cowboys addressed his men.

"We'll leave the horses here," he said. "Tex went after that gun, and I
reckon he's got it. We'll clean up afoot."

But the I.W.W. had had enough. Their leaders had told them that with the
machine gun they could clean up the town, capture the court-house, and
make their own terms. They had captured the court-house, but they were
themselves trapped. One of their own number had planned that treachery.
And they knew that those lean, bronzed men out there would shoot them
down from room to room as mercilessly as they would kill coyotes.

They surrendered, shuffling out and down the slippery stone steps. Each
man dropped his gun in the little pile that grew and grew until the old
Ranger shook his head, pondering. That men of this kind should have
access to arms and ammunition of the latest military type--and a machine
gun. What was behind it all? He tried to reason it out in his
old-fashioned way even as the trembling horde filed past, cordoned by
grim, silent cowboys.

The vagrants were escorted out of town in a body. Fearful of the hate
of the guard, of treachery among themselves and of the townsfolk in
other places, they tramped across the hills, followed closely by the
stern-visaged riders. Several miles north of Sterling they disbanded.

When a company of infantrymen arrived in Sterling they found several
cowboys sluicing down the court-house steps with water hauled
laboriously from the river.

The captain stated that he would take charge of things, and suggested
that the cowboys take a rest.

"That's all right, Cap," said a puncher, pointing toward the naked
flagstaff. "But we-all would admire to see the Stars and Stripes
floatin' up there afore we drift."

"I'll have the flag run up," said the captain.

"That's all right, Cap. But you don't sabe the idee. These here steps
got to be _clean_ afore that flag goes up."

       *       *       *       *       *

"And they's some good in bein' fat," said Bud Shoop as he met Lorry next
morning. "The army doc just put a plaster on my arm where one of them
automatic pills nicked me. Now, if I'd been lean like you--"

"Did you see Waco?" queried Lorry.

"Waco? What's ailin' you, son?"

"Nothin'. It was Waco went down, workin' that machine gun against his
own crowd. I didn't sabe that at first."

"Him? Didn't know he was in town."

"I didn't, either, till last night. He sneaked in to tell me about the
killin' of Pat. Next I seen him was when he brained a fella that was
shootin' at me. Then somehow he got to the gun--and you know the rest."

"Looks like he was crazy," suggested Shoop.

"I don' know about that. I got to him before he cashed in. He pawed
around like he couldn't see. I asked what I could do. He kind of braced
up then. 'That you, kid?' he says. 'They didn't get you?' I told him no.
'Then I reckon we're square,' he says. I thought he was gone, but he
reached out his hand. Seems he couldn't see. 'Would you mind shakin'
hands with a bum?' he says. I did. And then he let go my hand. He was
done."

"H'm! And him! But you can't always tell. Sometimes it takes a bullet
placed just right, and sometimes religion, and sometimes a woman to make
a man show what's in him. I reckon Waco done you a good turn that
journey. But ain't it hard luck when a fella waits till he's got to
cross over afore he shows white?"

"He must 'a' had a hunch he was goin' to get his," said Lorry. "Or he
wouldn't chanced sneakin' into town last night. When do we go north?"

"To-morrow. The doc says the sheriff will pull through. He sure ought to
get the benefit of the big doubt. There's a man that God A'mighty took
some trouble in makin'."

"Well, I'm mighty glad it's over. I don't want any more like this. I
come through all right, but this ain't fightin'; it's plumb killin' and
murder."

"And both sides thinks so," said Bud. "And lemme tell you; you can read
your eyes out about peace and equality and fraternity, but they's goin'
to be killin' in this here world just as long as they's fools willin' to
listen to other fools talk. And they's always goin' to be some fools."

"You ain't strong on socialism, eh, Bud?"

"Socialism? You mean when all men is born fools and equal? Not this
mawnin', son. I got all I can do figurin' out my own trail."



Chapter XXIX


_Bud's Conscience_

Those riders who had come from the northern part of the State to
Sterling were given transportation for themselves and their horses to
The Junction. From there they rode to their respective homes. Among them
were Bud Shoop, the giant sheepman, and Lorry, who seemed more anxious
than did Shoop to stop at Stacey on their way to the reserve.

"Your maw don't know you been to Sterling," Shoop said as they rode
toward Stacey.

"But she won't care, now we're back again. She'll find out some time."

"I'm willin' to wait," said Bud. "I got you into that hocus. But I had
no more idee than a cat that we'd bump into what we did. They was a time
when a outfit like ours could 'a' kep' peace in a town by just bein'
there. Things are changin'--fast. If the Gov'ment don't do somethin'
about allowin' the scum of this country to get hold of guns and
ca'tridges wholesale, they's goin' to be a whole lot of extra
book-keepin' for the recordin' angel. I tell you what, son, allowin'
that I seen enough killin' in my time so as just seein' it don't set too
hard on my chest, that mess down to Sterling made me plumb sick to my
stummick. I'm wonderin' what would 'a' happened if Sterling hadn't made
that fight and the I.W.W. had run loose. It ain't what we did. That had
to be did. But it's the idee that decent folks, livin' under the
American flag, has got to shoot their way back to the law, like we
done."

"Mebby the law ain't right," suggested Lorry.

"Don't you get that idee, son. The law is all right. Mebby it ain't
handled right sometimes."

"But what can anybody do about it?"

"Trouble is that folks who want to do the right thing ain't always got
the say. Or mebby if they have got the say they leave it to the other
fella.

"What did the folks in Arizona do long back in eighty, when the sheep
disease got bad. First off they doctored up the sick sheep, tryin' to
save 'em. That didn't work, so they took to killin' 'em to save the good
sheep. But the disease had got into the blood of some of the good sheep.
Then some of the big sheepmen got busy. Arizona made a law that no stock
was to be shipped into any of her territory without bein' inspected.
That helped some. But inspectors is human, and some sick sheep got by.

"Then one day a fella that had some brains got up in the State House and
spoke for the shuttin' out of all stock until the disease was stomped
out. You see, that disease didn't start in this here country. But who
downed that fella? Why, the sheepmen themselves. It would hurt their
business. And the funny part of it is them sheepmen was willin' enough
to ship sick sheep anywhere they could sell 'em. But some States was
wise. California, she put a inspection tax of twenty-five dollars on
every carload of stock enterin' her State--or on one animal; didn't make
no difference. That inspection tax had to be paid by the shipper of the
stock, as I said, whether he shipped one head or a hundred. And the
stock had to be inspected before loadin'."

"You mean immigrants?" queried Lorry.

"The same. The gate is open too wide. If I had the handlin' of them
gates I would shut 'em for ten years and kind of let what we got settle
down and get acquainted. But the man hirin' cheap labor wouldn't. He'll
take anything that will work cheap, and the country pays the difference,
like we done down to Sterling."

"You mean there can't be cheap labor?"

"The same. Somebody's got to pay."

"Well, Sterling paid," said Lorry, "if a man's life is worth anything."

"Yes, she paid. And the worst part of the whole business is that the men
what paid didn't owe anything to the smelter or to them others. They
just made a present of their lives to this here country. And the country
ain't goin' to even say 'thanks.'"

"You're pretty sore about it, aren't you, Bud?"

"I be. And if you had my years you'd be likewise. But what's worryin' me
right now is I'm wonderin' what your maw'll say to me when she finds
out."

"You can say we been south on business."

"Yes," grunted Bud, "and I got the receipt right here on my left wing."

"Hurtin' you much?"

"Just enough to let me know I'm livin' and ain't ridin' through hell
shootin' down a lot of pore, drunk fools that's tryin' to run the oven.
And them kind would kick if they was ridin' in hell on a free pass and
their hotel bills paid. But over there is the hills, and we can thank
God A'mighty for the high trails and the open country. I ain't got the
smell of that town out of my nose yet."

       *       *       *       *       *

When they arrived at Stacey, Lorry learned that his father had recently
gone to the ranch. After supper that evening, Mrs. Adams mentioned the
strike. The papers printed columns of the awful details; outrages and
killings beyond the thought of possibility. And Mrs. Adams spoke of the
curious circumstance that the men who put down the lawlessness were
unnamed; that all that could be learned of them was that there were
ranchers and cowmen who were known by number alone.

"And I'm glad that you didn't go riding off down there," she said to
Lorry. "The paper says men from all over the State volunteered."

"So am I," said Shoop promptly. "I was readin' about that strike when
we was over to The Junction. Lorry and me been over that way on
business. I seen that that young fella, number thirty-eight, was one of
the men who went after that machine gun."

"How do you know that he was a young man?" queried Mrs. Adams.

"Why--er--only a young fella would act that foolish, I reckon. You say
Jim is feelin' spry ag'in?"

"Oh, much better! He's lame yet. But he can ride."

"That's good."

"And did you see that the paper says men are volunteering to go to
France? I wonder what will happen next?"

"I dunno," said Shoop gravely. "I been thinkin' about that."

"Well, I hope Lorry won't think that he has to go. Some of the boys in
town are talking about it."

"It's in the air," said Shoop.

"And his father will need him now. Could you spare him, if Jim finds he
can't get along alone?"

"I don't know," laughed Bud. "I reckon I need somebody to look after
them campers up to my old place."

"Oh, I forgot to tell you; the folks that were here last summer stopped
by on their way to Jason. Mrs. Weston and her girl. They said they were
going to visit Mr. Bronson."

"H'm! Then I reckon I got to keep Lorry. Don't know what three females
would do with just Bronson for comp'ny. He's a-tickin' at that writin'
machine of his most all day, and sometimes nights. It must be like
livin' in a cave."

"But Dorothy hasn't," said Lorry.

"That's right! My, but that little gal has built up wonderful since
she's been up there! Did you see my watch?"

"Why, no!"

"Some style to that!" And Shoop displayed the new watch with pride. "And
here's the name of the lady what give it to me."

Lorry's mother examined the watch, and handed it to Lorry, to whom the
news of the gift was a surprise.

"But she didn't give him a watch," said Shoop, chuckling.

       *       *       *       *       *

Up in their room that night, Lorry helped Bud out of his coat. Shoop's
arm was stiff and sore.

"And your mother would think it was a mighty queer business, if she
knowed this," said Bud, "or who that number thirty-eight was down
there."

"You sure made a good bluff, Bud."

"Mebby. But I was scared to death. When I was talkin' about Sterling so
free and easy, and your maw mighty near ketched me that time, my arm was
itchin' like hell-fire, and I dassen scratch it. I never knowed a
fella's conscience could get to workin' around his system like that.
Now, if it was my laig, I could 'a' scratched it with my other foot
under the table. Say, but you sure showed red in your face when your maw
said them Weston folks was up to the camp."

"Oh, I don't know."

"Well, I do. Here, hook onto your Uncle Bud's boot. I'm set: go ahead
and pull. You can't do nothin' but shake the buildin'. Say, what does
Bronson call his gal 'Peter Pan' for?"

"Why, it's a kind of foreign name," flashed Lorry. "And it sounds all
right when you say it right. You said it like the 'pan' was settin' a
mile off."

"Well, you needn't to get mad."



Chapter XXX


_In the Hills_

Lorry's return to the mountains was somewhat of a disappointment to his
expectations. Dorothy had greeted him quite casually and naturally
enough, in that she knew nothing of his recent venture. He was again
introduced to Mrs. Weston and her daughter. For the first time Dorothy
heard of the automobile accident and Lorry's share in the subsequent
proceedings. She asked Lorry why he had not told her that he knew the
Westons. He had no reply save "Oh, I don't know," which rather piqued
Dorothy. He was usually definite and frank.

The Westons occupied Bronson's cabin with Dorothy. Bronson pitched a
tent, moved his belongings into it, and declared himself, jokingly, free
from Dorothy's immediate tyranny.

Dorothy, busy in the kitchen, asked her father to invite Lorry to dinner
that evening. Through a sort of youthful perverseness not unmixed with
bucolic pride, Lorry declined the invitation. He would be busy making
ready for another trip in the hills. He had already planned his own
evening meal. He appreciated the invitation, but they could get along
without him. These excuses satisfied Bronson. Lorry's real reason for
declining was that Dorothy had not invited him in person. He knew it,
and felt ashamed of himself. What reason had he to expect her to invite
him personally, except that she had almost invariably done so
heretofore? And back of this was the subtle jealousy of caste. The
Westons were "her kind of folks." He was not really one of them.
Boyishly he fancied that he would do as a companion when there was no
one else available. He was very much in love with Dorothy and did not
realize it.

And Dorothy was disappointed in him. She had wanted the Westons to know
what a really fine fellow he was.

Alice Weston at once recalled Lorry's attitude toward her on a former
occasion when he had been tacitly invited to go with them to the
Horseshoe Hills and he had stayed at the hotel. She told Dorothy that
Mr. Adams was not to be taken too seriously. After all, he was nothing
more than a boy, and perhaps he would feel better, having declined to
risk possible embarrassment at their table.

Dorothy was inwardly furious on the instant, but she checked herself.
What did Alice Weston know about Lorry? Well, Alice knew that he was a
good-looking young savage who seemed quite satisfied with himself. She
thought that possibly she could tame him if she cared to try. Dorothy,
with feminine graciousness, dared Alice to invite Lorry to the dinner.
Alice was to know nothing of his having declined an earlier invitation.
Greatly to Dorothy's surprise, Alice Weston accepted the challenge.

She waited until just before the dinner hour. Lorry was mending a
pack-saddle when she came to his cabin. He dropped his work and stood
up.

"I have been thinking about that tramp you arrested," she began. "And I
think you were right in what you did."

"Yes, ma'am," stammered Lorry.

Her manner had been especially gracious.

"And I didn't have a chance to say good-bye--that time"--and she
smiled--"when you rode off waving your scarf--"

"It was a leg of lamb," corrected Lorry.

"Well, you waved it very gracefully. What big, strong arms! They don't
look so big when your sleeves are down."

Lorry promptly rolled down his sleeves. He felt that he had to do
something.

"And there is so much to talk about I hardly know where to begin. Oh,
yes! Thank you so much for repairing our car."

"That was nothin'."

"It meant a great deal to us. Is that your horse--the one standing alone
over there?"

"Yes, ma'am. That's Gray Leg."

"I remember him. I couldn't ever forget that morning--but I don't want
to hinder your work. I see you are mending something."

"Just fittin' a new pad to this pack-saddle. I was figurin' to light
out to-morrow."

"So soon? That's too bad. But, then, we can visit at dinner this
evening. Dorothy said she expected you. I believe it is almost ready."

"I don't know, Miss Weston. It's like this--"

"And I know Mr. Bronson meant to ask you. He has been quite busy.
Perhaps he forgot."

"He--"

"So I am here as ambassador. Will I do?"

"Why, sure! But--"

"And mother would be so disappointed if you didn't come. So should I,
especially as you are leaving to-morrow. What is it they say in Mexico,
'Adios'? I must run back."

She proffered her hand gracefully. Lorry shook hands with her. She gave
his fingers a little, lingering squeeze that set his pulses racing. She
was a mighty pretty girl.

"We shall expect you," she called, halfway to the cabin.

And she sure could change a fellow's mind for him without half trying.
She hadn't given him a chance to refuse her invitation. She just knew
that he was coming to supper. And so did he.

Alice Weston held Lorry's attention from the beginning, as she had
intended. She was gowned in some pale-green material touched here and
there with a film of lace. Lorry was fascinated by her full, rounded
arms, her beautifully strong wrists, and by the way in which she had
arranged her heavy, dark hair. In the daylight that afternoon he had
noticed that her eyes were blue. He had thought them brown. But they
were the color of wood violets untouched by the sun. While she lacked
the positive outdoor coloring of Dorothy, her complexion was radiant
with youth and health. Lorry felt subdued, disinclined to talk despite
Dorothy's obvious attempts to be entertaining. He realized that Dorothy
was being exceedingly nice to him, although he knew that she was a
little high-strung and nervous that evening.

After dinner Bronson and Lorry smoked out on the veranda. When the
others came out, Bronson suggested that they have some music. Lorry
promptly invited them to his cabin.

"Alice plays wonderfully," said Dorothy.

Bronson, talking with Mrs. Weston, enjoyed himself. He had been isolated
so long that news from the "outside" interested him.

Lorry, gravely attentive to the playing, happened to glance up. Dorothy
was gazing at him with a most peculiar expression. He flushed. He had
not realized that he had been staring at Alice Weston; at her round,
white throat and graceful arms. But just then she ceased playing.

"Have you any music that you would like?" she asked Lorry.

"There's some here. I don't know what it's like. Some songs and dances
the boys fetched up for Bud."

"What fun!" said Alice. "And what an assortment! Shall we try this?"

And she began to play a flimsy tune printed on a flimsy sheet that
doubled and slid to the keys. Lorry jumped up, spread it out, and stood
holding a corner of it while she played. Close to her, he was sensible
of a desire to caress her hair, to kiss her vivid lips as she glanced up
at him and smiled. He had no idea then that she was deliberately
enthralling him with every grace she possessed.

The fact that she rather liked him made her subtleties all the more
potent. It flattered her to see the frank admiration in his gray eyes.
She knew he was anything but "soft," which made the game all the more
alluring. He was to leave soon--to-morrow. Meanwhile, she determined
that he should remember her.

Late that evening Bronson and the others said good-night. Alice, not
Dorothy, asked Lorry when he was to leave. His "some time to-morrow"
sounded unnaturally indefinite.

He was standing in the doorway of his camp as the others entered
Bronson's cabin. Alice Weston was the last to enter. For an instant she
stood in the lamplight that floated through the doorway, looking back
toward him. Impulsively he waved good-night. Her attitude had seemed to
call for it. He saw her fingers flash to her lips. She tilted her chin
and threw him a kiss.

"Dog-gone the luck!" he growled as he entered his cabin. And with the
brief expletive he condemned his disloyalty to the sprightly, slender
Dorothy; the Peter Pan of the Blue Mesa; the dream girl of that idle
noon at the Big Spring. The other girl--well, she was just playing with
him.

       *       *       *       *       *

In view of Lorry's training and natural carefulness it was especially
significant that he decided next day that he had forgotten to lay in
enough supplies for his journey south. He would ride to Jason and pack
in what he needed. He had a fair excuse. Bronson had recently borrowed
some of his canned provisions. He was well on his way to Jason that
morning before the others had arisen.

He was back at the camp shortly after nine that night. As he passed
Bronson's cabin he saw a light in the window. Mrs. Weston was talking
with Dorothy. Lorry had hoped to catch a glimpse of Alice Weston. He had
been hoping all that day that he would see her again before he left.
Perhaps she was asleep.

As he passed the corral a greeting came from the darkness:--

"Good-evening! I thought you had gone."

"I--I didn't see you," he stammered.

Alice Weston laughed softly. "Oh, I was just out here looking at the
stars. It's cooler out here. Then you changed your mind about going?"

"Nope. I had to go to Jason for grub. I'm going to-morrow."

"Oh, I see! We thought you had gone."

"Got a headache?" queried Lorry.

Her voice had been so unnaturally low, almost sad.

"No. I just wanted to be alone."

Lorry fumbled in his pockets. "I got the mail," he stated.

"I'll give it to Mr. Bronson."

Lorry leaned down and gave her the packet of letters and papers.

"Good-bye. I won't see you in the mornin'"

"We'll miss you."

"Honest?"

"Of course!" And she gave him her hand.

He drew his foot from the stirrup. "Put your foot in there," he said,
still holding her hand.

"But why?"

"'Cause I'm goin' to ride off with you, like in books." He laughed, but
his laughter was tense and unnatural.

It was dark. The stars shone faintly. The air was soft with a subtle
fragrance; the fragrance of sun-warmed pine that the night had stolen
from the slumbering woodlands. She slipped her foot in the wide stirrup.
Half laughing, she allowed him to draw her up. She felt the hard
strength of his arm, and was thrilled. She had not meant to do anything
like this.

"You been playin' with me," he told her, whispering, "and I take my
pay."

She turned her face away, but he found her lips and crushed her to him.

"Oh!" she whispered as he kissed her again and again.

Slowly his arm relaxed. White-faced and trembling, she slid to the
ground and stood looking up at him.

"I hate you!" she said.

"No, you don't," said Lorry quite cheerfully.

And he reached out his hand as though to take her hand again.

She stood still, making no effort to avoid him. Then--"No, please!" she
begged.

Lorry sat for a moment looking down at her. There had been no
make-believe on her part when he held her in his arms. He knew that. And
now? She had said that she hated him. Perhaps she did for having made
her do that which she had never dreamed of doing. But he told himself
that he could stand a whole lot of that kind of hate. And did he really
care for her? Could a girl give what she had given and forget on the
morrow? He would never forget.

She had told herself that he should have reason to remember her.

After he had gone she stood gazing across the starlit mesa. She heard
Lorry whistling cheerily as he unsaddled his pony. A falling star flamed
and faded across the night.



CHAPTER XXXI


_In the Pines_

Alice Weston pleaded headache next morning. She did not get up until
noon. Meanwhile Dorothy came, bringing hot coffee and toast.

"Does it really hurt?" queried Dorothy. "Or is it one of those headaches
that is always going to hurt, but never does?"

Alice smiled and sipped her coffee. "Oh, it's not bad. I want to rest.
Perhaps it's the altitude."

"Perhaps," said Dorothy. "I'm sorry, Alice."

They chatted awhile. Suddenly Alice thought of the letters Lorry had
given her. She had carried them to her room, and had forgotten them.

"Mr. Adams left some mail with me last night. I happened to be outside
when he rode past."

"Why, I thought he had gone!"

"He said he had to go to Jason for something or other. He left early
this morning, I think."

Dorothy glanced at the mail. "All for daddy--except this circular. H'm!
'Intelligent clothing for Intelligent People.' Isn't that awful? How in
the world do such firms get one's address when one lives 'way up here
in the sky. Do you ever get advertisements like this?"

"Oh, yes; heaps of them."

"Well, _your_ gowns are beautiful," sighed Dorothy.

"You are a darling," said Alice, caressing Dorothy's cheek.

"So are you, dear." And Dorothy kissed her. "And you coaxed Lorry to
come to dinner, after all! I don't know what made him so grumpy, though.
I would have been sorry if he hadn't come to dinner, even if he was
grumpy."

"Do you like him?" queried Alice.

"Of course; he has been so nice to us. Don't you?"

Alice's lips trembled. Suddenly she hid her face in her hands and burst
into tears.

"Why, Alice, what _is_ the matter?"

"Nothing," she sobbed. "I'm just tired--of everything."

"It must be the altitude," said Dorothy gravely. "Father says it does
make some persons nervous. Just rest, Allie, and I'll come in again."

Without telling her father anything further than that she was going for
a ride, Dorothy saddled Chinook.

Dorothy was exceedingly trustful, but she was not at all stupid. She
thought she understood Alice's headache. And while Dorothy did not dream
that her friend cared anything for Lorry, she was not so sure that
Lorry did not care for Alice. Perhaps he had said something to her.
Perhaps they had become rather well acquainted in Stacey last summer.

Dorothy rode toward the Big Spring. She had no definite object in view
other than to be alone. She was hurt by Lorry's incomprehensible manner
of leaving. What had she done to cause him to act so strangely? And why
had he refused her invitation and accepted it again through Alice? "But
I'll never, never let him know that I care about that," she thought.
"And when he comes back everything will be all right again."

Just before she reached the Big Spring her pony nickered. She imagined
she could see a horse standing back of the trees round the spring. Some
ranger returning to Jason or some cattle outfit from the south was
camped at the spring. But when Chinook nickered again and the other pony
answered, she knew at once that Lorry was there. Why had he stopped at
the spring? He had started early enough to have made a camp farther on.

Lorry saw her coming, and busied himself adjusting one of the packs. As
she rode up he turned and took off his hat. His face was flushed. His
eyes did not meet hers as she greeted him.

"I didn't look for you to ride up here," he said lamely.

"And I didn't expect to find you here," she said as she dismounted. She
walked straight to him. "Lorry, what is the matter? You're not like my
ranger man at all! Are you in trouble?"

Her question, so frank and sincere, and the deep solicitude in her
troubled eyes hurt him, and yet he was glad to feel that hot pain in his
throat. He knew now that he cared for her more than for any living
being; beyond all thought of passion or of selfishness. She looked and
seemed like a beautiful boy, with all the frankness of true comradeship
in her attitude and manner. And she was troubled because of him--and not
for herself. Lorry thought of the other girl. He had taken his pay. His
lips burned dry as he recalled that moment when he had held her in his
arms.

Dorothy saw the dull pain in his eyes, a sort of dumb pleading for
forgiveness for something he had done; she could not imagine what. He
dropped to his knee, and taking her slender hand in his kissed her
fingers.

"Don't be silly," she said, yet her free hand caressed his hair. "What
is it, ranger man?"

"I been a regular dam' fool, Dorothy."

"But, Lorry! You know--if there is anything, anything in the world that
I can do--Please, _please_ don't cry. If you were to do that I think I
should die. I couldn't stand it. You make me afraid. What is it? Surely
it is not--Alice?"

He crushed her fingers. Suddenly he stood up and stepped back. The
sunlight shone on his bared head. He looked very boyish as he shrugged
his shoulders as though to free himself from an invisible hand that
oppressed and irritated him. His sense of fair play in so far as Alice
Weston was concerned would not allow him to actually regret that affair.
To him that had been a sort of conquest. But shame and repentance for
having been disloyal to Dorothy were stamped so clearly upon his
features that she understood. She knew what he was about to say, and
checked him.

"Don't tell me," she said gently. "You have told me. I know Alice is
attractive; she can't help that. If you care for her--"

"Care for her! She was playin' with me. When I found out that--"

Dorothy caught her breath. Her eyes grew big. She had not thought that
Alice Weston--But then that did not matter now. Lorry was so abjectly
sorry about something or other. He felt her hand on his sleeve. She was
smiling. "You're just a great big, silly boy, ranger man. I'm really
years older than you. Please don't tell me anything. I don't want to
know. I just want you to be happy."

"Happy? And you say that!"

"Of course!"

"Well, mebby I could be happy if you was to set to and walk all over
me."

"Oh, but that wouldn't do any good. Tell me why you stopped here at the
spring. You didn't expect to meet any one, did you?"

"I--stopped here--because we camped here that time."

"Well, Lorry, it's really foolish of you to feel so badly when there's
nothing the matter. If you wanted to kiss Alice and she let you--why,
that isn't wrong. A boy kissed me once when I was going to school in the
East. I just boxed his ears and laughed at him. It is only when you act
grumpy or feel badly that I worry about you. I just want to be your
little mother then--and try to help you."

"You make me feel like I wasn't fit to ever touch your hand again," he
told her.

"But you mustn't feel that way," she said cheerily. "I want you to be
brave and strong and happy; just as you were that day we camped here.
And you will, won't you?"

"Yes, ma'am. I'm takin' orders from you."

"But you mustn't wait for me to tell you. Just be yourself, and then I
know you will never be ashamed of anything you do. I must go now.
Good-bye, Lorry."

She gave her hand, and he drew her to him. But she turned her face away
as he bent his head above her.

"No; not now, Lorry. I--can't. Please don't."

"I--guess you're right. I reckon you showed me just where I stand. Yes,
you're plumb right about it, Dorothy. But I'm comin' back--"

"I'll wait for you," she said softly.

He turned briskly to the ponies. The pack-horses plodded up the trail as
he mounted Gray Leg and rode over to her.

She reached up and patted Gray Leg's nose. "Good-bye, everybody!" she
chirruped. And she kissed Gray Leg's nose.

Back in the ranges, far from the Big Spring, Lorry made his camp that
night. As he hobbled the horses he talked to them affectionately after
his manner when alone with them.

"And you, you old trail-hitter," he said to Gray Leg, "I reckon you
think you're some ladies' man, don't you? Well, you got a right to be
proud. Step along there, and 'tend to your grazin' and don't go to
rubbin' noses with the other horses. You're a fool if you do."



CHAPTER XXXII


_Politics_

The week following Lorry's departure the Westons left for the East. As
for Dorothy, she confessed to herself that she was not sorry. While
Alice had been unusually nice to every one, Dorothy felt that Alice was
forcing herself to appear natural and happy. Mrs. Weston knew this, and
wondered what the cause could be. Mrs. Weston had found Dorothy
delightful and Bronson interesting, but she had been so long in the West
that its novelty had worn thin. She did not regret it when they shipped
their machine from Stacey and took the Overland for New York.

A few days after they had gone, Bud Shoop rode up to the Blue Mesa. It
was evident that he wanted to talk with Bronson, so Dorothy coaxed
Bondsman to her favorite tree, and sat stroking his shaggy head as she
read from a new book that Shoop had brought with the mail.

The genial Bud was in a fix. Perhaps Bronson, who had been a newspaper
man and knew something about politics, could help him out. Bronson
disclaimed any special keenness of political intelligence, but said he
would be glad to do anything he could for Shoop.

"It's like this," Bud began, seating himself on the edge of the
veranda; "John Torrance, who was supervisor before you came in, got me
this job and put it up to me to stick. Now, I like John, and I figure
John ain't scared of me. But here's where I lose the trail. A ole
friend, the biggest shipper of sheep in this State, goes and gets it
into his head that they's a State Senator over there drawin' down pay
that ought to come to me. Recollec', I said he was a sheepman--and I
been for the longhorns all my days. And he's got the nerve to tell me
that all the sheepmen in this here county are strong for me if I run for
the job. If I didn't know him like I know this here right hand, I would
say he was gettin' hardenin' of the brain in his ole aige. But he's a
long ways from havin' his head examined yet.

"Then along comes a representative of the Cattlemen's Association and
says they want me to run for State Senator. Then along comes a committee
of hay-tossers from up around St. Johns and says, polite, that they are
waitin' my pleasure in the matter of framin' up their ticket for
senatorial candidate from this mesa country. They say that the present
encumbrance in the senatorial chair is such a dog-gone thief that he
steals from hisself just to keep in practice. I don't say so. 'Course,
if I can get to a chair that looks big and easy, without stompin' on
anybody--why, I'm like to set down. But if I can't, I figure to set
where I be.

"Now, this here war talk is gettin' folks excited. And ridin'
excitement down the trail of politics is like tryin' to ride white
lightnin' bareback. It's like to leave you so your friends can't tell
what you looked like. And somebody that ain't got brains enough to plug
the hole in a watch-key has been talkin' around that Bud Shoop is a
fighter, with a record for gettin' what he goes after. And that this
same Bud Shoop is as honest as the day is long. Now, I've seen some
mighty short days when I was tradin' hosses. And then this here stingin'
lizard goes to work and digs up my deputy number over to Sterling and
sets the papers to printin' as how it was me, with the help of a few
parties whose names are of no special int'rest, settled that strike."

"So you were at Sterling?"

"Uh-uh. Between you and me, I was. And it wa'n't what you'd call a
girl's school for boys, neither. But that's done. What I'm gettin' at
is: If I resign here, after givin' my word to Torrance to stick, it
looks like I been playin' with one hand under the table. The papers will
lie like hell boostin' me, and if I don't lie like hell, boostin'
myself, folks'll think I'm a liar, anyhow. Now, takin' such folks one at
a time, out back of the store, mebby, where they ain't no wimmin-folks,
I reckon I could make 'em think different. But I can't lick the county.
I ain't no angel. I never found that tellin' the truth kep' me awake
nights. And I sleep pretty good. Now, I writ to Torrance, tellin' him
just how things was headed. What do you think he writ back?"

"Why, he told you to go ahead and win, didn't he?"

"Yep. And he said that it was apparent that the State needed my services
more than the Service did. That's somethin' like a train with a engine
on each end. You don't know which way it's headed."

"I'd take it as a sincere compliment."

"Well, I did swell up some. Then I says to myself: 'Bud, you ain't no
fancy office man, and even if you are doin' good work here, you can't
put it in writin' for them big bugs at Washington.' Mebby John is so
dog-gone busy--like the fella with both bands full and his suspenders
broke--- that he'd be glad to get behind 'most anything to get shut of
me."

"I think you're mistaken. You know you can't keep a born politician out
of politics."

"Meanin' me?"

"You're the type."

"By gravy, Bronson! I never seen you hidin' your watch when I come up to
visit you before."

"See here, Shoop. Why don't you write to Torrance and ask him
point-blank if he has had a hand in getting you nominated for Senator?
Torrance is a big man in his line, and he probably knows what he is
doing."

Shoop grinned. "You win the pot!" he exclaimed. "That's just what I been
thinkin' right along. I kind of wanted somebody who wasn't interested in
this deal to say it. Well, I reckon I bothered you long enough. You got
your alfalfa to--I--you got your writin' to do. But they's one thing. If
I get roped in and got to run, and some new supervisor comes botherin'
around up here, puttin' some ranger in my camp that ain't like Lorry,
all you got to do is to move over into my cabin and tell 'em to keep off
the grass. That there four hundred and eighty is mine. I homesteaded it,
and I got the papers. It ain't on the reserve."

"I thought it was."

"So do some yet. Nope. I'm just east of the reservation line; outside
the reserve. I aimed to know what I was doin' when I homesteaded that
piece of sky farm."

"And yet you took exception to my calling you a born politician."

Shoop chuckled. "Speakin' personal, I been thinkin' about that job of
State Senator for quite a spell. Now, I reckon you got sense enough not
to get mad when I tell you that I just been tryin' out a little speech I
framed up for my constituents. Just a kind of little alfalfa-seed talk.
Outside of ijuts and Mexicans, it's about what I aim to hand to the
voters of this here district, puttin' it up to them that I was roped
into this hocus and been settin' back on the rope right along. And
that's a fact. But you got to rub some folks' noses in a fact afore they
can even smell it."

"And you have the nerve to tell me that you framed up all that stuff to
get my sympathy? Shoop, you are wasting time in Arizona. Go East. And
forgive me for falling for your most natural appeal."

The genial Bud chuckled and wiped his eyes. "But it's true from the
start to the wire."

"I must congratulate you." And, "Dorothy!" called Bronson. "Come and
shake hands with our next Senator from the mesa country."

"Really?" exclaimed Dorothy. "But we will lose our supervisor. Still, I
think Mr. Shoop will make a lovely Senator. You are just the right
size--and--everything."

"I reckon you're right, missy. Half of the game is lookin' the part
afore election. The other half is not sayin' too much after election. If
any man gets a promise out of me afore election, it'll have to be did
with a stump-puller."

"But we won't see you any more," said Dorothy. "You will be so busy and
so important. Senator Shoop will speak here. And Senator Shoop will
speak there. And--let me see! Oh, yes! The Senate adjourned after a
stormy session in which the Senator from Mesa County, supported by an
intelligent majority, passed his bill for the appropriation of twenty
thousand dollars to build a road from Jason to the Blue Mesa. What fun!"

Bud polished his bald head. "Now, I reckon that ain't such a joke. We'll
build a road plumb through to the old Apache Trail and ketch them
tourists goin' into Phoenix."

"You see," said Dorothy, turning to her father, "I know something about
politics. I read the local papers. Mr. Shoop's name is in every one of
them. I read that article about the Sterling strike. I have been
wondering--"

Shoop immediately called attention to Bondsman, who was gently tugging
at the supervisor's pants leg.

"Now, look at that! Do you know what he's tellin' me? He's tellin' me I
got a piano in that there cabin and we ain't had a duet for quite a
spell. That there dog bosses me around somethin' scandalous."

Bondsman slipped from beneath Dorothy's hand as she stooped to pat him.
He trotted to Shoop's cabin, and stood looking up at the door.

"Would you be playin' 'Annie Laurie' for us?" queried Shoop.

Dorothy played for them, unaccompanied by Bondsman. Shoop shook his
head. Either the tune had lost its charm for the Airedale or else
Dorothy's interpretation differed from Bud's own.

"Thanks, missy," said Shoop when she had finished playing. "Guess I'll
be movin' along."

"Oh, no! You'll stay to-night. I'll play for you. Make him stay,
father."

"I wish you would, Shoop. I'd like to talk with you about the election."

"Well, now, that's right neighborly of you folks. I was aimin' to ride
back this evening. But I reckon we'll stay. Bondsman and me ain't so
spry as we was."

After supper Dorothy played for them again, with no light except the
dancing red shadows from the pine logs that flamed in the fireplace.

Shoop thanked her. "I'll be livin' in town,"--and he sighed
heavily,--"where my kind of piano-playin' would bring the law on me,
most-like. Now, that ole piano is hacked up some outside, but she's got
all her innards yet and her heart's right. If you would be takin' it as
a kind of birthday present, it's yours."

"You don't mean _me_?"

"I sure do."

"But I couldn't accept such a big present. And then, when we go away
this winter--"

"Listen to your Uncle Bud, missy. A little lady give me a watch onct. 'T
wa'n't a big watch, but it was a big thing. 'Cause why? 'Cause that
little lady was the first lady to give me a present in my life. I was
raised up by men-folks. My mammy she wa'n't there long after I come.
Reckon that's why I never was much of a hand with wimmin-folks. I wa'n't
used to 'em. And I don't care how old and ornery a man is; the first
time he gets a present from a gal, it kind of hits him where he
breathes. And if it don't make him feel warm inside and mighty proud of
bein' who he is, why, it's because he's so dog-gone old he can't think.
I ain't tellin' no secret when I say that the little lady put her name
in that watch alongside of mine. And her name bein' there is what makes
that present a big thing--bigger than any piano that was ever built.

"Why, just a spell ago I was settin' in my office, madder'n a cat what
had tore his Sunday pants, 'cause at twelve o'clock I was goin' over to
the saloon to fire that young ranger, Lusk, for gettin' drunk. I pulled
out this here watch, and I says to myself: 'Bud, it was clost around
twelve o'clock by a young fella's watch onct when he was filled up on
liquor and rampin' round town when he ought to been to work. And it was
the ole foreman's gal that begged that boy's job back for him, askin'
her daddy to give him another chanct.' And the boy he come through all
right. I know--for I owned the watch. And so I give Lusk another
chanct."

Dorothy stepped to Shoop's chair, and, stooping quickly, kissed his
cheek. Bondsman, not to be outdone, leaped jealously into Bud's lap and
licked the supervisor's face. Shoop spluttered, and thrust Bondsman
down.

"Things is comin' too fast!" he cried, wiping his face. "I was just
goin' to say something when that dog just up and took the words right
out of my mouth. Oh, yes! I was just wishin' I owned a piano factory."



CHAPTER XXXIII


_The Fires of Home_


Bud Shoop read the newspaper notice twice before he realized fully its
import. The Adams House at Stacey was for sale. "Then Jim and Annie's
patched it up," he soliloquized. And the genial Bud did not refer to the
Adams House.

Because his master seemed pleased, Bondsman waited to hear the rest of
it with head cocked sideways and tail at a stiff angle.

"That's all they is to it," said Shoop.

Bondsman lay down and yawned. He was growing old. It was only Bud's
voice that could key the big Airedale up to his earlier alertness. The
office was quiet. The clerk had gone out for his noon meal. The fall
sunshine slanted lazily through the front-office windows. The room was
warm, but there was a tang of autumn in the air. Shoop glanced at the
paper again. He became absorbed in an article proposing conscription. He
shook his head and muttered to himself. He turned the page, and glanced
at the livestock reports, the copper market, railroad stocks, and passed
on to an article having to do with local politics.

Bondsman, who constituted himself the guard of Shoop's leisure, rapped
the floor with his tail. Shoop glanced over the top of his paper as
light footsteps sounded in the outer office. Dorothy tapped on the
lintel and stepped in. Shoop crumpled the paper and rose. Bondsman was
at her side as she shook hands with the supervisor.

"My new saddle came," she said, patting Bondsman. "And father's latest
book. Why don't you cheer?"

"Goodness, missy! I started cheerin' inside the minute I seen you. Now,
I reckon you just had to have that new saddle."

"It's at the store. Father is over there talking politics and war with
Mr. Handley."

"Then you just set down and tell your Uncle Bud the news while you're
waitin'."

"But I am not _waiting_. I am visiting _you_. And I told you the news."

"And to think a new saddle could make your eyes shine like that! Ain't
you 'shamed to fool your Uncle Bud?"

"I haven't--if you say you know I have."

"'Course. Most any little gal can get the best of me."

"Well, because you are so curious--Lorry is back."

"I reckoned that was it."

"He rode part-way down with us. He has gone to see his father."

"And forgot to repo't here first."

"No. He gave me the reports to give to you. Here they are. One of Mr.
Waring's men, that young Mexican, rode up to the mesa last week and left
word that Lorry's father wanted to see him."

"I aim to know about that," chuckled Shoop. And he smoothed out the
paper and pointed to the Adams House sale notice.

"The Adams House for sale? Why--"

"Jim and Annie--that's Jim Waring and Mrs. Waring now--are goin' to run
the ranch. I'm mighty glad."

"Oh, I see! And Lorry is really Laurence Waring?"

"You bet! And I reckon Lorry'll be fo'man of that ranch one of these
days. Cattle is sky-high and goin' up. I don't blame him."

"He didn't say a word about that to me."

"'Course not. He's not one to say anything till he's plumb sure."

"He might have said _something_" asserted Dorothy.

"Didn't he?" chuckled Shoop.

Dorothy's face grew rosy. "Your master is very inquisitive," she told
Bondsman.

"And your little missy is right beautiful this mawnin'," said Shoop.
"Now, if I was a bow-legged young cow-puncher with curly hair, and
looked fierce and noble and could make a gal's eyes shine like stars in
the evenin', I reckon I wouldn't be sittin' here signin' letters."

"He _isn't_ bow-legged!" flashed Dorothy. She was very definite about
that. "And he's not a cowboy. He is a ranger."

"My goodness! I done put my foot in a gopher hole that shake. I sure am
standin' on my head, waitin' for somebody to set me up straight ag'in.
You ain't mad at your Uncle Bud, be you?"

Dorothy tossed her head, but her eyes twinkled, and suddenly she
laughed. "You know I like you--heaps! You're just jealous."

"Reckon you said it! But I only got one ear laid back yet. Wait till I
see that boy."

"Oh, pshaw! You can't help being nice to him."

"And I got comp'ny."

"But really I want to talk seriously, if you will let me. Lorry has been
talking about enlisting. He didn't say that he was going to enlist, but
he has been talking about it so much. Do you think he will?"

"Well, now, missy that's a right peart question. I know if I was his age
I'd go. Most any fella that can read would. I been readin' the papers
for two years, and b'ilin' inside. I reckon Lorry's just woke up to
what's goin' on. We been kind of slow wakin' up out here. Folks livin'
off in this neck of the woods gets to thinkin' that the sun rises on
their east-line fence and sets on their west line. It takes somethin'
strong to make 'em recollec' the sun's got a bigger job'n that. But I
admire to say that when them kind of folks gets started onct they's
nothin' ever built that'll stop 'em. If I get elected I aim to tell some
folks over to the State House about this here war. And I'm goin' to
start by talkin' about what we got to set straight right here to home
first. They can _feel_ what's goin' on to home. It ain't all print. And
they got to feel what's goin' on over there afore they do anything."

"It's all too terrible to talk about," said Dorothy. "But we must do our
share, if only to keep our self-respect, mustn't we?"

"You said it--providin' we got any self-respect to keep."

"But why don't our young men volunteer. They are not cowards."

"It ain't that. Suppose you ask Lorry why."

"I shouldn't want to know him if he didn't go," said Dorothy.

"Missy, I'm lovin' you for sayin' that! If all the mothers and sisters
and sweethearts was like that, they wouldn't be no conscription. But
they ain't. I'm no hand at understandin' wimmin-folks, but I know the
mother of a strappin' young fella in this town that says she would
sooner see her boy dead in her front yard than for him to go off and
fight for foreigners. She don't know what this country's got to fight
for pretty quick or she wouldn't talk like that. And she ain't the only
one. Now, when wimmin talks that way, what do you expect of men? I
reckon the big trouble is that most folks got to see somethin' to fight
afore they get goin'. Fightin' for a principle looks just like poundin'
air to some folks. I don't believe in shootin' in the dark. How come,
I've plugged a rattlesnake by just shootin' at the sound when he was
coiled down where I couldn't see him. But this ain't no kind of talk for
you to listen to, missy."

"I--you won't say that I spoke of Lorry?"

"Bless your heart, no! And he'll figure it out hisself. But don't you
get disap'inted if he don't go right away. It's mighty easy to set back
and say 'Go!' to the other fella; and listen to the band and cheer the
flag. It makes a fella feel so durned patriotic he is like to forget he
ain't doin' nothin' hisself.

"Now, missy, suppose you was a sprightin' kind of a boy 'bout nineteen
or twenty, and mebby some gal thought you was good-lookin' enough to
talk to after church on a Sunday; and suppose you had rustled like a
little nigger when you was a kid, helpin' your ma wash dishes in a hotel
and chop wood and sweep out and pack heavy valises for tourists and fill
the lamps and run to the store for groceries and milk a cow every night
and mornin'.

"And say you growed up without breakin' your laig and went to punchin'
cattle and earnin' your own money, and then mebby you got a job in the
Ranger Service, ridin' the high trails and livin' free and independent;
and suppose a mighty pretty gal was to come along and kind of let you
take a shine to her, and you was doin' your plumb durndest to put by a
little money, aimin' to trot in double harness some day; and then
suppose your daddy was to offer you a half-interest in a growin' cattle
business, where you could be your own boss and put by a couple of
thousand a year. And you only nineteen or twenty.

"Suppose you had been doin' all that when along comes word from 'way off
somewhere that folks was killin' each other and it was up to you to stop
'em. Wouldn't you do some hard thinkin' afore you jumped into your
fightin' clothes?"

"But this war means more than that."

"It sure does. But some of us ain't got the idee yet. 'Course all you
got to do to some folks is to say 'Fight' and they come a-runnin'. And
some of that kind make mighty good soldier boys. But the fella I'm
leavin' alone is the one what cinches up slow afore he climbs into the
saddle. When he goes into a fight it's like his day's work, and he don't
waste no talk or elbow action when he's workin'."

"I wish I were a man!"

"Well, some of us is right glad you ain't. A good woman can do just as
much for this country right now as any man. And I don't mean by dressin'
up in fancy clothes and givin' dances and shellin' out mebby four per
cent of the gate receipts to buy a ambulance with her name on it.

"And I don't mean by payin' ten dollars for a outfit of gold-plated
knittin'-needles to make two-bit socks for the boys. What I mean is that
a good woman does her best work to home; mebby just by sayin' the right
word, or mebby by keepin' still or by smilin' cheerful when her heart is
breakin' account of her man goin' to war.

"You can say all you like about patriotism, but patriotism ain't just
marchin' off to fight for your country. It's usin' your neighbors and
your country right every day in the week, includin' Sunday. Some folks
think patriotism is buildin' a big bonfire once a year and lettin' her
blaze up. But the real thing is keepin' your own little fire a-goin'
steady, right here where you live. And it's thinkin' of that little fire
to home that makes the best soldier.

"He's got a big job to do. He's goin' to get it done so he can go back
to that there home and find the little fire a-burning bright. What do
some of our boys do fightin' alongside of them Frenchmen and under the
French flag, when they get wounded and get a furlough? Set around and
wait to go back to fightin'? I reckon not. Some of 'em pack up and come
four, five thousand miles just to see their folks for mebby two, three
days. And when they see them little fires to home a-burnin' bright, why,
they say: 'This here is what we're fighting for.' And they go back,
askin' God A'mighty to keep 'em facin' straight to the front till the
job is done."

Dorothy, her chin in her hand, gazed at Bud. She had never known him to
be so intense, so earnest.

"Oh, I know it is so!" she cried. "But what can I do? I have only a
little money in the bank, and father makes just enough to keep us
comfortable. You see, we spent such lots of money for those horrid old
doctors in the East, who didn't do me a bit of good."

"You been doin' your share just gettin' well and strong, which is savin'
money. But seein' you asked me, you can do a whole lot if Lorry was to
say anything to you about goin'. And you know how better'n I can tell
you or your daddy or anybody."

"But Lorry must do as he thinks best. We--we are not engaged."

"'Course. And it ain't no time for a young fella to get engaged to a gal
and tie up her feelin's and march off with her heart in his pocket.
Mebby some day she's goin' to want it back ag'in, when he ain't livin'
to fetch it back to her. I see, by the Eastern papers Torrance has been
sendin' me, that some young fellas is marryin' just afore they go to
jine the Frenchmen on the front. Now, what are some of them gals goin'
to do if their boys don't come back? Or mebby come back crippled for
life? Some of them gals is goin' to pay a mighty high price for just a
few days of bein' married. It riles me to think of it."

"I hadn't thought of it--as you do," said Dorothy.

"Well, I hope you'll forgive your Uncle Bud for ragin' and rampin'
around like this. I can't talk what's in my heart to folks around here.
They're mostly narrow-gauge. I reckon I said enough. Let's go look at
that new saddle."

"Isn't it strange," said Dorothy, "that I couldn't talk with father like
this? He'd be nice, of course, but he would be thinking of just me."

"I reckon he would. And mebby some of Lorry."

"If Lorry should ask me about his going--"

"Just you tell him that you think one volunteer is worth four conscripts
any time and any place. And if that ain't a hint to him they's somethin'
wrong with his ears."

Shoop rose and plodded out after Dorothy. Bondsman trailed lazily
behind. Because Shoop had not picked up his hat the big dog knew that
his master's errand, whatever it was, would be brief. Yet Bondsman
followed, stopping to yawn and stretch the stiffness of age from his
shaggy legs. There was really no sense in trotting across the street
with his master just to trot back again in a few minutes. But Bondsman's
unwavering loyalty to his master's every mood and every movement had
become such a matter of course that the fine example was lost in the
monotony of repetition.

A dog's loyalty is so often taken for granted that it ceases to be
noticeable until in an unlooked-for hazard it shines forth in some act
of quick heroism or tireless faithfulness worthy of a greater tribute
than has yet been written.

Bondsman was a good soldier.



CHAPTER XXXIV


_Young Life_


Ramon was busy that afternoon transferring mattresses and blankets from
the ranch-house to the new, low-roofed bunk-house that Waring had built.
Ramon fitted up three beds--one for the cook, one for an old range-rider
that Waring had hired when his men had left to enlist, and one for
himself.

The partitions of the ranch-house had been taken down, the interior
rearranged, and the large living-room furnished in a plain, comfortable
way.

As Ramon worked he sang softly. He was happy. The señora was coming to
live with them, and perhaps Señor Jim's son. Señor Jim had been more
active of late. His lameness was not so bad as it had been. It was true
the Señor Jim did not often smile, but his eyes were kindly.

Ramon worked rapidly. There was much to do in the other house. The bale
of Navajo blankets was still unopened. Perhaps the Señor Jim would help
to arrange them in the big room with the stone fireplace. The señora
would not arrive until to-morrow, but then the home must be made ready,
that she would find it beautiful. And Ramon, accustomed to the meagerly
furnished adobes of old Mexico, thought that the ranch-house was
beautiful indeed.

Waring ate with the men in the new bunk-house that evening. After supper
he went over to the larger building and sat alone in the living-room,
gazing out of the western window. His wounds ached, and in the memory of
almost forgotten trails he grew young again. Again in Old Mexico, the
land he loved, he saw the blue crest of the Sierras rise as in a dream,
and below the ranges a tiny Mexican village of adobe huts gold in the
setting sun. Between him and the village lay the outlands, ever
mysterious, ever calling to him. Across the desert ran a thin trail to
the village. And down the trail the light feet of Romance ran swiftly as
he followed. He could even recall the positions of the different adobes;
the strings of chiles dark red in the twilight; the old black-shawled
señora who had spoken a guttural word of greeting as he had ridden up.

Back in Sonora men had said, "Waring has made his last ride." They had
told each other that a white man was a fool to go alone into that
country. Perhaps he had been a fool. But the thrill of those early days,
when he rode alone and free and men sang of him from Sonora to the
Sweetgrass Hills! And on that occasion he had found the fugitive he
sought, yet he had ridden back to Sonora alone. He had never forgotten
the face of the young Mexican woman who had pleaded with him to let her
lover go. Her eyes were big and velvet black. Her mouth was the mouth
of a Madonna.

Waring had told her that it was useless to plead. He remembered how her
eyes had grown dull and sullen at his word. He told her that he was
simply doing his duty. She had turned on him like a panther, her little
knife glittering in the dusk as she drove it at his breast. The Mexican
lover had jerked free and was running toward the foothills. Waring
recalled his first surprise at the wiry strength of her wrist as he had
twisted the knife from her. If the Mexican lover had not turned and shot
at him--The black figure of the Mexican had dropped just where the road
entered the foothills. The light had almost gone. The vague bulk of the
Sierras wavered. Outlines vanished, leaving a sense of something
gigantic, invisible, that slumbered in the night. The stars were big and
softly brilliant as he had ridden north.

The old wound in his shoulder ached. The Mexican had made a good
shot--for a Mexican.

Out on the Arizona mesa, against the half disk of gold, was the black
silhouette of a horseman. Waring stepped to the doorway. Ramon was
seated just outside the door, smoking a cigarette. The southern stars
were almost visible. Each star seemed to have found its place, and yet
no star could be seen.

"It is Lorry," said Ramon. "He has ridden far."

Waring smiled. Fifty miles had not been considered a big day's ride in
his time. _In his time!_ But his day was past. The goddess he had
followed had left him older than his years, crippled, unable to ride
more than a few hours at a time; had left him fettered to the monotony
of the far mesa levels and the changeless hills. Was this his
punishment, or simply a black trick of fate, that the tang of life had
evaporated, leaving a stagnant pool wherein he gazed to meet the blurred
reflection of a face weary with waiting for--what end?

Unused to physical inactivity, Waring had grown somber of mind these
latter days. Despite the promise of more comfortable years, he had never
felt more lonely. With the coming of Lorry the old order would change.
Young blood, new life would have its way.

The sound of pattering hoofs grew louder. Waring heard the old familiar,
"Hi! Yippy! Yip!" of the range rider. Young blood? New life? It was his
own blood, his own life reincarnate in the cheery rider that swung down
and grasped his hand. Nothing had changed. Life was going on as it
always had.

"Hello, dad! How's the leg?"

Waring smiled in the dusk. "Pretty fair, Lorry. You didn't waste any
time getting here."

"Well, not much. I rode down with Bronson and Dorothy."

"Do you call her 'Dorothy'?"

"Ever since she calls me 'Lorry.'"

"Had anything to eat?"

"Nope. I cut across. How's mother?"

"She will be here to-morrow. We have been getting things ready. Let
Ramon take your horse--"

"Thanks. I'll fix him in two shakes."

And in two shakes bridle and saddle were off, and Gray Leg was rolling
in the corral.

While Lorry ate, Ramon laid a fire in the big stone fireplace. Alter
supper Lorry and his father sat gazing at the flames. Lorry knew why he
had been sent for, but waited for his father to speak.

Presently Waring turned to him. "I sent for you because I need some one
to help. And your mother wants you here. I won't urge you, but I can
offer you Pat's share in the ranch. I bought his share last week. You'll
have a working interest besides that. You know something about cattle.
Think it over."

"That's a dandy offer," said Lorry. "I'm right obliged, dad. But there's
something else. You put your proposition straight, and I'm going to put
mine straight. Now, if you was in my boots, and she liked you enough,
would you marry her?"

"You haven't told me who she is."

"Why--Dorothy Bronson. I thought you knew."

Waring smiled. "You're pretty young, Lorry."

"But you married young, dad."

"Yes. And I married the best woman in the world. But I can't say that I
made your mother happy."

"I guess ma never cared for anybody but you," said Lorry.

"It isn't just the caring for a person, Lorry."

"Well, I thought it was. But I reckon you know. And Dorothy is the
prettiest and lovin'est kind of a girl _you_ ever seen. I was wishin'
you was acquainted."

"I should like to meet her. Are you sure she is your kind of girl,
Lorry? Now, wait a minute; I know how you feel. A girl can be
good-looking and mighty nice and think a lot of a man, and yet not be
the right girl for him."

"But how is he goin' to find that out?"

"If he must find out--by marrying her."

"Then I aim to find out, if she is willin'. But I wanted to tell
you--because you made me that offer. I was askin' your advice because
you been through a lot."

"I wish I could advise you. But you're a man grown, so far as taking
care of yourself is concerned. And when a man thinks of getting married
he isn't looking for advice against it. Why don't you wait a year or
two?"

"Well, mebbe I got to. Because--well, I didn't ask Dorothy yet. Then
there's somethin' else. A lot of the fellas up in the high country have
enlisted in the regulars, and some have gone over to Canada to join the
Foreign Legion. Now, I don't want to be the last hombre on this mesa to
go."

"There has been no call for men by the Nation."

"But it's comin', dad. Any fella can see that. I kind of hate to wait
till Uncle Sam says I got to go. I don't like going that way."

"What do you think your mother will say?"

"Gosh! I know! That's why I wanted to talk to you first. If I'm goin', I
want to know it so I can say to her that I _am_ goin' and not that I aim
to go."

"Well, you will have to decide that."

"Well, I'm goin' to--before ma comes. Dog-gone it! You know how it is
tryin' to explain things to a woman. Wimmin don't understand them kind
of things."

"I don't know about that, Lorry."

Lorry nodded. "I tell you, dad--you kind of set a pace for me. And I
figure I don't want folks to say: 'There goes Jim Waring's boy.' If
they're goin' to say anything, I want it to be: 'There goes Lorry
Waring.'"

Waring knew that kind of pride if he knew anything. He was proud of his
son. And Waring's most difficult task was to keep from influencing him
in any way. He wanted the boy to feel free to do as he thought best.

"You were in that fight at Sterling," said Waring, gesturing toward the
south.

"But that was different," said Lorry. "Them coyotes was pluggin' at us,
and we just nacherally had to let 'em have it. And besides we was
workin' for the law."

"I understand there wasn't any law in Sterling About that time."

"Well, we made some," asserted Lorry.

"And that's just what this war means. It's being fought to make law."

"Then I'm for the law every time, big or little. I seen enough of that
other thing."

"Think it over, Lorry. Remember, you're free to do as you want to. I
have made my offer. Then there is your mother--and the girl. It looks as
though you had your hands full."

"You bet! Business and war and--and Dorothy is a right big order. I'm
gettin' a headache thinkin' of it!"

Waring rose. "I'm going to turn in. I have to live pretty close to the
clock these days."

"See you in the mornin'," said Lorry, giving his hand. "Good-night,
dad."

"Good-night, boy."



CHAPTER XXXV


_The High Trail_


Black-edged against the silvery light of early dawn the rim of the world
lay dotted with far buttes and faint ranges fading into the spaces of
the north and south. The light deepened and spread to a great crimson
pool, tideless round the bases of magic citadels and mighty towers.
Golden minarets thrust their slender, fiery shafts athwart the wide
pathway of the ascending sun. The ruddy glow palpitated like a live
ember naked to the wind. The nearer buttes grew boldly beautiful. Slowly
their molten outlines hardened to rigid bronze. Like ancient castles of
some forgotten land, isolated in the vast mesa, empty of life, they
seemed to await the coming of a host that would reshape their fallen
arches and their wind-worn towers to old-time splendor, and perfect
their imageries.

But the marching sun knew no such sentiment. Pitilessly he pierced their
enchanted walls, discovering their pretense, burning away their shadowy
glory, baring them for what they were--masses of jumbled rock and
splintered spires; rain-gutted wraiths of clay, volcanic rock, the
tumbled malpais and the tufa of the land.

Black shadows shifted. That which had been the high-arched entrance to
a mighty fortress was now a shallow hollow in a hill. Here and there on
the western slope of the mounds cattle grazed in the chill morning air.
Enchantments of the dawn reshaped themselves to local landmarks.

From his window Lorry could discern the distant peak of Mount Baldy
glimmering above the purple sea of forest. Not far below the peak lay
the viewless level of the Blue Mesa. The trail ran just below that patch
of quaking asp.

The hills had never seemed so beautiful, nor had the still mesas,
carpeted with the brown stubble of the close-cropped bunch-grass.

Arizona was his country--his home. And yet he had heard folk say that
Arizona was a desert, But then such folk had been interested chiefly in
guide-posts of the highways or the Overland dining-car menu.

And he had been offered a fair holding in this land--twenty thousand
acres under fence on a long-term lease; a half-interest in the cattle
and their increase. He would be his own man, with a voice in the
management and sale of the stock. A year or two and he could afford to
marry--if Dorothy would have him. He thought she would. And to keep in
good health she must always live in the West. What better land than
Arizona, on the high mesa where the air was clean and clear; where the
keen August rains refreshed the sunburned grasses; where the light
snows of winter fell but to vanish in the retrieving sun? If Dorothy
loved this land, why should she leave it? Surely health meant more to
her than the streets and homes of the East?

And Lorry had asked nothing of fortune save a chance to make good. And
fortune had been more than kind to him. He realized that it was through
no deliberate effort of his own that he had acquired the opportunity
which offered. Why not take advantage of it? It would give him prestige
with Bronson. A good living, a good home for her. Such luck didn't come
to a man's door every day.

He had slept soundly that night, despite his intent to reason with
himself. It was morning, and he had made no decision--or so he thought.
There was the question of enlisting. Many of his friends had already
gone. Older men were now riding the ranges. Even the clerk in the
general store at Stacey's had volunteered. And Lorry had considered him
anything but physically competent to "make a fight." But it wasn't all
in making a fight. It was setting an example of loyalty and
unselfishness to those fellows who needed such an impulse to stir them
to action. Lorry thought clearly. And because he thought clearly and for
himself, he realized that he, as an individual soldier in the Great War,
would amount to little; but he knew that his going would affect others;
that the mere news of his having gone would react as a sort of endless
chain reaching to no one knew what sequestered home.

And this, he argued, was his real value: the spirit ever more potent
than the flesh. Why, he had heard men joke about this war! It was a long
way from home. What difference did it make to them if those people over
there were being starved, outraged, murdered? That was their own
lookout. Friends of his had said that they were willing to fight to a
finish if America were threatened with invasion, but that could never
happen. America was the biggest and richest country in the world. She
attended to her own business and asked nothing but that the other
nations do likewise.

And those countries over there were attending to their own business. If
our ships were blown up, it was our own fault. We had been warned.
Anyway, the men who owned those ships were out to make money and willing
to take a chance. It wasn't our business to mix in. We had troubles
enough at home. As Lorry pondered the shallow truths a great light came
to him. "_Troubles enough at home_," that was it! America had already
been invaded, yet men slumbered in fancied security. He had been at
Sterling--

Lorry could hear Ramon stirring about in the kitchen. The rhythmically
muffled sound suggested the mixing of flapjacks. Lorry could smell the
thin, appetizing fragrance of coffee.

With characteristic abruptness, he made his decision, but with no
spoken word, no gesture, no emotion. He saw a long day's work before
him. He would tackle it like a workman.

And immediately he felt buoyantly himself again. The matter was settled.

He washed vigorously. The cold water brought a ruddy glow to his face.
He whistled as he strode to the kitchen. He slapped the gentle-eyed
Ramon on the shoulder. Pancake batter hissed as it slopped over on the
stove.

"Cheer up, amigo!" he cried! "Had a good look at the sun this mornin'?"

"No, señor. I have made the breakfast, si."

"Well, she's out there, shinin' right down on Arizona."

"The señora?" queried Ramon, puzzled.

"No; the sun. Don't a mornin' like this make you feel like jumpin' clean
out of your boots and over the fence?"

"Not until I have made the flapcake, Señor Lorry."

"Well, go the limit. Guess I'll roust out dad."

       *       *       *       *       *

Bud Shoop scowled, perspired, and swore. Bondsman, close to Shoop's
chair, blinked and lay very still. His master was evidently beyond any
proffer of sympathy or advice. Yet he had had no argument with any one
lately. And he had eaten a good breakfast. Bondsman knew that. Whatever
the trouble might be, his master had not consulted him about it. It was
evidently a matter that dogs could not understand, and hence, very
grave. Bondsman licked his chops nervously. He wanted to go out and lie
in the sunshine, but he could not do that while his master suffered such
tribulation of soul. His place was close to his master now, if ever.

Around Shoop were scattered pieces of paper; bits of letters written and
torn up.

"It's a dam' sight worse resignin' than makin' out my application--and
that was bad enough," growled Shoop. "But I got to do this personal.
This here pen is like a rabbit gone loco. Now, here I set like a bag of
beans, tryin' to tell John Torrance why I'm quittin' this here job
without makin' him think I'm glad to quit--which I am, and I ain't. It's
like tryin' to split a flea's ear with a axe; it can't be did without
mashin' the flea. Now, if John was here I could tell him in three jumps.
The man that invented writin' must 'a' been tongue-tied or had sore
throat some time when he wanted to talk awful bad. My langwidge ain't
broke to pull no city rig--or no hearse. She's got to have the road and
plenty room to sidestep.

"Now, how would I say it if John were here? Would I start off with 'Dear
John' or 'Dear Old Friend'? I reckon not. I'd just say: 'John, I'm goin'
to quit. I tried to do by you what I said I would. I got a chanct to
bust into the State House, and I got a good reason for bustin' in. I
been nominated for Senator, and I got to live up to the name. I'm
a-goin' to run for Senator--and mebby I'll keep on when I get started,
and end up somewhere in Mexico. I can't jine the reg'lars account of my
physical expansibility and my aige, so I got to do my fightin' to home.
I'm willin' to stick by this job if you say the word. Mebby some folks
would be dissap'inted, but I can stand that if they can. What do you
reckon I better do?'

"Now, that's what I'd say if John was here. Why in tarnation can't I say
it on paper? Lemme see."

Bud filled a sheet with his large, outdoor script. When he had finished,
he tucked the letter in an envelope hurriedly. He might reconsider his
attempt if he re-read the letter.

He was carefully directing the envelope when Lorry strode in.

'"Bout time you showed up," said Shoop.

Lorry dropped his hat on the floor and pulled up a chair. He was a bit
nervous. Preamble would make him more so. He spoke up quickly.

"Bud, I want to resign."

"Uh-uh. You tired of this job?"

"Nope; I like it."

"Want more pay?"

"No; I get all I'm worth."

"Ain't you feelin' well?"

"Bully! I'm going to enlist."

"Might 'a' knowed it," said Bud, leaning back and gazing at the newly
addressed envelope on his desk. "Got your reports all in?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, seem' you're quittin' for the best reason I know, I'm right glad.
You done your work like I expected. Your mother knows you're goin' to
jine the army?"

"I told her yesterday. I've been at the ranch."

"Uh-uh. How's your dad?"

"He ain't so spry. But he is better."

"Uh-uh. That young Mexican stayin' at the ranch with him?"

"You couldn't chase Ramon away with a gun."

"Uh-uh. Well, Lorry, I just been sweatin' out a letter tellin' John
Torrance that I've quit. I'm goin' to run for State Senator."

"I knew they would land you. Everybody knew it."

"So we're both leavin' the Service. And we're leavin' a mighty good job;
mebby not such big pay, but a man's job, that has been the makin' of
some no-account boys. For no fella can work for the Service without
settin' up and ridin' straight. Now, when I was a young buster chasin'
cow-tails over the country I kind of thought the Forestry Service was a
joke. It ain't. It's a mighty big thing. You're leaving it with a clean
record. Mebby some day you'll want to get back in it. Were you goin' on
up?"

"I figured to straighten up things at the cabin."

"All right. When you come down you can get your check. Give my regards
to Bronson and the little missy."

"You bet I will!"

Bud rose and proffered his hand. Lorry, rather embarrassed, shook hands
and turned to go. "See you later," he said.

"I was going over to Stacey," said Shoop. "Mebby I'll be out when you
get back. But your check'll be here all right. You sure look like you
was walkin' on sunshine this mawnin'. Gosh, what a whoopin' fine place
this here world is when you are young--and--kind of slim! Now, Bondsman
and me--we was young onct. When it comes to bein' young or State
Senator--you can have the politics and give me back my ridin' legs.
You're ridin' the High Trail these days.

"If I could just set a hoss onct, with twenty years under my hide, and
look down on this here country, and the sage a-smellin' like it used to
and the sunshine a-creepin' across my back easy and warm, with a sniff
of the timber comin' down the mawnin' breeze; and 'way off the cattle
a-lookin' no bigger'n flies on a office map--why, I wouldn't trade that
there seat in the saddle for a million in gold. But I reckon I would 'a'
done it, them days. Sometimes I set back and say 'Arizona' just to
myself. I'm a-lovin' that name. Accordin' to law, I'm livin' single, and
if I ain't married to Arizona, she's my best gal, speakin' general.
'Course, a little lady give me a watch onct. And say, boy, if she sets a
lot of store by you--why, you--why, git out of this here office afore I
make a dam' fool of myself!"

And the genial Bud waved his arm, blustering and swearing heartily.

Bondsman leaped up. A ridge of hair rose along his neck. For some
unknown reason his master had ordered Lorry to leave the office--and at
once. But Lorry was gone, and Bud was patting the big Airedale. It was
all right. Nothing was going to happen. And wasn't it about time for the
stage to arrive?

Bondsman trotted to the doorway, gazed up and down the street, and came
back to Shoop. The stage had arrived, and Bondsman was telling Shoop so
by the manner in which he waited for his master to follow him into the
sunlight. Bud grinned.

"You're tellin' me the stage is in--and I got a letter to send."

Bud picked up his hat. Bondsman had already preceded him to the doorway,
and stood waiting. His attitude expressed the extreme patience of age,
but that the matter should be attended to without unreasonable delay.
Shoop sighed heavily.

"That there dog bosses me around somethin' scandalous."

Halfway across the Blue Mesa, Dorothy met her ranger man. She had been
watching the trail. Lorry dismounted and walked with her to the cabin.
Bronson was glad to see him. They chatted for a while. Lorry would have
spoken of his father's offer--of his plans, of many things he wished
Bronson to know, yet he could not speak of these things until he had
talked with Dorothy. He would see Bronson again. Meanwhile--

A little later Lorry went to his cabin to take stock of the implements
and make his final report. He swept the cabin, picked up the loose odds
and ends, closed the battered piano gently, and sat down to think.

He had made his decision, and yet--he had seen Dorothy again; touched
her hand, talked with her, and watched her brown eyes while he talked.
The Great War seemed very far away. And here he was at home. This was
his country. But he had set his face toward the High Trail. He could not
turn back.

Dorothy stood in the doorway, her finger at her lips. Bronson was busy
writing. Lorry rose and stepped out. He stooped and lifted her to Gray
Leg. She sat sideways in the saddle as he led the pony across the mesa
to the veritable rim of the world.

Far below lay the open country, veiled by the soft haze of distance. He
gave her his hand, and she slipped to the ground and stood beside him.
For the first time the tremendous sweep of space appalled her. She drew
close to him and touched his arm.

"What is it, Lorry?"

"You said--once--that you would wait for me."

"Yes. And now you are here, I'll never be lonesome again."

"Were you lonesome?"

"A little. I had never really waited--like that--before."

He frowned and gazed into the distances. It had been easy to
decide--when alone. Then he faced her, his gray eyes clear and
untroubled.

"I'm going to enlist," he said simply.

She had hoped that he would. She wanted to think that of him. And yet,
now that he had spoken, now that he was actually going--Her eyes grew
big. She wanted to say that she was glad. Her lips trembled.

He held out his arms. She felt their warm strength round her. On the
instant she thought of begging him not to go. But his eyes were shining
with a high purpose, that shamed her momentary indecision. She pressed
her cheek to his.

"I will wait for you," she whispered, and her face was wet with tears of
happiness.

She was no longer the little mother and he her boy, for in that moment
he became to her the man strength of the race, his arms her refuge and
his eyes her courage for the coming years.


THE END





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