Part 5 out of 6
After the first burst of speed, Bard resigned himself to following
Sally, knowing that he could never catch her, first because her horse
carried a burden so much lighter than his own, but above all because the
girl seemed to know every rock and twist in the trail, and rode as
courageously through the night as if it had been broad day.
She was following a course as straight as a crow's flight between the
ranch of Drew and his old place, a desperate trail that veered and
twisted up the side of the mountain and then lurched headlong down on
the farther side of the crest. Half a dozen times Anthony checked his
horse and shook his head at the trail, but always the figure of the
girl, glimmering through the dusk ahead, challenged and drove him on.
Out of the sharp descent of the downward trail they broke suddenly onto
the comparatively smooth floor of the valley, and he followed her at a
gallop which ended in front of the old house of Drew. They had been far
less than five hours on the way, yet his long detour to the south had
given him three days of hard riding to cover the same points. His desire
to meet Logan again became almost a passion. He swung to the ground, and
advanced to Sally with his hands outstretched.
"You've shown me the short cut, all right," he said, "and I thank you a
thousand times, Sally. So-long, and good luck to you."
She disregarded his extended hand.
"Want me to leave you here, Bard?"
"You certainly can't stay."
She slipped from her horse and jerked the reins over its head. In
another moment she had untied the cinch and drawn off the saddle. She
held its weight easily on one forearm. Actions, after all, are more
eloquent than words.
"I suppose," he said gloomily, "that if I'd asked you to stay you'd have
ridden off at once?"
She did not answer for a moment, and he strained his eyes to read her
expression through the dark. At length she laughed with a new note in
her voice that drew her strangely close to him. During the long ride he
had come to feel toward her as toward another man, as strong as himself,
almost, as fine a horseman, and much surer of herself on that wild
trail; but now the laughter in an instant rubbed all this away. It was
rather low, and with a throaty quality of richness. The pulse of the
sound was like a light finger tapping some marvellously sensitive chord
"D'you think that?" she said, and went directly through the door of the
He heard the crazy floor creak beneath her weight; the saddle dropped
with a thump; a match scratched and a flight of shadows shook across the
doorway. The light did not serve to make the room visible; it fell
wholly upon his own mind and troubled him like the waves which spread
from the dropping of the smallest pebble and lap against the last shores
of a pool. Dumfounded by her casual surety, he remained another moment
with the rein in the hollow of his arm.
Finally he decided to mount as silently as possible and ride off through
the night away from her. The consequences to her reputation if they
spent the night so closely together was one reason; a more selfish and
more moving one was the trouble which she gave him. The finding and
disposing of Drew should be the one thing to occupy his thoughts, but
the laughter of the girl the moment before had suddenly obsessed him,
wiped out the rest of the world, enmeshed them hopelessly together in
the solemn net of the night, the silence. He resented it; in a vague way
he was angry with Sally Fortune.
His foot was in the stirrup when it occurred to him that no matter how
softly he withdrew she would know and follow him. It seemed to Anthony
that for the first time in his life he was not alone. In other days
social bonds had fallen very lightly on him; the men he knew were
acquaintances, not friends; the women had been merely border
decorations, variations of light and shadow which never shone really
deep into the stream of his existence; even his father had not been near
him; but by the irresistible force of circumstances which he could not
control, this girl was forced bodily upon his consciousness.
Now he heard a cheery, faint crackling from the house and a rosy glow
pervaded the gloom beyond the doorway. It brought home to Anthony the
fact that he was tired; weariness went through all his limbs like the
sound of music. Music in fact, for the girl was singing softly--to
He took his foot from the stirrup, unsaddled, and carried the saddle
into the room. He found Sally crouched at the fire and piling bits of
wood on the rising flame. Her face was squinted to avoid the smoke, and
she sheltered her eyes with one hand. At his coming she smiled briefly
up at him and turned immediately back to the fire. The silence of that
smile brought their comradeship sharply home to him. It was as if she
understood his weariness and knew that the fire was infinitely
comforting. Anthony frowned; he did not wish to be understood. It was
He sat on one of the bunks, and when she took her place on the other he
studied her covertly, with side glances, for he was beginning to feel
strangely self-conscious. It was the situation rather than the girl that
gained upon him, but he felt shamed that he should be so uncertain of
himself and so liable to expose some weakness before the girl.
That in turn raised a blindly selfish desire to make her feel and
acknowledge his mastery. He did not define the emotion exactly, nor see
clearly what he wished to do, but in a general way he wanted to be
necessary to her, and to let her know at the same time that she was
nothing to him. He was quite sure that the opposite was the truth just
At this point he shrugged his shoulders, angry that he should have
slipped so easily into the character of a sullen boy, hating a
benefactor for no reason other than his benefactions; but the same
vicious impulse made him study the face of Sally Fortune with an
impersonal, coldly critical eye. It was not easy to do, for she sat with
her head tilted back a little, as though to take the warmth of the fire
more fully. The faint smile on her lips showed her comfort, mingled with
Here he lost the trend of his thoughts by beginning to wonder of what
she could be thinking, but he called himself back sharply to the
analysis of her features. It was a game with which he had often amused
himself among the girls of his eastern acquaintance. Their beauty, after
all, was their only weapon, and when he discovered that that weapon was
not of pure steel, they became nothing; it was like pushing them away
with an arm of infinite length.
There was food for criticism in Sally's features. The nose, of course,
was tipped up a bit, and the mouth too large, but Anthony discovered
that it was almost impossible to centre his criticism on either feature.
The tip-tilt of the nose suggested a quaint and infinitely buoyant
spirit; the mouth, if generously wide, was exquisitely made. She was
certainly not pretty, but he began to feel with equal certainty that she
A waiting mood came on him while he watched, as one waits through a
great symphony and endures the monotonous passages for the sake of the
singing bursts of harmony to which the commoner parts are a necessary
background. He began to wish that she would turn her head so that he
could see her eyes. They were like the inspired part of that same
symphony, a beauty which could not be remembered and was always new,
satisfying. He could make her turn by speaking, and knowing that this
was so, he postponed the pleasure like a miser who will only count his
gold once a day.
From the side view he dwelt on the short, delicately carved upper lip
and the astonishingly pleasant curve of the cheek.
"Look at me," he said abruptly.
She turned, observed him calmly, and then glanced back to the fire. She
asked no question.
Her chin rested on her hands, now, so that when she spoke her head
nodded a little and gave a significance to what she said.
"The grey doesn't belong to you?"
So she was thinking of horses!
"Well," she repeated.
"Hoss-lifting," she mused.
"Why shouldn't I take a horse when they had shot down mine?"
She turned to him again, and this time her gaze went over him slowly,
curiously, but without speaking she looked back to the fire, as though
explanation of what "hoss-lifting" meant were something far beyond the
grasp of his mentality. His anger rose again, childishly, sullenly, and
he had to arm himself with indifference.
"Who'd you drop, Bard?"
"The one they call Calamity Ben."
"Is he done for?"
The turmoil of the scene of his escape came back to him so vividly that
he wondered why it had ever been blurred to obscurity.
She said: "In a couple of hours we'd better ride on."
That was all; no comment, no exclamation--she continued to gaze with
that faint, retrospective smile toward the fire. He knew now why she
angered him; it was because she had held the upper hand from the minute
that ride over the short pass began--he had never once been able to
assert himself impressively. He decided to try now.
"I don't intend to ride on."
He felt the clash of her will on his, even like flint against steel,
whenever they spoke, and he began to wonder what spark would start a
fire. It made him think of a game of poker, in a way, for he never knew
what the next instant would place in his hands while the cards of chance
were shuffled and dealt. Tired? There was a subtle, scoffing challenge
hidden somewhere in that word.
"No, but I don't intend to go any farther from Drew."
Her smile grew more pronounced; she even looked to him with a frank
amusement, for apparently she would not take him seriously.
"If I were you, he'd be the last man I'd want to be near."
"I suppose you would."
As if she picked up the gauntlet, she turned squarely on the bunk and
"You're going to hit the trail in an hour, understand?"
It delighted him--set him thrilling with excitement to feel her open
anger and the grip of her will against his; he had to force a frown in
order to conceal a smile.
"If I do, it will be to ride back toward Drew."
Her lips parted to make an angry retort, and then he watched her steel
herself with patience, like a mother teaching an old lesson to a child.
"D'you know what you'd be like, wanderin' around these mountains without
"Like a kid in a dark, lonesome room. You'd travel in a circle and fall
into their hands in a day."
She was still patient.
"Follow me close, Bard. I mean that if you don't do what I say I'll cut
loose and leave you alone here."
He was silent, enjoying her sternness, glad to have roused her, no
matter what the consequences; knowing that each second heightened the
Apparently she interpreted his speechlessness in a different way. She
said after a moment: "That sounds like quittin' cold on you. I won't do
it unless you try some fool thing like riding back toward Drew."
He waited again as long as he dared, then: "Don't you see that the last
thing I want is to keep you with me?"
There was no pleasure in that climax. She sat with parted lips, her
hands clasped tightly in her lap, staring at him. He became as vividly
conscious of her femininity as he had been when she laughed in the dark.
There was the same sustained pulsing, vital emotion in this silence.
He explained hastily: "A girl's reputation is a fragile thing, Sally."
And she recovered herself with a start, but not before he saw and
understood. It was as if, in the midst of an exciting hand, with the
wagers running high, he had seen her cards and knew that his own hand
was higher. The pleasant sense of mastery made a warmth through him.
"Meaning that they'd talk about me? Bard, they've already said enough
things about me to fill a book--notes and all, with a bunch of pictures
thrown in. What I can't live down I fight down, and no man never says
the same thing twice about me. It ain't healthy. If that's all that
bothers you, close your eyes and let me lead you out of this mess."
He hunted about for some other way to draw her out. After all, it was an
old, old game. He had played it before many a time; though the setting
and the lights had been different the play was always the same--a man,
and a woman.
She was explaining: "And it is a mess. Maybe you could get out after
droppin' Calamity, because it was partly self-defence, but there ain't
nothin' between here and God that can get you off from liftin' a hoss.
No, sir, not even returning the hoss won't do no good. I know! The only
thing is speed--and a thousand miles east of here you can stop ridin'."
He found the thing to say, and he made his voice earnest and low to give
the words wing and sharpness; it was like the bum of the bow string
after the arrow is launched, so tense was the tremor of his tone.
"There are two reasons why I can't leave. The first is Drew. I must get
back to him."
"Why d'you want Drew? Let me tell you, Bard, he's a bigger job than ten
tenderfeet like you could handle. Why, mothers scare their babies asleep
by tellin' of the things that William Drew has done."
"I can't tell you why. In fact, I don't altogether know the complete why
and wherefore. It's enough that I have to meet him and finish him!"
Her fingers interlaced and gripped; he wondered at their slenderness;
and leaning back so that his face fell under a slant, black shadow, he
enjoyed the flame of the firelight, turning her brown hair to amber and
gold. White and round and smooth and perfect was the column of her
throat, and it trembled with the stir of her voice.
"The most fool idea I ever heard. Sounds like something in a dream--a
nightmare. What d'you want to do, Anthony, make yourself famous? You
will be, all right; they'll put up your tombstone by a public
He would not answer, sure of himself; waiting, tingling with enjoyment.
As he expected, she said: "Go on; is the other reason as good as that
Making his expression grim, he leaned suddenly forward, and though the
width of the room separated them, she drew back a little, as though the
shadow of his coming cast a forewarning shade across her. He heard her
breath catch, and as if some impalpable and joyous spirit rushed to meet
and mingle with his, something from her, a spirit as warm as the fire,
as faintly, keenly sweet as an air from a night-dark, unseen garden
blowing in his face.
"The other reason is you, Sally Fortune. You can't go with me as far as
I must go; and I can't leave you behind."
Ah, there it was! He had fumbled at the keys of the organ in the dark;
he had spread his fingers amply and pressed down; behold, back from the
cathedral lofts echoed a rising music of surpassing beauty. Like the
organist, he sank back again in the shadow and wondered at the phrase of
melody. Surely he had not created it? Then what? God, perhaps. For her
lips parted to a smile that was suggested rather than seen, a tender,
womanly sweetness that played about her mouth; and a light came in her
eyes that would never wholly die from them. Afterward he would feel
shame for what he had done, but now he was wholly wrapped in the new
thing that had been born in her, like a bird striving to fly in the
teeth of a great storm, and giving back with reeling, drumming wings, a
beautiful and touching sight.
Her lips framed words that made no sound. Truly, she was making a
gallant struggle. Then she said: "Anthony!" She was pale with the
struggle, now, but she rose bravely to her part. She even laughed,
though it fell short like an arrow dropping in front of the target.
"Listen, Bard, you make a pretty good imitation of Samson, but I ain't
cut out for any Delilah. If I'm holding you here, why, cut and run and
She drew a long breath and went on more confidently: "It ain't any use;
I'm not cut out for any man--I'd so much rather be--free. I've tried to
get interested in others, but it never works."
She laughed again, more surely, and with a certain hardness like the
ringing of metal against metal, or the after rhythm from the peal of a
bell. With deft, flying fingers she rolled a cigarette, lighted it, and
sat down cross-legged.
Through the first outward puff of smoke went these words: "The only
thing that's a woman about me is skirts. That's straight."
Yet he knew that his power was besieging her on every side. Her power
seemed gone, and she was like a rare flower in the hollow of his hand;
all that he had to do was to close his fingers, and--He despised himself
for it, but he could not resist. Moreover, he half counted on her pride
to make her break away.
"Then if it's hopeless, Sally Fortune, go now."
She answered, with an upward tilt of her chin: "Don't be a fool,
Anthony. If I can't be a woman to you, at least I can be a pal--the best
you've had in these parts. Nope, I'll see you through. Better saddle
"And start back for Drew?"
There was the thrust that made her start, as if the knife went through
"Are you such a plumb fool as that?"
"Go now, Sally. I tell you, it's no use. I won't leave the trail of
It was only the outward stretch of her arm, only the extension of her
hand, palm up, but it was as if her whole nature expanded toward him in
"Oh, Anthony, if you care for me, don't stay in reach of Drew! You're
She stopped and closed her eyes.
"Breakin' all the rules, like any tenderfoot would be expected to do."
She glanced at him, wistful, to see whether or not she had smoothed it
over; his face was a blank.
"You won't go?"
He insisted cruelly: "Why?"
"Because--because--well, can I leave a baby alone near a fire? Not me!"
Her voice changed. The light and the life was gone from it, but not all
the music. It was low, a little hoarse.
"I guess we can stay here tonight without no danger. And in the
morning--well, the morning can take care of itself. I'm going to turn
He rose obediently and stood at the door, facing the night. From behind
came the rustle of clothes, and the sense of her followed and surrounded
and stood at his shoulder calling to him to turn. He had won, but he
began to wonder if it had not been a Pyrrhic victory.
At length: "All right, Anthony. It's your turn."
She was lying on her side, facing the wall, a little heap of clothes on
the foot of her bunk, and the lithe lines of her body something to be
guessed at--sensed beneath the heavy blanket. He slipped into his own
bunk and lay a moment watching the heavy drift of shadows across the
ceiling. He strove to think, but the waves of light and dark blotted
from his mind all except the feeling of her nearness, that indefinable
power keen as the fragrance of a garden, which had never quite become
disentangled from his spirit. She was there, so close. If he called,
she would answer; if she answered------
He turned to the wall, shut his eyes, and closed his mind with a Spartan
effort. His breathing came heavily, regularly, like one who slept or one
who is running. Over that sound he caught at length another light
rustling, and then the faint creak as she crossed the crazy floor. He
made his face calm--forced his breath to grow more soft and regular.
Then, as if a shadow in which there is warmth had crossed him, he knew
that she was leaning above him, close, closer; he could hear her breath.
In a rush of tenderness, he forgot her beauty of eyes and round, strong
throat, and supple body--he forgot, and was immersed, like an eagle
winging into a radiant sunset cloud, in a sense only of her being, quite
divorced from the flesh, the mysterious rare power which made her Sally
Fortune, and would not change no matter what body might contain it.
It was blindingly intense, and when his senses cleared he knew that she
was gone. He felt as if he had awakened from a night full of dreams more
vivid than life--dreams which left him too weak to cope with reality.
For a time he dared not move. He was feeling for himself like a man who
fumbles his way down a dark passage dangerous with obstructions. At last
it was as if his hand touched the knob of a door; he swung it open,
entered a room full of dazzling light--himself. He shrank back from it;
closed his eyes against what he might see.
All he knew, then, was an overpowering will to see her. He turned, inch
by inch, little degree by degree, knowing that if, when he turned, he
looked into her eyes, the end would rush upon them, overwhelm them,
carry them along like straws on the flooding river. At last his head was
turned; he looked.
She lay on her back, smiling as she slept. One arm hung down from the
bunk and the graceful fingers trailed, palm up, on the floor, curling a
little, as if she had just relaxed her grasp on something. And down past
her shoulder, half covering the whiteness of her arm, fled the torrent
of brown hair, with the firelight playing through it like a sunlit mist.
He rose, and dressed with a deadly caution, for he knew that he must go
at once, partly for her sake that he must be seen apart from her this
night--partly because he knew that he must leave and never come back.
He had hit upon the distinctive feature of the girl--a purity as thin
and clear as the air of the uplands in which she drew breath. He stooped
and smoothed down the blankets of his bunk, for no trace of him must be
seen if any other man should come during this night. He would go far
away--see and be seen--apart from Sally Fortune. He picked up his
Before he departed he leaned low above her as she must have done above
him, until the dark shadow of lashes was tremulous against her cheek.
Then he straightened and stole step by step across the floor, to the
door, to the night; all the myriad small white eyes of the heavens
looked down to him in hushed surprise.
When he was at the old Drew place before, Logan had told him of Jerry
Wood's place, five miles to the north among the hills; and to this he
now directed his horse, riding at a merciless speed, as if he strove to
gain, from the swift succession of rocks and trees that whirled past
him, new thoughts to supplant the ones which already occupied him.
He reached in a short time a little rise of ground below which stretched
a darkly wooded hollow, and in the midst the trees gave back from a
small house, a two-storied affair, with not a light showing. He wished
to announce himself and his name at this place under the pretence of
asking harbourage for the brief remainder of the night. The news of what
he had done at Drew's place could not have travelled before him to
Wood's house; but the next day it would be sure to come, and Wood could
say that he had seen Bard--alone--the previous night. It would be a
sufficient shield for the name of Sally Fortune in that incurious
So he banged loudly at the door.
Eventually a light showed in an upper window and a voice cried: "Who's
"Who the devil is Anthony Bard?"
"Lost in the hills. Can you give me a place to sleep for the rest of the
night? I'm about done up."
"Wait a minute."
Voices stirred in the upper part of the house; the lantern disappeared;
steps sounded, descending the stairs, and then the door was unbarred and
held a cautious inch ajar. The ray of light jumped out at Bard like an
Evidently a brief survey convinced Jerry Wood that the stranger was no
more than what he pretended. He opened the door wide and stepped back.
Bard moved inside, taking off his hat.
"How'd you happen to be lost in the hills?"
"I'm a bit of a stranger around here, you see."
The other surveyed him with a growing grin.
"I guess maybe you are. Sure, we'll put you up for the night. Where's
He went out and raised the lantern above his head to look. The light
shone back from the lustrous wide eyes of the grey.
Wood turned to Bard.
"Seems to me I've seen that hoss."
"Yes. I bought it from Duffy out at Drew's place."
"Oh! Friend of Mr. Drew?"
Half a life spent on the mountain-desert had not been enough to remove
from Drew that distinguishing title of respect. The range has more great
men than it has "misters."
"Not exactly a friend," answered Bard.
"Sail right. Long's you know him, you're as good as gold with me. Come
on along to the barn and we'll knock down a feed for the hoss."
He chuckled as he led the way.
"For that matter, there ain't any I know that can say they're friends to
William Drew, though there's plenty that would like to if they thought
they could get away with it. How's he lookin'?"
"Why, big and grey."
"Sure. He never changes none. Time and years don't mean nothin' to Drew.
He started bein' a man when most of us is in short pants; he'll keep on
bein' a man till he goes out. He ain't got many friends--real ones--but
I don't know of any enemies, neither. All the time he's been on the
range Drew has never done a crooked piece of work. Every decent man on
the range would take his word ag'in'--well, ag'in' the Bible, for that
They reached the barn at the end of this encomium, and Bard unsaddled
his horse. The other watched him critically.
"Know somethin' about hosses, eh?"
"When I seen you, I put you down for a tenderfoot. Don't mind, do you?
The way you talked put me out."
"For that matter, I suppose I am a tenderfoot."
"Speakin' of tenderfoots, I heard of one over to Eldara the other night
that raised considerable hell. You ain't him, are you?"
He lifted the lantern again and fixed his keen eyes on Bard.
"However," he went on, lowering the lantern with an apologetic laugh,
"I'm standin' here askin' questions and chatterin' like a woman, and
what you're thinkin' of is bed, eh? Come on with me."
Upstairs in the house he found Bard a corner room with a pile of straw
in the corner by way of a mattress. There he spread out some blankets,
wished his guest a good sleep, and departed.
Left to himself, Anthony stretched out flat on his back. It had been a
wild, hard day, but he felt not the slightest touch of weariness; all he
wished was to relax his muscles for a few moments. Moreover, he must be
away from the house with the dawn-first, because Sally Fortune might
waken, guess where he had gone, and follow him; secondly because the
news of what had happened at Drew's place might reach Wood at any hour.
So he lay trying to fight the thought of Sally from his mind and
concentrate on some way of getting back to Drew without riding the
gauntlet of the law.
The sleep which stole upon him came by slow degrees; or, rather, he was
not fully asleep, when a sound outside the house roused him to sharp
consciousness compared with which his drowsiness had been a sleep.
It was a knocking at the door, not loud, but repeated. At the same time
he heard Jerry Wood cursing softly in a neighbouring room, and then the
telltale creak of bedsprings.
The host was rousing himself a second time that night. Or, rather, it
was morning now, for when Anthony sat up he saw that the hills were
stepping out of the shadows of the night, black, ugly shapes revealed by
a grey background of the sky. A window went up noisily.
"Am I runnin' a hotel?" roared Jerry Wood. "Ain't I to have no sleep no
more? Who are ye?"
A lowered, muttering voice answered.
"All right," said Jerry, changing his tone at once. "I'll come down."
His steps descended the noisy stairs rapidly; the door creaked. Then
voices began again outside the house, an indistinct mumble, rising to
one sharp height in an exclamation.
Almost at once steps again sounded on the stairs, but softly now. Bard
went quietly to the door, locked it, and stole back to the window. Below
it extended the roof of a shed, joining the main body of the house only
a few feet under his window and sloping to what could not have been a
dangerous distance from the ground. He raised the window-sash.
Yet he waited, something as he had waited for Sally Fortune to speak
earlier in the night, with a sense of danger, but a danger which
thrilled and delighted him. No game of polo could match suspense like
this. Besides, he would be foolish to go before he was sure.
The walls were gaping with cracks that carried the sounds, and now he
heard a sibilant whisper with a perfect clearness.
"This is the room."
There was a click as the lock was tried.
"Locked, damn it!"
"Shut up, Butch. Jerry, have you got a bar, or anything? We'll pry it
down and break in on him before he can get in action."
"You're a fool, McNamara. That feller don't take a wink to get into
action. Sure he didn't hear you when you hollered out the window? That
was a fool move, Wood."
"I don't think he heard. There wasn't any sound from his room when I
passed it goin' downstairs. Think of the nerve of this bird comin' here
to roost after what he done."
"He didn't think we'd follow him so fast."
But Anthony waited for no more. He slipped out on the roof of the shed,
lowered himself hand below hand to the edge, and dropped lightly to the
The grey, at his coming, flattened back its ears, as though it knew that
more hard work was coming, but he saddled rapidly, led it outside, and
rode a short distance into the forest. There he stopped.
His course lay due north, and then a swerve to the side and a straight
course west for the ranch of William Drew. If the hounds of the law were
so close on his trace, they certainly would never suspect him of
doubling back in this manner, and he would have the rancher to himself
when he arrived.
Yet still he did not start the grey forward to the north. For to the
south lay Sally Fortune, and at the thought of her a singular hollowness
came about his heart, a loneliness, not for himself, but for her. Yes,
in a strange way all self was blotted from his emotion.
It would be a surrender to turn back--now.
And like a defeated man who rides in a lost cause, he swung the grey to
the south and rode back over the trail, his head bowed.
"TODO ES PERDO"
It was not long after the departure of Bard that Sally Fortune awoke.
For a step had creaked on the floor, and she looked up to find Steve
Nash standing in the centre of the room with the firelight gloomily
about him; behind, blocking the door with his squat figure, stood Shorty
"Where's your side-kicker?" asked Nash. "Where's Bard?"
And looking across the room, she saw that the other bunk was empty. She
raised her arms quickly, as if to stifle a yawn, and sat up in the bunk,
holding the blanket close about her shoulders. The face she showed to
Nash was calmly contemptuous.
"The bird seems to be flown, eh?" she queried.
"Where is he?" he repeated, and made a step nearer.
She knew at last that her power over him as a woman was gone; she caught
the danger of his tone, saw it in the steadiness of the eyes he fixed
upon her. Behind was a great, vague feeling of loss, the old hollowness
about the heart. It made her reckless of consequences; and when Nash
asked, "Is he hangin' around behind the corner, maybe?" she cried:
"If he was that close you'd have sense enough to run, Steve."
The snarl of Nash showed his teeth.
"Out with it. The tenderfoot ain't left his woman fur away. Where's he
gone? Who's he gone to shoot in the back? Where's the hoss he started
out to rustle?"
"Kind of peeved, Nash, eh?"
One step more he made, towering above her.
"I've done bein' polite, Sally. I've asked you a question."
"And I've answered you: I don't know."
"Sally, I'm patient; I don't mean no wrong to you. What you've been to
me I'm goin' to bust myself tryin' to forget; but don't lie to me now."
Such a far greater woe kept up a throbbing ache in the hollow of her
throat that now she laughed, laughed slowly, deliberately. He leaned,
caught her wrist in a crushing pressure.
"You demon; you she-devil!"
She whirled out of the bunk, the blanket caught about her like the toga
of some ancient Roman girl; and as she moved she had swept up something
heavy and bright from the floor.
All this, and still his grip was on her left arm.
"Drop your hand, Nash."
With a falling of the heart, she knew that he did not fear her gun;
instead, a light of pleasure gleamed in his eyes and his lower jaw
She would never forget his face as he looked that moment.
"Will you tell me?"
"I'll see you in hell first."
By that wrist he drew her resistlessly toward him, and his other arm
went about her and crushed her close; hate, shame, rage, love were in
the contorted face above her. She pressed the muzzle of her revolver
against his side.
"You're in beckoning distance of that hell, Steve!"
"You she-wolf--shoot and be damned! I'd live long enough to strangle
"You know me, Steve; don't be a fool."
"Know you? Nobody knows you. And God Almighty, Sally, I love you worse'n
ever; love the very way you hate me. Come here!"
He jerked her closer still, leaned; and she remembered then that
Anthony had never kissed her. She said:
"You're safe; you know he can't see you."
He threw her from him and stood snarling like a dog growling for the
bone it fears to touch because there may be poison in the taste--a
starving dog, and a bone full of toothsome marrow which has only to be
crushed in order that it may be enjoyed.
"I'm wishin' nothin' more than that he could see me."
"Then you're a worse fool than I took you for, Steve. You know he'd go
through ten like you."
"There ain't no man has gone through me yet."
"But he would. You know it. He's not stronger, maybe not so strong. But
he was born to win, Steve; he's like--he's like Drew, in a way. He can't
"If I wrung that throat of yours," he said, "I know I couldn't get out
of you where he's gone."
"Because I don't know, you see."
"He's given me the slip."
"Funny, ain't it? But he has. Thought I couldn't ride fast enough to
keep up with him, maybe. He's gone on east, of course."
"That's another lie."
"Well, you know."
His voice changed.
"Has he really beat it away from you, Sally?"
She watched him with a strange, sneering smile. Then she stepped close.
"Lean your ear down to me, Steve."
"I'll tell you what ought to make you happy. He don't care for me no
more than I care for--you, Steve."
He straightened again, wondering.
"I threw myself at him. I dunno why I'm tellin' you, except it's right
that you should know. But he don't want me; he's gone on without me."
"An' you like him still?"
She merely stared, with a sick smile.
"My God!" he murmured, shaken deep with wonder. "What's he made of?"
"Steel and fire--that's all."
"Listen, Sally, forget what I've done, and--"
"Would you drop his trail, Steve?"
He cursed through his set teeth.
"If that's it--no. It's him or me, and I'm sure to beat him out.
Afterwards you'll forget him."
"Girls have said that before. I'll wait. There ain't no one but you for
me--damn you--I know that. I'll get him first, and then I'll wait."
"Ten like you couldn't get him."
"I've six men behind me."
She was still defiant, but her colour changed.
"Six, Sally, and he's out here among the hills, not knowing his right
from his left. I ask you: has he got a chance?"
She answered: "No; not one."
He turned on his heel, beckoned to Kilrain, who had stood moveless
through the strange dialogue, and went out into the night.
As they mounted he said: "We're going straight for the place where I
told Butch Conklin I'd meet him. Then the bunch of us will come back."
"Why waste time?"
"Because he's sure to come back. Shorty, after a feller has seen Sally
smile--the way she can smile--he couldn't keep away. I _know_!"
They rode off at a slow trot, like men who have resigned themselves to a
long journey, and Sally watched them from the door. She sat down,
crosslegged, before the fire, and stirred the embers, and strove to
But she was not equipped for thinking, all her life had been merely
action, action, action, and now, as she strove to build out some logical
sequence and find her destiny in it, she failed miserably, and fell back
upon herself. She was one of those single-minded people who give
themselves up to emotion rarely, but when they do their whole body,
their whole soul burns in the flame.
Into her mind came a phrase she had heard in her childhood. On the
outskirts of Eldara there was a little shack owned by a Mexican--Jose,
he was called, and nothing else, "Greaser" Jose. One night an alarm of
fire was given in Eldara, and the whole populace turned out to enjoy the
sight; it was a festival occasion, in a way. It was the house of Greaser
The cowpunchers manned a bucket line, but the source of water was far
away, the line too long, and the flames gained faster than they could be
quenched. All through the work of fire-fighting Greaser Jose was
everywhere about the house, flinging buckets of water through the
windows into the red furnace within; his wife and the two children stood
stupidly, staring, dumb. But in the end, when the fire was towering
above the roof of the house, roaring and crackling, the Mexican suddenly
raised a long arm and called to the bucket line, "It is done. Senors, I
Then he had folded his arms and repeated in a monotone, over and over
again: "_Todo es perdo; todo es perdo_!"
His wife came to him, frantic, wailing, and threw her arms around his
neck. He merely repeated with heavy monotony: "_Todo es perdo; todo es
The phrase clung in the mind of the girl; and she rose at last and went
back to her bunk, repeating: "_Todo es perdo; todo es perdo! All is
lost; all is lost_!"
No tears were in her eyes; they were wide and solemn, looking up to the
shadows of the ceiling, and so she went to sleep with the solemn Spanish
phrase echoing through her whole being: "_Todo es perdo_!"
She woke with the smell of frying bacon pungent in her nostrils.
The savour of roasting chicken, that first delicious burst of aroma when
the oven door is opened, would tempt an angel from heaven down to the
lowly earth. A Southerner declares that his nostrils can detect at a
prodigious distance the cooking of "possum and taters." A Kanaka has a
cosmopolitan appetite, but the fragrance which moves him most nearly is
the scent of fish baking in Ti leaves. A Frenchman waits unmoved until
the perfume of some rich lamb ragout, an air laden with spices, is
wafted toward him.
Every man and every nation has a special dish, in general; there is only
one whose appeal is universal. It is not for any class or nation; it is
primarily for "the hungry man," no matter what has given him an
appetite. It may be that he has pushed a pen all day, or reckoned up
vast columns, or wielded a sledge-hammer, or ridden a wild horse from
morning to night; but the savour of peculiar excellence to the nostrils
of this universal hungry man is the smell of frying bacon.
A keen appetite is even stronger than sorrow, and when Sally Fortune
awoke with that strong perfume in her nostrils, she sat straight up
among the blankets, startled as the cavalry horse by the sound of the
trumpet. What she saw was Anthony Bard kneeling by the coals of the fire
over which steamed a coffee-pot on one side and a pan of crisping bacon
on the other.
The vision shook her so that she rubbed her eyes and stared again to
make sure. It did not seem possible that she had actually wakened during
the night and found him gone, and with this reality before her she was
strongly tempted to believe that the coming of Nash was only a vivid
He turned his head quickly and smiled to her.
He was back at once, turning the bacon, which was done on the first
side. Seeing that his back was turned, she dressed quickly.
"How'd you sleep?"
He turned more slowly this time.
"You woke up in the middle of the night?"
"What wakened you?"
"Nash and Kilrain."
He sighed: "I wish I'd been here."
She answered: "I'll wash up; we'll eat; and then off on the trail. I've
an idea that the two will be back, and they'll have more men behind
After a little her voice called from the outside: "Anthony, have you had
a look at the morning?"
He came obediently to the doorway. The sun had not yet risen, but the
fresh, rose-coloured light already swept around the horizon throwing
the hills in sharp relief and flushing, faraway, the pure snows of the
Little Brothers. And so blinding was the sheen of the lake that it
seemed at first as though the sun were about to break from the waters,
for there all the radiance of the sunrise was reflected, concentrated.
Looking in this manner from the doorway, with the water on either side
and straight ahead, and the dark, narrow point of land cutting that
colour like a prow, it seemed to Anthony almost as if he stood on the
bridge of a ship which in another moment would gather head and sail out
toward the sea of fresh beauty beyond the peaks, for the old house of
William Drew stood on a small peninsula, thrusting out into the lake, a
low, shelving shore, scattered with trees.
Where the little tongue of land joined the main shore the ground rose
abruptly into a shoulder of rocks inaccessible to a horse; the entrance
and exit to the house must be on either side of this shoulder hugging
closely the edge of the water.
Feeling that halo of the morning about them, for a moment Anthony forgot
all things in the lift and exhilaration of the keen air; and he accepted
the girl as a full and equal partner in his happiness, looking to her
She knelt by the edge of the water, face and throat shining and wet, her
head bending back, her lips parted and smiling. It thrilled him as if
she were singing a silent song which made the brightness of the morning
and the colour beyond the peaks. He almost waited to see her throat
quiver--hear the high, sweet tone.
But a scent of telltale sharpness drew him a thousand leagues down and
made him whirl with a cry of dismay: "The bacon, Sally!"
It was hopelessly burned; some of it was even charred on the bottom of
the pan. Sally, returning on the run, took charge of the cookery and
went about it with a speed and ability that kept him silent; which being
the ideal mood for a spectator, he watched and found himself learning
Whatever that scene of the night before meant in the small and definite,
in the large and vague it meant that he had a claim of some sort on
Sally Fortune and it is only when a man feels that he has this claim,
this proprietorship, as it were, that he begins to see a woman clearly.
Before this his observance has been half blind through prejudice either
for or against; he either sees her magnified with adulation, or else the
large end of the glass is placed against his eye and she is merely a
speck in the distance. But let a woman step past that mysterious wall
which separates the formal from the intimate--only one step--at once she
is surrounded by the eyes of a man as if by a thousand spies. So it was
It moved him, for instance, to see the supple strength of her fingers
when she was scraping the charred bacon from the bottom of the pan, and
he was particularly fascinated by the undulations of the small, round
wrist. He glanced down to his own hand, broad and bony in comparison.
It was his absorption in this criticism that served to keep him aloof
from her while they ate, and the girl felt it like an arm pushing her
away. She had been very close to him not many hours before; now she was
far away. She could understand nothing but the pain of it.
As he finished his coffee he said, staring into a corner: "I don't know
why I came back to you, Sally."
"You didn't mean to come back when you started?"
"Of course not."
She flushed, and her heart beat loudly to hear his weakness. He was
keeping nothing from her; he was thinking aloud; she felt that the bars
between them were down again.
"In the first place I went because I had to be seen and known by name in
some place far away from you. That was for your sake. In the second
place I had to be alone for the work that lay ahead."
"Yes. It all worked like a charm. I went to the house of Jerry Wood,
told him my name, stayed there until Conklin and several others arrived,
hunting for me, and then gave them the slip."
She did not look up from her occupation, which was the skilful cleaning
of her gun.
"It was perfect; the way clear before me; I had dodged through their
lines, so to speak, when I gave Conklin the slip, and I could ride
straight for Drew and catch him unprepared. Isn't that clear?"
"But you didn't?"
She was so calm about it that he grew a little angry; she would not look
up from the cleaning of the gun.
"That's the devil of it; I couldn't stay away. I had to come back to
She restored the gun to her holster and looked steadily at him; he felt
a certain shock in countering her glance.
"Because I thought you might be lonely, Sally."
It was strange to see how little fencing there was between them. They
were like men, long tried in friendship and working together on a great
problem full of significance to both.
"Do you know what I kept sayin' to myself when I found you was gone?"
"Todo es perdo; todo es perdo!"
She had said it so often to herself that now some of the original
emotion crept into her voice. His arm went out; they shook hands across
their breakfast pans.
She went on: "The next thing is Drew?"
"There's no changing you." She did not wait for his answer. "I know
that. I won't ask questions. If it has to be done we'll do it quickly;
and afterward I can find a way out for us both."
Something like a foreknowledge came to him, telling him that the thing
would never be done--that he had surrendered his last chance of Drew
when he turned back to go to Sally. It was as if he took a choice
between the killing of the man and the love of the woman. But he said
nothing of his forebodings and helped her quietly to rearrange the small
pack. They saddled and took the trail which pointed up over the
mountains--the same trail which they had ridden in an opposite direction
the night before.
He rode with his head turned, taking his last look at the old house of
Drew, with its blackened, crumbling sides, when the girl cried softly:
"What's that? Look!"
He stared in the direction of her pointing arm. They were almost
directly under the shoulder of rocks which loomed above the trail along
the edge of the lake. Anthony saw nothing.
"What was it?"
He checked his horse beside hers.
"I thought I saw something move. I'm not sure. And there--back,
And she whirled her horse. He caught it this time clearly, the
unmistakable glint of the morning light on steel, and he turned the grey
sharply. At the same time a rattling blast of revolver shots crackled
above them; the grey reared and pitched back.
By inches he escaped the fall of the horse, slipping from the saddle in
the nick of time. A bullet whipped his hat from his head. Then the hand
of the girl clutched his shoulder.
"Stirrup and saddle, Anthony!"
He seized the pommel of the saddle, hooked his foot into the stirrup
which she abandoned to him, and she spurred back toward the old house.
A shout followed them, a roar that ended in a harsh rattle of curses;
they heard the spat of bullets several times on the trees past which
they whirled. But it was only a second before they were once more in the
shelter of the house. He stood in the centre of the room, stunned,
staring stupidly around him. It was not fear of death that benumbed him,
but a rising horror that he should be so trapped--like a wild beast
cornered and about to be worried to death by dogs.
As for escape, there was simply no chance--it was impossible. On three
sides the lake, still beautiful, though the colour was fading from it,
effectively blocked their way. On the fourth and narrowest side there
was the shoulder of rocks, not only blocking them, but affording a
perfect shelter for Nash and his men, for they did not doubt that it was
"They think they've got us," said a fiercely exultant voice beside him,
"but we ain't started to make all the trouble we're goin' to make."
Life came back to him as he looked at her. She was trembling with
excitement, but it was the tremor of eagerness, not the unmistakable
sick palsy of fear. He drew out a large handkerchief of fine, white
linen and tied it to a long splinter of wood which he tore away from one
of the rotten boards.
"Go out with this," he said. "They aren't after you, Sally. This is west
of the Rockies, thank God, and a woman is safe with the worst man that
ever committed murder."
She said: "D'you mean this, Anthony?"
"I'm trying to mean it."
She snatched the stick and snapped it into small pieces.
"Does that look final, Anthony?"
He could not answer for a moment. At last he said: "What a woman you
would have made for a wife, Sally Fortune; what a fine pal!"
But she laughed, a mirth not forced and harsh, but clear and ringing.
"Anthony, ain't this better'n marriage?"
"By God," he answered, "I almost think you're right."
For answer a bullet ripped through the right-hand wall and buried itself
in a beam on the opposite side of the room.
"Listen!" she said.
There was a fresh crackle of guns, the reports louder and longer drawn.
"Rifles," said Sally Fortune. "I knew no bullet from a six-gun could
carry like that one."
The little, sharp sounds of splintering and crunching began everywhere.
A cloud of soot spilled down the chimney and across the hearth. A furrow
ploughed across the floor, lifting a splinter as long and even as if it
had been grooved out by a machine.
"Look!" said Sally, "they're firin' breast high to catch us standing,
and on the level of the floor to get us if we lie down. That's Nash. I
know his trademark."
"From the back of the house we can answer them," said Bard. "Let's try
"Pepper for their salt, eh?" answered Sally, and they ran back through
the old shack to the last room.
As Drew entered his bedroom he found the doctor in the act of restoring
the thermometer to its case. His coat was off and his sleeves rolled up
to the elbow; he looked more like a man preparing to chop wood than a
physician engaging in a struggle with death; but Dr. Young had the
fighting strain. Otherwise he would never have persisted in Eldara.
Already the subtle atmosphere of sickness had come upon the room. The
shades of the windows were drawn evenly, and low down, so that the
increasing brightness of the morning could only temper, not wholly
dismiss the shadows. Night is the only reality of the sick-bed; the day
is only a long evening, a waiting for the utter dark. The doctor's
little square satchel of instruments, vials, and bandages lay open on
the table; he had changed the apartment as utterly as he had changed his
face by putting on great, horn-rimmed spectacles. They gave an owl-like
look to him, an air of omniscience. It seemed as if no mortal ailment
could persist in the face of such wisdom.
"Well?" whispered Drew.
"You can speak out, but not loudly," said the doctor calmly. "He's
delirious; the fever is getting its hold."
"What do you think?"
"Nothing. The time hasn't come for thinking."
He bent his emotionless eye closer on the big rancher.
"You," he said, "ought to be in bed this moment."
Drew waved the suggestion aside.
"Let me give you a sedative," added Young.
"Nonsense. I'm going to stay here."
The doctor gave up the effort; dismissed Drew from his mind, and focused
his glance on the patient once more. Calamity Ben was moving his head
restlessly from side to side, keeping up a gibbering mutter. It rose now
"Joe, a mule is to a hoss what a woman is to a man. Ever notice? The
difference ain't so much in what they do as what they don't do. Me
speakin' personal, I'll take a lot from any hoss and lay it to jest
plain spirit; but a mule can make me mad by standin' still and doin'
nothing but wablin' them long ears as if it understood things it wasn't
goin' to speak about. Y' always feel around a mule as if it knew
somethin' about you--had somethin' on you--and was laughin' soft and
deep inside. Damn a mule! I remember--"
But here he sank into the steady, voiceless whisper again, the shadow of
a sound rather than the reality. It was ghostly to hear, even by
"Will it keep up long?" asked Drew.
"Maybe until he dies."
"I've told you before; it's impossible for him to die."
The doctor made a gesture of resignation.
He explained: "As long as this fever grows our man will steadily weaken;
it shows that he's on the downward path. If it breaks--why, that means
that he will have a chance--more than a chance--to get well. It will
mean that he has enough reserve strength to fight off the shock of the
wound and survive the loss of the blood."
"It will mean," said Drew, apparently thinking aloud, "that the guilt of
murder does not fall on Anthony."
"Who is Anthony?"
The wounded man broke in; his voice rose high and sharp: "Halt!"
He went on, in a sighing mumble: "Shorty--help--I'm done for!"
"The shooting," said the doctor, who had kept his fingers on the wrist
of his patient; "I could feel his pulse leap and stop when he said
"He said 'halt!' first; a very clear sign that he tried to stop Bard
before Bard shot. Doctor, you're witness to that?"
He had grown deeply excited.
"I'm witness to nothing. I never dreamed that you could be so interested
in any human being."
He nodded to himself.
"Do you know how I explained your greyness to myself? As that of a man
ennuied with life--tired of living because he had nothing in the world
to occupy his affections. And here I find you so far from being ennuied
that you are using your whole strength to keep the guilt of murder away
from another man. It's amazing. The boys will never believe it."
He continued: "A man who raised a riot in your own house, almost burned
down your place, shot your man, stole a horse--gad, Drew, you are
But if he expected an explanatory answer from the rancher he was
disappointed. The latter pulled up a chair beside the bed and bent his
stern eyes on the patient as if he were concentrating all of a great
will on bringing Calamity Ben back to health.
He worked with the doctor. Every half hour a temperature was taken, and
it was going up steadily. Drew heard the report each time with a
tightening of the muscles about his jaws. He helped pack the wounded man
with wet cloths. He ran out and stopped a wrangling noise of the
cowpunchers several times. But mostly he sat without motion beside the
bed, trying to will the sufferer back to life.
And in the middle of the morning, after taking a temperature, the doctor
looked to the rancher with a sort of dull wonder.
"It's dropping?" whispered Drew.
"It's lower. I don't think it's dropping. It can't be going down so
soon. Wait till the next time I register it. If it's still lower then,
he'll get well."
The grey man sagged forward from his chair to his knees and took the
hands of Calamity, long-fingered, bony, cold hands they were. There he
remained, moveless, his keen eyes close to the wandering stare of the
delirious man. Out of the exhaustless reservoir of his will he seemed to
be injecting an electric strength into the other, a steadying and even
flow of power that passed from his hands and into the body of Calamity.
When the time came, and Young stood looking down at the thermometer,
Drew lifted haggard eyes, waiting.
The great arms of the rancher were thrown above his head; he rose,
changed, triumphant, as if he had torn his happiness from the heart of
the heavens, and went hastily from the room, silent.
At the stable he took his great bay, saddled him, and swung out on the
trail for Eldara, a short, rough trail which led across the
Saverack--the same course which Nash and Bard had taken the day before.
But the river had greatly fallen--the water hardly washed above the
knees of the horse except in the centre of the stream; by noon he
reached the town and went straight for the office of Glendin. The deputy
was not there, and the rancher was referred to Murphy's saloon.
There he found Glendin, seated at a corner table with a glass of beer in
front of him, and considering the sun-whitened landscape lazily through
the window. At the sound of the heavy footfall of Drew he turned, rose,
his shoulders flattened against the wall behind him like a cornered man
prepared for a desperate stand.
"It's all right," cried Drew. "It's all over, Glendin. Duffy won't press
any charges against Bard; he says that he's given the horse away. And
Calamity Ben is going to live."
"Who says he will?"
"I've just ridden in from his bedside. Dr. Young says the crisis is
past. And so--thank God--there's no danger to Bard; he's free from the
"Too late," said the deputy.
It did not seem that Drew heard him. He stepped closer and turned his
"Too late. I've sent out men to--to apprehend Bard."
"Apprehend him?" repeated Drew. "Is it possible? To murder him, you
He had not made a threatening move, but the deputy had his grip on the
butt of his gun.
"It was that devil Nash. He persuaded me to send out a posse with him in
"And you sent him?"
"What could I do? Ain't it legal?"
"Murder is legal--sometimes. It has been in the past. I've an idea that
it's going to be again."
"What d'you mean by that?"
"You'll learn later. Where did they go for Bard?"
He did not seem disappointed. He was rather like a man who had already
heard bad news and now only finds it confirmed. He knew before. Now the
fact was simply clinched.
"They went out to your old place on the other side of the range. Drew,
listen to me--"
"How many went after him?"
"Nash, Butch Conklin, and five more. Butch's gang."
"I was in a hole; I needed men."
"How long have they been gone?"
"Since last night."
"Then," said Drew, "he's already dead. He doesn't know the mountains."
"I give Nash strict orders not to do nothin' but apprehend Bard."
"Don't talk, Glendin. It disgusts me--makes my flesh crawl. He's alone,
with seven cutthroats against him."
"Not alone. Sally Fortune's better'n two common men."
"The girl? God bless her! She's with him; she knows the country. There
may be a hope; Glendin, if you're wise, start praying now that I find
Bard alive. If I don't--"
The swinging doors closed behind him as he rushed through toward his
horse. Glendin stood dazed, his face mottled with a sick pallor. Then he
moved automatically toward the bar. Murphy hobbled down the length of
the room on his wooden leg and placed bottle and glass before the
"Well?" he queried.
Glendin poured his drink with a shaking hand, spilling much liquor
across the varnished wood. He drained his glass at a gulp.
"I dunno; what d'you think, Murphy?"
"You heard him talk, Glendin. You ought to know what's best."
"Let's hear you say it."
"I'd climb the best hoss I owned and start west, and when I come to the
sea I'd take a ship and keep right on goin' till I got halfway around
the world. And then I'd climb a mountain and hire a couple of dead-shots
for guards and have my first night's sleep. After that I'd begin
thinkin' of what I could do to get away from Drew."
"Murphy," said the other, "maybe that line of talk would sound sort of
exaggerated to some, but I ain't one of them. You've got a wooden leg,
but your brain's sound. But tell me, what in God's name makes him so
thick with the tenderfoot?"
He waited for no answer, but started for the door.
If Drew had done hard things in his life, few were more remorseless than
the ride on the great bay horse that day. Starting out, he reckoned
coldly the total strength of the gallant animal, the distance to his old
house, and figured that it was just within possibilities that he might
reach the place before evening. From that moment it was certain that the
horse would not survive the ride.
It was merely a question as to whether or not the master had so gaged
his strength that the bay would not collapse before even the summit of
the range had been reached. As the miles went by the horse loosened and
extended finely to his work; sweat darkened and polished his flanks;
flecks of foam whirled back and spattered his chest and the legs of his
rider; he kept on; almost to the last the rein had to be drawn taut; to
the very last his heart was even greater than his body.
Up the steep slopes Drew let the horse walk; every other inch of the
way it was either the fast trot or a swinging gallop, not the
mechanical, easy pace of the cattle-pony, but a driving, lunging speed.
The big hoofs literally smashed at the rocks, and the ringing of it
echoed hollowly along the rock face of the ravine.
At the summit, for a single moment, like a bird of prey pausing in mid
circle to note the position of the field mouse before it closes wings
and bolts down out of the blue, Drew sat his horse motionless and stared
down into the valleys below until he noted the exact location of his
house--the lake glittered back and up to him in the slant light of the
late afternoon. The bay, such was the violence of its panting, literally
rocked beneath him.
Then he started the last downward course, sweeping along the treacherous
trail with reckless speed, the rocks scattering before him. When they
straightened out on the level going beneath, the bay was staggering;
there was no longer any of the lilt and ease of the strong horse
running; it was a succession of jerks and jars, and the panting was a
sharper sound than the thunder of the hoofs. His shoulders, his flanks,
his neck--all was foam now; and little by little the proud head fell,
reached out; still he drove against the bit; still the rider had to keep
up the restraining pressure.
Until at last he knew that the horse was dying on his feet; dying with
each heavy stride it made. Then he let the reins hang limp. It was sad
to see the answer of the bay--a snort, as if of happiness; a pricking of
the ears; a sudden lengthening of stride and quickening; a nobler lift
to the head.
Past the margin of the lake they swept, crashed through the woods to the
right; and now, very distinctly, Drew heard the heavy drum of firing. He
groaned and drove home the spurs. And still, by some miracle, there was
something left in the horse which responded; not strength, certainly
that was gone long ago, but there was an indomitable spirit bred into it
with its fine blood by gentle care for generations. The going was
heavier among the trees, and yet the bay increased its pace. The crackle
of the rifles grew more and more distinct. A fallen trunk blocked the
With a snort the bay gathered speed, rose, cleared the trunk with a last
glorious effort, and fell dead on the other side.
Drew disentangled his feet from the stirrup, raised the head of the
horse, stared an instant into the glazing eyes, and then turned and ran
on among the trees. Panting, dripping with sweat, his face contorted
terribly by his effort, he came at last behind that rocky shoulder
which commanded the approach to the old house.
He found seven men sheltered there, keeping up a steady, dropping fire
on the house. McNamara sat propped against a rock, a clumsy, dirty
bandage around his thigh; Isaacs lay prone, a stained rag twisted
tightly around his shoulder; Lovel sat with his legs crossed, staring
stupidly down to the steady drip of blood from his left forearm.
But Ufert, Kilrain, Conklin, and Nash maintained the fight; and Drew
wondered what casualties lay on the other side.
At his rush, at the sound of his heavy footfall over the rocks, the four
turned with a single movement; Ufert covered him with a rifle, but Nash
knocked down the boy's arm.
"We've done talkin'; it's our time to listen; understand?"
Ufert, gone sullen, obeyed. He was at that age between youth and manhood
when the blood, despite the songs of the poets, runs slow, cold; before
the heart has been called out in love, or even in friendship; before
fear or hate or anything saving a deep egoism has possessed the brain.
He looked about to the others for his cue. What he saw disturbed him.
Shorty Kilrain, like a boy caught playing truant, edged little by little
back against the rock; Butch Conklin, his eyes staring, had grown waxy
pale; Steve Nash himself was sullen and gloomy rather than defiant.
And all this because of a grey man far past the prime of life who ran
stumbling, panting, toward them. At his nearer approach a flash of
understanding touched Ufert. Perhaps it was the sheer bulk of the
newcomer; perhaps, more than this, it was something of stern dignity
that oppressed the boy with awe. He fought against the feeling, but he
was uneasy; he wanted to be far away from that place.
Straight upon them the big grey man strode and halted in front of Nash.
He said, his voice harsh and broken by his running: "I ordered you to
bring him to me unharmed. What does this mean, Nash?"
The cowpuncher answered sulkily: "Glendin sent us out."
"Don't lie. You sent yourself and took these men. I've seen Glendin."
His wrath was tempered with a sneer.
"But here you are four against one. Go down and bring him out to me
There was no answer.
"You said you wanted no odds against any one man."
"When a man and a woman stand together," answered Nash, "they're worse
than a hundred. That devil, Sally Fortune, is down there with him."
A gun cracked from the house; the bullet chipped the rock with an evil
clang, and the flake of stone whirled through the air and landed at the
feet of Drew.
"There's your answer," said Nash. "But we've got the rat cornered."
"Wrong again. Calamity Ben is going to live--"
A cry of joy came from Shorty Kilrain.
"Duffy says that he gave his horse away to Bard. Glendin has called back
your posse. Ride, Nash! Or else go down there unarmed and bring Bard up
The shadow of a smile crossed the lips of Nash.
"If the law's done with him, I'm not. I won't ride, and I won't go down
to him. I've got the upper hand and I'm going to hold it."
"If you're afraid to go down, I will."
Drew unbuckled his cartridge belt and tossed it with his gun against the
rocks. He drew out a white handkerchief, and holding it above him, at a
full arm's length, he stepped out from the shelter. The others,
gathering at their places of vantage, watched his progress toward the
house. Steve Nash described it to the wounded men, who had dragged
themselves half erect.
"He's walkin' right toward the house, wavin' the white rag. They ain't
goin' to shoot. He's goin' around the side of the house. He's stopped
there under the trees."
"At that grave of his wife under the two trees. He waits there like he
expected Bard to come out to him. And, by God, there goes Bard to meet
him--right out into the open."
"Steady, Steve! Drop that gun! If you shoot now you'll have Drew on your
"Don't I know it? But God, wouldn't it be easy? I got him square inside
the sights. Jest press the trigger and Anthony Bard is done for. He
walks up to Drew. He's got no gun on. He's empty-handed jest like Drew.
He's said something short and quick and starts to step across the grave.
"Drew points down to it and makes an answer. Bard steps back like he'd
been hit across the face and stands there lookin' at the mound. What did
Drew say? I'd give ten years of life to hear that talk!
"Bard looks sort of stunned; he stands there with a hand shadin' his
eyes, but the sun ain't that bright. Well, I knew nobody could ever
stand up to Drew.
"The chief is talkin' fast and hard. The young feller shakes his head.
Drew begins talkin' again. You'd think he was pleadin' for his life in
front of a jury that meant him wrong. His hands go out like he was
makin' an election speech. He holds one hand down like he was measurin'
the height of a kid. He throws up his arms again like he'd lost
everything in the world.
"And now Bard has dropped the hand from his face. He looks sort of
interested. He steps closer to the grave again. Drew holds out both his
arms. By God, boys, he's pleadin' with Bard.
"And the head of Bard is dropped. How's it goin' to turn out? Drew wins,
of course. There goes Bard's hand out as if it was pulled ag'in' his
will. Drew catches it in both his own. Boys, here's where we grab our
hosses and beat it."
He turned from the rocks in haste.
"What d'you mean?" cried Conklin. "Steve, are you goin' to leave us here
to finish the job you started?"
"Finish it? You fools! Don't you see that Drew and Bard is pals now? If
we couldn't finish Bard alone, how'd we make out ag'in' the two of them?
The game's up, boys; the thing that's left is for us to save our
hides--if we can--before them two start after us. If they do start, then
God help us all!"
He was already in the saddle.
"Wait!" called Conklin. "One of 'em's a tenderfoot. The other has left
his gun here. What we got to fear from 'em?"
And Nash snarled in return: "If there was a chance, don't you think I'd
take it? Don't you see I'm givin' up everythin' that amounts to a damn
with me? Tenderfoot? He may act Eastern and he may talk Eastern, but
he's got Western blood. There ain't no other way of explainin' it. And
Drew? He didn't have no gun when he busted the back of old Piotto. I
say, there's two men, armed or not, and between 'em they can do more'n
all of us could dream of. Boys, are you comin'?"
They went. The wounded were dragged to their feet and hoisted to their
horses, groaning. At a slow walk they started down through the trees.
Evening fell; the shadows slanted about them. They moved faster--at a
trot--at a gallop. They were like men flying from a certain ruin. Beyond
the margin of the bright lake they fled and lost themselves in the vast,
secret heart of the mountain-desert.
All that day, in a silence broken only by murmurs and side glances,
Anthony and Sally Fortune moved about the old house from window to
window, and from crack to crack, keeping a steady eye on the commanding
rocks above. In one of those murmurs they made their resolution. When
night came they would rush the rocks, storm them from the front, and
take their chance with what might follow. But the night promised to give
but little shelter to their stalking.
For in the late afternoon a broad moon was already climbing up from the
east; the sky was cloudless; there was a threat of keen, revealing
moonshine for the night. Only desperation could make them attempt to
storm the rock, but by the next morning, at the latest, reinforcements
were sure to come, and then their fight would be utterly hopeless.
So when the light of the sun mellowed, grew yellow and slant, and the
shadows sloped from tree to tree, the two became more silent still,
drawn and pale of face, waiting. Anthony at a window, Sally at a crack
which made an excellent loophole, they remained moveless.
It was she who noted a niche which might serve as a loophole for one of
the posse, and she fired at it, aiming low. The clang of the bullet
against rock echoes clearly back to her, like the soft chime of a sheep
bell from the peaceful distance. Then, as if in answer to her shot,
around the edge of the rocks appeared a moving rag of white which grew
into William Drew, bearing above his head the white sign of the truce.
In her astonishment she looked to Bard. He was quivering all over like a
hound held on a tight leash, with the game in sight, hungry to be
slipped upon it. The edge of his tongue passed across his colourless
lips. He was like a man who long has ridden the white-hot desert and is
now about to drink. There was the same wild gleam in his eyes; his hand
shook with nervous eagerness as he shifted and balanced his revolver.
Listening, in her awe, she heard the sound of his increasing panting; a
sound like the breath of a running man approaching her swiftly.
She slipped to his side.
He did not answer; his gun steadied; the barrel began to incline down;
his left eye was squinting. She dropped to her knees and seized his
"Anthony, what are you going to do?"
"It's Drew!" he whispered, and she did not recognize his voice. "It's
the grey man I've waited for. It's he!"
In such a tone a dying man might speak of his hope of heaven--seeing it
unroll before him in his delirium.
"But he's carrying the flag of truce, Anthony. You see that?"
"I see nothing except his face. It blots out the rest of the world. I'll
plant my shot there--there in the middle of those lips."
"Anthony, that's William Drew, the squarest man on the range."
"Sally Fortune, that's William Drew, who murdered my father!"
"Ah!" she said, with sharply indrawn breath. "It isn't possible!"
"I saw the shot fired."
"But not this way, Anthony; not from behind a wall!"
His emotion changed him, made him almost a stranger to her. He was
shaking and palsied with eagerness.
"I could do nothing as bad as the crime he has done. For twenty years
the dread of his coming haunted my father, broke him, aged him
prematurely. Every day he went to a secret room and cared for his
revolver--this gun here in my hand, you see? He and I--we were more than
father and son--we were pals, Sally. And then this devil called my
father out into the night and shot him. Damn him!"
"You've got to listen to me, Anthony--"
"I'll listen to nothing, for there he is and--"
She said with a sharp, rising ring in her voice: "If you shoot at him
while he carries that white flag I'll--I'll send a bullet through your
head--that's straight! We got only one law in the mountains, and that's
the law of honour. If you bust that, I'm done with you, Anthony."
"Take my gun--take it quickly, Sally, I can't trust myself; looking at
him, I can see the place where the bullet should strike home."
He forced the butt of his revolver into her hands, rose, and stepped to
the door, his hands clasped behind his back.
"Tell me what he does."
"He's comin' straight toward us as if he didn't fear nothin'--grey
William Drew! He's not packin' a gun; he trusts us."
"The better way," answered Bard. "Bare hands--the better way!"
"He has killed men with those bare hands of his. I can see 'em
clear--great, blunt-fingered hands, Anthony. He's coming around the side
of the house. I'll go into the front room."
She ran past Anthony and paused in the habitable room, spying through a
crack in the wall. And Anthony stood with his eyes tightly closed, his
head bowed. The image of the leashed hound came more vividly to her when
she glanced back at him.
"He's walkin' right up the path. There he stops."
"Right beside the old grave."
"Anthony!" called a deep voice. "Anthony, come out to me!"
He started, and then groaned and stopped himself.
"Is the sign of the truce still over his head, Sally?"
"I daren't go out to him--I'd jump at his throat."
She came beside him.
"It means something besides war. I can see it in his face. Pain--sorrow,
Anthony, but not a wish for fightin'."
From the left side of his cartridge belt a stout-handled, long-bladed
hunting-knife was suspended. He disengaged the belt and tossed it to the
floor. Still he paused.
"If I go, I'll break the truce, Sally."
"You won't; you're a man, Anthony; and remember that you're on the
range, and the law of the range holds you."
"Anthony!" called the deep voice without.
He shuddered violently.
"What is it?"
"It sounds--like the voice of my father calling me! I must go!"
She clung to him.
"Not till you're calmer."
"My father died in my arms," he answered; "let me go."
He thrust her aside and strode out through the door.
On the farther side of the grave stood Drew, his grey head bare, and
looking past him Anthony saw the snow-clad tops of the Little Brother,
grey also in the light of the evening. And the trees whose branches
interwove above the grave--grey also with moss. The trees, the mountain,
the old headstone, the man--they blended into a whole.
"Anthony!" said the man, "I have waited half my life for this!"
"And I," said Bard, "have waited a few weeks that seem longer than all
my life, for this!"
His own eager panting stopped him, but he stumbled on: "I have you here
in reach at last, Drew, and I'm going to tear your heart out, as you
tore the heart out of John Bard."
"Ah, Anthony," said the other, "my heart was torn out when you were
born; it was torn out and buried here."
And to the wild eyes of Anthony it seemed as if the great body of Drew,
so feared through the mountain-desert, was now enveloped with weakness,
humbled by some incredible burden.
After that a mist obscured his eyes; he could not see more than an
outline of the great shape before him; his throat contracted as if a
hand gripped him there, and an odd tingling came at the tips of his
fingers. He moved forward.
"It is more than I dreamed," he said hoarsely, as his foot planted
firmly on the top of the grave, and he poised himself an instant before
flinging himself on the grey giant. "It is more than I dreamed for--to
And a solemn, even voice answered him, "We are not alone."
"Not alone, but the others are too far off to stop me."
"Not alone, Anthony, for your mother is here between us."
Like a fog under a wind, the mist swept from the eyes of Anthony; he
looked out and saw that the face of the grey man was infinitely sad, and
there was a hungry tenderness that reached out, enveloped, weakened him.
He glanced down, saw that his heel was on the mount of the grave; saw
again the headstone and the time-blurred inscription: "Here sleeps Joan,
the wife of William Drew. She chose this place for rest."
A mortal weakness and trembling seized him. The wind puffed against his
face, and he went staggering back, his hand caught up to his eyes.
He closed his mind against the words which he had heard.
But the deep organ voice spoke again: "Oh, boy, your mother!"
In the stupor which came over him he saw two faces: the stern eyes of
John Bard, and the dark, mocking beauty of the face which had looked
down to him in John Bard's secret room. He lowered his hand from his
eyes; he stared at William Drew, and it seemed to him that it was John
Bard he looked upon. Their names differed, but long pain had touched
them with a common greyness. And it seemed to Anthony that it was only a
moment ago that the key turned in the lock of John Bard's secret room,
the hidden chamber which he kept like Bluebeard for himself, where he
went like Bluebeard to see his past; only an instant before he had
turned the key in that lock, the door opened, and this was the scene
which met his eyes--the grave, the blurred tombstone, and the stern
"Joan," he repeated; "your wife--my mother?"
He heard a sob, not of pain, but of happiness, and knew that the blue
eyes of Sally Fortune looked out to him from the doorway of the house.
The low voice, hurried now, broke in on him.
"When I married Joan, John Bard fled from the range; he could not bear
to look on our happiness. You see, I had won her by chance, and he hated
me for it. If you had ever seen her, Anthony, you would understand. I
crossed the mountains and came here and built this house, for your
mother was like a wild bird, Anthony, and I did not dare to let men near
her; then a son was born, and she died giving him birth. Afterward I
lived on here, close to the place which she had chosen herself for rest.
And I was happy because the boy grew every day into a more perfect
picture of his dead mother.
"One day when he was almost three I rode off through the hills, and when
I came back the boy was gone. I rode with a posse everywhere, hunting
him; aye, Anthony, the trail which I started then I have kept at ever
since, year after year, and here it ends where it began--at the grave of
"Finally I came on news that a man much like John Bard in appearance had
been seen near my house that day. Then I knew it was Bard in fact. He
had seen the image of the woman we both loved in the boy. He was all
that was left of her on earth. After these years I can read his heart
clearly; I know why he took the boy.
"Then I left this place. I could not bear the sight of the grave; for
she slept in peace, and I lived in hell waiting for the return of my
"At last I went east; I was at Madison Square Garden and saw you ride.
It was the face of Joan that looked back at me; and I knew that I was
close to the end of the trail.
"The next night I called out John Bard. He had been in hell all those
years, like me, for he had waited for my coming. He begged me to let
him have you; said you loved him as a father; I only laughed. So we