Part 2 out of 6
them in the adobe back of the office, wondered that two such men found
nothing more serious to talk about than the breeding of horses and the
growing of garden truck.
Late that night the assistant awoke to find that the collector was not
in bed. He rose and stalked to the window. Across from the adobe he saw
the grim face of the collector framed in the office window. He was
smoking a cigar and gazing toward the south, his long arm resting on the
sill and his chin in his hand.
"Ole fool!" muttered the assistant affectionately. "That there Jim
Waring must sure be some hombre to make Pat lose any sleep."
_The Return of Waring_
The interior of the little desert hotel at Stacey, Arizona, atoned for
its bleached and weather-worn exterior by a refreshing neatness that was
almost startling in contrast to the warped board front with its painted
sign scaled by the sun.
The proprietress, Mrs. Adams, a rosy, dark-haired woman, had heard the
Overland arrive and depart. Through habit she listened until the distant
rumble of the train diminished to a faint purr. No guests had arrived on
the Overland. Stacey was not much of a town, and tourists seldom stopped
there. Mrs. Adams stepped from the small office to the dining-room and
arranged some flowers in the center of the long table. She happened to
be the only woman in the desert town who grew flowers.
The Overland had come and gone. Another day! Mrs. Adams sighed, patted
her smooth black hair, and glanced down at her simple and neat attire.
She rearranged the flowers, and was stepping back to view the effect
when something caused her to turn and glance toward the office. There
had been no sound, yet in the doorway stood a man--evidently a rider. He
was looking at the calendar on the office wall. Mrs. Adams stepped
toward him. The man turned and smiled. She gazed with awakening
astonishment at the dusty, khaki-clad figure, the cool gray eyes beneath
the high-crowned sombrero, and last at the extended hand. Without
meeting the man's eyes, she shook hands.
"Jim! How did you know?" she queried, her voice trembling.
"I heard of you at Nogales. I wasn't looking for you--then. You have a
right pleasant place here. Yours?"
"I came to see the boy," he said. "I'm not here for long."
"Oh, Jim! Lorry is so big and strong--and--and he's working for the
Starr outfit over west of here."
"Cattle, eh? Is he a good boy?"
"A nice question for you to ask! Lorry rides a straighter trail than his
The man laughed and patted her shoulder affectionately. "You needn't
have said that, Annie. You knew what I was when I married you. And no
man ever said I wasn't straight. Just what made you leave Sonora without
saying a word? Didn't I always treat you well?"
"I must say that you did, Jim. You never spoke a rough word to me in
your life. I wish you had. You'd be away for weeks, and then come back
and tell me it was all right, which meant that you'd 'got your man,' as
they say down there. At first I was too happy to care. And when the baby
came and I tried to get you to give up hiring out to men who wanted
killing done,--for that's what it was,--you kept telling me that some
day you would quit. Maybe they did pay big, but you could have been
anything else you wanted to. You came of good folks and had education.
But you couldn't live happy without that excitement. And you thought I
was happy because you were. Why, even up here in Arizona they sing
'Waring of Sonora-Town.' Our boy sings it, and I have to listen, knowing
that it is you he sings about. I was afraid of you, Jim, and afraid our
boy would grow up to be like you."
Waring nodded. "I'm not blaming you, Annie. I asked why you left
me--without a word or an address. Do you think that was square?"
Mrs. Adams, flushed, and the tears came to her eyes. "I didn't dare
think about that part of it. I was afraid of you. I got so I couldn't
sleep, worrying about what might happen to you when you were away. And
you always came back, but you never said where you'd been or what you'd
done. I couldn't stand it. If you had only told me--even about the
men--that you were paid to kill, I might have stood it. But you never
said a word. The wives of the American folks down there wouldn't speak
to me. And the Mexican women hated me. I was the wife of Jim Waring,
'the killer.' I think I went crazy."
"Well, I never did believe in talking shop, Annie."
"That's just it. You were always polite--and calling what you did,
'shop'! I don't believe you ever cared for a single person on this
"You ought to know, Annie. But we won't argue that. Don't act as though
you had to defend yourself. I am not blaming you--now. You have
explained. I did miss the boy, though. Are you doing well here?"
"It was hard work at first. But I never did write to father to help me."
"You might have written to me. When did the boy go to work? He's
eighteen, isn't he?"
Mrs. Adams smiled despite herself. "Yes, this fall. He started in with
the Starr people at the spring round-up."
"Couldn't he help you here?"
"He did. But he's not the kind to hang round a hotel. He's all man--if I
do say it." And Mrs. Adams glanced at her husband. In his lithe,
well-set-up figure she saw what her son would be at forty. "Yes, Jim,
he's man size--and I've raised him to go straight."
Waring laughed. "Of course you have! What name will I sign, Annie?"
"Folks here call me Mrs. Adams."
"So you're Annie Adams again! Well, here's your husband's name, if you
don't mind." And he signed the register, "James Waring, Sonora, Mexico."
"Isn't that risky?" she queried.
"No one knows me up here. And I don't intend to stay long. I'd like to
see the boy."
"Jim, you won't take him away!"
"You know me better than that. You quit me down there, and I won't say
that I liked it. I wondered how you'd get along. You left no word. When
I realized that you must have wanted to leave me, that settled it.
Following you would have done no good, even if I had known where you had
gone. I was free. And a gunman has no business with a family."
"You might have thought about that before you came courting me."
"I did. Didn't you?"
"You're hard, Jim. I was just a girl. Any woman would have been glad to
marry you then. But when I got sense enough to see how you earned your
money--I just had to leave. I was afraid to tell you--"
"There, now, Annie; we'll let that go. I won't say that I don't care,
but I've been mighty busy since you left. I didn't know where you were
until I hit Nogales. I wanted to see you and the boy. And I'm as hungry
as a grizzly."
"Anita is getting supper. Some of the folks in town board here. They'll
be coming in soon."
"All right. I'm a stranger. I rode over. I'd like to wash up."
"You _rode_ over?"
"Yes. Why not? I know the country."
Mrs. Adams turned and gestured toward the stairway. She followed him and
showed him to a room. So he hadn't come in on the Overland, but had
ridden up from Sonora. Why had he undertaken such a long, weary ride?
Surely he could have taken the train! She had never known him to be
without money. But he had always been unaccountable, coming and going
when he pleased, saying little, always serene. And now he had not said
why he had ridden up from Sonora. "Why not?" was all that he had said in
He swung out of his coat and washed vigorously, thrusting his fingers
through his short, curly hair and shaking his head in boyish enjoyment
that was refreshing to watch. She noticed that he had not aged much. He
seemed too cool, too self-possessed always, to show even the ordinary
trace of years. She could not understand him; yet she was surprised by a
glow of affection for him now that he had returned. As he dried his head
she saw that his hair was tinged with gray, although his face was lined
but little and his gray eyes were as keen and quick as ever. If he had
only shared even that part of his life with her--down there!
"Jim!" she whispered.
He turned as he took up his coat. "Yes, Annie?"
"If you would only promise--"
He shook his head. "I won't do that. I didn't come to ask anything of
you except to see the boy But if you need money--"
"No. Not that kind of money."
"All right, girl." And his voice was cheery. "I didn't come here to make
you feel bad. And I won't be here long. Can't we be friends while I'm
here? Of course the boy will know. But no one else need know. And--you
better see to the folks downstairs. Some one just came in."
She turned and walked down the hall, wondering if he had ever cared for
her, and wondering if her boy, Lorry, would ever come to possess that
almost unhuman quality of intense alertness, that incomprehensible
coolness that never allowed him to forget what he was for an instant.
When Waring came down she did not introduce him to the boarders, a fact
that sheriff Buck Hardy, who dined at the hotel, noted with some
interest. The men ate hastily, rose, and departed, leaving Hardy and
Waring, who called for a second cup of coffee and rolled a cigarette
Hardy had seen the stranger ride into town on the big buckskin. The
horse bore a Mexican brand. The hotel register told Hardy who the
stranger was. And the sheriff of Stacey County was curious to know just
what the Sonora gunman was doing in town.
Waring sat with his unlighted cigarette between his fingers. The sheriff
proffered a match. Their eyes met. Waring nodded his thanks and blew a
"How are things down in Sonora?" queried Hardy.
Mrs. Adams questioned Waring with her eyes. He nodded. "This is Mr.
Waring," she said, rising. "This is Mr. Hardy, our sheriff."
The men shook hands. "Mrs. Adams is a good cook," said Waring.
A clatter of hoofs and the sound of a cheery voice broke the silence.
A young cowboy jingled into the room. "Hello, Buck! Hello, mother!" And
Lorry Adams strode up and kissed his mother heartily. "Got a runnin'
chance to come to town and I came--runnin'. How's everything?"
Mrs. Adams murmured a reply. Buck Hardy was watching Waring as he
glanced up at the boy. The sheriff pulled a cigar from his vest and
lighted it. In the street he paused in his stride, gazing at the end of
his cigar. Lorry Adams looked mighty like Jim Waring, of Sonora. Hardy
had heard that Waring had been killed down in the southern country. Some
one had made a mistake.
Waring had risen. He stood with one hand touching the table, the tips of
his fingers drumming the rhythm of a song he hummed to himself. The
boy's back was toward him. Waring's gaze traveled from his son's head to
Lorry noticed that his mother seemed perturbed. He turned to Waring
with a questioning challenge in his gray eyes.
Mrs. Adams touched the boy's arm. "This is your father, Lorry."
Lorry glanced from one to the other.
Waring made no movement, offered no greeting, but stood politely
Mrs. Adams spoke gently: "Lorry!"
"Why, hello, dad!" And the boy shook hands with his father.
Waring gestured toward a chair. Lorry sat down. His eyes were warm with
"Smoke?" said Waring, proffering tobacco and papers.
Lorry's gaze never left his father's face as he rolled a cigarette and
lighted it. Mrs. Adams realized that Waring's attitude of cool
indifference appealed to the boy.
Lorry remembered his father dimly. He was curious to know just what kind
of man he was. He didn't talk much; that was certain. The boy remembered
that his mother had not said much about her husband, answering Lorry's
childish questionings with a promise to tell him some day. He recalled a
long journey on the train, their arrival at Stacey, and the taking over
of the run-down hotel that his mother had refurnished and made a place
of neatness and comfort. And his mother had told him that she would be
known "Mrs. Adams." Lorry had been so filled with the newness of things
that the changing of their name was accepted without question. Slowly
his recollection of Sonora and the details of their life there came back
to him. These things he had all but forgotten, as he had grown to love
Arizona, its men, its horses, its wide ranges and magic hills.
Mrs. Adams remembered that her husband had once told her he could find
out more about a man by watching his hands than by asking questions. She
noticed that Waring was watching his son's hands with that old,
deliberate coldness of attitude. He was trying to find out just what
sort of a man his boy had grown to be.
Lorry suddenly straightened in his chair. Mrs. Adams, anticipating his
question, nodded to Waring.
"Yes," said Waring; "I am the Waring of Sonora that you are thinking
Lorry flushed. "I--I guess you are," he stammered. "Mother, you never
told me _that_."
"You were too young to understand, Lorry."
"And is that why you left him?"
"Well, maybe you were right. But dad sure looks like a pretty decent
hombre to me."
They laughed in a kind of relief. The occasion had seemed rather
"Ask your mother, Lorry. I am out of it." And, rising Waring strode to
"I'll see you again," said Waring. And he stepped to the street, humming
his song of "Sonora and the Silver Strings."
Mrs. Adams put her arm about her son's shoulders. "Your father is a hard
man," she told him.
"Was he mean to you, mother?"
"Well, I don't understand it. He looks like a real man to me. Why did he
"He said he came back to see you."
"Well, he's my father, anyway," said Lorry.
In the low hills west of Stacey, Lorry was looking for strays. He worked
alone, whistling as he rode, swinging his glasses on this and that
arroyo and singling out the infrequent clumps of greasewood for a touch
of brighter color in their shadows. He urged his pony from crest to
crest, carelessly easy in the saddle, alive to his work, and quietly
happy in the lone freedom of thought and action.
He felt a bit proud of himself that morning. Only last night he had
learned that he was the son of Waring of Sonora; a name to live up to,
if Western standards meant anything, and he thought they did.
The fact that he was the son of James Waring overcame for the time being
the vague disquietude of mind attending his knowledge that his mother
and father had become estranged. He thought he understood now why his
mother had made him promise to go unarmed upon the range. His
companions, to the last man, "packed a gun."
Heretofore their joshing had not bothered him. In fact, he had rather
enjoyed the distinction of going unarmed, and he had added to this
distinction by acquiring a skill with the rope that occasioned much
natural jealousy among his fellows. To be top-hand with a rope among
such men as Blaze Andrews, Slim Trivet, Red Bender, and High-Chin Bob,
the foreman, was worth all the patient hours he had given to persistent
practice with the reata.
But to-day he questioned himself. His mother had made him promise to go
unarmed because she feared he would become like his father. Why hadn't
she told him more about it all? He felt that she had taken a kind of
mean advantage of his unwavering affection for her. He was a man, so far
as earning his wage was concerned. And she was the best woman in the
world--but then women didn't understand the unwritten customs of the
On a sandy ridge he reined up and gazed at the desert below. The bleak
flats wavered in the white light of noon. The farthest hills to the
south seemed but a few miles away.
For some time he focused his gaze at the Notch, from which the road
sprang and flowed in slow undulations to a vanishing point in the blank
spaces of the west. His pony, Gray Leg, head up and nostrils working,
twitched back one ear as Lorry spoke: "You see it, too?"
Gray Leg continued to gaze into the distance, occasionally stamping an
impatient forefoot, as though anxious to be off. Lorry lowered his glass
and raised it again. In the circle of the binoculars he saw a tiny,
distant figure dismount from a black horse and walk back and forth
across the road directly below the Notch. Lorry wiped his glasses and
centered them on the Notch again. The horseman had led his horse to a
clump of brush. Presently the twinkling front of an automobile
appeared--a miniature machine that wormed slowly through the Notch and
descended the short pitch beyond. Suddenly the car swerved and stopped.
Lorry saw a flutter of white near the machine. Then the concealed
horseman appeared on foot. Lorry slipped the glass in his shirt.
"We'll just mosey over and get a closer look," he told his pony. "Things
don't look just right over there."
Gray Leg, scenting a new interest, tucked himself together. The sand
sprayed to little puffs of dust as he swung to a lope.
Lorry was curious--and a bit elated at the promise of a break in the
monotony of hunting stray cattle. Probably some Eastern tourist had
taken the grade below the Notch too fast and ditched his machine. Lorry
would ride over and help him to right the car and set the pilgrim on his
way rejoicing. He had helped to right cars before. Last month, for
instance; that big car with the uniformed driver and the wonderfully
gowned women. He recalled the fact that one of them had been absolutely
beautiful, despite her strange mufflings. She had offered to pay him for
his trouble. When he refused she had thanked him eloquently with her
fine eyes and thrown him a kiss as he turned to go. She had thrown that
kiss with two hands! There was nothing stingy about that lady!
But possibly the machine toward which he rode carried nothing more
interesting than men; fat, well-dressed men who smoked fat cigars and
had much to say about "high" and "low," but didn't seem to know a great
deal about "Jack" and "The Game." If _they_ offered to pay him for
helping them--well, that was a different matter.
The pony loped toward the Notch, quite as eager as his rider to attend a
performance that promised action. Within a half-mile of the Notch, Lorry
pulled the pony to a walk. Just beyond the car he had seen the head and
ears of a horse. The rider was afoot, talking to the folks in the car.
This didn't look quite right.
He worked his pony through the shoulder-high brush until within a few
yards of the other man, who was evidently unwelcome. One of the two
women stood in front of the other as though to shield her.
Lorry took down his rope just as the younger of the two women saw his
head above the brush. The strange horseman, noting her expression,
turned quickly. Lorry's pony jumped at the thrust of the spurs. The rope
circled like a swallow and settled lightly on the man's shoulders. The
pony wheeled. The blunt report of a gun punctured the silence, followed
by the long-drawn ripping of brush and the snorting of the pony.
The man was dragging and clutching at the brush. He had dropped his gun.
Lorry dug the spurs into Gray Leg. The rope came taut with a jerk. The
man rolled over, his hands snatching at the noose about his neck. Lorry
dismounted and ran to him. He eased the loop, and swiftly slipped it
over the man's feet.
Gray Leg, who knew how to keep a rope taut better than anything else,
slowly circled the fallen man. Lorry picked up the gun and strode over
to the car. One of the women was crouching on the running-board. In
front of her, pale, straight, stiffly indignant, stood a young woman
whose eyes challenged Lorry's approach.
"It's all right, miss. He won't bother you now."
"Is he dead?" queried the girl.
"I reckon not."
"I heard a shot. I thought you killed him."
"No, ma'am. He took a crack at me. I don't pack a gun."
"You're a cowboy?" And the girl laughed nervously, despite her effort to
hold herself together.
"I aim to be," said Lorry, a trifle brusquely.
The elder woman peered through her fingers. "Another one!" she moaned.
"No, mother. This one is a cowboy. It's all right."
"It sure is. What was his game?"
"He told us to give him our money."
"Uh-uh. This is the second holdup here at the Notch this summer."
"He's trying to get up!" exclaimed the girl.
"My hoss'll take care of him."
"But your horse might drag him to death."
"Well, it's his own funeral, ain't it?"
The girl's eyes grew big. She stepped back. If she had only said
something Lorry would have felt better. As it was he felt decidedly
"If you'll say what is right, ma'am, I'll do it. You want me to turn him
"I--No. But can't you do something for him?"
Lorry laughed. "I reckon you don't sabe them kind, miss. And mebby you
want to get that car on the road again."
"Yes," said the girl's mother. "I think this young man knows what he is
Lorry stepped to the car to examine it.
The girl followed him. "I think there is nothing broken. We just turned
to come down that hill. We were coasting when I saw a rope stretched
across the road. I didn't know what to do. I tried to stop. We slid off
"Uh-uh. He had it all ribbed up to stop you. Now if you had kept on
"But I didn't know what the rope meant. I was frightened. And before I
knew what had happened he stepped right on the running-board and told
us to give him our money."
"Yes, ma'am. If you can start her up, I'll get my rope on the axle and
"But the man might get up!" said the girl.
Lorry grinned. A minute or two ago she had been afraid that the man
wouldn't get up. Lorry slipped the rope from the man's ankles and tied
it to the front axle. The girl got in the car. The pony buckled to his
work. The machine stuttered and purred. With a lurch it swung back into
the road. The girl's mother rose, brushed her skirt, and stepped to the
car. Lorry unfastened the rope and reined to one side.
The car steered badly. The girl stopped it and beckoned to Lorry.
"There's something wrong with the steering-gear. Are the roads good from
here to the next town?"
"Not too good. There's some heavy sand about a mile west."
She bit her lip. "Well, I suppose we'll have to turn back."
"You could get to Stacey, ma'am. You could get your car fixed, and my
mother runs the hotel there. It's a good place to stop."
"About eight miles. Three miles back the road forks and the left-hand
road goes to town. The regular automobile road don't go to Stacey."
"Well, I suppose there is nothing else to do. I'll try and turn
around." And the girl backed the car and swung round in a wavering arc.
When the car faced the east she stopped it.
Lorry rode alongside. She thanked him for his services. "And please
don't do anything to that man," she pleaded. "He has been punished
enough. You almost killed him. He looked so wretched. Can't you give him
a good talking to and let him go?"
"I could, ma'am. But it ain't right. He'll try this here stunt again.
There's a reward out for him."
"But won't you--please!"
Lorry flushed. "You got a good heart all right, but you ain't been long
in the West. Such as him steals hosses and holds up folks and robs
"But you're not an officer," she said, somewhat unkindly.
"I reckon any man is an officer when wimmin-folk is gettin' robbed. And
I aim to put him where he belongs."
"Thank you for helping us," said the girl's mother.
"You're right welcome, ma'am." And, raising his hat, Lorry turned and
rode to where the man lay.
The car crept up the slope. Lorry watched it until it had topped the
ridge. Then he dismounted and turned the man over.
"What you got to say about my turnin' you loose?" he queried as the
other sat up.
"All right. Get a movin'--and don't try to run. I got my rope handy."
The man's rusty black coat was torn and wrinkled. His cheap cotton shirt
was faded and buttonless. His boots were split at the sole, showing part
of a bare foot. He was grimy, unshaven, and puffed unhealthily beneath
the eyes. Lorry knew that he was but an indifferent rider without seeing
him on a horse. He was a typical railroad tramp, turned highwayman.
"Got another gun on you?" queried Lorry.
The man shook his head.
"Where'd you steal that horse?"
"Who says I stole him?"
"I do. He's a Starr horse. He was turned out account of goin' lame. Hop
along. I'll take care of him."
The man plodded across the sand. Lorry followed on Gray Leg, and led the
other horse. Flares of noon heat shot up from the reddish-gray levels.
Lorry whistled, outwardly serene, but inwardly perturbed. That girl had
asked him to let the man go and she had said "please." But, like all
women, she didn't understand such things.
They approached a low ridge and worked up a winding cattle trail. On the
crest Lorry reined up. The man sat down, breathing heavily.
"What you callin' yourself?" asked Lorry.
"A dam' fool."
"I knew that. Anything else?"
"Waco, eh? Well, that's an insult to Texas. What's your idea in holdin'
up wimmin-folk, anyhow?"
"Mebby you'd hold up anybody if you hadn't et since yesterday morning."
"Think I believe that?"
"Suit yourself. You got me down."
"Well, you can get up and get movin'."
The man rose. He shuffled forward, limping heavily. Occasionally he
stopped and turned to meet a level gaze that was impersonal; that
promised nothing. Lorry would have liked to let the other ride. The man
was suffering--and to ride would save time. But the black, a rangy,
quick-stepping animal, was faster than Gray Leg. But what if the man did
escape? No one need know about it. Yet Lorry knew that he was doing
right in arresting him. In fact, he felt a kind of secret pride in
making the capture. It would give him a name among his fellows. But was
there any glory in arresting such a man?
Lorry recalled the other's wild shot as he was whirled through the
brush. "He sure tried to get me!" Lorry argued. "And any man that'd hold
up wimmin ought to be in the calaboose--"
The trail meandered down the hillside and out across a barren flat.
Halfway across the flat the trail forked. Lorry had ceased to whistle.
At the fork his pony stopped of its own accord. The man turned
questioningly. Lorry gestured toward the right-hand trail. The man
staggered on. The horses fretted at the slow pace. Keen to anticipate
some trickery, Lorry hardened himself to the other's condition. Perhaps
the man was hungry, sick, suffering. Well, a mile beyond was the
water-hole. The left-hand trail led directly to Stacey, but there was no
water along that trail.
They moved on across a stretch of higher land that swept in a gentle,
sage-dotted slope to the far hills. Midway across the slope was a bare
spot burning like white fire in the desert sun. It was the water-hole.
The trail became paralleled by other trails, narrow and rutted by
Within a hundred yards of the water-hole the prisoner collapsed. Lorry
dismounted and went for water.
The man drank, and Lorry helped him up and across the sand to the rim of
the water-hole. The man gazed at the shimmering pool with blurred eyes.
Lorry rolled a cigarette. "Roll one?" he queried.
The man Waco took the proffered tobacco and papers. His weariness seemed
to vanish as he smoked. "That pill sure saved my life," he asserted.
"How much you reckon your life's worth?"
Waco blew a smoke-ring and nodded toward it as it dissolved. Lorry
pondered. The keen edge of his interest in the capture had worn off,
leaving a blunt purpose--a duty that was part of the day's work. As he
realized how much the other was at his mercy a tinge of sympathy
softened his gray eyes. Justice was undeniably a fine thing. Folks were
entitled to the pursuit of happiness, to life and liberty he had read
somewhere. He glanced up. Waco, seated opposite, had drifted back into a
stupor, head sunk forward and arms relaxed. The stub of his cigarette
lay smouldering between his feet. Lorry thought of the girl's appeal.
"Just what started you to workin' this holdup game?" he queried.
Waco's head came up. "You joshin' me?"
"You wouldn't believe a hard-luck story, so what's the use?"
"Ain't any. I was just askin' a question. Roll another?"
Waco stuck out his grimy paw. His fingers trembled as he fumbled the
tobacco and papers.
Lorry proffered a match. "It makes me sick to see a husky like you all
shot to pieces," said Lorry.
"Did you just get wise to that?"
"Nope. But I just took time to say it."
Waco breathed deep, inhaling the smoke. "I been crooked all my life," he
"I can believe that. 'Course you know I'm takin' you to Stacey."
"The left-hand trail was quicker," ventured the tramp.
"And no water."
"I could ride," suggested Waco.
Lorry shook his head. "If you was to make a break I'd just nacherally
plug you. I got your gun. You're safer afoot."
"Nope. You're too willin'."
"I'm all in," said Waco.
"I got to take you to Stacey just the same."
"And you're doin' it for the money--the reward."
"That's my business."
"Go ahead," said the tramp. "I hope you have a good time blowin' in the
dough. Blood-money changes easy to booze-money when a lot of cow-chasers
get their hooks on it."
"Don't get gay!" said Lorry. "I aim to use you white as long as you work
gentle. If you don't--"
"That's the way with you guys that do nothin' but chase a cow's tail
over the country. You handle folks the same as stock--rough stuff and to
hell with their feelin's."
"You're feelin' better," said Lorry. "Stand up and get to goin'."
As Waco rose, Lorry's pony nickered. A rider was coming down the
distant northern hillside. In the fluttering silken bandanna and the
twinkle of silver-studded trappings Lorry recognized the foreman of the
Starr Rancho; Bob Brewster, known for his arrogance as "High-Chin Bob."
"Guess we'll wait a minute," said Lorry.
Waco saw the rider, and asked who he was.
"It's High Chin, the foreman. You been ridin' one of his string of
horses--the black there."
"He's your boss?"
"Yes. And I'm right sorry he's ridin' into this camp. You was talkin' of
feelin's. Well, he ain't got any."
Brewster loped up and dismounted. "What's your tally, kid?"
Lorry shook his head. "Only this," he said jokingly.
Brewster glanced at Waco. "Maverick, all right. Where'd you rope _him_?"
"I run onto him holdin' up some tourists down by the Notch. I'm driftin'
him over to Stacey."
High Chin's eyes narrowed. "Was he ridin' that horse?" And he pointed to
Lorry admitted that he had found the horse tied in the brush near the
High Chin swung round. "You fork your bronc and get busy. There's eighty
head and over strayin' in here, and the old man ain't payin' you to
entertain hobos. I'll herd this hombre to camp."
With his arm outflung the tramp staggered up to the foreman. "I come
back--to tell you--that I'm going to live to get you right. I got a
hunch that all hell can't beat out. I'll get you!"
"We won't have any trouble," said Waring.
High Chin whirled his horse round. "What's it to you? Who are you,
buttin' in on this?"
"My name is Waring. I used to mill around Sonora once."
High Chin blinked. He knew that name. Slowly he realized that the man on
the big buckskin meant what he said when he asserted that there would be
"Well, I'm foreman of the Starr, and you're fired!" he told Lorry.
"That's no news," said Lorry, grinning.
"And I'm goin' to herd this hoss-thief to camp," he continued, spurring
toward Waco, who had started to walk away.
"Not this journey," said Waring, pushing his horse between them. "The
boy don't pack a gun. I do."
"You talk big--knowin' I got no gun," said High Chin.
Lorry rode over to the foreman. "Here's your gun, High. I ain't no
The foreman holstered the gun and reined round toward Waring. "Now do
your talkin'," he challenged.
Waring made no movement, but sat quietly watching the other's gun hand.
"You have your gun?" he said, as though asking a question. "If you mean
business, go ahead. I'll let you get your gun out--and then I'll get
you--and you know it!" And with insulting ease he flicked his burned-out
cigarette in the foreman's face.
Without a word High Chin whirled his horse and rode toward the hills.
Waring sat watching him until Lorry spoke.
"They say he's put more than one man across the divide," he told his
"But not on an even break," said Waring. "Get that hombre on his horse.
He's in bad shape."
Lorry helped Waco to mount. They rode toward Stacey.
Waring rode with them until the trail forked. "I was on my way to the
Starr Ranch," he told Lorry. "I think I can make it all right with
Starr, if you say the word."
"Not me," said Lorry. "I stand by what I do."
Waring tried to conceal the smile that crept to his lips. "All right,
Lorry. But you'll have to explain to your mother. Better turn your man
over to Buck Hardy as soon as you get in town. Where did you pick him
"He was holdin' up some tourists over by the Notch. He changed his mind
and came along with me."
Waring rode down the west fork, and Lorry and the tramp continued their
journey to Stacey.
_East and West_
Mrs. Adams, ironing in the kitchen, was startled by a peremptory ringing
of the bell on the office desk. The Overland had arrived and departed
more than an hour ago. She patted her hair, smoothed her apron, and
stepped through the dining-room to the office. A rather tired-looking,
stylishly gowned woman immediately asked if there were comfortable
accommodations for herself and her daughter. Mrs. Adams assured her that
"We had an accident," continued the woman. "I am Mrs. Weston. This is my
"You are driving overland?"
"We were. We have had a terrible time. A man tried to rob us, and we
almost wrecked our car."
"Goodness! Where did it happen?"
"At a place called 'The Notch,' I think," said Alice Weston, taking the
pen Mrs. Adams proffered and registering.
"I can give you a front double room," said Mrs. Adams. "But the single
rooms are cooler."
"Anything will do so long as it is clean," said Mrs. Weston.
Mrs. Adams's rosy face grew red. "My rooms are always clean. I attend
to them myself."
"And a room with a bath would be preferable," said Mrs. Weston.
Her daughter Alice smiled. Mrs. Adams caught the twinkle in the girl's
eyes and smiled in return.
"You can have the room next to the bathroom. This is a desert town, Mrs.
Weston. We don't have many tourists."
"I suppose it will have to do," sighed Mrs. Weston. "Of course we may
have the exclusive use of the bath?"
"Mother," said Alice Weston, "you must remember that this isn't New
York. I think we are fortunate to get a place as comfortable and neat as
this. We're really in the desert. We will see the rooms, please."
Mrs. Weston could find no fault with the rooms. They were neat and
clean, even to the window-panes. Alice Weston was delighted. From her
window she could see miles of the western desert, and the far,
mysterious ranges bulked against the blue of the north; ranges that
seemed to whisper of romance, the unexplored, the alluring.
While Mrs. Adams was arranging things, Alice Weston gazed out of the
window. Below in the street a cowboy passed jauntily. A stray burro
crossed the street and nosed among some weeds. Then a stolid Indian
"Why, that is a real Indian!" exclaimed the girl.
"A Navajo," said Mrs. Adams. "They come in quite often."
"Really? And--oh, I forgot--the young man who rescued us told us that he
was your son."
"Lorry! Rescued you?"
"Yes." And the girl told Mrs. Adams about the accident and the tramp.
"I'm thankful that he didn't get killed," was Mrs. Adams's comment when
the girl had finished.
Alone in her room, Alice Weston bared her round young arms and enjoyed a
real, old-fashioned wash in a real, old-fashioned washbowl. Who could be
unhappy in this glorious country? But mother seemed so unimpressed! "And
I hope that steering-knuckle doesn't come for a month," the girl told a
framed lithograph of "Custer's Last Fight," which, contrary to all
precedent, was free from fly specks.
She recalled the scene at the Notch: the sickening sway of the car; the
heavy, brutal features of the bandit, who seemed to have risen from the
ground; the unexpected appearance of the young cowboy, the flash of his
rope, and a struggling form whirling through the brush.
And she had said "please" when she had asked the young cowboy to let the
man go. He had refused. She thought Western men more gallant. But what
difference did that make? She would never see him again. The young
cowboy had seemed rather nice, until just toward the last. As for the
other man--she shivered as she wondered what would have happened if the
cowboy had not arrived when he did.
It occurred to her that she had never been refused a request in her life
until that afternoon. And the fact piqued her. The fate of the tramp was
a secondary consideration now. She and her mother were safe. The car
would have to be repaired; but that was unimportant. The fact that they
were stranded in a real desert town, with Indians and cowboys in the
streets, and vistas such as she had dreamed of shimmering in the
afternoon sun, awakened an erstwhile slumbering desire for a draught of
the real Romance of the West, heretofore only enjoyed in unsatisfying
sips as she read of the West and its wonder trails.
A noise in the street attracted her attention. She stepped to the
window. Just across the street a tall, heavy man was unlocking a door in
a little adobe building. Near him stood the young cowboy whom she had
not expected to see again. And there was the tramp, handcuffed and
strangely white of face. The door swung open, and the tall man stepped
back. The tramp shuffled through the low doorway, and the door was
closed and locked. The cowboy and the tall man talked for a while. She
stepped back as the men separated.
Presently she heard the cowboy's voice downstairs. She flushed, and
gazed at herself in the glass.
"I am going to make him sorry he refused to let that man go," she told
the mirror. "Oh, I shall be nice to him! So nice that--" She did not
complete the thought. She was naturally gracious. When she set out to be
exceptionally nice--"Oo, la, la!" she exclaimed. "And he's nothing but a
She heard Lorry clump upstairs and enter a room across the hall. She
knew it was he. She could hear the clink of his spurs and the swish of
his chaps. While she realized that he was Mrs. Adams's son and had a
right to be there, she rather resented his proximity, possibly because
she had not expected to see him again.
She had no idea that he had been discharged by his foreman, nor that he
had earned the disapproval of his mother for having quarreled. Of course
he had ridden to Stacey to bring the prisoner in, but he knew they were
in Stacey, and Alice Weston liked to believe that he would make excuse
to stay in town while they were there. It would be fun--for her.
After supper that evening Mrs. Weston and Alice were introduced to
Waring, who came in late. Waring chatted with Mrs. Weston out on the
veranda in the cool of the evening. Alice was surprised that her mother
seemed interested in Waring. But after a while, as the girl listened,
she admitted that the man was interesting.
The conversation drifted to mines and mining. Mrs. Weston declared that
she had never seen a gold mine, but that her husband owned some stock
in one of the richest mines in Old Mexico. Waring grew enthusiastic as
he described mine operating in detail, touching the subject with the
ease of experience, yet lightly enough to avoid wearisome
technicalities. The girl listened, occasionally stealing a glance at the
man's profile in the dusk. She thought the boy Lorry looked exceedingly
like Mr. Waring.
And the person who looked exceedingly like Mr. Waring sat at the far end
of the veranda, talking to Buck Hardy, the sheriff. And Lorry was not
altogether happy. His interest in the capture and reward had waned. He
had never dreamed that a girl could be so captivating as Alice Weston.
At supper she had talked with him about the range, asking many
questions; but she had not referred to that morning. Lorry had hoped
that he might talk with her after supper. But somehow or other she had
managed to evade his efforts. Just now she seemed to be mightily
interested in his father.
Presently Lorry rose and strode across the street to the station. He
talked with the agent, who showed him a telegraph duplicate for an order
on Albuquerque covering a steering-knuckle for an automobile. When Lorry
reappeared he was whistling. It would take some time for that
steering-knuckle to arrive. Meanwhile, he was out of work, and the
Westons would be at the hotel for several days at least.
There was some mighty fine scenery back in the Horseshoe Range, west.
Perhaps the girl liked Western scenery. He wondered if she knew how to
ride. He was rather inclined to think that her mother did not. He would
suggest a trip to the Horseshoe Mountains, as it would be pretty dull at
the hotel. Nothing but cowboys and Indians riding in and out of town.
But there were some Hopi ruins over in the Horseshoe. Most Easterners
were interested in ruins. He wished that the Hopis had left a ruin
somewhat nearer town.
Yet withal, Lorry was proud to think that his father could be so
interesting to real Easterners. If they only knew who his father was!
Lorry's train of thought was making pretty good time when he checked it
suddenly. Folks in town didn't know that Waring was his father. And "The
whole dog-gone day had just been one gosh-awful mess!"
"Weston, you said?" Waring queried.
"Yes--John Archibald Weston, of New York." And Mrs. Weston nodded.
Waring smiled. J.A. Weston was one of the stockholders in the Ortez
Mine, near Sonora.
"The principal stockholder," said Mrs. Weston.
"I met him down there," said Waring.
"Indeed! How interesting! You were connected with the mining industry,
"In a way. I lived in Sonora several years."
"That accounts for your wonderful descriptions of the country. I never
imagined it could be so charming."
"We have some hill country west of here worth looking at. If you intend
to stay any length of time, I might arrange a trip."
"That's nice of you. But I don't ride. Perhaps Alice would like to go."
"Yes, indeed! But--"
"We might get Mrs. Adams to come. She used to ride."
"I'll ask her," said Alice Weston.
"But, Alice--" And Mrs. Weston smiled. Alice had already gone to look
for Mrs. Adams.
Lorry, who had heard, scowled at a veranda post. He had thought of that
trip to the Horseshoe Range long before it had been mentioned by his
father. Wimmin made him tired, he told the unoffending post.
Shortly afterward Alice appeared. She had cajoled Mrs. Adams into
promising that she would ride to the Hopi ruins with them, as the
journey there and back could be made in a day. Alice Weston was aglow
with excitement. Of course the young cowboy would be included in the
invitation, and Alice premeditated a flirtation, either with that
good-looking Mr. Waring or Mrs. Adams's son. It didn't matter much which
one; it would be fun.
The Westons finally went to their rooms. Lorry, out of sorts with
himself and the immediate world, was left alone on the veranda.
"She just acted so darned nice to me I forgot to eat," he told the post
confidentially. "And then she forgot I was livin' in the same
county--after supper. And she did it a-purpose. I reckon she's tryin' to
even up with me for jailin' that hobo after she said 'please.' Well, two
can play at that even-up game."
He rose and walked upstairs quietly. As he entered his room he heard the
Westons talking. He had noticed that the door of one of their rooms was
"No, I think he went away with that tall man," he heard the girl say.
"Cowboys don't go to bed early when in town."
"Weren't you a little too nice to him at dinner?" Mrs. Weston said.
Lorry heard the girl laugh. "Oh, but he's only a boy, mother! And it's
such fun to watch his eyes when he smiles. He is really good-looking and
interesting, because he hasn't been tamed. I don't think he has any real
feeling, though, or he wouldn't have brought that poor creature to
Stacey and put him in jail. But Mr. Waring is different. He seems so
quiet and kind--and rather distinguished."
Lorry closed his door. He had heard enough for one evening.
He did not want to go to bed. He felt anything but sleepy, so he tiptoed
downstairs again and out into the night. He found Buck Hardy in a saloon
up the street. Men in the saloon joked with Lorry about his capture. He
seldom drank, but to-night he did not refuse Hardy's invitation to
"have something." While they were chatting a rider from the Starr Rancho
came in. Edging up to Lorry, he touched his arm. "Come on out a minute,"
Outside, he told Lorry that High Chin, with several of the men, was
coming to town that night and "put one over" on the sheriff by stealing
"And you know what that means," said the Starr cowboy. "High Chin'll get
tanked, and the hobo'll be lucky if the boys don't string him up. High
Chin's awful sore about something."
Lorry's first idea was to report all this to Buck Hardy. But he feared
ridicule. What if the Starr cowboys didn't come?
"Why don't you tell Buck yourself?" he queried.
His companion insisted that he dare not tell the sheriff. If High Chin
heard that he had done so, he would be out of a job. And there was the
reward. If the prisoner's identity was proven, Lorry would get the
reward. The cowboy didn't want to see Lorry lose such easy money.
The subject seemed to require some liquidation, and Lorry finally
decided that he himself was the only and legal custodian of the
prisoner. As for the reward--shucks! He didn't want blood-money. But
High Chin would never lay a hand on the hobo if he could help it.
* * * * *
Alice Weston, anticipating a real ride into the desert country and the
hills, was too excited to sleep. She drew a chair to the window, and sat
back where she could view the vague outline of the hills and a world
filled with glowing stars. The town was silent, save for the occasional
opening or closing of a door and the infrequent sound of feet on the
sidewalk. She forgot the hazards of the day in dreaming of the West; no
longer a picture out of books, but a reality. She scarcely noticed the
quiet figure that came round the opposite corner and passed into the
shadows of the jail across the street. She heard the clink of a chain
and a sharp, tearing sound as of wood being rent asunder. She peered
from her window, trying to see what was going on in the shadows.
Presently a figure appeared. The hat, the attitude, and manner seemed
familiar. Then came another figure; that of the tramp. She grew tense
with excitement. She heard Lorry's voice distinctly:--
"The best thing for you is to fan it. Don't try the train. They'll get
you sure if you do. No, I don't explain anything. Just ramble--and keep
She saw one of the figures creep along the opposite wall and shuffle
across the street. She felt like calling out. Instead she rose and
opened her door. She would tell her mother. But what good would that do?
She returned to the window. Lorry, standing on the street corner, seemed
to be watching an invisible something far down the street. Alice Weston
heard the sound of running horses. A group of cowboys galloped up. She
heard the horses stop. Lorry had disappeared.
She went to bed. It seemed an age before she heard him come in.
Lorry undressed in the dark. As he went to bed he grinned. "And the
worst of it is," he soliloquized, "she'll think I did it because she
asked me to let him go. Guess I been steppin' on my foot the whole
Mrs. Adams had decided to have roast spring lamb for dinner that
evening. Instead, her guests had to content themselves with canned
salmon and hot biscuit. And because ...
Lorry appeared at the breakfast table in overalls and jumper. He had
purposely waited until the Westons had gone downstairs. He anticipated
an invitation to ride to the hills with them. He would decline, and
smile as he did so. If that girl thought he cared anything about _her_!
He answered their greeting with a cheery "Good-mornin'," and immediately
turned his whole attention to bacon and eggs.
Alice Weston wondered that his eyes should be so clear and care-free,
knowing what she did of last night's escapade.
Mrs. Adams was interested in the girl's riding-habit. It made her own
plain riding-skirt and blouse appear rather countrified. And after
breakfast Lorry watched the preparations for the ride with a critical
eye. No one would know whether or not he cared to go. They seemed to
have taken it for granted that he would. He whistled softly, and shook
his head as his mother suggested that he get ready.
"Of course you're coming with us," said Alice Weston.
"I got to look after the hotel," he said with conclusive emphasis.
Lorry disappeared, and in the bustle of preparation and departure Mrs.
Adams did not miss him until they were some distance out on the mesa.
"Where's Lorry?" she queried.
"He said he had to look after the hotel," said Alice Weston.
"Well, he didn't. I had everything arranged for. I don't know what's got
into him lately."
Back at the hotel Lorry was leaning against the veranda rail, talking to
Mrs. Weston. "I reckon it will be kind of tame for you, ma'am. I was
wondering, now, if you would let me look over that machine. I've helped
fix 'em up lots of times."
"Why, I don't know. It wouldn't do any harm to look, would it?"
"I guess not."
Mrs. Weston gazed at Lorry curiously. He had smiled, and he resembled
Waring so closely that Mrs. Weston remarked it aloud.
Lorry flushed. "I think Mr. Waring is a right good-lookin' man, don't
Mrs. Weston laughed. "Yes, I do."
"Yes, ma'am. But honest, Mrs. Weston, I never did see a finer-lookin'
girl than your girl. I seen plenty of magazine pictures like her. I'd
feel some proud if I was her mother."
The morning was not so dull, after all. Mrs. Weston was not used to such
frankness, but she was not displeased. "I see you have on your working
clothes. If you really think you can repair the car--"
"I got nothin' else to do. The sun is gettin' round to the front. If you
would like to sit in the car and watch, I would look her over; there, in
"I'll get a hat," said Mrs. Weston, rising.
"Your hair is right pretty without a hat. And besides you would be in
the shade of the top."
It had been some time since any one had complimented Mrs. Weston about
her hair, and especially a man young enough to be her son. What was the
cowboy going to say next?
Mrs. Weston stepped into the car, which was parked on the south side of
the building. Lorry, whistling blithely, searched until he found a
wrench in one of the forward-door pockets. He disappeared beneath the
car. Mrs. Weston could hear him tinkering at something. She leaned back,
breathing deep of the clean, thin air. She could not recall having felt
so thoroughly content and keenly alive at the same time. She had no
desire to say or do anything.
Presently Lorry appeared, his face grimy and his hands streaked with
oil. "Nothin' busted," he reported cheerfully. "We got a car over to
the ranch. She's been busted a-plenty. I fixed her up more times than I
can remember. Cars is like horses ma'am; no two just alike, but kind of
generally the same. The steering-knuckle ain't broke. It's the left axle
that's sprung. That won't take long to straighten."
Mrs. Weston smiled. Lorry thought she was actually pretty. She saw this
in his eyes, and flushed slightly.
"And I'll just block her up and take off the wheel, and I reckon the
blacksmith can straighten that axle easy."
"It's very nice of you. But I am wondering why you didn't go on the
picnic--with the others."
"Well, who'd 'a' kept you company, ma'am? Anita, she's busy. Anyhow, I
seen plenty of scenery. I'd rather be here."
"Talking to a woman old enough to be your mother?"
"Huh! I never thought of you like that. I'm only eighteen. Anyhow, what
difference does it make how old a lady is, if she is pretty?"
Mrs. Weston's eyes twinkled. "Do you ever pay compliments to yourself
when you are combing your hair or tying your scarf?"
"Me! Why, not so anybody could hear 'em. Now, I think my mother is right
pretty, Mrs. Weston."
"So do I. And it was nice of you to say it."
"But I don't see anything wrong in sayin' what's so," he argued. "I seen
you kind of raise your eyebrows, and I thought mebby I was bein' took as
"Oh, no, indeed!"
Lorry disappeared again. As he worked he wondered just how long it would
be before Buck Hardy would look for him. Lorry knew that some one must
have taken food and water to the prisoner by this time, or to where the
prisoner was supposed to be. But he did not know that Hardy and his
deputy had questioned Anita, and that she had told the sheriff the folks
had all gone on a picnic to the hills. The car, at the back of the
hotel, was not visible from the street.
With some pieces of timber Lorry jacked up the front of the machine and
removed the damaged wheel and axle.
He took the bent axle to the blacksmith, and returned to the hotel.
Nothing further offered just then, so he suggested that he clean the
car. Mrs. Weston consented, deciding that she would not pay him until
her daughter returned.
He attached the hose to a faucet, and suggested that Mrs. Weston take a
chair, which he brought from the veranda. He hosed the car, and as he
polished it, Mrs. Weston asked him about Waring.
"Why, he's a friend of ours," replied Lorry.
"Of course. But I was wondering what he did."
Lorry hesitated. "Didn't you ever hear that song about Waring of
Sonora-Town? It's a whizzer. Well, that's him. All the cowboys sing that
"I have never heard it."
"Well, mebby dad wouldn't like that I sing it. He's kind of funny that
way. Now you wouldn't think he was the fastest gunman in the Southwest,
"Gunman! Your father?"
Lorry straightened up from polishing the car. "I clean forgot what I was
sayin'. I guess my foot slipped that time."
"I am sorry I asked," said Mrs. Weston. "It really doesn't matter."
"Oh, it ain't your fault. But I wasn't aimin' to tell. Dad he married my
mother, and they went to live in Sonora, down in Mexico. Some of the
minin' outfits down there hired him regular to--to protect their
interests. I guess ma couldn't stand that kind of life, for after a few
years she brought me up here. I was just a kid then. Ma she built up a
good trade at this hotel. Folks call her Mrs. Adams. Her name was Adams
afore she got married. We been here ten years. Dad didn't know where she
was till last week he showed up here. I reckon she thought he got killed
long ago. Folks would talk about it if they knowed he was her husband,
so I guess she asked dad to say nothin' about that. He said he came up
to see me. I guess he don't aim to stay long."
"I think I understand," said Mrs. Weston.
"Well, it ain't none of my business, long as ma is all right. Say, she
shines like a new hack, eh?"
"You have cleaned the car beautifully."
"Oh, I dunno. Now, if it was a hoss--And say, I guess you'll be startin'
to-morrow. That axle will be all right in about an hour."
Just then Anita came to call them to luncheon. She had heard them
talking at the rear of the hotel shortly after Sheriff Hardy had
inquired for Lorry. Several townsfolk came in, ate, and departed on
their several ways.
After luncheon Mrs. Weston went to her room. She thought she would lie
down and sleep for an hour or so, but the noon heat made the room rather
close. She picked up a book and came down, where she found it
comfortably cool on the veranda.
The town was quiet. A hand-car with its section crew of Mexicans clicked
past, and hummed on down the glittering rails. A stray burro meandered
about, and finally came to a stop in the middle of the street, where he
stood, stoically enduring the sun, a veritable long-eared statue of
dejection. Mrs. Weston turned a page, but the printed word was flat and
She felt as though she were in a kind of twilight valley, midway between
the hills of slumber and wakefulness. For the moment she forgot the name
of the town itself. She knew that she could recall it if she tried. A
dog lay asleep beneath the station platform opposite, one relaxed paw
over his nose. Some one was calling to some one in the kitchen. A figure
passed in the street; a young man who smiled and nodded. It was the boy,
Lorry. He had been working on the car that morning. She had watched him
work, rather enjoying his energy. A healthy young animal as
unsophisticated as a kitten, and really innately kind and innocent of
intent to flatter. He was not at all like the bright young savage who
had roped and almost choked to death that awful man.
It was impossible to judge a person at first sight and especially under
unusual circumstances. And he seemed not at all chagrined that he had
not gone with the others to the hills. Alice had enjoyed reading about
Westerners--rough, boisterous beings intolerable to Mrs. Weston even in
print. And Mrs. Weston thought that proper environment and association
might bring out their better qualities, even as the boy, Lorry, seemed
to have improved--well, since yesterday morning. Perhaps he was on his
good behavior because they were there.
It seemed past comprehension that anything startling could happen in
that drowsy atmosphere.
The young cowboy was coming back down the street, some part of the car
over his shoulder. Mrs. Weston anticipated his nod, and nodded lazily as
he passed. She could hear him tinkering at the car.
A few blocks up the street, Buck Hardy was seated in his office talking
with the undersheriff. The undersheriff twisted the end of his black
mustache and looked wise.
"They told me at the hotel that he had gone riding with them
Easterners," said Hardy. "And now you say he's been in town all day
working on that automobile."
"Yep. He's been to the blacksmith twice to-day. I didn't say anything to
him, seein' you was over to Larkins's, and said he was out of town. I'd
hate to think he done anything like that."
"That hobo was gone when I went to talk to him this morning. The lock
was busted. I can't figure it out. Young Lorry stood to win the reward,
and he could use the money."
"Hear anything by wire?" queried the undersheriff.
"Nothing. The man didn't get by on any of the trains. I notified both
stations. He's afoot and he's gone."
"Well, I guess the kid loses out, eh?"
"That ain't all. This county will jump me for letting that guy get away.
It won't help us any next election."
"Well, my idea is to have a talk with Adams," said the undersheriff.
"I'm going to do that. I like the kid, and then there's his mother--"
"And you'd hold him for lettin' the guy loose, eh?"
"I would. I'd hold my own brother for playing a trick like that."
"Well, I don't sabe it," asserted the undersheriff. "Lorry Adams always
had a good name."
"We'll have a talk with him, Bill."
"Are you sure Adams did it, Buck?"
"No, not sure, but I'm going to find out. I'll throw a scare into him
that'll make him talk."
"Mebby he won't scare."
"Then I'll run him in. He's some enterprising, if I do say it. He put
High-Chin Bob out of business over by the water-hole yesterday."
"High Chin! The hell you say!"
"That's what I thought when I heard it. High was beating up the hobo,
and Lorry claimed him as his prisoner. Jim Waring says the kid walloped
High on the head and knocked him stiff."
"Whew! Bob will get his hide for that."
"I don't know. Jim Waring is riding the country just now."
"What's that got to do with it?"
"More than I'm going to tell you, Bill. But take it from me, he's
interested in young Adams a whole lot."
* * * * *
When Hardy and his deputy rode over to the hotel there was a pause in
the chatter. Alice Weston was describing their journey to her mother and
calling upon Waring to substantiate her vivid assertions of the
wonderful adventure. The saddle-horse still stood at the hitching-rail,
and Hardy, who had an eye for a good horse, openly admired the big
buckskin. Waring was talking with Lorry. Mrs. Adams had gone in. Hardy
indicated that he wanted to speak to Lorry, and he included Waring in
his gesture. Lorry rose and glanced quickly at Alice Weston. She was
leaning forward in her chair, suddenly aware of a subtle undercurrent of
seriousness. The undersheriff was patting the nose of the big buckskin.
The men stepped down from the veranda, and stood near the horses.
"That hobo got away," said the sheriff. "Do you know anything about it?"
"I turned him loose," said Lorry, without hesitation.
"I changed my mind. I didn't want any blood-money for arrestin' a
"That's all right. But you can't change the law so easy. That man was my
prisoner. Why didn't you come to me?"
"Well, if you want to know, in company," said Lorry, "High Chin and the
boys had it framed up to give that hobo a goin'-over for stealin' a
Starr horse. They figured to bust in the jail, same as I did. I got that
straight; I didn't aim to let High Chin get his hands on my prisoner."
"Well, Lorry, I don't like to do it, but I got to hold you till we get
"How do you figure that?"
"You've aided a prisoner to escape. You broke the law."
"What right had you to hold him?"
"Your own story. You brought him in yourself."
"I sure did. But supposin' I say I ain't got nothin' against him, and
the folks over there won't appear against him, how could you prove
"He's under suspicion. You said yourself he was holding up them
"But you can't make me swear that in court."
Buck Hardy glared at the younger man. "See here, Lorry, I don't
understand your game. Suppose the man ain't guilty. He was locked
up--and by me, representing this county. You can't prove that the Starr
boys would have done anything to him. And you can't monkey with the law
to suit yourself as long as I'm sheriff. Am I right?" And Hardy turned
"You're right, Hardy."
Lorry's gray eyes shone with a peculiar light. "What you goin' to do
about it, Buck?"
"Two of my boys are out looking for the man. You're under arrest till he
is brought in."
"You aim to lock me in that calaboose?"
"No. But, understand, you're under arrest. You can't leave town."
"Say, now, Buck, ain't you kind of crowdin' me into the fence?"
"I'd arrest my own brother for a trick like that."
Lorry gazed at the ground for a minute. He glanced up. Alice Weston sat
watching them. She could not hear what they were saying, but their
attitudes confirmed her apprehension.
"I'd like to speak to ma a minute," said Lorry.
"Go ahead. There's no hurry."
Waring, who had been watching his son closely, strolled to the veranda
steps and sat down.
Hardy lighted a cigar. "I hate to do this, Waring," he told the other.
"That's all right, Hardy."
The sheriff leaned close. "I figured to bluff him into telling which way
the hobo went. Mebby he'll talk later."
Waring smiled. "You have a free hand so far as I am concerned," he said.
Alice Weston was talking with her mother when she heard a cautious step
on the stairway behind her. She turned her head slightly. Lorry, booted
and spurred, stood just within the doorway. He had something in his
hand; a peculiarly shaped bundle wrapped loosely in a newspaper. Hardy
was talking to Waring. The undersheriff was standing close to Waring's
horse. Alice Weston had seen the glint in Lorry's eyes. She held her
Without a word of warning, and before the group on the veranda knew what
was happening, Lorry shot from the doorway, leaped from the edge of the
veranda rail, and alighted square in the saddle of Waring's horse, Dex.
The buckskin whirled and dashed down the road, one rein dragging. Lorry
reached down, and with a sinuous sweep of his body recovered the loose
rein. As he swung round the first corner he waved something that looked
strangely like a club in a kind of farewell salute.
Alice Weston had risen. The undersheriff grabbed the reins of the horse
nearest him and mounted. Hardy ran to the other horse. Side by side they
raced down the street and disappeared round a corner.
"What is it?" queried Alice Weston.
Waring still sat on the steps. He was laughing when he turned to answer
the girl's question.
"Lorry and the sheriff had a little argument. Lorry didn't wait to
finish it. It was something about that hobo that bothered you
Alice crushed her handkerchief to her mouth. "I--shall we get ready for
dinner?" she stammered.
Mrs. Weston rose. "It's nothing serious, I hope. Do you think your--Mr.
Adams will be back to-night?"
"Not this evening," replied Waring.
"You mean that he won't be back at all?"
"Not unless he changes his mind. He's riding my horse."
"He took your horse?"
"Yes. I think he made a mistake in leaving so suddenly, but he didn't
make any mistake about the best horse."
"Aren't you worried about him?" queried Mrs. Weston.
"Why, no. The boy will take care of himself. Did you happen to notice
what he had in his hand when he ran across the veranda?"
"No. It happened so suddenly. Was it a pistol?"
Waring grinned. "No. It was a shoulder of lamb. The next town is thirty
miles south, and no restaurants on the way."
"But his mother--" began Alice Weston.
"Yes," said Waring. "I think that leg of lamb was for dinner to-night."
Alice Weston said nothing further, but as she got ready for dinner she
confessed to herself that the event of Lorry's escape would have been
much more thrilling, in retrospect at least, had he chosen to wave his
hasty farewell with a silken bandanna, or even a pistol. To ride off
like that, waving a leg of lamb!
_Bud Shoop and Bondsman_
As a young man, Bud Shoop had punched cattle on the southern ranges,
cooked for a surveying outfit, prospected in the Mogollons, and essayed
homesteading on the Blue Mesa, served as cattle inspector, and held for
many years the position of foreman on the great Gila Ranch, where, with
diligence and honor, he had built up a reputation envied by many a
lively cow-puncher and seldom tampered with even by Bud's most
vindictive enemies. And he had enemies and many friends.
Meanwhile he had taken on weight until, as one of his friends remarked,
"Most any hoss but a Percheron draft would shy the minute Bud tried to
put his foot in the stirrup."
And when Bud came to that point in his career when he summed up his past
and found that his chief asset was experience, garnished with a somewhat
worn outfit of pack-saddles, tarps, bridles, chaps, and guns, he sighed
The old trails were changing to roads. The local freight intermittently
disgorged tons of harvesting machinery. The sound of the Klaxton was
heard in the land. Despite the times and the manners, Bud's girth
increased insidiously. His hard-riding days were past. Progress marched
steadily onward, leaving an after-guard of homesteaders intrenched
behind miles of barbed-wire fence and mazes of irrigating-ditches. The
once open range was now a chessboard of agricultural endeavor, with the
pawns steadying ploughshares as they crept from square to square until
the opposing cattle king suffered ignominious checkmate, his prerogative
of free movement gone, his army scattered, his castles taken, and his
glory surviving only in the annals of the game.
Incidentally, Bud Shoop had saved a little money, and his large
popularity would have won for him a political sinecure; but he disliked
politics quite as heartily as he detested indolence. He needed work not
half so much as he wanted it.
He had failed as a rancher, but he still held his homestead on the Blue
Mesa, some twenty miles from the town of Jason, an old Mormon settlement
in the heart of the mesa country.
Friday morning at sunup Bud saddled his horse, closed the door of his
cabin on the Blue Mesa, and, whistling to his old Airedale, Bondsman,
rode across the mesa and down the mountain trail toward Jason. By
sundown that night he was in town, his horse fed, and he and Bondsman
sitting on the little hotel veranda, watching the villagers as they
passed in the dusk of early evening.
Coatless and perspiring, Bud betook himself next morning to the office
of the supervisor of that district of the Forest Service. Bondsman
accompanied him, stalking seriously at his master's heels. The
supervisor was busy. Bud filled a chair in the outer office, polished
his bald spot with a blue bandanna, and waited.
Presently the supervisor called him in. Bud rose heavily and plodded to
another chair in the private office. Torrance, the supervisor, knew Bud;
knew that he was a solid man in the finer sense of the word from the
shiny dome of his head to his dusty boot. And Torrance thought he knew
why Bud had called. The Airedale sat in the outer office, watching his
master. Occasionally the big dog rapped the floor with his stubby tail.
"He's just tellin' me to go ahead and say my piece, John, and that he'll
wait till I get through. That there dog bosses me around somethin'
"He's getting old and set in his ways," laughed Torrance.
"So be I, John. Kind of settin' in my own way mostly."
"Well, Bud, how are things up on the mesa?"
"Growin' and bloomin' and singin' and feedin' and keepin' still, same as
"What can I do for you?"
"Well, I ain't seen a doctor for so long I can't tell you; but I reckon
I need more exercise and a little salary thrown in for luck."
"I'm glad you came in. You needn't say anything about it, but I'm
scheduled to leave here next month."
"Then I reckon I'm left. Higher up, John?"
"Yes. I have this end of it pretty well whipped into shape. They seem to
think they can use me at headquarters."
Bud frowned prodigiously. The situation did not seem to promise much.
And naturally enough, being a Westerner, Bud disliked to come out
flatfooted and ask for work.
His frown deepened as the supervisor asked another question: "Do you
think you could hold down my job, Bud?"
"Say, John, I've stood for a lot in my time. But, honest, I was lookin'
for a job as ranger. I can ride yet. And if I do say it I know every
hill and canon, every hogback and draw and flat from here to the Tonto
"I know it. I was coming to that. The grazing-leases are the most
important items just now. You know cattle, and you know something about
the Service. You have handled men. I am not joking."
"Well, this is like a hobo gettin' up his nerve to ask for a san'wich,
and havin' the lady of the house come runnin' with a hot apple pie. I'll
"Well, the Department has confidence enough in me to suggest that I name
a successor, subject to their approval. Do you think that you could hold
down this job?"
"If settin' on it would hold it down, it would never get up alive,
John. But I ain't no author."
"Uh-uh. When it comes to facts, I aim to brand 'em. But them reports to
The supervisor laughed. "You would be entitled to a clerk. The man I
have would like to stay. And another thing. I have just had an
application from young Adams, of Stacey. He wrote from St. Johns. He
wants to get into the Service. While we are at it, what do you know
"Nothin'. But his mother runs a right comf'table eatin'-house over to
Stacey. She's a right fine woman. I knew her when she was wearin' her
hair in a braid."
"I have stopped there. It's a neat place. Would you take the boy on if
you were in my place?"
Bud coughed and studied the ends of his blunt fingers. "Well, now, John,
if I was in your place, I could tell you."
Torrance was amused and rather pleased. Bud's careful evasion was
characteristic. He would do nothing hastily. Moreover, with Shoop as
supervisor, it was safe to assume that the natives would hesitate to
attempt their usual subterfuges in regard to grazing-leases. Bud was too
well known for that. Torrance had had trouble with the cattlemen and
sheepmen. He knew that Shoop's mere name would obviate much argument and
"The White Mountain Apaches are eating a lot of beef these days," he
Shoop grinned. "And it ain't all Gov'ment beef, neither. The line fence
crost Still Canon is down. They's been a fire up on the shoulder of Ole
Baldy--nothin' much, though. Your telephone line to the lookout is
saggin' bad over by Sheep Crossin'. Some steer'll come along and take it
with him in a hurry one of these days. A grizzly killed a yearlin' over
by the Milk Ranch about a week ago. I seen your ranger, young Winslow,
day before yesterday. He says somebody has been grazin' sheep on the
posted country, west. He was after 'em. The grass is pretty good on the
Blue. The Apaches been killin' wild turkey on the wrong side of their
line. I seen their tracks--and some feathers. They's some down timber
along the north side of the creek over on the meadows. And a couple of
wimmin was held up over by the Notch the other day. I ain't heard the
partic'lars. Young Adams--"
"Where do you get it all, Bud? Only two of the things you mentioned have
been reported in to this office."
"Who, me? Huh! Well, now, John, that's just the run of news that floats
in when you're movin' around the country. If I was to set out to get
"You'd swamp the office. All right. I'll have my clerk draft a letter of
application. You can sign it. I'll add my word. It will take some time
to put this through, if it goes through. I don't promise anything. Come
in at noon and sign the letter. Then you might drop in in about two
weeks; say Saturday morning. We'll have heard something by then."
Bud beamed. "I'll do that. And while I'm waitin' I'll ride over some of
that country up there and look around."
Torrance leaned forward. "There's one more thing, Bud. I know this job
offers a temptation to a man to favor his friends. So far as this office
is concerned, I don't want you to have any friends. I want things run
straight. I've given the best of my life to the Service. I love it. I
have dipped into my own pocket when Washington couldn't see the need for
improvements. I have bought fire-fighting tools, built trails, and paid
extra salaries at times. Now I will be where I can back you up. Keep
things right up to the minute. If you get stuck, wire me. Here's your
territory on this map. You know the country, but you will find this
system of keeping track of the men a big help. The pins show where each
man is working. We can go over the office detail after we have heard
Bud perspired, blinked, shuffled his feet. "I ain't goin' to say thanks,
John. You know it."
"That's all right, Bud. Your thanks will be just what you make of this
work when I leave. There has been a big shake-up in the Service. Some of
us stayed on top."
"Congratulations, John. Saturday, come two weeks, then."
And Bud heaved himself up. The Airedale, Bondsman, thumped the floor
with his tail. Bud turned a whimsical face to the supervisor. "Now
listen to that! What does he say? Well, he's tellin' me he sabes I got a
chanct at a job and that he'll keep his mouth shut about what you said,
like me. And that it's about time I quit botherin' folks what's busy and
went back to the hotel so he can watch things go by. That there dog
bosses me around somethin' scandalous."
Torrance smiled, and waved his hand as Bud waddled from the office, with
Bondsman at his heels.
About an hour later, as Torrance was dictating a letter, he glanced up.
Bud Shoop, astride a big bay horse, passed down the street. For a moment
Torrance forgot office detail in a general appreciation of the Western
rider, who, once in the saddle, despite age or physical attributes,
bears himself with a subconscious ease that is a delight to behold, be
he lean Indian, lithe Mexican, or bed-rock American with a girth, say,
of fifty-two inches and weighing perhaps not less than two hundred and
"He'll make good," soliloquized the supervisor. "He likes horses and
dogs, and he knows men. He's all human--and there's a lot of him. And
they say that Bud Shoop used to be the last word in riding 'em straight
up, and white lightning with a gun."
The supervisor shook his head. "Take a letter to Collins," he said.
The stenographer glanced up. "Senator Collins, Mr. Torrance?"
"Yes. And make an extra copy. Mark it confidential. You need not file
the copy. I'll take care of it. And if Mr. Shoop is appointed to my
place, he need know nothing about this letter."
"Because, Evers," Said Torrance, relaxing from his official manner a
bit, "it is going to be rather difficult to get Mr. Shoop appointed
here. I want him. I can depend on him. We have had too many theorists in
this field. And remember this; stay with Shoop through thick and thin
and some day you may land a job as private secretary to a State
"All right, sir. I didn't know that you were going into politics, Mr.
"You're off the trail a little, Evers. I'll never run for Senator. I'm
with the Service as long as it will have me. But if some clever
politician happens to get hold of Shoop, there isn't a man in this mesa
country that could win against him. He's just the type that the mesa
people like. He is all human.--Dear Senator Collins--"
The stenographer bent over his book.
Later, as Torrance closed his desk, he thought of an incident in Shoop's
life with which he had long been familiar. The Airedale, Bondsman, had
once been shot wantonly by a stray Apache. Shoop had found the dog as
it crawled along the corral fence, trying to get to the cabin. Bud had
ridden fifty miles through a winter snowstorm with Bondsman across the
saddle. An old Mormon veterinary in St. Johns had saved the dog's life.
Shoop had come close to freezing to death during that tedious ride.
Bud Shoop's assets in the game of life amounted to a few acres of mesa
land, a worn outfit of saddlery, and a small bank account. But his
greatest asset, of which he was blissfully unconscious, was a big,
homely love for things human and for animals; a love that set him apart
from his fellows who looked upon men and horses and dogs as merely
useful or otherwise.
_The Horse Trade_
The following day a young cowboy, mounted upon a singularly noticeable
buckskin horse, rode down the main street of Jason and dismounted at the
Forestry Office. Torrance was reading a letter when his clerk proffered
the young man a chair and notified the supervisor that a Mr. Adams
wished to see him.
A few minutes later, Lorry was shown in. The door closed.
Torrance surveyed the strong, young figure with inward approval. "I have
your letter. Sit down. I see your letter is postmarked St. Johns."
"Know anything about the Service?"
"Why do you want to get into it?"
"I thought mebby I'd like the work."
"Have you any recommendations?"
"Nothin'--except what you're lookin' at."
Torrance smiled. "Could you get a letter from your last employer?"
"Not the kind of letter that would do any good. I had an argument with
the foreman, and he fired me."
Torrance had heard something about the matter, and did not question
further at the time.
"Do you drink?" queried Torrance.
"I never monkeyed with it much. I reckon I could if I wanted to."
Torrance drummed on the desk with his long, strong fingers. He reached
in a drawer and drew out a letter.
"How about that?"
Lorry glanced at the heading. Evidently the sheriff knew of his general
whereabouts. The letter stated that the sheriff would appreciate
information leading to the apprehension of Lawrence Adams, wanted for
aiding a prisoner to escape and for having in his possession a horse
that did not belong to him.
"What he says is right," Lorry asserted cheerfully. "I busted into the
jail and turned that hobo loose, and I borrowed the horse I'm riding. I
aim to send him back. My own horse is in the corral back at Stacey."
"What was your idea in letting the man go after arresting him?"
Lorry's clear color deepened. "I wasn't figurin' on explainin' that."
"You don't have to explain. But you will admit that the charges in this
letter are rather serious. We don't want men in the Service who are open
to criticism. You're pretty young to have such a record. It's up to you
to explain--or not, just as you like. But anything you tell me will be
treated as absolutely confidential, Adams."
"All right. Well, everything I done that day went wrong. I caught the
hobo tryin' to rob a couple of wimmin over by the Notch. I was takin'
him to Stacey when Bob Brewster butted in. The hobo was sick, and I
didn't aim to stand and see him kicked and beat up with a quirt, even if
he did steal one of the Starr horses. I told High Chin to quit, but his
hearin' wasn't good, so I had to show him. Then I got to thinkin' I
wasn't so much--takin' a pore, busted tramp to jail. And it made me sick
when everybody round town was callin' me some little hero. Then one of
the Starr boys told me High Chin was cinchin' up to ride in and get the
hobo, anyhow, so I busted the lock and told him to fan it."
"Why didn't you appeal to the sheriff?"
"Huh! Buck Hardy is all right. But I can tell you one thing; he's not
the man to stand up to High Chin when High is drinkin'. Why, I see High
shove a gun in Hardy's face once and tell him to go home and go to bed.
And Hardy went. Anyhow, that hobo was my prisoner, and I didn't aim to
let High Chin get his hands on him."
"I see. Well, you have a strange way of doing things, but I appreciate
why you acted as you did. Of course, you know it is a grave offense to
aid a prisoner to escape."
"Buck Hardy seems to think so."
"So do I. And how about that horse?"
"Well, next day I was fixin' up the machine and foolin' around--that
machine belonged to them tourists that the fella stuck up--when along
about sundown Buck Hardy comes swellin' up to me and tells me I'm under
arrest. He couldn't prove a darned thing if I hadn't said I done the
job. But, anyhow, he didn't see it my way, so I borrowed Waring's horse
and come down this way. Everybody saw me take the horse. You can't call