Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Jim Waring of Sonora-Town by Knibbs, Henry Herbert

Part 4 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

tell no one that he had been at the Starr Ranch.

"I don't know where Jim Waring is," said Starr, and, stepping back, he
closed the door.

Ramon strode to his horse and mounted. All gringos were not like the
Senor Jim. Many of them hated Mexicans. Ah, well, he would ride back to
Stacey. The senora at the cantina was a pleasant woman. She would not
shut the door in his face, for she knew who he was. He would ask for a
room for the night. In the morning he would search for Senor Jim. He
must find him.

Mrs. Adams answered his knock at the hotel door by coming down and
letting him in. Ramon saw by the office clock that it was past three.
She showed him to a room.

No, the senor had not been at the Starr Rancho. But he would find him.

Ramon tiptoed to the open window, and knelt with his arms on the sill. A
falling star streaked the night.

"And I shall as soon find him as I would find that star," he murmured.
"Yet to-morrow there will be the sun. And I will ask the Holy Mother to
help me. She will not refuse, knowing my heart."

Without undressing, he flung himself on the bed. As he slept he dreamed;
a strange, vivid dream of the setting sun and a tiny horseman limned
against the gold. The horseman vanished as he rose to follow. If he
were only sure that it was the Senor Jim! The dream had said that the
senor had ridden into the west. In the morning--

With the dawn Ramon was up. Some one was moving about in the kitchen
below. Ramon washed and smoothed his long black hair with his hands. He
stepped quietly downstairs. Breakfast was not ready, so he walked to the
kitchen and talked with Anita.

To her, who understood him as no gringo could, he told of his quest. She
knew nothing of the Senor Jim's whereabouts, save that he had come
yesterday and talked with the senora. Anita admired the handsome young
Mexican, whose face was so sad save when his quick smile lightened the
shadow. And she told him to go back to the ranch and not become
entangled in the affairs of the Americanos. It would be much better for
him so.

Ramon listened patiently, but shook his head. The Senor Jim had been
kind to him; had given him his life down in the Sonora desert. Was Ramon
Ortego to forget that?

Mrs. Adams declined to take any money for Ramon's room. He worked for
her husband, and it was at Ramon's own expense that he would make the
journey in search for him. Instead she had Anita put up a lunch for

He thanked her and rode away, taking the western trail across the
morning desert.

Thirty miles beyond Stacey, he had news of Waring. A Mexican rancher
had seen the gringo pass late in the evening. He rode a big buckskin
horse. He was sure it must be the man Ramon sought. There was not
another such horse in Arizona.

Ramon rode on next day, inquiring occasionally at a ranch or crossroad
store. Once or twice he was told that such a horse and rider had passed
many hours ago. At noon he rested and fed his pony. All that afternoon
he rode west. Night found him in the village of Downey, where he made
further inquiry, but without success.

Next morning he was on the road early, still riding west. No dream had
come to guide him, yet the memory of the former dream was keen. If that
dream were not true, all dreams were lies and prayer a useless ceremony.

For three days he rode, tracing the Senor Jim from town to town, but
never catching up with him. Once he learned that Waring had slept in the
same town, but had departed before daybreak. Ramon wondered why no dream
had come to tell him of this.

That day he rode hard. There were few towns on his way. He reined in
when he came to the fork where the southern highway branches from the
Overland Road. The western road led on across the mountains past the
great canon. The other swept south through cattle land and into the
rough hills beyond which lay Phoenix and the old Apache Trail. He hailed
a buck-board coming down the southern road. The driver had seen nothing
of a buckskin horse. Ramon hesitated, closing his eyes. Suddenly in the
darkness glared a golden sun, and against it the tiny, black silhouette
of a horseman. His dream could not lie.

Day by day the oval of his face grew narrower, until his cheek-bones
showed prominently. His lips lost their youthful fullness. Only his eyes
were the same; great, velvet-soft black eyes, gently questioning, veiled
by no subtlety, and brighter for the deepening black circles beneath

The fifth day found him patiently riding west, despite the fact that all
trace of Waring had been lost. Questioned, men shook their heads and
watched him ride away, his lithe figure upright, but his head bowed as
though some blind fate drew him on while his spirit drowsed in stagnant

To all his inquiries that day he received the same answer. Finally, in
the high country, he turned and retraced his way.

A week after he had left Stacey he was again at the fork of the highway.
The southern road ran, winding, toward a shallow valley. He took this
road, peering ahead for a ranch, or habitation of any kind. That
afternoon he stopped at a wayside store and bought crackers and canned
meat. He questioned the storekeeper. Yes, the storekeeper had seen such
a man pass on a big buckskin cayuse several days ago. Ramon thanked him
and rode on. He camped just off the road that evening. In the morning he
set out again, cheered by a new hope. His dream had not lied; only
there should have been another dream to show him the way before he had
come to the fork in the road.

That afternoon three men passed him, riding hard. They were in their
shirt-sleeves and were heavily armed. Their evident haste caused Ramon
to note their passing with some interest. Yet they had thundered past
him so fast, and in such a cloud of dust, that he could not see them

* * * * *

Waring, gaunt as a wolf, unshaven, his hat rimmed with white dust,
pulled up in front of the weathered saloon in the town of Criswell on
the edge of the desert.

He dismounted and stepped round the hitching-rail. His face was lined
and gray. His eyes were red-rimmed and heavy. As he strode toward the
saloon door, he staggered and caught himself. Dex shuffled uneasily,
knowing that something was wrong with his master.

Waring drew his hand across his eyes, and, entering the saloon, asked
for whiskey. As in a dream, he saw men sitting in the back of the place.
They leaned on their elbows and talked. He drank and called for more.
The loafers in the saloon glanced at each other. Three men had just
ridden through town and down into the desert, going over-light for such
a journey. And here was the fourth. They glanced at Waring's boots, his
belt, his strong shoulders, and his dusty sombrero. Whoever he was, he
fitted his clothes. But a man "going in" was a fool to take more than
one drink. The three men ahead had not stopped at the saloon. One of
them had filled a canteen at the tank near the edge of the town. They
had seemed in a great hurry for men of their kind.

Waring wiped his lips and turned. His eyes had grown bright. For an
instant he glanced at the men, the brown walls spotted with "Police
Gazette" pictures, the barred window at the rear of the room. He drew
out his gun, spun the cylinder, and dropped it back into the holster.

The stranger, whoever he was, seemed to be handy with that kind of tool.
Well, it was no affair of theirs. The desert had taken care of such
affairs in the past, and there was plenty of room for more.

From the saloon doorway they saw Waring ride to the edge of town,
dismount, and walk out in the desert in a wide circle. He returned to
his horse, and, mounting, rode at right angles to the course the three
riders had taken.

One of the men in the doorway spoke. "Thought so," he said with

The others nodded. It was not their affair. The desert would take care
of that.

About the middle of the afternoon, Waring rode down a sandy draw that
deepened to an arroyo. Near the mouth of the arroyo, where it broke off
abruptly to the desert level, he reined up. His horse stood with head
lowered, his gaunt sides heaving. Waring patted him.

"Not much longer, old boy," he said affectionately.

With his last burst of strength, the big buckskin had circled the course
taken by the three men, urged by Waring's spur and voice. They were
heading in a direct line across the level just beyond the end of the
arroyo where Waring was concealed. He could not see them, but as usual
he watched Dex's ears. The horse would be aware of their nearness
without seeing them. And Waring dared not risk the chance of discovery.
They must have learned that he was following them, for they had ridden
hard these past few days. Evidently they had been unwilling to chance a
fight in any of the towns. And, in fact, Waring had once been ahead of
them, knowing that they would make for the desert. But that night he had
overslept, and they had passed him in the early hours of morning.

Slowly Dex raised his head and sniffed. Waring patted him, afraid that
he would nicker. He had dismounted to tighten the cinches when he
thought he heard voices in argument. He mounted again. The men must have
ridden hard to have made such good time. Again he heard voices. The men
were near the mouth of the arroyo. Waring tossed his hat to the ground
and dropped his gauntlets beside his hat. Carefully he wiped his
sweating hands on his bandanna. Dex threw up his head. His nostrils
worked. Waring spoke to him.

A shadow touched the sand at the mouth of the arroyo. Waring leaned
forward and drove in the spurs. The big buckskin leaped to a run as he
rounded the shoulder of the arroyo.

The three horsemen, who had been riding close together, spread out on
the instant. Waring threw a shot at the foremost figure even as High
Chin's first shot tore away the front of his shirt. Waring fired again.
Tony Brewster, on the ground, emptied his gun as Waring spurred over
him. Turning in the saddle as he flashed past High Chin, Waring fired at
close range at the other's belt buckle. Out on the levels, Andy
Brewster's horse was running with tail tucked down. Waring threw his
remaining shot at High Chin, and, spurring Dex, stood in his stirrups as
he reloaded his gun.

The rider ahead was rocking in the saddle. He had been hit, although
Waring could not recall having shot at him. Suddenly the horse went
down, and Andy Brewster pitched to the sand. Waring laughed and reined
round on the run, expecting each instant to feel the blunt shock of a
bullet. High Chin was still sitting his horse, his gun held muzzle up.
Evidently he was not hard hit, or, if he were, he was holding himself
for a final shot at Waring. Behind him, almost beneath his horse, his
brother Tony had raised himself on his elbow and was fumbling with his
empty gun.

Waring rode slowly toward High Chin. High Chin's hand jerked down.
Waring's wrist moved in answer. The two reports blended in a blunt,
echoless roar. Waring felt a shock that numbed his thigh. High Chin sat
stiffly in the saddle, his hand clasping the horn. He turned and gazed
down at his brother.

"Thought you got him," said Tony Brewster from the ground. "Sit still
and I'll get him from under your horse."

Waring knew now that High Chin was hit hard. The foreman had let his gun
slip from his fingers. Waring saw a slight movement just beneath High
Chin's horse. A shock lifted him from the saddle, and he dropped to the
ground as Tony Brewster fired. But there was no such thing as quit just
so long as Waring could see to shoot. Dragging himself to his gun, he
shook the sand from its muzzle. He knew that he could not last long.
Already flecks of fire danced before his eyes. He bit his lip as he
raised himself and drew fine on that black figure beneath High Chin's
horse. The gun jumped in his hand. Waring saw the black figure twitch
and roll over. Then his sight grew clouded. He tried to brush away the
blur that grew and spread. For an instant his eyes cleared. High Chin
still sat upright in the saddle. Waring raised his gun and fired
quickly. As his hand dropped to the sand, High Chin pitched headlong and
lay still.

Then came a soft black veil that hid the glimmering sun and the wide
desert reaches.

High Chin, his legs paralyzed by a slug that had torn through his
abdomen and lodged in his spine, knew that he had made his last fight.
He braced himself on his hands and called to his brother Tony. But his
brother did not answer. High Chin's horse had strayed, and was grazing
up the arroyo. The stricken man writhed round, feeling no pain, but
conscious of a horrible numbness across his back and abdomen.

"When it hits my heart I'm done," he muttered. "Guess I'll go over and
keep Tony company."

Inch by inch he dragged himself across the sand. Tony Brewster lay on
his back. High Chin touched him; felt of the limp arm, and gazed
curiously at the blue-edged hole in his brother's chest. With awful
labor that brought a clammy moisture to his face, he managed to drag
himself close to his brother and writhe round to a position where he
could sit up, braced against the other's body. He gazed out across the
desert. It had been a fast fight. Waring was done for. High Chin
wondered how long he would last. The sun was near the horizon. It seemed
only a few minutes ago that the sun had been directly overhead and he
and his brothers had been cursing the heat. It was growing cold. He
shivered. A long shadow reached out toward him from the bank of the
arroyo. In a few minutes it would touch him. Then would come night and
the stars. The numbness was creeping toward his chest. He could not
breathe freely. He moved his arms. _They_ were alive yet. He opened and
closed his fingers, gazing at them curiously. It was a strange thing
that a man should die like this; a little at a time, and not suffer much
pain. The fading flame of his old recklessness flared up.

"I'm goin' across," he said. "But, by God, I'm takin' Jim Waring with

He glanced toward the buckskin horse that stood so patiently beside that
silent figure out there. Waring was done for. High Chin blinked. A long
shaft of sunlight spread across the sand, and in the glow High Chin saw
that the horse was moving toward him. He stared for a few seconds. Then
he screamed horribly.

Waring, his hand gripping the stirrup, was dragging across the sand
beside the horse that stepped sideways and carefully as Waring urged him
on. Dex worked nearer to High Chin, but so slowly that High Chin thought
it was some horrible phantasy sent to awaken fear in his dulled brain.
But that dragging figure, white-faced and terrible--that was real!
Within a few paces of High Chin, Dex stopped and turned his head to look
down at Waring. And Waring, swaying up on his hands, laughed wildly.

"I came over--to tell you--that it was Pat's gun--" He collapsed and lay

High Chin sat staring dully at the gunman's uncovered head. The horse
sniffed at Waring. High Chin's jaw sagged. He slumped down, and lay
back across the body of his brother.

* * * * *

A pathway of lamplight floated out and across the main street of
Criswell. A solitary figure lounged at the saloon bar. The sharp barking
of a dog broke the desert silence. The lounger gazed at the path of
lamplight which framed the bare hitching-rail. His companions of the
afternoon had departed to their homes. Again the dog barked shrilly. The
saloon-keeper moved to a chair and picked up a rumpled paper.

The lounger, leaning on his elbow, suddenly straightened. He pointed
toward the doorway. The saloon-keeper saw the motion from the corner of
his eye. He lowered his paper and rose. In the soft radiance a riderless
horse stood at the hitching-rail, his big eyes glowing, his ears pricked
forward. Across the horse's shoulder was a ragged tear, black against
the tawny gold of his coat. The men glanced at each other. It was the
horse of the fourth man; the man who had staggered in that afternoon,
asked for whiskey, and who had left as buoyantly as though he went to
meet a friend.

"They got him," said the saloon-keeper.

"They got him," echoed the other.

Together they moved to the doorway and peered out. The man who had first
seen the horse stepped down and tied the reins to the rail. He ran his
hand down the horse's shoulder over muscles that quivered as he
examined the wound. He glanced at the saddle, the coiled rope, the
slackened cinches, and pointed to a black stain on the stirrup leather.

[Illustration: I came over--to tell you--that it was Pat's gun]

"From the south," he said. "Maguey rope, and that saddle was made in

"Mebby he wants water," suggested the saloon-keeper.

"He's had it. Reins are wet where he drug 'em in the tank."

"Wonder who them three fellas was?"

"Don' know. From up north, by their rig. I'm wonderin' who the fourth
fella was--and where he is."

"Why, he's out there, stiff'nin' on the sand. They's been a fight. And,
believe me, if the others was like him--she was a dandy!"

"I guess it's up to us to do somethin'," suggested the lounger.

"Not to-night, Bill. You don't ketch me ridin' into a flash in the dark
before I got time to tell myself I'm a dam' fool. In the mornin',

Their heads came up as they heard a horse pounding down the road. A lean
pony, black with sweat, jumped to a trembling stop.

A young Mexican swung down and walked stiffly up to Dex.

"Where is Senor Jim?" he queried, breathing hard.

"Don' know, hombre. This his hoss?"

"Si! It is Dex."

'Well, the hoss came in, recent, draggin' the reins."

"Then you have seen him?"

"Seen who? Who are you, anyway?"

"Me, I am Ramon Ortego, of Sonora. The Senor Jim is my friend. I would
find him."

"Well, if your friend sports a black Stetson and a dam' bad eye and
performs with a short-barreled .45, he rode in this afternoon just about
a hour behind three other fellas. They lit out into the dry spot. Reckon
you'll find your friend out there, if the coyotes ain't got to him."

Ramon limped to the rail and untied Dex. Then he mounted his own horse.

"Dex," he said softly, riding alongside, "where is the Senor Jim?"

The big buckskin swung his head round and sniffed Ramon's hand. Then he
plodded down the street toward the desert. At the tank Ramon let his
horse drink. Dex, like a great dog, sniffed the back trail on which he
had come, plodding through the night toward the spot where he knew his
master to be.

Ramon, burdened with dread and weariness, rode with his hands clasped
round the saddle-horn. The Senor Jim, his Senor Jim, had found those
whom he sought. He had not come back. Ramon was glad that he had filled
the canteen. If the man who had killed his Senor Jim had escaped, he
would follow him even as he had followed Waring. And he would find him.
"And then I shall kill him," said Ramon simply. "He does not know my
face. As I speak to him the Senor Jim's name I shall kill him, and the
Senor Jim will know then that I have been faithful."

The big buckskin plodded on across the sand, the empty stirrups
swinging. Ramon's gaze lifted to the stars. He smiled wanly.

"I follow him. Wherever he has gone, I follow him, and he will not lose
the way."

His bowed head, nodding to the pace of the pony, seemed to reiterate in
grotesque assertion his spoken word. Ramon's tired body tingled as Dex
strode faster. The horse nickered, and an answering nicker came from the
night. His own tired pony struck into a trot. Dex stopped. Ramon slid
down, and, stumbling forward, he touched a black bulk that lay on the

Waring, despite his trim build, was a heavy man. Ramon was just able to
lift him and lay him across the saddle. A coyote yipped from the brush
of the arroyo. As Ramon started back toward town his horse shied at
something near the arroyo's entrance. Ramon did not know that the bodies
of Tony and Bob Brewster formed that low mound half-hidden by the

A yellow star, close to the eastern horizon, twinkled faintly and then
disappeared. The saloon at Criswell had been closed for the night.

Next morning the marshal of Criswell sent a messenger to the telegraph
office at the junction. There was no railroad entering the Criswell
Valley. The messenger bore three telegraph messages; one to Sheriff
Hardy, one to Bud Shoop, and one to Mrs. Adams.

Ramon, outside Waring's room in the marshal's house, listened as the
local doctor moved about. Presently he heard the doctor ask a question.
Waring's voice answered faintly. Ramon stepped from the door and found
his way to the stable. Dex, placidly munching alfalfa, turned his head
as Ramon came in.

"The Senor Jim is not dead," he told the horse.

And, leaning against Dex, he wept softly, as women weep, with a
happiness too great to bear. The big horse nuzzled his shoulder with his
velvet-smooth nose, as though he would sympathize. Then he turned to
munching alfalfa again in huge content. He had had a weary journey. And
though his master had not come to feed him, here was the gentle,
low-voiced Ramon, whom he knew as a friend.


_City Folks_

Bud Shoop's new duties kept him exceedingly busy. As the days went by he
found himself more and more tied to office detail. Fortunately Torrance
had left a well-organized corps of rangers, each with his own special
work mapped out, work that Shoop understood, with the exception of
seeding and planting experiments, which Lundy, the expert, attended to
as though the reserve were his own and his life depended upon successful
results along his special line.

Shoop had long since given up trying to dictate letters. Instead he
wrote what he wished to say on slips of paper which his clerk cast into
conventional form. The genial Bud's written directions were brief and to
the point.

Among the many letters received was one from a writer of Western
stories, applying for a lease upon which to build a summer camp. His
daughter's health was none too good, and he wanted to be in the
mountains. Shoop studied the letter. He had a vague recollection of
having heard of the writer. The request was legitimate. There was no
reason for not granting it.

Shoop called in his stenographer. "Ever read any of that fella's

"Who? Bronson? Yes. He writes bang-up Western stories."

"He does, eh? Well, you get hold of one of them stories. I want to read
it. I've lived in the West a few minutes myself."

A week later Shoop had made his decision. He returned a shiny, new
volume to the clerk.

"I never took to writin' folks reg'lar," he told the clerk. "Mebby I got
the wrong idee of 'em. Now I reckon some of them is human, same as you
and me. Why, do you know I been through lots of them things he writes
about. And, by gollies, when I read that there gun-fight down in Texas,
I ketched myself feelin' along my hip, like I was packin' a gun. And
when I read about that cowboy's hoss,--the one with the sarko eye and
the white legs,--why, I ketched myself feelin' for my ole bandanna to
blow my nose. An' I seen dead hosses a-plenty. But you needn't to say
nothin' about that in the letter. Just tell him to mosey over and we'll
talk it out. If a man what knows hosses and folks like he does wa'n't
raised in the West, he ought to been. Heard anything from Adams?"

"He was in last week. He's up on Baldy. Packed some stuff up to the

"Uh-uh. Now, the land next to my shack on the Blue ain't a bad place for
this here writer. I got the plat, and we can line out the five acres
this fella wants from my corner post. But he's comin' in kind of late to
build a camp."

"It will be good weather till December," said the clerk.

"Well, you write and tell him to come over. Seen anything of Hardy and
his men lately?"

"Not since last Tuesday."

"Uh-uh. They're millin' around like a lot of burros--and gettin'
nowhere. But Jim Waring's out after that bunch that got Pat. If I wasn't
so hefty, I'd 'a' gone with him. I tell you the man that got Pat ain't
goin' to live long to brag on it."

"They say it was the Brewster boys," ventured the stenographer.

"They say lots of things, son. But Jim Waring _knows_. God help the man
that shot Pat when Jim Waring meets up with him. And I want to tell you
somethin'. Be kind of careful about repeatin' what 'they say' to
anybody. You got nothin' to back you up if somebody calls your hand.
'They' ain't goin' to see you through. And you named the Brewster boys.
Now, just suppose one of the Brewster boys heard of it and come over
askin' you what you meant? I bet you a new hat Jim Waring ain't said
Brewster's name to a soul--and he _knows_. I'm goin' over to Stacey. Any
mail the stage didn't get?"

"Letter for Mrs. Adams."

"Uh-uh. Lorry writes to his ma like he was her beau--reg'lar and
plenty. Funny thing, you can't get a word out of him about wimmin-folk,
neither. He ain't that kind of a colt. But I reckon when he sees the gal
he wants he'll saddle up and ride out and take her." And Bud chuckled.

Bondsman rapped the floor with his tail. Bondsman never failed to
express a sympathetic mood when his master chuckled.

"Now, look at that," said Shoop, grinning. "He knows I'm goin' over to
Stacey. He heard me say it. And he says I got to take him along, 'cause
he knows I ain't goin' on a hoss. That there dog bosses me around
somethin' scandalous."

The stenographer smiled as Shoop waddled from the office with Bondsman
at his heels. There was something humorous, almost pathetic, in the
gaunt and grizzled Airedale's affection for his rotund master. And
Shoop's broad back, with the shoulders stooped slightly and the set
stride as he plodded here and there, often made the clerk smile. Yet
there was nothing humorous about Shoop's face when he flashed to anger
or studied some one who tried to mask a lie, or when he reprimanded his
clerk for naming folk that it was hazardous to name.

The typewriter clicked; a fly buzzed on the screen door; a beam of
sunlight flickered through the window. The letter ran:--

Yours of the 4th inst. received and contents noted. In answer would
state that Supervisor Shoop would be glad to have you call at your
earliest convenience in regard to leasing a camp-site on the White
Mountain Reserve.

Essentially a business letter of the correspondence-school type.

But the stenographer was not thinking of style. He was wondering what
the girl would be like. There was to be a girl. The writer had said that
he wished to build a camp to which he could bring his daughter, who was
not strong. The clerk thought that a writer's daughter might be an
interesting sort of person. Possibly she was like some of the heroines
in the writer's stories. It would be interesting to meet her. He had
written a poem once himself. It was about spring, and had been published
in the local paper. He wondered if the writer's daughter liked poetry.

In the meantime, Lorry, with two pack-animals and Gray Leg, rode the
hills and canons, attending to the many duties of a ranger.

And as he caught his stride in the work he began to feel that he was his
own man. Miles from headquarters, he was often called upon to make a
quick decision that required instant and individual judgment. He made
mistakes, but never failed to report such mistakes to Shoop. Lorry
preferred to give his own version of an affair that he had mishandled
rather than to have to explain some other version later. He was no
epitome of perfection. He was inclined to be arbitrary when he knew he
was in the right. Argument irritated him. He considered his "Yes" or
"No" sufficient, without explanation.

He made Shoop's cabin his headquarters, and spent his spare time cording
wood. He liked his occupation, and felt rather independent with the
comfortable cabin, a good supply of food, a corral and pasture for the
ponies, plenty of clear, cold water, and a hundred trails to ride each
day from dawn to dark as he should choose. Once unfamiliar with the
timber country, he grew to love the twinkling gold of the aspens, the
twilight vistas of the spruce and pines, and the mighty sweep of the
great purple tides of forest that rolled down from the ranges into a
sheer of space that had no boundary save the sky.

He grew a trifle thinner in the high country. The desert tan of his
cheeks and throat deepened to a ruddy bronze.

Aside from pride in his work, he took special pride in his equipment,
keeping his bits and conchas polished and his leather gear oiled.
Reluctantly he discarded his chaps. He found that they hindered him when
working on foot. Only when he rode into Jason for supplies did he wear
his chaps, a bit of cowboy vanity quite pardonable in his years.

If he ever thought of women at all, it was when he lounged and smoked by
the evening fire in the cabin, sometimes recalling "that Eastern girl
with the jim-dandy mother." He wondered if they ever thought of him, and
he wished that they might know he was now a full-fledged ranger with
man-size responsibilities. "And mebby they think I'm ridin' south yet,"
he would say to himself. "I must have looked like I didn't aim to pull
up this side of Texas, from the way I lit out." But, then, women didn't
understand such things.

Occasionally he confided something of the kind to the spluttering fire,
laughing as he recalled the leg of lamb with which he had waved his
hasty farewell.

"And I was scared, all right. But I wasn't so scared I forgot I'd get
hungry." Which conclusion seemed to satisfy him.

When he learned that a writer had leased five acres next to Bud's cabin,
he was skeptical as to how he would get along with "strangers." He liked
elbow-room. Yet, on second thought, it would make no difference to him.
He would not be at the cabin often nor long at a time. The evenings were
lonely sometimes.

But when camped at the edge of the timber on some mountain meadow, with
his ponies grazing in the starlit dusk, when the little, leaping flame
of his night fire flung ruddy shadows that danced in giant mimicry in
the cavernous arches of the pines; when the faint tinkle of the belled
pack-horse rang a faery cadence in the distance; then there was no such
thing as loneliness in his big, outdoor world. Rather, he was content in
a solid way. An inner glow of satisfaction because of work well done, a
sense of well-being, founded upon perfect physical health and ease,
kept him from feeling the need of companionship other than that of his
horses. Sometimes he sat late into the night watching the pine gum ooze
from a burning log and swell to golden bubbles that puffed into tiny
flames and vanished in smoky whisperings. At such times a companion
would not have been unwelcome, yet he was content to be alone.

Later, when Lorry heard that the writer was to bring his daughter into
the high country, he expressed himself to Shoop's stenographer briefly:
"Oh, hell!" Yet the expletive was not offensive, spoken gently and
merely emphasizing Lorry's attitude toward things feminine.

While Lorry was away with the pack-horses and a week's riding ahead of
him, the writer arrived in Jason, introduced himself and his
daughter,--a rather slender girl of perhaps sixteen or eighteen,--and
later, accompanied by the genial Bud, rode up to the Blue Mesa and
inspected the proposed camp-site. As they rode, Bud discoursed upon the
climate, ways of building a log cabin, wild turkeys, cattle, sheep,
grazing, fuel, and water, and concluded his discourse with a
dissertation upon dogs in general and Airedales in particular. The
writer was fond of dogs and knew something about Airedales. This
appealed to Shoop even more than had the writer's story of the West.

Arrived at the mesa, tentative lines were run and corners marked. The
next day two Mormon youths from Jason started out with a load of lumber
and hardware. The evening of the second day following they arrived at
the homestead, pitched a tent, and set to work. That night they unloaded
the lumber. Next morning they cleared a space for the cabin. By the end
of August the camp was finished. The Mormon boys, to whom freighting
over the rugged hills was more of a pastime than real work, brought in a
few pieces of furniture--iron beds, a stove, cooking-utensils, and the
hardware and provisions incidental to the maintenance of a home in the

The writer and his daughter rode up from Jason with the final load of
supplies. Excitement and fatigue had so overtaxed the girl's slender
store of strength that she had to stay in bed for several days.
Meanwhile, her father put things in order. The two saddle-horses,
purchased under the critical eye of Bud Shoop, showed an inclination to
stray back to Jason, so the writer turned them into Lorry's corral each
evening, as his own lease was not entirely fenced.

Riding in from his long journey one night, Lorry passed close to the new
cabin. It loomed strangely raw and white in the moonlight. He had
forgotten that there was to be a camp near his. The surprise rather
irritated him. Heretofore he had considered the Blue Mesa was his by a
kind of natural right. He wondered how he would like the city folks.
They had evidently made themselves at home. Their horses were in his

As he unsaddled Gray Leg, a light flared up in the strange camp. The
door opened, and a man came toward him.

"Good-evening," said the writer. "I hope my horses are not in your way."

"Sure not," said Lorry as he loosened a pack-rope.

He took off the packs and lugged them to the veranda. The tired horses
rolled, shook themselves, and meandered toward the spring.

"I'm Bronson. My daughter is with me. We are up here for the summer."

"My name is Adams," said Lorry, shaking hands.

"The ranger up here. Yes. Well, I'm glad to meet you, Adams. My daughter
and I get along wonderfully, but it will be rather nice to have a
neighbor. I heard you ride by, and wanted to explain about my horses."

"That's all right, Mr. Bronson. Just help yourself."

"Thank you. Dorothy--my daughter--has been under the weather for a few
days. She'll be up to-morrow, I think. She has been worrying about our
using your corral. I told her you would not mind."

"Sure not. She's sick, did you say?"

"Well, over-tired. She is not very strong."

"Lungs?" queried Lorry, and immediately he could have kicked himself for
saying it.

"I'm afraid so, Adams. I thought this high country might do her good."

"It's right high for some. Folks got to take it easy at first;
'specially wimmin-folk. I'm right sorry your girl ain't well."

"Thank you. I shouldn't have mentioned it. She is really curious to know
how you live, what you do, and, in fact, what a real live ranger looks
like. Mr. Shoop told her something about you while we were in Jason.
They became great friends while the camp was building. She says she
knows all about you, and tries to tease me by keeping it to herself."

"Bud--my boss--is some josher," was all that Lorry could think of to say
at the time.

Bronson went back to his cabin. Lorry, entering his camp, lighted the
lamp and built a fire. The camp looked cozy and cheerful after a week on
the trail.

When he had eaten he sat down to write to his mother. He would tell her
all about the new cabin and the city folks. But before he had written
more than to express himself "that it was too darned bad a girl had to
stay up in the woods without no other wimmin-folks around," he became
drowsy. The letter remained unfinished. He would finish it to-morrow. He
would smoke awhile and then go to bed.

A healthy young animal himself, he could not understand what sickness
meant. And as for lungs--he had forgotten there were such things in a
person's make-up. And sick folks couldn't eat "regular grub." It must be
pretty tough not to be able to eat heartily. Now, there was that wild
turkey he had shot near the Big Spring. He tiptoed to the door. The
lights were out in the other cabin. It was closed season for turkey, but
then a fellow needed a change from bacon and beans once in a while.

He had hidden the turkey in a gunny-sack which hung from a kitchen
rafter. Should he leave it in the sack, hang it from a rafter of their
veranda, out of reach of a chance bobcat or coyote, or--it would be much
more of a real surprise to hang the big bird in front of their door in
all his feathered glory. The sack would spoil the effect.

He took off his boots and walked cautiously to the other cabin. The
first person to come out of that cabin next morning would actually bump
into the turkey. It would be a good joke.

"And if he's the right kind of a hombre he won't talk about it," thought
Lorry as he returned to his camp. "And if he ain't, I am out one fine
bird, and I'll know to watch out for him."

Chapter XXI

_A Slim Whip of a Girl_

When Bronson opened his door to the thin sunlight and the crisp chill of
the morning, he chuckled. He had made too many camps in the outlands to
be surprised by an unexpected gift of game out of season. His neighbor
was a ranger, and all rangers were incidentally game wardens. Bronson
believed heartily in the conservation of game, and in this instance he
did not intend to let that turkey spoil.

He called to his daughter.

Her brown eyes grew big. "Why, it's a turkey!"

Bronson laughed. "And to-day is Sunday. We'll have a housewarming and
invite the ranger to dinner."

"Did he give it to you? Isn't it beautiful! What big wings--and the
breast feathers are like little bronze flames! Do wild turkeys really

"Well, rather. It's a fine sight to see them run to a rim rock and float
off across a canon."

"Did you tell him about our horses? Is he nice? What did he say? But I
could never imagine a turkey like that flying. I always think of turkeys
as strutting around a farmyard with their heads held back and all puffed
out in front. This one is heavy! I can't see how he could even begin to

"They have to get a running start. Then they usually flop along and
sail up into a tree. Once they are in a tree, they can float off into
space easily. They seem to fly slowly, but they can disappear fast
enough. The ranger seems to be a nice chap."

"Did he really give the turkey to us?"

"It was hanging right here when I came out. I can't say that he gave it
to us. You see, it is closed season for turkey."

"But we must thank him."

"We will. Let's ask him to dinner. He seems to be a pleasant chap; quite
natural. He said we were welcome to keep our horses in his corral. But
if you want to have him for a real friendly neighbor, Dorothy, don't
mention the word 'turkey.' We'll just roast it, make biscuits and gravy,
and ask him to dinner. He will understand."

"Then I am going to keep the wings and tail to put on the wall of my
room. How funny, not to thank a person for such a present."

"The supervisor would reprimand him for killing game out of season, if
he heard about it."

"But just one turkey?"

"That isn't the idea. If it came to Mr. Shoop that one of his men was
breaking the game laws, Mr. Shoop would have to take notice of it. Not
that Shoop would care about one of his men killing a turkey to eat, but
it would hurt the prestige of the Service. The natives would take
advantage of it and help themselves to game."

"Of course, you know all about those matters. But can't I even say
'turkey' when I ask him to have some?"

"Oh," laughed Bronson, "call it chicken. He'll eat just as heartily."

"The ranger is up," said Dorothy. "I can hear him whistling."

"Then let's have breakfast and get this big fellow ready to roast. It
will take some time."

An hour later, Lorry, fresh-faced and smiling, knocked on the lintel of
their open doorway.

Bronson, in his shirt-sleeves and wearing a diminutive apron to which
clung a fluff of turkey feathers, came from the kitchen.

"Good-morning. You'll excuse my daughter. She is busy."

"I just came over to ask how she was."

"Thank you. She is much better. We want you to have dinner with us."

"Thanks. But I got some beans going--"

"But this is chicken, man! And it is Sunday."

Lorry's gray eyes twinkled. "Chickens are right scarce up here. And
chicken sure tastes better on Sunday. Was you goin' to turn your stock
out with mine?"

"That's so!"

They turned Bronson's horses out, and watched them charge down the mesa
toward the three animals grazing lazily in the morning sunshine.

"Your horses will stick with mine," said Lorry. "They won't stray now."

"Did I hear a piano this morning, or did I dream that I heard some one

"Oh, it was me, foolin' with Bud's piano in there. Bud's got an amazin'
music-box. Ever see it?"

"No. I haven't been in your cabin."

"Well, come right along over. This was Bud's camp when he was
homesteadin'. Ever see a piano like that?"

Bronson gazed at the carved and battered piano, stepping close to it to
inspect the various brands. "It is rather amazing. I didn't know Mr.
Shoop was fond of music."

"Well, he can't play reg'lar. But he sure likes to try. You ought to
hear him and Bondsman workin' out that 'Annie Laurie' duet. First off,
you feel like laughin'. But Bud gets so darned serious you kind of
forget he ain't a professional. 'Annie Laurie' ain't no dance tune--and
when Bud and the dog get at it, it is right mournful."

"I have seen a few queer things,"--and Bronson laughed,--"but this beats
them all."

"You'd be steppin' square on Bud's soul if you was to josh him about
that piano," said Lorry.

"I wouldn't. But thank you just the same. You have a neat place here,

"When you say 'neat' you say it all."

"I detest a fussy camp. One gets enough of that sort of thing in town.
Is that a Gallup saddle or a Frazier?"


"I used a Heiser when I was in Mexico. They're all good."

"That's what I say. But there's a hundred cranks to every make of saddle
and every rig. You said you were in Mexico?"

"Before I was married. As a young man I worked for some of the mines. I
went there from college."

"I reckon you've rambled some." And a new interest lightened Lorry's
eyes. Perhaps this man wasn't a "plumb tenderfoot," after all.

"Oh, not so much. I punched cattle down on the Hassayampa and in the
Mogollons. Then I drifted up to Alaska. But I always came back to
Arizona. New Mexico is mighty interesting, and so is Colorado.
California is really the most wonderful State of all, but somehow I
can't keep away from Arizona."

"Shake! I never been out of Arizona, except when I was a kid, but she's
the State for me."

A shadow flickered in the doorway. Lorry turned to gaze at a delicate
slip of a girl, whose big brown eyes expressed both humor and

"My daughter Dorothy, Mr. Adams. This is our neighbor, Dorothy."

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

And Lorry's strong fingers closed on her slender hand. To his robust
sense of the physical she appealed as something exceedingly fragile and
beautiful, with her delicate, clear coloring and her softly glowing
eyes. What a little hand! And what a slender arm! And yet Lorry thought
her arm pretty in its rounded slenderness. He smiled as he saw a turkey
feather fluttering on her shoulder.

"Looks like that chicken was gettin' the best of you," he said, smiling.

"That's just it," she agreed, nothing abashed. "Father, you'll have to

"You'll excuse us, won't you? We'll finish our visit at dinner."

Lorry had reports to make out. He dragged a chair to the table. That man
Bronson was all right. Let's see--the thirtieth--looked stockier in
daylight. Had a good grip, too, and a clear, level eye. One mattock
missing in the lookout cabin--and the girl; such a slender whip of a
girl! Just like a young willow, but not a bit like an invalid. Buckley
reports that his man will have the sheep across the reservation by the
fourth of the month. Her father had said she was not over-strong. And
her eyes! Lorry had seen little fawns with eyes like that--big,
questioning eyes, startled rather than afraid.

"Reckon everything she sees up here is just amazin' her at every jump.
I'll bet she's happy, even if she _has_ got lungs. Now, a fella couldn't
help but to like a girl like that. She would made a dandy sister, and a
fella would just about do anything in the world for such a sister. And
she wouldn't have to ask, at that. He would just naturally want to do
things for her, because--well, because he couldn't help feeling that
way. Funny how some wimmin made a man feel like he wanted to just about
worship them, and not because they did anything except be just
themselves. Now, there was that Mrs. Weston. She was a jim-dandy
woman--but she was different. She always seemed to know just what she
was going to say and do. And Mrs. Weston's girl, Alice. Reckon I'd scrap
with her right frequent. She was still--"

Dog-gone it! Where was he drifting to? Sylvestre's sheep were five days
crossing the reserve. Smith reported a small fire north of the lookout.
The Ainslee boys put the fire out. It hadn't done any great damage.

Lorry sat back and chewed the lead pencil. As he gazed out of the window
across the noon mesa a faint fragrance was wafted through the doorway.
He sniffed and grinned. It was the warm flavor of wild turkey, a flavor
that suggested crispness, with juicy white meat beneath. Lorry jumped up
and grabbed a pail as he left the cabin. On his way back from the
spring, Bronson waved to him. Lorry nodded. And presently he presented
himself at Bronson's cabin, his face glowing, his flannel shirt neatly
brushed, and a dark-blue silk bandanna knotted gracefully at his throat.

"This is the princess," said Bronson, gesturing toward his daughter.
"And here is the feast."

"And it was a piano," continued Bronson as they sat down.

"Really? 'Way up here?"

"My daughter plays a little," explained Bronson.

"Well, you're sure welcome to use that piano any time. If I'm gone, the
door is unlocked just the same."

"Thank you, Mr. Adams, I only play to amuse myself now."

Lorry fancied there was a note of regret in her last word. He glanced at
her. She was gazing wistfully out of the window. It hurt him to see that
tinge of hopelessness on her young face.

"This here chicken is fine!" he asserted.

The girl's eyes were turned to him. She smiled and glanced roguishly at
her father. Lorry laughed outright.

"What is the joke?" she demanded.

"Nothin'; only my plate is empty, Miss Bronson."

Bronson grabbed up carving-knife and fork. "Great Caesar! I must have
been dreaming. I _was_ dreaming. I was recalling a turkey hunt down in
Virginia with Colonel Stillwell and his man Plato. Plato was a good
caller--but we didn't get a turkey. Now, this is as tender as--as it
ought to be. A little more gravy? And as we came home, the colonel, who
was of the real mint-julep type, proposed as a joke that Plato see what
he could do toward getting some kind of bird for dinner that night. And
when Plato lifted the covers, sure enough there was a fine, fat roast
chicken. The colonel, who lived in town and did not keep chickens, asked
Plato how much he had paid for it. Plato almost dropped the cover.
'Mars' George,' he said with real solicitude in his voice,' is you
sick?' And speaking of turkeys--"

"Who was speaking of turkeys?" asked Dorothy.

"Why, I think this chicken is superior to any domestic turkey I ever
tasted," concluded Bronson.

"Was you ever in politics?" queried Lorry. And they all laughed

After dinner Lorry asked for an apron.

Dorothy shook her finger at him. "It's nice of you--but you don't mean

"Now, ma wouldn't 'a' said that, miss. She'd 'a' just tied one of her
aprons on me and turned me loose on the dishes. I used to help her like
that when I was a kid. Ma runs the hotel at Stacey."

"Why, didn't we stop there for dinner?" asked Dorothy.

"Yes, indeed. All right, Adams, I'll wash 'em and you can dry 'em, and
Dorothy can rest."

"It's a right smilin' little apron," commented Lorry as Dorothy handed
it to him.

"And you do look funny! My, I didn't know you were so big! I'll have to
get a pin."

"I reckon it's the apron looks funny," said Lorry.

"I made it," she said, teasing him.

"Then that's why it is so pretty," said Lorry gravely.

Dorothy decided to change the subject. "I think you should let me wash
the dishes, father."

"You cooked the dinner, Peter Pan."

"Then I'll go over and try the piano. May I?"

"If you'll play for us when we come over, Miss Bronson."

Bronson and Lorry sat on the veranda and smoked. Dorothy was playing a
sprightly melody. She ceased to play, and presently the sweet old tune
"Annie Laurie" came to them. Lorry, with cigarette poised in his
fingers, hummed the words to himself. Bronson was watching him
curiously. The melody came to an end. Lorry sighed.

"Sounds like that ole piano was just singin' its heart out all by
itself," he said. "I wish Bud could hear that."

Almost immediately came the sprightly notes of "Anitra's Dance."

"And that's these here woods--and the water prancin' down the rocks, and
a slim kind of a girl dancin' in the sunshine and then runnin' away to
hide in the woods again." And Lorry laughed softly at his own conceit.

"Do you know the tune?" queried Bronson.

"Nope. I was just makin' that up."

"That's just Dorothy," said Bronson.

Lorry turned and gazed at him. And without knowing how it came about,
Lorry understood that there had been another Dorothy who had played and
sung and danced in the sunshine. And that this sprightly, slender girl
was a bud of that vanished flower, a bud whose unfolding Bronson watched
with such deep solicitude.

Chapter XXII

_A Tune for Uncle Bud_

Lorry had ridden to Jason, delivered his reports to the office, and
received instructions to ride to the southern line of the reservation.
He would be out many days. He had brought down a pack-horse, and he
returned to camp late that night with provisions and some mail for the

The next day he delayed starting until Dorothy had appeared. Bronson
told him frankly that he was sorry to see him go, especially for such a
length of time.

"But I'm glad," said Dorothy.

Lorry stared at her. Her face was grave, but there was a twinkle of
mischief in her eyes. She laughed.

"Because it will be such fun welcoming you home again."

"Oh, I thought it might be that piano--"

"Now I shan't touch it!" she pouted, making a deliberate face at him.

He laughed. She did such unexpected things, did them so unaffectedly.
Bronson put his arms about her shoulders.

"We're keeping Mr. Adams, Peter Pan. He is anxious to be off. He has
been ready for quite a while and I think he has been waiting till you
appeared so that he could say good-bye."

"Are you anxious to be off?" she queried.

"Yes, ma'am. It's twenty miles over the ridge to good grass and water."

"Why, twenty miles isn't so far!"

"They's considerable up and down in them twenty miles, Miss Bronson.
Now, it wouldn't be so far for a turkey. He could fly most of the way.
But a horse is different, and I'm packin' a right fair jag of stuff."

"Well, good-bye, ranger man. Good-bye, Gray Leg,--and you two poor
horses that have to carry the packs. Don't stay away all winter."

Lorry swung up and started the pack-horses. At the edge of the timber he
turned and waved his hat. Dorothy and her father answered with a hearty
Good-bye that echoed through the slumbering wood lands.

One of Bronson's horses raised his head and nickered. "Chinook is saying
'Adios,' too. Isn't the air good? And we're right on top of the world.
There is Jason, and there is St. Johns, and 'way over there ought to be
the railroad, but I can't see it."

Bronson smiled down at her.

She reached up and pinched his cheek. "Let's stay here forever, daddy."

"We'll see how my girl is by September. And next year, if you want to
come back--"

"Come back! Why, I don't want to go away--ever!"

"But the snow, Peter Pan."

"I forgot that. We'd be frozen in tight, shouldn't we?"

"I'm afraid we should. Shall we look at the mail? Then I'll have to go
to work."

"Mr. Adams thinks quite a lot of his horses, doesn't he?" she queried.

"He has to. He depends on them, and they depend on him. He has to take
good care of them."

"I shouldn't like it a bit if I thought he took care of them just
because he had to."

"Oh, Adams is all right, Peter. I have noticed one or two things about

"Well, I have noticed that he has a tremendous appetite," laughed

"And you're going to have, before we leave here, Peter Pan."

"Then you'd better hurry and get that story written. I want a new saddle
and, oh, lots of things!"

Bronson patted her hand as she walked with him to the cabin. He sat down
to his typewriter, and she came out with a book.

She glanced up occasionally to watch the ponies grazing on the mesa. She
was deeply absorbed in her story when some one called to her. She jumped
up, dropping her book.

Bud Shoop was sitting his horse a few paces away, smiling. He had ridden
up quietly to surprise her.

"A right lovely mornin', Miss Bronson. I reckon your daddy is busy."

"Here I am," said Bronson, striding out and shaking hands with the
supervisor. "Won't you come in?"

"About that lease," said Shoop, dismounting. "If you got time to talk

"Most certainly. Dorothy will excuse us."

"Is Adams gone?"

"He left this morning."

"Uh-uh. Here, Bondsman, quit botherin' the young lady."

"He isn't bothering. I know what he wants." And she ran to the kitchen.

Shoop's face grew grave. "I didn't want to scare the little lady,
Bronson, but Lorry's father--Jim Waring--has been shot up bad over to
Criswell. He went in after that Brewster outfit that killed Pat. I
reckon he got 'em--but I ain't heard."

"Adams's father!"

"Yes, Jim Waring. Here comes the little missy. I'll tell you later. Now
Bondsman is sure happy."

And Bud forced a smile as Dorothy gave the dog a pan of something that
looked suspiciously like bones and shreds of turkey meat.

A little later Bud found excuse to call Bronson aside to show him a good
place to fence-in the corral. Dorothy was playing with Bondsman.

"Jim's been shot up bad. I was goin' to tell you that Annie Adams, over
to Stacey, is his wife. She left him when they was livin' down in
Mexico. Lorry is their boy. Now, Jim is as straight as a ruler; I don't
know just why she left him. But let that rest. I got a telegram from the
marshal of Criswell. Reads like Jim was livin', but livin' mighty clost
to the edge. Now, if I was to send word to Lorry he'd just nacherally
buckle on a gun and go after them Brewster boys, if they's any of 'em
left. He might listen to me if I could talk to him. Writin' is no good.
And I ain't rigged up to follow him across the ridge. It's bad country
over there. I reckon I better leave word with you. If he gets word of
the shootin' while he's out there, he'll just up and cut across the
hills to Criswell a-smokin'. But if he gets this far back he's like to
come through Jason--and I can cool him down, mebby."

"He ought to know; if his father is--"

"That's just it. But I'm thinkin' of the boy. Jim Waring's lived a big
chunk of his life. But they ain't no use of the kid gettin' shot up. It
figures fifty that I ought to get word to him, and fifty that I ought to
keep him out of trouble--"

"I didn't know he was that kind of a chap: that is, that he would go out
after those men--"

"He's Jim Waring's boy," said Bud.

"It's too bad. I heard of that other killing."

"Yes. And I've a darned good mind to fly over to Criswell myself. I
knowed Pat better than I did Jim. But I can't ride like I used to.
But"--and the supervisor sighed heavily--"I reckon I'll go just the

"I'll give your message to Adams, Mr. Shoop."

"All right. And tell him I want to see him. How's the little lady these

"She seems to be much stronger, and she is in love with the hills and

"I'm right glad of that. Kind of wish I was up here myself. Why, already
they're houndin' me down there to go into politics. I guess they want to
get me out of this job, 'cause I can't hear crooked money jingle. My
hands feels sticky ever' time I think of politics. And even if a fella's
hands ain't sticky--politics money is. Why, it's like to stick to his
feet if he ain't right careful where he walks!"

"I wish you would stay to dinner, Mr. Shoop."

"So I'll set and talk my fool notions--and you with a writin' machine
handy? Thanks, but I reckon I'll light a shuck for Jason. See my piano?"

"Yes, indeed. Dorothy was trying it a few nights ago."

"Then she can play. Missy," and he called to Dorothy, who was having an
extravagant romp with Bondsman, "could you play a tune for your Uncle

"Of course." And she came to them.

They walked to the cabin. Bondsman did not follow. He had had a hard
play, and was willing to rest.

Dorothy drew up the piano stool and touched the keys. Bud sank into his
big chair. Bronson stood in the doorway. By some happy chance Dorothy
played Bud's beloved "Annie Laurie."

When she had finished, Bud blew his nose sonorously. "I know that tune,"
he said, gazing at Dorothy in a sort of huge wonderment. "But I never
knowed all that you made it say."

He rose and shuffled to the doorway, stopping abruptly as he saw
Bondsman. Could it be possible that Bondsman had not recognized his own
tune? Bud shook his head. There was something wrong somewhere. Bondsman
had not offered to come in and accompany the pianist. He must have been
asleep. But Bondsman had not been asleep. He rose and padded to Shoop's
horse, where he stood, a statue of rugged patience, waiting for Shoop to
start back toward home.

"Now, look at that!" exclaimed Bud. "He's tellin' me if I want to get
back to Jason in time to catch the stage to-morrow mornin' I got to
hustle. That there dog bosses me around somethin' scandalous."

When Shoop had gone, Dorothy turned to her father. "Mr. Shoop didn't ask
me to play very much. He seemed in a hurry."

"That's all right, Peter Pan. He liked your playing. But he has a very
important matter to attend to."

"He's really just delicious, isn't he?"

"If you like that word, Peter. He is big and sincere and kind."

"Oh, so were some of the saints for that matter," said Dorothy, making a
humorous mouth at her father.

Chapter XXIII

_Like One Who Sleeps_

Bondsman sat in the doorway of the supervisor's office, gazing
dejectedly at the store across the street. He knew that his master had
gone to St. Johns and would go to Stacey. He had been told all about
that, and had followed Shoop to the automobile stage, where it stood,
sand-scarred, muddy, and ragged as to tires, in front of the
post-office. Bondsman had watched the driver rope the lean mail bags to
the running-board, crank up the sturdy old road warrior of the desert,
and step in beside the supervisor. There had been no other passengers.
And while Shoop had told Bondsman that he would be away some little
time, Bondsman would have known it without the telling. His master had
worn a coat--a black coat--and a new black Stetson. Moreover, he had
donned a white shirt and a narrow hint of a collar with a black
"shoe-string" necktie. If Bondsman had lacked any further proof of his
master's intention to journey far, the canvas telescope suitcase would
have been conclusive evidence.

The dog sat in the doorway of the office, oblivious to the clerk's
friendly assurances that his master would return poco tiempo. Bondsman
was not deceived by this kindly attempt to soothe his loneliness.

Toward evening the up-stage buzzed into town. Bondsman trotted over to
it, watched a rancher and his wife alight, sniffed at them incuriously,
and trotted back to the office. That settled it. His master would be
away indefinitely.

When the clerk locked up that evening, Bondsman had disappeared.

As Bronson stepped from his cabin the following morning he was startled
to see the big Airedale leap from the veranda of Shoop's cabin and bound
toward him. Then he understood. The camp had been Bondsman's home. The
supervisor had gone to Criswell. Evidently the dog preferred the lonely
freedom of the Blue Mesa to the monotonous confines of town.

Bronson called to his daughter. "We have a visitor this morning,

"Why, it's Bondsman! Where is Mr. Shoop?"

"Most natural question. Mr. Shoop had to leave Jason on business.
Bondsman couldn't go, so he trotted up here to pay us a visit."

"He's hungry. I know it. Come, Bondsman."

From that moment he attached himself to Dorothy, following her about
that day and the next and the next. But when night came he invariably
trotted over to Shoop's cabin and slept on the veranda. Dorothy wondered
why he would not sleep at their camp.

"He's very friendly," she told her father. "He will play and chase
sticks and growl, and pretend to bite when I tickle him, but he does it
all with a kind of mental reservation. Yesterday, when we were having
our regular frolic after breakfast, he stopped suddenly and stood
looking out across the mesa, and it was only my pony, just coming from
the edge of the woods. Bondsman tries to be polite, but he is really
just passing the time while he is waiting for Mr. Shoop."

"You don't feel flattered, perhaps. But don't you admire him all the
more for it?"

"I believe I do. Poor Bondsman! It's just like being a social pet, isn't
it? Have to appear happy whether you are or not."

Bondsman knew that she proffered sympathy, and he licked her hand
lazily, gazing up at her with bright, unreadable eyes.

* * * * *

Bud Shoop wasted no time in Stacey. He puffed into the hotel, indecision
behind him and a definite object in view.

"No use talkin'," he said to Mrs. Adams. "We got to go and take care of
Jim. I couldn't get word to Lorry. No tellin' where to locate him just
now. Mebby it's just as well. They's a train west along about midnight.
Now, you get somebody to stay here till we get back--"

"But, Mr. Shoop! I can't leave like this. I haven't a thing ready. Anita
can't manage alone."

"Well, if that's all, I admire to say that I'll set right down and run
this here hotel myself till you get back. But it ain't right, your
travelin' down there alone. We used to be right good friends, Annie. Do
you reckon I'd tell you to go see Jim if it wa'n't right? If he ever
needed you, it's right now. If he's goin' to get well, your bein'
there'll help him a pow'ful sight. And if he ain't, you ought to be
there, anyhow."

"I know it, Bud. I wish Lorry was here."

"I don't. I'm mighty glad he's out there where he is. What do you think
he'd do if he knowed Jim was shot up?"

"He would go to his father--"



"Go ahead. You wa'n't born yesterday."

"He would listen to me," she concluded weakly.

"Yep. But only while you was talkin'. That boy is your boy all right,
but he's got a lot of Jim Waring under his hide. And if you want to keep
that there hide from gettin' shot full of holes by a no-account outlaw,
you'll just pack up and come along."

Bud wiped his forehead, and puffed. This sort of thing was not exactly
in his line.

"Here's the point, Annie," he continued. "If I get there afore Lorry,
and you're there, he won't get into trouble. Mebby you could hold him
with your hand on the bridle, but he's runnin' loose right where he is.
Can't you get some lady in town to run the place?"

"I don't know. I'll see."

Bud heaved a sigh. It was noticeably warmer in Stacey than at Jason.

Bud's reasoning, while rough, had appealed to Mrs. Adams. She felt that
she ought to go. She had only needed some such impetus to send her
straight to Waring. The town marshal's telegram had stunned her. She
knew that her husband had followed the Brewsters, but she had not
anticipated the awful result of his quest. In former times he had always
come back to her, taking up the routine of their home life quietly. But
this time he had not come back. If only he had listened to her! And deep
in her heart she felt that old jealousy for the lure which had so often
called him from her to ride the grim trails of his profession. But this
time he had not come back. She would go to him, and never leave him

Anita thought she knew of a woman who would take charge of the hotel
during Mrs. Adams's absence. Without waiting for an assurance of this,
Bud purchased tickets, sent a letter to his clerk, and spent half an
hour in the barber shop.

"Somebody dead?" queried the barber as Bud settled himself in the chair.

"Not that I heard of. Why?"

"Oh, nothing, Mr. Shoop. I seen that you was dressed in black and had on
a black tie--"

Later, as Bud surveyed himself in the glass, trying ineffectually to
dodge the barber's persistent whisk-broom, he decided that he did look a
bit funereal. And when he appeared at the supper table that evening he
wore an ambitious four-in-hand tie of red and yellow. There was going to
be no funeral or anything that looked like it, if he knew it.

Aboard the midnight train he made Mrs. Adams comfortable in the chair
car. It was but a few hours' run to The Junction. He went to the smoker,
took off his coat, and lit a cigar. Around him men sprawled in all sorts
of awkward attitudes, sleeping or trying to sleep. He had heard nothing
further about Waring's fight with the Brewsters. They might still be at
large. But he doubted it. If they were--Shoop recalled the friendly
shooting contest with High-Chin Bob. If High Chin were riding the
country, doubtless he would be headed south. But if he should happen to
cross Shoop's trail by accident--Bud shook his head. He would not look
for trouble, but if it came his way it would bump into something solid.

Shoop had buckled on his gun before leaving Jason. His position as
supervisor made him automatically a deputy sheriff. But had he been
nothing more than a citizen homesteader, his aim would have been quite
as sincere.

It was nearly daylight when they arrived at The Junction. Shoop
accompanied Mrs. Adams to a hotel. After breakfast he went out to get a
buck-board and team. Criswell was not on the line of the railroad.

They arrived in Criswell that evening, and were directed to the
marshal's house, where Ramon met them.

"How's Jim?" was Shoop's immediate query.

"The Senor Jim is like one who sleeps," said Ramon.

Mrs. Adams grasped Shoop's arm.

"He wakens only when the doctor is come. He has spoken your name,

The marshal's wife, a thin, worried-looking woman, apologized for the
untidy condition of her home, the reason for which she wished to make
obvious. She was of the type which Shoop designated to himself as
"vinegar and salt."

"Reckon I better go in first, Annie?"

"No." And Mrs. Adams opened the door indicated by the other woman.

Shoop caught a glimpse of a white face. The door closed softly. Shoop
turned to Ramon.

"Let's go take a smoke, eh?"

Ramon led the way down the street and on out toward the desert. At the
edge of town, he paused and pointed across the spaces.

"It was out there, senor. I found him. The others were not found until
the morning. I did not know that they were there."

"The others? How many?"

"Three. One will live, but he will never ride again. The others, High
of the Chin and his brother, were buried by the marshal. None came to
claim them."

"Were you in it?"

"No, senor. It was alone that Senor Jim fought them. He followed them
out there alone. I come and I ask where he is gone. I find him that
night. I do not know that he is alive."

"What became of his horse?"

"Dex he come back with no one on him. It is then that I tell Dex to find
for me the Senor Jim."

"And he trailed back to where Jim went down, eh? Uh-uh! I got a dog

"Will the Senor Jim ride again?" queried Ramon.

"I dunno, boy, I dunno. But if you and me and the doc and the
senora--and mebby God--get busy, why, mebby he'll stand a chance. How
many times was he hit?"

"Two times they shot him."

"Two, eh? Well, speakin' from experience, they was three mighty fast
guns ag'in' him. Say five shots in each gun, which is fifteen. And he
had to reload, most-like, for he can empty a gun quicker than you can
think. Fifteen to five for a starter, and comin' at him from three ways
to once. And he got the whole three of 'em! Do you know what that means,
boy? But shucks! I'm forgettin' times has changed. How they been usin'
you down here?"

"I am sleep in the hay by Dex."

"Uh-uh. Let that rest. Mebby it's a good thing, anyhow. Got any money?"

"No, senor. I have use all."

"Where d' you eat?"

"I have buy the can and the crackers at the store."

"Can and crackers, eh? Bet you ain't had a square meal for a week. But
we'll fix that. Here, go 'long and buy some chuck till I get organized."

"Gracias, senor. But I can pray better when I do not eat so much."

"Good Lord! But, that's some idee! Well, if wishin' and hopin' and such
is prayin', I reckon Jim'll pull through. I reckon it's up to the missus

"Lorry is not come?"

"Nope. Couldn't get to him. When does the mail go out of this

"I do not know. To-morrow or perhaps the next day."

"Uh-uh. Well, you get somethin' to eat, and then throw a saddle on Dex
and I'll give you a couple of letters to take to The Junction. And, come
to think, you might as well keep right on fannin' it for Stacey and
home. They can use you over to the ranch. The missus and me'll take care
of Senor Jim."

"I take the letter," said Ramon, "but I am come back. I am with the
Senor Jim where he goes."

"Oh, very well, amigo. Might as well give a duck a bar of soap and ask
him to take a bath as to tell you to leave Jim. Such is wastin' talk."

Chapter XXIV

_The Genial Bud_

"And just as soon as he can be moved, his wife aims to take him over to

So Bud told the Marshal of Criswell, who, for want of better
accommodations, had his office in the rear of the general store.

The marshal, a gaunt individual with a watery blue eye and a soiled
goatee, shook his head. "The law is the law," he stated sententiously.

"And a gun's a gun," said Shoop. "But what evidence you got that Jim
Waring killed Bob Brewster and his brother Tony?"

"All I need, pardner. When I thought Andy Brewster was goin' to pass
over, I took his antimortim. But he's livin'. And he is bound over to
appear ag'in' Waring. What you say about the killin' over by Stacey
ain't got nothin' to do with this here case. I got no orders to hold
Andy Brewster, but I'm holdin' him for evidence. And I'm holdin' Waring
for premeditated contempt and shootin' to death of said Bob Brewster and
his brother Tony. And I got said gun what did it."

"So you pinched Jim's gun, eh? And when he couldn't lift a finger or say
a word to stop you. Do you want to know what would happen if you was to
try to get a holt of said gun if Jim Waring was on his two feet? Well,
Jim Waring would pull said trigger, and Criswell would bury said city

"The law is the law. This town's payin' me to do my duty, and I'm goin'
to do it."

"Speakin' in general, how much do you owe the town so far?"

"Look-a-here! You can't run no whizzer like that on me. I've heard tell
of you, Mr. Shoop. No dinky little ole forest ranger can come
cantelopin' round here tellin' me my business!"

"Mebby I'm dinky, and mebby, I'm old, but your eyesight wants fixin' if
you callin' me little, old hoss. An' I ain't tryin' to tell you your
business. I'm tellin' you mine, which is that Jim Waring goes to Stacey
just the first minute he can put his foot in a buck-board. And he's
goin' peaceful. I got a gun on me that says so."

"The law is the law. I can run you in for packin' concealed weapons, Mr.

"Run me in!" chuckled Shoop. "Nope. You'd spile the door. But let me
tell you. A supervisor is a deputy sheriff--and that goes anywhere
they's a American flag. I don't see none here, but I reckon Criswell is
in America. What's the use of your actin' like a goat just because you
got chin whiskers? I'm tellin' you Jim Waring done a good job when he
beefed them coyotes."

The marshal's pale-blue eyes blinked at the allusion to the goat. "Now,
don't you get pussonel, neighbor. The law is the law, and they ain't no
use you talkin'."

Bud's lips tightened. The marshal's reiterated reference to the law was
becoming irksome. He would be decidedly impersonal henceforth.

"I seen a pair of walkin' overalls once, hitched to a two-bit shirt with
a chewin'-tobacco tag on it. All that held that there fella together was
his suspenders. I don't recollec' whether he just had goat whiskers or
chewed tobacco, but somebody who had been liquorin' up told him he
looked like the Emperor Maximilian. And you know what happened to Maxy."

"That's all right, neighbor. But mebby when I put in my bill for board
of said prisoner and feed for his hoss and one Mexican, mebby you'll
quit talkin' so much, 'less you got friends where you can borrow money."

"Your bill will be paid. Don't you worry about that. What I want to know
is: Does Jim Waring leave town peaceful, or have I got to hang around
here till he gets well enough to travel, and then show you? I got
somethin' else to do besides set on a cracker barrel and swap lies with
my friends."

"You can stay or you can go, but the law is the law--"

"And a goat is a goat. All right, hombre, I'll stay."

"As I was sayin'," continued the marshal, ignoring the deepening color
of Shoop's face, "you can stay. You're too durned fat to move around
safe, anyhow. You might bust."

Shoop smiled. He had stirred the musty marshal to a show of feeling. The
marshal, who had keyed himself up to make the thrust, was disappointed.
He made that mistake, common to his kind, of imagining that he could
continue that sort of thing with impunity.

"You come prancin' into this town with a strange woman, sayin' that she
is the wife of the defendant. Can you tell me how her name is Adams and
his'n is Waring?"

"I can!" And with a motion so swift that the marshal had no time to help
himself, Bud Shoop seized the other's goatee and yanked him from the
cracker barrel. "I got a job for you," said Shoop, grinning until his
teeth showed.

And without further argument on his part, he led the marshal through the
store and up the street to his own house. The marshal back-paddled and
struggled, but he had to follow his chin.

Mrs. Adams answered Bud's knock. Bud jerked the marshal to his knees.

"Apologize to this lady--quick!"

"Why, Mr. Shoop!"

"Yes, it's me, Annie. Talk up, you pizen lizard!"

"But, Bud, you're hurting him!"

"Well, I didn't aim to feed him ice-cream. Talk up, you Gila
monster--and talk quick!"

"I apologize," mumbled the marshal.

Bud released him and wiped his hand on his trousers.

"Sticky!" he muttered.

The marshal shook his fist at Bud. "You're under arrest for disturbin'
the peace. You're under arrest!"

"What does it mean?" queried Mrs. Adams.

"Nothin' what he ain't swallowed, Annie. Gosh 'mighty, but I wasted a
lot of steam on that there walkin' clothes-rack! The blamed horn toad
says he's holdin' Jim for shootin' the Brewsters."

"But he can't," said Mrs. Adams. "Wait a minute; I'll be right out. Sit
down, Bud. You are tired out and nervous."

Bud sat down heavily. "Gosh! I never come so clost to pullin' a gun in
my life. If he was a man, I reckon I'd 'a' done it. What makes me mad is
that I let him get _me_ mad."

When Mrs. Adams came out to the porch she had a vest in her hand. Inside
the vest was pinned the little, round badge of a United States marshal.
Bud seized the vest, and without waiting to listen to her he plodded
down the street and marched into the general store, where the town
marshal was talking to a group of curious natives.

"Can you read?" said Bud, and without waiting for an answer shoved the
little silver badge under the marshal's nose. "The law is the law,"
said Bud. "And that there vest belongs to Jim Waring."

Bud had regained his genial smile. He was too full of the happy
discovery to remain silent.

"Gentlemen," he said, assuming a manner, "did your honorable peace
officer here tell you what he said about the wife of the man who is
layin' wounded and helpless in his own house? And did your honorable
peace officer tell you-all that it is her money that is payin' for the
board and doctorin' of Tony Brewster, likewise layin' wounded and
helpless in your midst? And did your honorable peace officer tell you
that Jim Waring is goin' to leave comfortable and peaceful just as soon
as the A'mighty and the doc'll turn him loose? Well, I seen he was
talkin' to you, and I figured he might 'a' been tellin' you these
things, but I wa'n't sure. Was you-all thinkin' of stoppin' me? Such
doin's! Why, when I was a kid I used to ride into towns like this
frequent, turn 'em bottom side up, spank 'em, and send 'em bawlin' to
their--to their city marshal, and I ain't dead yet. Now, I come peaceful
and payin' my way, but if they's any one here got any objections to how
I wear my vest or eat my pie, why, he can just oil up his objection,
load her, and see that she pulls easy and shoots straight. I ain't no
charity organization, but I'm handin' you some first-class life
insurance free."

That afternoon Buck Hardy arrived, accompanied by a deputy. Andy
Brewster again made deposition that without cause Waring had attacked
and killed his brothers. Hardy had a long consultation with Shoop, and
later notified Brewster that he was under arrest as an accomplice in the
murder of Pat and for aiding the murderer to escape. While
circumstantial evidence pointed directly toward the Brewsters, who had
threatened openly from time to time to "get" Pat, there was valuable
evidence missing in Waco, who, it was almost certain, had been an
eye-witness of the tragedy. Waco had been traced to the town of Grant,
at which place Hardy and his men had lost the trail. The demolished
buckboard had been found by the roadside. Hardy had tracked the
automobile to Grant.

Shoop suggested that Waco might have taken a freight out of town.
Despite Hardy's argument that Waco had nothing to fear so far as the
murder was concerned, Shoop realized that the tramp had been afraid to
face the law and had left that part of the country.

Such men were born cowards, irresolute, weak, and treacherous even to
their own infrequent moments of indecision. There was no question but
that Waring had acted within the law in killing the Brewsters. Bob
Brewster had fired at him at sight. But the fact that one of the
brothers survived to testify against Waring opened up a question that
would have to be answered in court. Shoop offered the opinion that
possibly Andy Brewster, the youngest of the brothers, was not directly
implicated in the murder, only taking sides with his brother Bob when he
learned that he was a fugitive. In such a premise it was not unnatural
that his bitterness toward Waring should take the angle that it did. And
it would be difficult to prove that Andy Brewster was guilty of more
than aiding his brother to escape.

The sheriff and Shoop talked the matter over, with the result that Hardy
dispatched a telegram from The Junction to all the Southern cities to
keep a sharp watch for Waco.

Next morning Shoop left for Jason with Hardy and his deputy.

Several days later Waring was taken to The Junction by Mrs. Adams and
Ramon, where Ramon left them waiting for the east-bound. The Mexican
rode the big buckskin. He had instructions to return to the ranch.

Late that evening, Waring was assisted from the train to the hotel at
Stacey. He was given Lorry's old room. It would be many weeks before he
would be strong enough to walk again.

For the first time in his life Waring relinquished the initiative. His
wife planned for the future, and Waring only asserted himself when she
took it for granted that the hotel would be his permanent home.

"There's the ranch, Annie," he told her. "I can't give that up."

"And you can't go back there till I let you," she asserted, smiling.

"I'll get Lorry to talk to you about that. I'm thinking of making him an
offer of partnership. He may want to set up for himself some day. I
married young."

"I'd like to see the girl that's good enough for my Lorry."

Waring smiled. "Or good enough to call you 'mother.'"

"Jim, you're trying to plague me."

"But you will some day. There's always some girl. And Lorry is a pretty
live boy. He isn't going to ride a lone trail forever."

Mrs. Adams affected an indifference that she by no means felt.

"You're a lot better to-day, Jim."

"And that's all your fault, Annie."

She left the room, closing the door slowly. In her own room at the end
of the hall, she glanced at herself in the glass. A rosy face and
dark-brown eyes smiled back at her.

But there were many things to attend to downstairs. She had been away
more than a week. And there was evidence of her absence in every room in
the place.

Chapter XXV

_The Little Fires_

With the coming of winter the Blue Mesa reclaimed its primordial
solitude. Mount Baldy's smooth, glittering roundness topped a world that
swept down in long waves of dark blue frosted with silver; the serried
minarets of spruce and pine bulked close and sprinkled with snow.
Blanketed in white, the upland mesas lay like great, tideless lakes,
silent and desolate from green-edged shore to shore. The shadowy caverns
of the timberlands, touched here and there with a ray of sunlight,
thrilled to the creeping fingers of the cold. Tough fibers of the
stiff-ranked pines parted with a crackling groan, as though unable to
bear silently the reiterant stabbing of the frost needles. The frozen
gum of the black spruce glowed like frosted topaz. The naked whips of
the quaking asp were brittle traceries against the hard blue of the sky.

Below the rounded shoulders of the peaks ran an incessant whispering as
thin swirls of powdered snow spun down the wind and sifted through the
moving branches below.

The tawny lynx and the mist-gray mountain lion hunted along snow-banked
ranger trails. The blue grouse sat stiff and close to the tree-trunk,
while gray squirrels with quaintly tufted ears peered curiously at
sinuous forms that nosed from side to side of the hidden trail below.

The two cabins of the Blue Mesa, hooded in white, thrust their lean
stovepipes skyward through two feet of snow. The corrals were shallow
fortifications, banked breast-high. The silence seemed not the silence
of slumber, but that of a tense waiting, as though the whole winter
world yearned for the warmth of spring.

No creak of saddle or plod of hoof broke the bleak stillness, save when
some wandering Apache hunted the wild turkey or the deer, knowing that
winter had locked the trails to his ancient heritage; that the white
man's law of boundaries was void until the snows were thin upon the
highest peaks.

Thirty miles north of this white isolation the low country glowed in a
sun that made golden the far buttes and sparkled on the clay-red waters
of the Little Colorado. Four thousand feet below the hills cattle
drifted across the open lands.

Across the ranges, to the south, the barren sands lay shimmering in a
blur of summer heat waves; the winter desert, beautiful in its golden
lights and purple, changing shadows. And in that Southern desert, where
the old Apache Trail melts into the made roads of ranchland and town,
Bronson toiled at his writing. And Dorothy, less slender, more
sprightly, growing stronger in the clean, clear air and the sun,
dreamed of her "ranger man" and the blue hills of her autumn wonderland.
With the warmth of summer around her, the lizards on the rocks, and the
chaparral still green, she could hardly realize that the Blue Mesa could
be desolate, white, and cold. As yet she had not lived long enough in
the desert to love it as she loved the wooded hills, where to her each
tree was a companion and each whisper of the wind a song.

She often wondered what Lorry was doing, and whether Bondsman would come
to visit her when they returned to their cabin on the mesa. She often
recalled, with a kind of happy wonderment, Bondsman's singular visit and
how he had left suddenly one morning, heedless of her coaxing. The big
Airedale had appeared in Jason the day after Bud Shoop had returned from
Criswell. That Bondsman should know, miles from the town, that his
master had returned was a mystery to her. She had read of such
happenings; her father had written of them. But to know them for the
very truth! That was, indeed, the magic, and her mountains were towering
citadels of the true Romance.

Long before Bronson ventured to return to his mountain camp, Lorry was
riding the hill trails again as spring loosened the upland snows and
filled the canons and arroyos with a red turbulence of waters bearing
driftwood and dead leaves. With a companion ranger he mended trail and
rode along the telephone lines, searching for sagging wires; made notes
of fresh down timber and the effect of the snow-fed torrents on the
major trails.

Each day the air grew warmer. Tiny green shoots appeared in the rusty
tangle of last season's mesa grasses. Imperceptibly the dull-hued mesas
became fresh carpeted with green across which the wind bore a subtly
soft fragrance of sun-warmed spruce and pine.

To Lorry the coming of the Bronsons was like the return of old friends.
Although he had known them but a short summer season, isolation had
brought them all close together. Their reunion was celebrated with an
old-fashioned dinner of roast beef and potatoes, hot biscuit and honey,
an apple pie that would have made a New England farmer dream of his
ancestors, and the inevitable coffee of the high country.

And Dorothy had so much to tell him of the wonderful winter desert; the
old Mexican who looked after their horses, and his wife who cooked for
them. Of sunshine and sandstorms, the ruins of ancient pueblos in which
they discovered fragments of pottery, arrowheads, beads, and trinkets,
of the lean, bronzed cowboys of the South, of the cattle and sheep,
until in her enthusiasm she forgot that Lorry had always known of these
things. And Lorry, gravely attentive, listened without interrupting her
until she asked why he was so silent.

"Because I'm right happy, miss, to see you lookin' so spry and pretty.
I'm thinkin' Arizona has been kind of a heaven for you."

"And you?" she queried, laughing.

"Well, it wasn't the heat that would make me call it what it was up here
last winter. I rode up once while you was gone. Gray Leg could just make
it to the cabin. It wasn't so bad in the timber. But comin' across the
mesa the cinchas sure scraped snow."

"Right here on our mesa?"

"Right here, miss. From the edge of the timber over there to this side
it was four feet deep on the level."

"And now," she said, gesturing toward the wavering grasses. "But why did
you risk it?"

Lorry laughed. He had not considered it a risk. "You remember that book
you lent me. Well, I left it in my cabin. There was one piece that kep'
botherin' me. I couldn't recollect the last part about those 'Little
Fires.' I was plumb worried tryin' to remember them verses. When I got
it, I sure learned that piece from the jump to the finish."

"The 'Little Fires'? I'm glad you like it. I do.

"'From East to West they're burning in tower and forge
and home,
And on beyond the outlands, across the ocean foam;
On mountain crest and mesa, on land and sea and height,
The little fires along the trail that twinkle down the night.'

"And about the sheep-herder; do you remember how--

"'The Andalusian herder rolls a smoke and points the way,
As he murmurs, "Caliente," "San Clemente," "Santa Fe,"
Till the very names are music, waking memoried desires,
And we turn and foot it down the trail to find the little fires.
Adventuring! Adventuring! And, oh, the sights to see!
And little fires along the trail that wink at you and me.'"

"That's it! But I couldn't say it like that. But I know some of them
little fires."

"We must make one some day. Won't it be fun!"

"It sure is when a fella ain't hustlin' to get grub. That poem sounds
better after grub, at night, when the stars are shinin' and the horses
grazin' and mebby the pack-horse bell jinglin' 'way off somewhere. Then
one of them little fires is sure friendly."

"Have you been reading this winter?"

"Oh, some. Mostly forestry and about the war. Bud was tellin' me to read

Book of the day: