Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Desert Trail
Author: Coolidge, Dane
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 "The Desert Trail" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)



THE DESERT TRAIL

[Illustration: "So she gave me her hand and away we went."]



  THE DESERT
  TRAIL

  BY
  DANE COOLIDGE
  AUTHOR OF
  BAT WING BOWLES

  ILLUSTRATIONS BY
  DOUGLAS DUER and P.J. MONAHAN

  [Illustration]

  NEW YORK
  GROSSET & DUNLAP
  PUBLISHERS


  COPYRIGHT, 1915, BY
  W.J. WATT & COMPANY



THE DESERT TRAIL



THE DESERT TRAIL



I


The slow-rolling winter's sun rose coldly, far to the south, riding
up from behind the saw-toothed Sierras of Mexico to throw a silvery
halo on Gadsden, the border city. A hundred miles of desert lay in its
path--a waste of broken ridges, dry arroyos, and sandy plains--and then
suddenly, as if by magic, the city rose gleaming in the sun.

It was a big city, for the West, and swarming with traffic and men.
Its broad main street, lined with brick buildings and throbbing with
automobiles, ran from the railroad straight to the south until, at a
line, it stopped short and was lost in the desert.

That line which marked the sudden end of growth and progress was the
border of the United States; the desert was Mexico. And the difference
was not in the land, but in the government.

As the morning air grew warm and the hoar frost dripped down from the
roofs the idlers of the town crept forth, leaving chill lodgings and
stale saloons for the street corners and the sun.

Against the dead wall of a big store the Mexicans gathered in shivering
groups, their blankets wrapped around their necks and their brown
ankles bare to the wind. On another corner a bunch of cowboys stood
clannishly aloof, eying the passing crowd for others of their kind.

In this dun stream which flowed under the morning sun there were mining
men, with high-laced boots and bulging pockets; graybeards, with the
gossip of the town in their cheeks; hoboes, still wearing their Eastern
caps and still rustling for a quarter to eat on; somber-eyed refugees
and soldiers of fortune from Mexico--but idlers all, and each seeking
his class and kind.

If any women passed that way they walked fast, looking neither to the
right nor to the left; for they, too, being so few, missed their class
and kind.

Gadsden had become a city of men, huge-limbed and powerful and with
a questing look in their eyes; a city of adventurers gathered from
the ends of the world. A common calamity had driven them from their
mines and ranches and glutted the town with men; for the war was on in
Mexico and from the farthermost corners of Sonora they still came, hot
from some new scene of murder and pillage, to add their modicum to the
general discontent.

As the day wore on the crowd on the bank corner, where the refugees
made their stand, changed its complexion, grew big, and stretched far
up the street. Men stood in shifting groups, talking, arguing, gazing
moodily at those who passed.

Here were hawk-eyed Texas cattlemen, thinking of their scattered herds
at Mababi or El Tigre; mining men, with idle prospects and deserted
mines as far south as the Rio Yaqui; millmen, ranchers, and men of
trades--all driven in from below the line and all chafing at the leash.
While a hundred petty chiefs stood out against Madero and lived by
ransom and loot, they must cool their heels in Gadsden and wait for the
end to come.

Into this seething mass of the dispossessed, many of whom had lost a
fortune by the war, there came two more, with their faces still drawn
and red from hard riding through the cold. They stepped forth from the
marble entrance of the big hotel and swung off down the street to see
the town.

They walked slowly, gazing into the strange faces in the vague hope of
finding some friend; and Gadsden, not to be outdone, looked them over
curiously and wondered whence they had come.

The bunch of cowboys, still loitering on the corner, glanced scornfully
at the smaller man, who sported a pair of puttees--and then at the big
man's feet. Finding them encased in prospector's shoes they stared
dumbly at his wind-burned face and muttered among themselves.

He was tall, and broad across the shoulders, with far-seeing blue eyes
and a mop of light hair; and he walked on his toes, stiff-legged,
swaying from the hips like a man on horseback. The rumble of comment
rose up again as he racked past and then a cowboy voice observed:

"I bet ye he's a cowpunch!"

The big man looked back at them mockingly out of the corner of his eye
and went on without a word.

It is the boast of cowboys that they can tell another puncher at a
glance; but they are not alone in this--there are other crafts that
leave their mark and other men as shrewd. A group of mining men took
one look at the smaller man, noting the candle-grease on his corduroys
and the intelligence in his eyes; and to them the big man was no more
than a laborer--or a shift-boss at most--and the little man was one
of their kind. Every line in his mobile face spoke of intellect and
decision, and as they walked it was he who did the talking, while the
big man only nodded and smiled.

They took a turn or two up the street, now drifting into some clamorous
saloon, now standing at gaze on the sidewalk; and as the drinks began
to work, the little man became more and more animated, the big man more
and more amiable in his assent and silence.

Then as they passed the crowd of refugees they stopped and listened,
commenting on the various opinions by an exchange of knowing smiles.
An old prospector, white-haired and tanned to a tropic brown, finally
turned upon a presumptuous optimist and the little man nodded
approvingly as he heard him express his views.

"You can say what you please," the prospector ended, "but I'm going
to keep out of that country. I've knowed them Mexicans for thirty
years now and I'm telling you they're gitting treacherous. It don't
do no good to have your gun with you--they'll shoot you from behind
a rock--and if they can't git you that way, they'll knife you in your
sleep.

"I've noticed a big change in them _paisanos_ since this war
come on. Before Madero made his break they used to be scared of
Americans--thought if they killed one of us the rest would cross the
border and eat 'em up. What few times they did tackle a white man he
generally give a good account of himself, too, and I've traveled them
trails for years without hardly knowing what it was to be afraid of
anybody; but I tell you it's entirely different over there now."

"Sure! That's right!" spoke up the little man, with spirit. "You're
talking more sense than any man on the street. I guess I ought to
know--I've been down there and through it all--and it's got so now that
you can't trust _any_ of 'em. My pardner and I came clear from the
Sierra Madres, riding nights, and we come pretty near knowing--hey,
Bud?"

"That's right," observed Bud, the big man, with a reminiscent grin. "I
begin to think them fellers would get us, for a while!"

"Mining men?" inquired the old prospector politely.

"Working on a lease," said the little man briefly. "Owner got scared
out and let us in on shares. But no more for muh--this will hold me for
quite a while, I can tell you!"

"Here, too," agreed the big man, turning to go. "Arizona is good enough
for me--come on, Phil!"

"Where to?" The little man drew back half resentfully, and then he
changed his mind. "All right," he said, falling into step, "a gin fizz
for mine!"

"Not on an empty stomach," admonished his pardner; "you might get lit
up and tell somebody all you know. How about something to eat?"

"Good! But where're you going?"

The big man was leading off down a side street, and once more they came
to a halt.

"Jim's place--it's a lunch-counter," he explained laconically. "The
hotel's all right, and maybe that was a breakfast we got, but I get
hungry waiting that way. Gimme a lunch-counter, where I can wrop my
legs around a stool and watch the cook turn 'em over. Come on--I been
there before."

An expression of pitying tolerance came over the little man's face
as he listened to this rhapsody on the quick lunch, but he drew away
reluctantly.

"Aw, come on, Bud," he pleaded. "Have a little class! What's the use of
winning a stake if you've got to eat at a dog-joint? And besides--say,
that was a peach of a girl that waited on us this morning! Did you
notice her hair? She was a pippin! I left four-bits under my plate!"

The big man waggled his hand resignedly and started on his way.

"All right, pardner," he observed; "if that's the deal she's probably
looking for you. I'll meet you in the room."

"Aw, come on!" urged the other, but his heart was not in it, and he
turned gaily away up the main street.

Left to himself, the big man went on to his lunch-counter, where he
ordered oysters, "a dozen in the milk." Then he ordered a beefsteak, to
make up for several he had missed, and asked the cook to fry it rare.
He was just negotiating for a can of pears that had caught his eye when
an old man came in and took the stool beside him, picking up the menu
with a trembling hand.

"Give me a cup of coffee," he said to the waiter, "and"--he gazed at
the bill of fare carefully--"and a roast-beef sandwich. No, just the
coffee!" he corrected, and at that Bud gave him a look. He was a small
man, shabbily dressed and with scraggly whiskers, and his nose was very
red.

"Here," called Bud, coming to an instant conclusion, "give 'im his
sandwich; I'll pay for it!"

"All right," answered the waiter, who was no other than Sunny Jim, the
proprietor, and, whisking up a sandwich from the sideboard, he set it
before the old man, who glanced at him in silence. For a fraction of a
second he regarded the sandwich apathetically; then, with the aid of
his coffee, he made way with it and slipped down off his stool.

"Say," observed the proprietor, as Bud was paying his bill, "do you
know who that oldtimer was?"

"What oldtimer?" inquired Bud, who had forgotten his brusk benefaction.

"Why, that old feller that you treated to the sandwich."

"Oh--him! Some old drunk around town?" hazarded Bud.

"Well, he's that, too," conceded Sunny Jim, with a smile. "But lemme
tell you, pardner, if you had half the rocks that old boy's got you
wouldn't need to punch any more cows. That's Henry Kruger, the man that
just sold the Cross-Cut Mine for fifty thousand cash, and he's got more
besides."

"Huh!" grunted Bud, "he sure don't look it! Say, why didn't you put me
wise? Now I've got to hunt him up and apologize."

"Oh, that's all right," assured the proprietor; "he won't take any
offense. That's just like Old Henry--he's kinder queer that way."

"Well, I'll go and see him, anyway," said Bud. "He might think I was
butting in."

And then, going about his duty with philosophical calm, he ambled off,
stiff-legged, down the street.



II


It was not difficult to find Henry Kruger in Gadsden. The barkeepers,
those efficient purveyors of information and drinks, knew him as they
knew their thumbs, and a casual round of the saloons soon located him
in the back room of the Waldorf.

"Say," began Bud, walking bluffly up to him, "the proprietor of that
restaurant back there tells me I made a mistake when I insisted on
paying for your meal. I just wanted to let you know--"

"Oh, that's all right, young man," returned Old Henry, looking up
with a humorous smile; "we all of us make our mistakes. I knowed you
didn't mean no offense and so I never took none. Fact is, I liked you
all the better for it. This country is getting settled up with a class
of people that never give a nickel to nobody. You paid for that meal
like it was nothing, and never so much as looked at me. Sit down, sit
down--I want to talk to you!"

They sat down by the stove and fell into a friendly conversation in
which nothing more was said of the late inadvertence, but when Bud rose
to go the old man beckoned him back.

"Hold on," he protested; "don't go off mad. I want to have a talk with
you on business. You seem to be a pretty good young fellow--maybe we
can make some dicker. What are you looking for in these parts?"

"Well," responded Bud, "some kind of a leasing proposition, I reckon.
Me and my pardner jest come in from Mexico, over near the Chihuahua
line, and we don't hardly know what we do want yet."

"Yes, I've noticed that pardner of yours," remarked Henry Kruger dryly.
"He's a great talker. I was listening to you boys out on the street
there, having nothing else to do much, and being kinder on the lookout
for a man, anyway, and it struck me I liked your line of talk best."

"You're easy satisfied, then," observed Bud, with a grin. "I never said
a word hardly."

"That's it," returned Kruger significantly; "this job I've got _calls_
for a man like that."

"Well, Phil's all right," spoke up Bud, with sudden warmth. "We been
pardners for two years now and he never give nothing away yet! He
talks, but he don't forget himself. And the way he can palaver them
Mexicans is a wonder."

"Very likely, very likely," agreed Kruger, and, then he sat a while in
silence.

"We got a few thousand dollars with us, too," volunteered Bud at last.
"I'm a good worker, if that's what you want--and Phil, he's a mining
engineer."

"Um-m," grunted Kruger, tugging at his beard, but he did not come out
with his proposal.

"I tell you," he said at last. "I'm not doing much talking about
this proposition of mine. It's a big thing, and somebody might beat
me to it. You know who I am, I guess. I've pulled off some of the
biggest deals in this country for a poor man, and I don't make many
mistakes--not about mineral, anyway. And when I tell you that this is
rich--you're talking with a man that knows."

He fixed his shrewd, blue eyes on the young man's open countenance and
waited for him to speak.

"That's right," he continued, as Bud finally nodded non-committally;
"she's sure rich. I've had an eye on this proposition for years--just
waiting for the right time to come. And now it's come! All I need is
the man. It ain't a dangerous undertaking--leastwise I don't think it
is--but I got to have somebody I can trust. I'm willing to pay you good
wages, or I'll let you in on the deal--but you'll have to go down into
Mexico."

"Nothin' doing!" responded Bud with instant decision. "If it's in
Arizona I'll talk to you, but no more Mexico for me. I've got something
pretty good down there myself, as far as that goes."

"What's the matter?" inquired Kruger, set back by the abrupt refusal.
"Scared?"

"Yes, I'm scared," admitted Bud, and he challenged the old man with his
eyes.

"Must have had a little trouble, then?"

"Well, you might call it that," agreed Bud. "We been on the dodge for a
month. A bunch of _revoltosos_ tried to get our treasure, and when we
skipped out on 'em they tried to get us."

"Well," continued Kruger, "this proposition of mine is different. You
was over in the Sierra Madres, where the natives are bad. These Sonora
Mexicans ain't like them Chihuahua fellers--they're Americanized.
I'll tell you, if it wasn't that the people would know me I'd go down
after this mine myself. The country's perfectly quiet. There's lots
of Americans down there yet, and they don't even know there _is_ a
revolution. It ain't far from the railroad, you see, and that makes a
lot of difference."

He lowered his voice to a confidential whisper as he revealed the
approximate locality of his bonanza, but Bud remained unimpressed.

"Yes," he said, "_we_ was near a railroad--the Northwestern--and seemed
like them red-flaggers did nothing else but burn bridges and ditch
supply trains. When they finally whipped 'em off the whole bunch took
to the hills. That's where we got it again."

"Well," argued Kruger, "this railroad of ours is all right, and they
run a train over it every day. The concentrator at Fortuna"--he
lowered his voice again--"hasn't been shut down a day, and you'll be
within fifteen miles of that town. No," he whispered; "I could get a
hundred Americans to go in on this to-morrow, as far's the revolution's
concerned. It ain't dangerous, but I want somebody I can trust."

"Nope," pronounced Bud, rising ponderously to his feet; "if it was this
side the line I'd stay with you till the hair slipped, on anything,
but--"

"Well, let's talk it over again some time," urged Kruger, following him
along out. "It ain't often I git took with a young feller the way I
was with you, and I believe we can make it yet. Where are you staying
in town?"

"Up at the Cochise," said Bud. "Come on with me--I told my pardner I'd
meet him there."

They turned up the broad main street and passed in through the polished
stone portals of the Cochise, a hotel so spacious in its interior and
so richly appointed in its furnishings that a New Yorker, waking up
there, might easily imagine himself on Fifth Avenue.

It was hardly a place to be looked for in the West, and as Bud led
the way across the echoing lobby to a pair of stuffed chairs he had
a vague feeling of being in church. Stained-glass windows above the
winding stairways let in a soft light, and on the towering pillars of
marble were emblazoned prickly-pears as an emblem of the West. From
the darkened balconies above half-seen women looked down curiously as
they entered, and in the broad lobby below were gathered the prosperous
citizens of the land.

There were cattlemen, still wearing their boots and overalls, the
better to attend to their shipping; mining men, just as they had come
from the hills; and others more elegantly dressed--but they all had
a nod for Henry Kruger. He was a man of mark, as Bud could see in a
minute; but if he had other business with those who hailed him he let
it pass and took out a rank brier pipe, which he puffed while Bud
smoked a cigarette.

They were sitting together in a friendly silence when Phil came out of
the dining-room, but as he drew near the old man nodded to Bud and went
over to speak to the clerk.

"Who was that oldtimer you were talking to?" inquired Phil, as he sank
down in the vacant chair. "Looks like the-morning-after with him, don't
it?"

"Um," grunted Bud; "reckon it is. Name's Kruger."

"What--the mining man?"

"That's right."

"Well," exclaimed Phil, "what in the world was he talking to you about?"

"Oh, some kind of a mining deal," grumbled Bud. "Wanted me to go down
into Mexico!"

"What'd you tell him?" challenged the little man, sitting up suddenly
in his chair. "Say, that old boy's got rocks!"

"He can keep 'em for all of me," observed Bud comfortably. "You know
what I think about Mexico."

"Sure; but what was his proposition? What did he want you to do?"

"Search me! He was mighty mysterious about it. Said he wanted a man he
could trust."

"Well, holy Moses, Bud!" cried Phil, "wake up! Didn't you get his
proposition?"

"No, he wasn't talking about it. Said it was a good thing and he'd pay
me well, or let me in on the deal; but when he hollered Mexico I quit.
I've got a plenty."

"Yes, but--" the little man choked and could say no more. "Well, you're
one jim dandy business man, Bud Hooker!" he burst out at last. "You'd
let--"

"Well, what's the matter?" demanded Hooker defiantly. "Do _you_ want to
go back into Mexico? Nor me, neither! What you kicking about?"

"You might have led him on and got the scheme, anyway. Maybe there's
a million in it. Come on, let's go over and talk to him. I'd take a
chance, if it was good enough."

"Aw, don't be a fool, Phil," urged the cowboy plaintively. "We've got
no call to hear his scheme unless we want to go in on it. Leave him
alone and he'll do something for us on this side. Oh, cripes! what's
the matter with you?"

He heaved himself reluctantly up out of his chair and moved over to
where Kruger was sitting.

"Mr. Kruger," he said, as the old man turned to meet him, "I'll make
you acquainted with Mr. De Lancey, my pardner. My name's Hooker."

"Glad to know you, Hooker," responded Kruger, shaking him by the hand.
"How'do, Mr. De Lancey."

He gave Phil a rather crusty nod as he spoke, but De Lancey was
dragging up another chair and failed to notice.

"Mr. Hooker was telling me about some proposition you had, to go down
into Mexico," he began, drawing up closer while the old man watched him
from under his eyebrows. "That's one tough country to do business in
right now, but at the same time--"

"The country's perfectly quiet," put in Kruger--"perfectly quiet."

"Well, maybe so," qualified De Lancey; "but when it comes to getting in
supplies--"

"Not a bit of trouble in the world," said the old man crabbedly. "Not a
bit."

"Well," came back De Lancey, "what's the matter, then? What is the
proposition, anyway?"

Henry Kruger blinked and eyed him intently.

"I've stated the proposition to Hooker," he said, "and he refused it.
That's enough, ain't it?"

De Lancey laughed and turned away.

"Well, yes, I guess it is." Then, in passing, he said to Bud: "Go ahead
and talk to him."

He walked away, lighting a cigarette and smiling good-naturedly, and
the oldtimer turned to Bud.

"That's a smart man you've got for a pardner," he remarked. "A smart
man. You want to look out," he added, "or he'll get away with you."

"Nope," said Bud. "You don't know him like I do. He's straight as a
die."

"A man can be straight and still get away with you," observed the
veteran shrewdly. "Yes, indeed." He paused to let this bit of wisdom
sink in, and then he spoke again.

"You better quit--while you're lucky," he suggested. "You quit and come
with me," he urged, "and if we strike it, I'll make you a rich man. I
don't need your pardner on this deal. I need just one man that can keep
his head shut. Listen now; I'll tell you what it is.

"I know where there's a lost mine down in Mexico. If I'd tell you the
name you'd know it in a minute, and it's free gold, too. Now there's
a fellow that had that land located for ten years, but he couldn't
find the lead. D'ye see? And when this second revolution came on he let
it go--he neglected to pay his mining taxes and let it go back to the
government. And now all I want is a quiet man to slip in and denounce
that land and open up the lead. Here, look at this!"

He went down into his pocket and brought out a buckskin sack, from
which he handed over a piece of well-worn quartz.

"That's the rock," he said. "She runs four hundred dollars to the ton,
and the ledge is eight inches wide between the walls. Nice ore, eh? And
she lays between shale and porphyry."

His eyes sparkled as he carefully replaced the specimen, and then he
looked up at Bud.

"I'll let you in on that," he said, "half and half--or I'll pay two
hundred dollars a month and a bonus. You alone. Now how about it?"

For a moment Hooker looked at him as if to read his thoughts, then he
shook his head and exhaled his smoke regretfully.

"Nope," he said. "Me and Phil are pardners. We work together."

"I'll give you three hundred!" cried Kruger, half rising in his chair.

"Nope," grunted Bud, "we're pardners."

"Huh!" snorted the mining man, and flung away in disgust. But as he
neared the door a new thought struck him and he came as quickly back.

"You can do what you please about your pardner," he said. "I'm talking
to _you_. Now--will you think about it?"

"Sure!" returned Hooker.

"Well, then," snapped Kruger, "meet me at the Waldorf in an hour!"



III


On the untrammeled frontier, where most men are willing to pass for
what they are without keeping up any "front," much of the private
business, as well as the general devilment, is transacted in the back
rooms of saloons. The Waldorf was nicely furnished in this regard.

After a drink at the bar, in which De Lancey and Hooker joined, Henry
Kruger led the way casually to the rear, and in a few moments they were
safely closeted.

"Now," began Kruger, as he took a seat by the table and faced them with
snapping eyes, "the first thing I want to make plain to you gentlemen
is, if I make any deal to-day it's to be with Mr. Hooker. If you boys
are pardners you can talk it over together, but I deal with one man,
and that's Hooker.

"All right?" he inquired, glancing at De Lancey, and that young man
nodded indulgently.

"Very well, then," resumed Kruger, "now to get down to business. This
mine that I'm talking about is located down here in Sonora within three
hours' ride of a big American camp. It isn't any old Spanish mine, or
lost _padre_ layout; it's a well-defined ledge running three or four
hundred dollars to the ton--and I know right where it is, too.

"What I want to do is to establish the title to it now, while this
revolution is going on, and make a bonanza out of it afterward. Of
course, if you boys don't want to go back into Mexico, that settles it;
but if you do go, and I let you in on the deal, you've got to see it
through or I'll lose the whole thing. So make up your minds, and if you
say you'll go, I want you to stick to it!"

"We'll go, all right," spoke up De Lancey, "if it's rich enough."

"How about you?" inquired Kruger, turning impatiently on Bud. "Will you
go?"

"Yes, I'll go," answered Bud sullenly. "But I ain't stuck on the job,"
he added. "Jest about get it opened up when a bunch of rebels will jump
in and take everything we've got."

"Well, you get a title to it and pay your taxes and you can come out
then," conceded Henry Kruger.

"No," grumbled Hooker, "if I go I'll stay with it." He glanced at his
pardner at this, but he, for one, did not seem to be worried.

"I'll try anything--once!" he observed with a sprightly air, and Bud
grinned sardonically at the well-worn phrase.

"Well," said Kruger, gazing inquiringly from one to the other, "is it a
go? Will you shake hands on it?"

"What's the proposition?" broke in De Lancey eagerly.

"The deal is between me and Hooker," corrected Kruger. "I'll give him
three hundred a month, or an equal share in the mine, expenses to be
shared between us."

"Make it equal shares," said Hooker, holding out his hand, "and I'll
give half of mine to Phil."

"All right, my boy!" cried the old man, suddenly clapping him on
the shoulder, "I'll go you--and you'll never regret it," he added
significantly. Then, throwing off the air of guarded secrecy which had
characterized his actions so far, he sat down and began to talk.

"Boys," he said, "I'm feeling lucky to-day or I'd never have closed
this deal. I'm letting you in on one of the biggest things that's
ever been found in Sonora. Just to show you how good it is, here's my
smelter receipts for eight hundred pounds of picked ore--one thousand
and twenty-two dollars! That's the first and last ore that's ever been
shipped from the old Eagle Tail. I dug it out myself, and sacked it and
shipped it; and then some of them crooked Mexican officials tried to
beat me out of my title and I blowed up the whole works with dynamite!

"Yes, sir, clean as a whistle! I had my powder stored away in the
drift, and the minute I found out I was euchred I laid a fuse to it and
brought the whole mountain down. That was ten years ago, and old Aragon
and the _agente mineral_ have had the land located ever since.

"I bet they've spent five thousand pesos trying to find that lead, but
being nothing but a bunch of ignorant Mexicans, of course they never
found nothing. Then Francisco Madero comes in and fires the _agente
mineral_ off his job and old Aragon lets the land revert for taxes.
I've got a Mexican that keeps me posted, and ever since he sent me
word that the title had lapsed I've been crazy to relocate that claim.

"Well, now, that don't look so bad, does it?" he asked, beaming
paternally at Bud. "There ain't a man in town that wouldn't have jumped
at the chance, if I was where I could talk about it, but that's just
what I couldn't do. I had to find some stranger that wouldn't sense
what mine I was talking about and then git him to go in on it blind.

"Now here's the way I'm fixed, boys," he explained, brushing out his
unkempt beard and smiling craftily. "When I dynamited the Eagle Tail it
was mine by rights, but Cipriano Aragon--he's the big Mexican down at
old Fortuna--and Morales, the mineral agent, had buncoed me out of the
title.

"So, according to law, I blowed up their mine, and if I ever showed up
down there I reckon they'd throw me into jail. And if at any time they
find out that you're working for me, why, we're ditched--that's all!
They'll put you out of business. So, after we've made our agreement and
I've told you what to do, I don't want to hear a word out of you--I
don't want you to come near me, nor even write me a letter--just go
ahead the best you can until you win out or go broke.

"It ain't a hard proposition," he continued, "if you keep your mouth
shut, but if they tumble, it'll be a fight to a finish. I'm not saying
this for you, Hooker, because I know you're safe; I'm saying it for
your pardner here. You talk too much, Mr. De Lancey," he chided, eying
him with sudden severity. "I'm afraid of ye!"

"All right," broke in Hooker good-naturedly, "I reckon we understand.
Now go ahead and tell us where this mine is and who there is down there
to look out for."

"The man to look out for," answered Kruger with venom, "is Cipriano
Aragon. He's the man that bilked me out of the mine once, and he'll do
it again if he can. When I went down there--it was ten years and more
ago--I wasn't onto those Spanish ways of his, and he was so dog-goned
polite and friendly I thought I could trust him anywhere.

"He owns a big ranch and mescal still, runs cattle, works a few
placers, sends out pack-trains, and has every Mexican and Indian in the
country in debt to him through his store, so if he happens to want any
rough work done there's always somebody to do it.

"Well, just to show you how he did me, I got to nosing round those old
Spanish workings east of Fortuna and finally I run across the ledge
that I'm telling you about, not far from an abandoned shaft. But the
Mexican mining laws are different from ours, and an American has lots
of trouble anyway, so I made a trade with old Aragon that he should
locate the claim for me under a power of attorney. Didn't know him then
like I do now. The papers had to be sent to Moctesuma and Hermosillo,
and to the City of Mexico and back, and while I was waiting around I
dug in on this lead and opened up the prettiest vein of quartz you ever
saw in your life. Here's a sample of it, and it's sure rich."

He handed De Lancey the familiar piece of quartz and proceeded with his
story.

"That ore looked so good to me that I couldn't wait--I shipped it
before I got my title. And right there I made my mistake. When Aragon
saw the gold in that rock he just quietly recorded the concession in
his own name and told me to go to blazes. That's the greaser of it! So
I blew the whole mine up and hit for the border. That's the Dutch of
it, I reckon," he added grimly. "Anyway, my old man was Dutch."

He paused, smiling over the memory of his misplaced credulity, and
Hooker and De Lancey joined in a hearty laugh. From the town bum that
he had first seemed this shabbly little man had changed in their eyes
until now he was a border Croesus, the mere recital of whose adventures
conjured up in their minds visions of gold and hidden treasure.

The rugged face of Bud Hooker, which had been set in grim lines
from the first, relaxed as the tale proceeded and his honest eyes
glowed with admiration as he heard the well-planned scheme. As for De
Lancey, he could hardly restrain his enthusiasm, and, drawn on by the
contagion, Henry Kruger made maps and answered questions until every
detail was settled.

After the location had been marked, and the lost tunnel charted from
the corner monuments, he bade them remember it well--and destroyed
every vestige of paper. Then, as a final admonition, he said:

"Now go in there quietly, boys--don't hurry. Prospect around a little
and the Mexicans will all come to you and try to sell you lost mines.
Cruz Mendez is the man you're looking for--he's honest, and he'll take
you to the Eagle Tail. After that you can use your own judgment. So
good-bye"--he took them by the hands--"and don't talk!"

He held up a warning finger as they parted, and Bud nodded briefly in
reply. Silence was a habit with him, desert-bred, and he nodded his
head for two.



IV


From the times of David and Jonathan down to the present day the world
has been full of young men sworn to friendship and seeking adventure in
pairs. "Pardners," they call them in the West, and though the word has
not crept into the dictionary yet, it is as different from "partner" as
a friend is from a business associate.

They travel together, these pardners of the West, and whether they be
cowboys or "Cousin Jacks," the boss who fires one of them fires both of
them, and they go share and share in everything.

Bud Hooker and Philip De Lancey had met by chance in El Paso when the
revolution was just beginning to boil and the city was swarming with
adventurers. The agents of the rebels were everywhere, urging Americans
to join their cause. Military preferment, cash payments, and grants of
land were the baits they used, but Hooker stood out from the first and
took De Lancey with him. A Mexican promise did not pass current where
he was born and they went to the mines instead.

Then the war broke out and, while fugitives streamed out of stricken
Chihuahua, they finally struck out against the tide, fighting their way
to a certain mine far back in the Sierra Madres, where they could dig
the gold on shares.

Behind them the battle waged; Casas Grandes was taken and retaken;
Juarez, Agua Negra, and Chihuahua fell; Don Porfirio, the Old Man of
Mexico, went out and Madero took his place; and still they worked for
their stake.

Then new arms and ammunition flowed in from across the border; Orozco
and his rebel chiefs went out, and the breath of war fanned higher
against the hills. At last the first broken band of rebels came
straggling by, and, reading hate and envy in their lawless eyes, the
Americans dug up their gold at sundown and rode all the night for their
lives.

And now, welded together by all that toil and danger, they were
pardners, cherishing no delusions as to each other's strength or
weaknesses, but joined together for better or worse.

It was the last thing that either of them expected, but three days
after they fled out of Mexico, and with all their money unspent, the
hand of fate seized upon them and sent them back on another adventure.

It was early morning again, with crowds along the street, and as they
ambled slowly along toward the line, the men on the corners stared at
them. The bunch of cowboys gazed at Bud, who sported a new pair of
high-heeled boots, and knew him by the way he rode; and the mining men
looked searchingly at De Lancey, as if to guess the secret of his quest.

A squad of mounted troopers, riding out on border patrol, gazed after
them questioningly, but Bud and Phil rode on soberly, leading their
pack, and headed for Agua Negra across the line.

It was a grim place to look at, this border town of Agua Negra, for the
war had swept it twice. A broad waste of level land lay between it and
the prosperous American city, and across this swath, where the Mausers
and machine guns had twice mowed, lay the huddle of low houses which
marked the domain of Mexico.

Fussy little customs officials, lurking like spiders in their cooped-up
guard-houses, rushed out as they crossed the deep trench and demanded
their permit to bear arms. The moment they crossed the line the air
seemed to be pervaded with Latin excitability and Indian jealousy, but
De Lancey replied in florid Spanish, and before his polite assurances
and fulsome compliments it was dissipated in a moment.

"Good! Pass on, _amigos_," cried the beady-eyed little _jefe_, pasting
a label on their pack. "_Adios, señor_," he added, returning Phil's
salute with a military flourish, and with a scornful glance at Bud he
observed that the _gentleman_ was _muy caballero_.

"Huh!" remarked Bud, as they rode on through the town, "we're in Mexico
all right, all right. Talk with both hands and get busy with your
eyebrows--and holy Joe, look at them _pelónes_!"

The _pelónes_ referred to were a squad of Mexican Federal soldiers,
so-called from their heads being shaved, and they were marching
doggedly to and fro through the thorny mesquit-bushes in response to
shouted orders from an officer. Being from Zacatecas, where the breed
is short, they stood about as high as their guns; and their crumpled
linen suits and flapping sandals detracted sadly from the soldierly
effect.

Big and hulking, and swelling with the pride of his kind, Hooker looked
them over slowly, and spoke his hidden thought.

"I wonder," he said, turning to Phil, "how many of them I could lick
with one hand?"

"Well, they're nothing but a lot of petty convicts, anyway," answered
De Lancey, "but here's some boys ahead that I'll bet could hold you,
man for man, husky as you are, old fellow."

They were riding past a store, now serving as an improvised barracks,
and romping about in the street were a pair of tall Yaqui Indians, each
decorated with a cartridge-belt about his hips in token of his military
service. Laughing and grabbing for holds, they frolicked like a couple
of boys until finally they closed in a grapple that revealed a sudden
and pantherlike strength.

And a group of others, sunning themselves against the wall, looked up
at the Americans with eyes as fearless as mountain eagles.

"Yes, that's right," admitted Bud, returning their friendly greeting,
"but we'll never have no trouble with them."

"Well, these _Nacionales_ are not so bad," defended Phil, as they
passed the State soldiers of Sonora on the street, "but they're just as
friendly as the Yaquis."

"Sure," jeered Bud, "when they're sober! But you get a bunch of 'em
drunk and ask 'em what they think of the Gringos! No, you got to show
me--I've seen too much of 'em."

"You haven't seen as much of 'em as _I_ have, yet," retorted De Lancey,
quickly. "I've been all over the republic, except right here in Sonora,
and I swear these Sonorans here look good to me. There's no use holding
a grouch against them, Bud--they haven't done us any dirt."

"No, they never had no chance," grumbled Bud, gazing grimly to the
south. "But wait till the hot weather comes and the _revoltosos_ come
out of their holes; wait till them Chihuahua greasers thaw out up in
the Sierras and come down to get some fresh mounts. Well, I'll tell 'em
one thing," he ended, reaching down to pat his horse, "they'll never
get old Copper Bottom here--not unless they steal him at night. It's
all right to be cheerful about this, Phil, and you keep right on being
glad, but I got a low-down hunch that we're going to get in bad."

"Well, I've got just as good a hunch," came back De Lancey, "that we're
going to make a killing."

"Yes, and speaking of killings," said Bud, "you don't want to overlook
_that_."

He pointed at a group of dismantled adobe buildings standing out on
the edge of the town and flanked by a segment of whitewashed wall all
spattered and breached with bullet-holes.

"There's where these prize Mexicans of yourn pulled off the biggest
killing in Sonora. I was over here yesterday with that old prospector
and he told me that that wall is the bull-ring. After the first big
fight they gathered up three hundred and fifty men, more or less, and
throwed 'em in a trench along by the wall--then they blowed it over
on 'em with a few sticks of dynamite and let 'em pass for buried. No
crosses or nothing. Excuse _me_, if they ever break loose like that--we
might get planted with the rest!"

"By Jove, old top!" exclaimed De Lancey, laughing teasingly, "you've
certainly got the blues to-day. Here, take something out of this bottle
and see if it won't help."

He brought out a quart bottle from his saddle-bags and Bud drank, and
shuddered at the bite of it.

"All right," he said, as he passed it back, "and while we're talking,
what's the matter with cutting it out on booze for this trip?"

"What are we going to drink, then?" cried De Lancey in feigned alarm.
"Water?"

"Well, something like that," admitted Bud. "Come on--what do you say?
We might get lit up and tell something."

"Now lookee here, Bud," clamored Phil, who had had a few drinks
already, "you don't mean to insinuate, do you? Next thing I know you'll
be asking me to cut it out on the hay--might talk in my sleep, you
know, and give the whole snap away!"

"No, you're a good boy when you're asleep, Phil," responded Bud, "but
when you get about half shot it's different. Come on, now--I'll quit if
you will. That's fair, ain't it?"

"What? No little toots around town? No serenading the _señoritas_ and
giving the _rurales_ the hotfoot? Well, what's the use of living, Bud,
if you can't have a little fun? Drinking don't make any difference, as
long as we stick together. What's the use of swearing off--going on
record in advance? We may find some fellow that we can't work any other
way--we may have to go on a drunk with him in order to get his goat.
But will you stick? That's the point!"

Bud glanced at him and grunted, and for a long time he rode on in
silence. Before them lay a rolling plain, dipping by broad gulches
and dwindling ridges to the lower levels of Old Mexico, and on the
sky-line, thin and blue, stood the knifelike edges of the Fortunas
miles away.

With desert-trained eyes he noted the landmarks, San Juan mountain
to the right, Old Niggerhead to the left, and the feather-edge of
mountains far below; and as he looked he stored it away in his mind in
case he should come back on the run some night.

It was not a foreboding, but the training of his kind, to note the lay
of the ground, and he planned just where he would ride to keep under
cover if he ever made a dash for the line. But all the time his pardner
was talking of friendship and of the necessity of their sticking
together.

"I'll tell you, Bud," he said at last, his voice trembling with
sentiment, "whether we win or lose, I won't have a single regret as
long as I know we've been true to one another. You may know Texas and
Arizona, Bud, but I know Old Mexico, the land of _mañana_ and broken
promises. I know the country, Bud--and the climate--and the women!

"They play the devil with the best of us, Bud, these dark-eyed
_señoritas_! That's what makes all the trouble down here between man
and man, it's these women and their ways. They're not satisfied to win
a man's heart--they want him to kill somebody to show that he really
loves them. By Jove! they're a fickle lot, and nothing pleases 'em more
than setting man against man, one pardner against another."

"We never had no trouble yet," observed Bud sententiously.

"No, but we're likely to," protested De Lancey. "Those Indian women up
in the Sierras wouldn't turn anybody's head, but we're going down into
the hot country now, where the girls are pretty, ta-ra, ta-ra, and we
talk through the windows at midnight."

"Well, if you'll cut out the booze," said Hooker shortly, "you can have
'em all, for all of me."

"Sure, that's what you say, but wait till you see them! Oh, la, la,
la!"--he kissed his fingers ecstatically--"I'll be glad to see 'em
myself! But listen, Bud, here's the proposition: Let's take an oath
right now, while we're starting out, that whatever comes up we'll
always be true to each other. If one of us is wounded, the other stays
with him; if he's in prison, he gets him out; if he's killed, he
avenges his--"

"Say," broke in Bud, jostling him rudely as he reached into the
saddle-bags, "let me carry that bottle for a while."

He took a big drink out of it to prevent De Lancey from getting it all
and shoved it inside his overalls.

"All right, pardner," he continued, with a mocking smile, "anything
you say. I never use oaths myself much, but anything to oblige."

"No, but I mean it, Bud!" cried De Lancey. "Here's the proposition now:
Whatever happens, we stay with each other till this deal is finished;
on all scratch cases we match money to see who's it; and if we tangle
over some girl the best man wins and the other one stays away. We leave
it to the girl which one wins. Will you shake hands on that?"

"Don't need to," responded Bud; "I'll do it anyway."

"Well, shake on it, then!" insisted De Lancey, holding out his hand.

"Oh, Sally!" burst out Bud, hanging his head in embarrassment, "what's
the use of getting mushy?"

But a moment later he leaned over in his saddle and locked hands with a
viselike grip.

"My old man told me not to make no such promises," he muttered, "but
I'll do it, being's it's you."



V


The journey to Fortuna is a scant fifty miles by measure, but within
those eighty kilometers there is a lapse of centuries in standards.
As Bud and De Lancey rode out of battle-scarred Agua Negra they
traveled a good road, well worn by the Mexican wood-wagons that hauled
in mesquit from the hills. Then, as they left the town and the wood
roads scattered, the highway changed by degrees to a broad trail, dug
deep by the feet of pack-animals and marked but lightly with wheels.
It followed along the railroad, cutting over hills and down through
gulches, and by evening they were in the heart of Old Mexico.

Here were men in sandals and women barefooted; chickens tied up by the
legs outside of brush _jacales_; long-nosed hogs, grunting fiercely
as they skirmished for food; and half-naked children, staring like
startled rabbits at the strangers.

The smell of garlic and fresh-roasting coffee was in the air as they
drew into town for the night, and their room was an adobe chamber with
tile floor and iron bars across the windows. Riding south the next
day they met _vaqueros_, mounted on wiry mustangs, who saluted them
gravely, taking no shame for their primitive wooden saddle-trees and
pommels as broad as soup-plates.

As they left the broad plain and clambered up over the back of a
mountain they passed Indian houses, brush-built and thatched with
long, coarse grasses, and by the fires the women ground corn on stone
_metates_ as their ancestors had done before the fall. For in Mexico
there are two peoples, the Spaniards and the natives, and the Indians
still remember the days when they were free.

It was through such a land that Phil and Hooker rode on their gallant
ponies, leading a pack-animal well loaded with supplies from the north,
and as the people gazed from their miserable hovels and saw their
outfit they wondered at their wealth.

But if they were moved to envy, the bulk of a heavy pistol, showing
through the swell of each coat, discouraged them from going further;
and the cold, searching look of the tall cowboy as he ambled past
stayed in their memory long after the pleasant "_Adios!_" of De Lancey
had been forgotten.

Americans were scarce in those days, and what few came by were riding
to the north. How bold, then, must this big man be who rode in
front--and certainly he had some great reward before him to risk such a
horse among the _revoltosos_! So reasoned the simple-minded natives of
the mountains, gazing in admiration at Copper Bottom, and for that look
in their eyes Bud returned his forbidding stare.

There is something about a good horse that fascinates the average
Mexican--perhaps because they breed the finest themselves and are in a
position to judge--but Hooker had developed a romantic attachment for
his trim little chestnut mount and he resented their wide-eyed gapings
as a lover resents glances at his lady. This, and a frontier education,
rendered him short-spoken and gruff with the _paisanos_ and it was left
to the cavalier De Lancey to do the courtesies of the road.

As the second day wore on they dipped down into a rocky cañon, with
huge cliffs of red and yellow sandstone glowing in the slanting
sun, and soon they broke out into a narrow valley, well wooded with
sycamores and mesquits and giant hackberry-trees.

The shrill toots of a dummy engine came suddenly from down below and
a mantle of black smoke rose majestically against the sky--then, at a
turn of the trail, they topped the last hill and Fortuna lay before
them.

In that one moment they were set back again fifty miles--clear back
across the line--for Fortuna was American, from the power-house on the
creek-bank to the mammoth concentrator on the hill.

All the buildings were of stone, square and uniform. First a central
plaza, flanked with offices and warehouses; then behind them barracks
and lodging-houses and trim cottages in orderly rows; and over across
the cañon loomed the huge bulk of the mill and the concentrator with
its aërial tramway and endless row of gliding buckets.

Only on the lower hills, where the rough country rock cropped up and
nature was at its worst, only there did the real Mexico creep in and
assert itself in a crude huddle of half-Indian huts; the dwellings of
the care-free natives.

"Well, by Jove!" exclaimed De Lancey, surveying the scene with an
appraising eye, "this doesn't look very much like Mexico--or a
revolution, either!"

"No, it don't," admitted Bud; "everything running full blast, too. Look
at that ore-train coming around the hill!"

"Gee, what a burg!" raved Phil. "Say, there's some class to this--what?
If I mistake not, we'll be able to find a few congenial spirits here to
help us spend our money. Talk about a company town! I'll bet you their
barroom is full of Americans. There's the corral down below--let's ride
by and leave our horses and see what's the price of drinks. They can't
faze me, whatever it is--we doubled our money at the line."

Financially considered, they had done just that--for, for every
American dollar in their pockets they could get two that were just as
good, except for the picture on the side. This in itself was a great
inducement for a ready spender and, finding good company at the Fortuna
hotel bar, Phil bought five dollars' worth of drinks, threw down a
five-dollar bill, and got back five dollars--Mex.

The proprietor, a large and jovial boniface, pulled off this fiscal
miracle with the greatest good humor and then, having invited them
to partake of a very exquisite mixture of his own invention, propped
himself upon his elbows across the bar and inquired with an ingenuous
smile:

"Well, which away are you boys traveling, if I may ask?"

"Oh, down below a ways," answered De Lancey, who always constituted
himself the board of strategy. "Just rambling around a little--how's
the country around here now?"

"Oh, quiet, quiet!" assured their host. "These Mexicans don't like the
cold weather much--they would freeze, you know, if it was not for that
_zarape_ which they wind about them so!"

He made a motion as of a native wrapping his entire wardrobe about his
neck and smiled, and De Lancey knew that he was no Mexican. And yet
that soft "which away" of his betrayed a Spanish tongue.

"Ah, excuse me," he said, taking quick advantage of his guess, "but
from the way you pronounce that word '_zarape_' I take it that you
speak Spanish."

"No one better," replied the host, smiling pleasurably at being taken
at his true worth, "since I was born in the city of Burgos, where they
speak the true Castilian. It is a different language, believe me,
from this bastard Mexican tongue. And do you speak Spanish also?" he
inquired, falling back into the staccato of Castile.

"No, indeed!" protested De Lancey in a very creditable imitation;
"nothing but a little Mexican, to get along with the natives. My friend
and I are mining men, passing through the country, and we speak the
best we can. How is this district here for work along our line?"

"None better!" cried the Spaniard, shaking his finger emphatically. "It
is of the best, and, believe me, my friend, we should be glad to have
you stop with us. The country down below is a little dangerous--not
now, perhaps, but later, when the warm weather comes on.

"But in Fortuna--no! Here we are on the railroad; the camp is
controlled by Americans; and because so many have left the country the
Mexicans will sell their prospects cheap.

"Then again, if you develop a mine near-by, it will be very easy to
sell it--and if you wish to work it, that is easy, too. I am only the
proprietor of the hotel, but if you can use my poor services in any way
I shall be very happy to please you. A room? One of the best! And if
you stay a week or more I will give you the lowest rate."

They passed up the winding stairs and down a long corridor, at the end
of which the proprietor showed them into a room, throwing open the
outer doors and shutters to let them see the view from the window.

"Here is a little balcony," he said, stepping outside, "where you can
sit and look down on the plaza. We have the band and music when the
weather is fine, and you can watch the pretty girls from here. But you
have been in Mexico--you know all that!" And he gave Phil a roguish dig.

"_Bien_ my frien', I am glad to meet you--" He held out his hand in
welcome and De Lancey gave his in return. "My name," he continued, "is
Juan de Dios Brachamonte y Escalon; but with these Americans that does
not go, as you say, so in general they call me Don Juan.

"There is something about that name--I do not know--that makes the
college boys laugh. Perhaps it is that poet, Byron, who wrote so
scandalously about us Spaniards, but certainly he knew nothing of our
language, for he rimes Don Juan with 'new one' and 'true one'! Still,
I read part of that poem and it is, in places, very interesting--yes,
_very_ interesting--but 'Don Joo-an'! Hah!"

He threw up his hand in despair and De Lancey broke into a jollying
laugh.

"Well, Don Juan," he cried, "I'm glad to meet you. My name is Philip De
Lancey, and my pardner here is Mr. Hooker. Shake hands with him, Don
Juan de Dios! But certainly a man so devoutly named could never descend
to reading _much_ of Don Joo-an!"

"Ah, no," protested Don Juan, rolling his dark eyes and smiling
rakishly, "not moch--only the most in-teresting passages!"

He saluted and disappeared in a roar of laughter, and De Lancey turned
triumphantly on his companion, a self-satisfied smile upon his lips.

"Aha!" he said; "you see? That's what five dollars' worth of booze will
do in opening up the way. Here's our old friend Don Juan willing, nay,
anxious, to help us all he can--he sees I'm a live wire and wants to
keep me around. Pretty soon we'll get him feeling good and he'll tell
us all he knows. Don't you never try to make me sign the pledge again,
brother--a few shots just gets my intellect to working right and I'm
crafty as a fox.

"Did you notice that _coup_ I made--asking him if he was a Spaniard?
There's nothing in the world makes a Spaniard so mad as to take him for
a Mexican--on the other hand, nothing makes him your friend for life
like recognizing him for a blue-blooded Castilian. Now maybe our old
friend Don Juan has got a few drops of Moorish blood in his veins--to
put it politely, but--" he raised his tenor voice and improvised--

  "Jest because my hair is curly
  Dat's no reason to call me 'Shine'!"

"No," agreed Bud, feeling cautiously of the walls, "and jest because
you're happy is no reason for singing so loud, neither. These here
partitions are made of inch boards, covered with paper--do you get
that? Well, then, considering who's probably listening, it strikes me
that Mr. Brachamonte is the real thing in Spanish gentlemen; and I've
heard that all genuwine Spaniards have their hair curly, jest like
a--huh?"

But De Lancey, made suddenly aware of his indiscretion, was making all
kinds of exaggerated signs for silence, and Bud stopped with a slow,
good-natured smile.

"S-s-st!" hissed De Lancey, touching his finger to his lips. "Don't say
it--somebody might hear you!"

"All right," agreed Bud; "and don't you say it, either. I hate to
knock, Phil," he added, "but sometimes I think the old man was right
when he said you talk too much."

"Psst!" chided De Lancey, shaking his finger like a Mexican. Tiptoeing
softly over to Bud, he whispered in his ear: "S-s-st, I can hear the
feller in the next room--shaving himself!"

Laughing heartily at this joke, they went downstairs for supper.



VI


If the Eagle Tail mine had been located in Arizona--or even farther
down in Old Mexico--the method of jumping the claim would have been
delightfully simple.

The title had lapsed, and the land had reverted to the government. All
it needed in Arizona was a new set of monuments, a location notice at
the discovery shaft, a pick and shovel thrown into the hole, and a few
legal formalities.

But in Mexico it is different. Not that the legal formalities are
lacking--far from it--but the whole theory of mines and mining is
different. In Mexico a mining title is, in a way, a lease, a concession
from the general government giving the _concessionaire_ the right to
work a certain piece of ground and to hold it as long as he pays a
mining tax of three dollars an acre per year.

But no final papers or patents are ever issued, the possession of the
surface of the ground does not go with the right to mine beneath it,
and in certain parts of Mexico no foreigner can hold title to either
mines or land.

A prohibited or frontier zone, eighty kilometers in width, lies along
the international boundary line, and in that neutral zone no foreigner
can denounce a mining claim and no foreign corporation can acquire a
title to one. The Eagle Tail was just inside the zone.

But--there is always a "but" when you go to a good lawyer--while for
purposes of war and national safety foreigners are not allowed to
hold land along the line, they are at perfect liberty to hold stock
in Mexican corporations owning property within the prohibited zone;
and--here is where the graft comes in--they may even hold title in
their own name if they first obtain express permission from the chief
executive of the republic.

Not having any drag with the chief executive, and not caring to risk
their title to the whims of succeeding administrations, Hooker and De
Lancey, upon the advice of a mining lawyer in Gadsden, had organized
themselves into the Eagle Tail Mining Company, under the laws of the
republic of Mexico, with headquarters at Agua Negra. It was their
plan to get some Mexican to locate the mine for them and then, for a
consideration, transfer it to the company.

The one weak spot in this scheme was the Mexican. By trusting Aragon,
Henry Kruger had not only lost title to his mine, but he had been
outlawed from the republic. And now he had bestowed upon Hooker and De
Lancey the task of finding an honest Mexican, and keeping him honest
until he made the transfer.

While the papers were being made out there might be a great many
temptations placed before that Mexican--either to keep the property for
himself or to hold out for a bigger reward than had been specified.
After his experience with the aristocratic Don Cipriano Aragon y Tres
Palacios, Kruger was in favor of taking a chance on the lower classes.
He had therefore recommended to them one Cruz Mendez, a wood vender
whom he had known and befriended, as the man to play the part.

Cruz Mendez, according to Kruger, was hardworking, sober, and
honest--for a Mexican. He was also simple-minded and easy to handle,
and was the particular man who had sent word that the Eagle Tail had at
last been abandoned. And also he was easy to pick out, being a little,
one-eyed man and going by the name of "El Tuerto."

So, in pursuance of their policy of playing a waiting game, Hooker and
De Lancey hung around the hotel for several days, listening to the
gossip of Don Juan de Dios and watching for one-eyed men with prospects
to sell.

In Sonora he is a poor and unimaginative man indeed who has not at
least one lost mine or "prospecto" to sell; and prosperous-looking
strangers, riding through the country, are often beckoned aside by
half-naked _paisanos_ eager to show them the gold mines of the Spanish
_padres_ for a hundred dollars Mex.

It was only a matter of time, they thought, until Cruz Mendez would
hunt them up and try to sell them the Eagle Tail; and it was their
intention reluctantly to close the bargain with him, for a specified
sum, and then stake him to the denouncement fees and gain possession of
the mine.

As this was a commonplace in the district--no Mexican having capital
enough to work a claim and no American having the right to locate
one--it was a very natural and inconspicuous way of jumping Señor
Aragon y Tres Palacios's abandoned claim. If they discovered the lead
immediately afterward it would pass for a case of fool's luck, or at
least so they hoped, and, riding out a little each day and sitting on
the hotel porch with Don Juan the rest of the time, they waited until
patience seemed no longer a virtue.

"Don Juan," said De Lancey, taking up the probe at last, "I had a
Mexican working for me when we were over in the Sierras--one of your
real, old-time workers that had never been spoiled by an education--and
he was always talking about 'La Fortuna,' I guess this was the place he
meant, but it doesn't look like it--according to him it was a Mexican
town. Maybe he's around here now--his name was Mendez."

"José Maria Mendez?" inquired Don Juan, who was a living directory of
the place. "Ricardo? Pancho? Cruz?"

"Cruz!" cried De Lancey. "That was it!"

"He lives down the river a couple of miles," said Don Juan, "down at
Old Fortuna."

"Old Fortuna!" repeated Phil. "I didn't know there was such a place."

"Why, my gracious!" exclaimed Don Juan de Dios, scandalized by such
ignorance. "Do you mean to say you have been here three days and never
heard about Fortuna Vieja? Why, _this_ isn't Fortuna! This is an
American mining camp--the old town is down below.

"That's where this man Aragon, the big Mexican of the country, has his
ranch and store. Spanish? Him? No, indeed--_mitad_! He is half Spanish
and half Yaqui Indian, but his wife is a pure Spaniard--one of the few
in the country. Her father was from Madrid and she is a Villanueva--a
very beautiful woman in her day, with golden hair and the presence of a
queen!

"No, _not_ Irish! My goodness, you Americans think that everybody
with red hair is Irish! Why, the most beautiful women in Madrid have
chestnut hair as soft as the fur of a dormouse. It is the old Castilian
hair, and they are proud of it. The Señora Aragon married beneath her
station--it was in the City of Mexico, and she did not know that he was
an Indian--but she is a very nice lady for all that and never omits to
bow to me when she comes up to take the train. I remember one time--"

"Does Cruz Mendez work for him?" interjected De Lancey desperately.

"No, indeed!" answered Don Juan patiently. "He packs in wood from the
hills--but as I was saying--" and from that he went on to tell of the
unfailing courtesy of the Señora Aragon to a gentleman whom, whatever
his present station might be, she recognized as a member of one of the
oldest families in Castile.

De Lancey did not press his inquiries any further, but the next
morning, instead of riding back into the hills, he and Bud turned their
faces down the cañon to seek out the elusive Mendez. They had, of
course, been acting a part for Don Juan, since Kruger had described Old
Fortuna and the Señor Aragon with great minuteness.

And now, in the guise of innocent strangers, they rode on down the
river, past the concentrator with its multiple tanks, its gliding
tramway and mountains of tailings, through the village of Indian houses
stuck like dugouts against the barren hill--then along a river-bed that
oozed with slickings until they came in sight of the town.

La Fortuna was an old town, yet not so old as its name, since two
Fortunas before it had been washed away by cloudbursts and replaced
by newer dwellings. The settlement itself was some four hundred years
old, dating back to the days of the Spanish _conquistadores_, when it
yielded up many mule-loads of gold.

The present town was built a little up from the river in the lee of a
great ridge of rocks thrust down from the hill and well calculated to
turn aside a glut of waters. It was a comfortable huddle of whitewashed
adobe buildings set on both sides of a narrow and irregular road--the
great trail that led down to the hot country--and was worn deep by the
pack-trains of centuries.

On the lower side was the ample store and _cantina_ of Don Cipriano,
where the thirsty _arrieros_ could get a drink and buy a _panoche_ of
sugar without getting down from their mounts. Behind the store were the
pole corrals and adobe warehouses and the quarters for the peons, and
across the road was the _mescal_ still where, in huge copper retort and
worm, the fiery liquor was distilled from the sugar-laden heads of
Yuccas.

This was the town, but the most important building--set back in the
shade of mighty cottonwoods and pleasantly aloof from the road--was
the residence of Señor Aragon. It was this, in fact, which held the
undivided attention of De Lancey as they rode quietly through the
village, for he had become accustomed from a long experience in the
tropics to look for something elusive, graceful, and feminine in houses
set back in a garden. Nothing stirred, however, and, having good reason
to avoid Don Cipriano, they jogged steadily on their way.

"Some house!" observed Phil, with a last, hopeful look over his
shoulder.

"Uh," assented Bud, as they came to a fork in the road. "Say," he
continued, "let's turn off on this trail. Lot of burro tracks going
out--expect it's our friend, Mr. Mendez."

"All right," said De Lancey absently. "Wonder where old Aragon keeps
that bee-utiful daughter of his--the one Don Joo-an was telling about.
Have to stop on the way back and sample the old man's _mescal_."

"Nothing doing!" countered Hooker instantly. "Now you heard what I
told you--there's two things you leave alone for sixty days--booze and
women. After we cinch our title you can get as gay as you please."

"Oo-ee!" piped Phil, "hear the boy talk!" But he said no more of wine
and women, for he knew how they do complicate life.

They rode to the east now, following the long, flat footprints of
the burros, and by all the landmarks Bud saw that they were heading
straight for the old Eagle Tail mine. At Old Fortuna the river turns
west and at the same time four cañons come in from the east and south.
Of these they had taken the first to the north and it was leading them
past all the old workings that Kruger had spoken about. In fact, they
were almost at the mine when Hooker swung down suddenly from his horse
and motioned Phil to follow.

"There's some burros coming," he said, glancing back significantly; and
when the pack-train came by, each animal piled high with broken wood,
the two Americans were busily tapping away at a section of country
rock. A man and a boy followed behind the animals, gazing with wonder
at the strangers, and as Phil bade them a pleasant "_Buenos días!_"
they came to a halt and stared at their industry in silence. In the
interval Phil was pleased to note that the old man had only one eye.

"_Que busca?_" the one-eyed one finally inquired. "What are you looking
for?"

And when Phil oracularly answered, "Gold!" the old man made a motion to
the boy to go on and sat down on a neighboring rock.

"Do you want to buy a prospect?" he asked, and Bud glanced up at him
grimly.

"We find our own prospects," answered Phil.

"But I know of a very rich prospect," protested Mendez; "_very rich_!"
He shrilled his voice to express how rich it was.

"Yes?" observed Phil. "Then why don't you dig the gold out? But as for
us, we find our own mines. That is our business."

"_Seguro!_" nodded Mendez, glancing at their outfit approvingly. "But
I am a poor man--very poor--I cannot denounce the mine. So I wait for
some rich American to come and buy it. I have a friend--a very rich
man--in Gadsden, but he will not come; so I will sell it to you."

"Did you get that, Bud?" jested Phil in English. "The old man here
thinks we're rich Americans and he wants to sell us a mine."

Bud laughed silently at this, and Mr. Mendez, his hopes somewhat
blasted by their levity, began to boast of his find, giving the history
of the Eagle Tail with much circumstantiality and explaining that it
was a lost _padre_ mine.

"Sure," observed Phil, going back to his horse and picking up the
bridle, "that's what they all say. They're _all_ lost _padre_ mines,
and you can see them from the door of the church. Come on, Bud, let's
go!"

"And so you could this," cried Mendez, running along after them as they
rode slowly up the cañon, "from the old church that was washed away by
the flood! This is the very mine where the _padres_ dug out all their
gold! Are you going up this way? Come, then, and I will show you--the
very place, except that the _Americano_ ruined it with a blast!"

He tagged along after them, wheedling and protesting while they
bantered him about his mine, until they finally came to the place--the
ruins of the old Eagle Tail.

It lay spraddled out along the hillside, a series of gopher-holes,
dumps, and abandoned workings, looking more like a badly managed
stone-quarry than a relic of _padre_ days. Kruger's magazine of giant
powder exploded in one big blast, had destroyed all traces of his mine,
besides starting an avalanche of loose shale that had poured down and
filled the pocket.

Added to this, Aragon and his men had rooted around in the débris in
search of the vein, and the story of their inefficient work was told
by great piles of loose rock stacked up beside caved-in trenches and a
series of timid tunnels driven into the neighboring ridges.

Under the circumstances it would certainly call for a mining engineer
to locate the lost lead, and De Lancey looked it over thoughtfully as
he began to figure on the work to be done. Undoubtedly there was a mine
there--and the remains of an old Spanish smelter down the creek showed
that the ground had once been very rich--but if Kruger had not told him
in advance he would have passed up the job in a minute.

"Well," he said, turning coldly upon the fawning Mendez, who was all
curves in his desire to please, "where is your prospecto?"

"_Aqui, señor!_" replied the Mexican, pointing to the disrupted
rock-slide. "Here it was that the _Americano_ Crooka had his mine--rich
with gold--_much_ gold!"

He shrilled his voice emphatically, and De Lancey shrilled his in reply.

"Here?" he exclaimed, gazing blankly at the hillside, and then he broke
into a laugh. "All right, my friend," he said, giving Bud a facetious
wink; "how much do you want for this prospect?"

"Four hundred dollars," answered Mendez in a tone at once hopeful and
apologetic. "It is very rich. Señor Crooka shipped some ore that was
full of gold. I packed it out for him on my burros; but, I am sorry, I
have no piece of it."

"Yes," responded De Lancey, "I am sorry, too. So, of course, we cannot
buy the prospecto since you have no ore to show; but I am glad for
this, Señor Mendez," he continued with a kindly smile; "it shows that
you are an honest man, or you would have stolen a piece of ore from the
sacks. So show us now where the gold was found, the nearest that you
can remember, and perhaps, if we think we can find it, we will pay you
to denounce the claim for us."

At this the one good eye of Cruz Mendez lighted up with a great hope
and, skipping lightly over the rock-piles with his sandaled feet, he
ran to a certain spot, locating it by looking across the cañon and up
and down the creek.

"Here, _señores_," he pronounced, "is where the mouth of the old tunnel
came out. Standing inside it I could see that tree over there, and
looking down the river I could just see the smelter around the point.
So, then, the gold must be in there." He pointed toward the hill.

"Surely," said De Lancey; "but where?"

The old Mexican shrugged his shoulders deprecatingly.

"I do not know, _señor_," he answered; "but if you wish to dig I will
denounce the claim for you."

"For how much?" inquired De Lancey guardedly.

"For one hundred dollars," answered Mendez, and to his delight the
American seemed to be considering it. He walked back and forth across
the slide, picking up rocks and looking at them, dropping down into
the futile trenches of Aragon, and frowning with studious thought. His
pardner, however, sat listlessly on a boulder and tested the action of
his six-shooter.

"Listen, my friend," said De Lancey, coming back and poising his finger
impressively. "If I should find the ledge the one hundred dollars
would be nothing to me, _sabe_? And if I should spend all my money for
nothing it would be but one hundred dollars more. But listen! I have
known some false Mexicans who, when an American paid them to denounce a
mine, took advantage of his kindness and refused to give it over. Or,
if it turned out to be rich, they pulled a long face and claimed that
they ought to be paid more. Now if--"

"Ah, no, no, _señor_!" clamored Mendez, holding up his hand in protest.
"I am a poor man, but I am honest. Only give me the hundred dollars--"

"Not a dollar do you get!" cried De Lancey sternly; "not a
dollar--until you turn over the concession to the mine. And if you play
us false--" he paused impressively--"_cuidado, hombre_--look out!"

Once more Cruz Mendez protested his honesty and his fidelity to any
trust, but De Lancey silenced him impatiently.

"Enough, _hombre_!" he said. "Words are nothing to us. Do you see my
friend over there?" He pointed to Bud who, huge and dominating against
the sky-line, sat toying with his pistol. "_Buen'!_ He is a cowboy,
_sabe_? A Texan! You know the _Tejanos_, eh? They do not like Mexicans.
But my friend there, he likes Mexicans--when they are honest. If
not--no! Hey, Bud," he called in English, "what would you do to this
fellow if he beat us out of the mine?"

Bud turned upon them with a slow, good-natured smile.

"Oh, nothing much," he answered, putting up his gun; and the deep
rumble of his voice struck fear into the old man's heart.

Phil laughed and looked grimly at Mendez while he delivered his
ultimatum.

"Very well, my friend," he said. "We will stay and look at this mine.
If we think it is good we will take you to the mining agent and get a
permit to dig. For sixty days we will dig, and if we find nothing we
will pay you fifty dollars, anyway. If we find the ledge we will give
you a hundred dollars. All right?"

"_Sí, señor--sí, señor!_" cried Mendez, "one hundred dollars!"

"When you give us the papers!" warned Phil. "But remember--be careful!
The Americans do not like men who talk. And come to the hotel at
Fortuna to-morrow--then we will let you know."

"And you will buy the mine?" begged Mendez, backing off with his hat in
his hand.

"Perhaps," answered De Lancey. "We will tell you to-morrow."

"_Buen'!_" bowed Mendez. "And many thanks!"

"It is nothing," replied De Lancey politely, and then with a crooked
smile he gazed after the old man as he went hurrying off down the cañon.

"Well," he observed, "I guess we've got Mr. Mendez started just about
right--what? Now if we can keep him without the price of a drink until
we get out papers we stand a chance to win."

"That's right," said Bud; "but I wish he had two good eyes. I knowed a
one-eyed Mex up in Arizona and he was sure a thieving son of a goat!"



VII


There are doubtless many philanthropists in the Back Bay regions
of Boston who would consider the whipsawing of Cruz Mendez a very
reprehensible act. And one hundred dollars Mex was certainly a very
small reward for the service that he was to perform.

But Bud and Phil were not traveling for any particular uplift society,
and one hundred pesos was a lot of money to Cruz Mendez. More than
that, if they had offered him a thousand dollars for the same service
he would have got avaricious and demanded ten thousand.

He came to the hotel very early the next morning and lingered around an
hour or so, waiting for the American gentlemen to arise and tell him
his fate. A hundred dollars would buy everything that he could think
of, including a quantity of _mescal_. His throat dried at the thought
of it.

Then the gentlemen appeared and asked him many questions--whether he
was married according to law, whether his wife would sign the papers
with him, and if he believed in a hereafter for those who played false
with Americans. Having answered all these in the affirmative, he was
taken to the _agente mineral_, and, after signing his name--his one
feat in penmanship--to several imposing documents, he was given the
precious permit.

Then there was another trip to the grounds with a surveyor, to make
report that the claim was actually vacant, and Mendez went back to his
normal duties as a packer.

In return for this service as a dummy locator, and to keep him under
their eye, the Americans engaged El Tuerto, the one-eyed, to pack out
a few tools and supplies for them; and then, to keep him busy, they
employed him further to build a stone house.

All these activities were, of course, not lost on Don Cipriano Aragon
y Tres Palacios, since, by a crafty arrangement of fences, he had made
it impossible for anyone to reach the lower country without passing
through the crooked street of Old Fortuna.

During the first and the second trip of the strange Americans he kept
within his dignity, hoping perhaps that they would stop at his store,
where they could be engaged in conversation; but upon their return from
a third trip, after Cruz Mendez had gone through with their supplies,
he cast his proud Spanish reserve to the winds and waylaid them on the
street.

"_Buenas tardes, señores_," he saluted, as they rode past his store,
and then, seeing that they did not break their gait, he held up his
hand for them to stop.

"Excuse me, gentlemen," he said, speaking genially but with an affected
Spanish lisp. "I have seen you ride past several times--are you working
for the big company up at New Fortuna?"

"No, _señor_," answered De Lancey courteously, "we are working for
ourselves."

"Good!" responded Aragon with fatherly approval. "It is better so. And
are you looking at mines?"

"Yes," said De Lancey non-committally; "we are looking at mines."

"That is good, too," observed Aragon; "and I wish you well, but since
you are strangers to this country and perhaps do not know the people
as well as some, I desire to warn you against that one-eyed man, Cruz
Mendez, with whom I have seen you riding. He is a worthless fellow--a
very _pelado_ Mexican, one who has nothing--and yet he is always
seeking to impose upon strangers by selling them old mines which have
no value.

"I have no desire to speak ill of my neighbors, but since he has moved
into the brush house up the river I have lost several fine little
pigs; and his eye, as I know, was torn from his head as he was chasing
another man's cow. I have not suffered him on my ranch for years, he
is such a thief, and yet he has the effrontery to represent himself to
strangers as a poor but honest man. I hope that he has not imposed upon
you in any way?"

"No; not at all, thank you," responded De Lancey, as Bud raised his
bridle-reins to go. "We hired him to pack out our tools and supplies
and he has done it very reasonably. But many thanks, sir, for your
warning. _Adios!_"

He touched his hat and waved his hand in parting, and Bud grinned as he
settled down to a trot.

"You can't help palavering 'em, can you, Phil?" he said. "No matter
what you think about 'em, you got to be polite, haven't you? Well,
that's the way you get drawn in--next time you go by now the old
man will pump you dry--you see. No, sir, the only way to get along
with these Mexicans is not to have a thing to do with 'em. 'No
savvy'--that's my motto."

"Well, '_muchas gracias_' is mine," observed De Lancey. "It doesn't
cost anything, and it buys a whole lot."

"Sure," agreed Bud; "but we ain't buying nothing from him--he's the one
particular _hombre_ we want to steer clear of, and keep him guessing as
long as we can. That's my view of it, pardner."

"Oh, that's all right," laughed De Lancey, "he won't get anything
out of me--that is, nothing but a bunch of hot air. Say, he's a
shrewd-looking old guinea, isn't he? Did you notice that game eye? He
kept it kind of drooped, almost shut, until he came to the point--and
then he opened it up real fierce. Reminds me of a big fighting owl
waking up in the daytime. But you just watch me handle him, and if I
don't fool the old boy at every turn it'll be because I run out of
bull."

"Well, you can hand him the bull if you want to," grumbled Bud, "but
the first time you give anything away I'm going to pick such a row with
the old cuss that we'll have to make a new trail to get by. So leave
'im alone, if you ever expect to see that girl!"

A close association with Phil De Lancey had left Bud not unaware of
his special weaknesses, and Phil was undoubtedly romantic. Given a
barred and silent house, shut off from the street by whitened walls and
a veranda screened with flowers, and the questing eyes of Mr. De Lancey
would turn to those barred windows as certainly as the needle seeks the
pole.

On every trip, coming and going, he had conned the Aragon house from
the vine-covered _corredor_ in front to the walled-in summer-garden
behind, hoping to surprise a view of the beautiful daughter of the
house. And unless rumor and Don Juan were at fault, she was indeed
worthy of his solicitude--a gay and sprightly creature, brown-eyed like
her mother and with the same glorious chestnut hair.

Already those dark, mischievous eyes had been busy and, at the last big
dance at Fortuna, she had set many heads awhirl. Twice within two years
her father, in a rage, had sent her away to school in order to break
off some ill-considered love-affair; and now a battle royal was being
waged between Manuel del Rey, the dashing captain of the _rurales_
stationed at Fortuna, and Feliz Luna, son of a rich _haciendado_ down
in the hot country, for the honor of her hand.

What more romantic, then, than that a handsome American, stepping
gracefully into the breach, should keep the haughty lovers from slaying
each other by bearing off the prize himself?

So reasoned Philip De Lancey, musing upon the ease with which he
could act the part; but for prudential purposes he said nothing of
his vaunting ambitions, knowing full well that they would receive an
active veto from Bud.

For, while De Lancey did most of the talking, and a great deal of
the thinking for the partnership, Hooker was not lacking in positive
opinions; and upon sufficient occasion he would express himself, though
often with more force than delicacy. Therefore, upon this unexpected
sally about the girl, Phil changed the subject abruptly and said no
more of Aragon or the hopes within his heart.

It was not so easy, however, to avoid Aragon, for that gentleman had
apparently taken the pains to inform himself as to the place where they
were at work, and he was waiting for them in the morning with a frown
as black as a thunder-cloud.

"He's on!" muttered Phil, as they drew near enough to see his face.
"What shall we do?"

"Do nothing," growled Bud through his teeth; "you jest let me do the
talking!"

He maneuvered his horse adroitly and, with a skilful turn, cut in
between his pardner and Aragon.

"_'S días_," he greeted, gazing down in burly defiance at the militant
Aragon; and at the same moment he gave De Lancey's horse a furtive
touch with his spur.

"_Buenos días señores!_" returned Aragon, striding forward to intercept
them; but as neither of the Americans looked back, he was left standing
in the middle of the street.

"That's the way to handle 'im," observed Hooker, as they trotted
briskly down the lane. "Leave 'im to me."

"It'll only make him mad," objected De Lancey crossly. "What do you
want to do that for?"

"He's mad already," answered Bud. "I _want_ to quarrel with him, so he
can't ask us any questions. Get him so mad he won't talk--then it'll be
a fair fight and none of this snake-in-the-grass business."

"Yes, but don't put it on him," protested De Lancey. "Let him be
friendly for a while, if he wants to."

"Can't be friends," said Bud laconically; "we jumped his claim."

"Maybe he doesn't want it," suggested Phil hopefully. "He's dropped a
lot of money on it."

"You bet he wants it," returned Hooker, with conviction. "I'm going to
camp out there--the old boy is liable to jump us."

"Aw, you're crazy, Bud!" cried Phil; but Hooker only smiled.

"You know what happened to Kruger," he answered. "I'll tell you what,
we got to keep our eye open around here."

They rode on to their mine, which was only about five miles from
Fortuna, without discussing the matter further; for, while Phil had
generally been the leader, in this particular case Kruger had put Bud
in charge, and he seemed determined to have his way so far as Aragon
was concerned. In the ordering of supplies and the laying out of
development work he deferred to Phil in everything, but for tactics he
preferred his own judgment.

It was by instinct rather than reason that he chose to fight, and
people who follow their instincts are hard to change. So they put in
the day in making careful measurements, according to the memoranda
that Kruger had given them; and, having satisfied themselves as to the
approximate locality of the lost vein, they turned back again toward
town with their heads full of cunning schemes.

Since it was the pleasure of the Señor Aragon to make war on all who
entered his preserves, they checkmated any attempt on his part to
locate the lead by driving stakes to the north of their ledge; and,
still further to throw him off, they decided to mark time for a while
by doing dead work on a cut. Such an approach would be needed to reach
the mouth of their tunnel.

At the same time it would give steady employment to Mendez and keep him
under their eye, and as soon as Aragon showed his hand they could make
out their final papers in peace and send them to the City of Mexico.

And not until those final papers were recorded and the transfer duly
made would they so much as stick a pick into the hillside or show a
lump of quartz.

But for a Spanish gentleman, supposed to be all supple curves and
sinuous advance, Don Cipriano turned out somewhat of a surprise,
for when they rode back through his narrow street again he met them
squarely in the road and called them to a halt.

"By what right, gentlemen--" he demanded in a voice tremulous with
rage,--"by what right do you take possession of my mine, upon which I
have paid the taxes all these years, and conspire with that rogue, Cruz
Mendez, to cheat me out of it? It is mine, I tell you, no matter what
the _agente mineral_ may say, and--"

"Your mine, nothing!" broke in Hooker scornfully, speaking in the
ungrammatical border-Mexican of the cowboys. "We meet one Mexican--he
shows us the mine--that is all. The expert of the mining agent says it
is vacant--we take it. _Stawano!_"[1]

[Footnote 1: A shortening of está bueno--it is good--a common
expression in cowboy Spanish.]

He waved the matter aside with masterful indifference, and Aragon burst
into a torrent of excited Spanish.

"Very likely, very likely," commented Bud dryly, without listening to a
word; "_sí, señor, yo pienso_!"

A wave of fury swept over the Spaniard's face at this gibe and he
turned suddenly to De Lancey.

"Señor," he said, "you seem to be a gentleman. Perhaps you will listen
to me. This mine upon which you are working is mine. I have held it for
years, seeking for the lost vein of the old padres. Then the rebels
came sweeping through the land. They stole my horses, they drove off my
cattle, they frightened my workmen from the mine. I was compelled to
flee--myself and my family--to keep from being held for ransom. Now you
do me the great injustice to seize my mine!"

"Ah, no, señor," protested De Lancey, waving his finger politely for
silence, "you are mistaken. We have inquired about this mine and it has
been vacant for some time. There is no vein--no gold. Anyone who wished
could take it. While we were prospecting we met this poor one-eyed
man and he has taken out a permit to explore it. So we are going to
dig--that is all."

"But, _señor_!" burst out Aragon--and he voiced his rabid protests
again, while sudden faces appeared in the windows and wide-eyed peons
stood gawking in a crowd. But De Lancey was equally firm, though he
glimpsed for the first time the adorable face of La Gracia as she
stared at him from behind the bars.

"No, _señor_," he said, "you are mistaken. The land was declared
forfeit for non-payment of taxes by the minister of Fomento and thrown
open for location. We have located it--that is all."

For a minute Don Cipriano stood looking at him, his black eyes heavy
with rage; then his anger seemed to fall away from him and he wiped the
sweat from his brow.

"Very well," he said at last, "I perceive that you are a gentleman
and have acted in good faith--it is only that that fellow Mendez has
deceived you. Let it pass, then--I will not quarrel with you, my
friend--it is the fortune of war. But stop at my store when you go by
and come and see me. It is indeed lonely here at times, and perhaps I
can pass a pleasant hour with you. My name, _señor_, is Don Cipriano
Aragon y Tres Palacios--and yours?"

He held out his hand with a little gesture. "Philip De Lancey,"
replied that gentleman, clasping the proffered hand; and with many
expressions of good-will and esteem, with a touching of hats and a
wriggling of fingers from the distance, they parted, in spite of Bud,
apparently the best of friends.



VIII


There are some people in this world with whom it seems impossible to
quarrel, notably the parents of attractive daughters.

Perhaps, if Gracia Aragon had not been watching him from the window,
Philip De Lancey would not have been quite so cordial with her
father--at least, that was what Hooker thought, and he was so badly
peeved at the way things had gone that he said it, too.

Then, of course, they quarreled, and one thing leading to another, Phil
told Bud he had a very low way of speaking. Bud replied, that whatever
his deficiencies of speech might be, he was not fool enough to be drawn
in by a skirt, and Phil rebuked him again. Then, with a scornful grunt,
Bud Hooker rode on in silence and they said no more about it.

It was a gay life that they led at night, for the Fortuna Hotel was
filled with men of their kind, since all the staid married men had
either moved across the line with their families or were under orders
to come straight home.

In the daytime the hotel was nearly deserted, for every man in town was
working for the company; but in the evening, when they gathered around
the massive stove, it was a merry company indeed.

There were college men, full of good stories and stories not so good,
world-wanderers and adventurers with such tales of the East and West
as never have been written in books. But not a college boy could match
stories with Phil De Lancey, and few wanderers there were who could
tell him anything new about Mexico. Also, when it came to popular
songs, he knew both the words and the tune. So he was much in demand,
and Don Juan passed many drinks across the bar because of him.

In all such festivities the two pardners stayed together; Bud, with a
broad, indulgent grin, listening to the end, and Phil, his eyes alight
with liquor and good cheer, talking and laughing far into the night.

Outside the winter winds were still cold and the Mexicans went wrapped
to the eyebrows; but within the merry company was slow to quit, and
Phil, making up for the lonely months when he had entirely lacked an
audience, sat long in the seat of honor and was always the last to go.

But on the evening after their spat Bud sat off to one side,
and even Phil's sprightly and ventriloquistic conversation with
the-little-girl-behind-the-door called forth only a fleeting smile.

Bud was thinking, and when engaged in that arduous occupation even the
saucy little girl behind the door could not beguile him.

But, after he had studied it all out and come to a definite conclusion,
he did not deliver an ultimatum. The old, good-natured smile simply
came back to his rugged face; he rolled a cigarette; and then for
the rest of the evening he lay back and enjoyed the show. Only in the
morning, when they went out to the corral to get their horses, he
carried his war-bag with him and, after throwing the saddle on Copper
Bottom, he did the same for their spare mount.

"What are you going to pack out, Bud?" inquired Phil, and Bud slapped
his canvas-covered bed for an answer. Then, with a heave, he snaked it
out of the harness-room where it had been stored and slung it deftly
across the pack-saddle.

"Why, what's the matter?" said De Lancey, when they were on their way.
"Don't you like the hotel?"

"Hotel's fine," conceded Bud, "but I reckon I'd better camp out at the
mine. Want to keep my eye on that Mexican of ours."

"Aw, he's all right," protested Phil.

"Sure," said Bud; "I ain't afraid he'll steal something--but he might
take a notion to quit the country."

"Why, what for?" challenged De Lancey. "He's got his wife and family
here."

"That's nothing--to a Mexican!" countered Bud. "But I ain't figuring on
the excuse he'd give--that won't buy me nothing--what I want to do is
to keep him from going. Because if we lose that Mex now, we lose our
mine."

"And--"

"No 'and' to it," said Bud doggedly. "We ain't going to lose him."

"But if we did," persisted De Lancey, "why, then you think--"

"Your friend would get it," finished Hooker grimly.

"Ah, I see," nodded De Lancey, noting the accent on "friend." "You
don't approve of my making friends with Aragon."

"Oh, that's all right," shrugged the big cowboy. "It won't make no
difference now. Go ahead, if you want to."

"You mean you can get along without me?"

"No," answered Bud. "I don't mean nothing--except what I say. If you
want to palaver around with Aragon, go to it. I'll round up Mendez
and his family and keep 'em right there at the mine until we get them
papers signed--after that I don't care what happens."

"Oh, all right," murmured De Lancey in a subdued tone; but if his
conscience smote him for the moment it did not lead to the making of
any sentimental New Year's resolutions, for he stopped when he came
to the store and exchanged salutations with Aragon, who was lounging
expectantly before his door.

"_Buenos días_, Don Cipriano!" he hailed. "How are you this morning?"

"Ah, good morning, Don Felipe," responded Aragon, stepping forth from
the shadow of the door. "I am very well, thank you--and you?"

"The same!" answered Phil, as if it were a great piece of news. "It is
fine weather--no?"

"Yes, but a little dry," said Aragon, and so they passed it back and
forth in the accepted Spanish manner, while Bud hooked one leg over the
horn of his saddle and regarded the _hacienda_ with languid eyes.

But as his gaze swept the length of the vine-covered _corredor_ it
halted for a moment and a slow smile came over his face. In the green
depths of a passion-flower vine he had detected a quick, birdlike
motion; and then suddenly, like a transformation scene, he beheld a
merry face, framed and illuminated by soft, golden locks, peering out
at him from among the blossoms. Except for that brief smile he made
no sign that he saw her, and when he looked up again the face had
disappeared.

Don Cipriano showed them about his _mescal_ plant, where his men kept a
continual stream of liquid fire running from the copper worm, and gave
each a raw drink; but though De Lancey gazed admiringly at the house
and praised the orange-trees that hung over the garden wall, Spanish
hospitality could go no farther, and the visit ended in a series of
_adioses_ and _muchas graciases_.

"Quick work!" commented Phil, as they rode toward the mine. "The old
man has got over his grouch."

"Um," mused Bud, with a quiet, brooding smile; and the next time he
rode into town he looked for the masked face among the flowers and
smiled again. That was the way Gracia Aragon affected them all.

He did not point out the place to Phil, nor betray her by any sign. All
he did was to glance at her once and then ride on his way, but somehow
his heart stood still when he met her eyes, and his days became filled
with a pensive, brooding melancholy.

"What's the matter, Bud?" rallied Phil, after he had jollied him for a
week. "You're getting mighty quiet lately. Got another hunch--like that
one you had up at Agua Negra?"

"Nope," grinned Bud; "but I'll tell you one thing--if old Aragon
don't spring something pretty soon I'm going to get uneasy. He's too
dog-goned good-natured about this."

"Maybe he thinks we're stuck," suggested De Lancey.

"Well, he's awful happy about something," said Bud. "I can see by the
way he droops that game eye of his--and smiles that way--that he knows
we're working for him. If we don't get a title to this mine, every tap
of work we do on it is all to the good for him, that's a cinch. So sit
down now and think it out--where's the joker?"

"Well," mused Phil, "the gold is here somewhere. He knows we're not
fooled there. And he knows we're right after it, the way we're driving
this cut in. Our permit is good--he hasn't tried to buffalo Mendez--and
it's a cinch he can't denounce the claim himself."

"Maybe he figures on letting us do all the work and pay all the
denouncement fees and then spring something big on old One-Eye,"
propounded Bud. "Scare 'im up or buy 'im off, and have him transfer the
title to _him_. That's the way he worked Kruger."

"Well, say," urged Phil, "let's go ahead with our denouncement before
he starts something. Besides, the warm weather is coming on now,
and if we don't get a move on we're likely to get run out by the
_revoltosos_."

"Nope," said Bud; "I don't put this into Mendez's hands until I
know he's our man--and if I ever do go ahead I'll keep him under my
six-shooter until the last paper is signed, believe me. I know we're in
bad somewhere, but hurrying up won't help none.

"Now I tell you what we'll do--you go to the mining agent and get
copies of all our papers and send them up to that Gadsden lawyer. I'm
going to go down and board with Mendez and see if I can read his heart."

So they separated, and while Phil stayed in town to look over the
records Bud ate his beans and _tortillas_ with the Mendez family.

They were a happy little family, comfortably installed in the stone
house that Mendez had built, and rapidly getting fat on three full
meals a day. From his tent farther up the cañon Bud could look down and
watch the children at play and see the comely Indian wife as she cooked
by the open fire.

Certainly no one could be more innocent and contented than she was, and
El Tuerto was all bows and protestations of gratitude. And yet, you
never can tell.

Bud had moved out of the new house to furnish quarters for El Tuerto
and had favored him in every way; but this same consideration might
easily be misinterpreted, for the Mexicans are slow to understand
kindness.

So, while on the one hand he had treated them generously, he had
always kept his distance, lest they be tempted to presume. But now,
with Phil in town for a few days, he took his meals with Maria, who was
too awed to say a word, and made friends with the dogs and the children.

The way to the dog's heart was easy, almost direct, and he finally
won the attention of little Pancho and Josefa with a well-worn Sunday
supplement. This gaudy institution, with its spicy stories and
startling illustrations, had penetrated even to the wilds of Sonora,
and every Sunday as regularly as the paper came Bud sat down and had
his laugh over the funny page.

But to Pancho, who was six years old and curious, this same highly
colored sheet was a mystery of mysteries, and when he saw the big
American laughing he crept up and looked at it wistfully.

"_Mira_," said Bud, laying his finger upon the smirking visage of one
of the comic characters, "look, and I will tell you the story."

And so, with laborious care, he translated the colored fun, while the
little Mendezes squirmed with excitement and leaped with joy. Even the
simple souls of El Tuerto and Maria were moved the by _comicas_, and
Mendez became so interested that he learned the words by heart, the
better to explain them to others.

But as for Mexican treachery, Bud could find none of it. In fact,
finding them so simple-hearted and good-natured, he became half ashamed
of his early suspicions and waited for the return of Phil to explain
Don Cipriano's complacency.

But the next Sunday, as Bud lay reading in his tent, the mystery
solved itself. Cruz Mendez came up from the house, hat in hand and
an apologetic smile on his face, and after the customary roundabout
remarks he asked the boss as a favor if he would lend him the page of
comic pictures.

"_Seguro!_" assented Bud, rolling over and fumbling for the funny
sheet; then, failing to find it instantly, he inquired: "What do you
want it for?"

"Ah, to show to my boy!" explained El Tuerto, his one eye lighting up
with pride.

"Who--Pancho?"

"Ah, no, _señor_," answered Mendez simply, "my boy in La Fortuna, the
one you have not seen."

Bud stopped fumbling for the paper and sat up suddenly. Here was a new
light on their faithful servitor, and one that might easily take away
from his value as a dummy locator.

"Oh!" he said, and then: "How many children have you, Cruz?"

Cruz smiled deprecatingly, as parents will, and turned away.

"By which woman?" he inquired, and Bud became suddenly very calm,
fearing the worst. For if Cruz was not legally married to Maria, he
could not transfer the mining claim.

"By all of them," he said quietly.

"Five in all," returned Cruz--"three by Maria, as you know--two by my
first woman--and one other. I do not count him."

"Well, you one-eyed old reprobate!" muttered Bud in his throat, but he
passed it off and returned smiling to the charge.

"Where does your boy live now?" he asked with flattering solicitude,
the better to make him talk, "and is he old enough to understand the
pictures?"

"Ah, yes!" beamed Mendez, "he is twelve years old. He lives with his
mother now--and my little daughter, too. Their _mama_ is the woman of
the _mayordomo_ of the Señor Aragon--a bad man, very ugly--she is not
married to _him_."

"But with you--" suggested Bud, regarding him with a steely stare.

"Only by the judge!" explained Mendez virtuously. "It was a love-match
and the priest did not come--so we were married by the judge. Then this
bad _mayordomo_ stole her away from me--the pig--and I married Maria
instead. Maria is a good woman and I married her before the priest--but
I love my other children too, even though they are not lawful."

"So you married your first wife before the judge," observed Bud
cynically, "and this one before the priest. But how could you do that,
unless you had been divorced?"

"Ah, _señor_," protested Mendez, holding out his hands, "you do not
understand. It is only the church that can really marry--the judge does
it only for the money. Maria is my true wife--and we have three nice
children--but as I am going through La Fortuna I should like to show
the picture paper to my boy."

Bud regarded him in meditative silence, then he rose up and began a
determined search for the funny sheet.

"All right," he said, handing it over, "and here is a _panoche_ of
sugar for your little girl--the one in La Fortuna. It is nothing," he
added, as Mendez began his thanks.

"But oh, you marrying Mexican," he continued, relapsing into his mother
tongue as El Tuerto disappeared; "you certainly have dished us right!"



IX


Not the least of the causes which have brought Mexico to the brink of
the abyss is the endless quarrel between church and state, which has
almost destroyed the sanctity of marriage and left, besides, a pitiful
heritage of deserted women and fatherless children as its toll.

Many an honest laborer has peoned himself to pay the priest for his
marriage, only to be told that it is not legal in the eyes of the law;
and many another, married by the judge, has been gravely informed by
the _padre_ that the woman is only his mistress, and the children born
out of wedlock.

So that now, to be sure that she is wedded, a woman must be married
twice, and many a couple, on account of the prohibitive fees, are never
married at all.

Cruz Mendez was no different from the men of his class, and he believed
honestly that he was married to the comely Maria; but Hooker could have
enlightened him on that point if he had cared to do it.

Bud was playing a game, with the Eagle Tail mine for a stake; and,
being experienced at poker, he stood pat and studied his hand. Without
doubt Mendez had lost his usefulness as a locator of the mine, since
Maria was not his legal wife and could not sign the transfer papers
as such. According to the law of the land, the woman now living with
Aragon's _mayordomo_ was the "legitimate" wife of the contract, and she
alone could release the title to the mine once Mendez denounced the
claim.

But Mendez had not yet denounced the claim--though for a period of some
thirty days yet he had the exclusive privilege of doing so--and Bud did
not intend that he should.

Meanwhile they must walk softly, leaving Aragon still to hug the
delusion that he would soon, through his _mayordomo_, have them in his
power--and when the full sixty days of Cruz Mendez's mining permit had
expired they could locate the mine again.

But how--and through whom? That was the question that Bud was studying
upon when Phil rode up the trail, and in his abstraction he barely
returned his gay greeting.

"Well, cheer up, old top!" cried De Lancey, throwing his bridle-reins
to the ground and striding up to the tent. "What ho, let down
the portcullis, me lord seneschal! And cease your vain repining,
Algernon--our papers are all O.K. and the lawyer says to go ahead. But
that isn't half the news! Say, we had a dance up at the hotel last
night and I met--"

"Yes--sure you did," broke in Bud; "but listen to this!" And he told
him of El Tuerto's matrimonial entanglements.

"Why, the crooked devil!" exclaimed De Lancey, leaping up at the
finish. "_Oyez!_ Mendez!"

"Don't say a word," warned Bud, springing to the tent door to intercept
him, "or you'll put us out of business! It is nothing," he continued
in Spanish as Mendez came out of his house, "but put Don Felipe's horse
in the corral when he is cool."

"_Sí, señor_--with great pleasure!" smirked Mendez, running to get the
horse, and after he had departed Bud turned back and shook his head.

"We can't afford to quarrel with Mr. Mendez," he said; "because if
Aragon ever gets hold of him we're ditched. Jest let everything run on
like we'd overlooked something until the sixty days are up--then, if we
get away with it, we'll locate the mine ourselves."

"Yes; but how?"

"Well, the's two ways," returned Bud; "either hunt up another Mexican
citizen or turn Mexican ourselves."

"Turn Mexican!" shrilled Phil, and then he broke down and laughed.
"Well, you're a great one, Bud," he chortled; "you sure are!"

"I come down here to get this mine," said Bud laconically.

"Yes, but you're a Texan--or was one!"

"That makes no difference," answered Bud stoutly. "The hot weather is
coming on--revolution is likely to begin any time--and there ain't
a single Mexican we can trust. Jest one more break now and we lose
out--now how about it?"

"Who's going to turn Mexican," questioned De Lancey, "you or me?"

"Well--_I_ will, then!"

"No, you won't, either!" cried Phil, forgetting his canny shrewdness.
"I'll do it myself! I'm half Mexican already, I've been eating chili
so long!"

"Now here," began Bud, "listen to me. I've been thinking this over all
day and you jest heard about it. The man that turns Mexican is likely
to get mixed up with the authorities and have to skip the country, but
the other feller is in the other way--he's got to stay with the works
till hell freezes over.

"Now you're an engineer and you know how to open up a mine--I don't.
So, if you say so, I'll take out the papers and you hold the mine--or
if you want to _you_ can turn Mex."

"Well," said De Lancey, his voice suddenly becoming soft and pensive,
"I might as well tell you, Bud, that I'm thinking of settling in this
country, anyway. Of course, I don't look at Aragon the way you do--I
think you are prejudiced and misjudge him--but ever since I've known
Gracia I've--"

"Gracia!" repeated Bud; and then, stirred by some great and unreasoning
anger, he rose up and threw down his hat pettishly. "I'd think, Phil,"
he muttered, "you'd be satisfied with all the other girls in the world
without--"

"Now here!" shouted Phil, rising as unreasoningly to his feet, "don't
you say another word against that girl, or I'll--"

"Shut your mouth, you little shrimp!" bellowed Bud, wheeling upon him
menacingly. "You seem to think you're the only man in the world that--"

"Oh, slush, Bud!" cried Phil in disgust. "You don't mean to tell me
you're in love with Gracia too!"

"Who--me?" demanded Hooker, his face suddenly becoming fixed and
mask-like; and then he laughed hoarsely in derision and sank down on
the bed.

Certainly, of the two of them, he was the more surprised at his sudden
outbreak of passion; and yet when the words were spoken he was quick to
know that they were true.

Undoubtedly, in his own way, he was in love--but he would never admit
it, that he knew, too. So he sank down on the blankets and swore
harshly, while De Lancey stared at him in unfeigned surprise.

"Well, then," he went on, taking Bud's answer for granted, "what're you
making such a row about? Can't I go to a dance with a girl without you
jumping down my throat?"

"W'y, sure you can!" rumbled Bud, now hot with a new indignation. "But
after getting me to go into this deal against my will and swearing me
to some damn-fool pledge, the first thing you do is to make friends
with Aragon and then make love to his daughter. Is that your idea of
helping things along? D'ye think that's the way a pardner ought to act?
No, I tell you, it is not!"

"Aw, Bud," protested De Lancey plaintively, "what's the matter with
you? Be reasonable, old man; I never meant to hurt your feelings!"

"Hurt my feelings!" echoed Hooker scornfully. "Huh, what are we down
here for, anyway--a Sunday-school picnic? My feelings are nothing,
and they can wait; but we're sitting on a mine that's worth a million
dollars mebbe--and it ain't ours, either--and when you throw in with
old Aragon and go to making love to his daughter you know you're not
doing right! That's all there is to it--you're doing me and Kruger
dirt!"

"Well, Bud," said De Lancey with mock gravity, "if that's the way you
feel about it I won't do it any more!"

"I wish you wouldn't," breathed Bud, raising his head from his hands;
"it sure wears me out, Phil, worrying about it."

"Well, then, I won't do it," protested Phil sincerely. "So that's
settled--now who's going to turn Mexican citizen?"

"Suit yourself," said Bud listlessly.

"I'll match you for it!" proposed De Lancey, diving into his pocket for
money.

"Don't need to," responded Bud; "you can do what you please."

"No; I'll match you!" persisted Phil. "That was the agreement--whenever
it was an even break we'd let the money talk. Here's your quarter--and
if I match you I'll become the Mexican citizen. All set? Let 'er go!"

He flipped the coin into the air and caught it in his hand.

"Heads!" he called, without looking at it. "What you got?"

"Heads!" answered Bud, and Phil chucked his money into the air again
and laughed as it dropped into his palm.

"Heads she is again!" he cried, showing the Mexican eagle. "I never
did see the time when I couldn't match you, anyway. So now, old socks,
you can keep right on being a Texan and hating Mexicans like horny
toads, and I'll denounce the Eagle Tail the minute the time is up. And
I won't go near the Aragon outfit unless you're with me--is that a go?
All right, shake hands on it, pard! I wouldn't quarrel with you for
anything!"

"Aw, that's all right," mumbled Bud, rising and holding out his hand.
"I knowed you didn't mean nothing." He sat down again after that and
gazed drearily out the door.

"Say, Bud," began Phil, his eyes sparkling with amusement, "I've got
something to tell you about that dance last night. If I didn't put the
crusher on Mr. Feliz Luna and Manuel del Rey! Wow! I sure wished you
were there to see me do it.

"This Feliz Luna is the son of an old sugar-planter down in the hot
country somewhere. He got run out by the _revoltosos_ and now he's
up here trying to make a winning with Gracia Aragon--uniting two
noble families, and all that junk. Well, sir, of all the conceited,
swelled-up little squirts you ever saw in your life he's the limit, and
yet the old man kind of favors him.

"But this Manuel del Rey is the captain of the _rurales_ around here
and a genuine Mexican fire-eater--all buckskin and fierce _mustachios_,
and smells like chili peppers and garlic--and the two of 'em were
having it back and forth as to who got the next dance with Gracia.

"Well, you know how it is at a Mexican dance--everybody is supposed
to be introduced to everybody else--and when I saw those two young
turkey-cocks talking with their hands and eyebrows and everybody else
backing off, I stepped in close and looked at the girl.

"And she's some girl, too, believe me! The biggest brown eyes you ever
saw in your life, a complexion like cream, and hair--well, there never
was such hair! She was fanning herself real slow, and in the language
of the fan that means: 'This don't interest me a bit!' So, just to show
her I was wise, I pulled out my handkerchief and dropped it on the
floor, and when she saw me she stopped and began to count the ribs in
her fan. That was my cue--it meant she wanted to speak with me--so I
stepped up and said:

"'Excuse me, _señorita_, but while the gentlemen talk--and if the
_señora_, your mother, will permit--perhaps we can enjoy a dance?'

"And say, Bud, you should have seen the way she rose to it. That girl
is a sport, believe me, and the idea of those two _novios_ chewing the
rag while she sat out the dance didn't appeal to her at all. So she
gave me her hand and away we went, with all the old ladies talking
behind their fans and Manuel del Rey blowing up like a volcano in a
bunch of _carambas_ or worse. Gee, it was great, and she could dance
like a queen.

"But here's the interesting part of it--what do you think she asked me,
after we'd had our little laugh? Well, you don't need to get so grouchy
about it--she asked about you!"

"Aw!"

"Yes, she did! So you see what you get for throwing her down!"

"What did she ask?"

"Well, she asked--" here he stopped and laughed--"she asked if you were
a cowboy!"

"No!" cried Bud, pleased in spite of himself. "What does she know about
cowboys?"

"Oh, she's wise!" declared Phil. "She's been to school twice in Los
Angeles and seen the wild West show. Yes, sir, she's just like an
American girl and speaks English perfectly. She told me she didn't like
the Mexican men--they were too stuck on themselves--and say, Bud, when
I told her you were a genuine Texas cowboy, what do you think she said?"

"W'y, I don't know," answered Bud, smiling broadly in anticipation;
"what did she say?"

"She said she'd like to know you!"

"She did not!" came back Bud with sudden spirit.

Though he laughed the thought away, a great burden seemed to be lifted
from his heart, and he found himself happy again.



X


To an American, accustomed to getting things done first and talking
about it afterward, there is nothing so subtly irritating as the Old
World formalism, the polite evasiveness of the Mexicans; and yet, at
times, they can speak to the point with the best of us.

For sixty days Don Cipriano Aragon had smiled and smiled and then,
suddenly, as the last day of their mining permit passed by and there
was no record of a denouncement by Cruz Mendez, he appeared at the
Eagle Tail mine with a pistol in his belt and a triumphant sneer on his
lips.

Behind him rode four Mexicans, fully armed, and they made no reply to
De Lancey's polite "_Buenos días!_"

"Take your poor things," burst out Aragon, pointing contemptuously at
their tent and beds, "and your low, _pelado_ Mexican--and go! This mine
no longer stands in the name of Cruz Mendez, and I want it for myself!
No, not a word!" he cried, as De Lancey opened his mouth to explain.
"Nothing! Only go!"

"No, _señor_," said Hooker, dropping his hand to his six-shooter which
hung low by his leg and stepping forward, "we will not go!"

"What?" stormed Aragon. "You--"

"Be careful there!" warned Bud, suddenly fixing his eyes on one of the
four retainers. "If you touch that gun I'll kill you!"

There was a pause, in which the Mexicans sat frozen to their saddles,
and then De Lancey broke the silence.

"You must not think, Señor Aragon," he began, speaking with a certain
bitterness, "that you can carry your point like this. My friend here is
a Texan, and if your men stir he will kill them. But there is a law in
this country for every man--what is it that you want?"

"I want this mining claim," shouted Aragon, "that you have so unjustly
taken from me through that scoundrel Mendez! And I want you to step
aside, so that I can set up my monuments and take possession of it."

"The Señor Aragon has not been to the _agente mineral_ to-day,"
suggested De Lancey suavely. "If he had taken the trouble he would
not--"

"Enough!" cried Aragon, still trying to carry it off cavalierly. "I
sent my servant to the mining agent yesterday and he reported that the
permit had lapsed."

"If he had taken the pains to inquire for new permits, however,"
returned De Lancey, "he would have found that one has been issued to
me. I am now a Mexican citizen, like yourself."

"_You!_" screamed Aragon, his eyes bulging with astonishment; and then,
finding himself tricked, he turned suddenly upon one of his retainers
and struck him with his whip.

"Son of a goat!" he stormed. "Pig! Is this the way you obey my orders?"

But though he raved and scolded, he had gone too far, and there was no
putting the blame on his servant. In his desire to humiliate the hated
gringos he had thrown down all his guards, and even De Lancey saw all
too clearly what his intentions in the matter had been.

"Spare your cursing, Señor Aragon," he said, "and after this," he
added, "you can save your pretty words, too--for somebody else. We
shall remain here and hold our property."

"Ha! You _Americanos_!" exclaimed Aragon, as he chewed bitterly on his
defeat. "You will rob us of everything--even our government. So you
are a Mexican citizen, eh? You must value this barren mine very highly
to give up the protection of your government. But perhaps you are
acquainted with a man named Kruger?" he sneered.

"_He_ would sell his honor any time to defraud a Mexican of his rights,
and I doubt not it was he who sent you here. Yes, I have known it from
the first--but I will fool him yet!

"So you are a Mexican citizen, Señor De Lancey? _Bien_, then you shall
pay the full price of your citizenship. Before our law you are now no
more than that poor _pelado_, Mendez. You cannot appeal now to your
consul at Gadsden--you are only a Mexican! Very well!"

He shrugged his shoulders and smiled significantly.

"No," retorted De Lancey angrily; "you are right--I cannot appeal to my
government! But let me tell you something, Señor Mexicano! An American
needs no government to protect him--he has his gun, and that is enough!"

"Yes," added Bud, who had caught the drift of the last, "and he has
his friends, too; don't forget that!" He strode over toward Aragon and
menaced him with a threatening finger.

"If anything happens to my friend," he hissed, "you will have _me_
to whip! And now, _señor_," he added, speaking in the idiom of the
country, "go with God--and do not come back!"

"Pah!" spat back Aragon, his hate for the pushing foreigner showing in
every glance; "I will beat you yet! And I pray God the _revoltosos_
come this way, if they take the full half of my cattle--so long as they
get you two!"

"Very well," nodded Bud as Aragon and his men turned away, "but be
careful you do not send any!

"Good!" he continued, smiling grimly at the pallid Phil; "now we got
him where we want him--out in the open. And I'll just remember them
four _paisanos_ he had with him--they're his handy men, the boys with
nerve--and don't never let one of 'em catch you out after dark."

De Lancey sat down on a rock and wiped his face.

"Heavens, Bud," he groaned, "I never would have believed it of him--I
thought he was on the square. But it just goes to prove the old
saying--every Mexican has got a streak of yellow in him somewhere. All
you've got to do is to trust him long enough and you'll find it out.
Well, we're hep to Mr. Aragon, all right!"

"I have never seen one of these polite, palavering Mexicans yet,"
observed Bud sagely, "that wasn't crooked. And this feller Aragon is
mean, to boot. But that's a game," he added, "that two can play at. I
don't know how you feel, Phil, but we been kinder creeping and slipping
around so long that I'm all cramped up inside. Never suffered more in
my life than the last sixty days--being polite to that damn' Mexican.
Now it's our turn. Are you game?"

"Count me in!" cried De Lancey, rising from his rock. "What's the play?"

"Well, we'll go into town pretty soon," grinned Bud, "and if I run
across old Aragon, or any one of them four bad Mexicans, I'm going to
make a show. And as for that big brindle dog of his--well, he's sure
going to get roped and drugged if he don't mend his ways. Come on,
let's ketch up our horses and go in for a little time."

"I'll go you!" agreed Phil with enthusiasm, and half an hour later,
each on his favorite horse, they were clattering down the cañon. At the
turn of the trail, where it swung into the Aragon lane, Bud took down
his rope and smiled in anticipation.

"You go on ahead," he said, shaking out his loop, "and I'll try to put
the catgut on Brindle."

"Off like a flash!" answered De Lancey, and, putting the spurs to
his fiery bay, he went dashing down the street, scattering chickens
and hogs in all directions. Behind came Bud, rolling jovially in his
saddle, and as the dogs rushed out after his pardner he twirled his
loop once and laid it skilfully across the big brindle's back. But
roping dogs is a difficult task at best, and Bud was out of practise.
The sudden blow struck Brindle to the ground and the loop came away
unfilled. The Texan laughed, shifting in his saddle.

"Come again!" commented Bud, leaning sidewise as he coiled his rope,
and as the womenfolk and idlers came rushing to see what had happened
he turned Copper Bottom in his tracks and came back like a streak of
light.

"Look out, you ugly man's dog!" he shouted, whirling his rope as he
rode; and then, amid a chorus of indignant protests, he chased the
yelping Brindle down the lane and through a hole in the fence. Then,
with no harm done, he rode back up the street, smiling amiably and
looking for more dogs to rope.

In the door of the store stood Aragon, pale with fury, but Bud appeared
not to see him. His eyes were turned rather toward the house where, on
the edge of the veranda, Gracia Aragon and her mother stood staring at
his antics.

"Good morning to you, ladies!" he saluted, taking off his sombrero with
a flourish. "Lovely weather, ain't it?" And with his tongue in his
cheek and a roguish glance at Aragon, who was stricken dumb by this
last effrontery, he went rollicking after his pardner, sending back a
series of joyous yips.

"Now that sure does me good," he confided to Phil, as they rode down
between cottonwoods and struck into the muddy creek. "No sense in it,
but it gets something out of my system that has kept me from feeling
glad. Did you see me bowing to the ladies? Some class to that bow--no?
You want to look out--I got my eye on that gal, and I'm sure a hard one
to head. Only thing is, I wouldn't like the old man for a father-in-law
the way matters stand between us now."

He laughed boisterously at this witticism, and the little Mexican
children, playing among the willows, crouched and lay quiet like
rabbits. Along the sides of the rocky hills, where the peons had their
mud-and-rock houses, mothers came anxiously to open doors; and as
they jogged along up the river the Chinese gardeners, working in each
separate nook and eddy of the storm-washed creek-bed, stopped grubbing
to gaze at them inquiringly.

"Wonder what's the matter with them chinks?" observed Bud, when his
happiness had ceased to effervesce. "They sit up like a village of
prairie-dogs! Whole country seems to be on the rubber-neck. Must be
something doing."

"That's right," agreed Phil. "Did you notice how those peons scattered
when I rode down the street? Maybe there's been some _insurrectos_
through. But say--listen!"

He stopped his horse, and in the silence a bugle-call came down the
wind from the direction of Fortuna.

"Soldiers!" he said. "Now where did they come from? I was in Fortuna
day before yesterday, and--well, look at that!"

From the point of the hill just ahead of them a line of soldiers came
into view, marching two abreast, with a mounted officer in the lead.

"Aha!" exclaimed Bud with conviction; "they've started something down
below. This is that bunch of Federals that we saw drilling up at Agua
Negra."

"Yep," admitted De Lancey regretfully; "I guess you're right for
once--the open season for rebels has begun."

They drew out of the road and let them pass--a long, double line of
shabby infantrymen, still wearing their last-year's straw hats and
summer uniforms and trudging along in flapping sandals.

In front were two men bearing lanterns, to search out the way by night;
slatternly women, the inevitable camp-followers, trotted along at the
sides with their bundles and babies; and as the little brown men from
Zacatecas, each burdened with his heavy gun and a job lot of belts and
packs, shuffled patiently past the Americans, they flashed the whites
of their eyes and rumbled a chorus of "Adios!"

"_Adios, Americanos!_" they called, gazing enviously at their fine
horses, and Phil in his turn touched his hat and wished them all
God-speed.

"Poor devils!" he murmured, as the last tottering camp-followers, laden
with their burdens, brought up the rear and a white-skinned Spanish
officer saluted from his horse. "What do those little _pelónes_ know
about liberty and justice, or the game that is being played? Wearing
the same uniforms that they had when they fought for Diaz, and now they
are fighting for Madero. Next year they may be working for Orozco or
Huerta or Salazar."

"Sure," muttered Bud; "but that ain't the question. If the's rebels in
the hills, where do we get off?"



XI


The plaza at Fortuna, ordinarily so peaceful and sleepy, was alive
with hurrying men when Bud and Phil reached town. Over at the station
a special engine was wheezing and blowing after its heavy run and,
from the train of commandeered ore-cars behind, a swarm of soldiers
were leaping to the ground. On the porch of the hotel Don Juan de Dios
Brachamonte was making violent signals with his hands, and as they rode
up he hurried out to meet them.

"My gracious, boys," he cried, "it's a good thing you came into town!
Bernardo Bravo has come over the mountains and he's marching to take
Moctezuma!"

"Why, that doesn't make any difference to us!" answered Phil.
"Moctezuma is eighty miles from here--and look at all the soldiers. How
many men has Bernardo got?"

"Well, that I do not know," responded Don Juan; "some say more and
some less, but if you boys hadn't come in I would have sent a man to
fetch you. Just as soon as a revolution begins the back country becomes
unsafe for Americans. Some of these low characters are likely to murder
you if they think you have any money."

"Well, we haven't," put in Bud; "but we've got a mine--and we're going
to keep it, too."

"Aw, Bernardo Bravo hasn't got any men!" scoffed Phil. "I bet this is
a false alarm. He got whipped out of his boots over in Chihauhua last
fall, and he's been up in the Sierra Madres ever since. Probably come
down to steal a little beef.

"Why, Don Juan, Bud and I lived right next to a trail all last year
and if we'd listened to one-tenth of the _revoltoso_ stories we heard
we wouldn't have taken out an ounce of gold. I'm going to get my
denouncement papers to-morrow, and I'll bet you we work that mine all
summer and never know the difference. These rebels won't hurt you any,
anyhow!"

"No! Only beg a little grub!" added Bud scornfully. "Come on, Phil;
let's go over and look at the soldiers--it's that bunch of Yaquis we
saw up at Agua Negra."

They tied their horses to the rack and, leaving the solicitous Don Juan
to sputter, hurried over to the yard. From the heavy metal ore-cars,
each a rolling fortress in itself, the last of the active Yaquis
were helping out their women and pet dogs, while the rest, talking
and laughing in high spirits, were strung out along the track in a
perfunctory line.

If the few officers in command had ever attempted to teach them
military discipline, the result was not apparent in the line they
formed; but any man who looked at their swarthy faces, the hawklike
profiles, and deep-set, steady eyes, would know that they were
fighters.

After all, a straight line on parade has very little to do with actual
warfare, and these men had proved their worth under fire.

To be sure, it was the fire of Mexican guns, and perhaps that was why
the officers were so quiet and unassertive; for every one of these big,
upstanding Indians had been captured in the Yaqui wars and deported to
the henequen fields of Yucatan to die in the miasma and heat.

But they had come from a hardy breed and the whirligig of fortune was
flying fast--Madero defeated Porfirio Diaz; fresh revolutions broke out
against the victor, and, looking about in desperation for soldiers to
fill his ranks, Madero fell upon the Yaquis.

Trained warriors for generations, of a race so fierce that the
ancient Aztecs had been turned aside by them in their empire-founding
migration, they were the very men to whip back the rebels, if he could
but win them to his side.

So Madero had approached Chief Bule, whom Diaz had taken under a flag
of truce, and soon the agreement was made. In return for faithful
service, Mexico would give back to the Indians the one thing they had
been fighting a hundred and sixty years to attain, their land along the
Rio Yaqui; and there they should be permitted to live in peace as their
ancestors had done before them.

And so, with a thousand or more of his men, the crafty old war-chief
had taken service in the Federal army, though his mind, poisoned
perhaps by the treachery he had suffered, was not entirely free from
guile.

"It is the desire of the Yaquis," he had said, when rebuked for serving
under the hated flag of Mexico, "to kill Mexicans, And," he added
grimly, "the Federals at this time seem best able to give us guns for
that purpose."

But it had been a year now since Bule had passed his word and, though
they had battled valiantly, their land had not been given back to
them. The wild Yaquis, the irreconcilables who never came down from
the hills, had gone on the war-path again, but Bule and his men still
served.

Only in two things did they disobey their officers--they would not
stack their arms, and they would not retreat while there were still
more Mexicans to be killed. Otherwise they were very good soldiers.

But now, after the long campaign in Chihuahua and a winter of idleness
at Agua Negra, they were marching south toward their native land and,
in spite of the stern glances of their leaders, they burst forth in
weird Yaqui songs which, if their words had been known, might easily
have caused their Mexican officers some slight uneasiness.

It was, in fact, only a question of days, months, or years until the
entire Yaqui contingent would desert, taking their arms and ammunition
with them.

"Gee! what a bunch of men!" exclaimed Bud, as he stood off and admired
their stark forms.

"There's some genuine fighters for you," he observed to Phil; and a
giant Yaqui, standing near, returned his praise with a smile.

"W'y, hello there, Amigo!" hailed Bud, jerking his head in a friendly
salute. "That's a feller I was making signs to up in Agua Negra," he
explained. "Dogged if I ain't stuck on these Yaquis--they're all men,
believe me!"

"Good workers, all right," conceded De Lancey, "but I'd hate to have
'em get after me with those guns. They say they've killed a lot of
Americans, one time and another."

"Well, if they did it was for being caught in bad company," said
Hooker. "I'd take a chance with 'em any time--but if you go into their
country with a Mexican escort they'll kill you on general principles.
Say," he cried impulsively, "I'm going over to talk with Amigo!"

With a broad grin on his honest face he advanced toward the giant Yaqui
and shook hands ceremoniously.

"Where you go?" he inquired in Spanish, at the same time rolling a
cigarette and asking by a sign for a match.

"Moctezuma," answered the Indian gravely. Then, as Bud offered him the
makings, he, too, rolled a cigarette and they smoked for a minute in
silence.

"You live here?" inquired the Yaqui at last.

"Come here," corrected Bud. "I have a mine--ten miles--over there."

He pointed with the flat of his hand, Indian fashion, and Amigo nodded
understandingly.

He was a fine figure of a man, standing six feet or better in his
well-cut sandals and handling his heavy Mauser as a child would
swing a stick. Across his broad chest he wore a full cartridge-belt,
and around his waist he had two more, filled to the last hole with
cartridges and loaded clips. At his feet lay his blanket, bound into a
tight roll, and a canteen and coffee-cup completed his outfit, which,
so far as impedimenta were concerned, was simplicity itself.

But instead of the cheap linen uniform of the Federals he was dressed
in good American clothes--a striped shirt, overalls, and a sombrero
banded with a bright ribbon--and in place of the beaten, hunted look of
those poor conscripts he had the steady gaze of a free man.

They stood and smoked for a few moments, talking briefly, and then, as
the Yaquis closed up their ranks and marched off to make camp for the
night, Bud presented his strange friend with the sack of tobacco and
went back to join his pardner.

That evening the plaza was filled with the wildest rumors, and another
train arrived during the night, but through it all Bud and Phil
remained unimpressed. In the morning the soldiers went marching off
down the trail, leaving a great silence where all had been bugle-calls
and excitement, and then the first fugitive came in from down below.

He was an old Mexican, with trembling beard and staring eyes, and he
told a tale of outrage that made their blood run cold. The red-flaggers
had come to his house at night; they had killed his wife and son, left
him upon the ground for dead, and carried off his daughter, a prisoner.

But later, when the _comisario_ questioned him sharply, it developed
that he lived not far away, had no daughter to lose, and was, in fact,
only a crazed old man who told for truth that which he feared would
happen.

Notwithstanding the dénouement, his story stirred the Mexican
population to the depths, and when Bud and Phil tried to hire men to
push the work on the mine, they realized that their troubles had begun.
Not only was it impossible to engage laborers at any price, but on
the following day Cruz Mendez, with his wife and children and all his
earthy possessions on his burros, came hurrying in from the camp and
told them he could serve them no more.

"It is my woman," he explained; "my Maria! Ah, if those _revoltosos_
should see Maria they would steal her before my eyes!"

So he was given his pay and the fifty dollars he had earned and, after
the customary "_Muchas gracias_," and with the faithful Maria by his
side, he went hurrying off to the store.

And now in crowded vehicles, with armed men riding in front and behind,
the refugees from Moctezuma and the hot country began to pour into
town, adding by their very haste to the panic of all who saw them.

They were the rich property-owners who, having been subjected to forced
contribution before, were now fleeing at the first rumor of danger,
bringing their families with them to escape any being held for ransom.

In half a day the big hotel presided over by Don Juan de Dios
Brachamonte was swarming with staring-eyed country mothers and sternly
subdued families of children; and finally, to add éclat to the
occasion and compensate for the general confusion, Don Cipriano Aragon
y Tres Palacios came driving up to the door with his wife and the
smiling Gracia.

If she had been in any fear of capture by bold marauders, Gracia Aragon
did not show it now, as she sprang lightly from the carriage and waited
upon her lady mother. Perhaps, after a year or more of rumors and
alarms, she had come to look upon impending revolutionary conflicts as
convenient excuses for a trip to town, a long stop at the hotel, and
even a dash to gay Gadsden in case the rebels pressed close.

However that may be, while Don Juan exerted himself to procure them a
good room she endured the gaze of the American guests with becoming
placidity and, as that took some time, she even ventured to look the
Americans over and make some comments to her mother.

And then--or as it seemed to Bud--the mother glanced up quickly and
fixed her eyes upon him. After that he was in less of a hurry to return
to the mine, and Phil said they would stay inside for a week. But
as for Don Cipriano, when he came across them it was with malignant
insolence and he abruptly turned his back.

At La Fortuna he was the lord and master, with power to forbid them the
place; but now once more the fortunes of war had turned against him,
and he was forced to tolerate their presence.

The band played in the plaza that evening, it being Thursday of the
week, and as the cornet led with "La Paloma," and the bass viol and
guitars beat the measure, all feet seemed to turn in that direction,
and the fear of the raiders was stilled.

Around and around the band-stand and in and out beneath the trees the
pleasure-loving maidens from down below walked decorously with their
mothers; and the little band of Fortuna Americans, to whom life for
some months had been a trifle burdensome, awoke suddenly to the beauty
of the evening.

And among the rest of the maidens, but far more ravishing and
high-bred, walked Gracia Aragon, at whom Bud in particular stole many
secret glances from beneath the broad brim of his hat, hoping that by
some luck the _insurrectos_ would come upon the town, and he could
defend her--he alone. For he felt that he could do it against any
hundred Mexicans that ever breathed.



XII


In its inception the Fortuna hotel had not been intended for the use
of Mexicans--in fact, its rates were practically prohibitive for any
one not being paid in gold--but, since most of the Americans had left,
and seven dollars a day Mex was no deterrent to the rich refugee
landowners, it became of a sudden international, with a fine mixture of
purse-proud Spaniards and race-proud American adventurers.

Not a very pleasing combination for the parents of romantic damsels
destined for some prearranged marriage of state, but very exciting for
the damsels and most provocative to the Americans.

After the promenade in the plaza the mothers by common consent
preempted the up-stairs reception-room, gathering their precious
charges in close; while the Americans, after their custom, forgathered
in the lobby, convenient to the bar. Hot arguments about the
revolution, and predictions of events to come, served to pass the early
evening, with many scornful glances at the Mexican dandies who went so
insolently up the stairs. And then, as the refugees retired to their
apartments and the spirit of adventure rose uppermost, Phil De Lancey
made a dash out into the darkness and came back with a Mexican string
band.

"A serenade, boys!" he announced, as the musicians filed sheepishly
into the hotel. "Our guests, the fair _señoritas_, you know! We'll
make those young Mexican dudes look like two-spots before the war is
over. Who's game now for a song beneath the windows? You know the old
stand-bys--'La Paloma' and 'Teresita Mia'--and you want to listen to
me sing 'Me Gustan Todas' to Gracia, the fairest of the fair! Come on,
fellows, out in the plaza, and then listen to the old folks cuss!"

They adjourned then, after a drink for courage, to the moonlight
and the plaza; and there, beneath the shuttered windows and vacant
balconies, the guitars and violins took up "La Paloma," while Phil and
a few brave spirits sang.

A silence followed their first attempt, as well as their second and
third, and the _comisario_ of police, a mild creature owned and paid by
the company, came around and made a few ineffectual protests.

But inside the company's concession, where by common consent the
militant _rurales_ kept their hands off, the Americans knew they were
safe, and they soon jollied the _comisario_ into taking a drink and
departing. Then De Lancey took up the burden, and the string band,
hired by the hour, strummed on as if for eternity.

One by one the windows opened; fretful fathers stepped out on the
balcony and, bound by the custom and convention of the country, thanked
them and bade them good night. But the two windows behind which the
Señor Aragon and his family reposed did not open and, though the
dwindling band stood directly under their balcony, and all knew that
his daughter was the fairest of the fair, Don Cipriano did not wish
them good night.

Perhaps he recognized the leading tenor--and the big voice of Bud
Hooker, trying to still the riot--but, however it was, he would not
speak to them, and De Lancey would not quit.

"Try 'em on American music," he cried, as every one but Bud went away
in disgust, "the latest rag from Broadwa-ay, New York. Here, gimme that
guitar, _hombre_, and listen to this now!"

He picked out a clever bit of syncopation and pitched his voice to a
heady twang:

  "Down in the garden where the red roses grow,
  Oh my, I long to go!
  Pluck me like a flower, cuddle me an hour,
  Lovie, let me learn the Rose Red Ra-ag!"

There was some swing to that, and it seemed to make an impression,
for just as he was well started on the chorus the slats of one of the
shutters parted and a patch of white shone through the spaces. It was
the ladies, then, who were getting interested! Phil wailed on:

  "Swee-eet honey-bee, be sweet to me!
  My heart is free, but here's the key!"

And then, positively, he could see that patch of white beat time. He
took heart of grace at that and sang on to the end, and at a suggestion
of clapping in dumb-show he gave an encore and ragged it over again.

"Ev'rybody's doin' it, doin' it, doin' it!'" he began, as the shadow
dance ceased.

"'Honey, I declare, it's a bear, it's a bear, it's a bear!'" he
continued temptingly, and was well on his way to further extravagancies
when the figure in white swiftly vanished and a door slammed hard
inside the house.

Several minutes later the form of Don Juan appeared at the lower door,
and in no uncertain tones he requested them to cease.

"The Señor Aragon informs me," he said, "that your music annoys him."

"Well, let him come to the balcony and say his '_buenas noches_,'"
answered Phil resentfully.

"The gentleman refuses to do that," responded Don Juan briefly.

"Then let him go to bed!" replied De Lancey, strumming a few syncopated
chords. "I'm singing to his daughter."

At that Don Juan came down off the porch in his slippers and they
engaged in a protracted argument.

"What, don't I get a word," demanded Phil grievously, "not a pleasant
look from anybody? 'Swee-eet honey-bee, be sweet to me!'" he pleaded,
turning pathetically to the lady's balcony; and then, with a sudden
flourish, a white handkerchief appeared through the crack of the
shutters and Gracia waved him good night.

"Enough, Don Juan!" he cried, laying down the guitar with a thump.
"This ends our evening's entertainment!"

After paying and thanking the stolid musicians Phil joined Bud and the
pair adjourned to their room where, in the intervals of undressing,
Phil favored the occupants of the adjoining apartments with an aria
from "Beautiful Doll."

But for all such nights of romance and music there is always a morning
afterward; and a fine tenor voice set to rag-time never helped much
in the development of a mine. Though Bud had remained loyally by his
friend in his evening serenade he, for one, never forgot for a moment
that they were in Fortuna to work the Eagle Tail and not to win the
hearts of Spanish-Mexican _señoritas_, no matter how attractive they
might be.

Bud was a practical man who, if he ever made love, would doubtless do
it in a perfectly businesslike way, without hiring any string bands.
But at the same time he was willing to make some concessions.

"Well, go ahead and get your sleep, then," he growled, after trying
three times in the morning to get his pardner up; "I'm going out to the
mine!"

Then, with a saddle-gun under his knee and his six-shooter hung at his
hip, he rode rapidly down the road, turning out from time to time to
let long cavalcades of mules string by. The dead-eyed _arrieros_, each
with his combined mule-blind and whip-lash swinging free, seemed to
have very little on their minds but their pack-lashings, and yet they
must be three days out from Moctezuma.

Their mules, too, were well loaded with the products of the hot
country--_fanegas_ of corn in red leather sacks, oranges and fruits in
hand-made crates, _panoches_ of sugar in balanced frames, long joints
of sugar-cane for the _dulce_ pedlers, and nothing to indicate either
haste or flight.

Three times he let long pack-trains go by without a word, and then at
last, overcome by curiosity, he inquired about the _revoltosos_.

"What _revoltosos_?" queried the old man to whom he spoke.

"Why, the men of Bernardo Bravo," answered Bud; "the men who are
marching to take Moctezuma."

"When I left Moctezuma," returned the old man politely, "all was
quiet--there were no _revoltosos_. Since then, I cannot say."

"But the soldiers!" cried Bud. "Surely you saw them! They were marching
to fight the rebels."

"Perhaps so," shrugged the _arriero_, laying the lash of his _topojo_
across the rump of a mule; "but I know nothing about it."

"No," muttered Bud, as he continued on his way; "and I'll bet nobody
else does."

Inquiry showed that in this, too, he was correct. From those who
traveled fast and from those who traveled slow he received the same
wondering answer--the country might be filled with _revoltosos_; but as
for them, they knew nothing about it.

Not until he got back to Fortuna and the busy Federals' telegraph-wire
did he hear any more news of rapine and bloodshed, and the light which
dawned upon him then was gradually dawning upon the whole town.

It was a false alarm, given out for purposes of state and the "higher
politics" with which Mexico is cursed, and the most that was ever seen
of Bernardo Bravo and his lawless men was twenty miserable creatures,
half-starved, but with guns in their hand, who had come down out of the
mountains east of Moctezuma and killed a few cows for beef.

Thoroughly disgusted, and yet vaguely alarmed at this bit of
opera-bouffe warfare, Bud set himself resolutely to work to hunt up men
for their mine, and, as many poor people were out of employment because
of the general stagnation of business, he soon had ten Mexicans at his
call.

Then, as Phil had dropped out of sight, he ordered supplies at the
store and engaged Cruz Mendez--who had spent his fortune in three
days--to pack the goods out on his mules.

They were ready to start the next morning if De Lancey could be found
to order the powder and tools, and as the afternoon wore on and no Phil
appeared, Bud went on a long hunt which finally discovered him in the
balcony of their window, making signs in the language of the bear.[2]

[Footnote 2: In Mexico a man who flirts with a woman, or courts her
surreptitiously through the bars of her window, is called a "bear."]

"Say, Phil," he hailed, disregarding his pardner's obvious
preoccupation; "break away for a minute and tell me what kind of powder
to get to break that schist--the store closes at five o'clock, and--"

He thrust his head out the door as he spoke and paused, abashed.
Through the half-closed portal of the next balcony but one he beheld
the golden hair of Gracia Aragon, and she fixed her brown eyes upon him
with a dazzling, mischievous smile.

"O-ho!" murmured Bud, laying a compelling hand on De Lancey and backing
swiftly out of range; "so this is what you're up to--talking signs! But
say, Phil," he continued, beckoning him peremptorily with a jerk of his
head, "I got ten men hired and a lot of grub bought, and if you don't
pick out that mining stuff we're going to lose a day. So get the lady
to excuse you and come on now."

"In a minute," pleaded Phil, and he went at the end of his allotted
time, and perhaps it was the imp of jealousy that put strength into
Hooker's arm.

"Well, that's all right," said Bud, as Phil began his laughing excuses;
"but you want to remember the Maine, pardner--we didn't come down here
to play the bear. When there's any love-making to be done I want to be
in on it. And you want to remember that promise you made me--you said
you wouldn't have a thing to do with the Aragon outfit unless I was
with you!"

"Why, you aren't--you aren't jealous, are you, Bud?"

"Yes, I'm jealous," answered Hooker harshly; "jealous as the devil! And
I want you to keep that promise, see?"

"Aw, Bud--" began De Lancey incredulously; but Hooker silenced him with
a look. Perhaps he was really jealous, or perhaps he only said so to
have his way, but Phil saw that he was in earnest, and he went quietly
by his side.

But love had set his brain in a whirl, and he thought no more of his
promise--only of some subtler way of meeting his inamorata, some way
which Bud would fail to see.



XIII


For sixty days and more, while the weather had been turning from cold
to warm and they had been laboring feebly to clear way the great slide
of loose rock that covered up the ledge, the Eagle Tail mine had
remained a mystery.

Whether, like the old Eagle Tail of frontier fable, it was so rich that
only the eagle's head was needed to turn the chunks into twenty-dollar
gold pieces; or whether, like many other frontier mines, it was nothing
but a hole in the ground, was a matter still to be settled. And Bud,
for one, was determined to settle it quickly.

"Come on," he said, as Phil hesitated to open up the way to the lead;
"we got a month, maybe less, to get to the bottom of this; and then the
hills will be lousy with rebels. If the's nothing here, we want to find
out about it quick and skip--and if we strike it, by grab! the' ain't
enough red-flaggers in Sonora to pry me loose from it. So show these
_hombres_ where to work and we'll be up against rock by the end of the
week."

The original Eagle Tail tunnel had been driven into the side of a steep
hill; so steep, in fact, that the loose shale stretched in long shoots
from the base of the frowning porphyry dikes that crowned the tops of
the hills to the bottom of the cañon. On each side of the discovery
gulch sharp ridges, perforated by the gopher-holes of the Mexicans, and
the ancient workings of the Spaniards, ran directly up the hill to meet
the contact. But it was against the face of the big ridge itself that
Kruger had driven his drift and exploded his giant blast of dynamite,
and the whole slope had been altered and covered with a slide of rock.

Against this slide, in the days when they were marking time, Bud and
his pardner had directed their energies, throwing the loose stones
aside, building up walls against the slip, and clearing the way to the
solid schist. There, somewhere beneath the jumble of powder-riven rock,
lay the ledge which, if they found it, would make them rich; and now,
with single-jack and drill, they attacked the last huge fragments,
blasting them into pieces and groveling deeper until they could strike
the contact, where the schist and porphyry met and the gold spray had
spewed up between.

It was slow work; slower than they had thought, and the gang of
Mexicans that they had hired for muckers were marvels of ineptitude.
Left to themselves, they accomplished nothing, since each problem they
encountered seemed to present to them some element of insuperable
difficulty, to solve which they either went into caucus or waited for
the boss. Meanwhile they kept themselves awake by smoking cigarettes
and telling stories about Bernardo Bravo.

To the Mexicans of Sonora Bernardo Bravo was the personification of all
the malevolent qualities--he being a bandit chief who had turned first
general and then rebel under Madero--and the fact that he had at last
been driven out of Chihuahua and therefore over into Sonora, made his
malevolence all the more imminent.

Undoubtedly, somewhere over to the east, where the Sierras towered like
a blue wall, Bernardo and his outlaw followers were gathering for a
raid, and the raid would bring death to Sonora.

He was a bad man, this Bernardo Bravo, and if half of the current
stories were true, he killed men whenever they failed to give him
money, and was never too hurried to take a fair daughter of the country
up behind him, provided she took his fancy.

Yes, surely he was a bad man--but that did not clear away the rock.

For the first week Phil took charge of the gang, urging, directing, and
cajoling them, and the work went merrily on, though rather slowly. The
Mexicans liked to work for Don Felipe, he was so polite and spoke such
good Spanish; but at the end of the week it developed that Bud could
get more results out of them.

Every time Phil started to explain anything to one Mexican all the
others stopped to listen to him, and that took time. But Bud's favorite
way of directing a man was by grunts and signs and bending his own back
to the task. Also, he refused to understand Spanish, and cut off all
long-winded explanations and suggestions by an impatient motion to go
to work, which the _trabajadores_ obeyed with shrugs and grins.

So Don Felipe turned powder-man and blacksmith, sharpening up the
drills at the little forge they had fashioned and loading the holes
with dynamite when it became necessary to break a rock, while Bud
bossed the unwilling Mexicans.

In an old tunnel behind their tent they set a heavy gate, and behind
it they stored their precious powder. Then came the portable forge and
the blacksmith-shop, just inside the mouth of the cave, and the tent
backed up against it for protection. For if there is any one thing,
next to horses, that the rebels are wont to steal, it is giant powder
to blow up culverts with, or to lay on the counters of timorous country
merchants and frighten them into making contributions.

As for their horses, Bud kept them belled and hobbled, close to the
house, and no one ever saw him without his gun. In the morning, when he
got up, he took it from under his pillow and hung it on his belt, and
there it stayed until bedtime.

He also kept a sharp watch on the trail, above and below, and what few
men did pass through were conscious of his eye. Therefore it was all
the more surprising when, one day, looking up suddenly from heaving at
a great rock, he saw the big Yaqui soldier, Amigo, gazing down at him
from the cut bank.

Yes, it was the same man, yet with a difference--his rifle and
cartridge-belts were absent and his clothes were torn by the brush. But
the same good-natured, competent smile was there, and after a few words
with Bud he leaped nimbly down the bank and laid hold upon the rock.
They pulled together, and the boulder that had balked Bud's gang of
Mexicans moved easily for the two of them.

Then Amigo seized a crowbar and slipped it into a cranny and showed
them a few things about moving rocks. For half an hour or more he
worked along, seemingly bent on displaying his skill, then he sat down
on the bank and watched the Mexicans with tolerant, half-amused eyes.

If he was hungry he showed it only by the cigarettes he smoked, and
Hooker, studying upon the chances he would take by hiring a deserter,
let him wait until he came to a decision.

"_Oyez_, Amigo," he hailed at last and, rubbing his hand around on his
stomach he smiled questioningly, whereat the Yaqui nodded his head
avidly.

"_Stowano!_" said Hooker. "_Ven._" And he left his Mexicans to dawdle
as they would while he led the Indian to camp. There he showed him
the coffeepot and the kettle of beans by the fire, set out a slab of
Dutch-oven bread and a sack of jerked beef, some stewed fruit and a can
of sirup, and left him to do his worst.

In the course of half an hour or so he came back and found the Yaqui
sopping up sirup with the last of the bread and humming a little tune.
So they sat down and smoked a cigarette and came to the business at
hand.

"Where you go?" inquired Bud; but Amigo only shrugged enigmatically.

"You like to work?" continued Bud, and the Indian broke into a smile of
assent.

"_Muy bien_," said Hooker with finality; "I give Mexicans two dollars
a day--I give you four. Is that enough?"

"_Sí_," nodded the Yaqui, and without more words he followed Bud back
to the cut. There, in half a day, he accomplished more than all the
Mexicans put together, leaping boldly up the bank to dislodge hanging
boulders, boosting them by main strength up onto the ramshackle tram
they had constructed, and trundling them out to the dump with the shove
of a mighty hand.

He was a willing worker, using his head every minute; but though he
was such a hustler and made their puny efforts seem so ineffectual by
comparison, he managed in some mysterious way to gain the immediate
approval of the Mexicans. Perhaps it was his all-pervasive good nature,
or the respect inspired by his hardihood; perhaps the qualities of
natural leadership which had made him a picked man among his brother
Yaquis. But when, late in the afternoon, Bud came back from a trip to
the tent he found Amigo in charge of the gang, heaving and struggling
and making motions with his head.

"Good enough!" he muttered, after watching him for a minute in silence,
and leaving the new boss in command, he went back and started supper.

That was the beginning of a new day at the Eagle Tail, and when De
Lancey came back from town--whither he went whenever he could conjure
up an errand--he found that, for once, he had not been missed.

Bud was doing the blacksmithing, Amigo was directing the gang, and a
fresh mess of beans was on the fire, the first kettleful having gone to
reënforce the Yaqui's backbone. But they were beans well spent, and Bud
did not regret the raid on his grub-pile. If he could get half as much
work for what he fed the Mexicans he could well rest content.

"But how did this Indian happen to find you?" demanded Phil, when his
pardner had explained his acquisition. "Say, he must have deserted from
his company when they brought them back from Moctezuma!"

"More'n likely," assented Bud. "He ain't talking much, but I notice he
keeps his eye out--they'd shoot him for a deserter if they could ketch
him. I'd hate to see him go that way."

"Well, if he's as good as this, let's take care of him!" cried Phil
with enthusiasm. "I'll tell you, Bud, there's something big coming off
pretty soon and I'd like to stay around town a little more if I could.
I want to keep track of things."

"F'r instance?" suggested Hooker dryly. It had struck him that Phil was
spending a good deal of time in town already.

"Well, there's this revolution. Sure as shooting they're going to pull
one soon. There's two thousand Mexican miners working at Fortuna, and
they say every one of 'em has got a rifle buried. Now they're beginning
to quit and drift out into the hills, and we're likely to hear from
them any time."

"All the more reason for staying in camp, then," remarked Bud. "I'll
tell you, Phil, I need you here. That dogged ledge is lost, good and
plenty, and I need you to say where to dig. We ain't doing much better
than old Aragon did--just rooting around in that rock-pile--let's do a
little timbering, and sink."

"You can't timber that rock," answered De Lancey decidedly. "And
besides, it's cheaper to make a cut twenty feet deep than it is to
tunnel or sink a shaft. Wait till we get to that porphyry contact--then
we'll know where we're at."

"All right," grumbled Bud; "but seems like we're a long time getting
there. What's the news downtown?"

"Well, the fireworks have begun again over in Chihauhua--Orozco and
Salazar and that bunch--but it seems there was something to this
Moctezuma scare, after all. I was talking to an American mining man
from down that way and he told me that the Federals marched out to
where the rebels were and then sat down and watched them cross the
river without firing on them--some kind of an understanding between
Bernardo Bravo and these black-leg Federals.

"The only fighting there was was when a bunch of twenty Yaquis got away
from their officers in the rough country and went after Bernardo Bravo
by their lonesome. That threw a big scare into him, too, but he managed
to fight them off--and if I was making a guess I'd bet that your Yaqui
friend was one of that fighting twenty."

"I reckon," assented Bud; "but don't you say nothing. I need that
_hombre_ in my business. Come on, let's go up and look at that cut--I
come across an old board to-day, down in the muck, and I bet you it's
a piece that Kruger left. Funny we don't come across some of his tools,
though, or the hole where the powder went off."

"When we do that," observed Phil, "we'll be where we're going. Nothing
to do then but lay off the men and wait till I get my papers. That's
why I say don't hurry so hard--we haven't got our title to this claim,
pardner, and we won't get it, either--not for some time yet. Suppose
you'd hit this ledge--"

"Well, if I hit it," remarked Bud, "I'll stay with it--you can trust me
for that. Hello, what's the Yaqui found?"

As they came up the cut Amigo quit work and, while the Mexicans
followed suit and gathered expectantly behind him, he picked up three
rusty drills and an iron drill-spoon and presented them to Bud.

Evidently he had learned the object of their search from the Mexicans,
but if he looked for any demonstrations of delight at sight of these
much-sought-for tools he was doomed to disappointment, for both Bud and
Phil had schooled themselves to keep their faces straight.

"Um-m," said Bud, "old drills, eh? Where you find them?"

The Yaqui led the way to the face of the cut and showed the spot, a
hole beneath the pile of riven rock; and a Mexican, not to be outdone,
grabbed up a handful of powdered porphyry and indicated where the
dynamite had pulverized it.

"_Bien_," said Phil, pawing solemnly around in the bottom of the hole;
and then, filling his handkerchief with fine dirt, he carried it down
to the creek. There, in a miner's pan, he washed it out carefully,
slopping the waste over the edge and swirling the water around until at
last only a little dirt was left in the bottom of the pan. Then, while
all the Mexicans looked on, he tailed this toward the edge, scanning
the last remnant for gold--and quit without a color.

"_Nada!_" he cried, throwing down the pan, and in some way the Mexicans
sensed the fact that the mine had turned out a failure. Three times he
went back to the cut and scooped up the barren dust, and then he told
the men they could quit.

"No more work!" he said, affecting a dejected bitterness. "_No hay
nada_--there is nothing!" And with this sad, but by no means unusual,
ending to their labors, the Mexicans went away to their camp,
speculating among themselves as to whether they could get their pay.
But when the last of them had gone Phil beckoned Bud into the tent and
showed him a piece of quartz.

"Just take a look at that!" he said, and a single glance told Hooker
that it was full of fine particles of gold.

"I picked that up when they weren't looking," whispered De Lancey, his
eyes dancing with triumph. "It's the same rock--the same as Kruger's!"

"Well, put 'er there, then, pardner!" cried Bud, grabbing at 'De
Lancey's hand. "We've struck it!"

And with a broad grin on their deceitful faces they danced silently
around the tent, after which they paid off the Mexicans and bade them
"_Adios!_"



XIV


It is a great sensation--striking it rich--one of the greatest in the
world.

Some men punch a burro over the desert all their lives in the hope of
achieving it once; Bud and Phil had taken a chance, and the prize lay
within their grasp. Only a little while now--a month, maybe, if the
officials were slow--and the title would be theirs.

The Mexican miners, blinded by their ignorance, went their way, well
contented to get their money. Nobody knew. There was nothing to do but
to wait. But to wait, as some people know, is the hardest work in the
world.

For the first few days they lingered about the mine, gloating over it
in secret, laughing back and forth, singing gay songs--then, as the
ecstasy passed and the weariness of waiting set in, they went two ways.
Some fascination, unexplained to Bud, drew De Lancey to the town. He
left in the morning and came back at night, but Hooker stayed at the
mine.

Day and night, week-days and Sundays, he watched it jealously, lest
some one should slip in and surprise their secret--and for company he
had his pet horse, Copper Bottom, and the Yaqui Indian, Amigo.

Ignacio was the Indian's real name, for the Yaquis are all good
Catholics and named uniformly after the saints; but Bud had started to
call him Amigo, or friend, and Ignacio had conferred the same name on
him.

Poor Ignacio! his four-dollar-a-day job had gone glimmering in half
a day, but when the Mexican laborers departed he lingered around the
camp, doing odd jobs, until he won a place for himself.

At night he slept up in the rocks, where no treachery could take him
unaware, but at the first peep of dawn it was always Amigo who arose
and lit the fire.

Then, if no one got up, he cooked a breakfast after his own ideas,
boiling the coffee until it was as strong as lye, broiling meat on
sticks, and went to turn out the horses.

With the memory of many envious glances cast at Copper Bottom, Hooker
had built a stout corral, where he kept the horses up at night,
allowing them to graze close-hobbled in the daytime.

A Mexican _insurrecto_ on foot is a contradiction of terms, if there
are any horses or mules in the country, and several bands of ex-miners
from Fortuna had gone through their camp in that condition, with new
rifles in their hands. But if they had any designs on the Eagle Tail
live stock they speedily gave them up; for, while he would feed them
and even listen to their false tales of patriotism, Bud had no respect
for numbers when it came to admiring his horse.

Even with the Yaqui, much as he trusted him, he had reservations about
Copper Bottom; and once, when he found him petting him and stroking
his nose, he shook his head forbiddingly. And from that day on, though
he watered Copper Bottom and cared for his wants, Amigo was careful
never to caress him.

But in all other matters, even to lending him his gun, Bud trusted the
Yaqui absolutely. It was about a week after he came to camp that Amigo
sighted a deer, and when Bud lent him his rifle he killed it with a
single shot.

Soon afterward he came loping back from a scouting trip and made signs
for the gun again, and this time he brought in a young peccary, which
he roasted in a pit, Indian style. After that, when the meat was low,
Bud sent him out to hunt, and each time he brought back a wild hog or a
deer for every cartridge.

The one cross under which the Yaqui suffered was the apparent failure
of the mine and, after slipping up into the cut a few times, he finally
came back radiant.

"_Mira!_" he said, holding out a piece of rock; and when Hooker gazed
at the chunk of quartz he pointed to the specks of gold and grunted
"_Oro!_"

"_Seguro!_" answered Bud, and going down into his pocket, he produced
another like it. At this the Yaqui cocked his head to one side and
regarded him strangely.

"Why you no dig gold?" he asked at last, and then Bud told him his
story.

"We have an enemy," he said, "who might steal it from us. So now we
wait for papers. When we get them, we dig!"

"Ah!" breathed Amigo, his face suddenly clearing up. "And can I work
for you then?"

"Sí," answered Bud, "for four dollars a day. But now you help me watch,
so nobody comes."

"_Stawano!_" exclaimed the Indian, well satisfied, and after that he
spent hours on the hilltop, his black head thrust out over the crest
like a chucka-walla lizard as he conned the land below.

So the days went by until three weeks had passed and still no papers
came. As his anxiety increased Phil fell into the habit of staying in
town overnight, and finally he was gone for two days. The third day
was drawing to a close, and Bud was getting restless, when suddenly he
beheld the Yaqui bounding down the hill in great leaps and making signs
down the cañon.

"Two men," he called, dashing up to the tent; "one of them a _rural_!"

"Why a _rural_?" asked Bud, mystified.

"To take me!" cried Amigo, striking himself vehemently on the breast.
"Lend me your rifle!"

"No," answered Bud, after a pause; "you might get me into trouble. Run
and hide in the rocks--I will signal you when to come back."

"_Muy bien_," said the Yaqui obediently and, turning, he went up over
rocks like a mountain-sheep, bounding from boulder to boulder until
he disappeared among the hilltops. Then, as Bud brought in his horse
and shut him hastily inside the corral, the two riders came around the
point--a _rural_ and Aragon!

Now in Mexico a _rural_, as Bud well knew, means trouble--and Aragon
meant more trouble, trouble for him. Certainly, so busy a man as Don
Cipriano would not come clear to his camp to help capture a Yaqui
deserter. Bud sensed it from the start that this was another attempt to
get possession of their mine, and he awaited their coming grimly.

"_'S tardes_," he said in reply to the _rural's_ salute, and then he
stood silent before his tent, looking them over shrewdly. The _rural_
was a hard-looking citizen, as many of them are, but on this occasion
he seemed a trifle embarrassed, glancing inquiringly at Aragon. As for
Aragon, he was gazing at a long line of jerked meat which Amigo had
hung out to dry, and his drooped eyes opened up suddenly as he turned
his cold regard upon Hooker.

"_Señor_," he said, speaking with an accusing harshness, "we are
looking for the men who are stealing my cattle, and I see we have not
far to go. Where did you get that meat?"

"I got it from a deer," returned Bud. "There is his hide on the fence;
you can see it if you'll look."

The _rural_, glad to create a diversion, rode over and examined the
hide and came back satisfied, but Aragon was not so easily appeased.

"By what right," he demanded truculently, "do you, an American, kill
deer in our country? Have you the special permit which is required?"

"No, _señor_," answered Hooker soberly; "the deer was killed by a
Mexican I have working for me."

"Ha!" sneered Aragon, and then he paused, balked.

"Where is this Mexican?" inquired the _rural_, his professional
instincts aroused, and while Bud was explaining that he was out in
the hills somewhere, Aragon spurred his horse up closer and peered
curiously into his tent.

"What are you looking for?" demanded Hooker sharply, and then Aragon
showed his hand.

"I am looking for the drills and drill-spoon," he said; "the ones you
stole when you took my mine!"

"Then get back out of there," cried Bud, seizing his horse by the bit
and throwing him back on his haunches; "and stay out!" he added, as he
dropped his hand to his gun. "But if the _rural_ wishes to search," he
said, turning to that astounded official, "he is welcome to do so."

"_Muchas gracias_, no!" returned the _rural_, shaking a finger in front
of his face, and then he strode over to where Aragon was muttering and
spoke in a low tone.

"No!" dissented Aragon, shaking his head violently. "No--no! I want
this man arrested!" he cried, turning vindictively upon Bud. "He
has stolen my tools--my mine--my land! He has no business here--no
title! This land is mine, and I tell him to go! _Pronto!_" he shouted,
menacing Hooker with his riding-whip, but Bud only shifted his feet and
stopped listening to his excited Spanish.

"No, _señor_," he said, when it was all over, "this claim belongs to my
pardner, De Lancey. You have no--"

"Ha! De Lancey!" jeered Aragon, suddenly indulging himself in a
sardonic laugh. "De Lancey! Ha, ha!"

"What's the matter?" cried Hooker, as the _rural_ joined in with a
derisive smirk. "Say, speak up, _hombre_!" he threatened, stepping
closer as his eyes took on a dangerous gleam. "And let me tell you
now," he added, "that if any man touches a hair of his head I'll kill
him like a dog!"

The _rural_ backed his horse away, as if suddenly discovering that the
American was dangerous, and then, saluting respectfully as he took his
leave, he said:

"The Señor De Lancey is in jail!"

They whirled their horses at that and galloped off down the cañon, and
as Bud gazed after them he burst into a frenzy of curses. Then, with
the one thought of setting Phil free, he ran out to the corral and
hurled the saddle on his horse.

It was through some chicanery, he knew--some low-down trick on the part
of Aragon--that his pardner had been imprisoned, and he swore to have
him out or know the reason why. Either that or he would go after Aragon
and take it out of his hide.

It was outside Bud's simple code even to question his pardner's
innocence; but, innocent or guilty, he would have him out if he had to
tear down the jail.

So he slapped his saddle-gun into the sling, reached for his quirt, and
went dashing down the cañon. At a turn in the road he came suddenly
upon Aragon and the _rural_, split a way between them, and leaned
forward as Copper Bottom burned up the trail.

It was long since the shiny sorrel had been given his head, and he
needed neither whip not spurs--but a mile or two down the arroyo Bud
suddenly reined him in and looked behind. Then he turned abruptly up
the hillside and jumped him out on a point, looked again, and rode
slowly back up the trail.

Aragon and the _rural_ were not in sight--the question was, were they
following? For a short distance he rode warily, not to be surprised in
his suspicion; then, as he found tracks turning back, he gave head to
his horse and galloped swiftly to camp.

The horses of the men he sought stood at the edge of the mine-dump and,
throwing his bridle rein down beside them, Bud leaped off and ran up
the cut. Then he stopped short and reached for his six-shooter. The
two men were up at the end, down on their knees, and digging like dogs
after a rabbit.

So eager were they in their search, so confident in their fancied
security, that they never looked up from their work, and the tramp of
Hooker's boots was drowned by their grubbing until he stood above them.
There he paused, his pistol in hand, and waited grimly for developments.

"Ha!" cried Aragon, grabbing at a piece of quartz that came up. "_Aqui
lo tengo!_" He drew a second piece from his pocket and placed them
together. "It is the same!" he said.

Still half-buried in the excavation, he turned suddenly, as a shadow
crossed him, to get the light, and his jaw dropped at the sight of Bud.

"I'll trouble you for that rock," observed Bud, holding out his hand,
and as the _rural_ jumped, Aragon handed over the ore. There was a
moment's silence as Bud stood over them--then he stepped back and
motioned them out with his gun.

Down the jagged cut they hurried, awed into a guilty silence by his
anger, and when he let them mount without a word the _rural_ looked
back, surprised. Even then Bud said nothing, but the swing of the
Texan's gun spoke for him, and they rode quickly out of sight.

"You dad-burned greasers!" growled Bud, returning his pistol with a jab
to its holster. Then he looked at the ore. There were two pieces, one
fresh-dug and the other worn, and as he gazed at them the worn piece
seemed strangely familiar. Aragon had been comparing them--but where
had he got the worn piece?

Once more Bud looked it over, and then the rock fell from his hand. It
was the first piece they had found--the piece that belonged to Phil!



XV


When the solid earth quakes, though it move but a thousandth of an inch
beneath our feet, the human brain reels and we become dizzy, sick, and
afraid. So, too, at the thought that some trusted friend has played us
false, the mind turns back upon itself and we doubt the stability of
everything--for a moment. Then, as we find all the trees straight up,
the world intact, and the hills in their proper places, we cast the
treacherous doubts aside and listen to the voice of reason.

For one awful moment Hooker saw himself betrayed by his friend, either
through weakness or through guile; and then his mind straightened
itself and he remembered that Phil was in jail.

What more natural, then, than that the _rurales_ should search his
pockets and give the ore to Aragon? He stooped and picked up the chunk
of rock--that precious, pocket-worn specimen that had brought them the
first sure promise of success--and wiped it on his sleeve.

Mechanically he placed it beside the other piece which Aragon had
gouged from the ledge, and while he gazed at them he wondered what to
do--to leave their mine and go to his friend, or to let his friend wait
and stand guard by their treasure--and his heart told him to go to his
friend.

So he swung up on his horse and followed slowly, and as soon as it was
dark he rode secretly through Old Fortuna and on till he came to the
jail. It was a square stone structure, built across the street from the
_cantina_ in order to be convenient for the drunks, and as Bud rode up
close and stared at it, some one hailed him through the bars.

"Hello there, pardner," called Hooker, swinging down and striding over
to the black window, "how long have they had you in here?"

"Two days," answered Phil from the inner darkness; "but it seems like
a lifetime to me. Say, Bud, there's a Mexican in here that's got the
jim-jams--regular _tequila_ jag--can't you get me out?"

"Well, I sure will!" answered Bud. "What have they got you in for?
Where's our friend, Don Juan? Why didn't he let me know?"

"You can search me!" railed De Lancey. "Seems like everybody quits you
down here the minute you get into trouble. I got arrested night before
last by those damned _rurales_--Manuel Del Rey was behind it, you can
bet your life on that--and I've been here ever since!"

"Well, what are you pinched for? Who do I go and see?"

"Pinched for nothing!" cried De Lancey bitterly. "Pinched because I'm a
Mexican citizen and can't protect myself! I'm _incomunicado_ for three
days!"

"Well, I'll get you out, all right," said Hooker, leaning closer
against the bars. "Here, have a smoke--did they frisk you of your
makings?"

"No," snapped De Lancey crossly, "but I'm out of everything by this
time. Bud, I tell you I've had a time of it! They threw me in here with
this crazy, murdering Mexican and I haven't had a wink of sleep for two
days. He's quiet now, but I don't want any more."

"Well, say," began Bud again, "what are you charged with? Maybe I can
grease somebody's paw and get you out tonight!"

There was an awkward pause at this, and finally De Lancey dropped his
white face against the bars and his voice became low and beseeching.

"I'll tell you, Bud," he said, "I haven't been quite on the square with
you--I've been holding out a little. But you know how it is--when a
fellow's in love. I've been going to see Gracia!"

"Oh!" commented Hooker, and stood very quiet while he waited.

"Yes, I've been going to see her," hurried on Phil. "I know I promised;
but honest, Bud, I couldn't help it. It just seemed as if my whole
being was wrapped up in her, and I had to do it. She'd be looking for
me when I came and went--and then I fixed it with her maid to take her
a letter. And then I met her secretly, back by the garden gate. You
know they've got some holes punched in the wall--loopholed during the
fight last summer--and we'd--"

"Sure, I'll take your word for that," broke in Hooker harshly. "But get
to the point! What are you pinched for?"

"Well," went on De Lancey, his voice quavering at the reproof, "I was
going to tell you, if you'll listen to me. Somebody saw us there and
told Aragon--he shut her up for a punishment and she slipped me out a
note. She was lonely, she said. And that night--well, I couldn't stand
it--I hired the string band and we went down there in a hack to give
her a serenade. But this cad, Manuel del Rey, who has been acting like
a jealous ass all along, swooped down on us with a detachment of his
_rurales_ and took us all to jail. He let the musicians out the next
morning, but I've been here ever since."

"Yes, and what are you charged with?" demanded Bud bruskly.

"Drunk," confessed Phil, and Bud grunted.

"Huh!" he said, "and me out watching that mine night and day!"

"Oh, I know I've done you dirt, Bud," wailed De Lancey; "but I didn't
mean to, and I'll never do it again."

"Never do what?" inquired Bud roughly.

"I won't touch another drop of booze as long as I'm in Mexico!" cried
Phil. "Not a drop!"

"And how about the girl?" continued Bud inexorably. "Her old man was
out and tried to jump our mine to-day--how about her?"

"Well," faltered De Lancey, "I'll--she--"

"You know your promise!" reminded Bud.

"Yes; I know. But--oh, Bud, if you knew how loyal I've been to you--if
you knew what offers I've resisted--the mine stands in my name, you
know."

"Well?"

"Well, Aragon came around to me last week and said if I'd give him a
half interest in it he'd--well, never mind--it was a great temptation.
But did I fall for it? Not on your life! I know you, Bud, and I know
you're honest--you'd stay by me to the last ditch, and I'll do the same
by you. But I'm in love, Bud, and that would make a man forget his
promise if he wasn't true as steel."

"Yes," commented Hooker dryly. "I don't reckon I can count on you much
from now on. Here, take a look at this and see what you make of it."
He drew the piece of ore that he had taken from Aragon from his pocket
and held it up in the moonlight. "Well, feel of it, then," he said.
"Shucks, you ought to know that piece of rock, Phil--it's the first one
we found in our mine!"

"No!" exclaimed De Lancey, starting back. "Why--where'd you get it?"

"Never mind where I got it!" answered Hooker. "The question is: What
did you do with it?"

"Well, I might as well come through with it," confessed Phil, the last
of his assurance gone. "I gave it to Gracia!"

"And I took it away from Aragon," continued Bud, "while he was digging
some more chunks out of our mine. So that is your idea of being true
as steel, is it? You've done noble by me and Kruger, haven't you? Yes,
you've been a good pardner, I don't think!"

"Well, don't throw me down, Bud!" pleaded Phil. "There's some mistake
somewhere. Her father must have found it and taken it away! I'd stake
my life on it that Gracia would never betray me!"

"Well, think it over for a while," suggested Bud, edging his words
with sarcasm. "I'm going up to the hotel!"

"No; come back!" cried De Lancey, clamoring at the bars. "Come on back,
Bud! Here!" he said, thrusting his hand out through the heavy irons.
"I'll give you my word for it--I won't see her again until we get our
title! Will that satisfy you? Then give me your hand, pardner--I'm
sorry I did you wrong!"

"It ain't me," replied Hooker soberly, as he took the trembling hand;
"it's Kruger. But if you'll keep your word, Phil, maybe we can win out
yet. I'm going up to find the _comisario_."

A brief interview with that smiling individual and the case of Phil
De Lancey was laid bare. He had been engaged in a desperate rivalry
with Manuel del Rey for the hand of Gracia Aragon, and his present
incarceration was not only for singing rag-time beneath the Aragon
windows, but for trying to whip the captain of the _rurales_ when the
latter tried to place him under arrest.

And De Lancey was the prisoner not of the _comisario_, but of the
captain of the _rurales_. Sore at heart, Bud rode up through the
Mexican quarters to the _cuartel_ of the _rurales_, but the captain was
inexorable.

"No, _señor_," he said, waving an eloquent finger before his nose, "I
cannot release your friend. No, _señor_."

"But what is he charged with," persisted Bud, "and when is his trial?
You can't keep him shut up without a trial."

At this the captain of the _rurales_ lifted his eyebrows and one
closely waxed _mustachio_ and smiled mysteriously.

"_Y como no?_" he inquired. "And why not? Is he not a Mexican citizen?"

"Well, perhaps he is," thundered Bud, suddenly rising to his full
height, "but I am not! I am an American, Señor Capitan, and there are
other Americans! If you hold my friend without a trial I will come and
tear your jail down--and the _comisario_ will not stop me, either!"

"Ah!" observed the dandy little captain shrugging his _mustachio_ once
more and blinking, and while Hooker raged back and forth he looked him
over appraisingly.

"One moment!" he said at last, raising a quieting hand. "These are
perilous times, _señor_, in which all the defenders of Fortuna should
stand together. I do not wish to have a difference with the Americans
when Bernardo Bravo and his men are marching to take our town. No, I
value the friendship of the valiant Americans very highly--so I will
let your friend go. But first he must promise me one thing--not to
trouble the Señor Aragon by making further love to his daughter!"

"Very well!" replied Bud. "He has already promised that to me; so come
on and let him out."

"To you?" repeated Manuel del Rey with a faint smile. "Then, perhaps--"

"Perhaps nothing!" broke in Hooker shortly. "Come on!"

He led the way impatiently while the captain, his saber clanking,
strode out and rode beside him. He was not a big man, this swashing
captain of the rural police, but he was master, nevertheless, of a
great district, from Fortuna to the line, with a reputation for quick
work in the pursuance of his duty as well as in the primrose ways of
love.

In the insurrections and raidings of the previous summer he had given
the _coup de grâce_ with his revolver to more than one embryo bandit,
and in his love-affairs he had shown that he could be equally summary.

The elegant Feliz Luna, who for a time had lingered near the charming
Gracia, had finally found himself up against a pair of pistols with the
option of either fighting Captain del Rey or returning to his parents.
The young man concluded to beat a retreat. For a like offense Philip De
Lancey had been unceremoniously thrown into jail; and now the _capitan_
turned his attention to Bud Hooker, whose mind he had not yet fathomed.

"Excuse me, _señor_," he said, after a brief silence, "but your words
left me in doubt--whether to regard you as a friend or a rival."

"What?" demanded Bud, whose knowledge of Spanish did not extend to the
elegancies.

"You said," explained the captain politely, "that your friend had
promised you he would not trouble the lady further. Does that mean that
you are interested in her yourself, or merely that you perceive the
hopelessness of his suit and wish to protect him from a greater evil
that may well befall him? For look you, _señor_, the girl is mine, and
no man can come between us!"

"Huh!" snorted Bud, who caught the last all right. Then he laughed
shortly and shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know what you're talking
about," he said gruffly, "but he will stay away, all right."

"_Muy bien_," responded Del Rey carelessly and, dismounting at the
jail, he threw open the door and stood aside for his rival to come out.

"_Muchas gracias, Señor Capitan_," saluted Bud, as the door clanged to
behind his pardner. But Phil still bristled with anger and defiance,
and the captain perceived that there would be no thanks from him.

"It is nothing," he replied, bowing politely, and something in
the way he said it made De Lancey choke with rage. But there by
the _cárcel_ door was not the place for picking quarrels. They
went to the hotel, where Don Juan, all apologies for his apparent
neglect--which he excused on the ground that De Lancey had been held
_incomunicado_--placated them as best he could and hurried on to the
news.

"My gracious, Don Felipe," he cried, "you don't know how sorry I was to
see you in jail, but the captain's orders were that no one should go
near you--and in Mexico we obey the _rurales_, you know. Otherwise we
are placed against a wall and shot.

"But have you heard the news from down below? Ah, what terrible times
they are having there--ranches raided, women stolen, rich men held for
ransom! Yes, it is worse than ever! Already I am receiving telegrams to
prepare rooms for the refugees, and the people are coming in crowds.

"Our friend, the Señor Luna, and his son Feliz have been taken by
Bernardo Bravo! Only by an enormous ransom was he able to save his wife
and daughters, and his friends must now pay for him.

"At the ranch of the rich Spaniard, Alvarez, there has been a great
battle in which the red-flaggers were defeated with losses. Now
Bernardo Bravo swears he will avenge his men, and Alvarez has armed his
Yaqui workmen.

"He is a brave man, this Colonel Alvarez, and his Yaquis are
all warriors from the hills; but Bernardo has gathered all the
_insurrectos_ in the country together--Campos, Rojas, the brothers
Escaboza--and they may crush him with their numbers. But now there is
other news--that they are marching upon Fortuna and El Tigre, to seize
the mines and mills and hold the rich American companies up for ransom.

"No, _señores_, you must not return to your camp. Remain here, and
you shall still have your room, though Spanish gentlemen sleep on the
floors. No, allow me, Don Felipe! I wish to show you how highly I value
your friendship! Only because we cannot disobey the _rurales_ did I
suffer you to lie in jail; but now you shall be my guest, you shall--"

"Nope," answered Bud; "we're safer out at the mine."

He glanced at De Lancey, in whose mind rosy visions were beginning to
gather, and he, too, declined--with a sigh.

"Make it a bed for the night," he said. "I've got to get out of this
town before I tangle with Del Rey again and find myself back in jail.
And now lead me to it--I'm perishing for a bath and a sleep!"

They retired early and got up early--for Bud was haunted by fears. But
as they passed through Old Fortuna the worst happened to him--they met
Gracia, mounted on a prancing horse and followed by a _rural_ guard,
and she smote him to the heart with a smile.

It was not a smile for Phil, gone astray and wounding by chance; it was
a dazzling, admiring smile for Bud alone, and he sat straighter in his
saddle. But Phil uttered a groan and struck his horse with the quirt.

"She cut me!" he moaned.

"Aw, forget it!" growled Bud, and they rode on their way in silence.



XVI


At their camp by the Eagle Tail mine, even though they held it still
and were heirs to half its gold, the two pardners were glum and
sorrowful. The treacheries which Bud had forgiven in a moment of
exaltation came back to him now as he brooded; and he eyed his friend
askance, as if wondering what he would do next.

He recalled all the circumstances of their quest--the meeting with
Kruger, Phil's insistence on the adventure, the oath of loyalty which
they had sworn; and then the gradual breaking down of their brotherly
devotion until now they were strangers at heart. Phil sat by himself,
keeping his thoughts to himself, and he stood aloof while he waited for
the worst to happen.

From the first day of their undertaking Hooker had felt that it was
unlucky, and now he knew that the end was coming. His friend was lost
to him, lost alike to a sense of loyalty and honor; he gloomed by
himself and thought only of Gracia Aragon.

The oath which Phil himself had forced upon Bud was broken and
forgotten; but Bud, by a sterner standard, felt bound to keep his part.
One thing alone could make him break it--his word to Henry Kruger. The
Eagle Tail mine he held in trust, and half of it was Kruger's.

"Phil," he said at last, when his mind was weary of the ceaseless grind
of thoughts, "I believe that mineral agent is holding back our papers.
I believe old Aragon has passed him a hundred or so and they're in
cahoots to rob us. But I'll tell you what I'll do--you give me a power
of attorney to receive those papers for you, and I'll go in and talk
Dutch to the whole outfit."

"What do you want to do that for?" demanded De Lancey querulously.
"Why can't you wait a while? Those papers have to go to Moctezuma and
Hermosillo and all over the City of Mexico and back, and it takes time.
What do you want to make trouble for?"

"Well, I'll tell you, Phil," answered Bud honestly. "I've got a hunch
if we don't grab them papers soon we won't get 'em at all. Here these
rebels are working closer all the time, and Aragon is crowding us.
I want to get title and turn it over to Kruger, before we lose out
somewhere."

"What's the matter with me going in and talking to the agent?"
suggested Phil. Then, as he saw his pardner's face, he paused and
laughed bitterly.

"You don't trust me any more, do you, Bud?" he said.

"Well, it ain't that so much," evaded Hooker; "but I sure don't trust
that Manuel del Rey. The first time you go into town he's going to
pinch you, and I know it."

"I'm going to go in all the same," declared De Lancey, "and if the
little squirt tries to stop me--"

"Aw, Phil," entreated Bud, "be reasonable, can't ye? You got no call
to go up against that little feller. He's a bad actor, I can see that,
and I believe he'd kill you if he got the chance. But wait a little
while--maybe he'll get took off in the fights this summer!"

"No, he's too cursed mean for that!" muttered De Lancey, but he seemed
to take some comfort in the thought.

As for Bud, he loafed around for a while, cleaning up camp, making
smoke for the absent Yaqui, and looking over the deserted mine, but
something in the changed atmosphere made him restless and uneasy.

"I wonder where that dogged Indian went to?" he said for the hundredth
time, as the deep shadows gathered in the valley. "By Joe, Phil, if
Amigo comes back I'm going to go ahead on that mine! I want to keep
him around here, and we might as well get out some ore, if it's only
for a grub-stake. Come on--what do you say? We'll open her up--there's
nothing to hide now. Well, I'll do it myself, then--this setting around
is getting on my nerves."

His far-seeing eyes, trained from his boyhood to search the hills for
cattle, scanned the tops of the ridges as he spoke; and while he sat
and pondered they noted every rock.

Then at last he rose up slowly and gazed at a certain spot. He waved
his arm, beckoning the distant point of blackness to come in, and soon
from around a point in the cañon the Yaqui appeared, bearing a heavy
Mauser rifle on his arm.

Across his broad breast hung the same familiar cartridge-belt, two
more encircled his hips, and he walked with his head held high, like
the warrior that he was.

Evidently his flight had led to the place where his arms had been hid,
for he wore the regulation knife bayonet at his hip and around his hat
was the red ribbon of his people, but Bud was too polite to ask him
about his journey. Since his coming the Yaqui had always maintained a
certain mystery, and now, though his eyes were big with portent and
he smiled at the jests about his gun, he simply waved his hand to the
south and east and murmured:

"_Muchos revoltosos!_"

"_Seguro!_" answered Bud jokingly. "But have you killed any?"

"Not yet!" returned the Indian, and he did not smile at that.

"I wonder what that Indian is waiting around here for?" remarked Phil
in English. "He must have his eye on somebody."

"Yeah, I bet," agreed Bud, regarding his savage friend with a
speculative interest. "Most of them Yaqui soldiers was farm-hands in
this country before they rounded them up. I reckon he's looking for the
man that had him deported.

"Tired, Amigo?" he inquired in Spanish, and Ignacio gravely
acknowledged that he was, a little.

"Then drink plenty coffee," went on Hooker. "Eat lots--to-morrow we go
to work in the mine."

"Tomorrow?" repeated the Indian, as if considering his other
engagements. "Good!" He nodded a smiling assent.

After a month and more of idleness Bud and Amigo performed prodigies of
labor in the cut, rolling down boulders, lifting them up on the tram,
and clearing away the face of the cliff. Their tram was ramshackle,
their track the abandoned rails from older workings, and their tools
little more than their hands, but by noon the last broken fragments
were heaved aside and the shattered ledge revealed.

A low cry of wonder escaped the Yaqui as he gazed at the rich vein of
ore, and as he saw the grim smile on Bud's rugged countenance he showed
his white teeth in sympathy.

"_Que bueno!_" he murmured. "How good!" gathering the precious
fragments in his handkerchief.

At the camp they crushed the picked ore in a mortar and panned it in
the creek, and for the moment De Lancey dropped his air of preoccupancy
as he stared at the streak of pure gold. Like a yellow film it lay
along the edge of the last fine tailings, and when skilful washing had
left it bare, it gleamed like a jewel in the pan.

"By Jove, Bud!" he cried, "that's the real stuff--and it goes a dollar
to the pan easy!"

"Sure thing!" assented Bud. "Let's pound a lot of it and wash it as we
go--then we'll have some getaway money when things break loose here!"

"I'll go you!" answered Phil, and Bud's heart warmed toward him as he
watched him pound up a piece of ore and go to swirling the dirt in the
pan.

But alas for the fond hopes he cherished! Even as he washed out the
gold Phil's mind wandered far away, back to the hotel where Gracia
Aragon sat watching by the window.

Her hair was the color of gold, spun fine and refined again; yes, it
was worth more than this golden dross that he caught in the bottom of
his pan. And what was gold if he could not have her?

He paused in his labor and a dreamy smile parted his lips--then he
broke into a song:

  "Sweet honey-bee, be sweet to me,
  My heart is free, but here's the key;
  Lock up the garden gate; honey, you know I'll wait,
  Under the rambler rose tree-ee."

Once more he returned to his work, humming now the dulcet strains of
"The Merry Widow," and when Bud came back from the cut it was to hear a
coon song:

  "'Cos I want yer, ma honey, yes, I want yer, want yer, want yer;
  'Cos I want yer, ma honey, yes, I do!"

So he labored and sang, until finally the labor ceased, and then the
song. He went about other things, and other thoughts, not so cheerful,
filled his mind.

Bud returned sadly to the company of the Yaqui and gave it up. Perhaps
his pardner had been right when, riding out of Agua Negra, he had
enlarged upon the dangers of Old Mexico, "the land of _mañana_ and
broken promises." Certainly his speech had been prophetic in regard to
dark-eyed women; for, even as he had said, nothing seemed to please
them better than to come between man and man.

It was a madness, he felt sure--the spell of the hot country, where the
women look out from behind barred windows and men sing beneath their
balconies at midnight. Already it had cost him his pardner--would it
conquer _his_ will as well and make him forget his trust?

In his impotence the idea of some perverse fate--some malign influence
over which he had no control--was strong with Hooker; yet when the blow
fell he was not prepared for it. It was the third day of their mining
and, with Amigo, he had been driving into the face of the cliff.

Already their round of holes was drilled, the fuses cut, the charges
set, and as he retreated before the blast he noticed absently that
Cruz Mendez was in camp. The shots followed one after another, and he
counted them to make sure there was no miss-fire--then he looked around
and discovered that Phil was gone.

"Where is Don Felipe?" he inquired of Mendez, and that low-browed
brother of the burro bowed fawningly before he replied.

"He has gone to Fortuna," he said, wiping his face with the bath-towel
which he wore about his neck.

"And what for?" demanded Bud imperatively.

"I don't know, _señor_," writhed Mendez. "I brought him a letter."

"From whom?"

"I don't know--it was given to me by Juana, the servant of the Señorita
Aragon."

"Ah!" breathed Bud, and pretended not to be surprised.

"Well, let 'im go!" he said to himself, and went back into the mine. It
was what he had expected in a way, and his code bade him keep his hands
off. But the next morning, when the evil was either avoided or done,
he thrust his rifle into its sling and started for the town. At the
jail he halted and gazed in through the windows--then he rode up to the
hotel and asked for Phil.

"What? Have you not heard?" clamored Don Juan. "Ah, it is most
unfortunate--I would not have had it happen for the world!"

"What?" inquired Bud succinctly.

"Why, the quarrel--the encounter with Capitan del Rey! I did my best, I
assure you, to prevent it, for the town has been put under martial law
and the captain is in full charge. They quarreled over the favor of a
lady, and now your friend is in jail."

"I didn't see him when I come by," observed Hooker.

"Ah, no--not in the _cárcel_--in the _cuartel_, the guard-house of the
_rurales_!"

"Much obliged!" nodded Bud, and rode on through the town. The street of
the Mexican quarter was filled with strange people hurrying to and fro;
long pack-trains loaded with trunks and curious bundles came swinging
up from below; and a pair of _rurales_, looking fierce under their huge
sombreros stood guard by the _cuartel_ door.

"Where is the _capitan_?" demanded Hooker. After requesting him to hang
his pistol-belt on his saddle-horn, a sergeant showed him in to the
chief.

Manuel del Rey was very busy with papers and orders, but as the
American appeared in the doorway he rose and greeted him with a bow.

"Ah, good morning, _señor_," he said, with one swift glance to read his
mood. "You are in search of your friend--no?"

"Sí, _señor_," answered Hooker, but with none of the animosity which
the captain had expected. "Where is he?"

"I regret very much," began the officer, speaking with military
formality, "but it is my duty to inform you that the Señor De Lancey
has left Fortuna. Last night he did me the honor to enlist in my
company of _rurales_--he is now on his way to the north to assist in
guarding the railroad."

"What?" shouted Bud, hardly able to believe his ears. But when the
captain repeated it he no longer doubted his Spanish.

"But why?" he cried. "Why did he join the _rurales_?"

"Ah, _señor_," shrugged Del Rey, "was he not a Mexican citizen?
Very well, then; he could be summoned for military service. But the
circumstances were these: Your friend came yesterday to this town,
where I am at present military commander, and made an unprovoked
assault upon my person. For this, according to law, he should have been
shot at sunrise. But, not wishing to occasion unpleasantness with the
Americans now residing here, I offered him the alternative of military
service. He is now enlisted as a _rural_ for a term of five years."

"Five years!" exclaimed Hooker; and then, instead of starting the
expected rough-house--upon which the _rural_ guards were prepared to
jump on his back--he simply threw down his hat and cursed--not anyone
in particular, but everything in general; and at the end of it he
turned once more upon the watchful captain.

"_Dispenseme, señor_," he said, "this is the truth, is it?"

"_Sí, señor_," returned Captain Del Rey. "But before leaving with his
detachment your friend wrote this letter, which he requested me to
deliver to you."

He offered with a flourish a sealed envelope, from which Bud extracted
a short note.

 DEAR BUD:

 When you get this I shall be far away. I must have been mad, but it is
 too late now. Rather than be executed I have enlisted as a _rural_.
 But I shall try to be brave for her sake. Take care of her, Bud--for
 me!

  PHIL.

Bud read it through again and meditated ponderously. Then he folded it
up and thrust it into his pocket.

"_Muchas gracias, Señor Capitan_," he said, saluting and turning upon
his heel; and while all the Mexicans marveled at the inscrutable ways
of _Americanos_, he mounted and rode away.



XVII


There was a world of Mexicans in the plaza when Hooker rode down
through the town. Never, it seemed to him, had he seen so many or liked
them less.

To the handful of Americans who remained to man the mill and mine, they
were easily a hundred to one; and though their eyes were wide with fear
of the imminent rebels, they had an evil way of staring at him which he
did not relish.

Even at the hotel, where the Spanish-Mexican aristocracy was massed
ten deep, he sensed the same feeling of veiled hostility and wondered
vaguely what it might portend. If Philip De Lancey, for making love to
a girl, was drafted into the army, what would happen to him if these
people should ever break loose? And did they have the courage to do
their worst?

He lingered around the door for a while, hoping to meet Don Juan
or some American who would tell him the news; then, disgusted with
everything, he flung away and left them to themselves. Fortuna was not
a white man's country--he could see that without a diagram--but at the
same time he intended to hold his mine until he could hear from Phil.

Let the tides of insurrection come and go, let the red-flaggers take
the town and the Federals take it back again--at the end he would still
be found at the Eagle Tail, unless Phil received his title to the mine.

As for Aragon, whose fine Italian hand he perceived behind the sudden
taking off of Phil, let him make what trades he would with the
_rurales_ and Manuel del Rey, even to the giving of his daughter's
hand; but if, taking advantage of the unsettled times, he dared to try
to steal their mine, then there would be war to the knife.

It is a fine, comforting thing to be single-minded and of one purpose.
All the rest of life is simplified and ordered then, and a man knows
when to raise his hand and when to hold it back.

In his letter Phil had said nothing about their mine, but he was a
Mexican citizen still, and the mine was in his name. But he was his
pardner and free to hold it in his stead; and that he determined to
do--not only hold it, but work it for a stake. Then, when the title was
passed and all made certain, they could turn it over to Kruger and quit
the accursed country.

As for the girl, Bud decided that she could take care of herself
without any assistance from him, and dismissed her from his mind.

Back at the mine he found Amigo guarding camp from the hilltop, and
after telling him the gist of his troubles, the two of them went to
work. Every day, while one of them dug out the ore, the other crushed
and washed it and watched as he horned out the gold. Their rifles they
kept beside them and pistols in their belts; and every time a Mexican
dropped into camp, as one did now and then in the general unrest, he
felt the silent menace of arms in readiness and continued on his way.

For a week they labored on together, grim, watchful, expectant--then,
at the break of day, they heard a distant rattle of arms, like the
tearing of a cloth, and knew that the battle was on.

The great whistle at Fortuna opened with its full, bass roar, and Amigo
snatched up his gun and went loping down the cañon, drawn irresistibly
by the sound of conflict. Bud lingered, climbing higher and higher to
get a view of the country. But his young blood clamored for action too,
and soon he was mounted and gone.

The fighting was not at the American town, but down the valley by Old
Fortuna, and as Hooker galloped on toward the sound of the firing he
noticed that it was on the move. Already the cowardly rebels were
retreating--the volunteers from Fortuna were hurrying to get closer
to them, the _rurales_ were riding to flank them; and when Bud jumped
his horse up the last hill and looked down into the broad, cultivated
valley he saw the dust of their flight.

Down the fenced trail that led to the lower country the mounted
_insurrectos_ were spurring in a rout; across the newly plowed fields
of Aragon the men on foot were making a short cut for the hills; and
all about them, like leaping grasshoppers, sprang up puffs of dust.

Now they plunged into the willow brush along the river, where it swung
in against the ridge; and as their pursuers broke into the open they
halted and returned the fire. The bullets struck up the dust like
hailstones in front of the oncoming irregulars, a man or two in the
lead went down, and they faltered. Then, as frantically as the rebels,
they turned and ran for cover.

While defenders and invaders shot back and forth across the broad
field, Bud put spurs to his horse and rode closer, and when he came
out on another hilltop he was just in time to see the _rurales_ come
pelting in from the west, and take the _revoltosos_ on the flank. There
was a great deal of long-distance firing then, while the rebels slowly
retreated, and finally, with a last defiant volley, the defenders
turned back from their pursuit and marched triumphantly to Old Fortuna.

There, amid numerous _vivas_, Don Cipriano rolled out a cask of
_mescal_ and, after a fiery speech, invited the victors to help
themselves. So they fell to drinking and carousing, and the one
defender who had been wounded was bandaged and made much of, while a
great crowd from the upper town looked on in awe and admiration.

At last Manuel del Rey and his _rurales_ returned from harassing
the enemy and, with several wounded prisoners in their midst, the
valor-drunk Mexicans formed a riotous procession and went marching
back to town. Every horse and mule was carrying double, guns were
being dropped, broad hats knocked off, and ever, as they marched, they
shouted:

"_Viva Madero! Viva Mejico! Muerte á los revoltosos!_"

It was an edifying spectacle to an American, and with the rest Bud
tagged along to the plaza, where they had speeches and cheers galore
and more _mescal_ at the company's _cantina_. But in the midst of it,
while he sat laughing on his horse by the hotel, Bud felt a gravel
strike his broad hat from above and, looking furtively up, he beheld
Gracia Aragon smiling down at him from the balcony.

She beckoned him with a swift movement and gazed out over the
assemblage again, and after a few moments of deliberation Hooker tied
his horse and wandered into the hotel.

A tingle of excitement went over him as he tramped up to the ladies'
parlor, for he had never met Gracia face to face. But he disguised his
qualms by assuming a mask-like grimness of countenance and, when the
glorious Gracia glided out of her room to meet him, he only blinked and
stood pat.

A long experience as a poker-player was all that saved him from
betrayal, for there was something in her very presence which made his
heart leap and pound. But he only gazed at her somberly, without even
so much as raising his hat.

Back in Texas, in his social world, it was considered almost unmanly
thus to salute the ladies. So he stood there, his big sombrero pulled
down over his mop of light hair, gazing at her without a blink.

Perhaps it was not altogether so friendly a scrutiny of her charming
features as Gracia expected, for he remembered what she had done to
his pardner; but if she sensed such a rare thing as disapproval from
a young man, she was too excited to show it. Her lips trembled, and
she looked back furtively, meanwhile drawing him into an alcove by the
slightest twitch of his sleeve.

"Don't talk too loud," she whispered. "My mother is listening from the
room--but for the love of God, tell me, where is Phil?"

"I don't know," answered Bud, trying to lower his big voice to
a boudoir softness; "he joined the _rurales_ and was ordered
north--that's all I know."

"Yes, yes, to be sure; but haven't you heard from him?"

She seemed to be all impatience to snatch his news and fly with it, but
Bud was in no such hurry. And so far was he from being a carpet knight
that he immediately raised his voice to its normal bass. It was all
right for Phil and his kind to talk by signs and whispers, but that was
not his style.

"Not since he went away," he said. "He left me a little note, then,
saying--"

"Saying what?" she demanded breathlessly.

"Well, saying that he had enlisted to keep from being executed,
and--that's about all!"

"And not a word about me?"

"Yes," admitted Bud; "he said he'd try to put up with it--on account of
you--and--"

"What?" she entreated, taking him beseechingly by the coat.

"Well," stammered Hooker, shifting his feet and looking away, "he told
me to kinder take care of you--while he was gone."

"Ah!" she breathed, still standing close to him, "and will you do it?"

"I reckon so," said Bud, "if we have any trouble."

"But I'm in trouble now!" she cried. "I'm watched--I can't get
away--and I'm afraid!"

"Afraid of what?" he demanded.

"Of him," she answered, her voice breaking--"of Manuel del Rey!"

"Well," replied Hooker bluntly, "I've got nothing to do with that--I
can't interfere in your love-affairs--but if the's war and they try to
take the town, you can count on me."

"Oh, thank you," she said, bowing satirically. "And do you expect a
war?"

"Not with that bunch of _hombres_!" returned Bud, waving a disparaging
hand toward the noise of the shouting. At this she broke down and
laughed. Evidently she was not so fearful of discovery after all.

"You forget, sir," she said, "that I am a Mexican!"

Then, as he failed to show any signs of contrition, she changed her
mood again.

"But wait!" she ran on, her eyes flashing. "Perhaps we are not so eager
to defend our government when we have a new one every year. But if the
men who are gathering in Chihuahua invade our country, you will find
that as Sonorans those men will fight to the death.

"You laugh because you do not understand. But why should we Sonorans
fight side by side with the Federals and _rurales_? Are they not the
soldiers of Diaz, who have simply changed to another master? That
Manuel del Rey was last year hunting down Maderistas in the hills; now
he is fighting for Madero! And to-morrow? Who can say?"

She shrugged her shoulders scornfully, and Hooker perceived that she
was in earnest in her dislike of the dashing captain, but prudence
warned him to say nothing if he would escape being drawn into the
quarrel.

"No," she went on, after an expectant pause, "let the _rurales_ pursue
these bandits--they are hired for that purpose! But if Orozco and
Salazar join this _ladrón_, Bernardo Bravo, and seek to capture our
towns, then, Señor Americano, you will see real war and men fighting to
the death! Ah, you laugh again--you are a Texan and judge us Sonorans
by the cowardly Chihuahuans--but it is the truth. And I, for one," she
added naïvely, "would be almost glad to have war. Do you know why? To
see if you would really defend me!"

She smiled, looking frankly into his eyes, and Bud blushed to the roots
of his hair, but once again he held his peace.

"What, _señor_," she bantered; "you do not speak? Surely, then, your
friend De Lancey was wrong when he said you would save me! For look,
Mr. Hooker, I am promised to marry dear Phil; but how can I manage that
when Manuel del Rey is watching me? It is impossible, is it not?"

"Seems so," muttered Bud, and in the back of his head he began to think
quickly. Here was the fountainhead of his misfortunes, and if she had
her way she would lay all his plans in ruins--and even then not marry
Phil. In fact, from the light way she spoke, he sensed that she did
not intend to marry him. Her grudge was against Manuel del Rey who
drove away all her lovers.

"Well," he ventured, "there's no rush, I reckon--Phil's enlisted for
five years."

"Ha!" she cried contemptuously. "And do you think he will serve? No! At
a word from me he will flee to the border and I shall join him in the
United States!"

"What?" demanded Bud. "Phil desert?"

In a moment he saw what such a move would mean to him--to Kruger and
the Eagle Tail--and he woke suddenly from his calm.

"Here now," he said, scowling as he saw that she was laughing at him,
"you've made me and Phil enough trouble. You let that boy alone, savvy?"

He stooped toward her as he spoke, fixing her with masterful eyes that
had tamed many a bad horse and man, and she shrank away instinctively.
Then she glanced at him shyly and edged over toward the open door.

"I will do what I please, Mr. Hooker," she returned, balancing on the
verge of flight.

"All right," Bud came back; "but don't you call me in on it. You've
made a fool out of Phil--I suppose you'd like to get me, too. Then your
father would grab our mine."

"What do you mean?" she challenged, turning back upon him.

"I mean this," responded Hooker warmly: "Phil holds the title to our
mine. If he deserts he loses his Mexican citizenship and his claim is
no good. But you don't need to think that your father will get the
mine then, because he'll have to whip me first!"

"O-ho!" she sneered. "So that is what you are thinking of? You are a
true Gringo, Mr. Hooker--always thinking about the money!"

"Yes," returned Bud; "and even at that I believe your old man will best
me!"

She laughed again, with sudden capriciousness, and stood tapping the
floor with her foot.

"Ah, I see," she said at length, gazing at him reproachfully; "you
think I am working for my father. You think I got poor Phil into all
this trouble in order to cheat him of his mine. But let me tell you,
Señor Gringo," she cried with sudden fire, "that I did not! I have
nothing to do with my father and his schemes. But if you do not trust
me--"

She turned dramatically to go, but when Hooker made no effort to stay
her she returned once more to the attack.

"No," she said, "it was because he was an American--because he was
brave--that I put my faith in Phil. These Mexican men are cowards--they
are afraid to stand up and fight! But Philip dared to make love to
me--he dared to sing to me at night--and when Manuel del Rey tried to
stop him he stood up and made a fight!

"Ah, that is what I admire--a man who is brave. And let me tell you,
Señor Hooker, I shall always love your friend! If I could run away I
would marry him to-morrow; but this cur, Manuel del Rey, stands in the
way. Even my own father is against me. But I don't care--I don't care
what happens--only do not think that I am not your friend!"

She paused now and glanced at him shyly, and as her eloquent eyes
met his own Bud felt suddenly that she was sincere. The gnawing and
corrosive doubts that had eaten at his heart fell away, and he saw her
now in her true beauty, with no uneasy thoughts of treachery to poison
his honest love.

"I believe you, lady," he said, "and I'm glad to know you," he added,
taking off his hat and bowing awkwardly. "Anything I can do for you,
don't hesitate to ask for it--only I can't go against my pardners on
this mine."

He bowed again and retreated toward the door, but she followed him
impulsively.

"Shake hands," she said, holding out both her own, "and will you help
me?"

"Sure!" answered Bud, and as her soft fingers closed on his he took
them gently, for fear that he might crush them and never know.



XVIII


A month of weary waiting followed that day of days in Fortuna, and
still there was no word from Phil. Bernardo Bravo and his rebel raiders
passed through the mountains to the east, and news came of heavy
fighting in Chihuahua. Don Cipriano Aragon moved his family back to his
hacienda and Gracia became only a dream.

Then, one day, as Hooker and the Yaqui were industriously pounding out
gold, a messenger came out from town with a telegram in his hand.

 Am in Gadsden. No chance to hold mine. Kruger says quit.--P.

"No, I'll be 'sarned if I do!" muttered Bud. Then he sat down to think.

"Amigo," he said to the Yaqui, "are you a Mexican citizen? Can you get
title to mine?"

"Me a Mexican?" repeated Amigo, tapping himself proudly on the chest.
"No, _señor_! _Seguro que no!_"

"All right then," observed Bud bitterly, "here goes nothing--nowhere!
I'll turn Mexican myself!"

He passed the messenger on the way to town, took out his first papers
as a citizen, picked up the mineral agent's expert on the way back, and
located the Eagle Tail in his own name. Before riding back to camp he
wired to Kruger:

 Have turned Mex and relocated claim.

  HOOKER.

It was his last card, and he did not expect to win by it. Fate had been
against him from the first, and he could see his finish, but his nature
drove him to fight on. All that Aragon had to do now was to have _him_
summoned for military service, and Del Rey would do the rest.

Then he could take over the mine. A mere formality--or so it
seemed--but between Aragon and his mine stood the Texas blood. Hooker
had been crowded to the wall, and he was mad enough to fight.

The news of De Lancey's desertion followed quickly after his flight--it
came over the Federal wires in a report to Manuel del Rey--but by the
time it got to Aragon that gentleman was too late. They rode into camp
the next day--Aragon and the captain of the _rurales_--and at the first
glimpse of that hated uniform Amigo was off like a buck. Bud went out
sullenly to meet them, his black mood showing in his lowering eyes, and
he halted them by the savagery of his cursing.

"You cock-eyed old reprobate," he snarled, advancing threateningly upon
the paling Aragon, "this makes three times you've come into my camp
and brought your gun with you! Now take it off!" he yelled, dropping
suddenly into Spanish. "Take that gun off--do you understand?"

So violent and unexpected was his assault that it threw Aragon into a
panic, and even Manuel del Rey softened his manner as he inquired into
the cause.

"Never mind," answered Bud, smiling crustily as Aragon laid aside his
arms; "I know that _hombre_ well! Now what can I do for you, _capitan_?"

"Be so kind as to take your hand from your belt," replied Del Rey
with a smile that was intended to placate. "Ah, thank you--excuse my
nerves--now I can tell you the news. I regret to inform you _señor_,
that your friend, De Lancey, has deserted from my command, taking his
arms and equipment with him. In case he is captured he will be shot as
a deserter."

"Your news is old, _capitan_," rejoined Hooker. "I knew it two days
ago. And you can tell Mr. Aragon that it is no use for him to try to
get this mine--I became a Mexican citizen yesterday and located it
myself."

"So we learned," responded the captain suavely. "It was part of
my errand to-day to ask if you would not enlist in my company of
_rurales_."

"_Muchas gracias, capitan_," answered Hooker with heavy irony. "I do
not care to!"

"But your friend--" protested Manuel del Rey with an insinuating smile.

"My friend was in jail," put in Bud; "he was to be shot at sunrise. But
_mira, amigo_, I am _not_ in jail, and, furthermore, I do not intend to
be."

"That is very creditable to you," laughed Del Rey; "but even then you
are entitled to enlist."

"The country is full of turbulent fellows who have to be caught or
killed. Come now, you understand my errand--why make it hard for me?"

"No, _señor_," returned Bud grimly, "I know nothing of your errand. But
this I do know. I have done nothing for which I can be arrested, and if
any man tries to make me join the army--" he hooked his thumb into his
belt and regarded the captain fixedly.

"Ah, very well," said Del Rey, jerking his waxed _mustachios_, "I will
not press the matter. But I understand from one of my men, _señor_,
that you are harboring a dangerous criminal here--the same man,
perhaps, whom I saw running up the cañon?"

He smiled meaningly at this, but Bud was swift to defend his Yaqui.

"No, _señor_," he replied, "I have no such criminal. I have a Mexican
working for me who is one of the best miners in Sonora, and that is all
I know about him."

"A Mexican?" repeated Del Rey, arching his eyebrows. "Excuse me, sir,
but it is my business to know every man in this district, and he is no
Mexican, but a Yaqui. Moreover, he is a fugitive and an outlaw, and if
he had not been enlisted with the Federals I should have arrested him
when he passed through Fortuna. So I warn you, sir, not to hide him, or
you will be liable to the law."

"I'm not hiding him," protested Hooker scornfully. "I'm just hiring him
as a miner, and any time you want him you can come and get him. He's up
in the rocks there somewhere now."

"So!" exclaimed the captain, glancing uneasily at the hillside. "I did
not think--but many thanks, _señor_, another time will do as well."

He reined his horse away as he spoke and, with a jerk of the head
to Aragon, rode rapidly down the cañon. Aragon lingered to retrieve
his fallen gun-belt and then, seeming to think better of his desire
to speak, he made a single vindictive gesture and set spurs to his
champing horse.

It was merely a fling of the hand, as spontaneous as a sigh or a frown,
but in it Hooker read the last exasperation of the Spaniard and his
declaration of war to the knife. He bared his strong teeth in reply and
hissed out a blighting curse, and then Aragon was gone.

That evening, as the darkness came on and the cañon became hushed
and still, Bud built a big fire and stood before it, his rugged form
silhouetted against the flames. And soon, as quiet as a fox, the Yaqui
appeared from the gloom.

"Did he come for me," he asked, advancing warily into the firelight,
"that _capitan_?"

"Yes," answered Bud, "and for me, too. But you must have known him
before, Amigo--he seems to be afraid of you."

A smile of satisfaction passed over the swarthy face of the Indian at
this, and then the lines became grim again. His eyes glowed with the
light of some great purpose, and for the first time since he had been
with Bud he drew aside the veil from his past.

"Yes," he said, nodding significantly, "the _rural_ is afraid. He knows
I have come to kill him."

He squatted by the fire and poured out a cup of coffee, still brooding
over his thoughts--then, with a swift gesture, he laid open his shirt
and pointed to a scar along the ribs.

"He shot me there," he said.

"And so you have come to kill him?"

"Yes," answered Amigo; "but not now. Tomorrow I go to my people--I must
take them my money first."

"Have you got a wife?" asked Hooker, forgetting for once his accustomed
reserve.

"No," grumbled Amigo, shaking his head sadly, "no wife."

"Oh, you take your money to your father and mother."

"No. No father--no mother--_nadie_!"

He threw up his open hands to signify that all were gone, and Hooker
said no more. For three months and more he had worked alongside this
giant, silent Yaqui and only once had he sensed his past. That was when
Amigo had torn his shirt in lifting, and across the rippling muscles of
his back there had shown the long white wale of a whip.

It was the mark of his former slavery when, with the rest of his
people, he had been deported to the henequen-fields of Yucatan and
flogged by the overseer's lash--and Amigo was ashamed of it. But now
that he was about to go, Bud made bold to ask him one more question, to
set his mind at rest.

"Perhaps this captain killed your people?"

"No, _señor_," answered Amigo quietly; "they died."

He spoke the words simply, but there was something in his voice that
brought up images of the past--of peaceful Yaquis, seized at every
ranch in Sonora on a certain night; of long marches overland, prodded
on by _rurales_ and guards; of the crowded prison-ships from which the
most anguished hurled themselves into the sea; and then the awful years
of slavery in the poisoned tropics, until only the hardiest were left.

Amigo had seen it all, as the scars on his broad back proved--but he
withdrew now into silence and left his thoughts unsaid. As he sat there
by the fire, one long, black hand held out to keep the gleam from his
eyes, he made a noble figure, but the Yaqui songs which he had crooned
on other nights were forgotten, and he held himself tense and still.
Then at last he rose and gazed at Bud.

"You pay me my money," he said. "I go now."

"Sure," answered Bud, and after he had weighed out the equivalent in
gold on his scales he flipped in some more for luck and gave him a sack
to hold it.

"What you buy with all that," he inquired with a friendly grin; "grub?"

"No, _señor_," answered Amigo, knotting the precious gold in a
handkerchief; "cartridges!"

"What for?" queried Bud, and then it was Amigo who smiled.

"To kill Mexicans with!" he replied, and in those words Hooker read the
secret of his thrift.

While his wild brethren fought in the hills or prepared for the battles
to come, it was his part to earn the money that should keep them in
ammunition. It was for that, in fact, that Porfirio Diaz had seized
all the peaceful Yaquis in a night and shipped them to Yucatan--for he
saw that while they were working the wild Yaquis would never lack.

All the time that Amigo had been doing two men's work and saving on the
price of a shirt he had held that cheerful dream in his mind--to kill
more Mexicans!

Yet, despite the savagery in him, Hooker had come to like the Yaqui,
and he liked him still. With the _rurales_ on his trail it was better
that he should go, but Bud wanted him to return. So, knowing the simple
honesty of Indians, he brought out his own spare pistol and placed it
in Amigo's hands. Often he had seen him gazing at it longingly, for it
was lighter than his heavy Mauser and better for the journey.

"Here," he said, "I will lend you my pistol--and you can give it to me
when you come back."

"Sure!" answered the Indian, hanging it on his hip. "_Adios!_"

They shook hands then, and the Yaqui disappeared in the darkness. In
the morning, when a squad of _rurales_ closed in on the camp, they
found nothing but his great tracks in the dust.



XIX


It was June and the wind-storms which had swept in from the southeast
died away. No more, as in the months that had passed, did the
dust-pillar rise from the dump of the Fortuna mill and go swirling up
the cañon.

A great calm and heat settled over the harassed land, and above the far
blue wall of the Sierras the first thunder-caps of the rainy season
rose up till they obscured the sky. Then, with a rush of conflicting
winds, a leaden silence, and a crash of flickering light, the storm
burst in tropic fury and was gone as quickly as it had come.

So, while the rich landowners of the hot country sat idle and watched
it grow, another storm gathered behind the distant Sierras; and, as
empty rumors lulled them to a false security, suddenly from the north
came the news of dashing raids, of railroads cut, troops routed, and
the whole border occupied by swarming rebels.

In a day the southern country was isolated and cut off from escape
and, while the hordes of Chihuahua _insurrectos_ laid siege to Agua
Negra, the belated Spanish _haciendados_ came scuttling once more to
Fortuna. There, at least, was an American town where the courage of the
Anglo-Saxon would protect their women in extremity. And, if worst came
to worst, it was better to pay ransom to red-flag generals than to fall
victims to bandits and looters.

As the bass roar of the great whistle reverberated over the hills
Bud Hooker left his lonely camp almost gladly, and with his hard-won
gold-dust safe beneath his belt, went galloping into town.

Not for three weeks--not since he received the wire from Phil and
located the Eagle Tail mine--had he dared to leave his claim.
_Rurales_, outlaws, and Mexican patriots had dropped in from day to day
and eaten up most of his food, but none of them had caught him napping,
and he had no intention that they should.

A conspiracy had sprung up to get rid of him, to harry him out of
the country, and behind it was Aragon. But now, with the big whistle
blowing, Aragon would have other concerns.

He had his wife and daughter, the beautiful Gracia, to hurry to the
town, and perhaps the thought of being caught and held for ransom
would deter him from stealing mines. So reasoned Bud, and, dragging a
reluctant pack-animal behind him, he came riding in for supplies.

At the store he bought flour and coffee and the other things which he
needed most. As he was passing by the hotel Don Juan de Dios halted him
for a moment, rushing out and thrusting a bundle of letters into his
hands and hurrying back into the house, as if fearful of being detected
in such an act of friendship.

Long before he had lost his pardner Bud had decided that Don Juan was
a trimmer, a man who tried to be all things to all people--as a good
hotel-keeper should--but now he altered his opinion a little, for the
letters were from Phil. He read them over in the crowded plaza, into
which the first refugees were just beginning to pour, and frowned as he
skimmed through the last.

Of Gracia and vain protestations of devotion there was enough and to
spare, but nothing about the mine. Only in the first one, written on
the very day he had deserted, did he so much as attempt an excuse for
so precipitately abandoning their claim and his Mexican citizenship.
Phil wrote:

 My mail was being sent through headquarters and looked over by Del
 Rey, so I knew I would never receive the papers, even if they came. I
 hope you don't feel hard about it, pardner. Kruger says to come out
 right away. I would have stayed with it, but it wasn't any use. And
 now, Bud, I want to ask you something. When you come out, bring Gracia
 with you. Don't leave her at the mercy of Del Rey. I would come myself
 if it wasn't sure death. Be quick about it, Bud; I count on you.

The other letters were all like that, but nothing about the mine. And
yet it was the mine that Bud was fighting for--that they had fought for
from the first. The railroad was torn up now, and a flight with Gracia
was hopeless, but it was just as well, for he never would abandon the
Eagle Tail.

In two months, or three, when the rebels were whipped off, his papers
might come. Then he could pay his taxes and transfer his title and
consider the stealing of Gracia. But since he had seen her and touched
her hand something held him back--a grudging reluctance--and he was
glad that his duty lay elsewhere. If she was his girl now he would come
down and get her anyway.

But she was not his girl and, gazing back grimly at the seething plaza
and the hotel that hid her from sight, he rode somberly down the road.
After all, there was nothing to get excited about--every _revoltoso_
in the country was lined up around Agua Negra and, with four hundred
soldiers to oppose them and artillery to shell their advance, it would
be many a long day before they took that town.

Twice already Agua Negra had fallen before such attacks, but now it
was protected by rifle-pits and machine guns set high on mud roofs.
And then there were the Yaquis, still faithful to Madero. They alone
could hold the town, if they made up their minds to fight. So reasoned
Hooker, mulling over the news that he had heard. But he watched the
ridges warily, for the weather was good for raiders.

A day passed, and then another, and the big whistle blew only for the
shifts; the loneliness of the hills oppressed him as he gazed out at
the quivering heat. And then, like a toad after a shower, Amigo came
paddling into camp on the heels of a thunderstorm, his sandals hung on
his hip and his big feet squelching through the mud.

Across his shoulders he wore a gay serape, woven by some patient woman
of his tribe; and in the belt beside Bud's pistol he carried a heavy
knife, blacksmithed from a ten-inch file by some Yaqui hillman. All in
all, he was a fine barbarian, but he looked good to the lonely Bud.

"_Ola_, Amigo!" he hailed, stepping out from the adobe house where he
had moved to avoid the rains; and Amigo answered with his honest smile
which carried no hint of savagery or deceit.

Try as he would, Bud could not bring himself to think of his Yaqui as
dangerous; and even when he balanced the Indian's murderous bowie-knife
in his hands he regarded it with a grin. It was a heavy weapon, broad
across the back, keen on one edge, and drawn to a point that was both
sharp and strong. The haft was wrapped with rawhide to hold the clutch
of the hand.

"What do you do with this?" queried Hooker. "Chop wood? Skin deer?"

"Yes, chop wood!" answered Amigo, but he replaced it carefully in his
belt.

He looked the adobe house over thoughtfully, listened long to the news
of the border and of the _rurales_' raid on their camp, and retired to
the rocks for the night. Even Bud never knew where he slept--somewhere
up on the hillside--in caves or clefts in the rocks--and not even the
most pressing invitation could make him share the house for a night. To
Amigo, as to an animal, a house was a trap; and he knew that the times
were treacherous.

So indeed they were, as Hooker was to learn to his sorrow, and but for
the Yaqui and his murderous knife he might easily have learned it too
late.

It was evening, after a rainless day, and Bud was cooking by the open
fire, when suddenly Amigo vanished and four men rode in from above.
They were armed with rifles, as befitted the times, but gave no signs
of ruffianly bravado, and after a few words Bud invited them to get
down and eat.

"_Muchas gracias, señor_," said the leader, dismounting and laying his
rifle against a log, "we are not hungry."

"Then have some coffee," invited Hooker, who made it a point to feed
everyone who stopped, regardless of their merit; and once more the
Mexican declined. At this Bud looked at him sharply, for his refusal
did not augur well, and it struck him the man's face was familiar. He
was tall for a Mexican and heavily built, but with a rather sinister
cast of countenance.

"Where have I seen you before?" asked Bud, after trying in vain to
place him. "In Fortuna?"

"No, _señor_," answered the Mexican politely. "I have never been in
that city. Is it far?"

"Ten miles by the trail," responded Hooker, by no means reassured, and
under pretext of inviting them to eat, he took a look at the other men.
If they had not stopped to eat, what then was their errand while the
sun was sinking so low? And why this sullen refusal of the coffee which
every Mexican drinks?

Bud stepped into the house, as if on some errand, and watched them
unseen from the interior. Seeing them exchange glances then, he leaned
his rifle just inside the door and went about his cooking.

It was one of the chances he took, living out in the brush, but he had
come to know this low-browed type of semi-bandit all too well and had
small respect for their courage. In case of trouble Amigo was close
by in the rocks somewhere, probably with his gun in his hand--but with
a little patience and circumspection the unwelcome visitors would
doubtless move on.

So he thought, but instead they lingered, and when supper was cooked he
decided to go to a show-down--and if they again refused to eat he would
send them on their way.

"_Ven amigos_," he said, spreading out the tin plates for them, "come
and eat!"

The three low-brows glanced at their leader, who had done what little
talking there was so far, and, seized with a sudden animation, he
immediately rose to his feet.

"Many thanks, _señor_," he said with a cringing and specious
politeness. "We have come far and the trail is long, so we will eat.
The times are hard for poor men now--this traitor, Madero, has made
us all hungry. It is by him that we poor working men are driven to
insurrection--but we know that the Americans are our friends. Yes,
_señor_, I will take some of your beans, and thank you."

He filled a plate as he spoke and lifted a biscuit from the oven,
continuing with his false patter while the others fell to in silence.

"Perhaps you have heard, _señor_," he went on, "the saying which is in
the land:"

  "_Mucho trabajo,
  Poco dinero;
  No hay frijoles,
  Viva Madero!_"

  (Much work,
  Little money;
  No beans,
  Long live Madero!)

"That, in truth, is no jest to the Mexican people. This man has betrayed
us all; he has ruined the country and set brother against brother. And
now, while we starve because the mines are shut down, he gathers his
family about him in the city and lives fat on the money he has stolen."

He ran on in this style, after the fashion of the _revoltosos_, and
by the very commonplace of his fulminations Bud was thrown completely
off his guard. That was the way they all talked, these worthless
bandit-beggars--that and telling how they loved the _Americanos_--and
then, if they got a chance, they would stick a knife in your back.

He listened to the big man with a polite toleration, being careful not
to turn his back, and ate a few bites as he waited, but though it was
coming dusk the Mexicans were in no hurry to depart. Perhaps they hoped
to stop for the night and get him in his sleep. Still they lingered on,
the leader sitting on a log and continuing his harangue.

Then, in the middle of a sentence, and while Bud was bending over the
fire, the Mexican stopped short and leaned to one side. A tense silence
fell, and Hooker was waked from his trance by the warning click of a
gun-lock. Suddenly his mind came back to his guests, and he ducked like
a flash, but even as he went down he heard the hammer _clack!_

The gun had snapped!

Instantly Hooker's hand leaped to his pistol and he fired from the hip
pointblank at the would-be murderer. With a yell to the others, one of
the Mexicans sprang on him from behind and tried to bear him down.
They struggled for a moment while Bud shot blindly with his pistol and
went down fighting.

[Illustration: He threw them about like dogs that hang onto a bear]

Bud was a giant compared to the stunted Mexicans, and he threw them
about like dogs that hang onto a bear. With a man in each hand he
rose to his feet, crushing them down beneath him; then, in despair of
shaking off his rider, he staggered a few steps and hurled himself over
backward into the fire.

A yell of agony followed their fall and, as the live coals bit through
the Mexican's thin shirt, he fought like a cat to get free. Rocks,
pots, and kettles were kicked in every direction, and when Hooker
leaped to his feet the Mexican scrambled up and rushed madly for the
creek.

But, though Bud was free, the battle had turned against him, for in the
brief interval of his fight the other two Mexicans had run for their
guns. The instant he rose they covered him. Their chief, who by some
miracle had escaped Bud's shot, gave a shout for them to halt. Cheated
of his victim at the first, he was claiming the right to kill.

As Hooker stood blinded by the smoke and ashes the fellow took
deliberate aim--and once more his rifle snapped. Then, as the other
Mexicans stood agape, surprised at the failure of the shot, the
cannonlike whang of a Mauser rent the air and the leader crumpled down
in a heap.

An instant later a shrill yell rose from up the cañon and, as the
two Mexicans started and stared, Amigo came dashing in upon them, a
spitting pistol in one hand and his terrible "wood-chopping" knife
brandished high in the other.

In the dusk his eyes and teeth gleamed white, his black hair seemed to
bristle with fury, and the glint of his long knife made a light as he
vaulted over the last rock and went plunging on their track. For, at
the first glance at this huge, pursuing figure the two Mexicans had
turned and bolted like rabbits, and now, as the Yaqui whirled in after
them, Bud could hear them squealing and scrambling as he hunted them
down among the rocks.

It was grim work, too; even for his stomach, but Hooker let the Indian
follow his nature. When Amigo came back from his hunting there was no
need to ask questions. His eyes shone so terribly that Hooker said
nothing, but set about cleaning up camp.

After he had washed the ashes from his eyes, and when the fury had
vanished from Amigo's face, they went as by common consent and gazed at
the body of the chief of the desperados. Even in death his face seemed
strangely familiar; but as Hooker stood gazing at him the Yaqui picked
up his gun.

"Look!" he said, and pointed to a bullet-splash where, as the Mexican
held the gun across his breast, Bud's pistol-shot had flattened
harmlessly against the lock. It was that which had saved the Mexican
chief from instant death, and the jar of the shot had doubtless broken
the rifle and saved Bud, in turn, from the second shot.

All this was in the Yaqui's eye as he carefully tested the action;
but, when he threw down the lever, a cartridge rose up from the
magazine and glided smoothly into the breech. With a rifle full of
cartridges the ignorant Mexican had been snapping on an empty chamber,
not knowing enough to jack up a shell!

For a moment Amigo stared at the gun and the man, and his mouth drew
down with contempt.

"Ha! _Pendejo!_" he grunted, and kicked the corpse with his foot.

But if the Mexican had been a fool, he had paid the price, for the
second time he snapped his gun Amigo had shot him through and through.



XX


In a country where witnesses to a crime are imprisoned along with the
principals and kept more or less indefinitely in jail, a man thinks
twice before he reports to the police.

With four dead Mexicans to the Yaqui's account, and Del Ray in charge
of the district, Hooker followed his second thought--he said nothing,
and took his chances on being arrested for murder. Until far into the
night Amigo busied himself along the hillside, and when the sun rose
not a sign remained to tell the story of the fight.

Men, horses, saddles, and guns--all had disappeared. And, after packing
a little food in a sack, Amigo disappeared also, with a grim smile in
promise of return.

The sun rose round and hot, the same as usual; the south wind came up
and blew into a bellying mass of clouds, which lashed back with the
accustomed rain; and when all the earth was washed clean and fresh the
last trace of the struggle was gone. Only by the burns on his hands was
Hooker aware of the fight and of the treachery which had reared its
head against him like a snake which has been warmed and fed.

Nowhere but in Mexico, where the low _pelado_ classes have made such
deeds a subtlety, could the man be found to dissimulate like that
false assassin-in-chief. To pause suddenly in a protracted speech,
swing over and pick up a gun, and halt his victim for the shooting by
the preparatory click of the lock--that indeed called for a brand of
cunning rarely found in the United States.

There was one thing about the affair that vaguely haunted Hooker--why
was it that a man so cunning as that had failed to load his gun? Twice,
and with everything in his favor, he had raised his rifle to fire; and
both times it had snapped in his hands. Certainly he must have been
inept at arms--or accustomed to single-shot guns.

The reputed magic of the swift-firing rifles evidently had been his
undoing, but where had he got his new gun? And who was he, anyway? With
those two baffling questions Bud wrestled as he sat beside his door,
and at evening his answer came.

The sun was swinging low and he was collecting wood down the gulch for
a fire when, with a sudden thud of hoofs, a horseman rounded the point
and came abruptly to a halt. It was Aragon, and he was spying on the
camp.

For a full minute he scanned the house, tent, and mine with a look so
snaky and sinister that Bud could read his heart like a book. Here was
the man who had sent the assassins, and he had come to view their work!

Very slowly Bud's hand crept toward his six-shooter, but, slight as was
the motion, Aragon caught it and sat frozen in his place. Then, with an
inarticulate cry, he fell flat on his horse's neck and went spurring
out of sight.

The answer to Bud's questions was very easy now. The Mexican who had
led the attempt on his life was one of Aragon's bad men, one of the
four gunmen whom Hooker had looked over so carefully when they came to
drive him from the mine, and Aragon had fitted him out with new arms to
make the result more sure. But with that question answered there came
up another and another until, in a sudden clarity of vision, Bud saw
through the hellish plot and beheld himself the master.

As man to man, Aragon would not dare to face him now, for he knew that
he merited death. By his sly approach, by the look in his eyes and the
dismay of his frenzied retreat, he had acknowledged more surely than
by words his guilty knowledge of the raid. Coming to a camp where he
expected to find all dead and still, he had found himself face to face
with the very man he had sought to kill. How, then, had the American
escaped destruction, and what had occurred to his men?

Perhaps, in his ignorance, Aragon was raging at his hirelings because
they had shirked their task; perhaps, not knowing that they were dead,
he was waiting in a fever of impatience for them to accomplish the
deed. However it was, Bud saw that he held the high card, and he was
not slow to act.

In the morning he saddled up Copper Bottom, who had been confined to
the corral for weeks, and went galloping into town. There he lingered
about the hotel until he saw his man and started boldly toward him.
Surprise, alarm, and pitiful fear chased themselves across Aragon's
face as he stood, but Bud walked proudly by.

"Good morning, _señor_!" was all Bud said, but the look in his eyes was
eloquent of a grim hereafter.

And instead of hurrying back to guard his precious mine Hooker loitered
carelessly about town. His mine was safe now--and he was safe. Aragon
dared not raise a hand. So he sat himself down on the broad veranda and
listened with boyish interest to Don Juan's account of the war.

"What, have you not heard of the battle?" cried portly Don Juan,
delighted to have a fresh listener. "Agua Negra has been taken and
retaken, and the railroad will soon be repaired. My gracious! have you
been out in the hills that long? Why, it was two weeks ago that the
rebels captured the town by a _coup_, and eight days later the Federals
took it back.

"Ah, there has been a real war, Mr. Bud! You who have laughed at the
courage of the Mexicans, what do you think of Bernardo Bravo and his
men? They captured the last up train from Fortuna; loaded all the men
into the ore-cars and empty coaches; and, while the Federals were still
in their barracks, the train ran clear into the station and took the
town by storm.

"And eight days later, at sundown, the Federals took it back. Ah, there
was awful slaughter averted, _señor_! But for the fact that the fuse
went out the two hundred Yaqui Indians who led the charge would have
been blown into eternity.

"Yes, so great was the charge of dynamite that the rebels had laid in
their mine that not a house in Agua Negra would have been left standing
if the fuse had done its work. Two tons of dynamite! Think of that, my
friend!

"But these rebels were as ignorant of its power as they were of
laying a train. The Yaquis walked into the town at sundown and found
it deserted--every man, woman, and child had fled to Gadsden and the
rebels had fled to the west.

"But listen, here was the way it happened--actually, and not as common
report has it, for the country is all in an uproar and the real facts
were never known. When Bernardo Bravo captured the town of Agua Negra
the people acclaimed him a hero.

"He sent word to the junta at El Paso and set up a new form of
government. All was enthusiasm, and several Americans joined his ranks
to operate the machine guns and cannon. As for the Federals, they
occupied the country to the east and attempted a few sallies, but as
they had nothing but their rifles, the artillery drove them back.

"Then, as the battle ceased, the rebels began to celebrate their
victory. They broke into the closed _cantinas_, disobeying their
officers and beginning the loot of the town, and while half of their
number were drunk the Federals, being informed of their condition,
suddenly advanced upon them, with the Yaquis far in the lead.

"They did not shoot, those Yaquis; but, dragging their guns behind
them, they crept up through the bushes and dug pits quite close to the
lines. Then, when the rebels discovered them and manned their guns,
the Yaquis shot down the gunners.

"Growing bolder, they crept farther to the front--the rebels became
disorganized, their men became mutinous--and at last, when they saw
they would surely be taken, the leaders buried two tons of dynamite in
the trenches by the bull-ring and set a time-fuse, to explode when the
Yaquis arrived.

"The word spread through the town like wildfire--all the people, all
the soldiers fled every which way to escape--and then, when the worst
was expected to happen, the dynamite failed to explode and the Yaquis
rushed the trenches at sundown."

"Did those Yaquis know about the dynamite?" inquired Bud.

"Know?" repeated Don Juan, waving the thought away. "Not a word! Their
commanders kept it from them, even after they discovered the mine. And
now the Indians are making boasts; they are drunk with the thought of
their valor and claim that the rebels fled from them alone.

"The roadmaster came into town this morning on a velocipede and said
that the Yaquis are insufferable, thinking that it was their renown as
fighters and not the news of the dynamite that drove all the soldiers
from town.

"However, Agua Negra is once more in the hands of the government; the
track is clear and most of the bridges repaired; so why quarrel with
the Yaquis? While they are, of course, nothing but Indians, they serve
their purpose in battle."

"Well, I guess yes!" responded Bud warmly. "Serve their purpose,
eh? Where were these Mexican soldiers and them Spanish officers when
the Yaquis were taking the town? And that was just like a dog-goned
Mexican--setting that time-fuse and then not having it go off. More'n
likely the poor yap that fired it was so scairt he couldn't hold a
match--probably never lit it, jest dropped the match and run. They're
a bum bunch, if you want to know what I think. I'd rather have a Yaqui
than a hundred of 'em!"

"A hundred of whom?" inquired a cool voice behind him, and looking up
Hooker saw the beautiful Gracia gazing out at him through the screen
door.

"A hundred Mexicans!" he repeated, and Gracia murmured "Oh!" and was
gone.

"Miss Aragon is very loyal to her country," observed Don Juan, but
Hooker only grunted.

Somehow, since those four Mexicans had come to his camp, he had soured
on everything south of the line; and even the charming Gracia could
not make him take back his words. If she had intended the remark as a
challenge--a subtle invitation to follow her and defend his faith--she
failed for once of her purpose, for if there was any particular man in
Mexico that Bud hated more than another it was her false-hearted father.

Hooker had, in fact, thought more seriously of making her a half-orphan
than of winning her good-will, and he lingered about the hotel, not to
make love to the daughter, but to strike terror to Aragon.

The company being good, and a train being expected soon, Bud stayed
over another day. In the morning, when he came down for breakfast, he
found that Aragon had fled before him. With his wife Juan, daughter,
and retinue, he had moved suddenly back to his home. Hooker grinned
when Don told him the news.

"Well, why not?" he asked, chuckling maliciously. "Here it's the
middle of the rainy season and the war going on all summer and nary
a rebel in sight. Where's that big fight you was telling about--the
battle of Fortuna? You've made a regular fortune out of these refugees,
Brachamonte, but I fail to see the enemy."

"Ah, you may laugh," shrugged the hotel-keeper, "but wait! The time
will come. The rebels are lost now--some day, when you least expect
it, they will come upon us and then, believe me, my guests will be
glad they are here. What is a few weeks' bill compared to being held
for ransom? Look at that rich Señor Luna who was here for a time in
the spring. Against my advice he hurried home and now he is paying the
price. Ten thousand pesos it cost to save his wife and family, and for
himself and son his friends advanced ten thousand more. I make no evil
prophecies, but it would be better for our friend if he stayed on at my
poor hotel."

"Whose friend?" inquired Bud bluffly, but Don Juan struck him upon the
back with elephantine playfulness and hurried off to his duties.

As for Hooker, he tarried in town until he got his mail and a copy of
the Sunday paper and then, well satisfied that the times were quiet and
wars a thing of the past, he ambled back to the Eagle Tail and settled
down for a rest.

Flat on his back by the doorway, he lay on his bed and smoked, reading
his way through the lurid supplement and watching the trail with one
eye. Since the fight with Aragon's Mexicans all his apprehensions had
left him. He had written briefly to Phil and Kruger, and now he was
holding the fort.

It had been a close shave, but he had escaped the cowardly assassins
and had Aragon in his power--not by any force of law, but by the force
of fear and the gnawing weakness of Aragon's own evil conscience.

Aragon was afraid of what he had done, but it was the suspense which
rendered him so pitiable. On a day he had sent four armed Mexicans
to kill this Texan--not one had returned and the Texan regarded him
sneeringly. This it was that broke the Spaniard's will, for he knew not
what to think. But as for Bud, he lay on his back by the doorway and
laughed at the funny page.

As he sprawled there at his reading, Amigo came in from the hills, and
he, too, was content to relax. Gravely scanning the colored sheet, his
dark face lighted up.

It was all very peaceful and pleasant, but it was not destined to last.



XXI


On the morning after they had laughed at the comic paper and decided
that all the world was fair, Hooker and Amigo were squatting by the
fire and eating a man's-size breakfast.

The creek, swollen by yesterday's torrential rain, had settled to a
rivulet. The wind had not risen and the sun was just over the hill
when, with a rush and a scramble, Amigo threw down his cup and was off
in a flash for the rocks.

A moment later two men rode down the cañon, and then two more, and two
more. It was a column of men, all armed with rifles, and they cast
envious eyes at Copper Bottom as they halted before the camp. As for
Bud, he saluted gravely, for he knew them for what they were.

These were the lost forces of Bernardo Bravo and Salazar, Rojas, and
the other bandit chiefs, and they marched, as he well knew, upon
Fortuna. They marched quietly, and the great whistle had not blown.

It would make a rich prize, Fortuna, if they could take it by surprise!
The ransom for the Spanish _haciendados_ alone would amount to
thousands of dollars, and the mine-owners could afford to pay anything
in order to save their works.

A box of dynamite under the giant concentrator and the money would be
produced at once and yet the scoundrels halted at a one-man camp to
steal a single horse!

A flicker of scorn passed over Hooker's face as the leader came dashing
up, but the Texan greeted him with a slow smile.

"_Buenos dias_, general!" he said. "You have many men."

"Enough!" observed the "general" hurriedly. "But some in the rear are
on foot. As I suppose you are in sympathy with our great cause, I will
ask you for that horse. Of course, I will give you a receipt."

He fetched out a blank-book as he spoke and motioned to a ragged beggar
at his heels. Bud checked the man's rush with a look.

"One moment!" he said, and as the soldier turned back his general
glanced up sharply.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Only this, Señor General," answered Bud. "You are welcome to anything
I have--food, blankets, money--but I cannot give you that horse."

"But, _señor_," protested the general, regarding him with arrogant pig
eyes that glinted wickedly, "this poor soldier's feet are sore. Surely
you would not make him walk. Only name your price and I will give you a
receipt for him, but my man must have the horse."

There was a pause and men began to dismount and move in closer. At a
word from their commander any one of them would draw and kill him, as
Hooker very well knew, but his love for Copper Bottom made him obdurate.

"If the man is lame," he said, "I will give him another horse--but he
cannot have this sorrel."

He stepped quickly over to the corral and turned with his back to the
gate, while the commander spat out orders in Spanish and armed men came
running.

"_Señor_," he said, advancing bruskly upon the defiant Hooker, "I must
trouble you for that pistol."

"No, _señor_!" answered the cowboy, keeping his hand upon his gun, "not
to you nor no man--and I'll never give it up to a Mexican!"

"_Carái!_" exclaimed the officer impatiently, "you are an
_Americano_--no?"

"Not only that," rumbled Bud, drawing himself up in his pride, "I am a
_Tejano_ also, and if any man touches that horse I'll kill him!"

His voice trembled with anger, but his hand was steady and the Mexicans
did not deceive themselves.

"Ha, _uno Tejano_!" murmured the men who stood about, and one or two
who had started to climb the fence thought better of it and dropped
back to the ground.

Bud knew the fate of several men who had proclaimed themselves
Americans to the _insurrectos_--boastfully done, it was said to be
the quickest way there was of drawing a Mexican bullet. But to be a
Texan was different--somehow the very name suggested trouble to their
minds and an Alamo fight to the death. Hooker saw that he had made an
impression, and he was not slow to follow it up.

"If you need a horse," he said to the general, "let your man go up that
arroyo and he will find one hobbled on the flat. Then give me your
receipt for two hundred dollars gold and I will contribute a saddle."

It was a reasonable concession, under the circumstances, and, best of
all, it saved the general's face. The hideous frown with which he had
regarded the American changed suddenly to a look of pompous pride. He
jerked an imperious head at his ragged retainer and drew forth his
receipt-book with a flourish.

While he waited for the horse to appear he turned upon his snooping
men and drove them to their mounts with curses. Evidently it was no
sinecure to command in the army of the liberation, and the veiled
mutterings of his followers showed that they were little better than
tigers in leash.

Mounted upon horses, mules, and even burros, armed with every
conceivable weapon from a musket to standard repeating rifles, they
were a tatterdemalion army, more fit for "treason, strategems, and
spoils" than the sterner duties of war.

Bud looked them over closely, well satisfied to have his back against
a wall, and when the low-browed retainer came hurrying back with the
horse he quickly took the worthless receipt and watched them on their
way. Then, as the last camp-follower disappeared, he ran for his saddle
and rifle and within a minute he was mounted and away.

There were rebels below him--very likely there were more to come--the
only safe place for Copper Bottom was over the hills at Fortuna.
Without stopping for path or trail he headed straight north-west over
the ridges, riding as the cowboys do when they rake the range for
cattle. Hardly had he topped the first high crest when he came in sight
of Amigo, loaded down with his cartridge-belts and carrying his heavy
Mauser.

In a long, shambling trot the Yaqui was drifting along the hillside
with the free grace of a wild creature, and when Hooker pulled down his
horse to keep pace with him he laughed and motioned him on. Taking the
lead, he loped on over hogback and _barranca_, picking out the best
trail by instinct and setting such a pace that Bud was hard-pressed to
keep up with him.

He had heard it said that in the Yaqui country no white man, no matter
how well he was mounted, could outdistance the Indians on foot, and now
he knew it was true. But why this killing haste on the part of Amigo?
He had neither friends nor kin in town; why, then, should he run so
fast to warn them of the enemy?

They racked on, up one hill and down another, while the _insurrectos_
followed the cañon that swung to the south, and finally, in a last
scramble, they mounted a rocky ridge and looked down upon Old Fortuna.

Already the hard-driven peons were out in the fields at work and smoke
was rising from the _mescal_ still. Aragon was busy, but his labors
would be worse than wasted if the red-flaggers took him prisoner. As
Bud breathed his horse he hesitated whether to ride back and warn him
or press on and notify Fortuna; but even for that brief spell the Yaqui
could not wait.

"_Adios_," he said, coming close and holding out his black hand; "I go
this way!" And he pointed along the ridge.

"But why?" said Bud, still at a loss to account for his haste. Then,
seeing the reticence in the Indian's eyes, he thrust out his hand in
return.

"_Adios, amigo mio!_" he replied, and with a quick grip the Yaqui was
gone.

With that same deceptive speed he shambled through the bushes, still
lugging the heavy rifle and making for higher ground. Bud knew he had
some purpose--he even had a sneaking idea that it was to take pot-shots
at Captain del Rey--but six months in Mexico had made him careless, and
he half hoped the Yaqui would win.

The _capitan_ had it coming to him for his brutality, but with Aragon
it was different--Aragon had a wife and daughter--and, with the memory
of Gracia in his mind, Bud sent his horse plunging down the ridge to
warn them before it was too late.

There were some brush fences to be jumped, but Copper Bottom took them
flying, and as they cut into the river trail he made the mud-puddles
splash. Across the fields to the south Bud could see the peons running
for cover--the _insurrectos_ must be in sight beyond the hills.

He was going south, they were moving west, but it was five miles north
again to the town. Speed was what was needed and Copper Bottom gave his
best. They dashed into Fortuna like a whirlwind, and Hooker raised his
voice in a high yell.

"_Insurrectos!_" he shouted. "_La drones! Pr-onto á_ Fortuna!"

There was a hush, a moment's silence, and then heads appeared from
every window and women ran screaming with the news. Aragon came rushing
from the store and confronted him angrily; then, reading conviction in
his tones, he called for horses and ran frantically into the house.

A shrill screech came from the hillside, where a serving-woman had
scampered to view the valley, and, as she pointed her finger and
screamed, mothers laid hold of their little ones and started up the
valley on foot.

Still the men ran about in the horse-pen and Aragon adjured his
womenfolk in the house. Burning with impatience, Bud spurred his way to
the corral where they were fumbling with reata and rigging and dropped
a rope on the first horse he saw. Then he snatched a side-saddle from
a trembling peon and slapped it on the brute's back. Grabbing up the
bridle, he led the horse back to the house and bridled it while he
shouted for haste.

Still the women tarried, and the sound of galloping came from the
south. Then, as all seemed lost, the Mexicans came bumping out from
the stable with the family coach, Aragon and his wife leaped in, and
Gracia, neatly attired in a riding-skirt, came tripping down the steps.

Even in such times as these she seemed to realize her first duty to
herself, and Hooker had to gaze for a moment before he helped her up.
She offered her foot and vaulted lightly into the saddle; the coach
went pounding on ahead; and as the servants scattered before her she
galloped off at the side of Bud.

Behind them the rumble of distant hoofs rose up like the roaring of
waters, and the shrieks of fleeing women echoed from the roadside,
but once safely in the cañon their lead was never lessened and, with
coach-horses galloping and postilions lashing from both sides, the
whole cavalcade swept into the plaza while the town of Fortuna went mad.

Already the great whistle was blowing hoarsely, its deep reverberations
making the air tremble as if with fear. Americans were running back
and forth, distributing arms and rushing their women to cover; Don
Juan, his chin quivering with excitement, was imploring all comers to
be calm; and the Aragons, coming flying up to the door, added the last
touch to the panic.

They with their own eyes had seen the rebels; they were riding in from
the south! Other men, equally excited, swore they were coming from the
north, and a disorderly body of Sonoran miners, armed as if by magic
with guns which had long lain hidden, banked themselves about the store
and office and clamored for more and more cartridges. Then a rip of
gun-fire echoed from across the cañon, and the miners made a rush to
the attack.

The whistle, which had obscured all sound as a cloud obscures the
light, stopped suddenly in its roar, and the crowd at the hotel became
calm. The superintendent, a wiry, gray-haired little man with decision
in every movement, came running from his fortlike house on the hill and
ordered all the women to take shelter there and take their children
with them.

So, while the rifles rattled and stray bullets began to knock mud from
the walls, they went straggling up the hill, rich and poor, patrician
and peon, while the air was rent by the wails of the half-Indian
Mexican women who held themselves as good as captured by the
_revoltosos_, concerning whose scruples they entertained no illusions.

The women of the aristocracy bore themselves with more reserve, as
befitting their birth and station, and the Americans who gathered
about them with their protecting rifles pretended that all would be
well; but in the mind of everyone was that same terror which found
expression in the peon wail and, while scattered rebels and newly armed
miners exchanged volleys on both sides of the town, the non-combatant
Americans sought out every woman and rushed her up to the big house.
There, if worst came to worst, they could make a last stand, or save
them by a ransom.

So, from the old woman who kept the candy stand in the plaza to the
wives of the miners and the cherished womenfolk of the landowners,
they were all crowded inside the broad halls of the big house; and
seventy-odd Americans, armed with company rifles, paced nervously
along the broad verandas or punched loopholes in the adobe walls that
enclosed the summer-garden behind.

Along with the rest went Hooker and Gracia, and, though her mother
beckoned and her father frowned sternly, the wilful daughter of the
Aragons did not offer to leave him as they scampered up the hill. In
fact, she rode close beside him, spurring when he spurred and, finally,
when the shower of stray bullets had passed, she led on around the
house.

"Won't you help me take my horse inside the walls?" she asked. Bud
followed after her, circling the fortress whose blank adobe walls gave
shelter to the screaming women, and she smiled upon him with the most
engaging confidence.

"I know you will have to go soon," she said, "and I suppose I've got
to be shut in with those creatures, but we must be sure to save our
horses. Some bullets might hit them, you know, and then we could not
run away!

"You remember your promise!" she reminded, as Bud gazed at her in
astonishment. "Ah, yes, I knew you did--otherwise you would not
have picked such a good horse for me. This roan is my father's best
riding-horse. You must put yours inside the wall with him, and when the
time is right we will get them and ride for the line."

"What?" cried Hooker incredulously, "with the country full of rebels?
They're liable to take the town in half an hour!"

"No, indeed they will not!" responded Gracia with spirit. "You do not
understand the spirit of us Sonorans! Can't you see how the firing has
slackened? The miners have driven your rebels back already, and they
will do more--they will follow them up and kill them! Then, when the
rebels are in flight and Del Rey and his _rurales_ are away, that will
be a good time for us to slip off and make our dash for the line!"

"Nothing doing!" announced Hooker, as he dismounted at the corral. "You
don't know what you're talking about! But I will leave my horse here,"
he added. "I sure don't want _him_ to get hurt."

"But you promised!" protested Gracia weakly.

"Promised nothing!" retorted Bud ungraciously. "I promised to take care
of you, didn't I? Well, what's the use of talking, then? You better
stay right here, where you're safe. Come on, let's go to the house!"

"No!" cried Gracia, her dark eyes turning misty with imminent tears.
"Oh, Mr. Hooker!" she burst out, "didn't I keep them all waiting while
I put on this riding-skirt? I thought you had come to take me away!
What do I care to be safe? I want to be free! I want to run away--and
go across the line to dear Phil!" she faltered. Then she looked up at
him sharply and her voice took on an accusing tone.

"Aha!" she said, as if making some expected discovery, "so _that_ is
it! I thought perhaps you were _afraid_!"

"What?" demanded Bud, put suddenly upon the defensive.

"I might have known it," soliloquized Gracia with conviction. "You are
jealous of dear Phil!"

"Who? Me?" cried Hooker, smiling down at her grimly. "Well, let it
go at that," he said, as she regarded him with an arch smile. "I'd
certainly be a fool to take all those chances for nothing. Let him
steal his own girl--that's what I say!"

"Now that, Mr. Hooker," burst out Gracia in a passion, "is very
unkind--and rude! Am I a woman of the town, to be stolen by one man or
another? Am I--"

"That's what you would be," put in Bud, with brutal directness, "if
these rebels got hold of you. No, ma'am, I wouldn't take you out of
this town for a hundred thousand dollars. You don't know what you're
talking about, that's all! Wait till the fighting is over--Gee! Did you
hear that? Come on, let's get into the house!"

He ducked suddenly as a bullet went _spang_ against the corrugated
iron roof above them and, seizing her by the hand, he half dragged her
through a side door and into the summer garden.

Here a sudden outcry of women's voices assailed their ears like a
rush of wind and they beheld peon mothers running to and fro with
their screaming children clasped to their breasts or dragging at their
skirts. A few helpless men were trying to keep them quiet, but as the
bullets began to thud against the adobe walls the garden became a
bedlam.

Gracia stood and surveyed the scene for a moment, ignoring the hulking
Bud with disdainful eyes. Then she snatched her hand indignantly away
and ran to pick up a child. That was all, but Hooker knew what she
thought of him.

He passed through the house, hoping to discover where she had gone,
but all he heard was her commanding voice as she silenced the wailing
women, and, feeling somehow very much out of place, he stepped forth
into the open.

After all, for a man of his build, the open was best. Let the
white-handed boys stay with the ladies--they understood their ways.



XXII


The superintendent's house stood on a low bench above the town, looking
out over all the valley, but protected by a high hill behind, upon the
summit of which was placed a mammoth black water-tank.

In its architecture the _casa grande_ was an exact replica of a
hot-country _hacienda_, a flat-roofed, one-storied square of adobe
bricks, whitewashed to keep off the sun and presenting on three
sides nothing but the dead walls of house and garden, with dense
trees planted near for shade. Along the front was a long arcade, the
_corredor_, graced by a series of massive arches which let in the light
and air. Inside were low chambers and long passages; and, behind, the
_patio_ and garden of orange and fig trees.

Built for a sumptuous dwelling, it became in a moment a fort and, with
men on the high hill by the tank, it was practically impregnable to
direct assault.

As Hooker stepped out onto the covered porch with his saddle-gun in
his hand he became simply one more of a band of excited Americans, all
armed and ready to defend the house to the last. Some were pacing back
and forth in the _corredor_, others were hurrying up from the Mexican
quarters with a last belated handful of women, but the major portion
were out on the open bench, either gazing north and south at the
scenes of the distant firing or engaging in a curio-mad scramble for
any spent bullet that struck.

The fighting, such as there was, was mostly up the cañon, where a
large party of Sonoran miners had rushed in pursuit of the rebels. The
firing down the cañon in the direction of Old Fortuna had died away
to nothing, and for the moment if seemed as if the futile charge and
retreat were the beginning and the end of the battle.

A party of rebels had penetrated clear into the town, but it was
apparently more by accident than intention, and they had been quick
to beat a retreat. As for the main command of the _insurrectos_, they
were reported at Chular, six miles up the railroad, where they had
surrounded and taken a small mining camp and captured a train at the
summit.

The column to the south--the one which Hooker had encountered--had
taken to the high hills west of the town, and, along the sky-line of
the buttelike summits, they could now be seen in scattered bands making
their way to the north.

The defenders of Fortuna consisted of a rag-tag garrison of twenty
Federals and the hot-headed, charging miners. But apparently that was a
combination hard to beat, for, while the Federals entrenched themselves
behind the black tank on the hill and prepared to protect the town, the
Sonorans in shouting masses drove everything before them and marched on
to attack Chular.

But in this they made a mistake, for the rebel scouts, seeing the
great body of defenders pressing on up the narrow cañon, rode back and
informed the tricky Bernardo Bravo. He would be a poor general indeed
who could not see the opening that was offered and, while the valiant
Sonorans pursued the rebel cavalry up the pass, Bernardo Bravo sent the
half of his thousand men to cut off their retreat from behind.

Along the broad top of the mountain above they came scampering by tens
and twenties, closing in with a vastly superior force upon the now
defenseless town. In the depths of the cañon below the miners were
still chasing the elusive cavalry, their firing becoming faint as they
clambered on toward the summit and the rebel headquarters at Chular.

They had, in fact, been handled like children, and the Americans joined
in contemptuous curses of their mistaken bravery as they beheld in what
straits it had left them.

Forbidden by the superintendent to participate in the combat, yet
having in their care the women of the camp, they were compelled to
stand passively aside while rebels by the hundred came charging down
the ridges. Only in the last resort, and when all diplomacy and Federal
defense had failed, would they be allowed to so much as cock a rifle.
And yet--well, twenty determined Americans might easily turn back this
charge.

Taking advantage of his Mexican citizenship, Hooker was already on the
run for the trenches when the superintendent stopped him with a look.

"Let the Mexicans fight it out," he said. "They might resent it if you
took sides, and that would make it bad for us. Just wait a while--you
never can tell what will happen. Perhaps the _rurales_ and Federals
will stand them off."

"What, that little bunch?" demanded Bud, pointing scornfully at the
handful of defenders who were cowering behind their rock-piles. "Why,
half of them _pelónes_ don't know what a gun was made for, and the
_rurales_--"

"Well, the rebels are the same," suggested the superintendent
pacifically. "Let them fight it out--we need every American we can get,
so just forget about being a Mexican."

"All right," agreed Bud, as he yielded reluctantly to reason. "It ain't
because I'm a Mexican citizen--I just want to stop that rush."

He walked back to the house, juggling his useless gun and keeping his
eye on the distant ridges. And then, in a chorus of defiant yells, the
men in the Federal trenches began to shoot.

In an air-line the distance was something over a mile, but at the first
scattering volley the rebels halted and fired a volley in return. With
a vicious _spang_ a few stray bullets smashed against the reverberating
steel tank, but no one was hurt, and the defenders, drunk with valor,
began to shoot and yell like mad.

The bullets of the rebels, fired at random, struck up dust-jets in
every direction, and from the lower part of the town came the shouting
of the non-combatant Mexicans as they ran here and there for shelter.
But by the trenches, and in the rear of the black tank, the great
crowd of onlookers persisted, ducking as each successive bullet hit the
tank and shouting encouragement as the defenders emptied their rifles
and reloaded with clip after clip.

The rifles rattled a continuous volley; spent bullets leaped like
locusts across the flat; men ran to and fro, now crouching behind the
tank, now stepping boldly into the open; and the defiant shouts of the
defenders almost drowned the wails of the women. Except for one thing
it was a battle--there was nobody hurt.

For the first half-hour the Americans stayed prudently under cover,
busying themselves at the suggestion of a few American women in
providing a first-aid hospital on the sheltered porch. Then, as no
wounded came to fill it and the rebels delayed their charge, one man
after another climbed up to the trenches, ostensibly to bring down the
injured.

As soldiers and bystanders reported no one hit, and the bullets flew
harmlessly past, their solicitude turned rapidly to disgust and then to
scorn. Strange as it may seem, they were disappointed at the results,
and their remarks were derogatory as they commented on the bravery of
_pelónes_ and Mexicans in general.

From a dread of imminent attack, of charging rebels and retreating
defenders, and a fight to the death by the house, they came suddenly
to a desire for blood and battle, for dead men and the cries of the
wounded; and all fear of the _insurrectos_ left them.

"Come away, boys," grunted the burly roadmaster, who up to then had
led in the work; "we wasted our time on that hospital--there'll be no
wounded. Let's take ourselves back to the house and have a quiet smoke."

"Right you are, Ed," agreed the master mechanic, as he turned upon his
heel in disgust. "This ain't war--them Mexicans think they're working
for a moving-picture show!"

"I bet you I can go up on that ridge," announced Hooker, "and clean out
the whole bunch with my six-shooter before you could bat your eye."

But the superintendent was not so sure.

"Never mind, boys," he said. "We're worth a lot of ransom money to
those rebels and they won't give up so quick. And look at this now--my
miners coming back! Those are the boys that will fight! Wait till Chico
and Ramon Mendoza get after them!"

He pointed as he spoke to a straggling band of Sonorans, led by the
much-vaunted Mendoza brothers, as they hurried to save the town, and a
cheer went up from the trenches as the Federals beheld reenforcements.
But a change had come over the fire-eating miners, and they brought
other rebels in their wake.

As they trudged wearily into town and sought shelter among the houses
a great body of men appeared on the opposite ridge, firing down at
them as they retreated. The battle rapidly turned into a long-distance
shooting contest, with the rebels on the ridges and the defenders in
the valley, and finally, as the day wore on and a thunderstorm came
up, it died out altogether and the rebels turned back to their camp.

Except for one lone Federal who had shot himself by accident there was
not a single defender hurt, and if the enemy had suffered losses it was
only by some such chance. But when the Sonoran patriots, holding up
their empty belts, came clamoring for ammunition, the men by the big
house took in the real catastrophe of the battle.

Seventeen thousand rounds of the precious thirty-thirties had been
delivered to the excited miners and now, except for what few the
Americans had saved, there was not a cartridge in camp. Very soberly
the superintendent assured the leaders that he had no more. They
pointed at the full belts of the American guard and demanded them as
their right; and when the Americans refused to yield they flew into a
rage and threatened.

All in all, it was a pitiful exhibition of hot-headedness and
imbecility, and only the firmness of the superintendent prevented a
real spilling of blood. The Mexicans retired in a huff and broke into
the _cantina_, and as the night came on the valley re-echoed to their
drunken shoutings.

Such was war as the Sonorans conceived it. When Hooker, standing his
guard in the _corredor_, encountered Gracia Aragon on her evening walk,
he could scarcely conceal a grin.

"What are you laughing at, Señor Hooker?" she demanded with asperity.
"Is it so pleasant, with a houseful of frightened women and screaming
children, that you should make fun of our plight?"

"No, indeed," apologized Bud; "nothing like that. Sure must be bad in
there--I stay outside myself. But I reckon it'll soon be over with.
The Mexicans here in town have shot off all their ammunition and I
reckon the rebels have done the same. Like as not they'll all be gone
to-morrow, and then you can go back home."

"Oh, thank you for thinking about me!" she returned with a scornful
curl of the lip. "But if all men were as open as you, Mr. Hooker, we
women would never need to ask a question. This morning you told me I
did not know what I was talking about--now I presume you are thinking
what cowards the Mexicans are!

"Oh, I know! You need not deny it! You are nothing but a great
big--_Tejano_! Yes, I was going to say 'brute,' but you are a friend
of dear Phil's, and so I will hold my tongue. If it wasn't for that,
I'd--" She paused, leaving him to guess.

"Oh, I do wish he were here!" she breathed, leaning wearily against the
white pillar of an arch and gazing down through the long arcade.

"It was so close in there," she continued, "I could not stand it a
minute longer. These Indian women, you know--they weep and moan all
the time. And the children--I am so sorry for them. I cannot go now,
because they need me; but to-morrow--if Phil were here--I would leave
and ride for the line.

"Have you seen Del Rey to-day? No? Then all the better--he must be
policing the town. It is only of him I am afraid. These rebels are
nothing--I agree with you! No! I am not angry with you at all now! But
to-morrow, just at dusk, when all is still as it is at this time; then,
if Phil were here, I would mount my brave horse and ride out by the
western pass."

She ended rather inconclusively, letting her voice trail off wistfully
as she waited for him to speak, but something within moved Hooker to
hold his peace, and he looked out over the town without commenting on
her plans. It was evident to him that she was determined to enlist
his sympathy and involve him in her wild plot, and each time the
conversation veered in that direction he took refuge in a stubborn
silence.

"What are you thinking, Mr. Hooker?" she asked at last, as he gazed
into the dusk. "Sometimes I scold you and sometimes I try to please
you, but I never know what you think! I did not mean that when I said I
could read your thoughts--you are so different from poor, dear Phil!"

"M-m-m," mumbled Bud, shifting his feet, and his face turned a little
grim.

"Aha!" she cried with ill-concealed satisfaction, "you do not like me
to call him that, do you? 'Poor, dear Phil,'--like that! But do you
know why I do it? It is to punish you for never coming near me--when
I signed to you--when I waited for you--long ago! Ah, you were so
cruel! I wanted to know you--you were a cowboy, and I thought you were
brave enough to defend me--but you always rode right by. Yes, that was
it--but Phil was different! He came when I sent for him; he sang songs
to me at night; he took my part against Manuel del Rey; and now--"

"Yes!" commented Bud bruskly, with his mind on "dear Phil's" finish,
and she turned to peer into his face.

"So that is it!" she said. "You do not trust me. You think that I am
not your friend--that I will serve you as he was served. Is that what
you are thinking?"

"Something like that," admitted Hooker, leaning lazily against the mud
wall. "Only I reckon I don't think just the way you do."

"Why? How do I think?" she demanded eagerly.

"Well, you think awful fast," answered Hooker slowly. "And you don't
always think the same, seems like. I'm kind of quiet myself, and I
don't like--well, I wouldn't say that, but you don't always mean what
you say."

"Oh!" breathed Gracia, and then, after a pause, she came nearer and
leaned against the low wall beside him.

"If I would speak from my heart," she asked, "if I would talk plain, as
you Americans do, would you like me better then? Would you talk to me
instead of standing silent? Listen, Bud--for that is your name--I want
you to be my friend the way you were a friend to Phil. I know what you
did for him, and how you bore with his love-madness--and that was my
fault, too. But partly it was also your fault, for you made me angry by
not coming.

"Yes, I will be honest now--it was you that I wanted to know at
first, but you would not come, and now I am promised to Phil. He was
brave when you were careful, and my heart went out to him. You know
how it is with us Mexicans--we do not love by reason. We love like
children--suddenly--from the heart! And now all I wish in life is to
run away to Phil. But every time I speak of it you shut your jaws or
tell me I am a fool."

"Ump-um," protested Bud, turning stubborn again. "I tell you you don't
know what you're talking about. These rebels don't amount to nothing
around the town, but on a trail they're awful. They shoot from behind
rocks and all that, and a woman ain't no ways safe. You must know what
they're like--these old women don't think about nothing else--so what's
the use of talking? And besides," he added grimly, "I've had some
trouble with your old man and don't want to have any more."

"What trouble have you had?" she demanded promptly, but Hooker would
not answer in words. He only shrugged his shoulders and turned away,
crumpling his hat in his hand.

"But no!" she cried as she sensed the meaning of his concealment, "you
must tell me! I want to know. Was it over your mine? Then you must not
blame me, for he never has told me a word!"

"No?" inquired Bud, rousing suddenly at the memory of his wrongs. "Then
maybe you will tell me how he got _this_"--he fetched a worn piece of
ore from his pocket--"when my pardner gave it to _you_! It was right
there I lost my pardner--and he was a good kid, too--and all because of
that rock. Here, take a look at it--I took that away from your father!"

"Then he stole it from me!" flashed back Gracia as she gazed at the
specimen. "Oh, have you thought all the time that I betrayed Phil? But
didn't I tell you--didn't I tell you at the hotel, when you promised
to be my friend? Ah, I see that you are a hard man, Mr. Hooker--quick
to suspect, slow to forget--and yet I told you before! But listen, and
I will tell you again. I remember well when dear Phil showed me this
rock--he was so happy because he had found the gold. And just to make
it lucky he let me hold it while we were talking through a hole in the
wall. Then my father saw me and started to come near--I could not hand
it back without betraying Phil--and in the night, when I was asleep,
some one took it from under my pillow. That is the truth, and I will
ask you to believe me; and if you have other things against me you must
say what they are and see if I cannot explain.

"No!" she ran on, her voice vibrant with the memory of past quarrels.
"I have nothing to do with my father! He does not love me, but tries
to make me marry first one man and then another. But I am an American
girl now, at heart--I do not want to sell myself; I want to marry for
love! Can you understand that? Yes? No? Then why do you look away? Have
you something that you hold against me? Ah, you shake your head--but
you will not speak to me! When I was at school in Los Angeles I saw
the cowboys in the West show, and they were different--they were not
afraid of any danger, but they would talk, too. I have always wanted to
know you, but you will not let me--I thought you were brave--like those
cowboys."

She paused to make him speak, but Hooker was tongue-tied. There was
something about the way she talked that pulled him over, that made him
want to do what she said, and yet some secret, hidden voice was always
crying: "Beware!" He was convinced now that she had never been a party
to treachery; no, nor even wished him ill.

She was very beautiful, too, in the twilight, and when she drew nearer
he moved away, for he was afraid she would sway him from his purpose.
But now she was waiting for some answer--some word from him, though the
question had never been asked. And yet he knew what it was.

She wanted him to steal away with her in the evening and ride for the
border--and Phil. That was what she always wanted, no matter what she
said, and now she was calling him a coward.

"Sure them bronco-riders are brave," he said in vague defense; "but
there's a difference between being brave and foolish. And a man might
be brave for himself and yet be afraid for other people."

"How do you mean?" she asked.

"Well," he said, "I might be willing to go out and fight a thousand of
them _insurrectos_ with one hand, and at the same time be afraid to
take you along. Or I might--"

"Oh, then you _will_ go, won't you?" she cried, clasping him by the
hand. "You will, won't you? I'm not afraid!"

"No," answered Bud, drawing his hand away, "that's just what I won't
do! And I'll tell you why. That country up there is full of rebels--the
lowest kind there are. It just takes one shot to lay me out or cripple
one of our horses. Then I'd have to make a fight for it--but what would
happen to you?"

"I'd fight, too!" spoke up Gracia resolutely. "I'm not afraid."

"No," grumbled Bud, "you don't know them rebels. You've been shut up in
a house all the time--if you'd been through what I have in the last six
months you'd understand what I mean."

"If Phil were here, _he'd_ take me!" countered Gracia, and then Bud
lost his head.

"Yes," he burst out, "that's jest what's the matter with the crazy
fool! That's jest why he's up across the line now a hollering for me to
save his girl! He's brave, is he? Well, why don't he come down, then,
and save you himself? Because he's afraid to! He's afraid of getting
shot or going up against Manuel del Rey. By grab! it makes me tired the
way you people talk! If he'd done what I told him to in the first place
he wouldn't have got into this jack-pot!"

"Oh, my!" exclaimed Gracia, aghast. "Why, what is the matter with you?
And what did you tell him to do?"

"I told him to mind his own business," answered Hooker bluntly.

"And what did he say?"

"He said he'd try anything--once!"

Bud spat out the phrase vindictively, for his blood was up and his
heart was full of bitterness.

"Oh, dear!" faltered Gracia. "And so you do not think that Phil is
brave?"

"He's brave to start things," sneered Bud, "but not to carry 'em
through!"

For a moment Gracia huddled up against a pillar, her hand against her
face, as if to ward off a blow. Then she lowered it slowly and moved
reluctantly away.

"I must go now," she said, and Bud did not offer to stay her, for he
saw what his unkindness had done.

"I am sorry!" she added pitifully, but he did not answer. There was
nothing that he could say now.

In a moment of resentment, driven to exasperation by her taunts, he had
forgotten his pledge to his pardner and come between him and his girl.
That which he thought wild horses could not draw from him had flashed
out in a fit of anger--and the damage was beyond amendment, for what he
had said was the truth.



XXIII


There are two things, according to the saying, which cannot be
recalled--the sped arrow and the spoken word. Whether spoken in anger
or in jest our winged thoughts will not come back to us and, where
there is no balm for the wound we have caused, there is nothing to do
but let it heal.

Bud Hooker was a man of few words, and slow to speak ill of any one,
but some unfamiliar devil had loosened his tongue and he had told the
worst about Phil. Certainly if a man were the bravest of the brave,
certainly if he loved his girl more than life itself--he would not be
content to hide above the line and pour out his soul on note-paper. But
to tell it to the girl--that was an unpardonable sin!

Still, now that the damage was done, there was no use of vain repining,
and after cursing himself whole-heartedly Bud turned in for the night.
Other days were coming; there were favors he might do; and perhaps,
as the yesterdays went by, Gracia would forgive him for his plain
speaking. Even to-morrow, if the rebels came back for more, he might
square himself in action and prove that he was not a coward. A coward!

It had been a long time since any one had used that word to him, but
after the way he had knifed "dear Phil" he had to admit he was it. But
"dear Phil"! It was that which had set him off.

If she knew how many other girls--but Bud put a sudden quietus on that
particular line of thought. As long as the world stood and Gracia was
in his sight he swore never to speak ill of De Lancey again, and then
he went to sleep.

The men who guarded the _casa grande_ slept uneasily on the porch,
lying down like dogs on empty sugar-sacks that the women might not
lack bedding inside. Even at that they were better off, for the house
was close and feverish, with the crying of babies and the babbling of
dreamers, and mothers moving to and fro.

It was a hectic night, but Bud slept it out, and at dawn, after the
custom of his kind, he arose and stamped on his boots. The moist
coolness of the morning brought the odor of wet greasewood and tropic
blossoms to his nostrils as he stepped out to speak with the guards,
and as he stood there waiting for the full daylight the master mechanic
joined him.

He was a full-bodied, round-headed little man with determined views
on life, and he began the day, as usual, with his private opinion of
Mexicans. They were the same uncomplimentary remarks to which he had
given voice on the day before, for the rebels had captured one of his
engines and he knew it would come to some harm.

"A fine bunch of _hombres_, yes," he ended, "and may the devil fly
away with them! They took No. 9 at the summit yesterday and I've been
listening ever since. Her pans are all burned out and we've been
feeding her bran like a cow to keep her from leaking steam. If some
ignorant Mex gets hold of her you'll hear a big noise--and that'll be
the last of No. 9--her boiler will burst like a wet bag.

"If I was running this road there'd be no more bran--not since what I
saw over at Aguas Calientes on the Central. One of those bum, renegade
engine-drivers had burned out No. 743, but the rebels had ditched four
of our best and we had to send her out. Day after day the boys had been
feeding her bran until she smelled like a distillery. The mash was
oozing out of her as Ben Tyrrell pulled up to the station, and a friend
of his that had come down from the north took one sniff and swung up
into the cab.

"Ben came down at the word he whispered--for they'd two of 'em blowed
up in the north--and they sent out another man. Hadn't got up the
hill when the engine exploded and blew the poor devil to hell! I
asked Tyrrell what his friend had told him, but he kept it to himself
until he could get his time. It's the fumes, boy--they blow up like
brandy--and old No. 9 is sour!

"She'll likely blow up, too. But how can we fix her with these ignorant
Mexican mechanics? You should have been over at Aguas the day they
fired the Americans.

"'No more _Americanos_!' says Madero. 'Let 'em all out and hire
Mexicans! The national railroads of Mexico must not be in the hands of
foreigners.'

"So they fired us all in a day and put a Mexican wood-passer up in the
cab of old No. 313. He started to pull a string of empties down the
track, threw on the air by mistake, and stopped her on a dead-center.
Pulled out the throttle and she wouldn't go, so he gave it up and quit.

"Called in the master mechanic then--a Mexican. He tinkered with her
for an hour, right there on the track, until she went dead on their
hands. Then they ran down a switch-engine and took back the cars and
called on the roadmaster--a Mex. He cracked the nut--built a shoo-fly
around No. 313 and they left her right there on the main track. Two
days later an American hobo came by and he set down and laughed at 'em.
Then he throws off the brakes, gives No. 313 a boost past the center
with a crowbar, and runs her to the roundhouse by gravity. When we left
Aguas on a hand-car that hobo was running the road.

"Ignorantest _hombres_ in the world--these Mexicans. Shooting a gun or
running an engine, it's all the same--they've got nothing above the
eyebrows."

"That's right," agreed Bud, who had been craning his neck; "but what's
that noise up the track?"

The master mechanic listened, and when his ears, dulled by the clangor
of the shops, caught the distant roar he turned and ran for the house.

"Git up, Ed!" he called to the roadmaster. "They're sending a wild car
down the cañon--and she may be loaded with dynamite!"

"Dynamite or not," mumbled the grizzled roadmaster, as he roused up
from his couch, "there's a derailer I put in up at kilometer seventy
the first thing yesterday morning. That'll send her into the ditch!"

Nevertheless he listened intently, cocking his head to guess by the
sound when it came to kilometer seventy.

"Now she strikes it!" he announced, as the rumble turned into a roar;
but the roar grew louder, there was a clash as the trucks struck a
curve, and then a great metal ore-car swung round the point, rode up
high as it hit the reverse and, speeding by as if shot from a catapult,
swept through the yard, smashed into a freight-car, and leaped, car and
all, into the creek.

"They've sneaked my derailer!" said the roadmaster, starting on a run
for the shops. "Who'll go with me to put in another one? Or we'll
loosen a rail on the curve--that'll call for no more than a claw-bar
and a wrench!"

"I'll go!" volunteered Bud and the man who stood guard, and as startled
sleepers roused up on every side and ran toward the scene of the wreck
they dashed down the hill together and threw a hand-car on the track.

Then, with what tools they could get together, and a spare derailer on
the front, they pumped madly up the cañon, holding their breaths at
every curve for fear of what they might see. If there was one runaway
car there was another, for the rebels were beginning an attack.

Already on the ridges above them they could hear the crack of rifles,
and a jet or two of dust made it evident that they were the mark. But
with three strong men at the handles they made the hand-car jump. The
low hills fled behind them. They rounded a point and the open track lay
before them, with something--

"Jump!" shouted the roadmaster, and as they tumbled down the bank
they heard a crash behind them and their hand-car was knocked into
kindling-wood.

"Now up to the track!" the roadmaster panted, as the destroyer swept on
down the line. "Find some tools--we'll take out a rail!"

With frantic eagerness he toiled up the fill and attacked a fish-plate,
and Bud and the young guard searched the hillside for tools to help
with the work. They fell to with sledge and claw-bar, tapping off nuts,
jerking out spikes, and heaving to loosen the rail--and then once more
that swift-moving something loomed up suddenly on the track.

"Up the hill!" commanded the roadmaster, and as they scrambled into a
gulch a wild locomotive, belching smoke and steam like a fire-engine,
went rushing past them, struck the loose rail, and leaped into the
creek-bed. A moment later, as it crashed its way down to the water,
there was an explosion that shook the hills. They crouched behind the
cut bank, and the trees above them bowed suddenly to the slash of an
iron hail.

"Dynamite!" cried the roadmaster, grinning triumphantly as he looked up
after the shock; and when the fall of fragments had ceased, and they
had fled as if by instinct from the place, they struck hands on their
narrow escape. But back at the big house, with everybody giving thanks
for their delivery from the powder-train, the master mechanic raised a
single voice of protest.

"'Twas not dynamite!" he yelled. "Powder-train be damned! It was No. 9!
She was sour as a distillery! She blowed up, I tell ye--she blowed up
when she hit the creek!"

And even after a shower of bullets from the ridge had driven them all
to cover he still rushed to those who would listen and clamored that it
was the bran.

But there was scant time to hold a post-mortem on No. 9, for on the
summit of a near-by ridge, and overlooking the black tank, the rebels
had thrown up a wall in the night, and from the security of this
shelter they were industriously shooting up the town.

The smash of the first wild car had been their signal for attack, and
as the explosion threw the defenders into confusion they made a rush to
take the tank. Here, as on the day before, was stationed the Federal
garrison, a scant twenty or thirty men in charge of a boy lieutenant.

Being practically out of ammunition, he did not stand on the order of
his going, but as his _pelónes_ pelted past the superintendent's house
the reorganized miners, their belts stuffed with cartridges from their
own private stock, came charging up from the town and rallied them in
the rear.

In a solid, shouting mass they swept up the hill together, dropped
down behind the defenses, and checked the astounded rebels with a
volley. Then there was another long-range battle, with every sign of
war but the dead, until at last, as the firing slackened from lack of
cartridges, a white flag showed on the ridge above, and the leaders
went out for a parley.

Properly speaking, Del Rey was in command of the town, but neither
the Federals nor the miners would recognize his authority and the
leadership went by default. While they waited to hear the rebel demands
the Americans took advantage of the truce to bring up hot food from the
hotel, where Don Juan de Dios stood heroically at his post. Let bullets
come and go, Don Juan kept his cooks about him, and to those who had
doubted his valor his coffee was answer enough.

"W'y, my gracious, Mr. Hooker!" he railed, as Bud refreshed himself
between trips, "ain't you going to take any up to those women? Don't
drink so much coffee now, but give it to the men who fight!"

"Ump-um," grunted Bud with a grin; "they got a skinful of _mescal_
already! What they need is another car-load of ammunition to help 'em
shoot their first rebel."

"I thought you said they wouldn't fight!" twitted Don Juan. "This is
the battle of Fortuna that I was telling you about last week."

"Sure!" answered Bud. "And over there is the dead!"

He pointed to a riot of _mescal_ bottles that marked the scene of the
night's potations, and Don Juan gave him up as hopeless.

But, jest as he would, Bud saw that the situation was serious, for the
foolhardy Sonorans had already emptied their cartridge-belts, and their
guns were no better than clubs. Unless the rebels had been equally
reckless with their ammunition they had the town at their mercy, and
the first thing that they would demand would be the refugees in the big
house.

The possession of the town; the arms of the defenders; food, clothing,
and horses to ride--none of these would satisfy them. They would demand
the rich Spanish landowners to be held for ransom, the women first of
all. And of all those women huddled up in the _casa grande_ not one
would bring a bigger ransom than Gracia Aragon.

Bud pondered the outcome as the emissaries wrangled on the hillside,
and then he went back to the corral to make sure that his horse was
safe. Copper Bottom, too, might be held for ransom. But, knowing the
rebels as he did, Hooker foresaw a different fate, and rather than see
him become the mount of some rebel chieftain he had determined, if the
town surrendered, to make a dash.

Riding by night and hiding in the hills by day, he could get to the
border in two days. All he needed was a little jerked beef for the trip
and he would be ready for anything.

So he hurried down to the hotel again and was just making a sack of
food fast to his saddle when he heard a noise behind him and turned to
face Aragon. For two days the once-haughty Don Cipriano had slunk about
like a sick cat, but now he was headed for Gracia's big roan, and the
look in his eyes betrayed his purpose.

"Where you going?" demanded Hooker in English, and at the gruff
challenge the Spaniard stopped in his tracks. The old, hunted look came
back into his eyes, he seemed to shrink before the stern gaze of the
Texan, and, as the memory of his past misdeeds came over him, he turned
as if to flee.

But there was a smile, an amused and tolerant smirk, about the
American's mouth, and even for that look of understanding the harried
_haciendado_ seemed to thank him. He was broken now, thrown down from
his pedestal of arrogance and conceit, and as Hooker did not offer to
shoot him at sight he turned back to him like a lost dog that seeks but
a kind word.

"Ah, _señor_," he whined, "your pardon! What?" as he sighted the sack
of meat. "You are going, too? Ah, my friend"--his eyes lighted up
suddenly at the thought--"let me ride with you! I will pay you--yes,
anything--but if Bernardo Bravo takes me he will hang me! He has sworn
it!"

"Well, you got it coming to you!" answered Hooker heartlessly.

"But I will pay you well!" pleaded Aragon. "I will pay you--" He paused
as if to consider what would tempt him and then suddenly he raised his
head.

"What is it you wish above everything?" he questioned eagerly. "Your
title to the mine--no? _Bien!_ Take me to the line--protect me from my
enemies--and the papers are yours!"

"Have you got them with you?" inquired Hooker with businesslike
directness.

"No, but I can get them!" cried Aragon, forgetful of everything but his
desire to escape. "I can get them while you saddle my horse!"

"Where?" demanded Hooker craftily.

"From the _agente mineral_!" answered Aragon. "I have a great deal of
influence with him, and--"

"_Bastante!_" exploded Bud in a voice which made Aragon jump. "Enough!
If you can get them, _I_ can! And we shall see, Señor Aragon, whether
this pistol of mine will not give me some influence, too!"

"Then you will take them?" faltered Aragon as Hooker started to go.
"You will take them and leave me for Bernardo Bravo to--"

"Listen, _señor_!" exclaimed Hooker, halting and advancing a
threatening forefinger. "A man who can hire four men to do his dirty
work needs no protection from me. You understand that--no? Then listen
again. I am going to get those papers. If I hear a word from you I will
send you to join your four men."

He touched his gun as he spoke and strode out into the open, where he
beckoned the mineral agent from the crowd. A word in his ear and they
went down the hill together, while Don Cipriano watched from above.
Then, as they turned into the office, Aragon spat out a curse and went
to seek Manuel del Rey.



XXIV


In a land of class privilege and official graft it is often only in
times of anarchy that a poor man can get his rights. For eight months
Hooker had battled against the petty intrigue of Aragon and the _agente
mineral_, and then suddenly, when the times turned to war and fear
gripped at their hearts, he rose up and claimed his own, holding out
his brawny right hand and demanding the concession to his mine.

In a day the whirligig of fortune had turned, and it was the fighting
man who dominated. He spoke quietly and made no threats, but the look
in his eye was enough, and the _agente_ gave him his papers.

With his concession inside his shirt and a belt of gold around his
waist Bud stepped forth like a king, for there was nothing left in
Mexico for him. Once on his horse and headed for the line and he could
laugh at them all. In Gadsden he could show title to Kruger, he could
give answer for his trust and look the world in the eye.

Yes, he was a man now--but his work was not quite done. Up at the big
house, with the screeching women around her, was Gracia Aragon, and he
owed her something for his rough words. To pay her for that he would
stay. Whatever she asked now he would grant it; and if worst came to
worst he would take her with him and make good his promise to Phil. He
had given his word and that was enough. Now he had only to wait.

The boy lieutenant, the brothers Mendoza, the superintendent, and
Manuel del Rey, all were out on the hillside talking terms with
Bernardo Bravo and his chiefs. With the rebels it was largely a bluff,
since field-glasses had shown them to be short of cartridges; but they
had over a thousand men massed along the ridges and, with courage,
could easily take the town.

As for the Mendozas and their Sonoran miners, they were properly
chagrined at their waste of ammunition and swore by Santa Guadalupe
to fight it out with hand-grenades. Even as their leaders wrangled
the Mexican powder-men were busily manufacturing bombs, and all the
while the superintendent was glancing to the south, for swift couriers
had been sent to Alvarez, the doughty Spanish _haciendado_ of the hot
country, to beg him to come to their relief.

Twice before Alvarez had met the rebels. The first time he spoke them
well and they ran off all his horses. The second time he armed his
Yaquis and Yaqui Mayo _rancheros_ against them and drove them from his
domain, inflicting a sanguinary punishment.

Since then he had been itching to engage them in a pitched battle, and
when the word reached him he would come. Two hundred and forty Yaquis,
all armed with repeating rifles, would follow at his back, and even
with his boasted thousands Bernardo Bravo could hardly withstand their
valor. So, while the rebels parleyed, demanding a ransom of millions
and threatening to destroy the town, the defenders argued and reasoned
with them, hoping to kill the time until Alvarez should arrive.

In the open space in front of the house the refugees gathered in an
anxious group, waiting for messengers from the front, and as Hooker
walked among them he was aware of the malignant glances of Aragon.
There were other glances as well, for he had won great favor with the
ladies by ditching the powder-train, but none from Gracia or her mother.

From the beginning the Señora Aragon had treated him as a stranger,
according to the code of her class, and Hooker had never attempted
to intrude. But if Gracia still remembered that she was an American
girl at heart, she forgot to show it to him. To all she was now the
proud Spanish lady, thrown with the common people by the stress of
circumstances, but far away from them in her thoughts.

The conference between the leaders dragged on and messengers came and
went with the news--then, after hours of debate, it broke up suddenly
in a row and the emissaries came back on the run. Even at that they
narrowly escaped, for the rebels opened fire upon them from the ridges,
and before they could get back to cover the dandy, Manuel del Rey,
received a bullet-hole through the crown of his hat.

A grim smile flickered across Bud's face as he saw the damage it had
wrought, for he knew that Amigo was in the hills--and a bullet shot
down-hill goes high! Some trace of what was in his mind must have come
to Del Rey as he halted in the shelter of the house, for he regarded
the American sternly as Aragon spoke rapidly in his ear. But if they
planned vengeance between them the times were not right, for a rattle
of arms came from the lower town and the captain was up and away to
marshal his men to the defense.

So far in the siege Del Rey had kept under cover, patrolling the
streets and plaza and letting the volunteers fight, but now the war
had shifted to his territory and his _rurales_ were running like mad.
For, matching treachery against deceit, the rebel leaders had sent men
around to slip up near the town and at the first fusillade from the
hillside they came charging up the creek.

Then it was that the ever-watchful _rurales_ proved their worth. As
the rebels appeared in the open they ran to the outlying houses and,
fighting from the flat roofs, checked the advance until the miners
could come to their aid.

But in the confusion another party of rebels had rushed down the gulch
from the west, and while the fight was going on in the lower town they
found lodgment in a big adobe house. And now for the first time there
was fighting in earnest--the house-to-house fighting that is seen at
its worst in Mexico. While women screamed in the _casa grande_ and the
Americans paced to and fro on the hill, the boom of a dynamite bomb
marked the beginning of hand-to-hand.

With a fearlessness born of long familiarity with
explosives the Sonoran miners advanced valiantly with their
hand-grenades--baking-powder cans filled with dynamite and studded
with fulminating caps. Digging fiercely through wall after wall they
approached unperceived by the enemy and the first bomb flung from a
roof filled the adobe with wounded and dead.

A dense pall of yellowish smoke rose high above the town and, as
bomb after bomb was exploded and the yells of the miners grew louder
with each success, the stunned invaders broke from cover and rushed
helter-skelter up the gulch. Then there was a prodigious shouting from
the Sonorans and more than one triumphant grenadier swung his can
of giant powder by the sling and let it smash against the hill in a
terrific detonation.

In the big house all was confusion. Soon the cheers of the defenders
heralded victory and, in spite of all efforts to restrain them, the
wives of the miners rushed into the open to gaze upon the triumph of
their menfolk.

On the hilltops the ineffective rebel riflemen rose up from behind
their stone wall to stare, until suddenly they, too, were seized with
a panic and ran to and fro like ants. Then, around the curve below the
concentrator, a tall man came dashing up on a pure white horse, and
behind him, charging as he charged, came the swarthy Yaquis of Alvarez,
their new rifles gleaming in the sun.

Up along the hillside and after the fugitives they ran with vengeful
eagerness, racing one another for the higher ground and the first shot
at the rebels. First Alvarez on his white horse would be ahead and
then, as they encountered rocks, the Yaquis would surge to the front.
It was a race and at the same time it was a rout, for, at the first
glimpse of that oncoming body of warriors, the cowardly followers of
Bernardo Bravo took to their heels and fled.

But over the rocks no Chihuahuan, no matter how scared, can hope to
outdistance a Yaqui, and soon the _pop, pop_ of rifles told the fate
of the first luckless stragglers. For the Yaquis, after a hundred and
sixty years of guerrilla warfare, never waste a shot; and as savage
yells and the crash of a sudden volley drifted down from the rocky
heights the men who had been besieged in Fortuna knew that death was
abroad in the hills.

Fainter and fainter came the shots as the pursuit led on to the north
and, as Hooker strained his eyes to follow a huge form that intuition
told him was Amigo, he was wakened suddenly from his preoccupation
by the touch of some unseen hand. He was in the open with people
all about him--Spanish refugees, Americans, triumphant miners and
their wives--but that touch made him forget the battle above him and
instantly think of Gracia.

He turned and hurried back to the corral where Copper Bottom was kept,
and there he found her waiting, with her roan all saddled, and she
challenged him with her eyes. The sun gleamed from a pistol that she
held in her hand, and again from her golden hair, but he saw only her
eyes, so brave and daring, and the challenge to mount and ride.

Only for a moment did he stand before her gaze, and then he caught up
his saddle and spoke soothingly to his horse. They rode out of the
corral together, closing the gates behind them and passing down a gulch
to the rear. All the town lay silent below them as they turned toward
the western pass.

Soldiers, miners, and refugees, men, women, and children, every soul
in Fortuna was on the hill to see the last of the battle. It had been
a crude affair, but bravely ended, and something in the dramatic
suddenness of this victory had held all eyes to the close. Bud and
Gracia passed out of town unnoticed, and as soon as they had rounded
the point they spurred on till they gained the pass.

"I knew you would come!" said Gracia, smiling radiantly as they paused
at the fork.

"Sure!" answered Hooker with his good-humored smile. "Count me in on
anything--which way does this trail go; do you know?"

"It goes west twelve miles toward Arispe," replied Gracia confidently,
"and then it comes into the main road that leads north to Nogales and
Gadsden."

"What is there up here?" inquired Bud, pointing at a fainter trail that
led off toward the north. "This country is new to me. Don't know, eh?
Well, if we followed that trail we'd run into them rebels, anyway, so
we might as well go to the west. Is your saddle all right? We'll hit it
up then--I'd like to strike a road before dark."

They hurried on, following a well-marked trail that alternately climbed
ridges and descended into arroyos, until finally it dropped down into
a precipitous cañon where a swollen stream rushed and babbled and,
while they still watched expectantly for the road, the evening quickly
passed.

First the slanting rays of the sun struck fire from high yellow crags,
then the fire faded and the sky glowed an opal-blue; then, through dark
blues and purples the heavens turned to black above them and all the
stars came out. Thousands of frogs made the cañon resound with their
throaty songs and strange animals crashed through the brush at their
approach, but still Hooker stayed in the saddle and Gracia followed on
behind.

If she had thought in her dreams of an easier journey she made no
comment now and, outside of stopping to cinch up her saddle, Bud seemed
hardly to know she was there. The trail was not going to suit him--it
edged off too far to the south--and yet, in the tropical darkness, he
could not search out new ways to go.

At each fork he paused to light a match, and whichever way the
mule-tracks went he went also, for pack-mules would take the main
trail. For two hours and more they followed on down the stream and then
Hooker stopped his horse.

"You might as well get down and rest a while," he said quietly. "This
trail is no good--it's taking us south. We'll let our horses feed until
the moon comes up and I'll try to work north by landmarks."

"Oh--are we lost?" gasped Gracia, dropping stiffly to the ground. "But
of course we are," she added. "I've been thinking so for some time."

"Oh, that's all right," observed Hooker philosophically; "I don't mind
being lost as long as I know where I'm at. We'll ride back until we get
out of this dark cañon and then I'll lay a line due north."

They sat for a time in the darkness while their horses champed at the
rich grass and then, unable to keep down her nerves, Gracia declared
for a start. A vision of angry pursuers rose up in her mind--of Manuel
del Rey and his keen-eyed _rurales_, hot upon their trail--and it would
not let her rest.

Nor was the vision entirely the result of nervous imagination, for they
had lost half the advantage of their start, as Hooker well knew, and if
he made one more false move he would find himself called on to fight.
As they rode back through the black cañon he asked himself for the
hundredth time how it had all happened--why, at a single glance from
her, he had gone against his better judgment and plunged himself into
this tangle. And then, finally, what was he going to do about it?

Alone, he would have taken to the mountains with a fine disregard for
trails, turning into whichever served his purpose best and following
the lay of the land. Even with her in his care it would be best to do
that yet, for there would be trailers on their track at sun-up, and it
was either ride or fight.

Free at last from the pent-in cañon, they halted at the forks,
while Bud looked out the land by moonlight. Dim and ghostly, the
square-topped peaks and buttes rose all about him, huge and impassable
except for the winding trails. He turned up a valley between two
ridges, spurring his horse into a fast walk.

From one cow trail to another he picked out a way to the north, but
the lay of the ground threw him to the east and there were no passes
between the hills. The country was rocky, with long parallel ridges
extending to the northeast, and when he saw where the way was taking
him Bud called a halt till dawn.

By the very formation he was being gradually edged back toward Fortuna,
and it would call for fresh horses and a rested Gracia to outstrip
their pursuers by day. If the _rurales_ traveled by landmarks, heading
for the northern passes in an effort to outride and intercept him, they
might easily cut him off at the start; but if they trailed him--and
he devoutly hoped they would--then they would have a tangled skein to
follow and he could lose them in the broken country to the north.

So thinking, he cut grass among the rocks, spread down their
saddle-blankets, and watched over the browsing horses while Gracia
stretched out on the bed. After a day of excitement and a night of hard
riding there is no call for a couch of down, and as the morning star
appeared in the east she slept while Bud sat patiently by.

It was no new task to him, this watching and waiting for the dawn.
For weeks at a time, after a hard day's work at the branding, he had
stood guard half the night. Sleep was a luxury to him, like water to a
mountain-sheep--and so were all the other useless things that town-bred
people required.

People like Gracia, people like Phil--they were different in all their
ways. To ride, to fight, to find the way--there he was a better man
than Phil; but to speak to a woman, to know her ways, and to enter into
her life--there he was no man at all.

He sighed now as he saw the first flush of dawn and turned to where she
slept, calm and beautiful, in the solemn light. How to waken her, even
that was a question, but the time had come to start.

Already, from Fortuna, Del Rey and his man-killing _rurales_ would be
on the trail. He would come like the wind, that dashing little captain,
and nothing but a bullet would stop him, for his honor was at stake.
Nay, he had told Bud in so many words:

"She is mine, and no man shall come between us!"

It would be hard now if the _rurales_ should prove too many for him--if
a bullet should check him in their flight and she be left alone. But
how to wake her! He tramped near as he led up the unwilling mounts;
then, as time pressed, he spoke to her, and at last he knelt at her
side.

"Say!" he called, and when that did not serve he laid his hand on her
shoulder.

"Wake up!" he said, shaking her gently. "Wake up, it's almost day!"

Even as he spoke he went back to the phrase of the cow-camp--where men
rise before it is light. But Gracia woke up wondering and stared about
her strangely, unable to understand.

"Why--what is it?" she cried. Then, as he spoke again and backed away,
she remembered him with a smile.

"Oh," she said, "is it time to get up? Where are we, anyway?"

"About ten miles from Fortuna," answered Hooker soberly. "Too close--we
ought to be over that divide."

He pointed ahead to where the valley narrowed and passed between two
hills, and Gracia sat up, binding back her hair that had fallen from
its place.

"Yes, yes!" she said resolutely. "We must go on--but why do you look at
me so strangely?"

"Don't know," mumbled Bud. "Didn't know I was. Say, let me get them
saddle-blankets, will you?"

He went about his work with embarrassed swiftness, slapping on saddles
and bridles, coiling up ropes, and offering her his hand to mount. When
he looked at her again it was not strangely.

"Hope you can ride," he said. "We got to get over that pass before
anybody else makes it--after that we can take a rest."

"As fast as you please," she answered steadily. "Don't think about me.
But what will happen if--they get there first?"

She was looking at him now as he searched out the trail ahead, but he
pretended not to hear. One man in that pass was as good as a hundred,
and there were only two things he could do--shoot his way through, or
turn back. He believed she would not want to turn back.



XXV


Though the times had turned to war, all nature that morning was at
peace, and they rode through a valley of flowers like knight and lady
in a pageant. The rich grass rose knee-deep along the hillsides, the
desert trees were filigreed with the tenderest green and twined with
morning-glories, and in open glades the poppies and sand-verbenas
spread forth masses of blue and gold.

Already on the mesquit-trees the mocking-birds were singing, and bright
flashes of tropical color showed where cardinal and yellow-throat
passed. The dew was still untouched upon the grass, and yet they
hurried on, for some premonition whispered to them of evil, and they
thought only to gain the far pass.

To the west and north rose the high and impassable mountain which
had barred their way in the night; across the valley the flat-topped
Fortunas threw their bulwark against the dawn; and all behind was
broken hills and gulches, any one of which might give up armed men.
Far ahead, like a knife-gash between the ridges, lay the pass to the
northern plains, and as their trail swung out into the open they put
spurs to their horses and galloped.

Once through that gap, the upper country would lie before them and
they could pick and choose. Now they must depend upon speed and the
chance that their way was not blocked.

Somewhere in those hills to the east Bernardo Bravo and his men were
hidden. Or perhaps they were scattered, turned by their one defeat into
roving bandits or vengeful partizans, laying waste the Sonoran ranches
as they fought their way back to Chihuahua. There were a hundred evil
chances that might befall the fugitives, and while Bud scanned the
country ahead Gracia cast anxious glances behind.

"They are coming!" she cried at last, as a moving spot appeared in the
rear. "Oh, there they are!"

"Good!" breathed Hooker, as he rose in his stirrups and looked.

"Why good?" she demanded curiously.

"The's only three of 'em," answered Bud. "I was afraid they might be in
front," he explained, as she gazed at him with a puzzled smile.

"Yes," she said; "but what will you do if they catch us?"

"They won't catch us," replied Hooker confidently. "Not while I've got
my rifle. Aha!" he exclaimed, still looking back, "now we know all
about it--that sorrel is Manuel del Rey's!"

"And will you kill him?" challenged Gracia, rousing suddenly at
the name. Hooker pretended not to hear. Instead, he cocked his eye
up at the eastern mountain, whence from time to time came muffled
rifle-shots, and turned his horse to go. There was trouble over there
to the east somewhere--Alvarez and his Yaquis, still harrying the
retreating rebels--and some of it might come their way.

"Ah, how I hate that man!" raged Gracia, spurring her horse as she
scowled back at the galloping Del Rey and his men who were riding
onward rapidly.

"All right," observed Bud with a quizzical smile, "I'll have to kill
him for you then!"

She gazed at him a moment with eyes that were big with questioning, but
the expression on his rugged face baffled her.

"I would not forget it," she cried impulsively. "No, after all I have
suffered, I think I could love the man who would meet him face to face!
But why do you--ah!" she cried, with a sudden tragic bitterness. "You
smile! You have no thought for me--you care nothing that I am afraid of
him! Ah, _Dios_, for a man who is brave--to rid me of this devil!"

"Never mind!" returned Bud, his voice thick with rising anger. "If I
kill him it won't be for _you_!"

He jumped Copper Bottom ahead to avoid her, for in that moment she had
touched his pride. Yes, she had done more than that--she had destroyed
a dream he had, a dream of a beautiful woman, always gentle, always
noble, whom he had sworn to protect with his life. Did she think he was
a _pelado_ Mexican, a hot-country lover, to be inflamed by a glance and
a smile? Then Phil could have her!

"Ah, Bud!" she appealed, spurring up beside him, "you did not
understand! I know you are brave--and if he comes"--she struck her
pistol fiercely--"I will kill him myself!"

"Never mind," answered Bud in a kinder voice. "I'll take care of you.
Jest keep your horse in the trail," he added, as she rode on through
the brush, "and I'll take care of Del Rey."

He beckoned her back with a jerk of the head and resumed his place
in the lead. Here was no place to talk about men and motives. The
mountain above was swarming with rebels, there were _rurales_ spurring
behind--yes, even now, far up on the eastern hillside, he could see
armed men--and now one was running to intercept them!

Bud reached for his rifle, jacked up a cartridge, and sat crosswise
in his saddle. He rode warily, watching the distant runner, until
suddenly he pulled in his horse and threw up a welcoming hand. The man
was Amigo--no other could come down a hillside so swiftly--and he was
signaling him to wait.

"Who is that man?" asked Gracia, as she reined in at his side. "Do you
know him?"

"Sure do!" responded Hooker jovially. "He's the best friend I got in
Mexico!

"_Kai_, Amigo!" he hailed, as the Yaqui came quartering down the hill,
and, apparently oblivious of the oncoming pursuers, he rode out of the
trail to meet him. They struck hands and Amigo flashed his familiar
smile, glancing shyly over the horse's back at the daughter of the
Aragons.

"I knew horse," he explained, with a gentle caress for Copper Bottom.
"My people--up there--kill Mexicans! Where you go?"

"North--to the line," answered Bud, pointing up the pass.

"_Muy malo!_" frowned the Yaqui, glancing once more at the woman
behind. "_Muchos revoltosos!_"

"Where?" asked Bud.

"Everywhere!" replied Amigo with a comprehensive wave of the hand.
"But no matter," he added simply. "I will go with you. Who are these
horsemen behind?"

"_Rurales!_" responded Hooker, and the Yaqui's black eyes dilated.

"Yes," nodded Bud as he read the swift question in their glance. "He is
there, too--Del Rey!"

"_Que bueno!_" exclaimed the Indian, fixing his eagle glance upon the
riders. He showed his white teeth in a smile. In an instant he saw his
opportunity, he saw his enemy riding into a trap, and turned his face
to the pass.

"Come!" he said, laying hold of a _látigo_ strap, and as Hooker loped
on up the steady incline he ran along at his stirrup. In his right
hand he still carried the heavy Mauser, but his sandaled feet bore him
forward with tireless strides, and only the heaving of his mighty chest
told the story of the pace.

"Let me take your gun," suggested Hooker, as they set off on their
race, but Amigo in his warrior's pride only shook his head and motioned
him on and on. So at last they gained the rugged summit, where the
granite ribs of the mountain crop up through the sands of the wash and
the valley slopes away to the north. To the south was Del Rey, still
riding after them, but Amigo beckoned Bud beyond the reef and looked
out to the north.

"_Revoltosos!_" he exclaimed, pointing a sun-blackened hand at a
distant ridge. "_Revoltosos!_" he said again, waving his hand to the
east. "Here," waving toward the west, "no!"

"Do you know that country?" inquired Hooker, nodding at the great plain
with its chains of parallel Sierras, but the Indian shook his head.

"No," he said; "but the best way is straight for that pass."

He pointed at a distant wedge cut down between the blue of two ridges,
and scanned the eastern hills intently.

"Men!" he cried, suddenly indicating the sky-line of the topmost ridge.
"I think they are _revoltosos_," he added gravely. "They will soon
cross your trail."

"No difference," answered Bud with a smile. "I am not afraid--not with
you here, Amigo."

"No, but the woman!" suggested Amigo, who read no jest in his words.
"It is better that you should ride on--and leave me here."

He smiled encouragingly, but a wild light was creeping into his eyes
and Hooker knew what he meant. He desired to be left alone, to deal
with Del Rey after the sure manner of the Yaquis. And yet, why not?
Hooker gazed thoughtfully at the oncoming _rurales_ and walked swiftly
back to Gracia.

"This Indian is a friend of mine," he said, "and I can trust him. He
says it will be better for us to ride on--and he will take care of the
_rurales_."

"Take care?" questioned Gracia, turning pale at a peculiar
matter-of-fact tone in his voice.

"Sure," said Hooker; "he says there are _revoltosos_ ahead. It will be
better for you, he says, to ride on."

"_Madre de Dios!_" breathed Gracia, clutching at her saddle; and then
she nodded her head weakly.

"You better get down for a minute," suggested Hooker, helping her
quickly to the ground. "Here, drink some water--you're kinder faint.
I'll be right back--jest want to say good-by."

He strode over to where Amigo had posted himself behind a rock and laid
a hand on his arm.

"_Adios, Amigo!_" he said, but the Yaqui only glanced at him strangely.

"Anything in my camp, you are welcome to it," added Hooker, but Amigo
did not respond. His black eyes, far-seeing as a hawk's, were fixed
intently before him, where Del Rey came galloping in the lead.

"You go now!" he said, speaking with an effort, and Hooker understood.
There was no love, no hate, left in that mighty carcass--he was all
warrior, all Yaqui, and he wanted Del Rey to himself.

"We'll be going," Hooker said to Gracia, returning swiftly, and his
subdued tones made her start. She felt, as one feels at a funeral, the
hovering wings of death, yet she vaulted into her saddle and left her
thoughts unsaid.

They rode on down the valley, spurring yet holding back, and then
with a roar that made them jump the heavy Mauser spoke out--one shot!
And no more. There was a hush, a long wait, and Amigo rose slowly from
behind his rock.

[Illustration: With a roar that made them jump the heavy Mauser spoke
out]

"God!" exclaimed Hooker, as he caught the pose, and his voice sounded a
requiem for Manuel del Rey.

Then, as Gracia crossed herself and fell to sobbing, he leaned forward
in his saddle and they galloped away.



XXVI


Though men may make a jest of it in books, it is a solemn thing to kill
a man, even to be near when one is killed. If Gracia had slain Del Rey
herself in a passion her hot blood might have buoyed her up, but now
her whole nature was convulsed with the horror of it and she wilted
like a flower.

An hour before she had burned with hatred of him, she had wished him
dead and sought the man who would kill him. Now that his life had been
snipped off between two heart-beats she remembered him with pity and
muttered a prayer for his soul. For Hooker, for De Lancey, she had no
thought, but only for the dashing young captain who had followed her to
his death.

Of this Bud had no knowledge. He realized only that she was growing
weaker, and that he must call a halt, and at last, when the walls of
their pass had widened and they rode out into the open plain, he turned
aside from the trail and drew rein by a clump of mesquit.

"Here, let me take you," he said, as she swayed uncertainly in the
saddle. She slid down into his arms and he laid her gently in the shade.

"Poor girl," he muttered, "it's been too much for you. I'll get some
water and pretty soon you can eat."

He unslung the canteen from his saddle-flap, gave her a drink, and left
her to herself, glancing swiftly along the horizon as he tied out their
mounts to graze. But for her faintness he would have pushed on farther,
for he had seen men off to the east; but hunger and excitement had told
upon her even more than the day-and-night ride.

For a woman, and sitting a side-saddle, she had done better than he had
hoped; and yet--well, it was a long way to the border and he doubted
if she could make it. She lay still in the shade of the mesquit, just
as he had placed her, and when he brought the sack of food she did not
raise her head.

"Better eat something," he suggested, spreading out some bread and
dried beef. "Here's some oranges I got from Don Juan--I'll jest put
them over here for you."

Gracia shuddered, sighing wearily. Then, as if his words had hurt her,
she covered her face and wept.

"What did you tell that man?" she asked at last.

"W'y--what man?" inquired Hooker, astonished. "Ain't you going to eat?"

"No!" she cried, gazing out at him through her tears, "not until I know
what you said. Did you tell that Indian to--to kill him?"

She broke down suddenly in a fit of sobbing, and Hooper wiped his brow.

"W'y, no!" he protested. "Sure not! What made you think that?"

"Why--you rode over and spoke to him--and he looked at me--and
then--he--killed him!"

She gave way to a paroxysm of grief at this, and Bud looked around him,
wondering. That she was weak and hungry he knew, but what was this she
was saying?

"I reckon I don't understand what you're driving at," he said at last.
"Wish you'd eat something--you'll feel better."

"No, I won't eat!" she declared, sitting up and frowning. "Mr. Hooker,"
she went on very miserably, "what did you mean this morning when
you--laughed? I said I hated poor Manuel--and you said--well, what you
did--and then you laughed! Did you think--oh, you couldn't have--that I
really wanted him killed?"

"W'y, sure not!" cried Hooker heartily. "I knowed you was fooling!
Didn't I laugh at you? Say, what kind of a feller do you think I am,
anyway? D'ye think I'd get an Indian to do my killing?"

"Oh, then didn't you?" she cried, suddenly brightening up. "You know,
you talk so rough sometimes--and I never do know what you mean! You
said you guessed you'd have to kill him for me, you know, and--oh, it
was too awful! I must be getting foolish, I'm so tired, but--what _did_
you tell that Indian?"

Bud glanced at her sharply for a moment and then decided to humor her.
Perhaps, if he could get her quieted, she would stop talking and begin
to eat.

"He asked me who was after us," he said, "and I told him it was Del
Rey."

"Yes, and what did he say then?"

"He didn't say nothing--jest lined out for the pass."

"And didn't you say you wanted--him--killed?"

"No!" burst out Bud, half angrily. "Haven't I told you once? I did not!
That Indian had reasons of his own, believe me--he's got a scar along
his ribs where Del Rey shot him with a six-shooter! And, furthermore,"
he added, as her face cleared at this explanation of the mystery,
"you'd better try to take me at my word for the rest of this trip!
Looks to me like you've been associating with these Mexicans too much!"

"Why, what do you mean?" she demanded curtly.

"I mean this," answered Hooker, "being as we're on the subject again.
Ever since I've knowed you you've been talking about brave men and
all that; and more'n once you've hinted that I wasn't brave because I
wouldn't fight."

"I'd jest like to tell you, to put your mind at rest, that my father
was a sergeant in the Texas Rangers and no hundred Mexicans was ever
able to make him crawl. He served for ten years on the Texas border and
never turned his back to no man--let alone a Mex. I was brought up by
him to be peaceable and quiet, but don't you never think, because I run
away from Manuel del Rey, that I was afraid to face him."

He paused and regarded her intently, and her eyes fell before his.

"You must excuse me," she said, looking wistfully away, "I did not--I
did not understand. And so the poor Yaqui was only avenging an injury?"
she went on, reaching out one slender hand toward the food. "Ah, I can
understand it now--he looked so savage and fierce. But"--she paused
again, set back by a sudden thought--"didn't you know he would kill
him?"

"Yes, ma'am," answered Hooker quietly, "I did!"

"Then--then why didn't you--"

"That was between them two," he replied doggedly. "Del Rey shot him
once when he was wounded and left him for dead. He must have killed
some of his people, too; his wife mebbe, for all I know. He never would
talk about it, but he come back to get his revenge. I don't shoot no
man from cover myself, but that ain't it--it was between them two."

"And you?" she suggested. "If _you_ had fought Del Rey?"

"I would have met him in the open," said Hooker.

"And yet--"

"I didn't want to," he ended bluntly. "Didn't want to fight him and
didn't want to kill him. Had no call to. And then--well, there was you."

"Ah!" she breathed, and a flush mounted her pale cheeks. She smiled as
she reached out once more for the food and Hooker resolved to do his
best at gallantry, it seemed to make her so happy.

"So you were thinking of me," she challenged sweetly, "all the while? I
thought perhaps I was a nuisance and in the way. I thought perhaps you
did not like me because--well, because I'm a Mex, as you say."

"No, ma'am," denied Hooker, gazing upon her admiringly. "Nothing like
that! When I say Mex I mean these low, _pelado_ Mexicans--Don Juan
tells me you're pure Spanish."

"With perhaps a little Yaqui," she suggested slyly.

"Well, mebbe he did say that, too," confessed Bud. "But it's jest as
good as Spanish--they say all the big men in Sonora have got some
Yaqui blood--Morral, that was vice-president; the Tornes brothers,
governors--"

"And Aragon!" she added playfully, but at a look in his eyes she
stopped. Bud could not look pleasant and think of Aragon.

"Ah, yes," she rattled on. "I know! _You_ like the Yaquis better than
the Spanish--I saw you shaking hands with that Indian. And what was it
you called him--Amigo?"

"That's right," smiled Hooker; "him and me have been friends for months
now out at the mine. I'd do anything for that feller."

"Oh, now you make me jealous," she pouted. "If I were only a Yaqui--and
big and black--"

"Never mind," defended Bud. "He was a true friend, all right, and true
friends, believe _me_, are scarce."

There was a shade of bitterness in his voice that did not escape her,
and she was careful not to allude to Phil. His name, like the name of
her father, always drove this shy man to silence, and she wanted to
make him talk.

"Then you ought to be friends with _me_," she chided, after a silence.
"I have always wanted to be your friend--why will you never allow
it? No, but really! Haven't I always shown it? I remember now the
first time that I saw you--I was looking through my hole among the
passion-flowers and you saw me with your keen eyes. Phil did not--but
he was there. And you just looked at me once--and looked away. Why did
you never respond when I came there to look for you? You would just
ride by and look at me once, and even Phil never knew."

"No," agreed Bud, smiling quietly. "He was crazy to see you, but he
rode right by, looking at the windows and such."

"The first time I met him," mused Gracia, "I asked about you. Did he
ever tell you?"

Bud hung his head and grinned sheepishly. It was not difficult to make
out a case against him.

"Is it something I have done?" she asked at last. "Is that why you
never liked me? Now, Mr. Hooker, please speak to me! And why do you
always sit so far away--are you afraid of me? But look"--she moved
closer to him--"here we are alone, and I am not afraid of you!"

"Of course not," answered Bud, looking across at her boldly. "Why
should you be--you ain't afraid of nothing!"

"Is that a compliment?" she demanded eagerly. "Oh, then I'm so
happy--it's the first you ever paid me! But _have_ I been brave," she
beamed, "so far? Have I been brave, like a man?"

"Sure have!" remarked Hooker impersonally, "but we ain't there yet.
Only thing I don't like about you is you don't eat enough. Say, don't
pick up them crumbs--let me pare off some more of this jerked beef for
you. Can't nobody be brave when they're hungry, you know, and I want to
bring you in safe."

"Why?" she inquired, as she accepted the handful of meat. "Is it on
Phil's account?" she ventured, as he sat gazing stoically at the
horses. "You were such friends, weren't you?" she went on innocently.
"Oh, that is why I admire the Americans so much--they are so true to
each other!"

"Yes," observed Hooker, rolling his eyes on her, "we're fine that way!"

"Well, I mean it!" she insisted, as she read the irony in his glance.

"Sure! So do I!" answered Hooker, and Gracia continued her meal in
silence.

"My!" she said at last; "this meat is good! Tell me, how did you happen
to have it on your saddle? We left so suddenly, you know!"

She gazed up at him demurely, curious to see how he would evade this
evidence that he had prepared in advance for their ride. But once more,
as he had always done, Hooker eluded the cunningly laid snare.

"I was figuring on pulling out myself," he replied ingenuously.

"What? And not take me?" she cried. "Oh, I thought--but dear me, what
is the use?"

She sighed and drooped her head wearily.

"I am so tired!" she murmured despondently. "Shall we be going on soon?"

"Not unless somebody jumps us," returned Bud. "Here, let me make you
a bed in the shade. There now"--as he spread out the saddle-blankets
temptingly--"you lay down and get some sleep and I'll kinder keep a
watch."

"Ah, you are so kind!" she breathed, as she sank down on the bed.
"Don't you know," she added, looking up at him with sleepy eyes that
half concealed a smile, "I believe you like me, after all."

"Sure," confessed Bud, returning her smile as honestly; "don't you
worry none about me--I like you fine."

He slipped away at this, grinning to himself, and sat down to watch the
plain. All about him lay the waving grass land, tracked up by the hoofs
of cattle that had vanished in the track of war. In the distance he
could see the line of a fence and the ruins of a house. The trail which
he had followed led on and on to the north. But all the landscape was
vacant, except for his grazing horses. Above the mountains the midday
thunder-caps were beginning to form; the air was very soft and warm,
and--He woke up suddenly to find his head on his knees.

"Ump-um-m," he muttered, rising up and shaking himself resolutely,
"this won't do--that sun is making me sleepy."

He paced back and forth, smoking fiercely at brown-paper cigarettes,
and still the sleep came back. The thunder-clouds over the mountains
rose higher and turned to black; they let down skirts and fringes and
sudden stabs of lightning, while the wind sucked in from the south. And
then, with a slash of rain, the shower was upon them.

At the first big drops Gracia stirred uneasily in her sleep. She
started up as the storm burst over them; then, as Bud picked up the
saddle-blankets and spread them over her, she drew him down beside her
and they sat out the storm together. But it was more to them than a
sharing of cover, a patient enduring of the elements, and the sweep of
wind and rain. When they rose up there was a bond between them and they
thrust and parried no more.

They were friends, there in the rush of falling water and the crash of
lightning overhead. When the storm was over and the sun came out they
smiled at each other contentedly without fear of what such smiles may
mean.



XXVII


As the sun, after a passing storm, comes forth all the more gloriously,
so the joy of their new-found friendship changed the world for Bud and
Gracia. The rainbow that glowed against the retreating clouds held
forth more than a promise of sunshine for them, and they conversed only
of pleasant things as they rode on up the trail.

Twenty miles ahead lay the northern pass, and from there it was ten
more to Gadsden, but they spoke neither of the pass nor of Gadsden
nor of who would be awaiting them there. Their talk was like that of
children, inconsequential and happy. They told of the times when they
had seen each other, and what they had thought; of the days of their
childhood, before they had met at Fortuna; of hopes and fears and
thwarted ambitions and all the young dreams of life.

Bud told of his battle-scarred father and their ranch in Arizona; of
his mother and horse-breaking brothers, and his wanderings through the
West; Gracia of her mother, with nothing of her father, and how she had
flirted in order to be sent to school where she could gaze upon the
upstanding Americans. Only Bud thought of the trail and scanned the
horizon for rebels, but he seemed more to seek her eyes than to watch
for enemies and death.

They rode on until the sun sank low and strange tracks struck their
trail from the east. Bud observed that the horses were shod, and more
tracks of mounted men came in beyond. He turned sharply toward the west
and followed a rocky ledge to the hills, without leaving a hoof-print
to mark the way of their retreat.

By the signs the land ahead was full of bandits and _ladrones_, men to
whom human life was nothing and a woman no more sacred than a brute. At
the pass all trails converged, from the north and from the south. Not
by any chance could a man pass over it in the daytime without meeting
some one on the way, and if the base _revoltosos_ once set eyes upon
Gracia it would take more than a nod to restrain them.

So, in a sheltered ravine, they sought cover until it was dark, and
while Gracia slept, the heavy-headed Bud watched the plain from the
heights above.

When she awoke and found him nodding Gracia insisted upon taking his
place. Now that she had been refreshed her dark eyes were bright and
sparkling, but Bud could hardly see. The long watching by night and by
day had left his eyes bloodshot and swollen, with lids that drooped
in spite of him. If he did not sleep now he might doze in the saddle
later, or ride blindly into some rebel camp; so he made her promise to
call him and lay down to rest until dark.

The stars were all out when he awoke, startled by her hand on his hair,
but she reassured him with a word and led him up the hill to their
lookout. It was then that he understood her silence. In the brief hours
during which he had slept the deserted country seemed suddenly to have
come to life.

By daylight there had been nothing--nothing but dim figures in the
distance and the tracks of horses and mules--to suggest the presence of
men. But now as the velvet night settled down upon the land it brought
out the glimmering specks of a hundred camp-fires to the east and to
the north. But the fires to which Gracia pointed were set fairly in
their trail, and they barred the way to Gadsden.

"Look!" she said. "I did not want to wake you, but the fires have
sprung up everywhere. These last ones are right in the pass."

"When did you see them?" asked Hooker, his head still heavy with sleep.
"Have they been there long?"

"No; only a few minutes," she answered. "At sundown I saw those over to
the east--they are along the base of that big black mountain--but these
flashed up just now; and see, there are more, and more!

"Some outfit coming in from the north," said Bud. "They've crossed over
the pass and camped at the first water this side."

"Who do you think they are?" asked Gracia in an awed voice.
"_Insurrectos?_"

"Like as not," muttered Bud, gazing from encampment to encampment. "But
whoever they are," he added, "they're no friends of ours. We've got to
go around them."

"And if we can't?" suggested Gracia.

"I reckon we'll have to go through, then," answered Hooker grimly. "We
don't want to get caught here in the morning."

"Ride right through their camp?" gasped Gracia.

"Let the sentries get to sleep," he went on, half to himself. "Then,
just before the moon comes up, we'll try to edge around them, and if it
comes to a show-down, we'll ride for it! Are you game?"

He turned to read the answer, and she drew herself up proudly.

"Try me!" she challenged, drawing nearer to him in the darkness. And so
they stood, side by side, while their hands clasped in promise. Then,
as the night grew darker and no new fires appeared, Hooker saddled up
the well-fed horses and they picked their way down to the trail.

The first fires were far ahead, but they proceeded at a walk, their
horses' feet falling silently upon the sodden ground. Not a word was
spoken and they halted often to listen, for others, too, might be
abroad. The distant fires were dying now, except a few, where men rose
up to feed them.

The braying of burros came in from the flats to the right and as the
fugitives drew near the first encampment they could hear the voices
of the night guards as they rode about the horse herd. Then, as they
waited impatiently, the watch-fires died down, the guards no longer
sang their high falsetto, and even the burros were still.

It was approaching the hour of midnight, and as their horses twitched
restively at the bits they gave them the rein and rode ahead at a
venture.

At their left the last embers of the fires revealed the sleeping forms
of men; to their right, somewhere in the darkness, were the night herd
and the herders. They lay low on their horses' necks, not to cast a
silhouette against the sky, and let Copper Bottom pick the trail.

With ears that pricked and swiveled, and delicate nostrils snuffing
the Mexican taint, he plodded along through the greasewood, divining
by some instinct his master's need of care. The camp was almost behind
them, and Bud had straightened up in the saddle, when suddenly the
watchful Copper Bottom jumped and a man rose up from the ground.

"Who goes there?" he mumbled, swaying sleepily above his gun, and
Hooker reined his horse away before he gave him an answer.

"None of your business," he growled impatiently. "I am going to the
pass." And as the sentry stared stupidly after him he rode on through
the bushes, neither hurrying nor halting until he gained the trail.

"Good luck!" he observed to Gracia, when the camp was far behind. "He
took me for an officer and never saw you at all."

"No, I flattened myself on my pony," answered Gracia with a laugh. "He
thought you were leading a packhorse."

"Good," chuckled Hooker; "you did fine! Now don't say another
word--because they'll notice a woman's voice--and if we don't run into
some more of them we'll soon be climbing the pass."

The waning moon came out as they left the wide valley behind them, and
then it disappeared again as they rode into the gloomy shadows of the
cañon. For an hour or two they plodded slowly upward, passing through
narrow defiles and into moonlit spaces, and still they did not mount
the summit.

In the east the dawn began to break and they spurred on in almost a
panic. The Mexican _paisanos_ count themselves late if they do not take
the trail at sun-up--what if they should meet some straggling party
before they reached the pass?

Bud jumped Copper Bottom up a series of cat steps; Gracia's roan came
scrambling behind; and then, just as the boxed walls ended and they
gained a level spot, they suddenly found themselves in the midst of a
camp of Mexicans--men, saddles, packs, and rifles, all scattered at
their feet.

"_Buenos días!_" saluted Bud, as the blinking men rose up from their
blankets. "Excuse me, _amigos_, I am in a hurry!"

"_A donde va? A donde va?_" challenged a bearded man as he sprang up
from his brush shelter.

"To the pass, _señor_," answered Hooker, still politely, but motioning
for Gracia to ride on ahead. "_Adios!_"

"Who is that man?" bellowed the bearded leader, turning furiously upon
his followers. "Where is my sentinel? Stop him!"

But it was too late to stop him. Bud laid his quirt across the rump of
the roan and spurred forward in a dash for cover. They whisked around
the point of a hill as the first scattered shots rang out; and as a
frightened sentinel jumped up in their path Bud rode him down. The man
dropped his gun to escape the fury of the charge and in a mad clatter
they flung themselves at a rock-slide and scrambled to the bench above.
The path was rocky, but they pressed forward at a gallop until, as the
sun came up, they beheld the summit of the pass.

"We win!" cried Bud, as he spurred up the last incline.

As he looked over the top he exploded in an oath and jerked Copper
Bottom back on his haunches. The leader of a long line of horsemen was
just coming up the other side, not fifty feet below him. Bud looked to
each side--there was no escape--and then back at the frightened girl.

"Keep behind me," he commanded, "and don't shoot. I'm going to hold 'em
up!"

He jumped his horse out to one side and landed squarely on the rim of
the ridge. Gracia drew her horse in behind him and reached for the
pistol in her holster; then both together they drew their guns and Bud
threw down on the first man.

"Go on!" he ordered, motioning him forward with his head.
"_Pr-r-ronto!_" He jerked out his rifle with his left hand and laid it
across his lap.

"Hurry up now!" he raged, as the startled Mexican halted. "Go on and
keep a-going, and the first man that makes a break I'll shoot him full
of holes!"

He sat like a statue on his shining horse, his six-shooter balanced to
shoot, and something in his very presence--the bulk of his body, the
forward thrust of his head, and the burning hate of his eyes--quelled
the spirits of the rebels. They were a rag-tag army, mounted on horses
and donkeys and mules and with arms of every known make.

The fiery glances of the American made them cringe as they had always
cringed before their masters, and his curses turned their blood to
water. He towered above them like a giant, pouring forth a torrent of
oaths and beckoning them on their way, and the leader was the first to
yield.

With hands half-raised and jaw on his breast he struck spurs to his
frightened mule and went dashing over the ridge.

The others followed by twos and threes, some shrinking, some
protesting, some gazing forth villainously from beneath their broad
hats. As they looked back he whirled upon them and swore he would kill
the first man that dared to turn his head.

After all, they were a generation of slaves, those low-browed,
unthinking peons, and war had not made them brave. They passed on, the
whole long line of bewildered soldiery, looking in vain for the men
that were behind the American, staring blankly at the beautiful woman
who sat so courageously by his side.

When the last had gone by Bud picked up his rifle and watched him
around the point. Then he smiled grimly at Gracia, whose eyes were
still round with wonder, and led the way down the trail.



XXVIII


The high pass and the _insurrectos_ were behind them now and the
rolling plains of Agua Negra were at their feet. To the northeast the
smoke banners of the Gadsden smelters lay like ribbons across the sky,
and the line was not far away.

Yet, as they came down from the mountains, Bud and Gracia fell silent
and slackened their slashing pace. The time for parting was near, and
partings are always sad.

Bud looked far out across the valley to where a train puffed in from
the south, and the sight of it made him uneasy. He watched still as it
lay at the station and, after a prolonged stare in the direction of
Agua Negra, he reined sharply to the north.

"What is it?" asked Gracia, coming out of her reverie.

"Oh, nothing," answered Bud, slumping down in his saddle. "I see the
railroad is open again--the' might be somebody up there looking for us."

"You mean--"

"Well, say a bunch of _rurales_."

He turned still farther to the north as he spoke and spurred his jaded
horse on. Gracia kept her roan beside him, but he took no notice,
except as he scanned the line with his bloodshot eyes. He was a
hard-looking man now, with a rough stubble of beard on his face and a
sullen set to his jaw. As two horsemen rode out from distant Agua Negra
he turned and glanced at Gracia.

"Seems like we been on the run ever since we left Fortuna," he said
with a rueful smile. "Are you good for just one more?"

"What is it now?" she inquired, pulling herself together with an
effort. "Are those two men coming out to meet us? Do you think they'd
stop us?"

"That's about our luck," returned Hooker. "But when we dip out of sight
in this swale here we'll turn north and hit for the line."

"All right," she agreed. "My horse is tired, but I'll do whatever you
say, Bud."

She tried to catch his eyes at this, but he seemed lost in
contemplation of the horsemen.

"Them's _rurales_," he said at last, "and heading straight for us--but
we've come too far to get caught now. Come on!" he added bruskly, and
went galloping up the swale.

For two miles they rode up the wash, their heads below the level of the
plain, but as Bud emerged at the mouth of the gulch and looked warily
over the cut bank he suddenly reached for his rifle and measured the
distance to the line.

"They was too foxy for me," he muttered, as Gracia looked over at the
approaching _rurales_. "But I can stand 'em off," he added, "so you go
ahead."

"No!" she cried, coming out in open rebellion.

"Well, I won't leave you--that's all!" she declared, as he turned to
command her. "Oh, come along, Bud!" She laid an impulsive hand on his
arm and he thrust his gun back into the sling with a thud.

"All right!" he said. "Can't stop to talk about it. Go ahead--and flay
the hide off of that roan!"

They were less than a mile from the line, but the _rurales_ had
foreseen their ruse in dropping into the gulch and had turned at the
same time to intercept them. They were pushing their fresh horses to
the utmost now across the open prairie, and as the roan lagged and
faltered in his stride Bud could see that the race was lost.

"Head for that monument!" he called to Gracia, pointing toward one of
the international markers as he faced their pursuers. "You'll make
it--they won't shoot a woman!"

He reached for his gun as he spoke.

"No, no!" she cried. "Don't you stop! If you do I will! Come on!"
she entreated, checking her horse to wait for him. "You ride behind
me--they won't dare shoot at us then!"

Bud laughed shortly and wheeled in behind her, returning his gun to its
sling.

"All right," he said, "we'll ride it out together then!"

He laid the quirt to the roan. In the whirl of racing bushes a white
monument flashed up suddenly before them. The _rurales_ were within
pistol-shot and whipping like mad to head them. Another figure came
flying along the line, a horseman, waving his hands and motioning.
Then, riding side by side, they broke across the boundary with the
baffled _rurales_ yelling savagely at their heels.

"Keep a-going!" prompted Hooker, as Gracia leaned back to check her
horse. "Down into the gulch there--them _rurales_ are liable to shoot
yet!"

The final dash brought them to cover, but as Bud leaped down and took
Gracia in his arms the roan spread his feet, trembled, and dropped
heavily to the ground.

"He'll be all right," soothed Bud, as Gracia still clung to his arm.
Then, as he saw her gaze fixed beyond him, he turned and beheld Philip
De Lancey.

It was the same Phil, the same man Bud had called pardner, and yet when
Hooker saw him there he stiffened and his face grew hard.

"Well?" he said, slowly detaching Gracia's fingers and putting her hand
away.

As Phil ran forward to greet them he stepped sullenly off to one side.
What they said he did not know, for his mind was suddenly a blank; but
when Phil rushed over and wrung his hand he came back to earth with a
start.

"Bud!" cried De Lancey ecstatically, "how can I ever thank you enough?
You brought her back to me, didn't you, old man? Thank God, you're
safe--I've been watching for you with glasses ever since I heard you
had started! I knew you would do it, pardner; you're the best friend
a man ever had! But--say, come over here a minute--I want to speak to
you."

He led Hooker off to one side, while Gracia watched them with jealous
eyes, and lowered his voice as he spoke.

"It was awful good of you, Bud," he whispered, "but I'm afraid you've
got in bad! The whole town is crazy about it. Old Aragon came up on the
first train, and now they've wired that you killed Del Rey. By Jove,
Bud! wasn't that pulling it a little strong? Captain of the _rurales_,
you know--the whole Mexican government is behind him--and Aragon wants
you for kidnapping!"

"What's that?" demanded Gracia, as she heard her own name spoken.

Bud looked at Phil, who for once was at a loss for words, and then he
answered slowly.

"Your father is down at the station," he said, "looking for--you!"

"Well, he can't have me!" cried Gracia defiantly. "I'm across the line
now! I'm free! I can do what I please!"

"But there's the immigration office," interposed Phil pacifically. "You
will have to go there--and your father has claimed you were kidnapped."

"Ha! Kidnapped!" laughed Gracia, who had suddenly recovered her
spirits. "And by whom?"

"Well--by Bud here," answered De Lancey hesitatingly.

Gracia turned as he spoke and surveyed Hooker with a mocking smile.
Then she laughed again.

"Never mind," she said, "I'll fix that. I'll tell them that I kidnapped
_him_!"

"No, but seriously!" protested De Lancey, as Bud chuckled hoarsely.
"You can't cross the line without being passed by the inspectors,
and--well, your father is there to get you back."

"But I will not go!" flung back Gracia.

"Oh, my dear girl!" cried De Lancey, frowning in his perplexity, "you
don't understand, and you make it awful hard for me. You know they're
very strict now--so many low women coming across the line, for--well,
the fact is, unless you are married you can't come in at all!"

"But I'm _in_!" protested Gracia, flushing hotly. "I'm--"

"They'll deport you," said De Lancey, stepping forward to give her
support.

"I know it's hard, dear," he went on, as Bud moved hastily away, "but
I've got it all arranged. Why should we wait? You came to marry me,
didn't you? Well, you must do it now--right away! I've got the license
and the priest all waiting--come on before the _rurales_ get back to
town and report that you've crossed the line. We can ride around to the
north and come in at the other side of town. Then we--"

"Oh, no, no!" cried Gracia, pushing him impulsively aside. "I am not
ready now. And--"

She paused and glanced at Bud.

"Mr. Hooker," she began, walking gently toward him, "what will you do
now?"

"I don't know," answered Hooker huskily.

"Will you come with us--will you--"

"No," said Bud, shaking his head slowly.

"Then I must say good-by?"

She waited, but he did not answer.

"You have been so good to me," she went on, "so brave, and--have I been
brave, too?" she broke in pleadingly.

Hooker nodded his head, but he did not meet her eyes.

"Ah, yes," she sighed. "You have heard what Phil has said. I wish now
that my mother were here, but--would you mind? Before I go I want
to--give you a kiss!"

She reached out her hands impulsively and Hooker started back. His
eyes, which had been downcast, blazed suddenly as he gazed at her, and
then they flitted to Phil.

"No," he said, and his voice was lifeless and choked.

"You will not?" she asked, after a pause.

"No!" he said again, and she shrank away before his glance.

"Then good-by," she murmured, turning away like one in a dream, and Bud
heard the crunch of her steps as she went toward the horses with Phil.
Then, as the tears welled to his eyes, he heard a resounding slap and a
rush of approaching feet.

"No!" came the voice of Gracia, vibrant with indignation. "I say _no_!"
The spat of her hand rang out again and then, with a piteous sobbing,
she came running back to Bud, halting with the stiffness of her long
ride.

"I hate you!" she screamed, as Phil came after her. "Oh, I hate you!
No, you shall _never_ have the kiss! What! if Bud here has refused it,
will I give a kiss to _you_? Ah, you poor, miserable creature!" she
cried, wheeling upon him in a sudden fit of passion. "Where were _you_
when I was in danger? Where were _you_ when there was no one to save
me? And did you think, then, to steal a kiss, when my heart was sore
for Bud? Ah, coward! You are no fit pardner! No, I will never marry
you--never! Well, go then! And hurry! Oh, how I hate you--to try to
steal me from Bud!"

She turned and threw her arms about Hooker's neck and drew his rough
face down to hers.

"You do love me, don't you, Bud?" she sobbed. "Oh, you are so good--so
brave! And now will you take the kiss?"

"Try me!" said Bud.



Underwood Typewriter

_Points of Merit:_


Award Grand Prize, Highest Honor Panama-Pacific International
Exposition

Holder International Speed and Accuracy Typewriter Trophy for
Ten Years

Elliott-Cresson Medal for Mechanical Supremacy

Endorsed by World's Champions and all Great Typists


"The Machine You Will Eventually Buy"



STORIES OF WESTERN LIFE

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


_RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE_, By Zane Grey.

Illustrated by Douglas Duer.

In this picturesque romance of Utah of some forty years ago, we are
permitted to see the unscrupulous methods employed by the invisible
hand of the Mormon Church to break the will of those refusing to
conform to its rule.


_FRIAR TUCK_, By Robert Alexander Wason.

Illustrated by Stanley L. Wood.

Happy Hawkins tells us, in his humorous way, how Friar Tuck lived among
the Cowboys, how he adjusted their quarrels and love affairs and how he
fought with them and for them when occasion required.


_THE SKY PILOT_, By Ralph Connor.

Illustrated by Louis Rhead.

There is no novel, dealing with the rough existence of cowboys, so
charming in the telling, abounding as it does with the freshest and the
truest pathos.


_THE EMIGRANT TRAIL_, By Geraldine Bonner.

Colored frontispiece by John Rae.

The book relates the adventures of a party on its overland pilgrimage,
and the birth and growth of the absorbing love of two strong men for a
charming heroine.


_THE BOSS OF WIND RIVER_, By A.M. Chisholm.

Illustrated by Frank Tenney Johnson.

This is a strong, virile novel with the lumber industry for its central
theme and a love story full of interest as a sort of subplot.


_A PRAIRIE COURTSHIP_, By Harold Bindloss.

A story of Canadian prairies in which the hero is stirred, through
the influence of his love for a woman, to settle down to the heroic
business of pioneer farming.


_JOYCE OF THE NORTH WOODS_, By Harriet T. Comstock.

Illustrated by John Cassel.

A story of the deep woods that shows the power of love at work among
its primitive dwellers. It is a tensely moving study of the human heart
and its aspirations that unfolds itself through thrilling situations
and dramatic developments.

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

GROSSET & DUNLAP, 526 WEST 26th ST., NEW YORK





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Desert Trail" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home