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Black Jack by Max Brand

Part 3 out of 5

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moments forms began to drift away down the street, and finally there was
silence. Evidently the widow had not secured backing as strong as she
could have desired. And Terry went to bed and to sleep.

He wakened with the first touch of dawn along the wall beside his bed and
tumbled out to dress. It was early, even for a mountain town. The
rattling at the kitchen stove commenced while he was on the way
downstairs. And he had to waste time with a visit to El Sangre in the
stable before his breakfast was ready.

Craterville was in the hollow behind him when the sun rose, and El Sangre
was taking up the miles with the tireless rhythm of his pace. He had
intended searching for work of some sort near Craterville, but now he
realized that it could not be. He must go farther. He must go where his
name was not known.

For two days he held on through the broken country, climbing more than he
dropped. Twice he came above the ragged timber line, with its wind-shaped
army of stunted trees, and over the tiny flowers of the summit lands. At
the end of the second day he came out on the edge of a precipitous
descent to a prosperous grazing country below. There would be his goal.

A big mountain sheep rounded a corner with a little flock behind him.
Terry dropped the leader with a snapshot and watched the flock scamper
down what was almost the sheer face of a cliff--a beautiful bit of
acrobatics. They found foothold on ridges a couple of inches deep, hardly
visible to the eye from above. Plunging down a straight drop without a
sign of a ledge for fifty feet below them, they broke the force of the
fall and slowed themselves constantly by striking their hoofs from side
to side against the face of the cliff. And so they landed, with bunched
feet, on the first broad terrace below and again bounced over the ledge
and so out of sight.

He dined on wild mutton that evening. In the morning he hunted along the
edge of the cliffs until he came to a difficult route down to the valley.
An ordinary horse would never have made it, but El Sangre was in his
glory. If he had not the agility of the mountain sheep, he was well-nigh
as level-headed in the face of tremendous heights. He knew how to pitch
ten feet down to a terrace and strike on his bunched hoofs so that the
force of the fall would not break his legs or unseat his rider. Again he
understood how to drive in the toes of his hoofs and go up safely through
loose gravel where most horses, even mustangs, would have skidded to the
bottom of the slope. And he was wise in trails. Twice he rejected the
courses which Terry picked, and the rider very wisely let him have his
way. The result was that they took a more winding, but a far safer
course, and arrived before midmorning in the bottomlands.

The first ranch house he applied to accepted him. And there he took up
his work.

It was the ordinary outfit--the sun- and wind-racked shack for a house,
the stumbling outlying barns and sheds, and the maze of corral fences.
They asked Terry no questions, accepted his first name without an
addition, and let him go his way.

He was happy enough. He had not the leisure for thought or for
remembering better times. If he had leisure here and there, he used it
industriously in teaching El Sangre the "cow" business. The stallion
learned swiftly. He began to take a joy in sitting down on a rope.

At the end of a week Terry won a bet when a team of draught horses
hitched onto his line could not pull El Sangre over his mark, and broke
the rope instead. There was much work, too, in teaching him to turn in
the cow-pony fashion, dropping his head almost to the ground and bunching
his feet altogether. For nothing of its size that lives is so deft in
dodging as the cow-pony. That part of El Sangre's education was not
completed, however, for only the actual work of a round-up could give him
the faultless surety of a good cow-pony. And, indeed, the ranchman
declared him useless for real roundup work.

"A no-good, high-headed fool," he termed El Sangre, having sprained his
bank account with an attempt to buy the stallion from Terry the day

At the end of a fortnight the first stranger passed, and ill-luck made it
a man from Craterville. He knew Terry at a glance, and the next morning
the rancher called Terry aside.

The work of that season, he declared, was going to be lighter than he had
expected. Much as he regretted it, he would have to let his new hand go.
Terry taxed him at once to get at the truth.

"You've found out my name. That's why you're turning me off. Is that the
straight of it?"

The sudden pallor of the other was a confession.

"What's names to me?" he declared. "Nothing, partner. I take a man the
way I find him. And I've found you all right. The reason I got to let you
go is what I said."

But Terry grinned mirthlessly.

"You know I'm the son of Black Jack Hollis," he insisted. "You think that
if you keep me you'll wake up some morning to find your son's throat cut
and your cattle gone. Am I right?"

"Listen to me," the rancher said uncertainly. "I know how you feel about
losing a job so suddenly when you figured it for a whole season. Suppose
I give you a whole month's pay and--"

"Damn your money!" said Terry savagely. "I don't deny that Black Jack was
my father. I'm proud of it. But listen to me, my friend. I'm living
straight. I'm working hard. I don't object to losing this job. It's the
attitude behind it that I object to. You'll not only send me away, but
you'll spread the news around--Black Jack's son is here! Am I a plague
because of that name?"

"Mr. Hollis," insisted the rancher in a trembling voice, "I don't mean to
get you all excited. Far as your name goes, I'll keep your secret. I give
you my word on it. Trust me, I'll do what's right by you."

He was in a panic. His glance wavered from Terry's eyes to the revolver
at his side.

"Do you think so?" said Terry. "Here's one thing that you may not have
thought of. If you and the rest like you refuse to give me honest work,
there's only one thing left for me--and that's dishonest work. You turn
me off because I'm the son of Black Jack; and that's the very thing that
will make me the son of Black Jack in more than name. Did you ever stop
to realize that?"

"Mr. Hollis," quavered the rancher, "I guess you're right. If you want to
stay on here, stay and welcome, I'm sure."

And his eye hunted for help past the shoulder of Terry and toward the
shed, where his eldest son was whistling. Terry turned away in mute
disgust. By the time he came out of the bunkhouse with his blanket roll,
there was neither father nor son in sight. The door of the shack was
closed, and through the window he caught a glimpse of a rifle. Ten
minutes later El Sangre was stepping away across the range at a pace that
no mount in the cattle country could follow for ten miles.


There was an astonishing deal of life in the town, however. A large
company had reopened some old diggings across the range to the north of
Calkins, and some small fragments of business drifted the way of the
little cattle town. Terry found a long line of a dozen horses waiting to
be shod before the blacksmith shop. One great wagon was lumbering out at
the farther end of the street, with the shrill yells of the teamster
calling back as he picked up his horses one by one with his voice.
Another freight-wagon stood at one side, blocking half the street. And a
stir of busy life was everywhere in the town. The hotel and store
combined was flooded with sound, and the gambling hall across the street
was alive even at midday.

It was noon, and Terry found that the dining room was packed to the last
chair. The sweating waiter improvised a table for him in the corner of
the hall and kept him waiting twenty minutes before he was served with
ham and eggs. He had barely worked his fork into the ham when a familiar
voice hailed him.

"Got room for another at that table?"

He looked up into the grinning face of Denver. For some reason it was a
shock to Terry. Of course, the second meeting was entirely coincidental,
but a still small voice kept whispering to him that there was fate in it.
He was so surprised that he could only nod. Denver at once appropriated a
chair and seated himself in his usual noiseless way.

When he rearranged the silver which the waiter placed before him, there
was not the faintest click of the metal. And Terry noted, too, a certain
nice justness in every one of Denver's motions. He was never fiddling
about with his hands; when they stirred, it was to do something, and when
the thing was done, the hands became motionless again.

His eyes did not rove; they remained fixed for appreciable periods
wherever they fell, as though Denver were finding something worth
remembering in the wall, or in a spot on the table. When his glance
touched on a face, it hung there in the same manner. After a moment one
would forget all the rest of his face, brutal, muscular, shapeless, and
see only the keen eyes.

Terry found it difficult to face the man. There was need to be excited
about something, to talk with passion, in order to hold one's own in the
presence of Denver, even when the chunky man was silent. He was not
silent now; he seemed in a highly cheerful, amiable mood.

"Here's luck," he said. "I didn't know this God-forsaken country could
raise as much luck as this!"

"Luck?" echoed Terry.

"Why not? D'you think I been trailing you?"

He chuckled in his noiseless way. It gave Terry a feeling of expectation.
He kept waiting for the sound to come into that laughter, but it never
did. Suddenly he was frank, because it seemed utterly futile to attempt
to mask one's real thoughts from this fellow.

"I don't know," he said, "that it would surprise me if you _had_ been
tailing me. I imagine you're apt to do queer things, Denver."

Denver hissed, very softly and with such a cutting whistle to his breath
that Terry's lips remained open over his last word.

"Forget that name!" Denver said in a half-articulate tone of voice.

He froze in his place, staring straight before him; but Terry gathered an
impression of the most intense watchfulness--as though, while he stared
straight before him, he had sent other and mysterious senses exploring
for him. He seemed suddenly satisfied that all was well, and as he
relaxed, Terry became aware of a faint gleam of perspiration on the brow
of his companion.

"Why the devil did you tell me the name if you didn't want me to use it?"
he asked.

"I thought you'd have some savvy; I thought you'd have some of your dad's
horse sense," said Denver.

"No offense," answered Terry, with the utmost good nature.

"Call me Shorty if you want," said Denver. In the meantime he was
regarding Terry more and more closely.

"Your old man would of made a fight out of it if I'd said as much to him
as I've done to you," he remarked at length.

"Really?" murmured Terry.

And the portrait of his father swept back on him--the lean, imperious,
handsome face, the boldness of the eyes. Surely a man all fire and
powder, ready to explode. He probed his own nature. He had never been
particularly quick of temper--until lately. But he began to wonder if his
equable disposition might not rise from the fact that his life in Bear
Valley had been so sheltered. He had been crossed rarely. In the outer
world it was different. That very morning he had been tempted wickedly to
take the tall rancher by the throat and grind his face into the sand.

"But maybe you're different," went on Denver. "Your old man used to flare
up and be over it in a minute. Maybe you remember things and pack a
grudge with you."

"Perhaps," said Terry, grown strangely meek. "I hardly know."

Indeed, he thought, how little he really knew of himself. Suddenly he
said: "So you simply happened over this way, Shorty?"

"Sure. Why not? I got a right to trail around where I want. Besides, what
would there be in it for me--following you?"

"I don't know," said Terry gravely. "But I expect to find out sooner or
later. What else are you up to over here?"

"I have a little job in mind at the mine," said Denver. "Something that
may give the sheriff a bit of trouble." He grinned.

"Isn't it a little--unprofessional," said Terry dryly, "for you to tell
me these things?"

"Sure it is, bo--sure it is! Worst in the world. But I can always tell a
gent that can keep his mouth shut. By the way, how many jobs you been
fired from already?"

Terry started. "How do you know that?"

"I just guess at things."

"I started working for an infernal idiot," sighed Terry. "When he learned
my name, he seemed to be afraid I'd start shooting up his place one of
these days."

"Well, he was a wise gent. You ain't cut out for working, son. Not a bit.
It'd be a shame to let you go to waste simply raising calluses on your

"You talk well," sighed Terry, "but you can't convince me."

"Convince you? Hell, I ain't trying to convince your father's son. You're
like Black Jack. You got to find out yourself. We was with a Mick, once.
Red-headed devil, he was. I says to Black Jack: 'Don't crack no jokes
about the Irish around this guy!'

"'Why not?' says your dad.

"'Because there'd be an explosion,' says I.

"'H'm,' says Black Jack, and lifts his eyebrows in a way he had of doing.

"And the first thing he does is to try a joke on the Irish right in front
of the Mick. Well, there was an explosion, well enough."

"What happened?" asked Terry, carried away with curiosity.

"What generally happened, kid, when somebody acted up in front of your
dad?" From the air he secured an imaginary morsel between stubby thumb
and forefinger and then blew the imaginary particle into empty space.

"He killed him?" asked Terry hoarsely.

"No," said Denver, "he didn't do that. He just broke his heart for him.
Kicked the gat out of the hand of the poor stiff and wrestled with him.
Black Jack was a wildcat when it come to fighting with his hands. When he
got through with the Irishman, there wasn't a sound place on the fool.
Black Jack climbed back on his horse and threw the gun back at the guy on
the ground and rode off. Next we heard, the guy was working for a
Chinaman that run a restaurant. Black Jack had taken all the fight out of

That scene out of the past drifted vividly back before Terry's eyes. He
saw the sneer on the lips of Black Jack; saw the Irishman go for his gun;
saw the clash, with his father leaping in with tigerish speed; felt the
shock of the two strong bodies, and saw the other turn to pulp under the
grip of Black Jack.

By the time he had finished visualizing the scene, his jaw was set hard.
It had been easy, very easy, to throw himself into the fierceness of his
dead father's mood. During this moment of brooding he had been looking
down, and he did not notice the glance of Denver fasten upon him with an
almost hypnotic fervor, as though he were striving to reach to the very
soul of the younger man and read what was written there. When Terry
looked up, the face of his companion was as calm as ever.

"And you're like the old boy," declared Denver. "You got to find out for
yourself. It'll be that way with this work idea of yours. You've lost one
job. You'll lose the next one. But--I ain't advising you no more!"


Terry left the hotel more gloomy than he had been even when he departed
from the ranch that morning. The certainty of Denver that he would find
it impossible to stay by his program of honest work had made a strong
impression upon his imaginative mind, as though the little safecracker
really had the power to look into the future and into the minds of men.
Where he should look for work next, he had no idea. And he balanced
between a desire to stay near the town and work out his destiny there, or
else drift far away. Distance, however, seemed to have no barrier against
rumor. After two days of hard riding, he had placed a broad gap between
himself and the Cornish ranch, yet in a short time rumor had overtaken
him, casually, inevitably, and the force of his name was strong enough to
take away his job.

Standing in the middle of the street he looked darkly over the squat
roofs of the town to the ragged mountains that marched away against the
horizon--a bleak outlook. Which way should he ride?

A loud outburst of curses roared behind him, a whip snapped above him, he
stepped aside and barely from under the feet of the leaders as a long
team wound by with the freight wagon creaking and swaying and rumbling
behind it. The driver leaned from his seat in passing and volleyed a few
crackling remarks in the very ear of Terry. It was strange that he did
not resent it. Ordinarily he would have wanted to, climb onto that seat
and roll the driver down in the dust, but today he lacked ambition. Pain
numbed him, a peculiar mental pain. And, with the world free before him
to roam in, he felt imprisoned.

He turned. Someone was laughing at him from the veranda of the hotel and
pointing him out to another, who laughed raucously in turn. Terry knew
what was in their minds. A man who allowed himself to be cursed by a
passing teamster was not worthy of the gun strapped at his thigh. He
watched their faces as through a cloud, turned again, saw the door of the
gambling hall open to allow someone to come out, and was invited by the
cool, dim interior. He crossed the street and passed through the door.

He was glad, instantly. Inside there was a blanket of silence; beyond the
window the sun was a white rain of heat, blinding and appalling. But
inside his shoes took hold on a floor moist from a recent scrubbing and
soft with the wear of rough boots; and all was dim, quiet, hushed.

There was not a great deal of business in the place, naturally, at this
hour of the day. And the room seemed so large, the tables were so
numerous, that Terry wondered how so small a town could support it. Then
he remembered the mine and everything was explained. People who dug gold
like dirt spent it in the same spirit. Half a dozen men were here and
there, playing in what seemed a listless manner, save when you looked

Terry slumped into a big chair in the darkest corner and relaxed until
the coolness had worked through his skin and into his blood. Presently he
looked about him to find something to do, and his eye dropped naturally
on the first thing that made a noise--roulette. For a moment he watched
the spinning disk. The man behind the table on his high stool was
whirling the thing for his own amusement, it seemed. Terry walked over
and looked on.

He hardly knew the game. But he was fascinated by the motions of the
ball; one was never able to tell where it would stop, on one of the
thirty-six numbers, on the red or on the black, on the odd or the even.
He visualized a frantic, silent crowd around the wheel listening to the
click of the ball.

And now he noted that the wheel had stopped the last four times on the
odd. He jerked a five-dollar gold piece out of his pocket and placed it
on the even. The wheel spun, clicked to a stop, and the rake of the
croupier slicked his five dollars away across the smooth-worn top of the

How very simple! But certainly the wheel must stop on the even this time,
having struck the odd five times in a row. He placed ten dollars on the

He did not feel that it was gambling. He had never gambled in his life,
for Elizabeth Cornish had raised him to look on gambling not as a sin,
but as a crowning folly. However, this was surely not gambling. There was
no temptation. Not a word had been spoken to him since he entered the
place. There was no excitement, no music, none of the drink and song of
which he had heard so much in robbing men of their cooler senses. It was
only his little system that tempted him on.

He did not know that all gambling really begins with the creation of a
system that will beat the game. And when a man follows a system, he is
started on the most cold-blooded gambling in the world.

Again the disk stopped, and the ball clicked softly and the ten dollars
slid away behind the rake of the man on the stool. This would never do!
Fifteen dollars gone out of a total capital of fifty! He doubled with
some trepidation again. Thirty dollars wagered. The wheel spun--the money
disappeared under the rake.

Terry felt like setting his teeth. Instead, he smiled. He drew out his
last five dollars and wagered it with a coldness that seemed to make sure
of loss, on a single number. The wheel spun, clicked; he did not even
watch, and was turning away when a sound of a little musical shower of
gold attracted him. Gold was being piled before him. Five times thirty-
six made one hundred and eighty dollars he had won! He came back to the
table, scooped up his winnings carelessly and bent a kinder eye upon the
wheel. He felt that there was a sort of friendly entente between them.

It was time to go now, however. He sauntered to the door with a guilty
chill in the small of his back, half expecting reproaches to be shouted
after him for leaving the game when he was so far ahead of it. But
apparently the machine which won without remorse lost without complaint.

At the door he made half a pace into the white heat of the sunlight. Then
he paused, a cool edging of shadow falling across one shoulder while the
heat burned through the shirt of the other. Why go on?

Across the street the man on the veranda of the hotel began laughing
again and pointing him out. Terry himself looked the fellow over in an
odd fashion, not with anger or with irritation, but with a sort of cold
calculation. The fellow was trim enough in the legs. But his shoulders
were fat from lack of work, and the bulge of flesh around the armpits
would probably make him slow in drawing a gun.

He shrugged his own lithe shoulders in contempt and turned. The man on
the stool behind the roulette wheel was yawning until his jaw muscles
stood out in hard, pointed ridges, and his cheeks fell in ridiculously.
Terry went back. He was not eager to win; but the gleam of colors on the
wheel fascinated him. He placed five dollars, saw the wheel win, took in
his winnings without emotion.

While he scooped the two coins up, he did not see the croupier turn his
head and shoot a single glance to a fat, squat man in the corner of the
room, a glance to which the fat man responded with the slightest of nods
and smiles. He was the owner. And he was not particularly happy at the
thought of some hundred and fifty dollars being taken out of his treasury
by some chance stranger.

Terry did not see the glance, and before long he was incapable of seeing
anything saving the flash of the disk, the blur of the alternate colors
as they spun together. He paid no heed to the path of the sunlight as it
stretched along the floor under the window and told of a westering sun.
The first Terry knew of it he was standing in a warm pool of gold, but he
gave the sun at his feet no more than a casual glance. It was metallic
gold that he was fascinated by and the whims and fancies of that singular
wheel. Twice that afternoon his fortune had mounted above three thousand
dollars--once it mounted to an even six thousand. He had stopped to count
his winnings at this point, and on the verge of leaving decided to make
it an even ten thousand before he went away. And five minutes later he
was gambling with five hundred in his wallet.

When the sunlight grew yellow, other men began to enter the room. Terry
was still at his post. He did not see them. There was no human face in
the world for him except the colorless face of the croupier, and the
long, pale eyelashes that lifted now and then over greenish-orange eyes.
And Terry did not heed when he was shouldered by the growing crowd around
the wheel.

He only knew that other bets were being placed and that it was a
nuisance, for the croupier took much longer in paying debts and
collecting winnings, so that the wheel spun less often.

Meantime he was by no means unnoticed. A little whisper had gone the
rounds that a real plunger was in town. And when men came into the hall,
their attention was directed automatically by the turn of other eyes
toward six feet of muscular manhood, heavy-shouldered and erect, with a
flare of a red silk bandanna around his throat and a heavy sombrero worn
tilted a little to one side and back on his head.

"He's playing a system," said someone. "Been standing there all afternoon
and making poor Pedro--the thief!--sweat and shake in his boots."

In fact, the owner of the place had lost his complacence and his smile
together. He approached near to the wheel and watched its spin with a
face turned sallow and flat of cheek from anxiety. For with the setting
of the sun it seemed that luck flooded upon Terry Hollis. He began to bet
in chunks of five hundred, alternating between the red and the odd, and
winning with startling regularity. His winnings were now shoved into an
awkward canvas bag. Twenty thousand dollars! That had grown from the

No wonder the crowd had two looks for Terry. His face had lost its color
and grown marvellously expressionless.

"The real gambler's look," they said.

His mouth was pinched at the corners, and otherwise his expression never

Once he turned. A broad-faced man, laughing and obviously too self-
contented to see what he was doing, trod heavily on the toes of Terry,
stepping past the latter to get his winnings. He was caught by the
shoulder and whirled around. The crowd saw the tall man draw his right
foot back, balance, lift a trifle on his toes, and then a balled fist
shot up, caught the broad-faced man under the chin and dumped him in a
crumpled heap half a dozen feet away. They picked him up and took him
away, a stunned wreck. Terry had turned back to his game, and in ten
seconds had forgotten what he had done.

But the crowd remembered, and particularly he who had twice laughed at
Terry from the veranda of the hotel.

The heap in the canvas sack diminished, shrank--he dumped the remainder
of the contents into his pocket. He had been betting in solid lumps of a
thousand for the past twenty minutes, and the crowd watched in amazement.
This was drunken gambling, but the fellow was obviously sober. Then a
hand touched the shoulder of Terry.

"Just a minute, partner."

He looked into the face of a big man, as tall as he and far heavier of
build: a magnificent big head, heavily marked features, a short-cropped
black beard that gave him dignity. A middle-aged man, about forty-five,
and still in the prime of life.

"Lemme pass a few words with you."

Terry drew back to the side.


"My Name's Pollard," said the older man. "Joe Pollard."

"Glad to know you, sir. My name--is Terry." The other admitted this
reticence with a faint smile.

"I got a name around here for keeping my mouth shut and not butting in on
another gent's game. But I always noticed that when a gent is in a losing
run, half the time he don't know it. Maybe that might be the way with
you. I been watching and seen your winnings shrink considerable lately."

Terry weighed his money. "Yes, it's shrunk a good deal."

"Stand out of the game till later on. Come over and have a bite to eat
with me."

He went willingly, suddenly aware of a raging appetite and a dinner long
postponed. The man of the black beard was extremely friendly.

"One of the prettiest runs I ever see, that one you made," he confided
when they were at the table in the hotel. "You got a system, I figure."

"A new one," said Terry. "I've never played before."

The other blinked.

"Beginner's luck, I suppose," said Terry frankly. "I started with fifty,
and now I suppose I have about eight hundred."

"Not bad, not bad," said the other. "Too bad you didn't stop half an hour
before. Just passing through these parts?"

"I'm looking for a job," said Terry. "Can you tell me where to start
hunting? Cows are my game."

The other paused a moment and surveyed his companion. There seemed just a
shade of doubt in his eyes. They were remarkably large and yellowish
gray, those eyes of Joe Pollard, and now and again when he grew
thoughtful they became like clouded agate. They had that color now as he
gazed at Terry. Eventually his glance cleared.

"I got a little work of my own," he declared. "My range is all clogged up
with varmints. Any hand with a gun and traps?"

"Pretty fair hand," said Terry modestly.

And he was employed on the spot.

He felt one reassuring thing about his employer--that no echo out of his
past or the past of his father would make the man discharge him. Indeed,
taking him all in all, there was under the kindliness of Joe Pollard an
indescribable basic firmness. His eyes, for example, in their habit of
looking straight at one, reminded him of the eyes of Denver. His voice
was steady and deep and mellow, and one felt that it might be expanded to
an enormous volume. Such a man would not fly off into snap judgments and
become alarmed because an employee had a past or a strange name.

They paid a short visit to the gambling hall after dinner, and then got
their horses. Pollard was struck dumb with admiration at the sight of the

"Maybe you been up the Bear Creek way?" he asked Terry.

And when the latter admitted that he knew something of the Blue Mountain
country, the rancher exclaimed: "By the Lord, partner, I'd say that hoss
is a ringer for El Sangre."

"Pretty close to a ringer," said Terry. "This is El Sangre himself."

They were jogging out of town. The rancher turned in the saddle and
crossed his companion with one of his searching glances, but returned no
reply. Presently, however, he sent his own capable Steeldust into a sharp
gallop; El Sangre roused to a flowing pace and held the other even
without the slightest difficulty. At this Pollard drew rein with an

"El Sangre as sure as I live!" he declared. "Ain't nothing else in these
parts that calls itself a hoss and slides over the ground the way El
Sangre does. Partner, what sort of a price would you set on El Sangre,

"His weight in gold," said Terry.

The rancher cursed softly, without seeming altogether pleased. And
thereafter during the ride his glance continually drifted toward the
brilliant bay--brilliant even in the pallor of the clear mountain

He explained this by saying after a time: "I been my whole life in these
parts without running across a hoss that could pack me the way a man
ought to be packed on a hoss. I weigh two hundred and thirty, son, and it
busts the back of a horse in the mountains. Now, you ain't a flyweight
yourself, and El Sangre takes you along like you was a feather."

Steeldust was already grunting at every sharp rise, and El Sangre had not
even broken out in perspiration.

A mile or so out of the town they left the road and struck onto a mere
semblance of a trail, broad enough, but practically as rough as nature
chose to make it. This wound at sharp and ever-changing angles into the
hills, and presently they were pressing through a dense growth of
lodgepole pine.

It seemed strange to Terry that a prosperous rancher with an outfit of
any size should have a road no more beaten than this one leading to his
place. But he was thinking too busily of other things to pay much heed to
such surmises and small events. He was brooding over the events of the
afternoon. If his exploits in the gaming hall should ever come to the ear
of Aunt Elizabeth, he was certain enough that he would be finally damned
in her judgment. Too often he had heard her express an opinion of those
who lived by "chance and their wits," as she phrased it. And the thought
of it irked him.

He roused himself out of his musing. They had come out from the trees and
were in sight of a solidly built house on the hill. There was one thing
which struck his mind at once. No attempt had been made to find level for
the foundation. The log structure had been built apparently at random on
the slope. It conformed, at vast waste of labor, to the angle of the base
and the irregularities of the soil. This, perhaps, made it seem smaller
than it was. They caught the scent of wood smoke, and then saw a pale
drift of the smoke itself.

A flurry of music escaped by the opening of a door and was shut out by
the closing of it. It was a moment before Terry, startled, had analyzed
the sound. Unquestionably it was a piano. But how in the world, and why
in the world, had it been carted to the top of this mountain?

He glanced at his companion with a new respect and almost with a

"Up to some damn doings again," growled the big man. "Never got no peace
nor quiet up my way."

Another surprise was presently in store for Terry. Behind the house,
which grew in proportions as they came closer, they reached a horse shed,
and when they dismounted, a servant came out for the horses. Outside of
the Cornish ranch he did not know of many who afforded such luxuries.

However, El Sangre could not be handled by another, and Terry put up his
horse and found the rancher waiting for him when he came out. Inside the
shed he had found ample bins of barley and oats and good grain hay. And
in the stalls his practiced eye scanned the forms of a round dozen fine
horses with points of blood and bone that startled him.

Coming to the open again, he probed the darkness as well as he could to
gain some idea of the ranch which furnished and supported all these
evidences of prosperity. But so far as he could make out, there was only
a jumble of ragged hilltops behind the house, and before it the slope
fell away steeply to the valley far below. He had not realized before
that they had climbed so high or so far.

Joe Pollard was humming. Terry joined him on the way to the house with a
deepened sense of awe; he was even beginning to feel that there was a
touch or two of mystery in the make-up of the man.

Proof of the solidity with which the log house was built was furnished at
once. Coming to the house, there was only a murmur of voices and of
music. The moment they opened the door, a roar of singing voices and a
jangle of piano music rushed into their ears.

Terry found himself in a very long room with a big table in the center
and a piano at the farther end. The ceiling sloped down from the right to
the left. At the left it descended toward the doors of the kitchen and
storerooms; at the right it rose to the height of two full stories. One
of these was occupied by a series of heavy posts on which hung saddles
and bridles and riding equipment of all kinds, and the posts supported a
balcony onto which opened several doors--of sleeping rooms, no doubt. As
for the wall behind the posts, it, too, was pierced with several
openings, but Terry could not guess at the contents of the rooms. But he
was amazed by the size of the structure as it was revealed to him from
within. The main room was like some baronial hall of the old days of war
and plunder. A role, indeed, into which it was not difficult to fit the
burly Pollard and the dignity of his beard.

Four men were around the piano, and a girl sat at the keys, splashing out
syncopated music while the men roared the chorus of the song. But at the
sound of the closing of the door all five turned toward the newcomers,
the girl looking over her shoulder and keeping the soft burden of the
song still running.


So turned, Terry could not see her clearly. He caught a glimmer of red
bronze hair, dark in shadow and brilliant in high lights, and a sheen of
greenish eyes. Otherwise, he only noted the casual manner in which she
acknowledged the introduction, unsmiling, indifferent, as Pollard said:
"Here's my daughter Kate. This is Terry--a new hand."

It seemed to Terry that as he said this the rancher made a gesture as of
warning, though this, no doubt, could be attributed to his wish to
silently explain away the idiosyncrasy of Terry in using his first name
only. He was presented in turn to the four men, and thought them the
oddest collection he had ever laid eyes on.

Slim Dugan was tall, but not so tall as he looked, owing to his very
small head and narrow shoulders. His hair was straw color, excessively
silky, and thin as the hair of a year-old child. There were other points
of interest in Slim Dugan; his feet, for instance, were small as the feet
of a girl, accentuated by the long, narrow riding boots, and his hands
seemed to be pulled out to a great and unnecessary length. They made up
for it by their narrowness.

His exact opposite was Marty Cardiff, chunky, fat, it seemed, until one
noted the roll and bulge of the muscles at the shoulders. His head was
settled into his fat shoulders somewhat in the manner of Denver's, Terry

Oregon Charlie looked the part of an Indian, with his broad nose and high
cheekbones, flat face, slanted dark eyes; but his skin was a dead and
peculiar white. He was a down-headed man, and one could rarely imagine
him opening his lips to speak; he merely grunted as he shook hands with
the stranger.

To finish the picture, there was a man as huge as Joe Pollard himself,
and as powerful, to judge by appearances. His face was burned to a jovial
red; his hair was red also, and there was red hair on the backs of his
freckled hands.

All these men met Terry with cordial nods, but there was a carelessness
about their demeanor which seemed strange to Terry. In his experience,
the men of the mountains were a timid or a blustering lot before
newcomers, uneasy, and anxious to establish their place. But these men
acted as if meeting unknown men were a part of their common, daily
experience. They were as much at their ease as social lions.

Pollard was explaining the presence of Terry.

"He's come up to clean out the varmints," he said to the others. "They
been getting pretty thick on the range, you know."

"You came in just wrong," complained Kate, while the men turned four
pairs of grave eyes upon Terry and seemed to be judging him. "I got
Oregon singing at last, and he was doing fine. Got a real voice, Charlie
has. Regular branded baritone, I'll tell a man."

"Strike up agin for us, Charlie," said Pollard good-naturedly. "You don't
never make much more noise'n a grizzly."

But Charlie looked down at his hands and a faint spot of red appeared in
his cheek. Obviously he was much embarrassed. And when he looked up, it
was to fix a glance of cold suspicion upon Terry, as though warning him
not to take this talk of social acquirements as an index to his real

"Get us some coffee, Kate," said Pollard. "Turned off cold coming up the

She did not rise. She had turned around to her music again, and now she
acknowledged the order by lifting her head and sending a shrill whistle
through the room. Her father started violently.

"Damn it, Kate, don't do that!"

"The only thing that'll bring Johnny on the run," she responded

And, indeed, the door on the left of the room flew open a moment later,
and a wide-eyed Chinaman appeared with a long pigtail jerking about his
head as he halted and looked about in alarm.

"Coffee for the boss and the new hand," said Kate, without turning her
head, as soon as she heard the door open. "Pronto, Johnny."

Johnny snarled an indistinct something and withdrew muttering.

"You'll have Johnny quitting the job," complained Pollard, frowning. "You
can't scare the poor devil out of his skin like that every time you want
coffee. Besides, why didn't you get up and get it for us yourself?"

Still she did not turn; but, covering a yawn, replied: "Rather sit here
and play."

Her father swelled a moment in rage, but he subsided again without
audible protest. Only he sent a scowl at Terry as though daring him to
take notice of this insolence. As for the other men, they had scattered
to various parts of the room and remained there, idly, while the boss and
the new hand drank the scalding coffee of Johnny. All this time Pollard
remained deep in thought. His meditations exploded as he banged the empty
cup back on the table.

"Kate, this stuff has got to stop. Understand?"

The soft jingling of the piano continued without pause.

"Stop that damned noise!"

The music paused. Terry felt the long striking muscles leap into hard
ridges along his arms, but glancing at the other four, he found that they
were taking the violence of Pollard quite as a matter of course. One was
whittling, another rolled a cigarette, and all of them, if they took any
visible notice of the argument, did so with the calmest of side glances.

"Turn around!" roared Pollard.

His daughter turned slowly and faced him. Not white-faced with fear, but
to the unutterable astonishment of Terry she was quietly looking her
father up and down. Pollard sprang to his feet and struck the table so
that it quivered through all its massive length.

"Are you trying to shame me before a stranger?" thundered the big man.
"Is that the scene?"

She flicked Terry Hollis with a glance. "I think he'll understand and
make allowances."

It brought the heavy fist smashing on the table again. And an ugly
feeling rose in Hollis that the big fellow might put hands on his

"And what d'you mean by that? What in hell d'you mean by that?"

In place of wincing, she in turn came to her feet gracefully. There had
been such an easy dignity about her sitting at the piano that she had
seemed tall to Terry. Now that she stood up, he was surprised to see that
she was not a shade more than average height, beautifully and strongly

"You've gone about far enough with your little joke," said the girl, and
her voice was low, but with an edge of vibrancy that went through Hollis.
"And you're going to stop--pronto!"

There was a flash of teeth as she spoke, and a quiver through her body.
Terry had never seen such passion, such unreasoning, wild passion, as
that which had leaped on the girl. Though her face was not contorted,
danger spoke from every line of it. He made himself tense, prepared for a
similar outbreak from the father, but the latter relaxed as suddenly as
his daughter had become furious.

"There you go," he complained, with a sort of heavy whine. "Always flying
off the handle. Always turning into a wildcat when I try to reason with

"Reason!" cried the girl. "Reason!"

Joe Pollard grew downcast under her scorn. And Terry, sensing that the
crisis of the argument had passed, watched the other four men in the
room. They had not paid the slightest attention to the debate during its
later phases. And two of them--Slim and huge Phil Marvin--had begun to
roll dice on a folded blanket, the little ivories winking in the light
rapidly until they came to a rest at the farther end of the cloth.
Possibly this family strife was a common thing in the Pollard household.
At any rate, the father now passed off from accusation to abrupt apology.
"You always get me riled at the end of the day, Kate. Damn it! Can't you
never bear with a gent?"

The tigerish alertness passed from Kate Pollard. She was filled all at
once with a winning gentleness and, crossing to her father, took his
heavy hands in hers.

"I reckon I'm a bad one," she accused herself. "I try to get over
tantrums--but--I can't help it! Something--just sort of grabs me by the
throat when I get mad. I--I see red."

"Hush up, honey," said the big man tenderly, and he ran his thick fingers
over her hair. "You ain't so bad. And all that's bad in you comes out of
me. You forget and I'll forget."

He waved across the table.

"Terry'll be thinking we're a bunch of wild Indians the way we been


Plainly she was recalled to the presence of the stranger for the first
time in many minutes and, dropping her chin in her hand, she studied the
new arrival.

He found it difficult to meet her glance. The Lord had endowed Terry
Hollis with a remarkable share of good looks, and it was not the first
time that he had been investigated by the eyes of a woman. But in all his
life he had never been subjected to an examination as minute, as
insolently frank as this one. He felt himself taken part and parcel,
examined in detail as to forehead, chin, and eyes and heft of shoulders,
and then weighed altogether. In self-defense he looked boldly back at
her, making himself examine her in equal detail. Seeing her so close, he
was aware of a marvellously delicate olive-tanned skin with delightful
tints of rose just beneath the surface. He found himself saying inwardly:
"It's easy to look at her. It's very easy. By the Lord, she's beautiful!"

As for the girl, it seemed that she was not quite sure in her judgment.
For now she turned to her father with a faint frown of wonder. And again
it seemed to Terry that Joe Pollard made an imperceptible sign, such as
he had made to the four men when he introduced Terry.

But now he broke into breezy talk.

"Met Terry down in Pedro's--"

The girl seemed to have dismissed Terry from her mind already, for she
broke in: "Crooked game he's running, isn't it?"

"I thought so till today. Then I seen Terry, here, trim Pedro for a flat
twenty thousand!"

"Oh," nodded the girl. Again her gaze reverted leisurely to the stranger
and with a not unflattering interest.

"And then I seen him lose most of it back again. Roulette."

She nodded, keeping her eyes on Terry, and the boy found himself desiring
mightily to discover just what was going on behind the changing green of
her eyes. He was shocked when he discovered. It came like the break of
high dawn in the mountains of the Big Bend. Suddenly she had smiled
openly, frankly. "Hard luck, partner!"

A little shivering sense of pleasure ran through him. He knew that he had
been admitted by her--accepted.

Her father had thrown up his head.

"Someone come in the back way. Oregon, go find out!"

Dark-eyed Oregon Charlie slipped up and through the door. Everyone in the
room waited, a little tense, with lifted heads. Slim was studying the
last throw that Phil Marvin had made. Terry could not but wonder what
significance that "back way" had. Presently Oregon reappeared.

"Pete's come."

"The hell!"

"Went upstairs."

"Wants to be alone," interrupted the girl. "He'll come down and talk when
he feels like it. That's Pete's way."

"Watching us, maybe," growled Joe Pollard, with a shade of uneasiness
still. "Damned funny gent, Pete is. Watches a man like a cat; watches a
gopher hole all day, maybe. And maybe the gent he watches is a friend
he's known for ten years. Well--let Pete go. They ain't no explaining

Through the last part of his talk, and through the heaviness of his
voice, cut another tone, lighter, sharper, venomous: "Phil, you gummed
them dice that last time!"

Joe Pollard froze in place; the eyes of the girl widened. Terry, looking
across the room, saw Phil Marvin scoop up the dice and start to his feet.

"You lie, Slim!"

Instinctively Terry slipped his hand onto his gun. It was what Phil
Marvin had done, as a matter of fact. He stood swelling and glowering,
staring down at Slim Dugan. Slim had not risen. His thin, lithe body was
coiled, and he reminded Terry in ugly fashion of a snake ready to strike.
His hand was not near his gun. It was the calm courage and self-
confidence of a man who is sure of himself and of his enemy. Terry had
heard of it before, but never seen it. As for Phil, it was plain that he
was ill at ease in spite of his bulk and the advantage of his position.
He was ready to fight. But he was not at all pleased with the prospect.

Terry again glanced at the witnesses. Every one of them was alert, but
there was none of that fear which comes in the faces of ordinary men when
strife between men is at hand. And suddenly Terry knew that every one of
the five men in the room was an old familiar of danger, every one of them
a past master of gun fighting!


The uneasy wait continued for a moment or more. The whisper of Joe
Pollard to his daughter barely reached the ear of Terry.

"Cut in between 'em, girl. You can handle 'em. I can't!"

She responded instantly, before Terry recovered from his shock of

"Slim, keep away from your gun!"

She spoke as she whirled from her chair to her feet. It was strange to
see her direct all her attention to Slim, when Phil Marvin seemed the one
about to draw.

"I ain't even nearin' my gun," asserted Slim truthfully. "It's Phil
that's got a strangle hold on his."

"You're waiting for him to draw," said the girl calmly enough. "I know
you, Slim. Phil, don't be a fool. Drop your hand away from that gat!"

He hesitated; she stepped directly between him and his enemy of the
moment and jerked the gun from its holster. Then she faced Slim.
Obviously Phil was not displeased to have the matter taken out of his
hands; obviously Slim was not so pleased. He looked coldly up to the

"This is between him and me," he protested. "I don't need none of your
help, Kate."

"Don't you? You're going to get it, though. Gimme that gun, Slim Dugan!"

"I want a square deal," he complained. "I figure Phil has been crooking
the dice on me."

"Bah! Besides, I'll give you a square deal."

She held out her hand for the weapon.

"Got any doubts about me being square, Slim?"

"Kate, leave this to me!"

"Why, Slim, I wouldn't let you run loose now for a million. You got that
ugly look in your eyes. I know you, partner!"

And to the unutterable astonishment of Terry, the man pulled his gun from
its holster and passed it up to her, his eyes fighting hers, his hand
moving slowly. She stepped back, weighing the heavy weapons in her hands.
Then she faced Phil Marvin with glittering eyes.

"It ain't the first time you been accused of queer stunts with the dice.
What's the straight of it, Phil? Been doing anything to these dice?"

"Me? Sure I ain't!"

Her glance lingered on him the least part of a second.

"H'm!" said the girl. "Maybe not."

Slim was on his feet, eager. "Take a look at 'em, Kate. Take a look at
them dice!"

She held them up to the light--then dropped them into a pocket of her
skirt. "I'll look at 'em in the morning, Slim."

"The stuff'll be dry by that time!"

"Dry or not, that's what I'm going to do. I won't trust lamplight."

Slim turned on his heel and flung himself sulkily down on the blanket,
fighting her with sullen eyes. She turned on Phil.

"How much d'you win?"

"Nothin'. Just a couple of hundred."

"Just a couple of hundred! You call that nothing?"

Phil grunted. The other men leaned forward in their interest to watch the
progress of the trial, all saving Joe Pollard, who sat with his elbows
braced in sprawling fashion on the table, at ease, his eyes twinkling
contentedly at the girl. Why she refused to examine the dice at once was
plain to Terry. If they proved to have been gummed, it would mean a gun
fight with the men at a battling temperature. In the morning when they
had cooled down, it might be a different matter. Terry watched her in
wonder. His idea of an efficient woman was based on Aunt Elizabeth, cold
of eye and brain, practical in methods on the ranch, keen with figures.
The efficiency of this slip of a girl was a different matter, a thing of
passion, of quick insight, of lightning guesses. He could see the play of
eager emotion in her face as she studied Phil Marvin. And how could she
do justice? Terry was baffled.

"How long you two been playing?" "About twenty minutes."

"Not more'n five!" cut in Slim hotly.

"Shut up, Slim!" she commanded. "I'm running this here game; Phil, how
many straight passes did you make?"

"Me? Oh, I dunno. Maybe--five."

"Five straight passes!" said the girl. "Five straight passes!"

"You heard me say it," growled big Phil Marvin.

All at once she laughed.

"Phil, give that two hundred back to Slim!"

It came like a bolt from the blue, this decision. Marvin hesitated, shook
his head.

"Damned if I do. I don't back down. I won it square!"

"Listen to me," said the girl. Instead of threatening, as Terry expected,
she had suddenly become conciliatory. She stepped close to him and
dropped a slim hand on his burly shoulder. "Ain't Slim a pal of yours?
You and him, ain't you stuck together through thick and thin? He thinks
you didn't win that coin square. Is Slim's friendship worth two hundred
to you, or ain't it? Besides, you ain't lying down to nobody. Why, you
big squarehead, Phil, don't we all know that you'd fight a bull with your
bare hands? Who'd call you yaller? We'd simply say you was square, Phil,
and you know it."

There was a pause. Phil was biting his lip, scowling at Slim. Slim was
sneering in return. It seemed that she had failed. Even if she forced
Phil to return the money, he and Slim would hate each other as long as
they lived. And Terry gained a keen impression that if the hatred
continued, one of them would die very soon indeed. Her solution of the
problem was a strange one. She faced them both.

"You two big sulky babies!" she exclaimed. "Slim, what did Phil do for
you down in Tecomo? Phil, did Slim stand by you last April--you know the
time? Why, boys, you're just being plain foolish. Get up, both of you,
and take a walk outside where you'll get cooled down."

Slim rose. He and Phil walked slowly toward the door, at a little
distance from each other, one eyeing the other shrewdly. At the door they
hesitated. Finally, Phil lurched forward and went out first. Slim glided

"By heaven!" groaned Pollard as the door closed. "There goes two good
men! Kate, what put this last fool idea into your head?"

She did not answer for a moment, but dropped into a chair as though
suddenly exhausted.

"It'll work out," she said at length. "You wait for it!"

"Well," grumbled her father, "the mischief is working. Run along to bed,
will you?"

She rose, wearily, and started across the room. But she turned before she
passed out of their sight and leaned against one of the pillars.

"Dad, why you so anxious to get me out of the way?"

"What d'you mean by that? I got no reason. Run along and don't bother

He turned his shoulder on her. As for the girl, she remained a moment,
looking thoughtfully at the broad back of Pollard. Then her glance
shifted and dwelt a moment on Terry--with pity, he wondered?

"Good night, boys!"

When the door closed on her, Joe Pollard turned his attention more fully
on his new employee, and when Terry suggested that it was time for him to
turn in, his suggestion was hospitably put to one side. Pollard began
talking genially of the mountains, of the "varmints" he expected Terry to
clean out, and while he talked, he took out a broad silver dollar and
began flicking it in the air and catching it in the calloused palm of his

"Call it," he interrupted himself to say to Terry.

"Heads," said Terry carelessly.

The coin spun up, flickered at the height of its rise, and rang loudly on
the table.

"You win," said Pollard. "Well, you're a lucky gent, Terry, but I'll go
you ten you can't call it again."

But again Terry called heads, and again the coin chimed, steadied, and
showed the Grecian goddess. The rancher doubled his bet. He lost,
doubled, lost again, doubled again, lost. A pile of money had appeared by
magic before Terry.

"I came to work for money," laughed Terry, "not _take_ it away."

"I always lose at this game," sighed Joe Pollard.

The door opened, and Phil Marvin and Slim Dugan came back, talking and
laughing together.

"What d'you know about that?" Pollard exclaimed softly. "She guessed
right. She always does! Oughta be a man, with a brain like she's got.
Here we are again!"

He spun the coin; it winked, fell, a streak of light, and again Terry had
won. He began to grow excited. On the next throw he lost. A moment later
his little pile of winnings had disappeared. And now he had forgotten the
face of Joe Pollard, forgotten the room, forgotten everything except the
thick thumb that snapped the coin into the air. The cold, quiet passion
of the gambler grew in him. He was losing steadily. Out of his wallet
came in a steady stream the last of his winnings at Pedro's. And still he
played. Suddenly the wallet squeezed flat between his fingers.

"Pollard," he said regretfully, "I'm broke."

The other waved away the idea.

"Break up a fine game like this because you're broke?" The cloudy agate
eyes dwelt kindly on the face of Terry, and mysteriously as well. "That
ain't nothing. Nothing between friends. You don't know the style of a man
I am, Terry. Your word is as good as your money with me!"

"I've no security--"

"Don't talk security. Think I'm a moneylender? This is a game. Come on!"

Five minutes later Terry was three hundred behind. A mysterious
providence seemed to send all the luck the way of the heavy, tanned thumb
of Pollard.

"That's my limit," he announced abruptly, rising.

"No, no!" Pollard spread out his big hand on the table. "You got the red
hoss, son. You can bet to a thousand. He's worth that--to me!"

"I won't bet a cent on him," said Terry firmly.

"Every damn cent I've won from you ag'in' the hoss, son. That's a lot of
cash if you win. If you lose, you're just out that much hossflesh, and
I'll give you a good enough cayuse to take El Sangre's place."

"A dozen wouldn't take his place," insisted Terry.

"That so?"

Pollard leaned back in his chair and put a hand behind his neck to
support his head. It seemed to Terry that the big man made some odd
motion with his hidden fingers. At any rate, the four men who lounged on
the farther side of the room now rose and slowly drifted in different
directions. Oregon Charlie wandered toward the door. Slim sauntered to
the window behind the piano and stood idly looking out into the night.
Phil Marvin began to examine a saddle hanging from a peg on one of the
posts, and finally, chunky Marty Cardiff strolled to the kitchen door and
appeared to study the hinges.

All these things were done casually, but Terry, his attention finally off
the game, caught a meaning in them. Every exit was blocked for him. He
was trapped at the will of Joe Pollard!


Looking back, he could understand everything easily. The horse was the
main objective of Pollard. He had won the money so as to tempt Terry to
gamble with the value of the blood-bay. But by fair means or foul he
intended to have El Sangre. And now, the moment his men were in place, a
change came over Pollard. He straightened in the chair. A slight
outthrust of his lower jaw made his face strangely brutal,
conscienceless. And his cloudy agate eyes were unreadable.

"Look here, Terry," he argued calmly, but Terry could see that the voice
was raised so that it would undubitably reach the ears of the farthest of
the four men. "I don't mind letting a gambling debt ride when a gent
ain't got anything more to put up for covering his money. But when a gent
has got more, I figure he'd ought to cover with it."

Unreasoning anger swelled in the throat of Terry Hollis; the same blind
passion which had surged in him before he started up at the Cornish table
and revealed himself to the sheriff. And the similarity was what sobered
him. It was the hunger to battle, to kill. And it seemed to him that
Black Jack had stepped out of the old picture and now stood behind him,
tempting him to strike.

Another covert signal from Pollard. Every one of the four turned toward
him. The chances of Terry were diminished, nine out of ten, for each of
those four, he shrewdly guessed, was a practiced gunman. Cold reason came
to Terry's assistance.

"I told you when I was broke," he said gently. "I told you that I was
through. You told me to go on."

"I figured you was kidding me," said Pollard harshly. "I knew you still
had El Sangre back. Son, I'm a kind sort of a man, I am. I got a name for

In spite of himself a faint and cruel smile flickered at the corners of
his mouth as he spoke. He became grave again.

"But they's some things I can't stand. They's some things that I hate
worse'n I hate poison. I won't say what one of 'em is. I leave it to you.
And I ask you to keep in the game. A thousand bucks ag'in' a boss. Ain't
that more'n fair?"

He no longer took pains to disguise his voice. It was hard and heavy and
rang into the ear of Terry. And the latter, feeling that his hour had
come, looked deliberately around the room and took note of every guarded
exit, the four men now openly on watch for any action on his part.
Pollard himself sat erect, on the edge of his chair, and his right hand
had disappeared beneath the table.

"Suppose I throw the coin this time?" he suggested.

"By God!" thundered Pollard, springing to his feet and throwing off the
mask completely. "You damned skunk, are you accusin' me of crooking the
throw of the coin?"

Terry waited for the least moment--waited in a dull wonder to find
himself unafraid. But there was no fear in him. There was only a cold,
methodical calculation of chances. He told himself, deliberately, that no
matter how fast Pollard might be, he would prove the faster. He would
kill Pollard. And he would undoubtedly kill one of the others. And they,
beyond a shadow of a doubt, would kill him. He saw all this as in a

"Pollard," he said, more gently than before, "you'll have to eat that

A flash of bewilderment crossed the face of Pollard--then rage--then that
slight contraction of the features which in some men precedes a violent

But the effort did not come. While Terry literally wavered on tiptoe, his
nerves straining for the pull of his gun and the leap to one side as he
sent his bullet home, a deep, unmusical voice cut in on them:

"Just hold yourself up a minute, will you, Joe?"

Terry looked up. On the balcony in front of the sleeping rooms of the
second story, his legs spread apart, his hands shoved deep into his
trouser pockets, his shapeless black hat crushed on the back of his head,
and a broad smile on his ugly face, stood his nemesis--Denver the yegg!

Pollard sprang back from the table and spoke with his face still turned
to Terry.

"Pete!" he called. "Come in!"

But Denver, alias Shorty, alias Pete, merely laughed.

"Come in nothing, you fool! Joe, you're about half a second from hell,
and so's a couple more of you. D'you know who the kid is? Eh? I'll tell
you, boys. It's the kid that dropped old Minter. It's the kid that beat
foxy Joe Minter to the draw. It's young Hollis. Why, you damned blind
men, look at his face! It's the son of Black Jack. It's Black Jack
himself come back to us!"

Joe Pollard had let his hand fall away from his gun. He gaped at Terry as
though he were seeing a ghost. He came a long pace nearer and let his
arms fall on the table, where they supported his weight.

"Black Jack," he kept whispering. "Black Jack! God above, are you Black
Jack's son?"

And the bewildered Terry answered:

"I'm his son. Whatever you think, and be damned to you all! I'm his son
and I'm proud of it. Now get your gun!"

But Joe Pollard became a great catapult that shot across the table and
landed beside Terry. Two vast hands swallowed the hands of the younger
man and crushed them to numbness.

"Proud of it? God a'mighty, boy, why wouldn't you be? Black Jack's son!
Pete, thank God you come in time!"

"In time to save your head for you, Joe."

"I believe it," said the big man humbly. "I b'lieve he would of cleaned
up on me. Maybe on all of us. Black Jack would of come close to doing it.
But you come in time, Pete. And I'll never forget it."

While he spoke, he was still wringing the hands of Terry. Now he dragged
the stunned Terry around the table and forced him down in his own huge,
padded armchair, his sign of power. But it was only to drag him up from
the chair again.

"Lemme look at you! Black Jack's boy! As like Black Jack as ever I seen,
too. But a shade taller. Eh, Pete? A shade taller. And a shade heavier in
the shoulders. But you got the look. I might of knowed you by the look in
your eyes. Hey, Slim, damn your good-for-nothing hide, drag Johnny here
pronto by the back of the neck!"

Johnny, the Chinaman, appeared, blinking at the lights. Joe Pollard
clapped him on the shoulder with staggering force.

"Johnny, you see!" a broad gesture to Terry. "Old friend. Just find out.
Velly old friend. Like pretty much a whole damned lot. Get down in the
cellar, you yaller old sinner, and get out the oldest bourbon I got
there. You savvy? Pretty damned pronto--hurry up--quick--old keg. Git

Johnny was literally hurled out of the room toward the kitchen, trailing
a crackle of strange-sounding but unmistakable profanity behind him. And
Joe Pollard, perching his bulk on the edge of the table, introduced Terry
to the boys again, for Oregon had come back with word that Kate would be
out soon.

"Here's Denver Pete. You know him already, and he's worth his weight in
any man's company. Here's Slim Dugan, that could scent a big coin
shipment a thousand miles away. Phil Marvin ain't any slouch at stalling
a gent with a fat wallet and leading him up to be plucked. Marty Cardiff
ain't half so tame as he looks, and he's the best trailer that ever
squinted at a buzzard in the sky; he knows this whole country like a
book. And Oregon Charlie is the best all-around man you ever seen, from
railroads to stages. And me--I'm sort of a handyman. Well, Black Jack,
your old man himself never got a finer crew together than this, eh?"

Denver Pete had waited until his big friend finished. Then he remarked
quietly: "All very pretty, partner, but Terry figures he walks the
straight and narrow path. Savvy?"

"Just a kid's fool hunch!" snorted Joe Pollard. "Didn't your dad show me
the ropes? Wasn't it him that taught me all I ever knew? Sure it was, and
I'm going to do the same for you, Terry. Damn my eyes if I ain't! And
here I been sitting, trimming you! Son, take back the coin. I was sure
playing a cheap game--and I apologize, man to man."

But Terry shook his head.

"You won it," he said quietly. "And you'll keep it."

"Won nothing. I can call every coin I throw. I was stealing, not
gambling. I was gold-digging! Take back the stuff!"

"If I was fool enough to lose it that way, it'll stay lost," answered

"But I won't keep it, son."

"Then give it away. But not to me."

"Black Jack--" began Pollard.

But he received a signal from Denver Pete and abruptly changed the

"Let it go, then. They's plenty of loose coin rolling about this day. If
you got a thin purse today, I'll make it fat for you in a week. But think
of me stumbling on to you!"

It was the first time that Terry had a fair opportunity to speak, and he
made the best of it.

"It's very pleasant to meet you--on this basis," he said. "But as for
taking up--er--road life--"

The lifted hand of Joe Pollard made it impossible for him to complete his

"I know. You got scruples, son. Sure you got 'em. I used to have 'em,
too, till your old man got 'em out of my head."

Terry winced. But Joe Pollard rambled on, ignorant that he had struck a
blow in the dark: "When I met up with the original Black Jack, I was
slavin' my life away with a pick trying to turn ordinary quartz into pay
dirt. Making a fool of myself, that's what I was doing. Along comes Black
Jack. He needed a man. He picks me up and takes me along with him. I
tried to talk Bible talk. He showed me where I was a fool.

"'All you got to do,' he says to me, 'is to make sure that you ain't
stealing from an honest man. And they's about one gent in three with
money that's come by it honest, in this part of the world. The rest is
just plain thieves, but they been clever enough to cover it up. Pick on
that crew, Pollard, and squeeze 'em till they run money into your hand.
I'll show you how to do it!'

"Well, it come pretty hard to me at first. I didn't see how it was done.
But he showed me. He'd send a scout around to a mining camp. If they was
a crooked wheel in the gambling house that was making a lot of coin,
Black Jack would slide in some night, stick up the works, and clean out
with the loot. If they was some dirty dog that had jumped a claim and was
making a pile of coin out of it, Black Jack would drop out of the sky
onto him and take the gold."

Terry listened, fascinated. He was having the workings of his father's
mind re-created for him and spread plainly before his eyes. And there was
a certain terror and also a certain attractiveness about what he

"It sounds, maybe, like an easy thing to do, to just stick on the trail
of them that you know are worse crooks than you. But it ain't. I've tried
it. I've seen Black Jack pass up ten thousand like it was nothing,
because the gent that had it come by it honest. But I can't do it,
speaking in general. But I'll tell you more about the old man."

"Thank you," said Terry, "but--"

"And when you're with us--"

"You see," said Terry firmly, "I plan to do the work you asked me to do--
kill what you wanted killed on the range. And when I've worked off the
money I owe you--"

Before he could complete his sentence, a door opened on the far side of
the room, and Kate Pollard entered again. She had risen from her bed in
some haste to answer the summons of her father. Her bright hair poured
across her shoulders, a heavy, greenish-blue dressing gown was drawn
about her and held close with one hand at her breast. She came slowly
toward them. And she seemed to Terry to have changed. There was less of
the masculine about her than there had been earlier in the evening. Her
walk was slow, her eyes were wide as though she had no idea what might
await her, and the light glinted white on the untanned portion of her
throat, and on her arm where the loose sleeve of the dressing gown fell
back from it.

"Kate," said her father, "I had to get you up to tell you the big news--
biggest news you ever heard of! Girl, who've I always told you was the
greatest gent that ever come into my life?"

"Jack Hollis--Black Jack," she said, without hesitation. "According to
_your_ way of thinking, Dad!"

Plainly her own conclusions might be very different.

"According to anybody's way of thinking, as long as they was thinking
right. And d'you know who we've got here with us now? Could you guess it
in a thousand years? Why, the kid that come tonight. Black Jack as sure
as if he was a picture out of a book, and me a blind fool that didn't
know him. Kate, here's the second Black Jack. Terry Hollis. Give him your
hand agin and say you're glad to have him for his dad's sake and for his
own! Kate, he's done a man's job already. It's him that dropped old foxy

The last of these words faded out of the hearing of Terry. He felt the
lowered eyes of the girl rise and fall gravely on his face, and her
glance rested there a long moment with a new and solemn questioning. Then
her hand went slowly out to him, a cold hand that barely touched his with
its fingertips and then dropped away.

But what Terry felt was that it was the same glance she had turned to him
when she stood leaning against the post earlier that evening. There was a
pity in it, and a sort of despair which he could not understand.

And without saying a word she turned her back on them and went out of the
room as slowly as she had come into it.


"It don't mean nothing," Pollard hastened to assure Terry. "It don't mean
a thing in the world except that she's a fool girl. The queerest,
orneriest, kindest, strangest, wildest thing in the shape of calico that
ever come into these parts since her mother died before her. But the more
you see of her, the more you'll value her. She can ride like a man--no
wear out to her--and she's got the courage of a man. Besides which she
can sling a gun like it would do your heart good to see her! Don't take
nothing she does to heart. She don't mean no harm. But she sure does
tangle up a gent's ideas. Here I been living with her nigh onto twenty
years and I don't savvy her none yet. Eh, boys?"

"I'm not offended in the least," said Terry quietly.

And he was not, but he was more interested than he had ever been before
by man, woman, or child. And for the past few seconds his mind had been
following her through the door behind which she had disappeared.

"And if I were to see more of her, no doubt--" He broke off with: "But
I'm not apt to see much more of any of you, Mr. Pollard. If I can't stay
here and work off that three-hundred-dollar debt--"

"Work, hell! No son of Black Jack Hollis can work for me. But he can live
with me as a partner, son, and he can have everything I got, half and
half, and the bigger half to him if he asks for it. That's straight!"

Terry raised a protesting hand. Yet he was touched--intimately touched.
He had tried hard to fit in his place among the honest people of the
mountains by hard and patient work. They would have none of him. His own
kind turned him out. And among these men--men who had no law, as he had
every reason to believe--he was instantly taken in and made one of them.

"But no more talk tonight," said Pollard. "I can see you're played out.
I'll show you the room."

He caught a lantern from the wall as he spoke and began to lead the way
up the stairs to the balcony. He pointed out the advantages of the house
as he spoke.

"Not half bad--this house, eh?" he said proudly. "And who d'you think
planned it? Your old man, kid. It was Black Jack Hollis himself that done
it! He was took off sudden before he'd had a chance to work it out and
build it. But I used his ideas in this the same's I've done in other
things. His idea was a house like a ship.

"They build a ship in compartments, eh? Ship hits a rock, water comes in.
But it only fills one compartment, and the old ship still floats. Same
with this house. You seen them walls. And the walls on the outside ain't
the only thing. Every partition is the same thing, pretty near; and a
gent could stand behind these doors safe as if he was a mile away from a
gun. Why? Because they's a nice little lining of the best steel you ever
seen in the middle of 'em.

"Cost a lot. Sure. But look at us now. Suppose a posse was to rush the
house. They bust into the kitchen side. Where are they? Just the same as
if they hadn't got in at all. I bolt the doors from the inside of the big
room, and they're shut out agin. Or suppose they take the big room? Then
a couple of us slide out on this balcony and spray 'em with lead. This
house ain't going to be took till the last room is filled full of the
sheriff's men!"

He paused on the balcony and looked proudly over the big, baronial room
below them. It seemed huger than ever from this viewpoint, and the men
below them were dwarfed. The light of the lanterns did not extend all the
way across it, but fell in pools here and there, gleaming faintly on the
men below.

"But doesn't it make people suspicious to have a fort like this built on
the hill?" asked Terry.

"Of course. If they knew. But they don't know, son, and they ain't going
to find out the lining of this house till they try it out with lead."

He brought Terry into one of the bedrooms and lighted a lamp. As the
flare steadied in the big circular oil burner and the light spread, Terry
made out a surprisingly comfortable apartment. There was not a bunk, but
a civilized bed, beside which was a huge, tawny mountain-lion skin
softening the floor. The window was curtained in some pleasant blue
stuff, and there were a few spots of color on the wall--only calendars,
some of them, but helping to give a livable impression for the place.

"Kate's work," grinned Pollard proudly. "She's been fixing these rooms up
all out of her own head. Never got no ideas out of me. Anything you might
lack, son?"

Terry told him he would be very comfortable, and the big man wrung his
hand again as he bade him good night.

"The best work that Denver ever done was bringing you to me," he
declared. "Which you'll find it out before I'm through. I'm going to give
you a home!" And he strode away before Terry could answer.

The rather rare consciousness of having done a good deed swelled in the
heart of Joe Pollard on his way down from the balcony. When he reached
the floor below, he found that the four men had gone to bed and left
Denver alone, drawn back from the light into a shadowy corner, where he
was flanked by the gleam of a bottle of whisky on the one side and a
shimmering glass on the other. Although Pollard was the nominal leader,
he was in secret awe of the yegg. For Denver was an "in-and-outer."
Sometimes he joined them in the West; sometimes he "worked" an Eastern
territory. He came and went as he pleased, and was more or less a law to
himself. Moreover, he had certain qualities of silence and brooding that
usually disturbed the leader. They troubled him now as he approached the
squat, shapeless figure in the corner chair.

"What you think of him?" said Denver.

"A good kid and a clean-cut kid," decided Joe Pollard judicially. "Maybe
he ain't another Black Jack, but he's tolerable cool for a youngster.
Stood up and looked me in the eye like a man when I had him cornered a
while back. Good thing for him you come out when you did!"

"A good thing for you, Joe," replied Denver Pete. "He'd of turned you
into fertilizer, bo!"

"Maybe; maybe not. Maybe they's some things I could teach him about gun-
slinging, Pete."

"Maybe; maybe not," parodied Denver. "You've learned a good deal about
guns, Joe--quite a bit. But there's some things about gun fighting that
nobody can learn. It's got to be born into 'em. Remember how Black Jack
used to slide out his gat?"

"Yep. There was a man!"

"And Minter, too. There's a born gunman."

"Sure. We all know Uncle Joe--damn his soul!"

"But the kid beat Uncle Joe fair and square from an even break--and beat
him bad. Made his draw, held it so's Joe could partway catch up with him,
and then drilled him clean!"

Pollard scratched his chin.

"I'd believe that if I seen it," he declared.

"Pal, it wasn't Terry that done the talking; it was Gainor. He's seen a
good deal of gunplay, and said that Terry's was the coolest he ever

"All right for that part of it," said Joe Pollard. "Suppose he's fast--
but can I use him? I like him well enough; I'll give him a good deal; but
is he going to mean charity all the time he hangs out with me?"

"Maybe; maybe not," chuckled Denver again. "Use him the way he can be
used, and he'll be the best bargain you ever turned. Black Jack started
you in business; Black Jack the Second will make you rich if you handle
him right--and ruin you if you make a slip."

"How come? He talks this 'honesty' talk pretty strong."

"Gimme a chance to talk," said Denver contemptuously. "Takes a gent
that's used to reading the secrets of a safe to read the secrets of a
gent's head. And I've read the secret of young Black Jack Hollis. He's a
pile of dry powder, Joe. Throw in the spark and he'll explode so damned
loud they'll hear him go off all over the country."


"First, you got to keep him here."


Joe Pollard sat back with the air of one who will be convinced through no
mental effort of his own. But Denver was equal to the demand.

"I'm going to show you. He thinks he owes you three hundred."

"That's foolish. I cheated the kid out of it. I'll give it back to him
and all the rest I won."

Denver paused and studied the other as one amazed by such stupidity.

"Pal, did you ever try, in the old days, to _give_ anything to the old
Black Jack?"

"H'm. Well, he sure hated charity. But this ain't charity."

"It ain't in your eyes. It is in Terry's. If you insist, he'll get sore.
No, Joe. Let him think he owes you that money. Let him start in working
it off for you--honest work. You ain't got any ranch work. Well, set him
to cutting down trees, or anything. That'll help to hold him. If he makes
some gambling play--and he's got the born gambler in him--you got one
last thing that'll be apt to keep him here."

"What's that?"


Pollard stirred in his chair.

"How d'you mean that?" he asked gruffly.

"I mean what I said," retorted Denver. "I watched young Black Jack
looking at her. He had his heart in his eyes, the kid did. He likes her,
in spite of the frosty mitt she handed him. Oh, he's falling for her,
pal--and he'll keep on falling. Just slip the word to Kate to kid him
along. Will you? And after we got him glued to the place here, we'll
figure out the way to turn Terry into a copy of his dad. We'll figure out
how to shoot the spark into the powder, and then stand clear for the

Denver came silently and swiftly out of the chair, his pudgy hand spread
on the table and his eyes gleaming close to the face of Pollard.

"Joe," he said softly, "if that kid goes wrong, he'll be as much as his
father ever was--and maybe more. He'll rake in the money like it was
dirt. How do I know? Because I've talked to him. I've watched him and
trailed him. He's trying hard to go straight. He's failed twice; the
third time he'll bust and throw in with us. And if he does, he'll clean
up the coin--and we'll get our share. Why ain't you made more money
yourself, Joe? You got as many men as Black Jack ever had. It's because
you ain't got the fire in you. Neither have I. We're nothing but tools
ready for another man to use the way Black Jack used us. Nurse this kid
along a little while, and he'll show us how to pry open the places where
the real coin is cached away. And he'll lead us in and out with no danger
to us and all the real risk on his own head. That's his way--that was his
dad's way before him."

Pollard nodded slowly. "Maybe you're right."

"I know I am. He's a gold mine, this kid is. But we got to buy him with
something more than gold. And I know what that something is. I'm going to
show him that the good, lawabiding citizens have made up their minds that
he's no good; that they're all ag'in' him; and when he finds that out,
he'll go wild. They ain't no doubt of it. He'll show his teeth! And when
he shows his teeth, he'll taste blood--they ain't no doubt of it."

"Going to make him--kill?" asked Pollard very softly.

"Why not? He'll do it sooner or later anyway. It's in his blood."

"I suppose it is."

"I got an idea. There's a young gent in town named Larrimer, ain't

"Sure. A rough kid, too. It was him that killed Kennedy last spring."

"And he's proud of his reputation?"

"Sure. He'd go a hundred miles to have a fight with a gent with a good
name for gunplay."

"Then hark to me sing, Joe! Send Terry into town to get something for
you. I'll drop in ahead of him and find Larrimer, and tell Larrimer that
Black Jack's son is around--the man that dropped Sheriff Minter. Then
I'll bring 'em together and give 'em a running start."

"And risk Terry getting his head blown off?"

"If he can't beat Larrimer, he's no use to us; if he kills Larrimer, it's
good riddance. The kid is going to get bumped off sometime, anyway. He's
bad--all the way through."

Pollard looked with a sort of wonder on his companion.

"You're a nice, kind sort of a gent, ain't you, Denver?"

"I'm a moneymaker," asserted Denver coldly. "And, just now, Terry Hollis
is my gold mine. Watch me work him!"


It was some time before Terry could sleep, though it was now very late.
When he put out the light and slipped into the bed, the darkness brought
a bright flood of memories of the day before him. It seemed to him that
half a lifetime had been crowded into the brief hours since he was fired
on the ranch that morning. Behind everything stirred the ugly face of
Denver as a sort of controlling nemesis. It seemed to him that the chunky
little man had been pulling the wires all the time while he, Terry
Hollis, danced in response. Not a flattering thought.

Nervously, Terry got out of bed and went to the window. The night was
cool, cut crisp rather than chilling. His eye went over the velvet
blackness of the mountain slope above him to the ragged line of the
crest--then a dizzy plunge to the brightness of the stars beyond. The
very sense of distance was soothing; it washed the gloom and the troubles
away from him. He breathed deep of the fragrance of the pines and then
went back to his bed.

He had hardly taken his place in it when the sleep began to well up over
his brain--waves of shadows running out of corners of his mind. And then
suddenly he was wide awake, alert.

Someone had opened the door. There had been no sound; merely a change in
the air currents of the room, but there was also the sense of another
presence so clearly that Terry almost imagined he could hear the

He was beginning to shrug the thought away and smile at his own
nervousness, when he heard that unmistakable sound of a foot pressing the
floor. And then he remembered that he had left his gun belt far from the
bed. In a burning moment that lesson was printed in his mind, and would
never be forgotten. Slowly as possible and without sound, he drew up his
feet little by little, spread his arms gently on either side of him, and
made himself tense for the effort. Whoever it was that entered, they
might be taken by surprise. He dared not lift his head to look; and he
was on the verge of leaping up and at the approaching noise, when a
whisper came to him softly: "Black Jack!"

The soft voice, the name itself, thrilled him. He sat erect in the bed
and made out, dimly, the form of Kate Pollard in the blackness. She would
have been quite invisible, save that the square of the window was almost
exactly behind her. He made out the faint whiteness of the hand which
held her dressing robe at the breast.

She did not start back, though she showed that she was startled by the
suddenness of his movement by growing the faintest shade taller and
lifting her head a little. Terry watched her, bewildered.

"I been waiting to see you," said Kate. "I want to--I mean--to--talk to

He could think of nothing except to blurt with sublime stupidity: "It's
good of you. Won't you sit down?"

The girl brought him to his senses with a sharp "Easy! Don't talk out. Do
you know what'd happen if Dad found me here?"

"I--" began Terry.

But she helped him smoothly to the logical conclusion. "He'd blow your
head off, Black Jack; and he'd do it--pronto. If you are going to talk,
talk soft--like me."

She sat down on the side of the bed so gently that there was no creaking.
They peered at each other through the darkness for a time.

She was not whispering, but her voice was pitched almost as low, and he
wondered at the variety of expression she was able to pack in the small
range of that murmur. "I suppose I'm a fool for coming. But I was born to
love chances. Born for it!" She lifted her head and laughed.

It amazed Terry to hear the shaken flow of her breath and catch the
glinting outline of her face. He found himself leaning forward a little;
and he began to wish for a light, though perhaps it was an unconscious

"First," she said, "what d'you know about Dad--and Denver Pete?"

"Practically nothing."

She was silent for a moment, and he saw her hand go up and prop her chin
while she considered what she could say next.

"They's so much to tell," she confessed, "that I can't put it short. I'll
tell you this much, Black Jack--"

"That isn't my name, if you please."

"It'll be your name if you stay around these parts with Dad very long,"
she replied, with an odd emphasis. "But where you been raised, Terry? And
what you been doing with yourself?"

He felt that this giving of the first name was a tribute, in some subtle
manner. It enabled him, for instance, to call her Kate, and he decided
with a thrill that he would do so at the first opportunity. He reverted
to her question.

"I suppose," he admitted gloomily, "that I've been raised to do pretty
much as I please--and the money I've spent has been given to me."

The girl shook her head with conviction.

"It ain't possible," she declared.

"Why not?"

"No son of Black Jack would live off somebody's charity."

He felt the blood tingle in his cheeks, and a real anger against her
rose. Yet he found himself explaining humbly.

"You see, I was taken when I wasn't old enough to decide for myself. I
was only a baby. And I was raised to depend upon Elizabeth Cornish. I--I
didn't even know the name of my father until a few days ago."

The girl gasped. "You didn't know your father--not your own father?" She
laughed again scornfully. "Terry, I ain't green enough to believe that!"

He fell into a dignified silence, and presently the girl leaned closer,
as though she were peering to make out his face. Indeed, it was now
possible to dimly make out objects in the room. The window was filled
with an increasing brightness, and presently a shaft of pale light began
to slide across the floor, little by little. The moon had pushed up above
the crest of the mountain.

"Did that make you mad?" queried the girl. "Why?"

"You seemed to doubt what I said," he remarked stiffly.

"Why not? You ain't under oath, or anything, are you?"

Then she laughed again. "You're a queer one all the way through. This
Elizabeth Cornish--got anything to do with the Cornish ranch?"

"I presume she owns it, very largely."

The girl nodded. "You talk like a book. You must of studied a terrible

"Not so much, really."

"H'm," said the girl, and seemed to reserve judgment.

Then she asked with a return of her former sharpness: "How come you
gambled today at Pedro's?"

"I don't know. It seemed the thing to do--to kill time, you know."

"Kill time! At Pedro's? Well--you _are_ green, Terry!"

"I suppose I am, Kate."

He made a little pause before her name, and when he spoke it, in spite of
himself, his voice changed, became softer. The girl straightened
somewhat, and the light was now increased to such a point that he could
make out that she was frowning at him through the dimness.

"First, you been adopted, then you been raised on a great big place with
everything you want, mostly, and now you're out--playing at Pedro's. How
come, Terry?"

"I was sent away," said Terry faintly, as all the pain of that farewell
came flooding back over him.


"I shot a man."

"Ah!" said Kate. "You shot a man?" It seemed to silence her. "Why,

"He had killed my father," he explained, more softly than ever.

"I know. It was Minter. And they turned you out for that?"

There was a trembling intake of her breath. He could catch the sparkle of
her eyes, and knew that she had flown into one of her sudden, fiery
passions. And it warmed his heart to hear her.

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