Part 3 out of 6
Collins," the doctor explained, shaking his head.
"That so, doctor? And it nothing but a nice clean flesh-wound!
Sho! I've a deal more confidence in you than that. Ready, Del?"
"It's at your risk then, Mr. Collins."
"Sure." The sheriff smiled. "I'm living at my own risk, doctor.
But I'd a heap rather be alive than daid, and take all the risk
that's coming, too. But since you make a point of it, I'll do
most of my walking on a bronco's back."
They found Mr. Hardman just emerging from the stable with a
saddle-pony when they rode into the corral. At a word from
Collins, Hawkes took the precaution to close the corral gate.
The fellow held a wary position on the farther side of his horse,
the while he ripped out a raucous string of invectives.
"Real fluent, ain't he?" murmured Hawkes, as he began to circle
round to flank the enemy.
"Stay right there, Del Hawkes. Move, you redhaided son of a brand
blotter, and I'll pump holes in you!" A rifle leveled across the
saddle emphasized his sentiments.
"Plumb hospitable," grinned Hawkes, coming promptly to a halt.
Collins rode slowly forward, his hand on the butt of the revolver
that still lay in its scabbard. The Winchester covered every step
of his progress, but he neither hastened nor faltered, though he
knew his life hung in the balance. If his steely blue eyes had
released for one moment the wolfish ones of the villain, if he
had hesitated or hurried, he would have been shot through the
But the eyes of a brave man are the king of weapons. Hardman's
fingers itched at the trigger he had not the courage to pull. For
such an unflawed nerve he knew himself no match.
"Keep back," he screamed. "Damn it, another step and I'll fire!"
But he did not fire, though Collins rode up to him, dismounted,
and threw the end of the rifle carelessly from him.
"Don't be rash, Hardman. I've come here to put you under arrest
for robbing the T. P. Limited, and I'm going to do it."
The indolent, contemptuous drawl, so free of even a suggestion of
the strain the sheriff must have been under, completed his
victory. The fellow lowered his rifle with a peevish oath.
"You're barkin' up the wrong tree, Mr. Collins."
"I guess not," retorted the sheriff easily. "Del, you better
relieve Mr. Hardman of his ballast. He ain't really fit to be
trusted with a weapon, and him so excitable. That Winchester came
awful near going off, friend. You don't want to be so careless
when you're playing with firearms. It's a habit that's liable to
get you into trouble."
Collins had not shaved death so closely without feeling a
reaction of boyish gaiety at his adventure. It bubbled up in his
talk like effervescing soda.
"Now we'll go into a committee of the whole, gentlemen, adjourn
to the stable, and have a little game of 'Button, button, who's
got the button?' You first, Mr. Hardman. If you'll kindly shuck
your coat and vest, we'll begin button-hunting."
They diligently searched the miscreant without hiding anything
pertaining to "J. H. begins hear."
"He's bound to have it somewhere," asseverated Collins. "It don't
stand to reason he was making his getaway without that paper. We
got to be more thorough, Del."
Hawkes, under the direction of his friend, ripped up linings and
tore away pockets from clothing. The saddle on the bronco and the
saddle-blankets were also torn to pieces in vain.
Finally Hawkes scratched his poll and looked down on the
wreckage. "I hate to admit it, Val, but the old fox has got us
beat; it ain't on his person."
"Not unless he's got it under his skin," agreed Collins, with a
"Maybe he ate it. Think we better operate and find out?"
An idea hit the sheriff. He walked up to Hardman and ordered him
to open his mouth.
The jaws set like a vise.
Collins poked his revolver against the closed mouth. "Swear for
us, old bird. Get a move on you."
The mouth opened, and Collins inserted two fingers. When he
withdrew them they brought a set of false teeth. Under the plate
was a tiny rubber bag that stuck to it. Inside the bag was a
paper. And on it was written four lines in Spanish. Those lines
told what he wanted to know. They, too, were part of a direction
for finding hidden treasure.
The sheriff wired at once to Bucky, in Chihuahua. Translated into
plain English, his cipher dispatch meant: "Come home at once.
Trail getting red hot."
But Bucky did not come. As it happened, that young man had other
fish to fry.
CHAPTER 9. "ADORE HAS ONLY ONE D."
After all, adventures are to the adventurous. In this prosaic
twentieth century the Land of Romance still beckons to eager eyes
and gallant hearts. The rutted money-grabber may deny till he is
a nerve-racked counting-machine, but youth, even to the end of
time, will laugh to scorn his pessimism and venture with elastic
heel where danger and mystery offer their dubious hazards.
So it was that Bucky and his little comrade found nothing of
dulness in the mission to which they had devoted themselves. In
their task of winning freedom for the American immured in the
Chihuahua dungeon they already found themselves in the heart of a
web of intrigue, the stakes of which were so high as to carry
life and death with them in the balance. But for them the sun
shone brightly. It was enough that they played the game and
shared the risks together. The jocund morning was in their
hearts, and brought with it an augury of success based on nothing
so humdrum or tangible as reason.
O'Connor carried with him to the grim fortress not only his
permit for an inspection, but also a note from O'Halloran that
was even more potent in effect. For Colonel Ferdinand Gabilonda,
warden of the prison, had a shrewd suspicion that a plot was
under way to overthrow the unpopular administration of Megales,
and though he was an office-holder under the present government
he had no objection to ingratiating himself with the opposition,
providing it could be done without compromising himself openly.
In other words, the warden was sitting on the fence waiting to
see which way the cat would jump. If the insurgents proved the
stronger party, he meant to throw up his hat and shout "Viva
Valdez." On the other hand, if the government party crushed them
he would show himself fussily active in behalf of Megales. Just
now he was exerting all his diplomacy to maintain a pleasant
relationship with both. Since it was entirely possible that the
big Irishman O'Halloran might be the man on horseback within a
very few days, the colonel was all suave words and honeyed smiles
to his friend the ranger.
Indeed he did him the unusual honor of a personally conducted
inspection. Gabilonda was a fat little man, with a soft, purring
voice and a pompous manner. He gushed with the courteous
volubility of his nation, explaining with great gusto this and
that detail of the work. Bucky gave him outwardly a deferent ear,
but his alert mind and eyes were scanning the prisoners they saw.
The ranger was trying to find in one of these scowling, defiant
faces some resemblance to the picture his mind had made of
But Bucky looked in vain. If the man he wanted was among these he
had changed beyond recognition. In the end he was forced to ask
Gabilonda plainly if he would not take him to see David
Henderson, as he knew a man in Arizona who was an old friend of
his, and he would like to be able to tell him that he had seen
Henderson was breaking stone when O'Connor got his first glimpse
of him. He continued to swing his hammer listlessly, without
looking up, when the door opened to let in the warden and his
guests. But something in the ranger's steady gaze drew his eyes.
They were dull eyes, and sullen, but when he saw that Bucky was
an American, the fire of intelligence flashed into them.
"May I speak to him?" asked O'Connor.
"It is against the rules, senor, but if you will be brief--" The
colonel shrugged, and turned his back to them, in order not to
see. It must be said for Gabilonda that his capacity for blinking
what he did not think it judicious to see was enormous.
"You are David Henderson, are you not?" The ranger asked, in a
Surprise filtered into the dull eyes. "That was my name," the man
answered bitterly. "I have a number now."
"I come from Webb Mackenzie to get you out of this," the ranger
The man's eyes were no longer dull now, but flaming with hatred.
"Curse him, I'll take nothing from his hands. For fifteen years
he has let me rot in hell without lifting a hand for me."
"He thought you dead. It can all be explained. It was only last
week that the mystery of your disappearance was solved."
"Then why didn't he come himself? It was to save his little girl
I got myself into this place. If I had been in his shoes I would
have come if I'd had to crawl on my hands and knees."
"He doesn't know yet you are here. I wrote him simply that I knew
where you were, and then I came at once." Bucky glanced round
warily at the fat colonel gazing placidly out of the barred
window. "I mean to rescue you, and I knew if he were here his
impulsiveness would ruin everything."
"Do you mean it? For God's sake! don't lie to me. If there's no
hope for me, don't say there is." The prisoner's voice shook and
his hands trembled. He was only the husk of the man he had been,
but it did Bucky's heart good to see that the germ of life was
still in him. Back in Arizona, on the Rocking Chair Ranch, with
the free winds of the plains beating on his face, he would pick
up again the old strands of his broken life, would again learn to
love the lowing of cattle and the early morning call of the
hooter to his mate.
"I mean it. As sure as I stand here I'll get you out, or, if I
don't, Webb Mackenzie will. We're calling the matter to the
attention of the United States Government, but we are not going
to wait till that time to free you. Keep up your courage, man. It
is only for a little time now."
Tears leaped to the prisoner's eyes. He had been a game man in
the dead years that were past, none gamer in Texas, and he could
still face his jailers with an impassive face; but this first
kindly word from his native land in fifteen years to the man
buried alive touched the fount of his emotions. He turned away
and leaned against the grating of his cell, his head resting on
his forearm. "My God! man, you don't know what it means to me.
Sometimes I think I shall go mad and rave. After all these years
But I know you'll fail--It's too good to be true," he finished
"I'll not fail, though I may be delayed. But I can't say more.
Gabilonda is coming back. Next time I see you it will be to take
you out to freedom. Think of that always, and believe it."
Gabilonda bowed urbanely. "If the senor has seen all he cares to
of this department we will return to the office," he suggested
"Certainly, colonel. I can't appreciate too much your kindness in
allowing me to study your system so carefully."
"Any friend of my friend the Senor O'Halloran is cherished deeply
in my heart," came back the smiling colonel, with a wave of his
plump, soft hand.
"I am honored, sir, to receive such consideration at the hands of
so distinguished a soldier as Colonel Gabilonda," bowed Bucky
gravely, in his turn, with the most flowery Spanish he could
There was another half-hour of the mutual exchange of compliments
before O'Connor could get away. Alphonse and Gaston were fairly
outdone, for the Arizonian, with a smile hidden deep behind the
solemnity of his blue eyes, gave as good as he got. When he was
at last fairly in the safety of his own rooms he gave way to limp
laughter while describing to his little friend that most
"He pressed me to his manly bay window, Curly, and allowed he was
plumb tickled to death to have met me. Says I, coming back equal
strong, 'twas the most glorious day of my life."
"Oh, I know YOU," answered young Hardman, with a smile.
"A friend of his friend O'Halloran--"
"Mr. O'Halloran was here while you were away. He seemed very
anxious to see you; said he would call again in an hour. I think
it must be important."
Came at that instant O'Halloran's ungentle knock, on the heels of
which his red head came through the open door.
"You're the very lad I'm wanting to see, Bucky," he announced,
and followed this declaration by locking all the doors and
beckoning him to the center of the room.
"Is that tough neck of yours aching again, Reddy?" inquired his
"It is that, me bye. There's the very divil to pay," he
"Cough it out, Mike."
"That tyrant Megales is onto our game. Somebody's leaked, or else
he has a spy in our councils--as we have in his, the ould
"I see. Your spy has told you that his spy has reported to him--"
"That the guns are to be brought in to-night. He has sent out a
guard to bring them in safely to him. If he gets them, our game
is up, me son, and you can bet your last nickle on that."
"If he gets them! Is there a chance for us?"
"Glory be! there is. You see, he doesn't know that we know what
he has done. For that reason he sent out only a guard of forty
men. If he sent more we would suspect what he was doing, ye see.
That is the way the old fox reasoned. But forty--they were able
to slip out of the city on last night's train in civilian's
clothes and their arms in a couple of coffins."
"Why didn't he send a couple of hundred men openly, and at the
same time arrest you all?"
"That doesn't suit his book at all. For one thing, he probably
doesn't know all of us, and he doesn't want to bag half of us and
throw the rest into immediate rebellion. It's his play not to
force the issue until after the election, Bucky. He controls all
the election machinery and will have himself declared reelected,
the old scamp, notwithstanding that he's the most unpopular man
in the State. To precipitate trouble now would be just
foolishness, he argues. So he'll just capture our arms, and after
the election give me and my friends quiet hell. Nothing public,
you know--just unfortunate assassinations that he will regret
exceedingly, me bye. But I have never yit been assassinated, and,
on principle, I object to being trated so. It's very destructive
to a man's future usefulness."
"And so?" laughed the ranger.
"And so we've arranged to take a few lads up the line and have a
train hold-up. I'm the robber-in-chief. Would ye like to be
second in command of the lawless ruffians, me son?"
Bucky met his twinkling eye gaily. "Mr. O'Connor is debarred from
taking part in such an outrageous affair by international
etiquette, but he knows a gypsy lad would be right glad to join,
"Bully for him. If you'll kindly have him here I'll come around
and collect him this evening at eight-thirty sharp."
"I hope you'll provide a pleasant entertainment for him."
"We'll do our best," grinned the revolutionist. "Music provided
by Megales' crack military band. A lively and enjoyable occasion
guaranteed to all who attend. Your friend will meet some of the
smartest officers in the State. It promises to be a most
"Then my friend accepts with pleasure."
After the conspirator had gone, Frank spoke up. "You wouldn't go
away with him and leave me here alone, would you?"
"I ce'tainly shouldn't take you with me, kid. I don't want my
little friend all shot up by greasers."
"If you're going, I want to go, too. Supposing-- if anything were
to happen to you, what could I do?"
"Leave the country by the next train. Those are the orders."
"You're always talking about a square deal. Do you think that is
one? I might say that I don't want YOU shot. You don't care
anything about my feelings." The soft voice had a little break in
it that Bucky loved.
He walked across to his partner, that rare, tender smile of his
in his eyes. "If I'm always talking about a square deal I reckon
I have got to give you one. Now, what would you think a square
deal, Curly? Would it be square for me to let my friend
O'Halloran stand all the risk of this and then me take the reward
when Henderson has been freed by him? Would that be your notion
of the right telling?"
"I didn't say that, though I don't see why you have to mix
yourself up in his troubles. Why should you go out and kill these
soldiers that haven't injured you?"
"I'm not going to kill any of them," he smiled "Besides, that
isn't the way I look at it. This fellow Megales is a despot. He
has made out to steal the liberty of the people from them.
President Diaz can't interfere because the old rascal governor
does everything with that smooth, oily way of his under cover of
law. It's up to some of the people to put up a good strong kick
for themselves. I ain't a bit sorry to give them the loan of my
foot while they are doing it."
"Then can't I go, too? I don't want to be left alone here and you
Bucky's eyes gleamed. He dared an experiment in an indifferent
drawl. "Whyfor don't you want to stay alone, kid? Are you afraid
for yourself or for me?"
His partner's cheeks were patched with roses. Shyly the long,
thick lashes lifted and let the big brown eyes meet his blue
ones. "Maybe I'm afraid for both of us."
"Would you care if one of their pills happened along in the
scrimmage and put me out of business? Honest, would you?"
"You haven't any right to talk that way. It's cruel," was the
reply that burst from the pretty lips, and he noticed that at his
suggestion the roses had died from soft cheeks.
"Well, I won't talk that way any more, little partner," he
answered gaily, taking the small hand in his. "For reasons good.
I'm fire-proof. The Mexican bullet hasn't been cast yet that can
find Bucky O'Connor's heart."
"But you mustn't think that, either, and be reckless," was the
next injunction. The shy laugh rang like music. "That's why I
want to go along, to see that you behave yourself properly."
"Oh, I'll behave," he laughed; for the young man found it very
easy to be happy when those sweet eyes were showing concern for
him. "I've got several good reasons why I don't aim to get bumped
off just yet. Heaps of first-rate reasons. I'll tell you what
some of them are one of these days," he dared to add.
"You had better tell me now." The gaze that fell before his
steady eyes was both shy and eager.
"No, I reckon I'll wait, Curly," he answered, turning away with a
long breath. "Well, we better go out and get some grub, tortillas
and frijoles, don't you think?"
"Just as you like." The lad's breath was coming a little fast.
They had been on the edge of some moment of intimacy that Bucky's
partner both longed for and dreaded. "But you have not told me
yet whether I can go with you."
"You can't. I'm sorry. I'd like first-rate to take you, if you
want to go, but I can't do it. I hate to disappoint you if you're
set on it, but I've got to, kid. Anything else you want I'll be
glad to do."
He added this last because Frank looked so broken. hearted about
"Very well." Swift as a flash came the demand: "Tell me these
heaps of first-rate reasons you were mentioning just now."
Under the sun-tan he flushed. "I reckon I'll have to make another
exception, Curly. Those reasons ain't ripe yet for telling."
"Then if you are--if anything happens--I'll never know them. And
you promised you would tell me--you, who pretend to hate a liar
so," she scoffed.
"Would it do if I wrote those reasons and left them in a sealed
envelope? Then in case anything happened you could open it and
satisfy that robust curiosity of yours." He recognized that he
had trapped himself, and he was making the best bargain left him.
"You may write them, if you like. But I'm going to open the
letter, anyway. The reasons belong to me now. You promised."
"I'll make a new deal with you, then," he smiled. "I'll take
awful good care of myself to-night if you'll promise not to open
the envelope for two weeks unless--well, unless that something
happens that we ain't expecting."
"Call it a week, and it's a bargain."
"Better say when we're back across the line again. That may be
inside of three days, if everything goes well," he threw in as a
"Done. I'm to open the letter when we cross the line into Texas."
Bucky shook the little hand that was offered him and wished
mightily that he had the right to celebrate with more fervent
That afternoon the ranger wrote with a good deal of labor the
letter he had promised. It appeared to be a difficult thing for
him to deliver himself even on paper of those good and sufficient
reasons. He made and destroyed no less than half a dozen openings
before at last he was fairly off. Meanwhile, Master Frank, busy
over some alterations in Bucky's gypsy suit, took pleasure in
deriding with that sweet voice the harassed correspondent.
"It might be a love letter from the pains you take with it. Would
you like me to come and help you with it?" the sewer railed
"I ain't used to letter writing much," apologized the scribe,
wiping his bedewed brow, which had suddenly gone a shade more
"Apparently not. I expect, from the time you give it, the result
will be a literary classic."
"Don't you disturb me, Curly, or I'll never get done," implored
the tortured ranger.
"You're doing well. You've only been an hour and a half on six
lines," the tormentor mocked.
Womanlike, she was quite at her ease, since he was very far
indeed from being at his. Yet she had a problem of her own she
was trying to decide.
Had he discovered, after all, that she was not a boy, and had his
reasons--the ones he was trying to tell in that disturbing
letter--anything to do with that discovery? Such a theory
accounted for several things she had noticed in him of late.
There was an added respect in his manner for her. He never now
invaded the room recognized as hers without a specific
invitation, nor did he seem any longer to chafe at the little
personal marks of fastidiousness that had at first appeared to
annoy him. To be sure, he ordered her about, just as he had been
in the habit of doing at first. But it was conceivable that this
might be a generous blind to cover up his knowledge of her sex.
"How do you spell guessed--one s or two?" he presently asked, out
of the throes of composition.
She spelled it, and added demurely: "Adore has only one d"
Bucky laid down his pen and pretended to glare at him. "You young
rascal, what do you mean by bothering me like that? Act like
that, you young imp, and you'll never grow up to be a gentleman."
Their glances caught and held, the minds of each of them busy
over that last prediction of his. For one long instant masks were
off and both were trying to find an answer to a question in the
eyes opposite. Then voluntarily each gaze released the other in a
confusion of sweet shame. For the beating of a lash, soul had
looked into naked soul, all disguise stripped from them. She knew
that he knew. Yet in that instant when his secret was surprised
from him another secret, sweeter than the morning song of birds,
sang its way into both their hearts.
CHAPTER 10. THE HOLD-UP OF THE M. C. P. FLYER
Agua Negra is twelve miles from Chihuahua as the crow flies, but
if one goes by rail one twists round thirty sinuous miles of
rough mountainous country in the descent from the pass to the
capital of the State. The ten men who slipped singly or by twos
out of the city in the darkness that evening and met at the
rendezvous of the Santa Dolorosa mission did not travel by rail
to the pass, but followed a horseback trail which was not more
than half the distance.
At the mission O'Halloran and his friend found gathered half a
dozen Mexicans, one or two of them tough old campaigners, the
rest young fellows eager for the excitement of their first active
"Is Juan Valdez here yet?" asked O'Halloran, peering around in
"Not yet; nor Manuel Garcia," answered a young fellow.
Bucky was introduced to those present under the name of
Alessandro Perdoza, and presently also to the two missing members
of the party who arrived together a few moments later. Juan
Valdez was the son of the candidate who was opposing the
reelection of Megales, and Manuel Garcia was his bosom friend,
and the young man to whom his sister was engaged. They were both
excellent types of the honorable aristocratic young Mexican. They
were lightly built, swarthy your men, possessed of that perfect
grace and courtesy which can be found at its best in the Spanish
races. Gay, handsome young cavaliers as they were, filled with
the pride of family, Bucky thought them almost ideal companions
for such a harebrained adventure as this. The ranger was a social
democrat to the marrow. He had breathed in with the Southwest
breezes the conviction that every man must stand on his own
bottom, regardless of adventitious circumstance, but he was not
fool enough to think all men equal. It had been his experience
that some men, by grace of the strength in them, were born to be
masters and others by their weakness to be servants. He knew that
the best any civilization can offer a man is a chance. Given
that, it is up to every man to find his own niche.
But though he had no sense of deference to what is known as good
blood, Bucky had too much horse sense to resent the careless,
half-indifferent greeting which these two young sprouts of
aristocracy bestowed on the rest of the party. He understood that
it was the natural product of their education and of that of the
"Are we all here?" asked Garcia.
"All here," returned O'Halloran briskly. "Rodrigo will guide the
party. I ride next with Senor Garcia. Perdoza and Senor Valdez
will bring up the rear. Forward, gentlemen, and may the Holy
Virgin bring a happy termination to our adventure." He spoke in
Mexican, as they all did, though for the next two hours
conversation was largely suspended, owing to the difficulty of
the precipitous trail they were following.
Coming to a bit of the road where they were able to ride two
abreast, O'Connor made comment on the smallness of their number.
"O'Halloran must have a good deal of confidence in his men. Forty
to ten is rather heavy odds, is it not, senor?"
"There are six more to join us at the pass. The wagons have gone
round by the road and the drivers will assist in the attack."
"Of course it is all in the surprise. I have seen three men hold
up a train with five hundred people on it. Once I knew a gang to
stick up a treasure train with three heavily armed guards
protecting the gold. They got them right, with the drop on them,
and it was good-by to the mazuma."
"Yes, if they have had any warning or if our plans slip a cog
anywhere we shall be repulsed to a certainty."
By the light of a moon struggling out from behind rolling clouds
Bucky read eleven-thirty on his watch when the party reached Agua
Negra. It was still thirty minutes before the Flyer was due, and
O'Halloran disposed his forces with explicit directions as to the
course to be followed by each detail. Very rapidly he sketched
his orders as to the present disposition of the wagons and the
groups of attackers. When the train slowed down to remove the
obstacles they placed on the track, Garcia and another young man
were to command parties covering the train from both sides, while
Rodrigo and one of the drivers were to cover the engineer and the
O'Halloran himself, with Bucky and young Valdez, rode rapidly in
the direction of the approaching train. At Concho the engine
would take on water for the last stiff climb of the ascent, and
here he meant to board the train unnoticed, just as it was
pulling out, in order to emphasize the surprise at the proper
moment and render resistance useless. If the troopers were all
together in the car next the one with the boxes of rifles, he
calculated that they might perhaps be taken unawares so sharply
as to render bloodshed unnecessary.
Concho was two miles from the summit, and when the three men
galloped down to the little station the headlight of the
approaching engine was already visible. They tied their horses in
the mesquit and lurked in the thick brush until the engine had
taken water and the signal for the start was given Then
O'Halloran and Bucky slipped across in the darkness to the train
and swung themselves to the platform of the last car. To Valdez,
very much against his will, had fallen the task of taking the
horses back to Agua Negra Since the track wound round the side of
the mountain in such a way as to cover five miles in making the
summit from Concho, the young Mexican had ample time to get back
to the scene of action before the train arrived.
The big Irishman and Bucky rested quietly in the shadows of the
back platform for some time. Then they entered the last car,
passed through it, and on to the next. In the sleeper they met
the conductor, but O'Halloran quietly paid their fares and passed
forward. As they had hoped, the whole detail of forty men were in
a special car next to the one containing the arms consigned to
Michael O'Halloran, importer of pianos.
Lieutenant Chaves, in charge of the detail sent out to see that
the rifles reached Governor Megales instead of the men who had
paid for them, was finding his assignment exceedingly
uninteresting. There was at Chihuahua a certain black-eyed dona
with whom he had expected to enjoy a pleasant evening's
flirtation. It was confounded luck that it had fallen to him to
take charge of the escort for the guns. He had endured in
consequence an unpleasant day of dusty travel and many hours of
boredom through the evening. Now he was cross and sleepy, which
latter might also be said of the soldiers in general.
He was connected with a certain Arizona outfit which of late had
been making money very rapidly. If one more coup like the last
could be pulled off safely by his friend Wolf Leroy he would
resign from the army and settle down. It would then no longer be
necessary to bore himself with such details as this.
There was, of course, no necessity for alertness in his present
assignment. The opposition was scarcely mad enough to attempt
taking the guns from forty armed men. Chaves devoutly hoped they
would, in order that he might get a little glory, at least, out
of the affair. But of course such an expectation would be
ridiculous. No, the journey would continue to be humdrum to the
end, he was wearily assured of that, and consequently attempted
to steal a half hour's sleep while propped against a window with
his feet in the seat opposite.
The gallant lieutenant was awakened by a cessation of the
drumming of the wheels. Opening his eyes, he saw that the train
was no longer in motion. He also saw--and his consciousness of
that fact was much more acute--the rim of a revolver about six
inches from his forehead. Behind the revolver was a man, a young
Spanish gypsy, and he was offering the officer very good advice.
"Don't move, sir. No cause for being uneasy. Just sit quiet and
everything will be serene. No, I wouldn't reach for that
revolver, if I were you."
Chaves cast a hurried eye down the car, and at the end of it
beheld the huge Irishman, O'Halloran, dominating the situation
with a pair of revolvers. Chaves' lambs were ranged on either
side of the car, their hands in the air. Back came the
lieutenant's gaze to the impassive face in front of him. Taken by
and large, it did not seem an auspicious moment for garnering
glory. He decided to take the advice bestowed on him.
"Better put your hands up and vote with your men. Then you won't
be tempted to play with your gun and commit suicide. That's
right, sir. I'll relieve you of it if you don't object."
Since the lieutenant had no objections to offer, the smiling
gypsy possessed himself of the revolver. At the same instant two
more men appeared at the end of the car. One of them was Juan
Valdez and another one of the mule-skinners. Simultaneously with
their entrance rang out a most disconcerting fusillade of small
arms in the darkness without. Megales' military band, as
O'Halloran had facetiously dubbed them to the ranger, arrived at
the impression that there were about a thousand insurgents
encompassing the train. Chaves choked with rage, but the rest of
the command yielded to the situation very tranquilly, with no
desire to offer themselves as targets to this crackling explosion
of Colts. Muy bien! After all, Valdez was a better man to serve
than the fox Megales.
Swiftly Valdez and the wagon driver passed down the car and
gathered the weapons from the seats of the troopers. Raising a
window, they passed them out to their friends outside. Meanwhile,
the sound of an axe could be heard battering at the door of the
next car, and presently the crash of splintering wood announced
that an entrance had been forced.
"Breaking furniture, I reckon," drawled Bucky, in English, for
the moment forgetful of the part he was playing. "I hope they'll
be all right careful of them pianos and not mishandle them so
they'll get out of tune."
"So, senor, you are American," said Chaves, in English, with a
O'Connor shrugged, answering in Spanish: "I am Romany. Who shall
say, whether American, or Spanish, or Bohemian? All nations call
to me, but none claim me, senor."
The lieutenant continued to smile his meaning grin. "Yet you are
American," he persisted.
"Oh, as you please. I am what you will, lieutenant."
"You speak the English like a native."
"You are complimentary."
Chaves lifted his eyebrows. "For believing that you are in
costume, that you are wearing a disguise, Mr. American?"
Bucky laughed outright, and offered a gay retort. "Believe me,
lieutenant, I am no more disguised as a gypsy than you are as a
The Mexican officer flushed with anger at the suggestion of
contempt in the careless voice. His generalship was discredited.
He had been outwitted and made to yield without a blow. But to
have it flung in his teeth with such a debonair insolence threw
him into a fury.
"If you and I ever meet on equal terms, senor, God pity you," he
ground out between his set jaws.
Bucky bowed, answering the furious anger in the man's face as
much as his words. "I shall try to be careful not to offer myself
a sheath for a knife some dark night," he scoffed.
A whistle blew, and then again. The revolver of Bucky rang out
almost on the same instant as those of O'Halloran. Under cover of
the smoke they slipped out of the car just as Rodrigo leaped down
from the cab of the engine. Slowly the train began to back down
the incline in the same direction from which it had come. The
orders given the engineer were to move back at a snail's pace
until he reached Concho again. There he was to remain for two
hours. That Chaves would submit to this O'Halloran did not for a
But the track would be kept obstructed till six o'clock in the
morning, and a sufficient guard would wait in the underbrush to
see that the right of way was not cleared. In the meantime the
wagons would be pushing toward Chihuahua as fast as they could be
hurried, and the rest of the riders would guard them till they
separated on the outskirts of the town and slipped quietly in. In
order to forestall any telegraphic communication between
Lieutenant Chaves and his superiors in the city, the wires had
been cut. On the face of it, the guns seemed to be safe. Only one
thing had O'Halloran forgotten. Eight miles across the hills from
Concho ran the line of the Chihuahua Northern.
CHAPTER 11. "STONE WALLS DO NOT A PRISON MAKE."
The two young Spanish aristocrats rode in advance of the convoy
on the return trip, while O'Halloran and Bucky brought up the
rear. The roads were too rough to permit of rapid travel, but the
teams were pushed as fast as it could safely be done in the dark.
It was necessary to get into the city before daybreak, and also
before word reached Megales of the coup his enemies had made.
O'Halloran calculated that this could be done, but he did not
want to run his margin of time too fine.
"When the governor finds we have recaptured the arms, will he not
have all your leaders arrested today and thrown into the prison?"
asked the ranger.
"He will--if he can lay hands on them. But he had better catch
his hare before he cooks it. I'm thinking that none of us will be
at home to-day when his men come with a polite invitation to go
along with them."
"Then he'll spend all day strengthening his position. With this
warning he will be a fool if he can't make himself secure before
night, when the army is on his side."
"Oh, the army is on his side, is it? Now, what would you say if
most of the officers were ready to come over to us as soon as we
declare ourselves? And ye speak of strengthening his position.
The beauty of his position, me lad, from our point of view, is
that he doesn't know his weak places. He'll be the most
undeceived man in the State when the test comes--unless something
"When do you propose to attack the prison?"
"To-night. To-morrow is election day, and we want all the byes we
can on hand to help us out."
"Do you expect to throw the prison doors wide open--let every
scoundrel in Chihuahua loose on the public."
"We couldn't do that, since half of them are loose already,"
retorted O'Halloran dryly. "And as for the rest--we expect to
make a selection, me son, to weed out a few choice ruffians and
keep them behind the bars. But if ye know anything about the
prisons of this country, you're informed, sir, that half the poor
fellows behind bars don't belong there so much as the folk that
put them there. I'm Irish, as ye are yourself, and it's me
instinct to fight for the under dog. Why shouldn't the lads
rotting behind those walls have another chance at the game? By
the mother of Moses! they shall, if Mike O'Halloran has anything
to say about it."
"You ce'tainly conduct your lawful elections in a beautifully
lawless way," grinned the ranger.
"And why not? Isn't the law made for man?"
"For which man--Megales?"
"In order to give the greatest liberty to each individual man.
But here comes young Valdez riding back as if he were in a bit of
The filibuster rode forward and talked with the young man for a
few minutes in a low voice. When he rejoined Bucky he nodded his
head toward the young man, who was again headed for the front of
the column. "There's the best lad in the State of Chihuahua. He's
a Mexican, all right, but he has as much sense as a white man. He
doesn't mix issues. Now, the lad's in love with Carmencita
Megales, the prettiest black-eyed lass in Mexico, and, by the
same token, so is our friend Chaves, who just gave us the guns a
little while ago. But Valdez is a man from the heel of him to the
head. Miss Carmencita has her nose in the air because Juan
doesn't snuggle up to ould Megales and flatter him the same way
young Chaves does. So the lad is persona non grata at court with
the lady, and that tin soldier who gave up the guns without a
blow gets the lady's smiles. But it's my opinion that, for all
her haughty ways, miss would rather have our honest fighting lad
than a roomful of the imitation toy kind."
A couple of miles from the outskirts of the city the wagons
separated, and each was driven to the assigned place for the
hiding of the rifles till night. At the edge of the town Bucky
made arrangements to join his friend again at the monument in the
centre of the plaza within fifteen minutes. He was to bring his
little partner with him, and O'Halloran was to take them to a
place where they might lie in hiding till the time set for the
"I would go with ye, but I want to take charge of the unloading.
Don't lose any time, lad, for as soon as Megales learns of what
has happened his fellows will scour the town for every mother's
son of us. Of course you have been under surveillance, and it's
likely he'll try to bag you with the rest of us. It was a great
piece of foolishness me forgetting about the line of the
Chihuahua Northern and its telegraph. But there's a chance Chaves
has forgot, too. Anyway, get back as soon as you can; after we're
hidden, it will be like looking for a needle in a haystack to put
his fat finger on us."
Bucky went singing up the stairway of the hotel to his room. He
was keen to get back to his little friend after the hazards of
the night, eager to see the brown eyes light up with joy at sight
of him and to hear the soft voice with the trailing inflection
drawl out its shy questions. So he took the stairs three at a
time, with a song on his lips and in his heart.
"'Tis you shall reign, shall reign alone
My dark Rosaleen! My own Rosaleen!
'Tis you shall have the golden throne,
'Tis you shall reign, and reign alone
My dark Rosaleen!"
O'Connor, somewhat out of breath, was humming the last line when
he passed through the gypsy apartments and opened his own door,
to meet one of the surprises of his life. Yet he finished the
verse, though he was looking down the barrels of two revolvers in
the hands of a pair of troopers, and though Lieutenant Chaves,
very much at his ease, sat on the table dangling his feet.
Bucky's sardonic laughter rang out gayly. "I ce'tainly didn't
expect to meet you here, lieutenant. May I ask if you have
"Not exactly, senor. But it is quite possible you may have before
twenty-four hours," came the swift retort.
"Interesting, if true," remarked the ranger carelessly, tossing
his gloves on the bed. "And may I ask to what I am indebted for
the pleasure of a visit from you?"
"I am returning your call, sir, and at the very earliest
opportunity. I assure you that I have been in the city less than
ten minutes, Senor whatever-you-choose-to-call-yourself. My
promptness I leave you to admire."
"Oh, you're prompt enough, lieutenant. I noticed that when you
handed over your gun to me so lamblike." He laughed it out
flippantly, buoyantly, though it was on his mind to wonder
whether the choleric little officer might not kill him out of
hand for it.
But Chaves merely folded his arms and looked sternly at the
American with a manner very theatrical. "Miguel, disarm the
prisoner," he ordered.
"So I'm a prisoner," mused Bucky aloud. "And whyfor, lieutenant?"
"Stirring up insurrection against the government. The prisoner
will not talk," decreed his captor, a frowning gaze attempting to
But here the popinjay officer reckoned without his host, for that
gentleman had the most indomitable eyes in Arizona. It was not
necessary for him to stiffen his will to meet the other's attack.
His manner was still lazy, his gaze almost insolent in its
indolence, but somewhere in the blue eyes was that which told
Chaves he was his master. The Mexican might impotently rebel--and
did; he might feed his vanity with the swiftness of his revenge,
but in his heart he knew that the moment was not his, after all,
or that it was his at least with no pleasure unalloyed.
"The prisoner will not talk," repeated Bucky, with drawling
mockery. "Sure he will, general. There's several things he's
awful curious to know. One of them is how you happen to be
Johnnie-on-the-spot so opportune."
The lieutenant's dignity melted before his vanity. Having so
excellent a chance to sun the latter, he delivered himself of an
oration. After all, silent contempt did not appear to be the best
weapon to employ with this impudent fellow.
"Senor, no Chaves ever forgets an insult. Last night you, a
common American, insulted me grossly--me, Lieutenant Ferdinand
Chaves, me, of the bluest Castilian blood." He struck himself
dramatically on the breast. "I submit, senor, but I vow revenge.
I promised myself to spit on you, to spit on your Stars and
Stripes, the flag of a nation of dirty traders. Ha! I do so now
in spirit. The hour I have longed for is come."
Bucky took one step forward. His eyes had grown opaque and
flinty. "Take care, you cur."
Swiftly Chaves hurried on without pressing the point. He had a
prophetic vision of his neck in the vise grip of those brown,
sinewy hands, and, though his men would afterward kill the man,
small good would he get from that if the life were already
squeezed out of him.
"And so what do I do? I think, and having thought I act with the
swiftness of a Chaves. How? I ride across country. I seize a hand
car. My men pump me to town on the roadbed of the Northern. I
telephone to the hotels and find where Americans are staying.
Then I come here like the wind, arrest your friend, and send him
to prison, arrest you also and send you to the gallows."
"That's real kind of you, general," replied Bucky, in irony
sportive. "But you really are putting yourself out too much for
me. I reckon I'll not trouble you to go so far. By the way, did I
understand you to say you had arrested a friend of mine?"
Indifferently he flung out the question, if his voice were index
of his feeling, but his heart was pumping faster than it normally
"He is in prison, where you will shortly join him. Soldiers, to
the commandant with your captive."
If Bucky had had any idea of attempting escape, he now abandoned
it at once. The place of all places where he most ardently
desired to be at that moment was in the prison with his little
comrade. His desire marched with that of Chaves so far, and the
latter could not hurry him there too fast to suit him.
One feature of the situation made him chuckle, and that was this:
The fiery lieutenant, intent first of all on his revenge, had
given first thought to the capture of the man who had made
mincemeat of his vanity and rendered him a possible subject of
ridicule to his fellow officers. So eager had he been to
accomplish this that he had failed as yet to notify his superiors
of what had happened, with the result that the captured guns had
been safely smuggled in and hidden. Bucky thought he could trust
O'Halloran to see that he did not stay long behind bars and
bolts, unless indeed the game went against that sanguine and most
cheerful plotter. In which event--well, that was a contingency
that would certainly prove embarrassing to the ranger. It might
indeed turn out to be a good deal more than embarrassing in the
end. The thing that he had done would bear a plain name if the
Megales faction won the day--and the punishment for it would be
easy to guess. But it was not of himself that O'Connor was
thinking. He had been in tight places before and squeezed safely
out. But his little friend, the one he loved better than his
life, must somehow be extricated, no matter how the cards fell.
The ranger was taken at once before General Carlo, the ranking
army officer at Chihuahua, and, after a sharp preliminary
examination, was committed to prison. The impression that
O'Connor got of Carlo was not a reassuring one. The man was a
military despot, apparently, and a stickler for discipline. He
had a hanging face, and, in the Yaqui war, had won the nickname
of "the butcher' for his merciless treatment of captured natives.
If Bucky were to get the same short shrift as they did--and he
began to suspect as much when his trial was set for the same day
before a military tribunal--it was time for him to be setting
what few worldly affairs he had in order. Technically, Megales
had a legal right to have him put to death and the impression
lingered with Bucky that the sly old governor would be likely to
do that very thing and later be full of profuse regrets to the
United States Government that inadvertently a citizen of the
great republic had been punished by mistake.
Bucky was registered and receipted for at the prison office,
after which he was conducted to his cell. The corridors dripped
as he followed under ground the guide who led the way with a
flickering lantern. It was a gruesome place to contemplate as a
permanent abode. But the young American knew that his stay here
would be short, whether the termination of it were liberty or the
Reaching the end of a narrow, crooked corridor that sloped
downward, the turnkey unlocked a ponderous iron door with a huge
key, and one of the guards following at Bucky's heels, pushed him
forward. He fell down two or three steps and came to a sprawling
heap on the floor of the cell.
From the top of the steps came a derisive laugh as the door swung
to and left him in utter darkness.
Stiffly the ranger got to his knees and was about to rise when a
sound stopped him. Something was panting in deep breaths at the
other side of the cell. A shiver of terror went goose-quilling
down O'Connor's back. Had they locked him up with some wild
beast, to be torn to pieces? Or was this the ghost of some
previous occupant? In such blackness of gloom it was easy to
believe, or, at least, to imagine impossible conceptions that the
light of day would have scattered in an instant. He was
afraid--afraid to the marrow.
And then out of the darkness came a small, trembling voice: "Are
you a prisoner, too, sir?"
Bucky wanted to shout aloud his relief--and his delight. The
sheer joy of his laughter told him how badly he had been
frightened. That voice--were he sunk in twice as deep and dark an
inferno--he would know it among a thousand. He groped his way
forward toward it.
"Oh, little pardner, I'm plumb tickled to death you ain't a
ghost," he laughed.
"It is--Bucky?" The question joyfully answered itself.
"Right guess. Bucky it is."
He had hold of her hands by this time, was trying to peer down
into the happy-brown eyes he knew were scanning him. "I can't see
you yet, Curly Haid, but it's sure you, I reckon. I'll have to
pass my hand over your face the way a blind man does," he
laughed, and, greatly daring, he followed his own suggestion, and
let his fingers wander across her crisp, thick hair, down her
soft, warm cheeks, and over the saucy nose and laughing mouth he
had often longed to kiss.
Presently she drew away shyly, but the lilt of happiness in her
voice told him she was not offended. "I can see you, Bucky." The
last word came as usual, with that sweet, hesitating, upward
inflection that made her familiarity wholly intoxicating, even
while the comradeship of it left room for an interpretation
either of gay mockery or something deeper. "Yes, I can see you.
That's because I have been here longer and am more used to the
darkness. I think I've been here about a year." He felt her
shudder. "You don't know how glad I am to see you."
"No gladder than I am to feel you," he answered gayly. "It's
worth the price of admission to find you here, girl o'mine."
He had forgotten the pretense that still lay between them, so far
as words went when they had last parted. Nor did it yet occur to
him that he had swept aside the convention of her being a boy.
But she was vividly aware of it, and aware, too, of the demand
his last words had made for a recognition of the relationship
that existed in feeling between them.
"I knew you knew I was a girl," she murmured.
"You knew more than that," he challenged joyfully.
But, in woman's way, she ignored his frontal attack. He was going
at too impetuous a speed for her reluctance. "How long have you
known that I wasn't a boy--not from the first, surely?"
"I don't know why I didn't, but I didn't. I was sure locoed," he
confessed. "It was when you came out dressed as a gypsy that I
knew. That explained to me a heap of things I never had
understood before about you."
"It explained, I suppose, why I never had licked the stuffing out
of any other kid, and why you did not get very far in making a
man out of me as you promised," she mocked.
"Yes, and it explained how you happened to say you were eighteen.
By mistake you let the truth slip out. Course I wouldn't believe
"I remember you didn't. I think you conveyed the impression to me
diplomatically that you had doubts."
"I said it was a lie," he laughed. "I sure do owe you a heap of
apologies for being so plumb dogmatic when you knew best. You'll
have to sit down on me hard once in a while, or there won't be
any living with me."
Blushingly she did some more ignoring. "That was the first time
you threatened to give me a whipping," she recalled aloud.
"My goodness! Did I ever talk so foolish?"
"You did, and meant it."
"But somehow I never did it. I wonder why I didn't."
"Perhaps I was so frail you were afraid you would break me."
"No, that wasn't it. In the back of my haid somewhere there was
an instinct that said: 'Bucky, you chump, if you don't keep your
hands off this kid you'll be right sorry all your life.' Not
being given to many ideas, I paid a heap of respect to that one."
"Well, it's too bad, for I probably needed that whipping, and now
you'll never be able to give it to me."
"I shan't ever want to now."
Saucily her merry eyes shot him from under the long lashes. "I'm
not so sure of that. Girls can be mighty aggravating."
"That's the way girls are meant to be, I expect," he laughed.
"But fifteen-year-old boys have to be herded back into line.
There's a difference."
She rescued her hands from him and led the way to a bench that
served for a seat. "Sit down here, sir. There are one or two
things that I have to explain." She sat down beside him at the
farther end of the bench.
"This light is so dim, I can't see you away over there," he
pleaded, moving closer.
"You don't need to see me. You can hear me, can't you?"
She seemed to find a difficulty in beginning, even though the
darkness helped her by making it impossible for him to see her
embarrassment. Presently he chuckled softly. "No, ma'am, I can't
even hear you. If you're talking, I'll have to come closer."
"If you do, I'll get up. I want you to be really earnest."
"I never was more earnest in my life, Curly."
"Please, Bucky? It isn't easy to say it, and you mustn't make it
"Do you have to say it, pardner?" he asked, more seriously.
"Yes, I have to say it." And swiftly she blurted it out. "Why do
you suppose I came with you to Mexico?"
"I don't know." He grappled with her suggestion for a moment. "I
suppose--you said it was because you were afraid of Hardman."
"Well, I wasn't. At least, I wasn't afraid that much. I knew that
I would have been quite safe next time with the Mackenzies at the
"Then why was it?"
"You can't think of any reason?" She leaned forward and looked
directly into his eyes--eyes as honest and as blue as an Arizona
But he stood unconvicted--nay, acquitted. The one reason she had
dreaded he might offer to himself had evidently never entered his
head. Whatever guesses he might have made on the subject, he was
plainly guiltless of thinking she might have come with him
because she was in love with him.
"No, I can't think of any other reason, if the one you gave isn't
the right one."
"Quite sure, pardner."
"Think! Why did you come to Chihuahua?"
"To run down Wolf Leroy's gang and to get Dave Henderson out of
"Perhaps there is a reason why I should want him out of prison, a
better reason than you could possibly have."
"I don't savvy it. How can there be? You don't know him, do you?
He's been in prison almost ever since you were born." And on top
of his last statement Bucky's eyes began to open with a new
light. "Good heavens! It can't be possible. You're not Webb
Mackenzie's little girl, are you?"
She did not answer him in words, but from her neck she slipped a
chain and handed it to him. On the chain hung a locket.
The ranger struck a match and examined the trinket. "It's the
very missing locket. See! Here's the other one. Compare them
together." He touched the spring and it opened, but the match was
burned out and he had to light another. "Here's the mine map that
has been lost all these years. How did you get this? Have you
always had it? And how long have you known that you were Frances
His questions tumbled out one upon another in his excitement.
She laughed, answering him categorically. "I don't know, for
sure. Yes, at least a great many years. Less than a week."
"But--I don't understand--"
"And won't until you give me a chance to do some of the talking,"
she interrupted dryly.
"That's right. I reckon I am getting off left foot first. It's
your powwow now," he conceded.
"So long as I can remember exactly I have always lived with the
man Hardman and his wife. But before that I can vaguely recall
something different. It has always seemed like a kind of
fairyland, for I was a very little tot then. But one of the
things I seem to remember was a sweet, kind-eyed mother and a
big, laughing father. Then, too, there were horses and lots of
cows. That is about all, except that the chain around my neck
seemed to have some connection with my early life. That's why I
always kept it very carefully, and, after one of the lockets
broke, I still kept it and the funny-looking paper inside of it."
"I don't understand why Hardman didn't take the paper," he
"I suppose he did, and when he discovered that it held only half
the secret of the mine he probably put it back in the locket. I
see you have the other part."
"It was lost at the place where the robbers waited to hold up the
T. P. Limited. Probably you lost it first and one of the robbers
"Probably," she said, in a queer voice.
"What was the first clue your father had had for many years about
his little girl. He happened to be at Aravaipa the day you and I
first met. I guess he took a fancy to me, for he asked me to take
this case up for him and see if I couldn't locate you. I ran
Hardman down and made him tell me the whole story. But he lied
about some of it, for he told me you were dead."
"He is a born liar," the girl commented. "Well, to get on with my
story. Anderson, or Hardman, as he now calls himself, except when
he uses his stage name of Cavallado, went into the show business
and took me with him. When I was a little bit of a girl he used
to use me for all sorts of things, such as a target for his knife
throwing and to sell medicine to the audience. Lots of people
would buy because I was such a morsel of a creature, and I
suppose he found me a drawing card. We moved all over the country
for years. I hated the life. But what could I do?"
"You poor little lamb," murmured the man. "And when did you find
out who you were?"
"I heard you talking to him the night you took him back to
Epitaph, and then I began to piece things together. You remember
you went over the whole story with him again just before we
reached the town."
"And you knew it was you I was talking about?"
"I didn't know. But when you mentioned the locket and the map, I
knew. Then it seemed to me that since this man Henderson had lost
so many years of his life trying to save me I must do something
for him. So I asked you to take me with you. I had been a boy so
long I didn't think you would know the difference, and you did
not. If I hadn't dressed as a girl that time you would not know
"Maybe, and maybe not," he smiled. "Point is, I do know, and it
makes a heap of difference to me."
"Yes, I know," she said hurriedly. "I'm more trouble now."
"That ain't it," he was beginning, when a thought brought him up
short. As the daughter of Webb Mackenzie this girl was no longer
a penniless outcast, but the heiress of one-half interest in the
big Rocking Chair Ranch, with its fifteen thousand head of
cattle. As the first he had a perfect right to love her and to
ask her to marry him, but as the latter--well, that was quite a
different affair. He had not a cent to bless himself with outside
of his little ranch and his salary, and, though he might not
question his own motives under such circumstances, there would be
plenty who would question them for him. He was an independent
young man as one could find in a long day's ride, and his pride
rose up to padlock his lips.
She looked across at him in shy surprise, for all the eagerness
had in an instant been sponged from his face. With a hard,
impassive countenance he dropped the hand he had seized and
"You were saying--" she suggested.
"I reckon I've forgot what it was. It doesn't matter, anyhow."
She was hurt, and deeply. It was all very well for her to try her
little wiles to delay him, but in her heart she longed to hear
the words he had been about to say. It had been very sweet to
know that this brown, handsome son of Arizona loved her, very
restful to know that for the first time in her life she could
trustfully let her weakness lean on the strength of another. And,
more than either, though she sometimes smilingly pretended to
deny it to herself, was the ultimate fact that she loved him. His
voice was music to her, his presence joy. He brought with him
sunshine, and peace, and happiness.
He was always so reliable, so little the victim of his moods.
What could have come over him now to change him in that swift
instant? Was she to blame? Had she unknowingly been at fault? Or
was there something in her story that had chilled him? It was
characteristic of her that it was herself she doubted and not
him; that it never occurred to her that her hero had feet of clay
like other men.
She felt her heart begin to swell, and choked back a sob. It
wrung him to hear the little breath catch, but he was a man,
strong-willed and resolute. Though he dug his finger nails into
his palms till the flesh was cut he would not give way to his
"You're not angry at me--Bucky?" she asked softly.
"No, I'm not angry at you." His voice was cold because he dared
not trust himself to let his tenderness creep into it.
"I haven't done anything that I ought not to? Perhaps you think
it wasn't--wasn't nice to--to come here with you."
"I don't think anything of the kind," his hard voice answered. "I
think you're a prince, if you want to know."
She smiled a little wanly, trying to coax him back into
friendliness. "Then if I'm a prince you must be a princess," she
"I meant a prince of good fellows" "Oh!" She could be stiff, too,
if it came to that.
And at this inopportune moment the key turned harshly and the
door swung open.
CHAPTER 12. A CLEAN WHITE MAN'S OPTION
The light of a lantern coming down the steps blinded them for a
moment. Behind the lantern peered the yellow face of the turnkey.
"Ho, there, Americano! They want you up above," the man said.
"The generals, and the colonels, and the captains want a little
talk with you before they hang you, senor."
The two soldiers behind the fellow cackled merrily at his wit,
and the encouraged turnkey tried again.
"We shall trouble you but a little time. Only a few questions,
senor, an order, and then poco tiempo, after a short walk to the
"What--what do you mean?" gasped the girl whitely.
"Never mind, muchacho. This is no affair of yours. Your turn will
come later. Have no fear of that," nodded the wrinkled old
"But--but he hasn't done anything wrong."
"Ho, ho! Let him explain that to the generals and the colonels,"
croaked the old fellow. "And that you may explain the sooner,
senor, hurry--let your feet fly!"
Bucky walked across to the girl he loved and took her hands in
"If I don't come back before three hours read the letter that I
wrote you yesterday, dear. I have left matches on that bench so
that you may have a light. Be brave, pardner. Don't lose your
nerve, whatever you do. We'll both get out of this all right
He spoke in a low voice, so that the guards might not hear, and
it was in kind that she answered.
"I'm afraid, Bucky; afraid away down deep. You don't half believe
yourself what you say. I can't stand it to be here alone and not
know what's going on. They might be--be doing what that man said,
and I not know anything about it till afterward." She broke down
and began to sob. "Oh, I know I'm a dreadful little coward, but I
can't be like you--and you heard what he said."
"Sho! What he says is nothing. I'm an American citizen, and I
reckon that will carry us through all right. Uncle Sam has awful
long arms, and these greasers know it. I'm expecting to come back
here again, little pardner. But if I don't make it, I want you,
just as soon as they turn you loose, to go straight to your
"Come! This won't do. Look alive, senor," the turnkey ordered,
and to emphasize his words reached a hand forward to pluck away
the sobbing lad. Bucky caught his wrist and tightened on it like
a vise. "Hands off, here!" he commanded quietly.
The man gave a howl of pain and nursed his hand gingerly after it
"Oh, Bucky, make him let me go, too," the girl wailed, clinging
to his coat.
Gently he unfastened her fingers. "You know I would if I could,
Curly; but it isn't my say-so."
And with that he was gone. Ashen-faced she watched him go, and as
soon as the door had closed groped her way to the bench and sank
down on it, her face covered with her hands. He was going to his
death. Her lover was going to his death. Why had she let him go?
Why had she not done something--thought of some way to save him?
The ranger's guards led him to the military headquarters in the
next street from the prison. He observed that nearly a whole
company of Rurales formed the escort, and this led him to
conclude that the government party was very uneasy as to the
situation and had taken precautions against a possible attempt at
rescue. But no such attempt was made. The sunny streets were
pretty well deserted, except for a few lounging peons hardly
interested enough to be curious. The air of peace, of order, sat
so incongruously over the plaza that Bucky's heart fell. Surely
this was the last place on earth for a revolution to make any
headway of consequence. His friends were hidden away in holes and
cellars, while Megales dominated the situation with his troops.
To expect a reversal of the situation was surely madness.
Yet even while the thought was in his mind he caught a glimpse in
a doorway of a man he recognized. It was Rodrigo, one of his
allies of the previous night's escapade, and it seemed to him
that the man was trying to tell him something with his eyes. If
so, the meaning of his message failed to carry home, for after
the ranger had passed he dared not look back again.
So far as the trial itself went, O'Connor hoped for nothing and
was the less disappointed. One glance at his judges was enough to
convince him of the futility of expectation. He was tried by a
court-martial presided over by General Carlo. Beside him sat a
Colonel Onate and Lieutenant Chaves. In none of the three did he
find any room for hope. Carlo was a hater of Americans and a
butcher by temperament and choice, Chaves a personal enemy of the
prisoner, and Onate looked as grim an old scoundrel as Jeffreys
the hanging judge of James Stuart. Governor Megales, though not
technically a member of the court, was present, and took an
active part in the prosecution. He was a stout, swarthy little
man, with black, beady eyes that snapped restlessly to and fro,
and from his manner to the officers in charge of the trial it was
plain that he was a despot even in his own official family.
The court did not trouble itself with forms of law. Chaves was
both principal witness and judge, notwithstanding the protest of
the prisoner. Yet what the lieutenant had to offer in the way of
testimony was so tinctured with bitterness that it must have been
plain to the veriest novice he was no fit judge of the case.
But Bucky knew as well as the judges that his trial was a merely
perfunctory formality. The verdict was decided ere it began, and,
indeed, so eager was Megales to get the farce over with that
several times he interrupted the proceedings to urge haste.
It took them just fifteen minutes from the time the young
American was brought into the room to find him guilty of treason
and to decide upon immediate execution as the fitting punishment.
General Carlo turned to the prisoner. "Have you anything to say
before I pronounce sentence of death upon you?"
"I have," answered Bucky, looking him straight in the eyes. "I am
an American, and I demand the rights of a citizen of the United
"An American?" Incredulously Megales lifted his eyebrows. "You
are a Spanish gypsy, my friend."
The ranger was fairly caught in his own trap. He had donned the
gypsy masquerade because he did not want to be taken for what he
was, and he had succeeded only too well. He had played into their
hands. They would, of course, claim, in the event of trouble with
the United States, that they had supposed him to be what his
costume proclaimed him, and they would be able to make good their
pretense with a very decent appearance of candor. What an idiot
of sorts he had been!
"We understand each other perfectly, governor. I know and you
know that I am an American. As a citizen of the United States I
claim the protection of that flag. I demand that you will send
immediately for the United States consul to this city."
Megales leaned forward with a thin, cruel smile on his face.
"Very well, senor. Let it be as you say. Your friend, Senor
O'Halloran, is the United States consul. I shall be very glad to
send for him if you can tell me where to find him. Having
business with him to-day, I have despatched messengers who have
been unable to find him at home. But since you know where he is,
and are in need of him, perhaps you can assist me with
information of value."
Again Bucky was fairly caught. He had no reason to doubt that the
governor spoke truth in saying that O'Halloran was the United
States consul. There were in the city as permanent residents not
more than three or four citizens of the United States. With the
political instinct of the Irish, it would be very characteristic
of O'Halloran to work his "pull" to secure for himself the
appointment. That he had not happened to mention the fact to his
friend could be accounted for by reason of the fact that the
duties of the office at that place were few and unimportant.
"We are waiting, senor. If you will tell us where we may send?"
"I do not know any more than you do, if he is not at home."
The governor's eyes glittered. "Take care, senor. Better sharpen
"It's pretty hard to remember what one never knew," retorted the
The Mexican tyrant brought his clinched fist slowly down on the
table in front of him. "It is necessary to remember, sir. It is
necessary to answer a few questions. If you answer them to our
satisfaction you may yet save your life."
"Indeed!" Bucky swept his fat bulk scornfully from head to foot.
"If I were what you think me, do you suppose I would betray my
"You have no option, sir. Answer my questions, or die like a
"You mean that you would not think you had any option if you were
in my place, but since I'm a clean white man there's an option.
By God! sir, it doesn't take me a whole lot of time to make it,
either. I'll see you rot in hell before I'll play Judas."
The words rang like a bell through the room, not loud, but clear
and vibrant. There was a long instant's silence after the
American finished speaking, and as his eyes swept from one to
another of the enemy Bucky met with a surprise. On Colonel
Onate's face was a haggard look of fear--surely it was fear--that
lifted in relief at the young man's brave challenge. He had been
dreading something, and the dread was lifted. Onate! Onate! The
ranger's memory searched the past few days to locate the name.
Had O'Halloran mentioned it? Was this man one of the officers
expected to join the opposition when it declared itself against
Megales? He had a vague recollection of the name, and he could
have heard it only through his friend.
"Was Juan Valdez a member of the party that took the rifles from
Lieutenant Chaves and his escort?"
Bucky laughed out his contempt.
"Speak, sir," broke in Chaves. "Answer the governor, you dog."
"If I speak, it will be to tell you what a cur I think you."
Chaves flushed angrily and laid a hand on his revolver. "Who are
you that play dice with death, like a fool?"
"My name, seh, is Bucky O'Connor."
At the words a certain fear, followed by a look of triumph,
passed over the face of Chaves. It was as if he had had an
unpleasant shock that had instantly proved groundless. Bucky did
not at the time understand it.
"Why don't you shoot? It's about your size, you pinhead, to kill
an unarmed man."
"Tell all you know and I promise you your life." It was Megales
"I'll tell you nothing, except that I'm Bucky O'Connor, of the
Arizona Rangers. Chew on that a while, governor, and see how it
tastes. Kill me, and Uncle Sam is liable to ask mighty loud
whyfor; not because I'm such a mighty big toad in the puddle, but
because any man that stands under that flag has back of him the
biggest, best, and gamest country on God's green footstool."
Bucky spoke in English this time, straight as he could send it.
"In that case, I think sentence may now be pronounced, general."
"I warn you that the United States will exact vengeance for my
"Indeed!" Politely the governor smiled at him with a malice
almost devilish. "If so, it will be after you are dead, Senor
Bucky O'Connor, of the Arizona Rangers."
Colonel Onate leaned forward and whispered something to General
Carlo, who shook his head and frowned. Presently the black head
of Chaves joined them, and the three were in excited discussion.
Arms waved like signals, as is usual among the Latin races who
talk with their hands and expressive shrugs of the shoulders.
Outvoted by two to one, Onate appealed to the governor, who came
up and listened, frowning, to both sides of the debate. In their
excitement the voices raised, and to Bucky came snatches of
phrases that told him his life hung in the balance. Carlo and
Chaves were for having him executed out of hand, at latest, by
sunset. The latter was especially vindictive. Indeed, it seemed
to the ranger that ever since he had mentioned his name this man
had set himself more malevolently to compass his death. Onate
maintained, on the other hand, that their prisoner was worth more
to them alive than dead. There was a chance that he might weaken
before morning and tell secrets. At worst they would still have
his life as a card to hold in case of need over the head of the
rebels. If it should turn out that this was not needed, he could
be executed in the morning as well as to-night.
It may be conceived with what anxiety Bucky listened to the
whispered conversation and waited for the decision of the
governor. He was a game man, noted even in a country famous for
its courageous citizens, but he felt strangely weak now as he
waited with that leather-crusted face of his bereft of all
"Give him till morning to weaken. If he still stays obstinate,
hang him in the dawn," decided the governor, his beady eyes fixed
on the prisoner.
Not a flicker of the eyelid betrayed the Arizonian's emotion, but
for an instant the world swam dizzily before him. Safe till
morning! Before then a hundred chances might change the current
of the game in his favor. How brightly the sunshine flooded the
room! What a glorious world it was, after all! Through the open
window poured the rich, full-throated song of a meadow lark, and
the burden of its blithe song was, "How good is this life the
CHAPTER 13. BUCKY'S FIRST-RATE REASONS
How long Frances Mackenzie gave herself up to despair she never
knew, but when at last she resolutely took herself in hand it
seemed hours later. "Bucky told me to be brave, he told me not to
lose my nerve," she repeated to herself over and over again,
drawing comfort from the memory of his warm, vibrant voice. "He
said he would come back, and he hates a liar. So, of course, he
will come." With such argument she tried to allay her wild fears.
But on top of all her reassurances would come a swift, blinding
vision of gallant Bucky being led to his death that crumpled her
courage as a hammer might an empty egg shell. What was the use of
her pretending all was well when at that very moment they might
be murdering him? Then in her agony she would pace up and down,
wringing her hands, or would beat them on the stone walls till
the soft flesh was bruised and bleeding.
It was in the reaction, after one of these paroxysms of despair,
that in her groping for an anchor to make fast her courage she
thought of his letter.
"He said in three hours I was to read it if he didn't come back.
It must be more than three hours now," she said aloud to herself,
and knew a fresh dread at his prolonged absence beyond the limit
he had set.
In point of fact, he had been gone less than three-quarters of an
hour, but in each one of them she had lived a lifetime of pain
and died many deaths.
By snatches she read her letter, a sentence or a fragment of a
sentence at a time as the light served. Luckily he had left a
case nearly full of matches, and one after another of them
dropped, charred and burned out, before she had finished reading.
After she had read it, her first love letter, she must needs go
over it again, to learn by heart the sweet phrases in which he
had wooed her. It was a commonplace note enough, far more neutral
than the strong, virile writer who had lacked the cunning to
transmit his feeling to ink and paper. But, after all, it was
from him, and it told the divine message, however haltingly. No
wonder she burned her little finger tips from the flame of the
matches creeping nearer unheeded. No wonder she pressed it to her
lips in the darkness and dreamed her happy dream in those few
moments when she was lost in her love before cruel realities
pressed home on her again.
"I told you, Little Curly Haid, that I had first-rate reasons for
not wanting to be killed by these Mexicans. So I have, the best
reasons going. But they are not ripe to tell you, and so I write
"I guessed your secret, little pardner, right away when I seen
you in a girl's outfit. If I hadn't been blind as a bat I would
have guessed it long since, for all the time my feelings were
telling me mighty loud that you were the lovingest little kid
Bucky had ever come across.
"I'll not leave you to guess my secret the way you did me yours,
dear Curly, but right prompt I'll set down adore (with one D) and
say you hit the bull's-eye that time without expecting to. But if
I was saying it I would not use any French words sweetheart, but
plain American. And the word would be l-o-v-e, without any D's.
Now you have got the straight of it, my dear. I love you--love
you--love you, from the crown of that curly hear to the soles of
your little feet. What's more, you have got to love me, too,
since I am,
"Your future husband,
"BUCKY O CONNOR.
"P. S.--And now, Curly, you know my first-rate reasons for not
meaning to get shot up by any of these Mexican fellows."
So the letter ran, and it went to her heart directly as rain to
the thirsty roots of flowers. He loved her. Whatever happened,
she would always have that comfort. They might kill him, but they
could not take away that. The words of an old Scotch song that
Mrs. Mackenzie sang came back to her:
"The span o' life's nae large eneugh,
Nor deep enough the sea,
Nor braid eneugh this weary warld,
To part my love frae me."
No, they could not part their hearts in this world or the next,
and with this sad comfort she flung herself on the rough bed and
sobbed. She would grieve still, but the wildness of her grief and
despair was gone, scattered by the knowledge that however their
troubles eventuated they were now one in heart.
She was roused after a long time by the sound of the huge key
grating in the lock. Through the opened door a figure descended,
and by an illuminating swing of the turnkey's lantern she saw
that it was Bucky. Next moment the door had closed and they were
in each other's arms. Bucky's stubborn pride, the remembrance of
the riches which of a sudden had transformed his little partner
into an heiress and set a high wall of separation between them,
these were swept clean away on a great wave of love which took
Bucky off his feet and left him breathless.
"I had almost given you up," she cried joyfully.
Again he passed his hand across her face. "You've been crying,
little pardner. Were you crying on account of me?"
"On account of myself, because I was afraid I had lost you. Oh,
Bucky, isn't it too good to be true?"
The ranger smiled, remembering that he had about fourteen hours
to live, if the Megales faction triumphed. "Good! I should think
it is. Bully! I've been famished to see Curly Haid again."
"And to know that everything is going to come out all right and
that we love each other."
"That's right good hearing and most ce'tainly true on my side of
it. But how do you happen to know it so sure?" he laughed gayly.
"Why, your letter, Bucky. It was the dearest letter. I love it."
"But you weren't to read it for three hours," he pretended to
reprove, holding her at arm's length to laugh at her.
"Wasn't it three hours? It seemed ever so much longer."
"You little rogue, you didn't play fair." And to punish her he
drew her soft, supple body to him in a close embrace, and for the
first time kissed the sweet mouth that yielded itself to him.
"Tell me all about what happened to you," she bade him playfully,
after speech was again in order.
"Sure." He caught her hand to lead her to the bench and she
"I burned it," she explained, adding, with a ripple of shy
laughter: "When I was reading your letter. It doesn't really
But he had to see for himself and make much over the little
blister that the flame of a match revealed to him. For they were
both very much in love, and, in consequence, bubbling over with
the foolishness that is the greatest inherited wisdom of the
But though her lover had acquiesced so promptly to her demand for
a full account of his adventures since leaving her, that young
man had no intention of offering an unexpurged edition of them.
It was his hope that O'Halloran would storm the prison during the
night and effect a rescue. If so, good; if not, there was no need
of her knowing that for them the new day would usher in fresh
sorrow. So he gave her an account of his trial and its details,
told her how he had been convicted, and how Colonel Onate had
fought warily to get the sentence of execution postponed in order
to give their friends a chance to rescue them.
"When Megales remanded me to prison I wanted to let out an
Arizona yell, Curly. It sure seemed too good to be true."
"But he may want the sentence carried out some time, if he
changes his mind. Maybe in a week or two he may take a notion
that " She stopped, plainly sobered by the fear that the good
news of his return might not be final.
"We won't cross that bridge till we come to it. You don't suppose
our friends are going to sit down and fold their hands, do you?
Not if I've got Mike O'Halloran and young Valdez sized up right.
Fur is going to begin to fly pretty soon in this man's country.
But it's up to us to help all we can, and I reckon we'll begin by
taking a preliminary survey of this wickiup."
Wickiup was distinctly good, since the word is used to apply to a
frail Indian hut, and this cell was nothing less than a tomb
built in the solid rock by blowing out a chamber with dynamite
and covering the front with a solid sheet of iron, into which a
door fitted. It did not take a very long investigation to prove
to Bucky that escape was impossible by any exit except the door,
which meant the same thing as impossible at all under present
conditions. Yet he did not yield to this opinion without going
over every inch of the walls many times to make sure that no
secret panel opened into a tunnel from the room.
"I reckon they want to keep us, Curly. Mr. Megales has sure got
us real safe this time. I'd be plumb discouraged about breaking
jail out of this cage. It's ce'tainly us to stay hitched a
About dark tortillas and frijoles were brought down to them by
the facetious turnkey, who was accompanied as usual by two
"Why don't my little birdies sing?" he asked, with a wink at the
soldiers. "One of them will not do any singing after daybreak
to-morrow. Ho, ho, my larks! Tune up, tune up!"
"What do you mean about one not singing after daybreak?" asked
the girl, with eyes dilating.
"What! Hasn't he told you? Senor the ranger is to be hanged at
the dawn unless he finds his tongue for Governor Megales. Ho, ho!
Our birdie must speak even if he doesn't sing." And with that as
a parting shot the man clanged the door to after him and locked
"You never told me, Bucky. You have been trying to deceive me,"
He shrugged his shoulders. "What was the use, girlie? I knew it
would worry you, and do no good. Better let you sleep in peace, I
"While you kept watch alone and waited through the long night.
Oh, Bucky!" She crept close to him and put her arms around his
neck, holding him tight, as if in the hope that she could keep
him against the untoward fate that was reaching for him. "Oh,
Bucky, if I could only die for you!"
"Don't give up, little friend. I don't. Somehow I'll slip out,
and then you'll have to live for me and not die for me."
"What is it that the governor wants you to say that you won't?"
"Oh, he wants me to sell our friends. I told him to go climb a
"Of course you couldn't do that," she sighed regretfully.
He laughed. "Well, hardly, and call myself a white man."
"But--" She blanched at the alternative. "Oh, Bucky, we must do
something. We must-- we must."
"It ain't so bad as it looks, honey. You want to remember that
Mike O'Halloran is on deck. What's the matter with him knocking
out a home run and bringing us both in. I put a heap of
confidence in that red-haided Irishman," he answered cheerfully.
"You say that just to--to give me courage. You don't really think
he can do anything," she said wanly.
"That's just what I think, Curly. Some men have a way of getting
things done. When you look at O'Halloran you feel this, the same
as you do when you look at Val Collins. Oh, he'll get us out all
right. I've been in several tighter holes than this one." His
mention of Collins suggested a diversion, and he took up a less
distressing theme lightly. "Wonder what Val is doing at this
precise moment. I'll bet he's beginning to make things warm for
Wolf Leroy's bunch of miscreants. We'll have the robbers of the
Limited behind the bars within two weeks now, or I miss my
He had succeeded in diverting her attention better than he had
dared to hope. Her big eyes fixed on his much as if he had raised
for her some forgotten spectre.
"That's another thing I must tell you. I didn't think to before.
But I want you to know all about me now. Don't think me bad,
Bucky. I'm only a girl. I couldn't help myself," she pleaded.
"What is it you have done that is so awful?" he smiled, and went
to gather her into his arms.
She stayed him with a gesture of her hand. "No, not yet. Mebbe
after you know you won't want to. I was one of the robbers of the
"You--what!" he exclaimed, for once struck dumb with sheer
"Yes, Bucky. I expect you'll hate me now. What is it you called
me--a miscreant? Well, that's what I am."
His arms slipped round her as she began to sob, and he gentled
her till she could again speak. "Tell me all about it, little
Curly." he said.
"I didn't go into it because I wanted to. My master made me. I
don't know much about the others, except that I heard the names
they called each other."
"Would you know them again if you saw them? But of course you
"Yes. But that's it, Bucky. I hated them all, and I was in mortal
fear all the time. Still--I can't betray them. They thought I
went in freely with them--all but Hardman. It wouldn't be right
for me to tell what I know. I've got to make you see that, dear."
"You'll not need to argue that with me, honey. I see it. You must
keep quiet. Don't tell anybody else what you've told me."
"And will they put me in the penitentiary when the rest go
"Not while Bucky O'Connor is alive and kicking," he told her
But the form in which he had expressed his feeling was
unfortunate. It brought them back to the menace of their
situation. Neither of them could tell how long he would be alive
and kicking. She flung herself into his arms and wept till she
could weep no more.