Part 1 out of 6
Produced by Suzanne Shell, Bill Walker and PG Distributed Proofreaders
By Max Brand
ROBERT HOBART DAVIS
Maker of Books and Men
I.------"LA-A-A-DIES AN' GEN'L'MUN"
IV.-----A SESSION OF CHAT
V.------ANTHONY IS LEFT IN THE DARK
IX.-----"THIS PLACE FOR REST"
X.------A BIT OF STALKING
XI.-----THE QUEST BEGINS
XII.----THE FIRST DAY
XIII.---A TOUCH OF CRIMSON
XV.-----THE DARKNESS IN ELDARA
XXI.----THE SWIMMING OF THE SAVERACK
XXIII.--THE COMEDY SETTING
XXV.----HAIR LIKE THE SUNSHINE
XXVI.---"THE CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON"
XXVIII.-SALLY BREAKS A MIRROR
XXXI.---NASH STARTS THE FINISH
XXXII.--TO "APPREHEND" A MAN
XXXVII.-"TODO ES PERDO"
_The characters, places, incidents and situations in this book are
imaginary and have no relation to any person, place or actual
"LA-A-A-DIES AN' GEN'L'MUN"
All through the exhibition the two sat unmoved; yet on the whole it was
the best Wild West show that ever stirred sawdust in Madison Square
Garden and it brought thunders of applause from the crowded house. Even
if the performance could not stir these two, at least the throng of
spectators should have drawn them, for all New York was there, from the
richest to the poorest; neither the combined audiences of a seven-day
race, a prize-fight, or a community singing festival would make such a
All Manhattan came to look at the men who had lived and fought and
conquered under the limitless skies of the Far West, free men, wild
men--one of their shrill whoops banished distance and brought the
mountain desert into the very heart of the unromantic East.
Nevertheless from all these thrills these two men remained immune.
To be sure the smaller tilted his head back when the horses first swept
in, and the larger leaned to watch when Diaz, the wizard with the
lariat, commenced to whirl his rope; but in both cases their interest
held no longer than if they had been old vaudevillians watching a series
of familiar acts dressed up with new names.
The smaller, brown as if a thousand fierce suns and winds had tanned and
withered him, looked up at last to his burly companion with a faint
"They're bringing on the cream now, Drew, but I'm going to spoil the
The other was a great, grey man whom age apparently had not weakened but
rather settled and hardened into an ironlike durability; the winds of
time or misfortune would have to break that stanch oak before it would
He said: "We've half an hour before our train leaves. Can you play your
hand in that time?"
"Easy. Look at 'em now--the greatest gang of liars that never threw a
diamond hitch! Ride? I've got a ten-year kid home that would laugh at
'em all. But I'll show 'em up. Want to know my little stunt?"
"I'll wait and enjoy the surprise."
The wild riders who provoked the scorn of the smaller man were now
gathering in the central space; a formidable crew, long of hair and
brilliant as to bandannas, while the announcer thundered through his
"La-a-a-dies and gen'l'mun! You see before you the greatest band of
subduers and breakers of wild horses that ever rode the cattle ranges.
Death defying, reckless, and laughing at peril, they have never failed;
they have never pulled leather. I present 'Happy' Morgan!"
Happy Morgan, yelling like one possessed of ten shrill-tongued demons,
burst on the gallop away from the others, and spurring his horse
cruelly, forced the animal to race, bucking and plunging, half way
around the arena and back to the group. This, then, was a type of the
dare-devil horse breaker of the Wild West? The cheers travelled in waves
around and around the house and rocked back and forth like water pitched
from side to side in a monstrous bowl.
When the noise abated somewhat, "And this, la-a-a-dies and gen'l'mun, is
the peerless, cowpuncher, 'Bud Reeves.'"
Bud at once imitated the example of Happy Morgan, and one after another
the five remaining riders followed suit. In the meantime a number of
prancing, kicking, savage-eyed horses were brought into the arena and to
these the master of ceremonies now turned his attention.
"From the wildest regions of the range we have brought mustangs that
never have borne the weight of man. They fight for pleasure; they buck
by instinct. If you doubt it, step down and try 'em. One hundred dollars
to the man who sticks on the back of one of 'em--but we won't pay the
He lowered his megaphone to enjoy the laughter, and the small man took
this opportunity to say: "Never borne the weight of a man! That chap in
the dress-suit, he tells one lie for pleasure and ten more from
instinct. Yep, he has his hosses beat. Never borne the weight of man!
Why, Drew, I can see the saddle-marks clear from here; I got a mind to
slip down there and pick up the easiest hundred bones that ever rolled
He rose to make good his threat, but Drew cut in with: "Don't be a damn
fool, Werther. You aren't part of this show."
"Well, I will be soon. Watch me! There goes Ananias on his second wind."
The announcer was bellowing: "These man-killing mustangs will be ridden,
broken, beaten into submission in fair fight by the greatest set of
horse-breakers that ever wore spurs. They can ride anything that walks
on four feet and wears a skin; they can--"
Werther sprang to his feet, made a funnel of his hand, and shouted:
If he had set off a great quantity of red fire he could not more
effectively have drawn all eyes upon him. The weird, shrill yell cut the
ringmaster short, and a pleased murmur ran through the crowd. Of course,
this must be part of the show, but it was a pleasing variation.
"Partner," continued Werther, brushing away the big hand of Drew which
would have pulled him down into his seat; "I've seen you bluff for two
nights hand running. There ain't no man can bluff all the world three
The ringmaster retorted in his great voice: "That sounds like good
poker. What's your game?"
"Five hundred dollars on one card!" cried Werther, and he waved a
fluttering handful of greenbacks. "Five hundred dollars to any man of
your lot--or to any man in this house that can ride a real wild horse."
"Where's your horse?"
"Around the corner in a Twenty-sixth Street stable. I'll have him here
in five minutes."
"Lead him on," cried the ringmaster, but his voice was not quite so
Werther muttered to Drew:
"Here's where I hand him the lemon that'll curdle his cream," and ran
out of the box and straight around the edge of the arena. New York,
murmuring and chuckling through the vast galleries of the Garden,
applauded the little man's flying coat-tails.
He had not underestimated the time; in a little less than his five
minutes the doors at the end of the arena were thrown wide and Werther
reappeared. Behind him came two stalwarts leading between them a rangy
monster. Before the blast of lights and the murmurs of the throng the
big stallion reared and flung himself back, and the two who lead him
bore down with all their weight on the halter ropes. He literally walked
down the planks into the arena, a strange, half-comical, half-terrible
spectacle. New York burst into applause. It was a trained horse, of
course, but a horse capable of such training was worth applause.
At that roar of sound, vague as the beat of waves along the shore, the
stallion lurched down on all fours and leaped ahead, but the two on the
halter ropes drove all their weight backward and checked the first
plunge. A bright-coloured scarf waved from a nearby box, and the
monster swerved away. So, twisting, plunging, rearing, he was worked
down the arena. As he came opposite a box in which sat a tall young man
in evening clothes the latter rose and shouted: "Bravo!"
The fury of the stallion, searching on all sides for a vent but
distracted from one torment to another, centred suddenly on this slender
figure. He swerved and rushed for the barrier with ears flat back and
bloodshot eyes. There he reared and struck at the wood with his great
front hoofs; the boards splintered and shivered under the blows.
As for the youth in the box, he remained quietly erect before this brute
rage. A fleck of red foam fell on the white front of his shirt. He drew
his handkerchief and wiped it calmly away, but a red stain remained. At
the same time the two who led the stallion pulled him back from the
barrier and he stood with head high, searching for a more convenient
Deep silence spread over the arena; more hushed and more hushed it grew,
as if invisible blankets of soundlessness were dropping down over the
stirring masses; men glanced at each other with a vague surmise, knowing
that this was no part of the performance. The whole audience drew
forward to the edge of the seats and stared, first at the monstrous
horse, and next at the group of men who could "ride anything that walks
on four feet and wears a skin."
Some of the women were already turning away their heads, for this was to
be a battle, not a game; but the vast majority of New York merely
watched and waited and smiled a slow, stiff-lipped smile. All the
surroundings were changed, the flaring electric lights, the vast roof,
the clothes of the multitude, but the throng of white faces was the same
as that pale host which looked down from the sides of the Coliseum when
the lions were loosed upon their victims.
As for the wild riders from the cattle ranges, they drew into a close
group with the ringmaster between them and the gaunt stallion, almost as
if the fearless ones were seeking for protection. But the announcer
himself lost his almost invincible _sang-froid_; in all his matchless
vocabulary there were no sounding phrases ready for this occasion, and
little Werther strutted in the centre of the great arena, rising to his
He imitated the ringmaster's phraseology. "La-a-a-dies and gen'l'mun,
the price has gone up. The 'death-defyin', dare-devils that laugh at
danger' ain't none too ready to ride my hoss. Maybe the price is too low
for 'em. It's raised. One thousand dollars--cash--for any man in
hearin' of me that'll ride my pet."
There was a stir among the cattlemen, but still none of them moved
forward toward the great horse; and as if he sensed his victory he
raised and shook his ugly head and neighed. A mighty laugh answered that
challenge; this was a sort of "horse-humour" that great New York could
not overlook, and in that mirth even the big grey man, Drew, joined. The
laughter stopped with an amazing suddenness making the following silence
impressive as when a storm that has roared and howled about a house
falls mute, then all the dwellers in the house look to one another and
wait for the voice of the thunder. So all of New York that sat in the
long galleries of the Garden hushed its laughter and looked askance at
one another and waited. The big grey man rose and cursed softly.
For the slender young fellow in evening dress at whom the stallion had
rushed a moment before was stripping off his coat, his vest, and rolling
up the stiff cuffs of his sleeves. Then he dropped a hand on the edge of
the box, vaulted lightly into the arena, and walked straight toward the
It might easily have been made melodramatic by any hesitation as he
approached, but, with a businesslike directness, he went right up to the
men who held the fighting horse.
He said: "Put a saddle on him, boys, and I'll try my hand."
They could not answer at once, for Werther's "pet," as if he recognized
the newcomer, made a sudden lunge and was brought to a stop only after
he had dragged his sweating handlers around and around in a small
circle. Here Werther himself came running up, puffing with surprise.
"Son," he said eagerly, "I'm not aiming to do you no harm. I was only
calling the bluff of those four-flushers."
The slender youth finished rolling up his left sleeve and smiled down at
"Put on the saddle," he said.
Werther looked at him anxiously; then his eyes brightened with a
solution. He stepped closer and laid a hand on the other's arm.
"Son, if you're broke and want to get the price of a few squares just
say the word and I'll fix you. I been busted myself in my own day, but
don't try your hand with my hoss. He ain't just a buckin' hoss; he's a
man-killer, lad. I'm tellin' you straight. And this floor ain't so soft
as the sawdust makes it look," he ended with a grin.
The younger man considered the animal seriously.
"I'm not broke; I've simply taken a fancy to your horse. If you don't
mind, I'd like to try him out. Seems too bad, in a way, for a brute like
that to put it over on ten thousand people without getting a run for his
money--a sporting chance, eh?"
And he laughed with great good nature.
"What's your name?" asked Werther, his small eyes growing round and
They shook hands.
"Didn't know they came in this style east of the Rockies, Woodbury. I
hope I lose my thousand, but if there was any betting I'd stake ten to
one against you."
In the meantime, some of the range-riders had thrown a coat over the
head of the stallion, and while he stood quivering with helpless rage
they flung a saddle on and drew the cinches taut.
Anthony Woodbury was saying with a smile: "Just for the sake of the
game, I'll take you on for a few hundred, Mr. Werther, if you wish, but
I can't accept odds."
Werther ran a finger under his collar apparently to facilitate
breathing. His eyes, roving wildly, wandered over the white, silent mass
of faces, and his glance picked out and lingered for a moment on the
big-shouldered figure of Drew, erect in his box. At last his glance came
back with an intent frown to Woodbury. Something in the keen eyes of the
laid raised a responsive flicker in his own.
"Well, I'll be damned! Just a game, eh? Lad, no matter on what side of
the Rockies you were born, I know your breed and I won't lay a penny
against your money. There's the hoss saddled and there's the floor
you'll land on. Go to it--and God help you!"
The other shook his shoulders back and stepped toward the horse with a
peculiarly unpleasant smile, like a pugilist coming out of his corner
toward an opponent of unknown prowess.
He said: "Take off the halter."
One of the men snapped viciously over his shoulder: "Climb on while the
climbing's good. Cut out the bluff, partner."
The smile went out on the lips of Woodbury. He repeated: "Take off the
They stared at him, but quickly began to fumble under the coat,
unfastening the buckle. It required a moment to work off the heavy
halter without giving the blinded animal a glimpse of the light; then
Woodbury caught the bridle reins firmly just beneath the chin of the
horse. With the other hand he took the stirrup strap and raised his
foot, but he seemed to change his mind about this matter.
"Take off the blinder," he ordered.
It was Werther who interposed this time with: "Look here, lad, I know
this hoss. The minute the blinder's off he'll up on his hind legs and
bash you into the floor with his forefeet."
"Let him go," growled one of the cowboys. "He's goin' to hell making a
But taking the matter into his own hands Woodbury snatched the coat from
the head of the stallion, which snorted and reared up, mouth agape ears
flattened back. There was a shout from the man, not a cry of dismay, but
a ringing battle yell like some ancient berserker seeing the first flash
of swords in the melee. He leaped forward, jerking down on the bridle
reins with all the force of his weight and his spring. The horse, caught
in mid-air, as it were, came floundering down on all fours again. Before
he could make another move, Woodbury caught the high horn of the saddle
and vaulted up to his seat. It was gallantly done and in response came a
great rustling from the multitude; there was not a spoken word, but
every man was on his feet.
Perhaps what followed took their breaths and kept them speechless. The
first touch of his rider's weight sent the stallion mad, not blind with
fear as most horses go, but raging with a devilish cunning like that of
an insane man, a thing that made the blood run cold to watch. He stood a
moment shuddering, as if the strange truth were slowly dawning on his
brute mind; then he bolted straight for the barriers. Woodbury braced
himself and lunged back on the reins, but he might as well have tugged
at the mooring cable of a great ship; the bit was in the monster's
Then a whisper reached the rider, a universal hushing of drawn breath,
for the thousands were tasting the first thrill and terror of the
combat. They saw a picture of horse and man crushed against the barrier.
But there was no such stupid rage in the mind of the stallion.
At the last moment he swerved and raced close beside the fence; some
projecting edge caught the trousers of Woodbury and ripped away the
stout cloth from hip to heel. He swung far to the other side and
wrenched back the reins. With stiff-braced legs the stallion slid to a
halt that flung his unbalanced rider forward along his neck. Before he
could straighten himself in the saddle, the horse roared and came down
on rigid forelegs, yet by a miracle Woodbury clung, sprawled down the
side of the monster, to be sure, but was not quite dismounted.
Another pitch of the same nature would have freed the stallion from his
rider beyond doubt, but he elected to gallop full speed ahead the length
of the arena, and during that time, Woodbury, stunned though he was,
managed to drag himself back into the saddle. The end of the race was a
leap into the air that would have cleared a five-bar fence, and down
pitched the fighting horse on braced legs again. Woodbury's chin snapped
down against his breast as though he had been struck behind the head
with a heavy bar, but though his brain was stunned, the fighting
instinct remained strong in him and when the stallion reared and toppled
back the rider slipped from the saddle in the nick of time.
Fourteen hundred pounds of raging horseflesh crashed into the sawdust;
he rolled like a cat to his feet, but at the same instant a flying
weight leaped through the air and landed in the saddle. The audience
awoke to sound--to a dull roar of noise; a thin trickle of blood ran
from Woodbury's mouth and it seemed that the mob knew it and was yelling
for a death.
There followed a bewildering exhibition of such bucking that the
disgruntled cowboys forgot their shame and shouted with joy. Upon his
hind legs and then down on his forefeet with a sickening heartbreaking
jar the stallion rocked; now he bucked from side to side; now rose and
whirled about like a dancer; now toppled to the ground and twisted again
to his feet.
Still the rider clung. His head rocked with the ceaseless jars; the
red-stained lips writhed back and showed the locked teeth. Yet, as if he
scorned the struggles of the stallion, he brought into play the heavy
quirt which had been handed him as he mounted. Over neck and shoulders
and tender flanks he whirled the lash; it was not intelligence fighting
brute strength, but one animal conquering another and rejoicing in the
The horse responded, furiously he responded, but still the lash fell,
and the bucking grew more cunning, perhaps, but less violent. Yet to the
wildly cheering audience the fight seemed more dubious than ever. Then,
in the very centre of the arena, the stallion stopped in the midst of a
twisting course of bucking and stood with widely braced legs and fallen
head. Strength was left in him, but the cunning, savage mind knew
Once more the quirt whirled in the air and fell with a resounding crack,
but the stallion merely switched his tail and started forward at a
clumsy stumbling trot. The thunder of the host was too hoarse for
applause; they saw a victory and a defeat but what they had wanted was
blood, and a death. They had had a promise and a taste; now they
hungered for the reality.
Woodbury slipped from the saddle and gave the reins to Werther. Already
a crowd was growing about them of the curious who had sprung over the
barriers and swarmed across the arena to see the conqueror, for had he
not vindicated unanswerably the strength of the East as compared with
that of the West? Boys shouted shrilly; men shouldered each other to
slap him on the back; but Werther merely held forth the handful of
greenbacks. The conqueror braced himself against the saddle with a
trembling hand and shook his head.
"Not for me," he said, "I ought to pay you--ten times that much for the
sport--compared to this polo is nothing."
"Ah," muttered those who overheard, "polo! That explains it!"
"Then take the horse," said Werther, "because no one else could ride
"And now any one can ride him, so I don't want him," answered Woodbury.
And Werther grinned. "You're right, boy. I'll give him to the iceman."
The big grey man, William Drew, loomed over the heads of the little
crowd, and they gave way before him as water divides under the prow of a
ship; it was as if he cast a shadow which they feared before him.
"Help me through this mob," said Woodbury to Werther, "and back to my
box. Devil take it, my overcoat won't cover that leg."
Then on him also fell, as it seemed, the approaching shadow of the grey
man and he looked up with something of a start into the keen eyes of
"Son," said the big man, "you look sort of familiar to me. I'm asking
your pardon, but who was your mother?"
The eyes of young Woodbury narrowed and the two stood considering each
other gravely for a long moment.
"I never saw her," he said at last, and then turned with a frown to work
his way through the crowd and back to his box.
The tall man hesitated a moment and then started in pursuit, but the mob
intervened. He turned back to Werther.
"Did you get his name?" he asked.
"Fine bit of riding he showed, eh?" cried the little man, "and turned
down my thousand as cool as you please. I tell you, Drew, there's some
flint in the Easterners after all!"
"Damn the Easterners. What's his name?"
"Woodbury. Anthony Woodbury."
"What's wrong with that name?"
"Nothing. Only I'm a bit surprised."
And he frowned with a puzzled, wistful expression, staring straight
ahead like a man striving to solve a great riddle.
At his box, Woodbury stopped only to huddle into his coat and overcoat
and pull his hat down over his eyes. Then he hurried on toward an exit,
but even this slight delay brought the reporters up with him. They had
scented news as the eagle sights prey far below, and then swooped down
on him. He continued his flight shaking off their harrying questions,
but they kept up the running fight and at the door one of them reached
his side with: "It's Mr. Woodbury of the Westfall Polo Club, son of Mr.
John Woodbury of Anson Place?"
Anthony Woodbury groaned with dismay and clutched the grinning reporter
by the arm.
"Come with me!"
Prospects of a scoop of a sizable nature brightened the eyes of the
reporter. He followed in all haste, and the other news-gatherers, in
obedience to the exacting, unspoken laws of their craft, stood back and
followed the flight with grumbling envy.
On Twenty-Sixth Street, a little from the corner of Madison Avenue,
stood a big touring car with the chauffeur waiting in the front seat.
There were still some followers from the Garden.
Woodbury jumped into the back seat, drew the reporter after him, and
called: "Start ahead, Maclaren--drive anywhere, but get moving."
"Now, sir," turning to the reporter as the engine commenced to hum,
"what's your name?"
"Bantry? Glad to know you."
He shook hands.
"You know me?"
"Certainly. I cover sports all the way from polo to golf. Anthony
Woodbury--Westfall Polo Club--then golf, tennis, trap shooting--"
"Enough!" groaned the victim. "Now look here, Bantry, you have me dead
to rights--got me with the goods, so to speak, haven't you?"
"It was a great bit of work; ought to make a first-page story."
And the other groaned again. "I know--son of millionaire rides unbroken
horse in Wild West show--and all that sort of thing. But, good Lord,
man, think what it will mean to me?"
"Nothing to be ashamed of, is it? Your father'll be proud of you."
Woodbury looked at him sharply.
"How do you know that?"
"Any man would be."
"But the notoriety, man! It would kill me with a lot of people as
thoroughly as if I'd put the muzzle of a gun in my mouth and pulled the
"H-m!" muttered the reporter, "sort of social suicide, all right. But
it's news, Mr. Woodbury, and the editor--"
"Expects you to write as much as the rest of the papers print--and none
of the other reporters know me."
"One or two of them might have."
"But my dear fellow--won't you take a chance?"
Bantry made a wry face.
"Madison Square Garden," went on Woodbury bitterly. "Ten thousand people
looking on--gad, man, it's awful."
"Why'd you do it, then?"
"Couldn't help it, Bantry. By Jove, when that wicked devil of a horse
came at my box and I caught a glimpse of the red demon in his eyes--why,
man, I simply had to get down and try my luck. Ever play football?"
"Yes, quite a while ago."
"Then you know how it is when you're in the bleachers and the whistle
blows for the game to begin. That's the way it was with me. I wanted to
climb down into the field--and I did. Once started, I couldn't stop
until I'd made a complete ass of myself in the most spectacular style.
Now, Bantry, I appeal to you for the sake of your old football days,
don't show me up--keep my name quiet."
"I'd like to--damned if I wouldn't--but--a scoop--"
Anthony Woodbury considered his companion with a strange yearning. It
might have been to take him by the throat; it might have been some
gentler motive, but his hand stole at last toward an inner coat pocket.
He said: "I know times are a bit lean now and then in your game, Bantry.
I wonder if you could use a bit of the long green? Just now I'm very
He produced a thickly stuffed bill-fold, but Bantry smiled and touched
"Couldn't possibly, you know."
He considered a moment and then, with a smile: "It's a bit awkward for
both of us, isn't it? Suppose I keep your name under my hat and you give
me a few little inside tips now and then on polo news, and that sort of
"Here's my hand on it. You've no idea what a load you take off my mind."
"We've circled about and are pretty close to the Garden again. Could you
let me out here?"
The car rolled to an easy stop and the reporter stepped out.
"I'll forget everything you wish, Mr. Woodbury."
"It's an honour to have met you, sir. Use me whenever you can.
To the chauffeur he said: "Home, and make it fast."
They passed up Lexington with Maclaren "making it fast," so that the big
car was continually nosing its way around the machines in front with
much honking of the horn. At Fifty-Ninth Street they turned across to
the bridge and hummed softly across the black, shimmering waters of the
East River; by the time they reached Brooklyn a fine mist was beginning
to fall, blurring the wind-shield, and Maclaren slowed up perceptibly,
so that before they passed the heart of the city, Woodbury leaned
forward and said: "What's the matter, Maclaren?"
"Wet streets--no chains--this wind-shield is pretty hard to see
"Stop her, then. I'll take the wheel the rest of the way. Want to travel
a bit to-night."
The chauffeur, as if this exchange were something he had been expecting,
made no demur, and a moment later, with Woodbury at the wheel, the motor
began to hum again in a gradually increasing crescendo. Two or three
motor-police glanced after the car as it snapped about corners with an
ominous skid and straightened out, whining, on the new street; but in
each case, having made a comfortable number of arrests that day, they
had little heart for the pursuit of the grey monster through that chill
Past Brooklyn, with a country road before them, Woodbury cut out the
muffler and the car sprang forward with a roar. A gust of increasing
wind whipped back to Maclaren, for the wind-shield had been opened so
that the driver need not look through the dripping glass and mingling
with the wet gale were snatches of singing.
The chauffeur, partly in understanding and partly from anxiety,
apparently, caught the side of the seat in a firm grip and leaned
forward to break the jar when they struck rough places. Around an elbow
turn they went with one warning scream of the Klaxon, skidded horribly
at the sharp angle of the curve, and missed by inches a car from the
They swept on with the startled yell of the other party ringing after
them, drowned at once by the crackling of the exhaust. Maclaren raised a
furtive hand to wipe from his forehead a moisture which was not
altogether rain, but immediately grasped the side of the seat again.
Straight ahead the road swung up to meet a bridge and dropped sharply
away from it on the further side. Maclaren groaned but the sound was
lost in the increasing roar of the exhaust.
They barely touched that bridge and shot off into space on the other
side like a hurdler clearing an obstacle. With a creak and a thud the
big car landed, reeled drunkenly, and straightened out in earnest,
Maclaren craned his head to see the speedometer, but had not the heart
to look; he began to curse softly, steadily.
When the muffler went on again and the motor was reduced to a loud,
angry humming, Woodbury caught a few phrases of those solemn
imprecations. He grinned into the black heart of the night, streaked
with lines of grey where therein entered the halo of the headlights, and
then swung the car through an open, iron gate. The motor fell to a
drowsily contented murmur that blended with the cool swishing of the
tires on wet gravel.
"Maclaren," said the other, as he stopped in front of the garage, "if
everyone was as good a passenger as you I'd enjoy motoring; but after
all, a car can't act up like a horse." He concluded gloomily: "There's
no fight in it."
And he started toward the house, but Maclaren, staring after the
departing figure, muttered: "There's only one sort that's worse than a
damn fool, and that's a young one."
It was through a door opening off the veranda that Anthony entered the
house, stealthily as a burglar, and with the same nervous apprehension.
Before him stretched a wide hall, dimly illumined by a single light
which splashed on the Italian table and went glimmering across the
floor. Across the hall was his destination--the broad balustraded
staircase, which swept grandly up to the second floor. Toward this he
tiptoed steadying himself with one hand against the wall. Almost to his
goal, he heard a muffled footfall and shrank against the wall with a
catlike agility, but, though the shadow fell steep and gloomy there,
luck was against him.
A middle-aged servant of solemn port, serene with the twofold dignity of
double chin and bald head, paused at the table in his progress across
the room, and swept the apartment with the judicial eye of one who knows
that everything is as it should be but will not trust even the silence
of night. So that bland blue eye struck first on the faintly shining
top hat of Anthony, ran down his overcoat, and lingered in gloomy dismay
on the telltale streak of white where the trouser leg should have been.
What he thought not even another Oedipus could have conjectured. The
young master very obviously did not wish to be observed, and in such
times Peters at could be blinder than the bat noon-day and more secret
than the River Styx. He turned away, unhurried, the fold of that double
chin a little more pronounced over the severe correctness of his collar.
A very sibilant whisper pursued him. He stopped again, still without
haste, and turned not directly toward Anthony, but at a discreet angle,
with his eyes fixed firmly upon the ceiling.
A SESSION OF CHAT
The whisper grew distinct in words.
"Peters, you old numskull, come here!"
The approach of Peters was something like the sidewise waddle of a very
aged crab. He looked to the north, but his feet carried him to the east.
That he was much moved was attested by the colour which had mounted even
to the gleaming expanse of that nobly bald head.
"Yes, Master Anthony--I mean Mr. Anthony?"
He set his teeth at the _faux pas_.
"Peters, look at me. Confound it, I haven't murdered any one. Are you
It required whole seconds for the eyes to wheel round upon Anthony, and
they were immediately debased from the telltale white of that leg to the
"Then come up with me and help me change. Quick!"
He turned and fled noiselessly up the great stairs, with Peters panting
behind. Anthony's overcoat was off before he had fairly entered his room
and his coat and vest flopped through the air as Peters shut the door.
Whatever the old servant lacked in agility he made up in certain
knowledge; as he laid out a fresh tuxedo, Anthony changed with the speed
of one pursued. The conversation was spasmodic to a degree.
"Where's father? Waiting in the library?"
"Yes. Reading, sir."
"Had a mix-up--bully time, though--damn this collar! Peters, I wish
you'd been there--where's those trousers? Rub some of the crease out of
'em--they must look a _little_ worn."
He stood at last completely dressed while Peters looked on with a
shining eye and a smile which in a younger man would have suggested many
"How is it? Will I pass father this way?"
"I hope so, sir."
"But you don't think so?"
"It's hard to deceive him."
"Confound it! Don't I know? Well, here's for a try. Soft-foot it down
stairs. I'll go after you and bang the door. Then you say good-evening
in a loud voice and I'll go into the library. How's that?"
"Very good--your coat over your arm--so! Just ruffle your hair a bit,
sir--now you should do very nicely."
At the door: "Go first, Peters--first, man, and hurry, but watch those
big feet of yours. If you make a noise on the stairs I'm done with you."
The noiselessness of the descending feet was safe enough, but not so
safe was the chuckling of Peters for, though he fought against the
threatening explosion, it rumbled like the roll of approaching thunder.
In the hall below, Anthony opened and slammed the door.
"Good-evening, Mr. Anthony," said Peters loudly, too loudly.
"Evening, Peters. Where's father?"
"In the library, sir. Shall I take your coat?"
"I'll carry it up to my room when I go. That's all."
He opened the door to the library and entered with a hope that his
father would not be facing him, but he found that John Woodbury was not
even reading. He sat by the big fire-place smoking a pipe which he now
removed slowly from his teeth.
He rose to shake hands with his son: they might have been friends
meeting after a separation so long that they were compelled to be
formal, and as Anthony turned to lay down his hat and coat he knew that
the keen grey eyes studied him carefully from head to foot.
"Take this chair."
"Why, sir, wouldn't dream of disturbing you."
"Not a bit. I want you to try it; just a trifle too narrow for me."
John Woodbury rose and gestured his son to the chair he had been
occupying. Anthony hesitated, but then, like one who obeys first and
thinks afterward, seated himself as directed.
"Mighty comfortable, sir."
The big man stood with his hands clasped behind him, peering down under
shaggy, iron-grey brows.
"I thought it would be. I designed it myself for you and I had a pretty
bad time getting it made."
He stepped to one side.
"Hits you pretty well under the knees, doesn't it? Yes, it's deeper than
"A perfect fit, father, and mighty thoughtful of you."
"H-m," rumbled John Woodbury, and looked about like one who has
forgotten something. "What about a glass of Scotch?"
"Nothing, thank you--I--in fact I'm not very strong for the stuff."
The rough brows rose a trifle and fell.
"No? But isn't it usual? Better have a go."
Once more there was that slight touch of hesitancy, as if the son were
not quite sure of the father and wished to make every concession.
"Certainly, if it'll make you easier."
There was an instant softening of the hard lines of the elder Woodbury's
face, as though some favour of import had been done him. He touched a
bell-cord and lowered himself with a little grunt of relaxation into a
chair. The chair was stoutly built, but it groaned a little under the
weight of the mighty frame it received. He leaned back and in his face
was a light which came not altogether from the comfortable glow of the
And when the servant appeared the big man ordered: "Scotch and seltzer
and one glass with a pitcher of ice."
"Aren't you taking anything, sir?" asked Anthony.
"Who, me? Yes, yes, of course. Why, let me see--bring me a pitcher of
beer." He added as the servant disappeared: "Never could get a taste for
Scotch, and rye doesn't seem to be--er--good form. Eh, Anthony?"
"Nonsense," frowned the son, "haven't you a right to be comfortable in
your own house?"
"Come, come!" rumbled John Woodbury. "A young fellow in your position
can't have a boor for a father, eh?"
It was apparently an old argument between them, for Anthony stared
gloomily at the fire, making no attempt to reply; and he glanced up in
relief when the servant entered with the liquor. John Woodbury, however,
returned to the charge as soon as they were left alone again, saying:
"As a matter of fact, I'm about to set you up in an establishment of
your own in New York." He made a vastly inclusive gesture. "Everything
done up brown--old house--high-class interior decorator, to get you
started with a splash."
"Are you tired of Long Island?"
"_I'm_ not going to the city, but you will."
"And my work?"
"A gentleman of the class you'll be in can't callous his hands with
work. I spent my life making money; you can use your life throwing it
away--like a gentleman. But"--he reached out at this point and smashed a
burly fist into a palm hardly less hard--"but I'll be damned, Anthony,
if I'll let you stay here in Long Island wasting your time riding the
wildest horses you can get and practising with an infernal revolver.
What the devil do you mean by it?"
"I don't know," said the other, musing. "Of course the days of revolvers
are past, but I love the feel of the butt against my palm--I love the
kick of the barrel tossing up--I love the balance; and when I have a
six-shooter in my hand, sir, I feel as if I had six lives. Odd, isn't
it?" He grew excited as he talked, his eyes gleaming with dancing points
of fire. "And I'll tell you this, sir: I'd rather be out in the country
where men still wear guns, where the sky isn't stained with filthy coal
smoke, where there's an horizon wide enough to breathe in, where there's
man-talk instead of this damned chatter over tea-cups--"
"Stop!" cried John Woodbury, and leaned forward, "no matter what fool
ideas you get into your head--you're going to be a _gentleman_!"
The swaying forward of that mighty body, the outward thrust of the jaws,
the ring of the voice, was like the crashing of an ax when armoured men
meet in battle. The flicker in the eyes of Anthony was the rapier which
swerves from the ax and then leaps at the heart. For a critical second
their glances crossed and then the habit of obedience conquered.
"I suppose you know, sir."
The father stared gloomily at the floor.
"You're sort of mad, Anthony?"
Perhaps there was nothing more typical of Anthony than that he never
frowned, no matter how angered he might be. Now the cold light passed
from his eyes. He rose and passed behind the chair of the elder man,
dropping a hand upon those massive shoulders.
"Angry with myself, sir, that I should so nearly fall out with the
finest father that walks the earth."
The eyes of the grey man half closed and a semblance of a smile touched
those stiff, stern lips; one of the great work-broken hands went up and
rested on the fingers of his son.
"And there'll be no more of this infernal Western nonsense that you're
always reverting to? No more of this horse-and-gun-and-hell-bent-away
"I suppose not," said Anthony heavily.
"Well, Anthony, sit down and tell me about tonight."
The son obeyed, and finally said, with difficulty: "I didn't go to the
A sudden cloud of white rose from the bowl of Woodbury's pipe.
"But I thought--"
"That it was a big event? It was--a fine thing for me to get a bid to;
but I went to the Wild West show instead. Sir, I know it was childish,
but--I couldn't help it! I saw the posters; I thought of the
horse-breaking, the guns, the swing and snap and dash of galloping men,
the taint of sweating horses--and by God, sir, I _couldn't_ stay away!
Are you angry?"
It was more than anger; it was almost fear that widened the eye of
Woodbury as he stared at his son. He said at last, controlling himself:
"But I have your word; you've given up the thought of this Western
"Yes," answered Anthony, with a touch of despair, "I have given it up, I
suppose. But, oh, sir--" He stopped, hopeless.
"And what else happened?"
"Nothing to speak of."
"After you come home you don't usually change your clothes merely for
the pleasure of sitting with me here."
"Nothing escapes you, does it?" muttered Anthony.
"In your set, Anthony, that's what they'd call an improper question."
"I could ask you any number of questions, sir, for that matter."
"That room over there, for instance, which you always keep locked. Am I
never to have a look at it?"
He indicated a door which opened from the library.
"I hope not."
"You say that with a good deal of feeling. But there's one thing more
that I have a right to hear about. My mother! Why do you never tell me
The big man stirred and the chair groaned beneath him.
"Because it tortures me to speak of her, Anthony," said the husky voice.
"Tortures me, lad!"
"I let the locked room go," said Anthony firmly, "but my mother--she is
different. Why, sir, I don't even know how she looked! Dad, it's my
"Is it? By God, you have a right to know exactly what I choose to tell
He rose, strode across the room with ponderous steps, drew aside the
curtains which covered the view of the garden below, and stared for a
time into the night. When he turned he found that Anthony had risen--a
slender, erect figure. His voice was as quiet as his anger, but an
inward quality made it as thrilling as the hoarse boom of his father.
"On that point I stick. I must know something about her."
"In spite of your anger. That locked room is yours; this house and
everything in it is yours; but my mother--she was as much mine as yours,
and I'll hear more about her--who she was, what she looked like, where
The sharply indrawn breath of John Woodbury cut him short.
"She died in giving birth to you, Anthony."
"Dear God! She died for me?"
And in the silence which came over the two men it seemed as if another
presence were in the room. John Woodbury stood at the fire-place with
bowed head, and Anthony shaded his eyes and stared at the floor until he
caught a glimpse of the other and went gently to him.
He said: "I'm sorrier than a lot of words could tell you. Will you sit
down, sir, and let me tell you how I came to press home the question?"
"If you want to have it that way."
They resumed their chairs.
ANTHONY IS LEFT IN THE DARK
"It will explain why I changed my clothes after I came home. You see,
toward the end of the show a lot of the cowboys rode in. The ringmaster
was announcing that they could ride anything that walked on four feet
and wore a skin, when up jumped an oldish fellow in a box opposite mine
and shouted that he had a horse which none of them could mount. He
offered five hundred dollars to the man who could back him; and made it
good by going out of the building and coming back inside of five minutes
with two men leading a great stallion, the ugliest piece of horseflesh
I've ever seen.
"As they worked the brute down the arena, it caught sight of my white
shirt, I suppose, for it made a dive at me, reared up, and smashed its
forehoofs against the barrier. By Jove, a regular maneater! Brought my
heart into my mouth to see the big devil raging, and I began to yearn to
get astride him and to--well, just fight to see which of us would come
out on top. You know?"
The big man moistened his lips; he was strangely excited.
"So you climbed into the arena and rode the horse?"
"Exactly! I knew you'd understand! After I'd ridden the horse to a
standstill and climbed off, a good many people gathered around me. One
of them was a big man, about your size. In fact, now that I look back at
it, he was a good deal like you in more ways than one; looked as if time
had hardened him without making him brittle. He came to me and said:
'Excuse me, son, but you look sort of familiar to me. Mind telling me
who your mother was?' What could I answer to a--"
A shadow fell across Anthony from the rising height of his father. As he
looked up he saw John Woodbury glance sharply, first toward the French
windows and then at the door of the secret room.
"Was that all, Anthony?"
"Yes, about all."
"I want to be alone."
The habit of automatic obedience made Anthony rise in spite of the
questions which were storming at his lips.
"Good-night, my boy."
At the door the harsh voice of his father overtook him.
"Before you leave the house again, see me, Anthony."
He closed the door softly, as one deep in thought, and stood for a time
without moving. Because a man had asked him who his mother was, he was
under orders not to leave the house. While he stood, he heard a faint
click of a snapping lock within the library and knew that John Woodbury
had entered the secret room.
In his own bedroom he undressed slowly and afterward stood for a long
time under the shower, rubbing himself down with the care of an athlete,
thumbing the soreness of the wild ride out of the lean, sinewy muscles,
for his was a made strength built up in the gymnasium and used on the
wrestling mat, the cinder path, and the football field. Drying himself
with a rough towel that whipped the pink into his skin, he looked down
over his corded, slender limbs, remembered the thick arms and Herculean
torso of John Woodbury, and wondered.
He sat on the edge of his bed, wrapped in a bathrobe, and pondered.
Stroke by stroke he built the picture of that dead mother, like a
painter who jots down the first sketch of a large composition. John
Woodbury, vast, blond, grey-eyed, had given him few of his physical
traits. But then he had often heard that the son usually resembled the
mother. She must have been dark, slender, a frail wife for such a giant;
but perhaps she had a strength of spirit which made her his mate.
As the picture drew out more clearly in the mind of Anthony, he turned
from the lighted room, threw open a window, and leaned out to breathe
the calm, damp air of night.
It was infinitely cool, infinitely fresh. To his left a row of young
trees darted their slender tops at the sky like shadowy spearheads. The
smell of wet leaves and the wet grass beneath rose up to him. To the
right, for his own room stood in a wing of the mansion, the house
shouldered its way into the gloom, a solemn, grey shadow, netted in a
black tracery of climbing vine. In all the stretch of wall only two
windows were lighted, and those yellow squares, he knew, belonged to his
father. He had left the secret room, therefore.
As he watched, a shadow brushed slowly across one of the drawn shades,
swept the second, and returned at once in the opposite direction. Back
and forth, back and forth, that shadow moved, and as his eye grew
accustomed to watching, he caught quite clearly the curve of the
shoulders and the forward droop of the head.
It was not until then that the first alarm came to Anthony, for he knew
that the footsteps of the big grey man were dogged by fear. He could no
more conceive it than he could imagine noon and midnight in conjunction,
and feeling as guilty as if he had played the part of an eavesdropper he
turned away, snapped off the lights, and slipped into bed.
The pleasant warmth of sleep would not come. In its place the images of
the day filed past him like the dance of figures on a motion picture
screen, and always, like the repeated entrance of the hero, the other
images grew small and dim. He saw again the burly stranger wading
through the crowd in the arena, shaking off the packed mob as the prow
of a stately ship shakes off the water, to either side.
At length he started out of bed and glanced through the window. The
moving shadow still swept across the lighted shades of his father's
room; so he donned bathrobe and slippers and went down the long hall. At
the door he did not stop to knock, for he was too deeply concerned by
this time to pay any heed to convention. He grasped the knob and threw
the door wide open. What happened then was so sudden that he could not
be sure afterward what he had seen. He was certain that the door opened
on a lighted room, yet before he could step in the lights were snapped
He was staring into a deep void of night; and a silence came about him
like a whisper. Out of that silence he thought after a second that he
caught the sound of a hurried breathing, louder and louder, as though
someone were creeping upon him. He glanced over his shoulder in a slight
panic, but down the grey hall on either side there was nothing to be
seen. Once more he looked back into the solemn room, opened his lips to
speak, changed his mind, and closed the door again.
Yet when he looked down again from his own room the lights shone once
more on the shades of his father's windows. Past them brushed the shadow
of the pacing man, up and down, up and down. He turned his eyes away to
the jagged tops of the young trees, to the glimpses of dark fields
beyond them, and inhaled the scent of the wet, green things. It seemed
to Anthony as if it all were hostile--as though the whole outdoors were
besieging this house.
He caught the sway of the pacing figure whose shadow moved in regular
rhythm across the yellow shades. It entered his mind, clung there, and
finally he began to pace in the same cadence, up and down the room. With
every step he felt that he was entering deeper into the danger which
threatened John Woodbury. What danger? For answer to himself he stepped
to the windows and pulled down the shades. At least he could be alone.
There is no cleanser of the mind like a morning bath. The same cold,
whipping spray which calls up the pink blood, glowing through the marble
of the skin, drives the ache of sleep from the brain, and washes away at
once all the recorded thoughts of yesterday. So in place of a crowded
slate of wonders and doubts, Anthony bore down to the breakfast table a
willingness to take what the morning might bring and forget the night
John Woodbury was already there, helping himself from the covered
dishes, for the meal was served in the English style. There was the
usual "Good-morning, sir," "Good-morning, Anthony," and then they took
their places at the table. A cautious survey of the craglike face of his
father showed no traces of a sleepless night; but then, what could a
single night of unrest mean to that body of iron?
He ventured, remembering the implied command to remain within the house
until further orders: "You asked me to speak to you, sir, before I left
the house. I'd rather like to take a ride this morning."
And the imperturbable voice replied: "You've worn your horses out
lately. Better give them a day of rest."
That was all, but it brought back to Anthony the thought of the shadow
which had swept ceaselessly across the yellow shades of his father's
room; and he settled down to a day of reading. The misty rain of the
night before had cleared the sky of its vapours, so he chose a nook in
the library where the bright spring sun shone full and the open fire
supplied the warmth. At lunch his father did not appear, and Peters
announced that the master was busy in his room with papers. The
afternoon repeated the morning, but with less unrest on the part of
Anthony. He was busy with _L'Assommoir_, and lost himself in the story
of downfall, surrounding himself with each unbeautiful detail.
Lunch was repeated at dinner, for still John Woodbury seemed to be "busy
with papers in his room." A fear came to Anthony that he was to be
dodged indefinitely in this manner, deceived like a child, and kept in
the house until the silent drama was played out. But when he sat in the
library that evening his father came in and quietly drew up a chair by
the fire. The stage was ideally set for a confidence, but none was
forthcoming. The fire shook long, sleepy shadows through the room, the
glow of the two floor-lamps picked out two circles of light, and still
the elder man sat over his paper and would not speak.
_L'Assommoir_ ended, and to rid himself of the grey tragedy, Anthony
looked up and through the windows toward the bright night which lay over
the gardens and terraces outside, for a full moon silvered all with a
flood of light. It was a waiting time, and into it the old-fashioned
Dutch clock in the corner sent its voice with a monotonous, softly
clanging toll of seconds, until Anthony forgot the moonlight over the
outside terraces to watch the gradual sway of the pendulum. A minute,
spent in this manner, was equal to an hour of ordinary time. Fascinated
by the sway of the pendulum he became conscious of the passage of
existence like a river broad and wide and shining which flowed on into
an eternity of chance and left him stationary on the banks.
The voice which sounded at length was as dim and visionary as a part of
his waking dream. It was like one of those imagined calls from the
world of action to him who stood there, watching reality run past and
never stirring himself to take advantage of the thousand opportunities
for action. He would have discarded it for a part of his dream, had not
he seen John Woodbury raise his head sharply, heard the paper fall with
a dry crackling to the floor, and watched the square jaw of his father
jut out in that familiar way which meant danger.
Once more, and this time it was unmistakably clear: "John Bard,--John
Bard, come out to me!"
The big, grey man rose with widely staring eyes as if the name belonged
to him, and strode with a thumping step into the secret room. Hardly had
the clang of the closing door died out when he reappeared, fumbling at
his throat. Straight to Anthony he came and extended a key from which
dangled a piece of thin silver chain. It was the key to the secret room.
He took it in both hands, like a young knight receiving the pommel of
his sword from him who has just given the accolade, and stared down at
it until the creaking of the opened French windows startled him to his
"Wait!" he called, "I will go also!"
The big man at the open window turned.
"You will sit where you are now," said his harsh voice, "but if I don't
return you have the key to the room."
His burly shoulders disappeared down the steps toward the garden, and
Anthony slipped back into his chair; yet for the first time in his life
he was dreaming of disobeying the command of John Woodbury.
Woodbury--yet the big man had risen automatically in answer to the name
of Bard. John Bard! It struck on his consciousness like two hammer blows
wrecking some fragile fabric; it jarred home like the timed blow of a
pugilist. Woodbury? There might be a thousand men capable of that name,
but there could only be one John Bard, and that was he who had
disappeared down the steps leading to the garden. Anthony swerved in his
chair and fastened his eyes on the Dutch clock. He gave himself five
minutes before he should move.
The watched pot will never boil, and the minute hand of the big clock
dragged forward with deadly pauses from one black mark to the next.
Whispers rose in the room. Something fluttered the fallen newspaper as
if a ghost-hand grasped it but had not the strength to raise; and the
window rattled, with a sharp gust of wind. The last minute Anthony spent
at the open French window with a backward eye on the clock; then he
raced down the steps as though in his turn he answered a call out of the
The placid coolness of the open and the touch of moist, fresh air
against his forehead mocked him as he reached the garden, and there were
reassuring whispers from the trees he passed; yet he went on with a
long, easy stride like a runner starting a distance race. First he
skirted the row of poplars on the drive; then doubled back across the
meadow to his right and ran in a sharp-angling course across an orchard
of apple trees. Diverging from this direction, he circled at a quicker
pace toward the rear of the grounds and coursed like a wild deer over a
stretch of terraced lawns. On one of these low crests he stopped short
under the black shadow of an elm.
In the smooth-shaven centre of the hollow before him, the same ground
over which he had run and played a thousand times in his childhood, he
saw two tall men standing back to back, like fighters come to a last
stand and facing a crowd of foes. They separated at once, striding out
with a measured step, and it was not until they moved that he caught the
glint of metal at the side of one of them and knew that one was the man
who had answered to the name of John Bard and the other was the grey
man who had spoken to him at the Garden the night before. He knew it not
so much by the testimony of his eyes at that dim distance as by a queer,
inner feeling that this must be so. There was also a sense of
familiarity about the whole thing, as if he were looking on something
which he had seen rehearsed a thousand times.
As if they reached the end of an agreed course, the two whirled at the
same instant, the metal in their hands glinted in an upward semicircle,
and two guns barked hoarsely across the lawns.
One of them stood with his gun still poised; the other leaned gradually
forward and toppled at full length on the grass. The victor strode out
toward the fallen, but hearing the wild yell of Anthony he stopped,
turned his head, and then fled into the grove of trees which topped the
next rise of ground. After him, running as he had never before raced,
went Anthony; his hand, as he sprinted, already tensed for the coming
battle; two hundred yards at the most and he would reach the lumbering
figure which had plunged into the night of the trees; but a call reached
him as sharp as the crack of the guns a moment before: "Anthony!"
His head twitched to one side and he saw John Bard rising to his elbow.
His racing stride shortened choppily.
He could not choose but halt, groaning to give up the chase, and then
sped back to the fallen man. At his coming John Bard collapsed on the
grass, and when Anthony knelt beside him a voice in rough dialect began,
as if an enforced culture were brushed away and forgotten in the crisis:
"Anthony, there ain't no use in followin' him!"
"Where did the bullet strike you? Quick!"
"A place where it ain't no use to look. I know!"
"Let me follow him; it's not too late--"
The dying man struggled to one elbow.
"Don't follow, lad, if you love me."
"Who is he? Give me his name and--"
"He's acted in the name of God. You have no right to hunt him down."
"Then the law will do that."
"Not the law. For God's sake swear--"
"I'll swear anything. But now lie quiet; let me--"
"Don't try. This couldn't end no other way for John Bard."
"Is that your real name?"
"Yes. Now listen, Anthony, for my time's short."
He closed his eyes as if fighting silently for strength.
Then: "When I was a lad like you, Anthony--" That was all. The massive
body relaxed; the head fell back into the dewy grass. Anthony pressed
his head against the breast of John Bard and it seemed to him that there
was still a faint pulse. With his pocket knife he ripped away the coat
from the great chest and then tore open the shirt. On the expanse of the
hairy chest there was one spot from which the purple blood welled; a
deadly place for a wound, and yet the bleeding showed that there must
still be life.
He had no chance to bind the wound, for John Bard opened his eyes again
and said, as if in his dream he had still continued his tale to Anthony.
"So that's all the story, lad. Do you forgive me?"
"For what, sir? In God's name, for what?"
"Damnation! Tell me; do you forgive John Bard?"
He did not hear the answer, for he murmured: "Even Joan would forgive,"
As Anthony Woodbury, he knelt beside the dying. As Anthony Bard he rose
with the dead man in his arms a mighty burden even for his supple
strength; yet he went staggering up the slope, across a level terrace,
and back to the house. There it was Peters who answered his call, Peters
with a flabby face grown grey, but still the perfect servant who asked
no questions; together they bore the weight up the stairs and placed it
on John Bard's bed. While Anthony kept his steady vigil by the dead man,
it was Peters again who summoned the police and the useless doctor.
To the old, uniformed sergeant, Anthony told a simple lie. His father
had gone for a walk through the grounds because the night was fine, and
Anthony was to join him there later, but when he arrived he found a
dying man who could not even explain the manner of his death.
"Nothin' surprises me about a rich man's death," said the sergeant,
"not in these here days of anarchy. Got a place to write? I want to make
out my report."
So Anthony led the grizzled fellow to the library and supplied him with
what he wished. The sergeant, saying good-bye, shook hands with a
"I knew John Woodbury," he said, "just by sight, but I'm here to tell
the world that you've lost a father who was just about all man. So long;
I'll be seein' you again."
Left alone, Anthony Bard went to the secret room. The key fitted
smoothly into the lock. What the door opened upon was a little grey
apartment with an arched ceiling, a place devoid of a single article of
furniture save a straight-backed chair in the centre. Otherwise Anthony
saw three things-two pictures on the wall and a little box in the
corner. He went about his work very calmly, for here, he knew, was the
only light upon the past of John Bard, that past which had lain passive
so long and overwhelmed him on this night.
First he took up the box, as being by far the most promising of the
three to give him what he wished to know; the name of the slayer, the
place where he could be found, and the cause of the slaying. It held
only two things; a piece of dirty silk and a small oil can; but the oil
can and the black smears on the silk made him look closer, closer until
the meaning struck him in a flare, as the glow of a lighted match
suddenly illumines, even if faintly, an entire room.
In that box the revolver had lain, and here every day through all the
year, John Bard retired to clean and oil his gun, oil and reclean it,
keeping it ready for the crisis. That was why he went to the secret room
as soon as he heard the call from the garden, and carrying that gun with
him he had walked out, prepared. The time had come for which he had
waited a quarter of a century, knowing all that time that the day must
arrive. It was easy to understand now many an act of the big grim man;
but still there was no light upon the slayer.
As he sat pondering he began to feel as if eyes were fastened upon him,
watching, waiting, mocking him, eyes from behind which stared until a
chill ran up his back. He jerked his head up, at last, and flashed a
glance over his shoulder.
Indeed there was mockery in the smile with which she stared down to him
from her frame, down to him and past him as if she scorned in him all
men forever. It was not that which made Anthony close his eyes. He was
trying with all his might to conjure up his own image vividly. He
looked again, comparing his picture with this portrait on the wall, and
then he knew why the grey man at the Garden had said: "Son, who's your
mother?" For this was she into whose eyes he now stared.
She had the same deep, dark eyes, the same black hair, the same rather
aquiline, thin face which her woman's eyes and lovely mouth made
beautiful, but otherwise the same. He was simply a copy of that head
hewn with a rough chisel--a sculptor's clay model rather than a smoothly
Ah, and the fine spirit of her, the buoyant, proud, scornful spirit! He
stretched out his arms to her, drew closer, smiling as if she could meet
and welcome his caress, and then remembered that this was a thing of
canvas and paint--a bright shadow; no more.
To the second picture he turned with a deeper hope, but his heart fell
at once, for all he saw was an enlarged photograph, two mountains,
snow-topped in the distance, and in the foreground, first a mighty pine
with the branches lopped smoothly from the side as though some
tremendous ax had trimmed it, behind this a ranch-house, and farther
back the smooth waters of a lake.
He turned away sadly and had reached the door when something made him
turn back and stand once more before the photograph. It was quite the
same, but it took on a different significance as he linked it with the
two other objects in the room, the picture of his mother and the
revolver box. He found himself searching among the forest for the
figures of two great grey men, equal in bulk, such Titans as that wild
West it must be, but where? North or South? West, and from the West
surely that grey man at the Garden had come, and from the West John Bard
himself. Those two mountains, spearing the sky with their sharp
horns--they would be the pole by which he steered his course.
A strong purpose is to a man what an engine is to a ship. Suppose a hull
lies in the water, stanchly built, graceful in lines of strength and
speed, nosing at the wharf or tugging back on the mooring line, it may
be a fine piece of building but it cannot be much admired. But place an
engine in the hull and add to those fine lines the purr of a
motor--there is a sight which brings a smile to the lips and a light in
the eyes. Anthony had been like the unengined hulk, moored in gentle
waters with never the hope of a voyage to rough seas. Now that his
purpose came to him he was calmly eager, almost gay in the prospect of
On the highest hill of Anson Place in a tomb overlooking the waters of
the sound, they lowered the body of John Bard.
Afterward Anthony Bard went back to the secret room of his father. The
old name of Anthony Woodbury he had abandoned; in fact, he felt almost
like dating a new existence from the moment when he heard the voice
calling out of the garden: "John Bard, come out to me!" If life was a
thread, that voice was the shears which snapped the trend of his life
and gave him a new beginning. As Anthony Bard he opened once more the
door of the chamber.
He had replaced the revolver of John Bard in the box with the oiled
silk. Now he took it out again and shoved it into his back trouser
pocket, and then stood a long moment under the picture of the woman he
knew was his mother. As he stared he felt himself receding to youth, to
boyhood, to child days, finally to a helpless infant which that woman,
perhaps, had held and loved. In those dark, brooding eyes he strove to
read the mystery of his existence, but they remained as unriddled as the
free stars of heaven.
He repeated to himself his new name, his real name: "Anthony Bard." It
seemed to make him a stranger in his own eyes. "Woodbury" had been a
name of culture; it suggested the air of a long descent. "Bard" was
terse, short, brutally abrupt, alive with possibilities of action. Those
possibilities he would never learn from the dead lips of his father. He
sought them from his mother, but only the painted mouth and the painted
smile answered him.
He turned again to the picture of the house with the snow-topped
mountains in the distance. There surely, was the solution; somewhere in
the infinite reaches of the West.
Finally he cut the picture from its frame and rolled it up. He felt that
in so doing he would carry with him an identification tag--a clue to
himself. With that clue in his travelling bag, he started for the city,
bought his ticket, and boarded a train for the West.
The motion of the train, during those first two days gave Anthony Bard a
strange feeling that he was travelling from the present into the past.
He felt as if it was not miles that he placed behind him, but days,
weeks, months, years, that unrolled and carried him nearer and nearer to
the beginning of himself. He heard nothing about him; he saw nothing of
the territory which whirled past the window. They were already far West
before a man boarded the train and carried to Bard the whole atmosphere
of the mountain desert.
He got on the train at a Nebraska station and Anthony sat up to watch,
for a man of importance does not need size in order to have a mien.
Napoleon struck awe through the most gallant of his hero marshals, and
even the porter treated this little brown man with a respect that was
ludicrous at first glimpse.
He was so ugly that one smiled on glancing at him. His face, built on
the plan of a wedge, was extremely narrow in front, with a long,
high-bridged nose, slanting forehead, thin-lipped mouth, and a chin that
jutted out to a point, but going back all the lines flared out like a
reversed vista. A ridge of muscle crested each side of the broad jaws
and the ears flaunted out behind so that he seemed to have been built
for travelling through the wind.
The same wind, perhaps, had blown the hair away from the upper part of
his forehead, leaving him quite bald half way back on his head, where a
veritable forest of hair began, and continued, growing thicker and
longer, until it brushed the collar of his coat behind.
When he entered the car he stood eying his seat for a long moment like a
dog choosing the softest place on the floor before it lies down. Then he
took his place and sat with his hands folded in his lap, moveless,
speechless, with the little keen eyes straight before him--three hours
that state continued. Then he got up and Anthony followed him to the
diner. They sat at the same table.
"The journey," said Anthony, "is pretty tiresome through monotonous
scenery like this."
The little keen eyes surveyed him a moment before the man spoke.
"There was buffalo on them plains once."
If someone had said to an ignorant questioner, "This little knoll is
called Bunker Hill," he could not have been more abashed than was
Anthony, who glanced through the window at the dreary prospect, looked
back again, and found that the sharp eyes once more looked straight
ahead without the slightest light of triumph in his coup. Silence,
apparently, did not in the least abash this man.
"Know a good deal about buffaloes?"
It was not the insulting curtness of one who wishes to be left in peace,
but simply a statement of bald fact.
"Really?" queried Anthony. "I didn't think you were as old as that!"
It appeared that this remark was worthy of no answer whatever. The
little man turned his attention to his order of ham and eggs, cut off
the first egg, manoeuvred it carefully into position on his knife, and
raised it toward a mouth that stretched to astonishing proportions; but
at the critical moment the egg slipped and flopped back on the plate.
"Missed!" said Anthony.
He couldn't help it; the ejaculation popped out of its own accord. The
other regarded him with grave displeasure.
"If you had your bead drawed an' somebody jogged your arm jest as you
pulled the trigger, would you call it a miss?"
"Excuse me. I've no doubt you're extremely accurate."
"I ne'er miss," said the other, and proved it by disposing of the egg at
the next imposing mouthful.
"I should like to know you. My name is Anthony Bard."
"I'm Marty Wilkes. H'ware ye?"
They shook hands.
"Westerner, Mr. Wilkes?"
"This is my furthest East."
"Have a pleasant time?"
A gesture indicated the barren, brown waste of prairie.
"Too much civilization."
"Even the cattle got no fight in 'em." He added, "That sounds like I'm a
fighter. I ain't."
"Till you're stirred up, Mr. Wilkes?"
"Heat me up an' I'll burn. Soil wood."
"You're pretty familiar with the Western country?"
"I get around."
"Perhaps you'd recognize this."
He took a scroll from his breast pocket and unrolled the photograph of
the forest and the ranchhouse with the two mountains in the distance.
Wilkes considered it unperturbed.
"Them are the Little Brothers."
"Ah! Then all I have to do is to travel to the foot of the Little
"No, about sixty miles from 'em." "Impossible! Why, the mountains almost
overhang that house."
Wilkes handed back the picture and resumed his eating without reply. It
was not a sullen resentment; it was hunger and a lack of curiosity. He
was not "heated up."
"Any one," said Anthony, to lure the other on, "could see that."
"Sure; any one with bad eyes."
"But how can you tell it's sixty miles?"
"I've been there."
"Well, at least the big tree there and the ranchhouse will not be very
hard to find. But I suppose I'll have to travel in a circle around the
Little Brothers, keeping a sixty-mile radius?"
"If you want to waste a pile of time. Yes."
"I suppose you could lead me right to the spot?"
"That's about fifty-five miles straight north-east of the Little
"How the devil can you tell that, man?"
"That ain't hard. They's a pretty steady north wind that blows in them
parts. It's cold and it's strong. Now when you been out there long
enough and get the idea that the only things that live is because God
loves 'em. Mostly it's jest plain sand and rock. The trees live because
they got protection from that north wind. Nature puts moss on 'em on the
north side to shelter 'em from that same wind. Look at that picture
close. You see that rough place on the side of that tree--jest a shadow
like the whiskers of a man that ain't shaved for a week? That's the
moss. Now if that's north, the rest is easy. That place is north-east of
the Little Brothers."
"By Jove! how did you get such eyes?"
"The reason I'd like to find the house is because--"
"Reasons ain't none too popular with me."
"Well, you're pretty sure that your suggestion will take me to the
"I'm sure of nothing except my gun when the weather's hot."
"Reasonably sure, however? The pine trees and the house--if I don't find
one I'll find the other."
"The house'll be in ruins, probably."
"That picture was taken a long time ago."
"Do you read the mind of a picture, Mr. Wilkes?"
"The tree, however, will be there."
"No, that's chopped down."
"That's going a bit too far. Do you mean to say you know that this
particular tree is down?"
"That's first growth. All that country's been cut over. D'you think
they'd pass up a tree the size of that?"
"It's going to be hard," said Anthony with a frown, "for me to get used
to the West."
"I can ride and shoot pretty well, but I don't know the people, I
haven't worn their clothes, and I can't talk their lingo."
"The country's mostly rocks when it ain't ground; the people is pretty
generally men and women; the clothes they wear is cotton and wool, the
lingo they talk is English."
It was like a paragraph out of some book of ultimate knowledge. He was
not entirely contented with his statement, however, for now he qualified
it as follows: "Maybe some of 'em don't talk good book English. Quite a
pile ain't had much eddication; in fact there ain't awful many like me.
But they can tell you how much you owe 'em an' they'll understand you
when you say you're hungry. What's your business? Excuse me; I don't
generally ask questions."
"That's all right. You've probably caught the habit from me. I'm simply
going out to look about for excitement."
"A feller gener'ly finds what he's lookin' for. Maybe you won't be
disappointed. I've knowed places on the range where excitement growed
like fruit on a tree. It was like that there manna in the Bible. You
didn't have to work none for it. You jest laid still an' it sort of
dropped in your mouth."
He added with a sigh: "But them times ain't no more."
"That's hard on me, eh?"
"Don't start complainin' till you miss your feed. Things are gettin'
pretty crowded, but there's ways of gettin' elbow room--even at a bar."
"And you really think there's nothing which distinguishes the Westerner
from the Easterner?"
"Just the Western feeling, partner. Get that an' you'll be at home."
"If you were a little further East and said that, people might be
inclined to smile a bit."
"Partner, if they did, they wouldn't finish their smile. But I heard a
feller say once that the funny thing about men east and west of the
Rockies was that they was all--"
He paused as if trying to remember.
"Americans, Mr. Bard."
"THIS PLACE FOR REST"
As the white heat of midday passed and the shadows lengthened more and
more rapidly to the east, the sheep moved out from the shade and from
the tangle of the brush to feed in the open, and the dogs, which had
laid one on either side of the man, rose and trotted out to recommence
their vigil; but the shepherd did not change his position where he sat
cross-legged under the tree.
Alternately he stroked the drooping moustache to the right and then to
the left, with a little twist each time, which turned the hair to a
sharp point in its furthest downward reach near his chin. To the right,
to the left, to the right, to the left, while his eyes, sad with a
perpetual mist, looked over the lake and far away to the white tops of
the Little Brothers, now growing blue with shadow.
Finally with a brown forefinger he lifted the brush of moustache on his
upper lip, leaned a little, and spat. After that he leaned back with a
sigh of content; the brown juice had struck fairly and squarely on the
centre of the little stone which for the past two hours he had been
endeavouring vainly to hit. The wind had been against him.
All was well. The spindling tops of the second-growth forest pointed
against the pale blue of a stainless sky, and through that clear air the
blatting of the most distant sheep sounded close, mingled with the light
clangour of the bells. But the perfect peace was broken rudely now by
the form of a horseman looming black and large against the eastern sky.
He trotted his horse down the slope, scattered a group of noisy sheep
from side to side before him, and drew rein before the shepherd.
"Own this land?"
"No; rent it."
"Could I camp here?"
The shepherd lifted his moustache again and spat; when he spoke his eyes
held steadily and sadly on the little stone, which he had missed again.
"Can't think of nobody who'd stop you."
"That your house over there? You rent that?"
He pointed to a broken-backed ruin which stood on the point of land that
jutted out onto the waters of the lake, a crumbling structure slowly
blackening with time.
A shadow of a frown crossed the face of the stranger and was gone again
more quickly than a cloud shadow brushed over the window on a windy city
"Well," he said, "this place looks pretty good tome. Ever fish those
"Don't eat fish."
"I'll wager you're missing some first-class trout, though. By Jove, I'd
like to cast a couple of times over some of the pools I've passed in the
last hour! By the way, who owns that house over there?"
"Same feller that owns this land."
"That so? What's his name?"
The other lifted his shaggy eyebrows and stared at the stranger.
"Ain't been long around here, eh?"
"William Drew, he owns that house."
"William Drew?" repeated the rider, as though imprinting the word on his
memory. "Is he home?"
"I'll ride over and ask him if he can put me up."
"Wait a minute. He may be home, but he lives on the other side of the
"Very far from here?"