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Title: The Boss of the Lazy Y
Author: Seltzer, Charles Alden, 1875-1942
Language: English
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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.

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[Frontispiece: Calumet remained unshaken.]



THE BOSS OF THE LAZY Y


BY

CHARLES ALDEN SELTZER



AUTHOR OF

THE COMING OF THE LAW, THE TWO-GUN MAN, ETC.



ILLUSTRATIONS BY

J. ALLEN ST. JOHN



NEW YORK

GROSSET & DUNLAP

PUBLISHERS



Copyright

A. C. McClurg & Co.

1915


Published April, 1915



Copyrighted in Great Britain



CONTENTS


CHAPTER

     I.  The Home-Coming of Calumet Marston
    II.  Betty Meets the Heir
   III.  Calumet's Guardian
    IV.  Calumet Plays Betty's Game
     V.  The First Lesson
    VI.  "Bob"
   VII.  A Page from the Past
  VIII.  The Toltec Idol
    IX.  Responsibility
     X.  New Acquaintances
    XI.  Progress
   XII.  A Peace Offering
  XIII.  Suspicion
   XIV.  Jealousy
    XV.  A Meeting in the Red Dog
   XVI.  The Ambush
  XVII.  More Progress
 XVIII.  Another Peace Offering
   XIX.  A Tragedy in the Timber Grove
    XX.  Betty Talks Frankly
   XXI.  His Father's Friend
  XXII.  Neal Taggart Visits
 XXIII.  For the Altars of His Tribe



ILLUSTRATIONS


Calumet remained unshaken . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

"Get up, or I will shoot you like a dog!" she said.

Her appearance was now in the nature of a transformation.

Calumet stepped in.



THE BOSS OF THE LAZY Y


CHAPTER I

THE HOME-COMING OF CALUMET MARSTON

Shuffling down the long slope, its tired legs moving automatically, the
drooping pony swerved a little and then came to a halt, trembling with
fright.  Startled out of his unpleasant ruminations, his lips tensing
over his teeth in a savage snarl, Calumet Marston swayed uncertainly in
the saddle, caught himself, crouched, and swung a heavy pistol to a
menacing poise.

For an instant he hesitated, searching the immediate vicinity with
rapid, intolerant glances.  When his gaze finally focused on the object
which had frightened his pony, he showed no surprise.  Many times
during the past two days had this incident occurred, and at no time had
Calumet allowed the pony to follow its inclination to bolt or swerve
from the trail.  He held it steady now, pulling with a vicious hand on
the reins.

Ten feet in front of the pony and squarely in the center of the trail a
gigantic diamond-back rattler swayed and warned, its venomous, lidless
eyes gleaming with hate.  Calumet's snarl deepened, he dug a spur into
the pony's left flank, and pulled sharply on the left rein.  The pony
lunged, swerved, and presented its right shoulder to the swaying
reptile, its flesh quivering from excitement.  Then the heavy revolver
in Calumet's hand roared spitefully, there was a sudden threshing in
the dust of the trail, and the huge rattler shuddered into a sinuous,
twisting heap.  For an instant Calumet watched it, and then, seeing
that the wound he had inflicted was not mortal, he urged the pony
forward and, leaning over a little, sent two more bullets into the body
of the snake, severing its head from its body.

"Man's size," declared Calumet, his snarl relaxing.  He sat erect and
spoke to the pony:

"Get along, you damned fool!  Scared of a side-winder!"

Relieved, deflating its lungs with a tremulous heave, and unmindful of
Calumet's scorn, the pony gingerly returned to the trail.  In thirty
seconds it had resumed its drooping shuffle, in thirty seconds Calumet
had returned to his unpleasant ruminations.

A mile up in the shimmering white of the desert sky an eagle swam on
slow wing, shaping his winding course toward the timber clump that
fringed a river.  Besides the eagle, the pony, and Calumet, no living
thing stirred in the desert or above it.  In the shade of a rock,
perhaps, lurked a lizard, in the filmy mesquite that drooped and curled
in the stifling heat slid a rattler, in the shelter of the sagebrush
the sage hen might have nestled her eggs in the hot sand.  But these
were fixtures.  Calumet, his pony, and the eagle, were not.  The eagle
was Mexican; it had swung its mile-wide circles many times to reach the
point above the timber clump; it was migratory and alert with the
hunger lust.

Calumet watched it with eyes that glowed bitterly and balefully.  Half
an hour later, when he reached the river and the pony clattered down
the rocky slope, plunged its head deeply into the stream and drank with
eager, silent draughts, Calumet swung himself crossways in the saddle,
fumbled for a moment at his slicker, and drew out a battered tin cup.
Leaning over, he filled the cup with water, tilted his head back and
drank.  The blur in the white sky caught his gaze and held it.  His
eyes mocked, his lips snarled.

"You damned greaser sneak!" he said.  "Followed me fifty miles!"  A
flash of race hatred glinted his eyes.  "I wouldn't let no damned
greaser eagle get me, anyway!"

The pony had drunk its fill.  Calumet returned the tin cup to the
slicker and swung back into the saddle.  Refreshed, the pony took the
opposite slope with a rush, emerging from the river upon a high plateau
studded with fir balsam and pine.  Bringing the pony to a halt, Calumet
turned in the saddle and looked somberly behind him.

For two days he had been fighting the desert, and now it lay in his
rear, a mystic, dun-colored land of hot sandy waste and silence;
brooding, menacing, holding out its threat of death--a vast natural
basin breathing and pulsing with mystery, rimmed by remote mountains
that seemed tenuous and thin behind the ever-changing misty films that
spread from horizon to horizon.

The expression of Calumet's face was as hard and inscrutable as the
desert itself; the latter's filmy haze did not more surely shut out the
mysteries behind it than did Calumet's expression veil the emotions of
his heart.  He turned from the desert to face the plateau, from whose
edge dropped a wide, tawny valley, luxuriant with bunch grass--a golden
brown sweep that nestled between some hills, inviting, alluring.  So
sharp was the contrast between the desert and the valley, and so potent
was its appeal to him, that the hard calm of his face threatened to
soften.  It was as though he had ridden out of a desolate, ages-old
world where death mocked at life, into a new one in which life reigned
supreme.

There was no change in Calumet's expression, however, though below him,
spreading and dipping away into the interminable distance, slumbering
in the glare of the afternoon sun, lay the land of his youth.  He
remembered it well and he sat for a long time looking at it, searching
out familiar spots, reviving incidents with which those spots had been
connected.  During the days of his exile he had forgotten, but now it
all came back to him; his brain was illumined and memories moved in it
in orderly array--like a vast army passing in review.  And he sat there
on his pony, singling out the more important personages of the
army--the officers, the guiding spirits of the invisible columns.

Five miles into the distance, at a point where the river doubled
sharply, rose the roofs of several ranch buildings--his father's ranch,
the Lazy Y.  Upon the buildings Calumet's army of memories descended
and he forgot the desert, the long ride, the bleak days of his exile,
as he yielded to solemn introspection.

Yet, even now, the expression of his face did not change.  A little
longer he scanned the valley and then the army of memories marched out
of his vision and he took up the reins and sent the pony forward.  The
little animal tossed its head impatiently, perhaps scenting food and
companionship, but Calumet's heavy hand on the reins discouraged haste.

For Calumet was in no hurry.  He had not yet worked out an explanation
for the strange whim that had sent him home after an absence of
thirteen years and he wanted time to study over it.  His lips took on a
satiric curl as he meditated, riding slowly down into the valley.  It
was inexplicable, mysterious, this notion of his to return to a father
who had never taken any interest in him.  He could not account for it.
He had not been sent for, he had not sent word; he did not know why he
had come.  He had been in the Durango country when the mood had struck
him, and without waiting to debate the wisdom of the move he had ridden
in to headquarters, secured his time, and--well, here he was.  He had
pondered much in an effort to account for the whim, carefully
considering all its phases, and he was still uncertain.

He knew he would receive no welcome; he knew he was not wanted.  Had he
felt a longing to revisit the old place?  Perhaps it had been that.
And yet, perhaps not, for he was here now, looking at it, living over
the life of his youth, riding again through the long bunch grass, over
the barren alkali flats, roaming again in the timber that fringed the
river--going over it all again and nothing stirred in his heart--no
pleasure, no joy, no satisfaction, no emotion whatever.  If he felt any
curiosity he was entirely unconscious of it; it was dormant if it
existed at all.  As he was able to consider her dispassionately he knew
that he had not come to look at his mother's grave.  She had been
nothing to him, his heart did not beat a bit faster when he thought of
her.

Then, why had he come?  He did not know or care.  Had he been a
psychologist he might have attempted to frame reasons, building them
from foundations of high-sounding phrases, but he was a materialist,
and the science of mental phenomena had no place in his brain.
Something had impelled him to come and here he was, and that was reason
enough for him.  And because he had no motive in coming he was taking
his time.  He figured on reaching the Lazy Y about dusk.  He would see
his father, perhaps quarrel with him, and then he would ride away, to
return no more.  Strange as it may seem, the prospect of a quarrel with
his father brought him a thrill of joy, the first emotion he had felt
since beginning his homeward journey.

When he reached the bottom of the valley he urged his pony on a little
way, pulling it to a halt on the flat, rock-strewn top of an isolated
excrescence of earth surrounded by a sea of sagebrush, dried bunch
grass, and sand.  Dismounting he stretched his legs to disperse the
saddle weariness.  He stifled a yawn, lazily plunged a hand into a
pocket of his trousers, produced tobacco and paper and rolled a
cigarette.  Lighting it he puffed slowly and deeply at it, exhaling the
smoke lingeringly through his nostrils.  Then he sat down on a rock,
leaned an elbow in the sand, pulled his hat brim well down over his
eyes and with the cigarette held loosely between his lips, gave himself
over to retrospection.

It all came to him, as he sat there on the rock, his gaze on the
basking valley, his thoughts centered on that youth which had been an
abiding nightmare.  The question was: What influence had made him a
hardened, embittered, merciless demon of a man whose passions
threatened always to wash away the dam of his self-control?  A man
whose evil nature caused other men to shun him; a man who scoffed at
virtue; who saw no good in anything?

Not once during his voluntary exile had he applied his mind to the
subject in the hope of stumbling on a solution.  To be sure, he had had
a slight glimmering of the truth; he had realized in a sort of vague,
general way that he had not been treated fairly at home, but he had not
been able to provide a definite and final explanation, perhaps because
he had never considered it necessary.  But his return home, the review
of the army of memories, had brought him a solution--the solution.  And
he saw its ruthless logic.

He was what his parents had made him.  Without being able to think it
out in scientific terms he was able to expound the why of like.  It was
one of the inexorable rules of heredity.  To his parents he owed
everything and nothing.  He reflected on this paradox until it became
perfectly clear to him.  They--his parents--had given him life, and
that was all.  He owed them thanks for that, or he would have owed them
thanks if he considered his life to be worth anything.  But he owed
them nothing because they had spoiled the life they had given him, had
spoiled it by depriving him of everything he had a right to expect from
them--love, sympathy, decent treatment.  They had given him instead,
blows, kicks, curses, hatred.  Hatred!

Yes, they had hated him; they had told him that; he was convinced of
it.  The reason for their hatred had always been a mystery to him and,
for all he cared, would remain a mystery.

When he was fifteen his mother died.  On the day when the neighbors
laid her away in a quiet spot at the edge of the wood near the far end
of the corral fence, he stood beside her body as it lay in the rough
pine box which some of them had knocked together, looking at her for
the last time.  He was neither glad or sorry; he felt no emotion
whatever.  When one of the neighbors spoke to him, asking him if he
felt no grief, he cursed and stormed out of the house.  Later, after
the neighbors departed, his father came upon him in the stable and beat
him unmercifully.  He came, dry-eyed, through the ordeal, raging
inwardly, but silent.  And that night, after his father had gone to
bed, he stole stealthily out of the house, threw a saddle and bridle on
his favorite pony and rode away.  Such had been his youth.

That had been thirteen years ago.  He was twenty-eight now and had
changed a little--for the worse.  During the days of his exile he had
made no friends.  He had found much experience, he had become
self-reliant, sophisticated.  There was about him an atmosphere of cold
preparedness that discouraged encroachment on his privacy.  Men did not
trifle with him, because they feared him.  Around Durango, where he had
ridden for the Bar S outfit, it was known that he possessed Satanic
cleverness with a six-shooter.

But if he was rapid with his weapons he made no boast of it.  He was
quiet in manner, unobtrusive.  He was taciturn also, for he had been
taught the value of silence by his parents, though in his narrowed
glances men had been made to see a suggestion of action that was more
eloquent than speech.  He was a slumbering volcano of passion that
might at any time become active and destroying.

Gazing now from under the brim of his hat at the desolate, silent world
that swept away from the base of the hill on whose crest he sat, his
lips curved with a slow, bitter sneer.  During the time he had been on
the hill he had lived over his life and he saw its bleakness, its
emptiness, its mystery.  This was his country.  He had been born here;
he had passed days, months, years, in this valley.  He knew it, and
hated it.  He sneered as his gaze went out of the valley and sought the
vast stretches of the flaming desert.  He knew the desert, too; it had
not changed.  Riding through it yesterday and the day before he had
been impressed with the somber grimness of it all, as he had been
impressed many times before when watching it from this very hill.  But
it was no more somber than his own life had been; its brooding silence
was no deeper than that which dwelt in his own heart; he reflected its
spirit, its mystery was his.  His life had been like--like the
stretching waste of sky that yawned above the desert, as cold, hard,
and unsympathetic.

He saw a shadow; looked upward to see the Mexican eagle winging its
slow way overhead, and the sneer on his lips grew.  It was a prophecy,
perhaps.  At least the sight of the bird gave him an opportunity to
draw a swift and bitter comparison.  He was like the eagle.  Both he
and the bird he detested were beset with a constitutional
predisposition to rend and destroy.  There was this difference between
them:  The bird feasted on carrion, while he spent his life stifling
generous impulses and tearing from his heart the noble ideals which his
latent manhood persisted in erecting.

For two hours he sat on the hill, watching.  He saw the sun sink slowly
toward the remote mountains, saw it hang a golden rim on a barren peak;
watched the shadows steal out over the foothills and stretch swiftly
over the valley toward him.  Mystery seemed to awaken and fill the
world.  The sky blazed with color--orange and gold and violet; a veil
of rose and amethyst descended and stretched to the horizons,
enveloping the mountains in a misty haze; purple shafts shot from
distant canyons, mingling with the brighter colors--gleaming,
shimmering, ever-changing.  Over the desert the colors were even more
wonderful, the mystery deeper, the lure more appealing.  But Calumet
made a grimace at it all, it seemed to mock him.

He rose from the rock, mounted his pony, and rode slowly down into the
valley toward the Lazy Y ranch buildings.

He had been so busy with his thoughts that he had not noticed the
absence of cattle in the valley--the valley had been a grazing ground
for the Lazy Y stock during the days of his youth--and now, with a
start, he noted it and halted his pony after reaching the level to look
about him.

There was no sign of any cattle.  But he reflected that perhaps a new
range had been opened.  Thirteen years is a long time, and many changes
could have come during his absence.

He was about to urge his pony on again, when some impulse moved him to
turn in the saddle and glance at the hill he had just vacated.  At
about the spot where he had sat--perhaps two hundred yards distant--he
saw a man on a horse, sitting motionless in the saddle, looking at him.

Calumet wheeled his own pony and faced the man.  The vari-colored glow
from the distant mountains fell full upon the horseman, and with the
instinct for attention to detail which had become habitual with
Calumet, he noted that the rider was a big man; that he wore a
cream-colored Stetson and a scarlet neckerchief.  Even at that
distance, so clear was the light, Calumet caught a vague impression of
his features--his nose, especially, which was big, hawk-like.

Calumet yielded to a sudden wonder over the rider's appearance on the
hill.  He had not seen him; had not heard him before.  Still, that was
not strange, for he had become so absorbed in his thoughts while on the
hill that he had paid very little attention to his surroundings except
to associate them with his past.

The man, evidently, was a cowpuncher in the employ of his father; had
probably seen him from the level of the valley and had ridden to the
crest of the hill out of curiosity.

Another impulse moved Calumet.  He decided to have a talk with the man
in order to learn, if possible, something of the life his father had
led during his absence.  He kicked his pony in the ribs and rode toward
the man, the animal traveling at a slow chop-trot.

For a moment the man watched him, still motionless.  Then, as Calumet
continued to approach him the man wheeled his horse and sent it
clattering down the opposite side of the hill.

Calumet sneered, surprised, for the instant, at the man's action.

"Shy cuss," he said, grinning contemptuously.  In the next instant,
however, he yielded to a quick rage and sent his pony scurrying up the
slope toward the crest of the hill.

When he reached the top the man was on the level, racing across a
barren alkali flat at a speed which indicated that he was afflicted
with something more than shyness.

Calumet halted on the crest of the hill and waved a hand derisively at
the man, who was looking back over his shoulder as he rode.

"Slope, you locoed son-of-a-gun!" he yelled; "I didn't want to talk to
you, anyway!"

The rider's answer was a strange one.  He brought his horse to a
dizzying stop, wheeled, drew a rifle from his saddle holster, raised it
to his shoulder and took a snap shot at Calumet.

The latter, however, had observed the hostile movement, and had thrown
himself out of the saddle.  He struck the hard sand of the hill on all
fours and stretched out flat, his face to the ground.  He heard the
bullet sing futilely past him; heard the sharp crack of the rifle, and
peered down to see the man again running his horse across the level.

Calumet drew his pistol, but saw that the distance was too great for
effective shooting, and savagely jammed the weapon back into the
holster.  He was in a black rage, but was aware of the absurdity of
attempting to wage a battle in which the advantage lay entirely with
the rifle, and so, with a grim smile on his face, he watched the
progress of the man as he rode through the long grass and across the
barren stretches of the level toward the hills that rimmed the southern
horizon.

Promising himself that he would make a special effort to return the
shot, Calumet finally wheeled his pony and rode down the hill toward
the Lazy Y.



CHAPTER II

BETTY MEETS THE HEIR

An emotion which he did not trouble himself to define impelled Calumet
to wheel his pony when he reached the far end of the corral fence and
ride into the cottonwood where, thirteen years before, he had seen the
last of his mother.  No emotion moved him as he rode toward it, but
when he came upon the grave he experienced a savage satisfaction
because it had been sadly neglected.  There was no headboard to mark
the spot, no familiar mound of earth; only a sunken stretch, a pitiful
little patch of sand, with a few weeds thrusting up out of it, nodding
to the slight breeze and casting grotesque shadows in the somber
twilight.

Calumet was not surprised.  It was all as he had pictured it during
those brief moments when he had allowed his mind to dwell on his past;
its condition vindicated his previous conviction that his father would
neglect it.  Therefore, his satisfaction was not in finding the grave
as it was, but in the knowledge that he had not misjudged his father.
And though he had not loved his mother, the condition of the grave
served to infuse him with a newer and more bitter hatred for the
surviving parent.  A deep rage and contempt slumbered within him as he
urged his pony out of the wood toward the ranchhouse.

He was still in no hurry, and soon after leaving the edge of the wood
he halted his pony and sat loosely in the saddle, gazing about him.
When he observed that he might be seen from the ranchhouse he moved
deep into the cottonwood and there, screened behind some nondescript
brush, continued his examination.

The place was in a state of dilapidation, of approaching ruin.
Desolation had set a heavy hand over it all.  The buildings no more
resembled those he had known than daylight resembles darkness.  The
stable, wherein he had received his last thrashing from his father, had
sagged to one side, its roof seeming to bow to him in derision; the
corral fence was down in several places, its rails in a state of decay,
and within, two gaunt ponies drooped, seeming to lack the energy
necessary to move them to take advantage of the opportunity for freedom
so close at hand.  They appeared to watch Calumet incuriously,
apathetically.

Calumet felt strangely jubilant.  A vindictive satisfaction and delight
forced the blood through his veins a little faster, for, judging from
the appearance of the buildings, misfortune must have descended upon
his father.  The thought brought a great peace to his soul; he even
smiled when he saw that the bunkhouse, which had sheltered the many
cowboys whom he had hated, seemed ready to topple to destruction.  The
smile grew when his gaze went to the windmill, to see its long arms
motionless in the breeze, indicating its uselessness.

When he had concluded his examination he did not ride boldly toward the
ranchhouse, but made a wide circuit through the wood, for he wanted to
come upon his father in his own way and in his own time; wanted to
surprise him.  There was no use of turning his pony into the corral,
for the animal had more life in him than the two forlorn beasts that
were already there and would not stay in the corral when a breach in
the fence offered freedom.  Therefore, when Calumet reached the edge of
the wood near the front of the house he dismounted and tied his pony to
a tree.

A moment later he stood at the front door, filled with satisfaction to
find it unbarred.  Swinging it slowly open he entered, silently closing
it behind him.  He stood, a hand on the fastenings, gazing about him.
He was in the room which his father had always used as an office.  As
he peered about in the gray dusk that had fallen, distinguishing
familiar articles of furniture--a roll-top desk, several chairs, a
sofa, some cheap prints on the wall--a nameless emotion smote him and
his face paled a little, his jaws locked, his hands clenched.  For
again the army of memories was passing in review.

For a long time he stood at the door.  Then he left it and walked to
the desk, placing a hand on its top and hesitating.  Doubtless his
father was in another part of the house, possibly eating supper.  He
decided not to bother him at this moment and seated himself in a chair
before the desk.  There was plenty of time.  His father would be as
disagreeably surprised to meet him five minutes from now as he would
were he to stalk into his presence at this moment.

Once in the chair, Calumet realized that he was tired, and he leaned
back luxuriously, stretching his legs.  The five minutes to which he
had limited himself grew to ten and he still sat motionless, looking
out of the window at the deepening dusk.  The shadows in the wood near
the house grew darker, and to Calumet's ears came the long-drawn,
plaintive whine of a coyote, the croaking of frogs from the river, the
hoot of an owl nearby.  Other noises of the night reached him, but he
did not hear them, for he had become lost in meditation.

What a home-coming!

Bitterness settled into the marrow of his bones.  Here was ruin,
desolation, darkness, for the returning prodigal.  These were the
things his father had given him.  A murderous rage seized him, a lust
to rend and destroy, and he sat erect in his chair, his muscles tensed,
his blood rioting, his brain reeling.  Had his father appeared before
him at this minute it would have gone hard with him.  He fought down an
impulse to go in search of him and presently the mood passed, his
muscles relaxed, and he stretched out again in the chair.

Producing tobacco and paper he rolled a cigarette, noting with a
satisfied smile the steadiness of his hand.  Once he had overheard a
man telling another man that Calumet Marston had no nerves.  He knew
that; had known it.  He knew also that this faculty of control made his
passions more dangerous.  But he reveled in his passions, the
possession of them filled him with an ironic satisfaction--they were
his heritage.

While he sat in the chair the blackness of the night enveloped him.  He
heard no sound from the other part of the house and he finally decided
to find and confront his father.  He stood erect, lit the cigarette and
threw the match from him, accidentally striking his hand against the
back of the chair on which he had been sitting.  Yielding to a sudden,
vicious anger, he kicked the chair out of the way, so that it slid
along the rough floor a little distance and overturned with a crash.
Calumet cursed.  He was minded to take the chair up and hurl it down
again, so vengeful was the temper he was in, but his second sober sense
urged upon him the futility of attacking inanimate things and he
contented himself with snarling at it.  He stood silent for a moment, a
hope in his heart that his father, alarmed over the sudden commotion,
would come to investigate, and a wave of sardonic satisfaction swept
over him when he finally heard a faint sound--a footstep in the
distance.

His father had heard and was coming!

Calumet stood near the center of the room, undecided whether to make
his presence known at once or to secrete himself and allow his father
to search for him.  He finally decided to stand where he was and let
his father come upon him there, and he stood erect, puffing rapidly at
the cigarette, which glowed like a firefly in the darkness.

The steps came nearer and Calumet heard a slight creak--the sound made
by the dining-room door as it swung slowly open.  A faint light filled
the opening thus made in the doorway, and Calumet knew that his father
had come without a light--that the faint glow came from a distance,
possibly from the kitchen, just beyond the dining-room.  The lighted
space in the doorway grew wider until it extended to the full width of
the doorway.  And a man stood in it, rigid, erect, motionless.

Calumet stood in silent appreciation of the oddness of the
situation--he had come like a thief in the night--until he remembered
the cigarette in his mouth; that its light was betraying his position.
He reached up, withdrew the cigarette, and held it concealed in the
palm of his hand.

But he was the fraction of a second too late.  His father had seen the
light; was aware of his presence.  Calumet saw a pistol glitter in his
hand, heard his voice, a little hoarse, possibly from fear, give the
faltering command:

"Hands up!"

Until now, Calumet had been filled with a savage enjoyment of the
possibilities.  He had counted on making his presence known at this
juncture, anticipating much pleasure in the revelation of his father's
surprise when he should discover that the intruder was his hated son.
But in his eagerness to conceal the fire from the cigarette he burned
the palm of the hand holding it.  Instantly he succumbed to a furious
rage.  With a snarl he flung himself forward, grasping the man's pistol
with his left hand and depressing the muzzle, at just the instant that
it was discharged.

Calumet felt the sting of the powder in his face, and in a fury of
resentment he brought his right hand up and clutched his father's
throat.  He had taken much pride in his ability to control his
passions, but at this moment they were unleashed.  When his father
showed resistence, Calumet swung him free of the door, dragged him to
the center of the room, where he threw him heavily to the floor,
falling on top of him and jamming a knee savagely into the pit of his
stomach.  Perhaps he had desisted then had not the man struggled and
fought back.  His resistence made Calumet more furious.  He pulled one
hand free and attempted to secure the pistol, forcing the hand holding
it viciously against the floor.  The weapon was again discharged and
Calumet became a raging demon.  Twice he lifted the man's head and
knocked it furiously against the floor, and each time he spoke, his
voice a hoarse, throaty whisper:

"So, this is the way you greet your son, you damned maverick!" he said.

So engrossed was Calumet with his work of subduing the still struggling
parent that he did not hear a slight sound behind him.  But a
flickering light came over his shoulder and shone fairly into the face
of the man beneath him, and he saw that the man was not his father but
an entire stranger!

He was not given time in which to express his surprise, for he heard a
voice behind him and turned to see a young woman standing in the
doorway, a candle in one hand, a forty-five Colt clutched in the other,
its muzzle gaping at him.  The young woman's face was white, her eyes
wide and brilliant, she swayed, but there was determination in her
manner that could not be mistaken.

"Get up, or I will shoot you like a dog!" she said, in a queer,
breathless voice.

[Illustration: "Get up, or I will shoot you like a dog!" she said.]

Releasing his grip on the man's throat, Calumet swung around sideways
and glared malevolently at the young woman.  His anger was gone; there
was no reason for it, now that he had discovered that the man was not
his father.  But the demon in him was not yet subdued, and he got to
his feet, not because the young woman had ordered him to do so, but
because he saw no reason to stay down.  A cold, mocking smile replaced
the malevolence on his face when, after reaching an erect position, he
saw that the weapon in the young woman's hand had drooped until its
muzzle was directed toward the floor at his feet.  A forty-five caliber
revolver, loaded, weighs about forty ounces, and this one looked so
unwieldy and cumbersome, so entirely harmless in the young woman's
slender hand, that her threat seemed absurd, even farcical.  An
ironical humor over the picture she made standing there moved Calumet.

"I reckon you ought to use two hands if you want to hold that gun
proper, ma'am," he said.

The muzzle of the weapon wavered uncertainly; the young woman gasped.
Apparently the lack of fear exhibited by the intruder shocked her.  But
she did not follow Calumet's suggestion, she merely stood and watched
him warily, as the man whom he had attacked struggled dizzily to his
feet, staggered weakly to a chair and half fell, half slipped into it,
swaying oddly back and forth, gasping for breath, a grotesque figure.

The demon in Calumet slumbered--this situation was to his liking.  He
stepped back a pace, and when the young woman saw that he meditated no
further mischief she lowered the pistol to her side.  Then, moving
cautiously, watching Calumet closely, she placed the candle on the
floor in front of her.  Again she stood erect, though she did not raise
the pistol.  Evidently she was regaining her composure, though Calumet
observed that her free hand came up and grasped the dress over her
bosom so tightly that the fabric was in danger of ripping.  Her face,
in the flickering light from the candle on the floor, was slightly in
in the shadow, but Calumet could see that the color was coming back to
her cheeks, and he took note of her, watching her with insolent
intentness.

Of the expression in Calumet's eyes she apparently took no notice, but
she was watching the man he had attacked, plainly concerned over his
condition.  And when at last she saw that he was suffering more from
shock than from real injury she breathed a sigh of relief.  Then she
turned to Calumet.

"What are you doing here?" she demanded.  She was breathing more
easily, but her voice still quivered, and the hand over her bosom moved
with a quick, nervous motion.

"I reckon that's my business," returned Calumet.  He had made a
mistake, certainly, he knew that.  It was apparent that his father had
left the Lazy Y.  At least, if he were anywhere about he was not able
to come to investigate the commotion caused by the arrival of his son.
Either he was sick or had disposed of the ranch, possibly, if the
latter were the case, to the girl and the man.  In the event of his
father having sold the ranch it was plain that Calumet had no business
here.  He was an intruder--more, his attack on the man must convince
both him and the girl that there had been a deeper significance to his
visit.  However, the explanation of the presence of the present
occupants of the house did not bother Calumet, and he did not intend to
set them right, for he was enjoying himself.  Strife, danger, were
here.  Moreover, he had brought them, and he was in his element.  His
blood pulsed swiftly through his veins and he felt a strange
exhilaration as he stepped slightly aside and rested a hand on the desk
top, leering at the girl.

She returned his gaze and evidently divined something of what was in
his mind, for her chin lifted a little in defiance.  The flickering
light from the candle fell on her hair, brown and wavy, and in a tumble
of graceful disorder, and threw into bold relief the firm lines of her
chin and throat.  She was not beautiful, but she certainly merited the
term "pretty," which formed on Calumet's lips as he gazed at her,
though it remained unspoken.  He gave her this tribute grudgingly,
conscious of the deep impression she was making upon him.  He had never
seen a woman like her--for the reason, perhaps, that he had studiously
avoided the good ones.  Mere facial beauty would not have made this
impression on him--it was something deeper, something more substantial
and abiding.  And, watching her, he suddenly knew what it was.  There
was in her eyes, back of the defiance that was in them now, an
expression that told of sturdy honesty and virtue.  These gave to her
features a repose and calm that could not be disturbed, an unconscious
dignity of character that excitement could not efface, and her gaze was
unwavering as her eyes met his in a sharp, brief struggle.  Brief, for
Calumet's drooped.  He felt the dominant personality of the girl and
tried to escape its effect; looked at her with a snarl, writhing under
her steady gaze, a slow red coming into his cheeks.

The silence between them lasted long.  The man on the chair, swaying
back and forth, began to recover his wits and his breath.  He struggled
to an erect position and gazed about him with blood-shot eyes, feeling
his throat where Calumet's iron fingers had gripped it.  Twice his lips
moved in an effort to speak, but no, sound came from between them.

Under the girl's uncomfortable scrutiny, Calumet's thoughts became
strangely incoherent, and he shifted uneasily, for he felt that she was
measuring him, appraising him, valuing him.  He saw slow-changing
expressions in her eyes--defiance, scorn, and, finally, amused
contempt.  With the last expression he knew she had reached a decision,
not flattering to him.  He tried to show her by looking at her that he
did not care what her opinion was, but his recreant eyes refused the
issue and he knew that he was being worsted in a spiritual battle with
the first strong feminine character he had met; that her personality
was overpowering his in the first clash.  With a last effort he forced
his eyes to steadiness and succeeded in sneering at her, though he felt
that somehow the sneer was ineffectual, puerile.  And then she smiled
at him, deliberately, with a disdain that maddened him and brought a
dark flush to his face that reached to his temples.  And then her voice
taunted him:

"What a big, brave man you are?"

Twice her gaze roved over him from head to foot before her voice came
again, and in the total stoppage of his thoughts he found it impossible
to choose a word suitable to interrupt her.

"For you _think_ you are a man, I suppose?" she added, her voice filled
with a lashing scorn.  "You wear a gun, you ride a horse, and you
_look_ like a man.  But there the likeness ends.  I suppose I ought to
kill you--a beast like you has no business living.  Fortunately, you
haven't hurt grandpa very much.  You may go now--go and tell Tom
Taggart that he will have to try again!"

The sound of her voice broke the spell which her eyes had woven about
Calumet's senses, and he stood erect, hooking his thumbs in his
cartridge belt, unaffected by her tirade, his voice insolent.

"Why, ma'am," he said, mockingly, his voice an irritating drawl, "you
cert'nly are some on the talk, for sure!  Your folks sorta handed you
the tongue for the family when you butted into this here world, didn't
they?  An' so that's your grandpa?  I come pretty near hurtin' him an'
you're some het up over it?  But I reckon that if he has to set around
an' listen to your palaver he'd be right glad to cash in.  Shucks.  I
beg your pardon, ma'am.  If it'll do you any good to know, I thought
your poor grandpap was some one else.  I was thinkin' it was a family
affair, an' that I had a right to guzzle him.  You see, I thought the
ol' maverick was my father."

The girl started, the color slowly faded from her cheeks and she drew a
long, tremulous breath.

"Then you," she said; "you are----"  She hesitated and stared at him
intensely, her free hand tightly clenched.

He bowed, derisively, discerning the sudden confusion that had
overtaken her and making the most of his opportunity to increase it.

"I'm Calumet Marston," he said, grinning.

The girl gasped.  "Oh!" she said, weakly; "Oh!"

The huge pistol slipped out of her hand and thudded dully to the floor
and she stood, holding tightly to the door jambs, her eyes fixed on
Calumet with an expression that he could not analyze.



CHAPTER III

CALUMET'S GUARDIAN

A new silence fell; a silence pregnant with a premonition of renewed
strife.  Calumet felt it and the evil in him exulted.  He left the desk
and stepped close to the girl, deftly picking up the fallen pistol and
placing it on the desk back of him, out of the girl's reach.  She
watched him, both hands pressed over her bosom, apparently still
stunned over the revelation of his identity.  There was mystery here,
Calumet felt it and was determined to uncover it.  He took up the chair
that he had previously overturned and seated himself on it, facing the
girl.

"Set down," he said, waving a hand toward another chair.  In response
to his invitation she moved toward the chair, hesitated when she
reached it, apparently having nearly recovered her composure, though
her face was pale and she watched him covertly, half fearfully.  While
she seated herself Calumet got out of his chair and took up the candle,
placing it on the desk beside the pistol.  This done, he busied himself
with the rolling of a cigarette, working deliberately, an alert eye on
the girl and her grandfather.

The latter had recovered and was sitting rigid in the chair, fear and
wonder in his eyes as he watched Calumet.  To him Calumet spoke when he
had completed the rolling of the cigarette and was holding a flaring
match to it.  He took a tigerish amusement from the old man's plight.

"I reckon I come pretty near doin' for you, eh?" he said, grinning.
"Well, there ain't no tellin' when a man will make a mistake."  His
gaze left the old man and was directed at the girl.  "I reckon we'll
clear things up a bit now, ma'am," he said.  "What are you an' your
grand-pap doin' at the Lazy Y?"

"We live here."

"Where's the old coyote which has been callin' himself my dad?"

A sudden change came over the girl; a vindictive satisfaction seemed to
radiate from her.  So it appeared to Calumet.  In the flashing look she
gave him he thought he could detect a knowledge of advantage, a
consciousness of power, over him.  Her voice emphasized this impression.

"Your father's dead," she returned, and watched him narrowly.

Calumet's eyelashes flickered once.  Shock or emotion, this was all the
evidence he gave of it.  He puffed long and deeply at his cigarette and
not for an instant did he remove his gaze from the girl's face, for he
was studying her, watching for a recurrence of the subtle gleam that he
had previously caught.  But in the look that she now gave him there was
nothing but amusement.  Apparently she was enjoying him.  Certainly she
had entirely recovered from the shock he had caused her.

"Dead, eh?" he said.  "When did he cash in?"

"A week ago today."

Calumet's eyelashes flickered again.  Here was the explanation for that
mysterious impulse which had moved him to return home.  It was just a
week ago that he had taken the notion and he had acted upon it
immediately.  He had heard of mental telepathy, and here was a working
illustration of it.  However, he gave no thought to its bearing on his
presence at the Lazy Y beyond skeptically assuring himself that it was
a mere coincidence.  In any event, what did it matter?  He was here;
that was the main thing.

His thoughts had become momentarily introspective, and when his mental
faculties returned to a realization of the present he saw that the girl
was regarding him with an intense and wondering gaze.  She had been
studying him and when she saw him looking at her she turned her head.
He experienced an unaccountable elation, though he kept his voice dryly
sarcastic.

"I reckon the ol' fool asked for me?"

"Yes."

This time Calumet could not conceal his surprise; it was revealed in
the skeptical, sneering, boring glance that he threw at the girl's
face, now inscrutable.  Her manner angered him.

"I reckon you're a liar," he said, with cold deliberation.

The girl reddened quickly; her hands clenched.  But she did not look at
him.

"Thank you," she returned, mockingly.

"What did he say?" he demanded gruffly, to conceal a slight
embarrassment over her manner of receiving the insult.

Her chin lifted disdainfully.  "You wouldn't believe a liar," she said
coldly.

Again her spirit battled his.  The dark flush spread over his face and
he found that he could not meet her eyes; again the sheer, compelling
strength of her personality routed the evilness in his heart.
Involuntarily, his lips moved.

"I reckon I didn't mean just that," he said.  And then, surprised that
such words should come from him he looked up to see the hard calm of
her face change to triumph.

The expression was swiftly transient.  It baffled him, filling him with
an impotent rage.  But he watched her narrowly as she folded her hands
in her lap and looked down at them.

"Your father expected you to come," she said quietly.  "He prayed that
you might return before he died.  It seems that he felt he had treated
you meanly and he wanted to tell you that he had repented."

A cynical wonder filled Calumet, and he laughed--a short, raucous
staccato.

"How do you know?" he questioned.

"He told me."

Calumet considered her for a moment in silence and then his attention
was directed to her grandfather, who had got to his feet and was
walking unsteadily toward the dining-room door.  He was a
well-preserved man, appearing to be about sixty.  That Calumet's attack
had been a vicious one was apparent, for as the man reached the door he
staggered and leaned weakly against the jambs.  He made a grimace at
Calumet and smiled weakly at the girl.

"I'm pretty well knocked out, Betty," he said.  "My neck hurts, sorta.
I'll send Bob in to keep you company."

The girl cast a sharp, eloquent glance at Calumet and smiled with
straight lips.

"Don't bother to send Bob," she replied; "I am not afraid."

The grandfather went out, leaving the door open.  While the girl stood
listening to his retreating steps, Calumet considered her.  She had
said that she was not afraid of him--he believed her; her actions
showed it.  He said nothing until after her grandfather had vanished
and his step was no longer heard, and then when she turned to him he
said shortly:

"So your name's Betty.  Betty what?"

"Clayton."

"An' your grandpap?"

"Malcolm Clayton."

"Who's Bob?"

"My brother."

"Any more Claytons around here?" he sneered.

"No."

"Well," he said with truculent insolence; "what in Sam Hill are you-all
doin' at the Lazy Y, anyway?"

"I am coming to that presently," she returned, unruffled.

"Goin' to work your jaw again, I reckon?" he taunted.

The hard calm came again into her face as she looked at him, though
behind it was that subtle quality that hinted of her possession of
advantage.  Her manner made plain to him that she held some mysterious
power over him, a power which she valued, even enjoyed, and he was
nettled, baffled, and afflicted with a deep rage against her because of
it.  Dealing with a man he would have known what to do, but he felt
strangely impotent in the presence of this girl, for she was not
disturbed over his insults, and her quiet, direct glances affected him
with a queer sensation of guilt, even embarrassed him.

"Well?" he prompted, after a silence.

"I am going to tell you about your father," she said.

"Make it short," he said gruffly.

"Five years ago," said the girl, ignoring the insolent suggestion; "my
father and mother died.  My father had been a big cattle owner," she
added with a flash of pride.  "He was very wealthy; he was educated,
refined--a gentleman.  We lived in Texas--lived well.  I attended a
university in the South.  In my second year there I was called home
suddenly.  My father was ill from shock and disappointment.  He had
invested heavily in some northern enterprise--it will not interest you
to know the nature of it--and had lost his entire fortune.  His ranch
property was involved and had to be sold.  There was barely enough to
satisfy the creditors.  Father died and mother soon followed him.
Grandfather, Bob, and I were left destitute.  We left the ranch and
took up a quarter section of land on the Nueces.  We became nesters and
were continually harassed by a big cattle owner nearby who wanted our
range.  We had to get out.  Grandfather thought there might be an
opportunity to take up some land in this territory.  Bob was--well, Bob
took mother's death so hard that we didn't want to stay in Texas any
longer.  The outlook wasn't bright.  Bob was too young to work--"

"Lazy, I reckon," jeered Calumet.

The girl's eyes flashed with a swift, contemptuous resentment and her
voice chilled.  "Bob's leg was hurt," she said.  She waited for an
instant, watching the sneer on Calumet's face, and then went on firmly,
as though she had decided not to let anything he said disturb her.  "So
when Grandfather proposed coming here I agreed.  We took what few
personal effects that were left us.  We traveled for two months--"

"I ain't carin' to hear your family history," interrupted Calumet.
"You started to tell me about my dad."

"We were following the river trail near here," the girl went on firmly,
scorning to pay any attention to this insult; "when we heard shooting.
I stayed with the wagon while grandfather went to investigate.  We
found two men--Tom Taggart and his son Neal--concealed in the
cottonwood, trying to shoot your father, who was in the house.  Your
father had been wounded in the shoulder and it would not have been long
before--"

"Who are the Taggarts?" questioned Calumet, his lips setting strangely.

"They own a ranch near here--the Arrow.  The motive behind their desire
to kill your father makes another story which you shall hear some time
if you have the patience," she said with jeering emphasis.

"I ain't particular."

The girl's lips straightened.  "Grandfather helped your father drive
the Taggarts away," she went on.  "Your father was living here alone
because several of his men had sought to betray him and he had
discharged them all.  Your father was wounded very badly and
grandfather and I took care of him until he recovered.  He liked us,
wanted us to stay here, and we did."

"Pretty soft for a pair of poverty-stricken adventurers," commented
Calumet.

The girl's voice was cold and distinct despite the insult.

"Your father liked me particularly well.  A year ago he drew up a will
giving me all his property and cutting you off without a cent.  He gave
me the will to keep for him."

"Fine!" was Calumet's dryly sarcastic comment.

"But I destroyed the will," went on the girl.

Calumet's expression changed to surprised wonder, then to mockery.

"You're locoed!" he declared.  "Why didn't you take the property?"

"I didn't want it; it was yours."

Calumet forgot to sneer; his wonder and astonishment over the girl's
ability to resist such a temptation were so great as to shock him to
silence.  She and her grandfather were dependants, abroad without means
of support, and yet the girl had refused a legacy which she and her
relative had undoubtedly earned.  Such sturdy honesty surprised him,
mystified him, and he was convinced that there must have been some
other motive behind her refusal to become his father's beneficiary.  He
watched her closely for a moment and then, thinking he had discovered
the motive, he said in a voice of dry mockery:

"I reckon you didn't take it because there was nothin' to take."

"Besides the land and the buildings, he left about twenty thousand
dollars in cash," she informed him quietly.

"Where is it?" demanded Calumet quickly.

Betty smiled.  "That," she said dryly, "is what I want to talk to you
about."  Again the consciousness of advantage shone in her eyes.
Calumet felt that it would be useless to question her and so he leaned
back in his chair and regarded her saturninely.

"Soon after your father became afflicted with his last sickness,"
continued Betty; "he called me to him and took me into his confidence.
He talked to me about you--about the way he had treated you.  Both he
and your mother had been, he said, victims of uncontrollable tempers,
and were beset with elemental passions which he was certain had
descended to you.  In fact, because of the hatred your mother bore
you--"  She hesitated.

"Well, that too, belongs to the story which you will hear about Taggart
when you have the patience," she continued.  "But your father repented;
he saw the injustice he had done you and wanted to repair it.  He was
certain, though, that this curse of temper was deep-seated in you and
he wanted to drive it out.  He felt that when you finally came home you
would need reforming, and he did not want you to profit by his money
until you forgave him.  He had strange notions regarding your
reformation; he declared he would not take your word for it, but would
insist on a practical demonstration.  When he had fully explained his
ideas on the subject he made me swear that I would carry them out."
She paused and looked at Calumet and he saw that the expression of
advantage that had been in her eyes all along was no longer a subtle
expression, but plain and unmistakable.

Calumet watched her intently, silently, his face a battleground for the
emotions that rioted within him.  The girl watched him with covert
vigilance and he felt that she was enjoying him.  And when finally she
saw the rage die out of his eyes, saw the color come slowly back into
his cheeks and his face become a hard, inscrutable mask, she knew that
the coming struggle between them was to be a bitter one.

"So," he said, after a while; "I don't get the coin until I become a
Sunday school scholar?"

"It is specified that you give a practical demonstration of reform in
character.  You must show that you forgive your father."

"You're goin' to be my guardian?"

"Your judge," corrected the girl.

"He's got all this in the will?"

"Yes, the last one he made."

"You don't reckon I could break that will?" he sneered.

"Try it," she mocked.  "It has been probated in Las Vegas.  The judge
happens to be a friend of your father's and, I understand, sympathized
with him."

"Clever, eh?" said Calumet, grinning crookedly.

"I am glad you think so," she taunted.



CHAPTER IV

CALUMET PLAYS BETTY'S GAME

The silence between Betty and Calumet continued so long that it grew
oppressive.  The night noises came to their ears through the closed
door; a straggling moonbeam flittered through the branches of a tree in
the wood near the ranchhouse, penetrated the window and threw a
rapier-like shaft on Calumet's sneering face.  Betty's eyes in the
flickering glare of the candle light, were steady and unwavering as she
vainly searched for any sign of emotion in the mask-like features of
the man seated before her.  She saw the mask break presently, and a
cold, mirthless smile wreathe his lips.

"You make me sick," he said slowly.  "If you'd had any sense you'd have
told the old fool to go to hell!  You're goin' to reform me?  You're
goin' to be my judge?  You--you--you!  Why you poor little sufferin'
innocent, what business have you got here at all?  What right have you
got to be settin' there tellin' me that you're goin' to be my judge;
that you're goin' to butt into my game at all?  Where's the money?" he
demanded, his voice hard and menacing.

"The money is hidden," she returned quietly.

"Where?"

"That is my business," she returned defiantly.  "Where it is hidden no
one but me knows.  And I am not going to tell until the time comes.
You are not going to scare me, either," she added confidently.  "If you
don't care to abide by your father's wishes you are at liberty to
go--anywhere you please."

"Who'd get the money then?"

"You have a year in which to show that you forgive your father.  If at
the end of that time you have not forgiven him, or if you leave the
ranch without agreeing to the provisions of the will, the entire
property comes to me."

"I reckon you'd like to have me leave?" he sneered.

"That," she returned, unruffled, "is my business.  But I don't mind
telling you that I have no interest in the matter one way or another.
You may leave if you like, but if you stay you will yield to your
father's wishes if you are to receive the money and the property."

There was finality in her voice; he felt it and his face darkened with
passion.  A sneer replaced the mirthless grin on his lips, and when he
got up and moved slowly toward Betty she sat motionless, for there was
a repressed savagery in his movements that chilled her blood.  He came
and stood in front of her, towering over her; she saw that his hands
were clenched, the fingers working.  Twice she tried to look up at him,
but each time her gaze stopped at his hands--they fascinated her.  She
tried to scream when she finally saw them come out toward her, but
succeeded in emitting only a breathless gasp, for a broad, rough palm
suddenly enclosed each of her cheeks and her head was forced slowly and
resistlessly back until she found herself looking straight up at him.

"Why, you," he said, his voice vibrating with some strange passion,
while he shook her head slowly from side to side as though he were
resisting an impulse to throttle her; "why, you--you--" he repeated,
his voice a sudden, tense whisper; "for two bits I'd--"

He hesitated, for she had recovered from her momentary physical and
mental paralysis, roused by the awful threat in his voice and manner,
and was fighting to free herself, clawing at his hands, kicking,
squirming, but ineffectively, for his hands were like bands of steel.
Finding resistance useless she sat rigid again, her eyes flashing
impotent rage and scorn.

"Coward!" she said breathlessly.

For an instant longer he held her and then laughed and dropped his
hands to his sides.

"Shucks," he said, his voice expressing disgust; "I reckon the old man
knowed what he was doin' when he appointed you my guardian!  A man
can't fight a woman--like that!"

He walked to the chair upon which he had been sitting, turned it around
so that its back was toward Betty, and straddled it, leaning his arms
on its back and resting his chin on them.

"Well," he said, with a slow grin at her; "if it will do you any good
to know, I've decided to stay here and let you practice on me.  What's
the first move?"

But his action had aroused her; she stood up and confronted him, her
face flushed with shame and indignation.

"Leave this house!" she commanded, taking a step toward him and
speaking rapidly and hoarsely, her voice quivering as though she had
been running; "leave it instantly!"  She stamped a foot to emphasize
the order.

Calumet did not move.  He watched her, a smile on his lips, his eyes
narrowed.  When she stamped her foot the smile grew to a short, amused
laugh.

"Sorta riled, eh?" he jeered.  "Well, go as far as you like--you're
sure amusin'.  But I don't reckon that I'll be leavin' here in a hurry.
Didn't the old man tell you I could stay here a year?  What's the use
of me goin' now, just when you're goin' to start to reform me?  Why,"
he finished, surveying her with interest; "I reckon the old man would
be plumb tickled to see the way you're carryin' on--obeyin' his last
wishes."  He rested his head on his arms and laughed heartily.

He heard her step across the floor, and raised his head again, to look
into the muzzle of the pistol he had laid on the desk.  It was close to
him, steady in her hands, and behind it her eyes were blazing with
wrath and determination.

"Go!" she ordered sharply; "go now--this minute, or I will shoot you!"

He laughed recklessly into the muzzle of the weapon and then without
visible excitement turned in his chair, reached out a swift hand,
grasped the weapon by the barrel and depressed the menacing muzzle so
that it pointed straight downward.  Holding it thus in spite of her
frantic efforts to wrench it free, he got to his feet and stood in
front of her.

"Why, Betty," he jeered; "you're sure some excited."  Seizing her other
hand, he turned her around so that she faced him fairly, holding her
with a grip so tight that she could not move.

"It's your game, ain't it?" he said mockingly.  "Well, I'm playin' it
with you.  Somethin' seems to tell me that we're goin' to have a daisy
time makin' a go of it."

He suddenly released her hands and stepped back, leaving her in
possession of the pistol.

"Usin' it?" he questioned, drawling, nodding toward the weapon.  Betty
looked down at it, shuddered, and then with an expression of dread and
horror reached out and laid it gingerly on the desk top.

The next instant Calumet stood alone, grinning widely at the door
through which Betty had vanished.  Listening, he heard her retreating
steps, heard a distant door slam.  He walked to the desk and looked at
the pistol, then turned and surveyed the room with a speculative eye.

"She didn't even offer me a place to sleep," he said mockingly.

He stood for an instant longer, debating the situation.  Then he
crossed the floor, closed the dining-room door, fastened it securely
and recrossing to the outside door stepped down from the porch and
sought his pony.  Ten minutes later he carried the saddle in, threw it
on the floor, folded the saddle blanket and placed it on the sofa,
closed the outside door, opened the window, snuffed out the candle,
stretched himself out on the sofa and went to sleep.



CHAPTER V

THE FIRST LESSON

Shortly after daybreak the following morning Calumet turned over on his
back, stretched lazily and opened his eyes.  When a recollection of the
events of the previous night forced themselves into his consciousness
he scowled and sat erect, listening.  From beyond the closed
dining-room door came sundry sounds which told him that the Claytons
were already astir.  He heard the rattle of dishes, and the appetizing
aroma of fried bacon filtered through the crevices in the battered door
and assailed his nostrils.

He scowled again as he rose and stood looking down at his saddle.  When
beginning his homeward journey he had supplied himself with soda
biscuit and jerked beef, but he had consumed the last of his food at
noon the day before and the scent of the frying bacon aroused him to
the realization that he was ravenously hungry.  As he meditated upon
the situation the scowl on his face changed to an appreciative grin.
Now that he had decided to stay here he did not purpose to go hungry
when there was food around.

Shouldering his saddle he left the office and proceeded to the stable,
in which he had placed his pony the night before.  He fed the animal
from a pitiful supply of grain in a bin, and after slamming the door of
the stable viciously, sneering at it as it resisted, he stalked to the
ranchhouse.

There was a tin basin on a bench just outside the kitchen door.  He
poured it half full of water from a pail that sat on the porch floor,
and washed his hands and face, noting, while engaged in his task, a
clean towel hanging from a roller on the wall of the ranchhouse.  While
drying his face he heard voices from within, subdued, anxious.
Completing his ablutions he stepped to the screen door, threw it open
and stood on the threshold.

In the center of the kitchen stood a table covered with a white cloth
on which were dishes filled with food from which arose promising odors.
Beside a window in the opposite wall of the kitchen stood Malcolm
Clayton.  He was facing Calumet, and apparently had recovered from the
encounter of the night before.  But when he looked at Calumet he
cringed as though in fear.  Betty stood beside the table, facing
Calumet also.  But there was no fear in her attitude.  She was erect,
her hands resting on her hips, and when Calumet hesitated on the
threshold she looked at him with a scornful half smile.  Yielding to
the satanic humor which had received its birth the night before when he
had made his decision to remain at the Lazy Y, he returned Betty's
smile with a derisive grin, walked to the table, pulled out a chair,
and seated himself.

It was a deliberate and premeditated infringement of the proprieties,
and Calumet anticipated a storm of protest from Betty.  But when he
looked brazenly at her he saw her regarding him with a direct,
disdainful gaze.  He understood.  She was surprised and indignant over
the action, possibly shocked over his cool assumption, but she was not
going to lose her composure.

"Well," he said, keenly enjoying the situation and determined to
torment her further, "set down.  I reckon we'll grub."

"Thank you," she mocked, with quick sarcasm; "I was wondering whether
you would ask us.  Grandpa," she added, turning to Malcolm, "won't you
join us?  Mr. Marston has been so polite and thoughtful that we
certainly ought not to refuse his invitation."

She drew out a chair for Malcolm and stood beside it while he shuffled
forward and hesitatingly slipped into it, watching Calumet furtively.
Then she moved quietly and gracefully to another chair, directly
opposite Calumet.

Her sarcasm had no perceptible effect on Calumet.  Inwardly he was
intensely satisfied.  His action in seating himself at the table
without invitation angered Betty, as he had intended it should.

"Some shocked, eh?" he said, helping himself to some bacon and fried
potatoes, and passing them to her when he had finished with them.

"Shocked?" she returned calmly, unconcernedly supplying herself with
food from the dishes she had taken from him, "Oh, my, no.  You see,
from what your father told me about you, I rather expected you to be a
brute."

"Aw, Betty," came Malcolm's voice, raised in mild remonstrance; "you
hadn't ought to--"

"If you please, grandpa," Betty interrupted him, and he subsided and
glanced anxiously at Calumet, into whose face had come a dash of dark
color.  He swallowed a mouthful of bacon before he answered Betty.

"Then you ain't disappointed," he sneered.

She rested her hands on the table beside her plate, the knife and fork
poised, and regarded him with a frank gaze.

"No, I am not disappointed.  You quite meet my expectations.  In fact,"
she went on, "I thought you would be much worse than you are.  So far,
if we except your attack on grandfather, you haven't exhibited any
vicious traits.  You are vain, though, and conceited, and like to bully
people.  But those are faults that can be corrected."

Calumet had to look twice at her before he could be certain that she
was not mocking him.

"I reckon you're goin' to correct them?" he said, then.

She took a sip of coffee and placed the cup delicately down before she
answered.

"Of course--if you are to stay here."

"How?"  His lips were in an incredulous sneer.

"By showing you that you can't be conceited around me, and that you
can't bully me.  I suppose," she went on, leaning her elbows on the
table and supporting her chin with her hands while she looked straight
at him, "that when you came in here and took a seat without being
invited, you imagined you were impressing some one with your
importance.  But you were not; you were merely acting the part of a
vulgar boor.  Or perhaps you had a vague idea that you were going to do
as you please."

He placed his knife and fork down and looked at her.  Her manner was
irritating; her quiet, direct glances disconcerted him.  He could not
fail to see that he had signally failed in his effort to disturb her.
In fact, it became very plain to him as he watched her that she was
serenely conscious of her power over him, as a teacher is conscious of
her authority over an unruly pupil, and that, like a teacher, she was
quietly determined to be the victor.

The thought angered Calumet.  There was in his mind a desire to humble
her, to crush her, to break her spirit, to drag her down to his own
level where he could fight her with his own weapons.  He wanted to
humiliate her, wanted to gloat over her, wanted above all to have her
acknowledge his superiority, his authority, over her.  Had he been able
to do this at their first meeting he would have been satisfied; if he
were able to do it now he would be pleased.

"It's none of your business what I thought," he said, leaning over the
table and leering at her.  "I'm goin' to run things to suit myself, an'
if you an' your grandpap an' your brother don't like my style you can
pull your freight, pronto.  I'm goin' to boss this ranch.  Do you get
me?"

She seemed amused.  "The Lazy Y," she said slowly, her eyes gleaming,
"has need of something besides a boss.  You have observed, I suppose,
that it is slightly run down.  Your father purposely neglected it.
Considerable money and work will be required to place it in condition
where it can be bossed at all.  I haven't any doubt," she added,
surveying him critically, "that you will be able to supply the
necessary labor.  But what about the money?  Are you well supplied with
that?"

"Meaning to hint about the money the old man left, I reckon?"

"Of course.  Understand that I have control of that, and you won't get
a cent unless in my opinion you deserve it."

He glared savagely at her.

"Of course," she went on calmly, though there was triumph in her voice,
"you can force us to leave the ranch.  But I suspect that you won't try
to do that, because if you did you would never get the money.  I should
go directly over to Las Vegas and petition to have your claim annulled.
Then at the end of the year the money would be mine."

He stiffened with impotent rage as he took up his knife and fork again
and resumed eating.  He was disagreeably conscious that she held the
advantage, for assuredly he had no intention of driving her from the
ranch or of leaving it himself until he got his hands on the money.
Besides, he thought he saw back of her unconcern over his probable
course of action a secret desire for him to leave or to drive her away,
and in the perversity of his heart he decided that both must stay.
Something might occur to reveal the whereabouts of the money, or he
could watch her, reasonably certain that one day her woman's curiosity
would lead her to its hiding place.  Plainly, in any event, he must
bide his time.  Though his decision to defer action was taken, his
resentment did not abate; he could not conquer the deep rage in his
heart against her because of her interference in his affairs, and when
he suddenly looked up to see her watching him with a calm smile he made
a grimace of hatred at her.

"I'll make you show your hand, you sufferin' fool!" he said.  "If you
was a man I'd make you tell me right now where that corn is, or I'd
guzzle you till your tongue stuck out a yard.  As it is, I reckon I've
got to wait until you get damn good an' ready; got to wait until a
measly, sneakin' woman--"

Her laugh interrupted him--low, disdainful, mocking.

"I think I know what you are going to say.  You are going to tell me
how I wormed my way into the good graces of your father and coaxed him
to make me his beneficiary.  It is your intention to be mean, to insult
me, to try to bully me."  Her eyes flashed as she leaned a little
toward him.  "Understand," she said; "your bluster won't have the
slightest effect on me.  I am not afraid of you.  So swear and curse to
your heart's content.  As for bossing the ranch," she went on, her
voice suddenly one of cold mockery, "what is there to boss?  Some
dilapidated buildings!  Of course you may boss those, because they
can't object.  But you can't boss me, nor grandfather, nor Bob--because
we won't let you!"

She walked away from the table and went to a door that led to another
room, standing in the opening and looking back at Calumet, who still
sat at the table, speechless with surprise.

"Go out and begin your bossing!" she jeered.  "Very likely the
buildings will begin to dance around at your bidding.  With your
admirable persuasive powers you ought to be able to do wonders with
them in the matter of repairs.  Try it, at least.  But if they refuse
to be repaired at your mere word, and you think something more
substantial is needed, then come to me--perhaps I may help you."

She bowed mockingly and vanished into the other room, closing the door
behind her, leaving Calumet glaring into his plate.

For a moment there was a painful silence, which Malcolm broke by
clearing his throat, his gaze on the tablecloth.

"Sometimes I think Betty's a little fresh," he said, apologetically.
"She's sorta sudden-like.  She hadn't ought to--"

He looked up to see a malevolent scowl on Calumet's face, and he ducked
by the narrowest of margins the heavy plate that flew from Calumet's
hand.  The plate struck the wall and was shattered to atoms.  Malcolm
crouched, in deadly fear of other missiles, but Calumet did not deign
to notice him further, stalking out of the room and slamming the door
behind him.



CHAPTER VI

"BOB"

Five minutes after leaving the kitchen of the ranchhouse Calumet stood
beside the rotted rails of the corral fence near the stable, frowning,
fully conscious that he had been worsted in the verbal battle just
ended.  He was filled with a disagreeable sense of impotence; he felt
small, mean, cheap, and uncomfortable, and was oppressed with
indecision.  In short, he felt that he was not the same man who had
ridden up to the Lazy Y ranchhouse at twilight the night before--in
twelve hours a change had come over him.  And Betty had wrought it.  He
knew that.

Had he only to do with Malcolm--or any man, for that matter--there
would have been no doubt of his course.  He would have hustled out
Malcolm or any other man long before this, and there would have been an
end to it.  But Betty had made it quite plain to him that she did not
purpose to leave, and, since he had had little experience with women,
he was decidedly at a loss to discover a way to deal with her.  That he
could not rout her by force was certain, for he could not lay hands on
a woman in violence, and he was by no means certain that he wanted her
to leave, because if she did it was highly probable that he would never
get his hands on the money his father had left.  Of course he could
search for the money, but there came to his mind now tales of treasure
that had never been recovered, and he was reluctant to take any
chances.  On the other hand, he was facing the maddening prospect of
living for a year under the eyes of a determined young woman who was to
be the sole judge of his conduct.  He was to become a probationer and
Betty was to watch his every move.

He wondered, making a wry face at the thought, whether she intended to
record his actions in a book, giving him marks of merit or demerit
according as the whim struck her?  In that case she had probably
already placed a black mark against him, perhaps several.

He stood long beside the fence, considering the situation.  It was odd
to the point of unreality, but, no matter how odd, it was a situation
that he must face, because he had already decided to stay and make an
attempt to get the money.  He certainly would not go away and leave it
to Betty; he would not give her that satisfaction.  Nor did he intend
to be pliable clay in her hands, to become in the end a creature of her
shaping.  He would stay, but he would be himself, and he would make the
Claytons rue the day they had interfered in his affairs.

Leaning on the top rail of the fence, his gaze roved over the sweep of
valley, dull and cheerless in the early dawn, with a misty film rising
up out of it to meet and mingle and evaporate in the far-flung colors
of the slow-rising sun.  Once his gaze concentrated on a spot in the
distance.  He detected movement, and watched, motionless, until he was
certain.  Half a mile it was to the spot--a low hill, crested with
yucca, sagebrush, and octilla--and he saw the desert weeds move,
observed a dark form slink out from them and stand for an instant on
the skyline.  Wolf or coyote, it was too far for him to be certain, but
he watched it with a sneer until it slunk down into the tangle of sage,
out of his sight.

He presently forgot the slinking figure; his thoughts returned to
Betty.  He did not like her, she irritated him.  For a woman she was
too assertive, too belligerent by half.  Though considering her now, he
was reluctantly compelled to admit that she was a forceful figure, and,
reviewing the conversation he had had with her a few minutes before,
the picture she had made standing in the doorway defying him, mocking
him, rebuking him, he could not repress a thrill of grudging admiration.

For half an hour he stood at the corral fence.  He rolled and smoked
three cigarettes, his thoughts wrapped in memories of the past and
revolving the problem of his future.  Once Betty stood in the kitchen
door for fully a minute, watching him speculatively, and twice old
Malcolm passed him on the way to do some chore, eyeing him curiously.
Calumet did not see either of them.

Nor did he observe that the slinking form which he had observed moving
among the weeds on the distant hill in the valley had approached to
within twenty yards of him, was crouching in a corner of the corral
fence, watching him with blazing, blood-shot eyes, its dull gray hair
bristling, its white fangs bared in a snarl.

It had been a long stalk, and the beast's jaws were slavering from
exertion.  It watched, crouching and panting, for a favorable moment to
make the attack which it meditated.

It had seen Calumet from the hill and had dropped down to the level,
keeping out of sight behind the sagebrush and the clumps of mesquite,
crossing the open places on its belly, stealing upon him silently and
cunningly.  So cautious had been its approach that old Malcolm had not
seen it when fifteen minutes before he had passed Calumet and had
paused for a look at him.  The beast had been in a far corner of the
fence then, and had slunk close to the ground until Malcolm had passed.
Nor had Malcolm seen it just a moment before when he had crossed the
ranchhouse yard behind Calumet to go to the bunkhouse, where he was
now.  The instant Malcolm had disappeared within the bunkhouse, the
beast had stolen to its present position.

The attack was swift and silent.  Calumet was puffing abstractedly at a
cigarette when he became aware of a rush of air as the gray shape
flashed up from the ground.  Calumet dodged involuntarily, throwing up
an arm to fend off the shape, which catapulted past him, shoulder-high.
The beast had aimed for his throat; his long fangs met the upthrust arm
and sank into it, crunching it to the bone.

The force of the attack threw Calumet against the corral fence.  The
beast struck the ground beyond him noiselessly, its legs asprawl, its
hair bristling from rage.  Ten feet beyond Calumet the force of its
attack carried it, and it whirled swiftly, to leap again.

But Calumet was not to be surprised the second time.  Standing at the
fence, his eyes ablaze with hatred and pain, he crouched.  As the beast
leaped Calumet's hand moved at his hip, his heavy six-shooter crashed
spitefully, its roar reverberating among the buildings and startling
the two gaunt horses in the corral to movement.  The gray beast
snarled, crumpled midway in its leap, and dropped at Calumet's feet.  A
dark patch on its chest just below the throat showed where the bullet
had gone.  But apparently the bullet had missed a vital spot, for the
beast struggled to its feet, dragging itself toward Calumet, its fangs
slashing impotently.

Calumet stepped back a pace, his face malignant with rage and hate, his
eyes gleaming vengefully.  He heard a scream from somewhere--a shrill
protest in a voice which he did not recognize, but he paid no attention
to it until he had deliberately emptied his six-shooter into the beast,
putting the bullets where they would do the most good.  When the weapon
was emptied and the beast lay prone in the dust at his feet, its great
jaws agape and dripping with blood-flecked foam, Calumet turned and
looked up.

He saw Malcolm Clayton come out of the bunkhouse door, and noticed
Betty running toward him from the ranchhouse.  Betty's sleeves were
rolled to the elbows, her apron fluttering the wind, and the thought
struck Calumet that she must have been washing dishes when interrupted
by the shooting.  But it was not she who had screamed--he would have
recognized her voice.  Then he saw a huddled figure leaning against the
corner of the stable nearest the ranchhouse; the figure of a boy of
twelve or thirteen.  He had a withered, mis-shapen leg--the right one;
and under his right arm, partly supporting him, was a crude crutch.
The boy was facing Calumet, and at the instant the latter saw him he
looked up, his pale, thin face drawn and set, his eyes filled with an
expression of reproach and horror.

He was not over fifteen feet distant from Calumet, and the latter
watched him with a growing curiosity until Betty ran to him and folded
him into her arms.  Then Calumet began to reload his six-shooter,
ignoring Malcolm, who had come close to him and was standing beside the
corral fence, breathing heavily and trembling from excitement.

"It's Lonesome!" gasped Malcolm, his lips quivering as he looked at the
beast; "Bob's Lonesome!"

Calumet flashed around at him, cursing savagely.

"What you gettin' at, you damned old gopher?" he sneered.

"It's Lonesome!" repeated Malcolm, his weather-lined face red with
resentment and anger.  He showed no fear of Calumet now, but came close
to him and stood rigid, his hands clenched.  "It's Lonesome!" he
repeated shrilly; "Bob's Lonesome!"  And then, seeing from the
expression of Calumet's face that he did not comprehend, he added:
"It's Bob's dog, Lonesome!  Bob loved him so, an' now you've gone an'
killed him--you--you hellhound!  You--"

His quavering voice was cut short; once more his throat felt the
terrible pressure of Calumet's iron fingers.  For an instant he was
held at arm's length, shaken savagely, and in the next he was flung
with furious force against the corral fence, from whence he staggered
and fell into a corner.

Calumet turned from him to confront Betty.  Her eyes were ablaze, and
one hand rested with unconscious affection on Bob's head as the boy
stood looking down at the body of the dog, sobbing quietly.  Betty was
trying to keep her composure, but at her first words her voice trembled.

"So you've killed Lonesome," she said.  Calumet had finished reloading
his pistol, and he folded his arms over his chest, deliberately
shielding the left, which Lonesome had bitten, thus hiding the red
patches that showed on the shirt sleeve over the wound.  He would not
give Betty the satisfaction of seeing that he had been hurt.

"Lonesome," explained Betty, frigidly, "was a dog--he was Bob's dog.
Bob loved him.  I suppose you didn't know that--you couldn't have
known.  We believed him to be part wolf.  Bob found him on the Lazette
trail, where he had evidently been left behind, probably forgotten, by
some traveler who had camped there.  Bob brought him home and raised
him.  He has never been known to exhibit any vicious traits.  You were
born in the West," she went on, "and ought to be able to tell the
difference between a dog and a wolf.  Did you take Lonesome for a wolf?"

"I reckon," sneered Calumet, determined not to be lectured by her,
"that I've got to give a reason for everything I do around here.  Even
to killin' a damn dog!"

"Then," she said with cold contempt, "you killed him in pure
wantonness?"

It was plain to Calumet that she was badly hurt over the dog's death.
Certainly, despite her cold composure, she must be filled with rage
against him for killing the animal.  He might now have exhibited his
arm, to confound her with the evidence of his innocence of wantonness,
and very probably she would have been instantly remorseful.  But he had
no such intention; he was keenly alive to his opportunity to show her
that he was answerable to no one for his conduct.  He enjoyed her
chagrin; he was moved to internal mirth over her impotent wrath; he
took a savage delight in seeing her cringe from the evidence of his
apparent brutality.  He grinned at her.

"He's dead, ain't he?" he said.  "An' I ain't makin' no excuses to you!"

She gave him a scornful glance and went over to Malcolm, who had
clambered to his feet and was crouching, his face working with passion.
At the instant Betty reached him he was clawing at his six-shooter,
trying to drag it from the holster.  But Betty's hand closed over his
and he desisted.

"Not that, grandpa," she said quietly.  "Shooting won't bring Lonesome
back.  Besides"--she turned toward Calumet and saw the cold grin on his
face as his right hand dropped to his hip in silent preparation for
Malcolm's menacing movement--"don't you see that he would shoot you as
he shot Lonesome?  He just can't help being a brute!"

She turned her back to Calumet and spoke in a low voice to her
grandfather, smoothing his hair, patting his shoulders--calming him
with all a woman's gentle artifices.  And Calumet stood watching her,
marveling at her self-control, feeling again that queer, thrilling
sensation of reluctant admiration.

He had forgotten Bob.  Betty had left the boy standing alone when she
had gone over to Malcolm, and Bob had hobbled forward when Calumet had
turned to follow the girl's movements, so that now he stood just behind
Calumet.  The latter became aware of the boy's presence when the latter
seized his left hand from behind, and he turned with a snarl, his
six-shooter half drawn, to confront the boy, whose grip on the hand had
not been loosened.  Calumet drew the hand fiercely away, overturning
Bob so that he fell sprawling into the dust at his feet.  The youngster
was up again before Betty and Malcolm could reach him, hobbling toward
Calumet, his thin face working from excitement, his big eyes alight
over the discovery he had made.

"He didn't kill Lonesome because he is mean, Betty!" he shrilled; "I
knew he didn't!  Look at his arm, Betty!  It's all bloody!  Lonesome
bit him!"

In spite of Calumet's efforts to avoid him, the boy again seized the
arm, holding it out so that Betty and Malcolm could see the patches on
the sleeve and the thin red streak that had crawled down over the back
of his hand and was dripping from the finger tips.

Malcolm halted in his advance on Calumet and stealthily sheathed his
weapon.  Betty, too, had stopped, a sudden wave of color overspreading
her face, the picture of embarrassment and astonishment.

"Why didn't you tell us?" she asked accusingly; "it would have saved--"

"Saved you from makin' a fool of yourself," interrupted Calumet.  "You
certainly did prove that I'm a mighty mean man," he added, mockingly.
"I didn't tell you because it's none of your business.  It's only a
scratch, but I ain't lettin' no damned animal chaw me up an' get away
with it."  He drew the hand away from the boy and placed it behind him
so that Betty could not look at it, which she had been doing until now,
with wide, frightened eyes.  She came forward when he placed the hand
behind him, and stood close to him, determination in her manner.

"I want to see how badly you have been bitten," she said.

"Go finish washin' your dishes," he advised, with a sneer.  "That's
where you belong.  Until you an' your bunch butted in with your palaver
I was enjoyin' myself.  You drive me plumb weary."

Betty faced him resolutely, though now there was contrition in her
manner, in her voice.  She spoke firmly.

"I am sorry for what I said to you before--about Lonesome.  I thought
you had killed him just to be mean, to hurt me.  I will try to make
amends.  If you will come into the house I will dress your arm--it must
be badly injured."

Calumet's lips curled, then straightened, and he looked down at her
with steady hostility.

"I ain't got no truck with you at all," he said.  "When I'm figgerin'
on lettin' you paw over me I'll let you know."  He turned shortly and
walked over to the door of the stable, where he fumbled at the
fastenings, presently swinging the door open and vanishing inside.
Five minutes later, when he came out with the pony saddled and bridled,
he found that Betty and Malcolm had gone.  But Bob stood over the dead
body of Lonesome, silently weeping.

For a moment, standing beside his pony, Calumet watched the boy, and as
he stood a queer pallor overspread his face and his lips tightened
oddly.  For something in the boy's appearance, in the idea of his
exhibition of grief over his dog, which Malcolm had said he loved,
smote Calumet's heart.  As he continued to watch, his set lips moved
strangely, and his eyes glittered with a light that they had not yet
known.  Twice he started toward the boy, and twice he changed his mind
and returned to his pony to continue his vigil.  The boy was unaware of
his presence.

The third time Calumet reached his side, and the big rough palm of his
right hand was laid gently on the boy's head.

"I reckon I'm sorry, you damned little cuss," he said huskily as the
youngster looked up into his face.  "If I'd have knowed that he was
your dog I'd have let him chaw my arm off before I'd have shot him."

The boy's eyes glowed with gratitude.  Then they sought the body of
Lonesome.  When he looked up again Calumet was on his pony, riding
slowly past the bunkhouse.  The boy watched him until he rode far out
into the valley.



CHAPTER VII

A PAGE FROM THE PAST

Darkness had fallen when Calumet returned to the Lazy Y.  He had passed
the day riding over the familiar ranges, returning to almost forgotten
spots, reviving the life of his youth and finding the memories irksome.
He was in no pleasant frame of mind when he rode in, and he disdained
the use of the corral or the stable, staking his horse out in the
pasture, remembering the scant supply of grain in the bin in the
stable, and telling himself that "them two skates"--referring to the
horses he had seen in the corral--"need it worse than Blackleg," his
own pony.

After staking Blackleg out, he took the saddle and bridle from the
animal and stalked toward the ranchhouse.  A light burned on the
kitchen table.  He saw it from a distance and resisted an impulse to
enter the house from the kitchen, walking, instead, around to the
front, where he found the door to the office unbarred.  He threw the
saddle into a corner, lighted the candle that still stood on the desk
where he had placed it the night before, and stood for a long time in
its glare, examining the ragged gashes on his arm.  Twice during the
day he had washed the wounds with water secured from the river, binding
the arm with a handkerchief; but he noted with a scowl that the arm was
swollen and the wound inflamed.  He finally rewound the bandage, tieing
the ends securely.  Then he stood erect beside the desk, listening and
undecided.

No sound reached his ears.  The Claytons, he assured himself, must have
retired.

He walked over to the sofa and sat upon it, frowning.  He was hungry,
having been without food since morning, and he found himself wondering
if he might not find food in the kitchen.  Obeying an impulse, he got
up from the sofa and went to the door through which Betty had entered
the night before, noting that it was still barred as he had left it
that morning.  He carefully removed the fastenings and swung the door
open, intending to go into the kitchen.  He halted on the threshold,
however, for beside a table in the dining room, in the feeble glare of
a light that stood at her elbow, sat Betty, reading a book.

She looked up as the door opened, betraying no surprise, smiling
mildly, and speaking as she might have spoken had she been addressing a
friend.

"Won't you come in?"

She placed the book down, sticking a piece of paper between the leaves
to mark her place, and stood up.

"I have been waiting for you.  I heard you come in.  I expected you for
supper, and when you didn't come I saved yours.  If you will come out
into the kitchen I will get it for you."

Calumet did not move.  Had Betty shown the slightest dismay or
perturbation at sight of him he would not have hesitated an instant in
walking past her to get the food which she had said was in the kitchen.
But her easy unconcern, her cool assumption of proprietorship, aroused
in him that obstinacy which the revelation of her power over him had
brought into being.  He did not purpose to allow her to lead him to
anything.

"I don't reckon I'll grub," he said.

"Then of course you have been to Lazette," she returned.  "You had
dinner there."

"Look here," he said truculently; "does it make any difference to you
where I've been or what I've done?"

"Perhaps it really doesn't make any difference," she answered calmly;
"but of course I am interested.  I don't want you to starve."

His face expressed disgust.  "Holy smoke!" he said; "I reckon I ain't
man enough to take care of myself!"

"I don't think that is the question.  Can't we get at it in the proper
spirit?  You belong here; you have a right to be here.  And I am here
because your father wanted me to stay.  I want you to feel that you are
at home, and I don't want to be continually quarreling with you.  Be
mean and stubborn if you want to--I suppose you can't help that.  But
so long as conditions are as they are, let us try to make the best of
them.  Even if you don't like me, even if you resent my presence here,
you can at least act more like a human being and less like a wild man.
Why," she continued, with a dry laugh, "just now you spoke of being a
man, and this morning after you killed Lonesome you acted like a big,
over-grown boy.  You had your arm hurt and refused to allow me to dress
it.  Did you think I wanted to poison you?"

"What I thought this morning is my business," returned Calumet gruffly.
Betty's voice had been quietly conversational, but it had carried a
subtle sting with its direct mockery, and Calumet felt again as he had
felt the night before, like an unruly scholar being rebuked by his
teacher.  Last night, though, the situation had been a novel one; now
the thought that she was laughing at him, taunting him, filled him with
rage.

"Mebbe you'll be interested in knowin' what I think right now," he
said.  "It's this: you've got a bad case of swelled head.  You're one
of them kind of female critters which want to run things their own way.
You're--"

Her laugh interrupted him.  "We won't argue that again, if you please.
If you remember, you had something to say on that subject last night,
and I want you to know that I haven't the slightest desire to hear your
opinion of me.  Won't you sit down?"  She invited again, motioning to a
chair beside the table, opposite hers.  "If you absolutely refuse to
eat, I presume there is no help for it, though even if you had dinner
in Lazette you must be hungry now, for a ride of twenty miles is a
strict guarantee of appetite.  Please sit down.  There is something I
want to give you, something your father left for you.  He told me to
have you read it as soon as you came."

She stood motionless until Calumet left the door and seated himself in
the chair beside the table, and then she went out of the room; he could
hear her steps on the stairs.  She returned quickly and laid a bulky
envelope on the table beside him.

"Here it is," she said.

As Calumet took up the envelope and tore it open she dropped into the
other chair, took up her book, opened it, and settled herself to read.
Calumet watched her covertly for a moment, and then gave his attention
to the contents of the envelope.

There were a number of sheets of paper on which Calumet recognized his
father's handwriting.


"MY SON:--Feeling that I am about to die, it is my desire to do what I
can toward setting things right between us.  Betty Clayton will tell
you that I have repented of my treatment of you, but she cannot tell
you how deep is the realization of the injury I have done you through
my inhuman attitude toward you.  I fear that I have ruined your
character and that it may be too late to save you from those passions
which, if not checked, will spoil your life.

"I know that children sometimes inherit the evil that has abided with
their parents, and I am certain that you have inherited mine, because
while you stayed at home I saw many evidences of it, aye, I used to
delight in its manifestation.  Toward the end of your stay at home I
grew to hate you.  But it was because of that woman.  If ever there was
an evil spirit in the guise of a human being, it was she.  She--well,
you will learn more of her later.

"I am going to try at this late day to repair the damage I did you.  I
have come to the conclusion that the surest way to do this is to force
you to give me in death that respect and veneration which you refused
me while I lived.  You see that, in spite of my boasted repentance, I
still have left a spark of satanic irony, and I do not expect you to
believe me when I tell you that I have planned this for your own good.
But it seems to me that if you can exhibit respect for the one who is
directly responsible for your cursed passions you will be able to
govern them on all occasions.  That is my conviction, and if you do not
agree with me there is no hope for you.

"Betty Clayton will tell you the conditions, and she will be your
judge.  I believe in Betty, and if you do not see that she is a
true-blue girl you are more of a fool than I think you are."


At this point Calumet glanced sidelong at Betty, but she seemed
engrossed in her book, and he resumed reading.


"That is all I have to say on that subject.  You will have to look to
Betty for additions.  By this time, if she has carried out my wishes,
she has told you what you may expect.  I have told her the story which
I am going to tell you, and I am certain that when you have finished it
you will see that I am not entirely to blame.  You will see, too, what
havoc Tom Taggart has wrought in my life; why he has tried many times
to kill me.  Calumet, beware of the Taggarts!  For the last five years
they have been a constant menace to me; I have been forced to be on my
guard against them day and night.  They have hounded me, induced my men
to betray me.  In five years I have not slept soundly because of them.
But I have foiled them.  I am dying now, and that which they seek will
be hidden until you fulfill the conditions which I impose on you.  I
know you are coming home--I can feel it--and I know that when you read
what is to follow you will be eager to square my account with Tom
Taggart.

"Before going any further, before you read my story, I want you to know
that the cursed virago whom you saw buried in the cottonwood was not
your real mother.  Your mother died giving you birth, and her body lies
in a quiet spot beside the Rio Pecos, at Twin Pine crossing, about ten
miles north of the Texas border.  God rest her."


Again Calumet glanced at Betty.  She was reading, apparently
unconscious of him, and without disturbing her Calumet laid down the
finished page and took up another.



CHAPTER VIII

THE TOLTEC IDOL

"I was twenty-five when your mother died," this page began.  "I had a
little ranch in the Pecos valley near Twin Pine crossing, and I had
just begun to taste prosperity.  After your mother died things began to
go wrong.  It didn't take me long to conclude that she had been
responsible for what success I had had, and that without her I couldn't
hope to keep things together.  I didn't try very hard; I'll admit that.
I just gradually let go all holds and began to slip--began to drift
back into the sort of company I'd kept before I met your mother.  They
were not bad fellows, you understand--just the rakehelly, reckless sort
that keep hanging on to the edge of things and making a living by their
wits.  I'd come West without any definite idea of what I wanted to do,
and I fell in with these men naturally and easily, because they were of
my type.

"I had three intimates among them--a tall, clean-limbed fellow with the
bluest and steadiest eyes I ever saw in a man, who called himself
'Nebraska'; a rangy Texan named Quint Taylor, who maintained that
manual labor was a curse and quoted the Scriptures to prove it; and Tom
Taggart.  Tom and I were thick.  I liked him, and he'd done things for
me that seemed to prove that he thought a lot of me.  He didn't like it
a little bit when I married your mother--her name was Mary Lannon, and
I'd got acquainted with her while riding for a few months for her
father, who owned a ranch near Eagle Pass, close to the Rio Grande.
She was white, boy, and so were her folks, and you can be proud of her.
And if she had lived you could be proud of me--she'd have kept on
making me a man.

"Taggart didn't like the idea of me getting hooked up.  He didn't want
to break up the old associations.  He and the others hung around for a
year, waiting for something to turn up, and when your mother died it
wasn't long before I was back with them.  I left you in care of Jane
Connor--her husband, Dave, owned the Diamond Dot ranch, which adjoined
mine.

"During the year the boys had been knocking around without me they'd
fallen in with an Indian from Yucatan, from the tribe called the
Toltecs.  This Indian called himself Queza--he'd been exiled because he
was too lazy to work.  The boys got him drunk one night, and he blabbed
everything he knew about his tribe--how rich it was; how they'd
discovered a diamond mine, and that gold was so common that they used
it to make household ornaments.  His story got the boys excited and
they pumped him dry.  They found out where his tribe lived, how to get
there, and all that.

"Queza told them that the diamonds wouldn't be hard to get, that there
were altar idols and ornaments in a big cave which was hollowed out of
the face of a rock cliff, and that there was a bridge over to it, and
that the cave wasn't guarded because the tribe had a superstitious fear
of the priests who had charge of the idols and things, and that the
people didn't care for gold and diamonds, anyway, because they were so
common.

"The boys had got all this out of Queza about a month before I sold out
and joined them, and they'd rustled some money somewhere, and had
everything fixed up to go to Yucatan to bring home some of that gold
and diamonds.  They wanted me to go along.  I was in that frame of mind
in which I didn't care much about what happened to me, and they didn't
have to argue long.  We dropped down the Rio Grande to a little place
on the Gulf coast near where Brownsville is now.  We bought a little
boat from a fisherman--she wasn't more than thirty feet long and didn't
look like she could stand much weather; but Nebraska, who'd told us
that he'd done a little sailing on the California coast when he was a
lot younger than he was then, said she'd stand anything we was likely
to get in the Gulf.  So we stocked her with provisions and water to
last a month or so, and Nebraska pointed her nose toward Yucatan.

"I didn't think then what a rank job it was that we were going to do,
but it won't do me any harm in your eyes to say that after we'd got
started and I began to realize what it all meant, I was ashamed.  I
felt like a sneak and a coward all through the deal, but I couldn't
back out after I'd started, and so I went through with it.

"We run into a spell of bad weather and had to hug the coast mighty
close, and it was two weeks before we pulled into Campeche Bay, on the
northwest coast of Yucatan.  We worked the boat about half a mile up a
little creek four or five miles south of Campeche, and worked half a
day hiding her, so that she'd be there when we got back.  Then, taking
what grub was left, we struck out for the interior.  It won't be any
use telling you about that journey--you couldn't imagine, and I
couldn't begin to tell you, what a miserable, slow, tortuous affair it
was.  It gets hot in New Mexico, but we got a taste of hell in that
Yucatan jungle.  That country wasn't built for a white man.

"So I'm not going to try to tell you about the trip.  We were tough and
eager, and we stuck it out, traveling mostly by night, setting our
course by the stars, about which I knew something.  But we were a week
going a hundred miles, and we were beginning to get into that frame of
mind where we were noticing one another's faults and getting not a bit
backward in talking about them, when one night at dusk we got a glimpse
of the place we were looking for.

"Queza had called the place a town, and maybe that name fits it as well
as another.  It made me dizzy to look at it.  We'd been climbing the
slope of a mountain all afternoon--traveling in the daytime now,
because we were getting near the end of our journey--Nebraska in the
lead, the rest trailing him.  We saw Nebraska stop and duck back into
some brush.  Then we all sneaked up to him and got our first look at
the town.

"It looked to me as though the place had been made to hide in.  The
mountain dropped away below us, straight down about a hundred feet, a
smooth rock wall.  Another wall of rock joined it on the right, making
a big L.  There was a level that began at the two walls and extended
both ways for probably half a mile, until it met the slope of the other
side of the mountain.  It was nothing but two shoulders, joined, on the
top of the mountain.

"Just below us there was a break in the level--a wide gash about fifty
feet across, so deep that we couldn't see the bottom.  There was a
ledge on our side about three or four feet wide, and a bridge stretched
from it across the canyon.  We decided that the bridge was the one
Queza had told the boys about--it led to the cave where the treasure
was kept.  We laid there for an hour, watching.  The buildings were all
huddled together--a lot of flat, brown adobe houses.  We could see the
natives moving down among them, but none of us noticed anything unusual
going on until Taggart calls our attention.

"'Did you notice?' he said.

"'Notice what?' we all answered.

"'That they're all women down there--I ain't seen a man!'

"That was a fact.  There didn't seem to be a man anywhere about.  We
talked it over and concluded that we'd got there at a most advantageous
time.  We decided that the men were away, on a hunt, most probably, and
after we'd watched a while longer we decided that we'd sneak down some
way and go after the treasure about midnight.  We figured they'd all be
sleeping about that time.  After dark they lit fires and sat around
them.

"We watched until about eleven--until we saw that nearly all the fires
had gone out--and then we sneaked down the slope of the mountain.  We
didn't make any noise; we were silent and slippery as ghosts as we made
our way through the timber on the slope.  It was slow work, though; the
woods were full of tangled vines and prickly bushes, and we got clawed
up considerable and had all we could do to keep from cussing out loud
when a thorn or something would rip a cheek open.  It was blacker than
any night I've ever seen before or since; we couldn't see a foot ahead,
and the sounds we heard in the woods didn't make us feel any too
comfortable, for all we'd got used to living in the open.  We knew, of
course, that the sounds came from birds and bats and moths and such,
but when a man is out on a job like that his nerves are not what they
are at other times--every sound seems unusual and magnified.  I didn't
like so much silence from the village down below us--it seemed too
quiet; and it appeared to me that the noises we heard in the woods were
most too continuous to be caused by only us four.  We went in single
file, one man almost touching the other, to be sure we'd all stay
together.  I'd hear a bird go whizzing away at a distance, and it
appeared to me that there was no call for it to light out with us two
or three hundred feet away from it; and then there were queer noises
which I couldn't just place as coming from birds.  I don't know why I
noticed these things, but I did, just the same, though I didn't say
anything to the other boys, because they'd probably thought I was
losing my nerve.  And, besides, there wasn't time to talk.

"It took us more than an hour to reach the level where the village was,
and it was long after midnight when we, keeping in the shadow of the
cliff, started toward the bridge over the canyon, which led to the cave
where we thought we'd find the treasure.

"We'd got pretty near the bridge, Taggart and me in the lead, Nebraska
and Taylor stringing along behind, when I heard a sudden scuffling and
looked around.  It wasn't so dark on the level as it had been in the
woods, and I saw a dozen dark figures grouped around Nebraska and
Taylor.  The dark figures were all about us, and more were coming from
the huts, all yelling like devils.  And they were men, too; they'd been
hiding in the huts; they'd discovered us the day before and suspected
what we came for.  I found that out later.

"Well, for a few minutes there was plenty of excitement.  Taylor and
Nebraska had got pretty well behind us, and the Toltecs had cut them
off.  Taggart showed yellow.  I started back to help Nebraska and
Taylor, who had their knives out--I could see them shining--when
Taggart grabbed me.

"'Let's run for the bridge, you fool!' he said.  'It's every man for
himself now!'

"While I was scuffling with Taggart, trying to get away from him and
get back to the boys, a figure detached itself from the bunch around
them and came flying toward us.  It was a woman, I could see that in an
instant.  Taggart saw her coming, too; he must have known it was a
woman, but he pulled out his knife, and when she came close enough to
us he drove at her with it.  He missed her because I shoved him away.
He fell, and, while he was on the ground, the woman--or girl, because
she wasn't more than eighteen or nineteen--grabbed me by the arm and
jabbered to me in Spanish, of which I'd learned a little.

"'They're going to kill all of you!' she said.  'They've been watching
you for two days.  They left me to watch you yesterday.  I don't want
them to kill you--I like you!  Come!'

"She pulled at me, trying to drag me toward the bridge.  I didn't have
any objections to her liking me as much as she pleased, for she was a
beauty--I found that out afterward, of course; but though I couldn't
see her face very well just them, I liked her voice and knew she must
be good to look at.  But I didn't like the idea of leaving the other
boys, and told her so.

"'You'll all be killed, anyway,' she said, all excited.  'They might as
well die now as later.  They'll kill you, too, if you go back!'

"That was logic, all right, but I'd have gone back anyway if I hadn't
heard Nebraska and Taylor working their guns just then.  The Toltecs
broke and scattered--some of them.  Three or four of them couldn't
after the boys began to shoot.  Soon as the Toltecs broke away a
little, Nebraska and Taylor made for where we stood.  I saw them coming
and told the girl to lead us.  The three of us--the girl, Taggart, and
me--got to the bridge, which was a light, flimsy, narrow affair made of
two long, straight saplings lashed together with vines, with a couple
of strips of bark for a bottom--and crossed it.  Then we stood on the
ledge in front of the mouth of the cave, watching Nebraska and Taylor.
They were coming for all they were worth, shooting as they ran and
keeping the bunch of Toltecs at a respectable distance, though the
Toltecs were running parallel with them, trying to bring them down with
arrows.

"Nebraska and Taylor made the bridge.  They had got about half way over
when a dozen or so of the Toltecs threw themselves at the end of the
bridge which rested on the village side of the canyon, grabbed hold of
it, and pulled it off the ledge on our side.  I yelled to the boys and
jumped for the end of the bridge.  But I was too late.  The bridge
balanced for an instant, and then the end on which the boys were
standing started to sink.  Nebraska saw what was coming, off and jumped
for the ledge on which we were standing.  He missed it by five feet.
There wasn't a sound from his lips as he shot down into the awful
blackness of the canyon.  I got sick and dizzy, but not so sick that I
couldn't see what was happening to Taylor.  Taylor didn't jump for the
ledge.  He turned like a cat and grabbed a rail of the bridge, trying
to climb back to the level.  He'd have made it, too, but the Toltecs
wouldn't let him.  They jabbed at him with their spears and arrows and
threw knives at him.  One of the knives struck him in the shoulder, and
when I heard him scream I pulled my guns and began to shoot across the
canyon.  I hadn't thought of it before; there are times when a man's
brain refuses to work like he'd like to have it.  But the Toltecs
didn't mind the shooting a little bit.

"Three or four of them got hit and backed away from the edge of the
canyon, but there were enough others to do what they were trying to do,
and they did it.  I stood there, helpless, and saw them shove Taylor
off the bridge with their spears.  When he finally let go and went
turning over and over down into the black hole, my whole insides fanned
up into my throat.  That sensation has never left me; I wake up nights
seeing Taylor as he let go of the bridge, watching him sink, tumbling
over and over into that black gash, and I get sick and dizzy just as I
did that night.

"But just then I didn't have much of a chance to be sick long.  While I
was standing there wondering what to do I saw a Toltec priest come out
of the cave.  He had a spear in his hand and was sneaking up on
Taggart--who stood there almost fainting from fright.  There was murder
in the priest's eyes; I saw it and bent my gun on him.  The trigger
snapped on dead cartridges, and I yanked out my knife.  I'd have been
too late, at that.  But the girl saw the priest, and she dodged behind
him and gave him a shove.  He pitched out and went head first down into
the canyon.

"The Toltecs on the other side were watching, and they saw the priest
go.  Until now they hadn't shot at us, probably afraid of hitting the
girl, but when they saw her push the priest over the edge of the canyon
they saw that her sympathies were with us, and they let drive at us
with their arrows.  We were all slightly wounded--not enough to
mention--and we got back into the cave where their arrows couldn't
reach us.  Three or four times the Toltecs tried to swing the bridge
back into position, but they couldn't make it because there was no one
on our side to help them, and Taggart and me made things mighty
unpleasant for them with our sixes.  They finally went away and held a
council of war, which seemed to leave them undecided.  They evidently
hadn't figured on the girl turning traitor.  If she hadn't they'd have
got me and Taggart in short order.

"We'd got where the treasure was, all right, but it was a mighty bad
outlook for us.  We were kind of anxious about the bridge, being afraid
the Toltecs would get it back into place; but the girl, who called
herself Ezela, showed us that getting the bridge back wasn't possible
without help from our side.  She said that the priest she'd dumped down
into the canyon was the only one with the tribe at the time; the others
had gone to a distant village.  She said, too, that there was a secret
passage from the cave; she'd discovered it, and no one but her and the
priests knew anything about it, but that the Toltecs would send runners
for the priests and we'd have to get out before they came, or they'd
lay for us at the outlet.

"Well, we hustled.  We felt bad about Nebraska and Taylor, and were
determined not to leave without some of the treasure, and after Ezela
showed us where it was I kept her busy talking while Taggart got about
as much as he could carry.  Ezela offered no objections; on the other
hand, when Taggart came back she told me to get some of the treasure
too.  Taggart hadn't taken enough to miss; there were millions of
dollars' worth of gold and diamonds in the room, where they'd raised a
kind of an altar, and I had my choice.

"I took some of the gold, but what attracted me--not because it was
pretty, but because I saw in a minute that it was valuable--was a
hideous image about six inches high.  I had had an idea all along that
Queza had been lying about the diamonds, but when I saw the image I
knew he'd told the truth.  There were about a hundred diamonds on the
image, stuck all around it, the image itself being gold.  The diamonds
ran from a carat to seven or eight carats, and there was no question
about them being the real thing.  I stuck the thing into a hip pocket,
figuring that with the few other ornaments I had I would have plenty to
carry.  Then I went back to where Ezela and Taggart were waiting for me.

"Ezela led us through a long, narrow passage, down some steps to
another passage, and pretty soon we were sneaking along this and I
began to get a whiff of fresh air.  In a little while we found
ourselves on a narrow ledge in the canyon, about thirty or forty feet
below the level where the bridge had been, and it was so dark down
there that we couldn't see one another.

"Ezela whispered to us to follow her, and to be careful.  We had to be
careful, and after what had happened, crawling along that ledge wasn't
the most cheerful job in the world.  It would have been a ticklish
thing to do in the daytime, but at night it was a thousand times worse.
I kept thinking about poor Taylor and Nebraska, and there were times
when I felt that I just had to yell and jump out into the black hole
around us.  Taggart showed it worse than me.  It took us an hour to
traverse that ledge.  We'd strike a short turn where there wouldn't be
more than six or eight inches of ledge between us and eternity, and we
couldn't see a thing--I've thought since that maybe it was a good thing
we couldn't.  But we could feel the width of the ledge with our feet,
and there were times when my legs shook under me like I had the ague.
Taggart was pretty near collapse all the time.  He kept mumbling to
himself, making queer little throaty noises and grabbing at me.  Two or
three times I had to turn and talk to him, or he'd have let go all
holds and jumped.

"We finally made solid ground, and it was a full hour before me or
Taggart could get up after we'd sat down, we were that tuckered out.
The girl didn't seem to mind it a bit; she told me she'd discovered the
secret passage that way.  She'd been nosing around the mountain one day
and had crept along the edge, finding that it led to the treasure cave.

"There wasn't any time lost by us in getting away from that place.
Ezela told us there wasn't any use hoping that Nebraska and Taylor were
alive, because the canyon was over a thousand feet deep and there was a
roaring river at the bottom.  I don't like to think of that fall.

"Taggart objected to Ezela going with us, but I couldn't think of
letting her stay to be punished by her tribe for what she'd
done--they'd have burned her, sure, she said.  Besides, I may as well
tell the truth, I'd got to liking Ezela a good bit by this time.  She
was good to look at, and she'd been hanging around me, telling me that
she wanted to go with us, and that she'd done what she had for my sake,
because she liked me.  All that sort of stuff plays on a man's vanity
when it comes from a pretty girl, and it didn't take me long to decide
that I was in love with her and that, aside from humane reasons, I
ought to take her with me.  So I took her.

"We reached the boat after a week of heart-breaking travel, and we
hadn't got over two miles out in the bay when we saw that we hadn't
left any too soon.  A hundred or so Toltecs were on the beach, doing a
war dance and waving their spears at us.  We had a pretty close call of
it for grub, but we made a little town on the gulf and stocked up, and
then we headed for the mouth of the Rio Grande.  We camped one night a
week later on United States soil, and that night while I was asleep
Taggart tried to knife me.  I'd showed Taggart the diamond image one
day while Ezela was asleep in the boat, and he'd got greedy for it.
Ezela screamed when she saw him getting close to me with the knife, and
I woke in time to grab him before he got a chance to get the knife into
me.  He finally broke away, leaving all the treasure he'd brought
except a little that he had in his pockets--he'd had a bundle of it
strapped to his belt besides that--and I didn't see him again for four
years.

"I took Ezela up the Pecos to the Connors', where I'd left you, bought
a wagon and horses and a few things--bedding and grub and such
stuff--and lit out for New Mexico.  I figured that I had enough of the
kind of friends I'd been keeping, and I didn't want to be ridiculed for
tying up to an Indian girl--white folks don't like to see that.  I came
here and took up this land, figuring that I wouldn't be disturbed.  I'd
been here four years when Taggart came.  I'd sold some of the treasure,
but, for some reason which I've never been able to figure out, I kept
the idol.  I think I was afraid to try to sell it on account of the big
diamonds in it.

"I gave Taggart the treasure he'd left behind the night he tried to
knife me, but he wasn't satisfied; he wanted more, wanted me to sell
the Toltec image and split with him.  Of course I wouldn't do that
because of the way he'd acted, and he swore to get it some day.

"He took up some land about fifteen miles down the river, and he's
stayed there ever since.  I've been afraid to go anywhere with the idol
for fear he'd waylay me and get it.  One day while I was away somewhere
he came here and told Ezela about me having the idol.  From that time
on I led a life of hell.  Ezela turned on me.  She said I'd desecrated
the altars of her tribe, and she kept harping to me about it until I
got so I couldn't bear the sight of her.

"I discovered soon after we came here that I had been mistaken in
thinking I had loved her--what I had thought was love was merely
gratitude.  My gratitude didn't last, of course, with her hounding me
continually about the idol.  Finally I discovered that she and Taggart
were plotting against me.  Of course, Taggart was after the image
himself.  He didn't care anything about her religious scruples, but he
made her believe he sympathized with her, and made a fool of her.  I
tried to kill Taggart the day I found that out, but he got away, and
after that he never traveled alone and I didn't get another chance.  I
ordered Ezela away, but she said she wouldn't go until she got the
image.  Many times I debated the idea of putting her out of the way,
but there was always the knowledge in my mind that she had saved my
life, and I hadn't the heart to do it.

"You know how we lived.  My life was constantly in danger, and I became
hardened, suspicious, brutal.  You got the whole accumulation.  Taggart
and Ezela bribed my men to watch me.  I had to discharge them.  After
Ezela died I thought Taggart would leave me alone.  But he didn't--he
wanted the image.  One day he and his boy Neal came over and ambushed
me.  They shot me in the shoulder.  I was in the house, defending
myself as best I could, when Malcolm Clayton came.  By this time Betty
has told you the rest and you know just what you can expect from the
Taggarts.

"That is the whole history of the Toltec idol.  I am not proud of my
part in the affair, but Tom Taggart must never have the idol.  Remember
that!  I don't want him to have it!  Neither do I want you to have it,
or the money I leave, unless you can show that you forgive me.  As I
have said, I don't take your word for it--you must prove it.

"I know you are coming home, and I wish I could live to see you.  But I
know I won't.  Don't be too hard on me.  Your father,

"JAMES MARSTON."



CHAPTER IX

RESPONSIBILITY

For a long time after he had completed the reading of the letter,
Calumet was silent, staring straight ahead of him.  The information
contained in the account of his father's adventures was soothing--the
termagant who had presided over his boyhood destinies had not been his
real mother, and his father had left him a score to settle.  He already
hated the Taggarts, not particularly because they were his father's
enemies, but rather because Tom Taggart had been a traitor.  He felt a
contempt for him.  He himself was mean and vicious--he knew that.  But
he had never betrayed a friend.  It was better to have no friend than
to have one and betray him.  He looked around to see that Betty was
still apparently absorbed in her book.

"Do you know what is in this letter?" he said.

She laid the book in her lap and nodded affirmatively.

"You opened it, I suppose?" he sneered.

"No," she returned, unmoved.  "Your father read it to me."

"Kind of him, wasn't it?  What do you think of it?"

"What I think isn't important.  What do you think of it?"

"Nosey, eh?" he jeered.  "If it won't inconvenience you any, I'll keep
what I think of it to myself.  But it's plain to me now that when you
caught me tryin' to guzzle your granddad you thought I belonged to the
Taggart bunch.  You told me I'd have to try again--or somethin' like
that.  I reckon you thought I was after the idol?"

"Yes."

"Then the Taggarts have tried to get it since you've been here?"

"Many times."

"But you left the front door open the night I came," insinuated
Calumet, his eyes glowing subtly.  "That looks like you was invitin'
someone to come in an' get the idol."

"We never bother much about barring the doors.  Besides, I don't
remember to have told you that the idol is in the house," she smiled.

He looked at her with a baffled sneer.  "Foxy, ain't you?"  He folded
the letter and placed it into a pocket, she watching him silently.  Her
gaze fell on the injured arm; she saw the angry red streaks spreading
from beneath the crude bandage and she got up, laying her book down and
regarding him with determined eyes.

"Please come out into the kitchen with me," she said; "I am going to
take care of your arm."

He looked up at her with a glance of cold mockery.  "When did you get
my permission to take care of it?  It don't need any carin' for.  An'
if it did, I reckon to be able to do my own doctorin'."

She looked at him steadily and something in her gaze made him feel
uncomfortable.

"Don't be silly," she said.  She turned and went out into the kitchen.
He could hear her working over the stove.  He saw her cross the room
with a tea kettle, fill it with water from a pail, return and place the
kettle on the stove.  He was determined that he would not allow her to
dress the wound, but when ten minutes later she appeared in the kitchen
door and told him she was ready, he got up and went reluctantly out.

She washed the arm, bathing the wound with a solution of water and some
medicine which she poured from a bottle, and then bandaged it with some
white cloth.  Neither said anything until after she had delicately tied
a string around the bandage to keep it in place, and then she stepped
back and regarded her work with satisfaction.

"There," she said; "doesn't that feel better?"

"Some," he returned, grudgingly.  He stood up and watched her while she
spread a cloth partly over the table and placed some dishes and food
upon it.  He was hungry, and the sight of the food made him feel
suddenly ravenous.  He watched her covertly, noting her matter-of-fact
movements.  It was as though she had not the slightest idea that he
would refuse to eat, and he felt certain that he could not refuse.  She
was making him feel uncomfortable again; that epithet, "silly," rankled
in him and he did not want to hear her apply it to him again.  But he
would have risked it had she looked at him.  She did not look at him.
When she had finally arranged everything to suit her taste she turned
her back and walked to the door of the dining-room.

"There is your supper," she said quietly.  "I have fixed up your room
for you--the room you occupied before you left home.  I am going to
leave the light burning in the dining-room--you might want to read your
letter again.  Blow the light out when you go to bed.  Good night."

He grumbled an incoherent reply, turning his back to her.  Her calm,
unruffled acceptance of his incivility filled him with a cold
resentment.

"What did you say?" she demanded of him from the door.

He turned sullenly.  The light mockery in her voice stung him, shamed
him--her eyes, dancing with mischief, held his.

"Good night," he said shortly.

"Good night," she said again.  She laughed and vanished.

For an instant Calumet stood, scowling at the vacant doorway.  Then he
turned and went over to the table in the kitchen, looking down at the
food and the dishes.  She had compelled him to be civil.  He gripped
one end of the table cloth, and for an instant it seemed as though he
meditated dumping dishes and food upon the floor.  Then he grinned,
grimly amused, and sat in the chair before the table, taking up knife
and fork.

Early as he arose the next morning, he found that Betty had been before
him.  He saw her standing on the rear porch when he went out to care
for his horse, and she smiled and called a greeting to him, which he
answered soberly.

For some reason which he could not explain he felt a little reluctance
toward going into the kitchen for breakfast this morning.  Yet he did
go, though he waited outside until Betty came to the door and called
him.  He was pretending to be busy at his saddle, though he knew this
was a pretext to cover his submission to her.  He did not move toward
the house until she vanished within it.

He was quiet during the meal, wondering at the change that had come
over him, for he felt a strange resignation.  He told himself that it
was gratitude for her action in caring for his injured arm, and yet he
watched her narrowly for any sign that would tell him that she was
aware of his thoughts and was enjoying him.  But he was able to
determine nothing from her face, for though she smiled often there was
nothing in her face at which he could take offense.  She devoted much
of her time and attention to Bob.  And Bob talked to Calumet.  There
was something about the boy that attracted Calumet, and before the meal
ended they were conversing companionably.  But toward the conclusion of
the meal, when in answer to something Bob said to him he smiled at the
boy, he saw Betty looking at him with a glance of mingled astonishment
and pleasure, he sobered and ceased talking.  He didn't want to do
anything to please Betty.

He was saddling Blackleg after breakfast, intending to go down the
river a short distance, when he became aware that Betty was standing
near him.  Without a word she handed him a bulky envelope with his name
written on it.  He took it, tore open an end, and a piece of paper,
enclosing several bills, slipped out.  He shot a quick glance at Betty;
she was looking at him unconcernedly.  He counted the bills; there were
ten one hundred dollar gold certificates.

"What's this for?" he demanded.

"Read the letter," she directed.

He unfolded the paper.  It read:


"MY DEAR SON: The money in this envelope is to be used by you in buying
material to be used to repair the ranchhouse.  I have prepared an
itemized list of the necessary materials, which Betty will give you.
Your acceptance of the task imposed on you will indicate that you
intend to fulfill my wishes.  It will also mean that you seriously
contemplate an attempt at reform.  The fact that you receive this money
shows that you are already making progress, for you would never get it
if Betty thought you didn't deserve it, or were not worthy of a trial.
I congratulate you.

"YOUR FATHER."


"Got it all framed up on me, eh?" said Calumet.  "So you think I've
made progress, an' that I'm goin' to do what you want me to do?"

"Your progress hasn't been startling," she said dryly.  "But you _have_
progressed.  At least, you have shown some inclination to listen to
reason.  Here is the itemized list which your father speaks of."  She
passed over another paper, which Calumet scanned slowly and carefully.
His gaze became fixed on the total at the bottom of the column of
figures.

"It amounts to nine hundred and sixty dollars," he said, looking at
her, a disgusted expression on his face.  "Looks like the old fool was
mighty careless with his money.  Couldn't he have put down another item
to cover that forty dollars?"

"I believe that margin was left purposely to take care of a possible
advance in prices over those with which your father was familiar at the
time he made out the list," she answered, smiling in appreciation of
his perturbation.

"That's keepin' cases pretty close, ain't it?" he said.  "Suppose I'd
blow the whole business?"

"That would show that you could not be trusted.  Your father left
instructions which provide for that contingency."

"What are they?"

"I am not to tell."

"Clever, ain't it?" he said, looking at her with displeased, hostile
eyes.  She met his gaze with a calm half-smile which had in it that
irritating quality of advantage that he had noticed before.

"I am glad you think it clever," she returned.

"It was your idea, I reckon?"

"I believe I did suggest it to your father.  He was somewhat at a loss
to know how to deal with you.  He told me that he had some doubts about
the scheme working; he said you would take it and 'blow' it in, as you
said you might, but I disagreed with him.  I was convinced that you
would do the right thing."

"You had a lot of faith in me, didn't you?" he said, incredulously.
"You believed in a man you'd never seen."

"Your father had a picture of you," she said, looking straight at him.
"It was taken when you were fifteen, just before you left the ranch.
It showed a boy with a cynical face and brooding, challenging eyes.
But in spite of all that I thought I detected signs of promise in the
face.  I was certain that if you were managed right you could be
reformed."

"You _were_ certain," he said significantly.  "What do you think now?"

"I haven't altered my opinion."  Her gaze was steady and challenging.
"Of course," she added, blushing faintly; "I believe I was a little
surprised when you came and I saw that you had grown to be a man.  You
see, I had looked at your picture so often that I rather expected to
see a boy when you came.  I had forgotten those thirteen years.  But it
has been said that a man is merely a grown-up boy and there is much
truth in that.  Despite your gruff ways, your big voice, and your
contemptible way of treating people, you are very much a boy.  But I am
still convinced that you are all right at heart.  I think everybody is,
and the good could be brought forward if someone would take enough
interest in the subject."

"Then you take an interest in me?" said Calumet, grinning scornfully.

"Yes," she said frankly; "to the extent of wondering whether or not
time will vindicate my judgment."

"Then you think I won't blow this coin?" he said, tapping the bills.

"I think you will spend it for the articles on the list I have given
you."

He looked at her and she was certain there was indecision in the glance.

"Well," he said abruptly, turning from her; "mebbe I will an' mebbe I
won't.  But whatever I do with it will be done to suit myself.  It
won't be done to please you."

He mounted his pony and rode to the far end of the ranchhouse yard.
When he turned in the saddle it was with the conviction that Betty
would be standing there watching him.  Somehow, he wished she would.
But she was walking toward the ranchhouse, her back to him, and he made
a grimace of disappointment as he urged his pony out into the valley.



CHAPTER X

NEW ACQUAINTANCES

Calumet had been in no hurry, though maintaining its steady chop-trot
for most of the distance, Blackleg had set him down in Lazette in a
little over two hours.

Something had happened to Calumet.  He had carefully considered the
phenomenon all the way over from the Lazy Y; he considered it now as he
sat sideways in the saddle before the rough board front of the Red Dog
Saloon.  Betty had faith in him.  That was the phenomenon--the unheard
of miracle.  No one else had ever had faith in him, and so it was a new
experience and one that must be thoroughly pondered if he was to enjoy
it.  And that he was enjoying it was apparent.  Though he faced the Red
Dog Saloon he did not see it.  He kept seeing Betty as she looked after
she had given him the money.  "I know you will do the right thing," she
had said, or something very like that.  It made no difference what her
words had been.  What she meant was that she had faith in him.  And her
eyes had said that she expected him to justify that faith.

But would he?  He didn't know.  For the first time in his life he was
afflicted with indecision over the possession of money.  In the old
days--the Durango days--which now seemed to be far behind him, the
thousand dollars in his pocket would have served to finance a brief
holiday of license and drinking and reckless play with gambling
devices.  But now it was different--something within him had called--or
was calling--a halt.  He told himself that it was because he had a
curiosity to follow this strange, freakish plan of Betty's to the end.

Some other emotion was calling just as strongly for him to do with the
money as he had always done with money.  And so indecision afflicted
him.  Humor likewise.  He rarely felt in this mood.  Not for years had
he felt like laughing.  Was he the Calumet Marston who, a week before,
had set out on his homeward journey filled with bitterness--looking for
trouble?  Had he been at the Lazy Y a day or a year?  It was a day--two
days--but it seemed more like the longer time.  At least the time had
wrought a change in him.  It was ludicrous, farcical.  In spite of his
treatment of Betty she had faith in him!  Wasn't that just like a
woman?  There was nothing logical in her.  She had taken him on trust.
The whole business was in the nature of a comedy and suddenly yielding
to his feelings he straightened in the saddle and laughed uproariously.

He did not laugh long, and when he sobered down and with an effort
brought his mind back to the present, he became aware of the Red Dog,
saw a young cowpuncher seated on the board sidewalk in front of the
building, his back resting against it, laughing in sympathy with him.

Calumet was disconcerted for a moment.  His eyes narrowed truculently.
But then, as the oddness of the situation struck him he laughed again.
But this time as he laughed he took stock of the young cowpuncher, who
was again laughing with him.

The puncher was young--very young; not more than twenty-one or two.
There was a week's growth of beard on his face.  A saddle reposed by
his side.  In spite of his laughter something about him spoke
eloquently of trouble.  Calumet felt a sudden interest in him.  Any man
who could laugh when the world was not doing well with him must be made
of good stuff.  But Calumet's interest was cynical and it brought a
sneer to his lips as he ceased laughing and sat loosely in the saddle
regarding the puncher.

"I reckon you ain't got no objections to tellin' me what you're
laughin' at?" he said coldly.

"Mebbe you'd put me wise to the same thing," said the other.  "I'm
settin' here, puttin' in a heap of my time tryin' to figger out who got
the most of the six months' wages which I had with me when I struck
town yesterday--an' not makin' a hell of a lot of progress--when you
mosey up here an' begin to laugh your fool head off.  At nothin', so
far's I can see.  Well, that's what I was laughin' at.  Ketch my drift?"

"Meanin' that I'm nothin', I reckon?"

"Meanin' that you was laughin' at it," said the puncher with a
deprecatory smile.  "I ain't lookin' for trouble--I'm it!"

Calumet's eyes twinkled.  This was a very discerning young man.
"Cleaned out, I reckon," he said.  "You look old enough to _sabe_ that
playin' with a buzz saw is mild amusement compared with buckin' a
gambler's game."

"Got singed yourself, I reckon," said the puncher wearily.  "You know
the signs.  Well, you've hit it.  They'd have got my saddle, too,
only--only they didn't seem to want it.  There's still charity in the
world, after all--some guys don't want everything.  So I'm considerin'
the saddle a gift.  It's likely, though, that they thought that if they
left me the saddle I'd go right out an' rustle me another job an' earn
some more coin an' come back an' hand that over, too.  But they've got
me wrong.  Your little Dade Hallowell has swore off.  He ain't never
goin' to get the idea again that he's a simon-pure, dyed-in-the-wool
card sharp."

"Another job?  Then you're disconnected at present?"

"I'm free as the water.  Ugh!" he shivered.  "I couldn't even wash my
face in it this mornin'.  Water's a weak sister after last night."  His
expression changed.  "I reckon you're in clover, though.  Any man which
can laugh to hisself as you was laughin', certainly ain't botherin' his
head about much."

This quick turn of the conversation brought Calumet's thoughts back to
Betty.  "Looks is deceivin'," he said.  "I've got a heap of burden on
my mind.  I've got a thousand dollars which is botherin' me
considerable."

The puncher sat erect, his eyes bulging.

"You've got a thousand!" he said  "Oh, Lordy!  An' you're botherin'
about it?"

"It ain't none of your business, of course," said Calumet.  "An' I
reckon I'm tellin' you about it so's you'll feel mean about losin' your
own.  But mebbe not.  Mebbe I'm tellin' you about it because I've got
somethin' else in mind.  When I first seen you I was filled clear to
the top with doubt.  If you had my thousand what would you do with it?"

"Meanin' that if I had your thousand an' was in your place?"

"I reckon."

"That would depend," said the puncher, cautiously.  "If I'd robbed a
man, or held up a stage coach, or busted a bank, I'd be burnin' the
breeze out of the country.  But if I'd earned it honest I'd blow myself
proper, beginnin' by settin' 'em up to a fool guy which had give all
his coin to some card sharps yesterday."

"None of them things fill the bill," said Calumet.  "This thousand was
give to me by a woman.  I'm to buy things with it--horses, wagon,
lumber, hardware, an' such truck."

"Shucks," said the puncher, disappointedly.  Over his face settled a
glum expression.  "Then you ain't got no right to spend it--for
anything but what she told you about.  You'd be worse'n a thief to
squander that money."

Calumet looked keenly at him.  "I reckon you're more'n half right.
You've settled a thing in my mind.  If you're hangin' around here when
I get through buyin' them things I'll be settin' them up to you.  If
I've got anything left."  He abruptly broke off and urged his pony
about, leaving the puncher to look after him speculatively.

Two hours later he returned, driving two horses which were hitched to a
wagon of the "prairie-schooner" variety.  The wagon was loaded with
lumber and sundry kegs, boxes and packages.  Calumet's pony trailed it.

The puncher was still where Calumet had left him--apparently he had not
moved.  But when he saw Calumet halt the horses in front of him and
jump out of the wagon he got to his feet.  He met Calumet's gaze with a
sober, interested smile.

"That wagon of yours is speakin' mighty loud of work," he said.  "Back
in Texas I used to be counted uncommon clever with a saw an' hammer.
If you can rassle them two statements around to look them in the face
you can see what I'm drivin' at."

"What do you think you are worth to a man who ain't got no authority to
do any hirin'?" said Calumet.

"Ain't you the boss?" said Dade, disappointedly.

"The boss is a woman.  If you're wantin' to work you can come along.
You'll have to take your chance.  Otherwise--"

"I'll go you," said the puncher.  He threw his saddle into the wagon.
"You said somethin' about a drink," he added, "if you had anything
left.  I'm hopin'--"

Calumet hesitated.

"Just one," said Dade.  "Mebbe two.  Not more than three--or four.  If
your ranch is far--"

"Twenty miles."

"About two, then," suggested Dade.  "You wouldn't feel satisfied to
know that it was here an' you left it."

"Well, then, get a move on you," growled Calumet.  He followed Dade
into the Red Dog.

It was quiet in the barroom.  Three men sat at a table near the center
of the room, laughing and talking.  They looked up with casual interest
as Dade and Calumet entered, favored them with quick, appraising
glances, and then resumed their talk and laughter.  Behind the bar the
proprietor waited, indolently watching.

"I'll take red-eye," said Dade; "the same that made me think I was a
sure enough gambler last night.  Did you ever notice," he added,
turning to Calumet, who was filling his glass, "what a heap of
confidence whisky will give a man?  Take me, last night.  Things was
lookin' rosy.  Them gamblers looked like plumb easy pickin'.  The more
whisky I drank the easier they looked, until--"

"Have another drink," invited the proprietor, for it was at one of his
tables that Dade had played.  His smile was bland and his manner suave
and smooth.  He shoved a bottle toward Dade.  At the same time he
looked with interest upon Calumet.

"Stranger here, I reckon?" he said.  "I seen you loadin' a heap of
stuff into your wagon.  What's your ranch?"

"The Lazy Y."

The proprietor started and peered closer at Calumet.  "That's old
Marston's place, ain't it?"  To Calumet's slow nod, he continued:
"Betty Clayton's runnin' it now.  They say old Marston was the meanest
old coyote that ever--"

Calumet's gaze was level and direct, and the proprietor shrank under
its cold malignance.  Calumet leaned forward.  "You're talkin' to the
old coyote's son right now," he said.  "An' you can speak right out
loud in meetin' an' say that you was gassin' through your hat!"

The proprietor paled, then reddened.  "I'm beggin' your pardon," he
said.  "I reckon--you see--there's been talk--"

"Sure," said Calumet.  He smiled.  It was the smile of reluctant
tolerance.  "Just talk," he added.  "But it won't be healthy
talk--hereafter."

"Have another drink," invited the proprietor, and he pulled a
handkerchief from a pocket and wiped the sudden perspiration from his
forehead.  Then he retreated to the far end of the bar, from whence he
tried to appear unconcerned.

Dade finished his drink and set the glass down.  But he was visibly
excited.

"Betty Clayton," he said, looking sharply at Calumet.  "Has she got a
granddad named Malcolm Clayton, an' a brother Bob?"

"That's her."  Calumet returned Dade's sharp glance.  "What's eatin'
you?  Know her?  Know Bob?  Know Malcolm?"

"Know them!" said Dade.  "Why, man, they was neighbors of mine in
Texas!"

Calumet's eyes narrowed.  A pulse of some strong emotion was revealed
in his face, but it was instantly subdued.  "That's joyful news--for
you.  So you know her?  It's likely she'll be glad to see you."

Dade was mystified by his tone.  "I reckon I ain't gettin' this thing
just right," he said.  "You told me Betty was runnin' the ranch, an'
you tell this man that you're the son of the man that owns it.  I don't
see--"

Calumet smiled saturninely.  "Take another drink," he advised.  He
shoved the bottle toward Dade.  "This is your fourth.  Then we'll be
hittin' the breeze to the Lazy Y.  Betty'll be lonesome without me."
He laughed raucously, filled his glass and drank its contents.  Then he
turned from the bar and walked toward the door.  Half way to it, Dade
following him, he halted, for the voice of a man who sat at a table
reached him.

"Aw, Taggart," it said loudly, "you're crowdin' the ante a little,
ain't you?"  The speaker laughed.  "They tell me that Betty Clayton
ain't no man's fool.  An' here you say--"  The rest of it was drowned
in a laugh that followed, the other two men joining the speaker.

"Stuck on me, I tell you!" said another voice, and Calumet, half turned
toward the table, saw the speaker's face.  It was the face of an
egotist--the vain, sensuous visage of a man in whom the animal
instincts predominated--the face of the rider that Calumet had seen on
the hill in the valley on the day of his return--the face of the man
who had shot at him.  The man was good-looking in a coarse, vulgar way,
and dissipated, gross, self-sufficient.  Calumet's eyes narrowed with
dislike as he looked at him.  There was interest in his glance, too,
for this was his father's enemy--his enemy.  But after the first look
his face became inscrutable.  He turned to see Dade standing beside
him.  Dade was rigid, pale; his body was in a half-crouch and there was
an expression of cold malignance on his face.  Quickly Calumet placed
both hands on the young man's shoulders and shoved him back against the
bar, thrusting his own body between him and Taggart.

"Easy there," he warned in a whisper.  "He's my meat."

Dade caught the mirthless smile on his lips and looked at him
curiously, his attitude still belligerent.

"He's talkin' about Betty, the damned skunk!" he objected.  His voice
was a low, throaty whisper and it did not carry to the table where the
three men sat.

"He was sure talkin' about her," said Calumet inexpressively.  "An'
I'll admit that any man who talks that way about a woman is what you've
called him.  But it's my funeral," he added, his voice suddenly cold
and hard, "an' you ain't buttin' in, whatever happens.  Buy yourself
another drink," he suggested; "you look flustered.  I'm havin' a talk
with Taggart."

He left Dade standing at the bar looking at him wonderingly, and made
his way slowly to the table where Taggart sat.  Taggart was drinking
when Calumet reached his side, and Dade stood tense, awaiting the
expected clash.

But none came.  Calumet's grin as he nodded to Taggart was almost
friendly, and his voice was soft, even--almost gentle.

"I heard one of these man call you Taggart," he said.  "I reckon you're
from the Arrow?"

Taggart leaned back in his chair and insolently surveyed his
questioner.  What he saw in Calumet's face made his own pale a little.

"I'm Taggart," he said shortly--"Neal Taggart.  What you wantin' of me?"

Calumet smiled.  "Nothin' much," he said.  "I thought mebbe you'd like
to know me.  We're neighbors, you know.  I'm Marston--Calumet Marston,
of the Lazy Y."

The color receded entirely from Taggart's face, leaving it with a queer
pallor.  He abruptly shoved back his chair and stood, his eyes alert
and fearful as his right hand stole slowly toward the butt of the
pistol at his hip.  Calumet's right hand did not seem to move, but
before Taggart could get his weapon free of its holster he saw the
sombre muzzle of a forty-five frowning at him from Calumet's hip and he
quickly drew his own hand away--empty.

"Shucks," Calumet's voice came slowly into the silence that had
fallen--slowly and softly and with apparently genuine deprecation.  "If
I'd known that you was goin' to get that excited I'd have broke the
news different.  I don't know what you're gettin' at, trying to drag
your gun out that way.  I was hopin' we'd be friends.  We ought to, you
know, bein' neighbors."

"Friends?"  Taggart stepped back a pace and looked at Calumet
incredulously, his eyes searching for signs of insincerity.  He saw no
such signs, for if Calumet had emotion at this minute it was too deep
to be uncovered with a glance.  But he knew from Taggart's perturbation
that the latter knew him to be the man he had shot at that day in the
valley.

Obviously, he had not then had any suspicion as to his identity--his
surprise showed that he had not.  And his half-fearful, puzzled looks
at Calumet indicated to the latter that he was wondering whether
Calumet recognized him as the man who had done the shooting.

Calumet's smile was cordial, inviting, even slightly ingratiating, and
watching him closely Taggart was convinced that he was not recognized.
Also he was certain that Calumet could not have learned anything of the
trouble between their parents.  Yet Betty knew, and if Betty hadn't
told him there must be something between them--dislike or greed on
Betty's part--and a smile appeared on his face as he remembered that he
had heard his father say that Calumet had been vicious and unmanageable
in his youth.  He must be at odds with Betty.

And Betty--well, a shyster lawyer in Las Vegas had told Taggart
something about a will which old Marston had made, in which Betty had
been named as beneficiary of the property in case Calumet failed to
agree to certain specifications, and Taggart was ready to believe that
Betty would not hesitate to bring about an open clash with Calumet in
order to gain control of the ranch.  This thought filled Taggart with a
savage exultation.  He and his father had made very little progress in
their past attacks on the Lazy Y, and if it were possible to set
Calumet against Betty there might come an opportunity to drive a wedge
which would make an opening--the opening they had long sought for.  At
all events he would have considered himself a fool if he failed to take
advantage of this opportunity to ingratiate himself into the good
nature of this man.

"Well, that's right, I reckon," he said.  "There ain't no reason that I
know of why we shouldn't be friends.  I'm right glad to see you."  He
stuck out his right hand, but it appeared that Calumet did not notice
it, for he laughed as he replaced the pistol in its holster.

"Same here," he said.  "If you're passin' the Lazy Y any time, drop in
an' visit.  I'm fixin' her up a few--enough so's I can live in the old
shack."

Taggart had noted with a lowering frown Calumet's omission of the
proffered handshake, but the cordial good nature of the smile on the
latter's face was unmistakable, and he grinned in reply.

"I'll sure do that," he said.

"I'll be right glad to have you," said Calumet.  "Come tomorrow--in the
afternoon--any time."

"You reckonin' on bein' the boss now?" questioned Taggart.

Some emotion flickered Calumet's eyelashes.  "You've said somethin',"
he returned; "nobody's runnin' me."  He turned and walked to Dade, who
had been watching him with wrath and astonishment.

"Drinkin'?" suggested Taggart.  "Have a drink, old man," he said, with
celluloid good fellowship.

Calumet turned with a grin.  "Me an' my friend has got to the end of
our capacity," he said.  "He's workin' for me an I ain't settin' him a
bad example.  The next time, if you're in the humor, I'll be glad to
drink all you can buy."  He waved a hand behind him, with the other he
was pushing Dade before him toward the door.  "So-long," he said, as he
and Dade went out.

Taggart laughed as he turned to his companions, who had said nothing
during the conversation.

"Friends!" he said; "he's green an' due for a shock!"

Either Taggart or the proprietor had made a mistake in their estimate
of Calumet.  For at the instant Taggart had sneered at Calumet to his
friends, the bartender, who had come in while Taggart and Calumet had
been talking, leaned over to listen to the proprietor.

"In Taggart's place," said the proprietor, "I'd be mighty careful of
that man.  Friend, eh?  Well, mebbe.  But you noticed that he didn't
offer to shake hands with Taggart.  An' he wouldn't drink.  Reached his
capacity!  He had four in here.  Sober as a judge!  Did you notice his
eyes?  They fair made me shiver when he looked at me when I was talkin'
about his old man.  I'm goin' to be damn careful about my palaver after
this.  Friend!  Well, if I wasn't his friend I'd be damn careful not to
rile him!"

Outside Dade halted, white hot with rage.

"I reckon I ain't got no job with you, you white-livered--"

The muzzle of Calumet's forty-five, magically produced, it seemed, so
quickly did it show in his hand, was making an icy ring against Dade's
throat, and the words, the epithet for which he had hesitated, remained
unspoken.  Metallic, venomous and filled with a threat of death came
Calumet's voice.

"You sufferin' fool!" he said, the words writhing through his lips, his
eyes blazing.  "It's my game, do you hear?  An' if you gas another word
about it I'll tear you apart!"

"He was blackguardin' Betty," objected Dade, his face ashen, but his
spirit still undaunted.  "He was blackguardin' her an' you made friends
with him.  I'd have salivated him if I'd thought you wasn't goin' to.
I'm goin' back there now an'--"

Calumet stepped back a pace and cocked his six-shooter.  "I reckon I
can't make you understand that it's my game," he said coldly.  "Walk
backwards when you go in," he directed; "I don't want to plug you in
the back."

Dade started and looked intently at Calumet.  "You mean that it ain't
ended between you an' him?" he demanded.

"Some people would have tumbled to that long ago," jeered Calumet.
"But kids--kids take longer to _sabe_ a thing.  I'm glad you're over
it," he added.  He sheathed his pistol.  "I reckon we'll be goin'," he
said.  "Betty'll begin to believe I'm lost."

Dade followed him to the wagon, meekly enough now that he had received
unmistakable proof that Taggart was Calumet's "game," and shortly
afterward the wagon pulled out of Lazette and struck the trail toward
the Lazy Y.



CHAPTER XI

PROGRESS

Calumet had some thoughts on the subject but they were all inchoate and
unsatisfying.  He got only one conclusion out of them--that for some
mysterious reason he had surrendered to Betty and was going to work to
repair the ranchhouse.

On the morning following his visit to Lazette he sat on a piece of
heavy timber which he and Dade had lifted a few minutes before to some
saw-horses preparatory to framing.  Armed with a scratch awl and a
square Dade was at the other end of the timber, his hat shoved back
from his forehead while he ran his fingers through his hair as though
pondering some weighty problem.  Watching him, Calumet suffered a
recurrence of that vague disquiet which had moved him the night before
when he had listened to the cordial greeting which Betty had given the
young man.  Old friendship had been between the two and somehow it had
disturbed Calumet.  He did not know why.  He didn't like Betty, but at
the same time every smile that she had given Dade the night before had
caused some strange emotion to grip him.  And he liked Dade, too.  He
couldn't understand that, either.

He had never been friendly with any man.  But something about Dade
appealed to him; he felt tolerant toward him, was mildly interested in
him.  He thought it was because Dade was boyish and impulsive.
Whatever it was, he knew of its existence.  It was not a deep feeling;
it was like the emotion that moves a large animal to permit a smaller
one to remain near it--a grudging tolerance which may develop into
sincere friendship or at a flash turn into a furious hatred.  And so
Dade's security depended entirely upon how he conducted himself.  If he
kept out of Calumet's way, all well and good.  But if he interfered
with him, if, for instance, he became too friendly with Betty, there
would come an end to Calumet's tolerance.

And so there was a glint of speculative distrust in Calumet's eyes as
he sat and watched Dade ponder.  Calumet was in no good humor.  He felt
like baiting Dade.

"What you clawin' your head that way for?" he suddenly demanded as Dade
continued to puzzle over his problem.

Dade grinned.  "I'm goin' to halve these sills together.  But I'm
wantin' to make sure that the halves will be made reverse, so's they'll
fit.  An' I don't seem to be able to fix it clear in my mind."

"You was braggin' some on bein' a carpenter."

"I reckon I wasn't doin' no braggin'," denied Dade, reddening a little.

Calumet fixed a hostile eye on him.  "Braggin' goes," he said shortly.
"If you'd said you was a barber, now, no one would expect you to fit
any sills together.  But when you say you've done carpenter work that
makes it different.  You ought to _sabe_ sills."

Dade laid his square and scratch awl down on the piece of timber and
deliberately seated himself on the saw-horse beside it.  He looked
defiantly at Calumet.  A change had come over him from the day
before--the slight deference in his manner had become succeeded by
something unyielding and hard.

"Let's get on an understandin'," he said.  "You can't go to pickin' on
me."  And he looked fairly into Calumet's eyes over the length of the
timber.

"I'm gassin' to suit myself," said Calumet; "if that don't size up
right to you you can pull your freight."

"You're a false alarm," said Dade bluntly; "you drive me plumb weary."

Before his voice had died away Calumet's hand had flashed to his pistol
butt.  Why he did not draw the weapon was a mystery known only to
himself.  It might have been because Dade had not moved.  Calumet's
lips had tensed over his teeth in a savage snarl; they still held the
snarl when he spoke.

"You'll swallow that," he said.  "Do you _sabe_ my idea?"

"Nary swallow," declared Dade.  "False alarm goes.  I've got you sized
up right."

Calumet's six-shooter came out.  His eyes, blazing with a wanton fire,
met Dade's and held them.  The youngster's lips whitened, but his eyes
did not waver.  Death twitched at Calumet's finger.  There was a long
silence.  And then Dade spoke.

"Usin' it?" he said.

Into Calumet's blazing eyes came a slow glint of doubt, of reluctant
admiration.  His lashes flickered, the blaze died down, he squinted, a
cold, amused smile succeeded the snarl.  He laughed shortly, looked at
the pistol, and then slowly jammed it back into the holster.

"You're too good to lose," he said.  "I'm savin' you for another time."

"Thanks," said Dade dryly, though the ashen face of him showed how well
he realized his narrow escape.  "I reckon we understand each other now.
I can see by the way you yanked out your gun just now and by the way
you got the drop on Taggart yesterday, that you're some on the shoot.
But I ain't none scared of you.  An' now I'm tellin' you why I said
you're a false alarm.  I was talkin' to Betty last night.  She's read
up a bit, an' I'm parrotin' what she said about you because it's what I
think, too.  Your cosmos is all ego.  That's what Betty said.  Brought
down to cases, what that means is that you've got a bad case of swelled
head.  So far as you're concerned there's only one person in the world.
That's you.  Nobody else counts.  You've been thinkin' about yourself
so much that you can't find time to think about anybody else.  There's
other people in the world as good as you--better.  Betty's one of them.
She's a good girl an' you an' me'll hitch all right as long as you
don't go to bullyin' her.  I reckon that's all."

"Meanin' that you'll let me hang around as long as I'm good," sneered
Calumet in a dangerously soft voice.  He was trying to work himself
into a rage, but the effort was futile.  Something in Dade's quiet,
matter-of-fact voice had a dulling, cooling effect on him.  Besides, he
knew that an attack on Dade would be resented by Betty, and he felt a
strange reluctance toward further antagonizing her.  "You Texas folks
are sure clever at workin' your jaws," he sneered, when Dade did not
answer.  "But I reckon that lets you out.  When I'm lookin' for advice
from women an' kids mebbe I'll call on you an' Betty, but if I don't
you'll understand that I'm followin' my own trail.  You've got away
with one call because--well, because I was fool enough to let you.
Mebbe another time I won't feel so foolish."

There were few words spoken between them during the following hours of
the morning, though several times Dade caught Calumet watching him with
a puzzled, amused smile in which there was a sort of slumbering
ferocity.  By the middle of the morning the front of the ranchhouse had
been raised with the assistance of jacks, the old rotted sills taken
out and new ones substituted.  About an hour before noon, while
Calumet, in woolen shirt and overalls, his face dirty, his hair
tousled, and his temper none too good, was wedging the sill tight
against the studding above it, he became aware of Betty standing near
him.  She nodded toward the sill.

"That makes an improvement already," she said.

"Ye-es?" he said, with an irritating drawl.

There was a silence; she stood, regarding his back, a faint smile on
her face.

"I want to compliment you on your judgment of horses," she persisted,
in an attempt to make him talk; "the ones you bought are fine."

Calumet drove a wedge home viciously.  But he did not answer.

"I've been checking up your other purchases," she went on; "and I find
that you followed the list I gave you faithfully."

He turned and looked up.  "Look here," he said; "I got what you wanted,
didn't I?  There's no use of gettin' mush headed about it.  I'd have
blowed the money just as quick, if I'd wanted to."

"But you didn't."

"Because you didn't want me to, I reckon?" he sneered.

"No.  Because you wanted to be fair."

He had not known what sort of an answer he had expected from her, but
the one he got embarrassed him.  He felt a reluctant pleasure over the
knowledge that she had faith in him, but mingling with this was a rage
against himself over his surrender.  When she turned from him and
walked over to Dade, speaking to him in a low voice, he could not have
told which affected him most, his rage against himself or his
disappointment over her abrupt leave-taking.  She irritated him, but
somehow he got a certain pleasure out of that irritation--which was a
wholly unsatisfying and mystifying paradox.  He covertly watched Dade
during her talk with him and discovered that he did not like the way
the young man looked at her; he was entirely too familiar even if he
was a friend of the family.  He saw, too, that Betty seemed to be an
entirely different person when talking to Dade.  For one thing she
seemed natural, which she didn't seem when talking to him.  Until he
saw her talking with Dade he had been able to see nothing in her manner
but restraint and stiff formality, but figuratively, when in Dade's
presence she seemed to melt--she was gracious, smiling, cordial.

Betty's attitude toward him during the noon meal puzzled him much.
Some subtle change had come over her.  Several times he surprised her
looking at him, and at these times he was certain there was approval in
her glances, though perhaps the approval was mingled with something
else--speculation, he thought.

But whatever it was, he had not seen it before.  Had he known that Dade
had told her about the incident of the Red Dog Saloon he would have
understood, for she was wondering--as Dade had wondered--why he had
pretended to make friends with Taggart, why he had asked the Arrow man
to visit the Lazy Y that afternoon.

After dinner Calumet went out again to his work, apparently carefree
and unconcerned, if we are to omit those thoughts in which Dade and
Betty figured,  Dade watched him with much curiosity, for the incident
of the day before was still vivid in his mind, and if there had been.
mystery in Calumet's action in inviting Taggart to the Lazy Y there had
been no mystery in the words he had spoken outside the Red Dog Saloon
immediately afterward: "It's my game, do you hear?"

But along toward the middle of the afternoon Dade became so interested
that he forgot all about Taggart, and was only reminded of him when
looking up momentarily he saw Calumet sitting on a pile of timber near
the ranchhouse, leaning lazily forward, his elbows resting on his
knees, his chin on his hands, gazing speculatively into the afternoon
haze.  Dade noted that he was looking southward, and he turned and
followed his gaze to see, far out in the valley, a horseman approaching.

Dade had turned stealthily and thought his movement had been unobserved
by Calumet, and he started when the latter slowly remarked:

"Well, he's comin', after all.  I was thinkin' he wouldn't."

"That's him, all right, I reckon," returned Dade.  He shot a glance at
Calumet's face--it was expressionless.

There was a silence until Taggart reached the low hill in the valley
where on the day following his coming to the Lazy Y Calumet had seen
Lonesome, before the dog had begun the stalk that had ended in its
death.  Then Calumet turned to Dade, a derisive light in his eyes.

"Do you reckon Betty will be glad to see him?"

"I don't reckon you done just right in askin' him here after what he
said in the Red Dog," returned Dade.

Calumet seemed amused.  "Shucks, you're a kid yet," he said.  He
ignored Dade, giving his attention to Taggart, who was now near the
bunkhouse.

Taggart's coming was attended with interest by Malcolm, who, hearing
hoofbeats in the ranchhouse yard came to the door of the bunkhouse
where he had been doing some small task; by Bob, who hobbled out of the
stable door, his eyes wide; and by Betty, who, forewarned of the visit
by Dade, had come out upon the porch and had been watching his approach.

Dade was interested also, betraying his interest by covertly eyeing
Taggart as he drew his pony to a halt.  But apparently Calumet's
interest was largely negative, for he did not move from his position,
merely glancing at Taggart as the latter halted his pony, grinning
mildly at him and speaking to him in a slow drawl.

"Get off your cayuse an' visit," he invited.

Taggart's smile was wide as he dismounted.  He did not seem to look at
the others particularly, not even deigning a glance at Dade, but his
gaze fell on Betty with an insolent boldness that brought a flush to
that young lady's face.  There was a challenge in the look he gave her.
He dismounted and bowed mockingly to her, sweeping his hat from his
head with a movement so derisive that it made Dade longingly finger his
pistol butt.

Calumet still sat on the pile of lumber.  His smile was engaging even
if, as it seemed to Dade, it was a trifle shallow.  But now Calumet
slowly got to his feet.  He stood erect, yawned, and stretched himself.
Then turning, his back to Taggart, who had come close to him, he looked
at Betty, steadily, intently, with a command showing so plainly in his
eyes that the girl involuntarily started.

"Betty," he said slowly; "come here."

She went toward him, scarcely knowing why, yet remotely conscious of
something in his eyes that warned her that she must not refuse--a cold,
sinister gleam that hinted of approaching trouble.  She walked to a
point near him and stood looking at him wonderingly.  And now for the
first time since the beginning of their acquaintance she became aware
of a quiet indomitability in his character, the existence of which she
had suspected all along without having actually sensed it.  She saw now
why men feared him.  In his attitude, outwardly calm, but suggesting in
some subtle way the imminence of deadly violence; in his eyes, steady
and cold, but with something cruel and bitter and passionate slumbering
deep in them; in the set of his head and the thrust of his chin, there
was a threat--nay, more--a promise of volcanic action; of ruthless,
destroying anger.

Taggart, apparently, saw nothing of these things.  He looked again at
Betty, his heavy face wreathed in an insolent half-smile.  She saw the
look and instantly flushed and stiffened.  But it appeared that Calumet
noticed nothing of her agitation or of Taggart's insulting glance.  He
stood a little to one side of Taggart, and he spoke slowly and
distinctly:

"Taggart," he said; "meet my boss, Betty Clayton."  He smiled grimly at
the consternation in Betty's face, at the black rage in Dade's.

"I have already had the honor of meeting Mr. Taggart," said Betty
coldly.  "If that is what you--"  She caught a glance from Calumet and
subsided.

Taggart was deeply amused; he guffawed loudly.

"That's rich," he said.  "Why, man, I've knowed her ever since she's
been here.  Me an' her's pretty well acquainted.  In fact--"

"Well, now; that's odd," cut in Calumet dryly.

"What is?" questioned Taggart quickly, noting his tone.

"That I didn't remember," said Calumet.

"Remember what?" inquired Taggart.

"That I heard you gassin' about Betty to your Red Dog friends.  You
rattled it off pretty glibly.  You ought to remember what you said.
I'm wantin' you to repeat it while she's watchin' you.  That's why I
wanted you to come over here."

"Why--" began Taggart.  Then he hesitated, an embarrassed, incredulous
light in his shifting eyes.  He looked from one to the other, not
seeming to entirely comprehend the significance of the command, and
then he saw the gleam in Betty's eyes, the derisive enjoyment in
Dade's, the implacable glint in Calumet's, knowledge burst upon him in
a sudden, sickening flood and his face paled.  He looked at Calumet,
the look of a trapped animal.

"Get goin'!" said the latter; "we're all waitin'."

Taggart cursed profanely, stepping back a pace and reaching for his
pistol.  But as in the Red Dog, Calumet was before him.  Again his
right hand moved with the barely perceptible motion, and his
six-shooter was covering Taggart.  The latter quickly withdrew his own
hand, it was empty.  And in response to an abrupt movement of Calumet's
hand it went upward, the other following it instantly.  Watchful,
alert, Calumet stepped forward, plucked Taggart's pistol from its
holster, threw it a dozen feet from him, swiftly passed a hand over
Taggart's shirt and waistband and then stepped back.

"You've got a minute," he said.  "Sixty seconds to decide whether you'd
rather die with your boots on or get to talkin'.  Take your time, for
there won't be any arguin' afterward."

Taggart looked into Calumet's eyes.  What he saw there seemed to decide
him.  "I reckon it's your trick," he said; "I'll talk."

"Get goin'."

"I said I'd made love to her."

A half-sneer wreathed Calumet's face.  "I reckon that covers the ground
pretty well.  You didn't say it that way, but we won't have you repeat
the exact words; they ain't fit to hear.  The point is, did you tell
the truth?"

"No," said Taggart.  He did not look at Betty and his face was scarlet.

"So you lied, eh?  Lied about a woman!  There's only one place for that
kind of a man.  Crawl an' tell her you're a snake!"

Taggart had partly recovered his composure.

"Guess again," he sneered.  "You're buttin' in where--"

Calumet dropped his pistol and took a quick step.  With a swish his
right hand went forward to Taggart's face, one hundred and eighty
pounds of vengeful, malignant muscle behind it.  There was the dull,
strange sound of impacting bone and flesh.  Taggart's head shot
backward, he crumpled oddly, his legs wabbled and doubled under him and
he sank in his tracks, sprawling on his hands and knees in the sand.

For an instant he remained in this position, then he threw himself
forward, groping for the pistol Calumet had dropped.  Calumet's booted
foot struck his wrist, and with a bellow of rage and pain he got to his
feet and rushed headlong at his assailant.  Calumet advanced a step to
meet him.  His right fist shot out again; it caught Taggart fairly in
the mouth and he sank down once more.  He landed as before, on his
hands and knees, and for an instant he stayed in that position, his
head hanging between his arms and swaying limply from side to side.
Then with an inarticulate grunt he plunged forward and lay face
downward in the sand.

Calumet stood watching him.  He felt Betty's hand on his arm, laid
there restrainingly, but he shook her viciously off, telling her to
"mind her own business."  Malcolm had come forward; he stood behind
Betty.  Dade had not moved, though a savage satisfaction had come into
his eyes.  Bob stood in front of the stable door, trembling from
excitement.  But besides Betty, none of them attempted to interfere,
and there was a queer silence when Taggart finally got to his feet.

He stood for an instant, glaring around at them all, and then his gaze
at last centered on Calumet.  Calumet silently motioned toward Betty.

In response to the movement, Taggart's lips moved.  "I'm apologizin',"
he said.  He turned to his horse.  After he had climbed into the saddle
he looked around at Calumet.  He sneered through his swollen lips.

"You'll be gettin' what I owe you," he threatened.

"I'm your friend," jeered Calumet.  "I've been your friend since the
day you tried to bore me with a rifle bullet out there in the
valley--the day I come here--after runnin' like a coyote from the
daylight.  I've got an idea what you was hangin' around for that
day--I've got the same idea now.  You're tryin' to locate that heathen
idol.  You're wastin' your time.  You're doin' more--you're runnin' a
heap of risk.  For what you've just got is only a sample of what you'll
get if you stray over onto my range again.  That goes for the sneakin'
thief you call your father, or any of your damned crowd."

He stood, slouching a little, watching Taggart until the latter rode
well out into the valley.  Then without a word he walked over to the
sill upon which he had been working before the arrival of Taggart,
seized a hammer, and began to drive wedges wherever they were necessary.

Presently he heard a voice behind him, and he turned to confront Betty.

"I heard what you said to Taggart, of course, about him trying to shoot
you.  I didn't know that.  He deserved punishment for it.  But I am
sure that part of the punishment you dealt him was administered because
of the way he talked about me.  If that is so, I wish to thank you."

"You might as well save your breath," he said gruffly; "I didn't do it
for you."

She laughed.  "Then why didn't you choose another place to call him to
account?"

He did not answer, driving another wedge home with an extra vicious
blow.

She watched him in silence for an instant, and then, with a laugh which
might have meant amusement or something akin to it, she turned and
walked to the house.



CHAPTER XII

A PEACE OFFERING

If there was one trait in Betty's character that bothered Calumet more
than another, it was her frankness.  More than once during the days
that followed Neal Taggart's visit Calumet was made to feel the absence
of guile in her treatment of him.  The glances she gave him were as
straightforward and direct as her words, and it became plain to him
that with her there were no mental reservations.  Her attitude toward
him had not changed; she still dealt with him as the school teacher
deals with the unruly scholar--with a personal aloofness that promised
an ever-widening gulf if he persisted in defying her authority.
Calumet got this impression and it grew on him; it was disconcerting,
irritating, and he tried hard to shake it off, to no avail.

He had considered carefully the impulse which had moved him to entice
Taggart to the Lazy Y, and was convinced that it had been aroused
through a desire to take some step to avenge his father.  He told
himself that if in the action there had been any desire to champion
Betty he had not been conscious of it.  It angered him to think that
she should presume to imagine such a thing.  And yet he had felt a
throb of emotion when she had thanked him--a reluctant, savage,
resentful satisfaction which later changed to amusement.  If she
believed he had thrashed Taggart in defense of her, let her continue to
believe that.  It made no difference one way or another.  But he would
take good care to see that she should have no occasion to thank him
again.  She did not interfere with the work, which went steadily on.
The ranchhouse began to take on a prosperous appearance.  Within a week
after the beginning of the work the sills were all in, the rotted
bottoms of the studding had been replaced, and the outside walls
patched up.  During the next week the old porches were torn down and
new ones built in their places.  At the end of the third week the roof
had been repaired, and then there were some odds and ends that had to
be looked to, so that the fourth week was nearly gone when Dade and
Calumet cleared up the débris.  It was Dade who, in spite of Calumet's
remonstrances, went inside to announce the news to Betty, and she came
out with him and looked the work over with a critical, though
approving, eye.  Calumet was watching her, and when she had concluded
her inspection she turned to him with a smile.

"Tomorrow you can go to Lazette and get some paint," she said.

"Want it done up in style, eh?"

"Of course," she returned; "why not?"

"That's it," he growled; "why not?  You don't have to do the work."

She laughed.  "I should dislike to think you are lazy."

He flushed.  "I reckon I ain't none lazy."  He could think of nothing
else to say.  Her voice had a taunt in it; her attack was direct and
merciless.  She looked at Dade, whose face was red with some emotion,
but she spoke to Calumet.

"I don't think you ought to complain about the work," she said.  "You
were to do it alone, but on my own responsibility I gave you Dade."

"Pitied me, I reckon," he sneered.

"Yes."  Her gaze was steady.  "I pity you in more ways than one."

"When did you think I needed any pity?" he demanded truculently,
angered.

"Oh," she said, in pretended surprise, "you are in one of your moods
again!  Well, I am not going to quarrel with you."  She turned abruptly
and entered the house, and Calumet fell to kicking savagely into a
hummock with the toe of his boot.  As in every clash he had had with
her yet, he emerged feeling like a reproved school boy.  What made it
worse was that he was beginning to feel that there was no justification
for his rage against her.  As in the present case, he had been the
aggressor and deserved all the scorn she had heaped upon him.  But the
rage was with him, nevertheless, perhaps the more poignant because he
felt its impotency.  He looked around at Dade.  That young man was
trying to appear unconscious of the embarrassing predicament of his
fellow workman.  He endeavored to lighten the load for him.

"She certainly does talk straight to the point," he said.  "But I
reckon she don't mean more'n half of it."

Calumet shot a malignant look at him.  "Who in hell is askin' for
_your_ opinion?" he demanded.

The paint, however, was secured, Calumet making the trip to Lazette for
it.  He returned after dark, and Bob, who was sitting in the kitchen
where Betty was washing the dishes, hobbled out to greet him.  Bob had
been outside only a few minutes when Betty heard his voice, raised
joyously.  She went to a rear window, but the darkness outside was
impenetrable and she could see nothing.  Presently, though, she heard
Bob's step on the porch, and almost instantly he appeared, holding in
his arm a three-month-old puppy of doubtful breed.  He radiated delight.

"Calumet brought it!" he said, in answer to Betty's quick
interrogation.  "He said it was to take the place of Lonesome.  I
reckon he ain't so bad, after all--is he Betty?"

Betty patted the puppy's head, leaning over so that Bob did not see the
strange light in her eyes.

"He's nice," she said.

"Who?" said Bob, quickly--"Calumet?"

Betty rose, her face flushing.  "No," she said sharply; "the puppy."

Bob looked at her twice before he said, in a slightly disappointed
voice, "Uh-huh."

When Calumet came into the kitchen half an hour later, having stabled
his horses and washed his face and hands from the basin he found on the
porch, he found his supper set out on the table; but Betty was nowhere
to be seen.

"Where's Betty?" he demanded of Bob, who was romping delightedly with
the new dog, which showed its appreciation of its new friend by yelping
joyously.

"I reckon she's gone to bed," returned the young man.

For a few minutes Calumet stood near the door, watching the dog and the
boy.  Several times he looked toward the other doors, disappointment
revealed in his eyes.  Was he to take Betty's departure before his
arrival as an indication that she had fled from him?  He had seen her
when she had pressed her face to the window some time before, and it
now appeared to him that she had deliberately left the room to avoid
meeting him.  He frowned and walked to the table, looking down at the
food.  She had thought of him, at any rate.

He sat at the table and took several bites of food before he spoke
again.

"Betty see the pup?" he asked.

"Yep."

"Like him?"

"Yep."

He hesitated, while Bob looked at him, intent for more questions.  He
had liked Calumet from the first, despite the killing of Lonesome.  He
could not forget the gruff words of consolation that had been spoken by
Calumet on that occasion--they had been sincere, at any rate--his boy's
heart knew that.  He worshiped Calumet since he had given him the dog.
And so he wanted to talk.

"She patted him on the head," he said.

"Just what did she say?" inquired Calumet.

"She said he was nice."

"Them the exact words?"

"Yep."

There was a silence again, while Calumet chewed meditatively at his
food.  Bob suspended play with the puppy to watch him.

"Well," said Calumet finally, "that shows just what a woman knows about
dogs--or anything.  He ain't none nice, not at all, takin' dogs as
dogs.  He's nothin' but a fool yellow mongrel."

Bob contemplated his benefactor, sourly at first, for already he and
the dog were friends, and thus Calumet's derogatory words were in the
nature of a base slander.  But he reasoned that all was not well
between Betty and Calumet, and therefore perhaps Calumet had not meant
them in exactly that spirit.

"Well," he said at last, "I like him a lot, anyway."

"What's that?" said Calumet, startled.  He had forgotten about the dog.
He had been wondering if Betty had gone to bed, or whether she was in
the sitting room, reading, as she was accustomed to doing.  A light
came through the sitting room door, and Calumet had been watching it,
momentarily expecting to see Betty's shadow.  "What's that?" he
repeated.  "You like him, anyway?  Why?"

"Because you gave him to me," said Bob, blushing at the admission.

Calumet looked at him, sourly at first; and then, with a crafty grin on
his face as he watched the sitting room door, he raised his voice so
that if Betty were in the sitting room she could not help hearing it.

"Well," he said, "you like him because I gave him to you, eh?  Shucks.
I reckon that ain't the reason Betty likes him."

Apparently Bob had no answer to make to this, for he kept silent.  But
Calumet saw a shadow cross the sitting room floor, and presently he
heard a light footstep on the stairs.  He smiled and went on eating.



CHAPTER XIII

SUSPICION

"If the repairs on the ranchhouse were not finished by this time you
would not be reading this," began a letter drawn from a tightly sealed
envelope Betty had given Calumet after he and Dade had completed the
painting.  Supper had been over for some time, but the dishes had not
yet been cleared away, and when Betty had handed Calumet the letter he
had shoved the tablecloth back to make room for his elbows while he
read.  Bob had gone to bed; Malcolm and Dade were somewhere outside.
Calumet had started to go with them, but had remained when Betty had
told him quietly that she wanted to talk to him on a matter of
importance.  She sat opposite him now, unconcernedly balancing a knife
on the edge of a coffee cup, while she waited for him to finish reading
the letter.

"Therefore," continued the letter, "by this time your heart must have
softened a little toward me.  I am certain of this, for I know that, in
spite of your other weaknesses, that cupidity and greed have no place
in your mental make-up.  I know, too, that you are no fool, and by this
time you must have digested my first letter, and if you have you are
not blaming me as much as you did in the beginning.

"I have talked this over with Betty, and she is of the opinion that as
you have thus far obeyed my wishes you should be permitted to have a
free hand henceforth, for she insists that perhaps by this time the
restraint she has put on you will have resulted in you hating her, and
in that case she says she will not care to remain here any longer.  But
as I have said, I do not think you are a fool, and nobody but a fool
could hate Betty.  So I have persuaded her that even if you should come
to look upon her in that light she owes it to me to stay until the
conditions are fulfilled.

"It is my own hope that by this time you have made friends with her.
Perhaps--I am not going to offer you any advice, but Betty is a jewel,
and you might do worse.  You probably will if you haven't sense enough
to take her--if you can get her.  I have given her your picture, and
she likes you in spite of the reputation I have given you.  She says
you have good eyes.  Now, if a girl once gets in that mood there's no
end of the things she won't do for a man.  And the man would be an
ingrate if he didn't try to live up to her specifications after he
found that out.  That's why I am telling you.  Faith made a certain
disciple walk on the water, and lack of it caused the same one to sink.
Do a little thinking just here.  If you do you are safe, and if you
don't you are not worth saving.

"This is all about Betty.  Whatever happens, I think she will be a
match for you.

"Betty will give you another thousand dollars.  With it you will fix up
the corrals, the bunkhouse, and the stable.

"Perhaps you will want to know why I have not so much faith in you as
Betty has.  It is because one day a man from the Durango country
stopped here for a day.  He told me he knew you--that you were
cold-blooded and a hard case.  Then I knew you hadn't improved after
leaving home.  And so you must continue to do Betty's will, and mine.
Do you doubt this is for your own good?

"YOUR FATHER."


When Calumet folded the letter and placed it in a pocket, he leaned his
arms on the table again and regarded Betty intently.

"Do you know what is in this letter?" he said, tapping the pocket into
which he had placed it.

"No."

"There is something missing from the letter, ain't there?"

"Yes," she returned; "a thousand dollars."  She passed it over to him.
As before, there were ten one-hundred-dollar bills.

His eyes flashed with mocking triumph.  "If you don't know what is in
this letter--if you didn't read it--how do you know that I am to have
this money?" he said.

She silently passed over another envelope and watched him with a smile
of quiet contempt as he removed the contents and read:


"BETTY:--Give Calumet a thousand dollars when you turn over letter
number three to him.

"JAMES MARSTON."


Calumet looked at the envelope; Betty's name was on the face of it.
The triumph in his eyes was succeeded by embarrassment.  He looked up
to see Betty's amused gaze on him.

"Well?" she questioned.

"Most women would have read it," he said.  He got up and went outside,
leaving her to look after him, not knowing whether he had meant to
compliment her or not.

He found Dade and Malcolm standing near the stable.  There was a
brilliant moon.  At Dade's invitation they all went down to the
bunkhouse.  In spite of the dilapidated appearance of its exterior, the
interior of the building was in comparatively good condition--due to
the continual tinkering of Malcolm, who liked to spend his idle hours
there--and Malcolm lighted a candle, placed it on the rough table, took
a deck of cards from the shelf, and the three played "pitch" for two
hours.  At the end of that time Malcolm said he was going to bed.  Dade
signified that he intended doing likewise.  He occupied half of
Calumet's bed.  Since the day following the clash with Dade, Calumet
had insisted on this.

"Just to show you that what you said ain't botherin' me a heap," he had
told Dade.  "You're still yearlin' and need some one to keep an eye on
you, so's some careless son of a gun won't herd-ride you."

That Dade accepted this in the spirit in which it was spoken made it
possible for them to bunk together in amity.  If Dade had "sized up"
Calumet, the latter had made no mistake in Dade.

Dade snuffed out the candle and followed Malcolm out.  The latter went
immediately to the ranchhouse, but Dade lingered until Calumet stepped
down from the door of the bunkhouse.

"Bed suits me," suggested Dade.  "Comin'?"

"I'm smokin' a cigarette first," said Calumet.  "Mebbe two," he added
as an afterthought.

He watched Malcolm go in; saw the light from the lamp on the table in
the kitchen flare its light out through the kitchen door as Dade
entered; heard the door close.  The lamp still burned after he had seen
Dade's shadow vanish, and he knew that Dade had gone upstairs.  Dade
had left the light burning for him.

Alone, Calumet rolled the cigarette he had promised himself, lit it,
and then, in the flood of moonlight, walked slowly around the
bunkhouse, estimating the material and work that would be necessary to
repair it.  Then, puffing at his cigarette, he made a round of the
corral fence.  It was a long trip, and he stopped twice to roll new
cigarettes before he circled it.  Then he examined the stable.  This
finished, he stepped over to the corral fence, leaned his arms on the
top rail, and, in the moonlight that came over his shoulder, reread his
father's letter, making out the picturesque chirography with difficulty.

As during the first days of his return, when he had watched the army of
memories pass in review, he lingered over them now, and, to his
surprise, discovered that he felt some little regret over his own
conduct in those days preceding his leave-taking.  To be sure, he had
been only a boy at that time, but he had been a man since, and the cold
light of reason should have shown him that there must have been cause
for his father's brutal treatment of him--if indeed it had been brutal.
In fact, if he had acted in his youth as he had acted since reaching
maturity, there was small reason to wonder that he had received blows.
Boys needed to be reprimanded, punished, and perhaps he had deserved
all he had received.

The tone of his father's letters was distinctly sorrowful.  Remorse,
sincere remorse, had afflicted him.  His father had been wronged,
misled, betrayed, and humiliated by the Taggarts, and as Calumet stood
beside the corral fence he found that all his rage--the bitter,
malignant hatred which had once been in his heart against his
father--had vanished, that it had been succeeded by an emotion that was
new to him--pity.  An hour, two hours, passed before he turned and
walked toward the ranchhouse.  His lips were grim and white, tell-tale
signs of a new resolve, as he stepped softly upon the rear porch,
stealthily opened the kitchen door, and let himself in.  He halted at
the table on which stood the kerosene lamp, looking at the chair in
which he had been sitting some hours before talking to Betty, blinking
at the chair in which she had sat, summoning into his mind the picture
she had made when he had voiced his suspicions about her knowledge of
the contents of the letter she had given him.  "Nobody but a fool could
hate Betty," the letter had read.  And at the instant he had read the
words he had known that he didn't hate her.  But he was a fool, just
the same; he was a fool for treating her as he did--as Dade had said.
He had known that all along; he knew that was the reason why he had
curbed his rage when it would have driven him to commit some rash
action.  He had been a fool, but had he let himself go he would have
been a bigger one.

Betty had appraised him correctly--"sized him up," in Dade's idiomatic
phraseology--and knew that his vicious impulses were surface ones that
had been acquired and not inherited, as he had thought.  And he was
strangely pleased.

He looked once around the room, noting the spotless cleanliness of it
before he blew out the light.  And then he stepped across the floor and
into the dining-room, tip-toeing toward the stairs, that he might
awaken no one.  But he halted in amazement when he reached a point near
the center of the room, for he saw, under the threshold of the door
that led from the dining-room to his father's office, a weak,
flickering beam of light.

The door was tightly closed.  He knew from the fact that no light shone
through it except from the space between the bottom of it and the
threshold that it was barred, for he had locked the door during the
time he was repairing the house, and had satisfied himself that it
could not be tightly closed unless barred.  Someone was in the room,
too.  He heard the scuffle of a foot, the sound of a chair scraping on
the floor.  He stood rigid in the darkness of the dining-room,
straining his ears to catch another sound.

For a long time he could hear only muffled undertones which, while they
told him that there were two or more persons in the room, gave him no
clue to their identity.  And then, as he moved closer to the door, he
caught a laugh, low, but clear and musical.

It was Betty's!  He had heard it often when she had been talking to
Dade; she had never laughed in that voice when talking to him!

He halted in his approach toward the door, watching the light under it,
listening intently, afflicted with indecision.  At first he felt only a
natural curiosity over the situation, but as he continued to stand
there he began to feel a growing desire to know who Betty was talking
to.  To be sure, Betty had a right to talk to whom she pleased, but
this talk behind a barred door had an appearance of secrecy.  And since
he knew of no occasion for secrecy, the thing took on an element of
mystery which irritated him.  He smiled grimly in the darkness, and
with infinite care sat down on the floor and removed his boots.  Then
he stole noiselessly over to the door and placed an ear against it.

Almost instantly he heard a man's voice.  He did not recognize it, but
the words were sufficiently clear and distinct.  There was amusement in
them.

"So you're stringin' him along all right, then?" said the voice.  "I've
got to hand it to you--you're some clever."

"I am merely following instructions."  This in Betty's voice.

The man chuckled.  "He's a hard case.  I expected he'd have you all
fired out by this time."

Betty laughed.  "He is improving right along," she said.  "He brought
Bob another dog to replace Lonesome.  I felt sorry for him that night."

"Well," said the man, "I'm glad he's learnin'.  I reckon he's some
impatient to find out where the idol is?"

"Rather," said Betty.  "And he wanted the money right away."

The man laughed.  "Well," he said, "keep stringin' him along until we
get ready to lift the idol from its hidin' place.  I've been thinkin'
that it'd be a good idea to take the durn thing over to Las Vegas an'
sell it.  The money we'd get for it would be safer in the bank than the
idol where it is.  An' we could take it out when we get ready."

"No," said Betty firmly; "we will leave the idol where it is.  No one
but me knows, and I certainly will not tell."

"You're the boss," said the man.  He laughed again, and then both
voices became inaudible to Calumet.

A cold, deadly rage seized Calumet.  Betty was deceiving him, trifling
with him.  Some plan that she had in mind with reference to him was
working smoothly and well, so successfully that her confederate--for
certainly the man in the room with her must be that--was distinctly
pleased.  Betty, to use the man's words, was "stringing" him.  In other
words, she was making a fool of him!

Those half-formed good resolutions which Calumet had made a few minutes
before entering the house had fled long ago; he snarled now as he
realized what a fool he had been for making them.  Betty had been
leading him on.  He had been under the spell of her influence; he had
been allowing her to shape his character to her will; he was, or had
been, in danger of becoming a puppet which she could control by merely
pulling some strings.  She had been working on his better nature with
selfish aims.

Who was the man?  Malcolm?  Dade?  He thought not; the voice sounded
strangely like Neal Taggart's.  This suspicion enraged him, and he
stepped back, intending to hurl himself against the door in an effort
to smash it in.  But he hesitated, leered cunningly at the door, and
then softly and swiftly made his way upstairs.

He went first to his own room, for he half suspected that it might be
Dade who was downstairs with Betty, and if it was--  Well, just now he
remembered vividly how Dade had defied him, and he made a mental vow
that if it were Dade who was with Betty the young man would leave the
Lazy Y before dawn quite suddenly.  But it was not Dade.  Dade was in
bed, snoring, stretched out comfortably.

Calumet slipped out of the room and went to Malcolm's.  Both Bob and
Malcolm were sound asleep.  He hesitated for an instant, and then made
his way slowly downstairs.  Again he listened at the door.  Betty and
the man were still talking.

Calumet found his boots.  He decided not to put them on until he got to
the kitchen door, for he was determined to go around the outside of the
house and lay in wait for Betty's confederate, and he did not want to
make any sound that would scare him off.  He was proceeding stealthily,
directing his course through the darkness by a stream of moonlight that
came in through one of the kitchen windows, and had almost reached the
kitchen door when his feet struck an obstruction--something soft and
yielding.

There was a sudden scurrying, a sharp, terrified yelp.

Calumet cursed.  It was Bob's pup.  The animal planted himself in the
stream of moonlight that came in through the window, facing Calumet and
emitting a series of short, high-pitched, resentful barks.

There was humor in this situation, but Calumet did not see it.  He
heard a cry of surprise from the direction of the dining-room, and he
turned just in time to see the office door closing on a flood of light.

With savage energy and haste, he pulled on his boots, darted out of the
house, ran across the rear porch, leaped down, and ran around the
nearest corner of the house.  As he ran he jerked his pistol from its
holster.

When he got to the front of the house he bounded to the door of the
office and threw it violently open, expecting to surprise Betty and her
confederate.  He was confronted by a dense blackness.  He dodged back,
fearing a trap, and then lighted a match and held it around the corner
of one of the door jambs.  After the match was burning well he threw it
into the room and then peered after it.  There came no reply to this
challenge, and so he strode in boldly, lighting another match.

The room was empty.

He saw how it was.  Betty and the man had heard the barking of the dog
and had suspected the presence of an eavesdropper.  The man had fled.
Probably by this time Betty was in her room.  Calumet went out upon the
porch, leaped off, and ran around the house in a direction opposite
that which had marked his course when coming toward the front, covering
the ground with long, swift strides.  He reasoned that as he had seen
no one leave the house from the other side or the front, whoever had
been with Betty had made his escape in this direction, and he drew a
breath of satisfaction when, approaching some underbrush near the
kitchen, he saw outlined in the moonlight the figure of a man on a
horse.

The latter had evidently just mounted, for at the instant Calumet saw
him he had just settled into the saddle, one foot searching for a
stirrup.  He was about seventy-five feet distant, and he turned at
about the instant that Calumet saw him.  That instant was enough for
Calumet, for as the man turned his face was bathed for a fraction of a
second in the moonlight, and Calumet recognized him.  It was Neal
Taggart.

Calumet halted.  His six-shooter roared at the exact second that the
man buried his spurs in the flanks of his horse and threw himself
forward upon its neck.

The bullet must have missed him only by a narrow margin, but it did
miss, for he made no sign of injury.  His instant action in throwing
himself forward had undoubtedly saved his life.  Calumet swung the
pistol over his head and brought it down to a quick level, whipping
another shot after the fleeing rider.  But evidently the latter had
anticipated the action, for as he rode he jumped his horse from one
side to another, and as the distance was already great, and growing
greater, he made an elusive target.

Calumet saw his failure and stood silent, watching until Taggart was
well out into the valley, riding hard, a cloud of dust enveloping him.
A yell reached Calumet from the distance--derisive, defiant, mocking.
Calumet cursed then, giving voice to his rage and disappointment.

He went glumly around to the front of the house and closed the door to
the office.  When he stepped off the porch, afterward, intending to go
around the way he had come in order to enter the house, he heard a
voice above him, and turned to see Dade, his head sticking out of an
upstairs window, his hair in disorder, his eyes bulging, a forty-five
gleaming in his hand.  Back of him, his head over Dade's shoulder,
stood Malcolm, and Bob's thin face showed between the two.

At another window, one of the front ones, was Betty.  Of the four who
were watching him, Betty seemed the least excited; it seemed to Calumet
as he looked at her that there was some amusement in her eyes.

"Lordy!" said Dade as Calumet looked up at him, "how you scairt me!
Was it you shootin'?  An' what in thunder was you shootin' _at_?"

"A snake," said Calumet in a voice loud enough for Betty to hear.

"A snake!  Holy smoke!" growled Dade in disgust.  "Wakin' people up at
this time of the night because you wanted to shoot at a measly snake.
Tomorrow we'll lay off for an hour or so an' I'll take you where you
can shoot 'em to your heart's content.  But, for the love of Pete, quit
shootin' at 'em when a guy's asleep."

Calumet looked up sardonically, not at Dade, but at Betty.  "Was you
all asleep?" he inquired in a voice of cold mockery.  Even at that
distance he saw Betty redden, and he laughed shortly.

"A foxy snake," he said; "one of them kind which goes roamin' around at
night.  Lookin' for a mate, mebbe."  He turned abruptly, with a last
sneering look at Betty, and made his way around the house.



CHAPTER XIV

JEALOUSY

Dade was asleep when Calumet got into bed, and he was still asleep when
Calumet awoke the next morning.  Calumet descended to the kitchen.  When
he opened the kitchen door Bob's dog ran between his legs and received a
kick that sent him, whining with pain and surprise, off the porch.

Dominating everything in Calumet's mind this morning was the bitter
conviction that Betty had deceived him.  There had been ground for
Taggart's talk in the Red Dog--he saw that now.  Taggart and Betty were
leagued against him.  When he had brought Taggart face to face with Betty
that morning more than a month ago the Arrow man had pretended insolence
toward Betty in order to allay any suspicion that Calumet might have
concerning the real relations between them.  It had been done cleverly,
too, so cleverly that it had convinced him.  When he remembered the cold,
disdainful treatment that Betty had accorded Taggart that afternoon, he
almost smiled--though the smile was not good to see.  He had championed
her--he knew now that it had been a serious championship--and by doing so
he had exposed himself to ridicule; to Betty's and Taggart's secret humor.

He discovered an explanation for Betty's conduct while he fed and watered
Blackleg.  It was all perfectly plain to him.  Neither Betty nor Taggart
had expected him to return to the Lazy Y.  Betty's actions on the night
of his arrival proved that.  She had exhibited emotion entirely out of
reason.  Undoubtedly she and Taggart had expected to wait the year
specified in the will, certain that he would not appear to claim the
money or the idol, or they might have planned to leave before he could
return.  But since he had surprised them by returning unexpectedly, it
followed that they must reconstruct their plans; they would have to make
it impossible for him to comply with his father's wishes.  They could
easily do that, or thought they could, by making life at the ranch
unbearable for him.  That, he was convinced, was the reason that Betty
had adopted her cold, severe, and contemptuous attitude toward him.  She
expected he would find her nagging and bossing intolerable, that he would
leave in a rage and allow her and Taggart to come into possession of the
property.  Neither she nor Taggart would dare make off with the money and
the idol as long as he was at the ranch, for they would fear his
vengeance.

He thought his manner had already forced Betty to give him his father's
letters and admit the existence of the idol--she had been afraid to lie
to him about them.  And so Betty was "stringing" him along, as Taggart
had suggested, until he completed the repairs on the buildings, until he
had the ranch in such shape that it might be worked, and then at the end
of the year Betty would tell him that his reformation had not been
accomplished, and she and Taggart would take legal possession.

But if that was their plan they were mistaken in their man.  Until he had
worked out this solution of the situation he had determined to leave.
Betty's deceit had disgusted him.  But now, though there were faults in
the structure of the solution he had worked out, he was certain that they
intended working along those lines, and he was now equally determined to
stay and see the thing out.

Of course, Taggart was trying to make a fool of Betty--that was all too
evident.  A man who has serious intentions--honorable intentions--toward
a girl does not talk about her to his friends as Taggart had talked.
Taggart did not care for her; he was merely planning to gain her
confidence that he might gain possession of the money and the idol.  The
very fact that he was meeting Betty secretly proved that she had not
given him the treasure.  Perhaps she had doubts of him and was delaying.
Yes, that was the explanation.  Well, he would see that Taggart would
never get the treasure.

He went in to breakfast and watched Betty covertly during the meal.  She
was trying to appear unconcerned, but it was plain to see that her
unconcern was too deep to be genuine, and it moved Calumet to malevolent
sarcasm.

"Nothin' is botherin' you this mornin', I reckon?" he said to her once
when he caught her looking at him.  "Clear conscience, eh?" he added as
she flushed.

"What should bother me?" she asked, looking straight at him.

"I was thinkin' that mebbe the racket I was makin' tryin' to kill that
snake might have bothered--"

To his surprise, she pressed her lips tightly together, and he could see
mirth in her eyes--mocking mirth.

"You are talking in riddles," she said quietly.

So then she was going to deny it?  Wrath rose in him.

"Riddles, eh?" he said.  "Well, riddles--"

"That reptile was sure botherin' you a heap," cut in Dade; and Calumet
shot a quick glance at him, wondering whether he, also, was a party to
the plot to "string" him.

He thought he detected gratitude in Betty's eyes as she smiled at Dade,
but he was not certain.  He said no more on the subject--then.  But
shortly after the conclusion of the meal he contrived to come upon Betty
outside the house.  She was hanging a dish towel from a line that
stretched from a corner of the porch to the stable.

Looking at her as he approached, he was conscious that there was
something more than rage in his heart against her for her duplicity;
there was a gnawing disappointment and regret.  It was as though he was
losing something he valued.  But he put this emotion away from him as he
faced her.

"You're damn slick," he said; "slicker than I thought you was.  But I
ain't lettin' you think that you're stringin' me like you thought you
was."  He put vicious and significant emphasis on the word, and when he
saw her start he knew she divined that he had overheard the conversation
between her and Taggart.

Her face flushed.  "You were listening, then," she said with cold
contempt.

"I ain't ashamed of it, either," he shot back.  "When a man's dealin'
with crooks like--"  He hesitated, and then gave a venomous accent to the
words--"like you an' Taggart, he can't be over-scrupulous.  I was sure
listenin'.  I heard Taggart ask you if you was still stringin' me.  If it
hadn't been for that new pup which I just brought Bob I'd have done what
I was goin'--"

He stopped talking and looked sharply at her, for a change had come over
her.  In her eyes was that expression of conscious advantage which he had
noticed many times before.  She seemed to be making a great effort to
suppress some emotion, and was succeeding, too, for when she spoke her
voice was low and well controlled.

"So you heard Taggart talking to me?" she mocked, mirth in her eyes.
"And you shot at him?  Is that it?  Well, what of it?  I do not have to
account to you for my actions!"

He laughed.  "Nothin' of it, I reckon.  But if you're stuck on him, why
don't you come out in the open, instead of sneakin' around?  You made it
pretty strong the day I smashed his face for talkin' about you.  I reckon
he had some grounds."

He was talking now to hurt her; there was a savage desire in his heart to
goad her to anger.

But he did not succeed.  Her face paled a little at his brutal words, at
the insult they implied, and she became a little rigid, her lips
stiffening.  But suddenly she smiled, mockingly, with irritating
unconcern.

"If I didn't know that you hate me as you do I should be inclined to
think that you are jealous.  Are you?"

He straightened in astonishment.  Her manner was not that of the woman
who is caught doing something dishonorable; it was the calm poise of
sturdy honesty at bay.  But while he was mystified, he was not convinced.
She had hit the mark, he knew, but he laughed harshly.

"Jealous!" he said; "jealous of you?  I reckon you've got a good opinion
of yourself!  You make me sick.  I just want to put you wise a few.  You
don't need to try to pull off any of that sweet innocence stuff on me any
more.  You're deep an' slick, but I've sized you up.  You made a monkey
of the old man; you made him think like you're tryin' to make me think,
that you're sacrificin' yourself.

"You soft-soaped him into smearin' a heap of mush into his letters to me.
It's likely you wrote them yourself.  An' you hoodwinked him into givin'
you the money an' the idol so's you an' Taggart could divvy up after you
put me out of the runnin'.  Goin' to reform me!  I reckon if I was an
angel I'd have to have a recommendation from the Lord before you'd agree
that I'd reformed.  You couldn't be pried loose from that coin with a
crow-bar!"

He turned from her, baffled, for it was apparent from the expression of
mirth deep in her eyes that his attack had made no impression on her.

Calumet went to the stable and threw a bridle on Blackleg.  While he was
placing the saddle on the animal he hesitated and stood regarding it with
indecision.  He had intended to refuse to accept Betty's orders in the
future; had decided that he would do no more work on the buildings.  But
he was not the Calumet of old, who did things to suit himself, in
defiance to the opinions and wishes of other people.  Betty had thrown a
spell over him; he discovered that in spite of his discovery he felt like
accommodating his movements to her desires.  It was a mystery that
maddened him; he seemed to be losing his grip on himself, and, though he
fought against it, he found that he dreaded her disapproval, her sarcasm,
and her taunts.

It seemed to him puerile, ridiculous, to think of refusing to continue
with the work he had started.  As long as he was going to stay at the
Lazy Y he might as well keep on.  Betty would surely laugh at him if he
refused to go on.  He fought it out and took a long time to it, but he
finally pulled the saddle from Blackleg and hitched the two horses to the
wagon.  When he drove out of the ranchhouse yard he saw Betty watching
him from one of the kitchen windows.  He felt like cursing her, but did
not.

"I reckon," he said as he curled the lash of the whip viciously over the
shoulders of the horses, "that she's got me locoed.  Well," he cogitated,
"any woman's liable to stampede a man, an' I ain't the first guy that's
had his doubts whether he's a coyote or a lion after he's been herd-rode
by a petticoat.  I'm waitin' her out.  But Taggart--"  The frown on his
face indicated that his intentions toward the latter were perfectly clear.



CHAPTER XV

A MEETING IN THE RED DOG

Of the good resolutions that Calumet had made since the night before,
when he had re-read his father's letter in the moonlight while standing
beside the corral fence, none had survived.  Black, vicious thoughts
filled his mind as he drove toward Lazette.  When the wagon reached the
crest of a slope about a mile out of town, Calumet halted the horses
and rolled a cigarette, a sullen look in his eyes, unrelieved by the
prospect before him.

By no stretch of the imagination could Lazette be called attractive.
It lay forlorn and dismal at the foot of the slope, its forty or more
buildings dingy, unpainted, ugly, scattered along the one street as
though waiting for the encompassing desolation to engulf them.  Two
serpentine lines of steel, glistening in the sunlight, came from some
mysterious distance across the dead level of alkali, touched the edge
of town where rose a little red wooden station and a water tank of the
same color, and then bent away toward some barren hills, where they
vanished.

Calumet proceeded down the slope, halting at the lumber yard, where he
left his wagon and orders for the material he wanted.  Across the
street from the lumber yard was a building on which was a sign: "The
Chance Saloon."  Toward this Calumet went after leaving his wagon.  He
hesitated for an instant on the sidewalk, and a voice, seeming to come
from nowhere in particular, whispered in his ear:

"Neal Taggart's layin' for you!"

When Calumet wheeled, his six-shooter was in his hand.  At his
shoulder, having evidently followed him from across the street, stood a
man.  He was lean-faced, hardy-looking, with a strong, determined jaw
and steady, alert eyes.  He was apparently about fifty years of age.
He grinned at Calumet's belligerent motion.

"Hearin' me?" he said to Calumet's cold, inquiring glance.

The latter's eyes glowed.  "Layin' for me, eh?  Thanks."  He looked
curiously at the other.  "Who are you?" he said.

"I'm Dave Toban, the sheriff."  He threw back one side of his vest and
revealed a small silver star.

"Correct," said Calumet; "how you knowin' me?"

"Knowed your dad," said the sheriff.  "You look a heap like him.
Besides," he added as his eyes twinkled, "there ain't no one else in
this section doin' any buildin' now."

"I'm sure much obliged for your interest," said Calumet.  "An' so
Taggart's lookin' for me?"

"Been in town a week," continued the sheriff.  "Been makin' his brags
what he's goin' to do to you.  Says you wheedled him into comin' over
to the Lazy Y an' then beat him up.  Got Denver Ed with him."

Calumet's eyes narrowed.  "I know him," he said.

"Gun-fighter, ain't he?" questioned the sheriff.

"Yep."  Calumet's eyelashes flickered; he smiled with straight lips.
"Drinkin'?" he invited.

"Wouldn't do," grinned the sheriff.  "Publicly, I ain't takin' no side.
Privately, I'm feelin' different.  Knowed your dad.  Taggart's bad
medicine for this section.  Different with you."

"How different?"

"Straight up.  Anybody that lives around Betty Clayton's got to be."

Calumet looked at him with a crooked smile.  "I reckon," he said, "that
you don't know any more about women than I do.  So-long," he added.  He
went into the "Chance" saloon, leaving the sheriff looking after him
with a queer smile.

Ten minutes later when Calumet came out of the saloon the sheriff was
nowhere in sight.

Calumet went over to where his wagon stood and, concealed behind it,
took a six-shooter from under his shirt at the waistband and placed it
carefully in a sling under the right side of his vest.  Then he removed
the cartridges from the weapon in the holster at his hip, smiling
mirthlessly as he replaced it in the holster and made his way up the
street.

With apparent carelessness, though keeping an alert eye about him, he
went the rounds of the saloons.  Before he had visited half of them
there was an air of suppressed excitement in the manner of Lazette's
citizens, and knowledge of his errand went before him.  In the saloons
that he entered men made way for him, looking at him with interest as
he peered with impersonal intentness at them, or, standing in doorways,
they watched him in silence as he departed, and then fell to talking in
whispers.  He knew what was happening--Lazette had heard what Taggart
had been saying about him, and was keeping aloof, giving him a clear
field.

Presently he entered the Red Dog.

There were a dozen men here, drinking, playing cards, gambling.  The
talk died away as he entered; men sat silently at the tables, seeming
to look at their cards, but in reality watching him covertly.  Other
men got up from their chairs and walked, with apparent unconcern, away
from the center of the room, so that when Calumet carelessly tossed a
coin on the bar in payment for a drink which he ordered, only three men
remained at the bar with him.

He had taken quick note of these men.  They were Neal Taggart; a tall,
lanky, unprepossessing man with a truculent eye rimmed by lashless
lids, and with a drooping mustache which almost concealed the cruel
curve of his lips, whom he knew as Denver Ed--having met him several
times in the Durango country; and a medium-sized stranger whom he knew
as Garvey.  The latter was dark-complexioned, with a hook nose and a
loose-lipped mouth.

Calumet did not appear to notice them.  He poured his glass full and
lifted it, preparatory to drinking.  Before it reached his lips he
became aware of a movement among the three men--Garvey had left them
and was standing beside him.

"Have that on me," said Garvey, silkily, to Calumet.

Calumet surveyed him with a glance of mild interest.  He set his glass
down, and the other silently motioned to the bartender for another.

"Stranger here, I reckon?" said Garvey as he poured his whiskey.
"Where's your ranch?"

"The Lazy Y," said Calumet.

The other filled his glass.  "Here's how," he said, and tilted it
toward his lips.  Calumet did likewise.  If he felt the man's hand on
the butt of the six-shooter at his hip, he gave no indication of it.
Nor did he seem to exhibit any surprise or concern when, after drinking
and setting the glass down, he looked around to see that Garvey had
drawn the weapon out and was examining it with apparently casual
interest.

This action on the part of Garvey was unethical and dangerous, and
there were men among the dozen in the room who looked sneeringly at
Calumet, or to one another whispered the significant words, "greenhorn"
and "tenderfoot."  Others, to whom the proprietor had spoken concerning
Calumet, looked at him in surprise.  Still others merely stared at
Garvey and Calumet, unable to account for the latter's mild submission
to this unallowed liberty.  The proprietor alone, remembering a certain
gleam in Calumet's eyes on a former occasion, looked at him now and saw
deep in his eyes a slumbering counterpart to it, and discreetly retired
to the far end of the bar, where there was a whiskey barrel in front of
him.

But Calumet seemed unconcerned.

"Some gun," remarked Garvey.  It was strange, though, that he was not
looking at the weapon at all, or he might have seen the empty chambers.
He was looking at Calumet, and it was apparent that his interest in the
weapon was negative.

"Yes, some," agreed Calumet.  He swung around and faced the man,
leaning his left arm carelessly on the bar.

At that instant Denver Ed sauntered over and joined them.  He looked
once at Calumet, and then his gaze went to Garvey as he spoke.

"Friend of yourn?" he questioned.  There was marked deference in the
manner of Garvey.  He politely backed away, shifting his position so
that Denver Ed faced Calumet at a distance of several feet, with no
obstruction between them.

Calumet's eyes met Denver's, and he answered the latter's question,
Garvey having apparently withdrawn from the conversation.

"Friend of _his_?" sneered Calumet, grinning shallowly.  "I reckon not;
I'm pickin' my company."

Denver Ed did not answer at once.  He moved a little toward Calumet and
shoved his right hip forward, so that the butt of his six-shooter was
invitingly near.  Then, with his hands folded peacefully over his
chest, he spoke:

"You do," he said, "you mangy ------!"

There was a stir among the onlookers as the vile epithet was applied.
Calumet's right hand went swiftly forward and his fingers closed around
the butt of the weapon at Denver Ed's hip.  The gun came out with a
jerk and lay in Calumet's hand.  Calumet began to pull the trigger.
The dull, metallic impact of the hammer against empty chambers was the
only result.

Denver Ed grinned malignantly as his right hand stole into his vest.
There was a flash of metal as he drew the concealed gun, but before its
muzzle could be trained on Calumet the latter pressed the empty weapon
in his own hand against the one that Denver Ed was attempting to draw,
blocking its egress; while in Calumet's left hand the six-shooter which
he had concealed under his own vest roared spitefully within a foot of
Denver Ed's chest.

Many in the room saw the expression of surprise in Denver Ed's eye as
he pitched forward in a heap at Calumet's feet.  There were others who
saw Garvey raise the six-shooter which he had drawn from Calumet's
holster.  All heard the hammer click impotently on the empty chambers;
saw Calumet's own weapon flash around and cover Garvey; saw the
flame-spurt and watched Garvey crumple and sink.

There was a dead silence.  Taggart had not moved.  Calumet's gaze went
from the two fallen men and rested on his father's enemy.

"Didn't work," he jeered.  "They missed connections, didn't they?
You'll get yours if you ain't out of town by sundown.  Layin' for me
for a week, eh?  You sufferin' sneak, thinkin' I was born yesterday!"
He ignored Taggart and looked coolly around at his audience, not a man
of which had moved.  He saw the sheriff standing near the door, and it
was to him that he spoke.

"Frame-up," he said in short, sharp accents.  "Back Durango way Denver
an' the little guy pulled it off regular.  Little man gets your gun.
Denver gets you riled.  Sticks his hip out so's you'll grab his gun.
You do.  Gun's empty.  But you don't know it, an' you try to perforate
Denver.  Then he pulls another gun an' salivates you.  Self-defense."
He looked around with a cold grin.  "Planted an empty on him myself,"
he said.  "The little guy fell for it.  So did Denver.  I reckon that's
all.  You wantin' me for this?" he inquired of the sheriff.  "You'll
find me at the Lazy Y.  Taggart--"  He hesitated and looked around.
Taggart was nowhere to be seen.  "Sloped," added Calumet, with a laugh.

"I don't reckon I'll want you," said Toban.  "Clear case of
self-defense.  I reckon most everybody saw the play.  Some raw."

Several men had moved; one of them was peering at the faces of Denver
and Garvey.  He now looked up at the sheriff.

"Nothing botherin' them any more," he said.

Calumet stepped over to Denver's confederate and took up the pistol
from the floor near him, replacing it in his holster.  By this time the
crowd in the saloon was standing near the two gunmen, commenting
gravely or humorously, according to its whim.

"Surprise party for him," suggested one, pointing to Denver.

"Didn't tickle him a heap, though," said another.  "Seemed plumb
shocked an' disappointed, if you noticed his face."

"Slick," said another, pointing to Calumet, who had turned his back and
was walking toward the door; "cool as ice water."

Sudden death had no terrors for these men; there was no inclination in
their minds to blame Calumet, and so they watched with admiration for
his poise as he stepped out through the door.

"Taggart'll be gettin' his," said a man.

"Not tonight," laughed another.  "I seen him hittin' the breeze out.
An' sundown's quite a considerable distance away yet, too."



CHAPTER XVI

THE AMBUSH

If Calumet had any regret over the outcome of his adventure in the Red
Dog, it was that Neal Taggart had given him no opportunity to square
the account between them.  Calumet had lingered in town until dusk, for
he had given his word and would not break it, and then, it being
certain that his enemy had decided not to accept the challenge, he
hitched his horses and just after dusk pulled out for the Lazy Y.
Something had been added to the debt of hatred which he owed the
Taggarts.

As he drove through the darkening land he yielded to a deep
satisfaction.  He had struck one blow, a sudden and decisive one, and,
though it had not landed on either of the Taggarts, it had at least
shown them what they might expect.  He intended to deliver other blows,
and he was rather glad now that he had not been so weak as to allow
Betty's dictatorial attitude to drive him from the ranch, for in that
case he would never have discovered the plot to cheat him of his
heritage--would not have been in a position to bring discomfiture and
confusion upon them all.  That was what he was determined to do.  There
was no plan in his mind; he was merely going to keep his eyes open, and
when opportunity came he was going to take advantage of it.

The darkness deepened as he drove.  When he reached the crest of the
slope from which that morning he had looked down upon Lazette, the
wagon entered a stretch of broken country through which the horses made
slow progress.  After traversing this section he encountered a flat,
dull plain of sand, hard and smooth, which the horses appreciated, for
they traveled rapidly, straining willingly in the harness.

It was about nine o'clock when the moon rose, a pale yellow disk above
the hills that rimmed the valley of the Lazy Y, and Calumet welcomed it
with a smile, lighting a cigarette and leaning back comfortably in the
seat, with the reins held between his knees.

He presently thought of his weapons, drawing them out and reloading
them.  They recalled the incident of the Red Dog, and for a long time
his thoughts dwelt on it, straight, grim lines in his face.

He wondered what Betty would say when she heard of it.  Would it affect
her future relations with Taggart?  His thoughts were still of Betty
when the wagon careened out of the level and began to crawl up a slope
that led through some hills.  The trail grew hazardous, and the horses
were forced to proceed slowly.  It was near midnight when the wagon
dipped into a little gully about a mile and a half from the ranchhouse.
Calumet halted the horses at the bottom of the gully, allowing them to
drink from the shallow stream that trickled on its way to meet the
river which passed through the wood near the ranchhouse.

After the animals had drunk their fill he urged them on again, for he
was weary of the ride and anxious to have it over with.  It was a long
pull, however, and the horses made hard work of it, so that when they
reached the crest of the rise they halted of their own accord and stood
with their legs braced, breathing heavily.

Calumet waited patiently.  He was anxious to get to the Lazy Y, but his
sympathy was with the horses.  He rolled and lighted another cigarette,
holding the match concealed in the palm of his hand so that the breeze
might not extinguish it.

Sitting thus, a premonition of danger oppressed him with such force and
suddenness that it caused him to throw himself quickly backward.  At
the exact instant that his back struck the lumber piled behind him he
heard the sharp, vicious crack of a rifle, and a bullet thudded dully
into one of the wooden stanchions of the wagon frame at the edge of the
seat.  Another report followed it quickly, and Calumet flung himself
headlong toward the rear of the wagon, where he lay for a brief
instant, alert, rigid, too full of rage for utterance.

But he was not too angry to think.  The shots, he knew, had come from
the left of the wagon.  They had been too close for comfort, and
whoever had shot at him was a good enough marksman, although, he
thought, with a bitter grin, a trifle too slow of movement to do any
damage to him.

His present position was precarious and he did not stay long in it.
Close to the side of the wagon--the side opposite that from which the
shots had come--was a shallow gully, deep enough to conceal himself in
and fringed at the rear by several big boulders.  It was an ideal
position and Calumet did not hesitate to take advantage of it.
Dropping from the rear of the wagon, he made a leap for the gully,
landing in its bottom upon all fours.  He heard a crash, and a bullet
flattened itself against one of the rocks above his head.

"He ain't so slow, after all," he admitted grudgingly, referring to the
concealed marksman.

He kneeled in the gully and looked cautiously over its edge.  The wagon
was directly in front of him; part of one of the rear wheels was in his
line of vision.  The horses were standing quietly, undisturbed by the
shots.  He resolved to keep them where they were, and, exercising the
greatest care, he found a good-sized rock and stuck it under the front
of the rear wheel nearest him, thus blocking the wagon against them
should they become restless.

The moon was at his back, and he grinned with satisfaction as he noted
that the rocks behind him threw a deep shadow into the gully.  He could
not help thinking that his enemy, whoever he was, had not made a happy
selection of a spot for an ambuscade, for the moonlight's glare
revealed every rock on the other side of the wagon, and the few trees
in the wood behind the rocks were far too slender to provide shelter
for a man of ordinary size.  Calumet chuckled grimly as, with his head
slightly above the edge of the gully and concealed behind the felloes
of the wagon wheel, he made an examination of the rocks beyond the
wagon.

There were four of the rocks which were of sufficient size to afford
concealment for a man.  They varied in size and were ranged along the
side of the trail in an irregular line.  All were about a hundred feet
distant.

The smaller one, he decided, was not to be considered, though he looked
suspiciously at it before making his decision.  Its neighbor was
larger, though he reasoned that if he were to make a selection for an
ambuscade he would not choose that one either.  The other two rocks
were almost the same size and he watched them warily.  To the right and
left of these rocks was a clear space, flat and open, with not a tree
or a bush large enough to conceal danger such as he was in search of.
The slope up which he had just driven the horses was likewise free from
obstruction, so that if his enemy was behind any of the rocks he was
doomed to stay there or offer himself as a target for Calumet's pistol.

"Wise, I reckon," he sneered.  "Figgered to plug me while the horses
was restin', knowin' I'd have to breathe them about here.  Thought one
shot would get me.  Missed his reckonin'.  Must be a mite peeved by
this time."

His gaze became intent again, but this time it was directed to some
underbrush about two hundred yards distant, back of the rocks.  With
some difficulty he could make out the shape of a horse standing well
back in the brush, and again he grinned.

"That's why he took that side," he said.  "There's no place on this
side where he could hide his horse.  It's plumb simple."

From where he kneeled began another slope that descended to the Lazy Y
valley.  It dipped gently down into the wood in front of the house,
where he had hitched his horse on the night of his home-coming, and
between the trees he could see a light flickering.  The light came from
the kitchen window of the ranch-house; Betty had left it burning for
him, expecting him to return shortly after dusk.  The house was not
more than a mile distant and he wondered at the hardihood of his enemy
in planning to ambush him so close to his home.  He reflected, though,
that it was not likely that the shots could be heard from the house,
for the spot on which the wagon stood was several hundred feet above
the level of the valley, and then there was the intervening wood, which
would dull whatever sound might float in that direction.

Who could his assailant be?  Why, it was Taggart, of course.  Taggart
had left town hours before him, he was a coward, and shooting from
ambush is a coward's game.

Calumet's blood leaped a little faster in his veins.  He would settle
for good with Neal Taggart.  But he did not move except to draw one of
his six-shooters and push its muzzle over the edge of the gully.  He
shoved his arm slowly forward so that it lay extended along the ground
the barrel of the pistol resting on the felloes of the wheel.

In this position he remained for half an hour.  No sound broke the
strained stillness of the place.  The horses had sagged forward, their
heads hanging, their legs braced.  There was no cloud in the sky and
the clear light of the moon poured down in a yellow flood.  Calumet's
task would have been easier if he could have told which of the four
rocks concealed his enemy.  As it was he was compelled to watch them
all.

But presently, at the edge of one of the two larger rocks, the one
nearest the slope, he detected movement.  A round object a foot in
diameter, came slowly into view from behind the rock, propelled by an
unseen force.  It was shoved out about three quarters of its width, so
that it overlapped the big rock beside it, leaving an aperture between
the two of perhaps three or four inches.  While Calumet watched a rifle
barrel was stuck into this aperture.  Calumet waited until the muzzle
of the rifle became steady and then he took quick aim at the spot and
pulled the trigger of his six-shooter, ducking his head below the edge
of the gully as his weapon crashed.

He heard a laugh, mocking, discordant, followed by a voice--Taggart's
voice.

"Clean miss," it said.  "You're nervous."

"Like you was in town today," jeered Calumet.

"Then you know me?" returned Taggart.  "I ain't admittin' that I was
any nervous."

"Scared of the dark, then," said Calumet.  "You left town a whole lot
punctual."

"Well," sneered Taggart; "mebbe I ain't much on the shoot.  I don't
play any man's game but my own."

"You're right," mocked Calumet; "you don't play no man's game.  A man's
game--"

He raised his head a trifle and a bullet sang past it, flattened itself
against the rock behind him, cutting short his speech and his humor at
the same instant.  The gully was fully fifty feet long and he dropped
on his hands and knees and crawled to the upper end of it, away from
the slope.  He saw one of Taggart's feet projecting from behind the
rock and he brought his six-shooter to a poise.  The foot moved and
disappeared.  Catching a glimpse of the rifle barrel coming into view
around the edge of the rock, Calumet sank back into the gully.  Fifteen
minutes later when he again cautiously raised his head above the level
there was no sign of Taggart.  He dropped down into the gully again and
scrambled to the other end of it, raising his head again.  He saw
Taggart, twenty-five feet behind the rock, backing away toward the wood
where his horse stood, crouching, watchful, endeavoring to keep the
rock between him and Calumet while he retreated.  Altogether, he was
fully a hundred and twenty-five feet away at the moment Calumet caught
sight of him, and he was looking toward the end of the gully that
Calumet had just vacated.  Calumet stood erect and snapped a shot at
him, though the distance was so great that he had little expectation of
doing any damage.

But Taggart staggered, dropped his rifle and dove headlong toward the
rock.  In an instant he had resumed his position behind it, and Calumet
could tell from the rapidity of his movements that he had not been hit.
He saw the rifle lying where it had fallen, and he was meditating a
quick rush toward the rock when he saw Taggart's hand come out and
grasp the stock of the weapon, dragging it back to him.  Calumet
whipped a bullet at the hand, but the only result was a small dust
cloud beside it.

"In a hurry, Taggart?" he jeered.  "Aw, don't be.  This is the most fun
I've had since I've been back in the valley.  An' you want to spoil it
by hittin' the breeze.  Hang around a while till I get my hand in.  I
reckon you ain't hurt?" he added, putting a little anxiety into his
voice.

"Hurt nothin'," growled Taggart.  "You hit the stock of the rifle."

"I reckon that wouldn't be accounted bad shootin' at a hundred an'
twenty-five feet," said Calumet.  "If you hadn't had the rifle in the
way you'd have got it plumb in your bread-basket.  But don't be
down-hearted; that ain't nothin' to what I can do when I get my hand
in.  I ain't had no practice."

He had an immense advantage over Taggart.  The latter was compelled to
remain concealed behind his rock, while Calumet had the freedom of the
gully.  He did not anticipate that Taggart would again attempt to
retreat in the same way, nor did he think that he would risk charging
him, for he would not be certain at what point in the gully he would be
likely to find his enemy and thus a charge would probably result
disastrously for him.

Taggart was apparently satisfied of the watchfulness of Calumet, for he
stayed discreetly behind his rock.  Twice during the next hour his
rifle cracked when he caught a glimpse of Calumet's head, and each time
he knew he had missed, for Calumet's laugh followed the reports.  Once,
after a long interval of silence, thinking that Calumet was at the
other end of the gully, he moved the small rock which he had pushed
beyond the edge of the large one, using his rifle barrel as a prod.  A
bullet from Calumet's pistol struck the rock, glanced from it and
seared the back of his hand, bringing a curse to his lips.

"Told you so," came Calumet's voice.  "I hope it ain't nothin' serious.
But I'm gettin' my hand in."

This odd duel continued with long lapses of silence while the moon grew
to a disk of pale, liquid silver in the west, enduring through the
bleak, chill time preceding the end of night, finally fading and
disappearing as the far eastern distance began to glow with the gray
light of dawn.

Calumet's cold humor had not survived the night.  He patrolled the
gully during the slow-dragging hours of the early morning with a
growing caution and determination, his lips setting always into harder
lines, his eyes beginning to blaze with a ferocity that promised ill
for Taggart.

Shortly after dawn, kneeling in the gully at the end toward the
ranchhouse, he heard the wagon move.  He looked up to see that the
horses had started, evidently with the intention of completing their
delayed journey to the stable, where they would find the food and water
which they no doubt craved.  As the wagon bumped over the obstruction
which Calumet had placed in front of the rear wheel, he was on the
verge of shouting to the horses to halt, but thought better of it,
watching them in silence as they made their way slowly down the slope.

It took them a long time to reach the level of the valley, and then
they passed slowly through the wood, going as steadily as though there
was a driver on the seat behind them, and finally they turned into the
ranchhouse yard and came to a halt near the kitchen door.

Calumet watched them until they came to a stop and then he went to the
opposite end of the gully, peeping above it in order to learn of the
whereabouts of Taggart.  He saw no signs of him and returned to the
other end of the gully.

Taggart, he suspected, could not see where the wagon had gone and no
doubt was filled with curiosity.  Neither could Taggart see the
ranchhouse, for there were intervening hills and the slope itself was a
ridge which effectually shut off Taggart's view.  But neither hills or
ridge were in Calumet's line of vision.  Kneeling in the gully he
watched the wagon.  Presently he saw Betty come out and stand on the
porch.  She looked at the wagon for a moment and then went toward
it--Calumet could see her peer around the canvas side at the seat.
After a moment she left the wagon and walked to the stable, looking
within.  Then she took a turn around the ranchhouse yard, stopping at
the bunkhouse and looking over the corral fence.  She returned to the
wagon and stood beside it as though pondering.  Calumet grinned in
amusement.  She was wondering what had become of him.  His grin was cut
short by the crash of Taggart's rifle and he dodged down, realizing
that in his curiosity to see what Betty was doing he had inadvertently
exposed himself.  A hole in his shirt sleeve near the shoulder
testified to his narrow escape.

His rage against Taggart was furious and with a grimace at him he
turned again to the ranchhouse.  Betty had left the wagon and had
walked several steps toward him, standing rigid, shading her eyes with
her hands.  Apparently she had heard the report of the rifle and was
wondering what it meant.  At that instant Calumet looked over the edge
of the gully to see Taggart shoving the muzzle of his rifle around the
side of the rock.  Its report mingled with the roar of Calumet's pistol.

Taggart yelled with pain and rage and flopped back out of sight, while
Calumet laid an investigating hand on his left shoulder, which felt as
though it had been seared by a red-hot iron.

He kneeled in the gully and tore the cloth away.  The wound was a
slight one and he sneered at it.  He made his way to the other end of
the gully, expecting that Taggart, if injured only slightly, might
again attempt a retreat, but he did not see him and came back to the
end nearest the ranchhouse.  Then he saw Betty running toward him,
carrying a rifle.

At this evidence of meditated interference in his affairs a new rage
afflicted Calumet.  He motioned violently for her to keep away, and
when he saw Dade run out of the house after her, also with a rifle in
hand, he motioned again.  But it was evident that they took his motions
to mean that they were not to approach him in that direction, for they
changed their course and swung around toward the rocks at his rear.

Furious at their obstinacy, or lack of perception, Calumet watched
their approach with glowering glances.  When they came near enough for
him to make himself heard he yelled savagely at them.

"Get out of here, you damned fools!" he said; "do you want to get hurt?"

They continued to come on in spite of this warning, but when they
reached the foot of the little slope that led to the ridge at the edge
of which was Calumet's gully, they halted, looking up at Calumet
inquiringly.  The ridge towered above their heads, and so they were in
no danger, but Betty halted only for a moment and then continued to
approach until she stood on the ridge, exposed to Taggart's fire.  But,
of course, Taggart would not fire at her.

"What's wrong?" she demanded of Calumet; "what were you shooting at?"

"Friend of yours," he said brusquely.

"Who?"

"Neal Taggart.  We've been picnicin' all night."

Her face flooded with color, but paled instantly.  Calumet thought
there was reproach in the glance she threw at him, but he did not have
time to make certain, for at the instant she looked at him she darted
toward a rock about ten feet distant, no doubt intending to conceal
herself behind it.

Calumet watched her.  When she gained the shelter of the rock she was
about to kneel in some fringing mesquite at its base when she heard
Calumet yell at her.  She turned, hesitating in the act of kneeling,
and looked at Calumet.  His face was ashen.  His heavy pistol pointed
in her direction; it seemed that its muzzle menaced her.  She
straightened, anger in her eyes, as the weapon crashed.

Her knees shook, she covered her face with her hands to shut out the
reeling world, for she thought that in his rage he was shooting at her.
But in the next instant she felt his arms around her; she was squeezed
until she thought her bones were being crushed, and in the same instant
she was lifted, swung clear of the ground and set suddenly down again.
She opened her eyes, her whole body trembling with wrath, to look at
Calumet, within a foot of her.  But he was not looking at her; his gaze
was fixed with sardonic satisfaction upon a huge rattler which was
writhing in the throes of death at the base of the rock where she had
been about to kneel.  Its head had been partly severed from its body
and while she looked Calumet's pistol roared again and its destruction
was completed.

She was suddenly faint; the world reeled again.  But the sensation
passed quickly and she saw Calumet standing close to her, looking at
her with grim disapprobation.  Apparently he had forgotten his danger
in his excitement over hers.

"I told you not to come here," he said.

But a startled light leaped into her eyes at the words.  Calumet swung
around as he saw her rifle swing to her shoulder.  He saw Taggart near
the edge of the wood, two hundred yards away, kneeling, his rifle
leveled at them.  He yelled to Betty but she did not heed him.
Taggart's bullet sang over his head as the gun in Betty's hands
crashed.  Taggart stood quickly erect, his rifle dropped from his hands
as he ran, staggering from side to side, to his horse.  He mounted and
fled, his pony running desperately, accompanied by the music of a rifle
that suddenly began popping on the other side of Calumet--Dade's.  But
the distance was great, the target elusive, and Dade's bullets sang
futilely.

They watched Taggart until he vanished, his pony running steadily along
a far level, and then Betty turned to see Calumet looking at her with a
twisted, puzzled smile.

"You plugged him, I reckon," he said, nodding toward the vast distance
into which his enemy was disappearing.  "Why, it's plumb ridiculous.
If my girl would plug me that way, I'd sure feel--"

His meaning was plain, though he did not finish.  She looked at him
straight in the eyes though her face was crimson and her lips trembled
a little.

"You are a brute!" she said.  Turning swiftly she began to descend the
slope toward the ranchhouse.

Calumet stood looking after her for a moment, his face working with
various emotions that struggled for expression.  Then, ignoring Dade,
who stood near him, plainly puzzled over this enigma, he walked over to
the edge of the wood where Taggart's rifle lay, picked it up and made
his way to the ranchhouse.



CHAPTER XVII

MORE PROGRESS

A strange thing was happening to Calumet.  His character was in the
process of remaking.  Slowly and surely Betty's good influence was
making itself felt.  This in spite of his knowledge of her secret
meeting with Neal Taggart.  To be sure, so far as his actions were
concerned, he was the Calumet of old, a man of violent temper and
vicious impulses, but there were growing governors that were
continually slowing his passions, strange, new thoughts that were
thrusting themselves insistently before him.  He was strangely
uncertain of his attitude toward Betty, disturbed over his feelings
toward her.  Despite his knowledge of her secret meeting with Taggart,
with a full consciousness of all the rage against her which that
knowledge aroused in him, he liked her.  At the same time, he despised
her.  She was not honest.  He had no respect for any woman who would
sneak as she had sneaked.  She was two-faced; she was trying to cheat
him out of his heritage.  She had deceived his father, she was trying
to deceive him.  She was unworthy of any admiration whatever, but
whenever he looked at her, whenever she was near him, he was conscious
of a longing that he could not fight down.

And there was Dade.  He often watched Dade while they were working
together on the bunkhouse in the days following the incident of the
ambush by Taggart.  The feeling that came over him at these times was
indescribable and disquieting, as was his emotion whenever Dade smiled
at him.  He had never experienced the deep, stirring spirit of
comradeship, the unselfish affection which sometimes unites the hearts
of men; he had had no "chum" during his youth.  But this feeling that
came over him whenever he looked at Dade was strangely like that which
he had for his horse, Blackleg.  It was deeper, perhaps, and disturbed
him more, yet it was the same.  At the same time, it was different.
But he could not tell why.  He liked to have Dade around him, and one
day when the latter went to Lazette on some errand for Betty he felt
queerly depressed and lonesome.  That same night when Dade drove into
the ranchhouse yard Calumet had smiled at him, and a little later when
Dade had told Betty about it he had added:

"When I seen him grin at me that cordial, I come near fallin' off my
horse.  I was that flustered!  Why, Betty, he's comin' around!  The
durn cuss likes me!"

"Do you like him?" inquired Betty.

"Sure.  Why, shucks!  There ain't nothin' wrong with him exceptin' his
grouch.  When he works that off so's it won't come back any more he'll
be plumb man, an' don't you forget it!"

There was no mistaking Calumet's feeling toward Bob.  He pitied the
youngster.  He allowed him to ride Blackleg.  He braided him a
half-sized lariat.  He carried him long distances on his back and
waited upon him at the table.  Bob became his champion; the boy
worshiped him.

Betty was not unaware of all this, and yet she continued to hold
herself aloof from Calumet.  She did not treat him indifferently, she
merely kept him at a distance.  Several times when he spoke to her
about Neal Taggart she left him without answering, and so he knew that
she resented the implication that he had expressed on the morning
following the night on which he had discovered her talking in the
office.

It was nearly three weeks after the killing of Denver and his
confederate that the details of the story reached Betty's ears, and
Calumet was as indifferent to her expressions of horror--though it was
a horror not unmixed with a queer note of satisfaction, over which he
wondered--as he was to Dade's words of congratulation: "You're sure
livin' up to your reputation of bein' a slick man with the six!"

Nor did Calumet inquire who had brought the news.  But when one day a
roaming puncher brought word from the Arrow that "young Taggart is
around ag'in after monkeyin' with the wrong end of a gun," he showed
interest.  He was anxious to settle the question which had been in his
mind since the morning of the shooting.  It was this: had Betty meant
to hit Taggart when she had shot at him?  He thought not; she had
pretended hostility in order to mislead him.  But if that had been her
plan she had failed to fool him, for he watched unceasingly, and many
nights when Betty thought him asleep he was secreted in the wood near
the ranchhouse.  He increased his vigilance after receiving word that
Taggart had not been badly injured.  More, he rarely allowed Betty to
get out of his sight, for he was determined to defeat the plan to rob
him.

However, the days passed and Taggart did not put in an appearance.
Time removes the sting from many hurts and even jealousy's pangs are
assuaged by the flight of days.  And so after a while Calumet's
vigilance relaxed, and he began to think that he had scared Taggart
away.  He noted with satisfaction that Betty seemed to treat him less
coldly, and he felt a pulse of delight over the thought that perhaps
she had repented and had really tried to hit Taggart that morning.

Once he seized upon this idea he could not dispel it.  More, it grew on
him, became a foundation upon which he built a structure of defense for
Betty.  Taggart had been trying to deceive her.  She had discovered his
intentions and had broken with him.  Perhaps she had seen the injustice
of her actions.  He began to wish he had treated her a little less
cruelly, a little more civilly, began to wish that he had yielded to
those good impulses which he had felt occasionally of late.  His
attitude toward Betty became almost gentle, and there were times when
she watched him with wondering curiosity, as though not quite
understanding the change that had come in him.

But Dade understood.  He had "sized" Calumet "up" in those first days
and his judgment had been unerring, as it was now when Betty asked his
opinion.

"He's beginnin' to use his brain box," he told her.  "He's been a
little shy an' backward, not knowin' what to expect, an' makin'
friend's bein' a little new to him.  But he's the goods at bottom, an'
he's sighted a goal which he's thinkin' to make one of these days."

"A goal?" said she, puzzled.

"Aw, you female critters is deep ones," grinned Dade, "an' all smeared
over with honey an' innocence.  You're the goal he's after.  An' I'm
bettin' he'll get you."

Her face reddened, and she looked at him plainly indignant.

"He is a brute," she said.

"Most all men is brutes if you scratch them deep enough," drawled Dade.
"The trouble with Calumet is that he's never had a chance to spread on
the soft stuff.  He's the plain, unvarnished, dyed-in-the-wool,
original man.  There's a word fits him, if I could think of it."  He
looked at her inquiringly.

"Primitive, I think you mean," she said.

"That's it--primitive.  That's him.  He's the rough material; nobody's
ever helped him to get into shape.  A lot of folks pride themselves on
what they call culture, forgettin' that it wasn't in them when they
came into the world, that it growed on them after they got here, was
put there by trainin' an' example.  Not that I'm ag'in culture; it's a
mighty fine thing to have hangin' around a man.  But if a man ain't got
it an' still measures up to man's size, he's goin' to be a humdinger
when he gets all the culture that's comin' to him.  Mebbe Calumet'll
never get it.  But he's losin' his grouch, an' if you--"

"When do you think you will finish repairing the corral?" interrupted
Betty.

Dade grinned.  "Tomorrow, I reckon," he said.



CHAPTER XVIII

ANOTHER PEACE OFFERING

Dade's prediction that the corral would be completed the next day was
fulfilled.  It was a large enclosure, covering several acres, for in
the Lazy Y's prosperous days there had been a great many cattle to care
for, and a roomy corral is a convenience always arranged for by an
experienced cattleman.  But it yawned emptily for more than a week
following its completion.

During that time there had been little to do.  Dade and Malcolm had
passed several days tinkering at the stable and the bunkhouse; Bob, at
Calumet's suggestion, was engaged in the humane task of erecting a
kennel for the new dog--which had grown large and ungainly, though
still retaining the admiration of his owner; and Calumet spent much of
his time roaming around the country on Blackleg.

"Killin' time," he told Dade.

But it was plain to Dade, as it was to Betty, who had spoken but little
to him in a week, that Calumet was filled with speculation and
impatience over the temporary inaction.  The work of repairing the
buildings was all done.  There was nothing now to do except to await
the appearance of some cattle.  The repair work had all been done to
that end, and it was inevitable that Betty must be considering some
arrangement for the procuring of cattle, but for a week she had said
nothing and Calumet did not question her.

But on the Monday morning following the period of inaction, Calumet
noted at the breakfast table that Betty seemed unusually eager to have
the meal over.  As he was leaving the table she told him she wanted to
speak to him after her housework was done, and he went outside, where
he lingered, watching Dade and Malcolm and Bob.

About an hour or so later Betty came out.  Calumet was standing at the
corral fence near the stable when she stepped down from the porch, and
he gave a gasp of astonishment and then stood perfectly still, looking
at her.

For the Betty that he saw was not the Betty he had grown accustomed to
seeing.  Not once during the time he had been at the Lazy Y had he seen
her except in a house dress and her appearance now was in the nature of
a transformation.

[Illustration: Her appearance now was in the nature of a
transformation.]

She was arrayed in a riding habit of brown corduroy which consisted of
a divided skirt--a "doubled-barreled" one in the sarcastic phraseology
of the male cowpuncher, who affects to despise such an article of
feminine apparel--a brown woolen blouse with a low collar, above which
she had sensibly tied a neckerchief to keep the sun and sand from
blistering her neck; and a black felt hat with a wide brim.  On her
hands were a pair of silver-spangled leather gauntlets; encasing her
feet were a pair of high-topped, high-heeled riding boots, ornamented
with a pair of long-roweled Mexican spurs, mounted with silver.  She
was carrying a saddle which was also bedecked and bespangled with
silver.

Illumination came instantly to Calumet.  These things--the saddle, the
riding habit, the spurs--were material possessions that connected her
with the past.  They were her personal belongings, kept and treasured
from the more prosperous days of her earlier life.

At the first look he had felt a mean impulse to ridicule her because of
them, but this impulse was succeeded instantly by a queer feeling of
pity for her, and he kept silent.

But even had he ridiculed her, his ridicule would have been merely a
mask behind which he could have hidden his surprise and admiration, for
though her riding habit suggested things effete and eastern, which are
always to be condemned on general principles, it certainly did fit her
well, was becoming, neat, and in it she made a figure whose attractions
were not to be denied.

She knew how to wear her clothes, too, he noted that instantly.  She
was at home in them; she graced them, gave them a subtle hint of
quality that carried far and sank deep.  As she came toward him he
observed that her cheeks were a trifle flushed, her eyes a little
brighter than usual, but for all that she was at ease and natural.

She stopped in front of him and smiled.

"Do you mind going over to the Diamond K with me this morning?" she
asked.

"What for?" he said gruffly, reddening as he thought she might see the
admiration which was slumbering in his eyes.

"To buy some cattle," she returned.  "Kelton, of the Diamond K, hasn't
been fortunate this season.  Little Darby has been dry nearly all of
the time and there has been little good grass on his range.  In the
first place, he had too much stock, even if conditions were right.  I
have heard that Kelton offered to pay the Taggarts for the use of part
of their grass, but they have never been friends and the Taggarts
wanted to charge him an outrageous price for the privilege.  Therefore,
Kelton is anxious to get rid of some of his stock.  We need cattle and
we can get them from him at a reasonable figure.  He has some white
Herefords that I would like to get."

He cleared his throat and hesitated, frowning.

"Why don't you take Dade--or Malcolm?" he suggested.

She looked straight at him.  "Don't be priggish," she said.  "Dade and
Malcolm have nothing to do with the running of this ranch.  I want you
to go with me, because I am going to buy some cattle and I want you to
confirm the deal."

He laughed.  "Do you reckon you need to go at all?" he said.  "I figure
to know cattle some myself, an' I wouldn't let Kelton hornswoggle me."

She straightened, her chin lifting a little.  "Well," she said slowly,
"if that is the way you feel, I presume I shall have to go alone.  I
had thought, though, that the prospective owner of the Lazy Y might
have enough interest in his property to put aside his likes and
dislikes long enough to care for his own interests.  Also," she added,
"where I came from, no man would be ungentlemanly enough to refuse to
accompany a lady anywhere she might ask him to go."

The flush on his face grew.  But he refused to become disconcerted.  "I
reckon to be as much of a gentleman as any Texas guy," he said.  "But I
expect, though," he added; "to prove that to you I'll have to trail
along after you."

"Of course," she said, the corners of her mouth dimpling a little.

He went down to the corral, roped the most gentle and best appearing
one of the two horses he had bought in Lazette, caught up his own
horse, Blackleg, and brought them to the stable, where he saddled and
bridled them.  Before putting the bridle on her horse, however, he
found an opportunity to work off part of the resentment which had
accumulated in him over her reference to his conduct.

After adjusting the saddle, paying particular attention to the cinches,
he straightened and looked at her.

"Do you reckon to have a bridle that belongs to that right pretty
saddle an' suit of yourn?" he asked.

She cast a swift glance about her and blushed.  "Oh," she said; "I have
forgotten it!  It is in my room!"

"I reckon I'd get it if I was thinkin' of goin' ridin'," he said.
"Some folks seem to think that when you're ridin' a horse a bridle is
right handy."

"Well," she said, smiling at him as she went out the stable door; "it
has been a long time since I have had these things on, and perhaps I
was a little nervous."

At this reference to her past the pulse of pity which he had felt for
her before again shot over him.  He had seen a quick sadness in her
eyes, lurking behind the smile.

"I reckon you've been stayin' in the house too much," he said gruffly.

She hesitated, going out of the door, to look back at him, astonishment
and something more subtle glinting her eyes.  He saw it and frowned.

"It's twelve miles to the Diamond K," he suggested; "an' twelve back.
If you're figgerin' on ridin' that distance an' takin' time between to
look at any cattle mebbe you'd better get a move on."

She was out of the door before he had ceased speaking and in an
incredibly short time was back, a little breathless, her face flushed
as though she had been running.

He put the bridle on her horse, led it out, and condescended to hold
the stirrup for her, a service which she acknowledged with a flashing
smile that brought a reluctant grin to his face.

Then, swinging into his own saddle, he urged Blackleg after her, for
she had not waited for him, riding down past the ranchhouse and out
into the little stretch of plain that reached to the river.

They rode steadily, talking little, for Calumet deliberately kept a
considerable distance between them, thus showing her that though
courtesy had forced him to accompany her it could not demand that he
should also become a mark at which she could direct conversation.

It was noon when they came in sight of the Diamond K ranch buildings.
They were on a wide plain near the river and what grass there was was
sun-scorched and rustled dryly under the tread of their horses' hoofs.
Then Calumet added a word to the few that he had already spoken during
the ride.

"I reckon Kelton must have been loco to try to raise cattle in a
God-forsaken hole like this," he said with a sneer.

"That he was foolish enough to do so will result to our advantage," she
replied.

"Meanin' what?"

"That we will be able to buy what cattle we want more cheaply than we
would were Kelton's range what it should be," she returned, watching
his face.

He looked at her vindictively.  "You're one of them kind of humans that
like to take advantage of a man's misfortune," he said.

"That is all in the viewpoint," she defended.  "I didn't bring
misfortune to Kelton.  And I consider that in buying his cattle I am
doing him a favor.  I am not gloating over the opportunity--it is
merely business."

"Why didn't you offer Kelton the Lazy Y range?" he said with a twisting
grin.

She could not keep the triumph out of her voice.  "I did," she
answered.  "He wouldn't take it because he didn't like you--doesn't
like you.  He told me that he knew you when you were a boy and you
weren't exactly his style."

Thus eliminated as a conversationalist, and defeated in his effort to
cast discredit upon her, Calumet maintained a sneering silence.

But when they rode up to the Diamond K ranchhouse, he flung a parting
word at her.

"I reckon you can go an' talk cattle to your man, Kelton," he said.
"I'm afraid that if he goes gassin' to me I'll smash his face in."

He rode back to the horse corral, which they had passed, to look again
at a horse inside which had attracted his attention.

The animal was glossy black except for a little patch of white above
the right fore-fetlock; he was tall, rangy, clean-limbed,
high-spirited, and as Calumet sat in the saddle near the corral gate
watching him he trotted impudently up to the bars and looked him over.
Then, after a moment, satisfying his curiosity, he wheeled, slashed at
the gate with both hoofs, and with a snort, that in the horse language
might have meant contempt or derision, cavorted away.

Calumet's admiring glance followed him.  He sat in the saddle for half
an hour, eyeing the horse critically, and at the end of that time,
noting that Betty had returned to the ranchhouse with Kelton, probably
having looked at some of the stock she had come to see--Calumet had
observed on his approach that the cattle corral was well filled with
white Herefords--he wheeled Blackleg and rode over to them.

"Mr. Kelton has offered me four hundred head of cattle at a reasonable
figure," Betty told him on his approach.  "All that remains is for you
to confirm it."

"I reckon you're the boss," said Calumet.  He looked at Kelton, and
evidently his fear that he would "smash" the tatter's face had
vanished--perhaps in a desire to possess the black horse, which had
seized him.

"I reckon you ain't sellin' that black horse?" he said.

"Cheap," said Kelton quickly.

"How cheap?"

"Fifty dollars."

"I reckon he's my horse," said Calumet.  "The boss of the Lazy Y will
pay for him when she hands you the coin for your cattle."  He
scrutinized Kelton's face closely, having caught a note in his voice
which had interested him.  "Why you wantin' to get rid of the black?"
he questioned.

"He ain't been rode," said Kelton; "he won't be rode.  You can back out
of that sale now, if you like.  But I'm tellin' you the gospel truth.
There ain't no man in the Territory can ride him.  Miskell, my regular
bronc-buster, is the slickest man that ever forked a horse, an' he's
layin' down in the bunkhouse right now, nursin' a leg which that black
devil busted last week.  An' men is worth more to me than horses right
now.  I reckon," he finished, eyeing Calumet with a certain
vindictiveness, which had undoubtedly lasted over from his acquaintance
with the latter in the old days; "that you ain't a heap smart at
breakin' broncs, an' you won't want the black now."

"I'm reckonin' on ridin' him back to the Lazy Y," said Calumet.

Kelton grinned incredulously, and Betty looked swiftly at Calumet.  For
an instant she had half feared that this declaration had been made in a
spirit of bravado, and she was prepared to be disagreeably disappointed
in Calumet.  She told herself when she saw his face, however, that she
ought to have known better, for whatever his other shortcomings she had
never heard him boast.

And that he was not boasting now was plainly evident, both to her and
Kelton.  His declaration had been merely a calm announcement of a
deliberate purpose.  He was as natural now as he had been all along.
She saw Kelton's expression change--saw the incredulity go out of it,
observed his face whiten a little.

But his former vindictiveness remained.  "I reckon if you want to be a
damn fool I ain't interferin'.  But I've warned you, an' it's your
funeral."

Calumet did not reply, contenting himself with grinning.  He swung down
from Blackleg, removed the saddle and bridle from the animal, and
holding the latter by the forelock turned to Betty.

"I'd like you to ride Blackleg home.  He's your horse now.  Kelton will
lend you a halter to lead that skate you're on.  While he's gettin' the
halter I'll put your saddle on Blackleg--if you'll get off."

Betty dismounted and the change was made.  She had admired
Blackleg--she was in love with him now that he belonged to her, but she
was afflicted with a sudden speechlessness over the abruptness with
which he had made the gift.  She wanted to thank him, but she felt it
was not time.  Besides, he had not waited for her thanks.  He had
placed the halter on the horse she had ridden to the Diamond K, had
looked on saturninely while Kelton had helped her into the saddle, and
had then carried his own saddle to a point near the outside of the
corral fence, laying the bridle beside it.  Then he uncoiled the
braided hair lariat that hung at the pommel of the saddle and walked to
the corral gate.

With a little pulse of joy over her possession of the splendid animal
under her, and an impulse of curiosity, she urged him to the corral
fence and sat in the saddle, a little white of face, watching Calumet.

The black horse was alone in the corral and as Calumet entered and
closed the gate behind him, not fastening it, the black came toward him
with mincing steps, its ears laid back.

Calumet continued to approach him.  The black backed away slowly until
Calumet was within fifty feet of him--it seemed to Betty that the horse
knew from previous experience the length of a rope--and then with a
snort of defiance it wheeled and raced to the opposite end of the
corral.

"Watch the gate!" called Calumet to Kelton.

He continued to approach the black.  The beast retreated along the
fence, stepping high, watching Calumet over its shoulder.  Plainly, it
divined Calumet's intention--which was to crowd it into a corner--and
when almost there it halted suddenly, made a feint to pass to Calumet's
left, wheeled just as suddenly and plunged back to his right.

The ruse did not work.  Calumet had been holding his rope low, with
seeming carelessness, but as the black whipped past he gave the rope a
quick flirt.  Like a sudden snake it darted sinuously out, the loop
opened, rose, settled around the black's neck, tightened; the end in
Calumet's hand was flipped in a half hitch around a snubbing post
nearby, and the black tumbled headlong into the dust of the corral,
striking with a force that brought a grunt from him.

For an instant he lay still.  And in that instant Calumet was at his
side.  While advancing toward the black, he had taken off his
neckerchief, and now he deftly knotted it around the black's head,
covering its eyes.  A moment later he was leading it, unprotesting, out
of the corral gate.

He halted near the fence and looked at Betty, who was watching
critically, though with a tenseness in her attitude that brought a
fugitive smile to Calumet's lips.

"I reckon you'd better move a way an' give this here animal plenty of
room," he said.  "If he's as much horse as Kelton says he is he'll want
a heap of it."

He waited until in obedience to his suggestion Betty had withdrawn to a
safe distance toward the ranchhouse.  Then with Kelton holding the
black's head he placed the saddle on, then the bridle, working with a
sure swiftness that brought an admiring glint into Betty's eyes.  Then
he deliberately coiled his rope and fastened it to the pommel of the
saddle, taking extra care with it.  This done he turned with a cold
grin to Kelton, nodding his head shortly.

Kelton pulled the neckerchief from the black's eyes, let go of its
head, and scurried to the top of the corral fence.  Before he could
reach it Calumet had vaulted into the saddle, and before the black
could realize what had happened, his feet were in the stirrups.

For an instant the Black stood, its legs trembling, the muscles under
its glossy coat quivering, its ears laid flat, its nostrils distended,
its mouth open, its eyes wild and bloodshot.  Then, tensed for
movement, but uncertain, waiting a brief instant before yielding to the
thousand impulses that flashed over him, he felt the rowels of
Calumet's spurs as they were driven viciously into his sides.

He sprang wildly upward, screaming with the sudden pain, and came down,
his legs asprawl, surprised, enraged, outraged.  Alighting, he
instantly lunged--forward, sideways, with an eccentric movement which
he felt must dislodge the tormentor on his back.  It was futile,
attended with punishment, for again the sharp spurs sank in, were
jammed into his sides, held there--rolling, biting points of steel that
hurt him terribly.

He halted for a moment, to gather his wits and his strength, for his
former experiences with this strange type of creature who clung so
tenaciously to his back had taught him that he must use all his craft,
all his strength, to dislodge him.  To his relief, the spurs ceased to
bite.  But he was not misled.  There was that moment near the corral
fence when he had not moved, but still the spurs had sunk in anyway.
He would make certain this time that the creature with the spurs would
not have another opportunity to use them.  And, gathering himself for a
supreme effort, he lunged again, shunting himself off toward a stretch
of plain back of the ranchhouse, bounding like a ball, his back arched,
his head between his forelegs, coming down from each rise with his
hoofs bunched so that they might have all landed in a dinner plate.

It was fruitless.  Calumet remained unshaken, tenacious as ever.  The
black caught his breath again, and for the next five minutes practiced
his whole category of tricks, and in addition some that he invented in
the stress of the time.

To Betty, watching from her distance, it seemed that he must certainly
unseat Calumet.  She had watched bucking horses before, but never had
her interest in the antics of one been so intense; never had she been
so desperately eager for a rider's victory; never had she felt so
breathlessly fearful of one's defeat.  For, glancing from the corners
of her eyes at Kelton, she saw a scornful, mocking smile on his face.
He was wishing, hoping, that the black would throw Calumet.

At the risk of danger from the black's hoofs she urged Blackleg forward
to a more advantageous position.  As she brought him to a halt, she
heard Kelton beside her.

"Some sunfisher, that black," he remarked.

She turned on him fiercely.  "Keep still, can't you!" she said.

Kelton reddened; she did not see his face though, for she was watching
Calumet and the black.

The outlaw had not ceased his efforts.  On the contrary, it appeared
that he was just beginning to warm to his work.  Screaming with rage
and hate he sprang forward at a dead run, propelling himself with the
speed of a bullet for a hundred yards, only to come to a dizzying,
terrifying stop; standing on his hind legs; pawing furiously at the air
with his forehoofs; tearing impotently at the bit with his teeth,
slashing with terrific force in the fury of his endeavor.

Calumet's hat had come off during the first series of bucks.  The grin
that had been on his face when he had got into the saddle back near the
corral fence was gone, had been superseded by a grimness that Betty
could see even from the distance from which she watched.  He was a
rider though, she saw that--had seen it from the first.  She had seen
many cowboy breakers of wild horses; she knew the confident bearing of
them; the quickness with which they adjusted their muscles to the
eccentric movements of the horse under them, anticipating their every
action, so far as anyone was able to anticipate the actions of a
rage-maddened demon who has only one desire, to kill or maim its rider,
and she knew that Calumet was an expert.  He was cool, first of all, in
spite of his grimness; he kept his temper, he was absolutely without
fear; he was implacable, inexorable in his determination to conquer.
Somehow the battle between horse and man, as it raged up and down
before her, sometimes shifting to the far end of the level, sometimes
coming so near that she could see the expression of Calumet's face
plainly, seemed to be a contest between kindred spirits.  The analogy,
perhaps, might not have been perceived by anyone less intimately
acquainted with Calumet, or by anyone who understood a horse less, but
she saw it, and knowing Calumet's innate savagery, his primal
stubbornness, his passions, the naked soul of the man, she began to
feel that the black was waging a hopeless struggle.  He could never win
unless some accident happened.

And they were very near her when it seemed that an accident did happen.

The black, his tongue now hanging out, the foam that issued from his
mouth flecked with blood; his sides in a lather; his flanks moist and
torn from the cruel spur-points: seemed to be losing his cunning and to
be trusting entirely to his strength and yielding to his rage.  She
could hear his breath coming shrilly as he tore past her; the whites of
his eyes white no longer, but red with the murder lust.  It seemed to
her that he must divine that defeat was imminent, and in a transport of
despair he was determined to stake all on a last reckless move.

As he flashed past her she looked at Calumet also.  His face was pale;
there was a splotch of blood on his lips which told of an internal
hemorrhage brought on by the terrific jarring that he had received, but
in his eyes was an expression of unalterable resolve; the grim, cold,
immutable calm of purpose.  Oh, he would win, she knew.  Nothing but
death could defeat him.  That was his nature--his character.  There was
no alternative.  He saw none, would admit none.  He found time, as he
went past her, to grin at her, and the grin, though a trifle wan,
contained much of its old mockery and contempt of her judgment of him.

The black raced on for a hundred yards, and what ensued might have been
an accident, or it might have been the deliberate result of the black's
latest trick.  He came to a sudden stop, rose on his hind legs and
threw himself backward, toppling, rigid, upon his back to the ground.

As he rose for the fall Calumet slipped out of the saddle and leaped
sideways to escape being crushed.  He succeeded in this effort, but as
he leaped the spur on his right heel caught in the hollow of the
black's hip near the flank, the foot refused to come free, it caught,
jammed, and Calumet fell heavily beside the horse, luckily a little to
one side, so that the black lay prone beside him.

Betty's scream was sharp and shrill.  But no one heard it--at least
Kelton seemed not to hear, for he was watching Calumet, his eyes wide,
his face white; nor did Calumet seem to hear, for he was sitting on the
ground, trying to work his foot out of the stirrup.  Twice, as he
worked with the foot, Betty saw the black strike at him with its hoofs,
and once a hoof missed his head by the narrowest of margins.

But the foot was free at last, and Calumet rose.  He still held the
reins in his hands, and now, as he got to his feet, he jerked out the
quirt that he wore at his waist and lashed the black, vigorously,
savagely.

The beast rose, snorting with rage and pain, still unsubdued.  His hind
legs had not yet straightened when Calumet was again in the saddle.
The black screamed, with a voice almost human in its shrillness, and
leaped despairingly forward, shaking its head from side to side as
Calumet drove the spurs deep into its sides.  It ran another hundred
yards, half-heartedly, the spring gone out of its stride; then wheeled
and came back, bucking doggedly, clumsily, to a point within fifty feet
of where Betty sat on Blackleg.  Then, as it bucked again, it came down
with its forelegs unjointed, and rolled over on its side, with
Calumet's right leg beneath it.

The black was tired and lay with its neck outstretched on the ground,
breathing heavily, its sides heaving.  Calumet also, was not averse to
a rest and had straightened and lay, an arm under his head, waiting.

Betty smiled, for though he appeared to be in a position which might
result in a crushed leg or foot, she knew that he was in no danger,
because the heavy ox-bow stirrup afforded protection for his foot,
while the wide seat of the saddle kept the upper part of his leg from
injury.  She had seen the cowboys roll under their horses in this
manner many times, deliberately--it saved them the strenuous work of
alighting and remounting.  They had done it, too, for the opportunity
it afforded them to rest and to hurl impolite verbiage at their horses.

But Calumet was silent.  She rode a little closer to him, to look at
him, and when his eyes met hers; she saw that his spirit was in no way
touched; that his job of subduing the black was not yet finished and
that he purposed to finish it.

"We're goin' in a minute," he said to her, his voice a little husky.
"I'd thank you to bring my hat.  I don't reckon you'll be able to keep
up with us, but I reckon you'll excuse me for runnin' away from you."

He had scarcely finished speaking before the black struggled to rise.
Calumet helped him by keeping a loose rein and lifting his own body.
And when the black swung over and got to its feet, Calumet settled
firmly into the saddle and instantly jammed his spurs home into its
flanks.  The black reared, snorted, came down and began to run
desperately across the level, desiring nothing so much now as to do the
bidding of the will which he had discovered to be superior to his own.

Betty watched in silence as horse and rider went over the level,
traveling in a dust cloud, and when they began to fade she turned to
Kelton.  The latter was crestfallen, glum.

"Shucks," he said; "if I'd have thought he'd break the black devil he
wouldn't have got him for twice fifty dollars.  He's sure a slick,
don't-give-a-damn buster."

Betty smiled mysteriously and went to look for Calumet's hat.  Then,
riding Blackleg and leading the other horse, she went toward the Lazy Y.

It was dusk when she arrived, to be greeted by Dade and Bob.  She saw
the black horse in the corral and she knew that Calumet had won the
victory, for the black's head dropped dejectedly and she had never seen
an animal that seemed less spirited.  It did not surprise her to find
that Calumet looked tired, and when she came down stairs from changing
her dress and got supper for them all, she did not mention the incident
of the breaking of the black.  Nor would he talk, though she was
intensely curious as to the motive which had prompted him to make her a
present of Blackleg.  Was it an indication that he was feeling more
friendly to her, or had he merely grown tired of Blackleg?

The answer came to her late that night, after Calumet had retired.
Betty and Dade were in the kitchen; Malcolm and Bob were in the
sitting-room.  Betty had taken Dade into her confidence and had related
to him the happenings of the day--so far as she could without
acquainting him with the state of her feelings toward Calumet.

"So he can ride some?" commented Dade, after she had told him about the
black.  "I reckon he'd bust that horse or break his neck.  But he was
in bad shape when he rode in--almost fell out of the saddle, an'
staggered scandalous when he walked.  All in.  Didn't make a whimper,
though.  Clear grit.  He grinned at me when he turned the black into
the corral.

"'Does that cayuse look busted?' he said.

"I allowed he had that appearance, an' he laughed.

"'I've give Betty Blackleg,' he said.  'I've got tired of him.'"

Betty's disappointment showed in her eyes; she had suspected that
Calumet had had another reason.  She had hoped--

"I reckon, though, that that wasn't his real reason," continued Dade;
"he wasn't showin' all of his hand there."

"What makes you think that?" asked Betty, trying not to blush.

"Well," said Dade, "I was walkin' round the stable a while ago, just
nosin' around without any purpose, an' walkin' slow.  When I got to the
corner, not makin' any noise, I saw Calumet standin' in front of the
stable door, talkin'.  There was nobody around him--nothin' but
Blackleg, an' so I reckon he was talkin' to Blackleg.  Sure enough he
was.  He puts his head up against Blackleg's head, an' he said, soft
an' low, kinda:

"'Blackleg,' he said; 'I've give you away.  I hated like poison to do
it, but I reckon Betty'll look a heap better on you than she does on
that skate she rode today.  Damn that black devil!' he said, 'I
wouldn't have took the job of breakin' him for any other woman in the
world.'

"I come away then," concluded Dade; "for somehow I didn't want him to
know there was anybody around to hear him."

Betty got up quickly and went out on the porch.  She stood there,
looking out into the darkness for a long, long time, and presently Dade
grew tired of waiting for her and went to his room.



CHAPTER XIX

A TRAGEDY IN THE TIMBER GROVE

The black was undoubtedly broken.  His subsequent actions proved that.
He did not become docile by any means, but he was tractable, which is
to say that he did as he was bidden with a minimum of urging; he was
intelligent, divining, and learned quickly.  Also, he respected his
conqueror.  If Dade or Malcolm came near him he gave unmistakable
evidence of hostility; he even shied at sight of Betty, who was his
most sincere admirer, for had not his coming to the Lazy Y been
attended with a sentiment not the less satisfying because concealed?

But the black suffered Calumet's advances, his authority, his
autocratic commands, with a patience that indicated that his
subjugation was to be complete and lasting.

When, toward the middle of the week, Kelton's men--two bepistoled,
capable punchers--drove the cattle comprising the Lazy Y purchase into
the valley, Calumet immediately set to work to train the black to
observe the various niceties of the etiquette of cow-punching.  He soon
learned, that when the rope whistled past his ears he was to watch its
progress, and if its loop encircled a neck or a leg he was to brace
himself for the inevitable shock.  If the loop failed--which it rarely
did--he discovered that he was to note at which particular steer it had
been hurled, and was to follow that steer's progress, no matter where
it went, until the rope went true.  He discovered that it was
imperative for him to stand without moving when his master trailed the
reins over his head; he early learned that the bit was a terrible
instrument of torture, and that it were better to answer to the
pressure of Calumet's knee than to be subjected to the pain it caused
him.

He was taught these things, and many more, while the work of rebranding
the Diamond K cattle went forward.

This work was no sinecure.  Dade and Malcolm, and even Bob, assisted in
it--Malcolm and Bob attending to the heating of the branding irons
while Calumet roped the steers and dragged them to the fire where Dade
pressed the white-hot irons to their hips.  But the work was done
finally, and the cattle turned out into the valley.

On the night that saw the finish of the branding, Calumet, Dade, and
Malcolm retired early.  Betty and Bob remained in the kitchen for some
time, but finally they, too, went to bed.

At one second before midnight Calumet was sleeping soundly--as soundly
as it is possible for a man to sleep who has been working out of doors
and is physically tired.  At exactly midnight he was wide awake, lying
on his back, looking with unblinking eyes at the ceiling, all his
senses aroused and alert, his nerves and muscles at a tension.

He did not know what had awakened him, though he was convinced that it
had been something strange and unusual.  It had happened to him before;
several times when cattle had stampeded; once when a Mexican freighter
at a cow camp had rose in the night to slip his knife into a puncher
with whom he had had trouble during the day.  Incidentally, except for
Calumet, the Mexican would have made his escape.  It had happened to
him again when a band of horse thieves had attempted to run off some
stock; it had never happened unless something unusual was going on.
And so he was certain that something unusual was going on now, and he
lay still, looking around him, to make sure that what was happening was
not happening in his room.  He turned his head and looked at Dade.
That young man was breathing heavily and regularly.  He turned toward
the door of the room.  The door was closed.  A flood of moonlight
entered the window; objects in the room were clearly distinguishable,
and nothing seemed wrong here.  But something was wrong--he was certain
of that.  And so he got carefully out of bed and looked out of the
window, listening, peering intently in all directions within the limits
of his vision.  No sound greeted his ears, no moving object caught his
gaze.  But he was not satisfied.

He put on his clothes, buckled his cartridge belt around his waist,
took his six-shooter from beneath his pillow, and stuck it into the
holster, and in his stockinged feet opened the door of the room and
stepped out into the hall.  He was of the opinion that something had
gone wrong with the horses, and he intended to make the rounds of the
stable and corrals to satisfy his curiosity.  Strangely, he did not
think of the possibility of Betty meeting Taggart again, until he had
reached the bottom of the stairs.  Even then he was half-way across the
dining-room, stepping carefully and noiselessly for fear he might
awaken someone, when he glanced back with a sudden suspicion, toward
the door of the office.  As in that other time there shone a streak of
light through the crevice between the bottom of the door and the
threshold.

He stood still, his muscles contracting, his lips curling, a black,
jealous anger in his heart.  Taggart was there again.

But he would not escape this time.  He would take care to make no noise
which would scare him away.  He listened at the door, but he heard no
voices.  They were in there, though, he could distinguish slight
movements.  He left the door and stole softly up the stairs to his
room, getting his boots and carrying them in his hand.  As before, he
intended putting them on at the kitchen door.  But Bob's dog would not
betray him this time, for since the other accident he had contrived to
persuade Bob to keep the dog outside at night.  Nor would there occur
any other accident--he would take care of that.  And so it took him a
long time to descend the stairs and make his way to the kitchen door.
Once outside, he drew on his boots and stole silently and swiftly to
the front door of the house.

To his astonishment, when he arrived at the door, there was no light,
no sound to indicate that anybody was in the room.  He tried the
door--it was barred.  He stepped to the window.  If there was a light
within it would show through the cracks and holes in the shade, for the
latter was old and well worn.

But no light appeared.  If there was anyone inside they must have heard
him in spite of his carefulness, and had put out the light.  He cursed.
He could not watch both the back and the front door, but he could watch
the outside of the house, could go a little distance away from it and
thus see anybody who would leave it.

He walked away toward the timber clump, looking around him.  As his
gaze swept the wood near the river he caught a glimpse of a horse and
rider as they passed through a clearing and went slowly away from him.

They had tricked him again!  Probably by this time Betty was in her
room, laughing at him.  Taggart was laughing, too, no doubt.  The
thought maddened him.  He cursed bitterly as he ran to the stable.  He
was inside in a flash, saddling Blackleg, jamming a bit into his mouth.
He would follow Taggart to the Arrow, to hell--anywhere, but he would
catch him.  Blackleg could do it; he would make him do it, if he killed
him in the end.

In three minutes Blackleg shot out of the stable door--a flash in the
night.  The swift turn that was required of him he made on his hind
legs, and then, with a plunge and a snort of delight, he was away over
the level toward the wood.

Calumet guided Blackleg toward the spot where he had seen the rider,
certain that he could not have gone far during the interval that had
elapsed, but when he reached the spot there was no sign of a horse and
rider in any direction.

For an instant only Calumet halted Blackleg, and then he spurred him
down the river trail.  One mile, two, three, he rode at a breakneck
pace, and then suddenly he was out of the timber and facing a plain
that stretched into an interminable distance.  The trail lay straight
and clear; there was no sign of a horse and rider on it.  Taggart had
not come in this direction, though in this direction lay the Arrow.

He wheeled Blackleg and, with glowering eyes and straightened lips,
rode him back the way he had come, halting often and peering into
shadows.  By the time he arrived at the spot where he had first seen
the horse and rider he had become convinced that Taggart had secreted
himself until he had passed him and had then ridden over the back
trail, later to return to the Arrow by a circuitous route.

Calumet determined to cut across the country and intercept him, and he
drove the spurs into Blackleg and raced him through the wood.  His
trail took him into a section which led to the slope which the horses
drawing the wagon had taken on the night of the ambush.  He was tearing
through this when he broke through the edge of a clearing about a
quarter of a mile from the ranchhouse.  At about the center of the
clearing Blackleg came to a jarring, dizzying stop, rearing high on his
hind legs.  When he came down he whinnied and backed, and, peering over
his shoulder to see what had frightened him, Calumet saw the body of a
man lying at the edge of a mesquite clump.

With his six-shooter in hand, Calumet dismounted and walked to the man.
The latter was prone in the dust, on his face, and as Calumet leaned
over him the better to peer into his face--for he thought the man might
be Taggart--he heard a groan escape his lips.  Sheathing his weapon,
Calumet turned the man over on his back.  Another groan escaped him;
his eyes opened, though they closed again immediately.  It was not
Taggart.

"Got me," he said.  He groaned again.

"Who got you?" Calumet bent over to catch the reply.  None came; the
man had lost consciousness.

Calumet stood up and looked around.  He could see nothing of the rider
for whom he was searching.  He could not leave this wounded man to
pursue his search for Taggart; there might be something he could do for
the man.

But he left the man's side for an instant while he looked around him.
Some dense undergrowth rose on his right, black shadows surrounding it,
and he walked along its edge, his forty-five in hand, trying to peer
into it.  He saw nothing, heard nothing.  Then, catching another groan
from the man, he returned to him.  The man's eyes were open; they
gleamed brightly and wildly.

"Got me," he said as he saw Calumet.

"Who got you?" repeated Calumet.

"Telza."

"Telza?"  Calumet bent over him again; the name sounded foreign.  "Talk
sense," he said shortly; "who's Telza?"

"A Toltec Indian," said the man.  "He's been hangin' around here--for a
month.  Around the Arrow, too.  Mebbe two months.  Nobody knows.  He's
like a shadow.  Now you see him an' now you don't," he added with a
grim attempt at a joke.  "Taggart's had me trailin' him, lookin' for a
diagram he's got."

"Diagram of what?" demanded Calumet.  His interest was intense.  A
Toltec!  Telza was of the race from whom his father and Taggart had
stolen the idol.  He leaned closer to the man.

"Are Telza an' Taggart friends?" he asked.

"Friends!"  The man's weak laugh was full of scorn.  "Taggart's
stringin' him.  Telza's lookin' for an idol--all gold an' diamonds, an'
such.  Worth thousands.  Taggart set Telza on Betty Clayton."  The man
choked; his breath came thickly; red stained his lips.  "Hell!" he
said, "what you chinnin' me for?  Get that damned toad-sticker out of
me, can't you.  It's in my side, near the back--I can't reach it."

Calumet felt where the man indicated, and his hand struck the handle of
a knife.  It had a large, queerly-shaped handle and a long, thin blade
like a stiletto.  It had been driven into the man's left side just
under the fleshy part of the shoulder, and it was plain that its point
had found a vital spot--probably through the lung and near the heart,
for the man was limp and helpless, his breath coughed in his throat,
and it was certain that he had not many minutes to live.  Calumet
carefully withdrew the weapon, and the man settled back with a sigh of
relief.

"You're Marston, ain't you?" he said, slowly and painfully, gasping
with every breath.  "I've heard the Taggart's talk about you.  Old
Tom's developed a yellow streak in his old age an' he's leavin' all his
dirty work to Neal.  Neal's got a yellow streak, too, for that matter,
but he's young an' ain't got no sense.  I reckon I'm goin' somewhere
now, an' so I can say what I like.  Taggart ain't no friend of
mine--neither of them.  They've played me dirt--more than once.  My
name's Al Sharp.  You know that Tom Taggart was as deep in that idol
business as your dad was.  He told me.  But he's got Telza soft-soaped
into thinkin' that Betty Clayton's folks snaked it from Telza's people.
Taggart's got evidence that your dad planted the idol around here
somewheres--seems to know that your dad drawed a diagram of the place
an' left it with Betty.  He set Telza to huntin' for it.  Telza got it
tonight--it was hid somewhere.  I was with him--waitin' for him.  If he
got the diagram I was to knife him and take it away from him.  Taggart
an' his dad is somewhere around here--I was to meet them down the river
a piece.  Telza double-crossed me; tried to sneak over here an' hunt
the idol himself.  I found him--he had the diagram.  I tried to get it
from him--he stuck his toad-sticker in me, . . . the little
copper-skinned devil.  He--"  He hesitated and choked, raising himself
as though to get a long breath.  But a dark flood again stained his
lips, he strangled and stretched out limply.

Calumet turned him over on his back and covered his face with a
handkerchief.  Then he stood up, looking around at the edge of the
clearing.  Ten feet in front of him, curled around the edge of a bit of
sagebrush, was a dirty white object.  He walked over, kicked the
sagebrush violently, that a concealed rattler might not spring on him,
and took up the object.  It was a piece of paper about six inches
square, and in the dim moonlight Calumet could see that it contained
writing of some sort and a crude sketch.  He looked closer at it, saw a
spot marked "Idol is here," and then folded it quickly and placed it,
crumpled into a ball, into a pocket of his trousers.

He was now certain that Taggart had been merely deceiving Betty; there
had been no other significance to his visits.  The visits were merely
part of a plan to get possession of the idol.  While he had been
talking to Betty in the office tonight Telza had stolen the diagram.

There was more than triumph in Calumet's eyes as he turned his
pony--there was joy and savage exultation.  The idol was his; he would
get the money, too.  After that he would drive Betty and all of them--

But would he?  A curious indecision mingled with his other emotions at
this thought.  His face grew serious.  Lately he was developing a
vacillating will; whenever he meditated any action with regard to Betty
he had an inclination to defer it.  He postponed a decision now; he
would think it over again.  Before he made up his mind on that question
he wanted to enjoy her discomfiture and confusion over the loss of the
diagram.

He had lost all thought of pursuing Taggart.  Sharp had said that
Taggart was somewhere in the vicinity, but it was just possible that
Sharp had been so deeply engaged with Telza about the time Taggart had
made his escape that he had not seen him.  There was time for him to
settle with Taggart.

He took up the bridle rein, wheeled, placed one foot into the stirrup,
intending to mount, when he became aware of a shadow looming near him.
He pulled the foot out of the stirrup, dropped the reins with the same
movement, and turned in a flash.

Neal Taggart, sitting on a horse at the edge of the clearing, not over
twenty feet from him, was looking at him from behind the muzzle of a
six-shooter.  At a trifling distance from Taggart was another man, also
bestride a horse.  A rifle was at this man's shoulder; his cheek was
nuzzling its stock, and Calumet saw that the weapon was aimed at his
chest.

He rapidly noted the positions of the two, estimated the distance,
decided that the risk of resistance was too great, and slowly raised
his hands above his head.

"Surprise party, eh?" he said.  "Well," he added in a self-accusing
voice, "I reckon I was dreamin' some."

Neal Taggart dismounted, moving quickly aside so that the man with the
rifle had an unobstructed view of Calumet.  He went close to the latter.

"So it's you, eh?" he said.  "We saw you tearin' up an' down the river
trail, when we was back in the timber a piece.  Racin' your fool head
off.  Nothin' in sight.  Saw you come in here ten minutes ago.  What
you doin' here?"

"Exercisin'," said Calumet; "takin' my midnight constitutional."  He
looked at the man with the rifle.

The latter was hatless.  Long gray hair, unkempt, touched his
shoulders; a white beard, scraggly, dirty, hid all of his face except
the beak-like, awry nose.  Beady, viciously glowing eyes gleamed out of
the grotesque mask.

"Who's your friend?" questioned Calumet, with a derisive grin.  "If I
was a sheep-man now, I'd try an' find time, next shearin'--"

"My father," growled Neal.

"Excuse me," said Calumet with a short laugh, though his eyes shone
with a sudden hardness; "I thought it was a--"

"You're Calumet Marston, I reckon," interrupted the bearded man.
"You're an impertinent pup, like your father was.  Get his guns!" he
commanded gruffly.

Neal hesitated and then took a step toward Calumet.  The latter
crouched, his eyes narrowing to glittering pin points.  In his attitude
was a threat, a menace, of volcanic, destroying action.  Neal stopped a
step off, uncertain.

Calumet's lips sneered.  "Take my guns, eh?" he said.  "Reach out an'
grab them.  But say your prayers before you do--you an' that sufferin'
monolith with the underbrush scattered all over his mug.  Come an' take
them!"  He jeered as he saw Neal Taggart's face whiten.  "Hell!" he
added as he saw the elder Taggart make a negative motion toward his
son, "you ain't got no clear thoughts just at this minute, eh?"

"We ain't aimin' to force trouble," growled the older man.  "We're just
curious, that's what.  Also, there's a chance that we can settle this
thing peaceable.  We want to palaver.  If you'll give your word that
there won't be no gun-play until after the peace meetin' is over, you
can take your hands down."

"No shootin' goes right now," agreed Calumet.  "But after this peace
meetin'--"

"We ought to come to terms," said Taggart, placing his rifle in the
saddle holster as Calumet's hands came down.  "There hadn't ought to be
any bad blood between us.  Me an' your dad was a heap friendly until we
had a fallin' out over that she-devil which he lived with--Ezela."
There was an insincere grin on his face.

It was plain to Calumet that the elder Taggart had some ulterior motive
in suggesting a peace conference.  He noted that while Taggart talked
his eyes kept roving around the clearing as though in search of
something.  That something, Calumet divined, was Sharp and Telza.  He
suspected that Calumet had seen Telza and Sharp, or one of them, enter
the clearing, and had followed them.  Neal had said that they had seen
Calumet when he had been racing up and down the river trail; they had
suspected he had been after Sharp or Telza, and had followed him.  No
doubt they were afflicted with a great curiosity.  They were playing
for time in order to discover his errand.

"I reckon we'll get along without mushin'," suggested Calumet.  "What
terms are you talkin' about?"

Taggart climbed down from his pony and stood beside it.

"Half-an'-half on the idol," he said.  "That's square, ain't it?"  He
looked at Calumet with the beginning of a bland smile, which instantly
faded and turned into a grimace of fear as he found himself looking
into the gaping muzzles of Calumet's pistols, which had appeared with
magic ease and quickness.

"I'm runnin' a little surprise party of my own," declared Calumet.
"Was you thinkin' I was fool enough to go to gassin' with you, trustin'
that you wouldn't take your chance to perforate me?  You've got another
guess comin'."

The disappointed gleam in Taggart's eyes showed that such had been his
intention.  "There wasn't to be no shootin' until after we'd held our
peace meetin'," he complained.

"Correct," said Calumet.  "But the peace meetin' is now over.  Get your
sky-hooks clawin' at the clouds!" he warned coldly as Neal hesitated.
When both had raised their hands above their heads he deftly plucked
their weapons from their holsters.  Then, alert and watchful, he drew
the elder Taggart's rifle from its sling on the saddle and threw it a
dozen feet away.

"Now just step over to that bunch of mesquite," he ordered; "there's
somethin' there that I want to show you."

In obedience to his command they went forward.  Both came to a halt
when around the edge of the mesquite clump they saw the dead body of
Sharp, with the handkerchief over his face.  Neither recognized the man
until Calumet drew the handkerchief away, and then both started back.

"Know him, eh?" said Calumet, watching them narrowly.  "Well, he done
his duty--done what you wanted him to do.  But your man, Telza,
double-crossed him--knifed him."  He took up the rapier-like blade that
he had drawn from Sharp's side and held it before their eyes.  Again
they started, and Calumet laughed.

"Know the knife, too!" he jeered.  "An' after what you've done you've
got the nerve to ask me to divvy with you."

The elder Taggart was the first to recover his composure.

"Telza?" he said.  "Why, I reckon you've got me; there ain't no one of
that name--"

But Calumet was close to him, his eyes blazing.  "Shut your dirty
mouth, or I'll tear you apart!" he threatened.  "You're a liar, an' you
know it.  Sharp told me about you settin' the Toltec on Betty.  I know
the rest.  I know you tried to make a monkey out of my dad, you damned
old ossified scarecrow!  If you open your trap again, I'll just
naturally pulverize you!  I reckon that's all I've got to say to you."

He walked over to Neal, and the latter shrank from the bitter
malignance of his gaze.

"Can you tell me why I ain't lettin' daylight through you?" he said as
he shoved the muzzle of his six-shooter deep into Neal's stomach,
holding it there with savage steadiness as he leaned forward and looked
into the other's eyes.  "It's because I ain't a sneak an' a murderer.
I ain't ambushin' nobody.  I've done some killin' in my time, but I
ain't never plugged no man who didn't have the same chance I had.  I'm
givin' you a chance."

He drew out one of the weapons he had taken from the two men, holding
it by the muzzle and thrusting it under Neal's nose.  The terrible,
suppressed rage in his eyes caused a shiver to run over Neal, his face
turned a dull white, his eyes stared fearfully.  He made no move to
grasp the weapon.

"I ain't fightin'," he said with trembling lips.

Calumet reversed the gun and stepped back, laughing harshly, without
mirth.

"Of course you ain't fightin'," he said.  "That's the reason it's goin'
to be hard for me to kill you.  I'd feel like a cur if I was to
perforate you now--you or your scarecrow dad.  But I'm tellin' you
this: You've sneaked around the Lazy Y for the last time.  I'm layin'
for you after this, an' if I ketch you maverickin' around here again
I'll perforate you so plenty that it'll make you dizzy.  That's all.
Get out of here before I change my mind!"

Shrinking from his awe-inspiring wrath, they retreated from him,
watching him fearfully as they backed toward their horses.  They had
almost reached them when Calumet's voice brought them to a halt.

His lips were wreathed in a cold grin, his eyes alight with a satanic
humor.  But the rage had gone from his voice; it was mocking, derisive.

"Goin' to ride?" he said.  "Oh, don't!  Them horses look dead tired.
Leave them here; they need a rest.  Besides, a man can't do any
thinkin' to amount to anything when he's forkin' a horse, an' I reckon
you two coyotes will be doin' a heap of thinkin' on your way back to
the Arrow."

"Good Lord!" said the elder Taggart; "you don't mean that?  Why, it's
fifteen miles to the Arrow!"

"Shucks," said Calumet; "so it is!  An' it's after midnight, too.  But
you wouldn't want them poor, respectable critters to be gallivantin'
around at this time of the night, when they ought to be in bed dreamin'
of the horse-heaven which they're goin' to one of these days when the
Taggarts don't own them any more.  You can send a man over after them
when you get back, an' if they want to go home, why, I'll let them."
His voice changed again; it rang with a menacing command.

"Walkin' is good!" he said; "get goin'!  You've got three minutes to
get to that bend in the trail over by the crick.  It's about half a
mile.  I'm turnin' my back.  If I see you when I turn around I'm
workin' that rifle there."

There was a silence which might have lasted a second.  Only this small
space of time was required by the Taggarts to convince them that
Calumet was in deadly earnest.  Then, with Neal leading, they began to
run toward the bend in the trail.

Shortly Calumet turned.  The Taggarts had almost reached the bend, and
while he watched they vanished behind it.

Calumet picked up the rifle which he had taken from the elder Taggart,
mounted his horse, and drove the Taggart animals into the corral.  He
decided that he would keep them there for an hour or so, to give the
Taggarts time to get well on their way toward the Arrow.  Had he turned
them loose immediately they no doubt would have overtaken their masters
before the latter had gone very far.

Remounting, Calumet rode to the bend in the trail.  He carried
Taggart's rifle.  About a mile out on the plain that stretched away
toward the Arrow he saw the two men.  They seemed to be walking rapidly.

Calumet returned to the ranchhouse, got a pick and shovel, and went
back to the timber clump.  An hour later he was again at the corral.
He led the Taggart horses out, took them to the bend in the trail, and
turned them loose, for he anticipated that the Taggarts would make a
complaint to the sheriff about them, and if they were found in the Lazy
Y corral trouble would be sure to result.

He watched them until they were well on their way toward the Arrow, and
then he returned to the ranchhouse and went to bed.  No one had heard
him, he told himself with a grin as he stretched out on the bed beside
Dade to sleep the hour that would elapse before daylight.



CHAPTER XX

BETTY TALKS FRANKLY

Betty, however, had not been asleep.  After seeking her room she had
heard the rapid beat of hoofs, and, looking out of her window, she had
seen Calumet when he had raced from the ranchhouse in search of
Taggart.  Still watching at the window, she had seen him returning; saw
him disappear into the timber clump.

Some time later she had observed the Taggarts emerge and run as though
their lives depended on haste.  She watched Calumet as he rode by her
window to take the two horses to the corral, stared at him with
fascinated eyes, holding her breath with horror as he walked from the
ranchhouse to the timber clump with the pick and shovel on his
shoulder; stood at the window with a great fear gripping her until he
came back, still carrying the pick and shovel; watched him as he
released the Taggart horses, drove them to the bend in the trail, and
returned to the house.  His movements had been stealthy, but she heard
him when he came into the house and mounted the stairs.  Then she heard
him no more.

But a great dread was upon her.  What meant that journey to the timber
clump with the pick and shovel, and what had been done there during the
hour that he had remained there?  The idol she knew, was buried in a
clearing in the timber clump; she did not know just where, for she had
looked at the diagram only once, when Calumet's father had shown it to
her.  She had a superstitious dread of the idol and would not, under
any circumstances, have examined the diagram again.  But she did not
connect Calumet's visit to the timber clump with the diagram, for the
latter was concealed in a safe place, under a board in the closet that
led off her room; she had looked at it only once since Calumet had
returned, and that only hastily, to make sure that it was still there,
and she was certain that Calumet had no knowledge of its whereabouts.

Could Calumet have--  She pressed her hands tightly over her breast at
this thought.  She did not want to think that!  But he had a violent
temper, and there were those men in Lazette, Denver and the other man,
whom he had--  She shuddered.  That must be the explanation for his
strange actions.  But still she had heard no shot, and there was a
chance that the diagram--

Tremblingly she made her way to the closet and removed the loose board.
A tin box met her eyes, the box in which she had placed the diagram,
and she lifted the box out, her fingers shaking as she fumbled at the
fastening and raised the lid.

The box was empty.

For a long time she sat there looking at it, anger and resentment
fighting within her for the mastery.

Of course, the idol really belonged to Calumet; she would have given it
to him in time, but that thought did not lessen her resentment against
him.  Somehow, though, she was conscious of a feeling of gratefulness
that his visit to the timber clump had no significance beyond the
recovery of the idol, and, despite his offense against her privacy, she
began after a while to view the matter with greater calm.  And though
she did not close her eyes during the remainder of the night, lying on
her back in bed and wondering how he had discovered the hiding place of
the diagram, she came downstairs shortly after daylight and proceeded
calmly about her duties.

She managed, though, to be near the kitchen door when Calumet came
down, and, without appearing to do so, she watched his face closely as
he prepared himself for breakfast.  But without result.  If he had
gained possession of the idol his face did not betray him.  But once
during the meal she looked up unexpectedly, to see him looking at her
with amused, speculative eyes.  Then she knew he was gloating over her.

With an appearance of grave concern, and not a little well-simulated
excitement, she approached him during the morning where he was working
at the corral fence.  She was determined to discover the truth.

"I have some bad news for you," she said.

"Shucks," he returned, with a grin that almost disarmed her; "you don't
say!"

"Yes," she continued.  "When your father left his other papers with me
he also left a diagram of a place in the timber clump where the idol is
hidden.  Some time yesterday the diagram was stolen."

"You don't say?" he said.

His voice had not been convincing enough; there had been a note of
mockery in it, and she knew he was guilty of the theft.

She looked at him fairly.  "You took it," she accused.

"I didn't take it," he denied, returning her gaze.  "But I've got it.
What are you goin' to do about it?"

"Nothing," she replied.  "But do you think that was a gentleman's
action--to enter my room, to search it--even for something that
belonged to you?"

"No gentleman took it," he grinned; "therefore it couldn't have been
me.  I told you I had it; I didn't take it."

"Who did, then?"

"Do you know Telza?"

"Telza?"

"Toltec," he said; "a Toltec from Yucatan.  He got it yesterday--last
night--while you was gassin' to your friend, Neal Taggart."

She started, recollection filling her eyes.  "A Toltec!" she said in an
awed voice.  "I have heard that they are fanatics where their religion
is concerned; your father told me that his--that woman--Ezela--told
him.  She said that the tribe would never give up the search for the
idol.  He laughed at her; he laughed at me when he told me about it."
She drew a deep breath.  "And so one of them has come," she said.  "I
thought I heard a noise upstairs last night," she added.  "It must have
been then."

"An'," he jeered, "you was so busy about that time that you couldn't go
to investigate.  That's how you guarded it--how you filled your trust."

She gazed fixedly at him and his gaze dropped.  "You are determined to
continue your insults," she said coldly.

He reddened.  "I reckon you deserve them," he said sneeringly.
"Taggart's makin' a fool of you.  I heard him palaverin' to you last
night.  I followed him, but lost him.  Then I got into the clearin' in
the timber.  I run into a man named Al Sharp, who'd been knifed by the
Toltec.  Him an' the Toltec had been detailed by Taggart to get the
diagram.  Sharp said Taggart knowed my dad had drawed one.  Telza got
it last night while you was talkin' to Taggart.  Frame-up.  Sharp tried
to take it away from Telza, an' Telza knifed him.  Sharp's dead.  I
buried him last night.  Telza dropped the diagram.  I got it.  I reckon
Telza has sloped.  Then I met Taggart an' his dad.  They reckoned they
didn't like my company overmuch an' they walked home.  Didn't even wait
to take their horses."

She drew a breath which sounded strangely like relief.

"Well," she said; "it was fortunate that you happened to be there to
get the idol."

"Yes," he drawled, with a suspicious grin; "I reckon you feel a whole
lot like congratulatin' me."

"I do," she said.  "Of course you were not to have the idol just yet,
but it is better for you to have it before the time than that the
Taggarts should get hold of it."

"Do you know where the idol is hid?" he asked.

She told him no, that she had never consulted the diagram.

"I reckon," he said, looking into her steady eyes, "that you're tellin'
the truth.  In that case it will be safe where it is, for a while.
I'll be lookin' it up when I get hold of the money."

Her chin raised triumphantly.  "You will not get that so easily," she
said.  "But," she added, interestedly, "now that you know where the
idol is, why don't you get it and convert it into cash?"

He reddened and eyed her with a decidedly crestfallen air.  "I ain't so
much stuck on monkeyin' with them religious things," he admitted.

Again a doubt arose in his mind concerning her relations with Neal
Taggart.  The fact that she had not divulged the hiding place of the
idol to him was proof that if he had been trying to deceive her he had
not succeeded.  This thought filled him with a sudden elation.

"Lately," he said, "it begins to look as though you was gettin' some
sense.  You're gettin' reasonable.  I reckon you'll be a bang-up girl,
give you time."

Her lips curled, but there was a flash of something in her eyes that he
could not analyze.  But he was sure that it wasn't anger or
disapproval.  Neither was it scorn.  It seemed to him that it might
have been mockery, mingled with satisfaction.  Certainly there was
mockery in her voice when she answered him.

"Indeed!" she said.  "I presume I am to take that as a compliment?"

"But you will be a fool if you cotton up to Neal Taggart," he
continued, paying no attention to her question.  "I know men.
Taggart's a no good fourflusher, an' no woman can be anything if she
takes up with him."

She looked at him with a dazzling smile.  In the smile were those
qualities that he had noticed during his other conversations with her
when he had accused her of meeting Taggart secretly--mirth, tempered
with doubt.  Also, just now there was enjoyment.

"I feel flattered to think that you are taking that much interest in
me," she said.  "But when I am in need of someone to lay down rules of
conduct for me I shall let you know.  At present I feel quite competent
to take care of myself.  But if you are very much worried, I don't mind
telling you that I have not 'cottoned up' to Neal Taggart."

"What you meetin' him for, then?" he asked suspiciously.

"I have not met Neal Taggart since the day you made him apologize to
me," she said slowly.

"Who are you meetin', then?" he demanded.

She looked straight at him.  "I cannot answer that," she said.

His lips curled with disbelief, and her cheeks flushed a little.

"Can't you trust anybody?" she said.

"Why," she continued as he kept silent, "don't you think that if I had
intended, as you said once before, to cheat you, to take _anything_
that belongs to you, that I could have done so long ago?  I had the
diagram; I could have kept the idol, the money, the ranch.  What could
you have done; what could you do now?  Don't you think it is about time
for you to realize that you are hurting no one but yourself by
harboring such black, dismal thoughts.  Nobody is trying to cheat
you--except probably the Taggarts.  Everybody here is trying their best
to be friendly to you, trying to aid in making those reforms which your
father mentioned.  Dade likes you; Bob loves you.  And even my
grandfather said the other day that you are not a bad fellow.  You have
been making progress, more than I expected you to make.  But you must
make more."

The mirth had died out of her eyes; she was deeply in earnest.  Calumet
could see that, and the knowledge kept him silent, hushed the
half-formed sarcastic replies that were on his lips, made his
suspicions seem brutal, preposterous, ridiculous.  There was much
feeling in her voice; he was astonished and awed at the change in her;
he had not seen her like this before.  Her reserve was gone, the
disdain with it; there was naked sincerity in her glowing eyes, in her
words, in her manner.  He watched her, fascinated, as she continued:

"I think you can see now that if I had wanted to be dishonest you could
not have stopped me.  My honesty proven, what must have been my motive
in staying here to take your insults, to submit to your boorishness?  I
will tell you; you may believe me or not, as you please.  I was
grateful to your father.  I gave him my promise.  He wanted me to make
a man of you.

"When you first came here, and I saw what a burden I had assumed, I was
afraid.  But I saw that you did not intend to take advantage of me;
that you weren't like a good many men--brutes who prey on unprotected
women; that only your temper was wanton.  And instead of fearing you I
began to pity you.  I saw promise in you; you had manly impulses, but
you hadn't had your chance.  I had faith in you.  To a certain extent
you have justified that faith.  You have shown flashes of goodness of
heart; you have exhibited generous, manly sympathies--to everybody but
me.  But I do not care [there was a suspicious moisture in her eyes and
a queer tightening of the lips that gave the lie to this declaration]
how you treat me.  I intend to keep my promise to your father, no
matter what you do.  But I want to make you understand that I am not
the kind of woman you take me to be--that I am not being made a fool of
by Neal Taggart--or by any man!"

Calumet did not reply; the effect of this passionate defense of herself
on him was deep and poignant, and words would not come to his lips.
Truth had spoken to him--he knew it.  At a stroke she had subdued him,
humbled him.  It was as though a light had suddenly been turned on him,
showing him the mean, despicable side of him, contrasting it with the
little good which had come into being--good which had been placed
there, fostered, and cultivated into promise.  Then the light had been
as suddenly turned off, leaving him with a gnawing, impotent longing to
be what she wanted him to be.  Involuntarily, he took his hat off to
her and bowed respectfully.  Then he reached a swift hand into an inner
pocket of his vest and withdrew it, holding out a paper to her.  She
took it and looked wonderingly at it.  It was the diagram of the
clearing in the timber clump showing where the idol was buried.

Her face paled, for she knew that his action in restoring the diagram
to her was his tribute to her honesty, an evidence of his trust in her,
despite his uttered suspicions.  Also, it was his surrender.

She looked up, intending to thank him.  He was walking away, and did
not look around at her call.



CHAPTER XXI

HIS FATHER'S FRIEND

Betty did not see Calumet again that day, and only at mealtime on the
day following.  He had nothing to say to her at these times, though it
was plain from the expression on his face when she covertly looked at
him that he was thinking deeply.  She hoped this were true; it was a
good sign.  On the morning of the third day he saddled the black horse
and rode away, telling Bob, who happened to be near him when he
departed, that he was going to Lazette.

It was fully two hours after supper when he returned.  Malcolm, Dade,
and Bob had gone to bed.  In the kitchen, sitting beside the table, on
which was a spotlessly clean tablecloth, with dishes set for one--she
had saved Calumet's supper, and it was steaming in the warming-closet
of the stove--Betty sat.  She was mending Bob's stockings, and thinking
of her life during the past few months--and Calumet.  And when she
heard the black come into the ranchhouse yard--she knew the black's
gait already--she trembled a little, put aside her mending, and went to
the window.

The moon threw a white light in the yard, and she saw Calumet dismount.
When he did not turn the black into the corral, hitching him, instead,
to one of the rails, without even removing the saddle, she suspected
that something unusual had happened.

She was certain of it when she heard Calumet cross the porch with a
rapid step, and if in her certainty there had been the slightest doubt,
it disappeared when he opened the kitchen door.

He looked tired; he had evidently ridden hard, for the alkali dust was
thick on his clothing; he was breathing fast, his eyes were burning
with some deep emotion, his lips were grim and hard.

He closed the door and stood with his back against it, looking at her.
Something had wrought a wonderful change in him.  He was not the
Calumet she had known--brutal, vicious, domineering, sneering; though
he was laboring under some great excitement, suppressing it, so that to
an eye less keen than hers it might have seemed that he had been
undergoing some great physical exertion and was just recovering from
it.  It seemed to her that he had found himself; that that regeneration
for which she had hoped had come--had taken place between the time he
had left that morning and now.

She did not know that it had been a mighty struggle of three days'
duration; that the transformation had been a slow, tortuous thing to
him.  She only knew that a great change had come over him; that, in
spite of the evident strain which was upon him, there was something
gentle, respectful, considerate, in his face, back of Its exterior
hardness--a slumbering, triumphant something that made an instant
appeal to her, lighting her eyes, coloring her face, making her heart
beat with an unaccountable gladness.

"Oh," she said; "what has happened to you?"

"Nothin'," he answered, with a grave smile.  "That is, nothin'--yet.
Except that I've found out what a fool I've been.  But I've found it
out too late."

"No," she said, reaching the quick conclusion that he meant it was too
late for him to complete his reformation; "it is never too late."

"I think I know what you mean," he answered.  "But you've got it wrong.
It's somethin' else.  I've got to get out of here--got to hit the
breeze out of the country.  The sheriff is after me."

She took a step backward.  "What for?" she asked breathlessly.

"For killin' Al Sharp."

"Al Sharp!" she exclaimed, staring at him in amazement.  "Why, you told
me that an Indian named Telza killed him!"

"That's what Sharp told me.  The Taggarts claim I done it.  They've
swore out a warrant.  I got wind of it an' I'm gettin' out.  There's no
use tryin' to fight the law in a case like this."

"But you didn't kill him!" she cried, stiffening defiantly.  "You said
you didn't, and I know you wouldn't lie.  They can't prove that you did
it!"

He laughed.  "You're the only one that would believe me.  Do you reckon
I could prove that I didn't do it?  There's two against one.  The
evidence is against me.  The Taggarts found me in the clearing with
Sharp.  I had the knife.  No one else was around.  I buried Sharp.  The
Taggarts will swear against me.  Where's my chance?"

She was silent, and he laughed again.  "They've got me, I reckon--the
Taggarts have.  I fancied I was secure.  I didn't think they'd try to
pull off anything like this.  Shows how much dependence a man can put
in anything.  They don't look like they had sense enough to think of
such a thing."

He stepped away from the door and went to the table, looking down at
the dishes she had set out for him, then at her, with a regretful smile
which brought a quick pang to her.

"Shucks," he said, more to himself than to her; "if this had happened
three months ago I'd have been plumb amused, an' I'd have had a heap of
fun with somebody before it could be got over with.  Somehow, it don't
seem to be so damned funny now.

"It's your fault, too," he went on, regarding her with a direct, level
gaze.  "Not that you got me into this mix-up, you understand--you're
not to blame for a thing--but it's your fault that it don't seem funny
to me.  You've made me see things different."

"I am so sorry," she said, standing pale and rigid before him.

"Sorry that I'm seein' things different?" he said.  "No?" at her quick,
reproachful negative.  "Well, then, sorry that this had to happen.
Well, I'm sorry, too.  You see," he added, the color reaching his face,
"it struck me while I was ridin' over here that I wasn't goin' to be
exactly tickled over leavin'.  It's been seemin' like home to me
for--well, for a longer time than I would have admitted three days ago,
when I had that talk with you.  Or, rather," he corrected, with a
smile, "when you had that talk with me.  There's a difference, ain't
there?  Anyways, there's a lot of things that I wouldn't have admitted
three days ago.  But I've got sense now--I've got a new viewpoint.  An'
somehow, what I'm goin' to tell you don't seem to come hard.  Because
it's the truth, I reckon.  I've knowed it right along, but kept holdin'
it back.

"Dade had me sized up right.  He said I was a false alarm; that I'd
been thinkin' of myself too much; that I'd forgot that there was other
people in the world.  He was right; I'd forgot that other people had
feelings.  But if he hadn't told me that them was your views I'd have
salivated him.  But I couldn't blame him for repeatin' things you'd
said, because about that time I'd begun to do some thinkin' myself.

"In the first place, I found that I wasn't a whole lot proud of myself
for guzzlin' your grandad, but I'd made a mistake an' I wasn't goin' to
give you a chance to crow over me.  I expect there's a lot of people do
that, but they're on the wrong trail--it don't bring no peace to a
man's mind.  Then, I thought you was like all the rest of the women I'd
known, an' when I found out that you wasn't, I thought you had the
swelled head an' I figgered to take you down a peg.  When I couldn't do
that it made me sore.  It made me feel some cheap when you showed me
you trusted me, with me treatin' you like I did; but if it's any
satisfaction to you, I'm tellin' you that all the time I was treatin'
you mean I felt like kickin' myself.

"I reckon that's all.  Don't get the idea that I'm doin' any mushin'.
It's just the plain truth, an' I've had to tell you.  That's why I came
over here--I wanted to square things with you before I leave.  I reckon
if I'd stay here you'd never know how I feel about it."

She was staring at the floor, her face crimson, an emotion of deep
gratitude and satisfaction filling her, though mingled with it was a
queer sensation of regret.  Her judgment of him had been vindicated;
she had known all along that this moment would come, but, now that it
had come, it was not as she had pictured it--there was discord where
there should be harmony; something was lacking to make the situation
perfect--he was going away.

She stood nervously tapping the floor with the toe of her shoe, hardly
hearing his last words, almost forgetting that he was in the room until
she saw his hand extended toward her.  Then she looked up at him.
There was a grave smile on his face.

"I reckon you'll shake hands with me," he said, "just to show that you
ain't holdin' much against me.  Well, that right," he said when she
hesitated; "I don't deserve it."

Her hand went out; he looked at it, with a start, and then seized it
quickly in both of his, squeezed it hard, his eyes aflame.  He dropped
it as quickly, and turned to the door, saying: "You're a brave little
girl."

She stood silent until his hands were on the fastenings of the door.

"Wait!" she said.  She attempted to smile, but some emotion stiffened
her lips, stifling it.  "You haven't had your supper," she said; "won't
you eat if I get it ready?"

"No time," he said.  "The law don't advertise its movements, as a usual
thing, an' Toban's liable to be here any minute.  An'," he added, a
glint of the old hardness in his eyes, "I ain't lettin' him take me.
It's only twenty miles to the line, an' the way I'm intendin' to travel
I'll be over it before Toban can ketch me.  I don't want him to ketch
me--he was a friend of my dad's, an' puttin' him out of business
wouldn't help me none."

"Will you be safe, then?" she asked fearfully.

"I reckon.  But I won't be stoppin' at the line.  I'm through here;
there's nothin' here to hold me.  I reckon I'll never come back this
way.  Shucks!" he added, leaving the door and coming back a little way
into the room; "I expect I'm excited.  I come near forgettin'.  It's
about the idol an' the money an' the ranch.  I don't want any of them.
They're yours.  You've earned them an' you deserve them.  Go to Las
Vegas an' petition the court to turn the property over to you; tell the
judge I flunked on the specifications."

"I don't want your property," she said in a strange voice.

"You've got to take it," he returned, with a quick look at her.
"Here"--he drew a piece of paper and a short pencil from an inside
pocket of his vest, and, walking to the table, wrote quickly, giving
her the paper.

"I herewith renounce all claim to my father's property," it read; "I
refuse the conditions of the will."

It was signed with his name.  While he stood watching her, she tore the
paper to small bits, scattering them on the floor.

"I think," she said, regarding him fixedly, "that you are not exactly
chivalrous in leaving me this way; that you are more concerned over
your own safety than over mine.  What do you suppose will happen when
the Taggarts discover that you have gone and that I am here alone?"

His eyes glinted with hatred.  "The Taggarts," he laughed.  "Did you
think I was going to let them off so easy?  I'm charged with one
murder, ain't I?  Well, after tonight there won't be any Taggarts to
bother anybody."

"You mean to--"  Her eyes widened with horror.

"I reckon," he said.  "Did you think I was runnin' away without
squarin' things with them?"  There was a threat of death in his cold
laugh.

While she stood with clenched hands, evidently moved by the threat in
his manner and words, he said "So-long," shortly, and swung the door
open.

She followed three or four steps, again calling upon him to "wait."  He
turned in the doorway and went slowly back to her.  She was nervous,
breathless, and he looked wonderingly at her.

"Wait just a minute," she said; "I have something to give you."

She darted into the sitting-room; he could hear her running up the
stairs.  She was gone a long time, so long a time that he grew
impatient and paced the floor with long, hasty strides.  He was certain
that it was fully five minutes before she reappeared, and then her
manner was more nervous than ever.

"You act," he said suspiciously, "as though you wanted to keep me here."

"No, no," she denied breathlessly, her eyes bright and her cheeks
aflame.  "How can you think that?  I have brought you some money; you
will need it."  She had a leather bag in her hands, and she seized it
by the bottom and turned out its contents--a score or more of
twenty-dollar gold pieces.

"Take them," she said as he hesitated.  And, not waiting for him to
act, she began to gather them up.  She was nervous, though, and dropped
many of them several times, so that he felt that time would have been
gained if she had not touched them.  He returned them to the bag, with
her help, and placed the bag in a pocket of his trousers.  Then once
more he said good-by to her.

This time, however, she stood between him and the door, and when he
tried to step around her she changed her position so as to be always in
front of him.

"Tell me where you are going?" she said.

"What do you want to know for?" he demanded.

"Just because," she said; "because I want to know."

His eyes lighted with a deep fire as he looked at her.  She was very
close to him; he felt her warm breath; saw her bosom heave rapidly, and
a strange intoxication seized him.

"Shall I tell you?" he said, with sudden hoarseness, as though asking
himself the question.  He grasped her by the shoulders and looked
closely at her, his eyes boring, probing, as though searching for some
evidence of duplicity in hers.  For an instant his gaze held.  Then he
laughed, softly, self-accusingly.

"I thought you was stringin' me--just for a minute," he said.  "But
you're true blue, an' I'll tell you.  I'm goin' first to the Arrow to
hand the Taggarts their pass-out checks.  Then I'm hittin' the breeze
to Durango.  If you ever want me, send for me there, an' I'll come back
to you, sheriff or no sheriff."

She put out a hand to detain him, but he seized it and pressed it to
her side, the other with it.  Then his arms went around her shoulders,
she was crushed against him, and his lips met hers.

Then she was suddenly released, and he was at the door.

"Good-by," he said as he stood in the opening, the glare of light from
the lamp showing his face, pale, the eyes illumined with a fire that
she had never seen in them; "I'm sorry it has to end this way--I was
hopin' for somethin' different.  You've made me almost a man."

Then the door closed and he was gone.  She stood by the table for a few
minutes, holding tightly to it for support, her eyes wide from
excitement.

"Oh," she said, "if I could only have kept him here a few minutes
longer!"

She walked to the door and stood in the opening, shading her eyes with
her hands.  He had not been gone long, but already he was riding the
river trail; she saw him outlined in the moonlight, leaning a little
forward in the saddle, the black running with a long, swift, sure
stride.  She watched them until a bend in the trail shut them from
view, and then with a sob she bowed her head in her arms.



CHAPTER XXII

NEAL TAGGART VISITS

When a little later Betty heard hoof-beats in the ranchhouse yard--the
sounds of a horseman making a leisurely approach--she left the door and
went out upon the porch.

She knew who the horseman was; she had seen him from the window of her
room when she had gone upstairs to get the money for Calumet.  More
than once she had seen the sheriff coming over the hill--the same hill
upon which Calumet and Neal Taggart had fought their duel--and she
recognized the familiar figure.  On his previous visits to the
ranchhouse, however, Toban had left his horse in the timber clump near
the house.  She was not surprised, though, to hear him coming into the
ranchhouse yard tonight, for his errand now was different.

Toban had evidently intended to hitch his pony to the corral fence, for
it was toward it that he was directing the animal, when he caught sight
of Betty on the porch and rode up beside her.

"What's up?" he inquired, leaning over in the saddle and peering
closely at her; "you look flustered.  Where's Marston?"

"Gone," she told him.

He straightened.  "Gone where?" he demanded.

"Away--forever," she said weakly.  "He heard you were after him
for--for killing that man Sharp--and he left."

Toban cursed.  "So he got wind of it, did he?  The Taggarts must have
gassed about it.  Marston told you, did he?  Why didn't you keep him
here?  He didn't kill Sharp!"

"I know it," she said; "he told me he didn't, and I believed him.  He
said you had a warrant for his arrest; that you were coming for him,
and I was afraid that if you met him out on the range somewhere there
would be shooting.  I knew if I could keep him here until you came you
would be able to fix it up some way--to prove his innocence.  I was so
glad, when I ran upstairs to get some money for him and looked out of
the window.  For you were coming.  But he wouldn't stay."

Toban dismounted and stood in front of her, his eyes probing into hers.
"I've got evidence that he didn't kill Sharp," he said; "I saw the
whole deal.  But I reckon," he added, a subtle gleam in his eyes, "that
it's just as well that he's gone--he was a heap of trouble while he was
here, anyway, wasn't he?"

"No," she said quickly, defiantly; "he--"  She broke off and looked at
him with wide eyes.  "Oh," she said with a quavering laugh; "you are
poking fun at me.  You liked him, too; you told me you did!"

"I reckon I like him," said Toban, his lips grimming; "I like him well
enough not to let him pull his freight on account of the Taggarts.
Why, damn it!" he added explosively; "I was his father's friend, an' I
ain't seein' him lose everything he's got here when he's innocent.
Which way did he go?"

There was a wild hope in her eyes; she was breathing fast.  "Oh," she
said; "are you going after him?  He went to the Arrow--first.  He told
me he was going to kill the Taggarts.  Then he is going to get out of
the Territory.  Oh, Toban, catch him--please!  I--"

Toban laughed.  "I ain't been blind, girl," he said; "the talks I've
had with you in old Marston's office have wised me up to how things
stand between you an' him.  I'll ketch him, don't worry about that.
That black horse of his is some horse, but he ain't got nothin' on my
old dust-thrower, an' I reckon that in fifteen miles--"

He was climbing into the saddle while talking, and at his last word he
gave the spurs to his horse, a strong, clean-limbed bay, and was away
in a cloud of dust.

Betty watched him, her hands clasped over her breast, her body rigid
and tense, her eyes straining, until she saw him vanish around the bend
in the trail; and then for a long time she stood on the porch, scanning
the distant horizon, in the hope that she might again see Toban and be
assured that nothing had happened to him.  And when at last she saw a
speck moving swiftly along a distant rise, she murmured a prayer and
went into the house.

When she closed the kitchen door and stood against it, looking around
the room, she was afflicted with a depressing sense of loss, and she
realized fully how Calumet had grown into her life, and what it would
mean to her if she lost him.  He had been mean, cruel, and vicious, but
he had awakened at last to a sense of his shortcomings; he was like a
boy who had had no training, who had grown wild and ungovernable, but
who, before it had become too late, had awakened to the futility, the
absurdity, the falseness of it all, and was determined to begin anew.
And she felt--as she had felt all along--even when she had seen him at
his worst--that she must mother him, must help him to build up a new
structure of self, must lift him, must give him what the world had so
far denied him--his chance.  And she sat at the table and leaned her
head in her arms and prayed that Toban might overtake him before he
reached the Arrow.  For she did not want him to come back to her with
the stain of their blood on his hands.

She was startled while sitting at the table, for she heard a sound from
the sitting-room, and she got up to investigate.  But it was only Bob,
who, hearing the sounds made by Toban and herself, had come to
investigate.  She urged him to return to his room and to bed, and
kissed him when he started up the stairs, so warmly that he looked at
her in surprise.

She returned to the kitchen, sitting at the table and watching the
clock.  A half hour had elapsed since Toban's departure when she heard
the faint beat of hoofs in the distance, and with wildly beating heart
got up and went out on the porch.

For a moment she could not determine the direction from which the
sounds came, but presently she saw a rider approaching from the
direction of the river, and she stepped down from the porch and
advanced to meet him.  She feared at first that it was Toban returning
alone, and she halted and stood with clenched hands, but as the rider
came closer she saw it was not Toban but an entire stranger.  She
retreated to the porch and watched his approach.

He was a cowboy and he rode up to the edge of the porch confidently,
calling to her when he came close enough to make himself heard.

"My name's Miller," he said, taking his hat off and showing her the
face of a man of thirty--"Harvey Miller.  Me an' my side-kicker was
drivin' a bunch of Three Bar beeves to Lazette an' we was fools enough
to run afoul of that quicksand at Double Fork, about five miles down
the crick.  We've bogged down about forty head an' I've come for help.
You got any men around here?"

"Oh," she said; "how careless you were!  Didn't you know the quicksand
was there?"

"I ain't been runnin' this range a whole lot," said the puncher
uneasily; "but I reckon even then I ought to be able to nose out a
quicksand.  But I didn't, an' there's forty beeves that's goin' to
cow-heaven pretty soon if somethin' ain't done.  If you've got any men
around here which could give us a lift, we'd be pleased to thank you."

"Of course," she said.  "Wait!"

She went into the house and to the stairs where she called to Dade and
Malcolm, and presently, rubbing their eyes, the two came down.  They
were eager to assist the puncher in his trouble and without delay they
caught up the two horses that Calumet had bought soon after his coming
to the ranch, saddled and bridled them and rode out of the yard.

The unfortunate puncher did not wait for them.  When they had announced
their intention of helping him, he had told them that he would ride on
ahead to help his partner, leaving them to follow as soon as they could.

"I reckon you know where it is," was his parting word to them.  "Double
Fork.  I reckon I'll know it again when I see it," he added, grimly
joking.

Betty watched Dade and Malcolm as they rode away.  From the porch she
could follow their movements until they traveled about a mile of the
distance toward Double Fork.  She saw them vanish into the wood, and
when she could see them no longer she turned and went into the house.

She went to the chair in which she had previously been sitting, resting
her arms on the table, but she was too nervous, too excited, to sit and
she presently got up and stood, looking anxiously at the face of the
clock on a shelf in a corner.

Toban had been gone a full hour, and she wondered if by this time he
had overtaken Calumet, or whether Calumet was racing ahead of him on
his way to execute vengeance upon the Taggarts.  She was praying mutely
that Toban might overtake him before this could happen when she heard a
slight sound behind her and turned swiftly to see Neal Taggart standing
in the doorway, grinning at her.

The room darkened before her eyes as she swayed weakly and caught at
the table to support herself, and when she finally regained control of
herself she forced herself to stand erect.  There was a great fear in
her heart, but she fought it down and faced Taggart with some semblance
of dignity and composure.

"What are you doing here?" she demanded; "what do you want?"

Taggart's face wore an evil smile.  Before answering her he fastened
the door behind him, left it and went to the sitting-room door, peered
quickly into the room and swung the door shut, barring it.  Betty stood
beside the table, watching him with a sort of fascination, a little
color now in her face, though she lacked the power to speak or to
interfere with Taggart's movements.

When he had barred the sitting-room door he came and stood beside the
table, and there was a repulsive, insulting leer on his face as he
looked down at her.

"Do you know what I came here for?" he said.

"No," she answered.

He reached out suddenly and grasped her hands, pulling her roughly over
to him.  She gave a startled cry and then stood silent before him,
slender and white, a subdued little figure dwarfed by his huge bulk,
seemingly helpless.

"I'll tell you," he said, the strange hoarseness of deep passion in his
voice.  "Me an' my dad are leavin' the country tonight.  We sold the
Arrow today, an' by this time tomorrow we'll be among the missin' in
this section of the country.  But there's some things to be done before
we pull our freight.  You think you've been damned slick about the
idol--you an' that mule-kickin' shorthorn, Calumet Marston!  But we've
fooled you," he continued with a short, ugly laugh; "fooled you clean!
Mebbe you know this, an' mebbe you don't.  But I'm tellin' you.  We set
Telza, the Toltec, an' Sharp to get the diagram of the place where the
idol is.  They didn't get it because the clearin' ain't dug up any.
Telza knifed Sharp an' he's sloped, likely figgerin' that this country
ain't healthy for him any more.  You've got the diagram an' I want it.
I'm goin' to get it if I have to kill you to get it!  Understand!

"You've got no chance," he sneered, as she looked around the room
furtively, hopelessly.  "We framed up a murder charge on Calumet and
we've been in the timber since dark waitin' for the sheriff to come an'
get him.  We saw him hit the breeze toward the Arrow, an' we saw the
sheriff go after him.  Neither of them can be back here for hours yet,
an' when they do get back I'll have done what I've set out to do."

He  laughed again, harshly, triumphantly.  "Dade an' Malcolm bothered
me a bit until I thought of sendin' Harvey Miller here with that fairy
tale about the forty beeves bogged down in Double Fork, but I reckon
now--"

She gasped, comprehending the trap he had set for her, and his grip on
her hands tightened.

"Dade an' Malcolm can't get back for an hour yet," he gloated, "an' by
that time we'll be miles away."  His voice changed from mockery to
savage determination.  "I want that diagram, an' I want it right now,
or I'll tear you to pieces.  Do you understand?  I'll beat you up so's
your own mother wouldn't know you."  His grip tightened on her arms,
they were twisted until she screamed with agony.

In this extremity her thoughts went to Calumet; she remembered vividly
what he had said about the idol when she had asked him why he did not
get it and convert it into cash.  "I ain't so much stuck on monkeyin'
with them religious things," he had said.  And she was certain that if
Calumet knew of her danger he would not have had her hesitate an
instant in relinquishing the diagram to Taggart.

The idol had brought him nothing but evil, anyway, and she was certain
that Calumet would not mourn its loss, even if Taggart were to be the
gainer by it, if its possession were to entail punishment, death,
perhaps, to her.

"Wait!" she cried as Taggart gave her arms an extra vicious twitch;
"you may have it!"

He released her with a greedy, satisfied grin and stood crouching and
alert while she turned her back to him and fumbled in her bodice, where
she had kept the diagram since the discovery of its former hiding place
by Telza.

She turned presently and gave him the paper, and he seized it eagerly
and examined it, gloating over it.

"That's it," he said; "that's the clearing!"

She was holding her arms, where he had squeezed them, her face flushed
with rage at the indignity he had offered her.  She stood rigid,
defiant.

"If that is all you came for, you may go," she said; "go instantly!"

He jammed the paper into his pocket and grinned at her.

"It ain't all," he said.  "I owe you somethin' for the way you've
treated me.  I'm goin' to pay it.  You've been too much of a lady to
talk to me, but you'll live here with that--"

He reached suddenly out and seized her hands again, attempting to throw
an arm around her.  She evaded the arm and wrenched herself free,
slipping past him and darting to the other side of the table.  He stood
opposite her, his hands on the table as he leaned toward her, grinning
at her, brutally and bestially, and pausing so as to prolong his
enjoyment of her predicament.

"I'll get you, damn you!" he said; "I've got the time and you can't get
out."  He seized the kerosene lamp on the table and walking backward,
placed it on a shelf at the side of the wall near the stove.  Then with
a chuckle of satisfaction and mockery he again went to the table
seizing its edge in his hands and shoving it against her so that she
was forced to retreat from its advance.

She divined instantly that he intended to force her against one of the
walls and thus corner her, and she opposed her strength to his, pushing
with all her power against the table in an effort to retard its advance.

It was to no purpose, for he was a strong man and his passions were
aroused, and in spite of her brave struggle the table continued to move
and she to retreat before it.

"Oh!" she said, in a panic of fear and dread, her face flushed, her
eyes wide and bright, her breath coming in great panting sobs; "Oh! you
beast!  You beast!"

He did not answer.  His eyes were burning with a wanton fire, they
glowed with the fierce, fell purpose of animal desire; he breathed
shrilly, rapidly, gaspingly, though the strength that he had been
compelled to use to overmatch hers had not been great.

She did not succeed in retarding the advance of the table, but she did
succeed in directing its course a little, so that instead of backing
her against the wall, as he no doubt intended to do, she brought up
finally against the stove in the corner.

There was a fire in the stove--she had kept it going to keep Calumet's
supper warm--and when she felt her body against it she reached around
and secured a flat iron.  The handle burned her hand, but she lifted it
and hurled it with all her force at his head.  He dodged, laughing
derisively.  She seized another and threw it, and this he dodged also.
She was reaching for the teakettle when he shoved the table aside and
lunged at her, and she dropped the kettle with a scream of horror and
slipped around the stove to the wall near the sitting-room door,
reaching the latter and trying frantically to unbar it.

She heard Bob's voice on the other side of the door; he was calling,
"Betty!  Betty!" in shrill, scared accents, and when Taggart leaped at
her, seizing her by the shoulders as she worked with the fastenings of
the door, she screamed to Bob to get the rifle from Malcolm's room,
directing him to go out the front way, go around to the kitchen and
shoot Taggart through one of the windows.

How long she struggled with Taggart there by the door she did not know.
It might have been an hour or merely a minute.  But she fought him,
clawing at his face with her hands, biting him, kicking him.  And she
remembered that he was getting the better of her, that his breath was
in her face and that he was dragging her toward the lamp on the shelf,
evidently intending to extinguish it--that he had almost reached it,
was, indeed, reaching a hand out to grasp it, when there came a flash
from the window, the crash of breaking glass, and the roar of an
exploding firearm.

She also remembered thinking that Bob had taken a desperate chance in
shooting at Taggart when she was so close to him, and she had a vivid
recollection of Taggart releasing her and staggering back without
uttering a sound.  She caught a glimpse of his face as he sank to the
floor; there was a gaping hole in his forehead and his eyes were set
and staring with an expression of awful horror and astonishment.  Then
the kitchen darkened, she felt the floor rising to meet her, and she
knew no more.



CHAPTER XXIII

FOR THE ALTARS OF HIS TRIBE

The first sound that Betty heard when consciousness began to return to
her was a loud pounding at the kitchen door.

She had fallen to the floor just beneath the shelf on which the lamp
sat, and she raised herself on an elbow and looked around.  At first
she did not remember what had happened, and then she saw Taggart, lying
face upward on the floor near her, the frightful hole in his forehead,
and she shuddered as recollection in a sickening flood came to her.
Bob, dear Bob, had not failed her.

She got up, trembling a little, breathing a prayer of thankfulness,
shrinking from the Thing that lay on the floor at her feet with its
horror-stricken eyes staring straight up at the ceiling, making her way
to the kitchen door, for the pounding had grown louder and more
insistent, and she could hear a voice calling hoarsely to her.

But it did not seem to be Bob's voice; it was deeper and more resonant,
and vibrated clearly, strongly, and with passion.  It was strangely
familiar, though, and she shook a little with a nameless anxiety and
anticipation as she fumbled at the fastenings of the door and swung it
open.

It was not Bob, but Calumet, who stepped in.  One of his heavy pistols
was in his right hand; with the left he had helped her to swing the
door open, and he stood, for the first brief instant following his
entrance, his arms extended, gazing sharply at Taggart.  Then, quickly,
apparently satisfied that he need have no concern for his enemy, he
turned to Betty, placed both hands on her shoulders--the heavy pistol
in his right resting on her--she felt the warmth of the barrel as it
touched the thin material of her dress and knew then that it had been
he who had fired the shot that had been the undoing of her
assailant--and holding her away from him a little peered searchingly at
her.

[Illustration: Calumet stepped in.]

His face was pale, his lips stiff and white, and his eyes were alight
with the wanton fire that she had seen in them many times, though now
there was something added to their expression--concern and thankfulness.

"God!" he said, after a little space, during which she looked at him
with shining eyes.  She no longer gave any thought to Taggart; the
struggle with him was an already fading nightmare in her recollection;
he had been eliminated, destroyed, by the man who stood before her--by
the man whose presence in the kitchen now stirred her to an emotion
that she had never before experienced--by the man who had come back to
her.  And that was all that she had cared for--that he would come back.

With a short laugh he released her and stepped over to where Taggart
lay, looking down at him with a cold, satisfied smile.

"I reckon you won't bother nobody any more," he said.

He turned to Betty, the pale stiffness of his lips softening a little
as she smiled at him.

"I want to thank you," he said, "for sendin' Toban after me.  He caught
me.  I wasn't ridin' so fast an' I heard him comin'.  I knowed who it
was, an' stopped to have it out with him.  He yelled that he didn't
want me; that you'd sent him after me.  We met Dade an' Malcolm--we'd
passed Double Fork an' nothin' was bogged down.  So we knowed
somebody'd framed somethin' up.  I come on ahead."  He grinned.
"Toban's been braggin' some about his horse, but I reckon that don't go
any more.  That black horse can run."  He indicated Taggart.  "I reckon
he come here just to bother you," he said.

She told him about the diagram and he started, stepping quickly to
where Taggart lay, searching in his pockets until he found the paper.

Then he went to the door.  Standing in it, he looked as he had looked
that day when he had humiliated Neal Taggart in her presence.  The
gentleness which she had seen in him some hours before--and which she
had welcomed--had disappeared; his lips had become stiff and pale
again, his eyes were narrowed and brilliant with the old destroying
fire.  She grew rigid and drew a deep, quivering breath, for she saw
that the pistol was still in his hand.

"What are you going to do?" she asked.

"I reckon old Taggart will still be waitin' in the timber grove," he
said with a short, grim laugh.  "They've bothered me enough.  I'm goin'
to send him where I sent his coyote son."

At that word she was close to him, her hands on his shoulders.

"Don't!" she pleaded; "please don't!"  She shuddered and cast a quick,
shrinking glance at the man on the floor.  "There has been enough
trouble tonight," she said.  "You stay here!" she commanded, trying to
pull him away from the door, but not succeeding.

He seized her face with his hands in much the same manner in which he
had seized it in his father's office on the night of his return to the
Lazy Y--she felt the cold stock of the pistol against her cheek and
shuddered again.  A new light had leaped into his eyes--the suspicion
that she had seen there many times before.

"Are you wantin' old Taggart to get away with the idol?" he demanded.

"He can't!" she denied.  "He hasn't the diagram, has he?  You have just
put it in your pocket!"

A quick embarrassment swept over him; he dropped his hands from her
face.  "I reckon that's right," he admitted.  "But I'm goin' to' send
him over the divide, idol or no idol."

"He won't be in the timber grove," she persisted; "he must have heard
the shooting and he wouldn't stay."

"I reckon he won't be able to run away from that black horse," he
laughed.  "I'll ketch him before he gets very far."

"You shan't go!" she declared, making a gesture of impotence.  "Don't
you see?" she added.  "It isn't Taggart that I care about--it's you.  I
don't want you to be shot--killed.  I won't have it!  If Taggart hasn't
gone by this time he will be hidden somewhere over there and when he
sees you he will shoot you!"

"Well," he said, watching her face with a curious smile; "I'm takin' a
look, anyway."  In spite of her efforts to prevent him he stepped over
the threshold.  She was about to follow him when she saw him wheel
swiftly, his pistol at a poise as his gaze fell upon something outside
the ranchhouse.  And then she saw him smile.

"It's Bob," he said; "with a rifle."  And he helped the boy, white of
face and trembling, though with the light of stern resolution in his
eyes, into the kitchen.

"Bob'll watch you," he said; "so's nothin' will happen to you.
Besides--" he leaned forward in a listening attitude; "Toban an' the
boys are comin'.  I reckon what I'm goin' to do won't take me long--if
Taggart's in the timber."

He stepped down and vanished around the corner of the ranchhouse.

He had scarcely gone before there was a clatter of hoofs in the
ranchhouse yard, a horse dashed up to the edge of the porch, came to a
sliding halt and the lank figure of Toban appeared before the door in
which Betty was standing.

He looked at her, noted her white face, and peered over her shoulder at
Bob, with the rifle, at Taggart on the floor.

"Holy smoke!" he said; "what's happened?"

She told him quickly, in short, brief sentences; her eyes glowing with
fear.  He tried to squeeze past her to get into the kitchen, but she
prevented him, blocking the doorway, pushing hysterically against him
with her hands.

"Calumet has gone to the timber grove--to the clearing--to look for Tom
Taggart.  Taggart will ambush him, will kill him!  I don't want him
killed!  Go to him, Toban--get him to come back!"

"Shucks," said Toban, grinning; "I reckon you don't need to worry none.
If Taggart's over in the timber an' he sees Calumet he'll just
naturally forget he's got a gun.  But if it'll ease your mind any, I'll
go after him.  Damn his hide, anyway!" he chuckled.  "I was braggin' up
my cayuse to him, an' after we met Dade an' Malcolm he run plumb away
from me.  Ride!  Holy smoke!"

He crossed the porch, leaped into the saddle and disappeared amid a
clatter of hoofs.

Betty stood rigid in the doorway, listening--dreading to hear that
which she expected to hear--the sound of a pistol shot which would tell
her that Calumet and Taggart had met.

But no sound reached her ears from the direction of the timber grove.
She heard another sound presently--the faint beat of hoofs that grew
more distinct each second.  It was Dade and Malcolm coming, she knew,
and when they finally rode up and Dade flung himself from the saddle
and darted to her side she was paler than at any time since her first
surprise of the night.

Again she was forced to tell her story.  And after it was finished, and
she had watched Dade and Malcolm carry Neal Taggart from the room, she
went over to where Bob sat, took him by the shoulder and led him to one
of the kitchen windows, and there, holding him close to her, her face
white, she stared with dreading, anxious eyes through the glass toward
the timber clump.  She would have gone out to see for herself, but she
knew that she could do nothing.  If he did not come back she knew that
she would not want to stay at the Lazy Y any longer; she knew that
without him--

She no longer weighed him in the balances of her affection as she stood
there by the window, she did not critically array his good qualities
against the bad.  She had passed that point now.  She merely wanted
him.  That was all--she just wanted him.  And when at last she saw him
coming; heard his voice, she hugged Bob closer to her, and with her
face against his sobbed silently.


A few minutes after he left the ranchhouse Calumet was in the clearing
in the timber grove, standing over the body of a man who lay face
upward beside a freshly-dug hole at the edge of a mesquite clump.  He
was still standing there when a few minutes later Toban came clattering
up on his horse.  The sheriff dismounted and stood beside him.

Calumet gave Toban one look and then spoke shortly:

"Taggart," he said.

"Lord!" said Toban, in an awed voice; "what in blazes did you do to
him?  I didn't hear no shootin'!  Is he dead?"

Both kneeled over the prone figure and Calumet pointed to the haft of a
knife that was buried deep in the body near the heart.

"Telza's," said Calumet, as he examined the handle.  "I dropped it here
the other night; the night Sharp was killed."

"Correct," said Toban; "I saw you drop it."  He smiled at the quick,
inquiring glance Calumet gave him.

"I was comin' through here after tendin' to some business an' I saw
Telza knife Sharp.  I piled onto Telza an' beat him up a little.
Lordy, how that little copper-skinned devil did fight!  But I squelched
him.  I heard some one comin', thought it was one of Taggarts, an'
dragged Telza behind that scrub brush over there.  I saw you come, but
I wasn't figgerin' on makin' any explanations for my bein' around the
Lazy Y at that time of the night, an' besides I saw the Taggarts
sneakin' up on you.  While they was gassin' to you I had one knee on
Telza's windpipe an' my rifle pointin' in the general direction of the
Taggarts, figgerin' that if they tried to start anything I'd beat them
to it.  But as it turned out it wasn't necessary.  I sure appreciated
your tender-heartedness toward them poor dumb brutes of the Taggarts.

"After you set the Taggarts to walkin' home, I took Telza to Lazette
an' locked him up for murderin' Sharp."

"I reckon, then," said Calumet, a puzzled frown wrinkling his forehead
as he looked from Taggart to the freshly dug hole; "that somebody else
killed Taggart.  It was someone who knew where the idol was, too--he'd
been diggin' for it."

"I reckon you've got me," said Toban.  "Sharp an' Telza an' you an'
Betty is the only one's that ever saw the diagram.  I saw you pick it
up from where Telza dropped it when I was maulin' him.  I know you
didn't do any diggin' for the idol; I know Betty wouldn't; an' Sharp's
dead, an' Telza's in jail--"

There was a clatter of hoofs from the direction of the ranchhouse.
Both men turned to confront a horseman who was coming rapidly toward
them, and as he came closer Toban cried out in surprise:

"Ed Bernse!" he said; "what in thunder are you doin' here?"

"Trailin' a jail breaker!" said the latter.  "That copper-skinned
weazel we had in there slipped out some way.  He stole a horse an' come
in this direction.  Got an hour's start of me!"

Calumet laughed shortly and turned to the new-made excavation, making a
thorough examination of it.

At its bottom was a square impression, a mold such as would be left by
the removal of a box.  Calumet stood up and grinned at Toban.

"The idol's gone," he said.  "Telza's got it.  You go back to Lazette,"
he said to Bernse, "an' tell the man who owns the horse that Calumet
Marston will be glad to pay for it--he's that damned glad he's got rid
of the idol."

Followed by Bernse, Calumet and Toban returned to the ranchhouse.  When
they neared it they were met by Dade and Malcolm, bearing between them
the body of Neal Taggart.  Calumet directed them to the clearing,
telling them briefly what they would find there, and then, with Toban
and Bernse, continued on to the ranchhouse.

Bernse hesitated at the door.  "I reckon I'll be lightin' out for
town," he said to the sheriff.

"Wait," said the sheriff; "I'll be goin' that way myself, directly."

Calumet had preceded Toban.  As the latter was speaking to Bernse,
Calumet stood before Betty, who, with Bob, had moved to the
sitting-room door and was standing, pale, her eyes moist and brilliant
with the depth of her emotions.

Briefly, he told her what he had found in the clearing.

"And the idol's gone," he concluded.  "Telza's got it."

"Thank God!" she exclaimed, devoutly.

"I reckon," came Toban's voice, as he stepped across the kitchen floor
toward them, "that we'd better bring this here idol business to an end.
Mebbe it's bothered you folks a heap, but it's had me sorta uneasy,
too."  He grinned at Betty.  "Mebbe you'd better show him his dad's
last letter," he suggested.  "I reckon it'll let me out of this deal.
An' I'm sure wantin' to go back home."

Betty vanished into the sitting-room in an instant, and presently
returned bearing an envelope of the shape and size which had contained
all of the elder Marston's previous communications to Calumet.  She
passed it over to the latter and she and the sheriff watched him while
he read.


"MY DEAR SON: If you receive this you will understand that by this time
Betty is satisfied that you have qualified for your heritage.  I thank
you and wish I were there to shake your hand, to look into your eyes
and tell you how glad I am for your sake.

"As soon as you have your affairs in shape I want you to marry
Betty--if she will have you.  I think she will, for she is in love with
your picture.

"By this time you will know that I didn't leave Betty alone to cope
with the Taggarts.  If Dave Toban has kept his word--and I know he
has--he has visited the Lazy Y pretty often.  I didn't want you to know
that he was back of Betty, and so I have told him to visit her
secretly.  He will give you what money is left in the bank at Las
Vegas--we thought it would be safer over there.

"I want to thank you again.  God bless you.

"Your father,

"JAMES MARSTON."


Calumet slowly folded the letter and placed it into a pocket.  He
looked at Toban, a glint of reproach in his eyes.

"So, it was you that I kept hearin' in the office--nights," he said.

"I reckon," said Toban.  He looked at Betty and grinned.

Calumet also looked at her.  His face was sober.

"I reckon I've been some fool," he said.  "But I was more than a fool
when I thought--"

"I didn't blame you much for that," smiled Betty.  "You see, both times
you heard us talking it happened that Taggart was somewhere in the
vicinity, and--"

"Well," interrupted Toban with a grin; "I reckon you two will be able
to get along without any outside interference, now."

They both watched in silence as he went to the door and stepped
outside.  He halted and looked at them, whereat they both reddened.
Then he grinned widely and was gone.

Betty stood at one side of the sitting-room door, Calumet at the other.
Both were in the kitchen.  Bob, also, was in the kitchen, though
Calumet and Betty did not see him; so it appeared to Bob.  Having some
recollection of a certain light in Betty's eyes on the night that
Calumet had brought home the puppy, Bob's wisdom impelled him to
compare it with the light that was in them now, and he suspected--he
knew--

And so, very gently, very quietly, with infinite care and patience,
lest they become aware of his presence, he edged toward the kitchen
door, his rifle in hand.  Still they did not seem to notice him, and so
he passed through the door, into the dining-room, backed to the stairs,
and so left them.

The silence between Betty and Calumet continued, and they still stood
where they had stood when Bob had stolen away, for they heard sounds
outside that warned them of the approach of Dade and Malcolm.

But it seemed they did not see Dade and Malcolm stop at one of the
kitchen windows, and certainly they did not hear the whispered
conversation that was carried on between the two.

"Shucks," said Dade; "it begins to look like Cal an' Betty's quarrel
is--"

"I reckon we won't go in," decided Malcolm; "not right now.  Mebbe in
an hour, or so.  Let's go down to the bunkhouse and play a little
pitch."

They were all alone now.  And Love had not been blind to the stealthy
activities that had been carried on around it.

Betty turned her head and looked at Calumet.  He smiled at her--it was
the smile of a man who has won a battle with something more than the
material things; it was the smile of a man who has conquered self--the
smile of the ruler who knows the weakness of the citadel he has taken
and plans its strengthening.  It was the smile of the master who
realizes the potent influence of the ally who has aided in his
exaltation and who meditates reward through the simple method of
bestowing upon the ally without reservation that citadel which she has
helped to take and which, needless to say, she prizes.  But it was
something more, too, that smile.  It was the smile of the mere Man--the
man, repentant, humble, petitioning to the woman he has selected as his
mate.

"I reckon," he said; "that they all thought we wanted to be alone."

But the ally was not prepared for this precipitate bestowal of reward,
and as she blushed and looked down at the toe of her shoe, sticking out
from beneath the hem of her skirt, she looked little like a person who
had conducted a bitter war for the master who stood near her.

"Oh," she said; "did you hear them?"

"I reckon I heard them," he said.  He went closer to her.  "They're
wise--Dade an' Malcolm.  Bob, too.  Wiser than me.  But I'm gettin'
sense, an' I'll come pretty close to bein' a man--give me time.  All I
need is a boss.  An' if you--"

"I reckon," said Dade, stretching himself an hour later, "that we'll
turn in.  That brandin' today, an' that ridin' tonight has bushed
me--kinda."

Malcolm agreed and they stepped to the bunkhouse door.

The moonlight threw a mellow glare upon the porch of the ranchhouse
near the kitchen door.  It bathed in its effulgent flood two figures,
the boss and the master, who were sitting close together--very close
together--on the porch.

The two figures came into instant focus in Dade's vision.  He stepped
back with a amused growl and gave place to Malcolm, who also looked.

Silently they went back into the bunkhouse.

"I reckon," suggested Dade, from the darkness, "that if we're figgerin'
to go to bed we'll have to bunk right here.  There's no tellin' when
them two will get through mushin'.  An' it's been too hard a tussle for
them to have us disturbin' them now."

From the porch there came a low protest from the ally.

"Don't, Cal," she said; "don't you see that Dade and Malcolm are
watching us?"

"Jealous, I guess," he laughed.  "Well, let them watch.  I reckon, if
they're around here for any time, after this, they'll see me kissin'
you plenty more."



THE END





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