Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Jim Waring of Sonora-Town by Knibbs, Henry Herbert

Part 3 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

that stealin'."

"Did Hardy ride after you?"

"Yes, sir. But he was so far behind I couldn't hear what he wanted. That
big buckskin is a wonder. I wish I owned him."

Torrance mentally patched the fragments of evidence together. He decided
that a young man who could capture a holdup man, best the notorious High
Chin in a fight, repair a broken automobile, turn a prisoner loose, and
make his own escape all within the short compass of forty-eight hours
was a rather capable person in a way. And Torrance knew by Lorry's
appearance and manner that he was still on the verdant side of twenty.
If such a youth chose to turn his abilities in the right direction he
might accomplish much. Lorry's extreme frankness satisfied Torrance that
the boy had told the truth. He would give him a chance.

"Do you know Bud Shoop?" queried the supervisor.

"No, sir. I know what he looks like. He's been to our hotel."

"Well, you might look him up. He may be out of town. Possibly he is up
at his homestead on the Blue Mesa. Tell Mr. Shoop that I sent you to
him. He will understand. But you will have to square yourself with the
authorities before I can put you to work."

"Yes, sir. But I don't aim to ride back to Stacey just because I know
where it is. If they want me, they can find me."

"That is your affair. When your slate is clear--"

"Mr. Waring to see you," said the clerk, poking his head through the

Torrance stepped out and greeted Waring heartily. Lorry was surprised;
both to see his father and to learn that Torrance and he were old

"I saw this horse as I rode up, and I took a fancy to him," said Waring,
after having nodded to Lorry. "Sorry to bother you, Torrance."

"Here's the man you'll bother, I think," said Torrance, indicating
Lorry. "He's riding that horse."

Lorry grinned. "Want to trade horses?"

"I don't know. Is that your horse?"

"Nope. I borrowed him. Is that your horse?" And he indicated Gray Leg.

"No. I borrowed him."

Torrance laughed. "The buckskin seems to be a pretty fair horse."

"Then I ought to get somethin' to boot," suggested Lorry.

"How much?" laughed Waring.

"Oh, I don't know. You'll find that buckskin a mighty likely rambler."

Waring turned to Torrance. "You'll witness that we made this trade,

"All right. But remember; neither of you owns the horse you are

"But we're goin' to," asserted Lorry.

Waring reached beneath his coat and unbuckled a heavy belt. From buckle
to tongue it glittered with cartridges and a service-worn holster bulged
with a short-barreled Colt's .45. He handed the belt to Lorry.

"It's a good gun," he said, "and I hope you'll never need to use it."

Lorry stammered his thanks, untied Dex, and gave the reins into Waring's
hand. "The trade goes," he said. "But we change saddles."

"Correct," said Waring. "And here's a letter--from your mother."

Lorry slid the letter in his shirt. "How's the Weston folks?"

"They were to leave this morning. Mrs. Weston asked me to pay you for
repairing their machine. She gave me the money."

"You can keep it. I wasn't workin' for pay."

"All right. Going to stay down here awhile?"

"I aim to. Did you see anything of Buck Hardy on the way down?"

"Hardy? Why, no. But I rode part way with his deputy. He's due here some
time to-day."

"That bein' the case," said Lorry, swinging to the saddle, "I reckon
I'll hunt up Bud Shoop. Thanks for my horse. Mebby I'll be back in this
town in two, three days." And he was gone.

Waring dropped Dex's reins. "Got a minute to spare, Torrance?"

"Yes, indeed. You're looking well, Jim."

In the office they shook hands again.

"It's a long time," said Torrance, proffering a cigar. "You were
punching cattle for the Box S and I was a forest ranger those days. Did
Mexico get too hot?"

"Warm. What's the boy doing down here?"

"He seems to be keeping out of the way of the sheriff," laughed
Torrance. "Incidentally he applied for a position as ranger."

"Did he? I'm glad of that. I was afraid he might get to riding the high
trails. He's got it in him."

"You seem to know him pretty well."

"Not so well as I would like to. I'm his father."

"Why, I had no idea--but, come to think of it, he does resemble you. I
didn't know that you were married."

"Yes. I married Annie Adams, of Las Cruces. He's our boy."

Torrance saw that Waring did not care to talk further on the subject of
his married life. And Torrance recalled the fact that Mrs. Adams, who
lived in Stacey, had been in Mexico.

"He's a live one," said Torrance. "I think I'll take him on."

"I don't ask you to, John. He's got to play the game for himself. He may
not always do right, but he'll always do what he thinks is right, if I
am any judge. And he won't waste time doing it. I told Hardy's deputy on
the way down that he might as well give up running after the boy. Hardy
is pretty sore. Did Lorry tell you?"

"Yes. And I can understand his side of it."

"I think that little Weston girl dazzled him," said Waring. "She's
clever, and Lorry hasn't seen many of her kind. I think he would have
stayed right in Stacey and faced the music if she hadn't been there when
Hardy tried to arrest him. Lorry is only eighteen. He had to show off a

"Will Hardy follow it up?"

"Not too strong. The folks in Stacey are giving Hardy the laugh. He's
not so popular as he might be."

"I can't say that I blame Hardy, either. The boy was wrong."

"Not a bit. Lorry was wrong."

"It will blow over," said Torrance. "I had no idea he was your son."

Waring leaned back in his chair. "John, I had two reasons for coming
down here. One was to get my horse. That's settled. Now I want to talk
about leasing a few thousand acres down this way, with water-rights. I'm
through with the other game. I want to run a few cattle in here, under
fence. I think it will pay."

Torrance shook his head. "The Mormons and the Apaches will keep you
poor, Jim."

"They might, if I tried it alone. But I have a partner just up from the
border. You remember Pat. He's been customs inspector at Nogales for
some time."

"I should say I do remember him!"

"Well, he asked me to look around and write to him. I think we could do
well enough here. What do you know about the land north of here, on up
toward the Santa Fe?"

Torrance pondered the situation. The times were, indeed, changing when
men like Waring and Pat ceased to ride the high trails and settled down
to ranching under fence. The day of the gunman was past, but two such
men as Pat and Waring would suppress by their mere presence in the
country the petty rustling and law-breaking that had made Torrance's
position difficult at times.

"I'll see what I can do," said he. "About how much land?"

"Ten or twenty thousand, to begin with."

"There's some Government land not on the reservation between here and
the railroad. There are three or four families of squatters on it now. I
don't know how they manage to live, but they always seem to have beef
and bacon. You might have some trouble about getting them off--and about
the water. I'll let you know some time next month just what I can do."

"We won't have any trouble," said Waring. "That's the last thing we
want. I'll ride over next month. You can write to me at Stacey if
anything turns up."

"I'll write to you. Do you ever get hungry? Come on over to the hotel.
I'm as hungry as a bear."

Chapter XIV

_Bondsman's Decision_

Bud Shoop's homestead on the Blue Mesa lay in a wide level of grassland,
round which the spruce of the high country swept in a great, blue-edged
circle. To the west the barren peak of Mount Baldy maintained a solitary
vigil in sunshine and tempest. Away to the north the timbered plateaus
dropped from level to level like a gigantic stair until they merged with
the horizon-line of the plains. The air on the Blue Mesa was thin and
keen; warm in the sun, yet instantly cool at dusk. A mountain stream,
all but hidden by the grasses, meandered across the mesa to an emerald
hollow of coarse marsh-grass. A few yards from this pool, and on its
southern side, stood the mountain cabin of the Shoop homestead, a roomy
building of logs, its wide, easy-sloping veranda roof covered with
home-made shakes. Near the house was a small corral and stable of logs.
Out on the mesa a thin crop of oats wavered in the itinerant breeze.
Round the cabin was a garden plot that had suffered from want of
attention. Above the gate to the door-yard was a weathered sign on which
was lettered carefully:

"The rose is red; the violet blue;
Please shut this gate when you come through."

And on the other side of the sign, challenging the possible
carelessness of the chance visitor, was the legend:--

"Now you've been in and had your chuck,
Please close this gate, just once, for luck."

Otherwise the place was like any mountain homestead of the better sort,
viewed from without. The interior of the cabin, however, was unusual in
that it boasted of being the only music-room within fifty miles in any

When the genial Bud had been overtaken with the idea of homesteading, he
had had visions of a modest success which would allow him to entertain
his erstwhile cow-puncher companions when they should ride his way. To
this end he had labored with more heart than judgment.

The main room was large and lighted by two unusually large windows. The
dimensions of the room were ample enough to accommodate a fair number of
dancers. Bud knew that if cowboys loved anything they loved to dance.
The phonograph was so common that it offered no distinction in gracing
Bud's camp; so with much labor and expense he had freighted an upright
piano from the distant railroad, an innovation that at first had stunned
and then literally taken the natives off their feet. Riders from all
over the country heard of Bud's piano, questioned its reality, and
finally made it a point to jog over and see for themselves.

For a time Bud's homestead was popular. A real piano, fifty miles from
a settlement, was something worth riding far to see. But respect for the
shining veneer of the case was not long-lived. In a moment of
inspiration, a cowboy pulled out his jackknife and carved his home brand
on the shining case. Bud could have said more than he did when he
discovered it. Later another contingent, not to be outdone, followed
this cowboy's incisive example and carved its brand on the piano.
Naturally it became a custom. No visitor in boots and chaps left the
cabin without first having carved some brand.

Bud suffered in silence, consoling himself with the thought that while
there were many pianos in the lower country, there were none like his.
And "As long as you don't monkey with her works or shoot her up," he
told his friends, "I don't care how much you carve her; only leave
enough sidin' and roof to hold her together."

Cowboys came, danced long and late as Bud pumped the mechanical player,
and thrilled to the shuffle of high-heeled boots. Contingent after
contingent came, danced, and departed joyously, leaving Bud short on
rations, but happy that he could entertain so royally. Finally the
novelty wore off, and Bud was left with his Airedale, his saddle-ponies,
and the hand-carved piano.

But Bud had profited by the innovation. An Easterner sojourning with Bud
for a season, had taught him to play two tunes--"Annie Laurie" and
"Dixie." "Real hand-made music," Bud was wont to remark. And with these
tunes at his disposal he was more than content. Many a long evening he
sat with his huge bulk swaying in the light of the hanging lamp as he
wandered around Maxwelton's braes in search of the true Annie Laurie; or
hopped with heavy sprightliness across the sandy bottoms of Dixie, while
Bondsman, the patient Airedale, sat on his haunches and accompanied Bud
with dismal energy.

Bud was not a little proud of his accomplishment. The player was all
right, but it lacked the human touch. Even when an occasional Apache
strayed in and borrowed tobacco or hinted at a meal, Bud was not above
entertaining the wondering red man with music. And Bud disliked Apaches.

And during these latter days Bud had had plenty of opportunity to
indulge himself in music. For hours he would sit and gently strike the
keys, finding unexpected harmonies that thrilled and puzzled him. The
discords didn't count. And Bondsman would hunch up close with watchful
eye and one ear cocked, waiting for the familiar strains of "Annie
Laurie" or "Dixie." He seemed to consider these tunes a sort of
accompaniment to his song. If he dared to howl when Bud was
extemporizing, Bud would rebuke him solemnly, explaining that it was not
considered polite in the best circles to interrupt a soloist. And an
evening was never complete without "Annie Laurie," and "Dixie," with
Bondsman's mournful contralto gaming ascendance as the evening

"That dog bosses me around somethin' scandalous," Bud was wont to
remark, as he rose from his labors and prepared for bed. "There I was
huntin' around for that chord I lit on the other night and almost
findin' it, when he has to howl like a coyote with a sore throat and
spile the whole thing. I ought to learned more tunes."

* * * * *

It was almost dusk when Lorry topped the trail that led across the Blue
Mesa to Bud's cabin. Gray Leg pricked his ears, and jogged over the wide
level, heading straight for the corral. The cabin was dark. Lorry
hallooed. A horse in the corral answered, nickering shrilly. Lorry found
some loose gramma grass in the stable and threw it to the horse. If this
was Shoop's place, Shoop would not be gone long, or he'd have turned the
horse to graze on the open mesa.

Lorry entered and lighted the lamp. He gazed with astonishment at the
piano. But that could wait. He was hungry. In a few minutes he had a
fire going, plates laid for two, had made coffee and cut bacon. He was
mixing the dough for hot biscuit when he heard some one ride up. He
stepped to the door. A bulky figure was pulling a saddle from a horse.
Lorry called a greeting.

"Just a minute, friend," came from the darkness.

Lorry stepped to the kitchen, and put the biscuit pan in the oven. A
saddle thumped on the veranda, and Bud Shoop, puffing heavily, strode
in. He nodded, filled a basin, and washed. As he polished his bald spot,
his glance traveled from the stove to the table, and thence to Lorry,
and he nodded approval.

"Looks like you was expectin' comp'ny," he said, smiling.

"Yep. And chuck's about ready."

"So am I," said Bud, rubbing his hands.

"I'm Adams, from Stacey."

"That don't make me mad," said Bud. "How's things over to your town?"

"All right, I guess. Mr. Torrance--"

Bud waved his hand. "Let's eat. Been out since daylight. Them biscuits
is just right. Help yourself to the honey."

"There's somebody outside," said Lorry, his arm raised to pass the honey

"That's my dog, Bondsman. He had to size up your layout, and he's
through and waitin' to size up you. Reckon he's hungry, too. But
business before pleasure is his idea mostly. He's tellin' me to let him
in. That there dog bosses me around somethin' scandalous. When did you
get in?"

"About sundown."

"Uh-uh. I seen that your horse hadn't grazed out far yet. How do you
like this country?"

"Good summer country, all right. Too high for stock in winter."

"Yes. Four feet of snow on the mesa last winter. When you say 'Arizona'
to some folks, they don't think of snow so deep a hoss can't get from
the woods over there to this cabin." Bud Shoop sighed and rose. "Never
mind them dishes. Mornin' 'll do."

"Won't take a minute," said Lorry.

Bud's blue eyes twinkled as he waddled to the living-room. Young Adams
was handy around a kitchen. He had laid plates for two, knew how to
punch dough, was willing to wash the dishes without a hint, and had fed
the horse in the corral.

"He trots right along, like he knew where he was goin'," Bud said to
himself. "I like his looks--but that ain't always a sign."

Lorry whistled as he dried the dishes. Bud was seated in a huge armchair
when Lorry entered the room. Shoop seemed to pay no attention to
Bondsman, who whined and occasionally scratched on the door.

"Funny thing happened this mornin'," said Shoop, settling himself in his
chair. "I was ridin' down the ole Milk Ranch Trail when I looked up and
seen a bobcat lopin' straight for me. The cat didn't see me, but my hoss
stopped, waitin' for me to shoot. Well, that kittycat come right along
till I could 'a' almost roped him. Bondsman--that's my dog--never seen
him, neither, till I hollered. You ought to seen that cat start back
without losin' a jump. I like to fell off the hoss, laughin'. Bondsman
he lit out--"

"I'll let him in," said Lorry, moving toward the door.

"--After that cat," continued Shoop, "but the cat never treed, I reckon,
for pretty soon back comes Bondsman, lookin' as disgusted as a hen in a
rainstorm. 'We're gettin' too old,' I tells Bondsman--"

"Ain't you goin' to let him in?" queried Lorry.

"--We're gettin' too old to chase bobcats just for fun," concluded
Shoop. "What was you sayin'?"

"Your dog wants to come in."

"That's right. Now I thought you was listenin' to me."

"I was. But ain't he hungry?"

Shoop chuckled. "Let him in, son."

Lorry opened the door. Bondsman stalked in, sniffed at Lorry's boots,
and padded to the kitchen.

"What do you feed him?" said Lorry, hesitating.

"He won't take nothin' from you," said Shoop, heaving himself up. "I've
had him since he was a pup. You set down and I'll 'tend to him.

"And I says to him," said Shoop, as he returned to his chair,--"I says,
'Bondsman, that there cat was just passin' the buck to us to see if we
was game.' And he ain't got over it yet."

"I've roped 'em," said Lorry--"roped 'em out of a tree."

"Uh-uh. Where'd you learn to rope?"

"At the Starr Ranch. I worked there once."

"Git tired of it?"

"Nope. I had a argument with the foreman."

"Uh-uh. I reckon it ain't hard to pick a fuss with High Chin."

"I wasn't lookin' for a fuss. It was his funeral."

"So I heard; all but the procession."

"And that's why I came up to see you. Mr. Torrance told me to hunt you

"He did, eh? Well, now, John sure gets queer idees. I don't need a man
round here."

"I was after a job in the Service."

"And he sends you to me. Why, I ain't ever worked a day for the

"I guess he wanted you to look me over," said Lorry, smiling.

"Well, they's lots of time, 'less you're in a hurry."

"If I can't get in the Service, I'll look up a job punchin'," said
Lorry. "I got to get somethin'."

Bondsman stalked in, licking his chops. He nuzzled Shoop's hand. Lorry
snapped his fingers. Bondsman strode to him. Lorry patted his knee. The
big dog crouched and sprang to Lorry's knees, where he sat, studying him
quizzically, his head to one side, his keen eyes blinking in the
lamplight. Lorry laughed and patted the dog.

"He's trying to get my number," said Lorry.

"He's got it," said Shoop. "You could 'a' snapped your fingers off afore
he'd 'a' come nigh you, 'less he wanted to. And while we're talkin'
about it, you can tell John Torrance I said to give you a try."

Lorry sat up quickly. "Guess you didn't know that Buck Hardy is lookin'
for me," said Lorry. "Mr. Torrance says I got to square myself with Buck
afore I get the job."

"He did, eh? Well, speakin' of Buck, how would you like to hear a little
talk from a real music-box?"


Shoop waddled to the piano. "I ain't no reg'lar music sharp," he
explained unnecessarily, "but I got a couple of pieces broke to go
polite. This here piano is cold-mouthed, and you got to rein her just
right or she'll buffalo you. This here piece is 'Annie Laurie.'"

As Bud struck the first note, Bondsman leaped from Lorry's knees and
took his place beside the piano. The early dew had just begun to fall
when Bondsman joined in. Lorry grinned. The dog and his master were
absolutely serious in their efforts. As the tune progressed, Lorry's
grin faded, and he sat gazing intently at the huge back of his host.

"Why, he's playin' like he meant it," thought Lorry. "And folks says Bud
Shoop was a regular top-hand stem-winder in his day."

Shoop labored at the piano with nervous care. When he turned to Lorry
his face was beaded with sweat.

"I rode her clean through to the fence," he said, with a kind of
apologetic grin. "How did you like that piece?"

"I always did like them old tunes," replied Lorry. "Give us another."

Shoop's face beamed. "I only got one more that I can get my rope on. But
if you can stand it, I can. This here one is 'Dixie.'"

And Bud straightened his broad shoulders, pushed back his sleeves, and
waded across the sandy bottoms of Dixie, hitting the high spots with
staccato vehemence, as though Dixie had recently suffered from an
inundation and he was in a hurry to get to dry land. Bondsman's moody
baritone reached up and up with sad persistency.

Lorry was both amused and astonished. Shoop's intensity, his real love
for music, was a revelation. Lorry felt like smiling, yet he did not
smile. Bud Shoop could not play, but his personality forced its own
recognition, even through the absurd medium of an untutored performance
on that weird upright piano. Lorry began to realize that there was
something more to Bud Shoop than mere bulk.

Bud swung round, puffing. "I got that tune where I can keep her in sight
as long as she lopes on the level. But when she takes to jumpin' stumps
and makin' them quick turns, I sure have to do some hard ridin' to keep
her from losin' herself. Me and Bondsman's been worryin' along behind
them two tunes for quite a spell. I reckon I ought to started in
younger. But, anyhow, that there piano is right good comp'ny. When I
been settin' here alone, nights, and feelin' out her paces, I get so het
up and interested that I don't know the fire's out till Bondsman takes
to shiverin' and whinin' and tellin' me he'd like to get some sleep
afore mornin'."

And Bondsman, now that the music had stopped, stalked to Lorry and eyed
him with an expression which said plainly: "It's his weak spot--this
music. You will have to overlook it. He's really a rather decent sort of

"I got a mechanical player in the bedroom," said Shoop. "And a reg'lar
outfit of tunes for dances."

Lorry was tempted to ask to hear it, but changed his mind. "I've heard
them players. They're sure good for a dance, but I like real playin'

Bud Shoop grinned. "That's the way with Bondsman here. Now he won't open
his head to one of them paper tunes. I've tried 'em all on him. You
can't tell me a dog ain't got feelin's."

Chapter XV

_John and Demijohn_

The grass on the high mesa was heavy with dew when Lorry stepped from
the cabin next morning. His pony, Gray Leg, stood close to the corral,
where Shoop's horses were playfully biting at him over the bars. Lorry
unhobbled Gray Leg and turned Shoop's horses out to water. The three
ponies trotted to the water-hole, sniffed at the water, and, whirling,
raced across the mesa, pitching and kicking in the joy of liberation.

After breakfast Bud and Lorry sat out in the sun, enjoying the slow
warmth. The morning air was still keen in the shade. Bondsman lay
between them, watching the distant horses.

"He won't let 'em get far into the timber," said Shoop. "He sure saves
me a lot of steps, roundin' up them hosses."

"I can whistle Gray Leg to me," said Lorry. "Then the other horses'll

Shoop nodded. "What you goin' to do to-day?"

"Me? Well, it's so kind of quiet and big up here I feel like settin'
around and takin' it all in. I ain't been in the high country much.
'Course I don't aim to camp on you."

"You're sure welcome," said Shoop heartily. "It gets lonesome up here.
But if you ain't got no reg'lar plan I was thinkin' of ridin' over to
Sheep Crossin'--and mebby on down to Jason."

"Suits me fine!"

Shoop heaved himself up. Lorry whistled shrilly. Gray Leg, across the
mesa, raised his head. Lorry whistled again. The pony lowered his head
and nipped at the bunch-grass as he moved slowly toward the house.
Shoop's horses watched him, and finally decided that they would follow.
Gray Leg stopped just out of reach.

"Get in the corral, there!" said Lorry, waving his arm.

The pony shied and trotted into the corral, the other horses following.

Bondsman was not exactly disgruntled, but he might have been happier.
Shoop had told him to "keep house" until they returned.

"It's a funny thing," said Shoop as he mounted. "Now, if I was to tell
that dog he was gettin' too old to ramble with me, he'd feel plumb sick
and no account. But when I tell him he's got to do somethin'--like
watchin' the house--he thinks it's a reg'lar job. He's gettin' old, but,
just like folks, he wants to think he's some use. You can't tell me dogs
don't know. Why, I've seen young folks so durned fussy about their
grandmas and grandpas, trying to keep 'em from putterin' around, that
the old folks just nacherally folded their hands and set down and died,
havin' nothin' else to do. And a dog is right proud about bein' able to
do somethin'. Bondsman there keeps me so busy thinkin' of how I can keep
him busy that I ain't got time to shine my boots. That there dog bosses
me around somethin' scandalous."

"That's right," acquiesced Lorry. "I seen a ole mule once that they
turned loose from a freight wagon because he was too old to pull his own
weight. And that mule just followed the string up and down the hills and
across the sand, doin' his best to tell the skinner that he wanted to
get back into the harness. He would run alongside the other mules, and
try to get back in his old place. They would just naturally kick him,
and he'd turn and try to wallop 'em back. Then he'd walk along, with his
head hangin' down and his ears floppin', as if he was plumb sick of
bein' free and wanted to die. The last day he was too stiff to get on
his feet, so me and Jimmy Harp heaved him up while the skinner was
gettin' the chains on the other mules. That ole mule was sure wabblin'
like a duck, but he come aside his ole place and followed along all day.
We was freightin' in to camp, back in the Horseshoe Hills. You know that
grade afore you get to the mesa? Well, the ole mule pulled the grade,
sweatin' and puffin' like he was pullin' the whole load. And I guess he
was, in his mind. Anyhow, he got to the top, and laid down and died.
Mules sure like to work. Now a horse would have fanned it."

Shoop nodded. "I never seen a animile too lazy to work if it was only
gettin' his grub and exercise. But I've seen a sight of folks too lazy
to do that much. Why, some folks is so dog-gone no account they got to
git killed afore folks ever knowed they was livin'. Then they's some
folks so high-chinned they can't see nothin' but the stars when they'd
do tol'able well if they would follow a good hoss or a dog around and
learn how to live human. But this ain't gettin' nowhere, and the sun's
keepin' right along doin' business."

They rode across the beautiful Blue Mesa, and entered the timberlands,
following a ranger trail through the shadowy silences. At the lower
level, they came upon another mesa through which wound a mountain
stream. And along a stream ran the trail, knee-high in grass on either

Far below them lay the plains country, its hazy reaches just visible
over the tree-tops. Where the mountain stream merged with a deeper
stream the ground was barren and dotted with countless tracks of cattle
and sheep. This was Sheep Crossing, a natural pass where the cattlemen
and sheepmen drifted their stock from the hills to the winter
feeding-grounds of the lower country. It was a checking point for the
rangers; the gateway to the hills.

The thin mountain air was hot. The unbridled ponies drank eagerly, and
were allowed to graze. The men moved over to the shade of a blue-topped
spruce. As Lorry was about to sit down he picked an empty whiskey bottle
from the grass, turned the label toward Shoop, and grinned. He tossed
the bottle into the edge of the timber.

Shoop rolled a cigarette, and Lorry squatted beside him. Presently
Shoop's voice broke the indolent silence of noon: "Just why did you
chuck that bottle over there?"

"I don't know. Horse might step on it and cut himself."

"Yes. But you chucked it like you was mad at somethin'. Would you thrun
it away if it was full?"

"I don' know. I might 'a' smelt of it to see if it was whiskey or
kerosene some herder forgot."

"It's right curious how a fella will smell of a bottle to see what's in
it or what's been in it. Most folks does that. I guess you know what
whiskey smells like."

"Oh, some; with the boys once or twice. I never did get to like it right

Shoop nodded. "I ain't what you'd call a drinkin' man myself, but I
started out that way. I been tol'able well lit up at times. But
temperance folks what never took a drink can tell you more about whiskey
than I can. Now that there empty bottle, a hundred and thirty miles from
a whiskey town, kind of set me thinkin'."

Lorry leaned back against the spruce and watched a hawk float in easy
circles round the blue emptiness above. He felt physically indolent; at
one with the silences. Shoop's voice came to him clearly, but as though
from a distance, and as Shoop talked Lorry visualized the theme,
forgetting where he was in the vivid picture the old ex-cowboy sketched
in the rough dialect of the range.

"I've did some thinkin' in my time, but not enough to keep me awake
nights," said Shoop, pushing back his hat. "That there whiskey bottle
kind of set me back to where I was about your years and some lively.
Long about then I knowed two fellas called 'John' and 'Demijohn.' John
was young and a right good cow-hand. Demijohn was old, but he was always
dressed up like he was young, and he acted right lively. Some folks
thought he was young. They met up at a saloon down along the Santa Fe.
They got acquainted, and had a high ole time.

"That evenin', as John was leavin' to go back to the ranch, Demijohn
tells him he'll see him later. John remembers that. They met up ag'in.
And finally John got to lookin' for Demijohn, and if he didn't show up
reg'lar John would set out and chase Demijohn all over the country,
afoot and ahorseback, and likin' his comp'ny more every time they met.

"Now, this here Demijohn, who was by rights a city fella, got to takin'
to the timber and the mesas, with John followin' him around lively. Ole
Demijohn would set in the shade of a tree--no tellin' how he got
there--and John would ride up and light down; when mebby Demijohn would
start off to town, bein' empty, and John after him like hell wasn't hot
enough 'less he sweat runnin'. And that young John would ride clean to
town just to say 'How' to that ole hocus. And it come that John got to
payin' more attention to Demijohn than he did to punchin' cows. Then
come a day when John got sick of chasin' Demijohn all over the range,
and he quit.

"But the first thing he knowed, Demijohn was a chasin' him. Every time
John rode in and throwed off his saddle there'd be ole Demijohn, settin'
in the corner of the corral or under his bunk or out in the box stall,
smilin' and waitin'. Finally Demijohn got to followin' John right into
the bunk-house, and John tryin' his durndest to keep out of sight.

"One evenin', when John was loafin' in the bunk-house, ole Demijohn
crawls up to his bunk and asks him, whisperin', if he ain't most always
give John a good time when they met up. John cussed, but 'lowed that
Demijohn was right. Then Demijohn took to pullin' at young John's sleeve
and askin' him to come to town and have a good time. Pretty soon John
gets up and saddles his cayuse and fans it for town. And that time him
and Demijohn sure had one whizzer of a time. But come a week later, when
John gits back to the ranch, the boss is sore and fires him. Then John
gits sore at the boss and at himself and at Demijohn and the whole
works. So he saddles up and rides over to town to have it out with
Demijohn for losin' a good job. But he couldn't lick Demijohn right
there in town nohow. Demijohn was too frequent for him.

"When young John wakes up next mornin' he is layin' under a tree, mighty
sick. He sees he is up on the high mesa, but he don' know how he got
there; only his pony is grazin' near by, with reins all tromped and the
saddle 'way up on his withers. John sets up and rubs his eyes, and there
he sees ole Demijohn settin' in the grass chucklin' to hisself, and his
back is turned to young John, for he don't care nohow for a fella when
he is sick. Ole Demijohn is always feelin' good, no matter how his
friends feel. Well, young John thinks a while, and pretty soon he moseys
over to a spring and gets a big, cold drink and washes his head, and
feels better.

"He never knowed that just plain water tasted so good till that mornin'.
Then he sets awhile, smellin' of the clean pine air and listenin' to the
wind runnin' loose in the tree-tops and watchin' the clouds driftin' by,
white and clean and proud-like. Pretty soon he rares up and walks over
to the tree where ole Demijohn sets rockin' up and down and chucklin'.
He takes a holt of Demijohn by the shoulder, and he says: 'You darned
ole hocus, you, I lost my job, and I'm broke, lopin' around this country
with you.'

"'Forget it!' says ole Demijohn. 'Ain't I good comp'ny?'

"'Mebby you be--for some folks,' says young John. 'But not for me. You
don't belong up in this here country; you belong back in town, and I
reckon you better fan it.'

"Ole Demijohn he laughed. 'You can't run me off the range that easy,' he

"'I can't, eh?' says young John, and he pulls his gun and up and busts
ole Demijohn over the head. Then, bein' a likely young fella, he shuts
his jaw tight and fans it back to the ranch. The fo'man is some
surprised to see him come ridin' up, whistlin' like he owned the works.
Fellas what's fired mostly looks for work some place else. But young
John got the idee that he owed it to hisself to make good where he
started as a cow-hand. 'I busted my ole friend Demijohn over the head,'
he says to the fo'man. 'We ain't friends no more.'

"The fo'man he grins. 'All right, Jack,' he says. 'But if I see him
hangin' round the corrals ag'in, or in the bunk-house, you needn't to
wait for me to tell you which way is north.'

"Well, young John had done a good job. 'Course ole Demijohn used to come
sneakin' round in the moonlight, once in a spell, botherin' some of the
boys, but he stayed clear of young John. And young John he took to
ridin' straight and hard and 'tendin' to business. I ain't sayin' he
ever got to be president or superintendent of a Sunday School, for this
ain't no story-book yarn; but he always held a good job when he wanted
it, and he worked for a good boss--which was hisself."

Lorry grinned as he turned to Shoop. "That ole Demijohn never got close
enough to me to get busted on the head."

"Them hosses is strayin' down the creek," said Shoop, rising.

They turned and rode north, somewhat to Lorry's surprise. The trail was
ragged and steep, and led from the mesa to the canon bottom of the White
River. Before Lorry realized where they were, Jason loomed before them
on the mesa below.

"She's a quick trail to town in summer," explained Shoop. "Snow hangs
too heavy in the canon to ride it in winter."

At Jason they tied their horses, and entered the ranger's office. Lorry
waited while Shoop talked with Torrance in the private office. Presently
Shoop came to the door and gestured to Lorry.

"Mr. Shoop says he thinks you could qualify for the Service," Torrance
said. "We will waive the matter of recommendations from the Starr
people. But there is one thing I can't do. I can't hire a man who is
wanted by the authorities. There's a deputy sheriff in town with a
warrant for you. That is strictly your affair. If you can square
yourself with the deputy, I'll put you to work."

"I'll go see what he wants," said Lorry.

"He wants you. Understand, you'll only jeopardize your chances by
starting a row."

"They won't be a row," said Lorry.

When he returned he was accompanied by the deputy. Lorry took his stand
without parley.

"I want to ask you folks a question, and then I'm through," he asserted.
"Will you listen to what he says and what I say, and then say who is

"That might not settle it," said Torrance. "But go ahead."

"Then all I got to say is, was I right or wrong when I turned that hobo
loose and saved him from gettin' beat up by High Chin and the boys, and
mebby strung up, afore they got through?"

"Morally you were right," said Torrance. "But you should have appealed
to Sheriff Hardy to guard his prisoner."

"That's all right, Mr. Torrance. But suppose they wasn't time. And
suppose,--now Buck's deputy is here to listen to it,--suppose I was to
say that Buck is scared to death of High-Chin Bob. Everybody knows it."

The deputy flushed. He knew that Lorry spoke the truth.

Torrance turned to Shoop. "What do you think, Bud?"

Bud coughed and shrugged his heavy shoulders. "Bein' as I'm drug into
this, I say the boy did a good job and he's right about Hardy, which
you can tell him," he added, turning to the deputy.

"Then that's all I got to say," and Lorry pushed back his hat and
rumpled his hair.

The deputy was not there to argue. He had been sent to get Lorry.

"I don't say he ain't right. But how about my job if I ride back to
Stacey with nothin' to show for the trip but my expense card?"

"Buck Hardy isn't a fool," said Torrance.

"Oh, hell!" said Lorry, turning to the deputy. "I'll go back with you.
I'm sick of jawin' about the right and the wrong and who's to blame. But
I want to say in company that I'll go just as far as the county line of
this county. You're south of your county. If you can get me across the
line, I'll go on to Stacey."

Bud Shoop mopped his face with a bandanna. He was not overhot, but he
wanted to hide the grin that spread over his broad countenance. He
imagined he could see the deputy just about the time they arrived at the
county line, and the mental picture seemed to amuse him.

"The idee is, the kid thinks he's right," said Shoop presently.
"Speakin' personal, I never monkey with a man when he thinks he's
right--and he is."

"All I got to go by is the law," asserted the deputy. "As for Adams here
sayin' I won't run him in, I got orders to do it, and them orders goes."

"Adams has applied for a position in the Service," said Torrance.

"I ain't got anything against Lorry personal," said the deputy.

"Then just you ride back an' tell Buck Hardy that Bud Shoop says he'll
stand responsible for Adams keepin' the peace in Jason County, same as I
stood responsible for Buck oncet down in the Panhandle. Buck will
remember, all right."

"Can't you give me a letter to Buck, explainin' things?" queried the

Bud glanced at Torrance. "I think we can," said the supervisor.

Lorry stepped to the door with the deputy. There was no personal feeling
evident as they shook hands.

"You could tell ma to send down my clothes by stage," said Lorry.

Shoop and Torrance seemed to be enjoying themselves.

"I put in my say," said Bud, "'cause I kind of like the kid. And I
reckon I saved that deputy a awful wallopin'. When a fella like young
Adams talks pleasant and chokes his hat to death at the same time you
can watch out for somethin' to fall."

"Do you think Adams would have had it out with him?"

"He'd 'a' rode along a spell, like he said. Mebby just this side of the
county line he'd 'a' told the deputy which way was north. And if the
deputy didn't take the hint, I reckon Adams would 'a' lit into him. I
knowed Adams's daddy afore he married Annie Adams and went to live in

"Then you knew that his father was Jim Waring?"

"I sure did. And I reckon I kep' somebody from gettin' a awful
wallopin'. I was a kid oncet myself."

Chapter XVI


The installation of Bud Shoop as supervisor of the White Mountain
District was celebrated with an old-fashioned barbecue by the cattlemen
and sheepmen leasing on the reserve. While John Torrance had always
dealt fairly with them, the natives felt that he was more or less of a
theorist in the matter of grazing-leases. Shoop was a practical cowman;
one of themselves. Naturally there was some dissatisfaction expressed by
disgruntled individuals who envied Shoop's good fortune. But this was
overwhelmed by the tide of popular acclaim with which Shoop was hailed
as a just administrator of their grazing-rights.

The barbecue was a boisterous success. Although the day of large
holdings was past, the event lacked nothing in numbers or enthusiasm.
The man who owned a hundred head of cattle was quite as popular as his
neighbor who owned perhaps eight hundred or a thousand. Outfits
fraternized, ran pony races, roped for prizes, and rode bucking horses,
as their predecessors had raced, roped, and "rode 'em" in the days of

Lorry, itching to enter the roping contest, was checked by a suggestion
from the genial Bud.

"I've heard you was top-hand with a rope. But you're a ranger, by the
grace of God and me and John Torrance. Let the boy's play, but don't
play with 'em yet. Keep 'em guessin' just how good you are. Let 'em get
to know you slow--and solid."

Lorry accepted Bud's advice, and made himself popular with the various
outfits by maintaining a silence when questioned as to how he "put
High-Chin Bob out of business." The story of that affair had had a wide
circulation, and gained interest when it became known that High Chin and
his men were present. Their excuse for coming was only legitimate in
that a barbecue draws no fine lines of distinction. Any one who has a
horse and an appetite is welcome. The Starr riders were from the
northern county, but they would have been quite as welcome had they come
from Alaska.

Bud Shoop was present in a suit of religiously severe black, his pants
outside his boots. He had donned a white shirt and knotted a black silk
bandanna round his short neck.

The morning was noisy with pony races, roping contests, and the riding
of pitching horses. The events were not tabulated, but evolved through
the unwritten law of precedent.

After the noon feast there was talk of a shooting-match. Few of the
local men packed guns, and none of them openly. The Starr riders were
the only exception. This fact was commented upon by some of the
old-timers, who finally accosted Bud with the suggestion that he "show
that Starr outfit what a gun was made for." Bud declined.

"I ain't had a gun in my hand, except to clean it, since I quit
punchin'," he told them. "And, anyhow, I'm no fancy gun sharp."

"High Chin and his outfit is sure handin' it to us," complained the
old-timers. "And you're about the only man here who could show 'em."

"No use provin' it to 'em when they know it," Bud said.

The committee retired and consulted among themselves. Bud was talking
with a cattleman when they again accosted him.

"Say, Bud, them Starr boys has cleaned us out on ropin' and racin'. We
trimmed 'em on ridin'. Now that makes two to one, and we're askin' you
as a old-timer if we're goin' to let them fellas ride north a-tellin'
every hay-tosser atween here and Stacey that we're a bunch of jays?"

"Oh, shucks!" was all Bud had to say.

"And that High-Chin Bob says he aims to hang young Adams's scalp on his
belt afore he gits through," asserted a townsman.

"I'll set in the game," said Bud.

And he waddled across the street to his office. In a few minutes he came
back and mingled with the crowd. The Starr boys were pitching dollars at
a mark when Bud and a companion strolled past. High Chin invited Shoop
to join in the game. Shoop declined pleasantly.

"Things is runnin' slow," said a Starr man. "Wish I'd 'a' fetched my
music along. Mebby I could git somebody to sing me to sleep."

Bud laughed. "Have a good time, boys." And he moved on.

"That was one for you--and yore piano," said his companion.

"Mebby so. We'll let that rest. I'm lookin' for a friend of mine." And
Shoop edged along the crowd.

The man that Shoop was looking for was standing alone beneath the shade
of an acacia, watching the crowd. He was a tall, heavy man,
dark-featured, with a silver-gray beard and brown eyes that seemed to
twinkle with amusement even when his lips were grim. The giant sheepman
of the south country was known to every one on account of his great
physique and his immense holdings in land and sheep. Shoop talked with
him for a few minutes. Together they strolled back to the crowd.

The Starr boys were still pitching dollars when Shoop and the sheepman

"Who's top-hand in this game?" queried Shoop genially.

"High Chin--and at any game you got," said a Starr man.

"Well, now!"

"Any game you got."

Shoop gazed about, saw Lorry, and beckoned to him.

"Here's my candidate," said Shoop. "He kep' out of the ropin' so as to
give you fellas a chance." And he turned to Lorry. "Give him a whirl,"
he said, indicating High Chin. "It's worth a couple of dollars just to
find out how good he is."

High Chin surveyed the circle of faces, poised a dollar, and threw it.
Lorry threw and lost. High Chin pocketed the two dollars. The Starr boys
grinned. High Chin threw again. The dollar slid close to the line. Lorry
shied his dollar and knocked the other's coin several feet away from the

"Try him ag'in," said Shoop.

Lorry tossed again. His dollar dropped on the line. High Chin threw. His
coin clinked squarely on Lorry's, but spun off, leaving it undisturbed.

"You break even--at that game," said Shoop. "It was a good shot."

"Folks been sayin' the same of you," said High Chin, turning to the

"Oh, folks will talk. They're made that way," chuckled Shoop.

"Well, I got ten bucks that says High Chin can outshoot any hombre in
this crowd," said a Starr boy.

"I'm right glad you got it," said Shoop pleasantly.

"Meanin' I stand to lose it, eh?"

"Oh, gosh, no! You're steppin' on your bridle. I was congratulatin' you
on your wealth."

"I ain't seen that you been flashin' any money," said the cowboy.

"Nope. That ain't what money's made for. And I never bet on a sure
thing. Ain't no fun in that."

The giant sheepman, whose movements were as deliberate as the sun's,
slowly reached in his pocket and drew out a leather pouch. He counted
out forty dollars in gold-pieces.

"I'll lay it even," he said, his eyes twinkling, "that Bud Shoop can
outshoot any man in the crowd."

"I'll take ten of that," said the Starr man.

"And I'll take ten," said another cowboy.

"John," said Shoop, turning to the sheepman, "you're a perpendicular
dam' fool."

Word went forth that High-Chin Bob, of the Starr, and Bud Shoop were to
shoot a match for a thousand dollars a side, and some of the more
enthusiastic believed it. In a few minutes the street was empty of all
save the ponies at the hitching-rails.

In a shallow arroyo back of town the excited throng made wagers and
talked of wonderful shots made by the principals. High Chin was known as
a quick and sure shot. Shoop's reputation was known to fewer of the
crowd. The Starr boys backed their foreman to the last cent. A judge was
suggested, but declined as being of the locality. Finally the giant
sheepman, despite his personal wager, was elected unanimously. He was
known to be a man of absolute fairness, and qualified to judge
marksmanship. He agreed to serve, with the proviso that the Starr boys
or any of High Chin's friends should feel free to question his
decisions. The crowd solidified back of the line, where Shoop and High
Chin stood waiting for the test.

The marksmen faced two bottles on a rock some thirty paces away. At the
word, each was to "go for his gun" and shoot. High Chin carried his gun
in the usual holster. Bud Shoop's gun was tucked in the waistband of his

"Go!" said the sheepman.

High Chin's hand flashed to his hip. His gun jumped and spoke. Shoop's
wrist turned. Both bottles were shattered on the instant. A tie was

The men were placed with their backs toward the targets--two empty
bottles. The sheepman faced them, with his hands behind his back. When
he snapped his fingers they were to turn and fire. Many of the onlookers
thought this test would leave High Chin a point ahead.

Both men swung and fired at the signal. Again both bottles were
shattered. Although a tie was again declared, the crowd cheered for
Shoop, realizing his physical handicap. Yet many asserted that High Chin
was the faster man, won to this decision by his lightning speed of
movement and his easy manner, suggesting a kind of contemptuous
indifference to results.

In contrast to High Chin's swift, careless efficiency, Shoop's solid
poise and lack of elbow motion showed in strong relief. Their methods
were entirely dissimilar. But it was evident to the old-timers that
Shoop shot with less effort and waste motion than his lithe competitor.
And High Chin was the younger man by twenty years.

Thus far the tests had not been considered difficult. But when the
sheepman stepped off ten paces and faced the competitors with a cigar
held at arm's length, the chattering of the crowd ceased. High Chin, as
guest, was asked to shoot first. He raised his gun. It hung poised for a
second. As it jumped in his hand the ash flirted from the end of the
cigar. The crowd stamped and cheered. Shoop congratulated High Chin. The
crowd hooted and called to Shoop to make good. Even as they called, his
hand flashed up. Hardly had the report of his gun startled them to
silence when they saw that his hands were empty. A roar of laughter
shook the crowd. Some one pointed toward the sheepman. The laughter died
down. He held a scant two inches of cigar in his fingers. Then they
understood, and were silent again. They gathered round the sheepman. He
held up his arms. Shoop's bullet had nipped the cigar in two before they
had realized that he intended to shoot.

"You're havin' the luck," said High.

"You're right," said Shoop. "And luck, if she keeps steady gait, is just
as good a hoss to ride as they is."

Still, there were those who maintained that Shoop had made a chance
hit. But High Chin knew that this was not so. He had met his master at
the six-gun game.

Bud Shoop's easy manner had vanished. As solid as a rock, his lips in a
straight line, he waited for the next test while High Chin talked and
joked with the bystanders.

"You'll shoot when you see something to shoot at," was the sheepman's
word. The crowd laughed. He stood behind the marksmen, a tin can in each
hand. Both High Chin and Shoop knew what was coming, and Shoop decided
to surprise the assemblage. The main issue was not the shooting contest,
and if High-Chin Bob had not already seen enough of Shoop's work to
satisfy him, the genial Bud intended to clinch the matter right there.

Without warning, the sheepman tossed the cans into the air. Shoop and
High Chin shot on the instant. But before High Chin's can touched the
ground Shoop shot again. It was faster work than any present had ever
seen. A man picked up the cans and brought them to the sheepman. One can
had a clean hole in it. The other had two holes through it. Those
nearest the marksmen wondered why Shoop had not shot twice at his own
can. But the big sheepman knew that Shoop had called High Chin's bluff
about "any game going."

Even then the match was a tie so far as precedent demanded. Each man
had made a hit on a moving target.

The crowd had ceased to applaud.

"How about a try from the saddle?" suggested High Chin.

"I reckon I look just as fat and foolish settin' in a saddle as
anywhere," said Shoop.

The crowd shuffled over to a more open spot, on the mesa. Shoop and High
Chin mounted their horses. A tin cracker box was placed on a flat rock
out in the open.

The men were to reload and shoot at top speed as they rode past the box.
The Starr foreman immediately jumped his pony to a run, and, swaying
easily, threw a shot at the box as he approached it, another and another
when opposite, and, turning in the saddle, fired his three remaining
shots. The box was brought back and inspected. The six shots had all

Shoop, straight and solid as a statue, ran his pony down the course, but
held his fire until almost opposite the box. Then six reports rippled
out like the drawing of a stick quickly across a picket fence. It was
found that the six shots had all hit in one side of the box. The
sheepman was asked for a decision. He shook his head and declared the
match a draw. And technically it was a draw. Every one seemed satisfied,
although there was much discussion among individuals as to the relative
merits of the contestants.

As the crowd dispersed and some of them prepared to ride home, two
horsemen appeared on the northern road, riding toward town. As they drew
nearer Shoop chuckled. Lorry, standing a few paces away, glanced at him.

The supervisor was talking to Bob Brewster. "High, you're the best I
ever stacked up against, exceptin' one, and it's right curious that he
is just a-ridin' into this powwow. If you want to see what real shootin'
is, get him to show you."

"I don't know your friend," said High, eyeing the approaching horsemen,
"but he's a beaut if he can outshoot you."

"Outshoot me? Say, High, that hombre ridin' the big buckskin hoss there
could make us look about as fast as a couple of fence-posts when it
comes to handlin' a gun. And his pardner ain't what you'd call slow."

High Chin's lean face darkened as he recognized Waring riding beside a
gaunt, long-legged man whose gray eyes twinkled as he surveyed the
little group.

"Pat--and Jim Waring," muttered Shoop. "And us just finished what some
would call a ole-time shootin'-bee!"

"Who's your friend?" queried High Chin, although he knew.

"Him? That's Jim Waring, of Sonora. And say, High, I ain't his
advertisin' agent, but between you and me he could shoot the fuzz out of
your ears and never as much as burn 'em. What I'm tellin' you is
first-class life insurance if you ain't took out any. And before you go
I just want to pass the word that young Adams is workin' for _me_.
Reckon you might be interested, seein' as how he worked for you a

High Chin met Shoop's gaze unblinkingly. He was about to speak when Pat
and Waring, rode up and greeted the supervisor. High Chin wheeled his
horse and loped back to town. A few minutes later he and his men rode
past. To Shoop's genial wave of farewell they returned a whoop that
seemed edged with a vague challenge.

Pat, who was watching them, asked Shoop who the man was riding the

"Why, that's High-Chin Bob Brewster, Starr fo'man. He's kind of a wild
bird. I reckon he came over here lookin' for trouble. He's been walkin'
around with his wings and tail spread like he was mad at somethin'."

"I thought I knew him," said Pat. And he shrugged his shoulders.

Shoop noticed that Waring was gazing at Pat in a peculiar manner. He
attached no significance to this at the time, but later he recalled the
fact that there had been trouble between Pat and the Brewster boys some
years ago. The Brewsters had then openly threatened to "get Pat if he
ever rode north again."

Chapter XVII

_Down the Wind_

Waring, several miles out from the home shack, on the new range, sat his
horse Dexter, watching his men string fence. They ran the barbed wire
with a tackle, stringing it taut down the long line of bare posts that
twinkled away to dots in the west. Occasionally Waring rode up and
tested the wire with his hand. The men worked fast. Waring and Pat had
picked their men; three husky boys of the high country who considered
stringing fence rather pleasant exercise. There was no recognized
foreman. Each knew his work, and Waring had added a foreman's pay to
their salaries, dividing it equally among them. Later they would look
after the ranch and the cattle.

Twenty thousand acres under fence, with plenty of water, would take care
of eight hundred or a thousand head of cattle. And as a provision
against a lean winter, Waring had put a mowing-machine in at the eastern
end of the range, where the bunch-grass was heavy enough to cut. It
would be necessary to winter-feed. Four hundred white-faced Herefords
grazed in the autumn sunshine. Riding round and among them leisurely was
the Mexican youth, Ramon.

Backed against a butte near the middle of the range was the broad,
low-roofed ranch-house. A windmill purred in the light breeze, its lean,
flickering shadow aslant the corrals. The buildings looked new and raw
in contrast to the huge pile of grayish-green greasewood and scrub cedar
gathered from the clearing round them.

In front of the house was a fenced acre, ploughed and harrowed to a dead
level. This was to be Pat's garden, wherein he had planned to grow all
sorts of green things, including cucumbers. At the moment Pat was
standing under the veranda roof, gazing out across the ranch. The old
days of petty warfare, long night rides, and untold hardships were past.
Next spring his garden would bloom; tiny green tendrils would swell to
sturdy vines. Corn-leaves would broaden to waving green blades shot with
the rich brown of the ripening ears. Although he had never spoken of it,
Pat had dreamed of blue flowers nodding along the garden fence;
old-fashioned bachelor's-buttons that would spring up as though by
accident. But he would have to warn Waco, the erstwhile tramp, not to
mistake them for weeds.

"Peace and plenty," muttered Pat, smiling to himself. "The Book sure
knows how to say those things."

The gaunt, grizzled ex-sheriff reached in his vest for a cigar. As he
bit the end off and felt for a match, he saw a black speck wavering in
the distance. He shaded his eyes with his hand.

"'Tain't a machine," he said. "And it ain't a buckboard. Some puncher
lookin' for a job, most likely."

He turned and entered the house. Waco, shaven and in clean shirt and
overalls, was "punching dough" in the kitchen.

"Did Jim say when he would ride in?" queried Pat.

"About sundown. I fixed 'em up some chuck this morning. Jim figures
they're getting too far out to ride in every noon."

"Well, when you get your bread baked we'll take a whirl at those
ditches. How are the supplies holding out?"

"We're short on flour. Got enough to last over till Monday. Plenty bacon
and beans and lard."

"All right. We'll hook up to-morrow and drive in."

Waco nodded as he tucked a roll of dough into the pan. Pat watched him
for a moment. Waco, despite his many shortcomings, could cook, and,
strangely enough, liked to putter round the garden.

Picked up half-starving on the mesa road, near St. Johns, he had been
brought to the ranch by Pat, where a month of clean air and industry had
reshaped the tramp to something like a man. Both Pat and Waring knew
that the hobo was wanted in Stacey. They had agreed to say nothing about
the tramp's whereabouts just so long as he made himself useful about
the ranch. They would give him a chance. But, familiar with his kind,
they were mildly skeptical as to Waco's sincerity of purpose. If he took
to drinking, or if Buck Hardy heard of his whereabouts, he would have to
go. Meanwhile, he earned his keep. He was a good cook, and a good cook,
no matter where or where from, is a power in the land.

As Waco closed the oven door some one hallooed. Pat stepped to the
veranda. A cowboy astride a bay pony asked if Waring were around.

"I can take your message," said Pat.

"Well, it's for you, I guess. Letter from Buck Hardy."

"Yes, it's for me," said Pat. "Who sent you?"

"Hardy. Said something about you had a man down here he wanted."

"All right. Stay for chuck?"

"I got to git back. How's things down this way?"

"Running on time. Just tell Buck I'll be over right soon."


Pat's gray eyes hardened. "Buck tell you to ask me that?"

"Well--no. I was just wonderin'."

"Then keep right on wondering," said Pat. "You got your answer."

The cowboy swung up and rode off. "To hell with him!" he said. "Thinks
he can throw a scare into me because he's got a name for killin'. To
hell him!"

Pat climbed the hill back of the house and surveyed the glimmering

"Wish Jim would ride in. Funny thing--Hardy sending a Starr boy with
word for me. But perhaps the kid was riding this way, anyhow."

Pat shook his head, and climbed slowly down to the house. Waco was busy
in the kitchen when he came in.

After the noon meal, Pat again climbed the hill. He seemed worried about
something. When he returned he told Waco to hitch the pintos to the

"Get your coat," he told Waco. "We're going over to Stacey."

Waco's hands trembled. "Say, boss, if you don't mind--"

"Get your coat. I'll talk to Buck. You needn't to worry. I'll square you
with Buck. We can use you here."

Waco did as he was told. They drove out of the yard. Waco leaped down
and closed the gate.

The pintos shook themselves into the harness and trotted down the
faintly marked new road. The buckboard swayed and jolted. Something
rubbed against Waco's hip. He glanced down and saw Pat's gun on the seat
between them. Pat said nothing. He was thinking hard. The cowboy
messenger's manner had not been natural. The note bore the printed
heading of the sheriff's office. Perhaps it was all right. And if it
were not, Pat was not the man to back down from a bluff.

Several miles out from the ranch ran the naked posts of the line fence.
Pat reined in the ponies and gazed up and down the line. A mile beyond,
the ranch road merged with the main-traveled highway running east and
west. He spoke to the horses. They broke into a fast trot. Waco,
gripping the seat, stared straight ahead. Why had Pat laid that gun on
the seat?

A thin, gray veil drifted across the sun. From the northwest a light
wind sprang up and ran across the mesa, whipping the bunch-grass. The
wind grew heavier, and with it came a fine, dun-colored dust. An hour
and the air was thick with a shifting red haze of sand. The sun glowed
dimly through the murk.

Waco turned up his coat-collar and shivered. The air was keen. The
ponies fought the bit, occasionally breaking into a gallop. Pat braced
his feet and held them to a trot. A weird buzzing came down the wind.
The ponies reared and took to the ditch as a machine flicked past and
drummed away in the distance.

To Waco, rigid and staring, the air seemed filled with a kind of
hovering terror, a whining threat of danger that came in bursts of
driving sand and dwindled away to harsh whisperings. He stood it as
long as he could. Pat had not spoken.

[Illustration: A huddled shape near a boulder]

Waco touched his arm. "I got a hunch," he said hoarsely,--"I got a hunch
we oughta go back."

Pat nodded. But the ponies swept on down the road, their manes and tails
whipping in the wind. Another mile and they slowed down in heavy sand.
The buckboard tilted forward as they descended the sharp pitch of an
arroyo. Unnoticed, Pat's gun slipped to the floor of the wagon.

In the arroyo the wind seemed to have died away, leaving a startled
quietness. It still hung above them, and an occasional gust filled their
eyes with grit. Waco drew a deep breath. The ponies tugged through the
heavy sand.

Without a sound to warn them a rider appeared close to the front wheel
of the buckboard. Waco shrank down in sodden terror. It was the Starr
foreman, High-Chin Bob. Waco saw Pat's hand flash to his side, then
fumble on the seat.

"I'm payin' the Kid's debt," said High Chin, and, laughing, he threw
shot after shot into the defenseless body of his old enemy.

Waco saw Pat slump forward, catch himself, and finally topple from the
seat. As the reins slipped from his fingers the ponies lunged up the
arroyo. Waco crouched, clutching the foot-rail. A bullet hummed over his
head. Gaining the level, the ponies broke into a wild run. The red wind
whined as it drove across the mesa. The buckboard lurched sickeningly.
A scream of terror wailed down the wind as the buckboard struck a
telegraph pole. A blind shock--and for Waco the droning of the wind had

Dragging the broken traces, the ponies circled the mesa and set off at a
gallop toward home. At the side of the road lay the splintered
buckboard, wheels up. And Waco, hovering on the edge of the black abyss,
dreamed strange dreams.

* * * * *

Waring, riding in with the crew, found the ranch-house deserted and the
pinto ponies dragging the shreds of a broken harness, grazing along the
fence. Waring sent a man to catch up the team. Ramon cooked supper. The
men ate in silence.

After supper Waring changed his clothes, saddled Dex, and packed some
food in the saddle-pockets. "I am going out to look for Pat," he told
one of his men. "If Waco shows up, keep him here till I get back. Those
horses didn't get away from Pat. Here's a signed check. Get what you
need and keep on with the work. You're foreman till I get back."

"If there's anything doing--" began the cowboy.

"I don't know. Some one rode in here to-day. It was along about noon
that Pat and Waco left. The bread was baked. I'd say they drove to town
for grub; only Pat took his gun--without the holster. It looks bad to
me. If anything happens to me, just send for Lorry Adams at the Ranger

Waring rode out, looking for tracks. His men watched him until he had
disappeared behind a rise. Bender, the new foreman, turned to his

"I'd hate to be the man that the boss is lookin' for," he said, shaking
his head.

"Why, he's lookin' for Pat, ain't he?" queried one of the men.

"That ain't what I mean," said the foreman.

* * * * *

The wind died down suddenly. The sun, just above the horizon, glowed
like a disk of burnished copper. The wagon ruts were filled with fine
sand. Waring read the trail. The buckboard had traveled briskly. It had
stopped at the line. The tracks of the fretting ponies showed that
clearly. Alongside the tracks of the ponies were the half-hidden tracks
of a single horse. Waring glanced back at the sun, and put Dex to a
lope. He swung into the main road, his gaze following the
half-obliterated trail of the single horseman. Suddenly he reined up.
The horseman had angled away from the road and had ridden north across
the open country. He had not gone to Stacey. Waring knew that the
horseman had been riding hard. Straight north from where Waring had
stopped was the Starr Ranch.

He rode on, his heart heavy with a black premonition. The glowing
copper disk was now half-hidden by the western hills.

At the brink of the arroyo he dismounted. He could see nothing
distinctly in the gloom of its depths. Stooping, he noted the wagon
tracks as he worked on down. His foot struck against something hard. He
fumbled and picked Pat's gun from the sand. Every chamber was loaded.

"He didn't have a chance." Waring was startled by his own voice. He
thrust the gun in his waistband. The twilight deepened rapidly. Rocks
and ridges in the arroyo assumed peculiar shapes like those of men
crouching; men prone; men with heads up, listening, watching, waiting.
Yet Waring's instinct for hidden danger told him that there was no
living thing in the arroyo--unless--Suddenly he sprang forward and
dropped to his knees beside a huddled shape near a boulder.

"Pat!" he whispered.

Then he knew; saw it all as clearly as though he had witnessed it--the
ambushment in the blinding sandstorm; the terror-stricken Waco; the
frightened ponies; the lunging and swaying buckboard. And Pat, left for
dead, but who had dragged himself from the roadway in dumb agony.

The dole of light from the sinking sun was gone. Waring's hands came
away from the opened shirt shudderingly. He wiped his hands on the sand,
and, rising, ran back to Dex. He returned with a whiskey flask. Pat was
of tough fiber and tremendous vitality. If the spark were still
unquenched, if it could be called back even for a breath, that which
Waring knew, yet wanted to confirm beyond all doubt, might be given in a
word. He raised Pat's head, and barely tilted the flask. The spirit of
the mortally stricken man, perchance loath to leave such a brave
hermitage, winged slowly back from the far shore of dreams. In the black
pit of the arroyo, where death crouched, waiting, life flamed for an

Waring felt the limp body stir. He took Pat's big, bony hand in his.

"Pat!" he whispered.

A word breathed heavily from the motionless lips. "You, Jim?"

"Yes! For God's sake, Pat, who did this thing?"

"Brewster--Bob. Letter--in my coat."

"I'll get _him_!" said Waring.

"Shake!" exclaimed the dying man, and the grip of his hand was like
iron. Waring thought he had gone, and leaned closer. "I'm--kind of
tired--Jim. Reckon--I'll--rest."

Waring felt the other's grip relax. He drew his hand from the stiffening
fingers. A dull pain burned in his throat. He lighted a match, and found
the message that had lured Pat to his death in the other's coat-pocket.
He rose and stumbled up the arroyo to his horse.

Halfway back to the ranch, and he met Ramon riding hard. "Ride back,"
said Waring. "Hook up to the wagon and come to the arroyo."

"Have you found the Senor Pat?"

"Yes. He is dead."

Ramon whirled his pony and pounded away in the darkness.

Out on the highway two long, slender shafts of light slid across the
mesa, dipped into an arroyo, and climbed skyward as a machine buzzed up
the opposite pitch. The lights straightened again and shot on down the
road, swinging stiffly from side to side. Presently they came to a stop.
In the soft glow of their double radiance lay a yellow-wheeled
buckboard, shattered and twisted round a telegraph pole. The lights
moved up slowly and stopped again.

A man jumped from the machine and walked round the buckboard. Beneath it
lay a crumpled figure. The driver of the machine ran a quick hand over
the neck and arms of Waco, who groaned. The driver lifted him and
carried him to the car. Stacey lay some twenty miles behind him. He was
bound south. The first town on his way was thirty miles distant. But the
roads were good. He glanced back at the huddled figure in the tonneau.
The car purred on down the night. The long shafts of light lifted over a
rise and disappeared.

In about an hour the car stopped at the town of Grant. Waco was carried
from the machine to a room in the hotel, and a doctor was summoned.
Waco lay unconscious throughout the night.

In the morning he was questioned briefly. He gave a fictitious name, and
mentioned a town he had heard of, but had never been in. His horses had
run away with him.

The man who had picked him up drove away next morning. Later the doctor
told Waco that through a miracle there were no bones broken, but that he
would have to keep to his bed for at least a week. Otherwise he would
never recover from the severe shock to his nervous system.

And Waco, recalling the horror of the preceding day, twisted his head
round at every footstep in the hall, fearing that Waring had come to
question him. He knew that he had done no wrong; in fact, he had told
Pat that they had better drive back home. But a sense of shame at his
cowardice, and the realization that his word was as water in evidence,
that he was but a wastrel, a tramp, burdened him with an aching desire
to get away--to hide himself from Waring's eyes, from the eyes of all

He kept telling himself that he had done nothing wrong, yet fear shook
him until his teeth chattered. What could he have done even had he been
courageous? Pat had had no chance.

He suffered with the misery of indecision. Habit inclined him to flee
from the scene of the murder. Fear of the law urged him. Three nights
after he had been brought to Grant, he dressed and crept down the back
stairs, and made his way to the railroad station. Twice he had heard the
midnight freight stop and cut out cars on the siding. He hid in the
shadows until the freight arrived. He climbed to an empty box-car and
waited. Trainmen crunched past on the cinders. A jolt and he was swept
away toward the west. He sank into a half sleep as the iron wheels
roared and droned beneath him.

Chapter XVIII

_A Piece of Paper_

In the little desert hotel at Stacey, Mrs. Adams was singing softly to
herself as she moved about the dining-room helping Anita clear away the
breakfast dishes. Mrs. Adams had heard from Lorry. He had secured a
place in the Ranger Service. She was happy. His letter had been filled
with enthusiasm for the work and for his chief, Bud Shoop. This in
itself was enough to make her happy. She had known Bud in Las Cruces. He
was a good man. And then--Jim had settled down. Only last week he had
ridden over and told her how they were getting on with the work at the
ranch. He had hinted then that he had laid his guns away. Perhaps he had
wanted her to know _that_ more than anything else. She had kissed him
good-bye. His gray eyes had been kind. "Some day, Annie," he had said.
Her face flushed as she recalled the moment.

A boot-heel gritted on the walk. She turned. Waring was standing in the
doorway. His face was set and hard. Involuntarily she ran to him.

"What is it, Jim? Lorry?"

He shook his head. She saw at once that he was dressed for a long ride
and that--an unusual circumstance--a gun swung at his hip. He usually
wore a coat and carried his gun in a shoulder holster. But now he was
in his shirt-sleeves. A dread oppressed her. He was ready on the instant
to fight, but with whom? Her eyes grew big.

"What is it?" she whispered again.

"The Brewster boys got Pat."

"Not--they didn't kill him!"

Waring nodded.

"But, Jim--"

"In the Red Arroyo on the desert road. I found him. I came to tell you."

"And you are going--"

"Yes. I was afraid this would happen. Pat made a mistake."

"But, Jim! The law--the sheriff--you don't have to go."

"No," he said slowly.

"Then why do you go? I thought you would never do that again.
I--I--prayed for you, Jim. I prayed for you and Lorry. I asked God to
send you back to me with your two hands clean. I told Him you would
never kill again. Oh, Jim, I wanted you--here! Don't!" she sobbed.

He put his arm round her shoulders. Stooping, he kissed her.

"You are going?" she asked, and her hands dropped to her sides.

"Yes; I told Pat I would get Brewster. Pat went out with his hand in
mine on that word. My God, Annie, do you think I could ride back to the
ranch and face the boys or sleep nights with Pat's hand reaching for me
in the dark to remind me of my word? Can't you see where I stand? Do you
think I could look Lorry in the face when he knew that I sat idle while
the man that murdered Pat was riding the country free?"

"Pat was your friend. I am your wife," said Mrs. Adams.

Waring's lips hardened. "Pat's gone. But I'm calling myself his friend
yet. And the man that got him is going to know it."

Before she could speak again Waring was gone.

She dropped to a chair and buried her face in her arms. Anita came to
her and tried to comfort her. But Mrs. Adams rose and walked to the
office doorway. She saw Waring riding down the street. She wanted to
call out to him, to call him back. She felt that he was riding to his
death. If he would only turn! If he would only wave his hand to show
that he cared--But Waring rode on, straight and stern, black hate in his
heart, his free hand hollowed as though with an invisible vengeance that
was gone as he drew his fingers tense.

He rode north, toward the Starr Ranch. He passed a group of riders
drifting some yearlings toward town. A man spoke to him. He did not

And as he rode he heard a voice--the Voice of his desert wanderings, the
Voice that had whispered to him from the embers of many a night fire in
the Southern solitudes. Yet there, was this difference. That voice had
been strangely dispassionate, detached; not the voice of a human being.
But now the Voice was that of his friend Pat softly reiterating: "Not
this way, Jim."

And Waring cursed. His plan was made. He would suffer no interference.
If Brewster were at the Starr Ranch, he would question him first. If he
were not, there would be no questioning. Waring determined to trail him.
If Brewster had left that part of the country, that would prove his

Waring knew that Hardy and his men had ridden south, endeavoring to find
some clue to the murderer's whereabouts. Waring, guided by almost
absolute knowledge, rode in the opposite direction and against a keen
instinct that told him High-Chin Bob was not at the ranch. Yet Waring
would not overlook the slightest chance. Brewster was of the type that
would kill a man in a quarrel and ride home, depending on his nerve and
lack of evidence to escape punishment.

The Voice had said, "Not this way, Jim." And Waring knew that it had
been the voice of his own instinct. Yet a stubborn purpose held him to
his course. There was one chance in a thousand that Bob Brewster was at
the ranch and would disclaim all knowledge of the shooting.

Starr was away when Waring arrived. Mrs. Starr made Waring welcome, and
told him that her husband would be in that evening. He was out with one
of his men running a line for a new fence. The old days of open range
were past. And had Mr. Waring heard that Pat had been killed? Buck Hardy
was out searching for the murderer. Did Mr. Waring know of a likely
foreman? Bob Brewster had left suddenly. Jasper--her husband--was not
well: had the rheumatics again. He could hardly walk--and his foreman
had left. "Things always happened that way."

Mrs. Starr paused for lack of breath.

"When did Brewster leave, Mrs. Starr?"

"Why, the last Jasper seen of him was Wednesday morning. Jasper is
worried. I'm right glad you rode over. He'll be glad to see you."

"Do you mind if I look over the horses in your corral?"

"Goodness, no! I'll have Sammy go with you--"

"Thanks; but I'd rather you said nothing to the boys."

"You don't think that Bob--"

"Mrs. Starr, I wouldn't say so if I knew it. Bob Brewster has friends up
here. I'm looking for one of them."

"Goodness, Mr. Waring, I hope you don't think any of our boys was mixed
up in that."

"I hope not. Have you seen Tony or Andy Brewster lately?"

"Why, no. I--why, yes! Tony and Andy rode over last Sunday. I remember
it was Sunday because Bob was out to the line shack. Tony and Andy hung
around for a while, and then rode out to look for Bob."

"Well, I'll step over and look at the horses. You say Jasper will be in
this evening?"

"If he ain't too stiff with rheumatics to ride back."

Waring walked round the corrals, looking for a pony lame forward and
with half a front shoe gone. Finally he noticed a short-coupled bay that
had not moved when he had waved his arm. Waring climbed through the bars
and cornered the horse. One front shoe was entirely gone, and the pony
limped as Waring turned him loose.

Mrs. Starr was getting supper when Waring returned to the house.

"Any of the boys coming in with Jasper?" he queried.

"Why, nobody except Pete. Pete's been layin' off. He claims his horse
stepped in a gopher hole and threw him. Jasper took him along, feelin'
like he wanted some one on account of his rheumatics. Jasper gets so
stiff ridin' that sometimes he can hardly get on his horse. Mebby you
noticed Pete's pony, that chunky bay in the corral--lame forward."

"Yes, I noticed that. But that pony didn't step in a gopher hole. He was
ridden down by some one in a hurry to get somewhere. He cast a shoe and
went tender on the rocks."

Mrs. Starr stared at Waring.

He shook his head and smiled. "I don't know. I can only guess at it."

"Well, you'll stay for supper--and you can talk to Jasper. He's

"Thank you. And would you mind asking this man Pete in to supper with

"I figured to, him being with Jasper and not feeling right well."

About sundown Starr rode in. Waring helped him from his horse. They
shook hands in silence. The old cattleman knew at once why Waring had
come, but he had no inkling of what was to follow.

The cowboy, Pete, took care of the horses. A little later he clumped
into the house and took a seat in a corner. Waring paid no attention to
him, but talked with Starr about the grazing and the weather.

Just before supper Starr introduced Waring.

The cowboy winced at Waring's grip. "Heard tell of you from the boys,"
he said.

"You want to ride over to our place," said Waring pleasantly. "Pat and I
will show you some pretty land under fence."

The cowboy's eyelids flickered. How could this man Waring speak of Pat
that way, when he must know that Pat had been killed? Everybody knew
that. Why didn't Mrs. Starr or Starr say something? But Starr was
limping to the table, and Mrs. Starr was telling them to come and have

In the glow of the hanging lamp, Starr's lined, grizzled features were
as unreadable as carved bronze. Waring, at his left, sat directly
opposite the cowboy, Pete. The talk drifted from one subject to another,
but no one mentioned the killing of Pat. Waring noted the cowboy's lack
of appetite.

"I looked over your saddle-stock this afternoon," said Waring. "Noticed
you had a bay out there, white blaze on his nose. You don't want to sell
that pony, do you?"

"Oh, that's Pete's pony, Baldy," said Mrs. Starr.

Starr glanced at Waring. The horse Baldy was good enough as cow-ponies
went, but Waring had not ridden over to buy horses.

"I aim to keep that cayuse," said Pete, swallowing hard.

"But every man has his price,"--and Waring smiled. "I'll make my offer;
a hundred, cash."

"Not this evenin'," said the cowboy.

Waring felt in the pocket of his flannel shirt. "I'll go you one better.
I'll make it a hundred, cash, and this to boot." And his arm

Pete started back. Waring's hand was on the table, the fingers closed.
His fingers slowly opened, and a crumpled piece of paper lay in his
palm. The cowboy's lips tightened. His eyes shifted from Waring to
Starr, and then back again.

Mrs. Starr, who could not understand the strange silence of the men,
breathed hard and wiped her forehead with her apron.

"Read it!" said Waring sharply.

The cowboy took the piece of paper, and, spreading it out, glanced at it

"This ain't for me," he asserted.

"Did you ever see it before?"

"This? No. What have I got to do with the sheriff's office?"

"Pete," said Waring, drawing back his hand, "you had better read that
note again."

"Why, I--Pete can't read," said Mrs. Starr. "He can spell out printed
reading some, but not writing."

"Then how did you know this paper was from the sheriff's office?"
queried Waring.

The cowboy half rose.

"Sit down!" thundered Waring. "Who sent you with a note to Pat last

"Who said anybody sent me?"

"Don't waste time! I say so. That broken shoe your cayuse cast says so,
for I trailed him from my ranch to the line fence. And you have said so
yourself. This paper is not from the sheriff's office. It's a tax

The cowboy's face went white.

"Honest, so help me, Mr. Waring, I didn't know the Brewster boys was
after Pat. Bob he give me the paper. Said it was from the sheriff, and
I was to give it to Pat if you weren't around."

"And if I happened to be around?"

"I was to wait until you was out with the fence gang--"

"How did you know I would be out with them?"

"Bob Brewster told me you would be."

Waring folded the piece of paper and tore it across.

"Starr," he said, turning to the old cattleman, "you have heard and seen
what has happened since we sat down." And Waring turned on the cowboy.
"How much did Bob Brewster give you for this work?"

"I was to get fifty dollars if I put it through."

"And you put it through! You knew it was crooked. And you call yourself
a man! And you took a letter to Pat that called him out to be shot down
by that coyote! Do you know that Pat's gun was loaded when I found it;
that he didn't have a chance?"

Waring's face grew suddenly old. He leaned back wearily.

"I wonder just how you feel?" he said presently. "If I had done a trick
like that I'd take a gun and blow my brains out. God, I'd rather be
where Pat is than have to carry your load the rest of my life! But
you're yellow clean through, and Bob Brewster knew it and hired you. Now
you will take that lame cayuse and ride north just as quick as you can
throw a saddle on him. And when you go,"--and Waring rose and pointed
toward the doorway,--"forget the way back to this country."

The cowboy shuffled his feet and picked up his hat. Starr got up stiffly
and limped to his room. He came out with a check, which he gave to the

Waring pushed back his chair as though to step round the table and
follow the cowboy, but he hesitated, and finally sat down.

"I'm sorry it happened this way, Mrs. Starr," he said.

"It's awful! And one of our men!"

"That's not your fault, Mrs. Starr."

Starr fumbled along the clock shelf, found his pipe, and lighted it. He
sat down near Waring as Mrs. Starr began to clear away the dishes.

"If I can do anything to help run down that white-livered skunk--"

"You can, Jasper. Just keep it to yourself that I have been here. Pete
left of his own accord. I don't want the Brewster boys to know I'm out
on their trail."

Starr nodded and glanced at his wife. "I looked to see you kill him," he
said, gesturing toward the doorway.

"What! That poor fool? I thought you knew me better, Jasper."

Chapter XIX

_The Fight in the Open_

Starr was awakened at midnight by the sound of boot-heels on the
ranch-house veranda. He lighted a lamp and limped to the door. The
lamplight shone on the smooth, young face of a Mexican, whose black
sombrero was powdered with dust.

"What do you want?" queried Starr.

"I am look for the Senor Jim. I am Ramon, of his place. From the rancho
I ride to Stacey. He is not there. Then I come here."

"And you ain't particular about wakin' folks up to tell 'em, either."

"I would find him," said Ramon simply.

"What's your business with Jim Waring?"

"It is that I am his friend. I know that he is ride looking for the men
who killed my patron the Senor Pat. I am Ramon."

"Uh-uh. Well, suppose you are?"

"It is not the suppose. I am. I would find Senor Jim."

"Who said he was here?"

"The senora at the hotel would think that he was here."

Starr scratched his grizzled head. Waring had said nothing about the
Mexican. And Starr did not like Mexicans. Moreover, Waring had said to

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest