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Bucky O'Connor by William MacLeod Raine

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Bucky O'Connor
A Tale of the Unfenced Border

by William MacLeod Raine

To My Brother



I write your name on this page that you may know we hold you not
less in our thoughts because you have heard and answered again
the call of the frozen North, have for the time disappeared,
swallowed in some of its untrodden wilds. As in those old days of
59 Below On Bonanza, the long Winter night will be of
interminable length. Armed with this note of introduction then,
Bucky O'Connor offers himself, with the best bow of one
Adventurer to another, as a companion to while away some few of
those lonely hours.

March, 1910, Denver.



1. Enter "Bear-Trap" Collins
2. Taxation Without Representation
3. The Sheriff Introduces Himself
4. A Bluff is Called
5. Bucky Entertains
6. Bucky Makes a Discovery
7. In the Land of Revolutions
8. First Blood!
9. "Adore Has Only One D"
10. The Hold-Up of the M. C. P. Flyer
11. "Stone Walls Do Not a Prison Make"
12. A Clean White Man's Option
13. Bucky's First-Rate Reasons
14. Le Roi Est Mort; Vive Le Roi
15. In the Secret Chamber
16. Juan Valdez Scores
17. Hidden Valley
18. A Dinner for Three
19. A Villon of the Desert
20. Back to God's Country
21. The Wolf Pack
22. For a Good Reason


She had been aware of him from the moment of his spectacular
entrance, though no slightest sign of interest manifested itself
in her indolent, incurious eyes. Indeed, his abundant and
picturesque area was so vivid that it would have been difficult
not to feel his presence anywhere, let alone on a journey so
monotonous as this was proving to be.

It had been at a water-tank, near Socorro, that the Limited,
churning furiously through brown Arizona in pursuit of a lost
half-hour, jarred to a sudden halt that shook sleep from the
drowsy eyes of bored passengers. Through the window of her
Pullman the young woman in Section 3 had glimpsed a bevy of angry
train officials eddying around a sturdy figure in the center,
whose strong, lean head rose confidently above the press. There
was the momentary whirl of a scuffle, out of the tangle of which
shot a brakeman as if propelled from a catapult. The circle
parted, brushed aside by a pair of lean shoulders, muscular and
broad. Yet a few moments and the owner of the shoulders led down
the aisle to the vacant section opposite her a procession whose
tail was composed of protesting trainmen.

"You had no right to flag the train, Sheriff Collins, and you'll
have to get off; that's all there is to it," the conductor was
explaining testily.

"Oh, that's all right," returned the offender with easy good
nature, making himself at home in Section 4. "Tell the company to
send in its bill. No use jawing about it."

"You'll have to get off, sir."

"That's right--at Tucson."

"No, sir. You'll have to get off here. I have no authority to let
you ride."

"Didn't I hear you say the train was late? Don't you think you'd
arrive earlier at the end of your run if your choo-choo got to

"You'll have to get off, sir."

"I hate to disoblige," murmured the owner of the jingling spurs,
the dusty corduroys, and the big, gray hat, putting his feet
leisurely on the cushion in front of him. "But doesn't it occur
to you that you are a man of one idea?"

"This is the Coast Limited. It doesn't stop for anybody--not even
for the president of the road."

"You don't say! Well, I ce'tainly appreciate the honor you did me
in stopping to take me on." His slight drawl was quite devoid of

"But you had no right to flag the train. Can't you understand
ANYTHING?" groaned the conductor.

"You explain it again to me, sonny. I'm surely thick in the
haid," soothed the intruder, and listened with bland good-humor
to the official's flow of protest.

"Well--well! Disrupted the whole transcontinental traffic, didn't
I? And me so innocent, too. Now, this is how I figured it out.
Here's me in a hurry to get to Tucson. Here comes your train
a-foggin'--also and likewise hittin' the high spots for Tucson.
Seemed like we ought to travel in company, and I was some dubious
she'd forget to stop unless I flagged her. Wherefore, I aired my
bandanna in the summer breeze."

"But you don't understand." The conductor began to explain anew
as to a dull child. "It's against the law. You'll get into

"Put me in the calaboose, will they?"

"It's no joke."

"Well, it does seem to be worrying you," Mr. Collins conceded.
"Don't mind me. Free your mind proper."

The conductor, glancing about nervously, noticed that passengers
were smiling broadly. His official dignity was being chopped to
mince-meat. Back came his harassed gaze to the imperturbable
Collins with the brown, sun-baked face and the eyes blue and
untroubled as an Arizona sky. Out of a holster attached to the
sagging belt that circled the corduroy trousers above his hips
gleamed the butt of a revolver. But in the last analysis the
weapon of the occasion was purely a moral one. The situation was
one not covered in the company's rule book, and in the absence of
explicit orders the trainman felt himself unequal to that
unwavering gaze and careless poise. Wherefore, he retreated,
muttering threats of what the company would do.

"Now, if I had only known it was against the law. My thick haid's
always roping trouble for me," the plainsman confided to the
Pullman conductor, with twinkling eyes.

That official unbent. "Talking about thick heads, I'm glad my
porter has one. If it weren't iron-plated and copper-riveted he'd
be needing a doctor now, the way you stood him on it."

"No, did I? Ce'tainly an accident. The nigger must have been in
my way as I climbed into the car. Took the kink out of his hair,
you say? Here, Sam!" He tossed a bill to the porter, who was
rolling affronted eyes at him. "Do you reckon this is big enough
to plaster your injured feelings, boy?"

The white smile flashed at him by the porter was a receipt for
indemnity paid in full.

Sheriff Collins' perception of his neighbor across the aisle was
more frank in its interest than the girl's had been of him. The
level, fearless gaze of the outdoors West looked at her
unabashed, appreciating swiftly her points as they impinged
themselves upon his admiration. The long, lithe lines of the
slim, supple body, the languid grace missing hauteur only because
that seemed scarce worth while, the unconscious pride of self
that fails to be offensive only in a young woman so well equipped
with good looks as this one indubitably was the rider of the
plains had appraised them all before his eyes dismissed her from
his consideration and began a casual inspection of the other

Inside of half an hour he had made himself persona grata to
everybody in the car except his dark-eyed neighbor across the
way. That this dispenser of smiles and cigars decided to leave
her out in the distribution of his attentions perhaps spoke well
for his discernment. Certainly responsiveness to the geniality of
casual fellow passengers did not impress Mr. Collins as likely to
be an outstanding, quality in her. But with the drummer from
Chicago, the young mining engineer going to Sonora, the two shy
little English children just in front of him traveling to meet
their father in California, he found intuitively common ground of
interest. Even Major Mackenzie, the engineer in charge of the
large irrigation project being built by a company in southern
Arizona, relaxed at one of the plainsman's humorous tales.

It was after Collins had half-depopulated the car by leading the
more jovial spirits back in search of liquid refreshments that an
urbane clergyman, now of Boston but formerly of Pekin, Illinois,
professedly much interested in the sheriff's touch-and-go manner
as presumably quite characteristic of the West, dropped into the
vacant seat beside Major Mackenzie.

"And who might our energetic friend be?" he asked, with an
ingratiating smile.

The young woman in front of them turned her head ever so slightly
to listen.

"Val Collins is his name," said the major. "Sometimes called
'Bear-trap Collins.' He has always lived on the frontier. At
least, I met him twelve years ago when he was riding mail between
Aravaipa and Mesa. He was a boy then, certainly not over
eighteen, but in a desperate fight he had killed two men who
tried to hold up the mail. Cow-puncher, stage-driver, miner,
trapper, sheriff, rough rider, politician--he's past master at
them all."

"And why the appellation of 'Bear-trap,' may I ask?" The smack of
pulpit oratory was not often missing in the edifying discourse of
the Reverend Peter Melancthon Brooks.

"Well, sir, that's a story. He was trapping in the Tetons about
five years ago thirty miles from the nearest ranch-house. One
day, while he was setting a bear-trap, a slide of snow plunged
down from the tree branches above and freed the spring, catching
his hand between its jaws. With his feet and his other hand he
tried to open that trap for four hours, without the slightest
success. There was not one chance in a million of help from
outside. In point of fact, Collins had not seen a human being for
a month. There was only one thing to do, and he did it."

"And that was?"

"You probably noticed that he wears a glove over his left hand.
The reason, sir, is that he has an artificial hand."

"You mean--" The Reverend Peter paused to lengthen his delicious
thrill of horror.

"Yes, sir. That's just what I mean. He hacked his hand off at the
wrist with his hunting-knife."

"Why, the man's a hero!" cried the clergyman, with unction.

Mackenzie flung him a disgusted look. "We don't go much on heroes
out here. He's game, if that's what you mean. And able, too.
Bucky O'Connor himself isn't any smarter at following a trail."

"And who is Bucky O'Connor?"

"He's the man that just ran down Fernendez. Think I'll have a
smoke, sir. Care to join me?"

But the Pekin-Bostonian preferred to stay and jot down in his
note-book the story of the beartrap, to be used later as a sermon
illustration. This may have been the reason he did not catch the
quick look that passed without the slightest flicker of the
eyelids between Major Mackenzie and the young woman in Section 3.
It was as if the old officer had wired her a message in some code
the cipher of which was known only to them.

But the sheriff, returning at the head of his cohorts, caught it,
and wondered what meaning might lie back of that swift glance.
Major Mackenzie and this dark-eyed beauty posed before others as
strangers, yet between them lay some freemasonry of understanding
to which he had not the key.

Collins did not know that the aloofness in the eyes of Miss
Wainwright--he had seen the name on her suit-case--gave way to
horror when her glance fell on his gloved hand. She had a swift,
shuddering vision of a grim-faced man, jaws set like a vise,
hacking at his wrist with a hunting-knife. But the engaging
impudence of his eye, the rollicking laughter in his voice, shut
out the picture instantly.

The young man resumed his seat, and Miss Wainwright her listless
inspection of the flying stretches of brown desert. Dusk was
beginning to fall, and the porter presently lit the lamps.
Collins bought a magazine from the newsboy and relapsed into it,
but before he was well adjusted to reading the Limited pounded to
a second unscheduled halt.

Instantly the magazine was thrown aside and Collins' curly head
thrust out of the window. Presently the head reappeared,
simultaneously with the crack of a revolver, the first of a
detonating fusillade.

"Another of your impatient citizens eager to utilize the
unspeakable convenience of rapid transit," suggested the
clergyman, with ponderous jocosity.

"No, sir; nothing so illegal," smiled the cattleman, a whimsical
light in his daredevil eyes. He leaned forward and whispered a
word to the little girl in front of him, who at once led her
younger brother back to his section.

"I had hoped it would prove to be more diverting experience for a
tenderfoot," condescended the gentleman of the cloth.

"It's ce'tainly a pleasure to be able to gratify you, sir. You'll
be right pleased to know that it is a train hold-up." He waved
his hand toward the door, and at the word, as if waiting for his
cue, a masked man appeared at the end of the passage with a
revolver in each hand.


"Hands up!"

There was a ring of crisp menace in the sinister voice that was a
spur to obedience. The unanimous show of hands voted "Aye" with a
hasty precision that no amount of drill could have compassed.

It was a situation that might have made for laughter had there
been spectators to appreciate. But of whatever amusement was to
be had one of the victims seemed to hold a monopoly. Collins, his
arm around the English children by way of comfort, offered a
sardonic smile at the consternation his announcement and its
fulfillment had created, but none of his fellow passengers were
in the humor to respond.

The shock of an earthquake could not have blanched ruddy faces
more surely. The Chicago drummer, fat and florid, had disappeared
completely behind a buttress of the company's upholstery.

"God bless my soul!" gasped the Pekin-Bostonian, dropping his
eyeglass and his accent at the same moment. The dismay in his
face found a reflection all over the car. Miss Wainwright's hand
clutched at her breast for an instant, and her color ebbed till
her lips were ashen, but her neighbor across the aisle noticed
that her eyes were steady and her figure tense.

"Scared stiff, but game," was his mental comment.

"Gents to the right and ladies to the left; line up against the
walls; everybody waltz." called the man behind the guns, with
grim humor.

The passengers fell into line as directed, Collins with the rest.

"You're calling this dance, son; it's your say-so, I guess," he

"Keep still, or I'll shoot you full of holes," growled the
autocrat of the artillery.

"Why, sure! Ain't you the real thing in Jesse Jameses?" soothed
the sheriff.

At the sound of Collins' voice, the masked man had started
perceptibly, and his right hand had jumped forward an inch or two
to cover the speaker more definitely. Thereafter, no matter what
else engaged his attention, the gleaming eyes behind the red
bandanna never wandered for a moment from the big plainsman. He
was taking no risks, for he remembered the saying current in
Arizona, that after Collins' hardware got into action there was
nothing left to do but plant the deceased and collect the
insurance. He had personal reasons to know the fundamental
accuracy of the colloquialism.

The train-conductor fussed up to the masked outlaw with a
ludicrous attempt at authority. "You can't rob the passengers on
this train. I'm not responsible for the express-car, but the

A bullet almost grazed his ear and shattered a window on its way
to the desert.

"Drift, you red-haired son of a Mexican?" ordered the man behind
the red bandanna. "Git back to that seat real prompt. This here's
taxation without representation."

The conductor drifted as per suggestion.

The minutes ticked themselves away in a tense strain marked by
pounding hearts. The outlaw stood at the end of the aisle,
watching the sheriff alertly.

"Why doesn't the music begin?" volunteered Collins, by way of
conversation, and quoted: "On with the dance. Let joy be

A dull explosion answered his question. The bandits were blowing
open the safe in the express-car with dynamite, pending which the
looting of the passengers was at a standstill.

A second masked figure joined his companion at the end of the
passage and held a hurried conversation with him. Fragments of
their low-voiced talk came to Collins.

"Only thirty thousand in the express-car. Not a red cent on the
old man himself."

"Where's the rest?" The irritation in the newcomer's voice was

Collins slewed his head and raked him with keen eyes that missed
not a detail. He was certain that he had never seen the man
before, yet he knew at once that the trim, wiry figure, so clean
of build and so gallant of bearing, could belong only to Wolf
Leroy, the most ruthless outlaw of the Southwest. It was written
in his jaunty insolence, in the flashing eyes. He was a handsome
fellow, white-toothed, black-haired, lithely tigerish, with
masterful mouth and eyes of steel, so far as one might judge
behind the white mask he wore. Alert, cruel, fearless from the
head to the heel of him, he looked the very devil to lead an
enterprise so lawless and so desperate as this. His vigilant eyes
swept contemptuously up and down the car, rested for a moment on
the young woman in Section 3, and came back to his partner.

"Bah! A flock of sheep--tamest bunch of spring lambs we ever
struck. I'll send Scott in to go through them. If anybody gets
gay, drop him." And the outlaw turned on his heel.

Another of the highwaymen took his place, a stout, squat figure
in the flannel shirt, spurs, and chaps of a cow-puncher. It took
no second glance to tell Collins this bandy-legged fellow had
been a rider of the range.

"Come, gentlemen, get a move on you," Collins implored. "This
train's due at Tucson by eight o'clock. We're more than an hour
late now. I'm holding down the job of sheriff in that same town,
and I'm awful anxious to get a posse out after a bunch of
train-robbers. So burn the wind, and go through the car on the
jump. Help yourself to anything you find. Who steals my purse
takes trash. 'Tis something, nothing. 'Twas mine; 'tis his.
That's right, you'll find my roll in that left-hand pocket. I
hate to have you take that gun, though. I meant to run you down
with that same old Colt's reliable. Oh, well, just as you say.
No, those kids get a free pass. They're going out to meet papa at
Los Angeles, boys. See?"

Collins' running fire of comment had at least the effect of
restoring the color to some cheeks that had been washed white and
of snatching from the outlaws some portion of their sense of
dominating the situation. But there was a veiled vigilance in his
eyes that belied his easy impudence.

"That lady across the aisle gets a pass, too, boys," continued
the sheriff. "She's scared stiff now, and you won't bother her,
if you're white men. Her watch and purse are on the seat. Take
them, if you want them, and let it go at that."

Miss Wainwright listened to this dialogue silently. She stood
before them cool and imperious and unwavering, but her face was
bloodless and the pulse in her beautiful soft throat fluttered
like a caged bird.

"Who's doing this job?" demanded one of the hold-ups, wheeling
savagely on the impassive officer "Did I say we were going to
bother the lady? Who's doing this job, Mr. Sheriff?"

"You are. I'd hate to be messing the job like you--holding up the
wrong train by mistake." This was a shot in the dark, and it did
not quite hit the bull's-eye. "I wouldn't trust you boys to rob a
hen-roost, the amateur way you go at it. When you get through,
you'll all go to drinking like blue blotters. I know your
kind--hell-bent to spend what you cash in, and every mother's son
of you in the pen or with his toes turned up inside of a month."

"Who'll put us there?" gruffly demanded the bowlegged one.

Collins smiled at him with confidence superb "Mebbe I will--and
if I don't Bucky O'Connor will--those of you that are left alive
when you go through shooting each other in the back. Oh, I see
your finish to a fare-you-well."

"Cheese it, or I'll bump you off." The first out law drove his
gun into the sheriff's ribs.

"That's all right. You don't need to punctuate that remark. I
line up with the sky-pilot and chew the cud of silence. I merely
wanted to frame up to you how this thing's going to turn out.
Don't come back at me and say I didn't warn you, sonnie."

"You make my head ache," snarled the bandy-legged outlaw sourly,
as he passed down with his sack, accumulating tribute as he
passed down the aisle with his sack, accumulating tribute as he

The red-kerchiefed robber whooped when they came to the car
conductor. "Dig up, Mr. Pullman. Go way down into your jeans.
It's a right smart pleasure to divert the plunder of your bloated
corporation back to the people. What! Only fifty-seven dollars.
Oh, dig deeper, Mr. Pullman."

The drummer contributed to the sack eighty-four dollars, a
diamond ring, and a gold watch. His hands were trembling so that
they played a tattoo on the sloping ceiling above him.

"What's the matter, Fatty? Got a chill?" inquired one of the
robbers, as he deftly swept the plunder into the sack.

"For--God's sake--don't shoot. I have--a wife--and five
children," he stammered, with chattering teeth.

"No race suicide for Fatty. But whyfor do they let a sick man
like you travel all by his lone?"

"I don't know--I--Please turn that weapon another way."

"Plumb chuck full of malaria," soliloquized the owner of the
weapon, playfully running its business end over the Chicago man's
anatomy. "Shakes worse'n a pair of dice. Here, Fatty. Load up
with quinine and whisky. It's sure good for chills." The man
behind the bandanna gravely handed his victim back a dollar.
"Write me if it cures you. Now for the sky-pilot. No white chips
on this plate, parson. It's a contribution to the needy heathen.
You want to be generous. How much do you say?

The man of the cloth reluctantly said thirty dollars, a Lincoln
penny, and a silver-plated watch inherited from his fathers. The
watch was declined with thanks, the money accepted without.

The Pullman porter came into the car under compulsion of a
revolver in the hand of a fourth outlaw, one in a black mask. His
trembling finger pointed out the satchel and suit-case of Major
Mackenzie, and under orders he carried out the baggage belonging
to the irrigation engineer. Collin observed that the bandit in
the black mask was so nervous that the revolver in his hand
quivered like an aspen in the wind. He was slenderer and much
shorter than the Mexican, so that the sheriff decided he was a
mere boy.

It was just after he had left that three shots in rapid
succession rang out in the still night air.

The red-bandannaed one and his companion, who had apparently been
waiting for the signal, retreated backward to the end of the car,
still keeping the passengers covered. They flung rapidly two or
three bullets through the roof, and under cover of the smoke
slipped out into the night. A moment later came the thud of
galloping horses, more shots, and, when the patter of hoofs had
died away--silence.

The sheriff was the first to break it. He thrust his brown hands
deep into his pockets and laughed--laughed with the joyous,
rollicking abandon of a tickled schoolboy.

"Hysterics?" ventured the mining engineer sympathetically.

Collins wiped his eyes. "Call 'em anything you like. What pleases
me is that the reverend gentleman should have had this diverting
experience so prompt after he was wishing for it." He turned,
with concern, to the clergyman. "Satisfied, sir? Did our little
entertainment please, or wasn't it up to the mark?"

But the transported native of Pekin was game. "I'm quite
satisfied, if you are. I think the affair cost you a hundred
dollars or so more than it did me."

"That's right," agreed the sheriff heartily. "But I don't grudge
it--not a cent of it. The show was worth the price of admission."

The car conductor had a broadside ready for him. "Seems to me you
shot off your mouth more than you did that big gun of yours, Mr.

Collins laughed, and clapped him on the back. "That's right. I'm
a regular phonograph, when you wind me up." He did not think it
necessary to explain that he had talked to make the outlaws talk,
and that he had noted the quality of their voices so carefully
that he would know them again among a thousand. Also he had
observed--other things--the garb of each of the men he had seen,
their weapons, their manner, and their individual peculiarities.

The clanking car took up the rhythm of the rails as the delayed
train plunged forward once more into the night. Again the clack
of tongues, set free from fear, buzzed eagerly. The glow of the
afterclap of danger was on them, and in the warm excitement each
forgot the paralyzing fear that had but now padlocked his lips.
Courage came flowing back into flabby cheeks and red blood into
hearts of water.

At the next station the Limited stopped, and the conductor swung
from a car before the wheels had ceased rolling and went running
into the telegraph office.

"Fire a message through for me, Pat. The Limited has been held
up," he announced.

"Held up?" gasped the operator.

"That's right. Get this message right through to Sabin. I'm not
going to wait for an answer. Tell him I'll stop at Apache for
further instructions."

With which the conductor was out again waving his lantern as a
signal for the train to start. Sheriff Collins and Major
Mackenzie had entered the office at his heels. They too had
messages to send, but it was not until the train was already
plunging into the night that the station agent read the yellow
slips they had left and observed that both of them went to the
same person.

"Lieutenant Bucky O'Connor, Douglas, Arizona," was the address he
read at the top of each. His comment serves to show the opinion
generally in the sunburned territory respecting one of its

"You're wise guys, gents, both of yez. This is shure a case for
the leftenant. It's send for Bucky quick when the band begins to
play," he grinned.

Sitting down, he gave the call for Tucson, preparatory to
transmitting the conductor's message to the division
superintendent. His fingers were just striking the first tap when
a silken voice startled him.

"One moment, friend. No use being in a hurry."

The agent looked up and nearly fell from his stool. He was gazing
into the end of a revolver held carelessly in the hand of a
masked man leaning indolently on the counter.

"Whe--where did you come from?" the operator gasped.

"Kaintucky, but I been here a right smart spell. Why? You takin'
the census?" came the drawling answer.

"I didn't hear youse come in."

"I didn't hear you come in, either," the man behind the mask
mocked. But even as he spoke his manner changed, and crisp menace
rang in his voice. "Have you sent those messages yet?"

"Wha--what messages?"

"Those lying on your desk. I say, have you sent them?"

"Not yet."

"Hand them over here."

The operator passed them across the counter without demur.

"Now reach for the roof."

Up shot the station agent's hands. The bandit glanced over the
written sheets and commented aloud:

"Huh! One from the conductor and one from Mackenzie. I expected
those. But this one from Collins is ce'tainly a surprise party. I
didn't know he was on the train. Lucky for him I didn't, or mebbe
I'd a-put his light for good and all. Friend, I reckon we'll
suppress these messages. Military necessity, you understand." And
with that he lightly tore up the yellow sheets and tossed them

"The conductor will wire when he reaches Apache," the operator
suggested, not very boldly.

The outlaw rolled a cigarette deftly and borrowed a match. "He
most surely will. But Apache is seventy miles from here. That
gives us an extra hour and a half, and with us right now time is
a heap more valuable than money. You may tell Bucky O'Connor when
you see him that that extra hour and a half cinches our escape,
and we weren't on the anxious seat any without it."

It may have been true, as the train robber had just said, that
time was more valuable to him then than money, but if so he must
have held the latter of singularly little value. For he sat him
down on the counter with his back against the wall and his legs
stretched full length in front of him and glanced over the Tucson
Star in leisurely fashion, while Pat's arms still projected

The operator, beginning to get over his natural fright, could not
withhold a reluctant admiration of this man's aplomb. There was a
certain pantherish lightness about the outlaw's movements, a trim
grace of figure which yet suggested rippling muscles perfectly
under control, and a quiet wariness of eye more potent than words
at repressing insurgent impulses. Certainly if ever there was a
cool customer and one perfectly sure of himself, this was he.

"Not a thing in the Star to-day," Pat's visitor commented, as he
flung it away with a yawn. "I'll let a thousand dollars of the
express company's money that there will be something more
interesting in it to-morrow."

"That's right," agreed the agent.

"But I won't be here to read it. My engagements take me south.
I'll make a present to the great Lieutenant O'Connor of the
information. We're headed south, tell him. And tell Mr. Sheriff
Collins, too--happy to entertain him if he happens our way. If it
would rest your hands any there's no law against putting them in
your trousers pockets, my friend."

From outside there came a short sharp whistle. The man on the
counter answered it, and slipped at once to the floor. The door
opened, to let in another masked form, but one how different from
the first! Here was no confidence almost insolent in its
nonchalance. The figure was slight and boyish, the manner
deprecating, the brown eyes shy and shrinking He was so obviously
a novice at outlawry that fear sat heavy upon his shoulders. When
he spoke, almost in a whisper, his teeth chattered.

"All ready, sir."

"The wires are cut?" demanded his leader crisply.

"Yes, sir."

"On both sides?"

"On both sides."

His chief relieved the operator of the revolver in his desk,
broke it, emptied out the shells, and flung them through the
window, then tossed the weapon back to its owner.

"You'll not shoot yourself by accident now," he explained, and
with that he had followed his companion into the night.

There came to the station agent the sound of galloping horses,
growing fainter, until a heavy silence seemed to fill the night.
He stole to the door and locked it, pulled down the window
blinds, and then reloaded his revolver with feverish haste. This
done, he sat down before his keys with the weapon close at hand
and frantically called for Tucson over and over again. No answer
came to him, nor from the other direction when he tried that. The
young bandit had told the truth. His companions had cut the wires
and so isolated from the world for the time the scene of the
hold-up. The agent understood now why the leader of the outlaws
had honored him with so much of his valuable time. He had stayed
to hold back the telegrams until he knew the wires were cut.


Bear-trap Collins, presuming on the new intimacy born of an
exciting experience shared in common, stepped across the aisle,
flung aside Miss Wainwright's impedimenta, and calmly seated
himself beside her. She was a young woman capable of a hauteur
chillier than ice to undue familiarity, but she did not choose at
this moment to resent his assumption of a footing that had not
existed an hour ago. Picturesque and unconventional conduct
excuses itself when it is garbed in picturesque and engaging
manners. She had, besides, other reasons for wanting to meet him,
and they had to do with a sudden suspicion that flamed like tow
in her brain. She had something for which to thank him--much more
than he would be likely to guess, she thought--and she was
wondering, with a surge of triumph, whether the irony of fate had
not made his pretended consideration for her the means of his

"I am sorry you lost so much, Miss Wainwright," he told her.

"But, after all, I did not lose so much as you. Her dark,
deep-pupiled eyes, long-lashed as Diana's, swept round to meet
his coolly.

"That's a true word. My reputation has gone glimmering for fair,
I guess." He laughed ruefully. "I shouldn't wonder, ma'am, when
election time comes round, if the boys ain't likely to elect to
private life the sheriff that lay down before a bunch of

"Why did you do it?"

His humorous glance roamed round the car. "Now, I couldn't think
it proper for me to shoot up this sumptuous palace on wheels. And
wouldn't some casual passenger be likely to get his lights put
out when the band began to play? Would you want that Boston
church to be shy a preacher, ma'am?"

Her lips parted slightly in a curve of scorn. "I suppose you had
your reasons for not interfering."

"Surely, ma'am. I hated to have them make a sieve of me."

"Were you afraid?"

"Most men are when Wolf Leroy's gang is on the war path."

"Wolf Leroy?"

"That was Wolf who came in to see they were doing the job right.
He's the worst desperado on the border--a sure enough bad
proposition, I reckon. They say he's part Spanish and part
Indian, but all pisen. Others say he's a college man of good
family. I don't know about that, for nobody knows who he really
is. But the name is a byword in the country. People lower their
voices when they speak of him and his night-riders."

"I see. And you were afraid of him?"

"Very much."

Her narrowed eyes looked over the strong lines of his lean face
and were unconvinced. "I expect you found a better reason than
that for not opposing them."

He turned to her with frank curiosity. "I'd like real well to
have you put a name to it."

But he was instantly aware that her interest had been side
tracked. Major Mackenzie had entered the car and was coming down
the aisle. Plainer than words his eyes asked a question, and hers
answered it.

The sheriff stopped him with a smiling query: "Hit hard, major?"

Mackenzie frowned. "The scoundrels took thirty thousand from the
express car, I understand. Twenty thousand of it belonged to our
company. I was expecting to pay off the men next Tuesday."

"Hope we'll be able to run them down for you," returned Collins
cheerfully. "I suppose you lay it to Wolf Leroy's gang?"

"Of course. The work was too well done to leave any doubt of
that." The major resumed his seat behind Miss Wainwright.

To that young woman the sheriff repeated his unanswered question
in the form of a statement. "I'm waiting to learn that better
reason, ma'am."

She was possessed of that spice of effrontery more to be desired
than beauty. "Shall we say that you had no wish to injure your

"My friends?"

Her untender eyes mocked his astonishment. "Do I choose the wrong
word?" she asked, with an audacity of a courage that delighted
him. "Perhaps they are not your friends--these train robbers?
Perhaps they are mere casual acquaintances?"

His bold eyes studied with a new interest her superb, confident
youth--the rolling waves of splendid Titian hair, the lovely,
subtle eyes with the depths of shadowy pools in them, the
alluring lines of long and supple loveliness. Certainly here was
no sweet, ingenuous youth all prone to blushes, but the complex
heir of that world-old wisdom the weaker sex has shaped to serve
as a weapon against the strength that must be met with the wit of
Mother Eve.

"You ce'tainly have a right vivid imagination, ma'am," he said

"You are quite sure you have never seen them before?" her velvet
voice asked.

He laughed. "Well, no--I can't say I am."

"Aren't you quite sure you have seen them?'

Her eyes rested on him very steadily.

"You're smart as a whip, Miss Wainwright. I take off my hat to a
young lady so clever. I guess you're right. About the identity of
one of those masked gentlemen I'm pretty well satisfied."

She drew a long breath. "I thought so."

"Yes," he went on evenly, "I once earmarked him so that I'd know
him again in case we met."

"I beg pardon. You--what?"

"Earmarked him. Figure of speech, ma'am. You may not have
observed that the curly-headed person behind the guns was shy the
forefinger of his right hand. We had a little difficulty once
when he was resisting arrest, and it just happened that my gun
fanned away his trigger finger." He added reminiscently:

"A good boy, too, Neil was once. We used to punch together on the
Hashknife. A straight-up rider, the kind a fellow wants when Old
Man Trouble comes knocking at the door. Well, I reckon he's a
miscreant now, all right."

"They knew YOU--at least two of them did."

"I've been pirootin' around this country, boy and man, for
fifteen years. I ain't responsible for every yellow dog that
knows me," he drawled.

"And I noticed that when you told them not to rob the children
and not to touch me they did as you said."

"Hypnotism," he suggested, with a smile.

"So, not being a child, I put two and two together and draw an

He seemed to be struggling with his mirth. "I see you do. Well,
ma'am, I've been most everything since I hit the West, but this
is the first time I've been taken for a train robber."

"I didn't say that," she cried quickly.

"I think you mentioned an inference." The low laugh welled out of
him and broke in his face. "I've been busy on one, too. It's a
heap nearer the truth than yours, Miss Mackenzie."

Her startled eyes and the swift movement of her hand toward her
heart showed him how nearly he had struck home, how certainly he
had shattered her cool indifference of manner.

He leaned forward, so close that even in the roar of the train
his low whisper reached her. "Shall I tell you why the hold-ups
didn't find more money on your father or in the express car, Miss

She was shaken, so much so that her agitation trembled on her

"Shall I tell you why your hand went to your breast when I first
mentioned that the train was going to be held up, and again when
your father's eyes were firing a mighty pointed question at you?"

"I don't know what you mean," she retorted, again mistress of

Her gallant bearing compelled his admiration. The scornful eyes,
the satirical lift of the nostrils, the erect, graceful figure,
all flung a challenge at him. He called himself hard names for
putting her on the rack, but the necessity to make her believe in
him was strong within him.

"I noticed you went right chalky when I announced the hold-up,
and I thought it was because you were scared. That was where I
did you an injustice, ma'am, and you can call this an apology.
You've got sand. If it hadn't been for what you carry in the
chamois skin hanging on the chain round your neck you would have
enjoyed every minute of the little entertainment. You're as game
as they make them."

"May I ask how you arrived at this melodramatic conclusion?" she
asked, her disdainful lip curling.

"By using my eyes and my ears, ma'am. I shouldn't have noticed
your likeness to Major Mackenzie, perhaps, if I hadn't observed
that there was a secret understanding between you. Now, whyfor
should you be passing as strangers? I could guess one reason, and
only one. There have twice been attempted hold-ups of the
paymaster of the Yuba reservoir. It was to avoid any more of
these that Major Mackenzie took charge personally of paying the
men. He has made good up till now. But there have been rumors for
months that he would be held up either before leaving the train
or while he was crossing the desert. He didn't want to be seen
taking the boodle from the express company at Tucson. He would
rather have the impression get out that this was just a casual
visit. It occurred to him to bring along some unsuspected party
to help him out. The robbers would never expect to find the money
on a woman. That's why the major brought his daughter with him.
Doesn't it make you some uneasy to be carrying fifty thousand in
small bills sewed in your clothes and hung round your neck?"

She broke into musical laughter, natural and easy. "I don't
happen to have fifty thousand with me."

"Oh, well, say forty thousand. I'm no wizard to guess the exact

Her swift glance at him was almost timid.

"Nor forty thousand," she murmured.

"I should think, ma'am, you'd crinkle more than a silk-lined lady
sailing down a church aisle on Sunday."

A picture in the magazine she was toying with seemed to interest

"I expect that's the signal for 'Exit Collins.' I'll say good-by
till next time, Miss Mackenzie."

"Oh, is there going to be a next time?" she asked, with elaborate

"Several of them."


He took a notebook from his pocket and wrote.

"I ain't the son of a prophet, but I'm venturing a prediction,"
he explained.

She had nothing to say, and she said it competently.

"Concerning an investment in futurities I'm making," he

Her magazine article seemed to be beginning, well.

"It's a little guess about how this train robbery is coming out.
If you don't mind, I'll leave it with you." He tore the page out,
put it in an empty envelope, sealed the flap, and handed it to

"Open it in a month, and see whether my guess is a good one."

The dusky lashes swept round indolently. "Suppose I were to open
it to-night."

"I'll risk it," smiled the blue eyes.

"On honor, am I?"

"That's it." He held out a big, brown hand.

"You're going to try to capture the robbers, are you?"

"I've been thinking that way--with the help of Lieutenant Bucky
O'Connor, I mean."

"And I suppose you've promised yourself success."

"It's on the knees of chance, ma'am. We may get them. They may
get us."

"But this prediction of yours?" She held up the sealed envelope.

"That's about another matter."

"But I don't understand. You said--" She gave him a chance to

"It ain't meant you should. You'll understand plenty at the
proper time."

He offered her his hand again. "We're slowing down for Apache.
Good-by--till next time."

The suede glove came forward, and was buried in his handshake.

He understood it to be an unvoiced apology of its owner for her
suspicions, and his instinct was correct. For how could her
doubts hold their ground when he had showed himself a sharer in
her secret and a guardian of it? And how could anything sinister
lie behind those frank, unwavering eyes or consist with that
long, clean stride that was carrying him so forcefully to the

At Apache no telegrams were found waiting for those who had been
expecting them. Communication with the division superintendent at
Tucson uncovered the fact that no message of the hold-up had yet
reached him. It was an easy guess for Collins to find the reason.

"We're in the infant class, major," he told Mackenzie, with a
sardonic laugh. "Leroy must have galloped down the line direct to
the station after the hold-up. Likely enough he went into the
depot just as we went out. That gives him the other hour or two
he needs to make his getaway with the loot. Well, it can't be
helped now. If I can only reach Bucky there's one chance in fifty
he can head them off from crossing into Sonora. Soon as I can get
together a posse I'll take up the trail from the point of the
hold-up. But they'll have a whole night's start on me. That's a
big handicap."

From Apache Collins sent three dispatches. One was to his deputy,
Dillon, at Tucson. It read:

"Get together at once posse of four and outfit same for four

Another went to Sabin, the division superintendent:

"Order special to carry posse with horses from Tucson to Big Gap.
Must leave by midnight. Have track clear."

The third was a notification to Lieutenant O'Connor, of the
Arizona Rangers, of the hold-up, specifying time and place of the
occurrence. The sheriff knew it was not necessary to add that the
bandits were probably heading south to get into Sonora. Bucky
would take that for granted and do his best to cover the likely
spots of the frontier.

It was nearly eleven when the Limited drew in to Tucson. Sabin
was on the platform anxiously awaiting their arrival. Collins
reached him even before the conductor.

"Ordered the special, Mr. Sabin?" he asked, in a low voice.

The railroad man was chewing nervously on an unlit cigar. "Yes,
sheriff. You want only an engine and one car, I suppose."

"That will be enough. I've got to go uptown now and meet Dillon.
Midnight sharp, please."

"Do you know how much they got?" Sabin whispered.

"Thirty thousand, I hear, besides what they took from the
passengers. The conductor will tell you all about it. I've got to
jump to be ready."

A disappointment awaited him in the telegrapher's room at the
depot. He found a wire, but not from the person he expected. The
ranger in charge at Douglas said that Lieutenant O'Connor was at
Flag staff, but pending that officer's return he would put
himself under the orders of Sheriff Collins and wait for

The sheriff whistled softly to himself and scratched his head.
Bucky would not have waited for instructions. By this time that
live wire would have finished telephoning all over Southern
Arizona and would himself have been in the saddle. But Bucky in
Flagstaff, nearly three hundred miles from the battlefield, so
far as the present emergency went, might just as well be in
Calcutta. Collins wired instructions to the ranger and sent a
third message to the lieutenant.

"I expect I'll hear this time he's skipped over to Winslow," he
told himself, with a rueful grin.

The special with the posse on board drew out at midnight sharp.
It reached the scene of the holdup before daybreak. The loading
board was lowered and the horses led from the car and picketed.
Meanwhile two of the men lit a fire and made breakfast while the
others unloaded the outfit and packed for the trail. The first
faint streaks of gray dawn were beginning to fleck the sky when
Collins and Dillon, with a lantern, moved along the railroad bed
to the little clump of cottonwoods where the outlaws had probably
lain while they waited for the express. They scanned this ground
inch by inch. The coals where their camp-fire had been were still
alive. Broken bits of food lay scattered about. Half-trampled
into the ground the sheriff picked up a narrow gold chain and
locket. This last he opened, and found it to contain a tiny
photograph of a young mother and babe, both laughing happily. A
close search failed to disclose anything else of interest.

They returned to their companions, ate breakfast, and saddled. It
was by this time light enough to be moving. The trail was easy as
a printed map, for the object of the outlaws had been haste
rather than secrecy. The posse covered it swiftly and without

"Now, I wonder why this trail don't run straight south instead of
bearing to the left into the hills. Looks like they're going to
cache their stolen gold up in the mountains before they risk
crossing into Sonora. They figure Bucky'll be on the lookout for
them," the sheriff said to his deputy.

"I believe you've guessed it, Val. Stands to reason they'll want
to get rid of the loot soon as they can. Oh, hell!"

Dillon's disgust proved justifiable, for the trail had lost
itself in a mountain stream, up or down which the outlaws must
have filed. A month later and the creek would have been dry. But
it was still spring. The mountain rains had not ceased feeding
the brook, and of this the outlaws had taken advantage to wipe
out their trail.

The sheriff looked anxiously at the sky. "It's fixin' to rain,
Jim. Don't that beat the Dutch? If it does, that lets us out

The men they were after might have gone either upstream or down.
It was impossible to know definitely which, nor was there time to
follow both. Already big drops of rain were splashing down.

"We'll take a chance, and go up. They're probably up in the hills
somewhere right now," said Collins, with characteristic decision.

He had guessed right. A mile farther upstream horses had
clambered to the bank and struck deeper into the hills. But
already rain was falling in a brisk shower. The posse had not
gone another quarter of a mile before the trail was washed out.
They were now in a rough and rocky country getting every minute

"It's going to be like lookin' for a needle in a haystack, Val,"
Dillon growled.

Collins nodded. "We ain't got one chance in a hundred, Jim, but I
reckon we'll take that chance."

For three days they blundered around in the hills before they
gave it up. The first night, about dusk, the pursuers were
without knowing it so warm that one of the bandits lay with his
rifle on a rock rim not a stone's throw above them as they wound
through a little ravine. But Collins got no glimpse of the
robbers. At last he reluctantly gave the word to turn back.
Probably the men he wanted had already slipped down to the plains
and across to Mexico. If not, they might play hide and seek with
him a month in the recesses of these unknown mountains.

Next morning the sheriff struck a telephone wire, tapped it, got
Sabin on the line, told him of his failure and that he was
returning to Tucson. About the middle of the afternoon the
dispirited posse reached its sidetracked special.

A young man lay stretched full length on the loading board, with
a broad-brimmed felt hat over his eyes. He wore a gray flannel
shirt and corduroy trousers thrust into half-leg laced boots. At
the sound of voices he turned lazily on his side and watched the
members of the posse swing wearily from their saddles. An amiable
smile, not wholly free of friendly derision, lit his good-looking

"Oh, you sheriff," he drawled.

Collins swung round, as if he had been pricked with a knife
point. He stared an instant before he let out a shout of welcome
and fell upon the youth.

"Bucky, by thunder!"

The latter got up nimbly in time to be hospitably thumped and
punched. He was a lithe, slender young fellow, of medium height,
and he carried himself lightly with that manner of sunburned
competency given only by the rough-and-tumble life of the
outdoors West.

While the men reloaded the car he and the sheriff stood apart and
talked in low tones. Collins told what he knew, both what he had
seen and inferred, and Bucky heard him to the end.

"Yes, it ce'tainly looks like one of Wolf Leroy's jobs," he
agreed. "Nobody else but Leroy would have had the nerve to follow
you right up to the depot and put the kibosh on sending those
wires. He's surely game from the toes up. Think of him sittin'
there reading the newspaper half an hour after he held up the

"Did he do that, Bucky?" The sheriff's tone conceded admiration.

"He did. He's the only train robber ever in the business that
could have done it. Oh, the Wolf's tracks are all over this job."

"No doubt about that. I told you I recognized York Neil by him
being shy that trigger finger I fanned off down at Tombstone.
Well, they say he's one of the Wolf's standbys."

"Yes. I warned him two months ago that if he didn't break away
he'd die sudden. Somehow I couldn't persuade him he was an awful
sick man right then. You saw four of these hold-ups in all,
didn't you, Val?"

"Four's right. First off Neil, then the fellow I took to be the
Wolf. After he went out a bowlegged fellow came in, and last a
slim little kid that was a sure enough amateur, the way his gun

"Any notion how many more there were?"

"I figured out two more. A big gazabo in a red wig held up Frost,
the engineer. He knew it was a wig because he saw long black hair
peeping out around his neck. Then there must 'a' been another in
charge of blowing up the express car, a Mexican, from the
description the messenger gives of him."

Bucky nodded. "Looks like you got it figured about right, Val.
The Mexican is easy to account for. The Wolf spends about half
his time down in Chihuahua and trains with some high-class
greasers down there. Well, we'll see what we'll see. I'll set my
rangers at rounding up the border towns a bit, and if I don't
start anything there I'll hike down into Mexico and see what's
doing. I'll count on you to run the Arizona end of it while I'm
away, Val. The Wolf's outfit is a pretty wild one, and it won't
be long till something begins to howl. We'll keep an eye on the
gambling halls and see who is burning up money. Oh, they'll leave
plenty of smoke behind them," the ranger concluded cheerfully.

"There will be plenty of smoke if we ever do round 'em up, not to
mention a heap of good lead that will be spilled," the sheriff
agreed placidly. "Well, all I got to say is the sooner the
quicker. The bunch borrowed a mighty good .45 of mine I need in
my biz. I kinder hanker to get it back muy pronto."

"Here's hoping," Bucky nodded gayly. "I bet there will be a right
lively wolf hunt. Hello! The car's loaded. All aboard for

The special drew out from the side track and gathered speed. Soon
the rhythmic chant of the rails sounded monotonously, and the
plains on either side of the track swam swiftly to the rear.


Torpid lay Aravaipa in a coma of sunheat. Its adobe-lined streets
basked in the white glare of an Arizona spring at midday. One or
two Papago Indians, with their pottery wares, squatted in the
shade of the buildings, but otherwise the plaza was deserted. Not
even a moving dog or a lounging peon lent life to the drowsy
square. Silence profound and peace eternal seemed to brood over
the land.

Such was the impression borne in upon the young man riding
townward on a wiry buckskin that had just topped the rise which
commanded the valley below. The rider presented a striking enough
appearance to take and hold the roving eye of any young woman in
search of romance. He was a slender, lithe young Adonis of medium
height. His hair and eyebrows left one doubtful whether to
pronounce them black or brown, but the eyes called for an
immediate verdict of Irish blue. Every inch of him spoke of
competency--promised mastership of any situation likely to arise.
But when the last word is said it was the eyes that dominated the
personality. They could run the whole gamut of emotions, or they
could be impervious as a stone wall. Now they were deep and
innocent as a girl's, now they rollicked with the buoyant youth
in them. Comrades might see them bubbling with fun, and the next
moment enemies find them opague as a leaden sky. Not the least
wonder of them was that they looked out from under long lashes,
soft enough for any maiden, at a world they appraised with the
shrewdness of a veteran.

The young man drew rein above the valley, sitting his horse in
the easy, negligent fashion of one that lives in the saddle. A
thumb was hitched carelessly in the front pocket of his chaps,
which pocket served also as a holster for the .45 that protruded.

Even in the moment that he sat there a change came over Aravaipa.
As a summer shower sweeps across a lake so something had ruffled
the town to sudden life. From stores and saloons men dribbled,
converging toward a common centre hurriedly.

"I reckon, Bucky, the band has begun to play," the rider told
himself aloud. "Mebbe we better move on down in time for the

But no half-expected revolver shots shattered the stillness, even
though interest did not abate.

"There's ce'tainly something doing at the Silver Dollar this glad
mo'ning. Chinks, greasers, and several other kinds of citizens
driftin' that way, not to mention white men. I expect there will
be room for you, Bucky, if you hurry before the seats are all
sold out."

He cantered down the plaza, swung from the saddle, threw the rein
over the pony's head to the ground, and jingled across the
sidewalk into the gambling house. It was filled with a motley
crowd of miners, vaqueros, tourists, cattlemen, Mexicans,
Chinese, and a sample of the rest of the heterogeneous population
of the Southwest. Behind this assemblage the newcomer tiptoed in
vain to catch a glimpse of the cause of the excitement.
Wherefore, he calmly removed an almond-eyed Oriental from a chair
on which he was standing, tipped the ex-Cantonese a half dollar,
and appropriated the point of vantage himself.

There was a cleared space in the corner by the roulette table,
and here, his chair tipped back against the wall and a glass of
whisky in front of him, sat a sufficiently strange specimen of
humanity. He was a man of about fifty years, large boned and
gaunt. Dressed in fringed buckskin trousers and a silver-laced
Mexican sombrero, he affected the long hair, the sweeping
mustache, and the ferocious aspect that are the custom of the
pseudo-Westerners who do business in the East with fake medical
remedies. Around his waist was a belt garnished with knives by
the dozen. These were long and pointed, sharpened to a razor
edge. One of them was in his hand poised for a throw at the
instant Bucky mounted the chair and looked over the densely
packed mass of heads in front of him.

The ranger's keen glance swept to the wall and took in the
target. A slim lad of about fifteen stood against it with his
arms outstretched. Above and below each hand and on either side
of the swelling throat knives quivered in the frame wall. There
was a flash of steel, and the seventh knife sank into the wood so
close to the crisp curls that a lock hung by a hair, almost
completely severed by the blade. The boy choked back a scream,
his big brown eyes dilating with terror.

The bully sipped at his highball and deliberately selected
another knife. To Bucky's swift inspection it was plain he had
drunk too much and that a very little slip might make an end of
the boy. The fascinated horror in the lad's gaze showed that he
realized his danger.

"Now, f'ler cit'zens, I will continue for your 'musement by
puttin' next two knives on right and lef' sides of his cheek.
Observe, pleash, that these will land less than an inch from hish
eyes. As the champion knife thrower in the universe I claim--"

What he claimed his audience had to guess, for at this instant
another person took a part in the act. Bucky had stepped lightly
across the intervening space on the shoulders of the tightly
packed crowd and had dropped as lightly to the ground in front of
the astonished champion of the universe.

"I reckon you've about wore out that target. What's the matter
with trying a brand new one drawled the ranger, his quiet,
unwavering eye fixed on the bloated, mottled face of the
imitation "bad man."

The bully, half seas over, leaned forward and gripped his knife.
He was sober enough to catch the jeer running through the other's
words without being sufficiently master of himself to appreciate
the menace that underlay them.

"Wha's that? Say that again!" he burst out, purple to the collar
line. He was not used to having beardless boys with long, soft
eyelashes interfering with his amusements, and a blind rage
flooded his heart.

"I allowed that a change of targets would vary the entertainment,
if you haven't any objections, seh," the blue-eyed stranger
explained mildly.

"Who is this kid?" demanded the bully, with a sweep of his arm
toward the intruder.

Nobody seemed to know, wherefore the ranger himself gave the
information mildly:

"Bucky O'Connor they call me."

A faint murmur of surprise soughed through the crowd, for Bucky
O'Connor of the Arizona Rangers was by way of being a public hero
just now on account of his capture of Fernendez, the stage
robber. But the knife thrower had but lately arrived in the
country. The youth carried with him none of the earmarks of his
trade, unless it might be that quiet, steady gaze that seemed to
search the soul. His voice was soft and drawling, his manner
almost apologetic. In the smile that came and went was something
sweet and sunny, in his bearing a gay charm that did not
advertise the recklessness that bubbled from his daredevil
spirit. Surely here was an easy victim upon whom to vent his
spleen, thought the other in his growing passion.

"You want to be my target, do you?" he demanded, tugging
ferociously at his long mustache.

"If you please, seh."

The fellow swore a vile oath. "Just as you say. Line up beside
the other kid."

With three strides Bucky reached the wall, and turned.

"Let 'er go," his gentle voice murmured.

He was leaning back easily against the wall, his thumb hitched
carelessly in the revolver pocket of his worn leather chaps. He
looked at ease, every jaunty inch of him, but a big bronzed
cattleman who had just pushed his way in noticed that the frosty
blue eyes never released for an instant those of the enemy.

The bully at the table passed an uncertain hand over his face to
clear his blurred vision, poised the cruel blade in his hand, and
sent it flashing forward with incredible swiftness. The steel
buried itself two inches deep in the soft pine beside Bucky's
head. So close had it shaved him that a drop of blood gathered
and dropped from his ear to the floor.

"Good shot," commented the ranger quietly, and on the instant his
revolver seemed to leap from its holster to his hand. Without
raising or moving his arm in the least, Bucky fired.

Again a murmur eddied through the crowd. The bullet had neatly
bored the bully's ear. He raised his hand in dazed fashion and
brought it away covered with blood. With staring eyes he looked
at his moist red fingers, then at his latest victim, who was
proving such an unexpected surprise.

The big cattleman, who by this time had pushed a way with his
broad shoulders to the front, observed the two men attentively
with a derisive smile on his frank face. He was seeing a bluff
called, and he enjoyed it.

"You'll be able to wear earrings, Mr. Champion of the Universe,
after I have ventilated the other," suggested the ranger affably.
"Come again, seh."

But his opponent had had enough, and more than enough. It was one
thing to browbeat a harmless boy, quite another to measure
courage with a young gamecock like this. He had all the advantage
of the first move. He was an expert and could drive his first
throw into the youth's heart. But at bottom he was a coward and
lacked the nerve, if not the inclination, to kill. If he took up
that devil-may-care challenge he must fight it out alone.
Moreover, as his furtive glance went round the ring of faces, he
doubted whether a rope and the nearest telegraph pole might not
be his fate if he went the limit. Sourly he accepted defeat,
raging in his craven spirit at the necessity.

"Hell! I don't fight with boys," he snarled,


Bucky moved forward with the curious lightness of a man
spring-footed. His gaze held the other's shifting eyes as he
plucked the knife from his opponent's hand.

"Unbuckle that belt," he ordered.

All said, the eye is a prince of weapons. It is a moral force
more potent than the physical, and by it men may measure strength
to a certainty. So now these two clinched and battled with it
till the best man won. The showman's look gave way before the
stark courage of the other. His was no match for the inscrutable,
unwavering eye that commanded him. His fingers began to twitch,
edged slowly toward his waist. For an instant they fumbled at the
buckle of the belt, which presently fell with a rattle to the

"Now, roll yore trail to the wall. Face this way! Arms out!
That's good! You rest there comfortable while I take these pins
down and let the kid out."

He removed the knives that hemmed in the boy and supported the
half-fainting figure to a chair beside the roulette table. But
always he remained in such a position as to keep the big bully he
was baiting in view. The boy dropped into the chair and covered
his face with his hands, sobbing with deep, broken breaths. The
ranger touched caressingly the crisp, fair hair that covered the
head in short curls.

"Don't you worry, bub. Now, don't you. It's all over with now.
That coyote won't pester you any more. Will you, Mr. False Alarm
Bad Man?"

At the last words he wheeled suddenly to the showman. "You're
right sorry already you got so gay, ain't you? Come! Speak yore
little piece, please."

He waited for an answer, and his gaze held fast to the bloated
face that cringed before his attack.

"What's your name?"

"Jay Hardman," quavered the now thoroughly sobered bad man.

"Dead easy jay, I reckon you mean. Now, chirp, up and tell the
boy how sorry you are you got fresh with your hardware."

"He's my boy. I guess I can do what I like with him," the man
burst out angrily. "I wasn't hurting him any, either. That's part
of our show, to--"

Bucky fondled suggestively the revolver in his hand. A metallic
click came to his victim.

"Don't you shoot at me again," the man broke off to scream.

The Colt clipped the sentence and the man's other ear.

"You can put in your order now for them earrings we were
mentionin', Mr. Deadeasy. You see, I had to puncture this one so
folks would know they were mates."

"I'll put you in the pen for this," the fellow whined, in terror.

"Funny how you will get off the subject. We were discussin' an
apology when you got to wandering in yore haid."

The mottled face showed white in patches. Beads of perspiration
stood out on the forehead of Hardman. "I didn't aim to hurt him
any. I'll be right glad to explain to you "

A bullet plowed a path through the long hair that fell to the
showman's shoulders and snipped a lock from it.

"You don't need to explain a thing to me, seh. I'm sure resting
easy in my mind. But as you were about to re-mark you're fair
honin' for a chance to ask the kid's pardon. Now, ain't I a mind
reader, seh?"

A trembling voice stammered huskily an apology.

"Better late than too late. Now, I've a good mind to take a vote
whether I'd better unload the rest of the pills in this old
reliable medicine box at you. Mebbe I ought to pump one into that
coyote heart of yours."

The fellow went livid. "My God, you wouldn't kill an unarmed man,
would you?"

For answer the ranger tossed the weapon on the table with a
scornful laugh and strode up to the other. The would-be bad man
towered six inches above him, and weighed half as much again. But
O'Connor whirled him round, propelled him forward to the door,
and kicked him into the street.

"I'd hate to waste a funeral on him," he said, as he sauntered
back to the boy at the table.

The lad was beginning to recover, though his breath still came
with a catch. His rag of a handkerchief was dabbing tears out of
his eyes. O'Connor noticed how soft his hands and how delicate
his features.

"This kid ain't got any more business than a rabbit going around
in the show line with that big scoundrel. He's one of these
gentle, rock-me-to-sleep-mother kids that ought to stay in the
home nest and not go buttin' into this hard world. I'll bet a
doughnut he's an orphan, though."

Bucky had been brought up in the school of experience, where
every student keeps his own head or goes to the wall. All his
short life he had played a lone hand, as he would have phrased
it. He had campaigned in Cuba as a mere boy. He had ridden the
range and held his own on the hurricane deck of a bucking
broncho. From cowpunching he had graduated into the tough little
body of territorial rangers at the head of which was "Hurry Up"
Millikan. This had brought him a large and turbulent experience
in the knack of taking care of himself under all circumstances.
Naturally, a man of this type, born and bred to the code of the
outdoors West, could not fail of a certain contempt for a boy
that broke down and cried when the game was going against him.

But Bucky's contempt was tolerant, after all. He could not deny
his sympathy to a youngster in trouble. Again he touched gently
the lad's crisp curls of burnished gold.

"Brace up, bub. The worst is yet to come," he laughed awkwardly.
"I reckon there's no use spillin' any more emotion over it. He
ain't your dad, is he?"

The lad's big brown eyes looked up into the serene blue ones and
found comfort in their strength. "No, he's my uncle--and my

"This is a free country, son. We don't have masters if we're good
Americans, though we all have to take orders from our superior
officers. You don't need to serve this fellow unless you want to.
That's a cinch."

The boy's troubled eyes were filmed with reminiscent terror. "You
don't know him. He is terrible when he is angry," he murmured.

"I don't think it," returned Bucky contemptuously. "He's the
worst blowhard ever. Say the word and I'll run the piker out of
town for you."

The boy whipped up the sleeve of the fancy Mexican jacket he wore
and showed a long scar on his arm. "He did that one day when he
was angry at me. He pretended to others that it was an accident,
but I knew better. This morning I begged him to let me leave him.
He beat me, but he was still mad; and when he took to drinking I
was afraid he would work himself up to stick me again with one of
his knives."

Bucky looked at the scar in the soft, rounded arm and swept the
boy with a sudden puzzled glance that was not suspicion but

"How long have you been with him, kid?"

"Oh, for years. Ever since I was a little fellow. He took me
after my father and mother died of yellow fever in New Orleans.
His wife hates me too, but they have to have me in the show."

"Then I guess you had better quit their company. What's your

"Frank Hardman. On the show bills I have all sorts of names."

"Well, Frank, how would you like to go to live on a ranch?"

"Where he wouldn't know I was?" whispered the boy eagerly.

"If you like. I know a ranch where you'd be right welcome."

"I would work. I would do anything I could. Really, I would try
to pay my way, and I don't eat much," Frank cried, his eyes as
appealing as a homeless puppy's.

Bucky smiled. "I expect they can stand all you eat without going
to the poorhouse. It's a bargain then. I'll take you out there

"You're so good to me. I never had anybody be so good before."
Tears stood in the big eyes and splashed over.

"Cut out the water works, kid. You want to take a brace and act
like a man," advised his new friend brusquely.

"I know. I know. If you knew what I have done maybe you wouldn't
ask me to go with you. I--I can't tell you anything more than
that," the youngster sobbed.

"Oh, well. What's the diff? You're making a new start to-day.
Ain't that right?"

"Yes, sir."

"Call me Bucky."

"Yes, sir. Bucky, I mean."

A hand fell on the ranger's shoulder and a voice in his ear.
"Young man, I want you."

The lieutenant whirled like a streak of lightning, finger on
trigger already. "I'll trouble you for yore warrant, seh," he

The man confronting him was the big cattleman who had entered the
Silver Dollar in time to see O'Connor's victory over the showman.
Now he stood serenely under Bucky's gun and laughed.

"Put up your .45, my friend. It's a peaceable conference I want
with you."

The level eyes of the young man fastened on those of the
cattleman, and, before he spoke again, were satisfied. For both
of these men belonged to the old West whose word is as good as
its bond, that West which will go the limit for a cause once
under taken without any thought of retreat, regardless of the
odds or the letter of the law. Though they had never met before,
each knew at a glance the manner of man the other was.

"All right, seh. If you want me I reckon I'm here large as life,"
the ranger said,

"We'll adjourn to the poker room upstairs then, Mr. O'Connor"

Bucky laid a hand on the shoulder of the boy. "This kid goes with
me. I'm keeping an eye on him for the present."

"My business is private, but I expect that can be arranged. We'll
take the inner room and let him have the outer."

"Good enough. Break trail, seh. Come along, Frank."

Having reached the poker room upstairs, that same private room
which had seen many a big game in its day between the big cattle
kings and mining men of the Southwest, Bucky's host ordered
refreshments and then unfolded his business.

"You don't know me, lieutenant, do you?"

"I haven't that pleasure, seh."

"I am Major Mackenzie's brother."

"Webb Mackenzie, who came from Texas last year and bought the
Rocking Chair Ranch?"

"The same."

"I'm right glad to meet you, seh."

"And I can say the same."

Webb Mackenzie was so distinctively a product of the West that no
other segment of the globe could have produced him. Big,
raw-boned, tanned to a leathery brick-brown, he was as much of
the frontier as the ten thousand cows he owned that ran the range
on half as many hills and draws. He stood six feet two and tipped
the beam at two hundred twelve pounds, not an ounce of which was
superfluous flesh. Temperamentally, he was frank, imperious,
free-hearted, what men call a prince. He wore a loose tailor-made
suit of brown stuff and a broad-brimmed light-gray Stetson. For
the rest, you may see a hundred like him at the yearly stock
convention held in Denver, but you will never meet a man even
among them with a sounder heart or better disposition.

"I've got a story to tell you, Lieutenant O'Connor," he began.
"I've been meaning to see you and tell it ever since you made
good in that Fernendez matter. It wasn't your gameness. Anybody
can be game. But it looked to me like you were using the brains
in the top of your head, and that happens so seldom among law
officers I wanted to have a talk with you. Since yesterday I've
been more anxious. For why? I got a letter from my brother
telling me Sheriff Collins showed him a locket he found at the
place of the T. P. Limited hold-up. That locket has in it a
photograph of my wife and little girl. For fifteen years I
haven't seen that picture. When I saw it last 'twas round my
little baby's neck. What's more, I haven't seen her in that time,

Mackenzie stopped, swallowed hard, and took a drink of water.

"You haven't seen your little girl in fifteen years," exclaimed

"Haven't seen or heard of her. So far as I know she may not be
alive now. This locket is the first hint I have had since she was
taken away, the very first news of her that has reached me, and I
don't know what to make of that. One of the robbers must have
been wearing it, the way I figure it out. Where did he get it?
That's what I want to know."

"Suppose you tell me the story, seh," suggested the ranger

The cattleman offered O'Connor a cigar and lit one himself. For a
minute he puffed slowly at his Havana, leaning far back in his
chair with eyes reminiscent and half shut. Then he shook himself
back into the present and began his tale.

"I don't reckon you ever heard tell of Dave Henderson. It was
back in Texas I knew him, and he's been missing sixteen years
come the eleventh of next August. For fifteen years I haven't
mentioned his name, because Dave did me the dirtiest wrong that
one man ever did another. Back in the old days he and I used to
trail together. We was awful thick, and mostly hunted in couples.
We began riding the same season back on the old Kittredge Ranch,
and we went in together for all the kinds of spreeing that young
fellows who are footloose are likely to do. Fact is, we suited
each other from the ground up. We frolicked round a-plenty, like
young colts will, and there was nothing on this green earth Dave
could have asked from me that I wouldn't have done for him.
Nothing except one, I reckon, and Dave never asked that of me."

Mackenzie puffed at his cigar a silent moment before resuming.
"It happened we both fell in love with the same girl, little
Frances Clark, of the Double T Ranch. Dave was a better looker
than me and a more taking fellow, but somehow Frances favored me
from the start. Dave stayed till the finish, and when he seen he
had lost he stood up with me at the wedding. We had agreed, you
see, that whoever won it wasn't to break up our friendship.

"Well, Frankie and I were married, and in course of time we had
two children. My boy, Tom, is the older. The other was a little
girl, named after her mother." The cattleman waited a moment to
steady his voice, and spoke through teeth set deep in his Havana.
"I haven't seen her, as I said, since she was two years and ten
months old--not since the night Dave disappeared."

Bucky looked up quickly with a question on his lips, but he did
not need to word it.

Mackenzie nodded. "Yes, Dave took her with him when he lit out
across the line for Mexico"

But I'll have to go back to something that happened earlier.
About three months before this time Dave and me were riding
through a cut in the Sierra Diablo Mountains, when we came on a
Mexican who had been wounded by the Apaches. I reckon we had come
along just in time to scare them off before they finished him. We
did our best for him, but he died in about two hours. Before
dying, he made us a present of a map we found in his breast
pocket. It showed the location of a very rich mine he had found,
and as he had no near kin he turned it over to us to do with as
we pleased.

"Just then the round-up came on, and we were too busy to pay much
attention to the mine. Each of us would have trusted the other
with his life, or so I thought. But we cut the paper in half,
each of us keeping one part, in order that nobody else could
steal the secret from the one that held the paper. The last time
I had been in El Paso I had bought my little girl a gold chain
with two lockets pendent. These lockets opened by a secret
spring, and in one of them I put my half of the map. It seemed as
safe a place as I could devise, for the chain never left the
child's neck, and nobody except her mother, Dave, and I knew that
it was placed there. Dave hid his half under a rock that was
known to both of us. The strange thing about the story is that my
false friend, in the hurry of his flight, forgot to take his
section of the map with him. I found it under the rock next day,
so that his vile treachery availed him nothing from a mercenary
point of view."

"Didn't take his half of the map with him. That's right funny,"
Bucky mused aloud.

"We never could understand why he didn't."

"Mebbe if you understood that a heap of things might be clear
that are dark now."

"Mebbe. Knowing Dave Henderson as I did, or, rather, as I thought
I did, such treachery as his was almost unbelievable. He was the
sweetest, sunniest soul I ever knew, and no two brothers could
have been as fond of each other as we seemed to be. But there was
no chance of mistake. He had gone, and taken our child with him,
likely in accordance with a plan of revenge long cherished by
him. We never heard of him or the child again. They disappeared
as completely as if the earth had swallowed them up. Our cook,
too, left with him that evil night."

"Your cook?" It was the second comment Bucky had ventured, and it
came incisively. "What manner of man was he?"

"A huge, lumbering braggart. I could never understand why Dave
took the man with him."

"If he did."

"But I tell you he did. They disappeared the same night, and the
trail showed they went the same road. We followed them for about
an hour next day, but a heavy rain came up and blotted out the

"What was the cook's name?"

"Jeff Anderson."

"Have you a picture of him, or one of your friend?"

"Back at the ranch I had pictures of Dave, but I burned them
after he left. Yes, I reckon we have one of Anderson, standing in
front of the chuck wagon."

"Send it to me, please."

"All right."

The ranger asked a few questions that made clearer the situation
on the day of the kidnapping, and some more concerning Anderson,
then fell again into the role of a listener while Mackenzie
concluded his story.

"All these years I have kept my eyes open, confident that at last
I would discover something that would help me to discover the
whereabouts of my child, or, at least, give me a chance to punish
the scoundrel who betrayed my confidence. Yesterday my brother's
letter gave the first clue we have had. I want that lead worked.
Ferret this thing out to the bottom, lieutenant. Get me something
definite to go on. That's what I want you to do. Run the thing to
earth, get at the facts, and find my child for me. I'll give you
carte blanche up to a hundred thousand dollars. All I ask of you
is to make good. Find the little girl, or else bring me face to
face with that villain Henderson. Can you do it?"

O'Connor was strangely interested in this story of treachery and
mystery. He rose with shining eyes and held out his hand. "I
don't know, seh. but I'll try damned hard to do three things:
find out what has become of the little girl, of Dave Henderson,
and of the scoundrel who stole your baby because he thought the
map was in the pocket."

"You mean that you don't think Dave--"

"That is exactly what I mean. Your cook, Anderson, kidnapped the
child, looks like to me. I saw that locket Collins found. My
guess was that the marks on the end of the chain were deep teeth
marks. The man that stole your baby tried first to cut the chain
with his teeth so as to steal the chain. You see, he could not
find the clasp in the dark. Then the child wakened and began to
cry. He clapped a hand over its mouth and carried the little girl
out of the room. Then he heard somebody moving about, lost his
nerve, and jumped on the horse that was waiting, saddled, at the
door. He took the child along simply because he had to in order
to get the chain and the secret he thought it held."

"Perhaps; but that does not prove it was not Dave."

"It's contributory evidence, seh. Your friend could have slipped
the chain from her neck any day, or he could have opened the
locket and taken the map. No need for him to steal in at night.
Do you happen to remember whether your little girl had any
particular aversion to the cook?"

The cattleman's forehead frowned in thought. "I do remember, now,
that she was afraid of him. She always ran screaming to her
mother when he tried to be friendly with her. He was a sour sort
of fellow."

"That helps out the case a heap, for it shows that he wanted to
make friends with her and she refused. He was thus forced to take
the chain when she was asleep instead of playing with her till he
had discovered the spring and could simply take the map."

"But he didn't know anything about the map. He was not in our

"You and your friend talked it over evenings when he was at the
ranch, and other places, too, I expect."

"Yes, our talk kind of gravitated that way whenever we got

"Well, this fellow overheard you. That's probable, at least."

"But you're ignoring the important fact. Dave disappeared too
that night, with my little girl."

Bucky cut in sharply with a question. "Did he? How do you know he
disappeared WITH her? Why not AFTER? That's the theory my mind is
groping on just now."

"That's a blind trail to me. Why AFTER? And what difference does
it make?"

"All the difference in the world. If he left after the cook, you
have been doing him an injustice for fifteen years, seh."

Mackenzie leaned forward, excitement burning in his eyes. "Prove
that, young man, and I'll thank you to the last day of my life.
It's for my wife's sake more than my own I want my little girl
back. She jes' pines for her every day of her life. But for my
friend--if you can give me back the clean memory of Dave you'll
have done a big thing for me, Mr. O'Connor."

"It's only a working theory, but this is what I'm getting at. You
and Henderson had arranged to take an early start on a two days'
deer hunt next mo'ning. That's what you told me, isn't it?"

"We were to start about four. Yes, sir."

"Well, let's suppose a case. Along comes Dave before daybreak,
when the first hooters were beginning to call. Just as he reaches
your ranch he notices a horse slipping away in the darkness.
Perhaps he hears the little girl cry out. Anyhow, instead of
turning in at the gate, he decides to follow. Probably he isn't
sure there's anything wrong, but when he finds out how the horse

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