Part 4 out of 6
the ground ain't got a level stretch of a hundred yards in a whole day's
ridin'. And along about evenin' of the second day we come to the house
of Tom Shaw, a squatter.
"Bard would of passed the house up, because he knew Shaw and said there
wasn't nothin' crooked about him, but I didn't trust nobody in them
days--and I ain't changed a pile since."
"That," remarked Anthony, "is an example I think I shall follow."
"Eh?" said Lawlor, somewhat blankly. "Well, we rode up on the blind side
of the house--from the north, see, got off, and sneaked around to the
east end of the shack. The windows was covered with cloths on the
inside, which didn't make me none too sure about Shaw havin' no dealin's
with crooks. It ain't ordinary for a feller to be so savin' on light.
Pretty soon we found a tear in one of the cloths, and lookin' through
that we seen old Piotto sittin' beside Tom Shaw with his daughter on the
"We went back to the north side of the house and figured out different
ways of tacklin' the job. There was only the two of us, see, and the
fellers inside that house was all cut out for man-killers. How would you
have gone after 'em, son?"
"Opened the door, I suppose, and started shooting," said Bard, "if I had
The other stared at him.
"You heard this story before?"
"Not this part."
"Well, that was jest what we done. First off, it sounds like a fool way
of tacklin' them; but when you think twice it was the best of all. They
never was expectin' anybody fool enough to walk right into that room and
start fightin'. We went back and had a look at the door.
"It wasn't none too husky. John Bard, he tried the latch, soft, but the
thing was locked, and when he pulled there was a snap.
"'Who's there?' hollers someone inside.
"We froze ag'in' the side of the house, lookin' at each other pretty
"'Nobody's there,' sings out the voice of old Piotto. 'We can trust Tom
Shaw, jest because he knows that if he double-crossed us he'd be the
first man to die.'
"And we heard Tom say, sort of quaverin': 'God's sake, boys, what d'you
think I am?'
"'Now,' says Bard, and we put our shoulders to the door, and takes our
guns in our hands--we each had two.
"The door went down like nothin', because we was both husky fellers in
them days, and as she smashed in the fall upset two of the boys sittin'
closest and gave 'em no chance on a quick draw. The rest of 'em was too
paralyzed at first, except old Piotto. He pulled his gun, but what he
shot was Tom Shaw, who jest leaned forward in his chair and crumpled up
"We went at 'em, pumpin' lead. It wasn't no fight at first and half of
'em was down before they had their guns workin'. But when the real hell
started it wasn't no fireside story, I'll tell a man. We had the jump on
'em, but they meant business. I dropped to the floor and lay on my side,
shootin'; Bard, he followered suit. They went down like tenpins till our
guns were empty. Then we up and rushed what was left of 'em--Piotto and
his daughter. Bard makes a pass to knock the gun out of the hand of Joan
and wallops her on the head instead. Down she goes. I finished Piotto
with my bare hands."
"Broke his back, eh?"
"Me? Whoever heard of breakin' a man's back? Ha, ha, ha! You been
hearin' fairy tales, son. Nope, I choked the old rat."
"Were you badly hurt?"
Lawlor searched his memory hastily; there was no information on this
"Couple of grazes," he said, dismissing the subject with a tolerant wave
of the hand. "Nothin' worth talkin' of."
"I see," nodded Bard.
It occurred to Lawlor that his guest was taking the narrative in a
remarkably philosophic spirit. He reviewed his telling of the story
hastily and could find nothing that jarred.
He concluded: "That was the way of livin' in them days. They ain't no
more--they ain't no more!"
"And now," said Anthony, "the only excitement you get is out of
books--and running the labourers?"
He had picked up the book which Lawlor had just laid down.
"Oh, I read a bit now and then," said the cowpuncher easily, "but I
ain't much on booklearnin'."
Bard was turning the pages slowly. The title, whose meaning dawned
slowly on his astonished mind as a sunset comes in winter over a grey
landscape, was The Critique of Pure Reason. He turned the book over and
over in his hands. It was well thumbed.
He asked, controlling his voice: "Are you fond of Kant?"
"Eh?" queried the other.
"Fond of this book?"
"Yep, that's one of my favourites. But I ain't much on any books."
"However," said Bard, "the story of this is interesting."
"It is. There's some great stuff in it," mumbled Lawlor, trying to
squint at the title, which he had quite overlooked during the daze in
which he first picked it up.
Bard laid the book aside and out of sight.
"And I like the characters, don't you? Some very close work done with
"Yep, there's a lot of narrow escapes."
"Exactly. I'm glad that we agree about books."
"So'm I. Feller can kill a lot of time chinning about books."
"Yes, I suppose a good many people have killed time over this book."
And as he smiled genially upon the cowpuncher, Bard felt a great relief
sweep over him, a mighty gladness that this was not Drew--that this
looselipped gabbler was not the man who had written the epitaph over the
tomb of Joan Piotto. He lied about the book; he had lied about it all.
And knowing that this was not Drew, he felt suddenly as if someone were
watching him from behind, someone large and grey and stern of eye, like
the giant who had spoken to him so long before in the arena at Madison
A game was being played with him, and behind that game must be Drew
himself; all Bard could do was to wait for developments.
The familiar, booming voice of Shorty Kilrain echoed through the house:
And the loud clangour of a bell supported the invitation.
"Chow-time," breathed Lawlor heavily, like one relieved at the end of a
hard shift of work. "I figure you ain't sorry, son?"
"No," answered Bard, "but it's too bad to break off this talk. I've
learned a lot."
"You first," said Lawlor at the door.
"I've been taught to let an older man go first," said Bard, smiling
pleasantly. "After you, sir."
"Any way you want it, Bard," answered Lawlor, but as he led the way down
the hall he was saying to himself, through his stiffly mumbling lips:
"He knows! Calamity was right; there's going to be hell poppin' before
He lengthened his stride going down the long hall to the dining-room,
and entering, he found the cowpunchers about to take their places around
the big table. Straight toward the head to the big chair he stalked, and
paused an instant beside little Duffy. Their interchange of whispers was
like a muffled rapid-fire, for they had to finish before young Bard, now
just entering the room, could reach them and take his designated chair
at the right of Lawlor.
"He knows," muttered Lawlor.
"Hell! Then it's all up?"
"No; keep bluffin'; wait. How's everything?"
"Gregory ain't come in, but Drew may put him wise before he gets inside
"You done all I could expect," said Lawlor aloud as Bard came up, "but
to-morrow go back on the same job and try to get something definite."
To Bard: "Here's your place, partner. Just been tellin' Duffy, there on
your right, about some work. Some of the doggies have been rustled
lately and we're on their trail."
They took their places, and Bard surveyed the room carefully, as an
actor who stands in the wings and surveys the stage on which he is soon
to step and play a great part; for in Anthony there was a gathering
sense of impending disaster and action. What he saw was a long, low
apartment, the bare rafters overhead browned by the kitchen smoke, which
even now was rolling in from the wide door at the end of the room--the
thick, oily smoke of burnt meat mingled with steam and the nameless
vapours of a great oven.
There was no semblance of a decoration on the walls; the boards were not
even painted. It was strictly a place for use, not pleasure. The food
itself which Shorty Kilrain and Calamity Ben now brought on was
distinctly utilitarian rather than appetizing. The piece de resistance
was a monstrous platter heaped high with beefsteak, not the inviting
meat of a restaurant in a civilized city, but thin, brown slabs, fried
dry throughout. The real nourishment was in the gravy in which the steak
swam. In a dish of even more amazing proportions was a vast heap of
potatoes boiled with their jackets on. Lawlor commenced loading the
stack of plates before him, each with a slab and a potato or two.
Meantime from a umber of big coffee pots a stream of a liquid, bitter as
lye and black as night, was poured into the tin cups. Yet the cattlemen
about the table settled themselves for the meal with a pleasant
expectation fully equal to that of the most seasoned gourmand in a
The peculiar cowboy's squint--a frowning of the brow and a compression
of the thin lips--relaxed. That frown came from the steady effort to
shade the eyes from the white-hot sunlight; the compression of the lips
was due to a determination to admit none of the air, laden with alkali
dust, except through the nostrils. It grew in time into a perpetual
grimace, so that the expression of an old range rider is that of a man
steeling himself to pass through some grim ordeal.
Now as they relaxed, Anthony perceived first of all that most of the
grimness passed away from the narrowed eyes and they lighted instead
with good-humoured banter, though of a weary nature. One by one, they
cast off ten years of age; the lines rubbed out; the jaws which had
thrust out grew normal; the leaning heads straightened and went back.
They paid not the slightest attention to the newcomer, talking easily
among themselves, but Anthony was certain that at least some of them
were thinking of him. If they said nothing, their thoughts were the
In fact, in the meantime little Duffy had passed on to the next man, in
a side mutter, the significant phrase: "He knows!" It went from lip to
lip like a watchword passing along a line of sentinels. Each man heard
it imperturbably, completed the sentence he was speaking before, or
maintained his original silence through a pause, and then repeated it to
his right-hand neighbour. Their demeanour did not alter perceptibly,
except that the laughter, perhaps, became a little more uproarious, and
they were sitting straighter in their chairs, their eyes brighter.
All they knew was that Drew had impressed on them that Bard must not
leave that room in command of his six-shooter or even of his hands. He
must be bound securely. The working out of the details of execution he
had left to their own ingenuity. It might have seemed a little thing to
do to greener fellows, but every one of these men was an experienced
cowpuncher, and like all old hands on the range they were perfectly
familiar with the amount of damage which a single armed man can do.
The thing could be done, of course, but the point was to do it with the
minimum of danger. So they waited, and talked, and ate and always from
the corners of their eyes were conscious of the slightly built,
inoffensive man who sat beside Lawlor near the head of the table. In
appearance he was surely most innocuous, but Nash had spoken, and in
such matters they were all willing to take his word with a childlike
So the meal went on, and the only sign, to the most experienced eye, was
that the chairs were placed a little far back from the edge of the
table, a most necessary condition when men may have to rise rapidly or
get at their holsters for a quick draw.
Calamity Ben bearing a mighty dish of bread pudding, passed directly
behind the chair of the stranger. The whole table watched with a sudden
keenness, and they saw Bard turn, ever so slightly, just as Calamity
passed behind the chair.
"I say," he said, "may I have a bit of hot water to put in this coffee?"
"Sure," said Calamity, and went on, but the whole table knew that the
stranger was on his guard.
The mutual suspicion gave a tenseness to the atmosphere, as if it were
charged with the electricity of a coming storm, a tingling waiting which
made the men prone to become silent and then talk again in fitful
outbursts. Or it might be said that it was like a glass full of
precipitate which only waits for the injection of a single unusual
substance before it settles to the bottom and leaves the remaining
liquid clear. It was for the unusual, then, that the entire assembly
waited, feeling momentarily that it must be coming, for the strain could
As for Bard, he stuck by his original apparent indifference. For he
still felt sure that the real William Drew was behind this elaborate
deception and the thing for which he waited was some revelation of the
hand of the master. The trumps which he felt he held was in being
forewarned; he could not see that the others knew his hand.
He said to Lawlor: "I think a man named Nash works on this ranch. I
expected to see him at supper here."
"Nash?" answered Lawlor. "Sure, he used to be foreman here. Ain't no
more. Nope--I couldn't stand for his lip. Didn't mind him getting fresh
till he tried to ride me. Then I turned him loose. Where did you meet
"While I was riding in this direction."
"Want to see him bad?"
The other moistened his lips.
"Rather! He killed my horse."
A silence fell on these who were within hearing. They would not have
given equal attention to the story of the killing of a man.
"How'd he get away with it?"
"The Saverack was between us. Before I could get my gun out he was
riding out of range. I'll meet him and have another talk some day."
"Well, the range ain't very small."
"But my dear fellow, it's not nearly as big as my certainty of meeting
There is something in a low, slow voice more thrilling than the thunder
of actual rage. Those who heard glanced to one another with thoughtful
eyes. They were thinking of Nash, and thinking of him with sympathy.
Little Duffy, squat and thick-set, felt inspiration descend on him. He
turned to Bard on his left.
"That ain't a full-size forty-five, is it--that one you're packin'?"
"Doesn't it look it?" answered Bard.
"Nope. Holster seems pretty small to me."
"It's the usual gun, I'm sure," said Bard, and pulled the weapon from
Holding the butt loosely, his trigger finger hooked clear around the far
side of the guard, he showed the gun.
"I was wrong," nodded Duffy unabashed, "that's the regular kind. Let's
have a look at it."
And he stretched out his hand. No one would ever have guessed how
closely the table followed what now happened, for each man began talking
in a voice even louder than before. It was as if they sought to cover
the stratagem of Duffy with their noise.
"There's nothing unusual about the gun," said Bard, "but I'd be glad to
let you have it except that I've formed a habit of never letting a
six-shooter get away from me. It's a foolish habit, I know, but I can't
lose it. If there's any part you'd like to see, just name it."
"Thanks," answered Duffy. "I guess I've seen all I want of it."
Calamity had failed; Duffy had failed. It began to look as if force of
downright numbers must settle the affair.
SALLY BREAKS A MIRROR
As Sally had remarked the night before, one does not pay much attention
to a toilet when one rises at 5 a.m. At least that is the rule, but
Sally, turning out with a groan in the chill, dark room, shut off the
alarm, lighted her lamp, and set about the serious task of dressing. A
woman, after all, is much like a diplomatic statesman; a hint along
certain lines is more to her than a sworn statement.
She had secured a large mirror, and in front of this she laboured
patiently for a full ten minutes, twisting her hair this way and that,
and using the comb and brush vigorously. Now and then, as she worked,
she became aware that a fluff of hair rolling down low over her forehead
did amazing things to her face and brought her from Sally Fortune into
the strange dignity of a "lady." But she could not complete any of the
manoeuvres, no matter how promisingly they started. In the end she
dashed a handful of hairpins on the floor and wound the hair about her
head with a few swift turns.
She studied the sullen, boyish visage which looked back at her. After
all, she would be unmercifully joked if she were to appear with her hair
grown suddenly fluffy and womanly--it would become impossible for her to
run the eating-place without the assistance of a man, and a fighting man
at that. So what was the use? She threw the mirror crashing on the
floor; it splintered in a thousand pieces.
"After all," she murmured aloud, "do I want to be a woman?"
The sullen mouth undoubtedly answered "No"; the wistful eyes undoubtedly
replied in another key. She shrugged the question away and stepped out
of her room toward the kitchen, whistling a tune to raise her spirits.
"Late, Sally," said the cook, tossing another hot cake on the growing
pile which surmounted the warmer.
"Sure; I busted my mirror," said Sally.
The cook stared at her in such astonishment that he allowed a quantity
of dough to fall from the dish cupped in the hollow of his arm; it
overflowed the griddle-iron.
"Blockhead!" shouted Sally. "Watch your step!"
She resumed, when the dough had been rescued by somewhat questionable
means: "D'you think a girl can dress in the dark?"
But the cook had had too much experience with his employer to press what
seemed a tender point. He confined his attention to the pancakes.
"There ain't no fool worse than a he-fool," continued Sally bitterly.
"Which maybe you think a girl can dress without a mirror?"
Since this taunt brought no response from her victim, she went on into
the eating-room. It was already filling, and the duties of her strenuous
They continued without interruption hour after hour, for the popularity
of her restaurant had driven all competition out of Eldara, a result
which filled the pocket-book and fattened the bank account of Sally
Fortune, but loaded unnumbered burdens onto her strong shoulders. For
she could not hire a waiter to take her place; every man who came into
the eating-room expected to be served by the slim hands of Sally
herself, and he expected also some trifling repartee which would make
him pay his bill with a grin.
The repartee dragged with Sally to-day, almost to sullenness, and when
she began to grow weary in the early afternoon, there was no reserve
strength on which she could fall back. She suddenly became aware that
she wanted support, aid, comfort. Finally she spilled a great armful of
"empties" down on the long drain-board of the sink, turned to the wall,
and buried her face in her hands. The cook, Bert, though he cast a
startled glance at her would not have dared to speak, after that
encounter of the morning, but a rather explosive sniff was too eloquent
an appeal to his manliness.
His left sleeve having fallen, he rolled it back, tied the strings of
the apron tighter about his plump middle, and advanced to the battle.
His hand touched the shoulder of the girl.
"Shut your face!" moaned a stifled voice.
But he took his courage between his teeth and persisted.
"Sally, somethin' is wrong."
"Nothin' you can right, Fatty," said the same woe-stricken voice.
"Sally, if somebody's been gettin' fresh with you--"
Her arms jerked down; she whirled and faced him with clenched fists;
her eyes shining more brightly for the mist which was in them.
"Fresh with me? Why, you poor, one-horned yearling, d'you think there's
anybody in Eldara man enough to get fresh with me?"
Bert retreated a step; caution was a moving element in his nature. From
a vantage point behind a table, however, he ventured: "Then what is
Her woe, apparently, was greater than her wrath.
She said sadly: "I dunno, Bert. I ain't the man I used to be--I mean,
He waited, his small eyes gentle. What woman can altogether resist
sympathy, even from a fat man and a cook? Not even the redoubtable soul
of a Sally.
She confessed: "I feel sort of hollow and gone--around the stomach,
"Eat," suggested the cook. "I just took out a pie that would--"
"But it ain't the stomach. It's like bein' hungry and wantin' no food.
Fatty, d'you think I'm sick?"
"You look kind of whitish."
"Fatty, I feel--"
She hesitated, as though too great a confession were at her lips, but
she stumbled on: "I feel as if I was afraid of somethin', or someone."
"That," said Bert confidently, "ain't possible. It's the stomach, Sally.
Something ain't agreed with you."
She turned from him with a vague gesture of despair.
"If this here feelin' is goin' to keep up--why, I wisht I was dead--I
wisht I was dead!"
She went on to the swinging door, paused there to dab her eyes swiftly,
started to whistle a tune, and in this fashion marched back to the
eating-room. Fatty, turning back to the stove, shook his head; he was
more than ever convinced in his secret theory that all women are crazy.
Sally found that a new man had entered, one whom she could not remember
having seen before. She went to him at once, for it seemed to her that
she would die, indeed, if she had to look much longer on the familiar,
unshaven faces of the other men in the room.
"Anything you got," said the stranger, who was broad of hands and thick
of neck and he cast an anxious eye on her. "I hear you seen something of
a thinnish, dark feller named Bard."
"What d'_you_ want with him?" asked Sally with dangerous calm.
"I was aimin' to meet up with him. That's all."
"Partner, if you want to stand in solid around here, don't let out that
you're a friend of his. He ain't none too popular; that's straight and
puttin' it nice and easy."
"Which who said I was his friend?" said the other with heat.
She turned away to the kitchen and reappeared shortly, bearing his meal.
The frown with which she departed had disappeared, and she was smiling
as brightly as ever while she arranged the dishes in front of him. He
paid no attention to the food.
"Now," she said, resting both hands on the table and leaning so that she
could look him directly in the eye: "What's Bard done now?
The other loosened the bandanna which circled his bull neck.
"Woman," he said hoarsely, and the blood swelled his throat and face
with veins of purple.
"Ah-h-h," drawled the girl, and straightening, she dropped both hands on
her hips. It was a struggle, but she managed to summon another smile.
The man stared dubiously on her, and Sally, mother to five hundred wild
rangers, knew the symptoms of a man eager for a confidant. She slipped
into the opposite chair.
"It might be any of the three," she went on gently, "and I know because
I've seen him work."
"Damn his soul!" growled the other by way of a prefix to his story. "It
ain't any of the three with me. This Bard--maybe he tried his hand with
Whether it was rage or scorn that made her start and redden he could not
"Me?" she repeated. "A tenderfoot get fresh with me? Stranger, you ain't
been long in Eldara or you wouldn't pull a bonehead like that."
"'Scuse me. I was hopin' that maybe you took a fall out of him, that's
He studied the blue eyes. They had been tinted with ugly green a moment
before, but now they were clear, deep, dark, guileless blue. He could
not resist. The very nearness of the woman was like a gentle, cool hand
caressing his forehead and rubbing away the troubles.
"It was like this," he began. "Me and Lizzie had been thick for a couple
of years and was jest waitin' till I'd corralled enough cash for a
start. Then the other day along comes this feller Bard with a queer way
of talkin' school language. Made you feel like you was readin' a bit out
of a dictionary jest to listen to him for a minute. Liz, she never
heard nothin' like it, I figure. She got all eyes and sat still and
listened. Bein' like that he plumb made a fool out of Liz. Kidded her
along and wound up by kissing her good-bye. I didn't see none of this; I
jest heard about it later. When I come up and started talkin' jest
friendly with Liz she got sore and passed me the frosty stare. I didn't
think she could be doin' more than kiddin' me a bit, so I kept right on
and it ended up with Liz sayin' that all was over between us."
He paused on his tragedy, set his teeth over a sigh, and went on: "The
feller ain't no good. I know that from a chap that come to the house a
few hours after Bard left. Nash was his name--"
"Nash. Feller built husky around the shoulders--looks like a fighter.
"Pretty well. D'you say he come to your house right after Bard left it?"
"How long ago was this?"
"About three days."
"You look like you was goin' to murder some one, lady."
Her laughter ended with a jerk and jar.
"Maybe I am. G'wan! Tell me some more about what Nash said."
"Why, he didn't say much. Hinted around that maybe Bard had walked off
with the piebald hoss he was ridin'."
"That's a lie."
"Lady," said the other a little coldly, "you say that like you was a
friend of Bard's."
"Me? There ain't nobody around these parts man enough to say to my face
that I'm a friend of that tenderfoot."
"I'm glad of that. My name's Ralph Boardman."
"I'm Sally Fortune."
"Sure; I've heard of you--a lot. Say, you couldn't tip me off where I
could hit the trail of Bard?"
"Dunno. Wait; lemme see."
She studied, with closed eyes. What she was thinking was that if Nash
had been so close to Bard three days before he was surely on the trail
of the tenderfoot and certainly that meeting in her place had not been a
casual one. She set her teeth, thinking of the promise Nash had given to
her. Undoubtedly he had laughed at it afterward. And now Bard probably
lay stretched on his back somewhere among the silent hills looking up to
the pitiless brightness of the sky with eyes which could never shut.
The hollow feeling of which Sally had complained to Bert grew to a
positive ache, and the tears stood up closer to her eyes.
"Wait around town," she said in a changed voice. "I think I heard him
say something of riding out, but he'll be back before long. That's the
only tip I can give you, partner."
So she rose and hurried back to the kitchen.
"Bert," she said, "I'm off for the rest of the day. You got to handle
He panted: "But the heavy rush--it ain't started yet."
"It's started for me."
"What d'you mean?"
"Nothin'. I'm on my way. S'long, Bert. Back in the mornin' bright and
If she could not find Bard at least she could find Nash at the ranch of
Drew, and in that direction she headed her racing horse.
Jansen, the big Swede, was the first to finish his meal in Drew's
dining-room. For that matter, he was always first. He ate with
astonishing expedition, lowering his head till that tremendous,
shapeless mouth was close to the plate and then working knife and fork
alternately with an unfaltering industry. To-night, spurred on by a
desire to pass through this mechanical effort and be prepared for the
coming action, his speed was something truly marvellous. He did not
appear to eat; the food simply vanished from the plate; it was absorbed
like a mist before the wind. While the others were barely growing
settled in their places, Jansen was already through.
He wiped his mouth on the back of his hand, produced Durham and papers,
and proceeded to light up. Lawlor, struggling still to re-establish
himself in the eyes of Bard as the real William Drew, seized the
opportunity to exert a show of authority. He smashed his big fist on
"Jansen!" he roared.
"Eh?" grunted the Swede.
"Where was you raised?"
"Are you sneezin' or talkin' English?"
Jansen, irritated, bellowed: "Elvaruheimarstadhaven! That's where I was
"That's where you was born? Elvaru--damn such a language! No wonder you
Swedes don't know nothin'. It takes all your time learnin' how to talk
your lingo. But if you ain't never had no special trainin' in manners,
I'm goin' to make a late start with you now. Put out that cigarette!"
The pale eyes of Jansen stared, fascinated; the vast mouth fell agape.
"Maybe," he began, and then finished weakly: "I be damned!"
"There ain't no reasonable way of doubtin' that unless you put out that
smoke. Hear me?"
Shorty Kilrain, coming from the kitchen, grinned broadly. Having felt
the lash of discipline himself, he was glad to see it fall in another
place. He continued his gleeful course around that side of the table.
And big Jansen slowly, imperturbably, raised the cigarette and inhaled a
mighty cloud of smoke which issued at once in a rushing, fine blue mist,
impelled by a snort.
"Maybe," he rumbled, completing his thought, "maybe you're one damn
"I'm going to learn you who's boss in these parts," boomed Lawlor. "Put
out that cigarette! Don't you know no better than to smoke at the
Jansen pushed back his chair and started to rise. There was no doubt as
to his intentions; they were advertised in the dull and growing red
which flamed in his face. But Kilrain, as though he had known such a
moment would come, caught the Swede by the shoulders and forced him back
into the chair. As he did so he whispered something in the ear of
"Let him go!" bellowed Lawlor. "Let him come on. Don't hold him. I ain't
had work for my hands for five years. I need exercise, I do."
The mouth of Jansen stirred, but no words came. A hopeless yearning was
in his eyes. But he dropped the cigarette and ground it under his heel.
"I thought," growled Lawlor, "that you knew your master, but don't make
no mistake again. Speakin' personal, I don't think no more of knockin'
down a Swede than I do of flickin' the ashes off'n a cigar."
He indulged in a side glance at Bard to see if the latter were properly
impressed, but Anthony was staring blankly straight before him, unable,
to all appearances, to see anything of what was happening.
"Kilrain," went on Lawlor, "trot out some cigars. You know where they're
Kilrain falling to the temptation, asked: "Where's the key to the
For Drew kept his tobacco in a small cabinet, locked because of long
experience with tobacco-loving employees. Lawlor started to speak,
checked himself, fumbled through his pockets, and then roared: "Smash
the door open. I misplaced the key."
No semblance of a smile altered the faces of the cowpunchers around the
table, but glances of vague meaning were interchanged. Kilrain
reappeared almost at once, bearing a large box of cigars under each arm.
"The eats bein' over," announced Lawlor, "we can now light up. Open them
boxes, Shorty. Am I goin' to work on you the rest of my life teachin'
you how to serve cigars?"
Kilrain sighed deeply, but obeyed, presenting the open boxes in turn to
Bard, who thanked him, and to Lawlor, who bit off the end of his smoke
continued: "A match, Kilrain."
And he waited, swelling with pleasure, his eyes fixed upon space.
Kilrain lighted a match and held it for the two in turn. Two rows of
waiting, expectant eyes were turned from the whole length, of the table,
toward the cigars.
"Shall I pass on the cigars?" suggested Bard.
"_These_ smokes?" breathed Lawlor. "Waste 'em on common hands? Partner,
you ain't serious, are you?"
A breath like the faint sighing of wind reached them; the cowpunchers
were resigned, and started now to roll their Durham. But it seemed as if
a chuckle came from above; it was only some sound in the gasoline lamp,
a big fixture which hung suspended by a slender chain from the centre of
the ceiling and immediately above the table.
"Civilizin' cowpunchers," went on Lawlor, tilting back in his chair and
bracing his feet against the edge of the table, "civilizin' cowpunchers
is worse'n breakin' mustangs. They's some that say it can't be done.
But look at this crew. Do they look like rough uns?"
A stir had passed among the cowpunchers and solemn stares of hate
transfixed Lawlor, but he went on: "I'm askin' you, do these look
"I should say," answered Bard courteously, "that you have a pretty
experienced lot of cattle-men."
"Experienced? Well, they'll pass. They've had experience with bar whisky
and talkin' to their cards at poker, but aside from bein' pretty much
drunks and crookin' the cards, they ain't anything uncommon. But when I
got 'em they was wild, they was. Why, if I'd talked like this in front
of 'em they'd of been guns pulled. But look at 'em now. I ask you: Look
at 'em now! Ain't they tame? They hear me call 'em what they are, but
they don't even bat an eye. Yes, sir, I've tamed 'em. They took a lot of
lickin', but now they're tamed. Hello!"
For through the door stalked a newcomer. He paused and cast a curious
eye up the table to Lawlor.
"What the hell!" he remarked naively. "Where's the chief?"
"Fired!" bellowed Lawlor without a moment of hesitation.
"Who fired him?" asked the new man, with an expectant smile, like one
who waits for the point of a joke, but he caught a series of strange
signals from men at the table and many a broad wink.
"I fired him, Gregory," answered Lawlor. "I fired Nash!"
He turned to Bard.
"You see," he said rather weakly, "the boys is used to callin' Nash 'the
"Ah, yes," said Bard, "I understand."
And Lawlor felt that he did understand, and too well.
Gregory, in the meantime, silenced by the mysterious signs from his
fellow cowpunchers, took his place and began eating without another
word. No one spoke to him, but as if he caught the tenseness of the
situation, his eyes finally turned and glanced up the table to Bard.
It was easy for Anthony to understand that glance. It is the sort of
look which the curious turn on the man accused of a great crime and
sitting in the court room guilty. His trial in silence had continued
until he was found guilty. Apparently, he was now to be both judged and
executed at the same time.
There could not be long delay. The entrance of Gregory had almost been
the precipitant of action, and though it had been smoothed over to an
extent, still the air was each moment more charged with suspense. The
men were lighting their second cigarette. With each second it grew
clearer that they were waiting for something. And as if thoughtful of
the work before them, they no longer talked so fluently.
Finally there was no talk at all, save for sporadic outbursts, and the
blue smoke and the brown curled up slowly in undisturbed drifts toward
the ceiling until a bright halo formed around the gasoline lamp. A
childish thought came to Bard that where the smoke was so thick the fire
could not be long delayed.
A second form appeared in the doorway, lithe, graceful, and the light
made her hair almost golden.
"Ev'nin', fellers," called Sally jauntily. "Hello, Lawlor; what you
doin' at the head of the table?"
The bluff was ended. It was as if the wind blew a cloud suddenly from
the face of the sun and let the yellow sunlight pour brightly over the
world; so everyone in the room at the voice of Sally knew that the time
had come for action. There was no vocal answer to her, but each man rose
slowly in his place, his gun naked in his hand, and every face was
turned to Bard.
"Gentlemen," he said in his soft voice, "I see that my friend Lawlor has
not wasted his lessons in manners. At least you know enough to rise when
a lady enters the room."
His gun, held at the hip, pointed straight down the table to the burly
form of Jansen, but his eyes, like those of a pugilist, seemed to be
taking in every face at the table, and each man felt in some subtle
manner that the danger would fall first on him. They did not answer, but
hands were tightening around revolver butts.
Lawlor moved back, pace by pace, his revolver shaking in his hand.
"But," went on Bard, "you are all facing me. Is it possible?"
"I knew that Mr. Drew was very anxious to receive me with courtesy; I
did not dream that he would be able to induce so many men to take care
And Sally Fortune, bracing herself against the wall with one hand, and
in the capable grasp of the other a six-gun balanced, stared in growing
amazement on the scene, and shuddered at the silences.
"Bard," she called, "what have I done?"
"You've started a game," he answered, "which I presume we've all been
waiting to play. What about it, boys? I hope you're well paid; I'd hate
to die a cheap death."
A voice, deep and ringing, sounded close at hand, almost within the
room, and from a direction which Bard could not locate.
"Don't harm him if you can help it. But keep him in that room!"
Bard stepped back a pace till his shoulders touched the wall.
"Sirs," he said, "if you keep me here you will most certainly have to
A figure ran around the edge of the crowd and stood beside him.
"Stand clear of me, Sally," he muttered, much moved. "Stand away. This
is a man's work."
"The work of a pack of coyotes!" she cried shrilly. "What d'ye mean?"
She turned on them fiercely.
"Are you goin' to murder a tenderfoot among you? One that ain't done no
real harm? I don't believe my eyes. You, there, Shorty Kilrain, I've
waited on you with my own hands. You've played the man with me. Are you
goin' to play the dog now? Jansen, you was tellin' me about a blue-eyed
girl in Sweden; have you forgot about her now? And Calamity Ben! My God,
ain't there a man among you to step over here and join the two of us?"
They were shaken, but the memory of Drew quelled them.
"They's no harm intended him, on my honour, Sally," said Lawlor. "All
he's got to do is give up his gun--and--and"--he finished weakly--"let
his hands be tied."
"Is that all?" said Sally scornfully.
"Don't follow me, Sally," said Bard. "Stay out of this. Boys, you may
have been paid high, but I don't think you've been paid high enough to
risk taking a chance with me. If you put me out with the first shot that
ends it, of course, but the chances are that I'll be alive when I hit
the floor, and if I am, I'll have my gun working--and I won't miss. One
or two of you are going to drop."
He surveyed them with a quick glance which seemed to linger on each
"I don't know who'll go first. But now I'm going to walk straight for
that door, and I'm going out of it."
He moved slowly, deliberately toward the door, around the table. Still
they did not shoot.
"Bard!" commanded the voice which had spoken from nowhere before. "Stop
where you are. Are you fool enough to think that I'll let you go?"
"Are you William Drew?"
"I am, and you are----"
"The son of John Bard. Are you in this house?"
"I am; Bard, listen to me for thirty seconds----"
"Not for three. Sally, go out of this room and through that door."
There was a grim command in his voice. It started her moving against her
will. She paused and looked back with an imploring gesture.
"Go on," he repeated.
And she passed out of the door and stood there, a glimmering figure
against the night. Still there was not a shot fired, though all those
guns were trained on Bard.
"You've got me Drew," he called, "but I've got you, and your
hirelings--all of you, and I'm going to take you to hell with me--to
He jerked his gun up and fired, not at a man, for the bullet struck the
thin chain which held the gasoline lamp suspended, struck it with a
clang, and it rushed down to the table. It struck, but not with the loud
explosion which Bard had expected. There was a dull report, as of a shot
fired at a great distance, the scream of Sally from the door, and then
liquid fire spurted from the lamp across the table, whipped in a flare
to the ceiling, and licked against the walls. It shot to all sides but
it shot high, and every man was down on his face.
Anthony, scarcely believing that he was still alive, rushed for the
door, with a cry of agony ringing in his ears from the voice beyond the
room. One man in all that crowd was near enough or had the courage to
obey the master even to the uttermost. The gaunt form of Calamity Ben
blocked the doorway in front of Bard, blocked it with poised revolver.
"Halt!" he yelled.
But the other rushed on. Calamity whipped down the gun and fired, but
even before the trigger was pulled he was sagging toward the floor, for
Bard had shot to kill. Over the prostrate form of the cowpuncher he
leaped, and into the night, where the white face of Sally greeted him.
Outside the red inferno of that room, as if the taste of blood had
maddened him, he raised his arms and shouted, like one crying a wild
prayer: "William Drew! William Drew! Come out to me!"
Small, strong hands gripped his wrists and turned him away from the
"You fool!" cried Sally. "Ride for it! You've raised your hell at
last--I knew you would!"
Red light flared in all the windows of the dining-room; shouts and
groans and cursing poured out of them. Bard turned and followed her out
toward the stable on the run, and he heard her moaning as she ran: "I
knew! I knew!"
She mounted her horse, which was tethered near the barn. He chose at
random the first horse he reached, a grey, threw on his back the saddle
which hung from the peg behind, mounted, and they were off through the
night. No thought, no direction; but only in blind speed there seemed to
be the hope of a salvation.
A mile, two miles dropped behind them, and then in an open stretch, for
he had outridden her somewhat, Anthony reined back, caught the bridle of
her horse, and pulled it down to a sharp trot.
"Why have you come?"
Their faces were so close that even through the night he could see the
grim set of her lips.
"Ain't you raised your hell--the hell you was hungry to raise? Don't you
"What I've done is my own doing. I'll take the burden of it."
"You'll take a halter for it, that's what you'll take. The whole
range'll rise for this. You're marked already. Everywhere you've gone
you've made an enemy. They'll be out to get you--Nash--Boardman--the
"Let 'em come. I'd do this all over again."
"Born gunman, eh? Bard, you ain't got a week to live."
It was fierceness; it was a reproach rather than sorrow.
"Then let me go my own way. Why do you follow, Sally?"
"D'you know these mountains?"
"Then they'd run you down in twelve hours. Where'll you head for?"
He said, as the first thought entered his mind: "I'll go for the old
house that Drew has on the other side of the range."
"That ain't bad. Know the short cut?"
"You can make it in five hours over one trail. But of course you don't
know. Nobody but old Dan and me ever knowed it. Let go my bridle and
ride like hell."
She jerked the reins away from him and galloped off at full speed. He
"Sally!" he called.
But she kept straight ahead, and he followed, shouting, imploring her to
go back. Finally he settled to the chase, resolved on overtaking her. It
was no easy task, for she rode like a centaur, and she knew the way.
NASH STARTS THE FINISH
Through the windows and the door the cowpunchers fled from the red
spurt of the flames, each man for himself, except Shorty Kilrain, who
stooped, gathered the lanky frame of Calamity Ben into his arms, and
staggered out with his burden. The great form of William Drew loomed
through the night.
His hand on the shoulder of Shorty, he cried: "Is he badly burned?"
"Shot," said Kilrain bitterly, "by the tenderfoot; done for."
It was strange to hear the big voice go shrill with pain.
"Shot? By Anthony? Give him to me."
Kilrain lowered his burden to the ground.
"You've got him murdered. Ain't you through with him? Calamity, he was
But the big man thrust him aside and knelt by the stricken cowpuncher.
He commanded: "Gather the boys; form a line of buckets from the pump;
fight that fire. It hasn't a hold on the house yet."
The habit of obedience persisted in Kilrain. Under the glow of the fire,
excited by the red light, the other man stood irresolute, eager for
action, but not knowing what to do. A picture came back to him of a ship
labouring in a storm; the huddling men on the deck; the mate on the
bridge, shrieking his orders through a megaphone. He cupped his hands at
his mouth and began to bark orders.
They obeyed on the run. Some rushed for the kitchen and secured buckets;
two manned the big pump and started a great gush of water; in a moment a
steady stream was being flung by the foremost men of the line against
the smoking walls and even the ceiling of the dining-room. So far it was
the oil itself, which had made most of the flame and smoke, and now,
although the big table was on fire, the main structure of the house was
They caught it in time and worked with a cheer, swinging the buckets
from hand to hand, shouting as the flames fell little by little until
the floor of the room was awash, the walls gave back clouds of steam,
and the only fire was that which smouldered along the ruined table. Even
this went out, hissing, at last, and they came back with blackened,
singed faces to Calamity and Drew.
The rancher had torn away the coat and shirt of the wounded man, and
now, with much labour, was twisting a tight bandage around his chest. At
every turn Calamity groaned feebly. Kilrain dropped beside his partner,
taking the head between his hands.
"Calamity--pal," he said, "how'd you let a tenderfoot, a damned
tenderfoot, do this?"
The other sighed: "I dunno. I had him covered. I should have sent him to
hell. But sure shootin' is better'n fast shootin'. He nailed me fair and
square while I was blockin' him at the door."
"How d'you feel?"
"Done for, Shorty, but damned glad that-----"
His voice died away in a horrible whisper and bubbles of red foam rose
to his lips.
"God!" groaned Shorty, and then called loudly, as if the strength of his
voice might recall the other, "Calamity!"
The eyes of Calamity rolled up; the wide lips twisted over formless
words; there was no sound from his mouth. Someone was holding a lantern
whose light fell full on the silent struggle. It was Nash, his habitual
sneer grown more malevolent than ever.
"What of the feller that done it, Shorty?" he suggested.
"So help me God," said the cattleman, with surprising softness, "the
range ain't big enough to keep him away from me."
Drew, completing his bandage, said, "That's enough of such talk, Nash.
Let it drop there. Here, Kilrain, take his feet. Help me into the house
They moved in, the rest trailing behind like sheep after a bell-weather,
and it was astonishing to see the care with which big Drew handled his
burden, placing it at last on his own four-poster bed.
"The old man's all busted up," said little Duffy to Nash. "I'd never of
guessed he was so fond of Calamity."
"You're a fool," answered Nash. "It ain't Calamity he cares about."
"Then what the devil is it?"
"I dunno. We're goin' to see some queer things around here."
Drew, having disposed of the wounded man, carefully raising his head on
a pillow, turned to the others.
"Who saw Ben shot?"
"I did," said Kilrain, who was making his way to the door.
"Come back here. Are you sure you saw the shot fired?"
"I seen the tenderfoot--damn his eyes!--whip up his gun and take a snap
shot while he was runnin' for the door where Calamity stood."
Nash raised his lantern high, so that the light fell full on the face of
Drew. The rancher was more grey than ever.
He said, with almost an appeal in his voice: "Mightn't it have been one
of the other boys, shooting at random?"
The tone of Kilrain raised and grew ugly.
"Are you tryin' to cover the tenderfoot, Drew?"
The big man made a fierce gesture.
"Why should I cover him?"
"Because you been actin' damned queer," answered Nash.
"Ah, you're here again, Nash? I know you hate Bard because he was too
much for you."
"He got the start of me, but I'll do a lot of finishing."
"Kilrain," called Drew, "you're Calamity's best friend. Ride for Eldara
and bring back Dr. Young. Quick! We're going to pull Ben through."
"Jest a waste of time," said Nash coolly. "He's got one foot in hell
"You've said too much, Nash. Kilrain, are you going?"
"I'll stop for the doctor at Eldara, but then I'll keep on riding."
"What do you mean?"
"I'll go with you," said Nash, and turned with the other.
"Stop!" called Drew. "Boys, I know what you have planned; but let the
law take care of this. Remember that we were the aggressors against
young Bard. He came peaceably into this house and I tried to hold him
here. What would you have done in his place?"
"They's a dozen men know how peaceable he is," said Nash drily.
"Wherever he's gone on the range he's raised hell. He's cut out for a
killer, and Glendin in Eldara knows it."
"I'll talk to Glendin. In the meantime you fellows keep your hands off
Bard. In the first place because if you take the law into your own hands
you'll have me against you--understand?"
Kilrain and Nash glowered at him a moment, and then backed through the
As they hurried for the barn Kilrain asked: "What makes the chief act
soft to that hell-raiser?"
"If you have a feller cut out for your own meat," answered Nash, "d'you
want to have any one else step in and take your meal away?"
"But you and me, Steve, we'll get this bird."
"We'll get Glendin behind us first."
"Play safe. Glendin can swear us in as deputies to--'apprehend,' as he
calls it, this Bard. Apprehendin' a feller like Bard simply means to
shoot him down and ask him to come along afterward, see?"
"Nash, you got a great head. You ought to be one of these lawyers. There
ain't nothin' you can't find a way out of. But will Glendin do it?"
"He'll do what I ask him to do."
"Friend of yours?"
"Better'n a friend."
"Got something on him?"
"These here questions, they ain't polite, Shorty," grinned Nash.
"All right. You do the leadin' in this game and I'll jest follow suit.
But lay your course with nothin' but the tops'ls flyin', because I've
got an idea we're goin' to hit a hell of a storm before we get back to
"For my part," answered Nash, "I'm gettin' used to rough weather."
They saddled their horses and cut across the hills straight for Eldara.
Kilrain spurred viciously, and the roan had hard work keeping up.
"Hold in," called Nash after a time. "Save your hoss, Shorty. This ain't
no short trail. D'you notice the hosses when we was in the barn?"
"Bard took Duffy's grey, and the grey can go like the devil.
Hoss-liftin'? That's another little mark on Bard's score."
TO "APPREHEND" A MAN
As if to make up for its silence of the blast when the two reached it
late the night before, Eldara was going full that evening. Kilrain went
straight for Doc Young, to bring him later to join Nash at the house of
The front of the deputy's house was utterly dark, but Nash, unabashed,
knocked loudly on the door, and went immediately to the rear of the
place. He was in time to see a light wink out at an upper window of the
two-story shack. He slipped back, chuckling, among the trees, and waited
until the back door slammed and a dark figure ran noiselessly down the
steps and out into the night. Then he returned, still chuckling, to the
front of the house, and banged again on the door.
A window above him raised at length and a drawling voice, apparently
overcome with sleep, called down: "What's up in Eldara?"
Nash answered: "Everything's wrong. Deputy Glendin, he sits up in a back
room playin' poker and hittin' the redeye. No wonder Eldara's goin' to
A muffled cursing rolled down to the cowpuncher, and then a sharp
challenge: "Who's there?"
"Nash, you blockhead!"
"Nash!" cried a relieved voice, "come in; confound you. I thought--no
matter what I thought. Come in!"
Nash opened the door and went up the stairs. The deputy met him, clad in
a bathrobe and carrying a lamp. Under the bathrobe he was fully dressed.
"Thought your game was called, eh?" grinned the cattleman.
"Sure. I had a tidy little thing in black-jack running and was pulling
in the iron boys, one after another. Why didn't you tip me off? You
could have sat in with us."
"Nope; I'm here on business."
"Let's have it."
He led the way into a back room and placed the lamp on a table littered
with cards and a black bottle looming in the centre.
"Nope. I said I came on business."
"I thought so."
"I want a posse."
"What's he done?"
"Killed Calamity Ben at Drew's place, started a fire that near burned
the house, and lifted Duffy's hoss."
Glendin whistled softly.
"Nice little start."
"Sure, and it's just a beginnin' for this Bard."
"I'll go out to Drew's place and see what he's done."
"And then start after him with a gang?"
"By that time he'll be a thousand miles away."
"I'm running this little party. Let me get a gang together. You can
swear 'em in and put me in charge. I'll guarantee to get him before
Glendin shook his head.
"It ain't legal, Steve. You know that."
"The hell with legality."
"That's what you say; but I got to hold my job."
"You'll do your part by goin' to Drew's place with Doc Young. He'll be
here with Shorty Kilrain in a minute."
"And let you go after Bard?"
"Far's I know, you may jest shoot him down and then come back and say
you done it because he resisted arrest."
"You admit that's what you want, Steve?"
"Well, partner, it can't be done. That ain't apprehendin' a man. It's
jest plain murder."
"D'you think you could ever catch that bird alive?"
"Dunno, I'd try."
"Never in a thousand years."
"He don't know the country. He'll travel in a circle and I'll ride him
"He's got somebody with him that knows the country better'n you or me."
The face of Nash twisted into an ugly grimace.
"It is; but it's true."
"It ain't possible. Sally ain't the kind to make a fool of herself
about any man, let alone a gun-fighter."
"That's what I thought, but I seen her back up this Bard ag'in' a
roomful of men. And she'll keep on backin' him till he's got his toes
"That's another reason for you to get Bard, eh? Well, I can't send you
after him, Nash. That's final."
"Not a bit. I know too much about you, Glendin."
The glance of the other raised slowly, fixed on Nash, and then lowered
to the floor. He produced papers and Durham, rolled and lighted his
cigarette, and inhaled a long puff.
"So that's the game, Steve?"
"I hate to do it."
"Let that go. You'll run the limit on this?"
"Listen, Glendin. I've got to get this Bard. He's out-ridden me,
out-shot me, out-gamed me, out-lucked me, out-guessed me--and taken
Sally. He's mine. He b'longs all to me. D'you see that?"
"I'm only seein' one thing just now."
"I know. You think I'm double-crossin' you. Maybe I am, but I'm
"After all," mused the deputy, "you'd be simply doin' work I'd have to
do later. You're right about this Bard. He'll never be taken alive."
"Good ol' Glendin. I knew you'd see light. I'll go out and get the boys
I want in ten minutes. Wait here. Shorty and Doc Young will come in a
minute. One thing more: when you get to Drew's place you'll find him
"I dunno why. It's a bad mess. You see, he's after this Bard himself,
the way I figure it, and he wants him left alone. He'd raise hell if he
knew a posse was after the tenderfoot."
"Drew's a bad one to get against me."
"I know. You think I'm double-crossin'?"
"I'll do it. But this squares all scores between us, Steve?"
"Right. It leaves the debt on my side, and you know I've never dodged an
I.O.U. Drew may talk queer. He'll tell you that Bard done all that work
"The point is he killed a man and stole a hoss. No matter what comes of
it, he's got to be arrested, don't he?"
"And shot down while 'resistin' arrest'? Steve, I'd hate to have you out
for me like this."
"But you won't listen to Drew?"
"Not this one time. But, Lord, man, I hate to face him if he's on the
warpath. Who'll you take with you?"
"Shorty, of course. He was Calamity Ben's pal. The rest will be--don't
laugh--Butch Conklin and his gang."
"Hold yourself together. That's what I mean--Butch Conklin."
"After you dropped him the other night?"
"Self-defence, and he knows it. I can find Butch, and I can make him go
with me. Besides, he's out for Bard himself."
The deputy said with much meaning: "You can do a lot of queer things,
"Forget it, Glendin."
"I will for a while. D'you really think I can let you take out Butch and
his gunmen ag'in' Bard? Why, they're ten times worse'n the tenderfoot."
"Maybe, but there's nothin' proved ag'in' 'em--nothin' but a bit of
cattle-liftin', maybe, and things like that. The point is, they're all
hard men, and with 'em along I can't help but get Bard."
"Murder ain't proved on Butch and his men, but it will be before long."
"Wait till it's proved. In the meantime use em all."
"You've a long head, Nash."
"Glendin, I'm makin' the biggest play of my life. I'm off to find Butch.
You'll stand firm with Drew?"
"I won't hear a word he says."
"S'long! Be back in ten minutes. Wait for me."
He was as good as his word. Even before the ten minutes had elapsed he
was back, and behind followed a crew of heavy thumping boots up the
stairs of Glendin's house and into the room where he sat with Dr. Young
and Shorty Kilrain. They rose, but not from respect, when Nash entered
with Conklin and his four ill-famed followers behind.
The soiled bandage on the head of Butch was far too thick to allow his
hat to sit in its normal position. It was perched high on top, and
secured in place by a bit of string which passed from side to side under
the chin. Behind him came Lovel, an almost albino type with
straw-coloured hair and eyes bleached and passionless; the vacuous smile
was never gone from his lips.
More feared and more hated than Conklin himself was Isaacs. The latter,
always fastidious, wore a blue-striped vest, without a coat to obscure
it, and about his throat was knotted a flaming vermilion necktie,
fastened in place with a diamond stickpin--obviously the spoil of some
recent robbery. Glendin, watching, ground his teeth.
McNamara followed. He had been a squatter, but his family had died of a
fever, and McNamara's mind had been unsettled ever since; whisky had
finished the work of sending him on the downward path with Conklin's
little crew of desperadoes. Men shrank from facing those too-bright,
wandering eyes, yet it was from pity almost as much as horror.
Finally came Ufert. He was merely a round-faced boy of nineteen, proud
of the distinguished bad company he kept. He was that weak-minded type
which is only strong when it becomes wholly evil. With a different
leadership he would have become simply a tobacco-chewing hanger-on at
cross-roads saloons and general merchandise stores. As it was, feeling
dignified by the brotherhood of crime into which he had been admitted as
a full member, and eager to prove his qualifications, he was as
dangerous as any member of the crew.
The three men who were already in the room had been prepared by Glendin
for this new arrival, but the fact was almost too much for their
credence. Consequently they rose, and Dr. Young muttered at the ear of
Glendin: "Is it possible, Deputy Glendin, that you're going to use these
"A thief to catch a thief," whispered Glendin in reply.
He said aloud: "Butch, I've been looking for you for a long time, but I
really never expected to see you quite as close as this."
"You've said it," grinned Butch, "I ain't been watchin' for you real
close, but now that I see you, you look more or less like a man should
look. H'ware ye, Glendin?"
He held out his hand, but the deputy, shifting his position, seemed to
overlook the grimy proffered palm.
"You fellows know that you're wanted by the law," he said, frowning on
A grim meaning rose in the vacuous eye of Lovel; Isaacs caressed his
diamond pin, smiling in a sickly fashion; McNamara's wandering stare
fixed and grew unhumanly bright; Ufert openly dropped his hand on his
gun-butt and stood sullenly defiant.
"You know that you're wanted, and you know why," went on Glendin, "but
I've decided to give you a chance to prove that you're white men and
useful citizens. Nash has already told you what we want. It's work for
seven men against one, but that one man is apt to give you all plenty
to do. If you are--successful"--he stammered a little over the right
word--"what you have done in the past will be forgotten. Hold up your
right hands and repeat after me."
And they repeated the oath after him in a broken, drawling chorus,
stumbling over the formal, legal phraseology.
He ended, and then: "Nash, you're in charge of the gang. Do what you
want to with them, and remember that you're to get Bard back in town
Butch Conklin smiled, and the same smile spread grimly from face to face
among the gang. Evidently this point had already been elucidated to them
by Nash, who now mustered them out of the house and assembled them on
their horses in the street below.
"Which way do we travel?" asked Shorty Kilrain, reining close beside the
leader, as though he were anxious to disestablish any relationship with
the rest of the party.
"Two ways," answered Nash. "Of course I don't know what way Bard headed,
because he's got the girl with him, but I figure it this way: if a
tenderfoot knows any part of the range at all, he'll go in that
direction after he's in trouble. I've seen it work out before. So I
think that Bard may have ridden straight for the old Drew place on the
other side of the range. I know a short cut over the hills; we can reach
there by morning. Kilrain, you'll go there with me.
"It may be that Bard will go near the old place, but not right to it.
Chances may be good that he'll put up at some place near the old
ranchhouse, but not right on the spot. Jerry Wood, he's got a house
about tour or five miles to the north of Drew's old ranch. Butch, you
take your men and ride for Wood's place. Then switch south and ride for
Partridge's store; if we miss him at Drew's old house we'll go on and
join you at Partridge's store and then double back. He'll be somewhere
inside that circle and Eldara, you can lay to that. Now, boys, are your
"Then ride, and don't spare the spurs. Hoss flesh is cheaper'n your own
The cavalcade separated and galloped in two directions through the town
Glendin and Dr. Young struck out for the ranch of William Drew, but they
held a moderate pace, and it was already grey dawn before they arrived;
yet even at that hour several windows of the house were lighted. They
were led directly to Drew's room.
The big man welcomed them at the door with a hand raised for silence. He
seemed to have aged greatly during the night, but between the black
shadows beneath and the shaggy brows above, his eyes gleamed more
brightly than ever. About his mouth the lines of resolution were worn
deep by his vigil.
"He seems to be sleeping rather well--though you hear his breathing?"
It was a soft, but ominously rattling sound.
"Through the lungs," said the doctor instantly.
The cowpuncher was completely covered, except for his head and feet. On
the latter, oddly enough, were still his grimy boots, blackening the
white sheets on which they rested.
"I tried to work them off--you see the laces are untied," explained
Drew, "but the poor fellow recovered consciousness at once, and
struggled to get his feet free. He said that he wants to die with his
"You tried his pulse and his temperature?" whispered the doctor.
"Yes. The temperature is not much above normal, the pulse is extremely
rapid and very faint. Is that a bad sign?"
Drew winced and caught his breath so sharply that the others stared at
him. It might have been thought that he had just heard his own death
He explained: "Ben has been with me a number of years. It breaks me up
to think of losing him like this."
The doctor took the pulse of Calamity with lightly touching fingers that
did not waken the sleeper; then he felt with equal caution the forehead
"Well?" asked Drew eagerly.
"The chances are about one out of ten."
It drew a groan from the rancher.
"But there is still some hope."
The doctor shook his head and carefully unwound the bandages. He
examined the wound with care, and then made a dressing, and recovered
the little purple spot, so small that a five-cent piece would have
"Tell me!" demanded Drew, as Young turned at length.
"The bullet passed right through the body, eh?"
"He ought to have been dead hours ago. I can't understand it. But since
he's still alive we'll go on hoping."
"Hope?" whispered Drew.
It was as if he had received the promise of heaven, such brightness fell
across his haggard face.
"There's no use attempting to explain," answered Young. "An ordinary man
would have died almost instantly, but the lungs of some of these rangers
seem to be lined with leather. I suppose they are fairly embalmed with
excessive cigarette smoking. The constant work in the open air toughens
them wonderfully. As I said, the chances are about one out of ten, but
I'm only astonished that there is any chance at all."
"Doctor, I'll make you rich for this!"
"My dear sir, I've done nothing; it has been your instant care that
saved him--as far as he is saved. I'll tell you what to continue doing
for him; in half an hour I must leave."
Drew smiled faintly.
"Not till he's well or dead, doctor."
"I didn't quite catch that."
"You won't leave the room, Young, till this man is dead or on the way to
"Come, come, Mr. Drew, I have patients who--
"I tell you, there is no one else. Until a decision comes in this case
your world is bounded by the four walls of this room. That's final."
"Is it possible that you would attempt--"
"Anything is possible with me. Make up your mind. You shall not leave
this man till you've done all that's humanly possible for him."
"Mr. Drew, I appreciate your anxiety, but this is stepping too far. I
have an officer of the law with me--"
"Better do what he wants, Doc," said Glendin uneasily.
"Don't mouth words," ordered Drew sternly.
"There lies your sick man. Get to work. In this I'm as unalterable as
"The bill will be large," said Young sullenly, for he began to see that
it was as futile to resist the grey giant as it would have been to
attempt to stop the progress of a landslide.
"I'll pay you double what you wish to charge."
"Does this man's life mean so much to you?"
"A priceless thing. If you save him, you take the burden of murder off
the soul of another."
"I'll do what I can."
"I know you will."
He laid the broad hand on Young's shoulder. "Doctor, you must do more
than you can; you must accomplish the impossible; I tell you, it is
impossible for this man to die; he must live!"
He turned to Glendin.
"I suppose you want the details of what happened here?"
"Follow me. Doctor, I'll be gone only a moment."
He led the way into an adjoining room, and lighted a lamp. The sudden
flare cast deep shadows on the face leaning above, and Glendin started.
For the moment it seemed to him that he was seeing a face which had
looked on hell and lived to speak of it.
"Mr. Drew," he said, "you'd better hit the hay yourself; you look pretty
badly done up."
The other looked up with a singular smile, clenching and unclenching
his fingers as if he strove to relax muscles which had been tense for
"Glendin, the surface of my strength has not been scratched; I could
keep going every hour for ten days if it would save the life of the poor
fellow who lies in there."
He took a long breath.
"Now, then, let's get after this business. I'll tell you the naked
facts. Anthony Bard was approaching my house yesterday and word of his
coming was brought to me. For reasons of my own it was necessary that I
should detain him here for an uncertain length of time. For other
reasons it was necessary that I go to any length to accomplish my ends.
"I had another man--Lawlor, who looks something like me--take my place
in the eyes of Bard. But Bard grew suspicious of the deception. Finally
a girl entered and called Lawlor by name, as they were sitting at the
table with all the men around them. Bard rose at once with a gun in his
"Put yourself in his place. He found that he had been deceived, he knew
that he was surrounded by armed men, he must have felt like a cornered
rat. He drew his gun and started for the door, warning the others that
he meant to go the limit in order to get free. Mind you, it was no
"Then I ordered the men to keep him at all costs within the room. He saw
that they were prepared to obey me, and then he took a desperate chance
and shot down the gasoline lamp which hung over the table. In the
explosion and fire which resulted he made for the door. One man blocked
the way, levelled a revolver at him, and then Bard shot in self-defence
and downed Calamity Ben. I ask you, Glendin, is that self defence?"
The other drummed his finger-tips nervously against his chin; he was
thinking hard, and every thought was of Steve Nash.
"So far, all right. I ain't askin' your reasons for doin' some pretty
queer things, Mr. Drew."
"I'll stand every penalty of the law, sir. I only ask that you see that
punishment falls where it is deserved only. The case is clear. Bard
acted in self-defence."
Glendin was desperate.
He said at length: "When a man's tried in court they bring up his past
career. This feller Bard has gone along the range raisin' a different
brand of hell everywhere he went. He had a run-in with two gunmen,
Ferguson and Conklin. He had Eldara within an ace of a riot the first
night he hit the town. Mr. Drew, that chap looks the part of a killer;
he acts the part of a killer; and by God, he is a killer."
"You seem to have come with your mind already made up, Glendin," said
the rancher coldly.
"Not a bit. But go through the whole town or Eldara and ask the boys
what they think of this tenderfoot. They feel so strong that if he was
jailed they'd lynch him."
Drew raised a clenched fist and then let his arm fall suddenly limp at
"Then surely he must not be jailed."
"Want me to let him wander around loose and kill another man--in
"I want you to use reason--and mercy, Glendin!
"From what I've heard, you ain't the man to talk of mercy, Mr. Drew."
The other, as if he had received a stunning blow, slipped into a chair
and buried his face in his hands. It was a long moment before he could
speak, and when his hands were lowered, Glendin winced at what he saw in
the other's face.
"God knows I'm not," said Drew.
"Suppose we let the shootin' of Calamity go. What of hoss-liftin',
"Horse stealing? Impossible! Anthony--he could not be guilty of it!"
"Ask your man Duffy. Bard's ridin' Duffy's grey right now."
"But Duffy will press no claim," said the rancher eagerly. "I'll see to
that. I'll pay him ten times the value of his horse. Glendin, you can't
punish a man for a theft of which Duffy will not complain."
"Drew, you know what the boys on the range think of a hoss thief. It
ain't the price of what they steal; it's the low-down soul of the dog
that would steal it. It ain't the money. But what's a man without a hoss
on the range? Suppose his hoss is stole while he's hundred miles from
nowhere? What does it mean? You know; it means dyin' of thirst and goin'
through a hundred hells before the finish. I say shootin' a man is
nothin' compared with stealin' a hoss. A man that'll steal a hoss will
shoot his own brother; that's what he'll do. But I don't need to tell
you. You know it better'n me. What was it you done with your own hands
to Louis Borgen, the hoss-rustler, back ten years ago?"
A dead voice answered Glendin: "What has set you on the trail of Bard?"
"His own wrong doin'."
The rancher waved a hand of careless dismissal.
"I know you, Glendin," he said.
The deputy stirred in his chair, and then cleared his throat.
He said in a rising tone: "What d'you know?"
"I don't think you really care to hear it. To put it lightly, Glendin,
you've done many things for money. I don't accuse you of them. But if
you want to do one thing more, you can make more money at a stroke than
you've made in all the rest."
With all his soul the deputy was cursing Nash, but now the thing was
done, and he must see it through.
He rose glowering on Drew.
"I've stood a pile already from you; this is one beyond the limit.
Bribery ain't my way, Drew, no matter what I've done before."
"Is it war, then?"
And Glendin answered, forcing his tone into fierceness: "Anything you
want--any way you want it!"
"Glendin," said the other with a sudden lowering of his voice, "has some
other man been talking to you?"
"Who? Me? Certainly not."
"Drew, rein up. They's one thing no man can say to me and get away with
"I tell you, man, I'm holding myself in harder than I've ever done
before. Answer me!"
He did not even rise, but Glendin, his hand twitching close to the butt
of his gun, moved step by step away from those keen eyes.
"Nash; he's been to Eldara."
"I might have known. He told you about this?"
"And you're going the full limit of your power against Bard?"
"I'll do nothin' that ain't been done by others before me."
"Glendin, there have been cowardly legal murders before. Tell me at
least that you will not send a posse to 'apprehend' Bard until it's
learned whether or not Ben will die--and whether or not Duffy will press
the charge of horse stealing."
Glendin was at the door. He fumbled behind him, found the knob, and
swung it open.
"If you double-cross me," said Drew, "all that I've ever done to any man
before will be nothing to what I'll do to you, Glendin."
And the deputy cried, his voice gone shrill and high, "I ain't done
nothin' that ain't been done before!"
And he vanished through the doorway. Drew followed and looked after the
deputy, who galloped like a fugitive over the hills.
"Shall I follow him?" he muttered to himself, but a faint groan reached
him from the bedroom.
He turned on his heel and went back to Calamity Ben and the doctor.