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Title: Bred of the Desert - A Horse and a Romance
Author: Horton, Marcus
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Bred of the Desert - A Horse and a Romance" ***

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[Illustration]



BRED OF THE DESERT

A HORSE AND A ROMANCE

BY

MARCUS HORTON

[Illustration]

NEW YORK

GROSSET & DUNLAP

PUBLISHERS

Published by Arrangement with Harper & Brothers



COPYRIGHT, 1915, BY HARPER & BROTHERS

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

PUBLISHED APRIL, 1915



TO

A. D. B. S. H.

WHO TAUGHT CONSIDERATION FOR THE DUMB

THIS WORK IS LOVINGLY INSCRIBED



CONTENTS

  Chapter                                                     Page
       I. A COLT IS BORN                                         1
      II. FELIPE CELEBRATES                                     15
     III. A SURPRISE                                            27
      IV. A NEW HOME                                            35
       V. LONELINESS                                            47
      VI. THE FIRST GREAT LESSON                                57
     VII. A STRANGER                                            72
    VIII. FELIPE MAKES A DISCOVERY                              85
      IX. THE SECOND GREAT LESSON                               98
       X. THE STRANGER AGAIN                                   112
      XI. LOVE REJECTED                                        126
     XII. ADVENTURE                                            145
    XIII. IN THE WASTE PLACES                                  156
     XIV. A PICTURE                                            172
      XV. CHANGE OF MASTERS                                    175
     XVI. PAT TURNS THIEF                                      186
    XVII. A RUNNING FIGHT                                      199
   XVIII. AN ENEMY                                             210
     XIX. ANOTHER CHANGE OF MASTERS                            228
      XX. FIDELITY                                             240
     XXI. LIFE AND DEATH                                       256
    XXII. QUIESCENCE                                           280
   XXIII. THE REUNION                                          285



BRED OF THE DESERT



CHAPTER I

A COLT IS BORN


It was high noon in the desert, but there was no dazzling sunlight. Over
the earth hung a twilight, a yellow-pink softness that flushed across
the sky like the approach of a shadow, covering everything yet
concealing nothing, creeping steadily onward, yet seemingly still,
until, pressing low over the earth, it took on changing color, from pink
to gray, from gray to black--gloom that precedes tropical showers. Then
the wind came--a breeze rising as it were from the hot earth--forcing
the Spanish dagger to dipping acknowledgment, sending dust-devils
swirling across the slow curves of the desert--and then the storm burst
in all its might. For this was a storm--a sand-storm of the Southwest.

Down the slopes to the west billowed giant clouds of sand. At the bottom
these clouds tumbled and surged and mounted, and then, resuming their
headlong course, swept across the flat land bordering the river, hurtled
across the swollen Rio Grande itself, and so on up the gentle rise of
ground to the town, where they swung through the streets in ruthless
strides--banging signs, ripping up roofings, snapping off branches--and
then lurched out over the mesa to the east. Here, as if in glee over
their escape from city confines, they redoubled in fury and tore down to
earth--and enveloped Felipe Montoya, a young and good-looking Mexican,
and his team of scrawny horses plodding in a lumber rigging, all in a
stinging swirl.

"Haya!" cried Felipe, as the first of the sand-laden winds struck him,
"Chivos--chivos!" And he shot out his whip, gave the lash a twist over
the off mare, and brought it down with a resounding thwack. "R-run!" he
snarled, and again brought the whip down upon the emaciated mare. "You
joost natural lazy! Thees storm--we--we get-tin'--" His voice was
carried away on the swirling winds.

But the horses seemed not to hear the man; nor, in the case of the off
mare, to feel the bite of his lash. They continued to plod along the
beaten trail, heads drooping, ears flopping, hoofs scuffling
disconsolately. Felipe, accompanying each outburst with a mighty swing
of his whip, swore and pleaded and objurgated and threatened in turn.
But all to no avail. The horses held stolidly to their gait,
plodding--even, after a time, dropping into slower movement. Whereat
Felipe, abandoning all hope, flung down reins and whip, and leaped off
the reach of the rigging. Prompt with the loosened lines the team came
to a full stop; and Felipe, snatching up a blanket, covered his head and
shoulders with it and squatted in the scant protection of a forward
wheel.

The storm whipped and howled past. Felipe listened, noting each change
in its velocity as told by the sound of raging gusts outside, himself
raging. Once he lifted a corner of the blanket and peered out--only to
suffer the sting of a thousand needles. Again, he hunched his shoulders
guardedly and endeavored to roll a cigarette; but the tempestuous blasts
discouraged this also, and with a curse he dashed the tobacco from him.
After that he remained still, listening, until he heard an agreeable
change outside. The screeching sank to a crooning; the crooning dropped
to a low, musical sigh. Flinging off the blanket, he rose and swept the
desert with eyes sand-filled and blinking.

The last of the yellow winds was eddying slowly past. All about him the
air, thinning rapidly, pulsated in the sun's rays, which, beaming mildly
down upon the desert, were spreading everywhere in glorious sheen. To
the east, the mountains, stepping forth in the clearing atmosphere, lay
revealed in a warmth of soft purple; while the slopes to the west, over
which the storm had broken, shone in a wealth of dazzling yellow-white
light--sunbeams scintillating off myriads of tiny sand-cubes. The desert
was itself again--bright, resplendent-gripped in the clutch of solitude.

Felipe tossed his blanket back upon the reach of the rigging. Then he
caught up reins and whip, ready to go on. As he did so he paused in
dismay.

For one of the mares was down! It was the off mare, the slower and the
older mare of the two. She was lying prone and she was breathing
heavily. Covered as she was with a thin layer of fine sand, and tightly
girdled with chaotic harness straps, she was a spectacle of abject
misery.

But Felipe did not see this. All he saw, in the blinding rage which
suddenly possessed him, was a horse down, unready for duty, and beside
her a horse standing, ready for duty, but restrained by the other.
Stringing out a volley of oaths, he stepped to the side of the mare and
jerked at her head, but she refused stubbornly to get up on her feet.

Gripped in dismay deeper than at first, Felipe fell back in mechanical
resignation.

Was the mare dying? he asked himself. He could ill afford to lose a
mare. Horses cost seven and eight dollars, and he did not possess so
much money. Indeed, all the money he had in the world was three dollars,
received for this last load of wood in town. So, what to do! Cursing the
mare had not helped matters; nor could he accuse the storm, for there
had been other storms, many of them, and each had she successfully
weathered--been ready, with its passing, to go on! But not so this one!
She--Huh? Could it be possible? Ah!

He looked at the mare with new interest. And the longer he gazed the
more his anger subsided, became finally downright compassion. For he was
reviewing a something he had contemplated at odd times for weeks with
many misgivings and tenacious unbeliefs. Never had he understood it!
Never would he understand that thing! So why lose time in an effort to
understand it now?

Dropping to his knees, he fell to work with feverish haste unbuckling
straps and bands. With the harness loose, he dragged it off and tossed
it to one side. Then, still moving feverishly, he led the mate to the
mare off the trail, turned to the wagon with bracing shoulder, backed it
clear of the prostrate animal, and swung it out of the way of future
passing vehicles. It was sweltering work. When it was done, with the
sun, risen to its fierce zenith, beating down upon him mercilessly, he
strode off the trail, blowing and perspiring, and flung himself down in
the baking sand, where, though irritated by particles of sand which had
sifted down close inside his shirt, he nevertheless gave himself over to
sober reflections.

He was stalled till the next morning--he knew that. And he was without
food-supplies to carry him over. And he was ten miles on the one hand,
and five up-canyon miles on the other, from all source of supplies. But
against these unpleasant facts there stood many pleasant facts--he was
on the return leg of his journey, his wagon was empty, and he had in his
possession three dollars. Then, too, there was another pleasant fact.
The trip as a trip had been unusual; never before had he, or any one
else, made it under two days--one for loading and driving into town, and
a second for getting rid of the wood and making the return. Yet he
himself had been out now only the one day, and he was on his way home.
He had whipped and crowded his horses since midnight to just this end.
Yet was he not stalled now till morning? And would not this delay set
him back the one day he had gained over his fellow-townsmen? And would
not these same fellow-townsmen rejoice in this opportunity to overtake
him--worse, to leave him behind? They would!

"Oh, well," he concluded, philosophically, stretching out upon his back
and drawing his worn and ragged sombrero over his eyes, "soon is comin'
a _potrillo_." With this he deliberately courted slumber.

Out of the stillness rattled a wagon. Like Felipe's, it was a lumber
rigging, and the driver, a fat Mexican with beady eyes, pulled up his
horses and gazed at the disorder. It was but a perfunctory gaze,
however, and revealed to him nothing of the true situation. All he saw
was that Felipe was drunk and asleep, and that before dropping beside
the trail he had had time, and perhaps just enough wit, to unhitch one
horse. The other, true to instinct and the law of her underfed and
overworked kind, had lain down. With this conclusion, and out of sheer
exuberance of alcoholic spirits, he decided to awaken Felipe. And this
he did--in true Mexican fashion. With a curse of but five words--words
of great scope and finest selection, however--he mercilessly raked
Felipe's ancestors for five generations back; he objurgated Felipe's
holdings--chickens, adobe house, money, burro, horses, pigs. He closed,
snarling not obscurely at Felipe the man and at any progeny of his which
might appear in the future. Then he dropped his reins and sprang off the
reach of his rigging.

Felipe was duly awakened. He gained his feet slowly.

"You know me, eh?" he retorted, advancing toward the other. "All
right--_gracios_!" And by way of coals of fire he proffered the
fellow-townsman papers and tobacco.

The new-comer revealed surprise, not alone at Felipe's sobriety, though
this was startling in view of the disorder in the trail, but also at the
proffer of cigarette material. And he was about to speak when Felipe
interrupted him.

"You haf t'ink I'm drunk, eh, Franke?" he said. "Sure! Why not?" And he
waved his hand in the direction of the trail. Then, after the other had
rolled a cigarette and returned the sack and papers, he laid a firm hand
upon the man's shoulder. "You coom look," he invited. "You tell me what
you t'ink thees!"

They walked to the mare, and Franke gazed a long moment in silence.
Felipe stood beside him, eying him sharply, hoping for an expression of
approval--even of congratulation. In this he was doomed to
disappointment, for the other continued silent, and in silence finally
turned back, his whole attitude that of one who saw nothing in the
spectacle worthy of comment. Felipe followed him, nettled, and sat down
and himself rolled a cigarette. As he sat smoking it the other seated
himself beside him, and presently touched him on the arm and began to
speak. Felipe listened, with now and again a nod of approval, and, when
the _compadre_ was finished, accepted the brilliant proposition.

"A bet, eh?" he exclaimed. "All right!" And he produced his sheepskin
pouch and dumped out his three dollars. "All right! I bet you feety
cents, Franke, thot eet don' be!"

Frank looked his disdain at the amount offered. Also, his eyes blazed
and his round face reddened. He shoved his hand into his overalls,
brought forth a silver dollar, and tossed it down in the sand.

"A bet!" he yelled. "Mek eet a bet! A dolar!" Then he narrowed his eyes
in the direction of the mare. "Mek eet a good bet! You have chonce to
win, too, Felipe--you know!"

Felipe did not respond immediately. Money was his all-absorbing
difficulty. Never plentiful with him, it was less than ever plentiful
now, and was wholly represented in the three dollars before him. A sum
little enough in fact, it dwindled rapidly as he recalled one by one his
numerous debts. For he owed much money. He owed for food in the
settlement store; he owed for clothing he had bought in town; and he
owed innumerable gambling debts--big sums, sums mounting to heights he
dared not contemplate. And all he had to his name was the three dollars
lying so peacefully before him, with the speculative Franke hovering
over them like a fat buzzard over a dead coyote. What to do! He could
not decide. He had ways for this money, other than paying on his debts
or investing in a gambling proposition. There was to be a _baile_
soon, and he must buy for Margherita (providing her father, a caustic
_hombre_, bitter against all wood-haulers, permitted him the girl's
society) peanuts in the dance-hall and candy outside the dance-hall. The
candy must be bought in the general store, where, because of his many
debts, he must pay cash now--always cash! So what to do! All these
things meant money. And money, as he well understood, was a thing hard
to get. Yet here was a chance, as Franke had generously indicated, for
him to win some money. But, against this chance for him to win some
money was the chance also, as conveyed inversely by Franke, of his
losing some money--money he could ill afford to lose.

"You afraid?" suddenly cut in Franke, nastily, upon these reflections.
"I don' see you do soomt'ing!"

Which decided Felipe for all time. "Afraid?" he echoed, disdainfully.
"Sure! But not for myself! You don' have mooch money to lose! But I mek
eet a bet--a good bet! I bet you two dolars thot eet--thot eet don' be!"

It was now the other who hesitated. But he did not hesitate for long.
Evidently the spirit of the gambler was more deeply rooted in him than
it was in Felipe, for, after gazing out in the trail a moment, then
eying Felipe another moment, both speculatively, he extracted from his
pockets two more silver dollars and tossed them down with the others.
Then he fixed Felipe with a malignant stare.

"I bet you t'ree dolars thot eet cooms what I haf say!"

Felipe laughed. "All right," he agreed, readily. "Why not?" He heaped
the money under a stone, sank over upon his back with an affected yawn,
drew his hat over his eyes, and lay still. "We go to sleep now, Franke,"
he proposed. "Eet's long time--I haf t'ink."

Soon both were snoring.

Out in the trail hung the quiet of a sick-room. The long afternoon
waned. Once a wagon appeared from the direction of town, but the driver,
evidently grasping the true situation, turned out and around the mare in
respectful silence. Another time a single horseman, riding from the
mountains, cantered upon the scene; but this man, also with a look of
understanding, turned out and around the mare in careful regard for her
condition. Then came darkness. Shadows crept in from nowhere, stealing
over the desert more and more darkly, while, with their coming, birds of
the air, seeking safe place for night rest, flitted about in nervous
uncertainty. And suddenly in the gathering dusk rose the long-drawn howl
of a coyote, lifting into the stillness a lugubrious note of appeal.
Then, close upon the echo of this, rose another appeal in the trail
close by, the shrill nicker of the mate to the mare.

It awoke Felipe. He sat up quickly, rubbed his eyes dazedly, and peered
out with increasing understanding. Then he sprang to his feet.

"Coom!" he called, kicking the other. "We go now--see who is winnin'
thot bet!" And he started hurriedly forward.

But the other checked him. "Wait!" he snapped, rising. "You wait! You in
too mooch hurry! You coom back--I have soomt'ing!"

Felipe turned back, wondering. The other nervously produced material for
a cigarette. Then he cleared his throat with needless protraction.

"Felipe," he began, evidently laboring under excitement, "I mek eet a
_bet_ now! I bet you," he went on, his voice trembling with
fervor--"I bet you my wagon, thee horses--thee whole
shutting-match--against thot wagon and horses yours, and thee
harness--thee whole damned shutting-match--thot I haf win!" He proceeded
to finish his cigarette.

Felipe stared at him hard. Surely his ears had deceived him! If they had
not deceived him, if, for a fact, the _hombre_ had expressed a
willingness to bet all he had on the outcome of this thing, then Franke,
fellow-townsman, _compadre_, brother-wood-hauler, was crazy! But he
determined to find out.

"What you said, Franke?" he asked, peering into the glowing eyes of the
other. "Say thot again, _hombre_!"

"I haf say," repeated the other, with lingering emphasis upon each
word--"I haf say I bet you everyt'ing--wagon, harness,
_caballos_--everyt'ing!--against thot wagon, harness,
_caballos_ yours--everyt'ing--thee whole shutting-match--thot I haf
win thee bet!"

Again Felipe lowered his eyes. But now to consider suspicions. He had
heard rightly; Franke really wanted to bet all he had. But he could not
but wonder whether Franke, by any possible chance, knew in advance the
outcome of the affair in the trail. He had heard of such things, though
never had he believed them possible. Yet he found himself troubled with
insistent reminder that Franke had suggested this whole thing. Then
suddenly he was gripped in another unwelcome thought. Could it be
possible that this scheming _hombre_, awaking at a time when he
himself was soundest asleep, had gone out into the trail on tiptoe for
advance information? It was possible. Why not? But that was not the
point exactly. The point was, had he done it? Had this buzzard circled
out into the trail while he himself was asleep? He did not know, and he
could not decide! For the third time in ten hours, though puzzled and
groping, trembling between gain and loss, he plunged on the gambler's
chance.

"All right!" he agreed, tensely. "I take thot bet! I bet you thees
wagon, thees _caballos_, thees harness--everyt'ing--against
everyt'ing yours--wagon, horses, harness--everyt'ing! Wait!" he
thundered, for the other now was striding toward the mare. "Wait! You in
too mooch hurry yourself now!" Then, as the other returned: "Is eet a
bet? Is eet a bet?"

The fellow-townsman nodded. Whereat Felipe nodded approval of the nod,
and stepped out into the trail, followed by the other.

It was night, and quite a dark night. Stretching away to east and west,
the dimly outlined trail was lost abruptly in engulfing darkness; while,
overhead, a starless sky, low and somber and frowning, pressed close.
But, dark though the night was, it did not wholly conceal the outlines
of the mare. She was standing as they approached, mildly encouraging a
tiny something beside her, a wisp of life, her baby, who was struggling
to insure continued existence. And it was this second outline, not the
other and larger outline, that held the breathless attention of the men.
Nervously Felipe struck a match. As it flared up he stepped close,
followed by the other, and there was a moment of tense silence. Then the
match went out and Felipe straightened up.

"Franke," he burst out, "I haf win thee bet! Eet is not a mare; eet is a
li'l' horse!" He struck his _compadre_ a resounding blow on the
back. "I am mooch sorry, Franke," he declared--"not!" He turned back to
the faint outline of the colt. "Thees _potrillo_," he observed,
"he's bringin' me mooch good luck! He's--" He suddenly interrupted
himself, aware that the other was striding away. "Where you go now,
Franke?" he asked, and then, quick to sense approaching trouble: "Never
mind thee big bet, Franke! You can pay me ten dolars soom time! All
right?"

There was painful silence.

"All right!" came the reply, finally, through the darkness.

Then Felipe heard a lumber rigging go rattling off in the direction of
the canyon, and, suddenly remembering the money underneath the stone,
hurried off the trail in a spasm of alarm. He knelt in the sand and
struck a match.

The money had disappeared.



CHAPTER II

FELIPE CELEBRATES


It was well along in the morning when Felipe pulled up next day before
his little adobe house in the mountain settlement. The journey from the
mesa below had been, perforce, slow. The mare was still pitiably weak,
and her condition had necessitated many stops, each of long duration.
Also, on the way up the canyon the colt had displayed frequent signs of
exhaustion, though only with the pauses did he attempt rest.

But it was all over now. They were safely before the house, with the
colt lying a little apart from his mother--regarding her with curious
intentness--and with Felipe bustling about the team and now and again
bursting out in song of questionable melody and rhythm. Felipe was
preparing the horses for the corral at the rear of the house, and soon
he flung aside the harness and seized each of the horses by the bridle.

"Well, you li'l' devil!" he exclaimed, addressing the reclining colt.
"You coom along now! You live in thees place back here! You coom wit' me
now!" And he started around a corner of the adobe.

The colt hastily rose to his feet. But not at the command of the man. No
such command was necessary, for whither went his mother there went he.
Close to her side, he moved with her into the inclosure, crowding
frantically over the bars, skinning his knees in the effort, coming to a
wide-eyed stand just inside the entrance, and there surveying with
nervous apprehension the corral's occupants--a burro, two pigs, a flock
of chickens. But he held close to his mother's side.

Felipe did not linger in the corral. Throwing off their bridles, he
tossed the usual scant supply of alfalfa to the horses, and filled their
tub from a near-by well. Then, after putting up the bars, he set out
with determined stride across the settlement. His direction was the
general store, and his quest was the loan of a horse, since his team now
was broken, and would be broken for a number of days to come.

The store was owned and conducted by one Pedro Garcia. Pedro Garcia was
the mountain Shylock. He loaned money at enormous rates of interest, and
he rented out horses at prohibitive rates per day. Also, being what he
was, Pedro had gained his pounds of flesh--was alarmingly fat, with
short legs of giant circumference. Usually these legs were clothed in
tight-fitting overalls, and his small feet incased in boots of
high-grade leather wonderfully roweled. Yet many years had passed since
Pedro had been seen in a saddle. Evidently he held to the rowels in fond
memory of his days of slender youth and coltish gambolings. Pedro was
seated in his customary place upon an empty keg on the porch, and
Felipe, ignoring his grunted greeting, plunged at once into the purpose
of his call.

He had come to borrow a horse, Felipe explained. One of his own was
unfit for work, yet the cutting and drawing must go on. While the mare
was recuperating, he carefully pointed out, he himself could continue to
earn money to meet some of his pressing debts. Any kind of horse would
do, he declared, so long as it had four legs and was able to carry on
the work. The horse need not have a mouth, even, he added, jocosely, for
reasons nobody need explain. After which he sat down on the porch and
awaited the august decision.

Pedro remained silent a long time, the while he moistened his lips with
fitful tongue, and gazed across the tiny settlement reflectively. At
length he drew a deep breath, mixed of disgust and regret, and proceeded
to make slow reply.

It was true, he began, that he had horses to rent. And it was further
true, he went on, deliberately, that he kept them for just this purpose.
But--and his pause was fraught with deep significance--it was no less
true that Felipe Montoya bore a bad reputation as a driver of
horses--was known, indeed, to kill horses through overwork and
underfeed--and that, therefore, to lend him a horse was like kissing the
horse good-by and hitching up another to the stone-boat. Nevertheless,
he hastened to add, if Felipe was in urgent need of a horse, and was
prepared to pay the customary small rate per day, and to _pay in
advance--cash--_

Here Pedro paused and popped accusing eyes at Felipe, in one strong
dramatic moment before continuing. But he did not continue. Felipe was
the check. For Felipe had leaped to his feet, and now stood brandishing
an ugly fist underneath the proprietor's nose. Further--and infinitely
worse--Felipe was saying something.

"Pedro Garcia," he began, shrilly, "I must got a horse! And I have coom
for a horse! And I have thee money to pay for a horse! And if I kill
thot horse," he went on, still brandishing his fist--"if thot horse he's
dropping dead in thee harness--I pay you for thot horse! I haf drive
horses--"

"_Si, si, si!_" began Pedro, interrupting.

"I haf drive horses on thees trail ten years!" persisted Felipe,
yelling, "and in all thot time, Pedro Garcia, I'm killin' only seven
horses, and all seven of thees horses is dyin', Pedro Garcia, when I haf
buy them, and I haf buy all seven horses from you, Pedro Garcia, thief
and robber!" He paused to take a breath. "And not once, Pedro Garcia,"
he went on, "do I keeck about thot-a horse is a horse! But I haf coom to
you before! And I haf coom to you now! I must got a horse quick! And I
bringin' thot horse back joost thee same as I'm gettin' thot horse--in
good condition--better--because everybody is knowin.' I feed a horse
better than you feed a horse--and I'm _cleanin'_ the horse once in
a while, too!" Which was a lie, both as to the feeding and the cleaning,
as he well knew, and as, indeed, he well knew Pedro knew, who,
nevertheless, nodded grave assent.

"_Si_," admitted Pedro. "_Pero ustede--_"

"A horse!" thundered Felipe, interrupting, his neck cords dangerously
distended. "You give me a horse--you hear? I want a horse--a horse! I
don' coom here for thee talk!"

Pedro rose hastily from the keg. Also, he grunted quick consent. Then he
stepped inside the store, followed by Felipe, who made several needed
purchases, and, since he had his enemy cowed, and was troubled with
thirst created by the protracted harangue, to say nothing of the strong
inclination within him to celebrate the coming of the colt, he made a
purchase that was not needed--a bottle of _vino_, cool and dry from
Pedro's cellar. With these tucked securely under his arm, he then calmly
informed Pedro of the true state of his finances, and left the store,
returning across the settlement, which lay wrapped in pulsating noonday
quiet. In the shade of his adobe he sat upon the ground, with his back
comfortably against the wall. Directly the quiet was broken by two
distinct sounds--the pop of a cork out of the neck of a bottle, and the
gurgle of liquid into the mouth of a man.

Thus Felipe set out upon a protracted debauch. In this debauch he did
nothing worth while. He used neither the borrowed horse nor his own
sound one. Each day saw him redder of eye and more swollen of lip; each
day saw him increasingly heedless of his debts; each day saw him more
neglectful of his duties toward his animals. The one bottle became two
bottles, the two bottles became three, each secured only after
threatened assault upon the body of Pedro, each adding its store to the
already deep conviviality and reckless freedom from all cares now
Felipe's. He forgot everything--forgot the stolen money, forgot the
colt, forgot the needs of the mare--all in exhilarated pursuit of
phantoms.

Yet the colt did not suffer. Becoming ever more confident of himself as
the days passed, he soon revealed pronounced curiosity and an aptitude
for play. He would stare at strutting roosters, gaze after straddling
hens, blink quizzically at the burro, frown upon the grunting pigs, all
as if cataloguing these specimens, listing them in his thoughts, some
day to make good use of the knowledge. But most of all he showed
interest in and playfulness toward his mother and her doings. He would
follow her about untiringly, pausing whenever she paused, starting off
again whenever she started off--seemingly bent upon acquiring the how
and why of her every movement.

But it was his playfulness finally that brought him first needless
suffering. The mare was standing with her nose in the feed-box. She had
stood thus many times during the past week; but usually, before, the box
had been empty, whereas now it contained a generous quantity of alfalfa.
But this the colt did not know. He only knew that he was interested in
this thing, and so went there to attempt, as many times before, to reach
his nose into the mysterious box. Finding that he could not, he began,
as never before, to frisk about the mare, tossing up his little heels
and throwing down his head with all the reckless abandon of a seasoned
"outlaw." He could do these things because he was a rare colt, stronger
than ever colt before was at his age, and for a time the mare suffered
his antics with a look of pleased toleration. But as he kept it up, and
as she was getting her first real sustenance since the day of his
coming, she at length became fretful and sounded a low warning. But this
the colt did not heed. Instead he wheeled suddenly and plunged directly
toward her, bunting her sharply. Nor did the single bunt satisfy him.
Again and again he attacked her, plunging in and darting away each time
with remarkable celerity, until, her patience evidently exhausted, she
whisked her head around and nipped him sharply. Screaming with pain and
fright, he plunged from her, sought the opposite side of the inclosure,
and turned upon her a pair of very hurt and troubled eyes.

Yet all the world over mothers are mothers. After a time--a long time,
as if to let her punishment sink in--the mare made her way slowly to the
colt, and there fell to licking him, seeming to tell him of her lasting
forgiveness. Under this lavish caressing the colt, as if to reveal his
own forgiveness for the dreadful hurt, bestowed similar attention upon
her--in this attention, though he did not know it, softening flesh that
had experienced no such consideration in years. Thus they stood, side by
side, mother and son, long into the day, laying the foundation of a love
that never dies--that strengthens, in fact, with the years, though all
else fail--love between mother and her offspring.

Other things, things of minor consequence, added their mite to his early
development. One morning, while the mare was asleep, the colt, alert and
standing, was startled by the sudden movement of a large rooster. The
rooster had left the ground with loud flapping of wings, and now stood
perched upon the corral fence, like a grim and mighty conqueror,
ruffling his neck feathers and twisting his head in pre-eminent
satisfaction. But the colt did not understand this. Transfixed, he
turned frightened eyes upon the cause of the unearthly commotion. Then
suddenly, with another loud flapping of wings, the rooster uttered a
defiant crow, a challenge that echoed far through the canyon. Whereat
the colt, eyes wide with terror, whirled to his mother, whimpering
babyishly. But with the mare standing beside him and caressing him
reassuringly, all his nervousness left him, and he again turned his eyes
upon the rooster and watched him till the cock, unable to stir combat
among his neighbors, left the fence with another loud flapping of wings,
and returned to earth, physically and spiritually, there to set up his
customary feigned quest for worms for the ladies. But the point was
this--with this last flapping of wings the colt remained in a state of
perfect calm.

Thus he learned, and thus he continued to learn, in nervous fear one
moment, in perfect calm the next. And though his hours of life were few
indeed, he nevertheless revealed an intelligence far above the average
of his kind. He learned to avoid the mare's whisking tail, to shun or
remove molesting flies, to keep away from the mare when she was at the
feed-box. All of which told of his uncommon strain, as did the rapidity
with which he gained strength, which last told of his tremendous
vitality, and which some day would serve him well against trouble.

Yet in it all lurked the great mystery, and Felipe, blustering to
occasional natives outside the fence during his week of debauch, while
pointing out with pride the colt's very evident blooded lineage, yet
could tell nothing of that descent. All he could point out was that the
mare was chestnut-brown, and when not in harness was kept close within
the confines of the corral, while here was a colt of a dark-fawn color
which would develop with maturity into coal-black. And there was not a
single black horse in the mountains for miles and miles around. Nor was
the colt a "throw-back," because--

"Oh, well," he would conclude, casting bleared eyes in the direction of
the house, wearily, "I got soom _vino_ inside. You coom along now.
We go gettin' a drink." Which would close the monologue.

One morning early, Felipe, asleep on a bed that never was made up, heard
suspicious sounds in the corral outside. He sprang up and, clad only in
a fiery-red undershirt, hurried to a window. Cautiously letting down the
bars, with a rope already tied around the colt's neck, was the mountain
Shylock, Pedro Garcia, intent upon leading off the innocent new-comer.
Pedro no doubt had perceived an opportunity either to force Felipe to
meet some of his debts, or else hold the colt as a very acceptable
chattel. Also, he evidently had calculated upon early dawn as the time
best suited to do this thing, in view of Felipe's long debauch upon
unpaid-for wine. At any rate, there he was, craftily letting down the
bars. Raging with indignation and a natural venom which he felt toward
the storekeeper, Felipe flung up the window.

"_Buenos dias, señor!_" he greeted, cheerfully, with effort
controlling his anger. "Thee early worm he's takin' thee
_potrillo_! How cooms thot, _señor_?" he asked, enjoying the
other's sudden discomfiture. "You takin' thot li'l' horse for thee
walk--thee exercise?" And then, without waiting for a reply, had there
been one forthcoming, which there was not, he slammed down the window,
leaped to the door, flung it open--all levity now gone from him. "Pedro
Garcia!" he raged. "You thief and robber! I'm killin' you thees time
sure!" And, regardless of his scant attire, and stringing out a volley
of oaths, he sprang out of the doorway after his intended victim.

But Pedro Garcia, though fat, was surprisingly quick on his feet. He
dropped the rope and burst into a run, heading frantically past the
house toward the trail. And, though Felipe leaped after him, still clad
only in fiery-red undershirt, the storekeeper gained the trail and set
out at top speed across the settlement. Felipe pursued. Hair aflaunt,
shirt-tail whipping in the breeze, bare feet paddling in the dust of the
trail, naked legs crossing each other like giant scissors in frenzied
effort, he hurtled forward exactly one leap behind his intended victim.
He strained to close up the gap, but he could not overtake the equally
speedy Pedro, whose short legs fairly buzzed in the terror of their
owner. Thus they ran, mounting the slight rise before the general store,
then descending into the heart of the settlement, with Pedro whipping
along frantically, and Felipe still one whole leap behind, until a
derisive shout, a feminine exclamation of shrieking glee, awoke Felipe
to the spectacle he was making of himself before the eyes of the
community. He stopped; growled disappointed rage; darted back along the
trail. Once in the privacy of his house, he hurriedly donned his clothes
and gave himself over to deliberations. The result of these
deliberations was that he concluded to return to work.

After a scant breakfast of chili and coffee he moved out to the corral.
He leaned his arms upon the fence and surveyed the colt with fresh
interest.

"Thot li'l' _caballo_," he began, "he's bringin' me mooch good
luck. Thot _potrillo_ he's wort' seven--he's
wort'--_si_--eight dolars--thot _potrillo_. I t'ink I haf sell
heem, too--queek--in town! But first I must go cuttin' thee wood!" With
this he let down the bars and entered the inclosure. Then his thoughts
took an abrupt turn. "I keel thot Pedro Garcia soomtime--bet you' life!
He's stealin' fleas off a dog--thot _hombre_!"

Felipe drove the borrowed horse out of the inclosure, and then singled
out the mate to the mare. As he harnessed up this horse, the colt,
standing close by, revealed marked interest. Also, as Felipe led the
horse out of the corral the colt followed till shut off by the bars,
which Felipe hurriedly put up. But they did not discourage him. He
remained very close to them, peering out between the while Felipe
hitched the team to his empty lumber rigging. Then came the crack of a
whip, loud creaking of greaseless wheels, the voice of Felipe in lusty
demand, all as the outfit set out up the trail toward the timber-slopes.
But not till the earth was still again, the cloud of dust in the trail
completely subsided, did the colt turn away from the bars and seek his
mother, and then with a look in his soft-blinking eyes that told of
concentrated pondering on these mysteries of life.



CHAPTER III

A SURPRISE


Next morning, having returned from the timber-slopes, Felipe, fresh and
radiant, appeared outside the corral in holiday attire. Part of this
attire was a pair of brand-new overalls. Indeed, the overalls were so
new that they crackled; and Felipe appeared quite conscious of their
newness, for he let down the bars with great care, and with even greater
care stepped into the inclosure. Then it was seen, since he was a
Mexican who ran true to form, there was a flaw in all this splendor. For
he had drawn on the new overalls over the older pair--worse, had drawn
them on over _two_ older pairs, as revealed at the bottoms, where
peered plaintively two shades of blue--lighter blue of the older pair,
very light blue of the oldest pair--the effect of exposure to desert
suns. So Felipe had on three pairs of overalls. Yet this was not all of
distinction. Around his brown throat was a bright red neckerchief, while
between the unbuttoned edges of his vest was an expanse of bright
green--the coloring of a tight-fitting sweater.

There was reason for all this. Felipe was going to town, and he was
taking the mare along with him, and the mare naturally would take her
colt; and because he had come to know the value of the colt, Felipe
wished to appear as prosperous in the eyes of the Americans in town as
he believed the owner of so fine a colt ought to appear.

Therefore, still careful of his overalls, he set about leisurely to
prepare the team for the journey. He crossed to the shed, hauled out the
harness, tossed it out into the inclosure. Promptly both horses stepped
into position. Also, the older mare, whether through relief or regret,
sounded a shrill nicker. This brought the colt to her side, where he
fell to licking her affectionately, showing his great love for her bony
frame. And when Felipe led the horses out of the corral he followed
close beside her, and when outside held close to her throughout the
hitching, and to the point even when Felipe clambered to the top of the
high load and caught up the reins and the whip. Then he stepped back,
wriggling his fuzzy little tail and blinking his big eyes curiously.

"Well, _potrillo_," began Felipe, grinning down upon the tiny
specimen of life, "we goin' now to town! But first you must be ready!
You ready? All right! We go now!" And he cracked the whip over the team.

They started forward, slowly at first, the wagon giving off many creaks
and groans, then fast and faster, until, well in the descent of the hard
canyon trail, the horses were jogging along quite briskly.

The colt showed the keenest interest and delight. For a time he trotted
beside the mare, ears cocked forward expectantly, eyes sweeping the
canyon alertly, hoofs lifting to ludicrous heights. Then, as the first
novelty wore off, and he became more certain of himself in these
swift-changing surroundings, he revealed a playfulness that tickled
Felipe. He would lag behind a little, race madly forward, sometimes run
far ahead of the team in his great joy. But he seemed best to like to
lag. He would come to a sudden stop and, motionless as a dog pointing a
bird, gaze out across the canyon a long time, like one trying to find
himself in a strange and wonderful world. Or, standing thus, he would
reveal curious interest in the rocks and stumps around him, and he would
stare at them fixedly, blinking slowly, a look of genuine wonderment in
his big, soft eyes. Then he would strain himself mightily to overtake
the wagon.

Once in a period of absorbed attention he lost sight of the outfit
completely. This was due not so much to his distance in the rear as to
the fact that the wagon, having struck a bend in the trail, had turned
from view. But he did not know that. Sounding a baby outcry of fear, he
scurried ahead at breakneck speed, frantic heels tossing up tiny spurts
of dust, head stretched forward--and thus soon caught up. After that he
remained close beside his mother until the wagon, rocking down the mouth
of the canyon, swung out upon the broad mesa. Here the outfit could be
seen for miles, and now he took to lagging behind again, and to frisking
far ahead, always returning at frequent intervals for the motherly
assurance that all was well.

As part of the Great Scheme, all this was good for him. In his brief
panic when out of sight of his mother he was taught how very necessary
she was to his existence. In his running back and forth, with now and
again breathless speeding, he developed the muscles of his body, to the
end that later he might well take up an independent fight for life. In
the curious interest he displayed in all subjects about him he lent
unknowing assistance to a spiritual development as necessary as physical
development. All this prepared him to meet men and measures as he was
destined to meet them--with gentleness, with battle,--with
affection--like for like--as he found it. It was all good for him, this
movement, this change of environment, this quick awakening of interest.
It shaped him in both body and spirit to the Great Purpose.

This interest seemed unbounded. Whenever a jack-rabbit shot across the
trail, or a covey of birds broke from the sand-hills, he would come to a
quick pause and blink curiously, seeming to understand and approve, and
to be grateful, as if all these things were done for him. Also, with
each halt Felipe made with _compadres_ along the trail, friends who
entered with him in loud badinage over the ownership of the colt--an
ownership all vigorously denied him--the colt himself would cock his
ears and fix his eyes, seemingly aware of his importance and pleased to
be the object of the cutting remarks. And thus the miles from mountain
to the outskirts of town were covered, miles pleasurable to him, every
inch revealing something of fresh interest, every mile finding him more
accustomed to the journey.

They reached a point on the outskirts where streets appeared, sharply
defined thoroughfares, interlacing one with the other. And as they
advanced vehicles began to turn in upon the trail, a nondescript
collection ranging from an Indian farm-wagon off the Navajo reservation
to the north to a stanhope belonging to some more affluent American in
the suburbs. With them came also many strange sounds--Mexican oaths,
mild Indian commands, light man-to-man greetings of the day. Also there
was much cracking of whips and nickering of horses along the line. And
the result of all this was that the colt revealed steadily increasing
nervousness, a condition enhanced by the fact that his mother, held
rigidly to her duties by Felipe, could bestow upon her offspring but
very little attention. But he held close to her, and thus moved into the
heart of town, when suddenly one by one the vehicles ahead came to a
dead stop. Felipe, perched high, saw that the foremost wagons had
reached the railroad crossing, and that there was a long freight-train
passing through.

Team after team came into the congestion and stopped. Cart and wagon and
phaeton closed in around the colt. There was much maneuvering for space.
The colt's nervousness increased, and became positive fear. He darted
wild eyes about him. He was completely hedged in. On his right loomed a
large horse; behind him stood a drowsing team; on his left was a
dirt-cart; while immediately in front, such was his position now, stood
his mother. But, though gripped in fear, he remained perfectly still
until the locomotive, puffing and wheezing along at the rear of the
train, having reached the crossing, sounded a piercing shriek. This was
more than he could stand. Without a sound he dodged and whirled. He
plunged to the rear and rammed into the drowsing team; darted to the
right and into the teeth of the single horse; whirled madly to the left,
only to carom off the hub of a wheel. But with all this defeat he did
not stop. He set up a wild series of whirling plunges, and, completely
crazed now, darted under the single horse, under a Mexican wagon, under
a team of horses, and forth into a little clearing. Here he came to a
stop, trembling in every part, gazing about in wildest terror.

Following its shrill blast, the engine puffed across the crossing, the
gates slowly lifted, and the foremost vehicles began to move. Soon the
whole line was churning up clouds of dust and rattling across the
railroad tracks. Felipe was of this company, cracking his whip and
yelling lustily, enjoying the congestion and this unexpected opportunity
to be seen by so many American eyes at once in his gorgeous raiment. In
the town proper, and carefully avoiding the more rapidly moving
vehicles, he turned off the avenue into a narrow side street, and pulled
up at a water-trough. As he dropped the reins and prepared to descend, a
friend of his--and he had many--hailed him from the sidewalk. Hastily
clambering down, he seized the man's arm in forceful greeting, and
indicated with a jerk of his head a near-by saloon.

"We go gettin' soomt'ing," he invited. "I have munch good luck to tell
you."

Inside the establishment Felipe became loquacious and boasting. He now
was a man of comfortable wealth, he gravely informed his friend--a
wizened individual with piercing eyes. Besides winning a bet of fifteen
dollars in money, he explained, he also held a note against Franke
Gamboa for fifty dollars more on his property. But that was not all.
Aside from the note and the cash in hand, he was the owner of a colt now
of great value--_si_--worth at least ten dollars--which, added to
the other, made him, as anybody could see, worthy of recognition. With
this he placed his empty glass down on the bar and swung over into
English.

"You haf hear about thot?" he asked, drawing the back of his hand across
his mouth. Then, as the other shook his head negatively, "Well, I haf
new one--_potrillo_--nice li'l' horse--_si_!" He cleared his
throat and frowned at the listening bartender. "He's comin' couple days
before, oop on thee mesa." He picked up the glass, noted that it was
empty, placed it down again. "I'm sellin' thot _potrillo_ quick,"
he went on--"bet you' life! I feed heem couple weeks more mebbe--feed
heem beer and soom cheese!" He laughed raucously at the alleged
witticism. "Thot's thee preencipal t'ing," he declared, soberly. "You
must feed a horse." He said this not as one recommending that a horse be
well fed, but as one advising that a horse be given something to eat
occasionally. "_Si!_ Thot's thee preencipal t'ing! Then he's makin'
a fast goer--bet you' life! I haf give heem--" He suddenly interrupted
himself and laid firm hold upon the man's arm. "You coom wit' me!" he
invited, and began to drag the other toward the swing-doors. "You coom
look at thot _potrillo_!"

They went outside. On the curb, Felipe gazed about him, first with a
look of pride, then with an expression of blank dismay. He stepped down
off the curb, roused the drowsing mare with a vigorous clap, again
looked about him worriedly. After a long moment he left the team,
walking out into the middle of the street, and strained his eyes in both
directions. Then he returned and, heedless of his new overalls, got down
upon his knees, sweeping bleared eyes under the wagon. And finally, with
a last despairing gaze in every direction, he sat down upon the curb and
buried his face in his arms.

For the colt was gone!



CHAPTER IV

A NEW HOME


With the beginning of the forward movement across the railroad the colt,
ears cocked and eyes alert, moved across also. Close about him stepped
other horses, and over and around him surged a low murmuring,
occasionally broken by the crack of a whip. Yet these sounds did not
seem to disturb him. He trotted along, crossing the tracks, and when on
the opposite side set out straight down the avenue. The avenue was
broad, and in this widening area the congestion rapidly thinned, and
soon the colt was quite alone in the open. But he continued forward,
seeming not to miss his mother, until there suddenly loomed up beside
him a very fat and very matronly appearing horse. Then he hesitated,
turning apprehensive eyes upon her. But not for long. Evidently
accepting this horse as his mother, he fell in close beside her and
trotted along again in perfect composure.

Behind this horse was a phaeton, and in the phaeton sat two persons.
They were widely different in age. One was an elderly man, broad of
shoulders and with a ruddy face faintly threaded with purple; the other
was a young girl, not more than seventeen, his daughter, with a face
sweet and alert, and a mass of chestnut hair--all imparting a certain
esthetic beauty. Like the man, the girl was ruddy of complexion, though
hers was the bloom of youth, while his was toll taken from suns and
winds of the desert. The girl was the first to discover the colt.

"Daddy!" she exclaimed, placing a restraining hand upon the other.
"Whose beautiful colt is that?"

The Judge pulled down his horse and leaned far out over the side. "Why,
I don't know, dear!" he replied, after a moment, then turned his eyes to
the rear. "He must belong with some team in that crush."

The girl regarded the colt with increasing rapture. "Isn't he a perfect
dear!" she went on. "Look at him, daddy!" she suddenly urged,
delightedly. "He's dying to know why we stopped!" Which, indeed, the
colt looked to be, since he had come to a stop with the mare and now was
regarding them curiously. "I'd love to pet him!"

The Judge frowned. "We're late for luncheon," he declared, and again
gazed to the rear. "We'd better take him along with us out to the ranch.
To-morrow I'll advertise him in the papers." And he shook up the mare.
"We'd better go along, Helen."

"Just one minute, daddy!" persisted the girl, gathering up her white
skirts and, as the Judge pulled down, leaping lightly out of the
phaeton. "I've simply _got_ to pet him!" She cautiously approached
the colt.

He permitted her this approach. Nor did he shy at her outstretched hand.
Under her gentle caresses he stood very still, and when she stooped
before him, as she did presently, bringing her eyes upon a level with
his own, he gazed into them very frankly and earnestly, as if gauging
this person, as he had seemed to tabulate all other things, some day to
make good use of his knowledge. After a time the girl spoke.

"I wish I could keep you always," she said, poutingly. "You look so nice
and babyish!" But she knew that she could not keep him, and after a time
she stood up again and sighed, and fell to stroking him thoughtfully.
"I'll have you to-day, anyway," she declared, finally, with promise of
enjoyment in her voice, as one who meant to make the most of it. Then
she got back into the phaeton.

The Judge started up the horse again. They continued through the town,
and when on its northwestern outskirts turned to the right along a trail
that paralleled the river. The trail ran north and south, and on either
side of it, sometimes shielding a secluded ranch, always forming an
agreeable oasis in the flat brown of the country, rose an occasional
clump of cottonwoods. The ranch-houses were infrequent, however; all of
them were plentifully supplied with water by giant windmills which
clacked and creaked above the trees in the high-noon breeze. To the
left, across the river, back from the long, slow rise of sand from the
water's edge, rose five blunt heights like craters long extinct; while
above these, arching across the heavens in spotless sheen, curved the
turquoise dome of a southwestern midday sky, flooding the dust and dunes
below in throbbing heat-rays. It was God's own section of earth, and not
the least beautiful of its vistas, looming now steadily ahead on their
right, was the place belonging to Judge Richards. House and outhouses
white, and just now aglint in the white light of the sun, the whole
ranch presented the appearance of diamonds nestling in a bed of
emerald-green velvet. Turning off at this ranch, the Judge tossed the
reins to a waiting Mexican.

Helen was out of the phaeton like a flash. Carefully guiding the colt
around the house and across a _patio_, she turned him loose into a
spacious corral. Then she fell to watching him, and she continued to
watch him until a voice from the house, that of an aged Mexican woman
who presided over the kitchen, warned her that dinner was waiting.
Reluctantly hugging the colt--hugging him almost savagely in her sudden
affection for him--she then turned to leave, but not without a word of
explanation.

"I must leave you now, honey!" she said, much as a child would take
leave of her doll. "But I sha'n't be away from you long, and when I come
back I'll see what I can do about feeding you!"

The colt stood for a time, peering between the corral boards after her.
Then he set out upon a round of investigation. He moved slowly along the
inside of the fence, seeming to approve its whitewashed cleanliness,
until, turning in a corner, he stood before the stable door. Here he
paused a moment, gazing into the semi-gloom, then sprang up the one
step. Inside, he stood another moment, sweeping eyes down past the
stalls, and finally set out and made his way to the far end. In the
stall next the last stood a brown saddle-horse, and in the last stall
the matronly horse he had followed out from town. But he showed no
interest in these, bestowing upon each merely a passing glance. Then,
discovering that the flies bothered him here more than in the corral, he
walked back to the door and out into the sunlight again. In the corral
he took up his motionless stand in the corner nearest the house.

He did not stand thus for long. He soon revealed grave uneasiness. It
was due to a familiar gnawing inside. He knew the relief for this, and
promptly set out in search of his mother. He hurried back along the
fence, gained the door of the stable, and stepped into the stable, this
time upon urgent business. He trotted down past the stalls to the family
horse, and without hesitation stepped in alongside of her. Directly
there was a shrill nicker, a lightning flash of heels, and the colt lay
sprawling on the stable floor.

Never was there a colt more astonished than this one. Dazed, trembling,
he regained his feet and looked at the mare, looked hard. Then casting
solicitous eyes in the direction of the saddle-horse, he stepped in
alongside. But here he met with even more painful objections. The horse
reached around and bit him sharply in the neck. It hurt, hurt awfully,
but he persisted, only to receive another sharp bite, this time more
savage. Sounding a baby whimper of despair, he ran back to the door and
out into the motherless corral.

He made for the corner nearest the house. But he did not stand still. He
cocked his ears, pawed the ground, turned again and again, swallowed
frequently. And presently he set out once more in search of his mother;
though this time he wisely kept out of the stable. He held close to the
fence, following it around and around, pausing now and again with eyes
strained between the boards. But he could not find his mother. Finally,
resorting to the one effort left to him that might bring result, he
flung up his little head and sounded a piteous call--not once, but many
times.

"Aunty," declared the girl, rushing into the genial presence of the
Mexican cook, "what shall I do about that colt? He must be hungry!"

The old woman nodded and smiled knowingly. Then she stepped into the
pantry. She filled a long-necked bottle with milk and sugar and a dash
of lime-water, and, placing the bottle in the girl's hands, shoved her
gently out the door and into the _patio_.

Racing across to the corral, Helen reached the colt with much-needed
aid. He closed upon the bottle with an eagerness that seemed to tell he
had known no other method of feeding. Also, he clung to it till the last
drop was gone, which caused Helen to wonder when last the colt had fed.
Then, as if by way of reward for this kindly attention, he tossed his
head suddenly, striking the bottle out of her hands. This was play; and
Helen, girlishly delighted, sprang toward him. He leaped away, however,
and, coming to a stand at a safe distance, wriggled his ears at her
mischievously. She sprang toward him again; but again he darted away.
Whereupon she raced after him, pursuing him around the inclosure, the
colt frisking before her, kicking up his heels and nickering shrilly,
until, through breathlessness, she was forced to stop. Then the colt
stopped, and after a time, having regarded her steadfastly, invitingly,
he seemed to understand, for he quietly approached her. As he came close
she stooped before him.

"Honey dear," she began, eyes on a level with his own, "they have
telephoned the city officials, and your case will be advertised
to-morrow in the papers. But I do wish that I could keep you." She
peered into his slow-blinking eyes thoughtfully. "Brownie--my
saddle-horse--is all stable-ridden, and I need a good saddler. And some
day you would be grown, and I could--could take lots of comfort with
you." She was silent. "Anyway," she concluded, rising and stroking him
absently, "we'll see. Though I hope--and I know it isn't a bit
right--that nothing comes of the advertisement; or, if something does
come of it, that your rightful owner will prove willing to sell you
after a time." With this she picked up the bottle and left him.

And nothing did come of the advertisement. Felipe did not read the
papers, and his knowledge of city affairs was such that he did not set
up intelligent quest for the colt.

So the colt remained in the Richards' corral. Regularly two and three
times a day the girl came to feed him, and regularly as his reward each
time he bunted the bottle out of her hand afterward. Also, between meals
she spent much time in his society, and on these occasions relieved the
tedium of his diet with loaf sugar, and, after a while, quartered
apples. For these sweets he soon developed a passion, and he would watch
her comings with a feverish anxiety that always brought a smile to her
ready lips. And thus began, and thus went on, their friendship, a
friendship that with the passing months ripened into strongest
attachment, but which presently was to be interrupted for a long time.

Hint of this came to him gradually. From spending long periods with him
every day his mistress, after each feeding now, took to hurrying away
from him. Sometimes, so great was her haste to get back to the house,
she actually ran out of the corral. It worried him, and he would follow
her to the gate, and there stand with nose between the boards and eyes
turned after her, whimpering softly. And finally, with his bottle
displaced by more solid food, and the visits of his mistress becoming
less frequent, he awoke to certain mysterious arrivals and departures in
a buggy of a sharp-eyed woman all in black, and he came to feel, by
reason of his super-animal instinct, that something of a very grave
nature was about to happen to him. Then one morning late in August he
experienced that which made his fears positive convictions, though
precisely what it was he did not immediately know.

His mistress stepped into the corral with her usual briskness, and,
walking deliberately past him, turned up an empty box in a far corner
and sat down upon it, and called to him. From the instant of her
entrance he had held himself back, but when she called him he rushed
eagerly to her side. She placed her arms around his neck, drew his head
down into her lap, and proceeded to unfold a story--later, tearful.

"It's all settled," she began, with a restful sigh. "We have discussed
it for weeks, and I've had a dreadful time of it, and aunty--my Mexican
aunty, you know--and my other aunty, my regular aunty--I have no
mother--and everybody--got so excited I didn't really know them for my
own, and daddy flared up a little, and--and--" She paused and sighed
again. "But finally they let me have my own way about it--though daddy
called it 'infant tommyrot'--and so here it is!" She tilted up his head
and looked into his eyes. "You, sir," she then went on--"you, sir, from
this day and date--I reckon that is how daddy would say it--you, sir,
from this day and date shall be known as Pat. Your name, sir, is
Pat--P-a-t--Pat! I don't know whether you like it or not, of course! But
I do know that I like it, and under the circumstances I reckon that's
all that is necessary." Then came the tears. "But that isn't all, Pat
dear," she went on, tenderly. "I have something else to tell you, though
it hurts dreadfully for me to do it. But--but I'm going away to school.
I'm going East, to be gone a long time. I want to go, though," she
added, gazing soberly into his eyes; "yet I am afraid to leave you alone
with Miguel. Miguel doesn't like to have you around, and I know it, and
I am afraid he will be cruel to you. But--but I've got to go now. The
dressmaker has been coming for over a month; and--and I'm not even
coming home for vacation. I am to visit relatives, or something, in New
York--or somewhere--and the whole thing is arranged. But I--I don't seem
to want--to--to go away now!" Which was where the tears fell. "If
things--things could only be--be put off! But I--I know they can't!" She
was silent, silent a long time, gazing off toward the distant mountains
through tear-bedimmed eyes. "But when I do come back," she concluded,
finally, brightening, "you will have grown to a great size, Pat dear,
and then we can go up on the mesa and ride and ride. Can't we?" And she
hugged him convulsively. "It will be glorious. Won't it?"

He didn't exactly say. His interest was elsewhere, and, resisting her
hugging, he began to nuzzle her hands for sweets. Whereupon she burst
into laughter and forcibly hugged him again.

"I forgot," she declared, regretfully. "You shall have them,
though--right away!" Then she arose and left him--left him a very much
mystified colt. But when she returned with what he sought he looked his
delight, and closed over the sweets with an eagerness that forced her
into sober reflection. "Pat," she said, after a time, "I don't think you
care one single bit for me! All you care about, I'll bet, is what I
bring you to eat!" Then she began to stroke him. "Just the same," she
concluded, after a while, tenderly, "you're the dearest colt that ever
lived!" She dallied with him a moment longer, then abruptly left him,
running back to the house.

The days which followed, however, were full of delight for him. Now that
the mysterious activity in the house was over with, his mistress began
to visit him again with more than frequent regularity. And with each
visit she would remain with him a long time, caressing him, talking to
him, as had been her wont in the earlier days of their friendship. But
as against those earlier days he had changed. Possibly this was due to
her absence. Instead of frisking about the inclosure now, as he had used
to frisk--whirling madly from her in play--he would remain very still
during her visits, standing motionless under her caresses and love-talk.
Also, when she took herself off each time, instead of hurrying
frantically after her to the gate, he would walk slowly, even sedately,
into his corner, the one nearest the house, and there watch her soberly
till she disappeared indoors. Then--further evidence of the change that
had come upon him--he would lie down in the warm sunlight and there
fight flies, although before he had been given to worrying the family
horse or irritating the brown saddler--all with nervous playfulness.

And he was dozing in his corner that morning when his mistress came
fluttering to him to say good-by. He slowly rose to his feet and blinked
curiously at her.

"Pat dear," she exclaimed, breathlessly, "I'm going now!" She flung her
arms around his neck, held him tightly to her a moment, then stepped
back. "You--you must be good while--while I'm gone!" And dashing away a
persistent tear, she then hurriedly left him, speeding across the
_patio_ and stepping into the waiting phaeton.

He watched the vehicle roll out into the trail. And though he did not
understand, though the seriousness of it all was denied him, he
nevertheless remained close to the fence a long time; long after the
phaeton had passed from view, long after the sound of the mare's
paddling feet had died away, he stood there, ears cocked, eyes wide,
tail motionless, in an attitude of receptivity, spiritual absorption, as
one flicked with unwelcome premonitions.



CHAPTER V

LONELINESS


Pat's mistress was gone. He realized it from his continued disappointed
watching for her at the fence; he realized it from the utter absence out
of life of the sweets he had learned to love so well; and he realized it
most of all from the change which rapidly came over the Mexican hostler.
Though he did not know it, Miguel had been instructed, and in no
mistakable language, to take good care of him, and, among other things,
to keep him healthily supplied with sweets. But Miguel was not
interested in colts, much less in anything that meant additional labor
for him, and so Pat was made to suffer. Yet in this, as in all the other
things, lay a wonderful good. He was made to know that he was not wholly
a pampered thing--was made to feel the other side of life, the side of
bitterness and disappointment, the side at times of actual want. And
this continued denial of wants, of needs, occasionally, hardened him, as
his earlier experiences had hardened him, toughened him for the
struggles to come, brought to him that which is good for all
youth--realization that life is not a mere span of days with sweets and
comforts for the asking, but a time of struggle, a battle for supremacy,
and it is only through the battle that one grows fit and ever more fit
for the good of the All.

Not the least of his trials was great loneliness. One day was so very
like another. Regularly each morning, after seeking out his favorite
corner in the corral, he would see the sun step from the mountain-tops,
ascend through a cool morning, pour down scorching midday rays, descend
through a tense afternoon, and drop from view in the chill of evening.
Always he would watch this thing, sometimes standing, other times
reclining, but ever conscious of the dread monotony of it all. Nothing
happened, nobody came to caress him, no one paid him the least
attention. A forlorn colt, a lonely colt, doubly so for lack of a
mother, he spent long days in moody contemplation of an existence that
irked.

One day, however, came something of interest into the monotony of his
life. Evidently tiring of attending each horse in turn in the stalls,
Miguel built a general box for feed in one corner of the inclosure, and
then, by dint of loud swearing and the free use of a pitchfork,
instructed the colt to feed from it with the others. Not that Pat
required instruction as to the feeding itself--he was too much alive to
need driving in that respect. But he did show nervous timidity at
feeding with the other horses, and so Miguel cheerfully went to the
urging with fork and tongue. But only the one time. Soon the colt took
to burying his nose in the box along with the others, and would wriggle
his tail with a vigor that seemed to tell of his gratitude at being
accepted as part of the great establishment and its devices. And then
another thing. With this change in his method of feeding, he soon came
to reveal steadily increasing courage and independence. Oftentimes he
would be the first to reach the box, and, what was more to the point,
would hold his position against the other horses--hold it against rough
shouldering from the family horse, savage nipping from the saddler, even
vigorous cursing and flaying from the swarthy hostler.

With the approach of winter he revealed his courage and temerity
further. Of his own volition one night he abruptly changed his
sleeping-quarters. Since the memorable occasion when the mare had kicked
him out of her stall he had sought out a stall by himself with the
coming of night, and there spent the hours in fear-broken sleep. But
this night, and every night thereafter, saw him boldly approaching the
mare and crowding in beside her in her stall, where, in the contact with
her warm body and in her silent presence, he found much that was
soothing and comfortable. Which, too, marked the beginning of a new
friendship, one that steadily ripened with the passing winter and, by
the time spring again descended into the valley, was an attachment close
almost as that between mother and offspring. When in his playful
moments, rare indeed now for one of his age, he would inadvertently
plunge into her, or stumble over a water-pail, she would nicker grave
disapproval, or else chide him more generously by licking his neck and
withers a long time in genuine affection.

Thus the colt changed in both spirit and physique. And the more he
changed, and the larger he grew, the greater source of trouble he became
to the Mexican. Before, he had feared the man. Now he felt only a kind
of hatred, and this lent courage to make of himself a frequent source of
annoyance.

With the return of warm weather he resumed his old place in his favorite
corner. He did this through both habit and a desire to warm himself in
the sun's rays. And it was all innocent enough--this thing. Yet,
innocent though it was, more than once, in passing, the Mexican struck
him with whatever happened to be in his hands. At such times, whimpering
with pain, he would dart to an opposite corner, there to stand in
trembling fear, until, his courage returning, and his hatred for the man
upholding him, he would return and defiantly resume his day-dreaming in
the corner. This happened for perhaps a dozen times before he openly
rebelled. And when he did rebel--when the Mexican struck him sharply
across the nose--he whipped around his head like lightning and, still
only half awake, sank his teeth savagely into the man's shoulder.
Followed a string of oaths and sudden appearance of a club, which might
have proved serious but for the Judge's timely call for the horse and
phaeton. Whereupon the Mexican slunk off into the stable. But as he went
Pat saw the gleam in his black eyes, and knew that some day punishment
most dire and cruel would descend upon him.

He passed through his second summer, that period of trial and sickness
for many infants, in perfect health. In perfect health also he passed
through the autumn and on into his second winter. Growing ever stronger
with the passing seasons, he came to reveal still further his wonderful
vitality, and to reveal it in many ways. Often he would take the
initiative against the Mexican, kicking at him without due cause,
refusing always to get out of his way, once nipping him sharply as he
hurried past under pressing orders from the house. Also, having grown to
a size equal to the brown saddler, he began to reveal his antipathy for
this animal. Not only would he shoulder him away from the feed-box, but
he would kick and snap at him, and once he tipped over the water-pail
for no other reason, seemingly, than to deprive the saddler of water.
The result of all this was that, with the passing seasons, both the
Mexican and the saddler showed increasing respect for him, and the
former went to every precaution to avoid a serious encounter.

But it was bound to come in spite of all his efforts to avoid it.
Fighting spring flies in the stable one morning, Pat was aroused by a
familiar sound in the corral. It was the sound which usually accompanied
feeding, and, whirling, he plunged eagerly toward the door. As he did so
the Mexican, about to enter the stable, appeared on the threshold. Pat
saw him too late. He crashed headlong into the Mexican and sent him
reeling out into the inclosure. From that moment it was to the death.

The Mexican painfully gained his feet and, swearing a mighty vengeance,
caught up a heavy shovel. Pat saw what was coming and, dashing out into
the corral, sought protection behind the feed-box. But the infuriated
man hunted him out, dealing upon his quivering back blow after blow,
until, stung beyond all caution, Pat sprang for the object of his
suffering. But the man leaped aside, delivering as he did so another
vicious blow, this time across Pat's nose--most tender of places. Dazed,
trembling, raging with the spirit of battle, he surveyed the man a
moment, and then, with an unnatural outcry, half nicker, half roar, he
hurtled himself upon his enemy, striking him down. But he did not stop
here. When the man attempted to rise he struck him down again, and a
third time. Then, seeing the man lying motionless, he uttered another
outcry, different from the other, a whimpering, baby outcry, and,
whirling away from the scene, hurried across the corral and into the
stable, where he sought out the family horse and, still whimpering
babyishly, stood very close beside her, seeking her sympathy and
encouragement.

This closed the feud for all time. Miguel was not seriously hurt. But he
had learned something, even as Pat had learned something, and thereafter
there existed tacit understanding between them.

The seasons passed, and the third year came, and with it the beginning
of the end of Pat's loneliness. One morning late in June he was aroused
by the voice of the Mexican, who, with brushes and currycomb in hand,
had come to clean him. Pat was in need of just this cleaning. Though
wallowing but little, leaving that form of exercise to the older horses,
he nevertheless was gritty with sand from swirling spring winds. So he
stood very still under the hostler's vigorous attention. But Miguel's
ambition did not stop here. He turned to the other horses and curried
and brushed them also, working till the perspiration streamed from him.
But this was not the end. He set to work in the stable, and scraped and
cleaned to the last corner, and rubbed and scoured to the smallest
harness buckle. It was all very unusual, and Pat, standing attentive
throughout it all, revealed marked interest and something of surprise.
Soon he was to know the reason.

Along toward noon, as he was feeding at the box, he saw a very dignified
young woman leave the house, cross the _patio_ in his direction,
and come to a stop immediately outside the fence. Though the feed-box
always held his interest above all other things, and though it was
strongly attracting him now, he nevertheless could not resist the
attention with which this young woman regarded him. He returned her gaze
steadily, wondering who she was and what she meant to do. He soon found
out, for presently she set out along the fence and came to a stop
directly in front of him. She did more. She held out a hand and sounded
a single word softly.

"Pat!" she called.

And now something took place inside the colt. With the word, far back in
his brain, in the remotest of cells, there came an effort for freedom.
It was a grim struggle, no doubt, for the thing must fight its way
against almost all other thoughts and scenes and persons in his memory.
But at length this vague memory gained momentum and dominance. And now
he understood. The young woman outside the fence was his little mistress
of early days! Lifting his head, he gave off a shrill and protracted
nicker of greeting.

Helen dropped her hand. "Bless you!" she cried, and sped along the
fence, opened the gate, and ran inside. "You do know me, don't you?" she
burst out, and, hurrying to his side, hugged him convulsively. "And I'm
so glad, Pat!" she went on. "It--it has been a long three years!" She
stepped back and looked him over admiringly. "And you have grown so!
Dear, oh, dear! Three years!" Again she stepped close and hugged him. "I
am so proud of you, Pat!"

All this love-talk, this caressing and hugging, was as the lifting of a
veil to Pat. Within him all that had lain dormant for three
years--affection, desires, life itself--now pressed eagerly to the
surface. And though his mistress did not look the same to him--though he
found himself gazing down now instead of up to engage her eyes--yet, as
if she had been gone but a day, he suddenly nuzzled her hand for loaf
sugar and quartered apples. Then as suddenly he regretted this. For she
had left him--was running across the corral. Frantically he rushed after
her and, with a shrill cry of protest, saw her enter the house. But soon
she appeared again, and when close, and he saw the familiar sweets in
her hand, he nickered again, this time in sheer delight. And if he had
doubted his good fortune before, now, with his mouth dripping luscious
juices, he knew positively that he had come into his own again.

Sometime during the feast Helen noticed a scar across his nose. "Why,
Pat!" she exclaimed. "How ever did you get that?"

But Pat did not say. Indeed, it is doubtful whether, in this happiest of
moments, he would have descended to such commonplaces. But it was no
commonplace to Helen, and she promptly sought out the Mexican. Yet
Miguel declared that he knew nothing of the scar. He had been very
watchful of the colt, he lied, cheerfully, and the scar was as much a
mystery to him as it was to her. Whereupon Helen decided that Pat had
brought it about through some prank, and, after returning to him and
indulging in further caresses and love-talk, reluctantly took leave of
him, returning to the house, there to begin unpacking her numerous
trunks.

Thus their friendship was renewed. Pat was older by three years, as the
girl was older by three years. But each was much older than that in
point of development. Where before had been baby affection in him and
girl affection in her, now was a thing of greater worth and more lasting
quality--affection of a grown horse and a grown woman. In the days which
followed this was brought out in many ways. The colt did not once frisk
and play about the inclosure, a trait she remembered best; yet she did
not wish it. She preferred him as he was, finding in his mature conduct
something that enhanced his beauty; and rare beauty it was, as she
frequently noted in running proud eyes over his lines, and in noting it
came more and more to feel not alone great pride for him, but a sure
love as well--not the love woman gives to man, of course, but the love
she can give, and does give, without stint, to all dumb animals.



CHAPTER VI

THE FIRST GREAT LESSON


Helen spent much time in the society of the horse. Aside from attending
to his wants, such as food and water, she more than once took comb and
brush in hand and gave him a thorough cleaning. This invariably brought
a grin to the ugly features of Miguel, and when the Judge was present,
which was not often, a smile of delight mixed with derision to his ruddy
features. But never would Helen permit them to discourage her. She would
brush and curry Pat till his coat shone like new-mined coal, and then,
after surveying the satiny sheen critically, she would comb out his long
tail, sometimes braid his glossy mane, and, after that, scour his hoofs
till they were as clean and fresh as the rest of him. In her pride for
him she liked to do these things, and often regretted that he did not
require her attention more than he did.

One day, with characteristic suddenness, she decided to have him broken
to saddle. Therefore, next morning, three horse-breakers--one
professional and two assistants--armed with ropes and saddles, appeared
in the corral. Pat was sunning himself in his corner, and at their
entrance only cocked his ears and blinked his eyes lazily. Outside the
inclosure Helen, together with a scattering of spectators, attracted by
the word of this treat in town, stood quietly expectant. One of the
assistants, a raw-boned individual with hairy wrists, drove Pat out of
his corner, while the professional, a large man of quiet demeanor,
turned to Miguel, who was standing in the stable door, and put a
question to him. Miguel, out of his own experience, warned them against
the horse. Whereupon the large man neatly roped Pat, settling the noose
skilfully around the horse's neck.

Instantly Pat was a quivering bundle of nerves. Bracing his legs, he
drew back on the rope. But the man held to it grimly. The man did more.
He suddenly raced across the inclosure, gave the rope a deft twist, and
followed the twist with a vigorous jerk. Pat plunged heavily to the
ground.

He lay dazed, breathing laboriously, till the rope slackened. Then he
started to rise. But he only gained his fore legs. The second assistant,
a slender youth, resisted his efforts, forcing Pat's head back by
sitting upon it. Pat twisted and writhed to throw him off. But the man
stayed with him, and finally had him prone to earth again. Whereupon Pat
experienced the chagrin of his first defeat. Yet he could see. Upon the
retina of each eye danced a picture. It was that of his mistress,
surrounded by open-mouthed spectators, outside the fence, gazing down
upon him with seeming approval. This once, but only this once, he felt
dislike for her.

One of the men approached with a halter. Pat had seen these things in
the stable, and he instinctively knew what they were for. But he would
not accept this one. Embittered by his fall, chafing under the weight
upon his head, he struggled so successfully that he finally dislodged
the man. Then he sprang to his feet again, and, trembling in every part,
glared savagely at his tormentors.

"Better give him a twist," quietly suggested the professional.

Pat heard the remark. But he did not understand, and so remained quiet.
Presently he felt a light hand creeping up along his neck, pausing,
patting him, creeping along farther, pausing and patting him again. It
was not unpleasant, and under the soothing influence he came to believe
that his tormentors had experienced a change of attitude. But he was
mistaken. Suddenly his ear was gripped as in a vise. Also, it was
twisted sharply, once, twice, and then held in a relentless grip. He
stood still as death. Up and down his spine, from his ear to his tail,
coursed shrieking pain, hacking him like the agony of a thousand
twisting knives. Under the terror of it he stopped breathing--stopped
till he must breathe or swoon. Then he did take air, in short, faint
gasps, but each gasp at terrible cost. And standing thus, fearing to
move, he accepted the halter. He could do naught else.

The raw-boned assistant turned to Helen apologetically. "Lively hoss,
Miss Richards," he declared. "Reckon we're in for a little exercise."
And he grinned.

Anxiously Helen mounted the fence, standing upon a lower board. "You
won't hurt him, I hope--that is, needlessly! I don't want that, you
know!" And she gazed at Pat with pitiful eyes.

The other laughed. "No; 'tain't that," he hastened to reassure her.
"He's lively--that's all."

The professional looked Pat over speculatively, and again made a
suggestion. "Better blindfold him, Larry," he said.

Pat heard this as he had heard the other. And because he was coming to
know this man's voice, and to interpret it correctly, despite the agony
it cost him he went on his guard, spreading and bracing his legs as
against shock. He did not receive shock, however. Merely a piece of soft
flannel was tucked gently under his halter and drawn carefully over his
eyes. Against the soft pressure of it he closed his eyes. As he did so
the hand released his ear. Conscious of sweet relief from the dread pain
now, he opened his eyes again, only to discover that he could not see!

Here was new distress! He did not understand it. He knew that his eyes
were open; knew that it was the time of sunshine; knew with grim
certainty that he was awake. Yet he could not see! He flung up his head;
tossed it across and back; flung it down again. Yet the unnatural
darkness! He took to pawing the ground. He began to recall his
surroundings before this strange darkness had descended upon him--the
girl outside the fence, the spectators upon the fence, the tormentors
inside the fence, the glorious sunlight, the distant shimmering
mountains, the stable and outhouses and cottage. But all were gone from
him now. Everything was black with the blackness of night! Again he
tossed his head--and again and again. But still the darkness! He was
afraid.

Here came a change. Across his vision leaped sudden flashing lights,
myriads of them, dancing strangely before him. Gripped in new fear, he
watched them closely, saw them hurry, pause, hurry again, all in
dazzling array. They kept it up. Breathlessly he saw them dart to and
fro, speed near, whirl and twist, until out of sheer distress he closed
his eyes for relief. But he got no relief. He saw the lights as before,
saw them dancing and pirouetting before his eyes, and suddenly whisk
away, as though satiated with their fiendishness. But they left him limp
and faint and with a throbbing pain in his head. Again he stamped the
earth and shook his head. But the darkness clung. He could not throw off
the thing before his eyes. Yet he persisted. He tossed his head until
dizziness seized him. Then he stopped all effort and relaxed. His head
began to droop; he let it droop, low and lower, until he smelled the
earth. This aroused him. His spirit of fight rose again. He jerked up
his head, sounded a defiant outcry, stiffened his legs for action. This
for a moment only, for he did not act--somehow felt it was not yet time.
But he gave way to a grim restlessness. He took to rocking like a
chained elephant--from right hind to left fore, from left hind to right
fore legs--changing, always changing.

"Well, old son," came a voice on his chaotic thoughts, "we've just found
a bridle that'll suit. But it took us a mean long time to do it, didn't
it?"

Pat stopped swaying. He stopped suddenly, as one checked by a mighty
force. And so he was. For he knew now that the time had come. Here was
his tormentor! Here was one of them within reach! The time had come to
strike, to strike this man, to crush him to earth, to kill the cause of
his suffering--

"Here, hoss," went on the voice, soothingly, the while Pat smelled a
something of the stable underneath his nose. "Go to it! It's right
harmless--now, ain't it?" Which it seemed to be from the smell.

But Pat struck--reared with the speed of lightning and struck.

The blow was unexpected. It sent the man spinning, whirling across the
inclosure. He dropped into a corner like a log.

There was a tense moment. Spectators sat dazed; horsemen stood rigid;
the girl screamed. Then the large man ran to the prostrate form. He bent
over, gazed briefly, straightened up with a reassuring smile. Presently
the assistant arose and, rubbing his shoulder ruefully, caught up the
fallen bridle. Soon the work of breaking was resumed as though nothing
had happened.

Pat was standing motionless. But he was keenly alert. He heard the man
draw near, felt the hand creeping along his neck, but he had learned his
lesson well. He reared and struck again--this time only empty air. Yet,
as he returned to earth, almost before he touched ground, the hand was
around his ear, another was around his other ear, he was feeling the
dread twist again, twofold. Every twitch of muscle, every least gasp for
air, sent excruciating pain throughout the ends of him. Fearing to move,
yet clamoring for breath, he slowly opened his mouth.

Which was what they wanted, evidently. He felt a cold something suddenly
thrust between his teeth. It was hard as well as cold. He tasted it,
rolled it over his tongue, and found it not painful. Then came something
else. His head was being hurriedly fitted with a leathery contrivance.
But neither was this painful, save only as it touched his twisted ears,
and he therefore experienced no increasing alarm. Then, with this
adjusted, he was introduced to something else--a something held close
under his nose. He smelled this carefully; noted that it reeked with
odors of the stable; smelled it again. Next he knew it was being placed
gently upon his back. It was soft, and quite hairy, and though it
irritated him a little, he accepted it without loss of composure. But
when it was followed, as it was directly, by a heavier something, a
something fitting his back snug and hard, he instantly determined to
rebel, despite his twisted ears. But he could not withstand the
increased pain, and he permitted the thing to be made secure with straps
around his body. And now came a heavier something, a free and loose
weight, something with spring and give to it, and which had flung up
from the ground. And suddenly, flaying his pained senses, understanding
flashed upon him. This was a man. There was a tormentor upon his back,
gripping the thing in his mouth, holding him solidly to the ground. He--

"Go!"

It was a word of command. With the word Pat felt his ears released. As
he thrilled with relief the cloth was jerked off his eyes. For a time
the fierce daylight blinded him. Then the pupils of his eyes contracted
and all objects stood out clearly again--the men in the corral, the
spectators on the fence, his mistress outside the fence. Also he saw the
sunlit stable, and Miguel in the doorway, and the house in the trees.
All had come back to him, and he stood gazing about him blinkingly,
trying to understand, conscious of straps binding his body and
restraining his breathing.

Then suddenly he understood--remembered--remembered that he had been
abused, had been tortured as never before. And he awoke to the fact that
he was still being tortured. There was this thing in his mouth. There
was this contraption on his head. There was that thing on his back, and
the weight upon the thing. Also, there was that binding of his belly,
and the irritation due to the prickly something pressing his back and
sides. All these facts stung him, and under the whip of them he awoke to
a mighty urging within. It was his fighting spirit rekindling--the thing
that was his birthright, the thing come down to him from his ancestors,
the thing that told him to rebel against the unnatural. And heeding
this, voice, heeding it because he knew no other, he decided to give
decisive battle.

In a frenzy of effort he suddenly reared. He pirouetted on hind legs;
pawed the air with fore legs; lost his balance. Failing to recover
himself, he went over backward. He struck the earth resoundingly, but he
realized that the weight was gone, and he felt a faint glow of victory!

"Wow!" yelled a spectator, excitedly.

Pat heard this and hastily regained his feet. And because he was
uncertain of his next move he remained motionless. This was a mistake,
as he soon discovered. For he saw two men leap, grasp both his ears;
felt the dread twist again. So he remained still, and he felt the man
mount again. Then came rumbling in upon his tortured soul again the
insistent voice telling him to rebel further, and to keep on rebelling
until through sheer brute strength he had mastered these unnatural
things. With the grip on his ears released he once more gave heed to
this clamoring within.

He leaped straight up into the air. Returning to earth with
nerve-shattering shock, he whirled suddenly, pitched and bucked, tossed
and twisted, all in mad effort. But the weight clung fast. He whirled
again, and again leaped, leaped clear of the ground, returning to it
this time on stiffened legs. But he could not shake off the weight. He
flung across the corral, twisting, writhing, bucking; flung back
again--heart thumping, lungs shrieking for air, muscles wrenching and
straining; and again across, responding, and continuing to respond, to
the ringing voice within, like the king of kings that he was. But he
could not dislodge the weight.

"Great!" yelled an excited spectator.

"See that hoss sunfishin'!" burst out another.

"An' corkscrewin'!" added a third.

"Better 'n a outlaw!" amplified a fourth.

And now the first again: "Stay with him, Alex! I got two dollars--Oh,
hell!"--this disgustedly. "Come out o' that corner!" Then suddenly he
turned, face red as fire, and apologized to Helen. "I beg your pardon,
Miss Richards," he offered, meekly. But he turned back to the spectacle
and promptly forgot all else in his returning excitement. "Shoot it to
him, Alex!" he yelled. "Shoot it; shoot it! He's a helldinger, that
hoss!" Frenziedly he then yawped, cowboy fashion:
"Whe-e-e-o-o-o-yip-yip! Whe-e-e-o-o-o-yip-yip!"

Yet Helen--poor Helen!--had not heard. Holding her breath in tense fear,
eyes upon her pride fighting his fight of pride, half hopeful that he
would win, yet fearful of that very thing, she watched the strife of man
skill against brute strength, keyed up almost to snapping-point.

But her horse did not win. Neither did he lose. She saw him take up, one
after another, every trick known to those familiar with horses, and she
marveled greatly at his unexpected knowledge of things vicious. Along
one side of the inclosure, across the side adjacent to it, back along
the side opposite to the second, then forward along the first
again--thus round the corral--he writhed and twisted in mighty effort,
bucking and pitching and whirling and flinging, the while the sun rose
higher in the morning sky. Spectators clambered down from the fence,
stood awhile to relieve cramped muscles, clambered on the fence again;
but the horse fought on; coat necked with white slaver, glistening with
streaming sweat in the sunlight, eyes wild, mouth grim, ears back, he
fought on and on till it seemed that he must stop through sheer
exhaustion. But still he fought, valiantly, holding to the battle until,
with a raging, side-pitching twist, one never before seen, he lost his
footing, plunged to the ground, tore up twenty feet of earth, crashed
headlong into the fence, ripped out three boards clean as though struck
by lightning--lay motionless in a crumpled heap.

The man was thrown. He arose hastily. As he wiped away his perspiration
and grime he saw blood on his handkerchief. He was bruised and bleeding,
and wrenched inwardly, yet when Pat, returning to consciousness, hastily
gained his feet, the man leaped for the horse, sounding a muffled curse.
But he did not mount. And for good reason. For Pat was reeling like a
drunken man--head drooping, fore parts swaying, eyes slowly closing. At
the sight one of the spectators made a plea in Pat's behalf.

"Whyn't you take him outside?" he demanded. "Into the open. This ain't
no place to bust a horse like him! That horse needs air! Get him out
into about three-quarters of these United States! Git ginerous! Git
ginerous! I hate a stingy man!"

Whereupon Helen at last found voice. "Wait!" she cried, evenly, and,
turning, sped along the fence to the gate. Inside the corral she hurried
to the horse and flung her arms around his neck. "Pat dear," she began,
tenderly, "I am so sorry! But it's 'most over with now, if you'll only
accept it! Can't you see, Pat? It is so very necessary to both of us!
For then I myself can ride you! Please, Pat--please, for my sake!"
Whereupon Pat, as if all else were forgotten--all the torture, all the
struggle and shock--nickered softly and nuzzled her hands for sugar and
apples. Suppressing a smile, and accepting this as a good omen, she
stroked him a few times more and then stepped back. "Later, dear!" she
promised and left him, suddenly mindful of spectators. But, though she
felt the blood rush into her cheeks, she did not leave the inclosure.
The horse-breaker stepped resolutely to Pat and, laying firm hands upon
the bridle, waited a moment, eying Pat narrowly, then flung up into the
saddle. Pat's sides heaved, his knees trembled, but he did not resist.
Eyes trained upon his mistress, as if he would hold her to her promise,
he set out peacefully, and of his own volition, across the inclosure.
Further, even though he could not see his mistress now, he turned in
response to the rein and started back across the inclosure. And he kept
this up, holding to perfect calm, breaking into a trot when urged to it,
falling back into a walk in response to the bridle, round and round and
round until, with a grunt of satisfaction, the man dismounted close
beside the girl and handed her the reins.

"Rides easy as a single-footer, Miss Richards," he declared. "Where can
I wash up?"

Which ended Pat's first great lesson at the hands of man. But though
this lesson had its values, since he was destined to serve mankind, yet
he had learned another thing that held more value to him as an animal
than all the teachings within the grasp of men--he had learned the
inevitable workings of cause and effect. His nose was scraped and his
knees were scraped, and all these places burned intensely. And,
intelligent horse that he was, he knew why he suffered these burns--knew
that he had brought them about through his own sheer wilfulness. True,
he was still girt with bands and straps, and in a way they were
uncomfortable. But they did not pain him as the wounds pained him. Not
that he reasoned all this out. He was but a dumb animal, and pure
reasoning was blissfully apart from him. But he did know the difference
between what had been desired of him and what he himself had brought on
through sheer wilfulness. Thus he awakened, having learned this lesson
with his headlong plunge into the fence, and having added to the lesson
of the futility of rebellion the very clear desires of his mistress.
Other and less intelligent horses would have continued to respond to the
ancestral voice within till death. But Pat was more than such a horse.

With the men gone, he revealed his intelligence further. Helen
commissioned Miguel to fit him with her saddle and bridle, then hurried
herself off to the house. Returning, clad in riding-habit and with hands
full of sugar and quartered apples, she fed these delectables to him
till his mouth dripped delightful juices. Then, while yet he munched the
sweets, she mounted fearlessly. Sitting perfectly still for a time to
accustom him to her weight, she then gave him the rein and word. Without
hesitation he responded, stepping out across the inclosure,
acknowledging her guiding rein in the corner, returning to the
starting-place and, with the word, coming to a stop. It was all very
beautiful, rightly understood, and, thrilled with her success, Helen sat
still again, sat for a long time, gazing soberly down upon him. Then she
bent forward.

"Pat," she began, her voice breaking a little with emotion suddenly
overwhelming her, "this begins our real friendship and understanding.
Let us try to make it equal"--she straightened up, narrow eyes off
toward the mountains--"equal to the best that lies within us both."



CHAPTER VII

A STRANGER


As the weeks passed, each day bringing its period of companionship, this
friendship and understanding between them became perfect in its
simplicity. Pat learned to know her wishes almost without the reins, and
he showed that he loved to carry her. Also, with these daily canters on
the mesa he developed in bodily strength, and it was not long before he
was in the pink of condition. Yet it was a perfection that was only
natural for him. The quality of his blood was shown in his nostrils,
which were wide and continuously atremble; in his eyes, which were
bright and keenly alert; and in his ears, which were fine and vibrant.
Stepping through town each morning under Helen's restraining hand, he
would pick up his hoofs with a cleanliness and place them down with a
grace that always commanded the attention of admiring eyes. But he
seemed unconscious of his quality.

Dressed in her usual dark riding-habit, Helen entered the corral one
morning for her daily canter across the mesa. Already Pat was bridled
and saddled. But as she stepped alongside to mount, Miguel appeared in
the stable door with a brief tale of trouble and a warning. It seemed
that he had experienced difficulty in preparing the horse, and between
puffs at a cigarette he strongly advised Helen to be careful.

"He's a-very fresh thees mornin'," he concluded, with an ominous shake
of his head.

Helen looked Pat over. He appeared in anything but a cantankerous mood.
He was standing quietly, eyes blinking sleepily, ears wriggling lazily,
in an attitude of superior indifference toward all the world. So,
untroubled by the hostler's tale, she slipped her foot into the stirrup.
Instantly the horse nickered queerly and stepped away.

"Steady, Pat!" she gently admonished, and again attempted to mount. But,
as before, he stepped away, this time more abruptly. He began to circle
around her, prancing nervously, pausing to paw the ground, prancing
again nervously. She held firm grip on his bridle, however, and sharply
rebuked him. "Pat," she exclaimed, "this is a new trait!" And then,
before he could resist again, she caught hold of the saddle-horn, leaped
up, hardly touching the stirrup, and gathered the reins quickly to meet
further rebellion.

But with her in the saddle Pat was quite another horse. He snapped his
ears at attention, wheeled to the gate, and cantered briskly out of the
corral.

It was a beautiful morning. The air nipped with a tang of frost, and she
rode swiftly through town and up the hill to the mesa in keen
exhilaration. Once on the mesa, Pat dashed off ecstatically in the
direction of the mountains. The pace was thrilling. The rush of the
crisp wind, together with the joy of swift motion, sent tingling blood
into Helen's cheeks, while the horse, racing along at top speed, flung
out his hoofs with a vigor that told of the riot of blood within him.
Thus they continued, until in the shadow of the mountains--just now
draped in their most delicate coloring, the pink that accompanies
sunbeams streaming through fading haze--she pulled Pat down and gave
herself over to the beauty of the scene. The horse, also appreciative,
came to a ready stop and turned his eyes out over the desert in
slow-blinking earnestness.

"Pat!" suddenly cried Helen. She pulled his head gently around in the
direction of the mountain trail. "Look off there!"

Above the distant trail hung a thin cloud of dust, and under the cloud
of dust, and rolling heavily toward town, creaked a lumber rigging,
piled high with wood and drawn by a pair of plodding horses--plodding
despite the bite and snarl of a whip swung with merciless regularity.
The whip was in the hands of a brawny Mexican, who, seated confidently
on the high load, appeared utterly indifferent to the trembling
endeavors of his scrawny team. He was inhaling the smoke of a cigarette,
and with every puff mechanically flaying the horses. The spectacle
aroused deep sympathy in the girl.

"Only consider, Pat!" she exclaimed, after a while. "Those poor,
miserable horses--half-starved, cruelly beaten, yet of God's own
making!" She was silent. "Suppose you had been born to that service,
Pat--born to that oppression! You are one of the fortunate!" And she
bent forward and stroked him. "One of the fortunate!" she repeated,
thoughtfully.

Indeed Pat was just that. But not in the way Helen meant. For such was
the whim of Fate, and such is the limit of human understanding, she did
not know, and never would know, save by the grace of that Fate, that Pat
had been born in just that service, born to just that oppression; that
only by the kindness of Fate he had been released from that service,
that oppression, that he had been guided out of that environment and
cast into a more kindly, bigger, and truer environment--her own!

But Pat only blinked stolid indifference at the spectacle. He appeared
to care nothing for the misery of other horses, nor to appreciate her
tenderness when directed elsewhere than toward himself. After a time, as
if to reveal this, he set out of his own volition toward a particularly
inviting bit of flower, dainty yellow in the brown of the desert.
Plucking this morsel, he fell to munching it in contentment, and
continued to munch it till the last vestige disappeared. Then, again of
his own volition, he broke into a canter. Helen smiled and pulled him
down.

"You're a strange horse, Pat," she declared, and fell to stroking him
again. "And not the least strange thing about you is your history.
Sometimes I wonder whether you are actually blooded. Certainly you look
it, and at times assuredly you act it; yet if you are so valuable, why
didn't somebody claim you that time? It is all very mysterious." And she
relapsed into silence, gazing at him thoughtfully.

Aroused by sudden faint gusts of wind, she glanced around and overhead.
She saw unmistakable signs of an approaching storm, and swung Pat about
toward home. As the horse broke into a canter the gusts became more
fitful and sharper, while the sun, growing dim and hazy, cast
ever-increasing shadow before her. Presently, as far as the eye could
reach, she saw the landscape spring into active life. Dust-devils
whirled about in quick eddies, stray sheets of paper leaped up,
tumbleweed began steady forward movement, rabbit-like, scurrying before
the winds, the advance occupied by largest growths, the rear brought up
with smallest clumps, the order determined by the area each presented to
the winds. It was all very impressive, but, knowing the uncertain
character of the elements, and uncertain whether this foretold violent
sand-storm or milder wind-storm, she was gripped with apprehension. She
urged Pat to his utmost.

And Pat responded, though he really needed but little urging. With each
sudden gust he became increasingly afraid. Holding himself more and more
alert to every least movement about him, he was steadily becoming keyed
up to a dangerous pitch. Rollicking tumbleweed did not worry him any
more than did the swirling dust-devils. These were things of the desert,
each the complexion of the desert. But not so with scraps of paper.
Their whiteness offered a startling contrast to the others, and,
whisking about frantically, they increased his fears. Then suddenly a
paper struck him, whipped madly across his eyes. It was unexpected, and
for an instant blinded him. Gripping the bit in his teeth, he bolted.

His sudden plunge almost unseated Helen. But, recovering, she braced
herself grimly in the stirrups and pulled mightily on the reins. But she
could not hold him. He increased his speed, if anything, and hurtled
across the desert--head level, ears flat, legs far-reaching. She braced
herself again, flinging back head and shoulders, thrusting her feet far
forward, and continued to pull. But it counted for nothing. Yet she did
not weaken, and under her vigorous striving, coupled with the jolting of
the horse, her tam-o'-shanter flew off, and her hair loosened and fell,
streaming out whippingly behind. And then suddenly, struck with terror
herself, she cried out in terror.

"Pat!" she burst out. "Pat! Pat!"

But the horse seemed not to hear. Thundering madly forward, he appeared
blind as well as fear-stricken, and Helen, suddenly seeing a barb-wire
fence ahead, felt herself go faint, for she had never taken a fence, and
she knew that Pat never had. She must get control of herself again. And
this she did. Stiffening in the stirrups, she gripped a single rein in
both hands and pulled with all her strength. But she could not swerve
the horse. On he plunged for the obstruction, evidently not seeing it.
She screamed again.

"Pat! Pat! Pat!"

But, as before, the horse did not heed. He dashed to the fence. He
hesitated, but only for an instant. Throwing up his head, he rose and
took the fence cleanly. Once on the other side, he resumed his frantic
racing--pounding along in the mountain trail, his course clearly
defined, hurtling madly straight toward town. With the fence safely
cleared, and the way ahead free of vehicles, Helen regained much of her
composure. Settling calmly to the rhythmic movement, she permitted the
horse free rein. Once she reached back to gather up her hair, but the
motion of the horse forbade this. So she fell to watching his splendid
energy, finding herself quite calm and collected again, vaguely
wondering how it would end. For the horse seemed tireless.

Wise in his knowledge of first principles, and remembering the terrible
slap across his eyes, Pat continued to rush forward. As he ran he kept
eyes alert about him, fearing another blow. He knew that the thing was
white, and he watched for a white something. Instead of a white
something, however, there presently loomed up beside him a brown
something, browner even than the desert, a something racing along beside
him, moving with a speed equal to his own--even greater than his own!
But he did not pause to analyze this. Instead, he forced himself to
greater efforts, pounding the hardened trail with an energy that hurt
his ankles, stretching neck and legs to their utmost limit of fiber--on
and on in increased frenzy. But he could not best this object beside
him. Yet that did not discourage him. He continued grimly forward, stung
to desperation now by a double purpose, which was to outrun this thing
on his right as well as get away from the other possible pursuing
object. Yet the brown thing gained upon him--drew steadily nearer,
steadily closer--he saw a hand shoot out. He felt a strong pull on his
bridle, a tearing twist on the bit in his mouth, and found himself
thrown out of his stride. But not even with this would he accept defeat.
He reared in a nervous effort to shake off the hand. Finding this
futile, he dropped back again, and at last came to a trembling, panting,
nerve-racked pause.

The thing was a horseman. He hurriedly dismounted, still retaining hold
on Pat's bridle, and smiled up at Helen.

"I--I tried to overtake you--to overtake you before you reached the
fence," he began to explain, pausing between words for breath. "This
horse of yours can--can claim--claim anything on record--for speed." And
he looked Pat over admiringly.

Helen did not speak at once. In the moment needed to regain her
self-possession she could only regard him with mute gratitude. She saw
that he was young and well-built, though lean of features, but with
frank, healthy eyes. He was not at all bad-looking. Also she observed
that he was neatly garbed in puttees and knickerbockers, and she quickly
appraised him as the usual type of Easterner come into the valley to
spend the winter. Then she suddenly remembered her hair. Woman-like, she
hastily gathered it up into a knot at the back of her head before she
answered this young man smiling up at her.

"Pat never ran like that before," she explained, a bit nervously. "I was
beginning to wonder what would happen at the railroad crossing. You
checked him just in time. I--I really owe--"

"Sure he won't charge again?" interrupted the young man, evidently
wishing to avoid any expression of gratitude on her part.

"I--I am quite certain," she replied, and then, after thanking him,
slowly gathered up the reins. But she did not ride on, for the reason
that the other, now absorbed in a cool survey of Pat's outlines,
retained his hold on the bridle. Yet neither the survey nor the grip on
the bridle displeased her.

"A splendid horse," he declared, after a moment. "A beautiful animal!"
Then, evidently suddenly mindful that he was detaining her, he stepped
back.

Helen again prepared to ride on.

"Pat is a beautiful horse," she agreed, still a little nervous. "And
like all beauty," she added, "he develops strange moods at times." Then,
her sense of deep gratitude moving her, she asked, "Were you going
toward town?"

For reply he swung into the saddle. He wheeled close, and they set out.
He appeared a little ill at ease, and Helen took the initiative.

"From the East, I take it?" she inquired. "There are not a few
Easterners down here. Some have taken up permanent residence."

"Yes," he replied, "I'm from the East--New York."

She liked his voice.

"We are here for the winter--mother and myself. Mother isn't strong, and
your delightful climate ought to improve her. I myself came along"--he
turned twinkling eyes toward her--"as guide and comforter and--I
fear--all-round nuisance." He was silent. "I like this country," he
added, after a moment.

Helen liked him for liking her country, for she had true Western pride
for her birthplace. So she said the natural thing, though without
display of pride. "Everybody likes it down here."

He looked at her hesitatingly. "You're not from the outside, then?"

"No," she rejoined. "I am a native."

He showed restless curiosity now. "Tell me," he began, engagingly,
"about this country. What, for instance, must one do, must one be,
to--to be--well, to be accepted as a native!" He said this much as one
feeling his way among a people new to him, as if, conscious of the
informal nature of their meeting, he would ease that informality, yet
did not know precisely how.

Yet Helen found herself quite comfortable in his society now, and,
permitting herself great freedom, she spoke almost with levity.

"You have asked me a difficult question," she said. "Offhand I should
say you must ride every morning, sleep some part of the early afternoon,
and--oh, well, ride the next morning again, I reckon." And she smiled
across at him. "Are you thinking of staying with us?"

He nodded soberly. Then he went on. "What else must one do?" he asked.
"Is that all?" His eyes were still twinkling.

Helen herself was sober now. "No," she replied, "not quite. One must
think a little, work a little, do a little good. We are very close
together down here--very close to one another--and very, very far from
the rest of the world. So we try to make each day register something of
value, not alone for ourselves, but for our neighbors as well." She was
silent. "We are a distinct race of people," she concluded, after a
moment.

He turned his head. "I like all that," he declared, simply. "Though I'm
afraid I won't do--much as I dislike to admit it. You see, I've never
learned to live much in the interest of others." He regarded her with
steady eyes.

Helen liked him for that, too. Evidently he had had too much breeding,
and, from his remark, knew it. So she took it upon herself at least to
offer him encouragement.

"You will learn," she rejoined, smiling. "Everybody does."

With this, Helen discreetly changed the subject. She entered upon less
intimate matters, and soon, sweeping off into a rhapsody over the
country--its attraction for Easterners, its grip on Westerners--she was
chatting with a freedom typical of the country. For by now she was
interested, and for some inexplicable reason she found herself drawn to
the smiling stranger.

Also, Pat was interested. But not in the things which appealed to his
mistress. Pat was pondering the sullen nature of the horse beside him,
and as they rode slowly toward town he stole frequent sidelong glances
at his unfriendly companion. But all he could arrive at was that, while
appearing peaceable enough, this horse was the most self-satisfied
animal chance had ever thrown his way. After a time he ceased all
friendly advances, such as pressing close beside him and now and again
playfully nipping at him, and took up his own affairs, finding deep
cause for satisfaction in the return of his breath after the long race,
and in the passing of pain from his strained legs, to say nothing of the
complete absence of flying papers around him.

They crossed the railroad track and entered the town. Here the young man
took a polite leave of Helen, and Pat, seeing the unfriendly horse
canter away at a brisk gait, himself set out briskly, feeling somehow
called upon to emulate the step of the other. And thus he continued
through town to the river trail, which he followed at an even brisker
stride, and thence to the ranch and the corral. Here his mistress took
leave of him--abruptly, it seemed--and made her way straight into the
house. Directly the Mexican came and removed his saddle and bridle. With
these things off, he shook himself vigorously, and then took up his
customary stand in the corner, and confidently awaited the reappearance
of his mistress with sugar and apples--a reward she never had denied
him.

But he waited this time in vain.



CHAPTER VIII

FELIPE MAKES A DISCOVERY


Pat waited in vain two whole days. Not once did she come to him, not
once did he lay eyes upon her. He became nervous and irritable, and in
this emptiness, equal to that which he had suffered during the three
years she was away, he spent every waking moment in the corral, standing
in his favorite corner, eyes strained toward the house, occasionally
interrupting the silence with a pleading nicker. But his vigil gained
him nothing, his watching remained unrewarded, his outcries went
unanswered. Finally, with the close of each day he would enter the
stable, but only to brood through half the night--wondering, wondering.
But never did he give up hope. Nor had he given up hope now, this
morning of the third day, when, standing in his corner as usual, he
heard a door close in the house.

As always, his heart leaped with expectation, and he gave off a
protracted whinny. Also he pressed close to the fence. This time he was
not disappointed. For coming slowly toward him, with her hands behind
her back, was his mistress.

"Pat," she began, standing close before him, "I have neglected you
purposely. And I did it because I have lost confidence in you." She
regarded him a long moment coldly, then was forced to smile. "I suppose
I feel toward you much as I used to feel toward a doll of mine that had
fallen and cracked its head. I want to shake you, yet I can't help but
feel sorry for you, too." And again she was silent.

Pat shifted his feet uneasily. He did not quite understand all this,
though he knew, despite the smile of his mistress, that it was serious.
Still, encouraged by the smile, he pressed close and asked for sweets,
nuzzling her coat-sweater persistently. But she stepped away. Whereupon
he reached his neck after her, and became almost savage in his coaxing.
Finally he was relieved to see her burst into a peal of laughter.

"Here!" she said, and held out both hands. "I don't care if your head is
broken!"

Glory be! Two red apples in one hand; a whole handful of loaf sugar in
the other! If ever a horse smiled, he smiled then. Also, he promptly
accepted some of the sugar, and, enjoying every delicious mouthful,
reached for an apple. But she drew back. Evidently she was not yet
finished with her reprimand.

"Blissfully unconscious of your behavior that morning, aren't you?" she
continued. "Not a bit ashamed; not one speck regretful!"

Well--he wasn't. He was not a bit ashamed, not one speck regretful.
Merely, he was sweet-hungry. And now that the sugar was gone, he wanted
one of those apples mightily. Finally she gave him one, and then the
other, feeding them to him rapidly, but not more rapidly than he wanted
them. Then she spoke again.

"Pat dear," she said, her voice undergoing change, "I'm troubled. I am
foolish, I know. But I can't help it. I advised that very nice young man
to ride every morning. And he may do it. But if he does, sooner or
later, perhaps the very first morning, we shall meet up there on the
mesa. I want that, of course; but for reasons best known to Easterners,
I don't want it--not yet." She gazed off toward the mountains. "I
reckon, Pat dear," she concluded, after a moment, turning her eyes back
to him, "we'd better ride in the afternoons for a time. Yet the
afternoons are so uncomfortably hot. Oh, dear! What shall I do?"

But the horse did not answer her. All he did was stand very still, eyes
blinking slowly, seemingly aware of the gravity of the situation, yet
unable to help her. Indeed, that her serious demeanor had struck a note
of sympathy within him he presently revealed by once more pressing very
close to her--this in the face of the fact that she had no more sweets
with her and he could see that she had no more. The movement forced her
back, and evidently he perceived his mistake, for he quickly retraced
one step. Then he fell to regarding her with curious intentness, his
head twisting slowly in a vertical plane, much as a dog regards his
master, until, evidently finding this plane of vision becoming awkward,
he stopped. After which Helen playfully seized his ears and shook his
head.

"You're a perfect dear!" she exclaimed. "And I love you! But I'm afraid
we--we can't ride mornings any more--not for a while, at any rate." With
this she left him.

He followed her to the gate, and with reluctance saw her enter the
house. Then he rested his head upon the topmost board and, though he
hardly expected it, waited for her return. Finally he abandoned his
vigil, making his way slowly into the stable. He found both horses in
their stalls, restlessly whisking their tails, offering nothing of
friendliness or invitation. Also he awoke to the depressing atmosphere
here, and after a time returned to the corral, where he took up a stand
in his favorite corner and closed his eyes. Soon he was dreaming.

Sound as from a great distance awoke him. He opened his eyes. Outside
the fence, and regarding him gloatingly, were two swarthy Mexicans in
conversation. This was what had awakened him.

"Bet you' life!" one was saying, the taller man of the two. "Thot's my
li'l' horse grown big lak a house--and a-fine! Franke, we gettin' thot
_caballo_ quick. We--"

A door had closed somewhere. The men heard it and crouched. But neither
abandoned the ground. After some little time, hearing nothing further to
alarm them, they set out along the fence to a rear door in the stable.
It was not locked, and they lifted the latch and tiptoed inside. Up past
the stalls they crept with cat-like stealth, gained the door leading
into the corral, came to a pause, and gazed outside. The horse was still
in his corner, his black coat glistening in the sunlight, and Felipe
once more burst into comment, excited, but carefully subdued.

"A-fine! A-fine!" he breathed, rapturously. "He's lookin' joost lak a
circus horse! You know, Franke," he added, turning to the other, "I haf
see thee pictures on thee fences--" He interrupted himself, for the man
had disappeared. "Franke!" he called, whispering. "You coom here. You
all thee time--" He checked himself and smiled at the other's
forethought. For Franke was emerging from a stall, carrying a halter.
"Good!" he murmured. "I am forgettin' thot, _compadre_!" Then once
more he turned admiring eyes upon the horse. "Never--_never_--haf I
see a horse lak thot! Mooch good luck is comin' now, Franke! Why not?"

They stepped bravely forth into the corral. Yet their hour had been well
timed. The house was still, quiet in its morning affairs, while the
countryside around, wrapped in pulsating quiet, gave off not a sound.
Cautiously approaching the horse, Franke slipped the halter into
position, the while Felipe once more uttered his admiration. He was a
little more direct and personal, however, this time.

"Well, you black devil!" he began, doubling his fist under Pat's nose.
"You haf run away from me thot time, eh? But you don' run away
again--bet you' life! I got you now and I keep you thees time! I haf
work for you--you black devil--mooch work! You coom along now!"

They led the horse into the stable, down past the stalls, and out the
back door. Then they set out toward the river trail, and, with many
furtive glances toward the house, gained it without interruption.
Felipe's lumber rigging and team of scrawny horses stood in the shade of
a cottonwood, and Franke made the horse fast to the outhanging end of
the reach. When he was secure both men seated themselves just back of
the forward bolster, one behind the other, and Felipe sent his horses
forward. Safely out of the danger zone, though Felipe entertained but
little fear of the consequences of this act, believing that he could
easily prove his ownership, he became more elated with his success and
burst out into garrulous speech.

"You know, Franke," he began, with a backward glance at the horse
ambling along peacefully in the dust, "thot _caballo_ he's strong
lak a ox. He's makin' a fine horse--a _fine_ horse--in thees wagon!
He's--" He suddenly interrupted himself. "Franke," he offered,
generously, "for thees help I'm takin' off five dolars on thot debt now.
You know? You haf never pay me thot bet--thee big bet--thee one on thee
wagon and thee horses. And you haf steal seex dolars, too! But I'm
forgettin' thot, now, too. All right?"

The other nodded grateful acceptance. Then, as if to show gratitude
further, he very solicitously inquired into the matter, especially with
reference to Felipe's discovery of the horse after all these years. They
were clattering across the mesa now, having come to it by way of a long
detour round the town, and before replying Felipe gave his team loose
rein.

"Well," he began, as the horses fell back into a plodding walk, "I haf
know about thot couple weeks before. I haf see thees _caballo_ in
town one mornin', and a girl she is ridin' heem, and everybody is
lookin', and so I'm lookin'." He paused to roll a cigarette. "And then,"
he continued, drawing a deep inhale of smoke, "I haf know quick lak
thot"--he snapped his fingers sharply--"quick lak thot"--he snapped his
fingers again--"there's my _potrillo_ grown big lak a house! And
so--"

"But how you knowin' thot's thee horse?" interrupted the other. "How you
knowin' thot for sure?" Evidently Franke was beginning to entertain
grave doubts concerning this visit to the corral.

But Felipe only sneered. "How I know thot?" he asked, disdainfully. "I'm
joost tellin' you! I know! Thot's enough! A horse is a horse! And I know
thees horse! I know every horse! I got only to see a horse once--once
only--and I'm never forgettin' thot horse! And I'm makin' no meestake
now--bet you' life!" Nevertheless, flicked with doubt because of the
gravity of the other, he turned his head and gazed back at the horse
long and earnestly. Finally he turned around again. "I know thot horse!"
he yelled. "And I'm tellin' you thees, Franke," he went on, suddenly
belligerent toward the other. "If you don' t'ink I'm gettin' thee right
_caballo_, I have you arrested for stealin' thot seex dolars thot
time! Money is money, too. But a horse is a horse. I know thees horse.
Thot's enough!" Yet he relapsed into a moody silence, puffing
thoughtfully on his cigarette.

Behind the outfit, Pat continued along docilely. In a way he was
enjoying this strange journey across the mesa. It was all very new to
him, this manner of crossing, this being tied to the rear of a wagon,
and he found himself pleasantly mystified. Nor was that all. Not once
had he felt called upon to rebel. In perfect contentment he followed the
rigging, eyes upon the outhanging reach, for he was intent upon
maintaining safe distance between this thing and himself. Once, when
they were mounting up to the mesa, he had met with a sharp blow from
this projection--due to sudden change of gait in the horses--and he only
required the one lesson to be ever after careful. As for the men
forward, he knew nothing of them, and never, to his knowledge, had seen
them before. But in no way was he concerning himself about them. Nor,
indeed, was he worrying over any part of this proceeding. For in his
dumb animal way he was coming to know, as all dumb servants of man come
to know, that life, after all, is service, a kind of self-effacing
series of tasks in the interests of others, and that this ambling along
behind the vehicle was but one of the many kinds.

"And," suddenly broke out Felipe, who, having threshed the matter out to
his satisfaction, now felt sure of his position once more, "I haf follow
thees girl and thee horse. I haf see thee place where she's goin'--you
know." And he winked foxily. "And then I haf coom to thees place, two,
three times after thee horse. But always thee man is there. But thees
mornin' I'm seein' thot _hombre_ in town, and so I haf go gettin'
you to coom help me. But you haf steal seex dolars. I'm forgettin'
thot--not! And if you say soomt'ing to soombody soomtime, I'm havin' you
arrested, Franke, for a t'ief and a robber--same as I ought to arrest
thot Pedro Garcia oop in the canyon."

Franke maintained discreet silence. But not for long. Evidently he
suddenly thought of a point in his own favor.

"You' havin' good luck thees time, Felipe," he declared, tranquilly,
"especially," he hastened to add, "when I'm t'inkin' of thee halter.
Without thee halter, you know, you don' gettin' thees _caballo_."

Felipe ignored this. "I haf need a horse," he went on, thoughtfully.
"Thee mot'er of thees black fel'r--you know, thot's thee mot'er--she's
gettin' old all time. She's soon dyin', thot _caballo_. Thees black
horse he's makin' a fine one in thees wagon." Franke said nothing. Nor
did Felipe speak again. And thus, in silence, they continued across the
mesa and on up the canyon to the little adobe in the settlement. Arrived
before the house, Franke quickly disappeared in the direction of his
home, leaving Felipe to unhitch and unharness alone. But Felipe cared
nothing for this. He was supremely happy--happy in the return of the
long-lost colt, doubly happy in the possession of so fine a horse
without outlay of money. Whistling blithely, he unhitched the team, led
them back into the corral, returned to the wagon again. Here, still
whistling, he untied the black and escorted him also into the inclosure.
Then, after scratching his head a long moment in thought, he set out in
the direction of the general store and a bottle of _vino_.

As the man disappeared, Pat, standing uncertainly in the middle of the
corral, followed him with a look in his eyes that hinted of vague
memories that would not down. And well he might be flicked with vague
memories. For he was at last returned to the brief cradle of his
babyhood.

Late that same afternoon, Helen, attired in riding-habit, left the house
for her first afternoon canter. As she slowly crossed the _patio_,
she noted the absence of Pat from his usual corner, but, assuming that
he was inside the stable, called to him from the gate. But she received
no answering whinny. Slightly worried, she entered the corral and
stepped to the stable door, and again sounded his name. Again she
received no answering whinny. She entered the stable, walked past the
stalls, peered in at each with increasing alarm. Only the saddle-horse
and the family horse met her troubled eyes. She stood for a moment
dismayed, then once more she sounded the horse's name. But, as before,
she received no answering whinny.

Puzzled, perplexed, troubled with misgivings, yet refusing to believe
the worst, she fell to analyzing the thing. She knew that since coming
to the ranch Pat at no time had been outside the corral save in her
charge. Also she recalled that only a short hour or two before she had
given him sweets and had talked with him. Nor could the horse have
strayed out of the inclosure, because she remembered that the gate was
latched when she had reached it. All these facts flashed across her as
she stood with grave eyes sweeping the stable. Finally she stepped back
to the door and gazed out into the sunlight of the corral; but, as
before, the inclosure was empty and silent, and now, somehow,
forbidding. She called again--called to the horse, called to the
Mexican. But again came only the echo of her voice, sounding hollow and
solemn and plaintive through the stable.

Suddenly her heart stopped beating. She remembered that the hostler had
left for town on foot early in the morning. And now her fears broke
bounds. The horse was gone! Some one had come in Miguel's absence. Her
Pat had been stolen! He was gone for ever out of her life! Standing a
moment, trembling with bitterness, she darted out of the stable, out of
the corral, across the _patio_. She sped into the house and her
father's study, caught up the receiver of the telephone.

And then, after a long time, the connection. And her father's voice. And
her frantic inquiry. And the Judge's smiling reply. And her recital of
the facts--pleading, pitiful, almost whimpering. And now the Judge's
serious rejoinder. And then her imperious request that he come home. And
the Judge's regretful reply--could not on account of pressing matters.
And then her tearful, choking outburst into the transmitter! And now
suddenly the wires crossing and a strange voice demanding that she get
off. And with it her utter collapse. She whirled away from the
telephone, flung herself down upon a couch, and gave way to a wild
outburst of tears.

The thing _was_ pitiful. The horse had occupied a very big place in
her life. And because that place now was empty, and because she saw no
promise of its ever being filled, she sobbed wretchedly a long time.
Then, rising quietly, she ascended the stairs to her room. Here she sank
into a chair, one that overlooked the corral, and began an analysis of
the case, taking the affair up from the very first day of Pat's coming
into her life. She did not go further than that. Woman that she was,
endowed with strongest intuitions and insight, she knew she had sounded
the mystery of his disappearance, had sounded it as clearly as though
she had been present.

"Pat's rightful owners have found him and put in their claim!" She got
up and began to pace the floor. "I know it," she declared with
conviction. "I know it as well as I know I'm in this room. Pat--Pat has
been--been taken and--and--" Tears choked back her words. Again she
turned to her bed and gave way to a paroxysm of grief.

Her tears lasted until sleep mercifully descended. And thus she lay,
outstretched and disheveled, until the sun, slanting across the room,
settled its mellow rays upon her. And even though the touch was light
and gentle and somehow sympathetic, it awoke her. She rose and hurried
to a window. Out in the corral all was quiet. She dropped into a chair
and turned her eyes to the east--out over the mesa to the distant
mountains. The mountains were draped in their evening purple, which
seemed to her like mourning for her lost happiness--a happiness that
might have been hers always with the horse.



CHAPTER IX

THE SECOND GREAT LESSON


Next morning Pat, imprisoned in a tiny stable, tried to get out by
thrusting his head against the door. But the door would not give. Alone
in semi-darkness, therefore, he spent the day. Twice a Mexican youth
came to feed and water him, but always the quantity was insufficient,
and always the boy carefully locked the door after him. Because of this,
together with the poor ventilation, Pat became irritable. He longed for
the freedom of the big corral--its sunlight, the visits of his
mistress--but these were steadfastly denied him. And so through another
night and another day, until he became well-nigh distracted. He stamped
the floor, fought flies, dozed, dreamed strange dreams, stamped the
floor again. After three days of this, sounds outside told him of the
return of man and horses. But not till the next morning, and then quite
late, was he released from the odious confinement.

Felipe bustled in, all eager for business. He drove his recent
acquisition out into the corral and set to work harnessing one of the
team--the mate of the aged mare. When she was bridled and standing in
the trail in front of his empty wagon, he hurriedly returned to the new
horse, placed a bridle upon his head, led him forth, and swung him close
beside the other horse. He winced just a little at the incongruity of
the team, though he did not let it delay him. He picked up the half of
the harness and tossed it over the mare's back. Then he caught up the
other half, and, preparing to toss it upon the black, began to
straighten out deep and unexpected tangles.

"Well, you black devil," he began, as he twisted and turned the
much-bepatched harness, "you doin' soom work now! All you' life you
havin' mooch good times! Eet is not for thee fun thot you live, you
know?" he went on, academically, continuing to disentangle the harness.
"Eet is for thee work thot you live! Work--thot's thee answer!" Then,
having straightened the harness at last, with a grunt of satisfaction he
tossed it lightly up.

Instantly there was wild commotion. With a kick and a plunge the horse
flung off the harness.

Felipe stood dumfounded. It had never occurred to him that the horse was
not broken to harness. Horses reared as this one evidently had been
reared ought certainly to be educated to all kinds of service. Yet this
horse evidently was not. He scratched his head in perplexity. To break a
horse to harness was no child's play, as he well knew. To break a horse
of this character to harness, as he well understood also, was a task
that required exceptional patience and hardihood. What should he do?
There was his constant press for money. The aged mare having almost
dropped in the trail the evening before, was unfit for toil, and to
break a horse to harness meant loss of time, and, as every one knows,
loss of time meant loss of money. So what should he do? He was utterly
at a loss.

Striding to the doorstep, he sat down and regarded the horse with
malevolent disgust. After a time, jerking off his hat savagely, he burst
out into a thundering tirade.

"You black devil! You haf give me more trouble than anyt'ing I haf ever
own--chickens, burro, pigs, horses, money--money, even--money I haf owe
thot robber Pedro! First you haf run away thot time! Then you haf mek me
steal you out of thot place couple days before! And now"--he suddenly
leaped to his feet--"now you haf mek me break you to thees wagon and
harness!" He advanced to the startled horse and brandished his fist.
"But I break you!" he snarled--"I break you like a horse never was broke
before! And--and if I don' break you--if you don' do what I haf say--I
break every bone inside!" With this he began feverishly to peel off his
coat.

And this is the lot of the dumb. Merely for not knowing what a man
believed he should know, Pat was to be humiliated, was to be punished
far beyond justice and decency. And because he was a horse abnormally
highstrung and sensitive, this punishment was to be doubly cruel. To him
a blow was more painful than to the average horse, even as a word of
kindness sank deeper and remained longer to soften his memory. On his
maternal side he was the offspring of native stock, but he was blooded
to the last least end of him, and while from his mother he had inherited
his softer traits, like his affection for those who showed affection for
him, it was from his sire, unknown though he was, that he inherited an
almost human spirit of rebellion when driven by lash or harsh word, and
also the strength to exercise it. In the face of these qualities, then,
he was to be broken to harness and a wagon by a man!

Felipe lost little time in preparation. He set out through the
settlement, his destination a distant and kindly neighbor. He moved at a
stride so vigorous that the good townspeople, roused by the rare
spectacle of a man in a hurry, interrupted their passive loafing beside
well and in doorway, and turned wondering eyes after him. But if their
eyes showed wonderment at his going, on his return they showed amazement
and a kind of horror. For Felipe, acting for once in the capacity of
work-horse, was straining along at the end of a huge wagon-tongue
affixed to a crude and mastodonic axle which in turn supported two
monolithic cart-wheels. It was a device by which he meant to break the
horse to harness, and, perspiring freely, and swearing even more freely,
he dragged it shrieking for grease through the settlement, really at
work, but work which was not to be admired. Reaching the clearing in
front of his house, he dropped the heavy tongue and whipped out a red
handkerchief with a sigh of relief. Also, as he wiped away the
perspiration on his forehead and neck and arms, he turned baleful eyes
upon the innocent cause of his toil.

"You black devil!" he growled, after a moment. "I feex you now--bet you'
life! And you can keeck--and keeck and keeck! You don' worry thees cart
mooch! You black devil!"

Then he became active again. He strode back into the corral, sought out
an old harness and a huge collar, and dragged them forward into the
trail. Flinging them aside in the direction of the cart, he then turned
to the mare, removed the work-harness from her, and led her into
position before the warlike vehicle. Again perspiring freely, but losing
no breath now in abusive talk, he quickly harnessed her up and then
strode forward to the black. After eying him narrowly a moment, he
seized his bridle and led him back alongside the mare, where he
proceeded nervously to harness him.

"We see now," he began, as he picked up the massive collar. "You can
stond still--thot's right! And maybe you can take thees t'ing--we see!"

The collar was much too large for workaday use, but it was not too large
for this purpose. Its very size gave it freedom to pass over the head
without the usual twisting and turning. Nor did the horse rebel when it
was so placed--a fact which gave Felipe much relief, since he now
believed that he would not have the trouble he had anticipated. Also,
with the collar in position, he was but a moment in adjusting the hames,
making fast the bottom strap, and hooking the tugs securely. With
everything in readiness he then caught up the reins and the whip, and
stepped away to begin the real work of breaking.

"_Haya!_" he cried, and touched up the off-horse. She started
forward, as always with this command from her master. But she did not go
far.

Pat was the cause of the delay. Understanding neither the contraption at
his heels, nor the word of command from the man, he held himself
motionless and pleasantly uninterested, gazing slowly about at the
landscape. Nor did he offer to move when the man cut him viciously with
the whip. The lash pitted his tender flesh and hurt mightily; but even
though he now understood what was required of him, he only became
stubborn--bracing his legs and flattening his ears, forcefully resisting
the counter efforts of the mare beside him.

And this was his nature. Long before he had demonstrated that he would
not be governed by a whip. That day in the Richardses' corral, when he
was broken to saddle, cruelty alone would never have conquered him.
Cruelty there had been, and much of it; but with the cruelty there had
been other things--evidence of affection at the right moment, both in
his mistress and in the men about him, and these, coupled with quick
understanding, had made the breaking a success. And had there been
evidence of kindness now, somewhere revealed early by this man, Pat
might have drawn the cart as the straining mate at his side was
attempting to draw it. But there was no evidence of kindness, and as a
result he remained stubborn and wilful, standing braced and trembling,
true in every particular to the spirit of his forebears.

Nor was Felipe less true to the spirit within himself. Infuriated,
uncompromising, believing this to be merely the cussedness natural with
the native horses, he abandoned all hope of instant success and gave way
to brutality. Dropping the reins and reversing the whip in his hands, he
began to beat the horse unmercifully, bringing the heavy butt down again
and again, each mighty thwack echoing down the canyon. The result was
inevitable. The horse began to kick--straight back at first, then,
finding his hoofs striking the cart, he swung sideways to the tongue and
kicked straight out. This last was sudden, and narrowly missed Felipe,
who leaped to one side. Then, unable to reach the horse with the butt,
he reversed the whip again and resumed his first torture, that of
pitting the legs of the horse with the lash.

"Keeck!" he snarled, continuing to swing the whip. "Keeck! Keeck! I can
keeck, too!" He swung his arm till it ached, when he stopped.

Whereupon the horse settled down. But his eyes were ablaze and he was
trembling all over. Also, while undoubtedly suffering added distress
from the taut and binding traces, he continued to stand at right angles
to the mare--head high, nostrils quivering, mouth adrip with white
slaver--until the spirit of rebellion appeared to grip him afresh. With
a convulsive heave he moved again, making another quarter turn, which
brought him clear of the tongue and facing the vehicle. Then he set up a
nervous little prancing, whisking his tail savagely, now and again
lifting his heels as if to strike. That was all. He gained no ground
forward, nor did it appear as if he would ever move forward.

"You--you--" began Felipe, then subsided, evidently too wrathful for
words. And he remained silent, gazing wearily toward the settlement, as
though about to call assistance.

The stillness was heavy and portentous. Both horses were motionless.
Felipe continued silent. Off toward the settlement all was still.
Overhead, the early-morning sky pressed low, spotless and shimmering,
brooding. Around and about, the flies seemed to stop buzzing. Everywhere
lurked the quiet. The earth appeared bowed in humiliation, hushed in
prayer as for the unfortunate one, while up and down the trail, basking
in world-old light, lay dust of centuries, smug and contented in its
quiescence. All nature was still, gripped in tense quiet.

The crack of a whip broke it. Felipe, suddenly bestirring himself, had
sprung forward and dealt the horse a blow with the butt. Across the
nose, it had sounded hollow and distant; and the horse, whipping up his
head in surprised pain, now turned upon the man a look at once sorrowful
and terrible, a look which spelled death and destruction. Nor did he
only look. With a strange outcry, shrill and piercing, awaking the
canyon in unnatural echoes, he whirled in his harness and reared, reared
despite his harness, and struck out with venomous force. It was quick as
a lightning flash, but, quick as it was, Felipe avoided it. And it was
fortunate that he did. Terror-stricken and dropping the whip, he sped to
the rear, to a point behind the cart, and there turned amazed eyes at
the pirouetting horse.

What manner of horse was this, he asked himself. Could it be that this
horse, black as night, was truly of the lower regions? Certainly he
looked it, balancing there on his hind legs, with his reddened eyes and
inflamed nostrils! And--But what was this? From the corral had come a
shrill nicker, the voice of the aged mare. But that was not it! With the
outcry, seemingly an answer to the black's maddened outcry, the black
dropped to all-fours again, turning quick ears and eyes in the direction
of the sound! What manner of horse was this, anyway? Never before had he
seen such a horse! He felt himself go limp.

There is a call in nature that sounds for life against death. It is a
call put forth in innumerable different tongues around the world, and it
sounds somewhere every second of the day and darkness--through jungles,
across swamps, down mountains, over plains, out of valleys. It is a cry
of warning, a cry to disarm foes. It is an outcry of good as against
evil--the squawk of a hen to her chicks, the bleat of a sheep to her
lambs, the grunt of a sow to her sucklings, the bellow of a cow to her
calf, the purr of a cat to her kittens, the whine of a dog to her
puppies, the drum of a partridge to her young. A cry from the heart to
the heart, an appeal of flesh to its own flesh, it is the world-old
mother-call.

And the horse heard this call. He probably did not recognize in it a
call of the mother-heart, any more than it was possible for the aged
mare to recognize in his outcry the voice of her own flesh. What he did
hear, no doubt, was the voice of a friend, one who understood and
pitied, and would help if it could help. At any rate, he stood very
still, seemingly grateful for the evidence of a champion, seemingly
anxious that it sound again. But it did not sound again. Yet he made no
further effort to give battle. He held to his attitude of intent
listening, ears cocked forward and eyes straining and tail at rest,
until Felipe, stung into action by an idea wrought out of all this,
hastened out from behind the cart and away in the direction of the
corral. At sight of him the horse became restless again, squaring
himself once more to the mare, stamping his feet and champing his bit
nervously. He seemed to lose all recollection of the outcry, all the
peace it had engendered within him. Of such are the kingdom of the dumb.

Possessed by his idea, an idea so brilliant that he himself marveled,
Felipe was not long in putting it to test. He hurriedly bridled the aged
mare and led her out into the trail. He placed her alongside the
black--for reasons which, had the _compadre_ Franke been present,
Felipe might have suggested with a crafty wink--then hastily began to
unhitch the team-mate. And it was just here that he proved his
foresight. In the work of unhitching the mate, he should have
encountered, and had expected, trouble from the black. But he did not.
The mare sounded another friendly nicker when arranged beside him, and
the black, pricking up his ears sharply, turned to her and proceeded to
establish his friendship by licking her. So Felipe did not meet with
difficulty from that direction; nor did he have trouble in the direction
of the team-mate herself. She seemed glad to be relieved from her
unsuccessful task, and Felipe, glad to relieve her in the light of his
brilliant idea, led her off to one side quickly, then returned and swung
the old mare into her place. He hitched her up, picked up the reins and
whip, and set about with his test.

"We see now," he began, his voice quiet and encouraging. "Maybe you work
wit' thee old woman! We see!" And he gave a low command.

With the command Pat started forward, urged to it by the aged
mare--pulling more than his share of the load. Perhaps it was due to her
presence; perhaps to the note of kindness in Felipe's voice. At any
rate, he moved, and he moved forward, and he moved with a steady pull.
Yet he did not proceed far. Though he did not stop through rebellion. It
was simply to renew his attentions to the old mare. He began to caress
her as if he really recognized in this rack of an animal his own lost
mother. But recognition, of course, was impossible. Long before, the
only source of recognition, appeal made through digestive organs, had
disappeared. Nevertheless, he lavished upon her unwonted affection until
Felipe gently but firmly urged him forward again. Then again he
proceeded, pulling all of the load this time, bringing about a slack in
the traces of the mare and a consequent bumping of her hind legs against
the cart which seemed to awaken some of her dying spirit.

Up and down the trail they moved, the mare sedately, the horse actively,
prancing gaily, appearing to take gleeful pleasure in his task, until
Felipe, kindled with elation and pride, decided to drive on into the
settlement and there become the object of covetous eyes. Therefore he
urged the team forward to a point in front of the general store, where
in lordly composure sat Pedro, occupying his customary seat on an empty
keg on the porch. At sight of him Felipe's joy leaped to the heavens,
and he pulled up the team, ostensibly to adjust a forward buckle, but in
reality to afford Pedro an uninterrupted view of the beautiful black.
Moving forward to the head of the horses, he watched out of the tail of
his eye Pedro's lazy survey of the team.

"Where you got thot horse?" inquired Pedro, after a long moment, as he
slowly removed a cigarette from between his lips. "I mean," he added,
"where you haf _steal_ thot _caballo_?"

Felipe winced. But he did not immediately retort. He carried out his
bluff, unbuckling and buckling one of the straps, then mildly
straightened up and faced the man.

"Pedro," he began, tensely, "you haf know--José, Juan, Manuel,
Francisco, Carlotta--all haf know--thot eet is only one t'ief in all
thees place! And thot man--thot t'ief--is Pedro Garcia!"

Pedro grunted. "Where you haf steal thot horse?" he repeated, without
show of anger. "You can give me thot horse," he continued, placidly.
"You haf owe me mooch money. I take thot horse for payment--everyt'ing.
You give thot _caballo_ to me."

Felipe turned to the team. "I give you one keeck in thee belly!" he
roared. Then he touched up the horses and started back toward the house.
Gone was all elation, all pride, all gleeful consciousness of
possession.

Gaining the clearing, he decided to try out the other horse with the
black. He realized that the aged mare was unfit, even though in the last
hour she had appeared greatly to improve, and he must accordingly match
up a team. So he unhitched her and swung the mate into place. He met
with disagreeable surprise, however. The black would not pull with this
horse. Instead, he held himself quietly at rest, gazing about sleepily
over the landscape, a trick of his, as Felipe had learned, when quietly
rebelling. Felipe looked at him a moment, but did not try to force him
with tongue or lash. For he was coming to understand this horse, and,
concluding that sooner or later, under proper treatment, he would
probably accept duty with any mate, determined to abandon work for the
day. Whereupon he unhitched the horses and led them all back into the
corral. Then he put up the bars and set out in the direction of the
settlement.

Which ended Pat's second great lesson at the hand of man. He was sore
and somewhat stiff from the struggle, but he did not fret long over his
condition, for he soon awoke to the presence of that beside him in the
corral which caused him to forget himself completely. It was the
worn-out structure of skin and bones who had befriended him in his hour
of trial. He gazed at her a moment, then approached and fell to
caressing her, showing in this attention his power to forget
self--aches, sores, troubles--in his affection and gratitude toward all
things warranting affection and gratitude.



CHAPTER X

THE STRANGER AGAIN


Meantime, Helen was becoming desperate over her loss. Unwilling to
accept the theory of her household, which was that Pat had been stolen
by a band of organized thieves and ere this was well out of the
neighborhood and probably the county, she had held firmly to her
original idea, _viz._, that the horse was in the possession of his
rightful owners, and so could not be far out of the community.
Therefore, the morning following his disappearance, having with sober
reflection lightened within her the seriousness of it all, she had set
out in confident search for him, mounted on her brown saddler. But
though she had combed the town and the trails around the town, quietly
interviewing all such teamsters and horsemen as might by any chance know
something about it, yet in answer to her persistent inquiries all she
had received was a blank shake of the head or an earnest expression of
willingness to assist her. So, because she had continued her search for
three days without success, inquiring and peering into every nook and
corner of the community, she finally had come to regard her quest as
hopeless, and to become more than ever an image of despair.

The evening of the fourth day there was a dance. It was one of the
regular monthly affairs, and because Helen was a member of the committee
she felt it her duty to attend. One of the young men, accompanied by his
mother and sister, drove out for her, but she left the house with
reluctance and a marked predisposition not to enjoy herself. But she
forgot this when she presently beheld the young man from the East whom
she had encountered on the mesa. He was standing close beside a rather
frail little woman, undoubtedly his mother, who with the matrons of the
town was seated near a fireplace watching the dancers. He was
introduced. Later they sat out one of his numbers alone together in a
corner behind some potted palms. In the course of their conversation
Helen informed him of the disappearance of her horse, and asked him, as
she asked everybody she met now, if he knew anything or had heard
anything concerning the loss. The young man knew nothing of the great
disappearance, however, though he did offer it as his belief that a
horse of Pat's obvious value could not long remain in obscurity. This
was encouraging, and Helen felt herself become hopeful again. But when
he offered his services in the search, as he did presently, she felt not
only hopeful again, but somehow quite certain now that it would all be
cleared up. For there was that in this young gentleman which caused
confidence. What she told him, however, was that she was grateful for
his offer, and should be greatly pleased to have him with her.

And thus it was that, on the morning of the fifth day, Helen Richards
and Stephen Wainwright--the young man's name--together with two of
Helen's close friends, were riding slowly across the mesa, alert for any
combination in harness which might reveal the lost Pat. Helen and
Stephen were well in the lead, and Helen had broken the silence by
addressing Stephen as a native, recalling their first meeting. Whereupon
the young man, smiling quietly, had wanted to know why; but after she
had explained that it was because he had enlisted himself in the search
for a horse, adding that in doing so he had conformed with one of the
unwritten laws of the country, he still confessed himself in the dark.
This had been but a moment before, and she now settled herself to
explain more fully.

"A horse is, or was, our most valued property," she began. "I reckon the
past tense is better--though we'll never quite live down our interest in
horses." She smiled across at him. "Long ago," she went on, "in the days
of our Judge Lynch, you know, a stolen horse meant a hanged man--or two
or three--as not infrequently happened. But all that is history now. Yet
the feeling remains. And whenever one of our horses disappears--it is
rare now--we all take it more or less as a personal loss. In your
willingness to help find Pat, therefore, you declare yourself one of
us--and are gladly admitted."

He rode along in silence. "Why was the feeling so intense in the old
days?" he inquired, after a time.

"It was due to physical conditions," she replied--"the geography of the
country. Water-holes were few and very far apart, and to get from one to
another often entailed a journey impossible to a man without a horse. To
steal his horse, therefore, was to deprive him of his sole means of
getting to water--practically to deprive him of his life. If he didn't
die of thirst, which frequently he did, at best it was a very grave
offense. It isn't considered so now--not so much so, at any rate--unless
in the desert wastes to the west of us. Yet the feeling still lurks
within us, and a stolen horse is a matter that concerns the whole
community."

He nodded thoughtfully, but remained silent. Suddenly Helen drew rein.
Before her was a horned toad, peculiarly a part of the desert, blinking
up at them wickedly. He drew rein and followed her eyes.

"A horned toad, isn't it?"

Helen shook her head. "Are you interested in such things?" she inquired.

"In a way--yes," he affirmed, doubtfully. "Though I can't see good
reason for their existence." His eyes twinkled. "Can you?"

Helen was thoughtful a moment. "Well, no," she admitted, finally. "Yet
there must be a good reason. Reptiles must live for some good purpose.
All things do--don't you think?" Then, before he could make a rejoinder,
she went on: "I sometimes feel that these creatures were originally
placed here to encourage other and higher forms of life to come and
locate in the desert--were placed here, in other words, to prove that
life is possible in all this desolation."

He glanced at her. "Certainly it has worked out that way, at any rate,"
he ventured. "Good old Genesis!" He smiled.

"It seems to have," she agreed, thoughtfully. "Because you and I are
here. But it goes a long way back--to Genesis--yes. Following the
initial placing, other and higher organisms, finding in their migratory
travels this evidence of life, accepted the encouragement to remain, and
did remain, feeding upon the life found here in the shape of toads and
lizards--to carry the theory forward a step--even as the toads and
lizards--to carry it back again--fed upon the insects which they in
their turn found here. Then along came other forms of life, higher in
the cosmic setting, and these, finding encouragement in the presence of
the earlier arrivals, fed upon them and remained. And so on up, to the
forerunners of our present-day animals--coyotes and prairie-dogs. And
after these, primitive man--to find encouragement in the coyotes and
prairie-dogs--and to feed upon them and remain. Then after primitive
man, the second type--the brown man; and after the brown man, the red
man; and after the red man, the white man--all with an eye to
sustenance, and finding it, and remaining."

Stephen's eyes swept around the desert absently. He knew--this young
man--that he was in the presence of a personality. For he could not help
but draw comparisons between the young woman beside him and the young
women of his acquaintance in the East. While he had found Eastern girls
vivacious, and attractive with a kind of surface charm, never had he
known one to take so quiet and unassuming an outlook upon so broad a
theme. It was the desert, he told himself. Here beside him was a type
unknown to him, and one so different from any he had as yet met with, he
felt himself ill at ease in her presence--a thing new to him, too--and
which in itself gave him cause to marvel. Yes, it was the desert. It
_must_ be the desert! In this slender girl beside him he saw a
person of insight and originality, a girl assuredly not more than twenty
years of age, attractive, and thoroughly feminine. How ever did they do
it?

He harked back in his thoughts to her theory. And he dwelt not so much
upon the theory itself as upon her manner of advancing it. Running back
over these things, recalling the music of her voice, together with her
spoken musings, he came to understand why, with that first encounter, he
had found himself almost instantly curious concerning desert folk. Not
that he had known why at the time, or had given that phase of it
consideration. He did remember that he had been strongly impressed by
the way she had managed her bolting horse. But aside from that, there
had been something in her personality, an indefinable calm and sureness,
a grip upon herself, that he had felt the very first moment. Undoubtedly
all this had flicked him into a novel curiosity. He pulled himself
together with an effort.

"I like your theory," he answered, smiling. "And it must be true,
because I am told horned toads are fast disappearing. Evidently they
have served their purpose. But tell me," he concluded, "what is becoming
of them? Where are they going?"

She laughed. "I can't tell you that. Perhaps they just vanish into the
fourth--or maybe the fifth--dimension!"

And this was the other side of her, a side he had come to learn while
with her at the dance, and which made her lovable as well as admirable.
But she was speaking again, and again was serious.

"I have yet another theory," she said--"one as to why these creatures
are here, you know." She smiled across at him. "It is all my very own,
too! It is that in their presence among us--among mankind--they
unwittingly develop us through thought. Thinking exercises the brain, we
are told, and exercising the brain makes for world-advancement--we are
told." Then, suddenly, "I hope you don't think me silly--Mr. Native?"

But he remained sober. "Tell me," he asked, after a time, "what it is
about this country--I mean other than friendships, of course--that gets
under a fellow's soul and lifts it--to the end that he wants to remain
here? I know there is something, though I can't for the life of me place
it. What is it, anyway?"

She turned upon him sharply. "Do you really feel that way?" she asked,
evidently pleased.

"I feel that way. But why do I feel that way? What is it? You know what
I mean. There is something--there must be!"

"I know what you mean--yes," she replied, thoughtfully. "Yet I doubt if
I myself, even after all these years, can define it. What you 'feel'
must be our atmosphere--its rarity, its power to exhilarate. Though that
really doesn't explain it. I reckon it's the same thing--only much more
healthful, more soulful--that one feels in large cities after nightfall.
I mean, the glare of your incandescent lights. I honestly believe that
that glare, more than any other single thing, holds throngs of people to
an existence not only unnatural, but laden with a something that crushes
as well." She was silent.

Again Stephen felt the strange pull on his interest, but he said
nothing. After a time she went on.

"City-dwellers," she explained, "don't begin their day till the approach
of dark. It's true of both levels of society, too--lower as well as
upper. And I believe the reason for this lies, as I have said, in the
atmosphere--their man-made atmosphere--just as the secret of your
feeling the way you do lies in our atmosphere--God-made. Were this
atmosphere suddenly to disappear, both out of your cities and out of my
deserts, both your world and my own would lose all of their charm."

Stephen bestirred himself. "What psychology do you find in that?" he
asked, dwelling upon the fact that she knew his East so well.

"Merely the effect of softening things--for the soul as well as the
eye--through the eye, indeed, to the soul. Our atmosphere here does
that--softens the houses, and the trees, and the cattle, and the
mountains, and the distant reaches. It softens our nights, too. Perhaps
you have noticed it? How everything appears shrouded in a kind of hazy,
mellow, translucent something that somehow reacts upon you? I have. And
I believe that is the secret of one's wanting to remain in the country,
once he has exposed himself to it. It is a kind of spell--a hypnosis.
When out of it one wants to get back into it.

"I know I felt it when I was East, attending school," she went on,
quietly. "Living always in this atmosphere, I somehow had forgotten its
charm--as one will forget all subtle beauty unless frequently and
forcibly reminded of it. But in the East I missed it, and found myself
restless and anxious to get back into it. Indeed, I felt that I must get
back or die! So one day, when your Eastern spirit of sudden change was
upon me, I packed and came home. It was a year short of my degree, too.
But I could not remain away another day--simply had to get back--and
back I came. My degree--my sheepskin"--she was smiling--"couldn't hold
me!"

"Then you've spent some time in the East?" he asked, tentatively.

"Yes," she replied, "that much--three years. And I didn't like it."

"Why?" he asked, a little surprised.

She regarded him curiously. He saw a look of mild annoyance in her eyes,
one that seemed to tell of her inability to understand so needless a
question.

"I just didn't," she rejoined, after a moment. "I discovered that you
Easterners value things which are diametrically opposite to the things
we value, and that you value not at all those things which we value most
of all."

He had to laugh. "What are they?" he wanted to know.

For an instant she showed shyness. "Oh, I can't say," she declared,
finally. "Some day I may tell you."

Stephen realized that it must be serious. He was hesitating whether to
press her further, when he saw her tighten her reins, put spurs to her
horse, and go flashing off in the direction of the mountain trail. As
she dashed off he heard her call out:

"Pat!" she cried. "Pat! It's Pat!" Then she glanced to the rear. "Adele!
Sam! It's Pat! Come, quick!"

Stephen spurred on with the others. He galloped after this hard-riding
girl--so intensely alive--a girl past his understanding. Over dunes and
across flats he charged, followed closely by the others, urging his
horse to his utmost. But, try as he might, he could not overtake her or
even lessen the distance between them, so furious was her race for her
lost horse. Finally he burst out upon the trail and drew rein beside
her, standing with the others in the path of an oncoming wood-wagon,
anxiously awaiting its slow approach.

It was a curious outfit. One of the team, an aged and decrepit horse,
was laboring along with head drooping and hoofs scuffling the trail,
while beside it, with head erect and nostrils aquiver and hoofs lifting
eagerly, stepped the glorious Pat! Both horses were draped in a
disreputable harness, crudely patched with makeshift string and wire,
and both were covered with a fine coating of dust. Atop all this, high
and mighty upon an enormous load of wood, sat a Mexican, complacently
smoking a cigarette and contentedly swinging his heels, evidently elated
with this prospect of parading his horse before a group of Americans.
But as he drew close a look of uneasiness crept over him, and he pulled
up his team and shrugged his shoulders, as a preliminary, no doubt, to
disappearance behind the Mexican shield of "No sabe!"

Helen swung close to him. There was a choice between a contest and
diplomatic concession. She decided to offer to purchase the horse at
once, believing this to be the easiest way out of the trouble.

"_Señor_," she began in Spanish, "_deseo comprar_ _aquel
caballo negro. Puedo pagar cualquire cantidad razonable por el. Se
perdio y nosotros lo cuidamos, y he aprendido a quererlo mucho. Si usted
quiere venderlo me haria un gran favor. Siento mucho que me lo hayan
quitado._"

The Mexican looked relieved. He slowly removed his hat with true
Castilian courtesy.

"_Señorita_," he replied, "_lo venderia con gusto pero pienso que
me paga lo que quiero por el_."

Which delighted Helen. "_Pagare lo que sea._"

The Mexican hesitated a moment. "_¿Pagara cuarenta pesos?_" he
asked, finally. "_Yo tambien quiero al caballo mucho_," he added.
"_Pero por cuarenta pesos pienso--pienso que lo olvido._" And he
grinned.

Helen turned to the others. For Stephen's benefit she explained what had
been said, and the men promptly offered to make up the required forty
dollars. Helen turned to the Mexican, accepted his price, and requested
him to release Pat from the harness. Whereat the Mexican smiled broadly;
shrugged his shoulders suddenly; forgot his rôle of "No sabe."

"How," he burst out--"how I'm gettin' thees wagon to town? I'm pullin'
eet myself?"

The others laughed. Then Helen, deciding upon another arrangement,
instructed him to drive forward. She could see her father in town, she
explained to the others, and there also, after the exchange of money,
the Mexican could purchase another horse. Which closed the matter. The
Mexican started the team forward, while the others fell in alongside,
ranging themselves on either side. Thus they journeyed into town--a
strange cavalcade--Pat prancing, the mare drooping, the Mexican visibly
pleased, the others gratified by their unexpected success. In town they
turned into a side street, and there Helen left them, going off in the
direction of her father's office. When she returned, the Judge was with
her. He read the Mexican a brief but stern lecture on the law pertaining
to the recovery of lost property, and closed the deal. Whereupon the
wood-hauler unharnessed Pat, bestowed him smilingly upon Helen, and took
himself off, evidently in quest of another horse, for he headed straight
as a plumb-line for the city pound.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Pat was home again. He knew it from many things--the white fence, the
clean stable, the Mexican hostler with broom in hand. And though he was
at home where he wanted to be, yet he found himself filled with vague
uneasiness. After a time he sought to relieve it. He made his way into
the stable, but he found no relief there. He returned to the corral, and
began slowly to circle inside the fence, but neither did this relieve
him. Finally he took up his old stand in the sunlit corner, where he
fell to listening with ears and eyes attentive to least sounds. But even
this did not relieve him.

Nor would anything ever relieve him. Never would he find absolute solace
from his inner disquiet. For what he sought and could not find, what he
listened for and could not hear, was another of those sounds which had
relieved the tedium of his brief stay in the mountains, the friendly
nicker of the aged mare, gone to toil out her life in the racking
treadmill between town and mountain.



CHAPTER XI

LOVE REJECTED


Pat had just been clipped. And never was there a horse nearer
perfection! Shorn of all hair, his splendid physique, now in fullest
maturity, stood out clean-cut and fascinating.

In weight he might have tipped the scales at ten hundred pounds. In
color his skin, which now showed clearly, was a shade darker than that
of the elephant, but it showed the richness of velvet. His body through
the trunk was round and symmetrical; his haunches were wide without
projection of the hip-bones; and his limbs, the stifle and lower thigh,
were long and strong and fully developed. Added to these, he was high in
the withers, the line of back and neck curving perfectly; his shoulders
were deep and oblique; and his long, thick fore arm, knotty with bulging
sinews, told of powerful muscles. And finally, his knees across the pan
were wide, the cannon-bone below thin and short, the pasterns long and
sloping, and the hoofs round and dark and neatly set on. While over
all--over the small, bony head, beautiful neck and shoulders--over the
entire body, clear down to the hoofs--ran a network of veins like those
on the back of a leaf, only more irregular--veins which stood out as
though the skin were but thin parchment through which the blood might
burst. A rare horse, rare in any country, doubly rare in this land of
the small Spanish product, was the rating given to Pat by men trained to
judge value at sight. And so widespread did this appraisal become, along
trail, beside camp-fire, in bunk-house, that it was known throughout the
length and breadth of the Territory, and beyond the Territory, that
Judge Richards was the owner of a horse the like of which never had been
seen south of the Pecos.

For several days after the clipping, Helen did not choose to ride. So
Pat was permitted the doubtful pleasure of loafing about in the
inclosure. Then one morning, when the winter day was unusually warm, he
awoke to a great clatter of hoofs outside the corral. Directly he saw a
party of young people, men and girls under the chaperonage of a comely
matron, dismounting in high spirits. As the party swung down he saw his
mistress appear from the house, attired in her riding-habit, and,
understanding the object of all this, since these parties had become
frequent in the past two months, he pressed close to the fence, anxious
to be off. The Mexican bridled and saddled him; his mistress and the
others mounted; soon all clattered out upon the river-trail.

The day was beautiful, and Helen, riding, as usual, beside Stephen, both
in the rear, enjoyed the morning keenly. Overhead, out of a shimmering
azure sky, the sun beamed mildly down, penetrating the chill of the
morning, yet leaving enough tang to bring a bloom to their cheeks. On
their left the river, high with melted snows from the north, moved in
slow eddies near the shore, quicker eddies away from the shore, steady
and swift flow in the middle--a changing, fascinating panorama. There
fell a long silence before she turned to the young man beside her.

"Well, Mr. Native," she began, smiling, "I hope you don't mean to bury
yourself this morning! For more than a month you have had very little to
say to me. I don't like it, because I can't understand it, and so I
won't have it!" Then she became serious. "Whatever is the matter,
Stephen?"

Pat, walking slowly beside the unfriendly horse, was attentive. He heard
his mistress's voice, and somehow knew she was troubled. Then directly
he had positive proof of this, for she suddenly began to stroke his neck
and shoulders. Always she did this when thoughtful, but though he
strained his ears for further sounds of her voice, he did not hear her.
What he did hear presently was the voice of the young man, and having
learned long before to discriminate between different shades of the
human voice, he knew from its low and tense quality that the topic was a
vital one. He listened sharply, heedful of any least change of
intonation that might be interpreted as a climax. But instead he was
relieved presently to hear the voice of his mistress again, breaking in
upon the low, constrained tones of the young man.

Pat held his ears steadily back. He noted that her voice was well under
control, and she appeared to be answering the young man. Also, it was
quite evident that she was not accepting his argument, whatever it was.
Yet her voice took on many delicate changes. Sometimes he heard a note
of pleading; again, mild exasperation; and once a falling inflection
which hinted at sadness. So it continued, his mistress talking as he had
never heard her talk before, until the group ahead drew rein and
wheeled, indicating their intention of returning. Then once more the
voice of his mistress changed suddenly and became light, even gay,
leaving Pat, as he himself was turned around, a very much mystified
horse.

Yet this gaiety did not last. When they were well on their way back
toward the ranch, with the sun higher and brighter in the heavens, and
the trail correspondingly whiter and more dazzling to the eye, he found
himself listening to grave tones again--the voice of the young man. He
talked steadily now, his flow of words always tense, though occasionally
interrupted by the other with a quiet rejoinder. Then suddenly he ceased
altogether, and Pat, acutely conscious of the silence which descended
upon them, was relieved when it was broken by sounds of laughter ahead.
Still the pair above him did not speak. Each appeared to be adrift on a
sea of thought the like of which he had never known. And it continued,
this ominous silence, and became heavier, until he saw the ranch loom up
ahead. Then he felt his mistress urge him into a canter that she might
join the others for the parting. But when the party broke up, as it did
with much good feeling, and he found himself turned loose to one side,
with his mistress and the young man walking into the shade of a
cottonwood, he found himself forced, since he now was out of range of
their voices, to forego any further listening, keenly against his
desires. So he gave it all up as a bad job.

"Stephen," began Helen, seating herself upon a hummock of earth, "I am
sorry--sorry beyond words--that it has turned out this way! I must admit
that I like you--like you very much! But--but I am afraid it is not the
sort of liking you ask."

He was seated beside her, reclining upon one elbow, absently thrusting
the tip of his riding-whip into a tuft of grass. And now again, as
before that morning, he told her of his very great love for her, his
deep voice vibrant with emotion, grimly acknowledging himself as
unworthy of her, yet asking with rare simplicity that she take him
anyway, take him in spite of his unworthiness, declaring it as his
belief she would find him in time worthy--that he would try to make
himself worthy--_would_ make himself worthy--would overcome those
faults which evidently--though she had not as yet told him what they
were--made him impossible in her eyes. Then suddenly he asked her to
tell him precisely what these faults were. He knew that he had many and
could only blame himself for them. But which of them did she find
chiefly objectionable? He was pitiable in his pleading.

But Helen shook her head. "I--I can't tell you, Stephen," she declared,
her voice breaking. "It--it is too much to ask of--of any girl."

He rose, turning toward the distant mountains, bright and smiling in
their noonday splendor. As his eyes dwelt upon them in brooding silence,
Helen gained her feet. And, aware of her great part in this
wretchedness, she took his hand very gently in her own. Subtly conscious
of the touch, realizing the tumult in his soul, she found herself
suddenly alive to a feeling within her deeper than mere pity and
sympathy. It was the anguish preceding tears. Quickly withdrawing her
hand, she turned and fled to the house. Inside, she slowly approached a
window. He was leading Pat into the corral; and, watching him unsaddle
and unbridle her horse, her treasure, she awoke to something else within
her, a strange swelling of her heart, different from anything she had
ever known. It was like ownership; it was a something as of maternal
pride, a something new to her which she could not fathom. She turned
away. When she looked out again, her eyes dry and burning, he was riding
slowly along the trail toward town.

It was the beginning of the end. Winter passed, with horses abandoned
for the delights, swift-following, of dinner and dance and house party.
These affairs made deep inroads upon Helen's time, and so Pat was left
pretty much to his own reflections.

Yet he managed to fill the days to his satisfaction. Standing in the
stable, he loved to watch the snow-capped mountains, and the tiny white
clouds scudding around them, and the mellow radiance of golden sunlight
streaming over them. Also, gazing out of the little square window, he
spent long periods in viewing the hard brown of the nearer mesaland--the
dips and dunes and thread-like arroyos, with an occasional horseman
crawling between. Or else, when he found himself yearning for his
mistress, he would turn eyes upon the house, and with lazy speculation
regard its sun-flecked windows, tightly shut doors, and smoking
chimneys, in the hope that she might step forth. Then came more mild
weather when he would spend long hours outside the stable, in his corner
in the corral, there to renew his silent vigil over nature and the house
from this vantage. Thus he filled his days, and found them not so long
as formerly in his babyhood, when each hour was fraught with so many
little things that demanded his closest interest and attention.

Nights found him early at rest. But not all nights. Nights there were
when the house would be lighted from cellar to garret, when spectral
forms would move in and out of doors, and when shadows would flicker
across drawn shades. Such nights were always his nights, for he would
hear sounds of merriment, and voices lifted in song, and above the
voices, tinkling toward him on the crisp air, the music of a piano. Such
nights were his nights, for he knew that his mistress was happy, and he
would force open the stable door, step out under the cold stars, and
take up his stand in his corner, there to rest his head upon the topmost
board and turn steady eyes upon the scene of merriment until the last
guest had departed.

Always on these nights, with wintry chills coursing down his legs or
rollicking along his spine, he found himself wanting to be a part of
this gaiety, wanting to enter the house, where he instinctively knew it
was warm and comfortable, where he might nuzzle the whole gathering for
sugar and apples. But this he could not do. He could only turn longing
eyes upon the cottage and stand there until, all too soon, sounds of
doors opening and closing, together with voices in cheery farewell, told
him that the party was at an end. Then he would see mysterious forms
flitting across to the trail, and lights in the house whisking out one
by one, until the cottage gradually became engulfed in darkness. Then,
but not till then, would he turn away from his corner, walk back slowly
into the stable, and, because of the open door, which he could open but
never close, suffer intensely from the cold throughout the long night.

One such occasion, when the round moon hung poised in the blue-black
dome of heaven, and he was standing as usual in his corner, with eyes
upon the brilliantly lighted house, he became suddenly aware of two
people descending the rear porch and making slowly toward him. At first
he did not recognize his own mistress and the young man who had been her
almost constant companion since that memorable fright on the mesa eight
months before. But as they drew closer, and he came to know the slender
form in white, he sounded a soft whinny of greeting and pressed eagerly
close to the fence. The pair came near, very near; but neither of them
paid the least attention to him--a fact which troubled him deeply. And
directly his mistress spoke, but, as she was addressing herself to the
young man, this troubled him even more. But he could listen, and listen
he did.

"Stephen," she was saying, "you _must_ accept my answer as final.
For you must know, Stephen," she went on, quietly, "that I have not
changed toward you. My answer to-night, and my answer to-morrow night,
and my answer for ever, in so far as I can see, will be what it was last
autumn. I am more than sorry that this is so. But it is so,
nevertheless." She was firm, though Pat, knowing her well, knew that it
required all the force of her trembling soul to give firmness to her
words.

Stephen felt something of this as he stood beside her in grim meekness.
With his hungry eyes upon her, he felt the despair of one sunk to utter
depths, of a man mentally and physically broken. For he loved this girl.
And it was this love, God-given, that made him persist. In the spell of
this love he realized that he was but a weak agent, uttering demands
given him to utter, and unable, through a force as mighty as Nature
herself, to do otherwise. Yet though he was utterly torn apart, he was
able, despite this mighty demand within him, to understand her
viewpoint. He had understood it from the first. But the craving within
would not let him accept it.

"I suppose," he rejoined, "that the one decent course for me would be to
drop all this. But somehow I can't. I love you that way, Helen! Don't
you understand? I cannot let go! I seem to be forced repeatedly to
make--make a boor of myself!" There was a moment's silence. "Yet I have
resisted it," he went on. "I have fought it--fought it with all the
power I have! But I--I somehow--cannot let go!"

Helen said nothing. She herself was coming to realize fully the depths
of this man's passion. She knew--knew as few women have known--that here
was a man who wanted her; but she knew also, and she was sorry to know
it, that she could not conscientiously give herself to him. She
regretted it not alone for his sake, but for her own as well. She liked
him, liked him better than any other man she had ever known. But she
knew that she could not marry him, and believed in her heart that her
reasons for refusing him were just reasons. But she remained silent,
true to her decision.

When Stephen spoke again it was not to plead with her; he seemed at last
to have accepted her refusal for all time. But he asked her reason for
absolutely refusing him--not that it mattered much now, since he faced
the inevitable, but thought the knowledge might in future guide and
strengthen him. He talked rapidly, hinting at beliefs and idolatries,
comparing West with East, and East with West, while he stood motionless,
one hand upon the fence--earnest, sincere, strong in his request. When
he had uttered his last sad word, Helen found herself, as she searched
his drawn profile pityingly, no more able to deny him an answer than at
the time of their first chance meeting she could have controlled the
fate which had brought it about.

"Stephen," she burst out, "I will tell you--though I don't want to tell
you--remember! And if in the telling," she hurried on, "I prove rather
too candid--please stop me! You will, won't you?"

He nodded listlessly.

"To begin with," she began, quietly, dreading her task, "we as a people
are selfish. We are isolated here--are far from the center of
things--but only certain things. We are quite our own center in certain
other ways. But we are selfish as regards advancement, and being selfish
in this way--being what we are and where we are--we live solely for that
advancement--for the privilege of doing what we will, and of knowing! It
is the first law of the country down here--of my people! We have aims
and aspirations and courage all peculiar to ourselves. And when we meet
your type, as I met you, we come--(Now, stop me when I get too
severe!)--we come to know our own values a little better--to respect
ourselves, perhaps--though perhaps, too, I shouldn't say it--a little
more. Not that you lack virtues, you Easterners, but they differ from
ours--and probably only in kind. And exactly what your type is you
yourself have made plain to me during our many little trips together in
the saddle. And--and now I fear I must become even more personal," she
broke off. "And I am very sorry that I must. Though I know you will
forgive me. You will, won't you?" And she looked up at him wistfully.
"You thought it might benefit you to know. This is only my opinion.
Others may not see it this way. But I am giving it for what it is, and I
am giving it only because you asked it and have asked it repeatedly."

He roused himself. "Go on," he said, with evident forced lightness. "I
see your viewpoint perfectly."

"Well," she resumed, hurriedly, "you lack ambition--a real ambition. You
have ridden horses, played tennis, idled about clubs. You were a coddled
and petted child, a pampered and spoiled youth. You attended a dozen
schools, and, to use your own language, were 'canned' out of all of
them. Which about sums up your activities. You have idled your time
away, and you give every promise of continuing. I regret that I must say
that, but I regret more deeply that it is true. You have many admirable
qualities. You have the greatest of all qualities--power for sincere
love. But in the qualities which make one acceptable down here--Wait!
I'll change that. In the qualities which would make one acceptable to me
you are lacking to a very considerable degree. And it is just there that
you fill me with the greatest doubt--doubt so grave, indeed, that I
cannot--and I use the verb advisedly--cannot permit myself to like you
in the way you want me to like you."

Again he bestirred himself. "What is that, please? What is that
quality?"

"I have tried to tell you," she rejoined, patiently. "It is a really
worth-while ambition. You lack the desire to do something, the desire to
be something--a desire that ought to have been yours, should have been
yours, years ago--the thing part and parcel of our blood down here. It
may take shape in any one of a hundred different things--business
ventures; personal prospectings; pursuit of art, science; raising
cattle--anything, Stephen! But something, something which will develop a
real value, both to yourself and to your fellow-man. We have it. We have
inherited it. We got it from our grandfathers--our great-grandfathers,
in a few cases--men who wanted to know--to learn--to learn by doing. It
is a powerful force. It must be a powerful force, it must have been
strong within them, for it dragged them out of the comforts of
civilization and led them into the desert. But they found what they
sought; and in finding what they sought they found themselves also. And
what they found--"

"Was something which, having drawn them forward to the frontier, filled
them with dislike for those who remained behind?"

"If you wish to put it that way--yes." Her answer was straight and
clean-cut.

"But what of those who remained behind?" asked Stephen, alert now.
"Surely the quality was there! It must be there yet! Those of the
old-timers who remained behind must have stayed simply because of
circumstances. Good men often curb the adventurous spirit out of sheer
conscientious regard for others who--"

"It is you, Stephen!" interrupted Helen, quietly. "It is you, yourself.
All Easterners are not like you, I well know. Yet you and your type are
found in all parts of the East."

Stephen stood for a long moment, his eyes fixed on the mystic skyline.
Then he turned to her as if about to speak. But there was only the
silent message of his longing eyes. Finally he turned away and, as if
unconsciously, fell to stroking the horse.

He had nothing to say, and he knew it. The girl was right, and he knew
that. She had pointed out to him only what others at different times had
mildly tried to make him see. He was a rich young man, or would be after
a death or two in his family. But that in itself was no excuse for his
inertia. Many had told him that. But he had never taken it seriously. It
had remained for the little woman beside him to make him fully realize
it. She alone had driven it home so that it hurt. Yet between this girl
and the others who had taken him mildly to task there was the difference
between day and darkness. For he loved this girl, and if she would not
marry him for reasons which he knew he could remedy, then it was up to
him to accept her criticism, which was perhaps a challenge, and go forth
and do something and be something, and reveal his love to her through
that effort. What it would be he did not know. He did know he must get
out of the town--get out of the Territory, if needs be--but he must go
somewhere in this country of worthy aspiration and live as he knew she
would have him live, do something, be something, something that for its
very worth to her as well as to all mankind would awaken her ready
response. Such a move he realized, as he stood beside her, would be as
decent in him as she in her criticism had been eloquently truthful. The
vigor, the relentless certainty, with which she had pointed out his
weakness--no one before had had the courage to deal with him like this.
And reviewing it all, and then casting grimly forward into his future,
he suddenly awoke, as he gently stroked this mettled horse, to a strange
likeness between the spirit of horse and mistress. He turned to Helen.

"You are very much alike," he declared--"you and your horse." Then he
paused as if in thought. "The spirit of the desert," he went on,
absently, "shows itself through all the phases of its life."

Helen brightened "I am glad you think that of us, Stephen," she
answered, as if relieved by this unexpected turn. "Pat is truly of the
desert. He was born and bred in this land of _amole_ and cactus."

"And you?" he asked.

"I also," she replied, gravely. "I too was born and bred in this land of
_amole_ and cactus." Suddenly she turned her head. "I am afraid
they are looking for us."

They returned to the house. Helen's guests were preparing to depart.
There was much high humor, and when the last but one was gone, and this
one, Stephen, standing on the porch with hat in hand, Helen found that
for the moment she had forgotten her distress. At sight of him, however,
it all returned to her, and she faced him with earnest solicitude.

"Tell me, Stephen," she burst out, "that you forgive me my unkind words,
and that you will try to forget them. But whether you succeed in that or
not, Stephen," she hastily added, her voice breaking, "tell me that you
will continue to be friendly. We want you, all of us--I want you! I have
enjoyed our rides together so much! They have meant much to me, and I
hope they have been enjoyable to you. So let us go on, on this accepted
basis, and be friends. Tell me you will, Stephen!"

He was silent a long time. Then he told her of his hastily made plans.
He was going away from town, of course. He could not remain, under the
circumstances. Yet where he was going he didn't know. He would go
farther West, probably--go somewhere and try to make good--try to do
something worth while, to be something worth while. Saying which, he
then thanked her fervently for everything--for her society, for her
frank criticism, for having awakened him to an understanding of himself.

Helen stood speechless. She had not anticipated this, that he would go
away, that he would leave her. A deep-surging bitterness gripped her,
and for a moment she almost relented. But only for a moment. The spell
passed, and she looked at him with frank, level eyes.

"I am sorry to hear that, Stephen," she declared, quietly. "We want you
with us--all of us. But--but tell me," she concluded, finding the words
coming with difficulty--"tell me that you feel no--no antagonism toward
me, Stephen, because I can't--can't love you as you want me to love you,
and that you understand that--that in deciding as I have I--I only
wanted to be true--true to both of us!"

For answer he seized both her hands in his. He gazed straight down into
her eyes. "I love you, Helen," he murmured, and then slowly released her
fingers.

He left her so quietly that she hardly knew that he was gone. A step on
the trail aroused her, and, lifting her eyes, she saw him striding away
with shoulders back and head erect, as if awakened to a new manhood. And
watching him go, as she felt, for the last time, she could no more
control a sob than he at the moment could turn back. For a while she
followed him with wistful eyes, then, finding sudden need for
consolation, she hurried off the porch and across to the corral. Pat was
there to receive her, and she flung her arms around his neck and gave
way to sudden tears.

"Pat," she sobbed, "I--perhaps I do love him! Perhaps I have done wrong!
I--I--" She interrupted herself. "What shall I do, Pat?" she burst out,
bitterly. "Oh, what shall I do?"

Pat could not advise her. But he remained very still, supporting her
weight with dumb patience, until she turned away, going slowly back into
the house. Then he pressed close into his corner and sounded a shrill,
protracted nicker.

That was all.

He saw the door close. He waited, pursuing his old habit, for all the
lights to go out. And directly they began to disappear, one by one,
first in the lower half of the house, then in the upper half, until all
save one were extinguished. This one, as he knew from long experience,
was in the room of his mistress. But though he waited and watched till
the moon slanted behind the western hills, and the stars to the east
dimmed and faded, and the gray of dawn stole across the sky above the
mountains--though he waited and watched till his legs ached from long
standing, and his eyes smarted from their steady vigil, and the Mexican
appeared yawning from the depths of the stable, and from over toward
town rose sounds of worldly activity--yet the light in her room burned
on. Then the Mexican drove him into the stable. But not even now did he
abandon his vigil. He entered his box-stall, with its tiny square
window, and fixed his troubled gaze again upon the house. The sky was
bright with coming day. From somewhere arose the crow of a rooster. Out
on the river trail a team plodded slowly to market.

But the light in the room was still burning.



CHAPTER XII

ADVENTURE


It was late afternoon when Helen came down from her room. She had
regained her calm. The Judge had gone about his affairs, her aunt was
deep in her siesta, the Mexican woman was bustling about in the kitchen.
Refusing this kindly soul's offer of food, she walked listlessly into
the library and sank into a huge chair. Spring was well advanced, yet
there was an open fire. Elbows upon the arms of her chair, hands clasped
under her chin, she turned unseeing eyes upon the flickering flames.
Motionless, barely breathing, she was a picture of hopeless grief.

Yet her thoughts were active. One after another the swift-moving events
of the night before came to her--a night of delightful happenings and
torturing surprises. She recalled that the crowd had been unusually gay,
but that Stephen had been unusually quiet and absorbed. She remembered
the games, and the story-telling, and the toasting of marshmallows in
the grate. But over against these simple pleasures there had been
Stephen, entering into the gaiety only because he must, now forcing a
smile, now drawing back within himself, until a chorus of laughter would
again force him to smile. Yet she had understood, and she had excused
him. She had thought him resigned and content to be merely one of the
crowd. And then had come that opportunity which evidently he had sought.
It had come as a surprise. But with it had come also a sudden desire to
be alone with him, and to impress upon him her convictions. So they had
gone out into the moonlight, to the corral fence, and to Pat, where she
had endeavored to make everything clear. And then their return, and the
departure of her guests, and his lingering on the porch, and his
decision to go away, to leave her for ever. He hadn't put it in just
that way! But that was what he was doing--that was what he had done. He
had gone from her for ever.

The thought hurt. It hurt because she knew what part she had taken in
it. She knew that she herself had sent him away. And when he had left
her she knew, as she knew now, that in her heart she did not want it.
For she liked him--liked his society. She liked his care-free manner,
his whimsical outlook upon her country, his many natural talents--his
playing, and the naïveté of his singing, while he often admitted that
his voice hurt him, and so must hurt others. No, she had not wanted him
to go away. And somehow it had never occurred to her that he would go
for ever. But he was gone, and she could not resign herself. Yet there
was no calling him back. She had made a decision, had forced him to
understand certain things. So she must accept it. But it hurt. It was
slowly dawning upon her that she would never forget him.

Then another thought came to her. Since he was going, and since she had
sent him away, it occurred to her that she ought to help him. It seemed
to be her duty. Yet she could not determine how. He was going forth to
prove himself. He would go where men only could go, and she was but a
woman. And she wanted him to prove himself--she knew that--knew it more
with every moment that passed. She believed he had it in him. Yet she
might help in some way. She wanted to be of some use to him in his
undertaking. What could she do?

Suddenly, as she sat there, seemingly powerless, there came a shrill
nicker whipping across from the corral--the voice of Pat.

Like a flash she had it! Stephen would go into the cattle country--she
believed that. And in the cattle country he would need a horse, a good
horse, such a horse as Pat. She would present the horse to Stephen! She
would send Pat with him because she herself could not go with him. This
she could do. Thus she would help Stephen to find himself, as her
ancestors had found themselves. She would help him to become what she
wanted him to become--a man--a _man_! Yes, she would give Pat to
Stephen. She would send the horse as she had sent the man--forth into
the world of deeds--deeds denied her sex.

She rose hurriedly and ascended to her room. At her desk she drew paper
and pen toward her.

    My dear Stephen [she began her letter],--I am sending Pat to you
    through Miguel. I wanted to help you in some way. I cannot help
    you myself directly, but in Pat I feel you will have a valuable
    aid. Take him--take him with my dearest and best wishes for your
    success. Pat may actually show you the way--may actually point
    the way out to you. Who knows? He understands who you are, I
    know, and I am sure he knows what you have been, and what you
    still are, to me.

                                                           Helen.

For a moment she sat deep in thought. Then suddenly awaking to the
lateness of the hour, she arose and, going to the corral, called to the
hostler. Miguel appeared, and she handed him the note, giving him
careful instructions the while in regard to the horse. The Mexican
smiled and entered the stable in quest of saddle and bridle, the while
she turned to Pat in his corner and explained what she was about to do.

"Pat dear," she began, nestling her cheek against his head, "you are
going away. You are going with Stephen. Do you remember Stephen?"
Emotion began to grip her. "You have served me well, Pat, and
faithfully. I hope you will prove as true to your new master. I--I
wanted to help him. But I--I couldn't--couldn't--" She could not go on.
Gazing up into his eyes she seemed to see him waver--knew that it was
because of her blinding tears--and abruptly left him and returned to the
house.

In her room she stood weeping at the window overlooking the corral. She
saw the Mexican bridle and saddle her pride, saw him carefully tuck away
her note, and saw him mount Pat with a great show of importance, as
though elated with his commission. Then she saw him ride Pat out of the
corral, across into the river trail, and turn toward town. Seeing her
horse go from her, perhaps for all time, she turned from the window and
flung herself across her bed, where she gave way to her grief. Her Pat
was gone! Her Pat--heart of her life--was gone!

Miguel was indeed pleased with his commission. Never before had he been
astride this so-wonderful horse. As he rode along, testing the ease of
Pat's gait, noting with what readiness he responded to the reins, he
fell to wishing that it were not so near dusk, since then he might
become the object of envious eyes in town. But he could not control the
hour of day, even though he could control the horse's movements. So he
cantered along until he reached the town proper, when he slowed Pat into
a walk. Lights were being switched on along the avenue, and in their
glare he enjoyed to the full whatever admiring glances were turned his
way from the sidewalks. But as he neared the hotel where Stephen was
stopping he urged Pat into a canter first, then into a gallop, pulling
up before the side entrance with a quick reining that brought both the
horse and himself to a stop with a magnificent flourish. It was good--as
he admitted to himself. Then he slipped to earth. And now his
magnificence left him, for he never before had entered this so-beautiful
hostelry. Girting in his belt, however, he strode up the steps, faltered
on the threshold, and was directed to the clerk. This magnate handed the
letter to a bell-boy.

Stephen was seated in his room when he read Helen's note. When he raised
his eyes he stared unseeingly at the light across the street, deep in
thought.

He knew what this had cost Helen. Riding with her almost every day for
months, he could not but understand the depth of her attachment for the
horse. Pat for years had been the one big factor in her life. And now
she was giving Pat to him, to help him prove himself. It was a great
thing to do, so great that he must accept it, and already, at this proof
of her interest, he somehow felt assured of success. Also he saw a way
open. He would go down into the cattle country, make a connection with
some cattle interests, and, with Pat as guide and friend and capable
servant, work out his destiny. Exactly what that would be he did not
know. But he did know that he was going after it.

He turned to the boy still standing in the doorway. "Tell the man that
I'll be down directly," he said. Then he made his way into his mother's
suite of rooms.

The frail little woman showed surprise at his decision. But she said
nothing. She nodded quiet acquiescence and went on with her instructions
to her maid, who was laying clothing away in preparation for the return
East in the morning. Evidently she knew her boy. Whereupon Stephen,
after explaining further, though no more fully than before, left her,
descending to the office.

Miguel was standing awkwardly near the doorway, and with Stephen's
appearance touched his hat and led the way outside. Pat was facing three
boys, the center of their interest, but when Stephen approached him, and
talked to him, he turned and responded with a soft whinny, seeming to
understand. Miguel remained at a respectful distance, awaiting orders.
Then telling him to wait for a note to be taken to Miss Richards,
Stephen re-entered the hotel.

The boys swirled off in play. Miguel stood alone with the horse. There
were but few persons on the streets, since it was early evening and
people were at supper. Miguel's wandering eyes at length rested upon the
swing-doors of a saloon opposite--rested there a long time. Finally,
unable longer to resist their spell, he glanced at Pat's bridle, noted
that the reins were securely tied, and then yielded to the attention of
the saloon. In a moment the swing-doors closed upon him.

They had barely ceased swinging when out of a doorway just down the
street stole the figure of a man. He was young, smooth of face, garbed
in blue shirt and overalls, with eyes well concealed under a black
sombrero low-drawn. He moved out of the shadow cautiously, with many
furtive glances about him. Then he swiftly crossed the street, hurried
along the sidewalk to Pat, and reached the horse's head and bridle.
Untying the reins from the post, he leaped into the saddle. Then he
swung Pat around, put light spurs to him, and urged him rapidly across
the avenue. Beyond the avenue toward the north lay Stygian darkness. In
these black depths he disappeared.

At this moment the clerk in the hotel was aroused by the unusual
spectacle of one of his guests--young Wainwright--leaping down the
stairs. He looked up with a surprised question. But Stephen ran past
him, across the office, without heed. He gained the door, rushed down
the steps, and shouted. The boys ceased playing, a passer-by came to a
stop, out of the saloon opposite stepped Miguel. Miguel hastened across,
drawing his hand over his mouth as he ran. Stephen opened upon him
breathlessly.

"He's gone!" he burst out. "I saw it from my window. A young man in blue
shirt and overalls. The horse has been stolen!"

Miguel threw up both hands in despair. "_Valgame Dios!_" he cried.
"I am lose my job!" He looked about him blankly.

Sick at heart, not knowing what to do, Stephen himself bolted back into
the hotel. He entered the telephone booth and rang up the Judge's
office. It was late, but he took a chance. The Judge answered the call.
His voice was weary with the strain of a long day.

"Who in thunder wants me at this hour?" he drawled, not unpleasantly.
"Can't you let a man--"

Stephen interrupted with an apology. Then he told the Judge of the loss.
The Judge's voice changed instantly.

"Fine business!" he snapped. "But I reckon I know who to look for.
There's only one man--one gang--in the Territory that would do that in
that way. It's a job for the range police." Then his voice softened.
"Don't worry, Stephen!" he added. "You just sit tight. I'll take it up
with the authorities."

Stephen left the booth and entered the writing-room. Here he added a sad
postscript to his note to Helen. Then he went outside, despatched Miguel
with the letter, returned to his room and sat down, disconsolate and
angry.

To have Pat sent to him with this noble generosity, and then to lose
him! Surely fate was more than unkind. The horse, given into his
keeping, had been wrested from him at once. Yes, he was all that Helen
had intimated that he was--a man incapable of trust, a man such as she
could never permit herself--and he recalled her words now with rankling
bitterness--to care for in the way he wanted her to care for him.
Knowing that Pat was gone from him, and gone in such ignoble fashion, he
knew that he never could face the horse's mistress again. This was
bitterest of all! For a time he gave way to despair.

Presently he awoke to a sense of stern responsibility. The horse had
been delivered. Miguel had safely delivered him. It was all up to him
then, Stephen, and to nobody else. He alone was responsible, and it was
his duty to get Pat back. Out of his self-doubting this realization came
with a sense of comfort. His course now lay clearly before him. He would
get the horse back! He _must_ get him back! There was nothing else
left for him. For if he ever expected to return to Helen, and this was
his life's hope, he must return to her with the horse. He could return
to her in no other way.

He saw the difficulties. This was a large country, and he knew but very
little of its activities. He recalled what the Judge had intimated--that
the character of the thieves was such as to offer no encouragement of
successful pursuit to any but men schooled to the country and the habits
of the thieves. Yet against this and in his favor was the widespread
reputation of Pat, and that certainly ought to be of some help in his
pursuit. But, difficult or easy--take a month or a year--take five
years--he would get Pat and return him to his mistress! The Judge had
spoken of range police. Why couldn't he enlist with these men, enlist in
any capacity, and accompany them till such time as he should learn the
country well enough to venture out alone if necessary in his quest? At
any rate, he would have a talk with the Judge--would see him early in
the morning. He arose to his feet. The thing was settled in his mind.
Also for the first time in his life his view had an object. He would go
forth into life, get that which it withheld from him, bring it back and
place it before the woman of his choice.

And now, so great is the power, so prompt the reward, of energy rightly
applied, he found himself whistling as he began to toss wearing-apparel
into a traveling-bag.



CHAPTER XIII

IN THE WASTE PLACES


Pat well knew that this new experience was a strange thing. The trip
with the hostler, the unusual hour of day, the appearance of his
mistress's friend, the stranger out of the night, the hurried departure
from the hotel, all told him that. But whether it was right or wrong, he
did not know. His mistress had quite sanctioned his leaving the corral,
and so all things developing out of that must have her sanction
also--thus worked his instincts. So not once had he rebelled. Nor was he
rebelling now. And yet--and this was his emotional conflict--within him
was a vague feeling that he should rebel, should kick, buck, toss, and
pitch, and throw off this stranger. It grew upon him, this feeling,
until, in a section of town unfamiliar to him, he decided to give way to
it, to take a chance, anyway, of unseating this man and dashing back
into that part of town familiar to him. But he did not. Suddenly a
soothing voice restrained, the voice of his rider, which swept away for
a time all thought of rebellion.

"So you're Pat!" the man said, and, though his voice was gentle, and
perhaps kindly, as Pat judged the human voice, he yet somehow did not
like the owner of it. "Well, they hain't lied to me, anyway," went on
the voice. "You're one nice piece of horseflesh!"

That was all. But somehow it dispelled all discontent within Pat.
Thereafter he thought only of his task, which was that of holding to a
devious course through winding alleys and streets well under rein, until
he found himself on the river trail and heading south through a section
not unfamiliar to him. Then his interest only quickened.

As he went on, it came to him that he rather liked this traveling
through the gloom of night. It was a new experience for him, and the
trail, familiar to him, yet somehow not familiar, offered much of
interest. Ranch-houses, clumps of trees, soft-rustling fields of
alfalfa, looming up before or beside him, taxed his powers of
recognition as the stars in the heavens, becoming ever more overcast,
withdrew, and with them the moon, leaving the earth and its objects
finally mere tragic outlines. These objects, rising silently before him,
gave him many fitful starts, and seemed to forbid this night-incursion.
But he held to the trail, for the most part in perfect contentment,
enjoying his unwonted call to duty, but wondering whither it was leading
him.

This contentment did not last. It broke as he found himself rounding a
bend which he recognized as leading to the river bridge. The change came
not through the flicking of his conscience like his former feeling, but
through sudden awakening to physical discomfort. For a time he did not
know what it was--though he had questioned the new grip on the reins,
the rider's seat, his weight. There it was. The man's weight. Miguel had
been heavy, of course, but Miguel's seat had been short-lived. This man
must weigh fully as much as Miguel, and twice as much as his mistress,
and he had been on his back now a long time. There came another
something. As Pat grew aware of the weight it seemed to become heavier,
so he decided to seek relief of some sort. He dropped back into a walk,
grimly taking his comfort into his own control. And, half expecting that
the man would force him into a canter again, he continued at a walk. But
neither by word nor movement did the man show that he noticed the
change. So Pat settled to his task again, once more enjoying quiet
satisfaction.

But neither did this last. He soon found another cause for
dissatisfaction. He found it because, unconsciously, he was looking for
it. He found it this time in the tight grip on his reins, which was
setting up a sore chafing in the corners of his mouth. His mistress had
never held him so tightly. The result of it, together with his other
discomfort, was that he became sullen and antagonistic, and, descending
the slight grade to the bridge, he determined to resist. And resist he
did. He came to a sudden stop, threw down his head, pitched and bucked
frantically. His efforts carried him all over the trail, and once
dangerously near the edge and the turbulent waters below. But he found
himself unable to throw off the weight.

"Guess maybe--I made--a slight--mistake!" exploded the rider, clamping
his knees against Pat. "But go--go to it--old trader!"

Pat accepted the challenge. For this he knew it was. He leaped and
twisted; returned to earth with a jolt; pitched and tossed and bucked.
And he kept it up, fighting grimly, till he discovered its futility,
when he stopped. A moment he stood, breathing heavily, then he set out
across the bridge, whisking his tail and wriggling his ears, all in
spirited acceptance of reluctant defeat.

He did not attempt further rebellion. Slow-kindling respect stirred
within him for this man upon his back--the respect but not love which
one entertains toward the mighty, and he gained the end of the bridge
and turned south along the trail, partly reconciled. Yet he had not
rebelled in vain. The grip on his bit no longer annoyed him, and though
the weight still remained heavy, somehow it seemed more endurable now
through some cause which he could not determine--probably his increased
respect for it. So he trotted along, amiably disposed toward all the
world, pleasantly anticipatory of the immediate future, ears and eyes
alert and straining toward all things. On his left the river gurgled
softly in the desert stillness--a stillness sharply broken. From afar
off came a strange call, the long-drawn howl of a coyote. It was not
alone. Instantly from a point dead ahead rose another, grooving into the
echo of the first in a staccato yelp. Then the first opened up with a
choking whine that lifted steadily into an ecstatic mating-call, and Pat
saw a black something, blacker even than the night, leap against the
far, faint skyline, dangle seemingly a trembling moment, then flash from
view across the desert.

Which was but one of the many incidents that served to hold his interest
and increase his alertness as he fox-trotted along the road. Nor was one
of them without its informing value. For this was his first night
journey, and what he saw now would remain with him vividly, helping him
to become as successful on night trails as he was now by day.

Something else came to him out of the darkness. It was off to his
distant right and well back from the river. It was a tiny gleam of
light, shining out of the density of the desert. He watched it with
studied interest. It glowed like a cat's eye, and, fascinated, quietly
speculative, he kept his eyes upon it until, as he turned a bend in the
trail, he saw another light flash into view close beside the first, and
equal to it in brilliancy. Suddenly, watching these lights, his interest
leaped higher. This was his destination. He instinctively knew it. And
presently he was certain of it, for his master, urging him to the right,
now sent him along a narrow path that led straight toward the lights.

Within a very few moments Pat found himself before a hulk of an adobe.
It was a long, rambling structure, somehow forbidding, and he blinked as
he stared with faint apprehension at the lamplight streaming out of two
windows. Directly the man dismounted and, making the reins fast to a
post, walked toward the house. For a moment Pat saw his tall figure
silhouetted in the doorway, to the accompaniment of a quiet chorus of
greetings from within, then he saw the door close upon him, and
immediately afterward a hand appear at the windows and draw down the
shades. And now he felt a great loneliness creep over him, slowly at
first, then somehow faster as he heard voices within sink from a
cheerful note of greeting to a low rumble of discord.

He began to take heed of objects close around him. He discovered, now
that all light was shut off, that he was not alone. To his left stood
two horses, with heads drooping, legs slightly spread, reins dangling,
quiet and patient in their mute waiting. Promptly with the discovery he
took a step in their direction, intent upon establishing friendship. But
he found himself checked with a jerk. For an instant he did not
understand this. Then he remembered that his reins were tied, and
because his mistress never had deemed this necessary he came to feel a
kind of irritation, though he made no attempt to force his freedom. Yet,
keeping his eyes upon the other horses, he saw that they themselves were
free to come and go, that their reins were dangling on the ground. And
now he realized that he was under suspicion. He knew what that was from
long association with the Mexican hostler, and, smarting under it, he
determined to show his new master, and that before many hours had
elapsed, he as well as these others was capable of trust.

The door flung open and three men filed out. A fourth remained standing
on the threshold, holding up a smoking lamp. Other than the tread of
heels no sound accompanied their appearance, no comment, no laughter, no
farewells. This made a deep impression upon him, and with further
misgivings he watched the men descend the few loose steps and make for
the horses, his own master, the tallest of the men, coming slowly toward
him. A moment of gathering reins, then all mounted, and one, a squat,
powerfully built man, evidently the leader, turned in a southwesterly
direction, riding off in the engulfing darkness, heading away from the
river. Seeing this, Pat stepped out after him, pressing close upon the
heels of his horse, conscious that the third horse, ridden by a little
man, was crowding him for second position. But he held stubbornly to his
place, and in this place set out along an unmarked trail. He covered
mile after mile at a fox-trot, mile after mile in absolute silence,
until faint rays of dawn, streaking the sky above a ridge to the east,
surprised him into realization of the quick passage of night and his own
prolonged duty therein. It was all very strange.

Daylight followed swiftly. From a dull lead color the sky immediately
above the ridge, which stretched away interminably north and south, gave
way to a pink indescribably rich and delicate. Steadily this pink crept
over the heavens, rolling up like the gradual unfolding of a giant
canvas, dragging along in its wake hues verging toward golden yellow,
until the whole eastern sky, aflame with the light of approaching day,
was a conflagration of pinks and yellows in all their manifold mixtures,
promising, but not yet realizing, a warmth which would dispel the spring
chill left by the long night. Then, with the whole east blazing with
molten gold, there came the feeling of actual warmth, and with it the
full radiance of day--bringing out in minute detail rock and arroyo and
verdant growth, and an expanse of desert unbroken by the least vestige
of animal life. At this absence of all that which would suggest the
presence of life--adobes, corrals, windmills--Pat awoke again to vague
uneasiness and fell to pondering his future under these men, whom he now
instinctively knew pursued ways outside the bounds of the civilization
of his past.

A voice behind, presumably that of the little man, interrupted the
protracted silence. It was high-pitched.

"How's that hoss a-holdin', Jim?"

Pat felt a slight twitch on the reins. Evidently the man had been in
deep thought, out of which the voice had startled him. Directly he made
answer.

"I got quality here, Glover--I guess. Can't never tell, though. He's a
good horse, but he mayn't pan out good for me."

There was further silence.

"Johnson," went on the high-pitched voice again, after a time, "did ye
git what Zeke said about the country down there?"

But the leader seemed not to hear. Straight as an arrow, bulking large
upon a little gray mare, he moved not the fraction of an inch with the
question. Whereupon the little man, after muttering something further
about Zeke, relapsed into silence.

Suddenly Pat stumbled and fell to his knees. He quickly regained his
feet, however, and resumed the steady forward grind. And grind it now
was becoming. His legs burned with a strange distress, his eyes ached
from loss of sleep. Throughout his body was a weariness new to him. He
was not accustomed to this ceaseless fox-trotting. He could not recall
the time when, even on their longest excursion, his mistress had forced
him like this. She had always considered him to the extent of granting
him many blissful periods of rest. He found himself wanting some such
consideration now. He felt that he would like to drop into a walk or to
burst into a canter, knowing the relief to be found in any change of
gait. But this was denied him. Yet, since the other horses gave no sign
of weariness, each appearing possessed of endurance greater than his
own, he refrained, through a pride greater even than his distress, from
making of his own accord any change in his gait.

Toward noon, as he was brooding over another distress, one caused by
gnawing hunger, he felt his master draw down. Also, the others came to a
stop. With the men dismounted, he swept eyes over the scene. But he saw
nothing that appeared to warrant pause. The place was dead and desolate,
barren of all that which had invariably met his gaze when pausing with
his mistress. But when one of the men began to build a fire, while the
others flung off light saddle-bags from the little gray and the
sorrel--an exceptionally rangy horse--he came in a way to understand.
Further, with the fire crackling pleasantly and his bridle and saddle
removed, he understood fully the cause of this halt. It was time to
feed; and, raging with hunger, he forgot all other distress in the
thought that now he would have a generous quantity of food, which he
believed was due him, since he had more than earned it in his prolonged
service through the night. Indeed, so certain was he of reward, he
prepared himself for sugar and quartered apples, and, with mouth
dripping saliva, stood very still, eyes following every move of his new
master.

But he was doomed to bitter disappointment. Instead of sugar and
quartered apples, his master tied a rope around his neck and, with a
friendly slap, left him to his own devices. Wondering at this, he gazed
about him--saw that the other horses were grazing. Disappointed,
fretful, stung into action by hunger pangs, he set out in their
direction, curious to learn what it was they were feeding upon so
eagerly. But, as had happened the night before, he found himself checked
with a jerk. He did not like it, for it made him conscious again of his
master's suspicions. So he turned a sour gaze upon his unrestricted
companions until, forced to it by inner yearnings amounting to acuteness
now, he himself lowered his head and fell to grazing.

But he found it all too insufficient. His stomach urgently demanded
grain and alfalfa. And he yearned for a little bran-mash. But there were
none of these. He saw not even a tiny morsel of flower to appease his
inner grumblings, and finally, lifting his head in a kind of disgust, he
ceased to graze altogether. As he did so, the men made ready to resume
the journey, replacing bridles and saddles and saddle-bags. Pat found
himself hopeful again, believing that with the end of this prolonged
service, which in view of the distance already traversed must be soon,
he would have those things for which his body and soul cried out. And
thus he set forth, occupying his former place in the order of advance,
moving, as before, at a fox-trot and amid silence from the men. He was
still hopeful of better things to come. But it was all a drear
experience.

The grind began to tell upon him. As he trotted along, thirst-stricken,
miserably nourished, weary from loss of sleep and this ceaseless toil,
he sought frankly for cause to rebel, as he had done in the first hour
of this strange call to new duty. And he found it. He found it not only
in the man's weight, and the infrequent contact of spurs, and the tight
grip on the reins, all as on that first occasion, but he found it as
well in other things--in the dust thrown up by the little gray ahead, in
the sun's rays slanting into his eyes from the west, in the scorching,
blistering heat of this same ruthless orb beating down upon his back.
Suddenly, cost him what it would, he dropped out of the fox-trot into a
walk, prepared to fight for this change of stride to the last breath.

He did not hold to it, however, even though his master, curiously
enough, permitted him the change. Pride asserted itself, and after a
time, of his own volition, finding the gap between himself and the
others much too wide to please him, he broke into a canter and quickly
closed the gap, crowding back into his place between the other two
horses. That was all of rebellion, though the mood still remained.
Bitter, disappointed, nervous, and irritable, he continued forward,
wanting things--wanting food and water, wanting sounds of voices,
wanting a respite from this unnerving grind. But he made no effort to
get them or to show that he wanted them. And he knew why he maintained
this attitude of meek acceptance. He was too weak to enforce his
demands. He knew that it required energy to buck and pitch, and he knew
that he lacked this energy. So he continued along in sullen resignation
until, accepting the hint of his instincts, he closed his eyes. This
brought relief, and after a time, his movements becoming ever more
mechanical, he found himself adrift upon a peaceful sea of semi-coma,
oblivious to all trouble--hunger pangs, thirst, weariness. When he
returned to full consciousness, somewhat refreshed and fit for farther
distances, he found the sun well down the western sky, the cool of
evening wrapping him about in delightful zephyrs, and he was still
keeping his place between the two horses.

Dusk found him in a small oasis. His master slipped to earth, and with
relief Pat gazed about him. He saw a clump of trees, and in their
depths, glinting out at him between the trunks, a shimmering pool of
water. Also, near these trees, on the edge of the grove, he saw a shack
made up of rough logs. But he was interested only in the pool, and, when
his master removed his saddle, eagerly and with a soft nicker he stepped
toward it. But the man jerked him back. So he waited, realizing that he
had been hasty, till his bridle was removed, when again he stepped
toward the pool. But again he was jerked back, this time by a firm grip
on his forelock. So again he waited while the man placed the
disagreeable rope around his neck. With this secure, he found himself
led into the grove, where he soon was quenching his raging thirst, and
where, after drinking, he felt more kindly not only toward the man, but
toward the whole world. When he was conducted back into the open, and
the end of the rope made fast to a stake, he lifted his voice in a
shrill nicker proclaiming his satisfaction. Then he stood very still,
watching the man enter the shack, utterly absorbed in getting that
long-delayed reward of sugar and quartered apples.

But again he waited in vain. The man did not reappear; indeed, none of
the men reappeared. So after a time, swallowing his disappointment, he
turned his eyes upon the other horses. As at noon, they were grazing
industriously, and he knew what was in store for him. He regarded them a
long moment, trying to bring himself to graze also, but finding that his
knowledge of better things would not permit him. Yet there was one
pleasant surprise. The little gray, sounding a soft whinny, made her way
slowly toward him. This was unexpected friendliness, for the horse had
seemed hostile earlier, and he promptly showed his pleasure by licking
her neck with lavish attention. And though he found her coat gritty with
dust, he continued this generous attention till she lowered her head and
resumed her grazing. This reminded him of his own fierce hunger, and he
promptly lowered his own head, following her example with a kind of
gratitude, and fell to grazing with her, finding in her interest the one
ray of light in all the darkness of his distress and continued
disappointment. And thus he fed, keeping with her to the limits of his
tether, until, soon after the candlelight had whisked out in the shack,
she lay down in the yielding sand with a restful sigh. Pat understood
this, but he regarded it with uncertainty, knowing that he himself with
the coming of night always had protection in a stable. Then, deciding
that it was right and fitting, especially as the sorrel also sank into
the sand, he himself bent his knees and lay down to rest in the warmth
of the desert.

But his lesson in the open was not yet fully learned. Next morning, with
the other horses astir, and with the men moving in and out of the shack,
he saw his master coming toward him. Reaching him, the man untied the
rope from the stake, led him to the pool of water, and permitted him to
drink. Then he returned him to the open, and there removed the rope from
him entirely. But despite this he found that he was not free from
suspicion. For now the man tied a short rope around his fore ankles, and
strode back into the shack, leaving him, as before, to his own devices.

Half expecting the man to return with sugar and apples, Pat watched him
take himself off with mild anticipation. But as the man did not return
he bethought him after a time of his sterner hunger, and took prompt
step in the direction of a tuft of grass. Instantly he felt a sharp
twitch at his ankles and fell headlong. For a moment he lay dazed,
utterly at a loss to understand, thrashing about frantically in futile
effort to regain his feet. Then he became calm again, and brought
craftiness instead of brute force to bear upon the trouble. He regained
his feet. Then he studied the cause of the disaster, and finally stepped
out again, cautiously now, having learned his lesson. So he did not
stumble. But he did feel the check around his ankles again. Steadying
himself, he saw clearly the cause of his previous discomfiture, but he
did not accept it as defeat. Casting his eyes toward the other horses,
he awoke to the fact that they, as well as himself, were hobbled.
Watching them, studying them, he finally saw one rear, strike out with
his front legs, and draw his hind legs up to meet the advance. So that
was it! He now knew what he himself must do. Feeling out his hobbles
carefully, gathering quick courage the while, he himself at length
reared, struck out with fore legs, followed up with hind legs, and found
himself directly over the tuft of grass. This was pleasant, and he
promptly began to nibble it, finding it no less toothsome--perhaps more
toothsome--for the effort. And when he had finished this he gazed about
for others, and, seeing others, moved upon each in turn as he had moved
upon the first, rearing and striking, following it with hind legs,
rearing and striking again, following again with hind legs, all
successfully. And so he learned his second great lesson in the open.

Thus he began his life in the desert. Fraught as it was with much
discomfort, both spiritual and physical, he yet found much of interest
in it all, and he was destined to find in it, as time went on, much more
of even greater interest. And in the days which followed, and the weeks
and months following these, because he showed that he was willing and
anxious to learn, to attune himself to the life, he aroused in all who
came in contact with him, men as well as horses, an esteem and affection
which made life smoother and more pleasant for him than it might
otherwise have been.



CHAPTER XIV

A PICTURE


A hundred miles west from the shack, stretching away from it in an
almost unbroken expanse, was a desert within the desert. _Amole_
and sagebrush and cactus vied with each other to relieve the dead, flat,
monotonous brown. Without movement anywhere, save for the heat-waves
ascending, this expanse presented an unutterably drear and lonesome
aspect. It terminated, or partly terminated--swerving off into the south
beyond--in a long sand-dune running northeast and southwest. This mighty
roll lay brooding, as did the world-old expanse fringing it, in the
silence of late morning. Overhead a turquoise sky, low, spotless,
likewise brooding, dipped down gracefully to the horizon around--a
horizon like an immense girdle, a girdle which, as one journeyed along,
seemed to accompany him, rapidly if he moved rapidly, slowly if he moved
slowly--an immense circle of which he was the center. The sun was
glaring, and revealed here and there out of the drifts a bleached
skeleton, mutely proclaiming the sun as overlord, while over all, around
and about and within this throbbing furnace, there seemed to lurk a
voice, a voice of but a softly lisped word--solitude.

Suddenly, like a mere dot against the skyline, there appeared over the
giant dune to the north a single horseman. A moment he seemed to pause
on the crest, then began the long descent, slowly, with almost
imperceptible movement. He was not more than under way when another dot
appeared against the skyline, a second horseman, close behind the first,
who, like the first, after seeming to pause a moment on the crest,
dipped into the long slope with almost imperceptible movement. A third
dot appeared, two dots close beside each other, and these, like the
others, dipping into the descent with almost imperceptible movement, for
all the world like flies reluctantly entering a giant saucer. And then
appeared another, the fifth, and then no more. The last also seemed to
pause a brief moment on the crest, and also dipped with almost
imperceptible movement into the long descent.

They struck the floor of the furnace. Details began to emerge. One was a
fat man, another was a gaunt man, a third was a little man--all smooth
of face. Then there was a man with a scrubby beard. And there was
another smooth-faced man, riding a little apart from the others, a
little more alert, perhaps, his garments not their garments, his horse a
little rounder of outline, a little more graceful of movement. They
might have been in conversation, these riders out of the solitude. But
all were heavily armed. And all rode slowly, leisurely, taking their own
good time, as if this in itself was duty, with orders uncertain, or with
no orders at all. They rode on across the desert within the desert,
presenting three-quarter profile, then, with an hour passing, full
profile, then, with another hour passing, quarter profile, and now, with
yet another hour passing, five agreeable backs--broad, most of them, all
topped with sombreros, and all motionless save for the movement of their
mounts. On and on they rode into the south, underneath a blistering sun
at full zenith. They became mere dots again upon the pulsating horizon,
mere specks, and disappeared in the shimmering haze.

Solitude, the voice of solitude, the death-stillness, throbbing silence,
reigned once more. Not an animal, not an insect, not a tree, struck the
eye. The arid and level floor was again clean of movement. The sun
glared, revealing here and there out of the drifts a bleached skeleton,
in this speechless thing mutely proclaiming its own sway. Beneath the
sun the horizon, an immense girdle, swept round in unbroken line,
pulsating. The turquoise sky hung low, spotless and shimmering,
brooding, dipping smoothly down to the horizon and to the long sand-dune
running to northeast and southwest. Skirting this dune, reaching to it
out of the east, then swerving off to the south beyond, lay the almost
unbroken expanse, the desert within the desert, its dead, flat,
monotonous brown relieved here and there with alternating sagebrush and
cactus and _amole_, stretching back a distance of a hundred miles
to the shack.



CHAPTER XV

CHANGE OF MASTERS


The interior of the shack was comparatively bare. On the floor, which
was of adobe, and therefore hard and smooth as cement, were five
three-legged stools and a table, all crude and evidently shaped out of
saplings from the grove. There was but a single window, high up, tiny
and square, containing neither glass nor frame, which looked out upon
the south. Built against the walls were some shelves, upon which lay a
scant supply of tinware, and in the opposite wall was a tier of bunks,
just now littered with soiled blankets. Evidently this place had
sheltered these men frequently, for each moved about it with easy
familiarity, and obviously it was a retreat, a rendezvous, a
hiding-place against the range police.

A game of cards was about to be started. The three men were seated round
the table, and before two of them--the younger man, Jim, and the
heavy-set man, the leader, Johnson--was an even distribution of chips.
The third man, Glover, was smoking a short-stemmed pipe, evidently
having been cut out of the play.

"Jim," said Johnson, showing his perfect teeth with an unpleasant grin,
"we'll hop right to this! I think my little proposition here is fair and
square. Thirty dollars in money against that black horse out there. I
told you where you could get a good horse, and you got one sure enough!
And he's yours! But I've taken a kind of shine to him myself, and why
ain't this a good way to push it over? My little gray and thirty dollars
in money. What's the matter with it?"

The other did not appear greatly pleased, nevertheless. Thoughtfully he
riffled the cards a long moment. Then he looked up into Johnson's black
eyes steadily.

"Poker?" he asked, quietly.

"Draw poker," replied the leader, giving his black mustache a satisfied
twist. He jerked his head in the direction of the chips. "Win all, take
all," he added.

Jim lowered his eyes again. He was not more than a boy, this outlaw, and
he had formed a strong attachment for the black horse. And because he
had come to understand Pat and to appreciate him, he hated to think of
the horse's serving under this bloodless man opposite. Pat's life under
this man would be a life of misery. It was so with all of Johnson's
horses. Either they died early, or else, as in the case of the little
gray, their spirits sank under his cruelty to an ebb so low that nothing
short of another horse, and one obviously capable of rendering
successful protection, roused them to an interest in their own welfare.
This was why the little gray, he recalled, had approached the black the
first night after reaching the shack. Evidently she had recognized in
him an able protector, should he care to protect her, against the
brutality of her master. And so to play a game of cards, or anything
else, with a view to losing possession--

"I don't hear you saying!" cut in the cold voice of the other upon his
thoughts. "Ain't the stakes right?"

Jim looked up. "I guess so," he said. "I'm tryin' to figure--percentages
and the like."

Again he relapsed into thought. He feared this man as he feared a snake.
For Johnson had a grip on him in many ways, and in ways unpleasant to
recall. So he knew that to refuse meant a volley of invectives that
would end in his losing the horse anyway, losing him by force, and a
later treatment of the animal, through sheer spite, the brutality of
which he did not like to contemplate. So he did not reply; he did not
dare to say yes or no. Either way, the horse was gone. For Johnson was
clever with the cards, fiendishly clever, and when playing recognized no
law save crookedness.

"Jim," burst out Johnson, controlling himself evidently with effort, "I
want to ask you something. I want you to tell me something. I want you
to tell me who it was grubstaked you that winter you needed grubstaking
mighty bad. I want you to tell me who it was got you out of that scrape
over in Lincoln County two years ago. I want you to tell me who it was
took care of you last winter--under mighty trying circumstances,
too--and put you in the way of easy money this spring! But you needn't
tell me," he suddenly concluded, picking up the cards savagely. "I know
who it was without your telling me, and you know who it was without my
telling you. And now what's the returns? When I give you a chance to
come back a little--in a dead-square, open game of cards--you crawl into
your shell and act like I'd asked you to step on the gallows."

Jim permitted himself a quiet smile. "I don't think I'm playing the hog,
exactly," he rejoined, evenly. "I guess maybe I'm thinking of the horse
as much as anything. And not so much of him, either, maybe, as of you,
the way you handle horses if they don't dance a two-step when you want a
two-step. In about a week, Johnson," he continued, mildly, "you'd have
that horse jabbed full of holes with them Mexican rowels of yours! He
wouldn't stand for that kind of affection, or I'm no judge of
horseflesh. He ain't used to it; he ain't that kind of a horse--your
kind! You ought to see that yourself. You don't want no spirited horse
like him, because either you'd kill him or he'd kill you. _I_ can
see it, if you can't!"

"We'll now cut for deal," interposed Johnson, grimly.

"Take myself," went on the other, half smiling "why I like the idea of
keeping him. I used to kill cats and rob nests and stone dogs when I was
a kid; but later I learned different. I didn't kill cats and rob nests
after that; dogs I got to petting whenever I'd meet one. I got
acquainted with animals that way. Made the acquaintance from both
angles--seeing how they acted under torture, then learning how they
acted under kindness. I know animals, Johnson," he added, quietly. "And
an animal to me is an animal and something more. A horse, for instance.
I see more in a horse than just an easy way of getting around. But that
ain't you. You're like a man I once knowed that kept a dog just because
the dog was a good hunter. If I couldn't see more in a dog than just
what he's fit for, I'd quit the sport."

"Now we'll cut for deal."

Jim had been rocking back and forth easily on two legs of his stool. He
now dropped forward squarely on the floor and nodded assent.

"Cut for deal," he said, quietly. "You!"

The game began. Glover, who evidently found interest in discussions, but
none whatever in a game of cards, tilted back against the wall and began
to talk, now that the argument was over.

"Zeke tells me," he began in a nasal voice, tamping the tobacco into the
bowl of his pipe reflectively, "as how they's a bunch o' Injun renegades
movin' south'ards off the reservation on a hell-toot. I meant to speak
of it afore, but forgot, as usual. Jim's talk here o' animals lovin'
each other that away reminds me." He lifted gray eyes to Johnson.
"Didn't Zeke say nothin' to you about that, neither?" he asked,
evidently mindful of some other grave oversight on the part of "Zeke."

Johnson did not reply until after three or four rounds of the cards.
"Zeke told you a lot of things that hour you sat with him alone," he
rejoined, with broad sarcasm. "Zeke must like you!"

"Mebbe," agreed Glover, accepting the remark with all seriousness. "He
says as how Fort Wingate is out, and I remarks that sich a move about
terminates the performance. He agrees with me--says fust squint them
renegades gits at regular troops they'll hunt gopher-holes as places o'
ginerous salvation."

The others remained silent. The game was going decidedly against Jim. It
had gone against him from the first--as he had known it would. Yet he
continued to play, watchful of his opponent, keen to note any
irregularities. Yet he had discovered nothing that might be interpreted
as cheating. Still he was losing, and still, despite all beliefs to the
contrary, he entertained hope, hope that he might win. If he did win, he
told himself, Johnson was enough of a white man to accept the defeat and
leave the horse where he was. Yet his chips were steadily dwindling; the
cards persistently refused to come his way; only once thus far had he
held a winning hand. But he played on, becoming ever more discouraged,
until, suddenly awaking to an unexpectedly good hand, he opened the pot.
The raises followed back and forth swiftly, but he lost again. And now
Johnson, as he mechanically drew the chips toward him, broke the
silence.

"Zeke got you all worked up, didn't he?" he declared, turning his eyes
upon Glover. "As for renegades," he went on, beginning to deal the cards
again, "I've knowed 'em--hull droves of 'em--to stampede on the whistle
of a rattler." Evidently he was returning to good humor.

Glover took his pipe from his mouth. "Renegades gits stirred up every
jest so often," he observed. "I s'pose it's because of the way they feel
about things. Being run offen the reservations thataway ain't nowise
pleasant, to begin with, and then havin' to hang around the aidges for
what grub their folks sees fit for to sneak out to 'em ought to make it
jest that much more monotonous--kind of. Reckon I'd break out
myself--like a man that eats pancakes a lot--under sich circumstances.
Zeke says this band--the latest gang to git sore--is a-headin' dead
south. Talks like we might run agin trouble down there. More'n one
brand, too--the police and the reg'lars all bein' out thataway. They're
all out--Zeke says."

The others were absorbed in play, and so made no retort. Whereat Glover,
with a reflective light in his eyes, continued:

"I've seen something myself," he went on, evidently mindful of Johnson's
observation. "I've seen better men than Injuns stampede on less than
rattlesnakes--and cover a heap more ground in a lot less shorter time.
What I'm talkin' about is skunks," he explained, to nobody in
particular--"hydrophoby skunks--their bite. Why," he continued, warming
to his subject and seemingly ignorant of its myths, "I once seen a man
ride into San Mercial with his face that white it wouldn't 'a' showed a
chalk mark! And he was holdin' up his thumb like it was pizen--which it
was! And he was cuttin' for old Doc Struthers that fast his cayuse was
sparkin' out of his ears. Bit by a hydrophoby skunk--yes, sirree. Got to
the Doc's just in time, too! But he allus was lucky--the Doc! Money jest
rolled into that party all the time. But some folks don't jest quite
make it--horses gives out, or something. And if they ain't got the sand
to shoot the finger off--"

A sudden shadow across the window checked him. He quietly reached for
his gun. Also, Johnson lifted quick eyes to the window. And now Jim
turned his head. Directly Glover rose to his feet; Johnson got up off
his stool; Jim flung to the door. A moment they stood tense. Then Jim
moved cautiously to the window. He gazed outside. As he did so his
features relaxed. Presently he returned to the table.

"That horse," he explained, eyes twinkling.

The others returned to their places. All were visibly relieved. But
Glover did not go on with his yarn. Lighting his pipe again, he fell to
smoking in thoughtful silence.

Jim picked up his cards. He saw four kings. But he felt no elation.
Before him was a mere dribble of chips, and he knew that he could not
hold out much longer. Johnson was coldly surveying his own cards, and
after a studied moment opened the pot. Jim thrust forward half his small
stack, followed by Johnson with a raise, whereupon Jim placed all he had
upon the board. That closed the game. The other spread out his cards
generously, and Jim, glancing listlessly at four aces, rose from the
table. Turning to the window, he saw Pat still lingering near the shack.
He gazed at him a long moment in silence.

"He's yours," he said, finally, facing Johnson. "Reckon I'll go outside
for a little air."

Outside, he made straight for Pat, removed the hobbles, led him into the
grove. As the horse quenched his thirst, Jim sat down with his back
against a tree and removed his hat.

"Sorry, old-timer," he began, quietly, "but it can't be helped. We--" He
interrupted himself; shoved Pat away a step. "That's better," he went
on, smiling. Then, as Pat looked puzzled, "On my foot--yes," he
explained. "All of your own, too, of course!" he added. "But one of
mine, too!" He was silent. "As I was remarking," he continued, after a
moment, "we've got to beat him some other way. You're a likely horse."

He lowered his eyes thoughtfully. He did know of a way to beat Johnson.
That way was to mount Pat, ride hard for the open, and race it out
against the little gray mounted by Johnson. But already he could see the
vindictive and cursing Johnson in pursuit, discharging guns before him.
So the idea was hopeless, for he knew that Johnson even now was alert
for some such move. But even if it were feasible, he realized that he
never could rid himself of the man. Others had tried, as he well
recalled--tried to break away from him for all time, with a result in no
way to Johnson's credit. Two had never been seen again, which pointed
grimly to the fact that Johnson lived up to his favorite maxim, which
was that dead men tell no tales. Another was the case of that poor
luckless devil who, through some mysterious workings of the law, having
broken with Johnson, had been arrested and convicted of a crime long
forgotten. But Jim knew, as others closely associated with Johnson knew,
that it was Johnson who indirectly had sent the unfortunate one to the
penitentiary. So it required courage, a kind of unreasoning desperation,
to quit the man and the life he led.

Suddenly Jim took a new hold upon himself. What, he began to ask
himself, was getting into him? Why was he suddenly thinking of quitting
Johnson? What would he do if he did quit him? To his kind all decent
channels were closed for any but the exceptional man. But that wasn't
it! Why was he arguing with himself along these lines? What was getting
into him? He felt as if some good and powerful influence was come into
his life! He had felt like this in Denver when a Salvation Army lassie
had approached him. But this wasn't Denver! Nor was there a woman! What
was it, anyway? He could not decide.

He arose and laid his hand upon Pat's forelock.

"It's a regular case," he said, leading the horse out of the grove, "for
something to turn up. It generally does, anyway," he concluded. "Don't
it, Old Gravity?"



CHAPTER XVI

PAT TURNS THIEF


A week passed before Pat knew of his change in masters. But that was not
strange. Busily engaged in keeping himself alive on scant herbage, he
took but little interest in anything else. Besides, his young friend
continued to make much of him, talking in soothing tones and gently
stroking his sides, and the little gray, holding herself faithfully
near, also maintained quiet evidence of friendliness. So he had no
reason to suspect change. But one morning, with camp broken, and
saddle-bags flung out, and the window sealed over, and the door shut and
barred, and the other horses bridled and saddled, there came to him in
the person of the large man himself--a person he had instinctively
disliked--the first sign of the change in his fortune.

The man approached, bridle on arm, to remove his hobbles. He remained
motionless under this, and prepared also to accept the bridle quietly.
But in bridling him the man was rough to an extent he had never before
known--forcing an oddly shaped bit against his tongue, and twisting and
turning his sensitive ears as if these delicate organs were so much
refractory leather or metal. Then came the saddle, and with it further
torture. The forward belt was made snug, which he was accustomed to and
expected; but when the rear girdle was cinched so tight that he found
difficulty in breathing, he became nervous and wanted to protest. It was
all very unusual, this rough handling, and he did not understand it. The
effect of the tight cinch was peculiar, too. With the knot tied firmly,
he felt girded as for some great undertaking, his whole nervous system
seemed to center in his stomach, and all his wonted freedom and buoyancy
seemed compressed and smothered. With all this, and the man in the
saddle and spurring viciously, he realized grimly the change in masters.

They set out at a fox-trot, continuing their southwesterly direction. It
was an unmarked course from the beginning, leading them steadily down
into the Mogollon range, and, as before, Johnson was occupying the lead,
with Jim next behind, and Glover bringing up the rear. And, as on the
first leg of the journey, all rode in silence.

So Pat was in the lead, and while he found his new master half as heavy
again as the other, he also found compensation for the increased weight
in the position which he occupied. Not that he was proud to be in the
lead; nothing from the beginning of this adventure had caused a thrill
of either joy or pride. But he did find in his new place freedom from
dust cast up by the heels of his companions, and he trotted along in
contentment, to all outward appearances. But it was only an appearance
of content. Within were mixed emotions. While he felt pleasure at being
active again, while he was resigned in a way to his hunger pangs, and he
was glad that his friends, the little gray and the young man, were still
with him, yet against all this was a sense of revolt at the unnecessary
tightness of the cinch, the hard hand on the reins, and the frequent
touch of spur and heel and stirrup against his sides. Finally the
feeling which began at that initial torture in bridling swelled with the
consequent annoyances into approaching revolt. He became ugly and
morose.

This soon revealed itself. He was crossing a wide arroyo. Without
counting costs, grimly blind to the result, he burst out of the fox-trot
into a canter. He held to this a thrilling moment, and then, finding
himself keyed to greater exertions, abandoned the canter and broke into
a sharp run. It was all done quickly, the changes of stride lapping
almost within his own length, and his heart leaped and pounded with
delight, for the change somehow relieved him.

But it was a mistake. Quickly as it was done, he found himself almost as
quickly jerked up, swung viciously around, and his sides raked with
ruthless spurs. He gasped a moment under the smarting fire of the spurs,
then, as in the old days, reared in a towering rage. And this was a
mistake. Too late he found the man's weight overbalancing him. He
struggled to recover himself, plunged over backward, and down, striking
the earth heavily. Hurriedly he regained his feet, but not so the man,
not till the others sprang to his assistance. Then he realized what he
had done, realized it fully as he caught the venomous gleam in the man's
eyes and heard the storm of abuse volleying from his lips. Then, looking
at the man, and listening to his raging outburst, he conjured up out of
the dim past memories of the Mexican hostler and of that single
encounter in the white corral. And now his fear for the man left him.

"I'll kill him! I'll shoot the horse!" roared Johnson, his face yellow
underneath the tan. He reached toward his side-arms.

But he did not shoot. With his face white and drawn Jim strode to Pat's
head, while Glover, quick to understand, played the solicitous
attendant, assisting the limping Johnson into the saddle. And that
closed the incident. Presently all were riding along again, with
Johnson, wincing under internal distress, holding his reins more loosely
than before.

But it was not without its good. As on that other occasion in the
corral, Pat had learned something. He had measured a man, and he knew,
and knew that the man knew, that he had come off victor. But it gave him
no secret gratification. He continued to trot along, holding steadily to
the gait, subtly aware of the slackened rein and of the wrenched and
loosened girdle, until, with the coming of noon, the blessed relief from
the weight of the man, the ill-fitting saddle, and the over-tight girth,
came also an agreeable surprise. He was turned out to graze without
hobble or tether, and for this consideration he felt faint glimmerings
of respect for his new master. Making free at first with the other
horses, he set off to enjoy to the full his new-found liberty.

But as he pursued ever farther the elusive vegetation in the joy of
freedom, he presently awoke to his great distance from camp, and,
indeed, from the other horses. Conscious of a sudden gripping loneliness
and a certain apprehension, he began to retrace his way. As he did so,
out of the silence came a nasty whirring sound, and suddenly he felt a
rope settle over his head. Surprise, then anger, displaced his
loneliness and apprehension; he jerked back to escape the rope. But it
held fast. He braced his legs and began to pull steadily. But the harder
he pulled the worse the rope choked him. Finally he ceased all effort
and turned his eyes along the rope. At the far end stood the little
mare, legs braced in the sand, and astride her, stolid and grim, and
with eyes narrowed, the figure of the large man. At sight of him Pat
began to pull again, more through ugliness now than desire to escape,
until he found that he was dragging the little gray out of her stiffened
hold. Then he slackened off. Also, as she wheeled back toward camp, he
set out amiably after her. In camp he found his young friend scattering
and deadening the coals of the camp-fire, and the little man making up
the saddle-bags. This told him that the journey was to be resumed, and
he stood quiet and peaceful as he was being bridled and saddled, and
afterward he trotted along under the guidance of his master without show
of anger or rebellion. Indeed, though the sun was hot, and the unmarked
trail tedious, and the weight on his back heavier than ever, he felt
less fretful and more contented than at any time since leaving the
little ranch beside the river--possibly because of the thrill of his
double encounter.

Ahead and on either hand the desert soon began to break and lift. As
they went on the dunes grew to be hills and heights, growing, looming,
closing in upon them. Now and again a clump of trees or a shoulder of
rock or a stretch of foliage stepped out in relief against the brown of
the landscape, revealing more than once ideal grazing-land. Also, as
they penetrated deeper into this broken country, the sky overhead showed
change. From a spotless blue it revealed tiny splotches of gray-white
cloud scudding before upper currents. With the passing hours these
clouds became heavy, sullen, and threatening, until the sun, dipping
into the west, sinking in a kind of hazy moisture, left the heavens
completely overcast, cold and bleak and forbidding--a dense mass of
cloud-banks down to the tip of ridge and range. And now came dusk, short
and chill, and with it the slow ascent of a long grade, leading them up
to a ridge, low and ragged, trailing away interminably to north and
south in the gloom. Complete darkness found them deep among high hills.

The men drew rein beside a little stream. They watered the horses, and
then, throwing off saddle-bags and gathering brush, they built a tiny
fire. Glover appeared nervous and worried, and when the meal was ended
turned to mount and be off again. But Johnson called him back. Johnson
was seated on the ground, close beside Jim, and Glover sat down with
them. Thus they waited, silent, reflective, watching, while about them
pressed the close night, seeming by its touch to impart to them
something of its solemnity. Off at one side the horses, bridled and
saddled, waited also--watching and waiting, motionless, and over them
all brooded a stillness that was mighty and portentous. Thus they waited
for two hours, wrapped in profound silence, and then Johnson, after
scanning the sky, rose and made for the horses. The others quickly
followed him. Their trail led into a narrow defile. Up this winding way
they rode, with Johnson in the lead, up and ever up, until they burst
through a clump of brush at the top. There they drew rein and again
waited, silent, reflective, watching. Presently Glover, with eyes turned
eastward, uttered a grunt which meant relief.

The clouds in the eastern sky were breaking. Through the heavy banks
came a faint glimmering of moonlight. At first but a hair-line, it
widened out, reaching up and across the sky, developing steadily into
the semblance of a frozen flash of heat lightning, until all the eastern
heavens showed a shimmering expanse, broken here and there by black
clouds sullenly holding their own, which flooded the underscudding
desert in beautiful mottled gray-green coloring. Wider and wider the
light spread, up and away on either hand, moving stealthily across the
sky, until the sheen of it broke over the ridge itself, and then swept
beyond to the west, laying bare a broad expanse of mesa dotted with
gray-green specks that told of the presence of hundreds of cattle. And
now the sullen clouds took to weaving, swaying under the pressure of
upper-air currents, the specks below beginning to lift and fall with the
motion of the clouds like bits of wreckage undulate on the sea. The
air-drifts descended, came closer, fanning the cheeks of the men,
rustling through the leaves which crowned the ridge, and breaking the
heavy silence. The air-currents flicked the desert with their freight of
swift-moving shadows, causing strange movement among the bits of
wreckage--the cattle. It was a glorious march, lighting up the western
expanse beneath and revealing a flat country, unbroken by dune or cleft
as far as the eye could penetrate. So the light moved on, crowding
before it sullen shadows which presently disappeared.

Johnson broke the stillness. "We'd better move along down," he said, and
shook Pat's reins.

The horses began the long descent. As compared with the upward climb
they made slow progress. Forced to feel their way, they moved always in
halts and starts, over saplings, around bulging rocks, along narrow
ledges, and at length gained the mesa, where the men drew rein. Johnson,
sweeping his eyes coolly over the field of his campaign, began to give
orders.

"Jim," he snapped, "cut in over there--that arroyo--and crowd 'em around
to the south. Don't go too deep." Then, as Jim caught up his reins,
"Glover, swing off this side--close in. We'll keep close in down to the
line. Hop along!"

Pat remained standing. He turned his eyes after the little gray and her
rider. He saw the pair swing up over a rise of ground at a gallop, dip
from view into a hollow, and appear again on the level beyond. Across
this they rode, speeding to the opposite slopes, then slackening as they
ascended, making quietly among the nervous cattle, horses and riders
moving with the easy certainty that told of much experience. Then he saw
the head and shoulders of the young man above the surging herd, crowding
a part of it slowly in his direction, to the right, to the left, forward
and around, always making steadily toward him. It was interesting, and
he continued to watch the cool steadiness of the man and the easy
control of the horse, until he caught sight of the other, riding the
opposite flank, but also crowding steadily toward him. He fell to
watching this man, who, not so tall as Jim among the herd, but as
quietly active, was also pressing to right and left and forward and
around among the cattle, relentlessly cutting them out. Soon there was a
general forward movement, the young man riding on the far side, the
little man closing up the rear, and this brought the whole herd, some
bellowing loudly, others in sullen silence, still others contentedly
munching, directly opposite. Then he felt the prick of spurs, and,
throwing himself eagerly at the task, he galloped around behind the
advancing cattle, falling into the position now abandoned by the little
man, who cantered around and forward upon the left flank. It was
exciting, and for a moment he thrilled. Then came the only interruption.

A big steer, breaking suddenly out of the herd, tore madly to the rear.
Pat, nearest the escaping beef, was spurred in pursuit. It was
unexpected, the spurring, and it was savage, and, jolted out of soothing
reflection, he flattened his ears and balked. The man spurred him again
and again and again, finally raking his sides mercilessly. Whereupon Pat
balked in earnest, bucking and pitching viciously. At this the man swung
his quirt, cutting Pat repeatedly over head and ears. Yet Pat continued
to plunge, holding grimly to his lesson, which was to teach this man the
futility of this treatment. He did not throw the man off, but neither
did he go ahead. Finally the man ceased his brutality, and evidently
coming to understand, headed Pat after the moving herd without spur or
quirt. Then Pat, though still rankling under the cruelty, sprang eagerly
forward, desirous of showing his willingness to serve when rightly used.

That was all. The night passed quietly, the men, alert to their tasks,
each separated from the other, riding stolidly into golden dawn. But not
till late, with the sun half-way to its zenith, and then only because of
safe distance from possible detection, did they draw rein. Saddle-bags
were thrown off, though bridle and saddle were left on in case of
emergency, and the horses were turned out on short tethers. The men
risked a fire, since they were in the shadow of a ridge, and when the
coffee-pot was steaming seated themselves on the ground, in a close
circle. For the first time since midnight one spoke. It was Johnson.

"We'll hold west of Lordsburg," he declared, sweeping his eyes
gloatingly over the herd. "Francisco Espor and his gang over the line'll
weep when they see that bunch--for joy!"

Jim leaned back upon one elbow. "What was that rumpus last night," he
inquired, "right after we started?" Then he showed his thoughts. "I
mean, the horse."

Johnson swung his head around. For a moment he appeared not to
understand. Then suddenly his eyes lost their good-humored twinkle and
grew hard.

"Lost one," he answered, abruptly. "The horse stalled." He narrowed his
eyes as he stared vindictively at Pat. "I must take a day off, after we
get over the line," he snapped, "and break that animal to saddle,
bridle, spur, quirt, and rope. He 'ain't never been broke, that horse,
and he's naturally mean!"

Jim sat up. "Not with me," he declared, quietly, "when we got
acquainted. You ain't taking him right, that's all."

Johnson eyed him surlily. "You're a wonderful piece!" he snapped; and
then, by glint of eye and jerk of head showed that he dismissed the
subject.

But Jim seemed to feel otherwise. "Maybe I am," he retorted, turning
absent eyes in the direction of the horse. "But I ain't all. I happen to
know of another wonderful piece. I'm only a one-territory piece."

Johnson grinned. "Go on," he urged, politely.

"There's no 'go on' to it," rejoined Jim, revealing equal politeness.
"I'm only thinking of a piece I happen to know that runs about a man
that's wanted more or less in seven states and two territories. Running
double, he's hard to get."

Johnson reached over coolly and struck him nastily across the mouth.
Then as coolly he sat back, while Jim slowly rose to his feet. His eyes
were blazing.

"Thanks," he said, tensely. "I've heard a lot about your killings," he
went on, breathless with anger. "I guess maybe that's the way--"

"Hush!" broke in Glover, excitedly, his eyes upon the ridge to the east.

The others turned. Moving slowly along the crest, disappearing,
reappearing, disappearing again, was the figure of a man. They gazed a
long moment, when the figure dropped from view again. They continued to
gaze, silent, rigid, watchful, peering narrowly against the morning
sunlight. Presently the figure reappeared, lower against the gray
background, moving slowly as before, evidently crouching. Lower it came,
quarter down the slope, half-way, then again disappeared. Johnson broke
the tense silence.

"Sheepherder!" he snapped, and turned savage eyes back upon Jim.

But Glover leaped to his feet. "If that's a sheepherder," he cried,
making for the horses at a run, "then I'm a sheep!"



CHAPTER XVII

A RUNNING FIGHT


A rifle-shot forced instant action. Jim whirled away from the camp-fire
and saddle-bags and sprang toward the horses, while Johnson, leaping up
with the agile twist of an athlete, gained his feet running. Jim headed
grimly for Pat, but Johnson reached him a breath in advance. Snatching
up the reins and mounting, he dug Pat viciously with his huge rowels. At
that Pat balked. The man swore and cursed and spurred again; but the
horse remained obdurate. Seeing this, Johnson stopped spurring.
Thereupon Pat flung forward, dragging his tether clear of its stake, and
crowded close beside the gray. Jim was mounted on the gray, bending low
in the saddle, racing in frantic pursuit of Glover. Mounted on the
sorrel, Glover was well in the lead, speeding straight into the west,
riding at right angles to the ridge, galloping hard for the open desert.
The echo of the shot reverberated again faintly, and around them closed
a tense silence.

Others were making for the open. Out of the underbrush, riding easily,
burst a handful of rangers. Stephen was one of them. As they swept into
the clear country, well-armed, well-mounted, the look on their strong,
bronzed faces told of their purpose, which was to get the thieves alive,
if possible. Down the long slope they galloped, hats low against the
sunlight, elbows winging slightly, heads and backs slanting to the
winds, speeding like a group of centaurs. Other than Stephen, there were
four of these range police. Men of insight, of experience, keen in the
ways of the lawless, knowing best of all the type ahead, they rode
without strain, without urging, knowing that this was a long race, a
matter of endurance, a test, not for themselves so much as for the
horses, those of the pursued as well as their own. Loosely scattered,
they rode, eyes not upon the thieves, but upon the horses carrying the
thieves, as if hopeful for another break like that shown at the start by
the magnificent black.

Thus rode the rangers. Not so Stephen. Stephen knew no such laws. All he
knew was that after long weeks of futile riding, here at last was
Helen's Pat galloping madly away from him. Lashing and spurring his own
bay mare, resolute and determined, he gradually began to pull away from
the others.

Ahead, Johnson began slowly to gather in his trailing tether-rope.
Almost without visible effort he wound it around his saddle-horn.
Whereupon Jim, evidently aroused to like danger of tripping, set to work
at the loop around the little gray's neck. The knot was tight, and his
position cramped, but he persisted, and, with it loose, tossed the rope
away. Glover already was free from his trailing rope, having taken the
time at the outset hurriedly to cast it off. And he was still in the
lead, the sorrel carrying him without seeming effort, and moving
steadily away from the others, each long stride gaining half as much
ground again as the swinging gait of Pat or the quick and nervous
reaching of the little gray. But all were moving at top speed, racing
desperately across the desert, leaping sand-dunes, dipping into hollows,
mounting eagerly over larger dunes, on and on like the wind, sending up
with each fling of hoof swirling clouds of dust and gravel. It was a
grim effort.

Such a time comes to but few men. And such a crisis tests the mettle of
men and shows the differences. Gripped in a primal emotion, fear for
life, weak men show strength, and strong men weakness. Harmless men
murder, murderous men weep, blasphemous men pray, praying men curse. Yet
under such a stress strong men often reveal greater strength, rising to
physical and spiritual heights of reserve that mock a following fate,
even as praying men often pray harder and more fervently than ever they
prayed in times of calm. Individual in peace, mankind is individual in
war. It is the way of man.

And thus it was with these three hurtling forward in the shadow of doom.
Glover, ever weak, ever apprehensive, yet always considerate of others,
now revealed unexpected strength and appeared considerate only of
himself. Crouching in his saddle, apparently mindful of but a single
thing--escape--he lashed his horse brutally, swinging his quirt
rhythmically, now and again darting cold eyes backward. Johnson, given
by nature to bravado and bluster, was even more defiant in this supreme
moment. He rode with a plug of tobacco in hand, biting off huge pieces
frequently, more frequently squirting brown juices between lips white as
the telltale ring around his mouth--a ring as expressive as the hollows
beneath his glittering eyes. And Jim, ever worried, ever conscious of
himself, sat in his saddle easily, now that he was about to reap the
harvest of his ill-sown seeds, riding with eyes on the horse
alongside--Pat--studying with coolly critical gaze the animal's
smoothness of gait, wonderful carriage of head, unusual and beautiful
lifting of forelegs. Thus, in this valley of the shadow, each was his
true self and something more, or less, as the chaotic spirit within
viewed the immediate future or scanned the distant past.

Another shot from the posse--a screaming bullet high overhead--a command
to stop! But they did not stop. Instead, Johnson, rising in his
stirrups, unholstered a huge revolver and fired point-blank at the
rangers. It was the wrong thing to do, and instantly Jim drew away from
the leader. This left a clear gap between, and exposed the speeding
Glover ahead to fire from the rear. And suddenly it came, a volley of
rifle-shots, and Glover, stiffening suddenly, was seen to clutch at his
saddle-horn. Also, he turned his head and shoulders as if to cry out.
But he uttered not a sound. Evidently the jostling of his sorrel
forbade. He turned his head to the front again, and, slumping low in his
saddle, began frantic use of spur and quirt. But the sorrel had lost his
stride, and before he could regain it Jim and Johnson had dashed
alongside. Jim swung close and looked at Glover. Glover returned the
gaze, and again appeared about to speak. But now the sorrel flung
forward into his stride, and the movement seemed to decide Glover
against all utterance.

But Jim understood. He held close to Glover, but turned his eyes after
Johnson. Instantly he scowled and his mouth drew grimly down. For
Johnson was swinging off at a tangent, riding out of the set direction,
rapidly pulling away from them. For one sullen moment Jim regarded him;
then turned his head to the rear. One of the rangers, a young man
mounted on a graceful bay--with the rangers, yet apparently not one of
them--was riding well forward out of the group. Understanding Johnson's
move now, comprehending his utter selfishness in thus swinging away from
them, Jim gazed pityingly at Glover. But Glover did not notice him. He
himself was following the swift-riding Johnson with blazing eyes, and
suddenly he exploded in vindictive anger.

"Put a hole in him!" he cried, hoarsely. "Shoot him! Shoot him, Jim!
I--I can't!"

But neither could Jim. It was not his nature. Yet there was one thing he
could do. And this he did. He took fresh hold on the reins, and, grim
and deliberate and vengeful, swung about after Johnson. Further, in
swinging his horse about he purposely crowded the sorrel over also. This
brought both in direct pursuit of Johnson, and soon they overtook him.
But not because of their greater speed.

Suffering from an unwonted raking of spurs, Pat had taken to sudden
rebellion--balking at first, then beginning to buck, flinging about in
all directions except the way desired by the fugitive on his back.
Riding close and noting this, Jim felt glad beyond all decency. He even
chuckled with satisfaction, conscious almost of a desire to dismount and
hug the black. Then his feeling changed. He regretted his glee, became
fearful for the man, and called sharply to the horse. And now Pat came
to a stand. This for a moment only. Then of his own accord he sprang
forward again, speeding as eagerly now as but a moment before he had
rebelled, and soon he was galloping alongside the gray. Eminently
pleased with the whole performance, Jim again chuckled in delight and
burst forward at top speed.

Nor was this rebellion lost on Stephen. Riding well forward of the
others, when he saw Pat offering resistance he whipped and spurred his
mount in the hope that Pat would hold out. But Pat did not hold out,
though Stephen knew that he would have, had he but understood. Also,
there was his handicap--handicap of the others also. Neither he nor they
dared to fire lest they should shoot the black. Occasionally the thieves
spread apart, thus giving a chance for a shot with safe regard for Pat.
But these openings were infrequent. All they could do was ride in the
hope that the thieves might be seized with panic at last and give
themselves up.

But no such thought came to the fugitives. Johnson, after his galling
experience with Pat, looked more grimly determined than ever to get
away. Presently he struck back again. He drew a revolver, rose in his
stirrups, and fired twice to the rear. It was not without result. Up
from the rangers swept a chorus of yells, and Jim, turning his head, saw
the foremost pursuer, the young man who was evidently not a ranger,
circle headlong over his tumbling horse. He turned to the front again,
and, understanding what would follow, whipped and spurred furiously.
Suddenly the answer came. The desert awoke in a fusillade of shots, and
Jim saw Glover, who once more was in the lead, drift out of his saddle,
slip down much as a child descends from its high-chair, and fall to
earth in a crumpled heap. He swerved and dashed alongside. For an
instant he drew rein and studied the still face. Then he lifted his
eyes, gazing off absently toward the distant skyline, the mellow haze in
the hills, the shimmering of heat-waves above the dunes, the glistening
reflections of light off myriads of tiny sand cubes. Glover--poor
Glover--had paid the price, and had paid it in silence.

He wheeled his horse and sped after Johnson. He overtook him swinging up
over a slight elevation. Dead ahead, not more than two miles distant, he
saw a long grove of trees. It gave him hope. Here was a chance for
effective resistance. Here both he and Johnson could dismount, drive the
horses into shelter, seek shelter themselves, and open fire upon the
posse. His spirits kindled. He would shoot to kill, as he knew Johnson
would shoot to kill, and then, with the rangers helplessly disabled, he
would mount Pat, mount the black this time, and if Johnson became ugly
he would shoot him. Then he would ride to the east, ride out of this
life, and with the horse take up a decent existence somewhere,
abandoning crime forever. He would--

More shots from the rear interrupted him. Evidently the rangers,
mounting over the rise themselves, had also caught sight of the grove.
Evidently, too, they were taking no chances against such a stand as he
was contemplating. At any rate, the firing became rapid and continuous,
and it was deadly, for suddenly he saw Johnson wilt in the saddle, drop
his revolver, drop the reins, and clutch at his left arm. Also he heard
a cry--heard it sharp and clear above the pounding of the gray's hoofs
and the creak and crunch of his own saddle-leather.

"I'm hit! I'm hit, boy! They--they've got me!" Pat himself heard the
outcry and felt the loosened rein. It puzzled him. He did not know
whether to keep going or to slacken down. But he kept on going--going
hard. Yet he would have welcomed a halt. He was weak and faint. He could
not remember the time, save that memorable day on the mesa, when he had
run so hard and so continuously. Yet ahead lay trees, and instinctively
he accepted them as his destination. In that grove perhaps was water, an
opportunity for rest, and abundance of food. So he continued forward,
grimly conscious of his burning ankles, his pounding and fluttering
heart and heaving and clamoring lungs--plunging forward under the weak
urging of his heavy master, responding now through force of
habit--feeling that because he was in motion he must continue in motion.
It was a numb, mechanical effort, involuntary and apart from him, as
much apart from his control as was the beating of his heart.

Another volley came from the rear, and with it another violent change in
his master. The man cried out and loosened his feet in the stirrups. Yet
Pat continued to gallop until he felt the weight slowly leaving him,
felt it go altogether, felt it dangling from one stirrup. Then he came
to a stop. As he did so the little gray dashed past--his friend. And now
great loneliness gripped him. He started forward. But the weight in his
stirrup checked him. He came to a stop again. Then he wanted to nicker
in protest, but he found that he could not. He was too weak to utter
sound. So he stood there, his eyes upon the little gray and her rider,
watching them hurtling toward the grove. Then the thudding of hoofs came
to his ears from the rear, and, slowly turning, he saw a group of
horsemen riding wearily--one hatless; another with flaying quirt; a
third with smoking carbine; a fourth, a large man, smooth and red of
face, riding heavily--all galloping toward him.

But they did not hold his interest. His heart and soul lay with the
little gray mare, and, turning to the front again, he saw mare and rider
swinging out of sight around the end of the grove. Confidently he
watched for their appearance beyond. Presently he saw them sweep into
view again--moving at a gallop, swinging across a wide plain that held
them clear to his straining eyes--saw them grow faint and fainter, small
and ever smaller--become a hazy speck on the horizon--finally disappear
from view in the engulfing dunes and vales of the surrounding desert.
And now, weakened as he was, he sounded a forlorn, protracted nicker of
protest.

The rangers pulled up, breathless. They dismounted stiffly, released the
weight from Pat's stirrup, and carried it off a little ways. He watched
them a moment, noting their ease of movement and business-like air, and
then turned his gaze to the horses. All were strange to him, and he
looked them over frankly, resting his eyes finally upon a chunky white.
Instinctively he knew that this horse was mean, and he hated mean horses
as he hated mean men. Observing that this one showed his teeth freely at
him, the while holding his small ears almost constantly flat, he
measured him for difficulties in the future, if the association were to
continue. Then he turned his eyes back to the men.

As he did so, out of the silence rode a single horseman. He was mounted
upon the sorrel, and Pat wondered at this. But as the man drew near and
Pat saw a blood-smeared, ghastly face, he wondered still more. For there
was something familiar about this lone rider, and he took a step toward
him. Presently he saw him gain the outer edge of the circle, and then a
strange thing happened. He saw the young man begin to weave in his
saddle, saw two of the others suddenly leap for him--saw them reach him
just in time to save him from tumbling limply to the ground. Then he
noted another queer thing. He saw the young man's left arm dangle oddly
from the shoulder; saw the young man himself grasp it, wincing with
excruciating pain, and saw him turn wide eyes suddenly toward him. Then
he heard the man speak.

"Look--look him over!" he cried, and his voice was a curious mixture of
distress and restrained excitement. "I--I don't want him--him to go
back--to go back--hurt--hurt in--in--"

And now Pat saw the strangest thing of all. He saw the young man slowly
close his eyes and sink back into the arms of the others as one dead. He
saw the others exchange troubled glances and lay the insensible form
down tenderly on the sand. It was all very unusual, something new in his
life; and, not knowing what else to do, yet somehow feeling that he
should do something, be it never so little, he lowered his head and
sounded a trembling nicker into the silence.



CHAPTER XVIII

AN ENEMY


There was water in the grove, and the men made camp at the edge of the
trees. "The Doc," which was what the rangers early had affectionately
nicknamed Stephen, was suffering a compound fracture of the left arm,
together with numerous bruises and scratches about the head and face. He
had had a nasty fall. His horse had stumbled and almost instantly died
as the result of the big cattle-rustler's shots. The men set and
splinted Stephen's arm as best they could, and they bandaged his head
with rare skill; but it was deemed advisable for him to remain quiet for
a time.

So Stephen lay listlessly smiling at the bantering of the men, too sick
at heart really to take interest in any living thing. His arm pained
him, and his head ached, while throughout his body he was sore and stiff
and well-nigh incapable of moving. But not once following the first
complete collapse did he let go of himself, although when the men set
his arm it seemed that he must. Somehow he was contented that everything
was as it was. True, he was hurt. But also he had found Pat, had
recovered the horse for Helen, and the horse now was within sound of his
voice, did he but care to lift it. His physical hurts would get well,
his spiritual hurts never without the recovery of the horse. And now he
had the horse.

One morning it became apparent that their food-supplies would soon need
replenishing. So it was decided to break camp for the nearest town, a
Mexican settlement some eighty miles to the southwest. Stephen had been
walking about somewhat cheerfully for three or four days, and his
condition was such that he could ride forward slowly without danger to
his arm. So they broke camp, utilizing the sorrel as a pack-horse--there
now were two extra saddles and bridles--and set out, Stephen, of course,
mounted upon Pat.

Once more Pat found himself following an unmarked and desolate trail.
Moving always at a walk now instead of the conventional fox-trot, he
found his service, save for this and one other thing, identical with
that under his previous masters. The single other difference was that
instead of irritating silence, these men unwittingly soothed him with
their talk and swift exchange of jokes. Thus the hours passed, until
noon came, when, with his bridle and saddle removed, and pungent odors
of savory cooking tickling his nostrils, he received the privilege of
grazing over the whole desert unhobbled and untethered. But this,
liberal as it seemed, brought him nothing of the nourishment his soul
craved. After an hour or two of lazy wandering, while the men passed the
time at cards, he was sent forward again along the ever-mysterious
trail. And thus he moved, through the long hot afternoon, the cool and
lingering twilight, on to a night camp where once more he was turned
loose with the other horses to glean as best he might life-giving
sustenance from the scant herbage. But it was drearily monotonous.

Throughout it all, however, there was one who kept his interest alive.
It was the white horse. In the camp holding himself aloof, as if
superciliously refraining from close contact, on the trail this horse
took to revealing his antagonism. He would stand a short way from him
while they grazed, lay back his ears and whisk his tail, and, whenever
the chance came, he would snap viciously at the other horses. Pat
understood the meaning of all this, and held himself ready to resist
attack, yet he simply looked at the horse with a kind of amused
speculation. Nor at any time did he feel grave apprehension. That he did
not take the horse seriously lay in the fact that after drawing near in
this fashion and bristling nastily the white horse would quickly draw
away again, steadily and craftily, and then fall to worrying one of the
other horses, usually one of smaller size that quite obviously feared
him.

There came the time when the white did not confine his threatenings to
the grazing-periods. He became aggressive on the march. Though less free
to give battle here, which was possibly his reason, he would frequently
jockey close, and either flash his head around with teeth snapping, or
else, as if to make Pat feel inferiority, would plunge forward to a
point immediately in front, and in this position fling back choking dust
or gravel. At such times the round-faced man, the white's master, would
drag him away mightily, or, if he was not quick enough, then the sorrel,
drowsing along behind on a lead-rope, would unconsciously offer
resistance. But it was all very disagreeable, and Pat, while finding
that it broke up the monotony of the journey, yet at length found
himself also becoming irritated.

He finally gave way to it. It was his nature to brood over annoyances
and sometimes to heap grains of injustice into mountains of woes. He
fell to thinking of his general lot, his misfortunes, the lack of proper
food, the occasional lack of water, until he became sullen and peevish.
The change showed in sudden starts at unusual sounds which brought sharp
protests from his young master, and then he began to refuse to eat. This
was grave, and he knew it. But he could not or would not help it; he
never knew quite which it was. But he did not eat. Instead of moving
about with the other horses, nose to ground, mouthing the bunch-grass,
he would mope by himself well away from the other horses, standing with
head hanging and ears inert, all in motionless silence. As the
water-holes became farther apart, and the grazing worse yet, he did this
more and more, until the white horse, evidently seeing his lack of
spirit, became a source of downright aggravation, frequently taking
lightning nips at him. At such times Pat would lift his head and hold
himself erect and vigilant during the grazing-period, but he brooded,
none the less, and as persistently refused to eat.

This was not lost upon Stephen or the rangers, neither his refusing to
eat nor the white's antagonism. They spent hours discussing both. Having
found in Pat none of the regular symptoms of disease, yet aware that
something grave was the matter, the rangers fell to discussing Pat's
condition with much earnestness, frequently interrupting their arguments
on the one subject to declare that the white horse, provided Pat held
out and healed up against his complaint, would get a fight such as was
never before witnessed in the desert. That they were evenly matched both
as to build and strength was recognized; that Pat was possessed of a
reserve that told of finer courage all agreed. Yet in this last lurked
opportunities for argument; and argue they did, sometimes long into the
night, the little man known as the Professor and the rangy individual
with the scrubby beard showing the greatest vehemence. Yet despite all
their arguments, to which Stephen invariably listened in smiling
silence, none as yet had offered good reason for the villainous attitude
of the white toward the peaceful Pat.

"_I_ know!" suddenly declared the man with the scrubby beard one
evening, after the tin dishes had been cleared away. "It's jealousy!" He
narrowed his eyes out through the darkness in the direction of the
horses. "Who ever 'u'd believe old Tom out there 'u'd show jealousy? I
see it, though, the first day. You recollect we made a heap of the
black, kind of petting him up some, and Tom, bein', as he sure is, an
intelligent hoss, I reckon he figured it out that he'd played the game
and been faithful all along, and then to see himself set back that way
by a complete stranger, it jest nachelly made him sore. Same as it would
you or me, mebbe, if we was informed polite and all that from
headquarters that they was a new man comin' to jine us that was the pure
quill whichever way you looked at him. Old Tom is bein' et up with
jealousy, I'm regretful to say."

"Animiles feels things a heap more'n humans does," put in the little man
known as the Professor. "But they're more reserved in showin' 'em out.
Yit when they do show 'em out, they're a lot less polite about it than
humans."

"Nachelly," snapped the lean man, glaring savagely across the fire at
the other. "But that ain't tellin' us what ails the black," he went on,
dropping the subject of the white and taking up with the symptoms of the
black, evidently through perverseness. "He's solemn and dumpish," he
declared, thoughtfully, "like he might have distemper. But he 'ain't got
distemper. And his teeth ain't sharp, yet he don't eat at all. And I
can't see anything the matter with his insides."

"Did you look?" inquired the Professor, innocently, but with a quick
wink at Stephen.

"Yes, I--" began the lean man, only to check himself with an angry
snort. Then he shifted the topic again, reverting to the case of old
Tom. "That white hoss'll about push that matter to a finish," he
declared. "See if what I say don't pan out! Tom he'll just about obey
that law o' nature which animals has knowed from long before the ark,
but which us humans is just gettin' a hold on. He'll remove the
cause--old Tom will--or get himself removed. He ain't nobody's fool--nor
never was!" And he rested his eyes significantly upon the Professor.

The Professor was busy, however. He had pulled a deck of cards from his
hip pocket, and now was riffling them with pointed interest. Directly he
began to deal them around, carefully overlooking the lean man as he did
so. But the latter, dropping over upon one elbow, permitted the game to
proceed without offering objection to the oversight, a peculiar one,
since he was in the full glare of the fire.

That argument was closed.

But next morning Pat received unexpected attention. His young master
approached him, looped a rope around his neck, and gave the end to the
large man, who mounted the white. Then the lean man bridled and saddled
the sorrel for the young man, who evidently was unable conveniently to
do these things with his one hand. After this he loaded Pat with the
extra saddles and bridles, and thus they set out. It was a not
unfavorable change, and Pat, while harboring mixed emotions, since he
now was trailing along behind the white, yet found himself in a lighter
mood. Feeling little jealousy of the white, however, he soon forgot the
changed relations, finding in his own position a new viewpoint upon the
cavalcade which was interesting. For now he could survey the whole
squad, five horses of varied size and action, and this, as he studied
the individual gait of each, was not without its pleasure. Also, being,
as he was, free from the weight of a man, he felt an airy lightness that
was positively refreshing. And finally, since he was out of reach of the
nagging white, this blessing alone made him grateful. So he followed
along, working yet not working, with a feeling of complete composure
such as had not been his for many a day.

Still his composure did not last. The novelty wore off toward noon, and
he found himself morose and introspective again. Sounding the depths of
his grievances, he at length took to thinking of the white corral beside
the river. Not in many a day had he thought of the ranch. But he was
recalling it now, not through affection, not because it was home to him,
but because, brooding over his many discomforts in the open, he was
suddenly remembering that his life had not always been this--that he
knew actual comfort, knew what it was to have his wants gratified. And
recalling these facts, he naturally recalled that which had made them
possible--the little ranch in the valley. So he let his thoughts linger
there. Faint and elusive at first, those other days became finally quite
vivid, days of expectancy and gratification, days of sugar and quartered
apples, days of affection and love-talk from his pretty little mistress.
And how he missed them all! How he missed them--even the Mexican hostler
and the brown saddler and the old matronly horse--his mother by
adoption! But they were gone from him now, gone for all time out of his
life. Yet though he believed them gone, he continued to brood on them,
to live each day over again in his thoughts, till the men ahead
dismounted suddenly. Then he was glad to turn his attention to other
matters, things close around him. One of these was the coming of the
lean man with a pair of familiar objects in his hands--this after the
noonday meal.

"Well, my bucky," he began, turning critical eyes over Pat, "I been
studyin' your case a heap, and I've come to think I'm old Doctor Sow
himself. Your young man here is knocked out of all possible good," he
went on, as Stephen smilingly approached, "and so it occurred to me,
sir, as how you ain't sick no more'n I be. What ails you is you're an
aristocrat--something that's been knocked around unusual--what with them
rustlers and with us that's worse than rustlers--and got yourself all
mussed up and unfit! All you need is a cleanin'--that's what ails you!
You're just nice furniture--a piece o' Sheraton, mebbe--that's all over
sweepings, and I'm the he-maid that's going to dust you off. Hold still,
now."

So Pat, after taking a step toward Stephen, who now was stroking him
tenderly, held very still, not only under the soothing caress, but under
the operation--for such was the cleaning--since he was gritty beyond
belief. Also, after the operation he felt immeasurably better, and
better still when Stephen led him to a tiny stream and he had relieved
his thirst. But that was not all of joy. Turned loose with the other
horses, he fell to grazing eagerly, actually finding it good, and once
lifting a long and shrill nicker in gratitude for this change in his
condition. Nor did his delight stop here. With camp broken, and his
young master, instead of returning him to the lead-rope, bridling and
saddling him awkwardly with one hand, he set out along the trail at a
gait so brisk that it brought a startled exclamation from the young man,
who promptly pulled him down. But though he was forced to keep a slow
gait, yet frequently during the afternoon, conscious of his fresh coat
and the sense of buoyancy it gave him, he flung up his head and nickered
loud and joyfully. Also, with night once more descending, and the stars
twinkling in the blue-black heavens, and the sheen of a rising moon
flooding the desert, he moved about among the other horses with a vigor
that was almost insolence, seizing tufts of grass wherever he saw them,
heedless of others' rights.

Around the fire sat or sprawled the men. Two of them were industriously
mending, one a shirt, the other a bridle. The Professor and the man with
the scrubby beard were complacently smoking, while Stephen, glad to
stretch out after the day's ride with an arm that constantly distressed
him, was reclining upon a blanket, staring into the flames and conjuring
up in their leaping tongues numerous soothing pictures. As he sat there
the man with the beard suddenly addressed him.

"Doc," he drawled, removing his pipe from between whiskers that glinted
in the light of the fire, "now that you've got him, what are you
thinking of doing with that horse?"

"I'll take him back," replied Stephen, pleasantly.

The other was silent. "Shore!" he rejoined, after a moment. "But take
him back where?"

"Where he belongs."

There was further silence. "Excuse me!" finally exclaimed the other. "I
was thinking as mebbe you'd take him whence he came."

Stephen sat erect and looked at the other. He was smoking again
complacently.

"Whence come you?" asked Stephen, after a time.

The other slowly removed his pipe. Then he told him. Then Stephen spoke.
And then the man rose stiffly, crossed solemnly to him and shook hands
with him cordially.

"I knowed you was white the fust day I see you," he declared. Then he
waved a vague hand over the others. "They've all--all of 'em--traveled
that way. I was raised--"

A sudden shrill scream out in the darkness interrupted him. It was a
horse. The cry stirred the entire camp. The Professor arose, sauntered
out, whistling, whirled, and called back sharply. The others ran toward
him; the large man struck a match. The white horse was limping on three
legs. They bent over and examined the fourth. The match went out. All
straightened up. As they did so Pat sounded a shrill nicker.

"Busted!" exclaimed the large man, quietly. "Well, I'm a goat! That
black horse has kicked old Tom clear over the divide. I--I'm clean done!
Quick as lightning, too! No preambles; no circumlocutions; no nothing.
Just put it to him. Good Lord!" Then he regretfully drew a revolver. "I
reckon you boys better stand back."

A shot broke the quiet, and the desert shivered and was still again. The
white horse sank to the ground. Stephen walked to Pat, struck a match,
and looked him over critically. Pat was torn and bleeding in two places
along the neck, but otherwise he needed no attention. Stephen patted him
thoughtfully, gratefully, fighting the horror of what might have been
had this splendid horse weakened in the crisis. No wonder the little
girl in the valley worshiped him.

But he said nothing. After a time he returned to the fire and sat down
among a very sober group of men. Presently the man with the scrubby
beard broke the quiet. His voice sounded hollow and distressed.

"I knowed it," he declared. "Though I thought old Tom 'u'd done better."
He began to roll a cigarette. "Pore old Tom! He's killed; he's
dead--dead and gone." With the cigarette made, he snatched a brand from
the fire and lighted it. He fell to smoking in thoughtful silence, in
his eyes a look of unutterable sadness.

The Professor bestirred himself. "Tell me," he asked, lifting his gaze
to the heavens reflectively--"tell me, does any of you believe that
horses--any animiles--has souls?"

The lean man glanced at him. His eyes now had the look of one anxious to
express his views, but cautiously refused to be baited. Finally he made
answer.

"If you're askin' my opinion," he said, "I'll tell you that I know they
have." He was silent. "I know that animals has the same thing we've
got," he continued--"that thing we call the soul--but they've got it in
smaller proportions, so to speak. It's easy as falling off a bucking
bronc. Take old Tom out there. Take that Lady horse that got killed two
years ago by rustlers--take any horse, any dumb animal--and I'll show
you in fifteen different ways that they've got souls."

"How?"

The lean man glared. "Now 'how'!" he snapped. "You give me a mortal
pang. Why don't you never use your eyes once like other and more decent
folks? Get the habit. You'll see there ain't any difference between
animals and humans, only speech, and they've got that!"

The large man smiled. "Let's have it, Bob," he invited. "Where'll we
look for it first?"

The lean man showed an impatience born of contempt. "Well," he began,
tossing away his cigarette, "in desires, first, then in their power to
appreciate, and, finally, in their sense of the worth of things. They
have that, and don't you think they hain't. But they've got the others,
too. Animals like to eat and drink and play, don't they? You know that!
And they understand when you're good to 'em and when you're cussed mean.
You know that. And they know death when they see it, take it from me,
because they're as sensitive to loss of motion, or breathing, or animal
heat, as us humans--more so. They feel pain, for instance, more'n we do,
because, lackin' one of the five--or six, if you like--senses, their
other senses is keyed up higher'n our'n."

The Professor looked belligerent. "Get particular!" he demanded.

"I won't get particular," snapped the other. "S'pose you wrastle it out
for yourself--same as us humans." Evidently he was still bitter against
this man. "That Lady horse o' mine," he went on, his eyes twinkling,
addressing himself to the others, "she had it all sized about right. She
used to say to me, when I'd come close to her in the morning: 'Well, old
sock,' she'd say, throwin' her old ears forward, 'how are you this
mornin'?--You know,' she'd declare, 'I kind o' like you because you
understand me.' Then she'd about wipe her nose on me and go on. 'Wonder
why it is that so many of you don't! It's easy enough, our language,'
she'd p'int out, 'but most o' you two-legged critters don't seem to get
us. It's right funny! You appear to get 'most everything else--houses,
and land, and playin'-cards, and sich. But you don't never seem to get
us--that is, most o' you! Why, 'tain't nothin' but sign language,
neither--same as Injuns talkin' to whites. But I reckon you're idiots,
most o' you, and blind, you hairless animals, wearin' stuff stole offen
sheep, and your ugly white faces mostly smooth. You got the idee we
don't know nothin'--pity us, I s'pose, because we can't understand you.
Lawzee! We understand you, all right. It's you 'at don't understand us.
And that's the hull trouble. You think we're just a lump o' common dirt,
with a little tincture o' movement added, just enough so as we can run
and drag your loads around for you. Wisht you could 'a' heard me and old
Tom last night, after you'd all turned in, talkin' on the subject o'
keepin' well and strong and serene o' mind. Sign language? Some. But
what of it, old whiskers? Don't every deef-and-dumb party get along with
few sounds and plenty of signs? You humans give me mortal distress!'

"And so on," concluded this lover of animals. "Thus Lady horse used to
talk to me every mornin', tryin' to make me see things some little
clearer. And that's all animals--if you happen to know the 'try me' on
their little old middle chamber work." He fell silent.

The others said nothing. Each sat smoking reflectively, gazing into the
dying flames, until one arose and prepared to turn in. Stephen was the
last except the Professor and the man with the scrubby beard. And
finally the Professor gained his feet and, with a glance at the last
figure remaining at the fire, took off his boots and rolled up in his
blanket. For a long moment he stared curiously at the other bowed in
thought.

"Ain't you goin' to turn in?" he finally inquired. "You ain't et up by
nothin', be you?"

The lean man slowly lifted his head. "I was thinkin'," he said, half to
himself, "of a--a kind of horse's prayer I once see in a harness-shop in
Albuquerque."

The other twisted himself under his blanket. "How did it go?" he asked,
encouragingly. "Let's all have it!"

The lean man arose. "'To thee, my master,' it started off," he began,
moving slowly toward his blanket. Suddenly he paused. "I--I don't just
seem to remember it all," he said, and sat down and pulled off one of
his boots. He held it in his hands absently.

The Professor urged him on. "Let her come," he said, his face now hidden
in the folds of his covering. "Shoot it--let's hear."

"'To thee, my master, I offer my prayer,'" presently continued the
other, turning reflective eyes toward the flickering coals. "'Feed me,
water me, care for me, and, when the--the day's work is done, provide me
with shelter and a clean, dry bed, and, when you can, a stall wide
enough for me to lie down in in comfort. Always be kind to me. Talk to
me--your voice often means as much to me as the reins. Pet me sometimes,
that I may serve you the more gladly and know that my services are
appreciated, and that I may learn to love you. Do not jerk the reins,
and do not whip me when going up-hill. And when I don't understand you,
what you want, do not strike or beat or kick me, but give me a chance to
understand you. And if I continue to fail to understand, see if
something is not wrong with my harness or feet.'"

The Professor's blanket stirred. "Go on!" he yelled. "Sounds all right.
Go ahead! Is that all?"

"I disremember the rest," replied the other. "Let's see!" He was silent.
"No," he finally blurted out, "I can't get it. It says something about
overloading, and a-hitching where water don't drop on him, and--Oh yes!
'I can't tell you when I'm thirsty,' it goes on, 'so give me cool, clean
water often. Never put a frosty bit in my mouth; first warm it by
holdin' it a moment in your hands. And, remember, I try to carry you and
your burdens without a murmur, and I wait patiently for you long hours
of the day and night. Without power to choose my shoes or path, I
sometimes stumble and fall, but I stand always in readiness at any
moment to lose my life in your service. And this is important, and,
finally, O my master! when my useful strength is gone do not turn me out
to starve, or sell me to some cruel owner to be slowly tortured and
starved to death; but do thou, my master, take my life in the kindest
way, and your God will reward you here and hereafter. You will not
consider me irreverent, I know, if I ask all this in the name of Him Who
was born in a stable.'"

The Professor's blanket stirred again. "Go on," he demanded in muffled
tones. "Is that all?"

The lean man slipped off his second boot. "No," he replied, quietly,
"that ain't all."

"Well, go ahead. It's good. That horse must 'a' been a city horse; but
go on!"

"Only one more word, anyway," was the rejoinder. He was still holding
his boot.

"What is it?"

"Why"--the voice was solemn--"it's 'Amen.'"

"Aw, shucks!" came from the depths of the blanket.

The lean man turned his head. "Say, you!" he rasped, belligerently.

"What?"

For answer the boot sailed across the camp.

The Professor popped his head out of the blanket, drew it back suddenly,
popped it out again, all strongly suggestive of a turtle.

There was a hoarse laugh, then silence, but none of those men forgot the
Prayer of the Horse.



CHAPTER XIX

ANOTHER CHANGE OF MASTERS


The next morning Pat had a change from the tedium of the desert. With
the others he struck into a narrow canyon that led out to a beaten trail
upon a rolling mesa. The trail wound diagonally across the mesa from the
south and lost itself in snake-like twistings among hills to the north.
Guided to the right into this trail, Pat found himself, a little before
noon, in a tiny Mexican settlement. It was a squat hamlet, nestling
comfortably among the hills, made up of a few adobes, a lone well, and a
general store. The store was at the far end, and toward this his young
master directed him.

As they rode on Pat noticed a queer commotion. Here and there a door
closed violently, only to open again cautiously as they drew opposite,
revealing sometimes two, sometimes three, sometimes five pairs of black
eyes, all ranged timidly one pair over another in the opening. Dogs
skulked before their approach, snarling in strange savagery, while whole
flocks of chickens, ruffling in dusty hollows, took frantically to wing
at their coming, fleeing before them in unwonted disorder. And finally,
as they moved past the well, a half-grown boy, only partly dressed,
hurtled out of the side door of one house, raced across a yard to the
front door of another house, and slammed the door shut behind him in a
panic.

It was all very strange, and it made a deep impression upon him. Also it
evidently impressed the men, for as they drew rein in front of the
store, with its dust-dry shelves and haunting silence, all asked quick
questions of the proprietor, a little wizened, gimlet-eyed Mexican who
was leaning in the doorway. After glancing over their accoutrements with
a nod of understanding, he answered, explaining the reason for the
agitation.

It was all the result of a raid. Three days before a band of marauders
had swept down from the north, ransacked pigstys and chicken-coops and
corrals, and galloped off madly to the south. Yes, they had plundered
the store also. Indian renegades--yes. He could not say from what
reservation. Yes, they were armed, and in warpaint, and riding good
horses--all of them. No, he could not say--about thirty in the band,
perhaps. He--What? Yes, he had alfalfa and, if they wished, other
things--beans and rice and canned goods. No, the renegades had not
wholly cleaned out the store. Yes, he had matches. No, they had not--
What? _Vino?_ To be sure he had _Vino_! He would get--how many
bottles?--right away! It was in the cellar, where he kept it cool, and
reasonably safe from all marauders--including himself. With this slight
witticism he disappeared into the store.

The men dismounted. They sat down upon the porch, and one of them, the
large man, removed his hat, produced a blue bandana, and fell to mopping
his red face. The day was warm, and the settlement, lying low under
surrounding peaks, received none of the outside breezes. Also, it was
inert now, wrapped in the quiet of a frightened people. There was no
movement anywhere save that of ruffling hens in the dust of the trail,
and the nearer switching of horses' tails. Once this stillness was
broken. Among the houses somewhere rose feminine lamentations, wailing
sobs, the outburst cutting the quiet with a sharpness that caused the
men to turn grave eyes in its direction. And now the keeper of the store
reappeared, bearing three bottles of wine in his arms, and numerous
supplies, which the men accepted and paid for. Then all led their horses
back to the well, which was in a little clearing, and there prepared to
make camp, throwing off saddle-bags and accoutrements and building a
fire while they planned a real meal.

Pat was enjoying all this. The settlement had a faintly familiar look,
and he half expected to see a swarthy Mexican, whip in hand, approach
him with abusive tongue. Also, after weeks of far horizons and unending
sweeps of desert, he found in this nearness of detail pleasurable
relief. It was good to see something upright again without straining
across miles of desolation, even as it was good to see adobes once more,
with windows and doors, and smoke curling up out of chimneys. He felt a
deep sense of security, of coziness, which he had been fast losing on
the broad reaches, together with his sight for short distances. For his
eyes had become affected since leaving the white corral beside the
river, although with this he was aware of a peculiar gain. His sense of
hearing now was most acute, and he could hear the least faint
sounds--sounds which, before his taking to the open, he could not have
heard. So he was enjoying it all, feeling real comfort, a kind of
fitness, as if he belonged here and would better remain here for ever.
Then, with a generous supply of alfalfa tossed to him, as to the other
horses, he became convinced that he should remain in this little
settlement for all time.

Along in the afternoon the storekeeper, accompanied by a native woman,
who was tear-stained and weeping, crossed the settlement. At the moment
the men, lounging about on blankets, were discussing ways and means for
Stephen. He need not continue with them now, they informed him, unless
he wanted to. Arrangements could be made here to get him to a railroad
in some kind of vehicle, leading Pat behind. But it was up to him. They
weren't hurrying him away, by any means, yet it sure was up to him to
get proper treatment for his arm, which showed slow signs of recovery.

Stephen was considering this when the two Mexicans approached. The
proprietor of the store started to explain, when the little woman draped
in a black mantilla interrupted him with further sobbing and a pointing
finger--pointing back across the settlement.

"_Caballeros_," she began, "you coom please wit' me, I--I haf show
you soomt'ing." Then again she burst into weeping.

Startled, Stephen arose, and the others gained their feet. They set out
across the settlement. They struck between some adobe houses, crossed
some back yards, dodged under clothes-lines, and found themselves in a
tiny graveyard. The woman brought them to a stop before a fresh mound of
earth. Here she knelt in another outburst of tears, while the
gimlet-eyed storekeeper explained.

It was a little boy twelve years old. The marauders had stolen his pig.
He had bitterly denounced them, and one--evidently the leader--had shot
him. It was too bad! But it was not all. In one of the houses, the large
house they had passed in coming here, lay an old man, seventy-eight
years of age, dying from a rifle-shot. Yes, the renegade Indians had
shot him also. What had he done? He had defended his chickens against
theft. It was too bad! It was all too bad! Could not there something be
done? To live in peace, to live in strict accord with all known laws,
such was the aim and such had been the conduct of these people. And then
to have a band of cutthroats, murderers, thieves, descend upon their
peace and quiet in this fashion! It was all too bad!

The rangers turned away from the scene. All save the woman set out
across the settlement, returning to the camp in silence. Seated once
more, they fell to discussing this situation. And discussing the
tragedy, they reverted to Stephen and his own troubles, light in
comparison. They themselves, they acknowledged, had their work all cut
out for them. It was what they got their money for. But there was hardly
any use, they pointed out, in Stephen's accompanying them on this
mission. Yet he could go if he wanted to. What did he say?

And Stephen, gazing off thoughtfully toward the tiny mound of fresh
earth, and seeing the little woman prostrated with grief upon the grave,
knew that Helen, herself bitter with loss, and no doubt needing Pat as
much almost as this woman needed her own lost one, would have him do
what he wanted to do. And what he wanted to do, felt as if he must do,
was to accompany these men, go with them, disabled though he was, and
help as best he could to bring down retribution upon the renegades. And
he made known his wishes to the others, finally, expressing them with a
note of determination.

As they bridled and saddled, leaving all equipment not actually
required, the proprietor of the store, his small eyes eager, stood close
and frequently repeated his opinion that murder in even more gruesome
form had been committed to the north. Then they set out, following the
direction taken by the Indians, riding briskly, keyed up to energy
through hope of encounter, although Stephen suffered not a little from
the jolting of his arm. Dropping down from the hills, they swung out
upon the mesa, and thence made into the south along a winding trail.
Ordinarily they would have lingered to accept the strained hospitality
of the settlement. But this was duty, duty large and grave, and,
conscious of it all, they pressed forward in silence. The renegades'
tracks stood out clearly, and the rangers noted that some of the horses
were shod, others only half shod, while the greater number were without
shoes at all. This told of the marauders' nondescript collection of
mounts, and also acquainted them with the fact that many of the animals
had been stolen. On through the afternoon they rode, making but little
gain, since the tracks became no fresher. When darkness fell, though
still in the open without protection of any kind save that offered by a
slight rise of ground, they dismounted and prepared to make camp.

Throughout the afternoon Pat had felt something of the grim nature of
this business. This not only because of the severe crowding which he had
endured--though that had told him much--but because of the unwonted
silence upon the men. So he had held himself keenly to the stride,
rather liking its vigor after long days of walking, finding himself
especially fit to meet it after his recent change of food. And although
the sun had been swelteringly hot, yet the desert had been swept with
counteracting breezes, and, with night finally descending, he had felt
more than ever his fine mettle, and now, even though his master was
painfully dismounting, he felt fit to run his legs off at the least
suggestion.

This fitness remained with him. When his young master turned him loose
at the end of a generous tether, he stepped eagerly away from the
firelight and out into the light of a rising moon, not to graze, for he
felt no desire to graze, having eaten his fill and more at noon, but to
give vent to his high spirits in unusual rolling in the sands. This he
quickly proceeded to do, kicking and thrashing about, and holding to it
long after the men about the fire had ceased to come and go in preparing
their meal, long after they had seated themselves in the cheerful glow,
smoking and talking as was their habit.

The Professor noticed it. He looked at the man with the beard pointedly.
"That Pat hoss he's workin' up another job o' cleanin' for you," he
observed. "Seemed in an awful hurry, too," he added, then dropped his
eyes innocently.

The other was punching new holes in his belt with an unwieldy
jack-knife. He suddenly gave off twisting the point of the knife against
the leather and lifted it menacingly in the direction of his tormentor.

"Look-a-here, Professor," he retorted, "I ain't feelin' any too pert
right now, and I'll take a hop out o' you if you don't shet up!"

The Professor looked grieved. "What's the matter of you?" he inquired.

"Never you mind!" The knife went back to the leather again. "Let that
horse roll if he wants to! It ain't any skin off your hands!"

Which was the key-note of all assembled save the Professor. All except
him appeared tense and nervous and in no way inclined to joke. For a
time after the lean man's rebuke they engaged in casual talk, then one
after another they drew off their boots and rolled up in their blankets.
All but Stephen. His arm was throbbing with unusual pain. It was still
in splints, and still bandaged in a sling around his neck, and since it
always hurt him to change positions, he remained seated beside the fire,
wrapped in sober thought. Outside, in the green-white light of the moon,
he heard the horses one by one sink to rest. Around him the desert,
gripped in death-stillness, pressed close, while overhead the
star-sprinkled dome of heaven, unclouded, arched in all its wonted
glittering majesty. A long time he sat there, keenly alive to these
things, yet thinking strange thoughts, thoughts of his loneliness, and
what might have been, and where he might have been, had he never met the
girl. These were new thoughts, and he presently arose to rid himself of
them and turned in, and soon was in a doze.

Some time later, he did not know how much later, he was aroused by a
sound as of distant thunder. But as he lifted his head the sound
disappeared. Yet when he dropped his head back again he heard it. He
pressed his left ear close to earth. The sound grew louder and seemed to
come nearer. Again he lifted his head. As before, he could hear nothing
save the snoring of the large man and the dream-twitching of the
Professor. He gazed about him. The camp was still. He peered outside in
the moonlight. The horses were all down--at rest. At length he dropped
back once more, closed his eyes sleepily, and soon dozed a second time.

But again he was aroused. He whipped up his head. The sound was
thundering in his ears. He heard trampling hoofs--many
hoofs--immediately outside. He leaped to his feet. He saw
horsemen--Indians--the renegades--crowding past, riding frantically to
the north. He called sharply to the others, who were already waking and
leaping to their feet. He turned to the horses. They were all there,
standing now, alert and tense. Wheeling, he stared after the Indians.
They were speeding away like the wind, close huddled, fleeing in a
panic. He watched them, dazed, saw them ascend a rise, become a
vacillating speck in the moonlight, and drop from view in a hollow
beyond the rise. He turned to the men. All stood in mute helplessness,
only half comprehending. He opened his mouth to speak, but as he did so
there came a sudden interruption.

It was a bugle-call, rollicking across the desert, crashing into the
death-like hush which had settled upon the camp. He turned his eyes
toward the sound--to the south. Over a giant sand-dune, riding grouped,
with one or two in the lead, swept a company of cavalrymen. Down the
slope they galloped, moonlight playing freely upon them, bringing out
every detail--the glint of arms, the movement of hat-brims, the lift and
fall of elbows--pounding straight for the camp. Another blast of the
bugle, crisp and metallic, and they swerved; they drew near, nearer
still, came close on the right, and swept past in a whirlwind of sounds,
thundering hoofs, cursing men, slamming carbines, creaking saddles,
snorting horses. So they swept on into the north, pushing, crowding,
jostling, throwing back flying gravel, odors of sweat, swirling
dust-clouds. They mounted rapidly over the rise, and became, as the
pursued, vacillating specks, and then disappeared in the hollow beyond.

Stephen recovered himself. He swept his eyes again over the horses. He
saw a change among them. Three were calm, but not the other two. Both of
them were weaving faintly, and, even as he sprang to them, one sank
slowly to the ground. Wondering, dazed, gripped in apprehension, he bent
over it. The horse was a stranger, and it was gasping its last breath.
Dismayed, he turned to the other. This horse also was a strange horse,
and it was white with foam and panting, also run to death. Astonished,
cold with apprehension, he looked for Pat. But neither Pat nor the
sorrel was to be seen. Then the truth overwhelmed him. The renegades,
seeing fresh horses here, had made a swift change. Pat was gone!

For one tense moment he stood spellbound. Then he sprang into action. He
dressed as best he could, called to the others to bridle and saddle a
horse, and leaped into the saddle. His whole body rebelled at the
movement. But he set his jaw grimly, and, clutching at his bandaged arm,
yet keeping his grip on the reins, he spurred frantically after the
cavalry. As he dashed away he shouted back his purpose.

But the men, standing with wide eyes turned after him, heard only the
end:

"I'll get him in spite of hell!"



CHAPTER XX

FIDELITY


Meantime Pat was running at top speed across the desert. Yet he was
trying to understand this strange call to duty. Roused from fitful
slumber by trampling hoofs, he had felt an excited hand jerking him to
his feet, and after that a slender rope looped round his lower jaw. Then
he had been urged, with a wriggling form on his bare back, frantic heels
drumming his sides, and a strange voice impelling him onward past a
surging crowd of horsemen, still only half awake, out into the open.
When he was well in the fore, he had found himself crowded to his
utmost--over sand-dune, into arroyo, across the level--around him
thundering hoofs, panting horses, silent men, all speeding forward in
the glorious moonlight. It was a strange awakening, yet he had not
entertained thoughts of rebellion, despite the fact that he had not
liked the flaying rope, the soft digging heels, the absence of bridle
and saddle. It was strange; it was not right. None of it had checked up
with any item of his experience. Yet, oddly enough, he had not rebelled.

Nor was he harboring thoughts of rebellion now. Racing onward, smarting
with each swing of the lash, he found himself somehow interested solely
in holding his own with the other horses. Suddenly, alert to their
movements, he saw a cleft open in their surging ranks, made by the fall
of an exhausted horse. Yet the others did not stop. They galloped on,
unheeding, though he himself was jerked up. Then followed a swift
exchange of words, and then the unhorsed man mounted behind Pat's new
master. Carrying a double load now, Pat nevertheless dashed ahead at his
former speed, stumbling with his first steps, but soon regaining his
stride and overtaking the others. And though it cost him straining
effort, he felt rewarded for his pains when one of the men uttered a
grunt which he interpreted as approval. But it was all very strange.

A canyon loomed up on his left. He had hardly seen the black opening
when he was swung toward it. He plunged forward with the other horses,
and was the first to enter the canyon's yawning mouth. Between its high
walls, however, he found himself troubled by black shadows. Many of them
reached across his path like projections of rock, and more than once he
faltered in his stride. But after passing through two or three in safety
he came at length to understand them and so returned to his wonted
self-possession.

But he was laboring heavily now. His heart was jumping and pounding, his
breath coming in gasps, but he held to the trail, moving ever deeper
into the hills, until he burst into a basin out of which to the right
led a narrow canyon. Then he slowed down and, turning into the canyon,
which wound and twisted due north and south in the bright moonlight, he
continued at a slower pace. But his heart no longer was in the task. The
weight on his back seemed heavier; there was a painful swelling of his
ankles. He knew the reason for this pain. It had come from unwonted
contact with hard surfaces and frequent stepping on loose stones in this
strange haste with a strange people in the hills. Yet he kept on,
growing steadily more weary, yet with pride ever to the fore, until a
faint light began to streak the overhead sky, stealing cautiously down
the ragged walls of the canyon. Then he found himself pulled into a
walk.

He was facing a narrow defile that wound up among the overhanging crags.
Glad of the privilege of resting, for a walk was a rest with him now, he
set forward into the uninviting pass. Up and up he clambered, crowding
narrowly past boulders, rounding on slender ledges, up and ever up. As
he ascended he saw gray-white vales below, felt the stimulus of a rarer
air, and at last found his heart fluttering unpleasantly in the higher
altitude. Yet he held grimly to his task, and, when broad daylight was
streaming full upon him, he found himself on a wide shelf of rock, a
ledge falling sheer on one side to unseen depths, towering on the other
to awe-inspiring heights. Here he came to a halt. And then, so tired was
he, so faint with exhaustion, so racked of body and spirit, that he sank
upon the cool rock even before the men could clear themselves from him,
and lay there on his side, his eyes closed, his lungs greedily sucking
air.

The glare of full daylight aroused him. Regaining his feet, he stared
about him. He saw many strange-looking men, and near them many dirty and
bedraggled horses. He turned his eyes outward from the ledge. He saw
around him bristling peaks, and below them, far below, a trailing
canyon, winding in and out among hills toward the rising sun, and
terminating in a giant V, beyond which, a connecting thread between its
sloping sides, lay an expanse of rolling mesa. It was far from him,
however--very, very far--and he grew dizzy at the view, finding himself
more and more unnerved by the height. At length he turned away and swept
his eyes again over the horses, where he was glad to find the rangy
sorrel. Then he turned back to the men, some of whom were standing,
others squatting, but all in moody silence.

As he looked he grew aware that a pair of dark eyes were fixed upon him.
He stared back, noting the man's long hair and painted features and the
familiar glow of admiration in his eyes. Believing him to be his new
master, he continued to regard him soberly until the man, with a grunt
and a grimace, rose and approached him. Pat stood very still under a
rigid examination. The man rubbed his ankles, turned up his hoofs,
looked at his teeth; and at the conclusion of all this Pat felt that he
had met with approval. Also, he realized that he rather approved of the
man. Then came a volley of sounds he did not understand, and he found
himself touched with grave apprehension. But not for long. The man led
him across the ledge to a tiny stream trickling down the rocks, walking
with a quiet dignity he long since had learned to connect with
kindliness. This and the fact that he led him to water determined his
attitude.

Toward noon, as he was brooding over hunger pangs, he was startled by
excited gutturals among the men. Gazing, he saw one of the men standing
on the edge of the shelf, pointing out through the long canyon. With the
others, Pat turned his eyes that way. Between the distant V dotting the
mesa beyond rode a body of horsemen. They were not more than specks to
his eyes, proceeding slowly, so slowly, in fact, that while he could see
they were moving he yet could not see them move as they crawled across
the span between the canyon's mouth. Interested, gripped in the
contagion of the excitement round him, he kept his eyes upon the distant
specks until the sun had changed to another angle. But even after this
lapse of time, so distant were the horsemen, so wide the canyon's mouth,
they had traveled only half-way across the span. Yet he continued to
watch, wondering at the nervousness around him, conscious of steadily
increasing heat upon him, until the last of the slow-moving specks,
absorbed one by one by the canyon's wall, disappeared from view. Then he
turned his eyes elsewhere.

The men also turned away, but continued their excited talk. But even
they after a time relapsed into silence. What it was all about Pat did
not know. He knew it was something very serious, and suddenly fear came
to him. He saw some of the men lie down as if to sleep, and he feared
that they intended to remain here for ever, in this place absolutely
destitute of herbage. But after a time, made sluggish by the attitude of
the men, he himself attempted to drowse. But the heat pulsating up off
the rocks discouraged him, and he soon abandoned the attempt, standing
motionless in the hot sun.

A change came over him. He took to brooding over his many
discomforts--hunger pangs, loss of sleep, bothersome flies, the pain of
his swollen ankles. As the day advanced his ankles swelled more, and
grew worse, the flies became more troublesome, and his inner gnawings
more pronounced. So the time went on and he brooded through the still
watches of the afternoon, through the soft stirrings of evening, on into
night again. With the coming of night light breezes rose from the spaces
below to spur his fevered body into something of its wonted vigor. And
the night brought also preparations among the men to journey on. This he
welcomed, even more than the cooling zephyrs.

There was some delay. His master entered upon a dispute with the
horseless man. The voices became excited and rose to vehement heights.
But presently they subsided when Pat himself, anxious to be active,
sounded a note of protest. Yet the argument proved to his benefit.
Instead of mounting him behind his master, the odd man swung up behind
another man on the sorrel. Then he was permitted to move forward, and as
he approached the narrow defile he sounded another nicker, now of
gratification.

The pass dropped almost sheer in places. As he descended, more than once
he was compelled to slide on stiffened legs. In this at first he felt
ecstatic danger thrills. But only at first. Soon he wearied of it, and
he was glad when he struck the bottom, where, after being guided out of
shadow and into broad moonlight, he found himself moving to the west in
a deep canyon. With the other horses he burst into a canter, and
continued at a canter hour after hour, following the winding and
twisting canyon until daylight, with its shadows creeping away before
him, revealed to his tired eyes a stretch of mesa ahead, dotted with
inviting clumps of bunch-grass. Then of his own volition he came to a
stop and fell to grazing. Soon all the horses were standing with mouths
to earth, feeding eagerly.

The men, sitting for a time in quiet conversation, finally dismounted,
laughing now and then, and casting amused glances toward the black
horse.

Soon they mounted again to take the trail. Instead of riding with the
other on the sorrel, the odd man swung up on Pat's back behind his
master. But as Pat no longer suffered from hunger, he complacently
accepted the return of the double load. Then all moved forward. Pat
jogged out of the canyon, turning to the right on the desert, and moved
rapidly north in the shadow of the hills. He held to his stride, and
toward noon, rounding a giant ridge projecting into the desert from the
hills, he saw ahead on his right, perhaps two miles distant across a
basin, the mouth of another canyon. Evidently his master saw it also,
and obviously it contained danger, for he jerked Pat down to a walk.
Almost instantly he knew that the danger was real, for the man, sounding
a sharp command to the others, brought him to a full stop. Then followed
an excited discussion, and, when it ended, Pat, gripped in vague
uneasiness, found himself urged forward at top speed. Yet in a dim way
he knew what was wanted of him. He flung himself into a long stride and
dashed across the wide basin, across the mouth of the canyon, into the
shadow of the hills again. Breathless, he slackened his pace with thirty
excited horses around him, mad swirling clouds of dust all about, and
before him the oppressive stillness of the desert. They were safely past
the danger zone.

He pressed on at a slow canter. Ahead the mesa revealed numerous
sand-dunes, large and small, rising into the monotonous skyline.
Plunging among them, he mounted some easily, others he skirted as
easily, and once, to avoid an unusually large one, he dropped down into
the bed of an arroyo, traveled along its dry course, and then clambered
up on the desert. But it was wearying work, and, becoming ever more
aware of his double load, he began to chafe with dissatisfaction. Yet he
held to his gait, hopeful of better things--he was always hopeful of
better things now--until he reached another dune, larger than any as yet
encountered, when once more he broke out of his stride to circle its
bottom. As he did so, of his own volition he checked himself. Dead ahead
he saw horses scattered about, and beyond the horses, rising limply in
the noon haze, a thin column of smoke. Also, he felt both his riders
stiffen. Then on the midday hush rose the crack of firearms from the
direction of the camp.

His master lifted a shrill voice. He felt a mighty pull at his head. He
swung around like a flash. Then came the flaying of a rope and frantic
urging of heels. He plunged among the surging horses, dancing and
whirling excitedly, and out into the open beyond. He set his teeth
grimly, and raced headlong to the south, galloping furiously, tearing
blindly over the desert. He headed straight for the distant basin,
straight for the mouth of the canyon, hurtling forward, struggling
mightily under his double load. He did not know it, but he was speeding
into a tragic crisis.

The others overtook him. They were carrying but single loads. But they
did not pass him. He saw to that. He burst forward into even greater
speed, clung to it grimly, forged into a position well in the lead. And
he held this place--around him frenzied horses, frantic riders; behind
him, to the distant rear, shot after shot echoing over the desert;
before him the baking sands, shimmering heat-waves, sullen and silent.
He raced on, swinging up over dunes, dropping into hollows, speeding
across flats, mounting over dunes again, on and on toward the basin and
the mouth of the canyon--and protection.

But again disaster.

Suddenly, out of the canyon poured the cheerful notes of a bugle. On the
vibrant wings of the echoes, streaming into the basin from the canyon,
swept a body of flying horsemen. Instantly he checked himself. Then his
master sounded a shrill outcry, swung his head around violently, and
lashed him forward again. He hurtled headlong, dashing toward the
distant ridge, the peninsula jutting out into the desert. Grimly he
flung out along this new course. But he kept his eyes to the left. He
saw the horsemen there also swerve, saw them spread out like a fan, and
felt his interest kindle joyously. For this was a race! It was a race
for that ridge! And he must win! He must do this thing, for
instinctively he knew that beyond it lay safety. There he could flee to
some haven, while cut off from it, cut off by these steady-riding men on
his left, he must submit to wretched defeat. So he strained himself
harder and burst into fresh speed, finding himself surprised that he
could. In the thrill of it he forgot his double load, forgot the
close-pressing horses, forgot irritating dust. On he galloped, racing
forward with machine-like evenness--on his left the paralleling
horsemen, to his rear yelling and shooting, on his right his own men and
horses, and for them he felt he must do big things.

Suddenly the shooting in his rear ceased. Evidently these men had
received some warning from the riders on his left. Then he awoke to
another truth. The horsemen on his left were gaining. It troubled him,
and he cast measuring eyes to the front. He saw that he was pursuing a
shorter line to the ridge; he believed he still could reach it first. So
again he strained on, whipping his legs into movement till they seemed
about to snap. But the effort hurt him and he discovered that he was
becoming woefully tired. Also, the double weight worried him. It had not
become lighter with the miles, nor had he grown stronger. Yet he
galloped on with thundering hoofs, the tranquil desert before him, the
thud of carbines against leather to the left, behind him ominous
silence. But he kept his eyes steadily to the left, and presently he
awoke to something else there, something that roused him suddenly and in
some way whipped his conscience. For now he saw a white figure amid the
khaki, racing along with them--a part of them and yet no part of them--a
familiar figure wearing a familiar bandage. This for a brief moment
only. Then he took to measuring distances again; saw that the cavalrymen
were holding to the course steadily, racing furiously as he himself was
racing for the ridge. Would he win?

A shrill outcry from his master, and he found himself checked with a
jerk. It was unexpected, sudden, and he reared. The movement shook off
the second man. Dropping back upon all-fours, Pat awoke to the relief
the loss of this load gave him. Grimly determining to hold to this
relief, he dashed ahead, following the guidance of his master in yet
another direction, hurtled away before the second man could mount again.

He found that he was speeding in a direction almost opposite from the
ridge. He did not understand this. But his regret was not long lived.
Casting his eyes to his left in vague expectancy of seeing the familiar
spot of white again, he saw only his own men and horses, and beyond them
the smiling desert. Puzzled, he gazed to the right. Here he saw the
cavalrymen, and though puzzled more, he yet kept on with all his power.
As he ran he suddenly awoke to the presence of a new body of horsemen on
his distant left, a smaller band than the cavalrymen, men without
uniforms, most of them hatless, all yelling. He remembered this yell,
and now he understood. He was speeding toward the mouth of the canyon;
had been turned completely around. And thus it was, he knew, that the
horsemen once on his left were now on his right, and the madly yelling
group at his rear was now on his left. He awoke to another realization.
This was a race again, a race with three new entrants now--all three
making toward the canyon. Would he win?

He fell to studying the flanking groups. On his right, riding easily,
bent to the winds, their heavy horses swinging rhythmically, their
accoutrements rattling, galloped the cavalry--steady, sure of
themselves, well in hand. On his left, riding furiously, without
formation, dashed the smaller group of riders--their horses wrangling
among themselves, one or two frequently bucking, all flinging forward in
excited disorder. This disorder, this evident nervousness, he feared. He
knew somehow that the first real trouble would come from this source. He
knew men to that extent. And suddenly his fears were realized. With the
three converging lines of direction drawing closer, and the mouth of the
canyon but a short distance away, out of this group on his left came a
nasty rifle-fire, followed by a mighty chorus of yells. There was a
result at once. Close beside him a horse stumbled; the man astride the
horse was thrown headlong; from the cavalrymen on his right came a
single shrill, piercing outcry--a cry to desist! But he did not
understand this. Nor did he heed it. Galloping forward, eyes upon the
ever-nearing canyon, he at length became grimly conscious of approaching
defeat--of the firm and ruthless closing in upon him from either side of
the two bands. And now, and not till now, realizing as he did that the
thing was beyond him, that he could not reach the canyon first--now, and
not till now, though soul and body were wrecked by exhaustion, Pat
abated his speed.

Instantly pandemonium broke loose. He heard the firing on his left
increasing. He felt his master make ready to return it. He saw others
around him, twisting vengefully into position, open with repeating
rifles. Then the cavalrymen, evidently forced into it by the others,
swung to the fray with their carbines, which began to boom on his right.
The whole basin echoed and re-echoed sharp reports. Across his eyes
burst intermittent flames. His ears rang with shots and yells. The
shooting became heavier. Bullets sang close about him--seemed
centered--as if the enemy would cut down his master at once and disrupt
the others through his loss. The bullets sang closer still. And now
immediately about him men and horses dropped, upsetting other riders,
tumbling over sound horses--all in a seething chaos. He became dazed.
His eyes were blinded with the flashes, and his ears ached with the
crash and tumult. He grew faint. A dizziness seized him. But on he
labored, his head aching, his eyes growing dimmer, his limbs numb and
rebellious, his heart thumping in sullen rebellion, his ears bursting
with the uproar.

Another change swept over him. Mist leaped before his eyes. The roaring
in his ears subsided. His legs flew off--he had no legs! The mist became
a film. Yet he could see--see faintly. He saw a mad jumble of flying men
and horses--a riotous mixture of color, arms, and firearms whirling and
interlaced, a grim, struggling mass in death-grips. It swept
close--crashed over him, struck him full. He felt the impact--then
another. The ground rose and struck him. And now there fell upon him a
great and wonderful peace--and a blank--then a voice, a familiar voice,
and he drifted into unconsciousness.

He was wakened by a fiery liquid in his throat. He slowly opened his
eyes. He saw men and horses, many of them, standing or reclining in
small groups. He saw them between the legs of a group immediately around
him--men gazing down at him pitifully. As he lay thus dazed he heard the
familiar voice again. It was sounding his name. He struggled to his
feet. Steadying himself against his dizziness, he looked curiously at
the young man standing before him. And suddenly he recognized him. This
was his young master with the white around his arm and neck--the young
man who had ridden him into the Mexican settlement, and who had been so
good to him there, giving him generous quantities of alfalfa. He--But
the voice was sounding again.

"You poor dumb brute!" said Stephen, quietly; and Pat liked the petting
he received. "You've just come through hell! But--but if they get you
again--anywhere, friend of mine--they'll wade through hell themselves to
do it." He was silent. "Pat, old boy," he concluded, finally, "you're
going back home! I--I'm through!"

A strange thing took place in Pat. Hearing this voice now, and seeing
the owner of it, though he had seen him and heard his voice many times
just before this last heartbreaking task under a strange master, he
suddenly found himself thinking of the little ranch beside the river,
and of his loving mistress, and also the cold and cruel Mexican hostler.
And, thinking of them, he found himself thinking also of another, one
who had accompanied him and his mistress on many delightful trips in the
valley and up on the mesa in the shadow of the mountains. And now,
thinking of this person, he somehow recognized this young man before him
fully, and wondered why this had not come to him before. For this was
the same young man--curiously pale, curiously drawn and haggard--but yet
the same man. Understanding, understanding everything, he nickered
softly and pressed close, mindful of yet another thing--something that
had helped to make his life on the little ranch so pleasant and
unforgettable. What he was mindful of, and what he now sought, was sugar
and quartered apples.



CHAPTER XXI

LIFE AND DEATH


The third group in the affray consisted of cowboys. Weary and
bedraggled, yet joyous at the suppression of the uprising, they set out
for home about noon. Stephen, mounted upon Pat, accompanied them. They
headed into the northwest, riding slowly, talking over the affair, while
Stephen explained in part his interest in the black horse. Night found
them near a water-hole, and here they went into camp, Stephen weak and
distressed, his whole body aching, his arm and shoulder throbbing in
agonizing pain. The men proved attentive and considerate; but he lay
down exhausted and courted sleep, hardly hearing what they said. Sleep
came to him only fitfully, and he was glad when break of day brought a
change. They rode on through the second day, usually in sober silence,
on into another dusk and another night of torture. A third day and a
third dusk followed, but there was no camp this time. Continuing
forward, just before dawn, with the moon brilliant in the heavens, they
reached a cluster of buildings. One of them was a dwelling with a fence
around it as a protection against cattle and horses, and to the rear of
this all dismounted. Stephen led Pat into a spacious stable, and, with
the assistance of the others, unsaddled and unbridled him, watered and
fed him generously, then left him for the night.

Instantly Pat began to inquire into his condition and surroundings. He
was stiff and sore and a little nervous from the events of the past few
days, and he found the stable, spacious though it was, depressing after
his protracted life in the open. Yet there were many offsetting
comforts. He had received a generous supply of grain and all the water
he could drink. Then there was another comfort, though he awoke to this
only after sinking to rest. His stall was thickly bedded with straw,
which was comfort indeed, and though he had become accustomed to the
pricking of the desert sand, he nestled into the straw with a sigh of
satisfaction. To his right and left other horses stirred restlessly, and
from outside came an occasional nicker, presumably from some unroofed
inclosure. All these sounds kept him awake for a time, and it was
approaching day before he felt himself sinking off into easy slumber.

He was awakened by the coming of a stranger into his stall. It was broad
daylight, and he hastily gained his feet, mystified for an instant that
he should be sleeping in broad day, and not a little troubled by his
strange surroundings. The new-comer was a fat youth with a round and
smiling face, who, as he raked down the bedding, talked in a pleasing
drawl.

"Pat," he began, shoving him over gently, "you're shore some cayuse.
Wouldn't mind ownin' a piece o' you myself. But I was goin' for to say
there's trouble come onto you. That mighty likable pardner o' yours is
gone in complete--sick to death. We've telephoned for the doc, but he's
off somewheres, and we've got to wait till he gits back. But it's shore
too bad--all of it. Steve he's got a nasty arm and shoulder, and he's
all gone generally. Mighty distressin' I call it."

With this he slapped Pat heartily and left him.

When he had gone Pat felt a depression creeping over him. It became
heavier as the hours passed. He knew that his young friend was somewhere
about, and could not understand why he failed to come to him himself,
instead of sending this stranger. Then, with the hours lengthening into
a day, and the days dragging into a week, with only the smiling stranger
coming to him regularly, and petting and stroking and talking to him, he
came to feel that something of grave and serious nature was going on
outside. So he longed to get out of the stable, out into sunlight and
away from this restraint, and to see for himself what it was that was
holding his master from him.

Then late one afternoon he heard a step approaching. It was his master's
step, yet it was very different. It was slow and dragging, and while the
voice was the same, yet there was a note of hollowness as he spoke that
did not belong there, a note as if it required great effort to speak at
all. But in spite of this he recognized his young master, and sounded a
welcoming nicker, anxious to be off. For somehow he believed that now he
would be taken out into the sunlight. Nor was he disappointed. After a
moment's petting the young man led him outdoors, and there began to
bridle and saddle him, slowly, with many pauses for breath, all as if it
hurt him, as indeed it must, since he still wore the white bandages.
Then there appeared a group of interested young men, suddenly, as though
they had just discovered the proposed departure.

"See here, Steve," one of them exploded, "this ain't treating us a bit
nice. You're a mighty sick man. I ain't saying that to worry you,
neither; but I can't see the idee of your hopping out of bed to do this
thing. You stick around till the doc comes again, anyway. Now, don't be
a fool, Steve."

Stephen continued slowly with his saddling. "It's decent of you
fellows," he said, quietly. "And I don't want you to think me
ungrateful. It's just a feeling I've got. I want to get this horse back
where he belongs."

Another of the group took up the attempt at persuasion. "But you're
sick, man!" he exclaimed, beginning to stroke Pat absently. "You won't
never make the depot! You owe it to everybody you've ever knowed to get
right back into bed and stay there!"

But Stephen only shook his head. Yet he knew that what the boys said was
true. He was sick, and he knew it. He realized that he ought to be in
bed. And he wanted to be in bed. But already he had suffered too much,
lying inert, not because of his arm and the fever upon him, though these
were almost unbearable, but because of the haunting fear, come to him
ever more insistently with each passing day, that since Pat had escaped
from him twice thus far, he was destined to escape from him a third
time. Sometimes this fear took shape in visions of a blazing fire in the
stable, in which Pat was burned to a crisp; again it took form in some
malady peculiar to horses which would prove equally disastrous. At last,
unable to withstand these pictures longer, he had crept out of bed,
dressed as best he could, and stolen out of the house, bent upon getting
Pat to the railroad, and there shipping him east to Helen at whatever
cost to himself. So here he was, about to ride off.

"You're--you're mighty decent," he repeated, hollowly, by way of
farewell. "But I've got to go. And don't worry about my making the
station," he added, reassuringly. "I have the directions, and I'll get
there in time to make that ten-thirty eastbound to-night." He clambered
painfully up into the saddle.

A third member of the group, the round-faced and smiling cowpuncher,
opened up with his pleasing drawl. "Why'n't you stay over till mornin',
then?" he demanded. "The ranch wagon goes up early, and you could ride
the seat just like a well man."

But Stephen remained obdurate, and, repeating his thanks and farewells,
he urged Pat forward at a walk because he himself could not stand the
racking of a more rapid gait. The men sent after him expressions of
regret mingled with friendly denunciations, but he rode steadily on,
closing his ears grimly against their pleas, and soon he was moving
slowly across the Arizona desert. His direction was northwest, and his
destination, though new to him, a little town on the Santa Fé.

As he rode forward through the quiet of the afternoon he found his
thoughts a curious conflict. At times he would think of the girl, and of
his love for her, and of the long, still hours spent in the ranch-house
brooding, especially the nights, when, gazing out at the stars, he had
wondered whether she knew, or, knowing, whether, after all, she really
cared. They had been lonely nights, fever-tossed and restless, nights
sometimes curiously made up of pictures--pictures of a runaway horse and
of a girl mounted upon the horse, and of long walks and rides and talks
with her afterward, and of the last night in her company, outside a
corral and underneath a smiling moon, the girl in white, her eyes
burning with a strange glow, himself telling his love for her, and
hearing in return only that she did not and could not return that love.

These were his thoughts at times as he rode forward through the desert
solitude. Then he would awaken to his physical torture, and in this he
would completely forget his spiritual distress, would ask why he had
flung himself into this mocking silence and plunged into all this misery
and pain. He knew why--knew it was because of the girl. But would it
have been better to accept her dismissal and, returning to the East, let
her pass out of his memory? In his heart he knew that he could not.

There followed the thought of his responsibility for Pat, and of what
was left for him to do. He recalled the theft, and his weeks of futile
riding to recover the horse, and the thrill accompanying risk of life
when he finally recovered him. And after that the second theft, and
another and more dreadful ride when he raced through the night after the
cavalry--the torture of it, the agony of his arm, the shooting, and the
grappling hand to hand, and Pat sinking with exhaustion, and the thrill
again, his own, at having the horse once more in his possession. It was
_worth_ it--all of it--and he was _glad_--glad to have had an
object for once in his life. And he still had that object, for was he
not riding the horse on a journey which would end in placing Pat in the
hands of the adorable girl who owned him?

Thus he rode through the afternoon and on into an early dusk. Suddenly
awaking to the Stygian darkness around him, he gave over thinking of the
past and future and turned uneasy thoughts upon the present. Above him
was a black, impenetrable dome, seemingly within touch of his hand;
around and about him pressed a dense wall that gave no hint of his
whereabouts. Yet he believed that he was pursuing the right direction;
and, forgetting that Pat, no more than himself, knew the route, he gave
the horse loose rein. Thus for an hour, two hours, three, he rode slowly
forward, when like a flash it came to him that he was hopelessly lost.
He reined in the horse sharply.

For a time he sat trying to place himself. Failing in this, he raised
his eyes, hoping for a break in the skies. But there was no glimmer of
light, and after a while, not knowing what else to do, he sent Pat
forward again. But his uneasiness would not down, and presently he drew
rein again, dismounted, and fell to listening. There was not a breath of
air. He took a step forward, his uneasiness becoming fear, and again
stood motionless, listening, gripped by the oppressive stillness of the
desert. It crept upon him, this death-quiet, seemed to close about him
suffocatingly. Suddenly he started. Out of the dense blackness had come
a voice, weak and plaintive. He turned tense with excitement and
listened keenly.

"Hello, there! This--over this way!"

He could see nothing; but he moved in the direction of the voice. After
a few strides he was stopped by a consciousness of something before him,
and there was a constrained groan.

"Careful, man--I'm hurt. Unhorsed this morning. Been crawling all day
for shade. Strike a match, will you? God! but it's a night!"

Stephen struck a light. As it flared up he saw prone in the sand a young
man, his face drawn with pain, his eyes dark and hunted. The match went
out. He struck another. The man was pitifully bruised and broken. A leg
of his trousers had been torn away, and the limb lay exposed, strangely
twisted. His track, made in crawling through the sand, stood out
clearly, trailing away beyond the circling glow of light. A moment of
flickering, and the second match went out.

"Which way were you headed, friend?" Stephen asked, pityingly. His heart
went out to the stricken stranger. He wanted to ask another question,
too, but he hesitated. But finally he asked it. "Who are you, old man?"

For a moment the fellow did not reply. The silence was oppressive.
Stephen regretted his question. Then suddenly the man answered him,
weakly, bitterly, as one utterly remorseful.

"I'm Jim," he blurted out. "Horse-thief, cattle-rustler."

Stephen bit his lip. More than ever he regretted that he had asked.
Well, something had to be done, and done quickly. Could he but feel sure
of his direction, he might place this unfortunate upon Pat and walk with
him to the railroad town, where proper medical and surgical attendance
could be obtained. But this he was unable to do, since he fully realized
he was astray.

"Brother," he suddenly explained, "I was headed, myself, toward the
railroad. A little before dark I lost my way. Do you happen to know--"

"Sit down," interrupted the other, faintly. "I've been--been lost--a
week."

Stephen sat down thoughtfully. All hope of serving the man for the
present was gone. He must wait till daybreak at least. Then somebody or
something might appear to show him the way out. He thought of the ranch
wagon, and of Buddy's offer, and it occurred to him that unless he was
too far off the regular course he might attract Buddy. It was a chance,
anyway.

"I've been 'most dead, too, for a week," suddenly began the other. "I
'ain't eat regularly, for one thing--'most a month of that, I reckon.
Been times, too, when I couldn't--couldn't find water. I didn't know the
country over here. Had to change--change horses a couple times, too.
Because--" He checked himself. "I made a mistake--the last horse. He
give me all--all that was comin'--"

A nicker from Pat interrupted him. Stephen felt him cringe. Directly he
felt something else. It was a cold hand groping to find his own. The
whole thing was queer, uncanny, and he was glad when the man went on.

"Did--did you hear that?" breathed the fellow, a note of suppressed
terror in his voice. "Did you hear it, friend? Tell me!" His voice was
shrill now.

Stephen reassured him, explaining that it was his horse. But a long time
the man held fast, fingers gripping his hand, as if he did not believe,
and was listening to make sure. At length he relaxed, and Stephen, still
seated close beside him, heard him sink back into the sand.

"I was getting away from--from--Oh, well, it don't--don't make any
difference." The fellow was silent. "I needed a--a horse," he continued,
finally. "My own--the third since--since--my own had played out. I was
near a ranch, and--and it was night, and I--I seen a corral with a horse
standing in it--a gray. It was moonlight. I--I got the gate open, and
I--I roped him, and--" He interrupted himself, was upon one elbow again.
"It was a stallion--a cross-bred, maybe--and--and say, friend, he rode
me to death! I got on him before I knowed what he was. Bareback. He shot
out of that corral like he was crazy. But I--I managed to hold--hold to
him and--if he'd only bucked me off! But he didn't. He just raced for
it--tore across the country like a cyclone. He rode me to death, a
hundred miles, I bet, without a stop. And I held on--couldn't let
go--was afraid to let go." He was silent. "Are you--you dead sure,
friend, that was your horse?"

Stephen again reassured him, realizing the fear upon the man and now
understanding it. But he said nothing.

"And then somewhere off here he throwed me," went on the man. "But
he--he was a raving maniac. He turned on me before I could get up, and
bit and kicked and trampled me till I didn't know nothing--was asleep,
or something. When I came to--woke up--he was still hanging around. He's
around here yet! I heard him all day--yesterday! He's off there to the
east somewheres. He's--he's looking for me. I kept still whenever I'd
see him or hear him, and then when he'd move off out of sight, or
quit--quit his nickering, I'd crawl along some more. I'm--I'm done,
stranger," he concluded, weakly, dropping over upon his back. "I'm done,
and I know it. And it was that horse that--that--" He was silent.

Stephen did not speak. He could not speak after this fearsome tale. Its
pictures haunted him. He could see this poor fellow racing across the
desert, clinging for life to that which meant death. His own condition
had been brought about through a horse, a horse and wild rides at a time
when he should have been, as this unfortunate undoubtedly should have
been, in bed under medical care. For a moment he thought he would tell
him a tale of misery equal to his own, in the hope that he might turn
him from thoughts of his own misfortunes. But before he could speak the
other broke in upon his thoughts with a shrill outcry. He had raised
himself upon one elbow again, and now was pointing toward the eastern
sky.

"Look!" he cried. "Look off there!"

Stephen turned his eyes in the direction of the pointing finger. He saw
a faint light breaking through the black dome of the sky. As he watched
it, it trickled out steadily, like slow-spreading water, filtering
slowly through dense banks of clouds, folding them back like the shutter
of a giant camera, until the whole eastern sky was a field of gray
clouds with frosty edges, between which, coming majestically forward
through the green-white billow, appeared finally a moon, big and round
and brilliant, casting over the earth a flood of wonderland light,
streaming down upon the dunes and flats in mystic sheen, bringing out
the desert in soft outline. Near by, the light brought out the form of
Pat, standing a short distance off with drooping head, motionless in all
the splendor of his perfect outline. Stephen turned back to the man. He
found him staring hard at the horse. He did not understand this until
the fellow burst out excitedly, his eyes still fixed on Pat.

"Whose horse is that?" he demanded. "Tell me. Do you own that black
horse?"

Stephen slowly shook his head. He thought the question but another
expression of the stranger's nervous apprehension due to his experience.
Yet he explained.

"He belongs back in New Mexico," he said, quietly--"the Rio Grande
Valley. He was stolen last spring. Been ridden pretty hard since, I
guess. I happen to know where he belongs, though, and I was taking him
to a shipping-point when I lost my way. That's the horse you heard
nicker a while ago," he added, soothingly.

The man sank flat again.

"I stole him," he blurted out. "I--I hope you'll get him back where he
belongs. His--his name is Pat. He's--he's the best horse I ever rode."
He relapsed, into silence, motionless, as one dead.

Stephen himself remained motionless. He looked at the man curiously. He
believed that he ought to feel bitter toward him, since he saw in him
the cause of all his own misery. But somehow he found that he could feel
nothing but pity. In this man with eyes closed and gasping lips Stephen
saw only a brother-mortal in distress, as he himself was in distress,
and he forgave him for anything he had done.

He looked at Pat, understanding the temptation, and then turned his eyes
pityingly toward the man--the stranger, dozing, murmuring strangely in
his sleep. Seeing him at rest, and realizing the long hours before
daybreak, Stephen finally dropped over upon one elbow, and prepared to
pass the night as best he could. He was suffering torture from his arm
and shoulder, and burning with the fever shown in his hot skin and
parched lips.

The night passed restlessly. He saw the first rays of dawn break over
the range and creep farther and farther down the valley, throwing a pale
pink over the landscape and sending gaunt shadows slinking off into the
light. A whinny from Pat aroused him. He arose painfully, gazed at the
man at his feet, and then turned his eyes toward the distant horizon. A
second whinny disturbed him and he shifted his gaze. Far above two great
buzzards, circling round and round, faded into the morning haze. From a
neighboring sand-dune a jack-rabbit appeared, paused a quivering moment,
then scurried from view. The morning light grew brighter. A third
whinny, and Pat now slowly started toward him. But again he fastened his
eyes upon the distant horizon, hoping for a sight of the ranch wagon.
But no wagon appeared. At length he turned to the horse. Pat stood
soberly regarding the man, his ears forward, head drooping, tail
motionless, as if recognizing in this mute object an erstwhile master.
And suddenly lifting his head, he sounded a soft nicker, tremulously.
Then again he fell to regarding the still form with strange interest.

The form was still, still for all eternity. For the man was dead.

Stephen sat down. He was shaking with fever and weakness. He placed a
handkerchief over the face in repose, almost relieved that peace had
come to this troubled soul. Then he thought of possible action. He
realized that he was utterly lost. He had Pat, and for this he was
thankful, since he knew that he could at least mount the horse and leave
him to find a way out. But the horse alone must do it. He himself was
bewildered, for the desert in broad day, as much as in the long night,
revealed nothing. On every hand it lay barren, destitute of movement,
wrapped in silence, seeming to mock his predicament. Yet he could not
bring himself to mount at once. He sat motionless, suffering acutely,
knowing that the least exertion would increase his pain--a machine run
down--not caring to move.

Suddenly, off to the east appeared a horse--a gray. It cantered
majestically to the top of a dune, and stood there--head erect, nostrils
quivering, ears alert, cresting the hillock like a statue. Stephen
shivered. For instinctively he knew this to be the gray stallion, the
cross-bred, that had trampled the form beside him. His first impulse was
to mount Pat and spur him in a race for life; his second impulse was to
crouch in hiding in the hope of escaping the keen scrutiny of that
merciless demon. He chose the race. Springing to his feet, he leaped for
Pat, and he grasped the saddle-horn. In his haste he slipped, lost his
stirrup, and fell back headlong. The shock made him faint, and for a
time he was unconscious. Shrill neighing aroused him, and, hastily
gaining his feet, he saw Pat running lightly, well-contained, to meet
the swiftly advancing gray stallion. Then events moved with a terrible
unreality.

The gray screamed defiantly and leaped toward Pat faster and faster. Pat
braced his legs to meet the assault. But no assault came. With rare
craft the gray suddenly checked himself, coming to a full stop two
lengths away. Here, with ears flat and lashing tail, he glared at Pat,
who, equally tense, returned defiance. Thus they stood in the desert,
quiet, measuring each other, while Stephen, crouched, watching them,
remembering the lifeless form beside him, prayed that Pat would prove
equal to the mighty stallion. He had no gun. Pat alone could save him.
If Pat were conquered nothing remained but death for both. For with Pat
dead--and surely this masterful foe would stop at nothing short of
death--Stephen realized that he himself, in his present condition, would
never see civilization again. He could not walk the distance even if he
knew the way, nor could he hope to mount the victorious stallion, should
Pat be defeated, because only one man had done that, and that man lay
dead beside him. The thought of being alone in the desert with the dead
struck chill to his heart. He recalled his first ride with Helen, and
her tales of men and horses in the early days, and what it meant to a
man to have his horse stolen from him. It was all clear to him now, and
he clenched his sound hand till the nails cut the flesh. Unless Pat
fought a successful fight he was doomed to die of thirst, even if the
stallion did not attack him. As he looked at Pat, his only hope in this
dread situation, he prayed harder and more fervently than before that
his champion would win.

Pat thrilled with the sense of coming battle, but he did not fear this
horse. He remembered that once he had struck down a rival, and before
that he had twice given successful battle to men--to a finish with the
Mexican hostler, another time when he had brought his enemy to respect
and consider him. Therefore he had no reason to fear this horse, even
though he saw in the gray's splendid figure an enemy to be carefully
considered. But not for an instant did Pat relax. For this was a crafty
foe, as shown by his sudden halt, which Pat knew was the prelude to a
swift attack. So he watched with keen alertness the flattened ears, the
lashing tail--his own muscles held rigid, waiting.

The gray began a cautious approach. He put forward his legs one after
another slowly, the while he held his eyes turned away, as if he were
wholly absorbed in the vastness of the desert reaches. This was but a
mere feint, as Pat understood it, and yet he waited, curious to know the
outcome, still holding himself rigidly on guard. Closer came the gray,
closer still, until he was almost beside him. Pat heard the whistle of
his breath and saw the wild light in his eyes, and for an instant feared
him. Yet there was no attack. The gray calmly gained a point immediately
alongside and stopped, head to Pat's rump, separated from him by not
more than half his length. Yet he did not attack; but Pat did not relax.
And again they stood, end to end now and side by side, until Pat, coming
finally to think, against his better judgment, that this was, after all,
only a friendly advance, became less watchful. Then the blow fell. With
a shrill scream that chilled Pat's heart the gray leaped sideways with a
peculiar broadside lunge intended to hurl him off his feet. It was a
form of attack new to Pat, and therefore never known to his ancestors,
and before he could brace himself to meet it he found himself rolling
over and over frantically in the sand.

He sprang up, screaming with rage, while the gray was trampling him with
fiendish hoofs. He steadied himself, resisted the onslaught, took the
offensive himself. He lunged with bared teeth, sank them into yielding
flesh, and wheeled away quickly. But not fast enough. The gray slashed
his rump. He turned back, tore the gray's shoulder, wheeled sharply,
attacked with lightning heels, and darted away again. But again the gray
sprang upon him, ripped his rump a second time, and sprang off like a
fiend. Raging, vindictive, Pat hurtled after him, and snapped again and
again, drawing hot blood pungent of taste and smell, and then he leaped
aside. But not far enough. The gray dashed into him, enveloped him in a
whirlwind of clashing teeth and flashing heels, and wheeled away in a
wide circle, screaming to the heavens, leaving Pat, with a dozen
stinging wounds, dazed and exhausted.

But Pat was quick to recover himself. Also, he took council. Never had
he fought like this. His battle with the white horse had been
brief--brief because of sudden releasing of weeks of venom stored within
him by the white's continuous nagging, brief because of the white's
inability to spring from each attack in season to protect himself. But
no such sluggishness hampered this enemy, and he grimly realized that
this was a struggle to the death. But he felt no fear. He respected the
other's craft and wit and strength. Yet he knew that he himself had
strength, while he realized that strength alone would not conquer. Craft
and wit must serve with strength. Having strength, he himself must adopt
the other qualities, must adapt himself to the occasion, exercise wit
and craft, wait for openings, feint and withdraw, feint and attack,
until, wearying this enemy, and puzzling him, there would come the
chance to strike a death-blow. He knew what the death-blow was--knew it
from his encounter with the white. He must inflict it first, lest the
gray anticipate him, for the gray undoubtedly knew, also, from his
experience and from his ancestors, what the death-blow was.

After a moment of gasping breath and gradually clearing eyes he felt
self-control and assurance return. Since his enemy appeared to be
waiting, he himself continued to wait. He waited three minutes, five
minutes, ten, until the nervous tension would permit him to wait no
longer. Remembering his plans, and emulating the first approach of the
gray, he started slowly toward him, putting forward one foot after
another quietly, his eyes upon the distant horizon. He even outdid the
gray in his craft. As he drew near, he suddenly took on the manner of
one seeking friendliness, nickering once softly, as if he had had enough
of this and would ask reconciliation. But his ruse failed. The gray was
wise with the wisdom of the world-free. Plunging suddenly upon him, he
snapped for his ears, but missed. His teeth flashed at Pat's neck,
lodged, and ripped the flesh. He whirled, lashed out with his heels,
missed, and sped away. Pat wheeled again and again, almost overthrown,
and staggered away.

Again he took council with himself. He was not beaten, he knew that. But
neither was the enemy beaten. He knew that also. And he knew he must
bide his time. Twice he had closed with the enemy, and twice he had come
away the worse. Nothing was to be gained by this method. He must bide
his time, wait for an encounter, dodge it if the moment proved
unpropitious, but refrain from close attack. He must wait for his
chance.

As he stood there, alert to every least thing, he suddenly awoke to
tease breathing close behind him. For one flaming moment he was puzzled.
Then he remembered that he had been watching the gray out of the corner
of his eye. He had seemed to be off guard, and the other had stolen
cautiously around behind him, evidently to take advantage of this
chance. He swallowed hard. The enemy was stealing upon him. He wanted to
wheel, believed he ought to wheel if he would save himself, but he did
not. Instead, he brought craft into play. He listened patiently,
intensely alert, and bided his time. The breathing came closer, closer
still, and stopped. He heard the enemy swallow. He conquered his longing
to turn, and remained still as death. The gray drew no closer. He seemed
to be waiting, also biding his time. And now it became a test, a matter
of nervous endurance, each waiting for the other. Around them pressed
the desert solitude. There was no sound anywhere. The sun beat down upon
the earth remorselessly. And still Pat waited, but not for long. There
was a soft tread behind him, and he knew that he had won in the contest
of endurance. With the footfalls he heard spasmodic breathing. And yet
he waited. But he was ready to strike--to deal the death-blow. Closer
came the restrained breathing, was close behind him. Then he struck with
all his strength.

And his lightning heels found their mark. He heard the crack of bone and
a long, terrible scream. He wheeled and saw the gray limping away.
Gripped in sudden overwhelming fury, sounding a cry no less shrill than
that of the gray, he leaped upon the enemy, bore him to earth, and,
knowing no mercy, he trampled and slashed the furiously resisting foe
into a bleeding mass. Then he dashed off, believing that it was all
over. He turned toward Stephen and flung up his head to sound a cry of
joy. But he did not sound it, for, taken off his guard, he suddenly
found himself bowled over by the frenzied impact of the gray.

And Stephen, tense with suspense, felt hope sink within him. For the
gray stallion, even with fore leg broken, was smothering the prostrate
Pat in a raging attack. He saw Pat struggle time and again to gain his
feet. At last, only after desperate effort, he saw him rise. He saw him
spring upon the crippled gray and tear his back and neck and withers
until his face and chest were covered with blood. And then--and at sight
of this he went limp in joy and relief--he saw Pat wheel against the
gray and lash out mightily, and he saw the gray drop upon breast and
upper fore legs--hopelessly out of the struggle. For Pat had broken the
second fore leg, and this fiend of the desert was down for all time.

And now Pat did a strange thing. As if it suddenly came to him that he
had done a forbidden thing--for, after all, he was a product of advanced
civilization--he flung up his head a second time and sounded a babyish
whimper. Then he trotted straight to Stephen, there to nestle, as one
seeking sympathy, under his master's enfolding arms. And Stephen,
understanding, caressed and hugged and talked to him in a fervor of
gratitude, until, awaking to the distress of the stallion, he staggered
to his feet, intent upon a search for a revolver in the clothing of the
still form. He found one, unexpectedly, in concealing folds, and with it
shot the gray. Then he dragged himself to Pat, clambered dizzily into
the saddle, gave the horse loose rein.

Pat set out at a walk. He was bleeding in many places, and he was sore
and burning in many others. But he did not permit these things to divert
him from his task. He went on steadily, going he knew not whither, until
he felt his master become inert in the saddle. This troubled him, and,
without knowing precisely why he did it, he freshened his gait and
continued at a fox-trot well into the morning, until his alert eyes
suddenly caught sight of a thin column of dust flung up by galloping
horses and swiftly revolving wheels. Then he came to a halt, and, still
not understanding his motives, he pointed his head toward the distant
vehicle and sounded a shrill nicker.

The effort brought disaster. He felt his young master slip out of the
saddle, saw him totter and sink in a heap on the sand. And now he
understood fully. Throwing up his head again, he awoke the desert with
an outcry that racked his whole body. But he did not stop. Again and
again he flung his call across the silence, hurling it in mighty
staccato in the direction of the ranch wagon until he saw the man
suddenly draw rein, remain still for a time, then start up the horses
again, this time in his direction. And now, and not till now, he ceased
his nickering, and, in the great weariness and fatigue upon him, let his
head droop, with eyes closed, until his nose almost touched the ground.

And although he did not know it, in the past four hours this dumb animal
had in every way lived up to the faith and trust reposed in him by the
little woman in the distant valley.



CHAPTER XXII

QUIESCENCE


After long jogging behind the ranch wagon Pat found himself back in a
stable. He found himself attended once more by the round-faced and
smiling young man who had looked after him before. This friend put salve
upon his wounds, and after that, for days and days, provided him with
food and water, sometimes talking to him hopefully, sometimes talking
with quiet distress in his voice, sometimes attending to his wants
without talking at all. It was all a dread monotony. The days became
shorter; the nights became longer; a chill crept into the stable. All
day long he stamped away the hours in restless discontent, longing for a
change of some sort, longing for a sight of his young master, wanting to
get out into the open, there to race his legs off in thrilling action.

Once this wish was granted. The weather was quite cold, and his
round-faced friend came to him that morning showing every sign of haste.
Hurriedly he bridled and saddled Pat, rushed him out of the stable,
flung up across his back, and put spur to him with such vigor that he
was forced into a gait the like of which he had not taken since his
breathless speeding to the accompaniment of shots. Out across the desert
he raced, breasting a cold wind, on and on till he found himself in a
small railroad town. Here he was pulled up before a little cottage, and
saw his friend mount the front steps and pull a tiny knob in the frame
of the door. A moment of waiting and he saw a portly man appear, heard
sharp conversation, saw his friend run down the steps. Then again he
felt the prick of spurs, and found himself once more cantering across
the desert. But not toward home. Late in the afternoon, wearied and
suffering hunger pangs, he found himself in another small town and
before another tiny cottage, with his friend pulling at a knob as
before, and entering into crisp conversation with the person who
answered, a lean man this time, who nodded his head and withdrew. After
this he once more breasted the cold winds, worse now because of the
night, and continued to breast them until he found himself back in the
stable.

Thus he had his wish. But it was really more than he had wanted, and
thereafter he was content to remain in peace and rest in the stable. But
he was not always confined to the stable now. His friend began to permit
him privileges, and one of these was the spending of long hours outdoors
in a private corral. Here, basking in the sunlight, which was not free
from winter chill, he would spend whole days dreaming and
wondering--wondering for the most part about his master, the master he
liked, and finding himself ever more distressed because of his continued
absence. Sometimes, in the corral, he would see men walk slowly in and
out of the ranch-house, or come to a halt outside his fence and stand
for long minutes gazing at him, a look in their eyes, he thought, though
he was not quite sure, of pity mingled with sorrow. But though these men
came to him frequently, yet they rarely ever spoke to him; even as his
round-faced friend, though still regularly attentive, rarely ever spoke
to him now. It was all mysterious. He knew that something of a very
grave nature was in the air, but what it was and why his real master
never came to him as did the other men, he did not know, though
sometimes he would be obsessed with troubled thoughts that all was not
well with the young man.

Then one day, with spring descending upon the desert, he saw something
that quickened his interest in life. He saw a door open in the house,
saw a very thin young man appear on the threshold, saw him slowly
descend the steps and walk toward him. It was his master. Yet was it? He
pressed close to the fence, gazed at the man long and earnestly. Then he
knew. It was indeed the same young man. He was much thinner now than
when last he had come to him, and he seemed to lack his old-time energy,
but nevertheless it was he. In a moment he knew it for certain, for the
man held out a long, thin, white hand and called his name.

This was the beginning of the end. Thereafter two and three times a day
the young man came to him, sometimes in the corral, sometimes in the
stable, but always with each successive visit, it seemed to Pat,
revealing increasing buoyancy and strength. And finally there came a
day, bright and warm, when his master came to him, as it proved, to
remain with him. The young man was dressed for riding, and he was
surrounded by all the men Pat had ever seen about the place, and not a
few whose faces were new to him. They led him out of the stable into the
open, a dozen hands bridled and saddled him, then all crowded close in
joyful conversation.

"Well, sir," began the round-faced young man, slapping Pat resoundingly
upon the rump, "you're off again! And believe me I'm one that's right
sorry to see you go. I don't care nothin' about this pardner o'
yours--he don't count nohow, anyway. He's been sick 'most to death,
shore, but he's all right now as far as _that_ goes. His arm is all
healed up, and he's fit in every other way--_some_ ways--yet he's
takin' himself off from as nice people as ever dragged saddles through a
bunk-house at midnight. But that ain't it. He's takin' old black hoss
away with him, and it don't jest set. I shore do hate to see you go."

Which seemed to express the opinions of the others. And somehow, even
when his master was in the saddle and everything pointing to a final
departure, Pat found himself hating to go. But duty was duty, and after
his master had gathered up the reins and all had cordially shaken hands
he broke into a canter, and, followed by a chorus of mighty yells,
headed into the interminable desert, within him the feeling of one upon
the threshold of new life, or of old and delightful life returned.
Before he realized either the lapse of time or the distance traveled, he
found himself cantering into the little railroad town he had visited so
hurriedly in the winter. And there followed another experience new to
Pat--a journey by train back to his home.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE REUNION


Stephen awoke quite late in the morning after his arrival in Pat's home
town. Standing before a window in his room at the hotel, he saw a young
woman cantering across the railroad tracks in the direction of the mesa.
It was Helen, and, at sight of her, for a brief and awful moment he
wavered in his decision. Then he remembered his suffering, and the
determination made while convalescing, and, hastening his toilet, he
hurried through breakfast and made his way to the livery-stable where
Pat had spent the night. Pat nickered joyful greeting, as if
understanding what was to come. Bridling and saddling him, Stephen
mounted and rode into the street at a canter. He turned into the avenue,
crossed the railroad tracks, and mounted the long, slow rise to the mesa
at a walk. He moved slowly because he wanted time to think, to pull
himself together, to the end that he might hold himself firmly to his
decision in this last talk. And yet--and this was the conflict he
suffered--he could hardly restrain himself, hold himself back, from
urging Pat to his utmost.

He reached the first flat in the long rise. Absorbed in troubled
reflections, he was barely conscious of the nods from two men he passed
whom he knew--Hodgins, kindly old soul, book in hand; Maguire, truest of
Celts, a twenty-inch slide-rule under his arm. Nodding in friendly
recognition, both men gazed at the horse, seeming to understand, and
glad to know that he was back. Mounting the second rise, he saw another
whom he knew. A quarter of a mile to his left, on the tiny porch of a
lone adobe, sat Skeet under a hat, feet elevated to the porch railing,
head turned in a listening attitude, as though heeding a call, or many
calls, from the direction of a brick-and-stone structure to the
southwest. Everywhere familiar objects, scenes, stray people, caught his
eye as he rode slowly out upon the mesa, trying to get his thoughts away
from the immediate future, from Helen, his successful return of the
horse, and that other thing, his determination to leave this spacious
land for ever.

Suddenly he saw her. She was standing beside her brown saddler, her hand
upon the bridle, gazing thoughtfully toward the mountains, now in their
morning splendor. He rode Pat to a point perhaps twenty feet behind her,
and then quietly let go of the reins and dropped to earth. For a moment
he stood, his heart a well of bitterness; then, taking Pat's rein, he
stepped toward her, quietly and slowly, intent upon making her surprise
complete, because of her great love for the horse. She continued
motionless, her hand upon the bridle, facing the mountains, and he came
close before she turned.

He stopped. She stood perfectly still, eyes upon him, upon the horse, a
slow pallor creeping into her face. Presently, as one in a spell, she
let fall the reins, slowly, mechanically, and stepped toward him, a step
ever quickening, her face drawn, in her eyes a strange, unchanging glow,
until, when almost upon him, she held out both arms in trembling welcome
and uttered a pitiful outcry.

"Stephen! Pat!" she sobbed. "Why--why didn't you--" She checked herself,
came close, reached one arm around Pat, the other around Stephen, and
went on. "I am--am glad you--you have come back--back to me." Her white
face quivered. "Both of you. I--I have suffered."

And Stephen, swept away by the tide of his great love, and forgetting
his determination, forgetting everything, bent his head and kissed her.
She did not shrink, and he kissed her again. Then he began to talk, to
tell her of her wonderful horse. Slowly at first, hesitating, then, as
the spirit of the drama gripped him, rapidly, sometimes incoherently, he
told of his adventures with the horse, and of Pat's unwavering loyalty
throughout, and of that last dread situation when both their lives
depended upon Pat's winning in a death-grapple with a wild horse. And
then, as the gates of speech were opened, he showed her his own part,
telling her that as Pat had been true to her trust, so he himself had
tried to be true to her faith and trust, and was still trying and
hoping, against his convictions, that she understood, that she would
consider his love for her and would take him, because he loved her
wholly and he needed her love to live. His tense words broke at last,
and then he saw her looking up at him through tear-dimmed eyes and
smiling, and in the smile he saw the opening of a life new and
wonderful.

After a little she turned to Pat. She fell to stroking him in thoughtful
silence. Then she turned back.

"I had heard much of what you have been through," she began, slowly, her
voice soft and vibrant with deep sympathy, in her eyes that same steady
glow. "The rangers reported to headquarters, and headquarters reported
to Daddy. They told of the running fight, Stephen, and how--how you were
hurt. And they told of the renegades, and their descent upon your camp,
and of Pat's disappearance. And they told of the way you mounted another
horse, hurt and sick though you were, and rode off in pursuit. But from
there they knew nothing more. But they had spoken of the cavalry, and I
wrote to Fort Wingate, inquiring, and they told me what they knew--that
you had joined them and ridden with them through that dreadful fight,
though they had tried to keep you out of it on account of your
condition, and that afterward you had gone off with some cowboys--they
didn't know to what ranch. So I looked up every brand in that section,
Stephen," she went on, her voice beginning to break. "And I wrote to
every place that might by any possible chance know something. But nobody
knew. And--and--there I--I was stopped. You had been swallowed up in
that desert, and I--I knew you must be ill--and I realized that I--I had
sent you into it all." She sobbed and leaned her head against him. "I
couldn't do anything, Stephen. I was helpless. All I have been able to
do at any time, Stephen, was to--to sit at a window and wait--wait to
hear from you--wait for your return--and hope, hope day in and day out
that--that you were safe. I--I have--have suffered, Stephen," she
concluded, sobbing wretchedly now. "I have suffered--suffered so much!"

He drew her close in his arms, united at last in complete understanding.
The brown saddler, left free, wandered away indifferently; but Pat
remained beside them, and presently they felt the tender touch of his
beautiful head, as if in comprehension and blessing. Their hands went
out to him, and Pat nickered softly at the love in their caress. Then
Stephen gently raised Helen's sweet, tear-stained face to his, and in
her eyes he read the certainty of the great happiness of years to come,
while Pat, raising his head proudly to the desert, stood above them as
if in solemn protection.

THE END



ZANE GREY'S NOVELS

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list

THE LIGHT OF WESTERN STARS

Colored frontispiece by W. Herbert Dunton.

Most of the action of this story takes place near the turbulent
Mexican border of the present day. A New York society girl buys a
ranch which becomes the center of frontier warfare. Her loyal cowboys
defend her property from bandits, and her superintendent rescues her
when she is captured by them. A surprising climax brings the story to
a delightful close.

DESERT GOLD

Illustrated by Douglas Duer.

Another fascinating story of the Mexican border. Two men, lost in the
desert, discover gold when, overcome by weakness, they can go no
farther. The rest of the story describes the recent uprising along the
border, and ends with the finding of the gold which the two
prospectors had willed to the girl who is the story's heroine.

RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE

Illustrated by Douglas Duer.

A picturesque romance of Utah of some forty years ago when Mormon
authority ruled. In the persecution of Jane Withersteen, a rich ranch
owner, we are permitted to see the methods employed by the invisible
hand of the Mormon Church to break her will.

THE LAST OF THE PLAINSMEN

Illustrated with photograph reproductions.

This is the record of a trip which the author took with Buffalo Jones,
known as the preserver of the American bison, across the Arizona
desert and of a hunt in "that wonderful country of yellow crags, deep
canons and giant pines." It is a fascinating story.

THE HERITAGE OF THE DESERT

Jacket in color. Frontispiece.

This big human drama is played in the Painted Desert. A lovely girl,
who has been reared among Mormons, learns to love a young New
Englander. The Mormon religion, however, demands that the girl shall
become the second wife of one of the Mormons--

Well, that's the problem of this sensational, big selling story.

BETTY ZANE

Illustrated by Louis F. Grant.

This story tells of the bravery and heroism of Betty, the beautiful
young sister of old Colonel Zane, one of the bravest pioneers. Life
along the frontier, attacks by Indians, Betty's heroic defense of the
beleaguered garrison at Wheeling, the burning of the Fort, and Betty's
final race for life make up this never-to-be-forgotten story.

GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK



NOVELS OF FRONTIER LIFE BY WILLIAM MacLEOD RAINE

HANDSOMELY BOUND IN CLOTH. ILLUSTRATED.

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MAVERICKS.

A tale of the western frontier, where the "rustler," whose
depredations are so keenly resented by the early settlers of the
range, abounds. One of the sweetest love stories ever told.

A TEXAS RANGER.

How a member of the most dauntless border police force carried law
into the mesquite, saved the life of an innocent man after a series of
thrilling adventures, followed a fugitive to Wyoming, and then passed
through deadly peril to ultimate happiness.

WYOMING.

In this vivid story of the outdoor West the author has captured the
breezy charm of "cattleland," and brings out the turbid life of the
frontier with all its engaging dash and vigor.

RIDGWAY OF MONTANA.

The scene is laid in the mining centers of Montana, where politics and
mining industries are the religion of the country. The political
contest, the love scene, and the fine character drawing give this
story great strength and charm.

BUCKY O'CONNOR,

Every chapter teems with wholesome, stirring adventures, replete with
the dashing spirit of the border, told with dramatic dash and
absorbing fascination of style and plot.

CROOKED TRAILS AND STRAIGHT.

A story of Arizona; of swift-riding men and daring outlaws; of a
bitter feud between cattle-men and sheep-herders. The heroine is a
most unusual woman and her love story reaches a culmination that is
fittingly characteristic of the great free West.

BRAND BLOTTERS.

A story of the Cattle Range. This story brings out the turbid life of
the frontier, with all its engaging dash and vigor, with a charming
love interest running through its 320 pages.

GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK



JACK LONDON'S NOVELS

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list.

JOHN BARLEYCORN. Illustrated by H. T. Dunn.

This remarkable book is a record of the author's own amazing
experiences. This big, brawny world rover, who has been acquainted
with alcohol from boyhood, comes out boldly against John Barleycorn.
It is a string of exciting adventures, yet it forcefully conveys an
unforgettable idea and makes a typical Jack London book.

THE VALLEY OF THE MOON. Frontispiece by George Harper.

The story opens in the city slums where Billy Roberts, teamster and
ex-prize fighter, and Saxon Brown, laundry worker, meet and love and
marry. They tramp from one end of California to the other, and in the
Valley of the Moon find the farm paradise that is to be their
salvation.

BURNING DAYLIGHT. Four illustrations.

The story of an adventurer who went to Alaska and laid the foundations
of his fortune before the gold hunters arrived. Bringing his fortunes
to the States he is cheated out of it by a crowd of money kings, and
recovers it only at the muzzle of his gun. He then starts out as a
merciless exploiter on his own account. Finally he takes to drinking
and becomes a picture of degeneration. About this time he falls in
love with his stenographer and wins her heart but not her hand and
then--but read the story!

A SON OF THE SUN. Illustrated by A. O. Fischer and C. W. Ashley.

David Grief was once a light-haired, blue-eyed youth who came from
England to the South Seas in search of adventure. Tanned like a native
and as lithe as a tiger, he became a real son of the sun. The life
appealed to him and he remained and became very wealthy.

THE CALL OF THE WILD. Illustrations by Philip R. Goodwin and
Charles Livingston Bull. Decorations by Charles E. Hooper.

A book of dog adventures as exciting as any man's exploits could be.
Here is excitement to stir the blood and here is picturesque color to
transport the reader to primitive scenes.

THE SEA WOLF. Illustrated by W. J. Aylward.

Told by a man whom Fate suddenly swings from his fastidious life into
the power of the brutal captain of a sealing schooner. A novel of
adventure warmed by a beautiful love episode that every reader will
hail with delight.

WHITE FANG. Illustrated by Charles Livingston Bull.

"White Fang" is part dog, part wolf and all brute, living in the
frozen north; he gradually comes under the spell of man's
companionship, and surrenders all at the last in a fight with a bull
dog. Thereafter he is man's loving slave.

GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK



STORIES OF RARE CHARM BY GENE STRATTON-PORTER

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset and Dunlap's list

LADDIE.

Illustrated by Herman Pfeifer.

This is a bright, cheery tale with the scenes laid in Indiana. The
story is told by Little Sister, the youngest member of a large family,
but it is concerned not so much with childish doings as with the love
affairs of older members of the family. Chief among them is that of
Laddie, the older brother whom Little Sister adores, and the Princess,
an English girl who has come to live in the neighborhood and about
whose family there hangs a mystery. There is a wedding midway in the
book and a double wedding at the close.

THE HARVESTER.

Illustrated by W. L. Jacobs.

"The Harvester," David Langston, is a man of the woods and fields, who
draws his living from the prodigal hand of Mother Nature herself. If
the book had nothing in it but the splendid figure of this man it
would be notable. But when the Girl comes to his "Medicine Woods," and
the Harvester's whole being realizes that this is the highest point of
life which has come to him--there begins a romance of the rarest
idyllic quality.

FRECKLES.

Decorations by E. Stetson Crawford.

Freckles is a nameless waif when the tale opens, but the way in which
he takes hold of life; the nature friendships he forms in the great
Limberlost Swamp; the manner in which everyone who meets him succumbs
to the charm of his engaging personality; and his love-story with "The
Angel" are full of real sentiment.

A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST.

Illustrated by Wladyslaw T. Brenda.

The story of a girl of the Michigan woods; a buoyant, lovable type of
the self-reliant American. Her philosophy is one of love and kindness
towards all things; her hope is never dimmed. And by the sheer beauty
of her soul, and the purity of her vision, she wins from barren and
unpromising surroundings those rewards of high courage.

AT THE FOOT OF THE RAINBOW.

Illustrations in colors by Oliver Kemp.

The scene of this charming love story is laid in Central Indiana. The
story is one of devoted friendship, and tender self-sacrificing love.
The novel is brimful of the most beautiful word painting of nature,
and its pathos and tender sentiment will endear it to all.

GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK



JOHN FOX, JR'S.

STORIES OF THE KENTUCKY MOUNTAINS

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset and Dunlap's list

THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE.

Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

The "lonesome pine" from which the story takes its name was a tall
tree that stood in solitary splendor on a mountain top. The fame of
the pine lured a young engineer through Kentucky to catch the trail,
and when he finally climbed to its shelter he found not only the pine
but the foot-prints of a girl. And the girl proved to be lovely,
piquant, and the trail of these girlish foot-prints led the young
engineer a madder chase than "the trail of the lonesome pine."

THE LITTLE SHEPHERD OF KINGDOM COME

Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

This is a story of Kentucky, in a settlement known as "Kingdom Come."
It is a life rude, semi-barbarous; but natural and honest, from which
often springs the flower of civilization.

"Chad," the "little shepherd," did not know who he was nor whence he
came--he had just wandered from door to door since early childhood,
seeking shelter with kindly mountaineers who gladly fathered and
mothered this waif about whom there was such a mystery--a charming
waif, by the way, who could play the banjo better than anyone else in
the mountains.

A KNIGHT OF THE CUMBERLAND.

Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

The scenes are laid along the waters of the Cumberland, the lair of
moonshiner and feudsman. The knight is a moonshiner's son, and the
heroine a beautiful girl perversely christened "The Blight." Two
impetuous young Southerners fall under the spell of "The Blight's"
charms and she learns what a large part jealousy and pistols have in
the love making of the mountaineers.

Included in this volume is "Hell fer-Sartain" and other stories,
some of Mr. Fox's most entertaining Cumberland valley narratives.

Ask for complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction

Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers, New York



B. M. Bower's Novels

THRILLING WESTERN ROMANCES

Large 12 mos. Handsomely bound in cloth. Illustrated

CHIP, OF THE FLYING U

A breezy wholesome tale, wherein the love affairs of Chip and
Della Whitman are charmingly and humorously told. Chip's
jealousy of Dr. Cecil Grantham, who turns out to be a big blue
eyed young woman is very amusing. A clever, realistic story of
the American Cowpuncher.

THE HAPPY FAMILY

A lively and amusing story, dealing with the adventures of
eighteen jovial, big hearted Montana cowboys. Foremost amongst
them, we find Ananias Green, known as Andy, whose imaginative
powers cause many lively and exciting adventures.

HER PRAIRIE KNIGHT

A realistic story of the plains, describing a gay party of Easterners
who exchange a cottage at Newport for the rough homeliness
of a Montana ranch-house. The merry-hearted cowboys, the
fascinating Beatrice, and the effusive Sir Redmond, become living,
breathing personalities.

THE RANGE DWELLERS

Here are everyday, genuine cowboys, just as they really exist.
Spirited action, a range feud between two families, and a Romeo
and Juliet courtship make this a bright, jolly, entertaining story,
without a dull page.

THE LURE OF DIM TRAILS

A vivid portrayal of the experience of an Eastern author,
among the cowboys of the West, in search of "local color" for a
new novel. "Bud" Thurston learns many a lesson while following
"the lure of the dim trails" but the hardest, and probably the most
welcome, is that of love.

THE LONESOME TRAIL

"Weary" Davidson leaves the ranch for Portland, where conventional
city life palls on him. A little branch of sage brush,
pungent with the atmosphere of the prairie, and the recollection of
a pair of large brown eyes soon compel his return. A wholesome
love story.

THE LONG SHADOW

A vigorous Western story, sparkling with the free, outdoor,
life of a mountain ranch. Its scenes shift rapidly and its actors play
the game of life fearlessly and like men. It is a fine love story from
start to finish.

Ask for a complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction.

Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York





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