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Bucky O'Connor by William MacLeod Raine

Part 4 out of 6

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When the news reached O'Halloran that Megales had scored on the
opposition by arresting Bucky O'Connor, the Irishman swore
fluently at himself for his oversight in forgetting the Northern
Chihuahua. So far as the success of the insurgents went, the loss
of the ranger was a matter of no importance, since O'Halloran
knew well that nothing in the way of useful information could be
cajoled or threatened out of him. But, personally, it was a blow
to the filibuster, because he knew that the governor would not
hesitate to execute his friend if his fancy or his fears ran that
way, and the big, red-headed Celt would not have let Bucky go to
death for a dozen teapot revolutions if he could help it.

"And do you think you're fit to run even a donation party, you
great, blundering gumph?" Mike asked himself, in disgust. "You a
conspirator! You a leader of a revolution! By the ghost of Brian
Boru, you had better run along back to the kindergarten class."

But he was not the man to let grass grow under his feet while he
hesitated how to remedy his mistake. Immediately he got in touch
with Valdez and a few of his party, and decided on a bold
counterstroke that, if successful, would oppose a checkmate to
the governor's check and would also make unnecessary the
unloosing of the State prisoners on the devoted heads of the

"But mind, gentlemen," said Juan Valdez plainly, "the governor
must not be injured personally. I shall not consent to any
violence, no matter what the issue. Furthermore, I should like to
be given charge of the palace, in order to see that his wants are
properly provided for. We cannot afford to have our movement
discredited at the outset by unnecessary bloodshed or by any
wanton outrages."

O'Halloran smothered a smile. "Quite right, senor. Success at all
hazards, but, if possible, success with peace. And, faith,
subject to the approval of the rest of those present, I do hereby
appoint you keeper of the governor's person and his palace, as
well as all that do dwell therein, including his man servants,
his maid servants, and his daughter. We hold you personally
responsible for their safe keeping. See that none of them cherish
the enemy or give aid and comfort to them." The Irishman
finished, with a broad smile that seemed to say: "Begad, there's
a clear field. Go in and win, me bye."

Nothing could be done in broad daylight, while the troops of the
government party patrolled the streets and were prepared to
pounce on the first suspects that poked their noses out of the
holes where they were hidden. Nevertheless, their spies were busy
all day, reporting to the opposition leaders everything that
happened of interest. In the course of the day General Valdez,
the father of Juan, was arrested on suspicion of complicity and
thrown into prison, as were a score of others thought to be in
touch with the Valdez faction. All day the troops of the governor
were fussily busy, but none of the real leaders of the insurgents
was taken. For General Valdez, though he had been selected on
account of his integrity and great popularity to succeed Megales,
was unaware of the plot on foot to retire the dictator from

It was just after nightfall that a farmer drove into Chihuahua
with a wagonload of alfalfa. He was halted once or twice by
guards on the streets, but, after a very cursory inspection, was
allowed to pass. His route took him past the back of the
governor's palace, an impressive stone affair surrounded by
beautiful grounds. Here he stopped, as if to fasten a tug. Out of
the hay tumbled fifteen men armed with rifles and revolvers, all
of them being careful to leave the wagon on the side farthest
from the palace.

"Now, me lads, we're all heroes by our talk. It's up to us to
make good. I can promise one thing: by this time to-morrow we'll
all be live patriots or dead traitors. Which shall it be?"

O'Halloran's concluding question was a merely rhetorical one, for
without waiting for an answer he started at the double toward the
palace, taking advantage of the dense shrubbery that offered
cover up to the last twenty yards. This last was covered with a
rush so rapid that the guard was surprised into a surrender
without a protest.

Double guard was on duty on account of the strained situation,
but the officer in charge, having been won over to the Valdez
side, had taken care to pick them with much pains. As a
consequence, the insurgents met friends in place of enemies, and
within three minutes controlled fully the palace. Every entrance
was at once closed and guarded, so that no news of the reversal
could reach the military barracks.

So silently had the palace been taken that, except the guards and
one or two servants held as prisoners, not even those living
within it were aware of anything unusual.

"Senor Valdez, you are appointed to notify the senorita that she
need not be alarmed at what has occurred. Senor Garcia will act
as captain of the day, and allow nobody to leave the building
under any pretext whatever. I shall personally put the tyrant
under arrest. Rodrigo and Jose will accompany me."

O'Halloran left his subordinates at the door when he entered the
apartments of the governor. The outer room was empty, and the
Irishman passed through it to the inner one, where Megales was
accustomed to take his after-dinner siesta.

To-night, however, that gentleman was in no mood for peaceful
reflection followed by slumber. He was on the edge of a volcano,
and he knew it. The question was whether he could hold the lid on
without an eruption. General Valdez he dared not openly kill, on
account of his fame and his popularity, but that pestilent
Irishman O'Halloran could be assassinated and so could several of
his allies--if they only gave him time. That was the rub. The
general dissatisfaction at his rule had been no secret, of
course, but the activity of the faction opposing him, the
boldness and daring with which it had risked all to overthrow
him, had come as so complete a surprise that he had been
unprepared to meet it. Everywhere to-night his guards covered the
city, ready to crush rebellion as soon as it showed its head.
Carlo was in personal charge of the troops, and would remain so
until after the election to-morrow, at which he would be declared
formally reelected. If he could keep his hands on the reins for
twenty-four hours more the worst would be past. He would give a
good deal to know what that mad Irishman, O'Halloran, was doing
just now. If he could once get hold of him, the opposition would
collapse like a house of cards.

At that precise moment in walked the mad Irishman pat to the
Mexican's thought of him.

"Buenos noches, excellency. I understand yon have been looking
for me. I am, senor, yours to command." The big Irishman brought
his heels together and gave a mocking military salute.

The governor's first thought was that he was a victim of
treachery, his second that he was a dead man, his third that he
would die as a Spanish gentleman ought. He was pale to the eyes,
but he lost no whit of his dignity.

"You have, I suppose, taken the palace," he said quietly.

"As a loan, excellency, merely as a loan. After to-morrow it will
be returned you in the event you still need it," replied
O'Halloran blandly.

"You expect to murder me, of course?"

The big Celt looked shocked. "Not at all! The bulletins may
perhaps have to report you accidentally killed or a victim of
suicide. Personally I hope not."

"I understand; but before this lamentable accident happens I beg
leave to assure myself that the palace really is in your hands,
senor. A mere formality, of course." The governor smiled his
thin-lipped smile and touched a bell beside him.

Twice Megales pressed the electric bell, but no orderly appeared
in answer to it. He bowed to the inevitable.

"I grant you victor, Senor O'Halloran. Would it render your
victory less embarrassing if I were to give you material
immediately for that bulletin on suicide?" He asked the question
quite without emotion, as courteously as if he were proposing a
stroll through the gardens.

O'Halloran had never liked the man. The Irish in him had always
boiled at his tyranny. But he had never disliked him so little as
at this moment. The fellow had pluck, and that was one certain
passport to the revolutionist's favor.

"On the contrary, it would distress me exceedingly. Let us
reserve that bulletin as a regrettable possibility in the event
that less drastic measures fail."

"Which means, I infer, that you have need of me before I pass by
the Socratic method," he suggested, still with that pale smile
set in granite "I shall depend on you to let me know at what
precise hour you would like to order an epitaph written for me.
Say the word at your convenience, and within five minutes your
bulletin concerning the late governor will have the merit of

"Begad, excellency, I like your spirit. If it's my say-so, you
will live to be a hundred. Come the cards are against you. Some
other day they may fall more pat for you. But the jig's up now."

"I am very much of your opinion, sir," agreed Megales.

"Then why not make terms?"

"Such as--"

"Your life and your friends' lives against a graceful

"Our lives as prisoners or as free men?"

"The utmost freedom compatible with the circumstances. Your
friends may either leave or remain and accept the new order of
things. I'm afraid it will be necessary for you and General Carlo
to leave the state for your own safety. You have both many

"With our personal possessions?"

"Of course. Such property as you cannot well take may be left in
the hands of an agent and disposed of later."

Megales eyed him narrowly. "Is it your opinion, on honor, that
the general and I would reach the boundaries of the State without
being assassinated?"

"I pledge you my honor and that of Juan Valdez that you will be
safely escorted out of the country if you will consent to a
disguise. It is only fair to him to say that he stands strong for
your life."

"Then, sir, I accept your terms if you can make it plain to me
that you are strong enough to take the city against General

From his pocket O'Halloran drew a typewritten list and handed it
to the governor, who glanced it over with interest.

"These army officers are all with you?"

"As soon as the word is given."

"You will pardon me if I ask for proof?"

"Certainly. Choose the name of any one of them you like and send
for him. You are at liberty to ask him whether he is pledged to

The governor drew a pencil-mark through a name. O'Halloran
clapped his hands and Rodrigo came into the room.

"Rodrigo, the governor desires you to carry a message to Colonel
Onate. He is writing it now. You will give Colonel Onate my
compliments and ask him to make as much haste as is convenient."

Megales signed and sealed the note he was writing and handed it
to O'Halloran, who in turn passed it to Rodrigo.

"Colonel Onate should be here in fifteen minutes at the farthest.
May I in the meantime offer you a glass of wine, Dictator
O'Halloran?" At the Irishman's smile, the Mexican governor
hastened to add, misunderstanding him purposely: "Perhaps I
assume too much in taking the part of host here. May I ask
whether you will be governor in person or by deputy, senor?"

"You do me too much honor, excellency. Neither in person nor by
deputy, I fear. And, as for the glass of wine--with all my heart.
Good liquor is always in order, whether for a funeral or a

"Or an abdication, you might add. I drink to a successful reign,
Senor Dictator: Le roi est mort; vive le roi!"

The Irishman filled a second glass. "And I drink to Governor
Megales, a brave man. May the cards fall better for him next time
he plays."

The governor bowed ironically. "A brave man certainly, and you
might add: 'Who loses his stake without striking one honest blow
for it.' "

"We play with stacked cards, excellency. Who can forestall the
treachery of trusted associates?"

"Sir, your apology for me is very generous, no less so than the
terms you offer," returned Megales sardonically.

O'Halloran laughed. "Well, if you don't like my explanations I
shall have to let you make your own. And, by the way, may I
venture on a delicate personal matter, your excellency?"

"I can deny you nothing to-night, senor," answered Megales,
mocking at himself.

"Young Valdez is in love with your daughter. I am sure that she
is fond of him, but she is very loyal to you and flouts the lad.
I was thinking, sir, that--"

The Spaniard's eye flashed, but his answer came suavely as he
interrupted: "Don't you think you had better leave Senor Valdez
and me to arrange our own family affairs? We could not think of
troubling you to attend to them."

"He is a good lad and a brave."

Megales bowed. "Your recommendation goes a long way with me,
senor, and, in truth, I have known him only a small matter of
twenty years longer than you."

"Never a more loyal youngster in the land."

"You think so? A matter of definitions, one may suppose. Loyal to
the authorized government of his country, or to the rebels who
would illegally overthrow it?"

"Egad, you have me there, excellency. 'Tis a question of point of
view, I'm thinking. But you'll never tell me the lad pretended
one thing and did another. I'll never believe you like that
milksop Chaves better."

"Must I choose either a fool or a knave?"

"I doubt it will be no choice of yours. Juan Valdez is an ill man
to deny what he sets his heart on. If the lady is willing--"

"I shall give her to the knave and wash my hands of her. Since
treason thrives she may at last come back to the palace as its
mistress. Quien sabe?"

"Less likely things have happened. What news, Rodrigo?" This last
to the messenger, who at that moment appeared at the door.

"Colonel Onate attends, senor."

"Show him in."

Onate was plainly puzzled at the summons to attend the governor,
and mixed with his perplexity was a very evident anxiety. He
glanced quickly at O'Halloran as he entered, as if asking for
guidance, and then as questioningly at Megales. Had the Irishman
played Judas and betrayed them all? Or was the coup already
played with success?

"Colonel Onate, I have sent for you at the request of Governor
Megales to set his mind at rest on a disturbing point. His health
is failing and he considers the advisability of retiring from the
active cares of state. I have assured him that you, among others,
would, under such circumstances, be in a friendly relation to the
next administration. Am I correct in so assuring him?"

Megales pierced him with his beady eyes. "In other words, Colonel
Onate, are you one of the traitors involved in this rebellion?"

"I prefer the word patriot, senor," returned Onate, flushing.

"Indeed I have no doubt you do. I am answered," he exclaimed
scornfully. "And what is the price of patriotism these days,

"Sir!" The colonel laid his hand on his sword.

"I was merely curious to know what position you would hold under
the new administration."

O'Halloran choked a laugh, for by chance the governor had hit the
nail on the head. Onate was to be Secretary of State under
Valdez, and this was the bait that had been dangled temptingly
under his nose to induce a desertion of Megales.

"If you mean to reflect upon my honor I can assure you that my
conscience is clear," answered Onate blackly.

"Indeed, colonel, I do not doubt it. I have always admired your
conscience and its adaptability." The governor turned to
O'Halloran. "I am satisfied, Senior Dictator. If you will permit

He walked to his desk, unlocked a drawer, and drew forth a
parchment, which he tossed across to the Irishman. "It is my
commission as governor. Allow me to place it in your hands and
put myself at the service of the new administration."

"If you will kindly write notes, I will send a messenger to
General Carlo and another to Colonel Gabilonda requesting their
attendance. I think affairs may be quickly arranged."

"You are irresistible, senor. I hasten to obey."

Megales sat down and wrote two notes, which he turned over to
O'Halloran. The latter read them, saw them officially sealed, and
dispatched them to their destinations.

When Gabilonda was announced, General Carlo followed almost at
his heels. The latter glanced in surprise at O'Halloran.

"Where did you catch him, excellency?" he asked.

"I did not catch him. He has caught me, and, incidentally, you,
general," answered the sardonic Megales.

"In short, general," laughed the big Irishman, "the game is up. "

"But the army--You haven't surrendered without a fight?"

"That is precisely what I have done. Cast your eye over that
paper, general, and then tell me of what use the army would be to
us. Half the officers are with the enemy, among them the
patriotic Colonel Onate, whom you see present. A resistance would
be futile, and would only result in useless bloodshed."

"I don't believe it," returned Carlo bluntly.

"Seeing is believing, general," returned O'Halloran, and he gave
a little nod to Onate.

The colonel left the room, and two or three minutes later a bell
began to toll.

"What does that mean?" asked Carlo.

"The call to arms, general. It means that the old regime is at an
end in Chihuahua. VIVA VALDEZ."

"Not without a struggle," cried the general, rushing out of the

O'Halloran laughed. "I'm afraid he will not be able to give the
countersign to Garcia. In the meantime, excellency, pending his
return, I would suggest that you notify Colonel Gabilonda to turn
over the prison to us without resistance."

"You hear your new dictator, colonel," said Megales.

"Pardon me, your excellency, but a written order--"

"Would relieve you of responsibility. So it would. I write once

He was interrupted as he wrote by a great shout from the plaza.
"VIVA VALDEZ!" came clearly across the night air, and presently
another that stole the color from the cheek of Megales.

"Death to the tyrant! Death to Megales!" repeated the governor,
after the shouts reached them.

"I fear, Senor Dictator, that your pledge to see me across the
frontier will not avail against that mad-dog mob." He smiled,
waving an airy hand toward the window.

The Irishman set his bulldog jaw. "I'll get you out safely or,
begad! I'll go down fighting with you."

"I think we are likely to have interesting times, my dear
dictator. Be sure I shall watch your doings with interest so long
as your friends allow me to watch anything in this present
world." The governor turned to his desk and continued the letter
with a firm hand. "I think this should relieve you of
responsibility, colonel."

By this time General Carlo had reentered the room, with a
crestfallen face.

O'Halloran had been thinking rapidly. "Governor, I think the
safest place for you and General Carlo, for a day or two, will be
in the prison. I intend to put my friend O'Connor in charge of
its defense, with a trustworthy command. There is no need of word
reaching the mob as to where you are hidden. I confess the
quarters will be narrows but--"

"No narrower than those we shall occupy very soon if we do not
accept your suggestion," smiled Megales. "Buertos! Anything to
escape the pressing attentions of your friends outside. I ask
only one favor, the loan of a revolver, in order that we may
disappoint the mad dogs if they overpower the guard of Senor

Hastily O'Halloran rapped out orders, gathered together a little
force of five men, and prepared to start. Both Carlo and Megales
he furnished with revolvers, that they might put an end to their
lives in case the worst happened. But before they had started
Juan Valdez and Carmencita Megales came running toward them.

"Where are you going? It is too late. The palace is surrounded!"
cried the young man. "Look!" He swept an excited arm toward the
window. "There are thousands and thousands of frenzied people
calling for the lives of the governor and General Carlo."

Carlo shook like a leaf, but Megales only smiled at O'Halloran
his wintry smile. "That is the trouble in keeping a mad dog,
senor. One never knows when it may get out of leash and bite
perhaps even the hand that feeds it."

Carmencita flung herself, sobbing, into the arms of her father
and filled the palace with her screams. Megales handed her over
promptly to her lover.

"To my private office," he ordered briskly. "Come, general, there
is still a chance."

O'Halloran failed to see it, but he joined the little group that
hurried to the private office. Megales dragged his desk from the
corner where it set and touched a spring that opened a panel in
the wall. Carlo, blanched with fear at the threats and curses
that filled the night, sprang toward the passageway that

Megales plucked him back. "One moment, general. Ladies first.
Carmencita, enter."

Carlo followed her, after him the governor, and lastly Gabilonda,
tearing himself from a whispered conversation with O'Halloran.
The panel swung closed again, and Valdez and O'Halloran lifted
back the desk just as Garcia came running in to say that the mob
would not be denied. Immediately O'Halloran threw open a French
window and stepped out to the little railed porch upon which it
opened. He had the chance of his life to make a speech, and that
is the one thing that no Irishman can resist. He flung out from
his revolver three shots in rapid succession to draw the
attention of the mob to him. In this he succeeded beyond his
hopes. The word ran like wildfire that the mad Irishman,
O'Halloran, was about to deliver a message to them, and from all
sides of the building they poured to hear it. He spoke in
Mexican, rapidly, his great bull voice reaching to the utmost
confines of the crowd.

"Fellow lovers of liberty, the hour has struck that we have
worked and prayed for. The glorious redemption of our State has
been accomplished by your patriotic hands. An hour ago the
tyrants, Megales and Carlo, slipped out of the palace, mounted
swift horses, and are galloping toward the frontier."

A roar of rage, such as a tiger disappointed of its kill might
give, rose into the night. Such a terrible cry no man made of
flesh and blood could hear directed at him and not tremble.

"But the pursuit is already on. Swift riders are in chase, with
orders not to spare their horses so only they capture the fleeing
despots. We expect confidently that before morning the tyrants
will be in our hands. In the meantime, let us show ourselves
worthy of the liberty we have won. Let us neither sack nor
pillage, but show our great president in the City of Mexico that
not ruffians but an outraged people have driven out the

The huge Celt was swimming into his periods beautifully, but it
was very apparent to him that the mob must have a vent for its
stored excitement. An inspiration seized him.

"But one sacred duty calls to us from heaven, my fellow citizens.
Already I see in your glorious faces that you behold the duty.
Then forward, patriots! To the plaza, and let us tear down, let
us destroy by fire, let us annihilate the statue of the dastard
Megales which defaces our fair city. Citizens, to your patriotic

Another wild yell rang skyward, and at once the fringes of the
crowd began to vanish plazaward, its centre began to heave, its
flanks to stir. Three minutes later the grounds of the palace
were again dark and empty. The Irishman's oratory had won the


The escaping party groped its way along the passage in the wall,
down a rough, narrow flight of stone steps to a second tunnel,
and along this underground way for several hundred yards. Since
he was the only one familiar with the path they were traversing,
the governor took the lead and guided the others. At a distance
of perhaps an eighth of a mile from the palace the tunnel forked.
Without hesitation, Megales kept to the right. A stone's throw
beyond this point of divergence there began to be apparent a
perceptible descent which terminated in a stone wall that blocked
completely the way.

Megales reached up and put his weight on a rope suspended from
the roof. Slowly the solid masonry swung on a pivot, leaving room
on either side for a person to squeeze through. The governor
found it a tight fit, as did also Gabilonda.

"I was more slender last time I passed through there. It has been
several years since then," said the governor, giving his daughter
a hand to assist her through.

They found themselves in a small chamber fitted up as a living
room in a simple way. There were three plain chairs, a bed, a
table, and a dresser, as well as a cooking stove.

"This must be close to the prison. We have been coming in that
direction all the time. It is strange that it could be so near
and I not know of it," said the warden, looking around curiously.

Megales smiled. "I am the only person alive that knew of the
existence of this room or of the secret passage until half an
hour ago. I had it built a few years since by Yaquis when I was
warden of the prison. The other end, the one opening from the
palace, I had finished after I became governor."

"But surely the men who built it know of its existence."

Again Megales smiled. "I thought you knew me better, Carlo. The
Yaquis who built this were condemned raiders. I postponed their
execution a few months while they were working on this. It was a
convenience both to them and to me."

"And is also a convenience to me," smiled Carlo, who was
beginning to recover from his terror.

"But I don't quite understand yet how we are to get out of here
except by going back the way we came," said Gabilonda.

"Which for some of us might prove a dangerously unhealthy
journey. True, colonel, and therefore one to be avoided." Megales
stepped to the wall, spanned with his fingers a space from the
floor above a joint in the masonry, and pressed against the
concrete. Inch by inch the wall fell back and opened into a lower
corridor of the prison, the very one indeed which led to the cell
in which Bucky and his love were imprisoned. Cautiously the
Spaniard's glance traveled down the passage to see it was empty
before he opened the panel door more than enough to look through.
Then he beckoned to Gabilonda. "Behold, doubting Thomas!"

The warden gasped. "And I never knew it, never had a suspicion of

"But this only brings us from one prison to another," objected
the general. "We might be penned in here as well as at the

"Even that contingency has been provided for. You noticed,
perhaps, where the tunnel forked. The left branch runs down to
the river-wash, and by ten minutes' digging with the tools lying
there one can force an exit."

"Your excellency is certainly a wonder, and all this done without
arousing the least suspicion of anybody," admired the warden.

"The wise man, my dear colonel, prepares for emergencies; the
fool trusts to his luck," replied the governor dryly.

"Are we to stay here for the present, colonel?" broke in the
governor's daughter. "And can you furnish accommodations for the
rest of us if we stay all night, as I expect we must?"

"My dear senorita, I have accommodations and to spare. But the
trouble is that your presence would become known. I should be the
happiest' man alive to put my all at the accommodation of
Chihuahua's fairest daughter. But if it should get out that you
are here--" Gabilonda stopped to shrug his fat shoulders at the

"We shall have to stay here, or, at least, in the lower tier of
cells. I'm sorry, Carmencita, but there is no other course
compatible with safety," decided Megales promptly.

The warden's face cleared. "That is really not a point for me to
decide, governor. This young American, O'Connor, is now in charge
of the prison. I must release him at once, and shall then bring
him here to confer with you as to means of safety."

Bucky's eyes opened wide when Gabilonda and Megales came alone
and without a lantern to his cell. In the darkness it was
impossible to recognize them, but once within the closed cell the
warden produced a dark lantern from under his coat.

"Circumstances have arisen that make the utmost vigilance
necessary," explained the warden. "I may begin my explanations by
congratulating you and your young friend. Let me offer a thousand
felicitations. Neither of you are any longer prisoners."

If he expected either of them to fall on his neck and weep tears
of gratitude at his pompous announcement, the colonel was
disappointed. From the darkness where the ranger's little partner
sat on the bed came a deep sigh of relief, but O'Connor did not
wink an eyelash.

"I may conclude, then, that Mike O'Halloran has been getting in
his work?" was his cool reply.

"Exactly, senor. He is the man on horseback and I travel afoot,"
smiled Megales.

Bucky looked him over coolly from head to foot. "Still I can't
quite understand why your ex-excellency does me the honor of a
personal visit."

"Because, senor, in the course of human events Providence has
seen fit to reverse our positions. I am now your prisoner and you
my jailer," explained Megales, and urbanely added a whimsical
question. "Shall you have me hanged at dawn?"

"It would be a pleasure, and, I reckon, a duty too. But I can't
promise till I've seen Mike. Do some more explaining, colonel. I
want to know all about the round-up O'Halloran is boss of. Did he
make a right good gather?"

The subtleties of American humor baffled the little Mexican, but
he appreciated the main drift of the ranger's query, and narrated
with much gesticulation the story of the coup that O'Halloran had
pulled off in capturing the government leaders.

"It was an exceedingly neat piece of strategy," its victim
admitted. "I would give a good deal to have the privilege of
hanging your red-headed friend, but since that is denied me, I
must be grateful he does not take a fancy to hang me."

"In case he doesn't, your excellency," was Bucky's addendum.

"I understand he has decided to deport me," retorted Megales
lightly. "It is perhaps better politics, on the whole, better
even than a knife in the back."

"Unless rumor is a lying jade, you should be a good judge of
that, governor," said the American, eyeing him sternly.

Megales shrugged. "One of the penalties of fame is that one gets
credit for much he does not deserve. There was your immortal
General Lincoln, a wit so famous in your country that every good
story is fathered upon him, I understand. So with your humble
servant. Let a man accomplish his vendetta upon the body of an
enemy, and behold! the world cries: 'A victim of Megales.'"

"Still, if you deserve your reputation as much as our immortal
General Lincoln deserves his, the world may be pardoned for an
occasional error." O'Connor turned to the warden. "What does he
mean by saying that he is my prisoner? Have you a message for me
from O'Halloran, colonel?"

"It is his desire, senor, that, pending the present uncertain
state of public opinion, you accept the command of the prison and
hold safe all persons detained here, including his excellency and
General Carlo. He desired me to assure you that as soon as is
possible he will arrive to confer with you in person."

"Good enough, and are you a prisoner, too, colonel?"

"I did not so understand Senor O'Halloran."

"If you're not you have to earn your grub and lodgings. I'll
appoint you my deputy, colonel. And, first off, my orders are to
lock up his excellency and General Carlo in this cell till

"The cell, Senor O'Connor, is damp and badly ventilated,"
protested Gabilonda.

"I know that a heap better than you do, colonel," said Bucky
dryly. "But if it was good enough for me and my pardner, here, I
reckon it's good enough for them. Anyhow, we'll let them try it,
won't we, Frank;"

"If you think best, Bucky."

"You bet I do."

"And what about the governor's daughter?" asked Gabilonda.

"You don't say! Is she a guest of this tavern?"

The colonel explained how they had reached the prison and the
circumstances that had led to their hurried flight, while the
ranger whistled the air of a cowboy song, his mind busy with this
new phase of the case.

"She's one of these here Spanish blue-blooded senoritas used to
guitar serenades under her window. Now, what would you do with
her in a jail, Bucky?" he asked himself, in humorous dismay; but
even as he reflected on it his roving eye fell on his friend.
"The very thing. I'll take Curly Haid in to her and let them fall
in love with each other. You're liable to be some busy, Bucky,
and shy on leisure to entertain a lady, let alone two."

And so he arranged it. Leaving the former governor and General
Carlo in the cell just vacated by them, Frances and he
accompanied Gabilonda to the secret room behind the corridor

All three parties to the introduction that followed acknowledged
secretly to a surprise. Miss Carmencita had expected the friend
of big, rough, homely O'Halloran to resemble him in kind, at
least. Instead, she looked on a bronzed young Apollo of the
saddle with something of that same lithe grace she knew and loved
in Juan Valdez. And the shy boy beside him--why, the darling was
sweet enough to kiss. The big, brown, helpless eyes, the
blushing, soft cheeks, the crop of thick, light curls were
details of an extraordinarily taking picture. Really, if these
two were fair specimens, Americans were not so bad, after all.
Which conclusion Juan Valdez's fondness for that race may have
helped in part to form.

But if the young Spanish girl found a little current of pleasure
in her surprise, Bucky and his friend were aware of the same
sensation. All the charm of her race seemed summed up in
Carmencita Megales. She was of blue blood, every feature and
motion told that. The fine, easy set of her head, the fire in the
dark, heavy-lashed eyes, the sweep of dusky chin and cheek and
throat certified the same story. She had, too, that coquettish
hint of uncertainty, that charm of mystery so fatal in its lure
to questing man. Even physically the contradiction of sex
attracted. Slender and lissom as a fawn, she was yet a creature
of exquisitely rounded curves. Were her eyes brown or black
or--in the sunlight--touched with a gleam of copper? There was
always uncertainty. But much more was there fire, a quality that
seemed to flash out from her inner self. She was a child of
whims, a victim of her moods. Yet in her, too, was a passionate
loyalty that made fickleness impossible. She knew how to love and
how to hate, and, despite her impulses, was capable of surrender
complete and irrevocable.

All of this Bucky did not read in that first moment of meeting,
but the shrewd judgment behind the level blue eyes came to an
appraisal roughly just. Before she had spoken three sentences he
knew she had all her sex's reputed capacity for injustice as well
as its characteristic flashes of generosity.

"Are you one of the men who have rebelled against my father and
attempted to murder him?" she flashed.

"I'm the man he condemned to be hanged tomorrow morning at dawn
for helping Juan Valdez take the guns," retorted Bucky, with a

"You are his enemy, and, therefore, mine."

"I'm a friend of Michael O'Halloran, who stood between him and
the mob that wanted to kill him."

"Who first plotted against him and seduced his officers to betray
him," she quickly replied.

"I reckon, ma'am, we better agree to disagree on politics," said
Bucky good-naturedly. "We're sure liable to see things different
from each other. Castile and Arizona don't look at things with
the same eyes."

She looked at him just then with very beautiful and scornful
ones, at any rate. "I should hope not."

"You see, we're living in the twentieth century up in the
sunburned State," said Bucky, with smiling aplomb.

"Indeed! And we poor Chihuahuans?"

"When I see the ladies I think you're ce'tainly in the golden
age, but when I break into your politics, I'm some reminded of
that Richard Third fellow in the Shakespeare play."

"Referring, I presume, to my father?" she demanded haughtily.

"In a general way, but eliminating the most objectionable points
of the king fellow."

"You're very kind." She interrupted her scorn to ask him where he
meant her to sleep.

He glanced over the room. "This might do right here, if we had
that bed aired."

"Do you expect to put me in irons?"

"Not right away. Colonel, I'll ask you to go to the office and
notify me as soon as Senor O'Halloran arrives." He waited till
the colonel had gone before adding: "I'm going to leave this boy
with you, senorita, for a while. He'll explain some things to you
that I can't. In about an hour I'll be back, perhaps sooner. So
long, Curly. Tell the lady your secret." And with that Bucky was
out of the room.

"Your secret, child! What does he mean?"

The flame of color that swept into the cheeks of Frances, the
appeal in the shamed eyes, held Carmencita's surprised gaze. Then
coolly it traveled over the girl and came back to her burning

"So that's it, is it?"

But the scorn in her voice was too much for Frances. She had been
judged and condemned in that cool stare, and all the woman in her
protested at its injustice.

"No, no, no!" she cried, running forward and catching at the
other's hand. "I'm not that. You don't understand."

Coldly Carmencita disengaged her hand and wiped it with her
kerchief. "I understand enough. Please do not touch me."

"May I not tell you my story?"

"I'll not trouble you. It does not interest me."

"But you will listen?" implored the other.

"I must ask to be excused."

"Then you are a heartless, cruel woman," flamed Frances. "I'm
good--as good as you are." The color patched her cheek and ebbed
again. "I wouldn't treat a dog as you do me. Oh, cruel, cruel!"

The surprising extravagance of her protest, the despair that rang
in the fresh young voice, caught the interest of the Mexican
girl. Surely such a heart-broken cry did not consist with guilt.
But the facts--when a young and pretty girl masquerades through
the country in the garb of a boy with a handsome young man, not
much room for doubt is left.

Frances was quick to see that the issue was reopened. "Oh,
senorita, it isn't as you think. Do I look like--" She broke off
to cover with her hands a face in which the pink and white warred
with alternate success. "I ought not to have come. I ought never
to have come. I see that now. But I didn't think he would know.
You see, I had always passed as a boy when I wanted to."

"A remarkably pretty one, child," said Miss Carmencita, a smile
dimpling her cheeks. "But how do you mean that you had passed as
a boy?"

Frances explained, giving a rapid sketch of her life with the
Hardmans during which she had appeared every night on the stage
as a boy without the deception being suspected. She had
cultivated the tricks and ways of boys, had tried to dress to
carry out the impression, and had always succeeded until she had
made the mistake of putting on a gypsy girl's dress a couple of
days before.

Carmencita heard her out, but not as a judge. Very early in the
story her doubts fled and she succumbed to the mothering instinct
in her. She took the American girl in her arms and laughed and
cried with her; for her imagination seized on the romance of the
story and delighted in its fresh unconventionality. Since she had
been born Carmencita's life had been ordered for her with
precision by the laws of caste. Her environment wrapped her in so
that she must follow a set and beaten path. It was, to be sure, a
flower-strewn one, but often she impotently rebelled against its
very orderliness. And here in her arms was a victim of that
adventurous romance she had always longed so passionately to
know. Was it wonder she found it in her heart to both love and
envy the subject of it?

"And this young cavalier--the Senor Bucky, is it you call
him?--surely you love him, my dear."

"Oh, senorita!" The blushing face was buried on her new friend's
shoulder. "You don't know how good he is."

"Then tell me," smiled the other. "And call me Carmencita."

"He is so brave, and patient, and good. I know there was never a
man like him."

Miss Carmencita thought of one and demurred silently. "I'm sure
this paragon of lovers is at least part of what you say. Does he
love you? But I am sure he couldn't help it."

"Sometimes I think he does, but once--" Frances broke off to ask,
in a pink flame: "How does a lover act?"

Miss Carmencita's laughter rippled up. "Gracious me, have you
never had one before."


"Well, he should make verses to you and pretty speeches. He
should sing serenades about undying love under your window.
Bonbons should bombard you, roses make your rooms a bower. He
should be ardent as Romeo, devoted as a knight of old. These be
the signs of a true love," she laughed.

Frances' face fell. If these were the tokens of true love, her
ranger was none. For not one of the symptoms could fairly be said
to fit him. Perhaps, after all, she had given him what he did not

"Must he do all that? Must he make verses?" she asked blankly,
not being able to associate Bucky with poetasting.

"He must," teased her tormentor, running a saucy eye over her
boyish garb. "And why not with so fair a Rosalind for a subject?"
She broke off to quote in her pretty, uncertain English, acquired
at a convent in the United States, where she had attended school:

"From the east to western Ind,
No jewel is like Rosalind.
Her worth being mounted on the wind,
Through all the world bears Rosalind.

All the pictures, fairest lin'd,
Are but black to Rosalind.
Let no face be kept in mind
But the fair of Rosalind."

So your Shakespeare has it, does he not?" she asked, reverting
again to the Spanish language, in which they had been talking.
But swift on the heels of her raillery came repentance. She
caught the dispirited girl to her embrace laughingly. "No, no,
child! Nonsense ripples from my tongue. These follies are but for
a carpet lover. You shall tell me more of your Senor Bucky and I
shall make no sport of it."

When Bucky returned at the expiration of the time he had set
himself, he found them with their arms twined about each other's
waists, whispering the confidences that every girl on the
threshold of womanhood has to tell her dearest friend.

"I reckon you like my pardner better than you do me," smiled
Bucky to Miss Carmencita.

"A great deal better, sir, but then I know him better."

Bucky's eyes rested for a moment almost tenderly on Frances. "I
reckon he is better worth knowing," he said.

"Indeed! And you so brave, and patient, and good?" she mocked.

"Oh! Am I all that?" asked Bucky easily.

"So I have been given to understand."

Out of the corner of his eye O'Connor caught the embarrassed,
reproachful look that Frances gave her audacious friend, and he
found it easy to fit quotation marks round the admirable
qualities that had just been ascribed to him. He guessed himself
blushing a deux with his little friend, and also divined Miss
Carmencita's roguish merriment at their confusion.

"I AM all those things you mentioned and a heap more you forgot
to say," claimed the ranger boldly, to relieve the situation.
"Only I didn't know for sure that folks had found it out. My
mind's a heap easier to know I'm being appreciated proper at

Under her long, dark lashes Miss Carmencita looked at him in
gentle derision. "I'm of opinion, sir, that you get all the
appreciation that is good for you."

Bucky carried the war into the enemy's country. "Which same, I
expect, might be said of Chihuahua's most beautiful belle. And,
talking of Senor ,Valdez reminds me that I owe a duty to his
father, who is confined here. I'll be saying good night ladies."

"It's high time," agreed Miss Megales. "Talking of Senor Valdez,

"Good night, Curly Haid."

"Good night, Bucky."

To which, in mocking travesty, added, in English, Miss
Carmencita, who seemed to have an acute attack of Shakespeare:

"Good night, good night; parting is such sweet sorrow
That I shall say good night till
It be morrow."


The first thing Bucky did after leaving the two young women was
to go down in person with one of the guards to the cell of David
Henderson. The occupant of the cell was asleep, but he woke up
when the two men entered.

"Who is it?" he demanded.

"Webb Mackenzie's man come to release you," answered Bucky.

The prisoner fell to trembling like an aspen. "God, man, do you
mean it?" he begged. "You wouldn't deceive an old man who has
lived fifteen years in hell?"

"It's true, friend, every word of it. You'll live to ride the
range again and count your cattle on the free hillside. Come with
me up to the office and we'll talk more of it."

"But may I? Will they let me?" trembled Henderson, fearful lest
his cup of joy be dashed from him. "I'm not dreaming, am I? I'll
not wake the way I often do and find that it is all a dream, will
I?" He caught at the lapel of O'Connor's coat and searched his

"No, your dreams are true at last, Dave Henderson. Come, old
friend, take a drink of this to steady you. It's all coming out
right now."

Tears streamed down the face of the man rescued from a living
grave. He dashed them away impatiently with a shaking hand. "I
used to be as game as other men, young man, and now you see what
a weakling I am. Don't judge me too hard. Happiness is a harder
thing to stand than pain or grief. They've tried to break my
spirit many a time and they couldn't, but you've done it now with
a word."

"You'll be all right as soon as you are able to realize it. I
don't wonder the shock unnerves you. Have you anything you want
to take out of here with you before you leave forever?"

Pathetically the prisoner looked round on his few belongings.
Some of them had become endeared to him by years of use and
association, but they had served their time. "No, I want to
forget it all. I came in with nothing. I'll take out nothing. I
want to blot it all out like a hideous nightmare."

Bucky ordered Colonel Gabilonda to bring up from his cell General
Valdez and the other arrested suspects. They reached the office
at the same time as Mike O'Halloran, who greeted them with the
good news that the day was won. The Megales faction had melted
into mist, and all over the city a happy people was shouting for

"I congratulate you, general. We have just telegraphed the news
over the State that Megales has resigned and fled. There can be
no doubt that you will be elected governor to-morrow and that the
people's party will win the day with an unprecedented vote. Glory
be, Chihuahua is at last free from the heel of tyranny. Viva
Valdez! Viva Chihuahua libra!"

Bucky at once introduced to General Valdez the American prisoner
who had suffered so long and unjustly. He recited the story of
the abduction of the child, of Henderson's pursuit, of the
killing of the trooper, and of the circumstantial evidence that
implicated the Texan and upon which he was convicted. He then
drew from his pocket a signed and attested copy of the confession
of the knife thrower and handed it to the general.

Valdez looked it over, asked an incisive question or two of
Bucky, heard from Henderson his story, and, after a few moments'
discussion of the matter with O'Halloran, promised a free pardon
as his first official act after being elected to the
governorship, in case he should be chosen.

The vote next day amply justified the hopes of O'Halloran and his
friends. The whole ticket, sent out by telegraph and messengers
throughout the State, was triumphantly elected by large
majorities. Only in one or two out-of-the-way places, where the
news of the fall of Megales did not arrive in time to affect the
voting, did the old government party make any showing worthy of

It was after Valdez's election had been made certain by the
returns that O'Halloran and Juan Valdez posted to the prison and
visited father and daughter. They separated in the lower
corridor, one to visit the defeated governor, the other Miss
Carmencita. The problem before Juan Valdez was to induce that
young woman to remain in Chihuahua instead of accompanying her
father in his flight. He was a good fighter, and he meant to win,
if it were a possibility. She had tacitly admitted that she loved
him, but he knew that she felt that loyalty demanded she stay by
her father in his flight.

When O'Halloran was admitted to the cell where the governor and
the general were staying he laughed aloud.

"Faith, gentlemen, is this the best accommodation Governor Valdez
can furnish his guests? We must petition him to improve the
sanitation of his hotel."

"We are being told, one may suppose, that General Valdez is the
newly elected governor?"

"Right, your excellency, elected by a large majority to succeed
the late Governor Megales."

"Late!" The former governor lifted his eyebrows. "Am I also being
told that necessity demands the posting of the suicide bulletin,
after all?"

"Not at all. Sure, I gave you me word, excellency. And that is
one of the reasons why I am here. We have arranged to run a
special down the line to-night, in order to avoid the risk of the
news leaking out that you are still here. Can you make your
arrangements to take that train, or will it hurry your packing
too much?"

Megales laughed. "I have nothing to take with me except my
daughter. The rest of my possessions may be forwarded later."

"Oh, your daughter! Well, that's pat, too. What about the lad,

"Are you his representative, senor?"

"Oh, he can talk for himself. " O'Halloran grinned. "He's doing
it right now, by the same token. Shall we interrupt a tete-a-tete
and go pay our compliments to Miss Carmencita? You will want to
find out whether she goes with you or stays here."

"Assuredly. Anything to escape this cave."

Miss Carmencita was at that moment reiterating her everlasting
determination to go wherever her father went. "If you think, sir,
that your faithlessness to him is a recommendation of your
promised faithfulness to me, I can only wish you more light on
the feelings of a daughter," she was informing Valdez, when her
father slipped through the panel door and stood before her.

"Brava, senorita!" he applauded, with subtle irony, clapping his
hands. "Brava, brava!"

That young woman swam blushingly toward him and let her face
disappear in an embrace.

"You see, one can't have everything, Senor Valdez," continued
Megales lightly. "For me, I cannot have both Chihuahua and my
life; you, it seems, cannot have both your successful revolution
and my daughter. "

"Your excellency, she loves me. Of that I am assured. It rests
with you to say whether her life will be spoiled or not. You know
what I can offer her in addition to a heart full of devotion. It
is enough. Shall she be sacrificed to her loyalty to you?" the
young man demanded, with all the ardor of his warm-blooded race.

"It is no sacrifice to love and obey my father," came a low
murmur from the former governor's shoulder.

"Since the world began it has been the law of life that the young
should leave their parents for a home of their own," Juan

"So the Scripture says," agreed Megales sardonically. "It further
counsels to love one's enemies, but, I think, omits mention of
the enemies of one's father."

"Sir, I am not your enemy. Political exigencies have thrown us
into different camps, but we are not so small as to let such
incidentals come between us as a vital objection in such a

"You argue like a lawyer," smiled the governor. "You forget that
I am neither judge nor jury. Tyrant I may have been to a fickle
people that needed a firm hand to rule them, but tyrant I am not
to my only daughter."

"Then you consent, your excellency?" cried Valdez joyously.

"I neither consent nor refuse. You must go to a more final
authority than mine for an answer, young man."

"But you are willing she should follow where her heart leads?"

"But certainly."

"Then she is mine," cried Valdez.

"I am not," replied the girl indignantly over her shoulder.

Megales turned her till her unconsenting eyes met his. "Do you
want to marry this young man, Carmencita?"

"I never told him anything of the sort," she flamed.

"I didn't quite ask what you had told him. The question is
whether you love him."

"But no; I love you," she blushed.

"I hope so," smiled her father. "But do you love him? An honest
answer, if you please."

"Could I love a rebel?"

"No Yankee answers, muchacha. Do you love Juan Valdez?"

It was Valdez that broke triumphantly the moment's silence that
followed. "She does. She does. I claim the consent of silence."

But victory spoke too prematurely in his voice. Cried the proud
Spanish girl passionately: "I hate him!"

Megales understood the quality of her hate, and beckoned to his
future son-in-law. "I have some arrangements to make for our
journey to-night. Would it distress you, senor, if I were to
leave you for a while?"

He slipped out and left them alone.

"Well?" asked O'Halloran, who had remained in the corridor.

"I think, Senor Dictator, I shall have to make the trip with only
General Carlo for a companion," answered the Spaniard.

The Irishman swung his hat. "Hip, hip, hurrah! You're a gentleman
I could find it in me heart to both love and hate, governor."

"And you're a gentleman," returned the governor, with a bow, "I
could find it in my heart to hang high as Haman without love or

Michael linked his arm in that of his excellency.

"Sure, you're a broth of a lad, Senor Megales," he said
irreverently, in good, broad Irish brogue. "Here, me bye, where
are you hurrying?" he added, catching at the sleeve of Frances
Mackenzie, who was slipping quietly past.

"Please, Mr. O'Halloran, I've been up to the office after water.
I'm taking it to Senorita Carmencita."

"She doesn't want water just now. You go back to the office, son,
and stay there thirty minutes. Then you take her that water,"
ordered O'Halloran.

"But she wanted it as soon as I could get it, sir."

"Forget it, kid, just as she has. Water! Why, she's drinking
nectar of the gods. Just you do as I tell ye."

Frances was puzzled, but she obeyed, even though she could not
understand his meaning. She understood better when she slid back
the panel at the expiration of the allotted time and caught a
glimpse of Carmencita Megales in the arms of Juan Valdez.


Across the desert into the hills, where the sun was setting in a
great splash of crimson in the saddle between two distant peaks,
a bunch of cows trailed heavily. Their tongues hung out and they
panted for water, stretching their necks piteously to low now and
again. For the heat of an Arizona summer was on the baked land
and in the air that palpitated above it.

But the end of the journey was at hand and the cowpuncher in
charge of the drive relaxed in the saddle after the easy fashion
of the vaquero when he is under no tension. He did not any longer
cast swift, anxious glances behind him to make sure no pursuit
was in sight. For he had reached safety. He knew the 'Open
sesame' to that rock wall which rose sheer in front of him.
Straight for it he and his companion took their gather, swinging
the cattle adroitly round a great slab which concealed a gateway
to the secret canon. Half a mile up this defile lay what was
called Hidden Valley, an inaccessible retreat known only to those
who frequented it for nefarious purposes.

It was as the man in charge circled round to head the lead cows
in that a faint voice carried to him. He stopped, listening. It
came again, a dry, parched call for help that had no hope in it.
He wheeled his pony as on a half dollar, and two minutes later
caught sight of an exhausted figure leaning against a cottonwood.
He needed no second guess to surmise that she was lost and had
been wandering over the sandy desert through the hot day. With a
shout, he loped toward her, and had his water bottle at her lips
before she had recovered from her glad surprise at sight of him.

"You'll feel better now," he soothed. "How long you been lost,

"Since ten this morning. I came with my aunt to gather poppies,
and somehow I got separated from her and the rig. These hills
look so alike. I must have got turned round and mistaken one for

"You have to be awful careful here. Some one ought to have told
you," he said indignantly.

"Oh, they told me, but of course I knew best," she replied, with
quick scorn of her own self-sufficiency.

"Well, it's all right now," the cowpuncher told her cheerfully.
He would not for a thousand dollars have told her how near it had
come to being all wrong, how her life had probably depended upon
that faint wafted call of hers.

He put her on his horse and led it forward to the spot where the
cattle waited at the gateway. Not until they came full upon them
did he remember that it was dangerous for strange young women to
see him with those cattle and at the gateway to the Hidden canon.

"They are my uncle's cattle. I could tell the brand anywhere. Are
you one of his riders? Are we close to the Rocking Chair Ranch?"
she cried.

He flung a quick glance at her. "Not very close. Are you from the
Rocking Chair?"

"Yes. I'm Mr. Mackenzie's niece."

"Major Mackenzie's daughter?" demanded the man quickly.

"Yes." She said it with a touch of annoyance, for he looked at
her as a man does who has heard of her before. She knew that the
story had been bruited far and wide of how she had passed through
the hands of the train robbers carrying thirty thousand dollars
on her person. She had no doubt that it was in this connection
her rescuer had heard of her.

He drew off to one side and called his companion to him.

"Hardman, you ride up to the ranch and tell Leroy I've just found
Miss Mackenzie wandering around on the desert, lost. Ask him
whether I'm to bring her up. She's played out and can't travel
far, tell him."

The showman rode on his errand and the other returned to Helen.

"You better light, ma'am. We'll have to wait here a few minutes,"
he explained.

He helped her dismount. She did not understand why it was
necessary to wait, but that was his business and not hers. Her
roving eyes fell upon the cattle again.

"They ARE my uncle's, aren't they?"

"They were," he corrected. "Cattle change hands a good deal in
this country," he added dryly.

"Then you're not one of his riders?" Her stark eyes passed over
him swiftly.

"No, ma'am."

"Are we far from the Rocking Chair?"

"A right smart distance. You've been traveling, you see, for
eight or nine hours."

It occurred to her that there was something elusive, something
not quite frank, about the replies of this young man. Her glance
raked him again and swept up the details of his person. One of
them that impressed itself upon her mind was the absence of a
finger on his right hand. Another was that he was a walking
arsenal. This startled her, though she was not yet afraid. She
relapsed into silence, to which he seemed willing to consent.
Once and again her glance swept him. He looked a tough,
weather-beaten Westerner, certainly not a man whom a woman need
be afraid to meet alone on the plains, but the oftener she looked
the more certain she became that he was not a casual puncher busy
at the legitimate work of his craft.

"Do you--live near here?" she asked presently.

"I live under my hat, ma'am," he told her.

"Sometimes near here, sometimes not so near."

This told her exactly nothing.

"How far did you say it was to the Rocking Chair?"

"I didn't say."

At the sound of a horses footfall she turned, and she saw that
whereas they had been two, now they were three. The newcomer was
a slender, graceful man, dark and lithe, with quick, piercing
eyes, set deep in the most reckless, sardonic face she had ever

The man bowed, with a sweep of his hat almost derisive. "Miss
Mackenzie, I believe."

She met him with level eyes that confessed no fear.

"Who are you, sir?"

"They call me Wolf Leroy."

Her heart sank. "You and he are the men that held up the

"If we are, you are the young lady that beat us out of thirty
thousand dollars. We'll collect now," he told her, with a silky
smile and a glitter of white, even teeth.

"What do you mean? Do you think I carry money about with me?"

"I didn't say that. We'll put it up to your father."

"My father?"

"He'll have to raise thirty thousand dollars to redeem his
daughter." He let his bold eyes show their admiration. "And she's
worth every cent of it."

"Do you mean--" She read the flash of triumph in his ribald eyes
and broke off. There was no need to ask him what he meant.

"That's what I mean exactly, ma'am. You're welcome to the
hospitality of Hidden Valley. What's ours is yours. You're
welcome to stay as long as you like, but I reckon YOU'RE NOT
WELCOME TO GO WHENEVER YOU WANT TO--not till we get that thirty

"You talk as if he were a millionaire," she told him scornfully.

"The major's got friends that are. If it's a showdown he'll dig
the dough up. I ain't a bit worried about that. His brother,
Webb, will come through."

"Why should he?" She stood as straight and unbending as a young
pine, courage regnant in the very poise of the fine head. "You
daren't harm a hair of my head, and he knows it. For your life,
you daren't."

His eyes glittered. Wolf Leroy was never a safe man to fling a
challenge at. "Don't you be too sure of that, my dear. There
ain't one thing on this green earth I daren't do if I set my mind
to it. And your friends know it."

The other man broke in, easy and unmoved. "Hold yore hawses, cap.
We got no call to be threatening this young lady. We keep her for
a ransom because that's business. But she's as safe here as she
would be at the Rocking Chair. She's got York Neil's word for

The Wolf snarled. "The word of a miscreant. That'll comfort her a
heap. And York Neil's word don't always go up here."

The cowpuncher's steady eyes met him. "It'll go this time."

The girl gave her champion a quiet little nod and a low "Thank
you." It was not much, but enough. For on the frontier "white
men" do not war on women. Her instinct gave just the right manner
of treating his help. It assumed that since he was what he was he
could do no less. Moreover, it had the unexpected effect of
spurring the Wolf's vanity, or something better than his vanity.
She could see the battle in his face, and the passing of its
evil, sinister expression.

"Beg your pardon, Miss Mackenzie. York's right. I'll add my word
to his about your safety. I'm a wolf, they'll tell you. But when
I give my word I keep it."

They turned and followed through the gateway the cattle which
Hardman and another rider were driving up the canon. Presently
the walls fell back, the gulch opened to a saucer-shaped valley
in which nestled a little ranch.

Leroy indicated it with a wave of his hand. "Welcome to Hidden
Valley, Miss Mackenzie," he said cynically.

"Afraid I'm likely to wear my welcome out if you keep me here
until my father raises thirty thousand dollars," she said

"Don't you worry any about that. We need the refining influences
of ladies' society here. I can see York's a heap improved
already. Just to teach us manners you're worth your board and
keep." Then hardily, with a sweeping gesture toward the weary
cattle: "Besides, your uncle has sent up a contribution to help
keep you while you visit with us."

York laughed. "He sent it, but he didn't know he was sending it."

Leroy surrendered his room to Miss Mackenzie and put at her
service the old Mexican woman who cooked for him. She was a
silent, taciturn creature, as wrinkled as leather parchment and
about as handsome, but Alice found safety in the very knowledge
of the presence of another woman in the valley. She was among
robbers and cutthroats, but old Juanita lent at least a touch of
domesticity to a situation that would otherwise have been
impossible. The girl was very uneasy in her mind. A cold dread
filled her heart, a fear that was a good deal less than
panic-terror, however. For she trusted the man Neil even as she
distrusted his captain. Miscreant he had let himself be called,
and doubtless was, but she knew no harm could befall her from his
companions while he was alive to prevent it. A reassurance of
this came to her that evening in the fragment of a conversation
she overheard. They were passing her window which she had raised
on account of the heat when the low voices of two men came to

"I tell you I'm not going, Leroy. Send Hardman," one said.

"Are you running this outfit, or am I, Neil?"

"You are. But I gave her my word. That's all there's to it."

Alice was aware that they had stopped and were facing each other

"Go slow, York. I gave her my word, too. Do you think I'm
allowing to break it while you're away?"

"No, I don't. Look here, Phil. I'm not looking for trouble.
You're major-domo of this outfit What you say goes--except about
this girl. I'm a white man, if I'm a scoundrel."

"And I'm not?"

"I tell you I'm not sayin' that," the other answered doggedly.

"You're hinting it awful loud. I stand for it this time, York,
but never again. You butt in once more and you better reach for
your hardware simultaneous. Stick a pin in that."

They had moved on again, and she did not hear Neil's answer.
Nevertheless, she was comforted to know she had one friend among
these desperate outlaws, and that comfort gave her at least an
hour or two of broken, nappy sleep.

In the morning when she had dressed she found her room door
unlocked, and she stepped outside into the sunshine. York Neil
was sitting on the porch at work on a broken spur strap. Looking
up, he nodded a casual good morning. But she knew why he was
there, and gratitude welled up in her heart. Not a young woman
who gave way to every impulse, she yielded to one now, and shook
hands with him. Their eyes met for a moment and he knew she was
thanking him.

An eye derisive witnessed the handshake. "An alliance against the
teeth of the wolf, I'll bet. Good mo'ning, Miss Mackenzie,"
drawled Leroy.

"Good morning," she answered quietly, her hands behind her.

"Sleep well?"

"Would you expect me to?"

"Why not, with York here doing the virgin-knight act outside your

Her puzzled eyes discovered that Neil's face was one blush of

"He slept here on the po'ch," explained Leroy, amused. "It's a
great fad, this outdoor sleeping. The doctors recommend it strong
for sick people. You wouldn't think to look at him York was sick.
He looks plumb husky. But looks are right deceptive. It's a fact,
Miss Mackenzie, that he was so sick last night I wasn't dead sure
he'd live till mo'ning."

The eyes of the men met like rapiers. Neil said nothing, and
Leroy dropped him from his mind as if he were a trifle and
devoted his attention to Alice.

"Breakfast is ready, Miss Mackenzie. This way, please."

The outlaw led her to the dining room, where the young woman met
a fresh surprise. The table was white with immaculate linen and
shone with silver. She sat down to breakfast food with cream,
followed by quail on toast, bacon and eggs, and really good
coffee. Moreover, she discovered that this terror of the border
knew how to handle his knife and fork, was not deficient in the
little niceties of table decorum. He talked, and talked well,
ignoring, like a perfect host, the relation that existed between
them. They sat opposite each other and ate alone, waited upon by
the Mexican woman. Alice wondered if he kept solitary state when
she was not there or ate with the other men.

It was evening before Hardman returned from the mission upon
which he had been sent in place of the obstinate Neil. He
reported at once to Leroy, who came smilingly to the place where
she was sitting on the porch to tell her his news.

"Webb Mackenzie's going to raise that thirty thousand, all right.
He's promised to raise it inside of three days," he told her

"And shall I have to stay here three whole days?"

He looked with half-shut, smoldering eyes at her slender
exquisiteness, compact of a strange charm that was both well-bred
and gypsyish. There was a scarce-veiled passion in his gaze that
troubled her. More than once that day she had caught it.

"Three days ain't so long. I could stand three months of you and
wish for more," he told her.

Lightly she turned the subject, but not without a chill of fear.
Three days was a long time. Much might happen if this wolf
slipped the leash of his civilization.

It was next day that an incident occurred which was to affect the
course of events more than she could guess at the time. A bunch
of wild hill steers had been driven down by Hardman, Reilly, and
Neil in the afternoon and were inclosed in the corral with the
cows from the Rocking Chair Ranch. Just before sunset Leroy, who
had been away all day, returned and sauntered over from the
stable to join Alice. It struck the girl from his flushed
appearance that he had been drinking. In his eye she found a wild
devil of lawlessness that set her heart pounding. If Neil and he
clashed now there would be murder done. Of that she felt sure.

That she set herself to humor the Wolf's whims was no more for
her own safety than for that of the man who had been her friend.
She curbed her fears, clamped down her startled maiden modesty,
parried his advances with light words and gay smiles. Once Neil
passed, and his eyes asked a question. She shook her head,
unnoticed by Leroy. She would fight her own battle as long as she
could. It was to divert him that she proposed they go down to the
corral and look at the wild cattle the men had driven down. She
told him she had heard a great deal about them, but had never
seen any. If he would go with her she would like to look at them.

The outlaw was instantly at her service, and they sauntered
across. In her hand the girl carried a closed umbrella she had
been using to keep off the sun.

They stood at the gate of the corral looking at the long-legged,
shaggy creatures, as wild and as active almost as hill deer. On
horseback one could pass to and fro among them without danger,
but in a closed corral a man on foot would have taken a chance.
Nobody knew this better than Leroy. But the liquor was still in
his head, and even when sober he was reckless beyond other men.

"They need water," he said, and with that opened the gate and
started for the windmill.

He sauntered carelessly across, with never a glance at the
dangerous animals among which he was venturing. A great bull
pawed the ground lowered its head, and made a rush at the
unconscious man. Alice called to him to look out, then whipped
open the gate and ran after him. Leroy turned, and, in a flash,
saw that which for an instant filled him with a deadly paralysis.
Between him and the bull, directly in the path of its rush, stood
this slender girl, defenseless.

Even as his revolver flashed out from the scabbard the outlaw
knew he was too late to save her, for she stood in such a
position that he could not hit a vital spot. Suddenly her
umbrella opened in the face of the animal. frightened, it set its
feet wide and slithered to a halt so close to her that its chorus
pierced the silk of the umbrella. With one hand Leroy swept the
girl behind him; with the other he pumped three bullets into the
forehead of the bull. Without a groan it keeled over, dead before
it reached the ground.

Alice leaned against the iron support of the windmill. She was so
white that the man expected her to sink down. One glance showed
him other cattle pawing the ground angrily.

"Come!" he ordered, and, putting an arm round her waist, he ran
with her to the gate. Yet a moment, and they were through in

She leaned against him helpless for an instant before she had
strength to disengage herself. "Thank you. I'm all right now."

"I thought you were going to faint," he explained.

She nodded. "I nearly did."

His face was colorless. "You saved my life."

"Then we're quits, for you saved mine," she answered, with a
shaken attempt at a smile.

He shook his head. "That's not the same at all. I had to do
that, and there was no risk to it. But you chose to save me, to
risk your life for mine."

She saw that he was greatly moved, and that his emotion had swept
away the effects of the liquid as a fresh breeze does a fog.

"I didn't know I was risking my life. I saw you didn't see."

"I didn't think there was a woman alive had the pluck to do
it--and for me, your enemy. That what you count me, isn't it--an

"I don't know. I can't quite think of you as friend, can I?"

"And yet I would have protected you from any danger at any cost."

"Except the danger of yourself," she said, in low voice, meeting
him eye to eye.

He accepted her correction with a groan, an wheeled away, leaning
his arms on the corral fence and looking away to that saddle
between the peak which still glowed with sunset light.

"I haven't met a woman of your kind before in ten years," he said
presently. "I've lived on you looks, your motions, the
inflections of your voice. I suppose I've been starved for that
sort of thing and didn't know it till you came. It's been like a
glimpse of heaven to me." He laughed bitterly: and went on: "Of
course, I had to take to drinking and let you see the devil I am.
When I'm sober you would be as safe with me as with York. But the
excitement of meeting you-- I have to ride my emotions to death
so as to drain them to the uttermost. Drink stimulates the
imagination, and I drank."

"I'm sorry."

Her voice said more than the words. He looked at her curiously.
"You're only a girl. What do you know about men of my sort? You
have been wrappered and sheltered all your life. And yet you
understand me better than any of the people I meet. All my life I
have fought with myself. I might have been a gentleman and I'm
only a wolf. My appetites and passions, stronger than myself
dragged me down. It was Kismet, the destiny ordained for me from
my birth."

"Isn't there always hope for a man who knows his weaknesses and
fights against them?" she asked timidly.

"No, there is not," came the harsh answer. "Besides, I don't
fight. I yield to mine. Enough of that. It is you we have to
consider, not me. You have saved my life, and I have got to pay
the debt."

"I didn't think who you were," her honesty compelled her to say.

"That doesn't matter. you did it. I'm going to take you back to
your father and straight as I can."

Her eyes lit. "Without a ransom?"


"You pay your debts like a gentleman, sir."

"I'm not coyote all through."

She could only ignore the hunger that stared out of his eyes for
her. "What about your friends? Will they let me go?"

"They'll do as I say. What kicking they do will be done mostly in
private, and when they're away from me."

"I don't want to make trouble for you."

"You won't make trouble for me. If there's any trouble it Will be
for them," he said grimly.

Neither of them made any motion toward the house. The girl felt a
strange impulse of tenderness toward this man who had traveled so
fast the road to destruction. She had seen before that deep
hunger of the eyes, for she was of the type of woman that holds a
strong attraction for men. It told her that he had looked in the
face of his happiness too late--too late by the many years of a
misspent life that had decreed inexorably the character he could
no longer change.

"I am sorry," she said again. "I didn't see that in you at first.
I misjudged you. One can't label men just good or bad, as the
novelists used to. You have taught me that--you and Mr. Neil."

His low, sardonic laughter rippled out. "I'm bad enough. Don't
make any mistake about that, Miss Mackenzie. York's different.
He's just a good man gone wrong. But I'm plain miscreant."

"Oh, no," she protested.

"As bad as they make them, but not wolf clear through," he said
again. "Something's happened to me to-day. It won't change me.
I've gone too far for that. But some morning when you read in the
papers that Wolf Leroy died with his boots on and everybody in
sight registers his opinion of the deceased you'll remember one
thing. He wasn't a wolf to you--not at the last."

"I'll not forget," she said, and the quick tears were in her

York Neil came toward them from the house. It was plain from his
manner he had a joke up his sleeve.

"You're wanted, Phil," he announced.

"Wanted where?"

"You got a visitor in there," Neil said, with a grin and a jerk
of his thumb toward the house. "Came blundering into the draw
sorter accidental-like, but some curious. So I asked him if he
wouldn't light and stay a while. He thought it over, and figured
he would."

"Who is it?" asked Leroy.

"You go and see. I ain't giving away what your Christmas presents
are. I aim to let Santa surprise you a few.

Miss Mackenzie followed the outlaw chief into the house, and over
his shoulder glimpsed two men. One of them was the Irishman, Cork
Reilly, and he sat with a Winchester across his knees. The other
had his back toward them, but he turned as they entered, and
nodded casually to the outlaw. Helen's heart jumped to her throat
when she saw it was Val Collins.

The two men looked at each other steadily in a long silence. Wolf
Leroy was the first to speak.

"You damn fool!" The swarthy face creased to an evil smile of

"I ce'tainly do seem to butt in considerable, Mr. Leroy,"
admitted Collins, with an answering smile.

Leroy's square jaw set like a vise. "It won't happen again, Mr.

"I'd hate to gamble on that heavy," returned Collins easily. Then
he caught sight of the girl's white face, and rose to his feet
with outstretched hand.

"Sit down," snapped out Reilly.

"Oh, that's all right I'm shaking hands with the lady. Did you
think I was inviting you to drill a hole in me, Mr. Reilly?"


"I thought we bumped you off down at Epitaph," Leroy said.

"Along with Scott? Well, no. You see, I'm a regular cat to kill,
Mr. Leroy, and I couldn't conscientiously join the angels with so
lame a story as a game laig to explain my coming," said Collins

"In that case--"

"Yes, I understand. You'd be willing to accommodate with a hole
in the haid instead of one in the laig. But I'll not trouble

"What are you doing here? Didn't I warn you to attend to your own
business and leave me alone?"

"Seems to me you did load me up with some good advice, but I
plumb forgot to follow it."

The Wolf cursed under his breath. "You came here at your own
risk, then?"

"Well, I did and I didn't," corrected the sheriff easily. "I've
got a five-thousand policy in the Southeastern Life Insurance
Company, so I reckon it's some risk to them. And, by the way,
it's a company I can recommend."

"Does it insure against suicide?" asked Leroy, his masked,
smiling face veiling thinly a ruthless purpose.

"And against hanging. Let me strongly urge you to take out a
policy at once," came the prompt retort.

"You think it necessary?"

"Quite. When you and York Neil and Hardman made an end of Scott
you threw ropes round your own necks. Any locoed tenderfoot would
know that."

The sheriff's unflinching look met the outlaw's black frown
serene and clear-eyed.

"And would he know that you had committed suicide when you ran
this place down and came here?" asked Leroy, with silken cruelty.

"Well, he ought to know it. The fact is, Mr. Leroy, that it
hadn't penetrated my think-tank that this was your hacienda when
I came mavericking in."

"Just out riding for your health?"

"Not exactly. I was looking for Miss Mackenzie. I cut her trail
about six miles from the Rocking Chair and followed it where she
wandered around. The trail led directly away from the ranch
toward the mountains. That didn't make me any easy in my mind. So
I just jogged along and elected myself an investigating
committee. I arrived some late, but here I am, right side up--and
so hearty welcome that my friend Cork won't hear of my leaving at
all. He don't do a thing but entertain me--never lets his
attention wander. Oh, I'm the welcome guest, all right. No doubt
about that."

Wolf Leroy turned to Alice. "I think you had better go to your
room," he said gently.

"Oh, no, no; let me stay," she implored. "You would never--you
would never--" The words died on her white lips, but the horror
in her eyes finished the question.

He met her gaze fully, and answered her doggedly. "You're not in
this, Miss Mackenzie. It's between him and me. I shan't allow
even you to interfere."

"But--oh, it is horrible! for two minutes."

He shook his head.

"You must! Please."

"What use?"

Let me see you alone

Her troubled gaze shifted to the strong, brown, sun-baked face of
the man who had put himself in this deadly peril to save her. His
keen, blue-gray eyes, very searching and steady, met hers with a
courage she thought splendid, and her heart cried out
passionately against the sacrifice.

"You shall not do it. Oh, please let me talk it over with you."


"Have you forgotten already?--and you said you would always
remember." She almost whispered it.

She had stung his consent at last. "Very well," he said, and
opened the door to let her pass into the inner room.

But she noticed that his eyes were hard as jade.

"Don't you see that he came here to save me?" she cried, when
they were alone. "Don't you see it was for me? He didn't come to
spy out your place of hiding."

"I see that he has found it. If I let him go, he will bring back
a posse to take us."

"You could ride across the line into Mexico."

"I could, but I won't."

"But why?"

"Because, Miss Mackenzie, the money we took from the express car
of the Limited is hidden here, and I don't know where it is;

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