Part 2 out of 4
hours, when he showed so much tender sympathy for her and her mother
and brother in the depth of their desolation and woe.
"I thank you," he said, with the same manly frankness he had always
shown; "I have no desire to appear as a boaster or to make light of
danger, but one of the truest adages is that it is not the barking dog
that does the biting."
"Don't make the mistake of supposing it is not so in this case," said
Whitney, "and none should know it better than you."
"I do not underestimate the courage of those fellows; they will shrink
at nothing, but there is no more excuse for my running away upon
receiving such a warning than there would be for all the inhabitants
of Wyoming to leave the State at such a command."
"The case is not parallel," was the comment of Fred Whitney.
"Bear in mind that if I stay, as I intend to do, I do not mean to sit
down and wait for those rustlers to pick me off. I count on having
something to say and do in the matter; but, friends, I must bid you
"What do you mean?" asked the astonished Fred Whitney.
"I must leave," replied Sterry, rising to his feet; "I have already
staid too long."
A SUMMONS AND A REPLY.
Brother and sister were astounded. The hour was late, and they had
been urging their guest to remain several days with them. He had not
consented, nor had he refused, from which they were confident he would
And now he announced his intention of departing at once, riding out
into the night--whither?
They protested, but he replied so earnestly that an urgent necessity
existed that they refrained. He gave no hint of the reason for his
strange action, and they could not ask it. His fleet mare, which
had been allowed to graze on the succulent grass at the rear of the
building with the other horses, was brought forward and saddled and
bridled, and he quickly vaulted upon her back.
"Remember me to your mother; it is not worth while to disturb her; I
hope soon to be with you again."
He leaned over and pressed the hand of Fred Whitney, and then, raising
his hat with his left hand, extended the right to Jennie.
Fred made an excuse to move away a few paces, for he understood the
"Good-by," Sterry said in a voice just low enough to reach the dear
one, as he pressed the delicate hand which rested so trustingly in his
"Good-by," she answered. "I am sorry you are going."
"So am I, but it is better that I should leave. As I said, I trust
soon to see you again. Do you know why I hope Fred will decide to
return to the East with you and your mother?"
"I suppose because we shall all be safer there;" and then she added,
forgetting her sorrow for the moment, "that is if we do not go skating
to Wolf Glen."
"It is not necessary to remove as far as Maine, but father insists
that I am wasting time here, when I ought to be home studying my
"And he is right, Monteith."
"But," he replied in a low voice, "before I go back I want to make
sure that you will do the same. There, good-by again."
He replaced his hat, wheeled and dashed across the prairie without
Jennie stood gazing in the direction taken by him for some time after
he had disappeared in the gloom of the night. Then she turned to speak
to her brother, but he had passed within the house. She resumed her
seat, knowing he would soon return.
Fifteen minutes and more went by and she was still alone.
Sh! Was she mistaken, or was that the faint sound of a horse's hoofs
in the distance?
She turned her head and listened. The murmur of voices, as her brother
and mother talked in low tones, did not disturb her, and the almost
inaudible lowing of the cattle on the distant ranges was but a part of
Hardly a breath of air was stirring, but all knew the eccentric way
in which sound is sometimes carried by it. Suddenly the reports of
rifle-firing were heard, faint but distinct, and lasting several
minutes. Then other and different noises reached her, still faint but
Her power of hearing, like her vision, was exceptionally strong. It
was that which enabled her to tell that the last sounds were not made
by a single animal, but by several going at a high rate of speed.
These, with the reports of rifles, made her certain that the rustlers
had attacked Sterry.
Meanwhile the young man found matters exceedingly lively.
The reception of the "warning" through the hands of Fred Whitney was
proof that his enemies knew he was frequently at his house. Their
messenger had gone thither to deliver it. Young Whitney had slain one
of their number, and though the law-breakers themselves had suffered
the most, they felt bitter resentment toward the family.
If Sterry remained with them they would have trouble. He was satisfied
that Larch Cadmus recognized him, as he sat in front of the rancher's
house, and would not forget to tell it to his comrades, who would
speedily make the place a visit. He believed they were likely to do it
before the rise of the morrow's sun.
If the Whitneys were attacked, his presence would add to the defensive
strength, but such an attack would not be made if he was not there.
Desperate and defiant as the rustlers had been, it would be an
injustice to represent them as capable of such wantonness.
He felt, therefore, that it was his duty to leave the ranch without
delay, thus removing an element of grave danger. It would have been
hardly wise to make this explanation to them, though he believed Fred
Turning his back, therefore, upon the dearest spot in all the West
to him, he set his mare Queenie on an easy, swift gallop, heading
southward toward the ranges where the cattle of the Whitneys were
Sterry, in one sense, was without a home as long as he remained
in Wyoming or Montana, while in another sense he was the owner of
numberless dwelling-places or "headquarters." He may be likened to a
commercial traveller in a vast and sparsely-settled region, where he
is well known and welcomed by the inhabitants.
The ranchmen who knew him--and there were few who did not--were his
friends, for he was working in their interests. At whichever cabin he
drew rein he was certain of a hospitable reception.
With no clearly defined idea of where he would spend the remaining
hours of the night, he turned the nose of Queenie toward the ranges,
among the mountain spurs.
Grizzly Weber and Budd Hankinson would stay near the cattle for an
indefinite time, and he was debating whether to join them or to ride
on to the ranch of Dick Hawkridge, a number of miles to the northeast,
when his meditations were broken in upon in the most startling manner.
During those perilous times, the lonely horseman, in a dangerous
region, relies much on his intelligent steed for warning. While
Monteith Sterry could do a great deal of thinking in the saddle,
he was too alert to drop into a brown study that would divert his
thoughts from his surroundings.
He was no more than a mile from the Whitney ranch when his mare
pricked up her ears, gave an almost inaudible whinny, and slightly
slackened her pace.
That meant that she scented danger, and her rider was on the _qui
He tightened the rein and drew her to a full stop. She turned her head
to the right and looked steadily in that direction, with her pretty
ears thrown forward. This meant that whatever impended was coming from
that point of the compass.
But the keen eyes of Mont Sterry could not penetrate the moonlight
sufficiently far to detect anything. He was out of the saddle in a
twinkling, and tried a trick learned from the old hunters. He pressed
one ear against the ground, which, as all know, is a much better
conductor of sound than the air.
This told the story he anticipated. The faint but distinct clamping of
horses' hoofs was heard. The number was indefinite, but, somewhat to
his surprise, none of them was running or loping; all were moving on a
The noise was so clear that when he rose to his feet and looked off to
the right he expected to see the animals and their riders, and he was
On the outer margin of the field of vision the outlines of several
horsemen assumed shape. They were approaching, and one of their steeds
emitted a whinny, as a salutation to the motionless Queenie, who had
shifted her pose so as to face that point of the compass.
"Sh!" whispered Sterry to her.
But there was no call for the warning; she was too well trained to
betray her master, and remained mute.
But it was inevitable that if the young man could discern the figures
of the approaching horsemen, they must also see him. He leaped into
the saddle and turned away.
He knew instinctively they were rustlers, and he was almost equally
certain they were hunting for him. There were at least three; and,
well aware of their character, he was only prudent in shying off, with
the intention of avoiding them altogether.
But they were not the men to be bluffed in that fashion. They were
"out" for the inspector, and did not intend that such an opportunity
should slip by unchallenged.
"Hello, pard!" called one of the trio, "where from and where going?"
This was a pointed demand, to which Mont Sterry made an equally
"That is my own business; I will attend to it, and you may attend to
All this time he was keeping watch of their movements. Their horses
were still walking, but they were now coming straight toward him. At a
touch of the rein Queenie headed directly away, and her gait was about
the same. She acted as though she shared the thoughts of her master,
who shrank from sending her off on a flying run, as would have been
more prudent for him to do.
A brave man dislikes to flee, even when his better judgment tells him
it is the only wise thing to do.
The night was so still that Sterry plainly heard the words of the men
when talking to each other in an ordinary conversational tone.
"I believe that's him," said one of them, eagerly.
"It sounded like his voice, but he wouldn't leave the Whitneys at this
time of night when she's there."
"He's too free with his tongue, anyway; we'll make him show up."
"Say, you! hold on a minute. Do you know anything about Mont Sterry?
We're looking for him."
"I am Mont Sterry," was the defiant response. "What do you propose to
do about it?"
A HOT PURSUIT.
It may be said Mont Sterry answered his own question at the moment of
asking it, for, bringing his Winchester to his shoulder, he let fly at
the rustlers, and then with a word and touch of the spur sent Queenie
bounding away with arrowy swiftness.
Unquestionably it was a daring act on his part, but there was wisdom
in it. He knew those men were seeking his life, and would shoot him,
as they had threatened to do, on sight. When they met, it would be a
question simply as to which got the drop on the other.
They were preparing to make a rush at him, and while he had no fear
of a contest of speed between Queenie and any animal that "wore
horse-hair," they were altogether too near at the beginning of the
contest, and the chance of using their rifles was too much against
The crack of the Winchester accompanying his sharp reply, with the
whistle of the bullet about their heads, gave them a momentary shock,
which delayed the pursuit for a few precious seconds.
This was the object of the fugitive, for, while that brief interval
was thrown away by them, he improved it to the utmost. At such crises
a few rods count immensely, and they were made to count on the side of
They were insufficient, however, to take him beyond peril. Men like
those horsemen are quick to recover from a surprise, and it would have
seemed that Sterry was hardly started in his flight when they were
speeding after him. He heard their maledictions and knew that the
struggle for life was on.
Comparatively brief as had been the time spent in the West by Sterry,
he had not neglected his education along the lines indispensable to
those following his manner of living. At the moment of giving Queenie
rein he flung himself forward on her neck, hugging it close and
uttering an involuntary prayer that the bullets might pass harmlessly
by him and his horse.
There were enough of the missiles to kill several men, but the chance
for aiming was so poor that even such fine marksmen as the rustlers
had little chance. The mare was only dimly discernible, and she, like
their own horses, was going at full speed.
Had the sun been shining the result must have been widely different.
The encounter with these men was so unexpected and the several changes
of direction by Queenie so sudden and unavoidable that Sterry was not
given a chance to take his bearings. The one object was to get as far
from them as possible in the quickest time in which it could be done.
When that distance became a safe one it would be soon enough to give
attention to the points of the compass.
Nobly did Queenie do her duty. She had carried her master out of many
a peril, and she could be counted on to do it as long as the ability
remained with her. Sterry's anxiety was really more on her account
than on his own. He knew there was little danger of himself being
struck by the bullets of the rustlers, who, as I have shown, had no
possible chance of taking any sort of aim, but she was a conspicuous
target, which it would seem they ought to hit with little difficulty.
Often must a person in the situation of Sterry leave everything to his
horse. He did not seek to guide Queenie, but sat, or rather lay, in
the saddle and on her neck, as she skimmed like a swallow over the
Strange imaginings were in the brain of the young man during those
few minutes. He listened to each shot of the Winchesters, and then,
instead of feeling any apprehension for himself, waited for the
dreaded evidence that his horse had been struck.
The skilful railway engineer, sitting in his cab, with his hand on the
throttle, can discover, on the instant, the slightest disarrangement
in the mass of intricate mechanism over which he holds control. His
highly trained senses enable him to feel it like a flash. So it was
that Mont Sterry would have detected any injury to his horse as
quickly as she herself. No matter if but the abrasion of the skin, the
puncture of the flesh, or the nipping of an ear, she would betray it
If she were wounded and should fall, the situation of her rider would
be well-nigh hopeless. He could only throw himself behind her body and
have it out with his enemies. Such a defence has been successfully
made many a time by white men against Indians; but Sterry would not
be fighting Crows nor Sioux, but those of his own race and blood, as
brave and skilful as he.
"Thank God!" he murmured, after each shot, as the splendid play of the
machinery under him continued without a break or tremor; "she was not
hit that time. She is running at her best."
Once his heart stood still, for she seemed to quiver through her body,
as if involuntarily shrinking from the prick of a sword.
In his alarm, Sterry rose to an upright posture in the saddle, and
leaning to the right and left, and looking forward and behind him,
searched for the wound. He hardly expected to see it, for it would
have been beyond his sight in any one of a dozen different portions of
But if in one of the limbs, it would quickly show in the gait of the
"No," he murmured, "there is no change of pace; it could not have been
much, and it may be she was not hit at all."
The rustlers fired two shots at this moment, when the horseman was
more of a target than his animal, but he gave no heed to that; it was
she for whom he felt concern.
A glance backward brought a thrill of hope. The distance between him
and his pursuers had perceptibly increased. Queenie was showing her
heels to those who dared dispute with her the supremacy of fleetness.
She would soon leave them out of sight, unless it should prove she was
disabled by some of the shots.
All would have gone well but for the appearance of a new danger of
which he did not dream.
Suddenly Queenie emitted her faint, familiar whinny, and swerved to
the left. She had scented a new peril.
In the gloom almost directly ahead loomed the figures of other
horsemen bearing down upon the fugitive. They might be friends, and
they might be enemies, but it would not do to take chances. Without
an instant's hesitation Sterry wheeled to the left and spoke to his
"Now, Queenie, do your best."
The mare responded with the same gameness she always showed; but the
situation had suddenly become so grave that Monteith Sterry assuredly
would have been overwhelmed and cut off but for one of the most
extraordinary occurrences that ever came to any person in the
extremity of danger.
A STRANGE DIVERSION.
It was the wonderful sagacity of the little mare which intervened at
this crisis in the fate of her rider.
She was no more than fairly stretched away on a dead run from the new
peril when she shot into an arroya or depression in the prairie. Such
a depression suggests the dry bed of a stream through which the water
may not have flowed for years. It is sometimes a few feet only in
width, and again it may be a number of rods. The rich, alluvial soil
often causes a luxuriant growth of grass, cottonwood or bush, which
affords the best of grazing and refuge for any one when hard pressed
by the enemy.
The arroya into which Queenie plunged had gently sloping sides, and
was perhaps fifty feet wide. The bottom was covered not only with
grass, but with the thin undergrowth to which allusion has been made,
and which was so frail in character that it offered no impediment to
the passage of a running horse.
Sterry's expectation was that his mare would shoot across the
depression and up the other bank with the least possible delay; but of
her own accord, and without suggestion from him, she turned abruptly
to the left and dropped to a walk.
He was astounded, and was on the point of speaking impatiently to her
as he jerked the bridle-rein, when the occurrence already referred to
took place, and made the action of the animal seem like an inspiration
or instinct approaching the height of reason.
At the moment she made the sharp turn to the left, another horseman
galloped up the opposite slope and off upon the prairie. By an amazing
coincidence it happened that he was in the arroya, and in the act of
crossing in the same direction with the fugitive, when the furious
plunge of the mare sent his own bounding up the farther bank.
Sterry caught the situation like a flash. Before Queenie had gone more
than a half-dozen rods he brought her to a standstill. They resembled
an equestrian statue, so motionless were they for a full minute.
The converging parties of pursuers could plainly see the second
horseman speeding away from the other side, and inevitably concluded
that he was the inspector whom they wanted. They were after him
hot-footed on the instant.
This man was Ira Inman, a well-known rustler, and the intimate friend
of Larch Cadmus. When he saw himself pursued by a half-dozen of
his friends he reined up, and calmly but wonderingly awaited their
arrival, which took place within the next few seconds.
"Up with your hands! Quick about it, too! You're the man we want!"
"Wal," replied the leader, surveying them with a grin, and paying no
heed to their fierce commands, "now that you've got me, what are you
going to do with me?"
If there ever were a set of dumbfounded men, they were the rustlers
who closed about the leader and recognized him in the moonlight. The
remarks that followed his identification were as ludicrous as they
The majority believed he had played a trick on them in pretending to
be Mont Sterry, whom all were so anxious to bring down; but there
were one or two who were not satisfied. They knew the voice of the
inspector, which in no way resembled the gruff tones of Inman. Then,
their leader was not given to practical jokes.
"What set you to hunting me so hard?" he asked, after the first flurry
"We're looking for Mont Sterry."
"Wal, what made you take me for him? Do I look like him in the
"But you said you were, and fired at us," explained one.
"Fired at you? Said I was that chap? What in the mischief are you
One, who suspected the truth, now interposed.
"We did meet Sterry and hailed him; you must have heard our guns; he
dashed into the arroya; we saw you gallop out on t'other side, and
took you for him."
"Ah, I understand it all now," replied Inman; "I had ridden down there
on my way back from a little scout, when a horseman dashed into the
slope behind me like a thunderbolt. My horse was so scared that he
went up the other side on the jump, and before I could turn around to
find out what it all meant, you lunkheads came down on me with the
request to oblige you by throwing up my hands, which I will see you
hanged before I'll do."
"But where is he? What has become of him?" asked several, looking
around, as thought they expected to see the young man ride forward and
"Wal, calling to mind the kind of horse he rides, I should say he is
about a half-mile off by this time, laughing to find out how cleverly
he has fooled you chaps."
"It looks as if you was in the same boat, Inman," retorted one of the
"I wasn't chasing Sterry."
"He seemed to be chasing you, for you came out of the arroya ahead of
"If he was chasing me," replied the leader, who felt that the laugh
was on his companions, "he would have followed me out; but I don't see
anything of him;" and he, too, stared around, as though not sure the
man would not do the improbable thing named.
"It was a blamed cute trick, any way you look at it," remarked one of
the party. "It was queer that you should have been there, Inman, just
at the minute needed. But for that, we would have had him, sure."
"Wal, you can make up your mind that we have him as good as catched
already. He can't get out of the country without some of the boys
running against him, and the first rustler that catches sight of Mr.
Sterry will drop him in his tracks."
"If he gets the chance to do it," was the wise comment of another.
"That fellow is quick on the shoot and isn't afraid of any of us."
"He ain't the first one that's made that mistake, only to find himself
rounded up at last. Larch Cadmus' idea of 24 hours' notice don't go
down with this crowd, eh?"
And the crowd unanimously responded in the negative.
THE BACK TRAIL.
Mont Sterry had wisdom enough to turn to the fullest account the
remarkable advantage gained through the sagacity of his mare.
His pursuers, in their haste to head him off, had dashed across the
arroya at a point only a short distance above where he entered and
their leader emerged from it. They were sure to discover the truth in
a short time.
Waiting, therefore, only until they had passed beyond, he rode his
horse a few rods along the depression, and then left it on the same
side by which he had ridden into it.
Unconsciously he fell into an error of which he was not dreaming. In
the short distance passed, the arroya made a sweeping curve, and he
had repeatedly changed his own course since leaving the Whitney ranch.
Thus it was almost inevitable that he should get the points of the
compass mixed, and that he should follow a route widely different from
the one intended.
Had he paused long enough to note the position of the full moon in the
heavens, or the towering Big Horn Mountains, he would have gained an
approximate idea of where he was; but, despite his experience in the
West, he galloped forward at an easy canter, with never a suspicion of
the blunder he was making.
He was on the alert for rustlers, and kept glancing to the right and
left, and to the front and rear. As has been shown, he had little fear
of being overtaken in a chase where he was given an equal chance with
his pursuers, but his narrow escape rendered him more apprehensive
"I thought of staying with Weber and Hankinson to-night," he mused,
"but I think it hardly prudent. The rustlers may pay them a visit, and
my presence will only make matters worse; and yet those fellows don't
want to start up a band of regulators who will shoot them down without
mercy, and that's just what will take place if they carry their
outrages too far."
"My death won't bring the regulators into existence," he grimly
reflected, "for one man, more or less, doesn't count; but there is
much bitter feeling in the country."
Once he thought he caught the sounds of horses' feet on the prairie,
and checked his mare to listen, but she gave no evidence of
suspicion--a thing she was sure to do, if the cause existed.
Sterry was so well satisfied by this fact that he did not dismount to
test the matter as before. He rode on, however, and held her down to a
His eventless course had continued some minutes before a thought came
to him of the direction he was following, with the possibility that he
"I wonder if we are on the right track, Queenie?" he said, addressing
his animal, as was his custom when they were alone. "It would be
strange if we didn't drift away from our bearings. Hello! that can't
be Dick Hawkridge's ranch; we haven't gone far enough for that; but
what the mischief can it be, unless a fire that some one has started
in the open?"
The starlike twinkle of a point of light suddenly shone out directly
in advance. It puzzled him by appearing only for a moment, when it
vanished as quickly as it entered his field of vision.
This fact suggested that it was within some dwelling and had been
extinguished, or was shut from sight by being moved past a window or
open door to another point in the interior.
"We are so near, Queenie, we may as well go farther," he added, not
unmindful of his danger from those who were making such a hot search
for him. He kept his horse on a walk, maintaining a keen watch between
the dainty ears that were already pricked up as if she knew something
was likely to happen quite soon.
Advancing in this deliberate fashion, the outline of one of those
long, low wooden structures so common in the West was gradually defied
in the moonlight, and he knew he was approaching the home of some
But whose? was the question that perplexed him. He recalled that some
of his travelling had been done at a high rate of speed, but the
distance between the Whitney and Hawkridge ranches was fully a dozen
miles, and he was sure that that space had not been covered by him
since bidding his friends good-by earlier in the evening, especially
as he had not followed a direct course.
"Can it be?" he exclaimed, with a sudden suspicion. "Yes, by gracious!
What a blunder!"
The exclamation was caused by the sight of a young man, with one arm
in a sling, who came forward to welcome him.
He had returned to the Whitney home, which he supposed was miles away,
and this was his old friend Fred, who came smilingly forward and said,
as he recognized him:
"I am glad, indeed, to see you, Mont; we heard the sound of the firing
and feared that something had happened to you."
"Nothing at all, thank you, and nothing to Queenie--but that reminds
me," he added, slipping out of the saddle; "she acted once as though
she had been hit, though it wasn't bad enough to show itself in her
The two made a hasty examination but discovered nothing; proof that,
as her owner said, the wound, if any, was too slight to trouble her.
"Fred, what do you think of my coming back to you in this fashion?"
abruptly asked Sterry, with a laugh, looking around in his friend's
"The most sensible thing you could have done; it redeems your
foolishness in leaving us as you did."
"But my return was involuntary."
"How was that?"
"I thought I was miles distant, and had no idea of my location until I
caught the outlines of your house; I assure you I contemplated no such
performance as this."
"Well, you're here, so what's the use of talking unless you mean to
mount your mare and try it again."
"Hardly that; I have too much mercy on her."
The couple walked past the dwelling to the rude but roomy shelter at
the rear where the horses were sometimes placed when not in use, or
when the severity of the weather made the protection necessary. There
the saddle, bridle and trappings were removed from the mare, and she
was made comfortable. Then the two returned to their seats at the
front of the building, to smoke and chat a few minutes before retiring
for the night.
That mysterious warm-air current known as the Chinook wind steals
through the depressions of the Rocky Mountains, at certain seasons
of the year, from the mild surface of the Pacific, and tempers the
severity of the winters in some portions of Montana, Wyoming, and
the great West to a degree that renders them milder than many places
It was early in the month of May, when even in the Middle States it is
not often comfortable to remain seated out of doors after the close of
day, but Sterry and Whitney found it pleasant to occupy their chairs
in front of the building, with no other protection then their own warm
Whitney's wound was doing so well that he expressed himself ashamed
to wear his arm in a sling. He freed it from the support, moved it
readily about, and declared that after the next morning he would no
longer shirk duty.
In one sense, Monteith Sterry was disappointed. He hoped they would be
joined by Jennie, from whom he parted earlier in the evening, but he
reflected that the hour was late, and she probably felt that her duty
was with her sorrowing mother.
"She belongs there," he concluded, "and I respect her for doing her
But she heard the murmur of voices after they had talked a few
minutes, and appeared at the outer door, where she greeted her friend
and listened with an intensity of interest that may be imagined to
his account of his brush with the rustlers. Although she had become
accustomed to danger during her life in the West, there could be no
mistaking her solicitude for him. She said little, however, and,
excusing herself, bade the two good-night.
"I tell you," said her brother, when she was gone, "if you stay, or
rather attempt to stay, in this section, Mont, it is suicide--nothing
more nor less."
"Well, I know times are likely to be warm, but, hang it, I can't bear
the thought of being run out of Wyoming. It's a mighty big State, and
there ought to be room enough for me."
"You persist in treating it lightly, but it is no trifling matter;
you have been warned; were shot at, when we had our flurry with the
rustlers; and, even while attempting to ride across the country,
had the narrowest escape of your life--an escape so curious that it
couldn't be repeated in a hundred years."
"It's the unexpected that happens."
"Not so often as the expected. Mont, what made you leave us so
"O, I can hardly tell," replied the other, carelessly flinging one leg
over the other and puffing at his cigar, as though the matter was of
"I know; you believed that if you stayed here you would increase the
peril to us."
"You've hit it exactly; that was it."
"What sort of friends do you take us to be?"
"That isn't it; rather, what sort of friend would I be, thus knowingly
to place you and your mother and sister in danger? If those rustlers
knew where I am, a dozen would be here before sunrise."
"What of it? We are ready for them."
"That's a poor answer to my statement; you had enough of that woeful
business yesterday; they hold me in such hatred that they would burn
down your place, if they could reach me in no other way."
"And yet you propose to stay in Wyoming and have it out with them?"
"I haven't said that," remarked Sterry, more thoughtfully; "I may soon
leave for a more civilized section, much as I hate to play the seeming
coward; but what you said about my parents, brothers and sisters at
home, gave me something to think over while riding across the prairie
"I shall hate to lose your company, for it is like old times to
talk over our school days, but I would not be a friend to allow my
selfishness to stand in the way of your good."
Sterry smoked a moment in silence, and then flung away his cigar and
turned abruptly on his companion.
"Fred, if you could have prevented what took place yesterday by
sacrificing every dollar of the property you have in Wyoming, you
would have done it."
"Yes, God knows I would have done it a thousand times over; mother
will never recover from the blow."
"And yet you may be the next to fall during this frightful state of
affairs. If the situation of your mother and sister is so sad because
of the loss of the head of the household, what will it be if you
should be taken?"
"I appreciate your kindness, Mont, but you put the case too strongly;
in one sense we all stand in danger of sudden death every day. I might
live to threescore and ten in Wyoming, and be killed in a railroad
accident or some other way the first day I left it. There is no
particular enmity between the rustlers and me; that brush yesterday
was one of those sudden outbursts that was not premeditated by them."
"It didn't look that way to me."
"You were not there when it opened. They were driving a lot of
mavericks toward their ranch down the river, when Budd Hankinson saw
a steer among them with our brand. You know it--a sort of cross with
father's initials. Without asking for its return, Budd called them a
gang of thieves, cut out the steer and drove him toward our range. If
he had gone at the thing in the right way there would have been no
trouble, but his ugly words made them mad, and the next thing we were
all shooting at each other."
"You inflicted more harm than they, and they won't forget it."
"I don't want them to forget it," said Fred, bitterly, "but they won't
carry their enmity to the extent of making an unprovoked attack on me
or any of my people."
"Possibly not, but you don't want to bank on the theory."
"You must not forget," continued the practical Whitney, "that all we
have in the world is invested in this business, and it would be a
sacrifice for us to sell out and move eastward, where I would be
without any business."
"You could soon make one for yourself."
"Well," said Whitney, thoughtfully, "I will promise to turn it over
in my mind; the associations, however, that will always cling to this
place, and particularly my sympathy for mother and Jennie, will be the
strongest influences actuating me, provided I decide to change."
Mont Sterry experienced a thrill of delight, for he knew that when
a man talks in that fashion he is on the point of yielding. He
determined to urge the matter upon Jennie, and there was just enough
hope in his heart that the prospect of being on the same side of the
Mississippi with him would have some slight weight.
"I am glad to hear you speak thus, for it is certain there will be
serious trouble with the rustlers."
"All which emphasizes what I said earlier in the evening about your
duty to make a change of location."
The proposition, now that there was reason to believe that Fred
Whitney had come over to his way of thinking, struck Sterry more
favourably than before. In fact he reflected, with a shudder, what a
dismal, unattractive section this would be, after the removal of his
"I shall not forget your words; what you said has great influence with
me, and you need not be surprised if I bid adieu to Wyoming within a
week or a few days."
"It can't be too soon for your own safety, much as we shall regret to
lose your company."
Although Budd Hankinson and Grizzly Weber were removed from the scene
of the events described, the night was not to pass without their
becoming actors in some stirring incidents.
Ordinarily they would have spent the hours of darkness at the ranch of
their employer, for the immense herds of cattle, as a rule, required
no looking after. The ranges over which they grazed were so extensive
that they were left to themselves, sometimes wandering for many miles
from the home of their owner. They might not be seen for days and
weeks. Their brands and the universal respect in which such proof of
proprietorship was held prevented, as a rule, serious loss to the
But the date will be recognized by the reader as one of a peculiarly
delicate nature, when men were obliged to look more closely after
their rights than usual.
The couple, therefore, rode behind the cattle to the foothills, along
which they were expected to graze for an indefinite time. Hustlers
were abroad, and the occurrences of the previous day had inflamed the
feeling between them and the cowmen. It was not unlikely that, having
been beaten off, some of them might take the means of revenging
themselves by stealing a portion of the herd.
Budd and Weber dismounted after reaching the foothills, and, without
removing the saddles from their horses, turned them loose to graze for
themselves. No fear of their wandering beyond recall. A signal would
bring them back the moment needed.
The hardy ranchers seated themselves with their backs against a broad,
flat rock, which rose several feet above their heads. The bits were
slipped from the mouths of their horses, so as to allow them to crop
the succulent grass more freely, while the men gave them no attention,
even when they gradually wandered beyond sight in the gloom.
"Times are getting lively in these parts," remarked Weber, as he
filled his brierwood and lit it; "this thing can't go on forever; the
rustlers or cowmen have got to come out on top, and I'm shot if one
can tell just now which it will be."
"There can only be one ending," quietly replied his companion, whose
pipe, being already lit, was puffed with the deliberate enjoyment of a
veteran; "the rustlers may stir things up, and I s'pose they've got to
get worse before they get better, but what's the use? It's like a mob
or a riot; the scamps have things their own way at first, but they
knuckle under in the end."
"I guess you're right; that was bad business yesterday; I shouldn't
wonder if it ended in the young folks moving East again with their
mother, whose heart is broke by the death of her husband."
"The younker is too plucky a chap to light out 'cause the governor has
been sent under; he's had better luck than most tenderfeet who come
out here and start in the cattle bus'ness; he done well last year, and
if the rustlers let him alone, he'll do a good deal better this year;
he may move, but he ain't agoin' to let them chaps hurry him, you can
make up your mind to that."
The couple smoked a minute or two in silence. Then Weber, without
removing his pipe from between his lips, uttered the words:
"Budd, something's going to happen powerful soon."
Hankinson, also keeping his pipe between his lips, turned his head and
looked wonderingly at his friend. He did not speak, but the action
told his curiosity; he did not understand the words.
"I mean what I say," added Weber, shaking his head; "I know it."
"What do you mean? Something happens every night and every day."
"That isn't what I'm driving at; something's going to happen afore
daylight; you and me ain't through with this work."
Hankinson was still dissatisfied. He took his pipe from his mouth,
and, looking sideways at his friend, asked:
"Can't you come down to facts and let a fellow know what you're
"I don't exactly know myself, but I feel it in my left leg."
At this strange remark the other laughed heartily and silently. He had
little patience with superstition. He knew his friend held peculiar
whims in that respect. Weber expected something in the nature of
scoffing and was prepared for it. He spoke doggedly:
"It has never deceived me. Six years ago, when we was trying to round
up Geronimo and his Apache imps, ten of us camped in the Moggollon
Mountains. Hot! Well, you never knowed anything like it. All day long
the metal of our guns would blister our naked hands; we didn't get a
drop of water from sunup till sundown; we was close on to the trail of
the varmints, and we kept at it by moonlight till our horses gave out
and we tumbled out among the rocks so used up that we could hardly
stand. Our lieutenant was a bright young chap from South Car'lina that
had come out of West Point only that summer, but he was true blue and
warn't afeared of anything. We all liked him. I had seen him fight
when a dozen of the Apaches thought they had us foul, and I was proud
of him. He belonged to a good family, though that didn't make him any
better than anyone else, but he treated us white.
"So when we went into camp, I goes to him and I says, says I,
'Lieutenant, there's going to be trouble.' He looked up at me in his
pleasant way and asks, 'What makes you think so, Grizzly?' The others
was listening, but I didn't mind that, and out with it. ''Cause,' says
I, 'my left leg tells me so.'
"'And how does your leg tell you?' he asked again, with just a faint
smile that wasn't anything like the snickers and guffaws of the other
chaps. 'Whenever a twitch begins at the knee and runs down to my
ankle,' says I, 'that is in the left leg, and then keeps darting back
and forth and up and down, just as though some one was pricking it
with a needle, do you know what it says?'
"'I'm sure I don't, but I'd like to know.'
"'Injins! Varmints! They're nigh you; look out!'
"Wal, instead of j'ining the others in laughing at me, he says; just
as earnest-like as if it was the colonel that had spoke, 'If that's
the case, Grizzly, why we'll look out; you have been in this business
afore I was born and I am glad you told me. I didn't s'pose any of 'em
was within miles of us, but it's easy to be mistaken.'
"Wal, to make a long story short we didn't any of us go to sleep; the
boys laughed at what I said, but the way the lieutenant acted showed
'em he believed me, and that was enough. The Apaches come down on us
that night and wiped out two of the boys. If the lieutenant hadn't
showed his good sense by believing what I told him, there wouldn't
have been one of us left."
Budd Hankinson then crossed his legs, extended on the ground as they
were, shoved his sombrero back on his head, with his Winchester
resting against the rock behind him, and smoked his pipe after the
manner of a man who is pondering a puzzling question. The latter
assumed much the same position, but, having said sufficient, was not
disposed to speak until after the other had given his opinion.
"Grizzly, when your leg warns you like that, does it speak plain
enough to tell you the sort of danger that's coming? Does it say what
hour; where the trouble is to come from, and who them that make the
trouble will be?"
"No!" replied the other, contemptuously; "how could a fellow's leg do
"How could it do anything 'cept help tote him around when he wanted it
"I've just explained, that twitching is a warning--that's all. I
'spose the leg thinks that's enough; so it is."
"There ain't any Apaches or Comanches in this part of the world."
"But there's rustlers, and where's the ch'ice?"
"Wal, Grizzly, all I've got to say is let 'em come; it ain't the
first time we've seen 'em, and we're ginerally ready for 'em. We was
yesterday, and I reckon we'll get there, all the same, to-night or
Grizzly Weber felt it his duty to be more explicit.
"The night I was telling you about down in Arizona wasn't the only
time my leg signaled to me. While it allers means that something is
going to come, it doesn't always mean it'll amount to much. It has
happened that only a slight flurry follored. That may be the case
"What's to be done? Are we to set here on the ground and wait for it?
I was going to take turns with you watching, but I guess we hadn't
better go to sleep yet."
"You can sleep till near morning if you like, and when I want to lay
down I'll wake you, but afore you do that I'll take a look around."
Weber rose to his feet, yawned, stretched his long, muscular arms,
looked about him and listened. The moonlight enabled him to see only a
comparatively short distance in any direction. Near-by were the forms
of several cattle stretched upon the ground and sleeping. One or two
were still chewing their cuds, but the scene was suggestive of rest
and quiet, the reverse of what he told his friend was coming.
The horses had drifted too far off to be visible, but it was certain
they were within signal distance. Rocks, stunted undergrowth, bushes,
and the rich, luxuriant grass met the eye everywhere. Thousands of
cattle were scattered over an area of many acres, and, unless molested
by dishonest persons, would be within ready reach when the time for
the round-up arrived. Neither eye nor ear could detect anything of the
peril which the rancher believed impended with the same faith that he
believed the sun would rise on the following morning.
That faith could not be shaken by the profound quiet. Without speaking
again to his friend he strolled toward the north, that is parallel
with the spur along whose slope the cattle were grazing. As he moved
forward they were continually in sight. Most of them were lying on
the ground, but a few were on their feet, browsing and acquiring the
luscious plumpness which has made that section one of the most famous
grazing regions of the Union. They paid no attention to the rancher
while making his way around, among and past them. They were too
accustomed to the sight of the sturdy cattleman to be disturbed by
An eighth of a mile from the rock where he had left his comrade, Weber
once more paused. Nothing as yet had come to confirm that peculiar
warning described, but his faith knew no weakening on that account.
From a long way came the sound of rifle-firing, sometimes rapid, and
sometimes consisting of dropping shots.
"They're at it somewhere," muttered the rancher; "it doesn't come from
the ranch, so I guess the folks are all right."
The reports were too far off for him to feel any interest in them;
that which was foretold by the twitching of his limb must come much
closer to answer the demands of the occasion.
Weber resumed his walk around and among the prostrate animals. He was
on the alert, glancing to the right and left, and speculating as to
the nature of the "trouble" that could not be far off.
Through the impressive stillness he caught a subdued sound which
caused him again to stop in his walk and listen. His keen vision could
discover nothing, nor was he certain of the nature of the disturbance.
He knelt down and pressed his ear to the ground. That told the story;
several hundred of the herd were in motion and moving away from him.
They would not do this of their own accord, and the rancher translated
its meaning at once; they were being driven off.
He broke into a loping trot toward the threatened point, holding his
Winchester ready for instant use. As he was likely to need his horse,
he placed his fingers between his lips and emitted the whistle by
which he was accustomed to summon the faithful beast. Then he sent out
a different call. That was for the listening ears of Budd Hankinson,
who would be sure to hasten to his comrade.
But Weber did not wait for man or animal. They could come as fast as
they chose. The case was too urgent to admit of delay.
He believed the moving cattle were hardly a furlong distant, but they
were not only going at a rapid pace, but were moving directly away
from where the rancher had halted.
He could run as swiftly and as long as an Indian, but the course was
difficult, and he believed the cattle were going so fast that he was
gaining little if anything on them. When he had run a short way he
stopped and glanced impatiently back in the gloom.
"Why doesn't Cap hurry?" he muttered, referring to his horse; "he must
have heard my call, and he never lets it pass him. Budd, too, don't
want to break his neck trying to overtake me."
His impatience made him unjust. Neither man nor beast had had time to
come up, even though each had set out at their best speed the moment
they heard the signal. They would be on hand in due course, unless
Weber called them again, with a sharp, peremptory signal, which could
not fail to apprise both of the urgency of the case. Then, afraid of
losing any advantage, he pushed after the fleeing cattle. The figures
of the sleeping animals around him grew fewer in number. By and by
none was to be seen. He had passed the outer boundary of those that
were left, and was now tramping over the section from which they had
been stampeded or driven by the rustlers.
He dropped to the ground again. But it was only to use the earth as a
medium of hearing. The multitudinous trampings became distinct once
more. The cattle were running, proof that the thieves were pressing
them hard and were in fear of pursuit.
Leaping up again, the rancher peered backward in the moonlight.
Something took shape, and he identified the figure of a man
approaching. The Winchester was grasped and half aimed, so as to be
ready for instant use.
But it was his friend, who was coming on the run. Budd Hankinson had
heard the call, and obeyed it with surprising promptness.
"What's up?" he asked, as he halted, breathing not a whit faster
because of his unusual exertion.
"They're running off some of the cattle; where's the hosses?"
"Hanged if I know! I called to Dick the minute I started, but he
didn't show up; I don't know were he is."
"I whistled for Cap at the same time I did for you; he ought to
be here first. I wonder if they've stolen him?" added Weber,
"No, they wouldn't have come that close; they didn't have the chance;
but it gets me."
With that he sent out the signal once more. Budd did the same, and
then they broke into their swift, loping trot after the fleeing
animals, both in an ugly mood.
They were at great disadvantage without their own horses when it was
clear the rustlers were mounted. But, though on foot, the ranchers
could travel faster than the gait to which the cattle had been forced.
They increased their speed, and it was quickly evident they were
gaining on the rogues.
It was not long before they discerned the dark bodies galloping off in
alarm. Almost at the same moment the ranchers saw the outlines of
two horsemen riding from right to left, and goading the cattle to an
injuriously high pace. Grizzly Weber, who was slightly in advance,
turned his head and said, in excitement:
"Budd, they're not rustlers; they're Injins!"
THE "DOG INDIANS."
Weber was right in his declaration that the parties who were
stampeding a part of the herd were Indians. They were two in number,
both superbly mounted, and dashing back and forth with great
swiftness, as they urged the animals to a frantic flight. They knew
the danger of pursuit and the value of time.
The rancher, who shouted to his companion, was a few paces in advance
at the exciting moment he made the discovery. The sight so angered him
that he stopped abruptly and brought his rifle to his shoulder, with
the intention of shooting the marauder from his horse.
This would have been done the next instant but for the exclamation of
Grizzly Weber. Despite the noise and confusion, the Indian heard him
and saw his danger. Before the rancher could sight his weapon the
thief seemed to plunge headlong over the further side of his steed;
but instead of doing so he resorted to the common trick of his people,
all of whom are unsurpassable horsemen. He flung himself so far over
that nothing of his body remained visible. The horse himself became
the shield between him and the white man. The redskin was in the
saddle, but he would have been just as expert had he been riding
Weber muttered his disappointment, but held his rifle ready to fire
the instant he caught sight of any part of the fellow's person. At any
rate, a recourse was open to him; he could shoot the horse, and thus
place his enemy on the same footing with himself. He decided to do so.
The hurly-burly was bewildering. The cattle were bellowing in
affright, galloping frenziedly before the two horsemen, dashing back
and forth among them at the rear like two lunatics, and goading them
to desperate haste.
At the instant the Indian whom Grizzly Weber selected as his man
eluded his fatal aim, his horse was running diagonally. This could not
be continued without the abandonment of the herd. He must wheel, to
come back behind the fleeing cattle. The rancher waited for that
moment, prepared to fire the instant any tangible part of the body of
the rogue was revealed by the moonlight.
But an astonishing exploit prevented the shot. The savage wheeled,
just as was anticipated, but, in the act of doing so, threw himself
for a second time over the side of his horse, so as to interpose his
body. He did it with such inimitable dexterity that the rancher was
All this took place in a twinkling, as may be said; but, brief as
was the time, it caused Weber to lose valuable ground. The horse was
growing dimmer in the gloom, and, unless checked, would quickly be
beyond reach of the Winchester still levelled at him. Nothing was
easier than to drive a bullet through his brain and then have it out
with the Indian. Possibly the single bullet would end the career of
Budd Hankinson called out something, but Grizzly Weber did not catch
it. With grim resolution he sighted as best he could in the moonlight
at the galloping steed, and then with a shiver lowered his weapon
undischarged, awed by the sudden discovery of the deed he had come
within a hair of committing.
The erratic motions of the Indian and his horse entangled both with
the flying cattle. All at once the nimble steed became so crowded on
every side that his only escape from being gored to death was by a
tremendous bound which he made over the back of a terrified steer who
lowered his head for the purpose of driving his horns into his body.
He made the leap with amazing skill and grace.
As he went up in the air, with the Indian clinging to his side,
the astonishing leap was executed with perfect ease, precision and
perfectness, his figure rising above the mass of struggling animals
and standing out for a moment in clear relief.
That one glimpse of the outlines of the splendid horse, together with
the brilliancy of the performance itself, told Grizzly Weber that
the steed was his own Cap. The owner had by a hair escaped sending
a bullet through the brain of the animal whom he loved as his own
Grizzly was stupefied for an instant. Then, knowing that Cap had been
duped by some conjuration, he sent out the familiar signal with a
sharp distinctness that rose above the din and racket, which, to
ordinary ears, would have been overwhelming.
The result was remarkable, and approached the ridiculous. Cap heard
the call, and instantly turned to obey it. The Indian on his back
strove furiously to prevent and to keep him at his work. Cap fought
savagely, flinging his head aloft, rearing, plunging, and refusing
to follow the direction toward which the redskin twisted his head
by sheer strength. It was a strife between rider and steed, and the
latter made no progress in either direction while keeping up the
fight, which was as fierce as it was brief.
The Indian could not force the horse to obey him, and the efforts of
Cap to reach his master were defeated by the wrenching at the bit. It
looked as if the horse had been seized with the frenzy that possessed
every one, and was fighting and struggling aimlessly and accomplishing
But Grizzly Weber was not the one to stand idly by and allow this
extraordinary contest to go on. Nothing intervened between him and the
daring marauder, and he dashed toward him.
The redskin's audacity, nimbleness and self-possession excited the
admiration of Grizzly Weber, angered though he was at the trick played
on him. The rider knew the risk of keeping up the fight with the
obdurate beast, for the master was sure to arrive on the spot within
a few seconds. Before the rancher could reach him he went from the
saddle as if shot out of a gun.
Freed from his incubus, Cap emitted a joyful whinny and trotted toward
"You rascal!" exclaimed the delighted rancher, vaulting upon his back
in a twinkling. "Now we'll settle with the chap that tried to part you
All this consumed but a few moments. The Indian could not have gone
far. He would not dash among the cattle, who, now that they were
stampeded, were as dangerous as so many wild beasts. He had hardly
time to conceal himself, and Grizzly was certain that he had him.
All the same, however, the cowman made a miscalculation. When he
wheeled Cap about to run down the daring redskin he was nowhere to be
seen. There were no trees near, but there were boulders, rocks and
depressions, with the rich grass everywhere, and the dusky thief was
as safe as if beyond the Assinaboine, in British territory.
"I'm glad of it," thought Weber, a moment later; "a redskin that can
show such a performance as that desarves to save his scalp."
In the dizzying flurry Grizzly had no time to think of his companion,
who had enough to attend to his own matters. He now looked around for
him, but he, too, was invisible.
"I wonder whether he got his horse back, for Dick must have been
stole, the same as was Cap."
And, grateful for having regained possession of his horse, he patted
the silken neck of the noble animal.
Grizzly's years of experience with cattle apprised him of a gratifying
truth. The course of the stampeded herd was changing. Instead of
fleeing away from the main body they were veering around, so that, if
the change of course continued, they would return to the neighbourhood
from which they started.
Panic-smitten cattle are not apt to do a thing of that kind of their
own accord. Some cause, and a strong one, too, must have effected this
diversion in the line of flight. All at once, above the din, sounded
the penetrating voice of a man, who was striving with herculean energy
to change the course of the wild animals.
One sound of that voice was sufficient to identify it as Budd
Hankinson's. He must have played his cards well to have done all this
in so brief a space of time.
And such had been the case beyond a doubt. Budd suspected from the
first what did not enter Grizzly's mind until it flashed upon him
as described. The fact that neither of their horses appeared when
summoned convinced Budd that they had been stolen. True, even in that
case they would have obeyed the signal, had they been near enough, and
had the circumstances allowed them to identify it; but, although
not far off, the noise immediately around them shut out the call of
Grizzly from their ears, until he repeated it, as has been told.
Hankinson anticipated his friend in this act. In his case, the thief
in the saddle of Dick gave it up at once. He leaped off, and whisked
out of sight. It was then Budd called to Grizzly that the thieves had
their horses; but the other did not catch his words, and, therefore,
gave them no further heed.
The instant Budd's feet were in the stirrups he set his horse bounding
along the side of the herd, with the purpose of checking the stampede
by changing its course. Grizzly understood matters and set off after
him, leaving to the sagacious Cap to thread his way to the other side
of the running cattle.
In the course of a few minutes the ranchers opened communication and
pushed their work with a vigor which brought good results. The cattle
were tired. They had been on their feet most of the day while grazing,
were growing fat, and naturally were indisposed to severe exertion.
Their pace dropped to a walk, and sooner than would have been
supposed, the fright passed off. The herders kept them moving until
close to the main herd, where they were allowed to rest. Budd and
Grizzly dismounted once more, turning their horses loose, and seated
themselves on the ground. The night, as will be remembered, was mild,
and they did not need their blankets to make them comfortable.
"Wal," was the smiling remark of Grizzly, as he began refilling his
pipe, "my leg didn't deceive me this time."
"No, I'll own up it played square; but, Grizzly, if we've got to fight
the red varmints as well as rustlers, there will be some lively fun in
Wyoming and Montana before the thing is over."
"The Injins won't take a hand in this. You know who them two thieves
were, don't you?"
"A couple of 'dog Injins,' of course."
"There isn't anybody else that's got anything to do with this; it's
sort of queer--that is, it has struck me so two or three times--that
the Injins have tramps among 'em the same as white folks. They call
'em 'dog Injins,' I s'pose, 'cause they don't claim any particular
tribe, but tramp back and forth over the country, slipping off their
reservations whenever they get a chance."
"Yes, there are plenty of 'em," assented Budd; "we've met 'em before;
you'll find 'em as far north as the Saskatchewan and as low down as
the Rio Grande. But I say, Grizzly, they were two slick ones; I never
seen finer work."
"Nor me either; if they had been satisfied with taking our hosses we'd
never seen 'em agin. Gracious!" added the rancher, "for myself, I'd
rather lost half the herd than Cap."
"It seems to me," said Budd, after smoking a moment in silence, "that
although them 'dog Injins' was pretty smart in getting out of the way
when we come down on 'em, they weren't smart in trying to run off the
cattle. They must have known we'd find it out at daylight and would be
after 'em hot-footed."
Grizzly had been puzzling over the same phase of the question. The
'dog Indian' is a vagabond, who, belonging to some particular tribe,
as of necessity must be the case, affiliates with none, but goes
whithersoever his will leads him, provided he is not prevented.
Sometimes they remain on the reservation for weeks and months, as
orderly, industrious and well-behaved as the best of the red men. Then
they disappear, and may not turn up for a long time. In truth, they
are as likely not to turn up at all, but to lead their wandering,
useless lives just as the vagrants do in civilized communities.
Surely the couple who had played their parts in the incidents of the
night must have known that nothing could be gained by stampeding a
part of Whitney's herd. The cattle were branded, and could not be
disposed of for that reason. Besides, a couple of Indians in charge of
several hundred cattle would be objects of suspicion themselves, and
certain to be called to account. They could make no common cause with
the rustlers, for the latter would have naught to do with them.
More than likely Grizzly Weber hit the truth when he said:
"It was a piece of pure deviltry on their part. When they got into the
saddles they felt safe. Instead of making off with the hosses, they
thought they would stir up a little fun by stampeding the cattle.
After injuring 'em by rapid driving for a good many miles they would
have paid no more attention to 'em, and let us find 'em as best we
"Yes," assented Budd, "they bit off more'n they could chaw, and so
lost the hosses. But, Grizzly, have you noticed there's been several
guns shot off around the country to-night?"
"Yas," replied the other, indifferently; "I've heard 'em several
times, but I haven't obsarved any coming from the house; it must be
that some of the boys are having fun to-night instead of sleeping like
lambs, as they ought to do."
"And there'll be more of it to-morrow, but that's what we've got to
expect at all times. I'm going to sleep; call me when you want me."
Budd spread the blanket, which he had taken from the back of his
horse, on the ground and lay down. Hardly five minutes passed when
he was wrapped in sound slumber. To prevent himself from becoming
unconscious, Grizzly rose and walked slowly around and among the herd.
He had no thought of anything further occurring, for the 'dog Indians'
would be certain to keep away from that neighbourhood after what had
occurred. He did not feel easy, however, concerning his friends at the
ranch. He knew trouble was at hand, and he would have been glad if
the mother and daughter were removed beyond danger. The sounds of
rifle-firing and the bright glow in the horizon, made by a burning
building, confirmed his misgivings as to what a few days or hours were
sure to bring forth.
AN UNPLEASANT VISIT.
IT will be recalled that during these incidents Monteith Sterry and
Fred Whitney were sitting at the front of the long, low building,
which was the home of the latter, discussing the incidents of the
last day or two, as well as the matter of Whitney removing, with
his family, to the East, in order to prevent any addition to the
affliction they had just suffered.
Besides this, Whitney had turned on his young friend, and impressed
upon him that he, too, was incurring unjustifiable risk by remaining
in Wyoming during the inflamed state of public feeling. There was much
less excuse in the case of Sterry than of his host. He ought to be at
home prosecuting the study of his profession, as his parents wished
him to do. His health was fully restored, and it cannot be denied that
he was wasting his precious days. He was fond of his father, mother,
brothers and sisters, and it would grieve them beyond expression if he
should uselessly sacrifice himself.
"Yes," he replied, "I cannot deny the truth of what you say, Fred. I
ought to leave this part of the country."
"Of course; you're not needed; your future has been mapped for you,
and it is hard to make up lost time."
"We found that out at the high school," returned Mont, with a light
laugh; "but the pearl of great price, in a worldly sense, is good
health, and I have been repaid in securing it."
"And having secured it, it remains--Mont," added his companion
abruptly, but without the slightest change of tone, "don't stop to ask
me why, but step quickly through the door and into the house, and keep
out of sight for a few minutes."
"I understand," said Sterry, obeying without an instant's hesitation.
The prompt, unquestioning compliance with the request of Fred Whitney
showed that Monteith Sterry understood the reason that it was made of
The truth was, that during the last few minutes the young men were
talking in front of the house, each descried something suspicious on
the broad plain. They instinctively lowered their voices, and though
neither made reference to it, both gave more attention to it than to
their own words.
They heard nothing of the tramp of horses, but saw the shadowy
figures of several men hovering on what may be termed the line of
invisibility. Sometimes they were distinguished quite clearly, and
then seemed to vanish; but the youths could not be mistaken.
A number of persons were out there, not mounted, but on foot, and
moving about, without approaching any closer, for the space of several
minutes. It looked as if they were reconnoitering the house from a
distance and debating the best manner of procedure.
The suspicions of the friends were the same. They were rustlers
looking for the inspector.
Mont Sterry would have preferred to stay where he was and have it out
with them, but the circumstances were so peculiar that he could not
refuse to do as his comrade requested.
The cause of Whitney's wish was the abrupt increasing distinctness
of the figures, proof that they had reached a decision and were
approaching the house.
They speedily came into plain sight, four men, in the garb of cowmen,
and they were rustlers beyond question.
Conscious that they were seen, they now advanced directly, as if
coming from a distance, though the fact that they were on foot showed
that such was not the case.
With feelings which it would be hard to describe, Fred Whitney
recognized the first as Larch Cadmus, wearing the same whiskers as
before. Had he been thoughtful enough to disguise his voice the young
man would not have suspected his identity.
The moon had worked around into that quarter of the heavens that its
light shone on the figure of Fred, who rose to his feet, as was his
custom, and advanced a few paces to meet the newcomers.
"Good evening!" he said. "How happens it that you are afoot at this
time of night?"
"Our horses ain't fur off," replied Cadmus; "the rest of the boys
didn't think it worth while to trouble you."
"What do you mean by troubling me?" asked Fred, though he understood
"We're on an unpleasant errand," continued Cadmus, acting as the
spokesman of the party, the others remaining in the background and
"Shall I bring chairs for you? It is so unusually mild to-night that
I am sitting out doors from choice, and I do not wish to disturb my
mother and sister, who retired some time ago."
"No, we'll stand," was the curt response. "Whitney, as I suppose it
is, are you accustomed to sit out here alone?"
"Not when I can have company."
"Were you alone before we came up?"
"When you were here earlier in the evening, as you saw for yourself, I
had my sister and a friend."
"Exactly; who was that friend?"
"Mont Sterry, the gentleman who is on a little tour through some
parts of Wyoming and Montana to try to help make you fellows behave
"Yes; wal, we're looking for him."
"Why do you come here?"
"Because he spends a good deal of his time here; he seems to be
interested in Miss Whitney."
"Well, if he is, that is no business of yours," retorted Fred, angered
by the reference to his sister.
"Perhaps not, but it would be well for you to keep a civil tongue in
your head, Fred Whitney; we're not in a pleasant mood to-night, for
we've had trouble."
"It matters not to me what trouble you've had; you have no right to
name any member of my family. They are in affliction; my father was
shot down by your gang yesterday, and, though we made several of you
fellows bite the dust, the whole of them weren't worth his little
"We'll let them matters drop; I told you we're looking for Mont
Sterry, and we're going to have him."
"And I ask you again, why do you come here after him? I don't deny
that he was with me, but he left fully two hours ago."
"We know that; he gave us the slip, but we believe he came back."
"And I ask what reason you have for such belief; why did he bid us
good-by and ride away? I know that he had not the slightest intention
of returning for several days," said Fred, sticking to the technical
"We don't care what his intention was, he did come back."
"How do you know that?"
"He was sitting in that chair alongside of you less than ten minutes
ago; you were smoking and talking, though you didn't speak loud enough
for us to catch your words."
"Where is the proof, Larch Cadmus, of what you say?"
Without noticing this penetration of his disguise, the rustler turned
and spoke to the nearest of his companions:
"Spark Holly, how was it?"
"I seen 'em both and heard 'em talking," was the prompt response of
the individual appealed to.
"Are your eyes better than the others'?" asked Fred.
"They don't have to be," replied Cadmus, speaking for him. "While we
stayed in front of the house, Spark stole round to the rear, where
none of your family seen him. He got to the corner and had a good look
at both of you."
"Does he know Sterry?" inquired Fred, purposely raising his voice,
that his friend, standing a few feet away within the house, should not
miss a word.
"He don't know him, but I do, and the description Spark gives fits the
man we're after to a T. We want him."
"But the notice you gave Sterry allowed him twenty-four hours' grace.
Why do you ask for him now?"
"Them was my sentiments, but when I joined the party under Inman, a
little while ago, he told me the boys had reconsidered that matter,
and decided that after what Sterry has done, and tried to do, I hadn't
any right to make the promise."
"That may be their decision, but it cannot affect yours; you are bound
by the pledge you made in writing to him."
Larch Cadmus, like his companions, was growing impatient. He said:
"I haven't come here to argue the matter with you; I've come after my
man, and am going to have him."
"And I repeat what I said: he left more than two hours ago, and you
have no business to come here."
"Do you mean to tell me he isn't in the house?" demanded Cadmus, with
"I refuse to answer, but I do say that neither you nor any of your
gang shall enter my home, where are my mother and sister, their hearts
stricken by your murderous doings of yesterday, except over my dead
"We don't like to disturb the ladies," said Cadmus, "but we mean
business; we have promised the boys to bring back that fellow; but
I'll make a proposition."
"What is it?"
"If you will say that Mont Sterry is not in there, we'll go away
without disturbing any one; we'll take your word."
"I recognize no right of yours to question me," was the scornful reply
of Fred Whitney.
"Boys," said Cadmus, turning again to his companions, "that's only
another way of owning up that the coward is hiding here, afraid to
meet us; he's our game."
A DELICATE SITUATION.
Few men possessed more courage than Fred Whitney, and he was
Sitting in front of his own home during the evening, it naturally
happened that he was without any weapon at immediate command. His
Winchester and revolvers, his inseparable companions, during those
stirring times, whenever away from home, were inside. It need not be
said that every one of the rustlers had his "guns" in his possession,
so he was a single, defenceless man against four armed ones.
Nevertheless, he strode forward in front of the open door, determined
to make good his threat.
"You talk of cowards," he said; "you are four, and each has his
pistols and rifle; I have none and one arm is wounded, but I defy
"Come, come," said the leader, "this will do you no good; we're bound
to have that man, and if he won't come out we must go after him. If
you stand in the way we'll pitch you aside. We don't want to hurt
"Advance at your peril--"
"Fred, move a little to the left--that will do. I've got a bead on him
It was the voice of Mont Sterry, a few feet away, in the darkness of
the room. The muzzle of his rifle, however, projected just enough
to reflect the moonlight, and it was leveled at the breast of Larch
"One step," added Sterry, "and you're a dead man."
"Larch Cadmus," said Fred, thrilled by the occurrence, "for we
recognize you despite those whiskers, I never knew Mont Sterry to
break his word!"
Language cannot do justice to the situation. At the very moment the
miscreant was about to advance to hurl Whitney from his path he was
confronted by the muzzle of a loaded rifle, held by a man who was in
deadly earnest, and who realized he was at bay.
The startled ruffian recoiled a step and stared into the darkened
room, as if he failed to grasp the situation.
"Not a step in any direction," said Sterry, warningly; "if you attempt
to retreat, advance, or move aside, I'll fire."
It would be a rash thing for any one to deny that the young inspector
had secured the "drop" on Larch Cadmus.
But the man was accustomed to violence, and it took him but a minute
"Pretty well done, I'll own," he said, with a forced laugh; "but what
good is it going to do you? There are three more of us here and a
half-dozen hardly a hundred yards away."
"And what good will they do you?"
"Spark," said Cadmus, "slip back to the boys and give 'em the tip;
we'll see about this thing."
"The moment Spark or either of the other two stirs I'll let the
moonlight through _you!_ I'm going to keep my gun pointed right at
you, Mr. Cadmus. If those fellows think I'm worth more than you, they
have a chance to prove it, for only one of them has to take the first
step to leave, when I'll press this trigger just a little harder than
now. More than that, if one of them shouts, whistles, or makes any
kind of a signal, I'll do as I threaten. If any man doesn't think so,
let him make the trial."
"Well, I'll be hanged!" muttered Larch Cadmus; "this _is_ a go!"
Judging from the new turn of affairs, it looked as if a single
individual had the "drop" on four others.
It struck Larch Cadmus that this was a good occasion for something in
the nature of a compromise.
"See here, Sterry," he said, assuming an affected jocularity which
deceived no one, "I'll own you've played it on me mighty fine. But you
can't stand there all night with your Winchester p'inted at me, and
bime-by I'll git tired; can't we fix the matter up some way?"
"Fred," said Sterry, with the same coolness shown from the first,
"slip through the door; you know where your gun is; stoop a little,
so I won't have to shift my aim; when that is done we'll talk about
Fred Whitney, as quick as his companion to "catch on," did instantly
what was requested. He dodged into the darkened apartment, with which,
of course, he was so familiar that he needed the help of no light to
find his weapon.
Had Larch Cadmus been as subtle as his master, perhaps he might have
prevented this by ordering one of his men to cover Whitney with his
gun, though it is more than probable that Sterry still would have
forced the leading rustler to his own terms.
But there was one among the four with the cunning of a fox; he was
Spark Holly, who had located the inspector when in front of the house.
At the moment Cadmus was brought up all standing, as may be said,
Holly stood so far to one side that he was not in the young man's
field of vision. He, like his two companions, could have slipped off
at any moment without danger to himself, but it would have been at the
cost of their leader's life; nor could they shift their position and
raise a weapon to fire into the room, where there was a prospect
of hitting the daring youth at bay, without precipitating that
The instant, however, Fred Whitney turned his back on the rustlers,
Holly saw his opportunity. He vanished.
The others, more sluggish than he, held their places, dazed,
wondering, stupefied, and of no more account than so many logs of
Shrewd enough to do this clever thing, Spark Holly was too cautious to
spoil it by allowing his movement to be observed. Had he darted over
the plain in front of the house, Mont Sterry would have seen the
fleeing figure, understood what it meant, and, carrying out his
threat, shot down Larch Cadmus.
Holly lost no time in dodging behind the structure, moving with the
stealth of an Indian in the stillness of the night. Then he made a
circuit so wide that, as he gradually described a half-circle and came
round to the point whence he had first advanced to the dwelling, he
was so far off that the keenest vision from the interior could not
catch a glimpse of him.
Certain of this, he ran only a short distance, when he came up with
the half-dozen mounted rustlers of whom Cadmus had spoken, and who
were wondering at the unaccountable delay.
The messenger quickly made everything plain, and they straightway
proceeded to take a hand in the business.
Larch Cadmus was well fitted to act the leader of so desperate a
company of men. He was chagrined beyond measure at the manner in which
the tables had been turned on him, but, like all such persons, when
caught fairly, he knew how to accept the situation philosophically.
None understood better than he that the individual who held that
Winchester levelled would press the trigger on the first provocation.
He was the one that had sent the warning, and the other was the one
that had received it. The twenty-four hours' truce had been ended by
the words and action of Cadmus himself, and his chief wonder, now that
Fred Whitney was with him, was that Monteith Sterry should show any
mercy to his persecutor; had the situations been reversed, the course
also would have been different.
But the ruffian was on the alert. He noticed the guarded movement of
Spark Holly at the moment Whitney entered his home, and he needed no
one to tell him what it meant.
He had slipped off to bring help and it would not take him long to do
it, though Cadmus might well feel uneasy over what would take place
when Sterry should learn the trick played on him.
It may be that a person's senses are keener in situations of grave
peril than at other times, for, calculating as clearly as he could the
period it would take his comrade to reach the horsemen, only a short
way back on the prairie, Cadmus heard sounds which indicated their
approach, though they must remain invisible for several minutes.
"Wal," said he, in his off-hand manner, directly after Whitney had
whisked into the house, "now that you're together, how long do you
mean to keep this thing up?"
"We're through," was the response.
"What do you mean?" asked the surprised fellow.
"You can go away as soon as you please. Mont Sterry doesn't care
anything more about you, but I'll keep you covered as long as you are
in sight, and if you or any of your men try any deception you'll take
With a moment's hesitation, doubtless caused by distrust of his
master, Cadmus began edging to one side. A few steps were enough to
take him out of range of that dreaded weapon, and then his demeanour
"That was a good trick of yours, Mont Sterry, but it won't do you a
bit of good."
"Here come the rest of the boys, and if you think you can hold them
up, why try it."
At that moment the horsemen assumed form in the gloom and approached
the house in a diagonal direction. Encouraged by their presence, Larch
Cadmus once more moved toward the open door and resumed the position
"Now, my fine fellow, we summon you to surrender," he called in his
brusquest voice and manner.
The reply was striking. A young man stepped from the door and advanced
to meet the horsemen. There was an instant when Cadmus believed his
victim had come forth to give himself up as commanded, but one glance
showed that it was Fred Whitney. He calmly awaited the coming of the
mounted men, saluted them, and said:
"You have come for Mont Sterry, and Cadmus there assures me that if
I give him my word that he is not in my house he will accept the
statement; do you agree to it?"
"How's that, Larch?" asked Ira Inman, turning toward him.
"Them was my words, but--"
"Well, then, I have to say that Mont Sterry is not in my house; the
only persons there are my mother and sister."
"But I seen him, and he got the drop on me--how's that?"
"Yes," replied Whitney, enjoying his triumph, "he was there a few
minutes ago, and he _did_ get the drop on you and the rest of your
fellows; but I took his place; he went out of the back door, mounted
his mare, and if there's any of you that think you can overhaul him,
you can't start a moment too soon."
No man who heard these words doubted their truth. They told such a
straightforward tale that they could not be questioned. They would
have been zanies had they believed that, with the back door at command
and the certain approach of his enemies, Sterry had waited for them to
True, he and his friend would have held a strong position, in which
they could have made it warm for the others, but the ultimate
advantage must have been on the side of the assailants.
The laugh was on Cadmus, and those were the men who, in their chagrin,
vented their feelings upon him. The worst of it was, he was as angry
as they; but he might well ask how he could have helped himself, and
whether any one of them would have done any better.
The foxy Holly, at a whispered word from Inman, darted around the end
of the building and entered the stables. A brief examination showed
that no animals, all being known to him, except those belonging to
Whitney, were there.
Had any doubt remained, it was removed by his sense of hearing.
Without the intervention of the dwelling to obstruct the sound, he
caught the faint, rhythmic beating of the earth, barely audible and
gradually growing fainter in the distance. It was just such a sound as
is made by a horse going at a leisurely, sweeping gallop, and that was
the explanation he gave it.
Mont Sterry was safe beyond pursuit, for there was no horse in the
company that could overtake him. Spark Holly returned to the party in
front and made his report.
It may be said the report was accepted and placed on file for future
It was characteristic of those men, too, that they did not delay
their own actions, now that their business may be said to have been
"Well," said Inman, "that isn't the first time that fellow gave us the
slip to-night. The way he did it before was mighty clever, but I don't
see that he deserves any credit for fooling Cadmus, for any one would
have known enough to do that. But remember that Mr. Mont Sterry is
still in Wyoming, and we are not through with him yet."
"And there ain't any twenty-four hours' truce," added Cadmus.
"After what has taken place, there's little fear of Sterry making any
mistake on that point," said Whitney, who was so pleased over the
outcome of matters that he could speak in gentler terms than he would
have used had the circumstances been different.
It would seem strange that these men, who but a brief time before were
so hostile to the single person now in their power, should converse
without the least offensive action; but most, if not all, of the
doings of the men concerned in the late troubles in that section were
in hot blood, and would not have occurred had time been taken for
thought and consideration.
Inman and his brother rustlers wheeled about and rode off in the
direction whence they came. Their movements indicated that they had
no intention of following Sterry, since the course taken by him was
almost directly the opposite; but Whitney was not fully satisfied. He
remained in front of his home, listening in the stillness of the night
to the sounds made by the hoofs of the galloping horses.
Gradually they grew fainter, until, had there been any air stirring,
or had the tension of hearing been less, he would have heard nothing;
but, when the noises were hovering close to inaudibility, they
continued thus. They neither increased nor diminished, but remaining
the same, steadily shifted the direction whence they came.
Instead of keeping to the westward, as they had been for a long
time, they worked around to the north and east. Then the decrease in
distinctness of sound was so rapid that it was quickly lost.
The truth was evident: the rustlers had started in pursuit of Sterry,