Part 3 out of 7
"I don't giveadamn where you lost it or what you lost," declared Red
Kane. "You can't go flirtin' round with any lantern in Tom's barn.
First thing you know you'll set it afire. C'mon, Luke, pull yore
"But lookit here," protested Luke, "I lost something valuable, Red. I
gotta find it."
"It wasn't money then?" put in Racey.
"Of course it was money," averred Luke.
"You said 'it' this time, Luke."
"It don't matter what I said. I lost some money, and I want to find
"You can want all you like," said Red Kane, "but not in this barn.
C'mon back to-morrow morning, and you can hunt the barn to pieces, but
you can't do any more skirmishing round in here to-night. I'll lock
the barn door so's nobody else will go fussbudgettin' round in here.
C'mon, Luke, get a move on you."
So Luke was driven out much against his will, and Racey and Swing
roamed around to the dance hall. Here at a table in the ell where the
bar stretched its length they could sit and talk--unheard under cover
of the music.
"But how come you had yore boots off?" Swing desired to know when a
table, a bottle and two glasses were between them. "Don't try to tell
me you stuck 'em behind that wagon-seat on purpose to trip him. You
never knowed he was comin'."
"Well, no, I didn't exactly," admitted Racey, with a sly smile. "Those
boots were laid out all special for you."
"But why for me?" Perplexedly.
"Because, Swing, old settler, I didn't like you this afternoon. The
more I saw you over there on that porch the less I liked you. So I
took off my boots and hid 'em careful like behind the wagon-seat so
they'd stick out some, and you'd see 'em and think I was there asleep,
and naturally you'd go for to wake me up and wouldn't think of looking
behind the crate where I was laying for you all ready to hop on yore
neck the second you stooped over the wagon-seat and give you the Dutch
rub for glommin' all the fun this afternoon."
"And what didja think I'd be doin' alla time?" grinned Swing Tunstall.
"You wouldn't 'a' tried to knife me, anyway."
"G'on. He didn't."
"Oh, didn't he? You better believe he did. If I hadn't got a holt of
his wrist and whanged him over the head with my Colt for all I was
worth he'd 'a' had me laid out cold. Yep, li'l Mr. Luke Tweezy
himself. The rat that don't care nothing about fighting with anything
but a law book."
"A rat will fight when it's cornered," said Swing.
Racey nodded. "I've seen 'em. It's something to know Luke carries a
knife and where."
"Under his left arm. Fill up, and shove the bottle over."
Swing filled abstractedly and slopped the table. He pushed the bottle
toward Racey. The latter caught it just in time to prevent a smash on
"Say, look what yo're doing!" cried Racey. "Y' almost wasted a whole
bottle of redeye. I ain't got money to throw away if you have."
"I was just wonderin' what Fat Jakey's plan is," said Swing,
scratching his head.
"No use wonderin'," Racey told him. "It's their move."
"Tell you, gents, somethin's come up to change my plans." It was Jack
Harpe speaking. Racey and Swing had met him on the sidewalk in front
of Lainey's hotel shortly after breakfast the following morning, and
Racey had told him of their ultimate decision. As he spoke Mr. Harpe
braced an arm against the side of the building, crossed his feet, and
scratched the back of his head. "I'm shore sorry," he went on, "but
I'd like to call off that proposition about you riding for me. Coupla
men used to ride for me one time are coming back unexpected. You know.
Naturally--you know how it is yoreself--I'd like to have these fellers
riding for me, so if it's alla same to you two gents we'll call it
off. But I wanna be fair. You expected a job on my ranch. I told you
you could have it. I owe you somethin'. What say to a month's wages
Racey shook a slow head, and hooked his thumbs in his belt. "You don't
owe us a nickel," he told Jack Harpe. "Take back yore gold. We're
honest workin'-girls ourselves. Of course we may starve, but what's
that between friends? In words of one syllable what do we care for
poverty or precious stones?"
Jack Harpe followed this flight of fancy with an uncertain smile.
"Alla same," he said, "I wish you'd lemme give you that month's wages.
I'd feel better about it. Like I was paying my bets sort of."
"'Tsall right," nodded Racey Dawson. "We still don't want any money.
We're satisfied if you are. Yep, we're a heap satisfied--now. _But_ I
"That's tough," commiserated Jack Harpe, and dropped at his side the
arm he had braced against the wall of the hotel. Also he straightened
his crossed leg. His air and manner, even to the most casual of eyes,
took on a sudden brisk watchfulness. "That's tough," repeated Jack
Harpe, and added a headshake for good measure.
"Ain't it?" Racey Dawson said, brightly. "But maybe you can help me
out. Lookit, I ain't trying to pry, y' understand. I'm the least
prying feller in four states, but this here ranch of yores which ain't
got anything to do with the 88 and won't cut any corners off the Bar S
might it by any chance overlap on Mr. Dale's li'l ranch?"
"Overlap the Dale ranch! What you talkin' about?"
"I dunno," Racey replied, simply. "I'm trying to find out."
Jack Harpe laughed his soundless laugh. "I dunno what it is to you,"
he said, "but if my ranch don't come near the Bar S how can it hit the
"Stranger things than that have happened. But still, alla same, I'd
shore not admire to see any hardship come to old Chin Whisker--Dale, I
If Racey had hoped to gain any effect by mentioning "Chin Whisker" he
was disappointed. Jack Harpe was wearing his poker face at the moment.
"I wouldn't like that any myself," concurred Jack Harpe. "Old Dale
seems like a good feller, sort of shackles along a mite too shiftless
maybe, but his daughter takes the curse off, don't she?"
"We weren't talking about the daughter," Racey pointed out.
Swing Tunstall immediately stepped to one side. There was a something
in Racey's tone.
But Jack Harpe did not press the point. He smiled widely instead.
"We weren't talking about her, for a fact," he assented. "Coming right
down to cases, we'd oughta be about done talking, oughtn't we?"
"Depends," said Racey. "It all depends. I'd just like folks to know
that I'd take it a heap personal if any tough luck came to old Dale
and his ranch."
"What I said. No more. No less."
"What you said can be took more ways than one."
"What do you care?" flashed Racey. "What I said concerns only the gent
or gents who are fixing to colddeck old Dale. Nobody else a-tall. So
what do you care?"
"I don't. Not a care, not a care. Only--only one thing. Mister Man, if
you're aiming to drynurse old Dale you're gonna have yore paws most
awful full of man's size work. Leastaways, that's the way she looks
to a man up a tree. Me, I'm a great hand for mindin' my own business,
"Yo're like Luke Tweezy thataway," cut in Racey. "That's what he's
"Who's Luke Tweezy?"
"So you've learned yore lesson," chuckled Racey. "It was about time.
Guess you must 'a' bothered Luke Tweezy some when you spoke to him
that day in front of the Happy Heart just before you and Lanpher
crawled yore cayuses and rode to Dale's on Soogan Creek.... Don't
remember, huh? I do. You said, 'See you later, Luke,' and he didn't
speak back. Just kept on untying his hoss and keeping his head bent
down like he hadn't heard a word you said. 'S'funny, huh?"
"Damfunny," assented Jack Harpe with an odd smoothness.
"Yeah, you fellers that don't know each other are all of that. Tell me
something, do you meet in the cemetery by a dead nigger's grave in the
dark of the moon at midnight or what? I'm free to admit I'm puzzled.
She's all a heap too mysterious for me."
"Crazy talk," commented Jack Harpe. "You been wallowing in the
nosepaint and letting yore imagination run on the range too much."
"Maybe," Racey said, equably. "Maybe. You can't tell. As a young one I
had a powerful imagination. I might have it yet."
Jack Harpe gazed long and silently at Racey Dawson. The latter
returned the stare with interest. With the sixth sense possessed by
most men who live in a country where the law and the sixshooter are
practically synonymous terms, Racey was conscious that Marie, the
Happy Heart Lookout, had suddenly drifted up to his left flank and now
stood with arms akimbo on the inner edge of the sidewalk. Her body
was turned partly toward him but her head was turned wholly away.
Evidently there was something of interest farther up the street.
Racey moved slightly to the left. He wished to have a little more
light on Jack Harpe's right side. The Harpe right hand--it was in the
shadow. Jack Harpe pivoted to face Racey. The light from the hotel
window fell on the right hand. The member was near the gun butt, but
not suggestively near.
"Listen here," said Jack Harpe, suddenly, in a snarling whisper
designed solely for the ears of Racey Dawson, "I dunno what you been
a-drivin' at, but just for yore better information I'm telling you
that I always get what I go after. Whether it's land, cows, horses,
or--women, I get what I want. Nothing ever has stopped me. Nothing
ever will stop me. Don't forget."
"Thanks," smiled Racey. "I'll try not to."
"And here's somethin' else: What I take I keep--always."
"Always is a long word."
"There's a longer."
"That folks who ain't for me are against me. Looks like yore friend
there wanted to talk to you. So long."
Abruptly Jack Harpe faced about and went into the hotel. Racey felt a
touch on his arm. He turned to find that Marie had almost bumped into
him. Her head was still turned away. One of her hands was groping for
his arm. Her fingers clutched his wrist, then slid upward to the crook
of his elbow.
"Le's go across the street," she said in a breathless voice, and
pulled him forward.
Her body as she pulled was pressed tightly against him. She seemed to
hang upon him. And all to the discomfort and mental anguish of Racey
Dawson. He was no prude. His moral sense had never oppressed him. But
this calm appropriation of him was too much. But he accompanied her.
For there was Swing Tunstall, a nothing if not interested observer.
Other folk as well were spectators. To shake loose Marie's grip,
to run away from her, would make him ridiculous. He continued to
accompany the young woman quite as if her kidnapping of him was a
matter of course.
In the middle of the street they were halted by the headlong approach
of a rapidly driven buckboard. As it swept past in front of them the
light of the lantern clamped on the dashboard flashed on their faces.
"'Lo, Mr. Dawson," cried the driver, her fresh young voice lifting
to be heard above the drum of the hoofs and the grind of the rolling
wheels. And the voice was the voice of Miss Molly Dale.
Racey did not reply to the greeting. He was too dumb-foundedly aghast
at the mischance that had presented him, while arm in arm with a
person of Marie's stamp, to the eyes of one upon whom he was striving
to make an impression. What would Molly Dale think? The worst, of
course. How could she help it? Appearances were all against him. Then
he recalled that she had been the sole occupant of the buckboard--that
she had called him by name _after_ the light had fallen on the face of
the lookout. It was possible that she might not know who Marie
was. Although it was no more than just possible, he cuddled the
potentiality to him as if it had been a purring kitten.
He allowed Marie to lead him across the sidewalk and into the
pot-black shadow between Tom Kane's house and an empty shack. But here
in the thick darkness he paused and looked back to see whether Swing
Tunstall were following. Swing was not. He was entering the hotel in
company with Windy Taylor.
Marie jerked at his arm. "C'mon," she urged, impatiently. "Gonna take
root, or what?"
Willy-nilly he accompanied his captor to the extremely private and
secluded rear of Tom Kane's new barn. Here were the remains of a
broken wagon, several wheels, and the major portion of a venerable and
useless stove. Marie released his arm and Racey sat down on the stove.
But it was a very useless stove, and it collapsed crashingly under his
weight (later he learned that even when it had been a working member
of Tom Kane's menage the stove had been held together mainly by trust
in the Lord and a good deal of baling wire).
"Clumsy!" Marie hissed as he arose hurriedly. "All thumbs and left
feet! Why don't you make a li'l more noise? I'll bet you could if you
"Say," Racey snapped, temperishly, for a sharp corner of the stove
door had totally obscured his sense of proportion, "say, I didn't ask
to come over here with you! What do you want, anyway?"
"Want you to shut up and pay attention to me!" she flung back. "I
thought you was gonna leave town. Why ain't you?"
"Changed my mind," was his answer.
"Why can't you do what you said you'd do?" She was quite vehement
"I got a right to change my mind, ain't I?"
"Go, dammit! Why can't you go? You gave them a chance to even up
when you ran that blazer on Doc Coffin an' Honey Hoke there in the
Starlight. Let it go at that. Whadda you want to hang round here for?
Don't you know that every hour you stay here makes it more dangerous
for you?... Oh, you can laugh! That's all you do when a feller does
her level best to see you don't come to any harm. Gawd! I could shake
you for a fool!"
"Was that what you pulled me alla way over here to tell me?" he
inquired, somewhat miffed at her acerbity.
"I pulled you across the street because if I'd left you where I found
you you wouldn't 'a' lived a minute." The starlight was bright enough
to reveal to him the set and earnest tenseness of her features.
"I wouldn't 'a' lived a minute, huh?" was his comment. "I didn't see
anybody round there fit and able to put in a period."
"It wasn't anybody you could _see_. Don't you remember what I said
about a knife in the night, or a shot in the dark? Man, do you have to
be killed before you're convinced?"
"Whadda you guess I was standin' alongside of you for while you was
talkin' to that other feller, huh? Tryin' to listen to what you was
sayin'? Think so, huh?"
"You shore had yore nerve," he said, admiringly--and helplessly.
"Nerve nothin'!" she denied. "He wouldn't shoot through me. I know
that well enough."
"Why wouldn't he? And how do you know?"
"Because, and I do. That's enough."
"Which particular _one_ is he?"
"I ain't sayin'."
"Do you like him as much as that?" Shrewdly.
"Not the way you mean." Dispassionately.
"Then who is he?"
"I ain't sayin', I tell you!"
"You snitched on Nebraska." Persuasively.
"This feller's different."
"None of yore business. Lookit, I'm doin' my best for you, but I won't
have the luck every time that I had to-night--nor you won't, neither.
Gawd! if I hadn't just happened to strike for a night off this evenin'
I dunno where you'd be!"
"Say, I thought you didn't dare let them see you have anythin' to do
"I didn't, and I don't. But I had to. I couldn't set by an' let you be
plugged, could I? Hardly."
"'Tsall right, 'tsall right. Don't you worry any about me. I got a ace
in the hole if the weather gets wet. But I wanna tell you this: If
yo're bound to go on playin' the fool, keep a-movin' and walk round a
lighted window like it's a swamp."
She dodged past him and was gone. He made no move to follow. He pushed
back his hat and scratched his head.
"Helluva town this is," he muttered. "Can't stand still any more
without having some sport draw a fine sight where you'll feel it
After she left Racey Dawson Marie diagonalled across Main Street,
passed between the dance hall and Dolan's warehouse, and made her way
to the most outlying of the half-dozen two-room shacks scattered
at the back of the dance hall. She entered the shack, felt for the
matches in the tin tobacco-box nailed against the wall, and struck one
to light the lamp. Like the provident miss she was she turned the wick
down after lighting in order that the chimney might heat slowly.
It may have been the dimness of the lighted lamp. It may have been
that she was not as observing as usual. But certainly she had no
inkling of another's presence in the same room with her till she had
slipped out of her waist. Then a man in the corner of the room swore
"---- yore soul to ----!" were his remarks in part. "What did you horn
in for to-night?"
Racey Dawson did not remain long idle after Marie's departure. The
girl had barely entered the narrow passage between the warehouse and
the dance hall before he was crossing the street at a point beyond
the jail, where there were no shafts of light from open windows and
doorways to betray him.
Racey Dawson circled the sheriff's house and tippytoed past the
outermost of the six two-room shacks at the rear of the dance hall.
His objective was the Starlight Saloon, his purpose to discover the
bushwhacker who had tried to shoot him.
As he passed the outermost shack a light flashed up within it. He
saw Marie's head and shoulder silhouetted against the curtain. He
recognized her immediately by the heavy mass of her hair. No other
woman in Farewell possessed such a mop.
Racey resolved to speak with Marie again. His hand was lifted in
readiness to knock when Marie's visitor spoke. Racey's hand promptly
dropped at his side. He had recognized the voice. It was that of Bull,
the Starlight bartender.
The shack door was fairly well constructed. At least there were no
cracks in it. But a log wall has oftentimes an open chink. This wall
had one between the third and fourth tiers of logs not more than a
yard from the door. Racey crouched till his eyes were on a level with
the narrow crack.
He could not see Bull. But he could see Marie. Apparently she was
not according her visitor the slightest attention. She daintily and
unhurriedly hung her waist over the back of a chair. Then she turned
up the lamp, removed the pins from her abundant hair, shook it down,
and began to brush it calmly and carefully.
"---- you!" snarled Bull, advancing to the table where he was within
range of Racey's eyesight. "I spoke to you! What didja do it for?"
She raised her head and looked at him, the brush poised in one hand.
"---- you, Bull," she drawled at him. "I'm tellin' you, because I felt
Bull shot forth a hand and grabbed her right wrist. Marie, as a whole,
did not move. But her left hand dropped languidly and nestled in the
overhang of her bodice.
"Bull," she said, softly, staring straight into the evil eyes
glowering upon her. "Bull, bad as you are, you ain't never laid a hand
on me yet. You ain't gonna begin now, are you?"
Bull's great fingers began to tighten on her wrist, slowly,
"I'm sorry, Bull," she resumed, when he made no reply, "but I got a
derringer pointin' straight at yore stomach. Now you ain't gonna lemme
make a mess on my clean carpet, are you?"
Bull released her wrist as though it burnt him.
"You devil!" he exclaimed. "I believe you'd do it."
"Shore I would," she affirmed, serenely, dragging a small and ugly
derringer from its place of concealment and balancing it on a pink
palm. "I'll drill you in one blessed minute if you don't keep yore
paws to home. They's some things, Bull, you can't do to me. An' one
of them things is hurting me. I don't believe in corporal punishment,
"I wanna know what you horned in for," he demanded, pounding the table
till the lamp danced again.
"If you only knowed what a silly fool you looked," she commented,
"you'd sit down and take it easy.... That's right, tell the
neighbours, do! Squawk out good and loud how yore bushwhackin' li'l
killing turned out a misdeal. Shore, I'd do that, if I was you. Whadda
you guess they pay Jake Rule an' Kansas Casey for, huh?"
"What did you get in front of him for?" Bull persisted in a lower
tone. "I pretty near had him, but you--Gawd, I could wring yore neck!"
"But you won't," she reminded him, sweetly. "Lookit here, Bull, if you
hadn't locked the door leading up the stairs to the Starlight's loft,
I'd 'a' come after you there and done my persuadin' of you right in
the loft. As it was when I heard what you were up to--nemmine how I
heard. I heard, that's enough--I had to go out in the street and
do what I could there. I don't believe the feller liked it much,
"But what's he to you? You ain't soft on him, are you, account of what
he done for that yellow mutt of yores?"
"I owe him something," she evaded. "That dog--I like that dog. And
then that man treats me like a lady. It ain't every man treats me like
"I should hope not," guffawed the amiable Bull.
"Now that's a right funny joke," she assured him. "It almost makes me
laugh. Still, alla same, I got feelin's. I'm a human being. And you'll
notice molasses catches a heap more flies than vinegar does. I like
that Dawson man, and I ain't gonna see him hurt."
"Did you tell him it was me up there with a rifle?" There was a hint
of unease in the blustery tone.
"I didn't tell him nothin'," said Marie. "I ain't no snitch."
"Ah-h, you _are_ soft on him," Bull sneered in disgust.
"What if I am?" she flared. "What business is it of yores?"
"What'll Nebraska say?" he proffered.
"Nebraska hell!" she sneered. "Nebraska and me are through!"
"I know you've split, but that ain't saying Nebraska will let you go
with another gent."
"I'll go with anybody I please, and neither Nebraska nor you nore any
other damn man is gonna stop me. If you think different, _try_ it,
just _try_ it! Thassall I ask. _This_ for you and Nebraska!" With
which she snapped her fingers under his nose once, twice, and again.
"I wish Pap was still alive. He could always handle you. Remember the
time you sassed him there in ..." Here Marie accidentally dropped her
brush into an empty pail, and the clatter drowned out the name of the
town so far as Racey was concerned. But Marie caught the name, for she
straightened with a start and stared at Bull. "Yeah," continued Bull,
"you remember it, huh? I guess you do. That was where Pap slapped yore
chops and throwed you down the stairs. Like to broke yore neck that
time. I wish you had."
"'Pap,'" she repeated. "'Pap,' and that town. What made you think of
them two names together?"
"Because that was the town where he throwed you down the stairs," Bull
told her matter-of-factly.
"It was the town where we met up with Bill Smith."
"What about it?"
"Nothing--only Bill Smith is here in town."
"Why ain't I seen him if he's in Farewell?"
"Because he's shaved off all of that beard and part of his
eyebrows--they used to meet plumb in the middle, remember--till a body
would hardly know him. I didn't. I knowed they was somethin' familiar
about him, but I couldn't tell what till you mentioned Pap and the
town together. Then I knowed. Yeah, Bull, this gent's the same Bill
Smith Pap picked up on the trail. He's a respectable member of society
now, I guess. Calls himself Jack Harpe and spends most of his time
runnin' round Lanpher."
"Then he ain't too respectable, the lousy pup. Calls himself Jack
Harpe, huh? Shore, he come in the Starlight with Lanpher and gimme
the eye without a quiver. Didn't know me, he didn't! And I ain't done
nothin' to _my_ looks to change 'em."
"Huh, y' oughta seen the way he looked me up and down when he passed
us on the Marysville trail. You'd 'a' thought he just seen me. Oh,
he's got his nerve."
"Who is _us_?" Suspiciously.
"What it won't do you no good to know. I guess I can go riding with a
friend if I like. You seem to keep forgettin' you ain't got any ropes
on me--nary a rope. Stop botherin' yore fool head about me and my
doings, and think of something worth while--for instance, Jack Harpe."
"No wonder they call you Bull. That's all you are, beef to the heels
and no more sense than a calf. Listen, Jack Harpe's respectable, ain't
he? Or he aims to be, which is the same thing. Anyway, he's swelling
round here like a poisoned pup and don't know us a-tall. Takin' him
down a couple o' pegs wouldn't hurt him. He always was too tall. I'll
bet if he was come at right he'd pay cash down on the hoof for us, me
and you both, to keep our heads shut about what we know."
"But we was in that, too."
"But we didn't do what he done," pointed out Marie. "And you know
yoreself the company don't drop the case like a ordinary sheriff
does. No, I expect Jack Harpe would be worried some if he knowed we'd
recognized him.... Aw, what are you scared of? Pap's dead, ain't he?
How can Harpe hurt us? He never knowed how intimate we knowed Pap
while he was stayin' at our house. He just thought Pap was a friend.
He never knowed we got our share of the money. Nawsir, he can't hook
us up with that killin' nohow, but we can hook him. Brace up to him,
Bull. Maybe you can work him for a stake. They ain't no danger, I tell
"By Gawd, I'd like to!" declared Bull and swore a string of oaths.
"Then go ahead," urged Marie. "And don't forget I want in on the
"Ah-h, I do all the work and then have to whack up with you, huh? I
will not. What I get I keep."
"I remember Jack Harpe used to say that. He shore hated himself, the
poor feller. Alla same, I guess maybe you'll go even Steven with me,
Bull. Who is it recognized him first? Who give you the idea? Who did,
huh? Who did? Whatever you get you'll divide with me or I'll know the
reason why. And if you don't think I'm a wildcat get me roused, man,
get me roused."
Bull stood back and scratched a tousled head. "I--well--" he began and
paused. Obviously the prospect did not wholly please him.
"Go to Jack Harpe easy like," suggested the girl. "Don't tell him too
much, just enough to show yo're meanin' what you say. I'd do it myself
only he'd laugh at me. He's one of those gents a woman has to shoot
before they'll believe she's in earnest. He ain't the only one, they's
another just like him in town.... Nemmine who. You go to Jack Harpe.
He'll listen to a man. G'on! They's money in it, if you work it right.
You want money, don't you? You need three hundred to pay what you owe
Piggy Wadsworth, don't you? Yah, you big hunk, you been runnin' to me
for money long enough! Here's a chance to make some of yore own. Fly
When Bull had picked up a rifle standing in a corner and departed,
slamming the door behind him, Marie sat down on the lid of a mottled
zinc trunk and wiped her hot face on a petticoat that hung on the wall
conveniently to hand. "Warm work, warm work!" she muttered, wearily.
"I dunno when I seen Bull so mad. I shore thought one time there
I wasn't gonna get rid of him without a fight." She rolled her
well-shaped ankles and flipped the gilt tassels on her shoe tops to
and fro (yes, indeed, some women wore tasseled footgear in those
days). "Men," she went on, staring down at the shiny tassels, "men are
A BOLD BAD MAN
Bull had halted a moment outside the door of the shack to roll a
cigarette. Before he pulled out his tobacco bag he leaned the rifle
against the doorjamb.
His eyes, unaccustomed to the darkness, did not see the crouching
Racey Dawson within arm's-length.
Both of Bull's hands were cupped round the lighted match. He lifted
it to the end of the cigarette. He sucked in his breath and--a voice
whispered: "Drop that match an' grab yore ears."
Bull did not hesitate to obey, for the broad, cold blade of a bowie
rested lightly against the back of his neck. Bull swayed a little
where he stood.
"I got yore rifle," resumed the whisperer. "Walk away now. Yo're
headin' about right. Don't make too much noise."
Bull did not make too much noise. In fact, he made hardly any. It is
safe to say that he never progressed more quietly in his life. The man
with the bowie steered him to a safe haven behind a fat white boulder
half buried in sumac.
"Si'down," requested the captor in a conversational tone. "We can be
right comfortable here."
"Dawson!" breathed the captive.
"Took you a long time to find it out," said Racey Dawson. "Si'down, I
said," he added, sharply.
Bull obeyed, his back against the rock, and was careful not to lower
his hands. Racey hunkered down and sat on a spurless heel. The rifle
was under his knee. He had exchanged the bowie for a sixshooter. The
firearm was trained in the general direction of Bull's stomach.
Racey smiled widely. He felt very chipper and pleased with himself. He
was managing the affair well, he thought.
"You show up right plain against that white rock," he remarked. "If
yo're figuring to gamble with me, think of that."
"Whatcha want?" demanded Bull, sullenly.
"Lots of things," replied Racey, shifting a foot an inch to the left.
"I'm the most wantin' feller you ever saw. Just now this minute I want
you to tell me where it was you met up with Bill Smith and what it was
he did so bad that you and Marie think you've got a hold on him."
"You _was_ listenin' quite a while," muttered Bull.
"Quite a while," admitted Racey Dawson. "Quite a while."
"But you didn't listen quite hard enough," suggested Bull.
"No," assented Racey, "I didn't. I'm expecting you to sort of fill in
Bull shook a decided head. "No," he denied. "No, you got another guess
comin'. I won't do nothin' like that a-tall."
"And why not?"
"Because I won't."
"'Won't' got his neck broke one day just because he wouldn't."
"Yeah, I guess so," sneered Bull.
"You must forget I heard all about how you tried to bushwhack me from
the second floor of the Starlight," Racey put in, gently.
"Aw, that's a damn lie," bluffed Bull. "A damn lie. All a mistake. You
Racey shook a disapproving head. "When it's after the draw," he said,
"and you ain't got a thing in yore hand, and the other gents have
everything and know they have everything to yore nothing, she's poor
poker to make a bluff. Whatsa use, sport, whatsa use?"
"I dunno what yo're talkin' about," persisted Bull.
"Aw right, let it go at that. Who put you up to bushwhack me?"
"Nun-nobody," hesitated Bull.
"Yore own idea, huh?"
Bull spat disgustedly on the grass. He had seen the trap after it had
"You shore can't play poker," smiled Racey, his eyes shining with
pleasure under the wide brim of his hat. "I--The starlight's pretty
Bull's sudden movement came to naught. He settled back, his eyes
"Still, alla same," pursued Racey, "I wonder was it all yore own
"Whatell didja kick me for?" snarled Bull.
"'Kick you for?'" Racey repeated, stupidly.
"Yeah, kick me," said Bull. "No damn man can kick me and me not take
"Dunno as I blame you. Dunno as I do. If any damn man kicks you, Bull,
you got a right to drill him every time. And you think I kicked you?"
"I know you did."
"You know I did, huh? Did you see me do it?"
"You kicked me after you'd knocked me silly with that bottle. Kicked
me when I was down and couldn't help myself."
"So I did all that to you after you were down, huh? Who told you?"
"Nemmine who told me. You done it, that's enough."
"No, it ain't enough. It ain't enough by a long mile. I want to know
who told you?"
"I ain't sayin'." Sullenly.
"Come to think, she's hardly necessary. Doc Coffin and Honey Hoke were
the only two gents in the Starlight at the time. It was either one
or both of 'em told you. Maybe I'll get a chance to ask 'em about it
later. Now I dunno whether you'll believe it or not but to tell the
truth and be plain with you, Bull, I didn't kick you."
"I don't believe you." But Bull's tone was not confident.
"I wouldn't expect you to--under the circumstances. What I'm tellin'
you is true alla same. Lookit, you fool, is it likely after takin'
the trouble to knock you down, I'd kick you besides? Do I look like a
sport who'd do a thing like that? Think it over."
Bull was silent. But Racey believed that he had planted the seed of
doubt in his mind.
"And another thing," resumed Racey, "do I look like a sport who'd
let another jigger lay for him promiscuous? You go slow, Bull.
I'm good-natured, a heap good-natured. But don't lemme catch you
bushwhacking me again."
"I won't," said Bull with a flash of humour.
"Be dead shore of it," cautioned Racey. "If I ever get to even
thinking that yo're laying for me, Bull, I'm liable to come a-askin'
questions you can't answer. Yo're a bright young man, Bull, but you
want to be careful how you strain yore intellect. You might need it
some day. And if you want to keep on being mother's li'l helper, be
good, thassall, be good."
"Yo're worse'n a helldodger," affirmed Bull.
"You got me sized up right. I'm worse than a helldodger, a whole lot
worse." The words were playful, but the tone was sardonic.
"You tell me, will you, just where it was you met this Bill Smith-Jack
Harpe feller, and what it was he did? There's a company in it, too.
What company is it--the Northern Pacific?"
"Ah-h, you got a gall, you have," sneered Bull, savagely. "Think
you'll make something out of Harpe yore own self, huh?"
"That is my idea," admitted Racey.
"Well, you got a gall, thassall I gotta say."
"You forget you've got a gall, too, when you try to bushwhack me,"
Racey reminded him. "I'm trying to play even for that."
"You seem to make it hard for me kind of," grinned Racey.
"Of course I'd enjoy makin' it easy for you all I could," observed
Bull with sarcasm.
"I dunno as I'd go so far as to say _that_," was the Dawson comment.
"But maybe it's possible to persuade you to tell me what you know."
"Suppose I decided to leave you here."
"You won't." Confidently.
"Because you ain't shootin' a unarmed man."
"Yet you think I'm the boy to kick one that's down."
"Sometimes I change my mind," said Bull with a harsh laugh.
"You laugh as loud as that again," said Racey, irritably, "and you'll
change somethin' besides yore mind. Don't be too trusting a jake,
Bull, not too trusting. I might surprise you yet. About that
information now--I want it."
"If anybody's gonna make money out of Harpe I am." Thus Bull,
"I ain't aimin' to make _money_ out of Harpe. What I'm figuring to
make out of him is somethin' else again."
"Whatsa use of lying thataway? Don't--"
"That'll be about all," interrupted Racey. "You've called me a liar
enough for one night. I ain't got _all_ kinds of patience. You going
to tell me what I want to know?"
"No, I ain't."
"Yo're mistaken. You'll tell me, or you'll leave town."
"Yep, leave town, go away from here, far, far away. So far away that
you won't be able to blackmail Jack Harpe. See? Yore knowledge won't
be worth a whoop to you then. An' I'll find out what I want to know
"She'll never tell."
"Oh, I guess she will," said Racey, but he knew in his heart that
worming information out of Marie would not be easy. Saving his life
was one thing, but giving up information with a money value would be
quite another. The amiable Marie was certainly not working for her
"Yo're welcome to what you can get out of her," said Bull.
"Then you'll be starting to-night. From here we'll go get yore hoss
and see you safely on yore way."
"What'll you gimme to tell you?" inquired the desperate Bull.
"Nothin'--not a thin dime, feller. C'mon, let's go."
"Nun-no, not yet. I--say, suppose you lemme talk to Jack Harpe first
myself. Just you lemme get my share out of him, and I'll tell you all
you wanna know."
"When you going to him?" Racey demanded, suspiciously.
"To-night if I can find him. It ain't so late. But to-morrow, anyway."
"I'll give you till sundown to-morrow night. If you ain't ready to
tell me then you'll have to drift."
"Maybe, maybe not," sneered Bull.
"I've said it," Racey said, shortly, rising to his feet.
"There's no ropes on you. Skip.... Nemmine yore Winchester. She's all
right where she is. So long, Bull, so long."
The sun, lifting over the rim of the world, sprayed its rays through
the window and splashed with gold the face of Racey Dawson. He awoke,
and much to the profane disgust of Swing Tunstall, shook that worthy
"Aw, lemme sleep, will you?" begged Swing, with suspicious meekness,
reaching surreptitiously for a boot. "You lemme alone, that's a good
"Get up," commanded Racey. "Get up, it's the early worm catches the
most fish. Rise and shine, Swing. Never let the sun catch you snorin'.
Besides, I can't sleep any more myself. I--"
Wham! Swing's flung boot shaved Racey's surprised ear and smashed
against the partition.
"You'll wake up that Starlight proprietor," Racey said, calmly, as he
picked up the boot and dropped it out of the window. "Good dog," he
continued, presumably addressing a canine friend without, "leave
Swing's nice new boot alone, will you? Don't go gnawin' at it
thataway. It ain't a bone."
Swing, pulling on his pants, left the room, hopping physically and
mentally. Racey rested both elbows on the sill and waited happily for
his comrade to appear beneath him.
"Shucks," he said in a tone of great surprise when Swing shot round
the corner of the hotel, "I shore thought there was a dog there
a-teasin' that boot. I could have took my Bible oath there was a
great, big, black, curly-haired feller with lots of teeth down there.
I saw him, Swing. Shore thought I did. Must 'a' been mistaken. And you
went and believed me, and got splinters in yore feet because you were
in such a hurry. Never mind, Swing, here's the other one."
He jerked the boot in question at his friend's head, and sat down on
his cot to complete his own dressing.
Came then the sound of a prodigious yawn from the room next door
occupied by Jack Harpe. A cot creaked. A boot was scraped along the
"Shore must be a sound sleeper," said Racey Dawson to himself, "if he
really did just wake up."
He buckled on his gunbelt, set his hat a-tilt on one ear, and went
down to wash his face and hands in the common basin on the wash-bench
outside the kitchen door.
But Swing Tunstall was before him, and was disposed to make an issue
of the dropped boots. Only by his superior agility was Racey enabled
to dodge all save a few drops of a full bucket of water.
"Djever get left! Djever get left!" singsonged Racey from the corner
of the building, and set the thumb of one hand to his nose and
twiddled opprobrious fingers at his comrade. "You wanna be a li'l bit
quicker when you go to souse me, Swing. Yo're too slow, a lot too
slow. Yep. Now I wouldn't go for to fling that pail at me, Swing.
You might bust it, and yore carelessness with crockery thataway has
already cost you ten dollars and six bits."
This was too much for the ruffled Swing. Waving the pail he pursued
his tormentor round the hotel and into the front doorway. Racey
fled up the stairs. At the stair foot Swing gave over the chase and
returned to the washbench to resume his face-washing. Racey went on
into their room. There was in it several articles belonging to Swing
that he intended to throw out of the window at once.
But when he had entered the room and the door was closed behind him he
did not touch any of Swing's belongings. Instead he remained standing
in the middle of the room looking thoughtfully at the floor. What had
given him pause was the fact that he had found the door ajar. And
he knew with absolute certainty that he had closed the door tightly
before he went downstairs.
It is the vagrant straw that shows the wind's direction, and since the
attempt to bushwhack him Racey was not overlooking any straws. The
door had been ajar. Why?
There was no closet, and from where he stood he could see under both
cots. No one lay concealed in the room. The bedclothes on Swing's cot
had not been touched. At least they were in precisely the position in
which they had been landed when thrown back by Swing's careless hand.
Racey did not believe that his own had been touched, either. But the
saddlebags and _cantenas_ lying on the floor at the head of his cot
had certainly been moved. He recalled distinctly having, the previous
evening, piled the _cantenas_ on top of the saddlebags. And now the
saddlebags were on top of the _cantenas_.
He glanced at Swing's warbags. They had not been moved. He wondered
if Jack Harpe and the Starlight's owner were still in their rooms. He
listened intently. Hearing no sound he went out into the hall, and
knocked gently on Jack Harpe's door and called him softly by name.
Getting no reply, he lifted the latch and walked in. There were Jack
Harpe's saddlebags, _cantenas_, and rifle in a corner. A coat lay on
the tumbled blankets of the cot. Otherwise the room was empty.
Racey went out, being careful to close the door tightly, and went to
the room of the Starlight's owner. This room, too, was empty. Racey
returned to his own room, tossed his _cantenas_ and saddlebags on the
cot, and began feverishly to paw through their contents.
Nothing had been subtracted from or added to the heterogeneous
collection of articles in the _cantenas_. The contents of the off-side
saddlebag were in their familiar disorder. There was nothing in or
about the off-side saddlebag to arouse suspicion. Not a thing.
He unbuckled the flap of the near-side saddlebag, and flipped it back.
Somebody had been at this saddlebag. He was sure of it. His extra
shirt, instead of being wadded into the fore-end of the saddlebag on
top of a pair of socks, had been stuffed into the hinder end on top of
a pair of underdrawers. Which underdrawers should by rights have been
at the bottom of the leather hold-all.
But there was something else at the bottom of the saddlebag. It was
something long and hard and wrapped in the buttonless undershirt
despised and rejected by Swing.
Racey unrolled the undershirt. His eyes stared in genuine horror at
what the unrolling revealed. It was the commonest of butcher knives
that someone's busy hand had wrapped in the undershirt. But what was
not nearly so common was that the broad, thin blade was stained with
blood. From point to haft the steel was as red as if it had been
dipped in a pail of paint. Indeed, being dry, it looked not unlike
paint. But Racey knew that it was not paint.
"It was dry before it was wrapped in that undershirt," he said to
himself, testing the blood on the blade with a speculative fingernail.
"There ain't a mark on the undershirt. Gawd! Here it is again--the
earmark of a crime, and no crime--yet. This is getting monotonous."
He laid down the knife, settled his hat, and methodically searched
Swing Tunstall's warbags. It turned out a needless precaution. He had
felt that it would be. But he could not afford to take any risks.
Having found nothing in Swing's warbags save his friend's personal
belongings, Racey slid the knife up his sleeve and went downstairs to
breakfast. On the way he stopped a moment at a fortuitous knothole in
the board wall. When he passed on his way the knife was no longer with
Jack Harpe was still eating when Racey eased himself into the chair at
Swing's right hand. Jack Harpe nodded to Racey and went serenely on
with his meal. Racey seized knife and fork, squared his elbows, and
began to saw at his steak. And as he chewed and swallowed and sloshed
the coffee round in his cup in order to get the full benefit of the
sugar he wondered whether it was Jack Harpe or Bull to whom he was
indebted for the butcher knife. It was one of the two, he thought. Who
else could it be?
He believed it would be wise to spend most of his spare time in his
room. At least until he knew the inwardness of the butcher-knife
incident. It was possible that the man who had secreted the knife
would return. Racey might well be in line for other even more delicate
Before going up to his room Racey went to the corral. He had left his
saddle-blanket out all night, he mentioned to Swing in the hearing
of Jack Harpe. He was gone five minutes. When he returned, strangely
enough minus the saddle-blanket, he was in time to see Piney Jackson
dart round the corner of the blacksmith shop, cup his hand at his
mouth, and raise a stentorian bellow for Jake Rule.
Piney did not wait to see whether the sheriff replied to his call.
Instead he beckoned violently to the handful of men grouped on the
sidewalk in front of the hotel.
"C'mon over!" he bawled. "Look what I found here this morning."
Jack Harpe and the owner of the Starlight being among those present
and responding to the invitation, Racey Dawson took a chance and went
with the rest.
"Look at that," said Piney Jackson, indicating a humped-up individual
sitting behind the woodpile.
Racey and the other spectators went round the woodpile and viewed the
humped-up individual. The latter was Bull, the Starlight bartender.
And he was dead, very dead. His throat had been cut from ear to ear.
He was a ghastly object.
"Who done it?" inquired one of the fools that infest every group of
"He didn't leave any card," the blacksmith replied with sarcasm.
The fool asked no more questions. Came then Jake Rule and Kansas
Casey. Jake, a rather heavy, well-meaning officer, old at the
business, began to sniff about for clues. Kansas Casey laid the body
down on its back and thoroughly searched the pockets of the clothing.
"One thing," said Kansas Casey, looking up from what he had found--a
handful of silver dollars, a pocket knife, and a silver watch,
"robbery wasn't the motive."
Racey looked sidewise from under his eyebrows at Jack Harpe. The
latter was staring down unmoved at the dead body.
"Somebody must 'a' had a grudge against Bull," offered the fool.
"You think so?" said Piney. "Yo're a real bright feller."
The fool subsided a second time.
"Lookit here, Jake," Piney continued to the sheriff's address, "you
don't have to kick my wood all over the county, do you?"
"I'm lookin' for the knife," explained the sheriff, ceasing not to
stub his toes against the solid chunks. "Feller after doing a thing
like this gets flustrated sometimes and drops the knife. And finding
the knife might be a help in locating the feller."
All of which seemed sufficiently logical to the bystanders.
Racey decided he had seen enough. Besides, he wanted to camp closer to
his warbags. He should have been in his room before this, and he would
have been had he cared to make himself conspicuous by not going along
with the crowd to see what Piney Jackson had found.
Declining Swing's earnest invitation to drink he returned to the
hotel. Swing went grouchily to the Happy Heart, wondering what was the
matter with his friend. It was not like the Racey he knew to play the
Once in his room Racey again explored his own and Swing's saddlebags
and _cantenas_, looked under the cots and through the bedclothes. But
he found nothing that did not belong to either himself or Swing.
"They didn't make a second trip," he said to himself. "I'm betting
it's Jack Harpe. Shore it is, the polecat."
Then in order to have a water-tight reason for remaining in the room
he pulled off his boots and trousers, fished a housewife from a
_cantena_, and set about repairing a rip in his trousers. It was a
perfectly good rip. He had had it a long time. What more natural that
on this particular day he should wish to sew it up?
It was an hour later that he heard the tramp of several pairs of boots
on the stairs. He could hear the wheezing, laboured breathing of Bill
Lainey, the hotel proprietor. Climbing the stairs always bothered
Bill. The latter and his followers came along the hall and stopped in
front of Racey's door.
"This is his room," panted Bill Lainey.
Unceremoniously the latch was lifted. A man entered. The man was Jake
Rule, the sheriff of Fort Creek County. He was followed by Kansas
Casey, his deputy.
Jake looked serious. But Kansas was smiling as he closed the door
behind him. Then he opened it quickly and thrust his head into the
"No need of you, Bill," he said.
"Aw right," said Bill, aggrievedly, and forthwith shuffled away.
Kansas withdrew his head and nodded to Jake Rule. "He's gone," he
Racey Dawson, sitting crosslegged on his cot and plying his needle in
most workmanlike fashion, grinned comfortably at the two officers.
Lord, how glad he was he had found that knife! If he hadn't--
"Sidown, gents," invited Racey. "There's two chairs, or you can have
Swing's cot if you like."
Jake Rule shook his head. "We don't wanna sit down, Racey," he said.
"We got a li'l business with you, maybe."
"Maybe? Then you ain't shore about it?"
"Not unless yo're willing. You see, Dolan's drunk to-day, and of
course we can't get a warrant till he's sober."
"A warrant? For me?"
"Not yet," said Jake Rule. "Only a search warrant--first. But of
course if you ain't willing we can't even touch anything."
"Still, Racey," put in Kansas Casey, smoothly, "if you could see yore
way to letting us go through yore warbags, yores and Swing's, it would
be a great help, and we'd remember it--after."
"Yeah, we shore would," declared the sheriff. "You save us trouble
now, Racey, and I'll guarantee to make you almighty comfortable in the
calaboose. You won't have nothing to complain of. Not a thing."
Racey laughed cheerily. "Got me in jail already, have you?" he
chuckled. "You'll have me hung next."
"Oh, they's quite some formalities to go through before _that_
happens," declared the sheriff, seriously.
"I'm glad," drawled Racey. "I thought maybe you were fixing to take me
right out and string me up before dinner. Want to search our stuff,
huh? Hop to it. Swing ain't here, but I'll give you permission for
him. He won't mind."
Jake and Kansas went at the warbags like terriers digging out a
badger. Racey leaned on his elbow and watched them. What luck that the
door had been ajar and that he had noticed it! If it had not been a
life-and-death matter he would have laughed aloud.
At the end of twenty minutes the officers stood up. They had gone
through everything in the room, including the cots. Kansas Casey wore
a pleased smile. Jake Rule looked disappointed.
"Don't look so glum, Jake," urged Racey. "Is it a fair question to ask
what yo're hunting for?"
"The knife," he said, shortly. "The knife that cut Bull's throat."
"The knife, huh?" remarked Racey as if to himself. "So yo're
suspectin' me of wiping out Bull, are you?"
"I never did," said Kansas, promptly. "I know you. You ain't that
Jake looked reproachfully at his deputy. "You never can tall, Racey,"
he said, turning to the puncher. "I've got so myself I don't trust
nobody no more."
"Was this here yore own idea," pursued Racey, "or did somebody sic you
Jake made no immediate answer. It was obvious that he was of two minds
whether to speak or not.
"Why not tell him?" suggested Kansas. "What's the odds?"
At this Jake took a piece of paper from his vest pocket and handed it
"I found this lying on the floor of my office when I come back after
attending to Bull," was his explanation.
There were words printed on the slip of paper. They read:
Look in Racey Dawson's room for what killed Bull.
The communication was unsigned.
Racey handed it back to Jake Rule. "Got any idea who put it in yore
office?" he asked.
Jake shook his head. "I dunno," he said. "The window was open. Anybody
passing could 'a' throwed it in."
"You satisfied now, Jake, or--" Racey did not complete the sentence.
"Oh, I'm satisfied you didn't do it," replied the sheriff, "if that's
what you mean. But--the man who wrote this here _joke_!"
As he spoke he tore the note in two, dropped the pieces on the floor,
and stamped out of the room. Kansas Casey looked over his shoulder as
he followed in the wake of his superior.
He saw Racey Dawson picking up the two pieces of the note. Racey's
mouth was a grim, uncompromising line.
"If Racey ever finds out who wrote that," thought Kansas to himself,
pulling the door shut, "hell will shore pop. And I hope it does."
For he liked Racey Dawson, did Kansas Casey, the deputy sheriff.
"Why didn't you tell me at breakfast?" demanded Swing Tunstall.
"And give it away to Jack Harpe!" said scornful Racey. "Shore, that
would 'a' been a bright thing to do now, wouldn't it?"
"What didja do with the knife?"
"Dropped it through a knothole in the wall. The only way they'll ever
get hold of it is by tearing the building down."
"Jack Harpe, if he _is_ the feller, will know you found it and try
"Shore. We can't help that. One thing, we'll know before the day is
over whether it is Jack Harpe or not."
"Remember me this morning telling you how I'd left my saddle-blanket
out all night and then going out in the corral for the same. I said it
so Jack could hear me. He did hear me, and he watched me go. He saw
me go out round the corral, and he saw me come back without the
saddle-blanket. Now anybody'd know I wouldn't leave my saddle-blanket
out behind the corral, would I?"
"But a feller who'd just found a knife with blood on it in his warbags
might go out back of the corral to lose the knife, mightn't he?"
"Well, that's what I did. Naturally, having already lost the knife
down through the knothole I couldn't lose her again. But I did the
best I could. I dug in the ground with a sharp stick, and I made a
li'l hole like, and I filled her in again, and tramped her all down
flat, and sort of half smoothed down the roughed-up ground like I was
trying to hide my tracks and what I'd been doing. Then I came away.
"Now I'm betting that if Jack Harpe is the lad tucked away that knife
in my warbags he'll go skirmishing out behind the corral to see what I
was really doing."
"There ain't any maybe if he's the man turned the trick. And from
where we're a-laying under this wagon we can see the back of the
corral plain as--There he comes now."
The posts of the corral were less than a hundred yards from where
Racey and Swing lay beneath a pole-propped freight wagon. From the
wagon, which was standing beyond the stage company's corral, the
ground sloped gently to the hotel corral. Racey had taken the
precaution to mask their position with a cedar bush.
Hatless he peered through the branches at the man quartering the
ground behind the hotel corral.
"He's getting close to where I made that hole," he told Swing. "Now
he's found it," he resumed as the man dropped on his knees. "Jack
Harpe all along. Ain't he the humoursome codger?"
"He shore couldn't 'a' dug up that hole already," declared Swing when
Jack Harpe jumped to his feet after a sojourn on his knees of possibly
thirty seconds' duration.
"No," assented Racey, puzzled. "He couldn't. There's an odd number,"
he added, as Jack Harpe pelted back at a brisk trot over the way he
had come. "Le's not go just yet, Swing. I have a feeling."
He was glad of this feeling when ten minutes later Jack Harpe returned
with Jake Rule and Kansas Casey. The latter carried a shovel. The
three men clustered round the spot where Racey had dug his hole.
Kansas Casey set his foot on the shovel and drove it into the ground.
Racey chuckled at the pleasant sight. What must inevitably follow
would be even pleasanter.
The deputy sheriff made the dirt fly for six minutes. Then he threw
down the shovel, pushed back his hat, and wiped his face on his
sleeve. He spoke, but his language was unintelligible. Jack Harpe said
something and picked up the shovel. He began to dig. He cast the earth
about for possibly five minutes.
"Ain't he the prairie-dog, huh?" Racey demanded, jabbing his comrade
in the ribs with stiffened thumb. "Just watch him scratch gravel."
Suddenly Jake Rule and Kansas Casey turned their backs on the
frantically labouring Jack Harpe and walked away. Jack Harpe watched
them, threw up a few more half-hearted shovelfuls, and then slammed
the implement to earth with a clatter, hitched up his pants, and
strode hurriedly after the officers.
"That proves it, I guess," said Swing.
"Naturally. She's enough for us, anyhow.---- it to ----!"
"Whatsa matter?" inquired Swing, surprised at his friend's vehemence.
"Whatsa matter? Whatsa matter? Everythin's the matter. I just happened
to think that now Bull won't be able to tell me what he was going to
"That'so. Can't you ask the girl?"
"I can, but I ain't shore it'll do any good. Marie ain't the kind that
blats all she knows just to hear herself talk. If she wants to tell me
she will. If she don't want to, she won't. Bull was my one best bet."
"What's that?" cried Swing, raising himself on an elbow.
"That" was the noise of a tumult in Farewell Main Street. There were
shouts and yells and screams. Above all, screams. Racey and Swing
hurried to the street. When they reached it the shouts and yells had
subsided, but the screams had not. If anything they were louder than
before. They issued from the mouth of Marie, whom Jake Rule, Kansas
Casey, and four other men were taking to the calaboose. They were
doing their duty as gently as possible, and Marie was making it
as difficult for them as possible. She was as mad as a teased
rattlesnake, and not a man of her six captors but bore the marks of
fingernails, or teeth, or heels.
She had, it appeared, attacked without warning and with a derringer,
Jack Harpe as he was walking peacefully along the sidewalk in front
of the Starlight. Only by good luck and a loose board that had turned
under the girl's foot as she fired had Mr. Harpe been preserved from
"That's shore tough," Racey said to their informant. "I'm goin' right
away now and get me a hammer and some nails and fix that loose board."
"You better not let Jack Harpe hear you say that," cautioned the
"If you want something to do, suppose now you tell him," was Racey's
Racey's tone was light, but his stare was hard. The other man went
"Fire! Fire!" shrilled young Sam Brown Galloway, bouncing out of his
father's store, and jumping up and down in the middle of Main Street.
"The jail's afire! The jail's afire!"
Men added their shouts to his childish squalls and ran toward the
jail. Racey and Swing trundled along the sidewalk together. "She's
afire, all right," said Racey. "Lookit the smoke siftin' through the
window at the corner."
The smoke was followed by a vicious lash of flame that whipped up the
side of the building and set the eaves alight. The glass of another
window fell through the bars with a tinkle. A billow of smoke rushed
forth. Smoke was seeping through cracks at the back of the building.
"My Gawd!" exclaimed Racey, as a shriek rent the air. "The girl's in
He had for the moment forgotten that Marie was incarcerated in the
jail. But Kansas Casey had not forgotten. Racey, having picked up a
handy axe, raced round to the back only to find the deputy unlocking
the back door. A burst of smoke as he flung open the door assailed
their lungs. Choking, holding their breath, both men dashed into the
jail. Kansas unlocked the girl's cell.
"You shore took yore time about comin'," drawled Marie. "I didn't know
but what I'd be burned up with the rest of the jail. You big lummox!
You don't have to bust my wrist, do you? Go easy, or I'll claw yore
Once outside they were immediately surrounded by the townsfolk. Most
of them were laughing. But Jake Rule was not laughing.
"Good joke on you, Jake," grinned a friend. "Burned herself out on
you, didn't she?"
"You can't keep a good man down," shouted another.
"Never let the baby play with matches," advised a third.
"Get pails, gents!" shouted Rule. "We gotta put it out. Where's a
"Aw, let 'er burn," said Galloway. "Hownell you gonna put it out?
She's all blazin' inside. You couldn't put it out with Shoshone
"The wind's blowin' away from town," contributed Mike Flynn. "Nothin'
else'll catch. Besides, we been needing a new calaboose for a long
time. You done us a better turn than you think, Marie."
"If you say I set the jail afire, Mike Flynn," cried Marie, "Yo're a
liar by the clock."
"You set it afire," said the sheriff, sternly. "You'll find it a
serious business setting a jail afire."
"Prove I done it, then!" squalled Marie. "Prove it, you slab-sided
hunk! Yah, you can't prove it, and you know it!"
To this the sheriff made no reply.
"We gotta put her somewhere till the Judge gets sober," he said,
hurriedly. "Guess we'll put her in yore back room, Mike."
"Guess you won't," countered Mike. "They ain't any insurance on my
place, and I ain't taking no chances, not a chance."
"There's the hotel," suggested Kansas Casey.
"You don't use my hotel for no calaboose," squawked Bill Lainey.
"Nawsir. Not much. You put her in yore own house, Jake. Then if she
sets you afire, it's your own fault. Yeah."
Jake Rule scratched his head. It was patent that he did not quite know
what to do. Came then Dolan, the local justice of the peace. Dolan's
hair was plastered well over his ears and forehead. Dolan was pale
yellow of countenance and breathed strongly through his nose. He
looked not a little sick. He pawed a way through the crowd and cast a
bilious glance at Marie.
He inquired of Jake Rule as to the trouble and its cause. On being
told he convened court on the spot. Judge Dolan agreed with Mike
Flynn that the burning of the jail was a trivial matter requiring no
official attention. For was not Dolan's brother-in-law a carpenter and
would undoubtedly be given the contract for a new jail. Quite so.
"You can't prove anything about this jail-burning," he told Jake Rule
and the assembled multitude, "but this assault on Jack Harpe is a cat
with another tail. It was a lawless act and hadn't oughta happened.
Marie, yo're a citizen of Farewell, and you'd oughta take an interest
in the community instead of surging out and trying to massacre a
visitor in our midst, a visitor who's figuring on settlin' hereabouts,
I understand. Gawd knows we need all the inhabitants we can get, and
it's just such tricks as yores, Marie, that discourages immigration."
Here Judge Dolan frowned upon Marie and thumped the palm of his hand
with a bony fist. Marie stood first on one leg and then on the other
and hung her head down. Since her raving outburst at the time of her
arrest she had cooled considerably. It was evident that she was now
trying to make the best of a bad business.
"Marie," resumed Judge Dolan, and cleared his throat importantly, "why
did you shoot at Mr. Jack Harpe?"
"He insulted me," Marie replied without a quiver.
"I ain't ever said a word to her," countered Jack Harpe. "I don't even
know the girl."
The judge turned back to Marie. "Have you any witnesses to this
insult?" he queried.
"Nary a witness." Marie shook her brown head.
"Y' oughta have a witness. She's yore word against his. Where did this
insult take place?"
"At my shack. He come there early this mornin'."
"That's a lie!" boomed Jack Harpe.
"Which will be about all from you!" snapped Judge Dolan, vigorously
pounding his palm.
"What did he say to you?" was the judge's next question.
"I'd rather not tell," hedged Marie.
"Well, of course, you don't have to answer," said the judge,
gallantly. "But alla same, Marie, you hadn't oughta used a gun on him.
It--it ain't ladylike. Nawsir. Don't you do it again or I'll send you
to Piegan City. Ten dollars or ten days."
"What?" Thus Jack Harpe, astonished beyond measure.
"Ten dollars or ten days," repeated Judge Dolan. "Taking a shot at you
is worth ten dollars but no more. It don't make any difference whether
you came here to invest money or not, you wanna go slow round the
"But I didn't even say howdy to her," protested Jack Harpe.
"She says different. You leave her alone."
Public opinion, which at first had rather favoured Jack Harpe, now
frowned upon him. He shouldn't have insulted the girl. No, sir, he had
no business doing that. Be a good thing if he was arrested for it,
perhaps. What a virtuous thing is public opinion.
"I ain't got a nickel, Judge," said Marie. "You'll have to trust me
for it till the end of the week."
"I'll pay her fine," nipped in Racey, glad of an opportunity to annoy
Jack Harpe. "Here y' are, Judge. Ten dollars, you said."
It was a few minutes after he had eaten dinner that Racey Dawson
presented himself at the door of Kansas Casey's shack. The door was
open. Racey stood in the doorway and leaned the shovel against the
wall of the room.
"You forgot yore shovel, Kansas," he said, gently, "or Jack Harpe did.
Same thing, and here it is."
Kansas had the grace to look a trifle shamefaced. "Somebody said you'd
buried that knife--" he began, and stopped.
"Yep, I know, Jack Harpe," smiled Racey. "Li'l Bright Eyes is shore a
friend of mine. Only I wouldn't bank too strong on what he says about
"I ain't," denied the deputy.
"Another thing, Kansas," drawled Racey, "did you ever stop to think
how come he knowed so much about that knife? And did you ask him if he
was the gent left that paper in Jake's office? And going on from that
did you ask him why he didn't come out flat footed at first and say
what he thought he knowed instead of waiting till after you'd searched
my room? You don't have to answer, Kansas, only if I was you I'd think
it over, I'd think it over plenty. So long."
From the house of Casey he went to the shack of Marie. He found the
girl cooking her dinner quite as if attempts at murder, dead men,
and jailburning were matters of small moment. But if her manner
was placid, her eyes were not. They were bright and hard, and they
flickered stormily upon him when she lifted her gaze from the pan of
frying potatoes and saw who it was standing in the doorway.
"I'm obliged to you," she said, calmly, "for payin' my fine. You ran
away so quick this mornin' you didn't gimme any chance to thank you.
I'll pay you back soon's I get paid come Saturday."
Racey stared reproachfully. He shifted his weight from one
uncomfortable foot to the other. "I didn't come here about the fine,"
he told her. "I--" He stopped, uncertain whether to continue or not.
"If you didn't come about the fine it must be something else
important," said she, insultingly. "I shore oughta be set up, I
suppose. So far it's always been me that's had to make all the moves."
"'Moves?'" repeated Racey, frankly puzzled.
"Moves," she mimicked. "Didn't you ever play checkers? Oh, nemmine,
nemmine! Don't take it to heart. I don't mean nothin'. Never did.
C'mon in an' set. Take a chair. That one. What do you want? Down
The command was called forth by the violent entry of the yellow dog
which, remembering Racey as a friend, flung itself upon him with
whines and tail-waggings.
"He's all right," said Racey, rubbing the rough head. "I just thought
I'd ask you what you knew about Jack Harpe."
Marie's narrowed eyes turned dark with suspicion. "Whadda you know
about me an' Jack Harpe?" she demanded.
"Not as much as I'd like to know," was his frank reply.
"I ain't talkin'." Shortly.
"Now, lookit here--" he began, wheedlingly.
She shook her head at him. "S'no use. I don't tell everything I know."
"Then you do know something about Jack Harpe?"
"I didn't say I did."
"You didn't. But--"
"That's what the goat done to the stone wall. Look out you don't bust
yore horns, too."
"Meanin' you'll knock 'em off short before you get anything out o' me
I don't want to tell you. And I tell you flat I ain't talkin' over
Jack Harpe with you."
"Scared to?" he hazarded, boldly.
"You can give it any name you like. Pull up a chair. Dinner's most
ready. They's enough for two."
Despite the fact that he had just dined at the hotel he accepted her
invitation in the hope that she could be persuaded to talk. And after
dinner he smoked several cigarettes with her--still hoping. Finally,
finding that nothing he could say was of any avail to move her, he
took up his hat and departed.
"Don't go away mad," she called after him.
"I ain't," he denied, and went on, her mocking laughter ringing in his
After Racey was gone out of sight Marie turned back into her little
house. There was no laughter on her lips or in her eyes as she sat
down in a chair beside the table and stared across it at the chair in
which Racey had been sitting.
"He's a nice boy," she whispered under her breath, after a time. "I
But what it was she wished it is impossible to relate, for, instead of
completing the sentence, she hid her face in her hands and began to
Early next morning Racey Dawson and Swing Tunstall rode out of town by
the Marysville trail. They were bound for the Bar S and a job.
* * * * *
"What have you been drinkin', Racey?" demanded Mr. Saltoun, winking at
his son-in-law and foreman, Tom Loudon.
The latter did not return the wink. He kept a sober gaze fastened on
Racey was staring at Mr. Saltoun. His eyes began to narrow. "Meanin'?"
"Now don't go crawlin' round huntin' offense where none's meant,"
advised Mr. Saltoun. "But you know how it is yoreself, Racey. Any gent
who gets so full he can't pick out his own hoss, and goes weaving off
on somebody else's is liable to make mistakes other ways. You gotta
admit it's possible."
The slight tinge of red underlying Racey's heavy coat of tan
acknowledged the corn. "It's possible," he admitted.
Mr. Saltoun saw his advantage and seized it. "S'pose now this is
"Tell you what I'll do," said Racey. "You said you had jobs for a
couple of handsome young fellers like us. Aw right. We go to work. We
ride for you six months for nothing."
"Huh?" Mr. Saltoun and Tom Loudon stared their astonishment.
"Oh, the cat's got more of a tail than that," said Racey. "You don't
pay us a nickel for those six months _provided_ what I said will
happen, don't happen. If it does happen like I say, you pay each of us
two hundred large round simoleons per each and every month."
"Come again," said Mr. Saltoun, wrinkling his forehead.
Racey came again as requested.
"Six months is a long time" frowned Mr. Saltoun. "If I lose--"
"But I dunno what I'm talkin' about," pointed out Racey. "I make
mistakes, you know that. And you were so shore nothin' was gonna
happen. Are you still shore?"
"Well--" hesitated Mr. Saltoun.
"If you take us up you stand to be in the wages of two punchers for
six months. That's four hundred and eighty dollars. Almost five
hundred dollars. Of course, it's a chance. What ain't, I'd like to
know? But yo're so shore she's gonna keep on come-day-go-day like
always, that I'd oughta have odds."
"Five to one," mused Mr. Saltoun, pulling at the ends of his gray
"And fair enough--seeing that nothing is going to happen."
"I wouldn't do it," put in Tom Loudon. "These trick bets are unlucky."
"Oh, I dunno," said Mr. Saltoun, running true to form in that he
rarely took kindly to advice. "Looks like a good chance to get six
months' work out of two men for nothing."
"Looks like a good chance to lose twenty-four hundred dollars,"
exclaimed Tom Loudon, wrathfully.
"My Gawd, Tom," said Mr. Saltoun, cocking a grizzled eyebrow, "you
don't mean to tell me you think they's any chance a-tall of Racey's
winning this bet, do you?"
"They's just about ten times more chance for him to win than to lose."
"Tom, do you ever see any li'l pink lizards with blue tails an' red
feet? I hear that's a sign, too."
"Aw right, have it yore own way," said Tom Loudon with every symptom
of disgust. "Only don't say I didn't warn you."
"Gawd, Tom, y' old wet blanket, yo're always a-warnin' me. I never see
such a feller."
"Aw right, I said. Aw right. But when yo're a-writin' out a check
for twenty-four hundred dollars, just remember how I always told you
somebody was gonna horn in here some day and glom half the range."
"Laugh," said Mr. Saltoun. "Yo're shore the jokin'est feller, Tom
Loudon. Even Racey and his partner are laughing."
"I should think they would," Tom Loudon returned, savagely. "I'd
laugh, too, if I stood to win twenty-four hundred in six months."
Mr. Saltoun shook a whimsical head at Racey Dawson. "Whatsa use?" he
asked, sorrowfully. "Whatsa use?"
* * * * *
"You was too easy with him," declared Swing, as he and Racey were
unsaddling at the Bar S corral. "You could 'a' stuck him for three
hundred a month just as easy."
Racey shook a decided head. "No, there's a limit even to Old Salt's
stubbornness. I know him better'n you do ... Aw, what you kicking
about? We've got enough coin in our overalls to last out six months if
you don't drink too much."
"If I don't drink too much, hey! If _I_ don't drink too much! Which I
like that. Who's--"
"Racey," interrupted Tom Loudon, who had approached unperceived, "this
is a fine way to treat yore friends."
"What's bitin' you?"
"You hadn't oughta take advantage of Old Salt thisaway."
"And why not? What's wrong with the bet? Fair bet. Leave it to
"Shore, shore, but alla same, Racey, you'd oughta gone a li'l easy.
Twenty-four hundred dollars--"
"What's the dif? You won't have to pay it."
"'Tsall right, but I didn't think it of you, damfi did. You know how
Old Salt is--always certain shore he's right, and you took advantage."
"Shore I took advantage," Racey acquiesced, amiably. "I got sense, I
have. Alla same, he'd never 'a' taken me up if you hadn't slipped in
yore li'l piece of advice for him not to. That was a bad play, Tom.
You might know he'd go dead against you. But I ain't complaining, not
me. Nor Swing ain't, either. We'll thank you for yore helping hand to
our dying day."
"I guess you will," Tom Loudon said, ruefully. "When you get through
here, Racey, you and Swing come on over to the wagon shed. I wanna
sift through this Jack Harpe business once more."
THE BAR S
"_Kind friends, you must pity my horrible tale.
I'm an object of sorrow, I'm looking quite stale.
I gone up my trade selling Pink's Patent Pills
To go hunting gold in the dreary Black Hills_."
"I wish to Gawd you'd stayed there," said Jimmie, the Bar S cook,
pausing in his march past to poke his head in at the bunkhouse
doorway. "Honest, Racey, don't you ever get tired of yell-bellerin'
Racey Dawson, standing in front of the mirror, ceased not to adjust
his necktie. The mirror was small and he was not, and it was only
by dint of much wriggling that he was succeeding in his purpose. To
Jimmie and his question he paid absolutely no attention.
"_Don't go away, stay at home if you can,
Stay away from that city, they call it Cheyenne_."
"Seemin'ly he don't get tired," Jimmie answered the question for
himself. "And what's more, he don't ever get tired of dandy-floppin'
himself all up like King Solomon's pet pony. Yup," Jimmie continued
with enthusiasm, addressing the world at large, "I can remember when
Racey used to ride for the 88 and the Cross-in-a-box how he was a
regular two-legged human being. A handkerchief round his neck was good
enough for him _always_. If his pants had a rip in 'em anywheres, or
they was buttons off his vest, or his shirt was tore, did it matter?
No, it didn't matter. It didn't matter a-tall. But now he's gotta buy
new pants if his old ones is tore, and a new shirt besides, and he
sews the buttons on his vest, and he's took to wearin' a necktie. A
Jimmie, words failing him for the moment, paused and hooked one foot
comfortably behind the other. He leaned hipshot against the doorjamb,
and spat accurately through a knothole in the bunkhouse floor.
"Yop," he went on, ramming his quid into the angle of his jaw, "and
he's always admiring himself in the mirror, Racey is. He pats his hair
down, after partin' it and usin' enough goose-grease on it to keep
forty guns from rusting for ten years, and he shines his boots with
blacking, _my_ stove-blacking, the rustling scoundrel. Scrouge
southwest a li'l more, Racey, and look at yore chin. They's a li'l
speck of dust on it. Oh, me, oh, my! Li'l sweetheart will have to wash
his face again. Who is she?"
Still Racey did not deign to reply. He placed, removed, and replaced a
garnet stickpin in the necktie a dozen times handrunning. Jimmie beat
the long roll with his knuckles on the bottom of the frying-pan, and
winked at the broad back of Racey Dawson.
"I hear they's a new hasher at Bill Lainey's hotel," pursued the
indefatigable Jimmie. "Tim Page told me she only weighed three hundred
pounds without her shoes. It ain't her! Don't tell me it's her! You
ain't, are you, Racey?"
Racey, pivoting on a spurred heel, faced Jimmie, stuck his arms
akimbo, and spoke:
"Not mentioning any names, of course, but there's some people round
here got an awful lot to say. Which if a gent was to say their tongues
are hung in the middle he'd be only tellin' half the truth. Not that
you ain't popular with me, James. You are. I think the world of you.
How can I help it when you remind me all the time of my aunt's pet
parrot in yore face and language. Except you ain't the right colour.
If yore whiskers had only grown out green."
"We're forgetting what we was talkin' about," tucked in Jimmie the
cook, smiling sweetly. "The lady, Racey. Who is she?"
"James," said Racey, his smile matching that of the cook, "they's
something about you to-day, something I don't like. I dunno the name
for it exactly. But if you'll step inside the bunkhouse a minute, I'll
show you what I mean. I'll show you in two shakes."
Jimmie shook a wise head and backed out into the open. "Not while I
got my health. You come out here and show me."
"Oh, I ain't gonna play any tricks on you," protested Racey Dawson.
"You bet you ain't," Jimmie concurred, warmly. "Not by severial
jugfuls. I--" He broke off, cocking a listening ear.
"Yeah," grinned Racey, "you hear a noise in the cook-shack, huh? I
_thought_ I saw the Kid slide past in the lookin'-glass while you were
standing in the doorway."
"And you never told me!" squalled Jimmie, speeding toward his beloved
place of business.
He reached it rather late. When he entered by the doorway the Kid, a
pie in each hand, was disappearing through a back window.
"Did you ever get left!" tossed back the Kid as the flung frying-pan
buzzed past his ear.--"Now see what you done," he continued, skipping
safely out of range; "dented yore nice new frypan all up. You
oughtn'ta done that, Jimmie. Fry-pans cost money. Some day, if you
ain't careful, you'll break something, you and yore temper."
"Them's the Old Man's pies," declared Jimmie, leaning over the
window-sill and shaking an indignant fist at the Kid. "You bring 'em
back, you hear?"
"They ain't, and I won't, and I do," was the brisk answer. "Yo're
making a big mistake, Jimmie boy, if you think they're _his_ pies.
Don't you s'pose I know he's gone to Piegan City, and he won't be back
for a coupla weeks? And don't you s'pose I know them pies would be too
stale for him to eat by the time he got back? You must take me for a
fool, Jimmie. And you lied to me, Jimmie, you lied. Just for that I'll
keep these pies, I'll keep 'em and eat 'em no matter how big a pain
I get, and let this be a lesson to you. Hey, Racey, Jimmie gimme a
coupla pies! C'mon out and we'll eat 'em where Jimmie can watch us."
"If I catch you--" began the angry Jimmie.
"But you ain't gonna catch me," tantalized the Kid. "C'mon, Racey,
Racey came slowly and with dignity.
The Kid stared. "Well, I bedam! Where are you goin'?"
"Ride, just a li'l ride," was the vague reply.
"Is that all? I thought it was a funeral or a wedding or something,
an' I was wonderin'. Just a li'l ride, huh? And where might you be
a-going to ride to, if I may make so bold as to ask?"
"You can ask, of course," replied Racey, shrugging his wide shoulders
and spreading his hands after the fashion of Telescope Laguerre.
"But that ain't sayin' he'll tell you," put in Jimmie. "Bet you he's
gonna go see that new hasher of Bill Lainey's."