Part 6 out of 7
The back door of the saloon was wide open. They entered on tiptoe, the
proprietor in the lead.
"Remember," whispered Racey, when he discovered the back room to be
empty, "remember, I'm right behind you. Keep on yore toes."
He held Rack Slimson by the belt and pushed him toward the door giving
into the front room. This door was shut. They paused behind it.
"He oughta be along pretty soon," complained a fretful voice that
Racey recognized as belonging to Honey Hoke.
"We don't mind waiting," chimed in Punch-the-breeze Thompson.
"It's the best thing we do." This was big Doc Coffin speaking.
The two behind the door heard a bottle-neck clink against the rim of a
"You better not take too much," advised Thompson.
"Aw, who's takin' too much?" flung back Honey Hoke.
"Well, you don't see the rest of us touching a single drop, do you?
Speaking personal, I wouldn't drown _my_ insides with liquor when I'm
due to go up against a proposition like Racey Dawson."
Here was praise indeed. Racey thumbed Rack Slimson in the ribs. Rack
turned his head and saw that Racey was grinning. Rack grew even more
"You see," pointed out Racey in a sardonic whisper. "Yo're up against
the pure quill, feller."
Which remark at any other time would have been in the worst possible
taste, but license is extended to men in peril of their lives.
"They're at the table in the corner beside the bar, this end, ain't
they?" resumed Racey. "Ain't it lucky the door opens that way?"
Then he was silent for a time while he strove to catch the accents of
Peaches Austin. He wanted to know if they were all four at the one
table. But Peaches was either not talking or elsewhere. A moment later
the question was answered for him by Honey Hoke.
"If he slips by Peaches without Peaches seem' him--" began Honey.
"Aw, hownell can he?" sneered Doc Coffin. "They's Peaches camped down
in front of the blacksmith shop right where he can see the trail alla
way down Injun Ridge. A dog couldn't get past Peaches without being
seen, let alone a two-legged man on a four-legged hoss."
"S'pose he goes round the ridge," offered the doubter, unconsciously
hitting the nail on the head.
"He won't," declared the confident Doc. "He'll come boiling right in
like he owned the place. Don't you lose no sleep over _that_."
"Maybe Rack couldn't find him," pursued Honey Hoke, and an answering
quiver ran through the frame of Rack Slimson.
"Rack will find him all right," said Punch-the-breeze Thompson.
"He might be suspicious of Rack, alla same," Honey Hoke wavered on.
"Not the way Rack will tell him. Didn't we fix it up just what Rack
was to say and all before he went? Shore we did. He won't make no
mistake, Rack won't. You'll see."
"And anyway," broke in Doc Coffin, "they's four of us to take care of
At which the three laughed loudly.
"I hope," Racey whispered in Rack's rather grimy left ear, "I hope you
heard all those fellers said. Proves I was right, don't it? Nemmine
nodding yore head more'n once. Hold still. Yo're doin' fine. Yep, I'm
shore glad we stood here a-listenin' like we have. Makes me feel a
heap easier in my mind about you. Otherwise I might always have had a
doubt I did right. I'd have been shore, y' understand, but I wouldn't
have been _dead_ shore."
At which the unfortunate Rack came within an eyewink of fainting. As
it was his stomach seemed to roll over and over. He began to feel a
"The bartender now," went on Racey after a moment, "is he likely to
mix into this?"
"I dunno," breathed Rack.
"Who is he? I ain't been in yore place for some time."
Rack told him the name of the bartender, and Racey nodded quite as if
Rack were facing him and could see everything he did.
"Then that's all right," whispered Racey. "I know that feller. He's a
friend of Mike Flynn's. He won't do anythin' hostyle. Let's go right
in. Open the door. G'on, damn yore soul, or I'll blow you apart!"
Rack Slimson opened the door and immediately endeavoured to spring to
one side. But he reckoned not on the strength of Racey Dawson. The
latter swung Rack back into place between himself (Racey Dawson) and
the table at which Doc Coffin and his two friends were sitting.
It was a painfully surprised trio that confronted Racey and his
unwilling barricade. The bartender was likewise surprised. He
immediately fell flat on the floor. Not so the three men at the table.
They sat quite still and stared at the man and the gun behind the body
of their friend Rack Slimson. They said nothing. Perhaps there was
nothing to say.
"I hear you were expectin' me, Doc," drawled Racey, his eyes bright
with cold anger. "Whatsa matter?" he added. "Ain't three of you enough
to take care of any mistakes?"
At which Doc Coffin's right hand flashed downward. Racey drove an
accurate bullet through Doc Coffin's mouth. The bullet ranging upward,
and making its exit through the parietal bone, let in the light on
Doc's hitherto darkened intellect in more ways than one.
Doc Coffin's forefinger, tightening convulsively on the trigger of its
wearer's sixshooter, sent an unaimed shot downward. But previous to
embedding itself in a floor board, the bullet passed through Honey
Hoke's foot. This disturbed Honey's aim to such an extent that instead
of shooting Racey through the head he shot Rack through the hat.
Racey, attending strictly to his knitting, bored Honey Hoke with a
bullet that removed the top of the second knuckle of Honey's right
hand, shaved a piece from the wrist bone, and then proceeded to
thoroughly lacerate most of the muscles of the forearm before finally
lodging in the elbow. Thus was Honey Hoke rendered innocuous for the
time being. He was not a two-handed gunfighter.
As yet Punch-the-breeze Thompson had remained strictly neutral. His
hands were on the table top, and had been from the beginning.
"It's yore move, Thompson," Racey said with significance.
"Then I'll be goin'," said Thompson, calmly. "See you later--maybe."
So saying he rose to his feet, turned his back on Racey, and walked
out of the place. Racey had no illusions as to Thompson, but he
obviously could not shoot him in the back. He let him go. Watching
from a window he saw Thompson go to the hitching-rail in front of the
saloon, untie his horse, mount, and ride away northward.
And the blacksmith shop in front of which Peaches Austin was supposed
to be on guard lay at the south end of the street. Where, then, was
"Where's he goin'?" he demanded of the now wriggling Rack Slimson.
"Huh? Who? Punch? I dunno."
"Where's Jack Harpe?"
"Yo're a liar. Where is he?"
"I dunno! I dunno! I tell you! Yo're gug-gug-chokin' me!"
"Yo're lying again. If I was choking you you couldn't talk. Yo're
talkin', ain't you? Where's Jack Harpe?"
"I dud-dud-dunno," insisted Rack Slimson, his teeth chattering as
Racey shook him.
"Is he in town?"
"Is Thompson going after him, do you think?"
"I guess maybe you don't, after all," Racey said, disgustedly,
flinging the unfortunate saloon-keeper from him with such force that
the fellow skittered quite across the floor and sat down in the
washpan into which the bartender was accustomed to throw the broken
"Ow-wow!" It was a hearty, full-lunged howl that Rack Slimson uttered
as he bounded erect and clutched at his trousers.
Racey's eyes brightened at the sight. "Y' oughta known better than to
sit down in all that glass. I could 'a' told you you'd get prickles in
you. Why don't you stand still and let yore barkeep pick 'em out for
you? You can get at most of the big pieces with yore fingers," he
added to the bartender, who was gingerly emerging on all fours round
the end of the bar. "And the little ones you can dig out with a
sharp knife. Yep, Rack, old-timer, I'll bet you won't carry any more
messages on horseback for a while."
There was a sudden crashing thud at the back of the room. Honey Hoke
had fallen out of his chair. Now he lay on the floor, his legs drawn
up and the back of his frowsy head resting against a rung of the chair
in which still sat the dead body of Doc Coffin.
Racey went to Honey and spread him out in a more comfortable position.
Calloway and Judge Dolan entered the saloon together.
"We thought we heard shootin'--" began Galloway, staring in
astonishment at the grotesque posture Rack Slimson had assumed the
better to endure the ministrations of the bartender.
"We heard shootin', all right," said Judge Dolan, his glance sweeping
past Slimson and the bartender to the rear of the room.
"What's happened, Racey?" queried Dolan, striding forward. "Both of
Racey shook his head. "Doc Coffin passed out," said he in a hard, dry
voice. "But Honey Hoke's heart is beatin' regular enough. Guess he's
only fainted from loss of blood."
The Judge nodded. "They do that sometimes." Here he looked at Doc
Coffin's body lying humped over the table, an arm hanging free, the
head resting on the table-top.
"Were they rowin' together?" was the Judge's next question.
Racey gave him a circumstantial account of the shooting and the
incidents that had led up to it. The Judge heard him through without a
"They asked for it," said he, when Racey made an end. "'Sfunny Punch
didn't pick up a hand. Tell you what you do, Racey: You come to my
office in about a hour. Nothing to do with this business. I got no
fault to find with what you done. Even break and all that. Something
else I wanna see you about. Huh? What's that, Piggy?"
The place was beginning to fill up with inquisitive folk from the
vicinity, and Racey decided to withdraw. He went out the back way.
Closing the door, he set his shoulders against it, and remained
motionless a moment. His eyes were on the distant hills, but they
neither saw the hills nor anything that lay between.
"I had to do it," he muttered, bitterly. "I didn't want to down
him. But I had to. They were gonna down me if they could. And
he--they--they asked for it."
"Lo, Peaches, ain't you afraid of gettin' sunburnt?" Peaches Austin,
gambler though he was, flickered his eyelashes. He was startled. He
had not had the slightest warning of Racey Dawson's approach.
"Didn't hear me, did you?" Racey continued, conversationally. "I
didn't want you to. That's why I kept my spurs off and sifted round
from the back of the blacksmith shop. And you were expecting me to
come scampering down the trail over Injun Ridge, weren't you? Joke's
on you, Peaches, sort of."
Still Peaches said nothing. He sat and gazed at Racey Dawson.
"Don't be a hawg," resumed Racey. "Move over and lemme sit down, too.
That's the boy. Now we're both comfortable, Peaches, you mean to sit
there and tell me you didn't hear any shooting up at the Starlight a
Peaches Austin wetted his lips with the tip of a careful tongue. "I
heard shootin'," he admitted, stiff-lipped.
"And what did you think it was?"
"I didn't know."
"Didn't you see Thompson ride away?"
"And didn't you think anything about that, either?"
"Oh, I thought, but--"
"But you had yore orders to sit here and wait for li'l Willie. And you
always obey orders. That it, Peaches?"
"What are you drivin' at?"
"Yo're always asking me that, Peaches. Try something new for a change.
Racey extended a long arm past Peaches' nose and pointed up the
street toward the Starlight Saloon. A man was backing out through the
doorway. Another followed, walking forward. Between them they were
carrying a third man. The hat of the third man was over his face. His
arms, which hung down, jerked like the arms of a doll. Even at that
distance Peaches could see that there was no life in the third man.
"That's Doc Coffin," Racey murmured without rancour. "I wonder where
they're taking him? He used to bach with Nebraska Jones, didn't he? I
guess that's where they're taking him to. Yep, they've gone round the
corner of the stage company's corral."
"Where's Honey?" queried Peaches in a still, small voice.
"In the Starlight. He ain't hurt bad. Foot and arm. Lucky, huh?"
Peaches Austin considered these things a moment. "Doc Coffin was
reckoned a fast man," he said in the tone of one who, after adding
up a column of figures, has found the correct total, "and Honey Hoke
wasn't none slow himself. And you got 'em both."
"I didn't get 'em both," corrected Racey. "Honey is only wounded."
"Same thing. You could 'a' got 'him if you wanted to. Yo're lucky,
that's what it is. Yo're lucky. And you been lucky from the beginning.
I ain't superstitious, but--" Here he lied. Like most gamblers Peaches
was sadly superstitious. He looked at Racey, and there was something
much akin to wonder on his countenance. He shook his head and was
silent a long thirty seconds. "Yo're too lucky for me--I quit," he
"Complete. I tell you, I don't buck no such luck as yores no longer.
I'll never have none myself if I do. I'm goin'."
Peaches Austin got to his feet and walked across the street to the
hotel. Twenty minutes later Racey, sitting on the bench in front of
the blacksmith shop, saw him issue from the hotel, carrying a saddle,
packed saddlebags, and _cantenas_, blanket and bridle, and go to the
Within three minutes Peaches Austin rode out from behind the hotel. As
he passed the blacksmith shop he said "So long" to Racey.
"See you later," nodded that serene young man.
"I hope not," tossed back Peaches, and rode on down the trail that
leads over Indian Ridge to Marysville and the south.
Racey watched him out of town. Then he went to Mike Flynn's to see
and, if it were possible, to cheer up his wounded friend, Swing
Tunstall. But he was not allowed to see him. Swing, it appeared, had
been given an opiate by Joy Blythe, who was acting as nurse, and she
refused to awaken her patient for anybody. So there.
Racey went to the Happy Heart to while away the remainder of the
hour set by Judge Dolan. The bartender greeted him respectfully and
curiously. So did several other men he knew. For that respect and
that curiosity he understood the reason. It lay on a bunk in Nebraska
No one asked him to drink. People are usually a little backward in
social intercourse with a citizen who has just killed his fellowman.
Of course in time the coolness wears off. In this case the time would
be short, Doc Coffin having been one of those that more or less
encumber the face of the earth. But for the moment Racey felt his
ostracism and resented it.
He set down his drink half drunk and walked out of the Happy Heart.
* * * * *
"See anything of Luke Tweezy lately?" asked Judge Dolan when Racey was
sitting across the table from him in the Judge's office.
"Saw him to-day."
Judge Dolan nodded and rasped a hand across his stubbly chin. "Luke is
in town now," said he.
"I ain't lost any Luke Tweezys," observed Racey, looking up at the
"I wonder how long Luke is figuring on staying in town," went on Judge
Dolan, sticking like a stamp to his original subject.
"Nothing to me."
"It might be. It might be. You never can tell about them things,
Racey Dawson's eyes came down from the ceiling. He studied the Judge's
face attentively. What was Dolan driving at? Racey had known the Judge
for several years, and he was aware that the more indirect the Judge
became in his discourse the more important the subject matter was
likely to be.
"No," said Racey, willing to bite, "you never can tell."
"We was talking one day about a feller making mistakes." The tangent
was merely apparent.
"Yep," acquiesced Racey. "We were saying Luke Tweezy made a good
"Something like that, yeah. You run across any of Luke's mistakes yet,
Racey shook his head. "No."
"Did you go to Marysville?"
"Why for Marysville?"
"Luke Tweezy lives in Marysville."
"And you think there's somebody in Marysville would talk?"
Judge Dolan looked pained. "I didn't say so," he was quick to remark.
"I know you didn't, but--"
"I don't guess they's many folks in Marysville _know_ much about
Luke--no, not many. Luke is careful and clever, damn clever.
But they's other things besides folks which might have useful
"Yeah. A gent, a lawyer anyway, keeps a lot of papers in his safe as
a rule. Sometimes them papers make a heap interesting readin'." The
Judge paused and regarded Racey coolly.
"They might prove interesting reading, that's a fact," drawled Racey.
"Now I ain't suggestin' anything," pursued Judge Dolan. "I couldn't on
account of my oath. But it ain't so Gawd-awful far from Farewell to
"It ain't _too_ far."
"I got a notion Luke Tweezy will find important business to keep him
here in Farewell the next four or five days."
"I wonder what kind of a safe Luke has got," murmured Racey.
"Damfino," said the Judge. "You know anything about dynamite--how it's
"Shore, handle it carefully."
"I mean how to prepare a fuse and detonator and stick it in the
cartridge. You know how?"
"I helped a miner man once for a week. Shore I know. You cut the fuse
square-ended. Stick the square end into the cap until it touches the
fulminate, and crimp down the copper shell all round with a dull knife
to hold the fuse. Then you make a hole in the end of the cartridge
"I guess you know yore business, Racey," interrupted Judge Dolan.
"You'll find a package on that shelf by the door. Handle it carefully.
I'm glad you dropped in, Racey, Nice weather we're having."
"But there are some people about due for a cold wave," capped Racey,
stopping on his way out to take the package from the shelf and wink at
The wink was not returned. But the Judge's tongue may have been in his
cheek. He was a most human person, was Judge Dolan of Farewell.
Racey, handling the package with care, went back to the draw where
he had left the two horses. In the draw he opened the package. It
contained six sticks of dynamite and the necessary detonators and
"Good old Judge," said Racey, admiringly, and rewrapped the dynamite,
the detonators, and the fuse with even more care than he had employed
in unwrapping them.
He rolled the package into his slicker and tied down the slicker
behind the cantle of his saddle. Untying the two horses he mounted his
own and, leading the other, rode to the hotel corral.
Bill Lainey was only too glad to lend him a fresh horse and a bran
It was dusk when he dismounted at the Dale corral. There was a lamp
in the kitchen. Its rays shone out through the open door and made a
rectangle of golden light on the dusty earth. Molly was standing at
the kitchen table. She was stirring something in a bowl. She did not
turn her head when he came to the door.
"Evenin', Molly," said Racey.
"Good evening." Just that.
"Uh. Yore ma around?"
"She's gone to bed." Still the dark head was not raised.
He misunderstood both her brevity and the following silence. He
left his hat on the washbench outside the door and stepped into the
"Don't take it so to heart, Molly," he said, awkwardly.
"It's hard, but--Shucks, lookit, I've got something to tell you."
In very truth he had something to tell her but he had not meant to
tell her so soon.
"Lemme take care of you, Molly--dear. You know I love you, and--"
"Stop!" Molly turned to him an expressionless face. She looked at him
steadily. "You say you love me?" she went on.
"Shore I say it." He was plainly puzzled at her reception of what he
had said. Girls did not act this way in books.
"How about that--that other girl? Marie, I think her name is."
"What about her?"
"A good deal."
"What has she got to do with my loving you, I'd like to know?"
"She loves you."
"Marie? Loves me? Yo're crazy!"
"Oh, am I? If she hadn't loved you do you think for one minute she'd
come riding all the way out here to give you a warning?"
"Marie and I are friends," he admitted. "But there ain't any law
"None at all." Molly's eyes dropped. Her head turned back. She resumed
her operations with a spoon in the bowl.
"Lookit here, Molly--"
"Don't you call me Molly." Her tone was as lacking in expression as
was her face.
"But you've got to listen to me!" he insisted, desperately. "I tell
you there ain't anything between Marie and me."
"Then there ought to be." Thus Molly. Womanlike she yearned to use her
"Oh, I've heard all about your carryings on with that--creature; how
you talk to her, and people have seen you walking with her on the
street. I saw you myself. Yesterday when Mis' Jackson drove out here
to buy three hens she told me when the girl was arrested and fined for
trying to murder a man you stepped up and paid her fine. Did you?"
"I did. But--"
"There aren't any buts! You've got a nerve, you have, making love to
me after running round with that wretched hussy!"
"She ain't a hussy!" denied the exasperated Racey, who was always
loyal to absent friends. "She's all right. Just because she happens to
be a lookout in the Happy Heart ain't anything against her. It don't
give you nor anybody else license to insult her."
This was too much. Not content with confessing his friendship for the
girl, he was standing up for her. Molly whirled upon him.
"Go!" Tone and business could not have been excelled by Peg Woffington
"What's the matter?" queried a sleepy voice from the doorway giving
into an inner room, as Racey's spurred heels jingled past the
washbench. "What's goin' on? Who was here? What you yelling about,
"Racey was here, Ma," said Molly.
"Seems to me you made an uncommon racket about it," grumbled her
mother, plodding into the kitchen in her slippers.
Her gray hair was all in strings about her face. Her eyes and cheeks
were puffed with sleep. She had pulled a quilt round her shoulders
over her nightdress. Now she gave the quilt a hitch up and sat down in
"Make me a cup o' coffee, will you, Molly?" said Mrs. Dale. "My head
aches sort of. I hope you didn't have a fight with Racey Dawson."
"Well, we didn't quite agree," admitted Molly, snapping shut the cover
of the coffee-mill and clamping the mill between her knees. "I don't
like him any more, Ma."
"And after he's helped us so! I was counting on him to fix up this
mortgage business! Whatever's got into you, Molly?"
"He's been running round with that awful lookout girl at the Happy
"Is that all?" yawned Mrs. Dale, greatly relieved. "I thought it might
have been something serious."
"It is serious! What right has he to--"
"Why hasn't he? You ain't engaged to him."
"I know I'm not, but he--I--you--" Molly began to flounder.
"Has he ever told you he loved you?" Mrs. Dale inquired, shrewdly.
"Not in so many words, but--"
"But you know he does. Well, so do I know he does. I knew it soon as
you did--before, most likely. Don't you fret, Molly, he'll come back."
"No, he won't. Not now. I don't want him to."
"Then who's to fix up this mortgage business with Tweezy, I'd like
to know? I declare, I wish I'd taken that lawyer's offer. We'd have
something then, anyhow. Now we'll have to get out without a nickel.
Oh, Molly, what did you quarrel with Racey for?"
Merely because he believed that the well-known all was over between
Molly Dale and himself, Racey did not relinquish his plans for the
He rode to Marysville as he had intended. That is, he rode to the
vicinity of Marysville. For, arriving at a hill five miles outside of
town in the broad of an afternoon, he stopped in a hollow under the
cedars and waited for night. Daylight was decidedly not appropriate
for the act he contemplated.
"I wonder," he muttered, as he lay with his back braced against a tree
and stared at the bulge in his slicker, "I wonder if I ought to use
all them sticks at once. I never heard that miner man say how much of
an argument a safe needed. I s'pose I better use 'em all."
Luke Tweezy was a bachelor. His office was in his four-room house, and
he did not employ a housekeeper. Further than this, Racey Dawson
knew nothing of the lawyer's establishment. But he believed that his
knowledge was sufficient to serve his purpose.
About midnight Racey Dawson removed himself, his horse, and his
dynamite from the hollow on the hill to where a lone pine grew almost
directly in the rear of and two hundred yards from the residence of
Luke Tweezy. He had selected the tall and lonely pine as the best
place to leave his horse because, should he be forced to run for
it, he would have against the stars a plain landmark to run for.
He thoroughly expected to be forced to run. Six sticks of dynamite
letting go together would arouse a cemetery. And Marysville was a
Racey, taking no chances on the Lainey horse stampeding at the
explosion, rope-tied the animal to the trunk of the pine. After which
he removed his spurs, carefully unwrapped the dynamite and stuck three
sticks in each hip-pocket. The caps, in their little box, he put in
the breast-pocket of his shirt. With the coil of fuse in one hand and
the bran sack given him by Lainey in the other he walked toward the
house of Tweezy.
The house was of course dark. Nor were there any lights in the
irregular line of houses stretching up and down this side of the
street. The neighbours had apparently all gone to bed. Through an
opening between two houses Racey saw a brightly lighted window in a
house an eighth of a mile away. That would be Judge Allison's house.
The Judge, then, was awake. Two hundred and twenty yards was not a
long distance even for a portly man like Judge Allison to cover at
speed. And Racey had known Judge Allison to move briskly on occasion.
Racey, moving steadily ahead, slid past someone's barn and opened up
a view of the dance hall. It had previously been concealed from his
sight by the high posts and rails of three corrals. The dance hall was
going full blast. At least all the windows were bright with light. He
was too far away to hear the fiddles.
The dance hall! He might have known it would still be operating at
midnight. But it was almost twice as far from the Tweezy house to the
dance hall as it was from the Judge's house to Tweezy's. That was
something. Indeed it was a great deal. But he would have to work
fast. All the neighbours would come bouncing out at the crash of the
Racey paused to flatten an ear at the kitchen door. He heard nothing,
and tiptoed along the wall to the window of the room next the kitchen.
The ground plan of the house was almost an exact square. There was a
room in each angle. The office, which Racey knew contained the safe,
was diagonally across from the kitchen.
Racey, halting at the window of the room next the kitchen, was
somewhat surprised to find it open. He stuck in his head and saw a
faint glow beyond the half-closed door of the office. The glow seemed
to be brighter near the floor. Racey listened intently. He heard a
faint grumble and now and then a squeak.
He crouched beneath the window and removed his boots. Then he crawled
over the sill and hunkered down on the uncarpeted floor. The floor
boards did not creak. Still crouching, his arms extended in front of
him, he made his way silently across the room, skirting safely in the
process two chairs and a table, and stood upright behind the crack of
Looking through the crack he perceived that the glow he had seen from
the window emanated from a tin can pierced with several holes. The
dim, uncertain light revealed the figure of a tall and hatless man
kneeling beside the safe. The man's back was toward the lighted tin
can. One of the tall man's hands was slowly turning the knob of the
combination. The side of the man's head was pressed against the front
of the safe near the combination. Racey could not see the man's face.
Across the window of the room two blankets had been hung. The door
into the other front room was open. Then suddenly the doorway was no
longer a black void. A man stood there--a fat man with a stomach that
hung out over the waistband of his trousers. There was something very
familiar about the figure of that fat man.
The fat man leaned against the doorjamb and pushed back his wide black
hat. The light in the tin can illumined his countenance dimly. But
Racey's eyes were becoming accustomed to the half darkness. He was
able to recognize Jacob Pooley--Fat Jakey Pooley, the register of the
district, whose home was in Piegan City.
"You ain't as fast as you used to be," observed Fat Jakey in a soft
"Shut up!" hissed the kneeling man, and turned his face for an instant
toward Fat Jakey, so that the light shone upon his features.
It was Jack Harpe.
"What's biting your ear?" Fat Jakey asked, good-naturedly.
"I've told you more'n once to let what's past alone," grumbled Jack
"Hell, there's nobody around."
"Nemmine whether they is or not. You get out of the habit."
"Rats," sneered Fat Jakey.
"What was that?" Jack Harpe's figure tautened in a flash.
"Rats," repeated Fat Jakey.
"I thought I heard something," persisted Jack Harpe.
"You heard rats," chuckled Fat Jakey. "You're nervous, that's what's
the matter, or else you ain't able to open the safe."
"I can open the safe all right," growled Jack Harpe, bending again to
"I wonder what he did hear," Racey said to himself. "I thought I heard
Whatever it was he did not hear it again.
"There she is," said Jack Harpe, suddenly, and threw open the safe
It was at this precise juncture that a voice from the darkness behind
Fat Jakey said, "Hands up!"
Oh, it was then that events began to move with celerity. Fat Jakey
Pooley ducked and leaped. Jack Harpe kicked the tin can, the candle
fell out and rolled guttering in a quarter circle only to be
extinguished by one of Fat Jakey's flying feet.
There was a slithering sound as the blankets across the window were
ripped down, followed by a scraping and a heaving and a grunting as
two large people endeavoured to make their egress through the same
window at the same time.
"So that window was open alla time," thought Racey as he prudently
waited for the owner of the voice in the other room to discover
himself. But this the voice's owner did not immediately do. Racey
could not understand why he did not shoot while the two men were
struggling through the window. Lord knows he had plenty of time and
Even after Jack Harpe and Fat Jakey had reached the outer air and
presumably gone elsewhere swiftly, there was no sound from the other
room. Racey, his gun ready, waited.
At first his impulse had been incontinently to flee the premises as
Jack and Jake had done. But a saving second thought held him where
he was. It was more than possible that the mysterious fourth man had
designs on the contents of the safe. In which event--
Racey stood pat.
He heard no sound for at least a minute after Jack and Jake had left,
then he heard a soft swish, and a few stars which had been visible
through the upper half of the window were blotted out. The blankets
were being readjusted.
A match was struck and a figure stooped for the candle that had been
dashed out by the foot of Fat Jakey Pooley. A table shielded the
figure from Racey. Then the figure straightened and set the flaring
match to the candle end. And the face that bent above the light was
the face of one he knew.
"Molly!" he whispered, and slipped from his ambush.
At which Molly dropped candle and match and squeaked in affright. But
her scare did not prevent her from drawing a sixshooter. He heard the
click of the hammer, and whispered desperately, "Molly! Molly! It's
He struck a match and retrieved the candle and lit it quickly. By its
light he saw her staring at him uncertainly. Her eyes were bright with
conflicting emotions. Her sixshooter still pointed in his general
"Put yore gun away," he advised her. "We've got no time to lose. Hold
the candle for me! Put it in the can first!"
Automatically she obeyed the several commands.
He knelt before the open safe and, beginning at the top shelf, he
stuffed into his bran sack every piece of paper the safe contained.
Besides papers there were two sixshooters and a bowie. These he did
When the safe was clean of papers Racey tied the mouth of the bran
sack, took Molly by the hand, and blew out the candle.
"C'mon," he said, shortly. "We'll be leavin' here now."
Towing her behind him he led her to the window of the rear room.
Holding his hat by the brim he shoved it out through the window. No
blow or shot followed the action. He clapped the hat on his head, and
looked out cautiously. He satisfied himself that the coast was clear
and flung a leg over the sill.
When he had helped out Molly he gave her the sack to hold and pulled
on his boots.
"Where's yore hoss?" he whispered.
"I tied him at the corner of the nearest corral," was the answer.
"C'mon," said he and took her again by the hand.
They had not gone ten steps when she stumbled and fell against him.
"Nothing," was the almost breathless reply. "I'm--I'm all right. I
just stepped on a sharp stone."
"Yore shoes!" he murmured, contritely. "I never thought. Why didn't
you say something? Here."
So saying he scooped her up in his arms, settled her in place with due
regard for the box of caps in his breast-pocket, and plowed on through
the night. Her arms went round his neck and her head went down on his
shoulder. She sighed a gentle little sigh. For a sigh like that Racey
would cheerfully have shot a sheriff's posse to pieces.
"I left my shoes in my saddle pocket," she said, apologetically. "I--I
thought it would be safer."
There was a sudden yell somewhere on Main Street. It sounded as if it
came from uncomfortably close to the Tweezy house. Then a sixshooter
cracked once, twice, and again. At the third shot Racey was running as
tight as he could set foot to the ground.
Encumbered as he was with a double armful of girl and a fairly heavy
sackful of papers he yet made good time to the corner of the nearest
corral. The increasing riot in Main Street undoubtedly was a most
"Which way's the hoss?" he gasped when the dark rail of the corral
fretted the sky before them.
"You're heading straight," she replied, calmly. "Thirty feet more and
you'll run into him. Better set me down."
He did--literally. He turned his foot on a tin can and went down
ker-flop. Forced to guard his box of caps with one hand he could not
save Molly Dale a smashing fall.
"Ah-ugh!" guggled Molly, squirming on the ground, for she had struck
the pit of her stomach on a round rock the size of a football and the
wind was knocked out of her.
Racey scrambled to his feet, and knowing that if Molly was able to
wriggle and groan she could not be badly hurt, picked up the sack and
scouted up Molly's horse. He found it without difficulty, and tied the
sack with the saddle strings in front of the horn. He loosed the horse
and led it to where Molly still lay on the ground. The poor girl was
sitting up, clutching her stomach and rocking back and forth and
fighting for her breath with gasps and crows.
But there was not time to wait till she should regain the full use of
her lungs--not in the face of the shouts and yells in Main Street.
Lord, the whole town was up. Lights were flashing in every house.
Racey stooped, seized Molly under the armpits, and heaved her bodily
into the saddle.
"Hang onto the horn," he ordered, "and for Gosh sake don't make so
Molly obeyed as best she could. He mounted behind her, and of course
had to fight the horse, which harboured no intention of carrying
double if it could help itself. Racey, however, was a rider, and he
jerked Molly's quirt from where it hung on the horn. Not more than
sixty seconds were wasted before they were travelling toward the lone
pine as tight as the horse could jump.
At the pine Racey slipped to the ground and ran to untie his horse.
"Can you hang on all right at a trot if I lead yore hoss?" he queried,
sharply, his fingers busy with the knot of the rope.
"I cue-can and gug-guide him, too," she stuttered, picking up her
reins and making a successful effort to sit up straight. "Lul-look! At
He looked. There were certainly three lanterns bobbing about in the
open behind the house of Luke Tweezy. He knew too well what those
lights meant. The Marysville citizens were hunting for a hot trail.
He swung up with a rush.
"Stick right alongside me," he told her. "We'll trot at first till
we get behind the li'l hill out yonder. After that we can hit the
She spoke no word till they had rounded the little hill and were
galloping south. Then she said in her normal voice, "This isn't the
"I know it ain't. We've got to lose whoever follows us before we skip
"Of course," she told him, humbly. "I might have known. You always
think of the right thing, Racey."
All of which was balm to a hitherto tortured soul.
"That's all right," he said, modestly.
"And how strong you are--carrying me and that heavy sack all that
distance." Both admiration and appreciation were in her tone. Any
man would have been made happy thereby. Racey was overjoyed. And the
daughter of Eve at his side knew that he was overjoyed and was made
glad herself. She did not realize that Eve invariably employed the
same method with our grandfather Adam.
He reached across and patted her arm.
"Yo're all right," he told her. "When we get out of this yo're going
to marry me."
Her free hand turned under his and clasped his fingers. S6 they rode
for a space hand-in-hand. And Racey's heart was full. And so was hers.
If they forgot for the moment what dread possibilities the future held
who can blame them?
"But what was yore idea in coming to Marysville a-tall?"
"To get that release Father signed--I thought it might be in his
"Anybody give you the idea it might be?"
She shook her head. "Nobody."
"You've got more brains than I have, for a fact. But how were you
figuring on getting into the safe?"
"Oh, I brought a bunch of keys along. What are you laughing at? I
thought one might fit."
"Keys for a safe! Say, don't you know you don't open safes with keys?
They've got combinations, safes have."
"I didn't know it. How could I? I never saw a safe in my life till
I saw this one to-night. I thought they had locks like any other
ordinary--Oh, I think you're horrid to laugh!"
"I'm not laughing. Lean over, and I'll show you.... There, I ain't
laughing, am I?"
"Not now, but you were.... Not another one, Racey. Sit back where you
belong, will you? You can hold my hand if you like. But I wasn't such
a fool as you seem to think, Racey. I brought an extra key along in
case the others didn't fit."
"Surely--seven sticks of dynamite, caps, and fuse. Chuck had a lot he
was using for blowing stumps, so I borrowed some from his barn. He
didn't know I took it."
"I should hope not," Racey declared, fervently. "You leave dynamite
alone, do you hear? Where is it now?"
"Oh, I left it on the floor in Tweezy's house when I found I didn't
need it any longer."
"Thank God!" breathed Racey, whose hair had begun to rise at the bare
idea of the explosives still being somewhere on her person. "What was
yore motive in hold in' up Jack Harpe and Jakey Pooley?"
"Was that who they were? I couldn't see their faces. Well, when I had
broken the lock and opened the back window and crawled through, I went
into the front room where I thought likely the safe would be, and I
was just going to strike a match when I heard a snap at the front
window as the lock broke. Maybe I wasn't good and scared. I paddled
into the other front room by mistake. Got turned around in the dark, I
suppose. And before I could open a window and get out I heard two men
in the front room I'd just left. I didn't dare open a window then.
They'd have heard me surely, so I just knelt down behind a bed. And
after a while, when one man was busy at the safe, the fat man came
into my room and sat down on a chair inside the door. Lordy, I hardly
dared breathe. It's a wonder my hair didn't turn white. Once I thought
they must have heard me--the time the fat man said 'rats'. Honestly, I
was so scared I was almost sick."
"But you have nerve enough to try and hold them up."
"I had to. When I found out they were going to rob the safe, I had to
do something. Why, they might have taken the very paper I wanted, and
somehow later Tweezy might have gotten it back. I couldn't allow that.
I knew that I must get at what was inside the safe before they did. I
just had to, so when the fat man got up from his chair and stood in
the doorway with his back to me, I just gritted my teeth and stood up
and said 'Hands up.'"
"My Gawd, girl, you might 'a' been shot!"
"I had a sixshooter," she said, tranquilly. "But I wouldn't have shot
first," she added, reflectively.
Willy-nilly then he took her in his arms and held her tightly.
"But I don't see why," he said after an interval, "you had to go off
on a wild-goose chase thisaway. Didn't I tell you I was going to fix
it up for you? Couldn't you 'a' trusted me enough to lemme do it my
"We had that--that quarrel in the kitchen, and I thought you didn't
like me any more, and--and wouldn't have any more to do with me and
that it was my job to do something to help out the family.... Please!
Racey! I can't breathe!"
Another interval, and she resolutely pushed his arms down and held him
away from her with both hands on his shoulders.
"Tell me," said she, her blue eyes plumbing the very depths of his
soul, "tell me you don't love anybody else."
He told her.
Later. "There was a time once when I thought you liked Luke Tweezy,"
he observed, lazily.
"How horrible," she murmured with a slight shudder as she snuggled
And that was that.
"I think, dearest," said Molly, raising her head from his shoulder
some twenty minutes later, "that it's light enough now to see what's
in the sack."
So, in the brightness of a splendid dawn, snugly hidden on the
tree-covered flank of one of the Frying Pan Mountains, they opened the
bran sack and went through every paper it contained.
There were deeds, mortgages, legal documents of every description.
They found the Dale mortgage, but they did not find the release
alleged to have been signed by Dale immediately prior to his death.
"Of course that mortgage is recorded," said Racey, dolefully, staring
at the pile of papers, "so destroyin' that won't help us any. The
release he's carrying with him, and I don't see anything--"
"Here's one we missed," said Molly Dale in a hopeless tone, picking up
a slip of paper from where it had fallen behind a saddle. The slip
of paper was folded several times. She opened it and spread it out
against her knee. "Why, how queer," she muttered.
"Huh?" In an instant Racey was looking over her shoulder.
When both had thoroughly digested the meaning of the writing on that
piece of paper they sat back and regarded each other with wide eyes.
"This ought to fix things," breathed Molly.
"Fix things!" cried Racey. "Cinch! We've got him like that."
He snapped his fingers joyfully.
Molly reached for the bran sack. "You only shook it out," she said.
"I'm going to turn it inside out. Maybe we'll find something else."
They did find something else. They found a document caught in the end
seam. They read it with care and great interest.
"Well," said Racey, when he came to the signatures, "no wonder Jack
Harpe and Jakey Pooley wanted to get into the safe. No wonder. If we
don't get the whole gang now we're no good."
"And to think we never thought of such a thing."
"I was took in. I never thought anything else. And it does lie just
right for a cow ranch."
"Of course it does. You couldn't help being fooled. None of us had any
"I'd oughta worked it out," he grumbled. "There ain't any excuse for
my swallowing what Jack Harpe told me. Lordy, I was easy."
"What do you care now? Everything's all right, and you've got me,
haven't you?" And here she leaned across the bran sack to kiss him.
She could not understand why his return kiss lacked warmth.
* * * * *
"Sun's been up two hours," he announced. "And the hosses have had a
good rest. We'd better be goin'."
"What are you climbing the tree for, then?" she demanded.
"I want to look over our back trail," he told her, clambering into the
branches of a tall cedar. "I know we covered a whole heap of ground
last night, but you never can tell."
Apparently you never could tell. For, when he arrived near the top of
the cedar and looked out across a sea of treetops to the flat at the
base of the mountain, he saw that which made him catch his breath and
slide earthward in a hurry.
"What is it?" asked Molly in alarm at his expression.
"They picked up our trail somehow," he answered, whipping up a blanket
and saddle and throwing both on her horse. "They're about three miles
back on the flat just a-burnin' the ground."
"Saddle your own horse," she cried, running to his side. "I'll attend
"You stuff all the papers back in the sack. That's yore job. Hustle,
now. I'll get you out of this. Don't worry."
"I'm not worrying--not a worry," she said, cheerfully, both hands busy
with Luke Tweezy's papers. "I'd like to know how they picked up the
trail after our riding up that creek for six miles."
"I dunno," said he, his head under an upflung saddle-fender. "I shore
thought we'd lost 'em."
She stopped tying the sack and looked at him. "How silly we are!"
she cried. "All we have to do is show these two letters to the posse
"S'pose now the posse is led by Jack Harpe and Jakey Pooley," said he,
not ceasing to pass the cinch strap.
Her face fell. "I never thought of that," she admitted. "But there
must be some honest men in the bunch."
"It takes a whole lot to convince an honest man when he's part of a
posse," Racey declared, reaching for the bran sack. "They don't stop
to reason, a posse don't, and this lot of Marysville gents wouldn't
give us time to explain these two letters, and before they got us back
to town, the two letters would disappear, and then where would we be?
We'd be in jail, and like to stay awhile."
"Let's get out of here," exclaimed Molly, crawling her horse even
quicker than Racey did his.
Racey led the way along the mountain side for three or four miles.
Most of the time they rode at a gallop and all the time they took care
to keep under cover of the trees. This necessitated frequent zigzags,
for the trees grew sparsely in spots.
"There's a slide ahead a ways," Racey shouted to the girl. "She's
nearly a quarter-mile wide, and over two miles long, so we'll have to
take a chance and cross it."
Molly nodded her wind-whipped head and Racey snatched a wistful glance
at the face he loved. Renunciation was in his eyes, for that second
letter found caught in the bran sack's seam had changed things. He
could not marry her. No, not now. And yet he loved her more than ever.
She looked at him and smiled, and he smiled back--crookedly.
"What's the matter?" she cried above the drum of the flying hoofs.
"Nothing," he shouted back.
He hoped she believed him. And bitter almonds were not as bitter as
Then the wide expanse of the slide was before them. Now some slides
have trails across their unstable backs, and some have not. Some are
utterly unsafe to cross and others can be crossed with small risk.
There was no trail across this particular slide, and it did not
present a dangerous appearance. Neither does quicksand--till you step
Racey dismounted at the edge and started across, leading his horse.
Twenty yards in the rear Molly Dale followed in like manner. At every
step the footing gave a little. Once a rounded rock dislodged by the
forefoot of Racey's horse bounded away down the long slope.
The slither of a started rock behind him made him turn his head with a
jerk. Molly's horse was down on its knees.
"Easy, boy, easy," soothed Molly, coaxingly, keeping the bridle reins
The horse scrambled up and plunged forward, and almost overran Molly.
She seized it short by the rein-chains. The horse pawed nervously and
tried to rear. More rocks skidded downward under the shove of the hind
hoofs. To Racey's imagination the whole slide seemed to tremble.
Molly's face when the horse finally quieted and she turned around was
pale and drawn. Which was not surprising.
"It's all right, it's all right, it's all right," Racey found himself
repeating with stiff lips.
"Of course it is," nodded Molly, bravely. "There's no danger!"
"No," said Racey. "Better not hold him so short. Don't wind that rein
round yore wrist! S'pose he goes down you'd go, too. Here, you lemme
take him. I'll manage him all right."
"I'll manage him all right myself!" snapped Molly, up in arms
immediately at this slur upon her horsemanship. "You go on."
Racey turned and went on. It was not more than a hundred yards to
where the grass grew on firm ground. Racey and his horse reached solid
earth without incident. Then--a scramble, a scraping, and a clattering
followed in a breath by the indescribable sound of a mass of rocks in
Racey had wasted no time in looking to see what had happened. He knew.
At the first sound of disaster he had snapped his rope strap, freed
his rope and taken two half hitches round the horn. Then he leaped
toward the slide, shaking out his rope as he went.
Twenty feet out and below him Molly Dale and her struggling horse were
sliding downward. If the horse had remained quiet--but the horse was
not remaining quiet and Molly's wrist was tangled in the bridle reins.
In the beginning the movement was slow, but as Racey reached the edge
of the slide an extra strong plunge of the horse drove both girl and
animal downward two yards in a breath. Molly turned a white face
"So long, Racey," she called, bravely, and waved her free hand.
But Racey was going down to her with his rope in one hand. With the
other hand and his teeth he was opening his pocket-knife. The loose
stones skittered round his ankles and turned under his boot soles. He
took tremendous steps and, with that white face below him, lived an
age between each step.
"Grab the rope above my hand!" he yelled, although by now she was not
a yard from him.
Racey was closer to the end of his rope than he realized. At the
instant that her free hand clutched at the rope it tightened with a
jerk as the cow pony at the other end, feeling the strain and knowing
his business, braced his legs and swayed backward. Molly's fingers
brushed the back of Racey's hand and swept down his arm. Well it was
for him that he had taken two turns round his wrist, for her forearm
went round his neck and almost the whole downward pull of girl and
horse exerted itself against the strength of Racey Dawson's arm and
Molly's face and chin were pressed tightly against Racey's neck. Small
blame to her if her eyes were closed. The arm held fast by the bridle
was cruelly stretched and twisted. And where the rein was tight across
the back of her wrist, for he could reach no lower, Racey set the
blade of his pocket-knife and sawed desperately. It was not a sharp
knife and the leather was tough. The steel did not bite well. Racey
sawed all the harder. His left arm felt as if it were being wrenched
out of its socket. The sweat was pouring down his face. His hat jumped
from his head. He did not even wonder why. He must cut that bridle
rein in two. He must--he must.
Snap! Three parts cut, the leather parted, Molly's left arm and
Racey's right fell limply. Molly's horse went down the slide alone.
Neither of them saw it go. Molly had fainted, and Racey was too spent
to do more than catch her round the waist and hold her to him in time
to prevent her following the horse.
Smack! something small and hot sprinkled Racey's cheek. He looked
to the left. On a rock face close by was a splash of lead. Smack!
Zung-g-g diminuendo, as a bullet struck the side of a rock and buzzed
off at an angle.
Racey turned his head abruptly. At a place where trees grew thinly on
the opposite side of the slide and at a considerably lower altitude
than the spot where he and Molly hung at the end of their rope shreds
of gray smoke were dissolving into the atmosphere. The range was
possibly seven hundred yards. The hidden marksman was a good shot to
drive his bullets as close as he had at that distance.
Straight out from the place of gray smoke four men and four horses
were making their way across the slide. They were halfway across. But
they had stopped. The down rush of Molly's horse had apparently given
them pause. Now two men started ahead, one stood irresolute and
one started to retrace his steps. It is a true saying that he who
hesitates is lost. Straight over the irresolute man and his horse
rolled the dust cloud whose centre was Molly's horse. When the dust
cloud passed on it was much larger, and both the man and his horse had
The man who had started to retreat continued to retreat, and more
rapidly. The two who had held on did not cease to advance, but they
proceeded very slowly.
"If that feller with the Winchester don't get us we're all right for a
spell," Racey muttered.
He knew that on their side of the slide for a distance of several
hundred yards up and down the side of the mountain and for several
miles athwart it the underbrush was impenetrable for horses and wicked
travelling for men. There had been a forest fire four years before,
and everyone knows what happens after that.
In but one place, where a ridge of rock reared through the soil, was
it possible to cross the stretch of burned-over ground. Naturally
Racey had picked this one spot. Whether the posse had not known of
this rock ridge, or whether they had simply miscalculated its position
it is impossible to say.
"Those two will shore be out of luck when they get in among the
stubs," he thought to himself, as he waited for his strength to come
But youth recovers quickly and Racey was young. It may be that
the lead that was being sent at him and Molly Dale was a potent
Certainly within three or four minutes after he had cut the bridle
Racey began to work his way up the rope to where his patient and
well-trained horse stood braced and steady as the proverbial boulder.
Monotonously the man behind the Winchester whipped bullet after bullet
into the rocky face of the slide in the immediate vicinity of Racey
Dawson and the senseless burden in the crook of his left arm.
Nevertheless, Racey took the time to work to the right and recover the
hat that a bullet had flicked from his head.
Then he resumed his slow journey upward.
Ages passed before he felt the good firm ground under his feet and
laid the still unconscious Molly on the grass behind a gray and
barkless windfall that had once been a hundred-foot fir.
Then he removed his horse farther back among the stubs where it could
not be seen, took his Winchester from the scabbard under the left
fender and went back to the edge of the slide to start a return
argument with the individual who had for the last ten minutes been
endeavouring to kill him.
HUE AND CRY
"Did you hit him?"
"I don't think so," replied Racey without turning his head. "Keep
"I am down."
"How you feel?"
"Yes," said she in a small voice, "it was a close squeak. You--you
saved my life, Racey."
"Shucks," he said, much embarrassed, "that wasn't anythin'--I
mean--you--you know what I mean."
"Surely, I know what you mean. All the same, you saved my life. Tell
me, was that man shooting at us all the time after I fainted until you
got me under cover?"
"Not all the time, no."
"But most of the time. Oh, you can make small of it, but you were very
brave. It isn't everybody would have stuck the way you did."
Smack! Tchuck! A bullet struck a rock two feet below where Racey lay
on his stomach, his rifle-barrel poked out between two shrubs of
smooth sumac--another bored the hole of a gray stub at his back.
He fired quickly at the first puff of smoke, then sent two bullets a
little to the left of the centre of the second puff.
"Not much chance of hittin' the first feller," he said to Molly. "He's
behind a log, but that second sport is behind a bush same as me....
Huh? Oh, I'm all right. I got the ground in front of me. He
hasn't. Alla same, we ain't stayin' here any longer. I think I saw
half-a-dozen gents cuttin' across the end of the slide. Give 'em time
and they'll cut in behind us, which ain't part of my plans a-tall.
He crawfished backward on his hands and knees. Molly followed his
example. When they were sufficiently far back to be able to stand
upright with safety they scrambled to their feet and hurried to the
"I'll lead him for a while," said Racey, giving Molly a leg up, for
the horse was a tall one. "He won't have to carry double just yet."
So, with Racey walking ahead, they resumed their retreat.
The ridge of rock cutting across the burned-over area could not
properly be called rimrock. It was a different formation. Set at an
angle it climbed steadily upward to the very top of the mountain.
In places weatherworn to a slippery smoothness; in others jagged,
fragment-strewn; where the rain had washed an earth-covering upon the
rock the cheerful kinnikinick spread its mantle of shining green.
The man and the girl and the horse made good time. Racey's feet began
to hurt before he had gone a mile, but he knew that something besides
a pair of feet would be irreparably damaged if he did not keep going.
If they caught him he would be lynched, that's what he would be. If he
weren't shot first. And the girl--well, she would get at the least ten
years at Piegan City, _if_ they were caught. But "if" is the longest
and tallest word in the dictionary. It is indeed a mighty barrier
before the Lord.
"Did you ever stop to think they may come up through this brush?" said
Molly, on whom the silence and the sad gray stubs on either hand were
beginning to tell.
"No," he answered, "I didn't, because they can't. The farther down you
go the worse it gets. They'd never get through. Not with hosses. We're
"Are we?" She stood up in her stirrups, and looked down through a
vista between the stubs.
They had reached the top of the mountain. It was a saddle-backed
mountain, and they were at the outer edge of the eastern hump. Far
below was a narrow valley running north and south. It was a valley
without trees or stream and through it a string of dots were slipping
to the north.
"Are we all right?" she persisted. "Look down there."
At this he turned his head and craned his neck.
"I guess," he said, stepping out, "we'd better boil this kettle a li'l
She made no comment, but always she looked down the mountain side and
watched, when the stubs gave her the opportunity, that ominous string
of dots. She had never been hunted before.
They crossed the top of the mountain, keeping to the ridge of rock,
and started down the northern slope. Here they passed out of the
burned-over area of underbrush and stubs and scuffed through brushless
groves of fir and spruce where no grass grew and not a ray of sunshine
struck the ground and the wind soughed always mournfully.
But here and there were comparatively open spaces, grassy, drenched
with sunshine, and sparsely sprinkled with lovely mountain maples and
solitary yellow pines. In the wider open spaces they could see over
the tops of the trees below them and catch glimpses of the way they
A deep notch, almost a canon, grown up in spruce divided the mountain
they were descending from the next one to the north. This next one
thrust a rocky shoulder easterly. The valley where the horsemen rode
bent round this shoulder in a curve measured in miles. They could not
see the riders now.
"There's a trail just over the hill," said Racey, nodding toward the
mountain across the notch. "It ain't been regularly used since the
Daisy petered out in '73, but I guess the bridge is all right."
"And suppose it ain't all right?"
"We'll have to grow wings in a hurry," he said, soberly, thinking
of the deep cleft spanned by the bridge. "Does this trail lead to
"Same thing--it'll take us to the Farewell trail if we wanted to go
there, but we don't. We ain't got time. We'll stick to this trail till
we get out of the Frying-Pans and then we'll head northeast for the
Cross-in-a-box. That's the nearest place where I got friends. And I
don't mind saying we'll be needing friends bad, me and you both."
"Suppose that posse reaches the trail and the bridge before we do?"
"Oh, I guess they won't. They have to go alla way round and we go
straight mostly. Don't you worry. We'll make the riffle yet."
His voice was more confident than his brain. It was touch and go
whether they would reach the trail and the bridge first. The posse in
the valley--that was what would stack the cards against them. And if
they should pass the bridge first, what then? It was at least thirty
miles from the bridge to the Cross-in-a-box ranch-house. And there was
only one horse. Indeed, the close squeak was still squeaking.
"Racey, you're limping!"
"Not me," he lied. "Stubbed my toe, thassall."
"Nothing of the kind. It's those tight boots. Here, you ride, and let
me walk." So saying, she slipped to the ground.
As was natural the horse stopped with a jerk. So did Racey.
"You get into that saddle," he directed, sternly. "We ain't got time
for any foolishness."
Foolishness! And she was only trying to be thoughtful. Foolishness!
She turned and climbed back into the saddle, and sat up straight, her
backbone as stiff as a ramrod, and looked over his head and far away.
For the moment she was so hopping mad she forgot the danger they were
in. They made their way down into the heavy growth of Engelmann spruce
that filled the notch, crossed the floor of the notch, and began again
An hour later they crossed the top of the second mountain and saw far
below them a long saddle back split in the middle by a narrow cleft.
At that distance it looked very narrow. In reality, it was forty feet
wide. Racey stopped and swept with squinting eyes the place where he
knew the bridge to be.
"See," he said, suddenly, pointing for Molly's benefit. "There's the
Daisy trail. I can see her plain--to the left of that arrowhead bunch
of trees. And the bridge is behind the trees."
"But I don't see any trail."
"Grown up in grass. That's why. It's behind the trees mostly, anyhow.
But she's there, the trail is. You can bet on it."
"I don't want to bet on it." Shortly. She was still mad at him. He had
saved her life, he had succeeded in saving the family ranch, he had
put her under eternal obligations, but he had called her thought for
him foolishness. It was too much.
Yet all the time she was ashamed of herself. She knew that she was
small and mean and narrow and deserved a spanking if any girl did. She
wanted to cuff Racey, cuff him till his ears turned red and his head
rang. For that is the way a woman feels when she loves a man and he
has hurt her feelings. But she feels almost precisely the same way
when she hates one who has. Truth it is that Love and Hate are close
Down, down they dropped two thousand feet, and when they came out upon
the fairly level top of the saddle back Racey mounted behind Molly.
"He'll have to carry double now," he explained. "She's two mile to the
bridge, and my wind ain't good enough to run me two mile."
It was not his wind that was weak, it was his feet--his tortured,
blistered feet that were two flaming aches. Later they would become
numb. He wished they were numb now, and cursed silently the man who
first invented cowboy boots. Every jog of the trotting horse whose
back he bestrode was a twitching torture.
"We'll be at the bridge in another mile," he told her.
Silent and grass-grown lay the Daisy trail when they came out upon it
winding through a meagre plantation of cedars.
"No one's come along yet," vouchsafed Racey, turning into the trail
after a swift glance at its trackless, undisturbed surface.
He tickled the horse with both spurs and stirred him into a gallop.
There was not much spring in that gallop. Racey weighed fully one
hundred and seventy pounds without his clothes, Molly a hundred and
twenty with all of hers, and the saddle, blanket, sack, rifle, and
cartridges weighed a good sixty. On top of this weight pile many weary
miles the horse had travelled since its last meal and you have what it
was carrying. No wonder the gallop lacked spring.
"Bridge is just beyond those trees," said Racey in Molly's ear.
"The horse is nearly run out," was her comment.
"He ain't dead yet."
They rocked around the arrowhead grove of trees and saw the bridge
before them--one stringer. There had been two stringers and adequate
flooring when Racey had seen it last. The snows of the previous winter
must have been heavy in the Frying-Pan Mountains.
Molly shivered at the sight of that lone stringer.
"The horse is done, and so are we," she muttered.
"Nothing like that," he told her, cheerfully. "There's one stringer
left. Good enough for a squirrel, let alone two white folks."
"I--I couldn't," shuddered Molly.
They had stopped at the bridge head, Racey had dismounted, and she,
was looking down into the dark mouth of the cleft with frightened
"It must be five hundred feet to the bottom," she whispered, her chin
"Not more than four hundred," he said, reassuringly. "And that log
is a good strong four-foot log, and she's been shaved off with the
broadaxe for layin' the flooring so we got a nice smooth path almost
two feet wide."
In reality, that smooth path retained not a few of the spikes that had
once held the flooring and it was no more than eighteen inches wide.
Racey gabbled on regardless. If chatter would do it, he'd get her mind
off that four-hundred-foot drop.
"I cue-can't!" breathed Molly. "I cue-can't walk across on that
lul-log! I'd fall off! I know I would!"
"You ain't gonna walk across the log," he told her with a broad grin.
"I'll carry you pickaback. C'mon, Molly, slide off. That's right. Now
when I stoop put yore arms round my neck. I'll stick my arms under
yore legs. See, like this. Now yo're all right. Don't worry. I won't
drop you. Close yore eyes and sit still, and you'll never know what's
happening. Close 'em now while I walk round with you a li'l bit so's
to get the hang of carryin' you."
She closed her eyes, and he began to walk about carrying her. At least
she thought he was walking about. But when he stopped and she opened
her eyes, she discovered that the horse was standing on the other side
of the cleft. At first she did not understand.
"How on earth did the horse get over?" she asked in wonder.
"He didn't," Racey said, quietly, setting her down, "but we did. I
carried you across while you had yore eyes shut. I told you you'd
never know what was happenin'."
She sat down limply on the ground. Racey started back across the
stringer to get the horse. He hurried, too. That posse they had seen
in the valley! There was no telling where it was. It might be four
miles away, or four hundred yards.
"C'mon, feller," said Racey, picking up the reins of the tired horse.
"And for Gawd's sake pick up yore feet! If you don't that dynamite is
gonna make one awful mess at the bottom of the canon."
Dynamite! Mess! There was an idea. Although in order to spare Molly
an extra worry for the time being, he had told her they would push on
together, it had been his intention to hold the bridge with his rifle
while Molly rode alone to the Cross-in-a-box for help. But those
six sticks of dynamite would simplify the complex situation without
He did not hurry the horse. He merely walked in front holding the
bridle slackly. The horse followed him as good as gold--and picked up
his feet at nearly every spike. Once or twice a hind hoof grazed a
spike-head with a rasping sound that sent Racey's heart bouncing up
into his throat. Lord, so much depended on a safe passage!
For the first time in his eventful life Racey Dawson realized that he
possessed a full and working set of nerves.
When they reached firm ground Racey flung the reins to Molly.
"Unpack the dynamite," he cried. "It's in the slicker."
With his bowie he began furiously to dig under the end of the stringer
where it lay embedded in the earth. Within ten minutes he had a hole
large enough and long enough to thrust in the whole of his arm. He
made it a little longer and a little wider, and at the end he drove an
offset. This last that there might be no risk of the charge blowing
out through the hole.
When the hole was to his liking, he sat back on his haunches and
grabbed the dynamite sticks Molly held out to him. With strings cut
from his saddle, he tied the sticks into a bundle. Then he prepared
his fuse and cap. In one of the sticks he made a hole. In this hole he
firmly inserted the copper cap. Above the cap he tied the fuse to the
bundle with several lappings of a saddle-string.
"There!" he exclaimed. "I guess that cap will stay put. You and the
hoss get out of here, Molly. Go along the trail a couple of hundred
yards or so. G'on. Get a move on. I'll be with you in a minute. Better
leave my rifle."
Molly laid the Winchester on the grass beside him, mounted the horse,
and departed reluctantly. She did not like to leave Racey now. She
had burned out her "mad". She rode away chin on shoulder. The cedars
swallowed her up.
Racey with careful caution stuffed the dynamite down the hole and into
the offset. Then he shovelled in the earth with his hands and tamped
it down with a rock.
Was that the clack of a hoof on stone? Faint and far away another
hoof clacked. He reached up to his hatband for a match. There were
no matches in his hatband. Feverishly he searched his pockets. Not a
match--not a match anywhere!
He whipped out his sixshooter, held the muzzle close to the end of the
fuse and fired. He had to fire three times before the fuse began to
sparkle and spit.
Clearly it came to his ears, the unmistakable thudding of galloping
hoofs on turf. The posse was riding for the bridge full tilt. He
picked up his rifle and dodged in among the trees along the trail.
Forty yards from the mined stringer he met Molly riding back with a
"What is it?" she cried to him. "I heard shots! Oh, what is it?"
"Go back! Go back!" he bawled. "I only cut that fuse for three
Molly wheeled the horse and fled. Racey ran to where a windfall lay
near the edge of the cleft and some forty yards from the stringer.
Behind the windfall he lay down, levered a cartridge into the chamber,
and trained his rifle on the bridge head.
The galloping horsemen were not a hundred paces from the stringer when
the dynamite let go with a soul-satisfying roar. Rocks, earth, chunks
and splinters of wood flew up in advance of a rolling cloud of smoke
that obscured the cleft from rim to rim.
A crash at the bottom of the narrow canon told Racey what had happened
to that part of the stringer the dynamite had not destroyed.
Racey lowered the hammer of his rifle to the safety notch just as
the posse began to approach the spot where the bridge had been. It
approached on foot by ones and twos and from tree to tree. Racey could
not see any one, but he could see the tree branches move here and
"I guess," muttered Racey, as he crawfished away from the windfall, "I
guess that settles the cat-hop."
* * * * *
The sun was near its rising the following day when Racey and Molly,
their one horse staggering with fatigue, reached the Cross-in-a-box.
Racey had walked all the distance he was humanly able to walk, but
even so the horse had carried double the better part of twenty miles.
It had earned a rest.
So had Racey's feet.
* * * * *
"My Gawd, what a relief!" Racey muttered, and sat back and gingerly
wiggled his toes.
"Damn shame you had to cut 'em up thataway," said Jack Richie,
glancing at Racey's slit boots. "They look like new boots."
"It is and they are, but I couldn't get 'em off any other way, and
I'll bet I won't be able to get another pair on inside a month. Lordy,
man, did you ever think natural-born feet would swell like that?"
"You better soak them awhile," said Jack Richie. "C'mon out to the
"Shore feels good," said Racey, when his swelled feet were immersed in
a dishpan half full of tepid water. "Lookit, Jack, let Miss Dale have
her sleep out, and to-morrow sometime send a couple of boys with her
over to Moccasin Spring."
"Whatsa matter with you and one of the boys doing it?"
"Because I have to go to Piegan City."
"Yep--Piegan City. I'm coming back, though, so you needn't worry about
losing the hoss yo're gonna lend me."
"That's good. But--"
"And if any gents on hossback _should_ drop in on you and ask
questions just remember that what they dunno won't hurt 'em."
Jack Richie nodded understandingly. "Trust me," he said. "As I see it,
Miss Dale and you come in from the north, and--"
"Only me--you ain't seen any Miss Dale--and I only stopped long enough
to borrow a fresh hoss and then rode away south."
"I know it all by heart," nodded Jack Richie.
"In about a week or ten days, maybe less," said Racey Dawson, "you'll
know more than that. And so will a good many other folks."
"Mr. Pooley," said Racey Dawson, easing himself into the chair beside
the register's desk, "where is McFluke?"
Mr. Pooley's features remained as wooden as they were fat. His small,
wide-set eyes did not flicker. He placed the tips of his fingers
together, leaned back in his chair, and stared at Racey between the
"McFluke?" he repeated. "I don't know the name."
"I mean the murderer Jack Harpe sent to you to be taken care of,"
Mr. Pooley continued to stare. For a long moment he made no comment.
Then he said, "Still, I don't know the name."
"If you will lean back a li'l more," Racey told him, "you can look out
of the window and see two chairs in front of the Kearney House. On the
right we have Bill Riley, a Wells Fargo detective from Omaha, on the
left Tom Seemly from the Pinkerton Agency in San Francisco. They know
something but not everything. Suppose I should spin 'em _all_ my
_li'l_ tale of grief--what then, Mr. Pooley?"
"Still--I wouldn't know the name McFluke," maintained Mr. Pooley.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Pooley," said Racey, rising to his feet. "I shore am."
"Don't strain yoreself," advised Mr. Pooley, making a brave rustle
among the papers on his desk.
"I won't," Racey said, turning at the door to bestow a last! grin upon
Mr. Pooley. "So long. Glad I called."
Mr. Pooley laughed outright. "G'by," he called after Racey as the door
Mr. Pooley leaned far back in his chair. He saw Racey Dawson stop on
the sidewalk in front of the two detectives. The three conversed a
moment, then Racey entered the Kearney House. The two detectives
remained where they were.
Mr. Pooley arose and left the room.
* * * * *
"You gotta get out of here!" It was Mr. Pooley speaking with great
"Why for?" countered our old friend McFluke, one-time proprietor of a
saloon on the bank of the Lazy.
"Because they're after you, that's why."
"Racey Dawson for one."
McFluke sat upright in the bunk. "Him! That ----!"
"Yes, him," sneered Pooley. "Scares you, don't it? And he's got two
detectives with him, so get a move on. I don't want you anywhere on my
property if they do come sniffin' round."
"I'm right comfortable here," declared McFluke, and lay down upon the
"You'd better go," said Mr. Pooley, softly.
"Not unless I get some money first."
"So that's the game, is it? Think I'll pay you to drift, huh? How
"Oh, about ten thousand."
"Is that all?"
"Well, say fifteen--and not a check, neither."
"No," said Mr. Pooley, "it won't be a check. It won't be anything,
So saying Mr. Pooley laid violent hands on McFluke, yanked him out of
the bunk, and flung him sprawling on the floor.
"Not one cent do you get from me," declared Mr. Pooley. "I never paid
blackmail yet and I ain't beginning now. I always told Harpe you'd
upset the applecart with yo're bullheaded ways. You stinking murderer,
it wasn't necessary to kill Old Man Dale! Suppose he did hit you, what
of it? You could have knocked him out with a bungstarter. But no, you
had to kill him, and get everybody suspicious, didn't you? Why--you,
you make me feel like cutting your throat, to have you upset my plans
McFluke raised himself on an arm. "I didn't upset yore plans none," he
denied, sulkily. "Everythin's comin' out all right. Hell, he wouldn't
play that day, anyway! Said he'd never touch a card or look at a
wheel again as long as he lived, and when I laughed at him he hit me.
Whatell else could I do? I hadda shoot him. I--"
"Shut up, you and your 'I's' and 'He wouldn't' and 'I hadda!' If
you've told me that tale once since you came here you've told me forty
times. Get up and get out! Yore horse is tied at the corral gate. I
roped him on my way in. C'mon! Get up! or will I have to crawl yore
But McFluke did not get up. Instead he scrabbled sidewise to the wall
and shrank against it. His eyes were wide, staring. They were fixed on
the doorway behind Mr. Pooley.
"I didn't do it, gents!" cried McFluke, thrusting out his hands before
his face as though to ward off a blow. "I didn't kill him! I didn't!
It's all a lie! I didn't kill him!"
Fat Jacob Pooley whirled to face three guns. His right hand fell away
reluctantly from the butt of his sixshooter. Slowly his arms went
above his head. Racey Dawson and his two companions entered the
room. The eldest of these companions was one of the Piegan City
town marshals. He was a friend of Jacob Pooley's. But there was no
friendliness in his face as he approached the register, removed his
gun, and searched his person for other weapons. Jacob Pooley said
nothing. His face was a dark red. The marshal produced a pair of
handcuffs. The register recoiled.
"Not those!" he protested. "Don't put handcuffs on me!"
"Put yore hands down," ordered the marshal.
"Look here, I'll go quietly. I'll--"
"Put yore hands _down_!" repeated the inexorable marshal.
Jacob Pooley put his hands down.
Racey and the other man were handcuffing McFluke, who was keeping up
an incessant wail of, "I didn't do it! I didn't, gents, I didn't!"
"Oh, shut up!" ordered Racey, jerking the prisoner to his feet. "You
talk too much."
"Where's yore Wells Fargo and Pinkerton detectives?" demanded Mr.
"This gent is the Wells Fargo detective," replied Racey, indicating
the man who had helped him handcuff McFluke. "There ain't any
Pinkerton within five hundred miles so far as I know.... Huh? Them?
Oh, they were just drummers from Chicago I happened to speak to
because I figured you'd be expectin' me to after I'd told you who they
were. The real Wells Fargo, Mr. Johnson here, was a-watchin' yore
corral alla time, so when you got a friend of yores to pull them two
drummers into a poker game and then saddled yore hoss and went bustin'
off in the direction of yore claim we got the marshal and trailed
"You can't prove anything!" bluffed Mr. Pooley.
"We were here beside the door listenin' from the time McFluke said he
was too comfortable to move out of here." Thus the marshal wearily.
Mr. Pooley considered a moment. "Who snitched where Mac was?" he
"Nobody," replied Racey, promptly.