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Title:      The Bandit of Hell's Bend
Author:     Edgar Rice Burroughs
eBook No.:  0500251.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
Character set encoding:     Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted:          February 2005
Date most recently updated: February 2005

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Title:      The Bandit of Hell's Bend
Author:     Edgar Rice Burroughs




CHAPTER I

TOUGH LUCK

A HALF-dozen men sprawled comfortably in back-tilted chairs against the
side of the Bar Y bunk-house at the home ranch. They were young men,
lithe of limb, tanned of face and clear of eye. Their skins shone from
recent ablutions and their slicked hair was still damp, for they had but
just come from the evening meal, and meals at the home ranch required a
toilet.

One of them was singing.

"In the shade of a tree we two sat, him an' me,
Where the Haegler Hills slope to the Raft
While our ponies browsed 'round, reins a-draggin' the ground;
Then he looks at me funny an' laft."

"Most anyone would," interrupted a listener.

"Shut up," admonished another, "I ain't only heered this three hundred
an' sixty-five times in the las' year. Do you think I want to miss
anything?"

Unabashed, the sweet singer continued.

"'Do you see thet there town?' he inquires, pintin' down
To some shacks sprawlin' 'round in the heat.
I opined thet I did an' he shifted his quid
After drowndin' a tumble-bug neat.
Then he looks at me square. 'There's a guy waitin'  there
Thet the sheep-men have hired to git me.
Are you game to come down to thet jerk-water town
Jest to see what in Hell you will see?'"

One of the group rose and stretched, yawning. He was a tall, dark man.
Perhaps in his expression there was something a bit sinister. He seldom
smiled and, when not in liquor, rarely spoke.

He was foreman-had been foreman for over a year, and, except for a couple
of sprees, during which he had playfully and harmlessly shot up the
adjoining town, he had been a good foreman, for he was a thorough
horseman, knew the range, understood cattle, was a hard worker and knew
how to get work out of others.

It had been six months since he had been drunk, though he had taken a
drink now and then if one of the boys chanced to bring a flask back from
town. His abstinence might have been accounted for by the fact that Elias
Henders, his boss, had threatened to break him the next time he fell from
grace.

"You see, Bull," the old man had said, "we're the biggest outfit in this
part of the country an' it don't look good to see the foreman of the Bar
Y shootin' up the town like some kid tenderfoot that's been slapped in
the face with a bar-rag. You gotta quit it, Bull; I ain't a-goin' to tell
you again."

And Bull knew the old man wouldn't tell him again, so he had stayed good
for six long months. Perhaps it was not entirely a desire to cling to the
foreman's job that kept him in the straight and narrow path. Perhaps
Diana Henders' opinion had had more weight with him than that of her
father.

"I'm ashamed of you, Bull," she had said, and she refused to ride with
him for more than a week. That had been bad enough, but as if to make it
worse she had ridden several times with a new hand who had drifted in
from the north a short time before and been taken on by Bull to fill a
vacancy.

At first Bull had not liked the new man. "He's too damned pretty to be a
puncher," one of the older hands had remarked, and it is possible that
the newcomer's rather extreme good looks had antagonized them all a
little at first, but he had proven a good man and so the others had come
to accept Hal Colby in spite of his wealth of waving black hair, his
perfect profile, gleaming teeth and laughing eyes.

"So I told him I'd go, fer I liked thet there bo,
And I'd see thet the shootin! was fair;
But says he: 'It is just to see who starts it fust
Thet I wants anyone to be there.'"
"I'm going to turn in," remarked Bull.

Hal Colby rose. "Same here," he said, and followed the foreman into the
bunk-house. A moment later he turned where he stood beside his bunk and
looked at Bull who was sitting on the edge of his, removing his spurs.
The handsome lips were curved in a pleasant smile. "Lookee here, Bull!"
he whispered, and as the other turned toward him he reached a hand
beneath the bag of clothes that constituted his pillow and drew forth a
pint flask. "Wet your whistle?" he inquired.

"Don't care if I do," replied the foreman, crossing the room to Colby's
bunk.

Through the open window floated the drawling notes of Texas Pete's
perennial rhapsody.

"When the jedge says: 'Who drew his gun fust, him or you?'
Then I wants a straight guy on my side,
Fer thet poor puddin' head, why, he's already dead
With a forty-five hole in his hide."

"Here's lookin' at you!" said Bull.

"Drink hearty," replied Colby.

"'Taint so bad at that," remarked the foreman, wiping his lips on the
cuff of his shirt and handing the flask back to the other.

"Not so worse for rot-gut," agreed Colby. "Have another!"

The foreman shook his head.

"'T won't hurt you any," Colby assured him. "It's pretty good stuff."

Sang Texas Pete:

"And thet wasn't jest jaw-when it come to a draw
This here guy was like lightnin' turned loose.
Then we rolls us a smoke an' not neither one spoke
'Til he said: 'Climb aboard your cayuse.'
Then we reined down the hill each a-puffin' his pill
To the town 'neath its shimmer o' heat
An' heads up to the shack that's a-leanin' its back
'Gainst the side o' The Cowboys' Retreat."

Bull took another drink-a longer one this time, and, rolling a cigarette,
sat down on the edge of Colby's bunk and commenced to talk-whiskey always
broke the bonds of his taciturnity. His voice was low and not unpleasant.

He spoke of the day's work and the plans for tomorrow and Hal Colby
encouraged him. Perhaps he liked him; perhaps, like others, he felt that
it paid to be on friendly terms with the foreman.

While from outside:

"It is Slewfoot's Good Luck where they hand you out chuck
Thet is mostly sow-belly an' beans.
Says he: 'Bub, let's us feed-I'm a-feelin' the need
O' more substance than air in my jeans.'
So of Slewfoot was there, all red freckles an' hair,
An' we lined our insides with his grub.
Says Bill, then: 'Show your gait-let's be pullin' our freight,
Fer I'm rarin' to go,' says he, 'Bub.'"

Inside the bunk-house Bull rose to his feet. "That's damn good stuff,
Hal," he said. The two had emptied the flask.

"Wait a minute," said the other, "I got another flask," and reached again
beneath his bag.

"No," demurred the foreman, "I guess I got enough."

"Oh, hell, you ain't had none yet," insisted Colby.

The song of Texas Pete suffered many interruptions due to various
arguments in which he felt compelled to take sides, but whenever there
was a lull in the conversation he resumed his efforts to which no one
paid any attention further than as they elicited an occasional word of
banter.

The sweet singer never stopped except at the end of a stanza, and no
matter how long the interruption, even though days might elapse, he
always began again with the succeeding stanza, without the slightest
hesitation or repetition. And so now, as Bull and Colby drank, he sang
on.

"'Now we'll sashay next door to thet hard-Ticker store
Where his nibs is most likely to be
An' then you goes in first an' starts drowdin' your thirst;
But a-keepin' your eyes peeled fer me.'"

Bull, the foreman, rose to his feet. He stood as steady as a rock, but
Colby saw that he was drunk. After six months' of almost total abstinence
he had just consumed considerably more than a pint of cheap and fiery
whiskey in less than a half hour.

"Goin' to bed?" asked Colby.

"Bed, hell," replied the other. "I'm goin' to town-it's my night to howl.
Comin'?"

"No," said Colby. "I think I'll turn in. Have a good time."

"I sure will." The foreman walked to his bunk and strapped his guns about
his hips, resumed the single spur he had removed, tied a fresh black silk
handkerchief about his neck, clapped his sombrero over his shock of
straight black hair and strode out of the bunk-house.

"'Fer I wants you to see thet it's him draws on me
So the jedge he cain't make me the goat.'
So I heads fer that dump an' a queer little lump
Starts a-wrigglin' aroun' in my throat."

"Say, where in hell's Bull goin' this time o' night?" Pete interrupted
himself.

"He's headin' fer the horse c'rel," stated another.

"Acts like he was full," said a third. "Didje hear him hummin' a tune as
he went out? That's always a sign with him. The stuff sort o' addles up
his brains, like Pete's always is, an' makes him sing."

"Fer I wants you to know thet I likes thet there bo
An' I'd seen more than one good one kilt,
Fer you cain't never tell, leastways this side o' Hell,
When there's shootin' whose blood will be spilt."

"There he goes now," said one of the men as the figure of a rider shown
dimly in the starlight loped easily away toward the south, "an' he's
goin' toward town."

"I wonder," said Texas Pete, "if he knows the old man is in town
tonight."

"Jest inside o' the door with one foot on the floor
An' the other hist up on the rail
Stands a big, raw-boned guy with the orn'riest eye
Thet I ever seen outen a jail."

"By gollies, I'm goin' after Bull. I doan b'lieve he-all knows thet the
of man's in town," and leaping to his feet he walked off toward the horse
corral, still singing:

"An' beside him a girl, thet sure looked like a pearl
Thet the Bible guy cast before swine,
Was a-pleadin' with him, her eyes teary an' dim,
As I high-sign the bar-keep fer mine."

He caught up one of the loose horses in the corral, rammed a great,
silver-mounted spade bit between its jaws, threw a heavy, carved saddle
upon the animal's back, stepped one foot into a trailing, tapaderaed
stirrup and was off in a swirl of dust. Texas Pete never rode other than
in a swirl of dust, unless it happened to be raining, then he rode in a
shower of mud.

His speed tonight was, therefore, not necessarily an indication of haste.
He would have ridden at the same pace to either a funeral or a wedding,
or home from either.

But any who knew Texas Pete could have guessed that he was in considerate
haste, for he rode without his woolly, sheepskin chaps---one of the
prides of his existence. If he had been in too much of a hurry to don
them he must have been in a great hurry, indeed.

Texas Pete might be without a job, with not more than two-bits between
himself and starvation, but he was never without a fine pair of sheepskin
chaps, a silver-encrusted bit, a heavy bridle garnished with the same
precious metal, an ornate saddle of hand carved leather and silver
conchas, a Stetson, two good six-guns with their belt and holsters and a
vivid silk neckerchief.

Possibly his pony cost no more than ten dollars, his boots were worn and
his trousers blue denim overalls, greasy and frayed, yet Texas Pete
otherwise was a thing of beauty and a joy forever. The rowels of his
silver-inlaid Mexican spurs dragged the ground when he walked and the
dumb-bells depending from their hubs tinkled merrily a gay accompaniment
to his boyish heart beating beneath ragged underclothing.

Texas Pete galloped along the dusty road toward the small cattle-town
that served the simple needs of that frontier community with its general
store, its restaurant, its Chinese laundry, blacksmith shop, hotel,
newspaper office and five saloons, and as he galloped he sang:

"Then the door swings agin an' my pal he steps in
An' the light in his eye it was bad,
An' the raw-boned guy wheels an' the girl there she squeals:
'O, fer gawd's sake don't shoot, Bill, it's dad!'"

A mile ahead of Pete another pony tore through the dust toward town-a
blazed-face chestnut with two white hind feet--Blazes, the pride of the
foreman's heart.

In the deep saddle, centaurlike, sat the horseman.

Hendersville tinkled softly in the quiet of early evening. Later, gaining
momentum, it would speed up a bit under his own power. At present it
reposed in the partial lethargy of digestive functionings-it was barely
first drink time after supper. Its tinkling was the tinkling of spurs,
chips and only very occasional glassware.

Suddenly its repose was shattered by a wild whoop from without, the
clatter of swift hoofs and the rapid crack, crack, crack of a six-gun.
Gum Smith, sheriff, rose from behind the faro layout and cocked an
attentive ear.

Gum guided the destinies of the most lucrative thirst emporium in
Hendersville. Being sheriff flattered his vanity and attracted business,
but it had its drawbacks; the noises from without sounded like one of
them and Gum was pained.

It was at times such as this that he almost wished that someone else was
sheriff, but a quick glance at the shiny badge pinned to the left hand
pocket of his vest reassured him quickly on that point and he glanced
swiftly about the room at its other occupants and sighed in relief-there
were at least a dozen husky young punchers there.

Across the street, in the office of the Hendersville Tribune, Elias
Henders sat visiting with Ye Editor. As the shouting and the shots broke
the quiet of the evening the two men looked up and outward toward the
street.

"Boys will be boys," remarked the editor.

A bullet crashed through the glass at the top of the window. With a
single movement the editor extinguished the lamp that burned on the desk
before them, and both men, with a celerity that spoke habit, crouched
quickly behind that piece of furniture.

"Sometimes they're damn careless, though," replied Elias Henders.

Down the road Texas Pete galloped and sang:

"For the thing she had saw was Bill reach for to draw
When the guy she called dad drawed on Bill.
In the door was my pal with his eyes on the gal
An' his hand on his gun-standin' still."

From the distance ahead came, thinly, the sound of shots.

"By gollies!" exclaimed Texas Pete, "the darned son-of-a-gun !"

The men lolling about the barroom of Gum's Place-Liquors and
Cigars-looked up at the sound of the shots and grinned. An instant later
a horse's unshod hoofs pounded on the rough boards of the covered "porch"
in front of Gum's Place, the swinging doors burst in and Blazes was
brought to his haunches in the center of the floor with a wild whoop from
his rider, who waved a smoking gun above his head.

Bull, the Bar Y foreman, let his gaze run quickly about the room. When
his steel-grey eyes alighted upon the sheriff they remained there. Gum
Smith appeared to wilt behind the faro table. He shook a wavering finger
at the Bar Y foreman.

"Yo' all's undah arrest," he piped in a high, thin voice, and turning
toward the men seated about the neighboring tables he pointed first at
one and then at another. "Ah depatize yo! Ah depatize yo! Ah depatize
yo!" he announced to each as he covered them in turn with his swiftly
moving index finger. "Seize him, men!" No one moved. Gum Smith waxed
excited. "Seize him, yo'-all! Ah'm sheriff o' this yere county. Ef Ah
depatize yo'-all yo'-all's got to be depatized."

"My mother was a wild cat,
My father was a bear,"

announced Bull,

"I picks my teeth with barb-wire.
With cactus combs my hair."

and I craves drink-pronto!"

"Yo'-all's undah arrest! Seize him, men!" shrilled Gum.

Bull fired into the floor at the foot of the faro table and Gum Smith
disappeared behind it. The men all laughed. Bull turned his attention
toward the barkeep and fired into the back bar. The bar-keep grinned.

"Be keerful, Bull," he admonished, "I got a bad heart. My doctor tells me
as how I should avoid excitement."

The front doors swung in again and Bull wheeled with ready six-gun to
cover the newcomer, but at sight of the man who entered the room the
muzzle of his gun dropped and he was sobered in the instant.

"Oh!" said Elias Henders, "so it's you agin, Bull, eh?

The two men stood looking at one another in silence for a moment. What
was passing in their minds no one might have guessed. It was the older
man who spoke again first.

"I reckon I'll not be needin' you any more, Bull," he said, and then,
after a moment's- reflection, "unless you want a job as a hand-after you
sober up."

He turned and left the building and as he stepped down into the dust of
the road Texas Pete swung from his pony and brushed past him.

Inside, Bull sat his horse at one side of the large room, near the bar.
Behind him Gum Smith was slowly emerging from the concealment of the faro
table. When he saw the man he feared sitting with his back toward him, a
crafty look came into the eyes of the sheriff. He glanced quickly about
the room. The men were all looking at Bull. No one seemed to be noticing
Gum.

He drew his gun and levelled it at the back of the ex-foreman of the Bar
Y Instantly there was a flash from the doorway, the crack of a shot, and
the sheriffs gun dropped from his hand. All eyes turned in the direction
of the entrance. There stood Texas Pete, his shooting iron smoking in his
hand.

"You damn pole-cat!" he exclaimed, his eyes on Gum. "Come on, Bull; this
ain't no place for quiet young fellers like us."

Bull wheeled Blazes and rode slowly through the doorway, with never a
glance toward the sheriff; nor could he better have shown his utter
contempt for the man. There had always been bad blood between them. Smith
had been elected by the lawless element of the community and at the time
of the campaign Bull had worked diligently for the opposing candidate who
had been backed by the better element, consisting largely of the cattle
owners, headed by Elias Henders.

What Bull's position would have been had he not been foreman for Henders
at the time was rather an open question among the voters of Hendersville,
but the fact remained that he had been foreman and that he had worked to
such good purpose for the candidate of the reform element that he had not
only almost succeeded in electing him, but had so exposed the rottenness
of the gang back of Smith's candidacy that their power was generally
considered to be on the wane.

"It'll be Bull for sheriff next election," was considered a safe prophecy
and even a foregone conclusion, by some.

Gum Smith picked up his gun and examined it. Texas Pete's shot had struck
the barrel just in front of the cylinder. The man looked angrily around
at the other occupants of the room.

"Ah wants yo'-all to remember that Ah'm sheriff here," he cried, "an'
when Ah depatizes yo'-all it's plum legal, an' yo'all gotta do what Ah
tell yo' to."

"Oh, shut up, Gum," admonished one of the men.

Outside, Texas Pete had mounted his pony and was moving along slowly
stirrup to stirrup with Bull, who was now apparently as sober as though
he had never had a drink in his life.

"It's a good thing fer us he didn't have his gang there tonight,"
remarked Pete.

Bull shrugged, but said nothing in reply. Texas Pete resigned himself to
song.

"Then thet damned raw-boned guy with the ornery eye
Up an' shoots my pal dead in the door;
But I'm here to opine with this bazoo o' mine
Thet he won't shoot no hombres no more."

"What was you doin' up to town, Texas'?" inquired Bull.

"Oh, I jest thought as how I'd ride up an' see what was doin'-maybe you
didn't know the old man was there tonight-reckon I was a bit late, eh?"

"Yes. Thanks, just the same-I won't ferget it."

"Tough luck."

"How'd you know the old man was goin' to be in town tonight?"

"Why, I reckon as how everybody exceptin' you knew it, Bull."

"Did Colby know it?"

"Why, I recken as how he must of."

They rode on for some time in silence, which Texas finally broke.

"Jest a moment, an' where they'd been five o' us there,
We hed suddenly dwindled to three.
The bar-keep, he was one-the darned son-of-a-gun-
An' the others, a orphan an' me."

When Bull and Texas entered the bunk-house most of the men were asleep,
but Hal Colby rolled over on his bunk and smiled at Bull as the latter
lighted a lamp.

"Have a good time, Bull?" he inquired.

"The old man was there," said Bull, "an' I ain't foreman no more."

"Touch luck," sympathized Colby.



CHAPTER II

THE HOLDUP

AFTER breakfast the following morning the men were saddling-up listlessly
for the day's work. There was no foreman now and they were hanging about
waiting for the boss. Bull sat on the top rail of the corral, idle. He
was out of a job. His fellows paid little or no attention to him, but
whether from motives of consideration for his feelings, or because they
were not interested in him or his troubles a casual observer could not
have deduced from their manner.

Unquestionably he had friends among them, but he was a taciturn man and,
like all such, did not make friends quickly. Undemonstrative himself, he
aroused no show of demonstration in others. His straight black hair, and
rather high cheek bones, coupled with a tanned skin, gave him something
the appearance of an Indian, a similarity that was further heightened by
his natural reserve, while a long, red scar across his jaw accentuated a
suggestion of grimness that his countenance possessed in repose.

Texas Pete, saddling his pony directly below him in the corral, was
starting the day with a new song.

"I stood at the bar, at The Spread Eagle Bar,
A-drinkin' a drink whilst I smoked a seegar

"Quittin', Bull?" he inquired, looking up at the ex-foreman.

"Reckon so," came the reply.

"When in walks a gent thet I ain't never see
An' he lets out a beller an' then says, says he:"

Texas Pete swung easily into his saddle.

"Reckon as how I'll be pullin' my freight, too," he announced. "I been
aimin' to do thet for quite a spell. Where'll we head fer?"

Bull's eyes wandered to the front of the ranch house, and as they did so
they beheld "the old man" emerging from the office. Behind him came his
daughter Diana and Hal Colby. The latter were laughing and talking gaily.
Bull could not but notice how close the man leaned toward the girl's
face. What an easy way Colby had with people-especially women.

"Well," demanded Texas Pete, "if you're comin' why don't you saddle up?"

"Reckon I've changed my mind."

Texas Pete glanced toward the ranch house, following the direction of the
other's eyes, and shrugged his shoulders.

"O, well," he said, "this ain't a bad place. Reckon as how I'll stay on,
too, fer a spell."

Elias Henders and Hal Colby were walking slowly in the direction of the
horse corral. The girl had turned and reentered the house. The two men
entered the corral and as they did so Bull descended from the fence and
approached Henders.

"You don't happen to need no hands, do you?" he asked the older man.

"I can use you, Bull," replied Henders with a faint smile. "Thirty-five a
month and found."

The former foreman nodded in acceptance of the terms and, walking toward
the bunch of horses huddled at one side of the corral, whistled.
Instantly Blazes' head came up above those of the other animals. With
up-pricked ears he regarded his owner for a moment, and then, shouldering
his way through the bunch, he walked directly to him.

Elias Henders stopped in the center of the corral and attracted the
attention of the men. "Colby here," he announced, "is the new foreman."

That was all. There was a moment's embarrassed silence and then the men
resumed their preparations for the work of the day, or, if they were
ready, lolled in their saddles rolling cigarettes. Colby went among them
assigning the various duties for the day-pretty much routine work with
which all were familiar.

"And you, Bull," he said when he reached the ex-foreman, "I wish you'd
ride up to the head of Cottonwood Canyon and see if you can see anything
of that bunch of Crazy J cows-I ain't seen nothin' of 'em for a week or
more."

It was the longest, hardest assignment of the day, but if Bull was
dissatisfied with it he gave no indication. As a matter of fact he
probably was content, for he was a hard rider and he liked to be off
alone. A trait that had always been a matter for comment and some
conjecture.

More than one had asked himself or a neighbor what Bull found to do that
took him off by himself so often. There are those who cannot conceive
that a man can find pleasure in his own company, or in that of a good
horse and the open.

The mouth of Cottonwood Canyon lay a good twenty miles from the ranch and
the head of it five miles of rough going farther. It was ten o'clock when
Bull suddenly drew rein beside the lone cottonwood that marked the
entrance to the canyon and gave it its name.

He sat motionless, listening intently. Faintly, from far up the canyon,
came the staccato of rifle shots. How far it was difficult to judge, for
the walls of a winding canyon quickly absorb sound. Once convinced-of the
direction of their origin, however, the man urged his pony into a gallop,
turning his head up the canyon.

As the last of the cow hands loped away from the ranch upon the business
of the day Elias Henders turned back toward the office, while Hal Colby
caught up two ponies which he saddled and bridled, humming meanwhile a
gay little tune. Mounting one, he rode toward the ranch house, leading
the other, just as Diana Henders emerged from the interior, making it
apparent for whom the led horse was intended.

Taking the reins from Colby, the girl swung into the saddle like a man,
and she sat her horse like a man, too, and yet, though she could ride
with the best of them, and shoot with the best of them, there was nothing
coarse or common about her. Some of the older hands had known her since
childhood, yet even that fact, coupled with the proverbial freedom of the
eighties in Arizona, never permitted them the same freedom with Diana
Henders that most of the few girls in that wild country either overlooked
or accepted as a matter of course.

Men did not curse in Diana's presence, nor did they throw an arm across
her slim shoulders, or slap her upon the back in good fellowship, and yet
they all worshipped her, and most of them had been violently in love with
her. Something within her, inherently fine and noble, kept them at a
distance, or rather in their places, for only those men who were
hopelessly bashful ever remained at a distance from Diana where there was
the slightest chance to be near her.

The men often spoke of her as a thoroughbred, sensing, perhaps, the fine
breeding that made her what she was. Elias Henders was one of the Henders
of Kentucky, and, like all the males of his line for generations, held a
degree from Oxford, which he had entered after graduation from the
beloved alma mater of his native state, for the very excellent reason
that old Sir John Henders, who had established the American branch of the
family, had been an Oxford man and had seen his son and his grandson
follow his footsteps.

Twenty-five years before Elias Henders had come west with John Manill, a
class-mate and neighbor of Kentucky, and the two young men had entered
the cattle business. Their combined capital managed to keep them from the
embarrassments and annoyances of a sheriffs sale for some three years,
but what with raiding Apaches, poor rail facilities and a distant market,
coupled with inexperience, they were at last upon the very brink of
bankruptcy when Henders discovered gold on their property. Two years
later they were rich men.

Henders returned to Kentucky and married Manill's sister, and shortly
afterwards moved to New York, as it was decided that the best interests
of the partnership required an eastern representative. Manill remained in
Arizona.

Diana Henders was born in New York City, and when she was about five
years old her mother contracted tuberculosis of the lungs. Physicians
advising a dry climate, Henders and Manill changed places, Henders taking
his family to Arizona and Manill removing to New York with his wife and
little daughter. He had married beneath him and unhappily with the result
that being both a proud and rather reserved man he had confided nothing
to his sister, the wife of his partner and best friend.

When Diana was fifteen her mother had died, and the girl, refusing to
leave her father, had abandoned the idea of finishing her education in an
eastern college, and Elias Henders, loath to give her up, had acquiesced
in her decision. Qualified by education as he was to instruct her,
Diana's training had been carried on under the tutorage of her father, so
that at nineteen, though essentially a frontier girl unversed in many of
the finer artificialities of social usage, she was yet a young woman of
culture and refinement. Her music, which was the delight of her father,
she owed to the careful training of her mother as well as to the
possession of a grand piano that had come over Raton Pass behind an ox
team in the seventies.

Her father, her books, her music and her horses constituted the life of
this young girl; her social companions the young vaqueros who rode for
her father, and without at least one of whom she was not permitted to
ride abroad, since the Apaches were still a menace in the Arizona of that
day.

And so it was that this morning she rode out with the new foreman. They
walked their horses in silence for a few minutes, the man's stirrup just
behind that of the girl, where he might let his eyes rest upon her
profile without detection. The heavy-lashed eye, the short, straight
nose, the patrician mouth and chin held the adoring gaze of the young
foreman in mute worship; but it was he who, at length, broke the silence.

"You ain't congratulated me yet, Di, " he said, "or maybe you didn't
know?"

"Yes, I knew," she replied, "and I do congratulate you; but I cannot
forget that your fortune means another man's sorrow."

"It's his own fault. A man that can't keep sober can't be trusted with a
job like this."

"He was a good foreman."

"Maybe so-I ain't sayin' nothin' about a man that's down. It seems to me
you set a lot of store by him, though; and what do you know about him?
You can't be too careful, Di. There's lots of bad 'uns in these parts and
when a feller never talks none, like him, it's probably because he's got
something on his mind he don't want to talk about."

"I thought he was your friend," said the girl.

Colby flushed. "He is my friend. I set a lot of store by Bull; but it's
you I'm thinkin' of-not him or me. I wouldn't want nothin' to happen that
you'd have to be sorry about.' .'

"I don't understand you, Hal."

He flecked the leg of his chaps with the lash of his quirt. "Oh, pshaw,
Di," he parried, "I don't want to say nothin' about a friend. I only want
to put you on your guard, that's all. You know there ain't nothin' I
wouldn't do for you-no, not even if it cost me all the friends I got."

He passed his reins to his right hand and reaching across laid his left
across one of hers, which she quickly withdrew.

"Please don't," she begged.

"I love you, Di," he blurted suddenly.

The girl laughed gaily, though not in derision. "All the men think they
do. It's because I'm the only girl within miles and miles."

"You're the only girl in the world-for me."

She turned and looked at him quizzically. He was very handsome. That and
his boyish, laughing manner had attracted her to him from the first.
There had seemed a frankness and openness about him that appealed to her,
and of all the men she knew, only excepting her father, he alone
possessed anything approximating poise and selfconfidence in his
intercourse with women. The others were either shy and blundering, or
loud and coarse, or taciturn sticks like Bull, who seemed to be the only
man on the ranch who was not desperately in love with her.

"We'll talk about something else," she announced.

"Isn't there any hope for me?" he asked.

"Why yes," she assured him. "I hope you will keep on loving me. I love to
have people love me."

' 'But I don't want to do all the loving," he insisted.

"Don't worry-you're not. Even the cook is writing poems about me. Of all
the foolish men I ever heard of Dad has certainly succeeded in corraling
the prize bunch."

"I don't care a hang about that red-headed old fool of a cook," he
snapped. "What I want is for you to love me."

"Oh, well, that's a horse of another color. Now we will have to change
the subject."

"Please, Di, I'm in earnest," he pleaded; "won't you give me a little to
hope for?"

"You never can tell about a girl, Hal," she said.

Her voice was tender and her eyes suddenly soft, and that was as near a
promise as he could get.

As Bull urged Blazes up the rough trail of Cottonwood Canyon the
continued crack of rifles kept the man apprised of the direction of the
origin of the sounds and approximately of their ever lessening distance
ahead. Presently he drew rein and, pulling his rifle from its boot,
dismounted, dropping the reins upon the ground.

"Stand!" he whispered to Blazes and crept forward stealthily.

The shooting was close ahead now just around the brush-covered shoulder
of a rocky hill. The detonations were less frequent. Bull guessed that by
now both hunters and hunted were under cover and thus able to take only
occasional pot shots at one another's refuse.

To come upon them directly up the trail in the bottom of the canyon would
have been to expose himself to the fire of one side, and possibly of
both, for in this untamed country it was easily conceivable that both
sides of the controversy might represent interests inimical to those of
his employer. With this idea in mind the ex-foreman of the Bar Y Ranch
clambered cautiously up the steep side of the hill that hid from his view
that part of the canyon lying just beyond.

From the varying qualities of the detonations the man had deduced that
five and possibly six rifles were participating in the affair. How they
were divided he could not even guess. He would have a look over the crest
of the hog-back and if the affair was none of his business he would let
the participants fight it out by themselves. Bull, sober, was not a man
to seek trouble.

Climbing as noiselessly as possible and keeping the muzzle of his rifle
ahead of him he came presently to the crest of the narrow ridge where he
pushed his way cautiously through the brush toward the opposite side,
passing around an occasional huge outcropping of rock that barred his
progress. Presently the brush grew thinner. He could see the opposite
wall of the canyon.

A sharp report sounded close below him, just over the brow of the ridge.
In front of him a huge outcropping reared its weather-worn surface twenty
feet above the brush.

Toward this he crept until he lay concealed behind it. Then, warily, he
peered around the up-canyon edge discovering that his hiding place rested
upon tire very edge of a steep declivity that dropped perpendicularly
into the bottom of the canyon. Almost below him five Apaches were hiding
among the rocks arid boulders that filled the bottom of the canyon. U
'-,,ion the opposite side a single man lay sprawled upon his belly behind
another.

Bull could not see his face, hidden as it was beneath a huge sombrero,
but he saw that he was garbed after the fashion of a vaquero-he might be
either an American or a Mexican. That made no difference now, however,
for there were five against him, and the five were Indians. Bull watched
for a moment. He saw that the Indians were doing all the firing, and he
wondered if the man lying across the canyon was already dead. He did not
move.

Cautiously one of the Indians crept from cover as the other four fired
rapidly at their victim's position, then another followed him and the
three remaining continued firing, covering the advance of their fellows.

Bull smiled, that grim, saturnine smile of his. There were some red-skins
in the vicinity that were dike for the surprise of their lives.

The two were working their way across the cangora, taking advantage of
every particle of cover. They were quite close to the hiding place of the
prone :ran now-in another moment the three upon Bull's side of the canyon
would cease firing and the two would rush their unconscious quarry and
finish him:

Bull raised his rifle to his shoulder. There followed two reports, so
close together that it was almost inconceivable that they had come from
the same weapon, and the two, who had already risen for the final attack,
crumpled among the rocks beneath the blazing sun.

Instantly apprehending their danger, the other three Apaches leaped to
their feet and scurried up the canyon, searching new cover as they ran;
but it was difficult to find cover from a rifle holding the commanding
position that Bull's held.

It spoke again, and the foremost Indian threw his hands above his head,
spun completely around and lunged forward upon his face. The other two
dropped behind large boulders.

Bull glanced across the canyon. He saw that the man had raised his head
and was attempting to look around the edge of his cover, having evidently
become aware that a new voice had entered the grim chorus of the rifles.

"Hit?" shouted Bull.

The man looked in the direction of the voice. "No," he replied.

"Then why in hell don't you shoot? There's only two of them left-they're
up canyon on this side."

"Out of ammunition," replied the other.

"Well, you were in a hell of a fix," mused Bull as he watched the
concealment of the two Indians.

"Any more of 'em than this bunch?" he called across to the man.

"No."

For a long time there was silence-the quiet and peace that had lain upon
this age-old canyon since the Creation-and that would lie upon it forever
except as man, the disturber, came occasionally to shatter it.

"I can't lie here all day," mused Bull. He crawled forward and looked
over the edge of the cliff. There was a sheer drop of forty feet. He
shook his head. There was a sharp report and a bullet tore up the dirt
beneath him. It was followed instantly by another report from across the
canyon.

Bull kept his eyes on the cover of the Indians. Not a sign of them
showed. One of them had caught him napping-that was all-and ducked back
out of sight after firing, but how was the man across the canyon firing
without ammunition?

"I got one then," came the man's voice, as though in answer, "but you
better lie low-he come near getting you."

"Thought you didn't have no ammunition," Bull called across.

"I crawled out and got the rifle of one of these you potted."

Bull had worked his way back to his cover and to the brush behind it and
now he started up along the ridge in an attempt to get behind the
remaining Indian.

A minute or two later he crawled again to the edge of the ridge and there
below him and in plain sight the last of the red-skins crouched behind a
great boulder. Bull fired and missed, and then the Apache was up and
gone, racing for his pony tethered further up the canyon. The white man
shrugged, rose to his feet and sought an easy way down into the bed of
the canyon.

The other man had seen his action, which betokened that the fight was
over,-and as Bull reached the bottom of the cliff he was walking forward
to meet him. A peculiar light entered the eyes of each other as they came
face to face.

"Ah!" exclaimed the one, "it is Senor Bull." He spoke now in Spanish.

"Gregorio!" said Bull. "How'd they git you in this fix?"

"I camped just above here last night," replied the other, "and this
morning I walked down with my rifle on the chance of getting an antelope
for breakfast. They come on me from above and there you are. They been
shootin' at me since early this morning." He spoke English with scarce
the slightest accent. "You have saved my life, Senor Bull, and Gregorio
will not forget that."

"You haven't happened to see a bunch of Crazy J cows hereabouts, have
you?" inquired Bull, ignoring the other's expression of gratitude.

"No, Senor, I have not," replied Gregorio.

"Well, I'll go get my horse and have a look up toward the head of the
canyon, anyway," and Bull turned and walked down to get Blazes.

Fifteen minutes later, riding up again, he passed Gregorio coming down,
the latter having found his pony and his belongings intact at his camp.

"A Dios, Senor," called Gregorio in passing.

"So long," returned the American.

At the head of the canyon, where it narrowed to the proportions of a
gorge, Bull examined the ground carefully and saw that no cattle had
passed that way in many days-;then he turned back and rode down the
canyon.

Meanwhile, entering Cottonwood from below, Jim Weller, looking for lost
horses, passed Gregorio coming out and, recognizing him, loosened his gun
in its holster and kept one eye on the Mexican until he had passed out of
sight around the shoulder of the hill that flanked the east side of the
entrance to the canyon, for Gregorio bore an unsavory reputation in that
part of the country. He was an outlaw with a price upon his head.

"Howsumever," mused Weller, "I ain't lost no outlaws-it's hosses I'm
lookin' for," and he rode on with a sigh of relief that there was a solid
hill between him and Gregorio's deadly aim. Ten minutes later he met Bull
coming down from the head of Cottonwood. The two men drew rein with a
nod.

Weller asked about horses, learning from Bull that there was no stock
above them in Cottonwood, but he did not mention having met Gregorio. It
was obvious to him that the two men could not have been in Cottonwood
together without having met and if Bull did not want to mention it it was
evident that he had some good reason for not doing so. It was not the
custom of the country to pry into the affairs of others. Bull did not
mention Gregorio nor did he speak of their brush with the Apaches; but
that was because he was an uncommunicative man. '

"I think I'll have a look up Sinkhole Canyon for them hosses," remarked
Weller. Sinkhole was the next canyon west.

"Keep your eyes peeled for them Crazy J cows," said Bull, "and I'll ride
up Belter's and if I see your horses I'll run 'em down onto the flat."

They separated at the mouth of Cottonwood, Weller riding toward the west,
while Bull made his way eastwardly toward Belter's Canyon which lay in
the direction of the home ranch.

Three hours later the semiweekly stage, careening down the North Pass
trail, drew up in a cloud of dust at the junction of the Hender's Mine
road at a signal from one of two men sitting in a buckboard. As the stage
slowed down one of the men leaped to the ground, and as it came to a stop
clambered to the top and took a seat beside the driver who had greeted
him with a gruff jest.

The new passenger carried a heavy sack which he deposited between his
feet. He also carried a sawed-off shot gun across his knees.

"The Saints be praised!" exclaimed a fat lady with a rich brogue, who
occupied a seat inside the coach. "Sure an' I thought we were after bein'
held up."

An old gentleman with white whiskers down which a trickle of tobacco
juice had cascaded its sienna-hued way reassured her.

"No mum," he said, "thet's the messinger from the mine with a bag o'
bullion. This here stage ain't been held up fer three weeks. No mum,
times ain't what they uset to be with all these newfangled ideas about
reform what are spilin' the country."

The fat lady looked at him sideways, disdainfully, and gathered her
skirts closer about her. The stage lurched on, the horses at a brisk
gallop, and as it swung around the next curve the fat lady skidded into
the old gentleman's lap, her bonnet tilting over one eye, rakishly.

"Be off wid ye"' she exclaimed, glaring at the little old gentleman, as
though the fault were all his. She had scarcely regained her own side of
the seat when another, and opposite, turn in the road precipitated the
old gentleman into her lap.

"Ye spalpeen!" she shrilled, as, placing two fat hands against him, she
thrust him violently from her. "Sure, an' it's a disgrace, it is, that a
poor widdy-lady can't travel in pace without the loikes o' ye takin'
advantage o' her weak an' unprotected state."

The little old gentleman, though he had two huge guns strapped at his
hips, appeared thoroughly cowed and terrified-so much so, in fact, that
he dared not venture even a word of protest at the injustice of her
insinuations. From the corners of his weak and watery blue eyes he
surveyed her surreptitiously, wiped the back of his perspiring neck with
a flamboyant bandana, and shrank farther into the corner of his seat.

A half-hour later the stage swung through the gap at the foot of the
pass. Before it lay the rolling uplands through which the road wound down
past the Bar Y ranch house and the town of Hendersville on the flat
below. The gap was narrow and winding and the road excruciatingly vile,
necessitating a much slower pace than the driver had been maintaining
since passing the summit.

The horses were walking, the coach lurching from one chuck-hole to
another, while clouds of acrid dust arose in almost vapor lightness,
enveloping beasts, vehicle and passengers. Through the nebulous curtain
rising above the leaders the driver saw suddenly materialize the figures
of two men.

"Halt! Stick 'em up!"

The words snapped grimly from the taller of the two. The messenger on the
seat beside the driver made a single move to raise his sawed-off shot
gun. A six-gun barked and the messenger toppled forward, falling upon the
rump of the near wheel-horse. The horse, startled, leaped forward into
his collar. The driver attempted to quiet him. The two men moved up
beside the stage, one covering the driver and a passenger on top, the
other threatening the two inside. The fat lady sat with her arms folded
glaring at the bandit. The little old gentleman's hands touched the top
of the stage.

"Stick 'em up!" said the bandit to the fat lady.

She did not move.

"Sure an' I'll not stick 'em up an inch fer the loikes o' yese," she
shrilled; "an' lucky it is for ye, ye dhirty spalpeen, that Mary Donovan
hasn't the bit ov a gun with her-or that there ain't a man along to
protect a poor, helpless widdy lady," and she cast a withering glance of
scorn in the direction of the little old gentleman, who grew visibly red
through the tan of his weather-worn countenance.

The other bandit stepped to the hub of the front wheel, seized the
messenger's bag and stepped down again.

"Don't move, or look back, for five minutes," he admonished them, "then
pull yer freight."

The two then backed away up the road behind the stage, keeping it covered
with their guns. The messenger lay in the road moaning.

The fat lady unfolded her arms, opened the door and stepped out. "Get
back there, you!" called one of the bandits.

"Go to the divil!" retorted Mary Donovan, as she stooped beside the
wounded messenger.

The man opened his eyes and looked about, then he essayed to rise and
with Mary Donovan's help came to his feet. "Jest a scratch, me b'y," she
said in a motherly tone as she helped him to the stage. "Ye'll be all
right the mornin'. Git a move on ye inside there, ye ould woman with the
artillery," she yelled at the little old gentleman, "an' give this b'y a
hand in."

Together they helped the wounded man to a seat.

The bandits were still in sight, but they had not molested her-doubtless
because she was a woman and unarmed; but no more had she deposited the
messenger upon the seat than she turned upon the old man and wrenched one
of his guns from its holster.

"Drive like the divil, Bill," she cried to the driver, sticking her head
out of the window, and as he whipped up his team she turned back toward
the two bandits and opened fire on them. They returned the fire, and the
fusillade continued until the stage disappeared in a cloud of dust around
a curve below the gap, the old gentleman and the passenger on top now
taking part in the shooting.



CHAPTER III

SUSPICIONS

AS THE stage swirled through the dusty street of Hendersville an hour
later and drew up before The Donovan House the loiterers about the hotel
and the saloons gathered about it for the news and the gossip from the
outer world. Gum Smith, sheriff, was among them.

"Stuck up again, Gum, at the gap," the driver called to him. "They bored
Mack."

Mary Donovan and the little old gentleman were assisting the messenger
from the stage, though he protested that he was all right and required no
assistance. As the woman's eyes alighted upon the sheriff, she turned
upon him, her arms akimbo.

"Sure, yese a fine spicimin uv a sheriff, Gum Smith, that ye are-not!"
she yelled in a voice that could be heard the length of the single
street. "Three holdups in the two months right under yer nose, and all ye
do is 'depatize' an' 'depatize' an' 'depatize.' Why don't ye git out an'
git 'em-ye ould woman," she concluded scornfully, and then turned to the
wounded man, her voice instantly as soft as a lullaby.

"Get inside wid ye, ye poor b'y, an' Mary Donovan'll be after makin' ye
comfortable 'til we get hould uv the ould saw-bones, if he's sober, which
he ain't, or I'm no lady, which I am. Come on now, aisy like, there's a
good b'y," and she put a motherly arm about the lad and helped him to the
porch of the hotel, just as Diana Henders appeared from the interior,
attracted by the sounds from without.

"Oh, Mrs. Donovan!" she exclaimed. "What has happened? Why, it's Mack!
The Black Coyote again?" she guessed quickly.

"Shure an' it was none other. I seen him wid me own eyes-the black silk
handkerchief about the neck uv him an' another over his ugly face. An'
his pardner-sure now I couldn't be mishtaken wid the rollin' walk uv
him-if it wasn't that dhirty greaser, Gregorio, me name's not Mary
Donovan, which it is."

Together the two women helped the messenger into a bedroom where Mary
Donovan, despite the embarrassed protests of her patient, undressed him
and put him to bed while Diana Henders went to the kitchen for hot water
and cloths.

Mack had an ugly flesh wound in his side, and this they had cleansed as
best they could by the time the doctor arrived-a drink-broken old man who
had drifted in from the East. His knowledge and skill were of the first
rank and Hendersville boasted that it owned the best doctor in the
Territory-when he was sober.

In Gum's Place-Liquors and Cigars-the male population was listening to
the account of the holdup as expounded by the little old gentleman and
the other passenger, the latter being a stranger in the community.

It was he who had the floor at the moment.

"I never laughed so much in my life," he averred, "as when the old woman
calls the old man here the 'ould woman with the artillery.'"

The little old gentleman was standing at the bar with a glass of whiskey
in his hand. Apparently with a single movement, so swift was he, he
dashed the glass and its contents in the face of the stranger, whipped
out both guns and commenced shooting.

A stream of lurid profanity accompanied his act, yet through the flood of
incoherent obscenity the nub of an idea occasionally appeared, which was
to the effect that "no blankety, blank tin-horn could git gay with
Wildcat Bob." Almost instantly, as if a magician had waved his wand, the
room, that had been comfortably filled with men, became deserted, as far
as human eye could discern, except for the little old gentleman with the
tobacco-dewed whiskers.

The front door had accommodated some, while heavy pieces of furniture and
the bar accounted for the rest-all but the stranger with the ill-directed
sense of humor. He had gone through the back window and taken the sash
with him.

The shooting over, the company reappeared, grinning. Most of them knew
Wildcat Bob. It had been the stranger's misfortune that he had not.

"I'd orter 'a' bored him, the dinged pole-cat," growled the little old
gentleman, filling a fresh glass; "but I guess I larnt him his lesson.
The idear of him a-speakin' of Mrs. Donovan disrespectful-like like
that-callin' her the 'old woman'! Why, she's the finest lady ever drew
breath.

"An' says she to me, says she, Mister Bob, says she, 'It's such a relief
to have a man like you along when there's danger,' says she, but she
can't stand bloodshed, bein' that timid and shrinkin' and she begged me
not to start shootin' at the varmints, otherwise than which I shore would
of messed them up somethin' awful," interspersed with which were quite
two oaths or obscenities to each word.

The shooting over and quiet restored, Gum Smith made his belated
appearance. At sight of the little old gentleman he smiled affably.

"Dog-gone my hide if it ain't Bob," he exclaimed, crossing the room with
extended hand. "Have a drink on the house, Bob."

Wildcat Bob ignored the proffered hand. "I got the dust to cover my own
drinks, Mister Sheriff," he replied, "an instid of loafin' around here
buyin' drinks why ain't you-all out scoutin' after that there Black
Coyote hombre? You're shore a hell of a sheriff, you are, Gum Smith."

"Don't git excited, Bob," urged the sheriff, flushing. "Give a man time.
Ah got to git me a posse, ain't Ah? Thet's jest what Ah was allowin' to
do right now, an' Ah'll start by depatizin' yo."

"You'll deputize me-hell, you will, Gum Smith," returned the old man with
a snort of disgust. "I ben out with you-all before. When you thinks
danger's north you heads south. I had all the travelin' I wants today."

The sheriff mumbled something beneath his breath and turned away. Some
half-hour later he rode out of town with a posse consisting of half a
dozen of his cronies and leisurely took his way toward the gap.

In Mrs. Donovan's sitting room Mary Donovan sat rocking comfortably and
chatting with Diana Renders. Mack had been made as comfortable as
circumstances permitted. The doctor had assured them that he was in no
danger and had gone his way-back to Gum's Place-Liquors and Cigars.

"And what are you doin' in town this day, Diana?" inquired Mrs. Donovan.

"I rode in with Hal Colby, he's foreman now," replied the girl. "I wanted
to buy a few things while Hal rode on over to the West Ranch. We have
some horses over there. He ought to be back any minute now."

"So Colby's foreman. What's become of Bull-quit?"

"He got drunk again and Dad broke him. I'm so sorry for him."

"Don't be after wastin' your pity on the loikes ov him," advised Mary
Donovan. "There's not the wan ov thim's fit to black your boots,
darlin'."

"I don't understand Bull," continued the girl, ignoring the interruption.
"Sometimes I think he's all right and then again I'm afraid of him. He's
so quiet and reserved that I feel as though no one could ever know him,
and when a man's like that, as Hal says, you can't help but think that
maybe he's done something that makes him afraid to talk, for fear he'll
give himself away."

"So Hal Colby was after sayin' that? Well, maybe he's right an' maybe
he's wrong. It's not Mary Donovan that'll be sayin' as don't know. But
this I do be after knowin'-they're both ov thim in love with ye, and"

"Hush, Mrs. Donovan! The boys all think they're in love with me, but I
hate to hear anyone else say it seriously. It's perfectly silly. They'd
be just as much in love with any other girl, if she chanced to be the
only girl on the ranch, as I am, and pretty nearly the only girl in the
county, too. There's Hal now. I must be going. Good-bye, Mrs. Donovan."

"Good-bye darlin', an' be after comin' over again soon. It's that
lonesome here, you never could imagine! An' what wid that ould scoundrel
back in town again, to say nothin' ov Gum Smith!"

"What old scoundrel?" inquired the girl.

"Sure, no one else but Wildcat Bob, the spalpeen!"

Diana Henders laughed. "He's a very persistent suitor, isn't he, Mrs.
Donovan?"

"Sure he's a very pestiferous shooter, that's what he is-the ould fool.
Actin' like a wild broth ov a b'y, an' him sivinty if he's a day. He
ought to be ashamed of himself, I'm sayin'; but at that he's better than
Gum Smith-say, that man's so crooked ye could pull corks wid him."

The girl was still laughing as she emerged from the hotel and mounted her
pony. Hal Colby sat his horse a few yards away, talking with half a dozen
men. At sight of Diana Henders he reined about and joined her.

"The boys were just telling me about the latest holdup in Hell's Bend,"
he said, as they cantered, stirrup to stirrup, out of town. "How's Mack?"

"The doctor says he'll be all right," replied Diana. "Just a bad flesh
wound. I don't see why something isn't done to put a stop to these
holdups. Gum Smith doesn't seem to care whether he gets The Black Coyote
or not."

"Oh, Gum's doin' the best he can," Colby assured her good-naturedly.

"You're too easy, Hal. You never like to say anything against a man, and
of course that is right, too; but the lives and property of all of us are
under Gum Smith's protection, to a greater or less extent, and if he was
the right sort he'd realize his responsibility and make a determined
effort to run down this fellow."

"He went out after him with a posse-the boys just told me so. What more
can he do?"

"It was half an hour or more after the stage pulled in before Gum
started," she retorted. "Does he or anyone else imagine that those two
scoundrels are going to wait around the gap until Gum gets there? And
he'll be back with his posse right after dark. He'll say he lost the
trail, and that'll be the end of it until next time."

The man made no reply and the two rode on in silence for a few minutes.

It was the girl who spoke again first.

"I wonder," she said, who this Black Coyote really is."

"Everybody seems pretty sure it was The Black Coyote," remarked Colby.
"How did they know?.

"The black silk handkerchief he uses for a mask, and the other ode about
his neck," she explained. "It must be the same man. Everyone has noticed
these handkerchiefs on one of the men in every holdup in Hell's Bend Pass
during the last six months. There is scarce any one that isn't positive
that the second man is the Mexican, Gregorio; but no one seems to have
recognized the principal."

"I got my own opinion," said Colby.

"What do you mean? Do you know who The Black Coyote really is?"

"I wouldn't want to say that I know, exactly; but I got my own opinion."

"Well!" she urged.

"I wouldn't want to mention no names-until I was shore. But," after a
pause, "I'd like to see his cayuse. No one ever sees either his or his
pardner's. They keep 'em hid out in the brush alongside the trail; but I
got a guess that if anyone ever seed The Black Coyote's pony we'd all
know for shore who The Black Coyote is."

She did not insist further when she saw that he was apparently shielding
the name of some man whom they both knew, and whom he suspicioned. It was
only right that he do this, she thought, and she admired him the more for
it. So they talked of other things as they jogged along the dusty road
toward home, the man riding a stiff up's width behind that he might feast
his eyes upon the profile of his companion. As they neared the ranch they
saw the figure of a solitary horseman approaching from the north.

"Looks like Blazes," remarked the girl.

"It is," said the man. "I sent Bull up to Cottonwood this morning. I
don't see what he's doin' comin' . in from the north. The Cottonwood
trail's almost clue west."

"He might have come back along the foothill trail," suggested Diana.

"He might, but it's farther, an' I never seed a puncher yet that'd ride
any farther than you told him to.

"Bull's different," she replied, simply. "If you sent him out for any
purpose he'd accomplish it no matter how far he had to ride. He's always
been a good hand."

A moment later the ex-foreman joined them where the two trails met. He
accorded the girl the customary, "Howdy, Miss," of the times, and nodded
to Colby. His mount was streaked with sweat and dust. It was evident that
he had been ridden hard.

"Did you find them cows?" asked the foreman.,

Bull nodded.

"In Cottonwood?"

"No. Belter's."

Diana Henders glanced at the foreman as much as to say, "I told you so!"
Then, glancing back at Bull, she noticed a reddish brown stain on the
side of his shirt, and gave a little exclamation of concern.

"Oh, Bull!" she cried, "you've been hurt-that's blood; isn't it? How did
it happen?"

"Oh, that ain't nothin', Miss, just a little scratch," and he closed up,
like a clam, spurring ahead of them.

Neither Colby nor the girl spoke, but both were thinking of the same
things-that Bull wore a black silk handkerchief about his neck and that
Mary Donovan had fired back upon The Black Coyote and his confederate
following the holdup in Hell's Bend earlier in the afternoon.

Mrs. Donovan, her hands on her hips, stood just inside the dining room
door as her guests filed in for supper that evening and seated themselves
at the long deal table covered with its clean red and white cloth. She
had a good-natured word for each of them, until her eyes alighted upon
Wildcat Bob, attempting to sneak in unnoticed behind the broad figure of
Jim Weller.

"So-o!" she exclaimed scornfully. "Ye ould fool -yer drunk again. Ta-ake
off thim guns an' give thim to me."

"I haven't had a drink, Mary," expostulated the old man.

"Don't 'Mary' me, ye ould reprobate, an' be after givin' me thim guns,
quick!"

Meekly he unbuckled his belt and passed it over to her. "I was just
bringin' 'em in to you, Ma-Mrs. Donovan," he assured her.

"Y'ed better be. Now go an' sit down. I'll feed you this night, but don't
you iver step foot into Mary Donovan's dining room again in liquor."

"I tell you I ain't had a drink," he insisted.

"Pha-at?" The word reeked with disbelief.

"Only just a drop to settle the dust after we pulled in," he qualified
his original statement.

"Ye must uv been that dusty then!" she exclaimed scornfully.

"I was."

"Don't talk back. And did ye find yer horses, Jim Weller?" she inquired
of the big man behind whom Wildcat Bob had made his unimpressive
entrance.

Weller shook his head, negatively, his mouth being full of baked beans.

"Patches probably run 'em off," suggested Bill Gatlin, the stage driver.

"What with renegades and holdups this country ain't safe to live in no
more," remarked Mrs. Donovan. "If some of these here would-be bad-men
would git out an' shoot up the bandits and the Injuns instid of shootin'
up saloons," she stated meaningly, casting a baneful look at Wildcat Bob.

"Hadn't orter be hard to find 'em, least wise one of 'em," stated Weller,
"when every son-of-a-gun in the county knows who he is."

"Meanin'?" inquired the stage driver.

'-'Gregorio, in course," said Weller. "I seen him comin' out o'
Cottonwood not three hours before the stage was stuck up, an' he was
headin' towards Hell's Bend-him an' that Bar Y Bull feller."

"You mean them two was together?" asked Gatlin.

"Well, they warn't exactly together. Gregorio comes out fust an' about
five minutes later I meets Bull acomin' down the canyon; but they
couldn't have both been up there without t'other knowin' it."

"I don't believe Bull would be doin' it," said Mary Donovan.

"You can't never tell nothin' about them quiet fellers," remarked Gatlin,
sententiously.

There was a pounding of hoofs without, the creaking of leather as men
dismounted and a moment later the sheriff and some of his posse entered
the dining room.

"I suppose ye got 'em, Gum Smith," said Mrs. Donovan, with sarcasm, "or
ye wouldn't be back this soon."

"Ah ain't no cat, Mrs. Donovan," said the sheriff, on the defensive, "to
see in the dark."

"Yese ain't no sheriff nayther," she shot back.

Wildcat Bob succeeded in calling attention to derisive laughter by
pretending to hide it. Gum Smith looked at his rival angrily, immediately
discovering that he was unarmed.

"What's the matter with the old woman with the artillery-is she chokin'?"
he inquired sweetly.

Wildcat Bob went. red to the verge of apoplexy, seized a heavy cup
half-filled with coffee and started to rise.

"Sit down wid ye!" roared the stentorian voice of Mary Donovan.

"I-" started Wildcat Bob.

"Shut up an' sit down!"

The Wildcat did both, simultaneously.

' It's a sha-ame, that it is, that a respictable widdy lady should be
redjuced to fadin' the likes o' yese fer a livin'," wailed Mrs. Donovan,
sniffing, as she dabbed at her eyes with the corner of her apron, "all
alone and unproticted as I am. Sure an' if poor Tim was here he'd wipe
the ground wid the both ov yese."

Wildcat Bob, very red and uncomfortable, ate diligently, his eyes glued
to the plate. Well did Mary Donovan know how to handle this terror of an
earlier day, whose short temper and quick guns still held the respect and
admiration of the roughest characters of the great empire of the
Southwest, but whose heart could be dissolved by a single tear.

As for Gum Smith, he was only too glad to be relieved of the
embarrassment of the Wildcat's further attentions and he too gave himself
willingly over to peace and supper. For the balance of the meal, however,
conversation languished.

At the Bar Y Ranch the men sat smoking after the evening meal. Bull was
silently puffing upon a cigarette. Hal Colby, always good-natured and
laughing, told stories. During the silences Texas Pete strove diligently
to recall the half-forgotten verses of The Bad Hombre.

But over all there hovered an atmosphere of restraint. No one could have
put his finger upon the cause, yet all sensed it. Things were not as they
had been yesterday, or for many days before. Perhaps there was a feeling
that an older man should have been chosen to replace Bull, for Colby was
one of the newer hands. Without volition and unconsciously the men were
taking sides. Some, mostly the men who had worked longest for Henders,
drew imperceptibly nearer Bull. Texas Pete was one of them. The others
laughed a little louder, now, at Colby's stories.

"By gollies!" exclaimed Pete, "I remember some more of it:

"'I am the original bad un, I am;
I eats 'em alive an' I don't give a damn
Fer how fast they come er how many they be-
Of all the bad hombres the wust one is me.'"

sang Texas Pete. "Good night, fellers, I'm goin' to turn in."



CHAPTER IV

"I LOVE YOU"

DIANA HENDERS was troubled. Ever since the holdup several days before she
had not been able to expunge from her thoughts a recollection of the
sinister circumstances that pointed an accusing finger at Bull. There had
always been a deep-seated loyalty existing between the Henders and their
employees and this alone would have been sufficient to have brought the
girl to arms in the defense of the reputation of any of her father's
"boys." In the case of Bull there were added reasons why she could not
bear to foster a suspicion of his guilt.

Not only had he been a trusted foreman, but there was something in the
man himself, or rather in his influence upon the imagination of the girl,
that made it almost impossible for her to believe that he had shot Mack
Harber, another employee, and stolen the bullion from her father's mine.
He had always been reticent and almost shy in her presence. He had never
presumed to even the slight familiarity of addressing her by her given
name-a customary procedure among the other men, many of whom had seen her
grow so gradually from a little girl to a young lady that they scarce yet
discerned the change.

Yet she knew that he liked to be with her, though she was far from being
sure that she cared for his company. He was quiet to taciturnity and far
from being the pleasant companion that she found in Hal Colby. There was
something, however, that she felt when in his company to a much greater
degree than when she was with other men-absolute confidence in his
integrity and his ability to protect her.

Now she was sorry for him since his reduction from a post of
responsibility and her loyalty aroused by the inward suspicions she had
permitted herself to entertain, to the end that she was moved by
something akin to remorse to make some sort of overtures of friendship
that he might know that the daughter of his employer still had confidence
in him.

It was a quiet Sunday morning. The men were lazily occupying themselves
with the overhauling of their outfits, replacing worn latigo and stirrup
leather lacings, repairing hackamores and bridles, polishing silver and
guns, cleaning boots with bacon grease and lampblack, shaving, or
hair-cutting.

Down past the bunk-house, toward the corrals, came Diana Henders.
Presently she would pause near the men and ask one of them to catch up a
horse for her. The lucky fellow whom she asked would ride with her.

It was a custom of long standing; but she was earlier than usual this
Sunday morning and several of the men worked frantically to complete the
jobs they were engaged upon before she should arrive within speaking
distance. Two or three affected attitudes of careless idleness indicative
of perfect readiness to meet any call upon their time or services.

Texas Pete was cutting the hair of another puncher. He had reached a
point where his victim was entirely shorn upon one side, the other
displaying a crop of thick, brown hair four or five inches long, when he
looked up and saw Diana approaching. Pete tossed the shears and comb into
the lap of the victim.

"You-all don't need a hair-cut nohow," he announced, strolling away with
what he believed to be a remarkable display of nonchalance, along a line
that would, quite by accident of course, intercept Diana's course to the
corrals.

The deserted and disfigured puncher wheeled upon him with a loud yell.

"Come back here, you knock-kneed, bowlegged, son-of-a-," then his eyes,
too, alighted upon Diana. His fountain of speech dried at the source, his
tanned face assumed a purple cast, and in two jumps he had reached the
seclusion of the bunkhouse.

Hal Colby walked deliberately forward to meet the girl, a pleasant smile
of greeting upon his handsome face as he raised his wide sombrero in
salutation. Had he been on trial for his life at that moment the entire
outfit would have voted unanimously to hang him on the spot; but, gosh,
how they envied him!

Bull sat, apparently unmoved, with his back against a cottonwood tree,
running a wiping rag through the barrel of a revolver. He did not even
look up, though he had seen Diana Henders from the moment that she left
the house. Bull realized that after .the affair in town that had caused
his downfall there was no chance for him to ride with her again for many
long days-possibly forever.

"Going for a ride, Di?" asked Colby, confidently, as the girl came
abreast of the men.

"Why, yes, I was thinking of it," she replied sweetly. "I was just going
to ask Bull if he wouldn't catch up Captain for me-the rest of you all
seem so busy."

Colby appeared abashed but not defeated. "I haven't a thing-to do," he
assured her.

"But I've made you ride with me so much lately, Hal," she insisted.

"I'd rather ride with you than eat," he whispered.

Texas Pete had made a feeble pretense of searching for something on the
ground, apparently given it up in despair, and was passing them on his
way back to the bunk-house.

"I don't think you oughter ride with-with him, nohow," continued Colby.

The girl drew herself up, slightly.

"Don't be nasty, Hal," she said.

"You know I hate to say that," he assured her. "I set a heap of store by
Bull. He's one of my best friends, but after what's happened-you can't
blame me, Di. I think your dad would say the same thing if he knew."

Bull was halfway to the corrals.

"I'll have the bosses up in a jiffy, Miss," he called back over his
shoulder.

"Good-bye, Hal," laughed the girl, teasingly. "You'll have plenty of time
to lay out the work for tomorrow-a foreman's always busy, you know," and
she walked away briskly after Bull.

As Colby turned back toward the men he saw broad grins adorning the faces
of most of them. Texas Pete, just approaching the bunk-house door,
halted, removed his hat with a flourish, bowing low.

"Goin' to git your hair cut, Hal?" he inquired sweetly. "You know I'd
rather cut your hair than eat."

A loud roar of laughter acknowledged this sally.

Colby, flushing crimson, beat a hasty retreat toward the office.

"Which way?" asked Bull, when the two had mounted.

"I'm going to town to see how Mack is getting along," replied the girl,
watching his face.

"I seen Wildcat Bob yesterday. He said he was getting along fine. Nothing
but a flesh wound."

Neither his voice nor his expression betrayed more than ordinary concern.

"Have you seen Mack since he was shot'?" she inquired.

"Ain't had time. Colby keeps me pretty busy. Mack was a dinged fool fer
gettin' creased anyhow," he observed. "When a feller's got the drop on
you, stick 'em up. They ain't nothin' else to do. Mack orter known better
than to make any funny gun-play with them two hombres coverin' him."

"It was mighty brave of him," said Diana. "He's no coward-and he was
loyal to Dad."

"I don't see nothin' brave about it," he replied. "It was just plumb
foolishness. Why he didn't have a chanct on earth."

"That's what made his act so courageous," she insisted.

"Then the feller what commits suicide must be a regular hero," he
rejoined, smiling. "I never looked at it that way. I reckon Mack must
have been aimin' to commit suicide."

"You're horrid, Bull. I believe you haven't any heart at all."

"I shore have. Leastways I did have one until-" He hesitated, looked at
her in a peculiar way, then let his eyes drop to his saddle horn, "Oh,
shucks! what's the use?" he exclaimed.

There was silence for a brief interval. The spirit of coquetry, that is
strong in every normal girl, prompted her to urge him on; but a natural
kindliness coupled with the knowledge that it would be unfair to him kept
her silent. It was the man who spoke again first.

"I was sorry Mack got hurt," he said, defensively; "but he was lucky he
wasn't killed. That Black Coyote feller must have been a friend of
his'n."

"The brute!" she exclaimed. "He ought to be strung up to the highest tree
in the county."

"Yes," he agreed, and then, with another of his rare smiles, "let's speak
to Gum Smith about it when we get to town."

"Gum Smith!" Were it possible to snort Gum Smith she had accomplished it.
"If an honest vote had been taken for the worst man for sheriff Gum Smith
would have been elected unanimously."

"Why Gum's a good sheriff," he teased, "fer tin horns and bandits."

She did not reply. Her thoughts were upon the man at her side. Nothing
that he had said had exactly tended to weaken her faith in him, yet it
had not materially strengthened it; either.

His apparent callous indifference to Mack's suffering might have been
attributed with equal fairness to the bravado of the guilty desperado, or
to the conditions and the times in which they lived which placed
shootings and sudden death in the category of the commonplace. His
suggestion that The Black Coyote must have been a friend of Mack's, as an
explanation of a flesh wound rather than a mortal one, appeared a trifle
sinister, though it was amenable to other interpretations. On the whole,
however, Diana Henders was not wholly pleased with the result of her
probing.

At The Donovan House they found Mack sufficiently recovered to be able to
sit upon the veranda, where there were gathered a number of Mrs.
Donovan's other guests, including Wildcat Bob and the sheriff. Mary
Donovan stood in the doorway, one hand on a hip and the other, the fist
doubled, emphasizing some forceful statement she was delivering.

As Diana Henders and Bull appeared suddenly before them, the argument,
which had been progressing merrily, lapsed into an embarrassed silence.
It would have been evident to the most obtuse that one or the other of
the newcomers had been the subject of the conversation, and neither Bull
nor Diana was obtuse, the result being that they shared the embarrassment
of the others.

The silence, which really lasted but a brief moment, was broken by Mary
Donovan's hearty greeting to Diana, followed by a cordial word to Bull,
which was seconded by Wildcat Bob. The others, however, spoke only to
Diana Henders, appearing not to be aware of the presence of her escort.

"Come now," cried Mary Donovan, "into the house wid ye an' have a bit o'
cake an' a cup o' tay." But Diana Henders did not dismount.

"No, thank you, Mrs. Donovan," she replied. "We just rode down to see how
Mack was getting along and to ask if there was anything we could do for
him." She turned her glance toward the wounded man.

"I'm all right, Miss," he replied. "'Twasn't nothin' but a scratch. I'll
be back at the mine in a couple o' days-an' guardin' the bullion
shipments, too, same as usual." He looked straight at Bull as he made
this final statement.

"Well," exclaimed Diana, hastily, "I'm glad you're so much better, Mack,
and if there isn't anything we can do for you we'll start back for the
ranch." She sensed the sullen attitude of most of the men there, the
scowls they cast at Bull, and she knew that it would require little to
precipitate a direct accusation, which would have been almost certain to
have been followed by gunplay. "Come, Bull," she said, and reined her
pony about.

They had ridden well out of town when she looked casually into the man's
face. It bore a troubled expression and he must have guessed that she
noted it.

"I wonder what was eatin' them fellers," he remarked. "No one only
Wildcat Bob even spoke to me, an' Mack seemed gosh-almighty sore about
somethin'. Well, they ain't none of 'em got their brand on me. If I did
shoot up Gum Smith's joint it ain't no hair offen none of them."

The girl wondered if he really was ignorant of the suspicions directed
against him, or if he took this means to make her believe that the cause
of the altered attitude toward him was his drunken gunplay in the
sheriffs saloon.

"I was right sorry about that, Miss," he blurted suddenly. "I never aimed
for to do it. I wasn't goin' to drink too much no more after what I'd
promised you. I'm right sorry. Do you think that, maybe, you-you might
forgive me-and give me another chance?"

His voice was pleading and he was very much in earnest. The girl knew how
difficult it was for a rough man like Bull to say what he had just said
and she felt a sudden compassion for him.

"It made me sorry, too, Bull," she said. "I trusted you and I hated to be
so disappointed in you."

"Please don't say you don't trust me, Miss," he begged. "I want you to
trust me more'n anything else."

"I want to trust you, Bull," and then, impulsively: "I do trust you!"

He reached across the interval between them and laid his rough hand upon
her soft one.

"I love you, Diana," he said, very simply and with a quiet dignity that
was unmarred by any hesitancy or embarrassment.

She started to speak, but he silenced her with a gesture.

"Don't say anything about it, please," he urged. "I don't expect you to
love me; but there's nothing wrong about my loving you. I just wanted you
to know it so that you'd always know where I stood and that you could
always call on me for anything. With yer dad an' all the other men around
that loves you there isn't much likelihood that you'll ever need me
more'n another, but it makes me feel better to know that you know now. We
won't talk about it no more, Miss. We both understand. It's the reason I
didn't quit when yer dad busted me."

"I'm glad you told me, Bull," she said. "It's the greatest honor that any
man can bestow upon a girl. I don't love any man, Bull, that way; but if
ever I do he'll know it without my telling him. I'll do something that
will prove it-a girl always does. Some times, though, the men are awfully
blind, they say."

"I wouldn't be blind," said Bull. "I'd know it, I think, if a girl loved
me."

"The right one will, some day," she assured him.

He shook his head. "I hope so, Miss."

She flushed, sensing the unintentional double Entendre he had caught in
her words. She wondered why she flushed.

They rode on in silence. She was sorry that Bull loved her, but she was
glad that, loving her, he had told her of his love. He was just a common
cowhand, unlettered, rough, and occasionally uncouth, but of these things
she did not think, for she had known no other sort, except her father and
an occasional visitor from the East, since childhood. Had she cared for
him she would not have been ashamed. She looked up at him with a smile.

"Don't call me 'Miss,' Bull, please-I hate it."

"You want me to call you by your first name?" he inquired.

"The other men do," she said, "and you did---a moment ago."

"It slipped out that time." He grinned sheepishly.

"I like it."

"All right Miss," he said.

The girl laughed aloud, joyishly.

"All right, Diana, I mean," lie corrected himself.

"That's better."

So Diana Henders, who was really a very sensible girl, instead of merely
playing with fire, made a big one of a little one, all very
unintentionally, for how was she to know that to Bull the calling of her
Diana instead of Miss was almost as provocative to his love as Would have
been the personal contact of a kiss to an ordinary man?

As they approached the ranch house at the end of their ride they saw a
buckboard to which two bronchos were harnessed hitched to the tie rail
beneath the cottonwoods outside the office door.

"Whose outfit is that?" asked Diana. "I never saw it before."

"The Wainrights from the north side o' the hills. I seen 'em in town
about a week ago."

"Oh, yes, I've heard of them. They're from the East. Mr. Wainright don't
like the country north of the mountains."

"He's lookin' fer range on this side," said Bull. "Like as not that's
what lie's here fer now. They ain't enough water fer no more outfits
though, nor enough feed neither."

They drew rein at the corral and dismounted.

Thanks, Bull," said the girl, as she passed him her bridle reins. "We've
had a lovely ride."

''Thanks-Diana."

That was all he said, but the way he spoke her name was different from
the way any other man had ever spoken it. She was sorry now that she had
asked him to call her Diana.

As she was passing the office to go to her room her father called to her.

"Come in, Di; I want you to meet some new neighbors," and when she had
entered, "My daughter, Mr. Wainright."

Diana extended her hand to a fat man with close-set eyes, and then her
father presented the younger Wainright.

"Mr. Jefferson Wainright, Jr., Diana," he said.

The son was a well-groomed-appearing, nice-looking young fellow of
twenty-one or twenty-two. Perhaps his costume was a trifle too
exaggerated to be in good taste, but he had only fallen into the same
mistake that many another wealthy young Easterner has done before and
since upon his advent to the cow-country. From silver-banded sombrero to
silver-encrusted spurs there was no detail lacking.

"By gollies, he looks like a Christmas tree," had been Texas Pete's
observation the first time that he had seen him. "All they forgot was the
candles."

"You live north of the. mountains?" inquired Diana, politely.

"Yep," replied the elder Wainright; "but we don't calc'late to stay
there. We're from Mass'chusetts-Worcester-blanketsmade a fortune in
'em-made 'em for the gover'ment mostly. Jeff got it in his head he wanted
to go into the cattle business-come by it natch'ral I allow. I used to be
in the livery stable business before I bought the mills-so when he
graduated from Harvard a year ago we come out here-don't like it tother
side the mountains-so I calc'lates to come over here."

"I was just explaining to Mr. Wainright that there is scarcely enough
feed or water for another big outfit on this side," interjected Mr.
Henders.

"Don't make any difference-set your price-but set it right. I'll buy you
out. I c'd buy half this territory I calc'late-if I had a mind to-but the
price's got to be right. Ol' Jeff Wainright's got a name for bein' a
pretty shrewd trader-fair'n honest, though-fair'n honest. Just name your
price-how much for the whole shebang-buildins, land, cattle-everything?"

Elias Henders laughed good-naturedly. "I'm afraid they're not for sale,
Mr. Wainright."

"Tut, tut! I'll get 'em-you'll sell-of Jeff Wainright's always got
everything he went after. Well, son, I calc'late we'd better be goin'."

"You'll have dinner with us first, of course," insisted Diana; "it must
be almost ready now."

"Well, I don't mind if we do," returned the elder Wainright, and so they
stayed for the noonday meal.

Diana found the younger Wainright a pleasant, affable companion. He was
the first educated man near her own age that she had ever met and his
conversation and his ways, so different from those of the rough vaqueros
of her little world, made a profound impression upon her. He could talk
interestingly from the standpoint of personal experience of countless
things of which she had only secondhand knowledge acquired from books and
newspapers. Those first two hours with him thrilled her with
excitement-they opened a new world of wondrous realities that she had
hitherto thought of more as unattainable dreams than things which she
herself might some day experience.

If he had inherited something of his father's egotism she forgot it in
the contemplation of his finer qualities and in the pleasure she derived
from association with one somewhere near her own social status in life.
That the elder Wainright was impossible she had sensed from the first,
but the son seemed of different fiber and no matter what his antecedents,
he must have acquired something of permanent polish through his college
associations.

The disquieting effect of the Wainrights' visit was apparent elsewhere
than at the ranch house. There was gloom at the bunk-house.

"Dog-gone his hide!" exclaimed Texas Pete.

"Whose?" inquired Shorty.

"My of man's. If he hadn't gone an' got hung he might'a' sent me to
Havaad. What chanct has a feller got agin one o' them paper-collared,
cracker-fed dudes anyway!"



CHAPTER V

THE ROUND-UP

"I HAD a letter from Wainright in the mail today, Di," said Elias Henders
to his daughter about a week later. "He is after me again to put a price
on the whole 'shebang.'"

"We could go East and live then, couldn't we?" asked the girl.

Henders looked at her keenly. There had been just the tiniest trace of
wistfulness in her tone. He crossed the room and put an arm about her.

"You'd like to go East and live?" he asked.

"I love it here, Dad; but there is so much there that we can never have
here. I should like to see how other people live. I should tike to go to
a big hotel, and to the theaters and opera, and meet educated people of
my own age. I should like to go to parties where no one got drunk and
shot the lights out," she concluded with a laugh.

"We don't have to sell out to go back," he told her. "I am afraid I have
been selfish. Because I never wanted to back after your mamma left us, I
forgot that you had a right to the same advantages that she and I
enjoyed. The ranch seemed enough-the ranch and you."

"But there'd be no one to manage things if you went away," she insisted.

"Oh, that could be arranged. I thought you felt that we couldn't afford
to go unless we sold."

"It would be nice if you were relieved of all responsibility," she said.
"If you sold the ranch and the brand you wouldn't have to worry about how
things were going here."

"Old Wainright wouldn't pay what they are worth, even if I was ready to
sell," he explained. "I'll tell you what I'll do-I'll make him a price.
If he takes it I'll sell out, and anyway, whether he does or not, we'll
go East to stay, if you like it."

"What price are you going to ask?"

"Seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars for the ranch and the brand.
They might bring more if I wanted to make an effort to get more, but that
will show a fair profit for us and I know will be satisfactory to John.
He has asked me a dozen times in his letters why I didn't sell the cattle
end of the business and come East."

"Yes, I know Uncle John has always wanted. us to come back," she said.

"But old Wainright really doesn't want the ranch and cattle at all," said
her father. "What he wants is the mine. He has offered me a million
dollars for all our holdings in the county, including the mine. He
mentions the fact that the workings have pretty nearly petered out, and
he's right, and he thinks I'll grab at it to unload."

"I suspect he's had a man up there for the past six months-the new
bookkeeper that Corson sent out while your Uncle John Manill was in
Europe-and he thinks he's discovered something that I don't know-but I
do. For years, Di, we've been paralleling a much richer vein than the one
we've been working. I've known it for the past two years, but John and I
figured we'd work out the old one first-we've all the money we need
anyway. The mine alone is worth ten or twenty millions."

"Uncle John knows it? There wouldn't be any danger that someone might
trick him into a deal?"

"Not a chance, and of course, as you know, he wouldn't do anything
without consulting me. Ours is rather a peculiar partnership, Di, but
it's a very safe one for both of us. There isn't the scratch of a pen
between us as far as any written agreement is concerned, but he trusts me
and I trust him. Why before either of us married the only precautions we
took to safeguard our interests was to make our wills-I left everything
to him and he left everything to me. After we married we made new wills,
that was all.

"If I die first everything goes to him, and when he dies it is all
divided equally between our surviving heirs; or just the other way around
if he dies first. Each of us felt that we could thus best safeguard the
interests of our respective families, since we both had implicit
confidence in the other's honesty and integrity."

"Oh, let's not talk about it," exclaimed the girl. "Neither one of you is
ever going to die."

"All right, Di," laughed her father; "just as you say-you've always had
your own way. Now we'll plan that eastern trip. Can't very well go until
after the spring round-up, and in the meantime we can be sizing up Colby.
If he takes hold all right we couldn't do better than to leave him in
charge. I never did like the idea of importing a new man as
superintendent if you could possibly use one of your own men. What do you
think of him, Di?"

"I don't know yet Dad," she replied. "I like him immensely, and I think
he's honest and loyal, but he don't know stock, nor the range, as well as
Bull."

"Bull is out of the question," replied her father. "I could never trust
him again."

"I know how you feel. I feel the same way, and yet there is something
about him, Dad-I can't explain it; but when I am with him I cannot doubt
him."

"He's got you hypnotized. I hope he hasn't been making love to you," he
concluded, seriously.

"Oh, they all do," she cried, laughing; "but Bull least of all."

"I suppose you'll have to be marrying one of these days, and if you were
going to live here I'd rather you married a western boy; but if you are
going East you mustn't fall in love yet, for you are sure to find a great
difference between the boys you have known and the boys back there."

"Don't worry, Dad, I haven't fallen in love yet; but if I do soon I'm
afraid it's going to be either Hal Colby or Jefferson Wainright."

"Senior?" he asked.

"Oh, isn't he funny-and impossible!" she cried.

"He's all of that and more too," replied her father. .

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw a bull by the
tail. He's one of those blue-bellied Yankees who considers any means as
honest that keep him on the right side of a jail door; but the boy
appears to be a much more decent sort."

"He is delightful and wonderful," said Diana.

The days passed, lovely, sunshiny days during which Diana spent long
hours dreaming of the coming eastern trip. She rode much, as usual,
sometimes with one man, again with another, but more often with her
father or Hal Colby.

Bull's assignments usually took him too far afield for her to accompany
him. If he thought that Colby had some such purpose in mind when he laid
out the work from day to day he said nothing of it; but he could not have
failed to notice that following each of the few occasions upon which
Diana accompanied him, usually a Sunday, he was given work the next day
that kept him in the saddle until late at night, and upon several
occasions away from the ranch for two days or more.

At last the time of the spring rodeo arrived. Riders from other outfits
commenced straggling in, some from a hundred miles away, until the Bar Y
ranch commenced to take on the appearance of an army camp. The chuck
wagon was overhauled and outfitted. The cavvy was brought over from West
Ranch-wild, half-broken horses, with a sprinkling of colts that had never
felt leather-and assigned to the riders. There were enough to give each
man a string of eight horses.

With the others came Jefferson Wainright, Jr., arrayed like Solomon. At
first the men had a lot of fun with him, but when he took it
good-naturedly they let up a bit, and after a few evenings, during which
he sang and told stories, they accepted him almost as one of them. He was
much with Diana Henders, with the result that he found himself with four
unbroken bronchos in his string. The Bar Y hands grinned when Colby
picked them for him, and everyone was present when he first essayed to
ride one of them.

Diana was there too. She chanced to be standing near Bull when the first
of the four, having been roped, thrown and hogtied, was finally saddled,
bridled and let up. It was a ewe-necked, wall-eyed, Roman-nosed pinto and
its back was humped like a camel's.

' 'He shore looks mean," remarked Bull to the girl.

"They ought not to let Mr. Wainright ride him," she replied. "He's not
used to bad horses and he may be killed."

"I reckon that's just about how Hal figgered it," said Bull.

"I didn't think it of him. It's a shame!" she exclaimed. "Some one ought
to top that horse for Mr. Wainright-some one who can ride-like you,
Bull," she added flatteringly.

"You want me to?" he asked.

"I don't want to see the poor man killed."

Bull stepped forward and climbed into the corral. Wainright was standing
several feet from the pinto watching several men who were trying to
readjust the blind over the brute's eyes. Bull saw that the man was
afraid.

"Want me to top him for you, young feller?" he asked.

"Don't you think he's safe?" asked Wainright.

"Oh, yes, he's safe-like a Kansas cyclone."

Wainright grinned a sickly grin. "I'd appreciate it," he said, "if you'd
try him first. I'd be glad to pay you for your trouble."

Bull approached the men with the horse. "Lead him out," he said. "When I
rides one like that I wants elbow room."

They ran the pony, bucking, out of the corral. Bull stepped to the
animal's side.

"What you doin'?" demanded Colby, who had been standing too far away to
overhear the conversation.

"Toppin' this one for the dude," replied Bull.

"No you're not," snapped Colby. His voice was angry. "You'll ride the
hosses I tells you to and so will he."

"I'm ridin' this one," replied Bull. He had grasped the cheek strap with
his left hand, his right was on the horn of the saddle. Carefully he
placed his left foot in the stirrup. Then he nodded to a man standing at
the horse's head.

The blind was snatched away and the man leaped aide. The horse reared,
wheeled and struck at Bull, but Bull was not there-he was in the saddle.
The animal lunged forward awkwardly once, then he gathered himself, stuck
his nose between his front feet and went to pitching, scientifically and
in earnest, and as he pitched he lunged first to the right and then to
the left, twisting his body, squealing and kicking. Bull waved his
sombrero and slapped the beast on neck and rump with it and the pinto
bucked the harder.

Finding that these tactics failed to unseat the rider he commenced
suddenly to turn end for end in air at each jump, yet still the man
stuck, until the beast, frantic with combined terror and rage, stopped in
his tracks and turned savagely to bite at Bull's legs. Just a moment of
this until he felt the sting of the quirt and then he reared quickly and
threw himself over backward in an effort to crush his rider, nor did he
miss him by a matter of more than inches.

There are those who will tell you just how you should throw yourself
safely to one side when a horse falls, but any man who has had a horse
fall with him, or deliberately throw himself backward, knows that it is
five parts chance and the rest luck if he isn't caught, and so it was
just luck that Bull fell clear.

Diana Henders felt a sudden lump in her throat and then she saw the horse
scramble to his feet and the rider too, just in time to throw a leg
across the saddle, and come up with a firm seat and both feet in the
stirrups. The quirt fell sharply first on one flank and then on the
other, the pinto took a dozen running jumps and then settled down to a
smooth run across the open.

Five minutes later he came loping back, blowing and sweaty, still
trembling and frightened, but with the hump out of his back.

"You kin ride him now," said Bull to young Wainright, as he dismounted
carefully and stood stroking the animal's neck.

Hal Colby came forward angrily, but Bull had dismounted close to where
Diana Henders stood, and it was she who spoke to him first, and Colby,
approaching, heard her words.

"Thank you, ever so much, Bull," she said. "I was sorry afterwards that I
asked you to ride him, for I thought you were going to be hurt when he
threw himself-I should never have forgiven myself."

"Shucks!" said Bull. "It wasn't nothin'."

Colby walked off in another direction. If there had been bad blood
between the two men in the past it had never been given outward
expression, but from that moment Colby made little or no effort to hide
the fact that he had no use for Bull, while the latter in many little
ways showed his contempt for the foreman.

Better friendships than had ever existed between these two have been
shattered because of a woman, but there were other exciting causes here.
That Colby had gotten Bull's job might have been enough to cause a break,
while the foreman's evident suspicion that Bull knew a great deal too
much about the holdups in Hell's Bend and the shooting of Mack Harber
would have turned even more generous natures than Hal Colby's against the
ex-foreman.

In spite of herself Diana Henders could not deny a feeling of chagrin
that Jefferson Wainright had permitted another man to top a bad horse for
him, although it had been she who had arranged it. Perhaps she was a
trifle cool to the young Easterner that evening, but she thawed gradually
beneath the geniality of his affable ways and entertaining conversation,
and in the weeks that followed, during which she accompanied the outfit
throughout the round-up, she was with him much of the time, to the great
discomfiture of Hal Colby and others.

The Bar Y foreman had, however, after the day that Bull rode the pinto
for Wainright, left the latter severely alone, for the following morning
Elias Renders had come to the corral and selected a new string of horses
for the "dude" and spoken a few words into the ear of his foreman.

The long, hard days in the saddle left them all ready to turn in to their
blankets soon after supper. A smoke, a little gossip and rough banter and
the men jingled away through the darkness in search of their bed-rolls to
the accompaniment of their tinkling spurs.

"I seen Injun signs today," remarked a tall, thin Texan one evening.
"'Bout a dozen of 'em been campin' over yender a piece in them hills.
Signs warn't over four hour old."

"They mought be peaceable Injuns on pass from the reservation," suggested
another.

"More likely they're renegades," said Shorty. "Anyhow I ain't a-takin' no
chances on no Injuns--I shoots fust an' axes for their pass later."

"You ain't never seed a hos-tyle Injun, Shorty," said Texas Pete.

"A lot you know about it, you sawed-off, hammered-down, squint-eyed horse
thief," retorted Shorty courteously; "I'm a bad man with Injuns."

"By gollies!" exclaimed Pete, "thet reminds me of another verse:

"'So bring on yore bad men, yore killers an' sich

An' send out some Greasers to dig me a ditch,

Fer when I gits through, ef I takes any pains,

You'll need a big hole fer to plant the remains.'"

On the opposite side of the chuck wagon, where a tent had been pitched
for Diana Henders, a little group surrounded her fire. Beside the girl
there were her father, Hal Colby and Jefferson Wainright, Jr. The two
young men always gravitated in Diana's direction when off duty. Colby had
been quick to realize the advantage that the other's education gave him
and bright enough to remain a silent observer of his manners and
conversation. Inwardly he held the Easterner in vast contempt, yet he
cultivated him and often rode with him that he might learn from him
something of those refinements which he guessed constituted the basis of
Diana's evident liking for Wainright. He asked him many questions, got
him to talk about books, and made mental note of various titles with the
determination to procure and read the books that he had heard the man
discuss with Diana.

Bull, on his part, kept away from the Henders' fire in the evening and in
the day time Colby saw to it that his assignments sent him far afield
from where there was much likelihood of Diana being, with the result that
he saw less of her than was usual at home.

The ex-foreman's natural reserve had degenerated almost to sullenness. He
spoke seldom and never smiled, but he rode hard and did his work well,
until he came to be acknowledged as the best all-round man in the outfit.
There was no horse that he wouldn't ride, no risk that he wouldn't take,
no work that he would ever refuse, no matter how unfair the assignment,
with the result that the men respected him though there were none who
seemed to like his company, with the exception of Texas Pete.

"Well, boys," said Elias Henders, rising, "I guess we'd better be turning
in. Tomorrow's going to be a hard day."

The two younger men rose, Colby stretching and yawning. "I reckon you're
right, Mr. Henders," he agreed, but waiting for Wainright to make the
first move to leave. The latter paused to roll a cigarette--an
accomplishment that he had only recently brought to a state even
approximating perfection. He used both hands and was rather slow. Colby
eyed him, guessing that he was merely fighting for time in order to force
the foreman to go first. Slowly the latter withdrew his own pouch of
tobacco from his shirt pocket.

"Reckon I'll roll a smoke by the light of your fire, Di, before I do," he
remarked.

He creased the paper, poured in a little tobacco, and, as he drew the
pouch closed with his teeth and left hand, deftly rolled the cigarette
with his right, bending it slightly in the center to keep it from opening
up. Wainright realized that if he had -a conversational advantage over
Colby there were other activities in which the foreman greatly outshone
him. Rolling a smoke was one of them and that was doubtless why Colby had
chosen to roll one at a moment that odious comparison might be made.

Wainright lighted his and shifted to the other foot. Would Colby never
leave! Colby permitted three matches to burn out before he finally
succeeded in getting a light, thus gaining a considerable advantage in
time over Wainright. Elias Henders had repaired to his blankets, just
beyond Diana's tent and out of sight.

The girl realized the game that the two men were playing and could scarce
repress an inclination to laughter. She wondered which would win, or if
she would have to call it a draw and send them both about their business.
Wainright decided the matter.

"Come on, Colby," he said, throwing an arm about the other's shoulders,
"we're keeping Miss Henders up. Good night, Miss Henders," and raising
his hat he moved off, taking Colby with him. They had taken about twenty
steps when Wainright halted and wheeled about.

"Oh, I say, Miss Henders," he called, "there's something I wanted to ask
you," and he started back. "Don't wait, for me, Colby," he threw over his
shoulder; "I'll be along in a moment."

Colby glared at the other's retreating back through the darkness, hurled
his cigarette to the ground and stamped away. out-generated. "I'll get
him yet," he mumbled. "He may be pretty slick at them parlor tricks, but
they ain't many parlors in Arizona. The damn dude!"

Wainright rejoined Diana by the fire. "It's too beautiful an evening to
go to bed," he said, "and I haven't had half a chance to talk with you.
Colby hangs around as though he had a mortgage on your time and was going
to foreclose. He sort of puts a damper on conversation unless it revolves
about cows-that's all he can talk about."

"It's a subject that is always of interest to us out here," replied the
girl loyally. "Cows are really our lives, you know."

"Oh. that's all right, for men; but there are other things in life for a
girl like you, Miss Henders. You deserve something better than cows-and
cowboys. You love music and books, and you can't deny that you like to
talk about them. You belong East-you belong back in Boston."

"We're going back, not to Boston, but to New York, after the round-up-Dad
and I," she told him.

"No! really? How funny! I've got to go back too. Maybe we could all go
together."

"That would be fine," she agreed.

"Wouldn't you like to stay back there?" he asked, almost excitedly, and
then quite unexpectedly he took her hand. "Miss Henders!" he exclaimed.
"Diana! Wouldn't you like to stay there always? I'd make a home for you
there-I'd make you happy-I love you, Diana. We could be married before we
left. Wouldn't it be wonderful, going back there together on our
honeymoon! And then to Europe! We could travel everywhere. Money would
mean nothing. I don't have to tell you how rich we are."

"No," she replied, "I have heard your father mention it," and withdrew
her hand from his.

He did not seem to notice the allusion to his father's boastfulness.

"Tell me that you love me," he insisted. "Tell me that you will marry
me."

"But I don't know that I do love you," she replied. "Why, I scarcely know
you, and you certainly don't know me well enough to know that you would
want to live with me all the rest of your life."

"Oh, yes, I do!" he exclaimed. "If there was only some way to prove it.
Words are so futile-they cannot express my love, Diana. Why, .I worship
you. There is no sacrifice that I would not willingly and gladly make for
you or yours. I would die for you, dear girl, and thank God for the
chance!"

"'But I don't want you to die for me. I want you to go to bed and give
me a chance to think. I have never been in love. Possibly I love you and
do not know it. There is no need for haste anyway. I will give you my
answer before I go East. Now run along, like a good boy."

"But tell me, darling, that I may hope," he begged.

"You will do that anyway, if you love me," she told him, laughingly, as
she turned and entered her tent. "Good night!"



CHAPTER VI

THE RENEGADES

THE next morning Colby took Wainright with him. Deep in the foreman's
heart was a determination to ride hard over the roughest country he could
find and if the "dude" got killed it wouldn't be Colby's fault-nor would
it be Colby's fault if he didn't. But the foreman's plans were upset at
the last moment by Elias Henders and Diana, who elected to accompany him.

"You and Wainright ride ahead, Hal," directed Henders, "and Di and I will
trail along behind."

The foreman nodded silently and put spurs to his pony, and in silence
Wainright loped at his side. The arrangement suited neither and each was
busy concocting schemes whereby the other might be paired off with Elias
Henders, though under ordinary circumstances either would have been
highly elated at the prospect of spending a whole day in company with
"the old man."

"Glorious morning!" ejaculated Henders to his daughter. "God may have
forgotten Arizona in some respects, but he certainly remembered to give
her the most wonderful mornings in the world."

"Don't they fill one with the most exquisite sensations!" she exclaimed.

"Almost as intoxicating as wine," he agreed, and then: "By the way,
Bull's been doing fine, hasn't he? I don't believe he's touched a drop
since that night at Gum's."

"He's working hard, too," said the girl.

"He always did that-he's the best cow-hand I ever saw and a hog for work.
There isn't a man in seven counties that can commence to touch him when
it comes to riding, roping, parting, calling brands, judging ages or
weights, or handling cattle with judgment under any conditions, nor one
that knows the. range within a hundred miles like he does. Why, the day
before yesterday he had to give a fellow from the Red Butte country some
pointers about the fellow's own range-Bull knew it better than he did."

"He's wonderful," said Diana. "I love to see him in the saddle, and
anywhere in the cow-country he fits into the picture. I'm always proud
that Bull is one of our men. Oh, I hope he don't ever drink again."

Elias Henders shook his head. "I'm afraid he'll never quit," he said. "A
man's got to have something to quit for, and Bull has no incentive to
stop-only just his job, and when did a little thing like a job keep a man
from drinking, especially the best cow-hand in the territory? There isn't
an outfit anywhere that wouldn't hire him, drunk or sober. He don't seem
to be hanging around you much lately, Di, and I'm glad of that. I'd hate
to see you interested in a man like Bull. I don't take much to garrulous
people, but neither do I want 'em as tight-mouthed as Bull. I'm afraid
he's got something to hide that makes him afraid to talk for fear he'll
let it out."

"What do you suppose happened last night, Dad?" asked Diana, suddenly.

"I don't know, I'm sure-what?" he asked.

"Jefferson Wainright proposed to me."

"No! What did you tell him?"

"What should I have told him?"

"That depends upon how much or little you think of him," replied her
father.

"Would you like him for a son-in-law?"

"If you choose him, I shall like him-I should like the Devil if you chose
to marry him."

"Well, he isn't quite as bad as all that, is he?" she cried, laughing.

"I didn't mean it that way. He seems to be a nice boy. He could give you
everything and he could take you among the sort of people that you belong
among, and you wouldn't have to be ashamed of him; but I don't like his
father."

"His father is something of an embarrassment," she assented.

"Do you love the boy, Di?" he asked.

"I don't know, and I told him so. He wants me to marry him before we go
East, and all go together."

"What a lovely idea-taking your fathers on a honeymoon! You can count me
out, and anyway if some other man is going to take you East I won't have
to go at all."

"Well, I haven't gone with him, yet. I told him I'd give him his answer
before we left."

"That would be a good idea-if he is going-he might want a few minutes'
notice," he bantered, "but how about Hal? I thought you leaned a little
in that direction."

"I do," laughed the girl. "When I'm with one I like that one best, and
when I'm with the other I like him."

"And when they are both with you at the same time-possibly you can find
your answer there."

"I have thought of that, because then I always compare the two-and Hal
always suffers by the comparison. That is when we are sitting talking-but
when they are in the saddle it is the other way around."

"People can't spend their married lives in the saddle," he reminded her.

She sighed. "I am terribly perplexed. Of only one thing am I sure and
that is that I shall marry either Hal Colby or Jefferson Wainright."

"Or someone else," he suggested.

"No! no one else," she stated emphatically.

It was past noon and they had turned back, gathering up the little
bunches of cattle that they had driven down out of canyon and coulee onto
the flat below. Elias Henders and Diana were riding quite apart from the
foreman and Wainright when Henders turned back to ride to the summit of a
low elevation for a final survey of the country for any straggling bunch
that might have escaped their notice. Diana was a few yards in rear of
him as he drew rein on top of the hillock. It was very quiet. The cattle
were at a distance from them, moving slowly off down the valley. There
was only the sound of her horse's unshod hoofs in the soft dirt and the
subdued noise of a well-worn saddle as she urged her mount toward the
side of her father.

Suddenly there was the crack of a rifle and Elias Henders' horse dropped
in its tracks. Henders fell clear and whipped out his revolver.

"Get out of here, Di!" he called to the girl. "It's Indians. You've got
time if you keep behind this butte and ride like Hell."

She turned and looked toward the two men a quarter of a mile away-Colby
and Wainright. She saw them wheel their horses and look toward the point
from which the shot had come and from their position she guessed that
they could see the Indians, though she could not.

Then she saw Hal Colby put spurs and quirt to his mount until the wiry
beast fairly flew over the ground toward her. Wainright hesitated, looked
toward the Indians and then back down the valley in the direction of the
camp fifteen miles away. Suddenly he wheeled his horse and dashed off.

To her mind flashed the impassioned words that he had poured into her
ears only the night before: "I worship you. There is no sacrifice that I
would not willingly and gladly make for you or yours. I would die for
you, dear girl, and thank God for the chance!"

Her lip curled and her eyes shot a single scornful glance in the
direction of the retreating figure of Jefferson Wainright before she
turned them back toward Colby. How magnificent he was! He had drawn one
of his six-guns and was riding, not for the hill, but straight for the
Indians, and just as he passed out of her sight behind the hillock he
opened fire. She could hear the crack of his gun mingling with those of
the Indians, and then her father, pausing in his fire, turned to her
again.

"My God, Di, haven't you gone?" he cried. "Hurry! There is time yet. Hal
has got 'em on the run now, but they'll be back again. There must be a
dozen of them. Ride back to camp for help."

"Mr. Wainright has already gone, Dad," she told him. "We have always been
together, all my life, Dad, and it don't take two to get help. We need
all the guns here we can get until the boys come," and she dismounted and
crawled to his side, despite his protests.

Over the crest of the hill she could see Colby galloping toward them,
while the Indians, a quarter of a mile beyond him, were just circling
back in pursuit. In the foreground a dead Indian lay sprawled in the
open. To the right a riderless pony was loping away to join its fellows.

Diana lay a few feet from her father, both in readiness to cover Colby's
retreat when the Indians came within revolver range. '

"Wish we had a couple of rifles," remarked Elias Henders. "If I had a
thirty-thirty I could hold 'em off alone until the boys get here."

"We ought to be able to hold out for an hour, Dad. The boys should be
here in that time."

"We'll do the best we can, but, Di-" he paused, a little catch in his
voice-"don't let them get you, dear. The boys might not get here in time.

"Wainright is not much of a rider-he won't make the time that one of our
boys would. They'd kill the horse, but they'd get there. And then there
may not be anyone in camp but the cook that time of day-that's what I'm
really most. afraid of.

"We'll do the best we can. Likely as not we'll pull through; but if we
don't, why, remember what I said, don't let 'em get you-save one shot.
You understand?"

"I understand, Dad."

Colby, his horse stretched to quirt and spur, swung around to their side
of the hill, threw his horse to its haunches as he reined in close to
them and leaped from the saddle. Without a word he dragged the blowing,
half-winded animal directly in front of them, raised his six-shooter to
its forehead and shot it between the eyes.

Diana Henders voiced a little gasp of dismay, and then she saw the man
turn toward her own pony; but she only covered her eyes with her palms
and bit her lip to stifle a sob. A moment later there was a shot and the
sound of a falling body.

"Crawl behind that cayuse of mine, Di," said Colby. He was tugging at the
body of the girl's pony to drag it closer to the others, in order to form
a rude triangle with the other two dead horses. Henders rose to his knees
and gave Colby a hand, while Di opened fire upon the approaching braves.

"Reckon we orter hold out here till the boys come," remarked the foreman.

He was cool and self-possessed-just as cool and self-possessed as
Jefferson Wainright would have been in a Boston drawing-room. Even as she
took careful aim at a half-naked, yelling buck, and missed him, Diana
Henders' mind was considering this fact. She fired again and this time
the buck ceased to yell, grasped his stomach with both hands and toppled
headlong to the ground. Hal Colby might learn to be cool and
self-possessed in a Boston drawing-room, but could Jefferson Wainright
ever learn to be cool and self-possessed inside a yelling circle of
painted savages thirsting for his life's blood?

The Indians were now riding a wide circle entirely about the hillock,
firing as they rode. Naturally their aim was execrable, and the three
were in danger only of a chance hit. After the warrior fell to Diana's
bullet the circle widened to still greater proportions and a few minutes
later the Indians withdrew out of effective revolver range and gathered
in a compact group where the three on the hillock could see them
gesticulating and talking excitedly.

"They're up to some new devilment," said Renders.

"I hope they don't charge from different directions before the boys git
here," remarked Colby. "If they do we might as well kiss ourselves
good-bye. I wish you wasn't here, Di.

"Damn that white-livered dude's hide. Ef he hadn't turned tail you could
have gone. You could ride rings about that slab-sided maverick, an'
besides you'd have been safe. Look! They're separatin' now."

"Yes, they're riding to surround us again," said Diana.

"If they charge, Hal,- said Henders, "wait until they get close and then
stand up and let them have it. Di, you lie as close to the ground as you
can. Don't move. Just watch us, acid when you see we're both down you'll
know it's all up and--you must do what I told you to."

Hal Colby looked at the beautiful girl at his side, and scowled, for he
guessed without being told, what her father meant. "Damn that dude!" he
muttered.

"Mebby I hadn't orter shot all the hosses," he said presently. "Mebby Di
could have got away."

"No," Henders assured him. "You did just right, Hal. Di wouldn't go. I
told her to, but she wouldn't. It was too late then anyway."

"I figgered it was too late," said Colby; "but mebby it wasn't. I wish I
had thet damn dude here."

"They're coming!" cried Diana.

From four sides the Indians were racing toward them, their savage cries
breaking hideously the silence of the sun-parched valley. The three
crouched, waiting. No word was spoken until the nearest of the red-skins
was no more than twenty-five yards away.

Then: "Now!" said Henders, leaping to his feet. Colby was up
simultaneously, firing as he rose. Diana Henders, far from lying close to
the ground as she had been directed, was on her feet almost as quickly as
the men.

"Get down, Di!" commanded her father, but her only reply was a shot that
brought down a warrior's pony twenty paces from them.

Colby and Henders had each shot an Indian and there was another pony down
in front of Colby. The renegades were close now and presented splendid
targets for the three whites, all of whom were excellent revolver shots.
At each report of their weapons a hit was scored.

Now a pony screamed and wheeled away, bearing its rider in headlong
flight down the gentle declivity of the hillside; another stumbled and
crumpled to the ground, sprawling its painted master in the dust; a
warrior, wounded, veered to one side and raced off to safety; or, again,
one slumped silently to earth, never to charge again.

Two of the unhorsed warriors sprang into close quarters, clubbing their
empty rifles. One was leaping toward Diana, the other for Colby. At the
same instant Elias Henders lifted both hands above his head, his gun
slipped from nerveless fingers, and he lunged forward across the body of
his dead horse.

Colby put a shot through the stomach of the buck leaping upon him, then
turned toward Diana. He saw the painted face of a tall chief just beyond
Diana's; he saw the rifle swinging to brain her as she pulled the trigger
of her Colt with the muzzle almost against the sweat-streaked body; there
was no answering report, and then Colby, leaping between them, seized the
upraised rifle and tore it from the hand of the red man.

The two clinched, the Indian reaching for his knife, while the white, who
had emptied both guns and had no time to reload, strove to brain his
antagonist with one of them. Struggling, they fell.

Diana Henders, reloading her own weapon, looked hurriedly about. The
other warriors, momentarily dispersed, had rallied and were returning
with wild, triumphant yells, for they saw that the battle was already
theirs.

Elias Henders raised himself weakly on one elbow and looked about.
Instantly his gaze took in the situation.

"Di!" he cried, "my little girl. Quick! Don't wait! Shoot yourself before
they get you."

"Not yet!" she cried, and turned toward the two men, the red and the
white, battling at her feet. Stooping, she held the muzzle of her weapon
close to the rolling, tossing men, waiting an opportunity to put a bullet
in the chief when she could do so without endangering Colby.

From behind her the returning braves were approaching rapidly, the racing
hoofs of their ponies pounding a dull tattoo on the powdery earth. They
were almost upon her when Colby's fingers found the chief's throat and
the latter's head was pushed momentarily away from that of the white man.
It was the instant that Diana had awaited. She stepped in closer, there
was the sound of a shot, and the renegade collapsed limply in Colby's
grasp.

Simultaneously a wild yell arose from below them in the valley. The
remaining Indians, almost upon them, were riding in a close mass from the
opposite side. What could it be-more Indians?

Colby had hurled the dead chief aside and was on his feet beside the
girl. They both looked in the direction of the new sound to see two
horsemen racing madly toward them.

"It's Bull! It's Bull!" cried Diana Henders. "Bull and Texas Pete."

The ponies of the oncoming men were racing neck and neck. The riders were
howling like demons. The Indians heard, paused in their charge and
wheeled to one side-there were five of them left. The reinforcements were
too much for them, and with a parting volley they galloped off.

But Bull and Texas Pete were of no mind to let them go so easily. For a
mile or more they pursued them, until they realized that their already
almost spent horses could not outdistance the mounts of the Indians. Then
they turned and loped slowly back toward the three upon the hillock.

Instantly the immediate necessity of defense had passed Diana Henders
kneeled beside her father and lifted his head in her arms. Colby stepped
to the opposite side of the prostrate man to help her. Suddenly she
looked up into his yes, an expression of horror in hers.

"Oh, Hal! Hal! he's gone!" she cried, and burying her face in her arms,
burst into tears.

The man, unaccustomed to a woman's tears, or a sorrow such as this, was
at a loss for words, yet almost mechanically his arms went about her and
drew her close to him, so that she stood with her face buried in the
hollow of his shoulder as Bull and Texas Pete rode up the hill and
dismounted beside them. They took in the pitiful scene at a glance, but
they saw more in it than the death of "the old man," whom they both
loved-at least Bull did.

In the attitude of Diana and Colby he read the death knell of whatever
faint hope he might have entertained of ultimate happiness. It was a hurt
and bitter man that lifted the dead body of his employer in strong arms
and laid it across the saddle of his horse.

"You ride Pete's hors, Miss," he said gently. "Colby, you walk ahead with
her. Pete an' I'll come along with the. old man."

They all did as he bid without question. There was something about the
man that demanded obedience even if he was no longer foreman. It was
always that way with Bull. Wherever he was he was the leader. Even though
men mistrusted, or disliked him, and many did, they involuntarily obeyed
him. Possibly because he was a strong man who thought quickly and
accurately and was almost invariably right in his decision-it was
certainly not because a large proportion of them loved him, for they did
not. There was that something lacking in Bull-that quality which
attracted the love of his fellows.

After Diana and Colby had gone ahead Bull and Pete roped the body of
Elias Henders securely to the saddle and presently the sorrowful little
cortege took its slow way back toward camp.



CHAPTER VII

EXIT WAINRIGHT

A WEEK or ten days after Elias Henders' funeral the Wainright buckboard
drew into the Bar Y ranch yard and the Wainrights, senior and junior,
alighted and approached the house. They found Diana in the office working
on the books, which she had kept for her father when they were without a
bookkeeper, which was the case at present.

She greeted them politely, but without marked cordiality. It was the
first time that she had encountered either of them since her father's
death, having refused to see the younger man on her return to the camp
with Elias Hender's body.

"We been calc'latin' to drive ever for several days past, Miss Henders,"
said the elder man. "Thought mebby you might want some advice or suthin'.
Anything we can do, we're at both at your service."

"That's very kind of you, indeed, I'm sure," replied the girl; "but
really I have so many good friends here that I couldn't think of
inconveniencing you. Everyone has been so kind and considerate."

"Well, they ain't no harm in offerin'," he continued. "Anything we can
do, you know. If it's a little matter of money to tide you over till the
estate's settled, why, just call on Jefferson Wainright-he's got a lot
and he ain't stingy either."

"There is nothing, thank you," she said, with just the faintest tinge of
asperity.

He rose slowly from his chair and shoved his fat hands into his pockets.

"I reckon I'll walk around a bit," he said. "I calc'late that you young
folks got suthin' to say to one another," and he winked ponderously at
them as he waddled through the doorway.

There was a strained silence for several minutes after he left. Jefferson
Wainright, Jr., finally, after clearing his throat two or three times,
broke it.

"The governor means all right," he said. "We'd really like to be of
service to you, and after the-the talk we had that last night
before-before your father was killed-you know-why, I hoped I might have
the right to help you, Diana."

She drew herself up very straight and stiff. "I think we had better
forget that, Mr. Wainright," she said.

"But you promised me an answer," he insisted.

"After what happened I should think you would know what the answer must
be without being subjected to the humiliation of being told in words."

"Do you mean that you are blaming me, too, like the men did, for going
for help. You would all have been killed if I hadn't. I think I did just
the sensible thing," he concluded, half-defiantly.

"Yes, I suppose so," she replied icily, "and Hal Colby did a very silly
thing staying and risking his life for Dad and me."

"I think you're mighty unfair, Diana," he insisted, "and the way it
turned out only goes to prove that I was right. I met Bull and that Texas
person less than halfway to camp and got them there in time."

"If they had been as sensible as you they would have gone on to camp for
more reinforcements, as you did, but like most of our boys out here, Mr.
Wainright, they haven't much sense and so they nearly rode their horses
down to get to us-only two of them, remember, after you had told them
that we were surrounded by a hundred Indians."

"Oh, pshaw, I think you might be reasonable and make some allowance for a
fellow," he begged. "I'll admit I was a little excited and maybe I did do
the wrong thing, but it's all new to me out here. I'd never seen a wild
Indian before and I thought I was doing right to go for help.

"Can't you forgive me, Diana, and give me another chance? If you'll marry
me I'll take you away from this God-forsaken country back where there are
no Indians."

"Mr. Wainright, I have no wish to offend you, but you might as well know
once for all that if you were the last man on earth I would never marry
you-I could not marry such a coward, and you are a coward. You would be
just as much of a coward back East if danger threatened. Some of our boys
are from the East-Hal Colby was born in Vermont-and the day that you ran
away was his first experience, too, with hostile Indians, and if you want
another reason why I couldn't marry you-the first and biggest reason-I'll
give it to you."

Her voice was low and level, like her father's had been on the rare
occasions that he had been moved by anger, but the tone was keen-edged
and cutting. "I feel now, and I shall always feel as long as I live, that
had you remained instead of running away we might have held them off and
Dad would not have been uselessly sacrificed."

She had risen while, she spoke, and he rose too, standing silently for a
moment after she had concluded. Then he turned and walked toward the
door. At the threshold he paused and turned toward her.

"I hope you will never regret your decision," he said. The tone seemed to
carry a threat.

"I assure you that I shall never. Good day, Mr. Wainright."

After he had gone the girl shuddered and sank down into a chair. She
wished Hal Colby was there. She wanted someone to comfort her and to give
her that sense of safety under masculine protection that her father's
presence had always afforded.

Why couldn't all men be like Hal and Bull? When she thought of brave men
she always thought of Bull, too. How wonderful they had all been that
day-Hal and Bull and Pete. Rough, uncouth they often were; worn and
soiled and careless their apparel; afraid of nothing, man, beast or the
devil; risking their lives joyously; joking with death; and yet they had
been as gentle as women when they took her back to camp and all during
the long, terrible journey home, when one of the three had always been
within call every minute of the days and nights.

Of the three Bull had surprised her most, for previously he had always
seemed the hardest and most calloused, and possessing fewer of the finer
sensibilities of sympathy and tenderness; but of them all he had been the
most thoughtful and considerate. It had been he who had sent her ahead
with Colby that she might not see them lash her father's body to the
horse; it had been he who had covered all that remained of Elias Henders
with the slickers from his saddle and Pete's that she might not be
shocked by the sight of her father's body rocking from side to side with
the swaying motion of the horse; and it was Bull who had ridden all night
to far-away ranches and brought back two buckboards early the next
morning to carry her Dad and her more comfortably on the homeward
journey. He had spoken kindly to her in an altered, softened voice, and
he had insisted that she eat and keep her strength when she had wanted to
forget food.

But the funeral over she had seen nothing more of him, for he had been
sent back to the round-up to ride with it for the last few remaining
days, while Hal Colby remained at the ranch to help her to plan for the
future and gather together the stray ends that are left flying when even
the most methodical of masters releases his grip for the last time.

She sat musing after Wainright left the room, the clock upon the wall
above her father's desk ticking as it had for years just as though this
terrible thing had not happened just as though her father were still
sitting in his accustomed chair, instead of lying out there in the sandy,
desolate little graveyard above Hendersville, where the rocks that
protected the scattered sleepers from the coyotes offered sanctuary to
the lizard and the rattle-snake.

Her revery was disturbed by the fall of heavy feet upon the veranda and
she raised her eyes just as the elder Wainright entered the room. He was
not smiling now, nor was his manner so suave as usual.

"We got to be goin' now, Miss Henders," he said brusquely; "but I wanted
a mite of a word with you before we left. O' course, you don't know
nothin' about it, but afore your father died we was negotiatin' a deal.
He wanted to get out from under, now that the mine's runnin' out, an' I
wanted to git a range on this side o' the mountains. We'd jest about got
it all fixed up when this accident happened.

"Now here's what I wanted to say to you. Of course, the mine's no
account, and the range's 'bout all fed off, and they ain't scarce enough
water fer the number o' stock I was calc'latin' to put on, but Jefferson
Wainright's a man o' his word an' when I says to your father that I'd
give him two hundred and fifty thousand dollars fer his holdin's I won't
back down now, even if I don't think they be worth so much as that.

"I'll get all the papers ready so's ye won't have to go to no expense fer
a lawyer, and then ye can have the money an' go back East to live like ye
always wanted to, an' like yer paw was fixin' fer ye."

The deeper he got into the subject the faster he talked and the more he
relapsed into the vernacular of his earlier days. Finally he paused.
"What do ye say?" he concluded.

"The ranch is not for sale, Mr. Wainright;" she replied.

He opened his little eyes and his big mouth simultaneously in surprise.

"What's thet-not for sale? Why, you must be crazy, child. You don't know
what you're talkin' about."

"I know exactly what I am talking about," she told him. "Father talked
this all over with me and showed me your offer of a million dollars for
our holdings. The ranch is not for sale, for a million dollars or any
other price, to you, Mr. Wainright, and be careful that you do not
stumble over that stool as you go out."

The man's fat face became suddenly empurpled with rage and for a moment
he was inarticulate as, backing toward the doorway, he sought for words
adequately to express his outraged feelings. He was not humiliated-there
are certain types of men whose thick skin serves them as an invulnerable
armor against humiliation.

He was just plain mad-mad all the way through to think that he had been
caught at his trickery, exposed and thwarted by a chit of a girl, and,
like the type he represented naturally would be, he was mad at her rather
than at himself. As he reached the doorway he found his voice.

"You'll be sorry for this! You'll be-sorry for this!" he cried, shaking a
fist at her. "And, mark you, I'll get this property yet. Jefferson
Wainright can buy and sell you twenty times over and he always gets what
he goes after."

The figure of a tall man loomed suddenly behind him. Calloused and
ungentle fingers seized him roughly by the collar of his coat. A low
voice spoke softly in his ear.

"Don't you know better'n to shake your fist in a lady's face, you
pot-bellied buzzard?" it inquired, and the elder Wainright was jerked
unceremoniously through the doorway, whirled about and projected
violently from the veranda, his speed simultaneously accelerated by the
toe of a high-heeled cowboy boot. "I reckon you'd better make yourself
damned scarce around here," continued the low tones of the speaker.

Wainright scrambled to his feet and turned upon the owner of the voice.
He shook both fists now and fairly danced up and down in his fury. "I'll
get you!" he screamed. "I'll get you! Don't you know who I am-why, I
could buy and sell you a hundred thousand times over-I'm Jefferson
Wainright, I am. I'll get you-layin' your hands on me-you low down,
thirty-five-dollar cowpuncher!"

"Vamoose!" said the man, "and do it pronto." He emphasized his injunction
with a shot, the bullet kicking up a little spurt of dust between
Wainright's feet.

The fat man started on a run for his buckboard which the younger
Wainright had driven down to the corrals. The man on the veranda fired
again, and again the dust rose about the fleeing feet of the terrified
Easterner.

Diana Henders had come to the doorway where she stood leaning against the
frame, smiling.

"Don't hurt him, Bull," she said.

The man cast a quick smile over his shoulder. "I ain't a-aimin' to hurt
him," he said. "I'm just a-aimin' to eddicate him. Them corn-fed
Easterners ain't got no eddication nohow. What they need is someone to
lam 'em manners."

As he spoke he kept on firing at the fleeing Wainright and every shot
kicked up a puff of dust close to the fat man's feet until he reached the
corner of the bunk-house and disappeared behind it.

The shots had called out the cook and the few men who were about, with
the result that a small yet highly appreciative audience witnessed
Wainright's discomfiture. A part of it was Texas Pete, who rocked to and
fro in unholy glee.

"By gollies! did you see him?" he yelled. "He never hit nothin' but the
high spots. I'll bet he busted all the world's records between the office
and the bunk-house. Why, he done it in nothin' flat, an' you could have
played checkers on his coat-tails. He shore stepped high, wide an'
handsome."

On the veranda of the ranch house Bull had shoved his gun back into its
holster. The smile had left his face.

"I thought you were still out with the outfit, Bull," said the girl.

"We finished up last night," he told her, "and I come in ahead." He
looked down at his feet in evident embarrassment. "I come in ahead for my
time, Miss."

"Your time! Why, Bull, you're not goin' to quit?"

"I reckon I better," he replied. "I been aimin' to move on fer some
spell."

The girl's eyes were wide, and almost noticeably moist, and there was a
surprised, hurt look in them, that he caught as he chanced to glance up
at her.

"You see, Miss," he hastened to explain, "things ain't been very pleasant
for me here. I ain't complainin', but there are those that don't like me,
an' I figgered I'd quit before I was let out. As long as your paw was
alive it was different, an' I don't need to tell you that I'd be powerful
proud to work for you always, if there wasn't no one else; but there is.
I reckon you got a good man an' it will be pleasanter all around if I
ain't here no more."

At the mere thought of his going a lump rose in Diana Henders' throat,
and she realized how much she had come to depend on him just the mere
fact that she had known Bull was around had given her a feeling of
greater security-he had become in the nature of a habit and it was going
to be hard to break the habit.

"Oh, Bull," she cried, "I can't let you go now-I can't spare both you and
Dad at the same time. You're like a brother, Bull, and I need a brother
mighty badly right now. You don't have to go, do you? You don't really
want to?"

"No, Miss, I don't have to an' I don't want to-if you want me to stay."

"Then you will stay?"

He nodded. "But I reckon you'd better tell Colby," he said, "for I expect
he's aimin' to give me my time."

"Oh, no, I'm sure he's not," she cried. "Hal likes you, Bull. He told me
you were one of his best friends, and he was so sorry about your losing
the job as foreman. He said he hated to take it."

Bull made no comment and whatever his thoughts his face did not betray
them. Presently he jerked his head in the general direction of the
corrals where the Wainrights, having hastily clambered into their
buckboard, were preparing to depart.

"Say the word," he told her, "and I'll run them short sports so far outta
the country they won't never find their way back."

"No," she replied, smiling; "let them go. They'll never come back here,
I'm sure."

"I reckon the old gent figgers he ain't very popular round these
diggins," said Bull, with the faintest trace of a smile; "but I don't
know so much about how thet young dude stands." He looked questioningly
at Diana.

"About deuce high, Bull," she replied. "I saw enough of him to last me a
couple of lifetimes the day the renegades jumped us."

"I reckoned as much, Miss, knowin' you as I do. Scenery an' the gift o'
gab ain't everything, but sometimes they fool wimmen folks-even the
brightest of 'em."

"He was awfully good company," she admitted.

"When they warn't no Injuns around," Bull completed the sentence for her.
"The old feller seemed all het up over somethin' about the time I
happened along. I heered him say he was set on gettin' this property. Is
that what they come over fer?"

"Yes. He offered me a quarter of what he'd offered Dad for it, and his
offer to Dad was only about twenty per cent of what it's worth. You see,
Bull, what they want is the mine. They are just using the range and the
cattle as an excuse to get hold of the mine because they think we don't
know the real value of the diggings; but Dad did know. There's another
vein there that has never been tapped that is richer than the old one.
Dad knew about it, and somehow Wainright learned of it too."

"The old skunk!" muttered Bull.

The Wainrights were driving out of the ranch yard and heading toward
Hendersville. The older man was still breathing hard and swearing to
himself. The younger was silent and glum. They were going to town for
dinner before starting on the long drive back to their ranch. Approaching
them along the trail at a little distance ahead was a horseman. Young
Wainright recognized the rider first.

"That's Colby," he said. "He hasn't any use for that fellow Bull. They
are both stuck on the girl. It might not be a bad plan to cultivate
him-if you want to get even with Bull."

As they came nearer it appeared evident that Colby was going by them with
nothing more than a nod. He did not like either of them-especially the
younger; but when they drew rein and the older man called to him he
turned about and rode up to the side of the vehicle.

"You're still foreman here, ain't ye?" asked Wainright senior.

Colby nodded. "Why?" he inquired.

"Well, I jest wanted to tell ye that some of your men ain't got a very
pleasant way of treatin' neighbors."

"How's that?"

"Well, I was jest a-leavin' after a social call when one of yer men
starts shootin' at me. Thet ain't no way to treat friends an' neighbors.
Suppose we was to shoot up your men when they came over our way?"

"Who was it?" demanded Colby.

"Bull," said the younger Wainright. "I suppose he was drunk again,
though. They say he always goes to shooting whenever he gets drunk. When
we left he was up at the house making love to Miss Henders," he added. "I
shouldn't think she'd feel safe with a fellow like that around."

Colby scowled. "Thanks fer tellin' me," he said. "I reckon I'll have to
fix that feller. He's gettin' too damn fresh."

"Well, I thought ye'd orter know," said Wainright senior. "Well, so long,
an' if ye ever git over our way drop in."

"Giddap!" said Jefferson Wainright, Jr., and the two rolled away through
the deep dust of the parched road.

Colby rode on at a brisk gallop and as he swung from his saddle cast a
glance in the direction of the house where he saw Bull just descending
the steps from the veranda where Diana Henders stood. Colby bit his lip
and the frown on his face became deeper.

Dragging saddle and bridle from his pony he turned the animal into the
corral with a final slap on the rump-a none too gentle slap which
reflected the state of his feelings-then he headed straight for the
bunk-house which he reached just in time to intercept Bull at the
entrance.

"Look here, Bull," said Colby without any preamble, "this business of
drinkin' an' shootin' things up has gone about far enough. I ain't
a-goin' to have it around here no more. I reckon you'd better ask fer
your time."

"All right," said Bull, "you go an' git it fer me while I'm packin' my
war-bag."

Colby, rather surprised and at the same time relieved that Bull took the
matter so philosophically, started for the office, while the latter
entered the bunk-house, where Shorty, Texas Pete and a couple of others
who had overhead the conversation outside the door looked up
questioningly.

"By gollies!" exclaimed Texas Pete, "I'm a-goin' to quit. I'm a-goin'
after my time right now, pronto," and he arose and started for the
doorway.

"Wait a minute, old hoss," advised Bull. "I ain't went yet.

"But didn't Colby jest let you out?" inquired Pete.

"He might change his mind," explained Bull.

Up at the house Colby was entering the office. "Hello, Di!" he cried.
"Got your check-book handy?"

"Yes, why?"

"Bull's quittin'."

"Quitting? Why, he just promised me that he'd stay on. I don't
understand."

"He just promised you that he'd stay on! You mean you asked him to?"

"Yes," replied Diana. "He came up here to quit. Said he thought he wasn't
wanted any more, and I made him promise he wouldn't leave. I tell you,
Hal, we could never replace him. Are you sure he was in earnest about
quitting? Send him up here and I'll make him stay."

"Well, like as not I was mistaken," said Colby. "I reckon Bull was jest
a-kiddin'. I'll ask him again and if he is plumb set on leavin' I'll send
him up."

When he entered the bunk-house a few minutes later he nodded at Bull.
"You kin stay on, if you want to," he said; "I've changed my mind."

Bull winked at Texas Pete who was vainly endeavoring to remember another
verse of the seem ingly endless self-glorification of the bad hombre.

"By gollies!" he exclaimed, "I believe I got another:

"He twirls two big guns an' he shoots out a light;
The fellows a-drinkin' there ducks out o' sight;
He shoots through a bottle thet stands on the bar;
An shoots the of ashes plumb off my seegar."

"But it seems like I'd left out somethin' thet orter a-gone before."

"Nobody'd git sore if you left it all out," Shorty assured him.

"The trouble with you uneddicated cowpunchers," Texas Pete told him, "is
thet you are too all-fired ignorant to appreciate my efforts to elivate
you-all by means of good poetry. It shore is hell to be the only lit'ry
gent in a bunch of rough-necks.

"'Come, set up the bottles, you gol darned galoot,'
Says he to the boss, "Fore I opens yore snoot
With one o' these yere little babies o' mine,'
An' shoots out the no in the no credit sign."



CHAPTER VIII

"YOU DON'T DARE!"

THE stage lurched down the steep and tortuous gradient of Hell's Bend
Pass, bumped through the rutty gap at the bottom and swung onto the left
fork just beyond. The right fork was the regular stage route to
Hendersville. The left hand road led to town, too, but over Bar Y
property and past the home ranch.

The driver never came this way unless he had passengers, express or
important messages for the ranch, though the distance was no greater and
the road usually in better repair. Today he had a telegram for Diana
Henders.

There was a brief pause as he drew up his sweating team in the road
before the ranch house, yelled to attract the attention of a ranch-hand
working about the corrals, tossed the envelope into the road and then,
with a crack of his long whip, was off again at a run, leaving billowing
clouds of powdery dust in his wake.

The man working in the corrals walked leisurely into the road, picked up
the envelope and, after scrutinizing the superscription and deciphering
it laboriously, carried the message to the office, where Diana Henders
was working over the books.

"Telegram for ye, Miss," announced the man, crossing the room to hand it
to her.

She thanked him and laid the envelope on the desk beside her as she
completed an interrupted footing. The arrival of telegrams was no
uncommon occurrence even on that far-away ranch, and as they always
pertained to business they caused Diana no flurry of excitement. Buyers
often wired, while Uncle John Manill used the comparatively new telegraph
facilities upon the slightest pretext.

The footing finally checked to her satisfaction, Diana picked up the
envelope, opened it and drew forth the message. At first she glanced at
it casually, then she read it over again with knit brows as though unable
fully to grasp the purport of its contents. Finally she sat staring at it
with wide, strained eyes, until, apparently crushed, she lowered her head
upon her arms and broke into sobs, for this is what she had read:

MISS DIANA HENDERS,
 BAR Y RANCH, HENDERSVILLE.
  VIA ALDEA, ARIZONA.
Mr. Manill died suddenly last night. Miss Manill and I leave for ranch
soon as possible after funeral.
             MAURICE B. CORSON.

For a long time Diana Henders sat with her face buried in her arms.
Gradually her sobs subsided as she gained control of herself. Stunning
though the effect of this new blow was, yet she grasped enough of what it
meant to her to be ,almost crushed by it. Though she had not seen her
Uncle John Manill since childhood, he had, nevertheless, constituted a
very real and potent force in her existence. Her mother had adored him,
her only brother, and Elias Henders had never ceased to proclaim him as
the finest type of honorable gentleman that nature might produce. His
eastern connections, his reputation for integrity and his fine business
acumen had all been potent factors in the success of the Henders and
Manill partnership.

With the death of her father the girl had felt keenly only her personal
loss-for Uncle John Manill loomed as a Rock of Gibraltar to protect her
in all matters of business; but now she was absolutely alone.

There was no one to whom she might turn for counsel or advice now that
these two were gone. Hal Colby, she realized keenly, was at best only a
good cowman-in matters requiring executive ability or large financial
experience he was untried.

Of Corson, Manill's attorney, she knew nothing, but she was reasonably
sure that even though he proved honest and possessed of an excellent
understanding of matters pertaining to the eastern office, he would not
be competent to direct the affairs of ranch and mine at the sources of
production.

That she might have carried on herself under the guidance of John Manill
she had never doubted, since she could always have turned to him for
advice in matters of moment where she was doubtful of her own judgment;
but without him she questioned her ability to direct the destinies of
this great business with all its numerous ramifications.

Suddenly she arose and replaced the books in the office safe, dabbed at
her tear-dimmed eyes with her handkerchief and, putting on her sombrero,
walked from-the office, adjusting her wavy hair beneath the stiff band of
her heavy hat. Straight toward the corrals she made her way. She would
saddle Captain and ride out into the sunshine and the fresh air where, of
all other places, she knew she might find surcease of sorrow and an
opportunity to think out her problems more clearly. As she entered the
corral Hal Colby came running up from the bunk-house. He had seen her
pass and followed her.

"Ridin', Di?" he asked.

She nodded affirmatively. She was not sure that she wanted company-not
even that of Hal Colby-today when she desired to be alone with her grief.

"You weren't goin' alone, were you? You know it ain't safe, Di. Your dad
wouldn't have let you an' I certainly won't."

She made no reply. She knew that he was right. It was not safe for her to
ride alone, but today she felt that she did not care what happened to
her. Fate had been cruel-there was little more that it could do to harm
her.

In a way she half resented Hal's new air of proprietorship, and yet there
was something about it that carried a suggestion of relief from
responsibility. Here there was at least someone who cared-someone upon
whose broad shoulders she might shift a portion of her burden, and so she
did not follow her first impulse to send him back.

Together they rode from the corral, turning down the road toward town and
neither spoke for several minutes, after the manner of people accustomed
to being much together in the saddle. The man, as was usual with him when
they rode, watched her profile as a lover of art might gloat over a
beautiful portrait, and as he looked at her he realized the change that
had come over her face and noted the reddened lids.

"What's the matter, Di?" he asked presently. "You look like you'd been
cryin'. What's happened?"

"I just got a telegram from New York, Hal," she replied. "Uncle John is
dead-he died night before last. The stage just brought the message in
from Aldea."

"Shucks," he said, at a loss for the proper words, and then, "that's
shore too bad, Di."

"It leaves me all alone, now, Hal," she continued, "and I don't know what
I'm going to do."

"You ain't all alone, Di. There ain't anything I wouldn't do for you. You
know I love you, Di. Won't you marry me? It would make it easier all
around for you if we was married. There's them that's always tryin' to
take advantage of a girl or a woman what's left alone, but if you got a
husband you got someone to look out for you an' your rights. I got a
little money saved up."

"I have plenty of money, Hal."

"I know it. I wish you didn't have none. It makes me feel like you
thought that was what I was after, but it ain't. Won't you, Di? Together
we could run the ranch just like your dad was here."

"I don't know, Hal. I don't know what to do. I think I love you, but I
don't know. I don't even know that I know what love is."

"You'd learn to love me," he told her, "and you wouldn't have to worry no
more. I'd look after everything. Say yes, won't you?"

The temptation was great-greater even than the man himself realized-to
have a place to lay her tired head, to have a strong man to carry the
burden and the responsibilities for her, to have the arm of love about
her as it had been all her life until her father had been taken away. She
looked up at him with a faint smile.

"I won't say yes-yet," she said. "Wait a while, Hal-wait until after Mr.
Corson and my cousin come and we see how things are going to turn out,
and then-then I think that I shall say yes."

He leaned toward her impulsively and put an arm about her, drawing her
toward him with the evident intention of kissing her, but she pushed him
away.

"Not yet, Hal," she told him; "wait until I have said yes."

A week later a group of boarders were lounging on the veranda of The
Donovan House in Hendersville. It was almost supper time of a stage day
and the stage had not yet arrived. Mack Harber, whose wound had given
more trouble than the doctor had expected, was still there convalescing,
and Mary Donovan was, as usual, standing in the doorway joining in the
gossip and the banter.

"Bill ain't niver late 'less somethin's wrong," said Mrs. Donovan.

"Like as not he's been held up again," suggested Mack.

"I'd like to be sheriff o' this yere county fer 'bout a week," stated
Wildcat Bob.

"Sure, an' phawt would ye be after doin'?" inquired Mary Donovan, acidly.

Wildcat Bob subsided, mumbling in his stained beard. For the moment he
had forgotten that Mrs. Donovan was among those present.

"Here they come!" announced Mack.

With the clank of chain, the creaking of springs, and the rapid pounding
of galloping hoofs the stage swung into the single street of Hendersville
in a cloud of dust and with a final shrieking of protesting brakes pulled
up before The Donovan House.

"Where's Gum Smith?" demanded Bill Gatlin from the driver's seat.

"Dunno. Held up agin?" asked one of the loungers.

"Yes," snapped Gatlin.

Mack Harber had risen from his chair and advanced to the edge of the
veranda.

"The Black Coyote?" he asked.

Gatlin nodded. "Where's thet damn sheriff?" he demanded again.

"He ain't here an' he wouldn't be no good if he was," replied Wildcat
Bob.

"We don't need no sheriff fer what we oughter do," announced Mack Harber,
angrily.

"How's thet?" asked Wildcat.

"You don't need no sheriff fer a necktie party," said Mack, grimly.

"No, but you gotta get yer man fust."

"Thet's plumb easy."

"How come?" inquired Wildcat.

"We all know who The Black Coyote is," stated Mack. "All we gotta do is
get a rope an' go get him. " "Meanin' get who?" insisted the little old
man.

"Why, gosh all hemlock! you know as well as I do thet it's Bull," replied
Mack.

"I dunno nothin' o' the kind, young feller," said Wildcat Bob, "ner
neither do you. Ef ye got proof of what ye say I'm with ye. Ef ye ain't
got proof I'm ag'in ye."

"Don't Bull always wear a black silk handkerchief?" demanded Mack. "Well,
so does The Black Coyote, an' they both got scars on their chins. There
ain't no doubt of it."

"So ye want to string up Bull 'cause he wears a black bandana and a scar,
eh? Well, ye ain't goin' to do nothin' o' the kind while of Wildcat Bob
can fan a gun. Git proof on him an' I'll be the fust to put a rope 'round
his neck, but ye got to git more proof than a black handkerchief."

"Shure an' fer onct yer right, ye ould blatherskite," commended Mary
Donovan. "Be after comin' to yer suppers now the all of yese an' fergit
stringin' up dacent young min like Bull. Shure an' I don't belave he iver
hild up nothin' at all, at all. He's that nice to me whinever he's here,
wid his Mrs. Donovan, mum, this an' his Mrs. Donovan, mum, that, an'
a-fetchin' wood fer me, which the loikes o' none o' yese iver did. The
viry idea ov him bein' The Black Coyote-go on wid ye!"

"Well, we all know that Gregorio's one of them, anyway-we might string
him up," insisted Mack.

"We don't know that neither," contradicted Wildcat; "but when it comes to
stringin' up Gregorio or any other greaser I'm with ye. Go out an' git
him,

Mack, an' I'll help ye string him up."

A general grin ran around the table, for of all the known bad-men in the
country the Mexican, Gregorio, was by far the worst. To have gone out
looking for him and to have found him would have been equivalent to
suicide for most men, and though there were many men in the county who
would not have hesitated had necessity demanded, the fact remained that
his hiding place was unknown and that that fact alone would have rendered
an attempt to get him a failure.

"Thar's only one way to git them, sonny," continued Wildcat Bob, "an'
thet is to put a man on the stage with the bullion, 'stid o' a kid."

Mack flushed. "You was there when they got me," he fired back. "You was
there with two big six-guns an' what did you do-eh? What did you do?"

"I wasn't hired to guard no bullion, an' I wasn't sittin' on the box with
no sawed-off shotgun 'crost my knees, neither. I was a-ridin' inside with
a lady. What could I a-done?" He looked around at the others at the table
for vindication.

"Ye couldn't done nothin' ye,*' said Mary Donovan, "widout a quart o'
barbed-wire inside ye an' some poor innocent tenderfoot to shoot the
heels offen him."

Wildcat Bob fidgeted uneasily and applied himself to his supper, pouring
his tea into his saucer, blowing noisily upon it to cool it, and then
sucking it through his whiskers with an accompanying sound not unlike
snoring; but later he was both mollified and surprised by a second,
generous helping of dessert.

When word of the latest holdup reached the Bar Y ranch it caused the
usual flurry of profanity and speculation. It was brought by a belated
puncher who had ridden in from the West ranch by way of Hendersville. The
men were gathered at the evening meal and of a sudden a silence fell upon
them as they realized, apparently simultaneously and for the first time,
that there was a single absentee. The meal progressed in almost utter
silence then until they had reached the pudding, when Bull walked in,
dark and taciturn, and with the brief nod that was his usual greeting to
his fellows. The meal continued in silence for a few minutes until the
men who had finished began pushing back their plates preparatory to
rising.

"I reckon you know the stage was held up again, Bull, an' the bullion
stolen," remarked Hal Colby, selecting a toothpick from the glassful on
the table.

"How should I know it?" asked Bull. "Ain't I ben up Sinkhole Canyon all
day? I ain't seen no one since I left the ranch this morning."

"Well, it was," said Colby. "The same two slick gents done it, too."

"Did they git much?" asked Bull.

"It was a big shipment," said Colby. "It always is. They don't never
touch nothin' else an' they seem to know when we're shippin' more'n
ordinary. Looks suspicious."

"Did you just discover that?" inquired Bull.

"No, I discovered it a long time ago, an' it may help me to find out
who's doin' it."

"Well, I wish you luck," and Bull resumed his meal.

Colby, having finished, rose from the table and made his way to the
house. In the cozy sitting room he found Diana at the piano, her fingers
moving dreamily over the ivory keys.

"Some more bad news, Di," he announced.

She turned wearily toward him. "What now?"

"The Black Coyote again-he got the bullion shipment."

"Was anyone hurt?"

"No," he assured her.

"I am glad of that. The gold is nothing-I would rather lose it all than
have one of the boys killed. I have told them all, just as Dad did, to
take no chances. If they could get him without danger to themselves I
should be glad, but I could not bear to have one of our boys hurt for all
the gold in the mine."

"I think The Black Coyote knows that," he said, "and that's what makes
him so all-fired nervy. He's one of our own men, Di-can't you see it? He
knows when the shipments are big an' don't never touch a little one, an'
he knows your Dad's orders about not takin' no chances.

"I've hated to think it, but there ain't no other two ways about it-it's
one o' our men-an' I wouldn't have to walk around the world to put my
finger on him, neither."

"I don't believe it!" she cried. "I don't believe that one of my men
would do it."

"You don't want to believe it, that's all. You know just as well as I do
who's doin' it, down in the bottom of your heart. I don't like to believe
it no more'n you do, Di; but I ain't blind an' I hate to see you bein'
made a fool of an' robbed into the bargain. I don't believe you'd believe
it, though, if I caught him in the act."

"I think I know whom you suspect, Hal," she replied, "but I am sure you
are wrong."

"Will you give me a chance to prove it?"

"How?"

"Send him up to the mine to guard the bullion until Mack gits well an'
then keep Mack off the job fer a month," he explained. "I'll bet my shirt
thet either there ain't no holdups fer a month or else they's only one
man pulls 'em off instead o' two. Will you do it?"

"It isn't fair. I don't even suspect him."

"Everybody else does an' thet makes it fair fer it gives him a chance to
prove it if he ain't guilty."

"It wouldn't prove anything, except that there were no holdups while he
was on duty."

"It would prove something to my mind if they started up again pretty soon
after he was taken off the job," he retorted.

"Well-it might, but I don't think I'd ever believe it of him unless I saw
him with my own eyes."

"Pshaw! the trouble with you is you're soft on him-you don't care if your
gold is stole if he gits it."

She drew herself to her full height. "I do not care to discuss the matter
further," she said. "Good night!"

He grabbed his hat viciously from the piano and stamped toward the
doorway. There he turned about and confronted her again for a parting
shot before he strode out into the night.

"You don't dare try it!" he flung at her. "You don't dare!"

After he had gone she sat biting her lip half in anger and half in
mortification, but after the brief tempest of emotion had subsided she
commenced to question her own motives impartially. Was she afraid? Was it
true that she did not dare? And long after she had gone to bed, and sleep
would not come, she continued thus to catechize herself.

As Hal Colby burst into the bunk-house and slammed the door behind him
the sudden draft thus created nearly extinguished the single lamp that
burned upon an improvised table at which four men sat at poker. Bull and
Shorty, Texas Pete and one called Idaho sat in the game.

"I raise you ten dollars," remarked Idaho, softly, as the lamp resumed
functioning after emitting a thin, protesting spiral of black soot.

"I see that an' raise you my pile," said Bull, shoving several small
stacks of silver toward the center of the table.

"How much you got there?" inquired Idaho, the others having dropped out.

Bull counted. "There's your ten," he said, "an' here's ten, fifteen,
twenty-five-" He continued counting in a monotone. "Ninety-six," he
announced. "I raise you ninety-six dollars, Idaho.

"I ain't got ninety-six dollars," said Idaho. "I only got eight."

"You got a saddle, ain't you?" inquired Bull, sweetly.

"An' a shirt," suggested Texas Pete.

"My saddle's worth three hundred an' fifty dollars if it's worth a cent,"
proclaimed Idaho.

"No one ain't never said it was worth a cent," Shorty reminded him.

"I'll cover it an' call you," announced Bull. "I don't want your shirt,
Idaho, it's full o' holes."

"What are you coverin' it with?" asked Idaho. "I don't see nothin'."

Bull rose from the table. "Wait a second," he said, and stepped to his
blankets where he rummaged for a moment in his war-bag. When he returned
to the table he tossed a small buckskin bag among his silver.

"They's five hundred dollars' worth of dust in that," he said. "If you
win we kin weigh out what's comin' to you over at the office tomorrow
mornin' ."

Hal Colby looked on-an interested spectator. The others fell silent.
Texas Pete knit his brows in perplexity.

"Let's see it," demanded Idaho.

Bull picked up the bag, opened it and poured a stream of yellow particles
into his palm. "Satisfied?" he inquired.

Idaho nodded.

"What you got?" demanded Bull.

Idaho laid four kings on the table, smiling broadly.

"Four aces," said Bull, and raked in the pot.

"Why didn't you raise him?" demanded Shorty.

"I just told you I didn't want his shirt," said Bull, "an' I don't want
your saddle, neither, kid. I'll keep the money-it ain't good fer kids
like you to have too much money-but you keep the saddle."

"I'm goin' to turn in," said Shorty, pushing back and rising.

"You'd all better turn in an' give someone else a chance to sleep," said
the foreman. "What with your damn game an' Pete's singin' a feller ain't
got no more chance to sleep around here than a jackrabbit. Why don't you
fellers crawl in?"

"Crawl in! Crawl in!" exclaimed Texas Pete. "Crawl in! Crawl out! By
gollies, I got another verse!

"The boss he crawls out then, all shaky an' white,

From under the bar where he's ben sittin' tight.

'Now set out the pizen right pronto, you coot,'

The stranger remarks, 'Or I shore starts to shoot,

I only ben practicin' so far,' says he;

'A bar-keep er two don't mean nothin' to me.

Most allus I has one fer breakfast each day-

I don't mean no harm-it's jest only my way.'"



CHAPTER IX

LILLIAN-MANILL

"You sent fer me, Miss?" asked Bull, as he stepped into the office the
following morning, his hat in his hand, his chaps loose-buckled about his
trim hips, his two big six-guns a trifle forward against the need for
quick action, the black silk handkerchief falling over the blue shirt
that stretched to his deep chest, and his thick, black hair pushed back
in -an unconscious, half pompadour.

From silver-mounted spurs to heavy hat band he was typical of the West of
his day. There was no item of his clothing or equipment the possession of
which was not prompted by utilitarian considerations. There was
ornamentation, but it was obviously secondary to the strict needs of his
calling. Nothing that he wore was shabby, yet it all showed use to an
extent that made each article seem a part of the man, as though he had
been molded into them. Nothing protruded with stiff awkwardness-even the
heavy guns appeared to fit into accustomed hollows and became a part of
the man.

The girl, swinging about in her chair to face him, felt a suggestion of
stricture in her throat, and she felt mean and small and contemptible as
she looked into the eyes of the man she knew loved her and contemplated
the thing she was about to do; yet she did not hesitate now that she had,
after a night of sleepless deliberation, committed herself to it.

"Yes, I sent for you, Bull," she replied. "The stage was held up again
yesterday as you know. Mack won't be fit for work again for a long time
and I've got to have someone to guard the bullion shipments-the fellow
who came down with it yesterday has quit. He said he was too young to
commit suicide."

"Yes'm." said Bull.

"I don't want you to take any chances, Bull-I would rather lose the gold
than have-you hurt."

"I won't get hurt, Miss."

"You don't mind doing it?" she asked.

"O' course I'm a puncher," he said; "but I don't mind doin' it-not fer
you. I told you once thet I'd do anything fer you, Miss, an' I wasn't
jest talkin' through my hat."

"You don't do everything I ask you to, Bull," she said, smiling.

"What don't I do?" he demanded.

"You still call me Miss, and I hate it. You're more like a brother, Bull,
and Miss sounds so formal." It must have been a woman who first
discovered the art of making fire.

A shadow of pain crossed his dark countenance. "Don't ask too much of me,
Miss," he said quietly as he turned on his heel and started for the
doorway. "I go up to the mine today, I suppose?" he threw back over his
shoulder.

"Yes, today," she said, and he was gone.

For a long time Diana Henders was troubled. The assignment she had given
Bull troubled her, for it was a tacit admission that she gave credence to
Colby's suspicions. The pain that she had seen reflected in Bull's face
troubled her, as did his parting words and the quiet refusal to call her
Diana. She wondered if these had been prompted by a feeling of pique that
his love was not returned, or compunction because of a guilty knowledge
that he had betrayed her and her father.

Hal Colby had told her that morning of the bag of gold dust Bull had
displayed in the poker game the night before, and that troubled her too,
for it seemed to bear out more than anything else the suspicions that
were forming around him-suspicions that she could see, in the light of
bits of circumstantial evidence, were far from groundless.

"I won't believe it!" she said half aloud. "I won't believe it!" and then
she went for a ride.

All the men had left but Hal Colby and Texas Pete when she reached the
corrals; but she did not feel like riding with Hal Colby that morning and
so she rode with Texas Pete, much to that young man's surprise and
rapture.

The days dragged along and became weeks, the stage made its two trips a
week, the bullion shipments came through regularly and safely and there
were no holdups, and then one day Maurice B. Corson and Lillian Manill
arrived. The stage took the Bar Y road that day and pulled up before the
gate of the ranch house just as Diana Henders and Hal Colby were
returning from a trip to the West Ranch. Diana saw Lillian Manill for the
first time in her life. The eastern girl was seated between Bill Gatlin,
the driver, and Bull. All three were laughing. Evidently they had been
enjoying one another's company.

Diana could not but notice it because it was rarely that Bull laughed. It
was Bull who stepped to the wheel and helped her to alight.

Maurice B. Corson emerged from the inside of the coach, through the
windows of which Diana could see three other passengers, two of whom she
recognized as the Wainrights, and then she dismounted and ran forward to
greet her cousin, a handsome, dark-haired girl of about her own age.

Bull, still smiling, raised his hat to Diana. She nodded to him, briefly.
For some reason she was vexed with him, but why she did not know. Bull
and Colby ran to the boot and dragged off the Corson-Manill baggage,
while Lillian presented Corson to Diana. Corson was a young man-a typical
New Yorker-in his early thirties.

"Git a move on there, Bull," shouted Gatlin, "or they'll think I ben held
up agin."

"I reckon The Black Coyote's gone out o' business, fer a while," said
Colby, shooting a quick look at Diana.

Instantly the girl's loyalty was in arms. "He's afraid to try it while
Bull's guarding the gold," she said.

"How much longer you goin' to keep me on the job?" asked Bull, as he
clambered to the seat of the already moving coach. "Mack looks pretty
all-fired healthy to me."

"Just another week or two, Bull," Diana shouted after him as the stage
careened away at full gallop.

"Isn't he wonderful!" exclaimed Miss Manill. "A real cowboy and the first
one I ever talked to!"

"Oh, there are lots of them here," said- Diana, "just as nice as Bull."

"So I see," replied Lillian Manill, smiling frankly at Hal Colby, "but
Bull, as you call him, is the only one I've met."

"Pardon me!" exclaimed Diana. "This is Mr. Colby, Miss Manill."

"Oh, you're the foreman-Mr. Bull told me-how exciting!"

"I'll bet he didn't tell you nothin' good about me," said Colby.

"He told me about your heroic defense of Diana and my poor uncle,"
explained Lillian.

Colby flushed. "If it hadn't ben fer Bull we'd all 'a' ben killed," he
said, ashamed.

"Why, he didn't tell me that," exclaimed the girl. "He never said he was
in the battle, at all."

"That is just like Bull," said Diana.

They were walking toward the house, Diana and Colby leading their ponies,
and the two Easterners looking interestedly at the various buildings and
corrals over which hung the glamour of that irresistible romance which
the West and a cattle-ranch always hold for the uninitiated-and for the
initiated too, if the truth were but known.

"It is just too wonderful, Mr. Colby, " Lillian confided to the big
foreman walking at her side; "but doesn't it get awful lonesome?"

"We don't notice it," he replied. "You know we keep pretty busy all day
with a big outfit like this and when night comes around we're ready to
turn in-we don't have no time to git lonesome."

"Is this a very big outfit, as you call it?" she asked.

"I reckon they ain't none much bigger in the territory," he replied.

"And to think that you are foreman of it! What a wonderful man you must
be!"

"Oh, it ain't nothin'," he assured her, but he was vastly pleased Here,
indeed, was a young lady of discernment.

"You big men of the great out-doors are always so modest," she told him,
a statement for which he could find no reply. As a matter of fact, though
he had never thought of it before, he realized the justice of her
assertion, and fully agreed with her.

She was looking now at the trim figure of her cousin, walking ahead of
them with Corson. "How becoming that costume is to Diana," she remarked;
"and I suppose she rides wonderfully."

"She shore does-an' then some," he assured her.

"Oh, how I wish I could ride! Do you suppose I could learn?"

"Easy, Miss. It ain't nothin', oncet you know how."

"Do you suppose someone would teach me?" She looked up at him, archly.

"I'd be mighty proud to larn you, Miss."

"Oh, would you? How wonderful! Can we start right away, tomorrow?"

"You bet we can; but you can't ride in them things," he added, looking
ruefully at her New York traveling costume.

She laughed gaily. "Oh, my! I didn't expect to," she cried. "I am not
such a silly as that. I brought my habit with me, of course."

"Well, I suppose it's all right," he said politely; "but you don't have
to bring no habits to Arizony from nowheres-we mostly have enough right
here, such as they be-good an' bad."

Again her laugh rang out. "You big, funny man!" she cried. "You are
poking fun at me just because you think I am a tendershoe-trying to make
me believe that you don't know what a riding habit is. Aren't you ashamed
of yourselfteasing poor little me?"

They were passing the bunk-house at the time, where the boys, having
scrubbed for supper, were squatting about on their heels watching the
newcomers with frank curiosity. After they had passed Shorty gave Texas
Pete a shove that sent him sprawling on the ground. "Say," he said, "did
you see them pants?"

"I shore did," replied Pete, "but you don't have no call to knock me down
an' git my ridin' habit all dusty, you goshdinged tendershoe, jest
because a guy blows in with funny pants on."

"Did you see the mug on Colby?" inquired Idaho. "He don't know a ridin'
habit from the cigarette habit."

"I reckon he thought she was confessin' a sin," said Texas Pete.

"Oh, them pants! Them pants!" moaned Shorty, rocking to and fro on his
heels, his long arms wound around his knees. Shorty was six-feet-three
and thought Kansas City was on the Atlantic seaboard.

Corson's keen, quick eyes were taking in the salient features of their
immediate surroundings as he walked at Diana's side toward the two-story
adobe ranch house, on two sides of which a broad, covered veranda had
been built within recent years. He saw the orderly, well-kept appearance
not only of the main buildings, but of the corrals, fences and
outbuildings as well. Everything bespoke system and excellent management.
It was evidently a well-ordered plant in smooth running condition. He
thought of it in terms of eastern factories and found it good.

"You keep things up well here," he said to Diana Henders. "I want to
compliment you."

"Thank you," she replied. "It was something that Dad always insisted
upon, and of course I have carried out all his policies since his death."

"What are these buildings-they look like cement, but of course you
wouldn't have that out here. The freight on it would make the cost
prohibitive."

"They are adobe," she explained, "just big, clay bricks dried in the
sun."

He nodded in understanding. "Nothing much very fancy about the
architecture," he commented, laughing. "The only attempt at ornamentation
is that sort of parapet on the roof of the house, with the loopholes in
it, and that doesn't add much to the looks of the place."

Diana thought that his criticisms were in rather poor taste, and there
was something about them that vaguely suggested the air of a man viewing
for the first time a property that he had only recently
acquired-something proprietorial that she inwardly resented. Outwardly
she was polite.

"You would think that it added a lot to the place," she told him, "if you
should ever chance to be here when the Apaches stage a raid-it was never
intended to be ornamental."

He sucked in his breath with a whistling sound. "You don't mean," he
exclaimed, "that they are so bad you have to live in a fortress?"

"They haven't been on the warpath in any considerable numbers for a long
time," she assured him; "but that parapet has been used more than once
since the house was built, and there is always the chance that it may
come in handy again. It may not be beautiful from this side, but I can
tell you that it looks mighty good from the other side when there are
sneaking Apaches skulking behind every out-house. I know, because I've
viewed it under those conditions."

"You think there is any great danger?" he asked her, looking about
nervously.

"There is always danger," she replied, for she saw that he was afraid and
a spirit of mischief prompted her to avenge his indelicate criticisms of
the home she loved. It is only a matter of weeks, you know," she reminded
him, "since Dad was killed by Apaches."

Corson appeared worried and his further scrutiny of the house as they
approached it was influenced by other than artistic architectural
considerations.

"I see you have heavy shutters at all the windows," he said. "I suppose
you have them closed and fastened every night?"

"Oh, my, no!" she cried, laughing. "We never close them except for dust
storms and Indians."

"But suppose they come unexpectedly?"

"Then we stand a chance of getting dust or Indians in the house."

"I think you had better have them closed nights while Miss Manill is
here." he said. "I'm afraid she will be very nervous."

"Oh, your rooms are on the second floor," she replied, "and you can lock
them all up tight-possibly you'll get enough air from the patio. The
nights are always cool, you know, but I'd feel stuffy with all the
shutters closed."

"We'll see," was all he said, but there was something about the way he
said it that she did not like. In fact, Diana Henders was sure that she
was not going to like Mr. Maurice B. Corson at all.

As they sat down to supper an hour later Lillian Manill looked
inquiringly at her cousin. "Where is Mr. Colby?" she asked.

"Over at the cook-house eating his supper, I suppose," replied Diana.

"Don't he eat with us? He seems such a nice fellow."

"He is a nice fellow," replied Diana, "but the boys would rather eat by
themselves. Women folks would take away their appetites. You have no idea
how we terrify some of them."

"But Mr. Colby seemed very much at ease," insisted Lillian.

"Hal is different, but the very fact that he is foreman makes it
necessary for him to eat with the other men-it is customary."

"Mr. Bull seemed at ease too, after I got him started," continued
Lillian. "He isn't much of a talker, but he didn't seem a bit afraid of
me."

"Bull is not afraid of anything," Diana assured her; "but if you got him
to talk at all you must exercise a wonderful power over men. I can
scarcely ever get a dozen words out of him."

"Well, I guess I've got a way with men," said Lillian, complacently.

"I'm afraid that you will find that Bull is not very susceptible," said
Diana, with just the vaguest hint of tartness.

"Oh, I don't know," replied the other; "he has promised to teach me to
ride and shoot."

Diana ate in silence for several minutes. She was wondering already if
she were going to like her cousin. But then, of course she was-how silly
of her to think she was not, she concluded.

"I met an old friend on the stage today," remarked Corson, presently.

Diana raised her eyebrows politely. "How nice," she said.

"Yes, it was. Haven't seen him for a couple of years. Nice chap,
Jefferson Wainright. Fraternity brother. Of course I was years ahead of
him, but I used to see him when I'd go down to Cambridge for the games.
His governor's a nice old chap, too, and got a wad of the long green."

"So he has told us," said Diana.

"Oh, you know them? They didn't mention it."

"I have met them. Mr. Wainright tried to buy the ranch."

"Oh, yes, I believe he did mention something of the kind. Why didn't you
sell it to him?"

"His offer was too low, for one reason, and the other is that I do not
care to sell my interest."

Corson and Miss Manill exchanged a quick glance that escaped Diana.

"How much did he offer you?" asked Corson.

"Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars."

"Why that seems a very fair price," said Corson.

"It is ridiculous, Mr. Corson," replied Diana, "and if you are at all
familiar with Mr. Manill's business you know it as well as I."

"I am very familiar with it," replied the New Yorker. "In fact, from your
remarks I imagine that I am much more familiar with it than you."

"Then you know that the cattle interests alone are worth three times that
amount, without considering the mine at all.'.'

Corson shook his head. "I'm afraid that way out here you are too far from
the financial center of the country to have a very comprehensive grasp of
values. Now, as a matter of fact, the bottom has dropped out of the
live-stock market. We'll be lucky if we make expenses for the next year
or so, and it probably never will come back to what it was. And as for
the mine, that, of course, is about done. It won't pay to work it a year
from now. If we could get two hundred and fifty thousand dollars for this
business we'd be mighty lucky; but I doubt if old Wainright would renew
that offer-he's too shrewd a business man."

Diana Henders made no reply. She was wondering just how much Maurice B.
Corson did know about the live-stock market and the mine. She was
inclined to believe that he knew a great deal more than his remarks
concerning them would indicate.

At the same hour Mary Donovan's boarders were gathered about her table.
She had other guests this evening in addition to her regular clientele.
There were the Wainrights, and Bull was there for supper and breakfast as
was usual when the bullion came down from the mine.

It was not a gay company. Mack Harber and Jim Welter looked with
suspicion on Bull, an attitude that would have blossomed into open and
active hostility could they have gained the support of Gum Smith; but Gum
was not searching for trouble. He glowered at his plate and hated Bull.
Wildcat Bob inhaled soup and hated Gum Smith.

The Wainrights scarcely raised their eyes from the business of eating for
fear of the embarrassment of meeting those of the man who had run the
elder Wainright off the Bar Y Ranch--an occurrence which rankled horribly
in the breasts of both. Bull, taciturn as usual, ate in silence with
something of the mien of a lion feeding among jackals. Mary Donovan
hovered in the doorway. Bull laid down his spoon, drank a glass of water
and rose from the table.

"Sure an' won't ye have another helpin' o' puddin' now, Bull?" urged
Mary.

"No, thanks, Mrs. Donovan," he replied, "I'm plumb full." He walked past
her into the kitchen and out the back door. An almost audible sigh of
relief rose from the remaining guests.

"I reckon he thinks he owns the shack," commented Jim Weller apropos of
Bull's exit through the sacred precincts of Mary Donovan's kitchen.

"Sure, he could have it fer the askin', the fine b'y he is," shot back
Mary. "Him a-goin' out to fetch in wood fer me while the loikes o' ye,
Jim Weller, what ain't fit to black his boots, sits here and makes
remarks about him, ye lazy whelp!" Mr. Weller subsided.

The meal over, the guests departed with the exception of Mack Harber, Jim
Weller, and the Wainrights who had congregated on the veranda.

"You don't seem to like the fellow they call Bull," remarked the younger
Wainright to Weller.

"I didn't say I didn't like him an' I didn't say I did,' ; replied
Weller, noncommittally.

"Well, I don't like him," said Mack, vehemently. "I wouldn't like my
grandmother if she shot me in the belly."

"You mean that he shot you?" asked Wainright.

"The Black Coyote shot me, an' if Bull ain't The Black Coyote my name's
McGinnis."

"You really think that he has been pulling off these holdups?" demanded
the elder Wainright.

"I ain't the only one what thinks so," replied Mack. "Everyone, 'most,
thinks so, an' ef we had a decent sheriff that feller'd be behind the
bars where he belongs, er strung up to a cottonwood in Hell's Bend.
'Pears to me like Gum was either in on the deal er afeard of Bull."

"Gum's afeard of every one," said Weller.

"Well," remarked Jefferson Wainright, senior, "when we come over on this
side o' the hills I calc'late as how things air goin' to be a heap sight
different. There won't be no more o' this here funny gunplay stuff.. I'm
a-goin' to run all o' these would-be bad-men out o' the country."

"You figgerin' on cumin' over here?" asked Mack.

"I certainly am. I'm a-goin' to buy the whole Bar Y out-fit."

"The Hell you is!" exclaimed Mack. "I heard that Miss Di wouldn't sell it
to you."

"She ain't got nothin' to say about it. I'm a-goin' to buy it from the
man that's runnin' that outfit now, an' he's a mighty good business man,
too."

"Who's that-Colby?"

"No, Colby nothin'-it's Mr. Corson of Noo York. He's handlin' all o' John
Manill's interests an' he just come here today with Manill's daughter. We
come over on the stage with them. I was tellin' Corson of the fine airs
that chit of a Henders girl puts on, but things is goin' to be different
now. Corson's goin' to close out the estate an' the holdins here is as
good as sold to me already."



CHAPTER X

WILDCAT BOB GOES COURTING

BULL sat in a corner of The Chicago Saloon watching the play at the faro
table. It was too early to go to bed and he was not a man who read much,
nor cared to read, even had there been anything to read, which there was
not. He had skimmed the latest eastern papers that had come in on the
stage and his reading was over until the next shipment of gold from the
mine brought him again into contact with a newspaper. Then he would read
the live-stock market reports, glance over the headlines and throw the
paper aside, satisfied. His literary requirements were few.

A man who had drunk not wisely but too well lurched up to him.

"Have a drink, stranger!" he commanded. It was not an invitation.

"Ain't drinkin'," replied Bull, quietly.

"Oh, yes, you be," announced the hospitable one. "When I says drink, you
drinks, see? I'm a bad-man, I am. Whoopee!" and drawing a six-shooter he
commenced firing into the floor at Bull's feet.

Suddenly a large man enveloped him from the rear, held his gun hand aloft
and dragged him away into an opposite corner, where, to the accompaniment
of a deluge of lurid profanity, he counselled him to a greater
discretion.

"Why you blankety, blank, blank, blank!'" he cried. "You tryin' to commit
sewerside? Don't you know who that is, you blitherin' idjit?" then he
whispered something in the other's ear. The effect was electrical. The
man seemed sobered instantly. With staring eyes he looked across the room
at Bull.

"I'm goin' to git out o' here," he said, "he might change his mind."

"I cain't see yit why he didn't bore ye," agreed his friend. "You better
go an' apologize."

Slowly the pseudo bad-man crossed the room toward Bull, who had not moved
sufficiently to have changed his position since the man had first
accosted him. The man halted in front of Bull, a sickly grin on his
bloated countenance.

"No offense, pardner. Jest had a drop too much. No offense intended. Jest
jokin'-thet was all jest jokin'."

Bull eyed him intently for a moment. "Oh, yes," he said presently, "I
remember you now-you're the flannel mouth that got gay with of Wildcat a
coupla months ago. Did you ever return that window sash you took with
you? I hearn Gum was powerful cut up about that window sash." Not the
shadow of a smile crossed Bull's face. "I warn't there, but I hearn all
about it."

The other flushed, attempted some witty repartee that fell fiat, and
finally managed to make his escape amid a roar of laughter from the
nearer card players and spectators who had overheard the brief dialogue.

Bull rose. "coin'?" asked an acquaintance.

"I reckon so. Good night."

"Good night, Bull."

The man stepped out into the clear, star-lit night. Involuntarily he
turned and looked toward the northeast in the direction of the Bar Y
ranch. Diana was there. For a long time he stood motionless gazing out
across the arid, moon-bathed level that stretched away to her loved feet.
What emotions played behind the inscrutable mask of his face? Who may
say?

As he stood there silently he heard voices coming from between The
Chicago Saloon and Gums Place-Liquors and Cigars..

"He's in there now," said one. "I kin see him. If there weren't so
tarnation many fellers at the bar I c'd git him from here."

"You'd better come along afore you git in more trouble than you got the
capacity to handle," urged a second voice.

"Thas all right. I know what I'm doin'. There cain't no dried up of
buffalo chip like thet run me out o' no man's saloon an' get away with
it, an' thas all they is to thet."

"Well, I'm goin' home," stated the second voice. "I know when I'm well
off."

"You go home. After I shoot the ears offen this Wildcat Bob party I'm
comin' home, too."

"You go to shootin' any ears offen Wildcat Bob an' you won't need no
blankets where you're goin'."

"Thas-so? Well, here goes-you better stay an' see the fun."

"I'm goin' now while I got the chanct," said the other, and Bull heard
him coming from the side of the building. The former stepped quickly back
into the doorway of the Chicago Saloon and an instant later he saw the
large man who had dragged his friend from him a few minutes before
pass-up the street at a rapid walk. Then Bull looked from his place of
concealment, just in time to see another figure emerge from between the
buildings and enter Gum's Place.

Bull was close behind him. The door was open a crack. He saw that the
other had advanced into the room a few feet and was standing behind one
of the rough columns that supported the second story. Across the room, at
the far end, Wildcat Bob had just set down his whiskey glass upon the
bar, wiped his beard on his sleeve, and turned away toward the tables
where the gambling was in progress. For a moment he would be alone, with
only the rough rear wall behind him.

Bull saw the stranger raise his six-gun to take deliberate aim. He was
too far away to reach him before he pulled the trigger and it would do no
good to-warn the Wildcat. There was but a single alternative to standing
supinely by and watching old Wildcat being shot down in cold blood by a
cowardly murderer.

It was this alternative that Bull adopted. As the smoke rose from the
muzzle of his gun the stranger threw his hands above his head, his weapon
clattered to the floor, and he wheeled about. His eyes alighted upon Bull
standing there, grim-faced and silent, the smoking six-gun in his hand.

Suddenly the wounded man gave voice to- a shrill scream. "He done it!" he
cried, pointing at Bull. "He done it! The Black Coyote done it! He's
killed me!" and with these last words the body slumped to the floor.

Bull stood facing them all in silence for just a moment. The whole
roomful of men and women was staring at him. Then he slipped his gun into
its holster and advanced into the room, a faint smile on his lips. He
walked toward Wildcat Bob.

"That hombre was after you, Bob," he said. "He was drunk, but I couldn't
stop him no other way. He's the feller you chased through the window that
time."

Gum Smith hurried to the rear of the bar. Then he leaned over it and
pointed a finger at Bull. "Yo-all's undah arrest!" he cried. "Yo-all's
undah arrest fo murder."

"Go kick yourself through a knot-hole!" advised Bull. "Ef I hadn't got
that hombre he'd a-got Bob. They wasn't nothin' else to do."

"Yo-all hearn what he called him, didn't yo?" yelled Gum. He pointed at
first one and then another. "Ah depatize yo! Ah depatize yo!" he cried.
"Arrest him, men!"

No one moved, except Wildcat Bob. He came and stood beside Bull, and he
drew both his long, heavy guns with their heavily notched grips.

"Anyone what's aimin' to take this boy, why, let him step up," said
Wildcat Bob, and his watery blue eye was fixed terribly upon the sheriff.

"Ah want yo-all to know thet when Ah depatizes yo, yo-all's depatized,"
shrilled Gum. "Yo hearn what the corpse called him. Ain't that enough? Do
yo duty, men!"

One or two of the men, friends of Gum's, moved restlessly. Bull, sensing
trouble, had drawn both his weapons, and now he stood beside the Wildcat,
his steady gray eyes alert for the first hostile move.

"Don't none o' you gents go fer to start nothin'," he advised. "You all
seen what happened. You know I couldn't a-done nothin' else, an' as fer
what thet drunken bum called me ef Gum thinks I'm The Coyote why don't he
step up an' take me? I ain't a honin' fer trouble, but I don't aim to be
the subject o' no postmortem neither."

"Do yo-all surrendah, then?" demanded Gum.

"Don't try to be no more of a damn fool than the Lord made yuh, Gum,"
advised Wildcat Bob. "You know thet if this here boy ain't The Black
Coyote you don't want him, an' ef he is The Black Coyote you wouldn't
never git outen behind thet bar ef you was to try to take him. Fer my
part I don't believe he is, an' I got two of pea-shooters here what
thinks the same as I does. What do you think, Gum?"

"Well," said the sheriff after a moment's deliberation, "Ah reckon as
mebby the corpse was mistook. Hev a drink on the house, gents!"

As Bull and Wildcat Bob entered the office of The Donovan House Mary
Donovan espied them through the open doorway of her sitting room and
called to them.

"Come in an' have a drop o' tay wid me before yese go to bed," she
invited, and as they entered she scrutinized Wildcat Bob with a stern
eye. Evidently satisfied, her face softened. "I know they ain't run out
o' whiskey in Hendersville," she said, "so I reckon ye must o' run out o'
money, Wildcat."

The little old gentleman reached into his pocket and drew forth a handful
of silver, which he displayed with virtuous satisfaction.

"The saints be praised!" exclaimed Mary Donovan. "Ye've money in yer
pocket an' yer home airly an' sober! Be ye sick, Wildcat Bob?"

"I've re-formed, Mary-I ain't never goin' to tech another drop," he
assured her, solemnly.

"Ye've not had a drink the avenin'?" she demanded.

"Well-" he hesitated, "you see"

"Yis, I see," she snapped, scornfully.

"But, Mary, I only had one little one-you wouldn't begrudge an old man
one little nightcap?"

"Well," she consented, relenting, "wan little one wouldn't do no harrm. I
wouldn't moind one mesilf."

Wildcat Bob reached for his hip pocket. "I was thinking that same thing,
Mary, and that's why I brung one home fer yuh," and he drew forth a pint
flask.

"The divil fly away wid ye, Wildcat Bob!" she cried, but she was smiling
as she reached for the flask.

Bull rose, laughing. "Good night!" he said, "I'm going to turn in."

"Have a drop wid us before ye go," invited Mary.

"No thanks, I've quit," replied Bull. A moment later they heard him
mounting the stairs to his room.

"He's a good b'y," said Mary, wiping her lips and replacing the cork in
the bottle.

"He is that, Mary," agreed Wildcat, reaching for it.

There was a period of contented silence.

"It's a lonesome life fer a widdy-lady, that it is," remarked Mary, with
a deep sigh.

Wildcat Bob moved his chair closer, flushed at his own boldness, and fell
to examining the toe of his boot. Mary rocked diligently, her red hands
folded in her ample lap, keeping an eye cocked on the Wildcat. There was
another long silence that was broken at last by Mrs. Donovan.

"Sure," she said, ,'an' it's funny ye never married, Bob."

Bob essayed reply, but a mouthful of tobacco juice prevented. Rising, he
walked into the office, crossed that room, opened the front door and spat
copiously without. Returning to the room he hitched his chair closer to
Mary's, apparently by accident, as he resumed his seat.

"I-" he started, but it was evidently a false start, since he commenced
all over again. "I=" again he paused.

"You what?" inquired Mary Donovan with soft encouragement.

"You-" said Wildcat Bob and stuck again. Inward excitement evidently
stimulated his salivary glands, with the result that he was again forced
to cross to the outer door. When he returned he hunched his chair a bit
closer to Mary's.

"As ye was about to remark," prodded Mary.

"I-I"

"Yes," said Mary, "Go on, Bob!"

"I was just a-goin' to say that I don't think it'll rain tonight," he
ended, lamely.

Mary Donovan placed her hands upon her hips, pressed her lips together
and turned a withering glance of scorn upon Wildcat Bob-all of which were
lost upon him, he having again returned to whole-souled consideration of
the toe of his boot, his face suffused with purple.

"Rain!" muttered Mary Donovan. "Rain in Arizony this time o' year? Sure,
an' ye mane ye thought it wouldn't shnow, didn't ye?" she demanded.

Wildcat Bob emitted only a gurgle, and again silence reigned, unbroken
for long minutes, except by the creaking of Mary's rocker. Suddenly she
turned upon him.

"Gimme that flask," she said.

He handed it over and she took a long drink. Wiping the mouth of the
bottle with the palm of her hand she returned it to him. Then Wildcat Bob
took a drink, and the silence continued.

The evening wore on, the flask emptied and midnight came. With it came
Gum Smith, reeling bedward. They watched him stagger across the office
floor and heard him stumbling up the stairs. Mary Donovan arose.

"Be off to bed wid ye," she said. "I can't be sittin' here all night
gossipin' wid ye."

He too, arose. "Good night, Mary," he said, "it's been a pleasant
evenin'."

"Yis," said Mary Donovan. ,

As Wildcat Bob climbed the stairs toward his room he was mumbling in his
beard. "Doggone my hide!" he said. "Ef I'd jest had a coupla drinks I
mout a-done it."

"Sure," soliloquized Mary Donovan, as she closed the door of her bedroom,
"it's not so dum funny after all that the ould fool nivir was married."



CHAPTER XI

"RIDE HIM, COWBOY!"

LILLIAN MANILL awoke early and viewed the brilliant light of the new day
through the patio windows of her room-the outer windows were securely
shuttered against Indians. She stretched languorously and turned over for
another nap, but suddenly changed her mind, threw off the covers and
arose. It was a hideously early hour for Lillian Manill to arise; but she
had recalled that there was to be a riding lesson after breakfast and
Diana had explained to her that the breakfast hour was an early one.
Dressing, she selected a tailored walking suit-she would change into her
riding habit after breakfast-for she wanted to stroll about the yard a
bit before breakfast, and she knew that this new walking suit was
extremely fetching.

A few minutes later as she stepped into the yard she saw signs of
activity in the direction of the horse corrals and thither she bent her
steps. Texas Pete, who was helping the chore boy with the morning
feeding, saw her coming and looked for an avenue of escape, being in no
sense a lady's man and fully aware of the fact; but he was too late-there
was no avenue left, Lillian Manill being already between him and the
bunk-house. So he applied himself vigorously to the pitchfork he was
wielding and pretended not to see her, a pretense that made no impression
whatever upon Lillian Manill. She paused outside the bars and looked in.

"Good morning!" she said.

Texas Pete pretended that he had not heard.

"Mornin'," replied Pete, pulling at the brim of his hat and immediately
resuming the fork. He wished she would move on. The horses were fed and
there was no other excuse for him to remain in the corral, but in order
to reach the bunkhouse he must pass directly by this disconcerting
person. Diana he did not mind-he was used to Diana, and aside from the
fact that he was madly in love with her she caused him little
embarrassment or concern except upon those few occasions when he had
attempted to maintain an extended conversation with her. Dr. Johnson
would have found nothing in Pete's conversational attainments to have
aroused his envy.

Pete continued feeding the horses. He fed them twice as much as they
could eat in a day, notwithstanding the fact that he knew perfectly well
they were to be fed again that evening; but finally he realized that he
could defer the embarrassing moment no longer and that the girl had not
left. He stuck the fork viciously into the haystack and crossed the
corral. He tried to appear unconcerned and to pass her by without looking
at her, but in both he failed-first because he was very much concerned
and second because she placed herself directly in his path and smiled
sweetly at him.

"I don't believe I had the pleasure of meeting you last night," she said.
"I am Miss Manill-Miss Renders' cousin."

"Yes'm," said Pete.

"And I suppose you are one of the cow-gentlemen," she added.

Pete turned suddenly and violently purple. A choking sound issued from
his throat; but quickly he gained control of himself. Something in that
remark of hers removed instantly all of Texas Pete's embarrassment. He
found himself at once upon an even footing with her.

"No'm," he said, "I hain't one o' the cow-gentlemen-I'm on'y a
tendershoe."

"I'm sure you don't look it," she told him, "with those leather trousers
with the fleece on. But you ride, don't you?" she added quickly.

"I ain't lamed yit," he assured her.

"Oh, isn't that too bad! I thought of course you were a wonderful
equestrian and I was going to ask you to teach me to ride; but you'd
better come along after breakfast and we'll get Mr. Colby to teach us
both."

"I reckon he wouldn't like it," explained Pete. "You see I'm in his
afternoon ridin' class. He don't take nothin' but ladies in the mornin'."

"Oh, does he teach riding regularly?"

"My, yes, that's what he's here fer. He's larnin' us all to ride so's we
kin go out on hosses an' catch the cows 'stid o' havin' to hoof-it."

"I thought he was foreman," she said.

"Yes'm, but that's one of his jobs-larnin' cowgentlemen to ride"

"How interesting! I've learned so much already and I've only been in
Arizona since day before yesterday. Mr. Bull was so kind and patient,
answering all my silly little questions."

"I reckon Bull could answer most any question," he told her.

"Yes, indeed; but then he's been here in Arizona so long, and had so much
to do with the development of the country. Why, do you know he planted
all the willows along that funny little river we followed for so long
yesterday-miles and miles of them?"

"Did he tell you that?" inquired Texas Pete.

"Yes, isn't it wonderful? I think it shows such an artistic temperament."

"There's more to Bull than I ever suspected," murmured Texas Pete,
reverently.

A sudden, clamorous, metallic din shattered the quiet of the cool Arizona
morning. The girl gave a little scream and sprang for Texas Pete,
throwing both arms about his neck.

"O-o-h!" she cried; "what is it-Indians?"

"No'm," said Pete, striving to disengage himself, for he saw the
malevolent eyes of several unholy cow-gentlemen gloating upon the scene
from the doorway of the bunk-house. "No'm, that ain't Injuns-that's the
breakfast bell."

"How silly of me!" she explained. "Now I suppose I must be going. I'm so
glad to have met you, Mr,

"My name's 'Texas Pete."

"Mr. Pete, and I do hope you learn to ride quickly. I am sure we could
have some lovely excursions, picnicking among the beautiful hills. Oh,
wouldn't it be divine just you and I, Mr. Pete?" and she let her great,
lovely eyes hang for a moment on his in a fashion that had turned more
sophisticated heads than Texas Pete's.

When she had gone and Pete was making his way toward the cook-house he
ran his fingers through his shock of hair. "By gollies!" he muttered.
"The outside o' her head's all right, anyway."

As he entered the cook-house Shorty seized him and threw both arms about
his neck. "Kiss me darlin' !" he cried. "I ain't had a single kiss before
breakfast."

"Shet up, you long-legged walrus," replied Pete, grinning, as he shoved
the other aside.

He ate in silence despite the gibes of his companions, who quickly
desisted, realizing the futility of attempting to arouse Texas Pete's ire
by raillery. He was quick enough of temper and quicker still with his
guns when occasion warranted; but no one could arouse his anger so long
as their thrusts were shod with fun.

"Lookee here, cook," he called promptly to that individual; "you're the
best eddicated bloke in this bunch o' long-horns-what's a questreen?"

"Somethin' you puts soup in," replied the cook.

Texas Pete scratched his head. "I thought all along that I didn't like
her," he muttered, "an' now I knows it."

Diana Henders greeted her guests with a cheery smile and a word of
welcome as they entered the dining room for breakfast. "I hope you slept
well," she said.

"Oh, I did," exclaimed Lillian Manill. "I never knew a thing from the
time my head touched the pillow until broad daylight this morning. I had
a perfectly wonderful night."

"I didn't," said Corson, and Diana noticed then that he looked tired and
haggard. "What happened last night?" he asked.

"Why, nothing, that I know of," replied Diana. "Why do you ask?"

"Have you seen any of your men this morning-or any of the neighbors?" he
continued.

"I have seen a couple of the men to talk with-we have no neighbors."

"How many women are there on this place?" he went on.

"Just Lillian and I."

"Well, something terrible happened last night," said Corson. "I never
spent such a hideous night in my life. It's funny you didn't hear it."

"Hear what?" asked Diana.

"That woman-my God! I can hear her screams yet.

"Oh, Maurice! what do you mean?" cried Miss Manill.

"It was about midnight," he explained. "I had been rather restless just
dozing a little-when all of a sudden the dogs commenced to bark and then
a woman screamed-it was the most awful, long-drawn, agonized wail I ever
heard-some one must have been torturing her. I'll bet the Indians were
out last night and the first thing you know you'll hear about a terrible
massacre. Well, it stopped all of a sudden and pretty soon the dogs
commenced to yap again-there must have been fifty of 'em-and then that
woman shrieked again-I'll hear that to my dying day. I don't think you
ought to let any of the men go away today until you find out just what
happened last night. The Indians may just be waiting for 'em to go and
then they'll rush down on us and kill us all."

A faint smile had slowly curved Diana's lips and brought little wrinkles
to the corners of her eyes.

"What are you smiling about, Miss Henders?" demanded Corson. "If you'd
heard that woman you wouldn't feel like smiling-not for a long time."

"That wasn't a woman you heard, Mr. Corson-they were coyotes."

He looked at her blankly. "Are you sure?" he asked, presently.

' 'Of course I'm sure," she told him.

Corson breathed a sigh of relief. "I'd like to believe it," he said. "I'd
sleep better tonight."

"Well, you can believe it, for that is what you heard."

"I'd hate to be caught out after dark by 'em," he said. "A pack of fifty
or a hundred such as there was last night would tear a fellow to pieces
in no time."

"They are perfectly harmless," Diana assured him, "and the chances are
that there were no more than two or three of them-possibly only one."

"I guess I heard 'em," he insisted.

"They have a way of sounding like a whole lot more than they really are."

He shook his head. "I guess I know what I heard."

"I'll-have to show that cook of yours how to make coffee," remarked
Corson a few minutes later.

Diana flushed. "I suppose We don't get the best coffee out here," she
said, "but we are accustomed to it and learn to like it first rate. I
think Wong does the best he can with what he has to do with."

"Well, it won't hurt him any to learn how to make coffee," said Corson.

"He has been with us a great many years and is very faithful. I think he
would be terribly hurt if a stranger criticized his coffee," said Diana.

"Maurice is very particular about his food," said Miss Manill. "It is
really an education to hear him order a dinner at Delmonico's, and the
way he does flay the waiters if everything isn't just so. I always get
such a thrill-you can see people at the nearby tables listening to him,
whispering to one another."

"I can imagine," said Diana, sweetly, but she did not say just what she
could imagine.

Corson swelled visibly. "Call the Chink in, Miss Henders," he said, "and
I'll give him a lesson now-you might learn something yourself. Way out
here, so far from New York, you don't get much chance, of course. There's
really nothing quite like the refining influences of the East to take the
rough edges off of people."

"I think I prefer to speak to Wong privately and in person, if I find it
necessary," said Diana.

"Well. just so I get some decent coffee hereafter," said Corson,
magnanimously.

Lillian Manill, having finished her breakfast, rose from the table.

"I'm going to put on my riding habit now, Maurice," she said. "Go out and
tell Mr. Colby to wait for me."

Diana Henders bit her lip, but said nothing as Corson rose and walked
toward the door. He was garbed in a New York tailor's idea of the latest
English riding mode, and again Diana bit her lip, but not in anger.
Corson, setting his hat jauntily over one eve, stalked into the open and
down toward the corrals where the men were saddling up for the day's
work.

He lighted a big, black cigar and puffed contentedly. As he hove in sight
work in the corral ceased spontaneously.

''My Gawd !" moaned Texas Pete.

"Who left the bars down?" inquired Idaho.

"Shut up," cautioned Colby. "That feller's likely to be boss around
here."

"He won't never boss me," said Shorty, "not with thet funny hat on. I
wonder could I crease it," and he reached for his gun.

"Don't git funny, Shorty. They's friends o' Miss I-tenders," whispered
Colby. "It'd only make her feel bad."

He could not have hit upon a stronger appeal to these men. Shorty lowered
his hand from the butt of his gun and almost at once work was resumed.
When Corson joined them he could not have guessed that he was the object
either of ridicule or pity, though he was--of both.

"Say, Colby," he said. "Saddle up a couple of safe horses for Miss Manill
and me, and wait around until she comes out. I want you to give her a few
lessons in riding."

"Did Miss Henders say that it would be all right?" lie asked. "You know
the work is pretty well laid out an' we ain't got none too many hands."

"0h, that's all right, my man," Corson assured him. "You'll be safe to do
anything that I say. I'm handling Miss Manill's interests and looking
after everything in general until the estate is closed. Just trot along
and saddle up a couple of horses, and see to it that they are gentle. I
haven't ridden for a number of years, although I was pretty good at it
when I was a boy."

Hal Colby eyed Mr. Maurice B. Corson for a long minute. What was
transpiring in his mind it would have been difficult to guess from the
expression on his face; though what should have been going on within the
convolutions of his brain the other men knew full well, and so they
lolled around, their faces immobile, waiting for the fun to begin, but
they were doomed to disappointment, for there was no gunplay-Colby, they
thought, might have at least "made the dude dance." Instead he turned
away without a word to Corson, gave some final directions for the day's
work, swung into the saddle and rode toward the office, utterly ignoring
the Easterner's instructions. Corson flushed angrily.

"Here you, one of you men," he snapped, turning toward the punchers, most
of whom had already mounted their ponies, "I want two horses saddled
immediately--one for Miss Manill and one for me."

Silently, ignoring him as completely as though he had not existed, the
riders filed out of the corral past him. At a little distance they drew
rein, waiting for Colby.

"I've saw gall before," remarked Texas Pete in an undertone, "but thet
there dude tenderfoot's got more'n a brass monkey."

"If he don't c'ral thet jaw o' his pronto," growled Shorty, "I ain't
a-goin' to be responsible fer what happens--I cain't hold myself much
longer."

"I wouldn't a-took what Colby did," said Idaho.

"Some blokes'll take a lot to hold their jobs," said Shorty.

"They c'n hev mine right now," stated Texas Pete, "ef I gotta take thet
dude's lip."

"Here comes the boss now," said Idaho. "She'll settle things, dum her
pretty little hide," he added affectionately.

Diana had stopped just below the house to listen to Colby, whom the men
could see was talking earnestly to her.

"Look here, Di," he sas saying, "I want to know ef I gotta take orders
from thet tin-horn lawyer feller. Is he boss round these diggin's, or is
you?"

"Why, I supposed I was, Hal," she replied, "though I must admit there
appears to be a suspicion of doubt on the subject in Mr. Corson's mind.
What has he said to you?"

Colby told her, repeating Corson's words as nearly as he could, and the
girl could not suppress a laugh.

"Oh, I reckon it's funny, all right," he said, testily, "but I don't see
the joke-hevin' a paper-collared cracker-fed dude like that-un callin' me
'my man' an' orderin' me to saddle up a hoss fer him, right in front o'
all the boys. 'Trot along,' he says, 'an saddle up a couple o' hosses,
an' see to it thet they're plumb gentle.' My Gawd, Di! you don't expect
me to take thet sort o' jaw, do you?"

Diana, by this time, was frankly in tears from laughter, and finally
Colby himself was unable to longer repress a smile.

"Don't mind him, Hal," she said, finally. "He is just one of those
arrogant, conceited, provincial New

Yorkers. They are mighty narrow and disagreeable, but we've got to put up
with him for a short time and we might as well make the best of it. Go
and ask Willie to saddle up two horses for them, and be sure that the one
for Miss Manill is plumb gentle." She accompanied her last instructions
with the faintest trace of a wink.

Colby wheeled his pony and loped off to the corral, where he imparted the
boss's orders to the chore boy, Willie, lank, raw-boned and pimply.
Willie, who always thought of himself as Wild Bill, swaggered off to
catch up the two ponies, grinning inwardly as he roped Gimlet for Mr.
Maurice B. Corson.

Corson, seeing Diana approaching, had gone to meet her. He was still red
and angry.

"Look here, Miss Henders," he exclaimed. "You've got to tell those
fellows who I am. I asked them to saddle up a couple of horses and they
absolutely ignored me. You tell them that when I give orders they are to
be obeyed."

"I think it will be less confusing if the orders come from me, Mr.
Corson," she replied. "It is never well to have too many bosses, and
then, you see, these men are peculiar. They are unlike the sort of men
you have apparently been accustomed to dealing with. You cannot talk to
them as you would to a Delmonico waiter-unless you are tired of life, Mr.
Corson. They are accustomed to me-we are friends-and they will take
orders from me without question, so I think that it will be better all
around if you will explain your wants to me in the future. Colby told me
what you wanted just now and the horses are being saddled."

He started to speak and then, evidently reconsidering, caught himself
with a palpable effort. "Very well," he said, presently, "we'll let it
pass this time."

Together they walked toward the corral where Willie was saddling a quiet,
old horse for Miss Manill. Beside him stood Gimlet with drooping head and
dejected mien.

"Which one is for me, sonny?" demanded Corson.

Wild Bill glanced up in sullen scorn, eyed Mr. Corson for a brief moment
and then jerked a soiled thumb in the direction of Gimlet.

"What! that old crow-bait?" exclaimed the New Yorker.

"You said you wanted a gentle hoss," explained Colby, lolling in his
saddle nearby, ."an' Gimlet won't pitch."

"I don't want to ride a skate," growled Corson. "When I'm on a horse I
want to know I'm on something."

"You'll know you're on Gimlet," Colby assured him, sweetly, "he ain't so
dumb as he looks. Jest stick your spurs into him an' he'll act quite
lively."

"All right," said Corson, glumly; "tell him to hurry-I see Miss Manill
coming now."

There were others who saw her coming, too. Texas Pete was only one of
them.

"By gollies!" he exclaimed. "Look what's got loose!"

Lillian Manill was approaching jauntily, clothed in a black riding habit,
with a long, voluminous skirt, a man's collar and tie and black silk hat,
with a flowing veil wound around it. Shorty eyed her for a long minute,
then he let his gaze wander to Mr. Corson.

"It wouldn't never be safe fer me to go to New York," he confided to
Idaho. "I'd shore laugh myself to death."

By the time Miss Manill joined the group the two horses were saddled and
Willie had led them out of the corral.

"Mercy!" exclaimed Miss Manill. "Haven't you a side-saddle? I could never
ride one of those horrid things."

"I'm sorry," said Diana, "but we haven't one. I doubt if there is a
side-saddle in the county. I think you can work it though, if you will
put your leg around the horn. Next time I'll fix you up with a skirt like
mine and then you can ride astride."

"Are you sure the horse is perfectly safe?" inquired Lillian. "I'll have
to have a few lessons before I can ride one of those bouncing ones. Oh,
Mr. Colby, good morning! Here I am all ready for my first lesson."

Her eyes took in the punchers grouped a few yards away. "I see you are
going to have quite a class this morning. Mr. Pete told me, though, that
you taught the cow-gentlemen in the afternoon."

Colby shot a quick glance at Pete, who had just been overcome by a
violent fit of coughing, and knowing Texas Pete, as he did, grasped the
situation at once.

"Oh, I had to give up the afternoon class," he told her, "after I found
they was a few like Mr. Pete who wouldn't never larn to ride."

"Isn't that too bad," she said, politely. Then she turned toward Corson.
"I think you'd better try it first, Maurice. I'll watch how you do it."

"All right," said he. "It's been a long time since I have ridden, but I
guess it'll come back to me quick enough. I might be able to give you a
few pointers at that."

He walked up to Gimlet's off side and took hold of the saddlehorn,
neglecting the reins, which Willie still held. Gimlet eyed him sadly.
When he essayed to place a foot in the stirrup the pony side-stepped
rapidly in the opposite direction.

"You'd better mount from the other side, Mr. Corson," advised Diana.
"These horses are not broken to work with from the off side."

"I knew all along he was a damn Injun," remarked Idaho.

"An' you better take the reins, you may need 'em," supplemented Willie,
who, at bottom, had a kind heart and shrank from bloodshed.

Corson walked to the near side of Gimlet, gathered the reins loosely in
his right hand, stuck a foot into the stirrup, took hold of the horn with
both hands and pulled himself laboriously into the saddle. Gimlet stood
quietly.

"Giddap!" said Mr. Corson, but Gimlet moved not.

"Throw the hooks into him!" shouted Willie, gleefully.

"Why don't the old skate go?" demanded Corson, shaking the reins.

"Use your spurs!" called one of the cowboys. "That's what you bought 'em
fer, ain't it?"

Mr. Corson used his spurs. The result was electrical, galvanizing Gimlet
into instant and surprising action-action which glowingly elucidated the
derivation of his name. He wheeled dizzily round and round upon the same
spot, and with lightning rapidity.

Mr. Corson's funny hat flew off. He clawed at the horn in intervals that
he was not clawing at the loose reins in a mad effort to gather them.
Then Gimlet stopped and commenced wheeling again. Mr. Corson lost a
stirrup. Then he let go both reins and seized the horn with two hands.

"Stop him!" he yelled. "Stop him! Whoa! Whoa!"

"Rip him open!" shrieked Willie. "Spur him in the eyes!"

"Ride him, cowboy!" yelled Idaho.

Again Gimlet bolted and this time Mr. Corson commenced to slip
dangerously to one side. A hundred-yard sprint back to where he had
started and Gimlet paused to wheel once more. It was the end. Mr. Corson
spun off, alighting on his back. He rolled over with surprising agility
and on his hands and knees crawled rapidly away from this man eater that
he was sure was pursuing him. But Gimlet was only standing dejectedly,
with drooping ears.

Corson came to his feet. The men about him-rough fellows with none of the
finer sensibilities of New Yorkers-were laughing rudely.

"It was a put-up job," he spluttered. "It was a put-up job. You'll suffer
for this, Colby! You told me that animal was gentle."

"I told you he wouldn't pitch mister!" snapped Colby. "An' he didn't
pitch."

Miss Manill had started back toward the house. "I think I'll not ride
this morning," she said.



CHAPTER XII

CORSON SPEAKS

"'COME here!' he yells then to the rest o' us boys,

'Step up to the fun'ral an' don't make no noise

The while we inter all the barb-wire what's here,

After which we'll dispose o' the seegars an' beer.'"

sang Texas Pete. "Hello! See who's came!"

Bull entered the bunk-house with a grin and a nod. "Still singin' I see,
Pete," he said. "Ain't you finished thet one yit?"

Two weeks had slipped by since the arrival of Corson and Miss Manill.
Bull had just been relieved from duty as bullion guard and was only now
returning to the home ranch. In the weeks that he had brought the gold
down from the mine there had been no holdup-The Black Coyote or Gregorio
had not once been seen.

"How's everything?" asked Bull.

"So-so," replied Texas Pete.

"Where's Colby? I gotta report to him."

"Up at the house-he eats there now."

Bull made no comment. He thought he understood why Hal Colby ate at the
house. One day soon, doubtless, he would sleep there, too, as master.

"This Manill heifer got stuck on him an' insists on his eatin' there,"
explained Pete. "Things ain't been the same since them two shorthorns hit
the diggin's. The boss she looks tired and worried all the time an'
sadlike. I reckon she ain't got no more use fer 'em than the rest o' us."

"Is Colby gone on this Manill girl?" asked Bull.

"I dunno. Sometimes I reckons he is an' sometimes I reckons he ain't.
Looks like as if he weren't quite sure which side his bread was buttered
on an' he's waitin' to find out."

Bull busied himself arranging his blankets on his old bunk, working in
silence. Texas Pete eyed him surreptitiously. There was a troubled look
in Pete's eyes. Presently he coughed nervously. The two men were alone in
the bunkhouse.

"Say, Bull," Pete finally broke the silence, "you an' me's ben good
pals."

Bull looked up from the work of folding his tarpaulin. "Who said we
ain't?" he inquired.

"Nobody ain't said we ain't," Pete assured him.

"Then what's eatin' you?"

"It's only just what everybody's sayin', Bull," said Pete. "I thort you'd
better know about it."

"What?"

"Thet you an' The Black Coyote air the same feller. Not thet it makes any
difference with me. I ain't askin' whether you air or whether you ain't.
I'm just a-tellin' you fer your own good."

Bull smiled one of his slow smiles. "If I wasn't I'd say so, wouldn't I?"
he asked.

"I reckon you would."

"An' if I was I'd say I wasn't, wouldn't I?"

"I reckon you would," assented Pete.

"Then what the hell's the use o' sayin' anything?" he demanded. "And
'specially when I don't give a damn what they think."

Pete shook his head. "I dunno," he said.

Bull started for the doorway. "I'm goin' up to the house to report to
Colby," he said.

"Look out thet Manill heifer don't git her grubhooks on you," cautioned
Pete.

In the office he found Diana Henders writing a letter. She looked up with
a little start as she heard his voice.

"Oh, Bull!" she cried, "I'm so glad you're back."

"Thanks, Miss. I come up to report to Colby, but I see he ain't here."

"He's in the living-room with Mr. Corson and Miss Manill," she told him.

"I reckon I'll see him later then." He started to leave.

"Don't go, Bull," she said. "I want to talk with you. Please sit down."

He walked toward her and lowered himself into the big easy chair that had
been her father's. His movements were like those of a lion-silent,
powerful and yet without stealth.

For the first time in weeks the sense of loneliness that had constantly
oppressed her vanished. Bull was back! It was as if a big brother had
come home after a long absence-that was why she was so glad to see him.
Her heart forgot the thing that her reason had been practically convinced
of-that Bull was the bandit of Hell's Bend-that it was Bull who had been
robbing her father and her for months-that it was

Bull who had shot Mack Harber.

She only knew that she felt relief and safety when Bull was near. Nearly
everyone feared him-many hated him. Could they all be wrong? Could she
alone be right in believing in him?-as her heart did against the wise
counseling of reason.

"Yes, Miss?" he said, interrogatively.

"The Wainrights are trying to buy the ranch again, Bull," she said, "and
Mr. Corson seems to favor the idea."

"Do you want to sell?" he asked.

"No, I do not; but the worst of it is the price they want to accept-two
hundred and fifty thousand dollars for all our holding-ranch, cattle and
mine. They are bringing all kinds of pressure to bear on me. Mr. Corson
says I must either buy them out or agree to the sale. I haven't the cash
to buy them out and they won't take my notes."

"Don't sell, Miss, at that price, an' don't sell at all if you don't want
to-they can't force you to sell."

"But they make it so unpleasant for me, and Mr. Corson is always telling
me that the bottom has fallen out of the live-stock business and that the
new vein in the mine doesn't exist."

"The live-stock business is all right, Miss. It wasn't never better, an'
as fer the new vein that's all right too. I was scratchin' around a
little bit myself while I was up there these past six weeks. The gold's
there all right. The trouble is that you ain't got the right man up
there-that new superintendent looks to me like a sharper. Did you know
the Wainrights was up there often?"

"No! really?"

"Yes, an' that superintendent is thick as thieves with 'em."

"He has no business to permit them on the property."

"He does though," said Bull, "but he raised thunder when he found I'd
been snootin' around the workings. I don't like that hombre, Miss."

"Everybody seems to be against me, Bull, and it's so hard to know what to
do, now that Dad's gone. Mr. Corson and my cousin are nagging at me all
the time to agree to sell. Sometimes I am almost determined to just to
get rid of them."

"If you want to get rid o' them, Miss, that's easy," said Bull. "All you
gotta do is say so an' I'll run 'em off the ranch an' outta the county. I
wouldn't like nothin' better."

"I thought you had taken quite a fancy to my cousin, coming in on the
stage," said Diana.

"The only rope she could ever have on me, Miss, is that she's your
cousin," replied Bull, and she knew that he meant it. "If you want me to
run 'em out of the country, say the word, an' I'll start 'em in ten
minutes-an' keep 'em on the jump, too."

"I'm afraid that wouldn't do, Bull," she said, smiling.

"I don't see why not," he replied.

Just then, Hal Colby entered the room. He nodded to Bull.

"You back?"

Bull took no notice of a question so obviously foolish.

"How long you ben back?" continued Colby.

"'Bout half an hour."

"Why didn't you report?" Colby was vexed. The easy familiarity of Bull's
attitude, stretched comfortably as he was in Mr. Henders' chair, and in
pleasant converse with Diana, galled him.

"Ain't you got eyes?" inquired Bull. "Cain't you see me sittin' here
reportin' to my boss?"

"You're supposed to report to me," snapped Colby.

"I'm apt to do lots of things I ain't supposed to do," Bull told him
softly.

"I reckon most everybody knows that, too," said Colby, meaningly.

"Come!" cried Diana. "Don't you boys quarrel-I have troubles enough now.
Bull was looking for you to report, when he came up here," she told
Colby. "He asked for you.".

"Why didn't he say so, then? I got some work for him an' I ben expectin'
him all day."

"Well, I'm here," said Bull. "What do you want me to do?" His voice,
unlike Colby's, carried no trace of anger, if he felt any.

"Cramer wants off a few days an' I want you to go over to the West Ranch
an' look after the hosses 'til he comes back. They's some colts over
there that needs to be rid-Cramer'll tell you all there is to do."

"When do you want me to go?"

"Tonight-that'll give Cramer a chance to git an early start in the
mornin'."

"All right," said Bull, rising. "Good night, Miss."

"Good night, Bull. I may ride over while you're at the West Ranch. I've
been intending to look the place over for a month or more. Cramer said we
needed some new corrals."

He nodded and left the room.

"I don't see how you kin be decent to a feller what's ben robbin' you an'
your dad fer months," said Colby, after Bull had left. "' Er mebby you
don't believe it even now?"

"I know it looks suspicious, Hal; but it's so hard to believe it of Bull.
I hate to believe it. I almost don't believe it. You are hard on him
because you don't like him."

"Didn't I tell you he was one of my best friends-you know that-'til I got
wise to his game. I ain't a-wantin' no rattle-snake like thet as no
friend o' mine."

Diana sighed and rose wearily from her chair. "I'm going to wash up for
supper," she said.

She had been gone but a moment when Corson entered the office.

"Well," he asked, "has she changed her mind?"

"I didn't say nothing about the matter to her," replied Colby. "It
wouldn't have done no good after what I hears Bull atellin' her just
afore I come in the room."

"What was that?" demanded Corson.

"He was a-tellin' her not to sell, an' furthermore he offers to run you
an' Miss Manill outta the country if she gives the word."

"What did she say to that?" Corson's voice showed indications of
nervousness.

"Oh, she wouldn't stand fer that o' course; but he's a dangerous feller
to have around her. He's got too damn much influence over her."

"I wish we could get rid of him," said Corson. "It seems funny that he
isn't arrested, when everyone knows he's The Black Coyote."

"He'll run his neck into a noose one o' these days," replied Colby.

"But in the meantime he may spoil this deal with Wainright," said Corson,
"and I've got my heard set. on that. I want to get out of this damned
country. It gives me the willies. Too many Indians, and coyotes, and
irresponsible kids with firearms-it isn't safe."

"I don't see why you are so anxious to sell now," said Colby. "You can
get more if you half try."

"That would mean going back to New York. There isn't any capital out
here. Wainright is a find, pure and simple. I can't chance taking the
time to arrange a deal back East-I don't know what Miss Henders would be
up to out here. What Miss Manill wants to do is get some ready money out
of it quick and get out. I guess there's only one thing to do and that's
to spring my last card on the girl. I'd rather have done it an easier
way, but she's so damn stubborn she's forcing me to it."

"To what?" asked Colby.

Corson leaned close to him and whispered for several minutes into his
ear.

When he was through Colby leaned back in his chair and whistled. "You
don't mean it!" he exclaimed.

"Wainright is coming over to Hendersville on the stage tomorrow and I
want to get this matter settled with the Henders girl so that I can have
something definite to say to him. I think she's coming around all right
now that she is commencing to realize that the mine's about played out
and that the cattle business isn't much better. Of course it don't make
much difference what she thinks about it except that she could make it
mighty unpleasant around here if she wanted to."

"She shore could make if unpleasant fer you and Wainright ef she wanted
to," agreed Colby, "an don't fool yourself that she thinks the business
ain't worth nothin'. Ef you had her thinkin' so today, Bull's give her
something new to think about since he was here."

"How's that?" demanded Corson.

"I Learn him tellin' her he'd been diggin' 'round in the mine while he
was up there an' that he knows the new vein's rich as all get-out, an' he
told her the cattle business was all right, too. I reckon she'll believe
him afore she will you."

Corson bit his lip. "That settles it!" he exclaimed. "I've fooled around
long enough. I'm going to tell her tonight."

Outside the bunk-house some of the men were washing for supper. Inside,
Bull was rolling and roping his bed preparatory to moving to the West
Ranch after the evening meal.

"What yuh doin'?" demanded Texas Pete. "Yuh ain't quit?"

"Goin' over to the West Ranch-Cramer's gettin' off fer a spell,"
explained Bull.

"Looks like they weren't crazy fer your company here," remarked Pete.

Bull shrugged his shoulders and went on with the business of
half-hitches, to the final knot, after which he tossed the bed-roll onto
his bunk.

"I shouldn't think you'd stay on, Bull," said Texas Pete. "Let's pull our
freight. I ain't never ben to Calyforny-hev you'?"

The ex-foreman shook his head. "I got my own reasons fer stayin' on a
spell yet, Pete," he said.

Pete said nothing more on the subject. Bull's answer to his suggestion
that they leave the country troubled him, however. It was not Diana
Henders who was keeping Bull, of that Pete was certain, because Hal Colby
had long since as much admitted that he, Colby, was engaged to marry the
dainty boss.

It, wasn't because of any love he had for the job, either-Texas Pete knew
that-for Colby had never made Bull's job any too easy since the former
had become foreman, and Bull was not staying because he loved Colby. It
was true that he never spoke a derogatory word concerning him, nor once
had he criticized his methods as foreman, but Texas Pete knew as well as
though Bull had told him that the latter had no use for the foreman.

What was it, then, that was keeping Bull? Texas Pete's loyalty to his
friend made it difficult for him to harbor the only answer that his
knowledge of events permitted him to entertain; but that answer to the
question persisted in obtruding itself upon his consciousness.

If Bull, was, after all, The Black Coyote he could not work to better
advantage as a bandit than while in the employ of the Bar Y outfit, where
he could easily obtain first-hand knowledge of every important bullion
shipment.

"By gollies!" soliloquized Texas Pete, "I don't give a durn ef he be, but
I'll be durned ef I believe it yit!',

At the house Hal Colby was talking earnestly to Lillian Manill in the
sitting room. Supper had not yet been served, Carson had gone to his room
to clean up and Diana had not yet come down.

"Look here. Lill," Colby was saying. "I don't like the way Corson's
treatin' Di. I think a heap o' thet little girl an' I don't want to see
her git the worst of it."

Lillian Manill reached up and encircled his neck with her arms. "I
thought you were all over that, Hal," she said. "You've been telling me
how much you love me, but how do you expect me to believe it if you're
always thinking of her and not ever considering my interests. You want
her to have all the property and you don't want me to have any. You don't
love me!"

"Yes, I do, Lill-I'm crazy about you," he insisted.

"Then act like it," she advised him, "and quit siding with her all the
time. I'm going to be a rich girl, Hal, and we can have a mighty good
time after we're married, if you don't go and make a fool of yourself and
try to keep me out of what rightly belongs to me."

"I ain't always so durned sure you're goin' to marry me," he said
gloomily. "You've ben pretty thick with thet feller Corson, an' he's
sweet on you-enny fool c'd tell thet."

"Oh, pshaw!" exclaimed Lillian Manill, laughing lightly; "why, Maurice is
only like a big brother to me. Now give me a kiss and tell me that you
won't let Diana or anyone else steal all our money." She drew his face
down to hers and their lips met in a long kiss.

When they separated Colby was panting heavily. "Gawd!" he exclaimed
huskily. "I'd commit murder fer you."

In the shadows of the hall stood Maurice B. Corson, scowling darkly upon
them through the partially opened doorway. Presently he coughed
discreetly and a moment later entered the room, where he found Lillian
idly turning sheets of music at the piano, while Colby was industriously
studying a picture that hung against the wall.

Corson accosted them with a pleasant word and a jovial smile, and a
minute later Diana Henders entered the room and the four went in to
supper. The meal, like its predecessors for some weeks, was marked by
noticeable constraint. The bulk of the conversation revolved about the
weather, about the only thing that these four seemed to have in common
that might be openly discussed, and as Arizona summer weather does not
offer a wide field for discussion the meals were not conspicuous for the
conversational heights attained. Nor was this one any exception to the
rule. When it was nearly over Carson cleared his throat as is the habit
of many when about to open an unpleasant subject after long deliberation.

"Miss Henders," he commenced.

Hal Colby arose. "I gotta see Bull before he leaves," he announced
hastily, and left the room.

Corson started again. "Miss Henders," he repeated, "I have a painful duty
to perform. I have tried to work in harmony with you, but I have never
met with any cooperation on your part, and so I am forced to reveal a
fact that we might successfully have gotten around had you been willing
to abide by my judgment in the matter of the sale of the property."

"And what fact is that?" asked Diana, politely.

"We will get to it presently," he told her. "Now, my dear young lady,
your father's death has left you in very unfortunate circumstances, but,
of course, as is natural, Miss Manill wants to do what she can for you."

"I am afraid that I do not understand," said Diana. "Lillian and I have
suffered equally in the loss of our fathers and uncles, and together we
have inherited the responsibilities of a rather large and sometimes
cumbersome business. I am sure that we wish to help one another as much
as possible-I as much as she."

"I am afraid that you do not understand, Miss Henders," said Corson,
solemnly. "By the terms of your uncle's will everything would have gone
to your father had he survived Mr. Manill, but he did not. Your father
made a similar will, leaving everything to your uncle. So you see, Miss
Henders!" Corson spread his palms and raised his brows in a gesture of
helplessness.

"I must be very dense," said Diana, "for I am sure I do not know even yet
what you are driving at, Mr. Corson."

"It is just this," he explained; "your father left everything to your
uncle-your uncle left everything to his daughter. It is very sad, Miss
Henders-Miss Manill has grieved over it a great deal; but the law is
clear-it leaves you penniless."

"But it is not what was intended and there must be another will,"
exclaimed Diana. "Uncle John and Dad both wished that, when they were
gone, the estate should be divided equally between their lawful
heirs-half and half. Dad left such a will and it was his understanding
that Uncle John had done likewise-and I know he must have for he was the
soul of honor. Their wills were identical-Dad has told me so more than
once. They had such implicit confidence in one another that each left
everything to the other with the distinct understanding that eventually
it all was to go to the heirs of both, as I have explained."

"I do not doubt that your father left such a will, if you say he did; but
the fact remains that Mr. Manill did not," said Mr. Corson, emphatically.

"But you shall not want, Miss Henders. Your cousin will see to that. She
has already authorized me to arrange for an annuity that will keep you
from want until you are married-we thought best not to continue it beyond
that time for obvious reasons."

"You mean," asked Diana, dully, "that I have nothing? That I am a
pauper-that even this roof under which I have lived nearly all my life
does not belong, even in part, to me-that I have no right here?"

"Oh, please, don't say that, dear!" exclaimed Lillian Manill. "You shall
stay here just as long as you wish. You will always be welcome in my
home."

"My home!" Diana suppressed a sob that was partially grief and partially
rage. The injustice of it! To take advantage of a technicality to rob her
of all that rightly belonged to her. She was glad though that they had
come out into the open at last-why had they not done so before?

"Of course," said Corson, "as Miss Manill says, you are welcome to remain
here as long as the property is in her hands, but, as you know, we have
received an advantageous offer for it and so it is only fair to tell you
that you might as well make your plans accordingly."

"You are going to sell to Wainright for two hundred and fifty thousand?"
asked Diana.

Corson nodded. Diana rose and walked the length of the room, then she
turned and faced them. "No, you are not going to sell, Mr. Corson, if
there is any way in which I can prevent it. You are not going to steal my
property so easily. Why have you been attempting all these weeks to
persuade me to agree to a sale if you knew all along that I had no
interest whatsoever in the property?" she demanded suddenly.

"That was solely due to a desire on our part to make it as easy as
possible for you," he explained, suavely. "Your cousin would have given
you half the purchase price rather than have had to tell you the truth,
Miss Henders; but you have forced it upon us. She desires to sell. It is
her property. You alone stood in the way. You have been your own worst
enemy, Miss Henders. You might have had one hundred and twenty-five
thousand dollars had you not been stubborn-now you must be content with
whatever Miss Manill sees fit to allow you in the way of annuity."

Diana squared her shoulders as she faced them. "Miss Manill shall give me
nothing-I will not accept as a gratuity what rightfully belongs to me. If
you think, Mr. Corson, that you are going to take my property away from
me without a fight, you are mistaken," and she wheeled about and started
for the doorway.

"Wait a moment, Miss Henders!" cried the New Yorker. "I am a lawyer and I
know how expensive litigation is. Such a case as you contemplate, and I
take it for granted that you purpose taking the matter to court when you
say 'fight,' might drag on for years, wasting the entire property in
attorneys' fees and legal expense, so that neither of you would get
anything-I have seen such things happen scores of times.

"Now, let us rather compromise. We were willing to make you a gift of
half the purchase price immediately on the consummation of the sale to
Mr. Wainright. That offer is still open. It is extremely fair and
generous and if you will take my advice you will accept it."

"Never!" snapped Diana.

Corson and Lillian sat in silence listening to Diana's foot-falls as she
ascended the stairs. Presently they heard her door close, then the girl
turned upon Corson. "You poor sucker, you!" she exclaimed. "What do you
think you are, offering her a hundred and twenty-five thousand when we
don't have to give her a cent!"

"Don't be a hog, Lill," advised the man. "We'll get enough, and if we can
save a lot of trouble we'd better let her have the hundred and
twenty-five. You can't tell what these people out here'll do.

"Take that Bull fellow, for instance-he's already offered to run us out
of the country if she says to. Look what he did to old man Wainright, for
instance. Why, say, there are a lot of her friends here that would think
no more of shooting us full of holes than they would of eating their
Sunday dinners, if she just so much as hinted that she thought we were
trying to do her out of anything.

"And we'll be getting plenty, anyway-you and I get a third and Wainright
gets the other third-and that mine is worth millions. Why, we could
afford to give her the whole two hundred and fifty thousand dollars if
she'd agree to the sale."

"I'm not so keen as you on giving my money away," replied Lillian.

"Your money, hell," he replied. "You wouldn't have anything if it wasn't
for me, and as for that measly little hundred and twenty-five thousand,
why, it'll cost us all of that to square these people around here before
we get through with it-I've promised Colby ten thousand already, and say,
speaking of Colby, I saw you two in the sitting room before supper. You
got to lay off that business-you're getting too thick with that fellow to
suit me. You belong to me," he added suddenly and fiercely.

"Oh, come on, Maurice, don't be silly," replied Lillian. "You told me to
get him on our side. How did you suppose I was going to do it-by making
faces at him?"

"Well, you don't have to go too far. I heard you telling him what you two
would do after you were married. You may be a good little actress, Lill,
but that kiss you gave him looked too damn realistic to suit me. I'm not
going to have you running off with him after you get your mitts on a
little money."

"Say, you don't think I'd marry that rube, do you?" and Lillian Manill
burst into peals of laughter.

Colby found Bull in the bunk-house.

"Bull," he said, "I wish you'd ride up Belter's tomorrer an' see how the
water's holdin' out."

"Listen, Bull," said Texas Pete, "I got the rest of it:

"An' so we lines up at the bar, twelve or more;

The boss tries to smile, but he caint, he's so sore.

The stranger says: 'Pronto! you -dum little runt.'

Jest then we hears someone come in at the front,

"An' turnin' to look we see there in the door

A thin little woman-my gosh, she was pore!-

Who lets her eyes range 'til they rest on this bloke

With funny ideas about what was a joke.

"She walks right acrost an' takes holt o' his ear.

'You orn'ry old buzzard,' she says, 'you come here!'

He give us a smile thet was knock-kneed an' lame,

An', 'Yes, dear, I'm comin'!' he says, an' he came."



CHAPTER XIII

THE NECKTIE PARTY

WHEN Diana Henders left the dining room after hearing Corson's
explanation of her status as an heir to the estate of her father and
uncle she definitely severed relations with the two whom she now firmly
believed had entered into a conspiracy to rob her of her all. The
following day she ate her meals in the kitchen with Wong to whom she
confided her troubles. The old Chinaman listened intently until she was
through, then he arose and crossed the kitchen to a cupboard, a crafty
smile playing over his wrinkled, yellow countenance.

"Me fixee-me no likum," he said, as he returned with a phial of white
powder in his hand.

"O, Wong! No! No!" cried the girl, grasping instantly the faithful
servitor's intent. "You mustn't do anything so horrible as that. Promise
me that you won't."

"All lightee jest samee you say," he replied with a shrug, and returned
the phial to the cupboard.

"I'm going away tonight, Wong," she told him, "and I want you to promise
me that nothing like that will happen while I am away and that you will
stay until I return. There is no one else I could trust to look after the
house."

"You clomee backee?"

"Yes, Wong, I'm going to Hendersville tonight so that I can catch the
stage for Aldea in the morning. I am going to take the train for Kansas
City and consult some of Dad's friends and get them to recommend a good
lawyer. You'll take care of things for me, Wong?"

"You bletee blootee!"

That afternoon she sent for Hal Colby wid told him what Corson had said
to her. Colby seemed ill at ease and embarrassed.

"I'm mighty sorry, Di, " he said, but I don't see what you kin do about
it. If I was you I'd accept half the purchase price. They got you
dead-to-rights an' you won't make no money fightin' 'em."

"Well, I won't accept it, and I'm surprised that you'd advise me to."

"It's only fer your own good, Di," he assured her. "It ain't Lillian's
fault that your uncle done your dad outen the property. You cain't blame
her fer wantin' what was left to her an' I think it was mighty pretty of
her to offer to split with you."

"I don't," she replied, "and I think there is something behind that offer
that is not apparent on the face of it. I am going to find out, too. I'm
going to Kansas City to hire a lawyer and I'll want the buckboard and one
of the men to drive me to town after supper tonight."

"I'm plumb sorry, Di, but Corson an' Lillian have took the buckboard to
town already."

"Then I'll go on Captain," she said. "Please have him saddled for me
right after supper."

She packed her traveling dress and other necessary articles in a small
bag that could be tied to a saddle, leaving on her buckskin skirt and
blouse for the ride to town, and after supper made her way to the corral
after waiting a few minutes for Captain to be brought to the house and
rather wondering why Hal had neglected to do sir.

To her surprise she discovered that Captain had not even been saddled,
and was, as a matter of fact, still running in the pasture a mile from
the house. She went to the bunk-house to get one of the men to catch him
up, but found it deserted. Prom there she walked to the cook-house, where
she found only the cook setting bread for the morrow.

"Where are all the men?" she asked.

"They's a dance to Johnson's tonight an' some of 'em went there," he told
her. "The rest went to town. Idaho, Shorty an' Pete went to the dance."

"Where's Hal?"

"I reckon he went to town-I ain't seen him since this arternoon some
time."

"Did Willie go too?"

"No'm, he's here sommers-hey, Willie! You Willie!"

Willie appeared from the outer dusk. "Oh, Willie," said Diana, "won't you
please catch Captain up for me and saddle him?"

"You ain't goin' to ride tonight all alone, be you?" he asked.

"I've got to get to town, Willie, and Hal forgot to tell anyone to ride
with me," she explained.

"Well, I'll go along with you," said Willie. "I'll have the hosses
saddled pronto," and off he ran.

Ten minutes later they were in the saddle and loping through the rapidly
falling night toward town.

"I can't understand how Hal happened to let all the boys go at the same
time," she said, half musingly. "It was never done before and it isn't
safe."

"Bull wouldn't never have done it," said Willie. "Bull was a top-notch
foreman."

"You like Bull?" she asked.

"You bet I do," declared Willie, emphatically; "don't you?"

"I like all the boys," she replied.

"Bull wouldn't never have left you here alone at night. He set a heap o'
store by you, Miss." Willie was emboldened to speak freely because of the
darkness that would cover any sudden embarrassment he might feel if he
went too far. The same darkness covered Diana's flush-a flush of
contrition that she harbored a belief in Bull's villainy.

Before they entered Hendersville they became aware that something unusual
was going on in town. They could hear the hum of excited voices above
which rose an occasional shout, and as they rode into the single street
they saw a hundred figures surging to and fro before Gum's Place. A man
stood on the veranda of the saloon haranguing the crowd.

"This business has gone fer enough," he was saying as Diana and Willie
paused at the outskirts of the crowd. "It's high time we put a end to it.
You all knows who's a-Join' it as well as I do. What we orter do is ride
out 'n git him tonight-they's a bunch o' cottonwoods where he is right
handy an' we got plenty o' ropes in the cow-country. Who's with me?"

Two score voices yelled in savage assurance of their owners' hearty
cooperation.

"Then git your bronchs," cried the speaker, "an' we'll go after him an'
git him!"

Diana saw that the orator was Hal Colby. She turned to one of the men who
was remaining as the majority of the others hastened after their ponies.

"What is it all about?" she asked. "What has happened?"

The man looked up at her, and as he recognized her, pulled off his hat
awkwardly. "Oh, it's you, Miss Henders! Well, you see, the stage was held
up ag'in today an' Mack Harber was kilt-it was his first trip since he
was wounded that time. It was the first trip, too, since Bull quit
guardin' the gold, an' a lot o' the fellers has got it in their heads
thet it's Bull as done it.

"'Tain't no sech thing!" cried a little old man, near-by, "'tain't Bull."

The speaker was Wildcat Bob. "I don't like to think so neither," said the
first man; "but it shore looks bad fer him-the fellers is all bet up.
There ain't one in thet crowd but what would lynch his grin-maw ef he had
another drink, an' they sure hev had plenty-Gum's bee settin' 'em up in
there fer a couple hours on the house. Never did see Gum so plumb
liberal."

"He's aimin' to get someone else to go after The Black Coyote," said
Wildcat Bob, "or he wouldn't be so doggone liberal with his rot-gut-he
couldn't git up enough nerve ef he drunk a whole distillery."

"You think they really intend to lynch Bull?" asked the girl.

"They ain't no two ways about it, Miss," said the man she had first
accosted. "They're aimin' to do it an' I reckon they will. You see
they're pretty sore. Mack tried to put up a little fight an' this Black
Coyote feller bored him plumb between the eyes. Then he takes the gold,
cuts all the bosses loose from the stage an' vamooses. Thet's why we
didn't hear oil it 'til just a bit ago, cause they didn't have no way to
git to town only hoofin' it."

Already the avenging mob was gathering. I hey came whooping, reeling in
their saddles. Not one of them, sober, would have gone out after the
ex-foreman of the Bar Y, but, drunk, they forget. ' heir fear of him, and
Diana knew that they would carry out their purpose.

They were going to lynch Bull! It seemed incredible, and yet, could she
blame there? Knowing him as she did she had herself half admitted the
truth of the rumor of his guilt before, this, the latest outrage, that
seemed to fix the responsibility beyond peradventure of a doubt. For the
six weeks that Bull had guarded the bullion there had been no holdup, and
now on the very first stage day after he had been relieved the
depredations had been renewed.

She recalled the fact that he had been seen with Gregorio on the very
afternoon of a previous holdup; she recalled the blood upon his shirt
that same day-the day that Mary Donovan had fired upon the bandits; she
thought of the bag of gold dust that he had displayed at the bunk-house.
There seemed no possible avenue of escape from a belief in his guilt.

The yelling avengers were milling around in a circle in front of Gum's
Place, firing off their guns, cursing, shouting. The sheriff appeared on
the veranda and raised his hand for silence.

"Ah'm sheriff yere," he said. "an as an ahm of the law Ah cain't permit
yo-all to go fen to lynch nobody, but Ah can an' do invite yo-all in to
hev a drink on the house befo' yo go."

There was a wild shout of approval and a scramble for room at the tie
rail. Those who lost out rode their ponies into the saloon, and as the
last of them disappeared, Diana. who had lost sight of Willie in the
jostle and excitement of the past few minutes, turned her pony about and
rode back in the direction from which she had come.

Just beyond the last house she turned abruptly to the left-the Bar Y
ranch lay to the right-urged Captain into a lope and started off through
the darkness toward the west. Presently she struck a well-defined trail
and then with a word and a touch of her spurs she sent Captain into a
run. Swiftly the wiry animal sprang through the night while the beating
of his mistress's heart kept time to the rapid fall of his unshod hoofs.

What was she doing? Was she mad? A dozen times Diana Henders repeated
those questions to herself, but the only answer was a monotonous cadence
that beat upon her brain, reasonless, to the accompaniment of Captain's
flying hoofs:

They shall not kill him! They shall not kill him! They shall not kill
him!

Constantly she listened for sounds of the coming of the lynching party,
though she knew that she had sufficient start to outdistance them
completely, even had Captain not been the fleet- and powerful runner that
he was. It. was ten miles to the West Ranch from

Hendersville and Captain made it in thirty minutes that night.

Diana threw herself from the saddle at the gate and crawled through the
bars, leaving Captain on wide-stretched feet and with nose to ground
blowing after his hard run, knowing that he would not move from the spot
for some time. She hastened to the darkened cabin and pounded on the
door.

"Bull!" she cried. "Bull!" but there was no answer. Then she opened the
door and entered, fumbling around for a table she found it and matches,
striking one. The cabin, a one-room affair, was empty. Her ride for
nothing! Bull was away, but they would hide in the brush and wait for him
to come back and then they would shoot him down in cold blood, and he
would never have a chance for his life. If she only knew where he had
gone, she might ride out and meet him; but she did not know.

Wait! There was one chance! If he was The Black Coyote he would doubtless
come in from the north or the northeast, for in the latter direction lay
Hell's Bend, the scene of his many holdups.

But it wasn't Bull-it couldn't be Bull-Bull, of all the men in the world,
could never have robbed her, or killed her messenger.

Slowly she returned to Captain, standing with heaving sides and dilated
nostrils. The animal staggered a bit as she mounted, but at a touch of
the rein he turned and walked out into the sagebrush toward the north.
She rode for a quarter of a mile and then she reined in her mount and
called the man's name aloud.

There was no reply and she turned to the east and rode in that direction
for a while, now and then calling "Bull!" her voice sounding strange and
uncanny in her own ears. In the distance a coyote yapped and wailed.

She turned and rode west to a point beyond the cabin and then back again,
establishing a beat where she might hope to intercept the returning Bull
before he reached the danger of the ambush. At intervals she called his
name aloud, and presently she halted frequently to listen for the coming
of the lynchers.

It was a matchless Arizona night. The myriad stars blazing in the
blue-black vault of infinite space cast their radiance softly upon vale
and height, relieving the darkness with a gentle luminosity that rendered
distant objects discernible in mass, if not in form, and because of it
Diana saw the black bulk of the approaching horsemen while they were yet
a considerable distance away, and, seeing them, dared not call Bull's
name aloud again.

The mob rode silently now-a grim and terrible shadow creeping through the
darkness to lay bloody hands upon its prey. A quarter of a mile from the
cabin it halted while its members dismounted and, leaving a few to hold
the horses, the balance crept stealthily' forward on foot.

Diana, too, had dismounted, knowing that she would be less conspicuous
thus, and was leading Captain over a circuitous trail toward the north
and east. The girl knelt and placed an ear to the ground.

Faintly, as though at a great distance, she heard the rhythmic pounding
of a horse's hoofs. He was coming-loping through the night, Bull was
coming-all unconscious of what awaited him there in the darkness. He was
riding to his death. She hastened forward a short distance and listened
again. If the sounds should be plainer now she would be sure that he was
coming from the northeast.

The self-appointed posse crept toward the cabin and according to a
general plan imparted to them by Colby, separated into two sections and
surrounded it, finally worming their way close in on hands and knees,
taking advantage of the cover of the sage to shield them from the sight
of the man they believed to be there, then Colby arose and walked boldly
to the door. Knocking, he called Bull's name aloud. There was no
response.

"Hey, Bull!" cried Colby again, in a friendly voice, "it's Hal." Still no
reply. Colby pushed the door open and entered. Of all the motley crew
that followed him he alone had the courage to do the thing that he was
doing now. He struck a match and lighted a candle that stood on the rude
table, embedded in its own grease in the cover of a baking powder can.

A brief survey of the interior showed him that it was untenanted. He
extinguished the light and returned to his party where word was passed
around that they were to remain quietly in hiding where they were until
the quarry carte.

In the meantime a lone horseman had thrown himself from a half-spent pony
in the Bar Y ranch yard and seeing a light in the cook-house had burst in
upon the astonished cook. "What in all tarnation's the matter of ye,
Wildcat Bob?" he demanded.

"Where's Bull?" asked the little old man.

"Reckon he's over at the West Ranch-leastways there's where he's supposed
to be, why?"

"Warn't they a gang o' the boys jest here lookin' for him?"

"No."

A burst of lurid profanity filled the room as Wildcat Bob explained j ust
how he felt and what he thought of himself.

"They set out to lynch Bull," he explained finally, "an' I supposin' o'
course thet he was here got away ahead o' 'em, an' now, ding-bust my
ornery of carcabs, like as not they already got him over at the West
Ranch. Where's the rest o' the boys? Where's Texas Pete? You don't reckon
thet critter's with Colby, do you?"

"Not by a long shot," replied the cook. "He'd stick up fer Bull ef he
massacreed the whole durn county. So'd Shorty an' Idaho, but they ain't
none o' 'em here-they's all down to Johnson's to a dance."

"Well," said Wildcat Bob, "I done my best, which same ain't no good. Ef I
hed a hoss instead o' a hunk o' coyote fodder I'd try to git to the West
Ranch in time, but I reckon they ain't no chanct now. Howsumever I'll do
the best I kin. So-long!" and he was gone.

A half-hour later his horse fell dead a mile north of Hendersville while
his rider was taking a short cut straight across country for the West
Ranch. It was a warm and lurid Wildcat Bob who plodded through the dust
of Hendersville's lone thoroughfare and stopped at the veranda of The
Donovan House some time later to be accosted by one of a group gathered
there in semi-silent expectancy.

"The saints be praised!" exclaimed Mary Donovan. "Is it a banchee or is
it not?"

"It's worse," said Bill Gatlin, the stage driver; "it's Wildcat
Bob-walkin'."

"Did they git the poor b'y?" demanded Mary, whereat the little old
gentleman burst forth anew with such a weird variety of oaths that Mr.
Jefferson Wainright, Jr., could feel the hot flush that mounted to his
ears fairly scorching his skin.

"Ef I ever gits a-hold o' the blankety, blank, blank thet loaned me that
blankety, blank, blank ewenecked, ring-boned, spavined excuse fer a
cayuse I'll cut his heart out," announced Wildcat Bob in a high falsetto.

Finally Mary Donovan inveigled the facts from him. "Ye done well, Bob,
thet ye did," she assured him. "Shure an' how was yese to know thet he
wasn't at the home ranch."

"I shouldn't think you'd care if they did hang a bandit and murderer,"
declared Mr. Jefferson Wainright, Jr.

"Who in the hell told you to think, you durn dude?" screamed Wildcat Bob,
reaching for his gun.

Mr. Wainright sought the greater safety of the office, tipping over his
chair and almost upsetting Mary Donovan in his haste. "Don't shoot!" he
cried. "Don't shoot! I meant no offense."

Wildcat Bob would have followed him within, but Mary Donovan caught him
around the waist and pushed him into a chair. "Be ca'm, Robert," she
soothed him.

As Diana arose to her feet after listening close to the ground for the
second time she was assured by the increased loudness of the sounds she
had heard that the lone rider was rapidly approaching from the northeast
and in that direction she again led Captain, intending to mount once more
as soon as she had reached what she considered a safe distance from the
cabin and the hidden watchers encircling it. She had forged ahead for
about five minutes when the way dipped into a shallow swale in which the
sagebrush grew to greater size.

Here would be a good place to remount, and with this intention
crystallized she wound downward among the scattered brush toward the
bottom, when, rounding a particularly high bush, she came suddenly face
to face with a man leading a horse.

"Stick 'em up!" whispered the man in a low voice, presenting an
evil-looking six-gun at the pit of her stomach.

"Oh, Bull!" she cried in low tones, for she would have known his voice
among thousands.

"You?" he cried. "My gawd, Miss, what are you doin' here?"

"They have come to lynch you, Bull," she told him. "There are forty or
fifty of them lying in the brush around your cabin now. They say that you
held up the stage and killed Mack Harber today."

"And you came to warn me?" His voice sounded far away, as though, groping
for a truth he could not grasp, he spoke half to himself.

"You must go away, Bull," she told him. "You must leave the country."

He paid no attention to her words. "I seen a light flash fer a minute in
the shack," he said, "an' so I reckoned I'd hev a look around before I
come too close. Thet was why I was walkin' when I hearn you.

I was just a-goin' to leave Blazes here an' go ahead an' scout aroun' a
bit. Mount up now an' I'll take you home."

"No," she said, "you get away. I can get home all right-only I have to go
to town. I'm stopping at Mary's tonight."

"I'll ride with you," he insisted.

She knew him well enough to know that he would never let her ride to town
alone through the night and so she mounted as he did and together they
followed the swale which ran in the general direction of Hendersville.

"You say you're stoppin' at Mary's?" he asked.

"Just for tonight. I'm taking the stage for Aldea in the morning. I'm
going to Kansas City to consult a lawyer. They are trying to take the
property away from me, Bull," and then she told him all that had
transpired since yesterday.

"You don't need a lawyer, Miss," he told her. "What you need is a
.two-gun man, only you don't need him, 'cause you got one already. You go
back to the ranch an' come mornin' there won't be airy dude or dudess to
try to put their brand on nothin' that belongs to you."

"Oh, Bull, don't you understand that you mustn't do anything like that?"
she cried. "It would only make things worse than they are now. Wong
wanted to poison them."

"Good of Wong!". interjected Bull.

"But we can't make murderers of ourselves just because they are wicked."

"It ain't murder to kill a rattle-snake," he reminded her.

"But promise me that you won't," she urged.

"I wouldn't do nothin' you didn't want done, Miss," he said.

They were nearing town now and could see the lights plainly, shining
through the windows and doorways. "You'd better go now, Bull," she said.

"Not 'til I get you in town safe," he replied.

"But I'm safe now-it is only a little way, and I'm afraid they might get
you if you came in."

"Shucks, they won't git me now thet I know they're after me," he replied.
"Say, Miss," he exclaimed suddenly, "you ain't asked me ef it was me kilt
Mack."

She drew herself up proudly. "I'll never ask you, Bull," she said.

"But you wouldn't hev come out to warn me ef you'd thought it," he
suggested.

She was silent for a moment, and then: "Yes, I would, Bull," she said in
a very little voice.

He shrugged his shoulders. "As I told Pete, ef I had done it or ef I
hadn't done it, I'd say I hadn't, so what's the use o' wastin' breath;
but I shore appreciates what you've done, Miss."

"And you will go away?" she asked.

"No,'m, I'll stay here. I reckon you need me, Miss, from what you've told
me, so I'll hang around a spell. I'll ride over to the ranch o' nights
now an' then. Ef you happen to hear a meadow-lark settin' up late after
dark you'll know it's me."

"But I'm afraid they'll get you, Bull, if you stay in the country.
They're terribly angry," she warned, him.

"They won't be so keen to find me after they're sobered up a bit," he
said, with a smile. "Colby's the only one thet's got the nerve to go
agin' guns singlehanded."

"I don't see why he hates you so," she said. "I used to think that he
liked you."

"Then all I got to say, Miss, is thet you must be plumb blind," said
Bull.

Diana was evidently not so blind as he thought her, for she flushed
deliciously.

"Now you must turn back," she said. They were almost in town.

"I will, because they mustn't see you ridin' in with me," he replied.

She reined in her horse and held out her hand to him. "Good-bye, Bull,"
she said.

He took her slim hand in his and pressed it strongly. "Good-bye-Diana!"
said Bull.

She spoke to Captain and moved off toward the little town and the man sat
there in the darkness watching her retreating form until it was hidden
behind a corner of The Donovan House.



CHAPTER XIV

BULL SEES COLBY

BULL turned Blazes' head toward the northeast and rode off slowly in the
direction of Coyote Canyon near the head of which there was a wild and
almost inaccessible country just east of Hell's Bend Pass. There was
water there and game for himself, with year round pasture for Blazes.

As he rode he hummed a gay little air, quite unlike the grim, taciturn
Bull that his acquaintances knew, for Bull was happy-happier than he had
been for months.

"An' to think," he mused, "thet she rode out there all alone to warn me.
An' once she said to me, 'Bull,' says she, 'I don't love any man, Bull,
thet way; but if ever I do he'll know it without my tellin' him. I'll do
something thet will prove it-a girl always does.'

"Thet's what she says -them's her very words. I ain't never fergot 'em
an' I ain't never goin' to-even ef I don't believe it. It was just her
good heart that sent her out to warn me-she'd a-done as much fer any of
the boys."

When Diana reined in before those assembled on the veranda of The Donovan
House she was greeted by a gasp of astonishment from Mary Donovan.

"Diana Henders, child!" she exclaimed. "What are ye doin' here this time
o' night? Sure an' l thought ye had gone back to the ranch, after hearin'
ye was in town airlier in the av'nin'."

Diana dismounted without making any reply and tied Captain to the rail in
front of the hotel. As she mounted the steps to the veranda the younger
Wainright rose, politely. Corson and the elder Wainright nodded, the
latter grunting gruffly. Lillian Manill pretended that she did not see
her.

"I am going to stop here tonight, Mrs. Donovan," said Diana to the
proprietress, "that is if you have room for me."

"An' if I didn't I'd be after makin' it," replied the latter.

"I wonder if you'd mind putting Captain up for me, Bob," said Diana,
turning to the Wildcat, and as the old man stepped from the veranda to
comply with her request, Diana turned and entered the office, followed by
Mary Donovan.

"May I have a cup of tea, Mrs. Donovan?" asked the girl. "I feel all
fagged out. This evening has been like a terrible nightmare."

"You mane about poor Bull?" asked Mary.

Diana nodded.

"They ain't back yit," said Mary; "but I suppose they got him, bad 'cess
to 'em."

Diana came close to the older woman and whispered. "They didn't get him.
I just saw him-he brought me to the edge of town."

"Now, the Lord be praised for that!" ejaculated Mary Donovan, "for shure
an' if it's guilty he is I'll not be after belavin' it at all, at all."

"It looks pretty bad for him, Mrs. Donovan," said Diana, "but even so I
can't believe it of him either-I won't believe it."

"An' no more don't yese, darlin'," advised Mary Donovan, "an' now make
yersilf comfortable an' I'll have ye a cup o' tay in no time."

As her hostess left the sitting room by one doorway, Jefferson Wainright,
Jr., appeared in the other which opened from the office, his hat in his
hand.

"May I have just a word with you, Miss Henders?" he asked.

The girl nodded her assent, though none too cordially, and Wainright
entered the little sitting room.

"I can't begin to tell you, Miss Henders," he commenced, after clearing
his throat, "how badly I feel over this matter that Mr. Corson has
explained to us. There isn't any question, of course, about the
unfairness and injustice of it; but the fact remains that the law is the
law, and I don't see how you are going to get around it by fighting
them."

"It is a matter, Mr. Wainright, that I do not care to discuss with you,"
said Diana, rising.

"Wait a minute, Miss Henders," he begged. "That wasn't exactly what I
wanted to discuss with you, though it has a bearing on it. There is a way
out for you and it was that I wanted to talk over. Your - father was a
wealthy man-you have been accustomed to everything that money could buy
in this country. To drop from affluence to penury in a single day is
going to be mighty hard for you, and it is that I want to save you from."

"It is very kind of you, I am sure," she told him, "but I cannot see how
you, of all people, can help me, for your own father is a party to this
whole transaction."

"I think you are a bit hard on him," he said. "You surely cannot blame
him for wanting to drive as good a bargain as possible--he is, first and
last, a business man."

Diana only shrugged her shoulders.

"Now, as I said," continued Mr. Wainright, "there is a way for you to
continue to have, not only the luxuries you have been accustomed to, but
many more, and at the same time to retain the Bar Y Ranch."

She looked up at him questioningly. "Yes!" she said, "and how?"

"By marrying me, Miss Henders. You know I love you. You know there is
nothing I would not do for you. There is no sacrifice that I would not
willingly and gladly make for you. I would die for you, dear girl, and
thank God for the chance."

Diana Henders' lip curled in scorn. "It seems to me that I heard you make
that very assertion once before, Mr. Wainright, and in those self-same
words-the night before you ran away, like the coward you are, and left us
at the mercy of the Apaches.

"If you had half the courage that you have effrontery, the lion would
appear a mouse by comparison. Please, never mention the subject to me
again, nor is there any reason why you should ever address me upon any
subject. Good night!"

"You'll regret this," he cried as he was leaving the room. "You'll see if
you don't. You might have had one friend, and a good one, on your
side-now you haven't any. We'll strip you to the last cent for this, and
then you'll marry some ignorant, unwashed cow-puncher and raise brats in
a tumble-down shack for the rest of your life-that's what you'll do!"

"An do yuh know what you'll do?" demanded a squeaky voice behind him.

Jefferson Wainright, Jr., turned to see Wildcat Bob glaring at him from
the center of the office floor. The young man turned a sickly hue and
glanced hurriedly for an avenue of escape, but the Wildcat was between
him and the outer doorway and was reaching for one of his terrible guns.

With a half-stifled cry Wainright sprang into the sitting room and ran to
Diana. Seizing her he whirled the girl about so that she was between him
and the Wildcat's weapon.

"My God, Miss Henders, don't let him shoot me! I'm unarmed-it would be
murder. Save me! Save me!"

His screams brought his father, Corson, Lillian Manill and Mary Donovan
to the room, where they saw the younger Wainright kneeling in abject
terror behind Diana's skirts.

"What's the meanin' of all this?" yelled the elder Wainright.

"Your son insulted me-he asked me to marry him," said Diana. "Let him go,
Bob," she directed the Wildcat.

"Gosh-a-mighty, Miss!" exclaimed the old man in an aggrieved tone, "yuh
don't mean it, do yuh? Why, I just ben honin' fer a chanct to clean up
this here whole bunch o' tin-horns an' now that I got an excuse it don't
seem right to let it pass. By cracky, it ain't right! 'Tain't moral,
that's what it ain't!"

"Please, Bob-I've got trouble enough-let him go.

Slowly Wildcat Bob returned his gun to its holster, shaking his head
mournfully, and Jefferson Wainright, Jr., arose and sneaked out of the
room. As his party returned to the veranda the young man's father was
growling and spluttering in an undertone, but Wildcat Bob caught the
words "law" and "sheriff."

"What's thet?" he demanded in his high falsetto.

The elder Wainright cringed and stepped rapidly through the doorway.
"Nothin'," he assured the Wildcat. "I didn't calc'late to say nothin' at
all."

It was almost morning when the weary and now sobered members of the
necktie party returned to town. Gum Smith and several others, among whom
was Wildcat Bob, met them in the street.

"Git him?" demanded the sheriff.

"No," replied Colby, "an' I don't savvy it neither-someone must o' put
him wise; but I got some evidence," and he drew a worn leather pouch from
his shirt. "Here's one o' the bullion bags that was took from the stage
yesterday-I found it under his blankets. He may o' ben there an' saw us
comin', but thet ain't likely 'cause we snuck up mighty keerful-someone
must o' put him wise."

"Ah wondeh who-all it could o' ben," wondered Gum Smith.

As the crowd was dispersing. Wildcat Bob caught sight of Willie among
them.

"Hey, thar, you!" he called. "What was you doin' with thet bunch-I
thought you claimed to be a friend o' Bull's."

"Course I am," maintained Willie, stoutly; "but I hain't never seed no
one hanged."

A few hours later Diana Henders left on the stage for Aldea and after she
had departed Cot son and Lillian Manill rode back to the ranch, taking
the Wainrights with them, while Hal Colby trotted along beside them. He
had .not seer Diana before she left, nor had he made any effort. to do
so.

"We might save a right smart o' rouble if we could get everything fixed
up before she gets back, Corson," the elder Wainright was saying.

"The government patent to the land as well as Manill's will are in the
New York office," replied Corson. "I've sent for them. They ought to be
along now any time. I rather expected them on yesterday's stage-they
certainly must come in on the next and I imagine she won't get back for a
week at least-that will give us three days. Then we'll all go to Aldea,
have the papers drawn up there, you turn the money over to us and Miss
Manill and I can get away for New York on the train that night-I've had
all of this damn country I want."

Hal Colby, fortunately for his peace of mind, did not overhear the
conversation. It outlined an entirely different plan from that which
Lillian Manill had explained to him only the preceding day-a plan which
included a hasty wedding and a long honeymoon, during which the Bar Y
foreman would taste the sweets of world travel in company with a charming
and affectionate bride.

"You're goin' to leave me here to run all the risk, eh?" demanded
Wainright, senior.

"Oh, there's no risk now that that Bull fellow is out of the way," Corson
assured him.

"I wish I was sure he was out o' the way," said Wainright, dubiously. "I
don't like that fellow a little bit."

"He'll never show up again," said Corson, confidently, "and anyway, just
as soon as I get to New York I'll look up a good man to represent me
here, and I'm going to pick the toughest one I can find in New York,
too."

"I'm afraid I'm buyin' a heap o' trouble with that one-third interest of
mine," said Wainright, scratching his head.

"But look what you're going to get out of it," Corson reminded him. "I'll
bet we take a million out of that mine in the next year."

Back at the ranch Colby was met by a scowling trio--'Texas Pete, Shorty,
and Idaho. "Where's Bull?" demanded Texas.

"How should I know?" replied Colby, gruffly. "When was I elected his
nurse-girl?"

"You went out after him with a bunch o' drunken short-horns last night,"
accused Shorty. "You know whether you got him or not."

"They didn't git him," said Colby, shortly.

"It's a good thing fer you, Colby, thet they didn't," said Texas Pete,
"an' another thing--we wants our time. We ain't a-aimin' to work under no
pole-cat no more."

"I reckon we kin git along without you," retorted Colby, ignoring the
insult. "You kin come back here in a week fer your checks-the boss ain't
here."

"Then we'll stay 'til she is," said Pete.

"Suit yerselves," replied Colby, as he turned and walked away.

The routine of the ranch moved in its accustomed grooves as the days
passed, though there was noticeably absent the spirit of good-fellowship
that marks the daily life of a well-ordered cow outfit. A little coterie,
headed by Texas Pete, herded by itself, in the vernacular of the West,
while the remaining punchers grouped themselves about the foreman.

Mealtimes, ordinarily noisy with rough but good-natured badinage, had
become silent moments to be gotten through as rapidly as possible. There
was a decorous restraint that was far too decorous, among these rough
men, to augur aught of good. It revealed rather than veiled the proximity
of open hostilities.

There was one topic of conversation that was eschewed particularly. It
would have been the steel to the flint of prejudice which lay embedded in
the powder of partisanship. Bull's name was never mentioned when the
factions were together.

The stage came again to Hendersville on the third day after Diana's
departure. It brought mail for the ranch, but the vaquero who had been
sent from the Bar Y for it tarried longer at Gum's Place-Liquors and
Cigars-than he had intended, with the result that it was well after
supper and quite dark before he delivered it to the office.

As he approached the yellow rectangle of the open office door it may have
been the light shining in his eyes that prevented him seeing the figure
of a man beneath the darkness of the cottonwoods that surround the house,
or the horse, standing as silently as its master, fifty feet away-a
blazed-face chestnut with two white hind feet.

The vaquero entered the office, where Corson was sitting in conversation
with the two Wainrights, and laid the mail upon the table. The New Yorker
picked it up and ran through it. There was a bulky letter addressed to
him, which he opened.

"Here's what we've been waiting for," he said, glancing quickly through
two enclosures and laying them aside to peruse the accompanying letter.

The man beneath the shadows of the cottonwoods moved closer to the open
office doorway, keeping well out of the yellow shaft of the lamp-light.

Bull had not come down to the Bar Y from his hiding place in Coyote
Canyon for the purpose of spying upon Corson. He had hoped against hope
that Diana might return on the day's stage, for he wanted a word with
her. He knew that she could not have made the trip to Kansas City and
return in so short a time, but then she might have changed her mind at
Aldea and given up the trip. It was on this chance that he had come down
out of the mountains tonight.

Diana had not returned-he had convinced himself of this-but still he
tarried. These were her enemies. It could do no harm to keep an eye on
them. He did not like the proprietorial airs of Corson, sitting there in
"the old man's" easy chair, and as for the Wainrights, they too seemed
much more at home than suited Bull. His hand caressed the butt of a
six-gun affectionately.

"Hell!" exclaimed Corson, explosively. "The addle-brained idiot!"

"What's the matter?" inquired the elder Wainright.

Corson was in the midst of the letter. He shook it violently and angrily
in lieu of anything more closely representative of its writer.

"The chump has dug up some papers that we don't want-we don't want 'em in
Arizona at all. He's a new man. I thought he had good sense and
discretion, but he hasn't either. He's sendin' 'em out here by registered
mail.

"If anything happens to them, if they fall into the Henders girl's hands
our goose is cooked. He says they 'put a new aspect on the situation' and
that 'he knows I'll be delighted to have them.' They surely will put a
new aspect on the situation, but I don't want 'em-not here.

"If I'd had any sense I'd have destroyed them before I left New York; but
who'd have thought that they weren't safe right in my own office. I'd be
delighted to have him-by the neck. Lord! suppose they're lost now! They
should have been here with this other mail."

"If it's registered stuff it may have been delayed just enough to miss
the stage at Aldea by one train," suggested Wainright. "If that is the
case it'll be along by the next stage."

"What were the papers?" demanded the elder Wainright, suspiciously.

Corson hesitated. He realized that he had been surprised by his anger
into saying too much.

"Perhaps I overestimate their value," he said. "They might not do any
harm after all."

"What were they?" insisted Mr. Wainright.

"Oh, they were reports that show the tremendous value of the new vein in
the mine," lied Corson, glibly.

Wainright sank back in his chair with a sigh of relief. "Oh, if that's
all they was we don't need to worry none about them," he said. "We as
good as got the place now. We'll drive over to Aldea tomorrer and fix
things up, eh?"

"I think I'll wait for the next mail," said Corson. "Those reports might
not do any harm, but I'd rather be here when they come and see that no
one else gets hold of them."

"Mebby you're right," assented Wainright. He arose, yawning, and
stretched. ' 'I calc'late to go to bed," he said.

"I think I'll do the same," said his son. "I hope Miss Manill is feeling
better by morning."

"Oh, she'll be all right," said Corson. "Just a little headache. Good
night! I'm coming along too."

They lighted lamps, blew out the one in the office, and departed for
their rooms. The man in the shadows turned slowly toward his horse, but
he had taken only a few steps when he halted listening.

Someone was approaching. He glanced through the darkness in the direction
of the sounds which came out of the night along the pathway from the
bunk-house. Stepping quickly behind the bole of a large tree, Bull waited
in silence. Presently he saw dimly the figure of a man and as it came
nearer the star-light revealed its identity.

It was Colby. Like himself, Colby waited in the shadows of the
trees-waited silently, watching the dead black of the office windows. The
silence was tangible, it was so absolutely dominant, reigning supreme in
a world of darkness. Bull wondered that the other did not hear his
breathing. He marvelled at the quietness of Blazes-even the roller in his
bit lay silent. But it could not last much longer-the horse was sure to
move in a moment and Colby would investigate. The result was a foregone
conclusion. There would be shooting.

Bull did not want to shoot Colby-not now. There were two reasons. One
however would have been enough-that Diana Henders was thinking of
marrying the man.

And then the silence was broken. Very slightly only was it broken. A
suspicion of a sound came from the interior of the house, and following
it a dim light wavering mysteriously upon the office walls, growing
steadily brighter until the room was suddenly illuminated.

From where he now stood Bull could not see the interior of the office,
but he knew that someone carrying a lamp had come down the stairway,
along the hall and entered the office. Then he saw Colby move forward and
step lightly to the veranda and an instant later the office door swung
open, revealing Lillian Manill in a diaphanous negligee.

Bull saw Colby seize the girl, strain her to him and cover her lips with
kisses. Then the girl drew her lover into the room and closed the door.

With a grimace of disgust Bull walked to Blazes, mounted him and rode
slowly away. Now there was only one reason why he could not kill Colby
yet.



CHAPTER XV

"NOW, GO!"

IT WAS Wednesday again. Four horses, sweat streaked, toiled laboriously
to drag the heavy coach up the north side of Hell's Bend Pass. It was a
tough pull even with a light load-one that really demanded six horses and
would have had six in the old days-and today the load was light. There
was but a single passenger. She sat on the driver's box with Bill Gatlin
with whom she was in earnest discussion.

"I tell you I don't believe he did it," she was saying. "I'll never
believe that he did it, and I'm mighty glad that he got away."

Gatlin shook his head. "There ain't no one got a better right to say that
than you has, Miss," he said, "fer 'twas your gold as was stole, an' your
messenger as was shot up; but nevertheless an' howsumever I got my own
private opinion what I'm keepin' to myself thet it was Bull all right as
done it."

"I'd just like to see this Black Coyote once," said the girl. "I'd know
if it was Bull or not."

"They ain't no chanct today, Miss," Gatlin told her. "They ain't no gold
shipment today, unless I'm mighty mistook."

"Don't he ever make a mistake?" asked the girl.

"Never hain't yet, Miss."

Diana relapsed into silence, her thoughts reverting to her interview with
the Kansas City attorney. He had not held out very roseate hopes. By
means of litigation-long and expensive-she might, after a number of
years, get a small portion of her father's share of the business. She had
better take a cash settlement, if she could get one, he thought. A
hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars in the hand would be much
better, in his opinion, than a long drawn-out suit that could be nothing
better than an expensive gamble with the odds against her.

"But I won't! I won't! I won't be robbed," she ejaculated beneath her
breath.

"How's that, Miss?" inquired Bill Gatlin. "Was you speakin' to me?"

"I must have been thinking aloud," she said, smiling. "What a long pull
this is, Bill!"

"We're nigh to the summit," he replied, pulling in his team to breathe
them for a moment.

On the shoulder of Wagon Mountain overlooking the south stretch of Hell's
Bend Pass road two men sat their horses amidst a clump of chaparral that
effectually hid them from the road, though they could see nearly its
entire length from the summit to the gap at the bottom. Presently one of
them spoke.

"Here it comes," he said. He was a swarthy, powerfully built Mexican,
somewhere in his thirties, Gregorio, the bandit.

His companion was adjusting a black silk handkerchief across his face in
such a way as to entirely hide his features. There were two small holes
cut in the handkerchief opposite its wearer's eyes which, through them,
were fixed upon the stage as it topped the pass and started downward upon
its rapid and careening descent toward the gap and Hendersville.

"Come," said Gregorio, and wheeled his horse about.

His companion's mount moved suddenly before the handkerchief was finally
adjusted and as the man reached for his reins the thing fell away from
his face, revealing it. It was Bull.

A second attempt was more successful and then the men rode down the sheer
mountain-side, keeping just below the crest upon the south side and
hidden from the view of the driver and the passenger upon the stage.
Their horses moved with extreme care and without haste, for the way was
precarious, occasionally requiring that the horses sit upon their
haunches and slide for short distances until they found footing again
further down. The riders seemed unperturbed either by the dangers of the
descent or fear of being late at their rendezvous, suggesting habitude
with the work in hand. In a dense growth of scrub just above the gap they
tied their horses, continuing on foot.

The stage lumbered downward, rocking from side to side. Diana held tight
and said nothing. She had ridden with Bill Gatlin before, many times. He
glanced at her out of the corner of his eye.

"This ain't nothin'," he said, as though in answer to a remonstrance on
her part. Diana knew what was coming. She had heard it many times. "No,
siree," continued Bill, "this ain't nothin'. Why, you'd orter ben with me
one night when I was on the Denver run in the ol' days, afore the
railroads spoiled the country. The trail crossed plumb over the top of a
mountain.

'Twarn't no road. 'Twarn't nothin' but a trail. I hed the of stage plumb
full an' passengers a-hangin' onto the boot. It was pitch dark-the
doggonest, darkest night I ever see. Couldn't see airy wheel-horse. Only
ways I knowed I hed any horses was when their shoes struck fire on the
stony parts o' the road. Jest afore we struck the top o' the mountain
they was the worst cloud-bust I ever did see. Them horses had to swim the
last hundred rods to the top o' thet mountain, an' the of stage was
bobbin' aroun' so on the waves thet eight of the passengers got sea-sick.

"But thet wa'n't nothin'. When we come to the top I found the road'd ben
all washed away. They wa'n't no more road 'n a jack-rabbit; but I was
a-carryin' the mail, jest like I be now an' I hed to git through. It was
a high mountain an' tolably steep, but not no trees, so I see there
wa'n't only one thing to do an' thet was to go down road or no road, so
right there on the top o' thet mountain I threw the leather into 'em an'
headed 'em fer Denver an' down we goes faster'n ever I rid afore or
since, the wheelers a jumpin' to keep out o' the way o' the stage an' the
leaders a jumpin' to keep out o' the way o' the wheelers.

"Well, sir, we was a-goin' so fast thet the fust thing I knowed the
friction hed melted the nut offen the nigh front wheel an' away went thet
wheel hell-bentfer-election down the mountain, but it couldn't keep up
with the stage an' purty soon it was left behind, but the stage was
a-goin' so fast thet it never missed thet wheel at all. An' purty soon
off came the off rear wheel, an' thet wheel couldn't keep up, though I
could see it was doin' its best outen the corner o' my eye.

"Well, sir, 'twa'n't long afore tother hind wheel came off, but we was
goin' about twict as fast now as when the fust wheel came off an' that of
stage jest skimmed along on one wheel a dinged sight smoother an' it ever
done on four. When we were about to the bottom off come the last wheel
an' then thinks I fer sure we gotta quit an' we ain't to Denver yit, but
we'd got so much mo-mentum by this time thet the last wheel didn't make
no more difference then the others.

"Them horses jest drug thet stage out behind them like a comet does its
tail an' on we went streakin' down thet mountain an' five mile out onto
the flat afore the stage hit the ground an' then, o' course, we hed to
stop. It was too bad. I tell you I felt plumb sore. I hadn't never ben
off schedule sence I took the run.

"Then, all of a suddint, says one o' the passengers, 'Look back yender,
Bill,' says he. 'Look what's comin'!' An' I looked an' there come them
four wheels a-tearin' across the flat straight fer us. Well, to make a
long story short, they peters out right beside the stage an' with the
help o' the passengers an' some extra nuts we got 'em back on where they
belonged an' pulled into Denver two hours ahead o' time. But I tell you,
Miss, thet was some ride. I'd hate to hev to take it again. Why-"

"Hands up! Put 'em up!"

The stage had slowed down for the rough road through the gap, when two
men with muffled faces stepped before the leaders, covering the driver
and his lone passenger with wicked-looking six-guns.

Diana Henders sat as one turned to stone, her eyes fixed upon the tall,
fine figure of the leading high wayman. A little gust of wind moved the
handkerchief that covered his face so that she saw, or she thought she
saw, a scar upon the square chin. She was not afraid. It was not
fear-physical fear that held her motionless-it was worse than that. It
was the paralyzing terror of the heart and soul. Was it Bull? Could it be
Bill?

But, dear God, could she be mistaken in the familiar lines of that
figure-every movement, every gesture proclaimed the numbing truth? He had
not spoken. She was glad of that, for she wanted something upon which to
hang a doubt. The second man had given the brief commands. That he was
Gregorio she had no doubt.

"Throw down the mail pouch," he commanded, and Bill Gatlin threw it down.

The taller man took it and went to the rear of the stage, out of sight.
Five minutes later Gregorio commanded them to drive on. That was all. The
thing had not consumed six minutes, but in that brief time the structure
of Diana's life had been shaken to its foundations. A new, a terrible
truth had engulfed her-a truth that should have up-borne her upon a wave
of exaltation and happiness now dragged her down into the vortex of a
whirlpool of self-loathing and misery.

They rode on in silence for a few minutes, Bill

Gatlin cracking his long whip-above the ears of the leaders, galloping
smoothly over a comparatively level road.

"Doggone!" he said presently. "It's gettin' too almighty reg'lar to suit
me, though I reckon as how I mought git lonesome if I wasn't held up
oncet in a while; but you hed your wish, Miss-you got to see

The Black Coyote, all right, and now what do you think? Is it or isn't it
Bull?"

Diana Henders bit her lip. "Of course it was not Bull," she said.

"Looked powerful like him to me," said Gatlin.

As they drew up in front of The Donovan House the usual idlers came forth
to learn what new element this, their sole link to civilization, had
infused into their midst. They greeted Diana none the less cordially
because she was the only passenger and the stage had brought no new
interest to Hendersville.

"Held up agin," announced Bill. "Some on you better go an' tell Gum-he
might want to deputize someone."

Immediately the crowd was interested. They asked many questions.

"They wa'n't much to it," said Bill Gatlin. "Bein' as how they wa'n't no
gold he took the mail. I reckon if you was lookin' fer any letters you
won't git them."

A man from the Bar Y spoke up. "Thet New York feller up to the ranch was
lookin' fer a important piece o' mail," he said. "He sent me down special
to git it."

"Hey, what's this?" demanded another, peering into the interior of the
coach. "Here's yer mail bag, Bill, a-lyin' right in here." He dragged it
out and exhibited to the others.

"They's somethin' wrong with it-it's ben cut open," said another,
pointing to a slit in the leather. Then the postmaster came up and
rescued the sack. The crowd followed him to the general store in which
the post-office was conducted. Here the postmaster, assisted by the
crowd, went through the contents of the sack.

"Course I cain't tell what's missin'," he said, "'only they ain't no
registered letter fer Mr. Corson."

Diana Henders had gone immediately into The Donovan House as quickly as
she could clamber from the stage after it had come to a stop, and Mary
Donovan had taken her into the privacy of her sitting room for the cup
"o' tay" that Diana had been looking forward to for the past couple of
hours. Here she told the motherly Irish woman the details of her trip to
Kansas City and the quandary she was in as to what procedure to follow in
her future dealings with Corson.

"If I had anything to fight with, I'd fight," she exclaimed; "but I'm all
alone-even the law seems to be on their side, against justice."

"Shure, an' it's not all alone ye are," Mary Donovan assured her. "What
wid all the friends ye have that would fight fer ye at the drop o' the
hat. Faith, they'd run thim tin-horns out o' the country, an' ye give the
word."

"I know," assented the girl, "and I appreciate what the boys would do for
me, but it can't be done that way. Dad always stood for law and order and
it wouldn't do for me to sponsor illegal methods."

"Ye've got to fight the divil wid fire," said Mary.

Diana made no reply. She sat sipping her tea, her expression one of
troubled sadness, but she was not thinking of those who would take her
property from her nor of their unfair methods. Mary Donovan was moving
about the room tidying up.

Diana set her empty cup upon the rickety center table which supported an
oil lamp, a bible, a red plush photograph album and a gilded conch shell,
and sighed. Mrs. Donovan glanced at her out of the corner of her eye and
guessed shrewdly that there was something more than New Yorkers troubling
her. Presently she came and stood in front of the girl.

"What is it, mavourneen?" she asked. "Be after tellin' Mary Donovan."

Diana rose, half turned her head away and bit her lower lip in an effort
to hide or suppress a short, quick intaking of the breath that was almost
a gasp.

"The stage was held up again today," she said, mastering herself and
turning, wide-eyed, toward the older woman. "I saw them-I saw them both."

"Yis!" said Mary Donovan.

"But it wasn't-it wasn't he! It wasn't, Mary Donovan!" and Diana,
throwing herself upon the broad, motherly bosom, burst into tears,
through which she gasped an occasional, "It wasn't! It wasn't!"

"Shure, now, it wasn't," soothed Mary, "an' the first wan that'll be
after sayin' it was'll wish he'd nivir bin born, an' even if it was,
Diana Henders, there's many a good man's gone wrong an' come right again.

"Why look at that ould fool Wildcat Bob! They do be sayin' he was a road
agent his-self thirty year ago an' he's killed so many men he's lost
count o' 'em, he has; but now look at him! A quiet an' paceable ould man,
an' a good citizen whin he ain't full o' barbwire, which ain't often."

Diana dried her tears through a smile. "You're very fond of Bob, aren't
you?" she asked.

"Run along wid ye, now!" exclaimed Mary Donovan, smiling coyly.

"I think Bob would make you a good husband," continued Diana, "and you
really need a man around here. Why don't you marry him? I know he's
anxious enough."

"Marry him, indade!" sniffed Mary. "The ould fool's stricken dumb ivery
time he's alone wid me. If iver he's married it is, it's the girl that'll
be havin' to pop the question."

They were interrupted by a rap on the sitting room door. It. was the
vaquero from the Bar Y who had come down for the mail.

"Bill Gatlin told me you was here, Miss," he said. "Do you want me to
tell Colby to send the buckboard down for yore?"

"I left Captain here, thanks," replied Diana, "and as soon as I change
my clothes I'll ride back to the ranch."

"Shall I wait fer you?" he inquired.

"No, thanks. I don't know how long I'll be," she told him; "but if Pete
is there you might ask him to ride out and meet me."

A half-hour later Diana rode out of Hendersville on Captain along the
winding, dusty road bordered by interminable sage and grease.-wood that
stretched off in undulating billows of rolling land to the near mountains
on the north and away to the south as far as the eye could reach where
the softened outlines of other mountains rose, mysterious, through the
haze. The low sun cast- long shadows toward the east, those of herself
and her mount transformed into a weird creature of Brobdingnagian
proportions mincing along upon preposterous legs.

The inhabitants of a prairie-dog village watched her approach with
growing suspicions, scampering at last to the safety of their catacombian
retreat---all but a single patriarch and two owls, who watched her from
the safe proximity of burrow mouths until she had passed.

Drear and desolate the aspect of tie: scene, perhaps, but t(? Diana i$
was home, and a tear came tip her eye as she thought that in a day or a
week shy; might be leaving it for-ever. Her home! And they were driving
her away from it--stealing it from her--her home that her father had
built for her mother-that he had planned that Diana should have after he
had gone. The wickedness of it! The injustice! That was what rankled-the
injustice! She dashed away the tear with an angry gesture. She would not
be dispossessed! She would fight! Mary Donovan was right. It was no sin
to light the devil with fire.

It was at this moment that she saw a horseman approaching her from the
direction of the ranch. Her eyes, long accustomed to keen observation and
to vast expanses, recognized the man minutes before his features were
discernible, and a little cloud crossed her brow. It was not Texas Pete,
as she had hoped, but Hal Colby. Perhaps it was for the best. She would
have to see him sometime, and tell him. As he approached her she saw that
there was no welcoming smile on his face, which wore a troubled
expression. But his greeting was cordial.

"Hello, Di!" he cried. "Why didn't you let me know that you was comin'
today?'

"There was no way to let you know, of course," she replied. "You might
have guessed that I would be back as soon as I could."

"Tom jest got in from town an' told me you was comin'. I hurried out to
head you off. You don't want to come to the ranch now, it wouldn't be no
ways pleasant for you."

"Why?" she demanded.

"The Wainrights is there for one thing," he said, drawing rein in front
of her.

She set her firm little jaw and rode around him. "I am going home," she
said.

"I wouldn't be foolish, Di," he insisted. "It'll only make more trouble.
They as good as got the place now. We can't fight 'em. It wouldn't get us
nowheres.

"Lemme see what I kin get 'em to do fer you. They're willin' to give you
enough to live decent on if you're reasonable, an' I'll git the most I
kin fer you; but if you go to fightin' 'em they won't give you nothin'."

"They'll never give me anything," she cried. "I'd never accept anything
from them, but I'll take and keep what's mine, and my friends will help
me."

"You'll only git yourself an' your friends in a peck o' trouble," he told
her.

"Listen, Hal-" she hesitated, stumbling a little over the speech she had
been rehearsing. "There is something I want to say to you. You asked me
to marry you. I told you that if you would wait a little while I thought
that I could say yes. I can't say yes, Hal, ever, for I don't love you.
I'm sorry, but the only fair thing to do was tell you."

He looked a bit crestfallen and disconcerted, for, though he had realized
that it would be poor policy to press his suit now that she was
penniless, it injured his pride to be told that he could not have won her
in any event, and suddenly came the realization that, money or no money,
he wanted her very much. His infatuation for Lillian Manill was revealed
in all its sordidness-it was not love. All the money in the world, all
the clothes in New York, would not make Lillian Manill as desirable as
Diana Henders.

Colby was a crude, uneducated man, yet he discerned in Diana Henders a
certain quality, far beyond his powers of analysis, that placed her in a
sphere to which Lillian Manill and her kind might never hope to aspire.
He knew now that he wanted Diana Henders for herself and Lillian Manill
for her money and for that coarse, feminine attraction that certain types
of women have for coarse men.

He lived in a more or less lawless country and a more or less lawless
age, so it was not strange that there should have crept into his mind the
thought that he might possess them both. Naturally it would be only the
part of good business to possess lawfully the one with the money. It was
only the flash of a thought, though, and he quickly put it aside.

"I'm plumb sorry, Dl," he said; "but of course you know your own
business."

That was all he said, but he did a great deal of thinking and the more he
thought the more he realized how much he wanted her now that she seemed
least accessible. His face wore an expression such as Diana Henders had
never seen upon it before-he was not the laughing, good-natured Hal that
she had liked very much and almost loved. There was something almost
sinister about him, and she wondered if being disappointed in love had
this effect upon men.

"How is everything at the ranch since I've been away?" she asked
presently.

"So-so," he replied. "Some o' the hands want to quit. They're waitin'
'til you come, to git their checks."

"Who are they?"

"Pete, Shorty an' Idaho," he replied. "They'd a-ben the fust to be let
out after the change come, anyhow, so it don't make no difference."

"You planned to stay on as foreman?" she asked.

"Shore! Why not? I got to work for someone, don't I?"

She made no reply and they rode on in silence toward the ranch. He had
given up trying to dissuade her. Let them do their own dirty work, he
thought. As they neared the ranch a horseman emerged from the yard and
came toward them at a run amidst a cloud of dust that obscured the ranch
and ail else behind him. It was Texas Pete. He brought his horse to its
haunches beside her and wheeled the animal about on its hind feet.

"I jest got in, Miss," he said, "an' Tom told me that you had sent word
in that I was to meet you. I'm plumb sorry I was late."

Each man ignored the other as completely as though he had not existed.

"I understand you want to quit, Pete," said the girl; "you and Shorty and
Idaho."

Pete looked down, shamefacedly. "We was a-aimin' to," he said.

"I wish you'd come up to the office and bring Shorty and Idaho with you
when we get home," she said. "I want to talk with you."

"All right, Miss."

The three finished the ride in silence. Diana dismounted with them at the
corral and leaving her horse for Pete to unsaddle walked toward the
office. As she approached the doorway she saw that there were several
people ire the room and when she crossed the threshold found herself face
to face with Corson, Lillian Manill and the two Wainrights. Corson nodded
and he and the younger Wainright rose.

"Good evening, Miss Henders," said Corson; "back safely, I see."

She ignored his greeting and stood for a moment silently eying them
through narrowed lids. Her wide-brimmed sombrero sat straight and level
above slightly contracted brows. A tendril of hair waved softly over one
temple where it had escaped the stiff confinement of the heavy hat, but
it did not tend to soften the light in those cold, steady eyes,
reflecting the bitterness of her resentment toward these four.

About her hips a cartridge-filled belt supported a heavy gun-no toy such
as women sometimes effect, but a .45, grim and suggestive. Its grip was
shiny with usage and the blue was worn from the steel in places.

"I know little about law, Mr. Corson," she said, without prelude. "I have
lived almost all my life a long way beyond either the protection or the
menace of law. We do not bother much about it out here; but we understand
moral rights perfectly. We know what justice is and we have our own ways
of enforcing it. We have similar ways of protecting our just rights, as
well.

"These means I intend to invoke against you, all of you, who have come
here with the intention of robbing me of what is rightly mine. Though I
owe you no consideration it is my duty to warn you that our methods in
such matters are usually sudden and always unpleasant.

"I shall give you, Mr. Corson and Miss Manill, an hour to leave the
premises-the buckboard will be ready then. Mr. Wainright and his son have
five minutes, as they have no excuse whatsoever for being here. Now, go!"



CHAPTER XVI

COMMON CRIMINALS

AN AMUSED smile curled Mr. Corson's unpleasant mouth. Mr. Wainright,
senior, bobbed to his feet, though through no belated urge of chivalry.
Lillian Manill rose languidly, pretending to suppress a simulated yawn
with the backs of her white fingers. Young Mr. Wainright shuffled
uneasily from one foot to the other.

"I am afraid, Miss Henders," said Corson, "that you do not quite grasp
the situation. You-"

"It is you who fail to grasp it, Mr. Corson," snapped Diana, "and please
remember that you have only an hour in which to pack."

Corson dropped his suavity. "See here," he exclaimed, "I've fooled along
with you as much as I'm going to. You're the one who's going to get off
this place. You haven't a right on earth here. You don't own a stick or a
stone, a hoof or a tail, the length or breadth of the Bar Y Now you go
and you go quick or you'll land in jail, where you belong for the threats
you've made. I imagine you'll learn something about the law then."

"How come?" inquired a voice from the doorway and simultaneously three
figures appeared upon the veranda. "You sent for us, Miss, and here we
are," continued Texas Pete.

"An' I reckon we arriv about the right time fer the party," opined
Shorty.

"I craves the first dance with that dude with the funny pants," said
Idaho, staring at Corson.

"Boys," said Diana, "these people are trying to rob me of my ranch, the
mine and all the cattle. I have given Mr. Corson and Miss Manill an hour
to leave the premises. Idaho, I wish that you would see that they get
away on time, and drive them, or better, have Willie drive them, to town.
Mr. Wainright and his son had five minutes in which to leave, Shorty.
They have wasted three of them. Can you help them to get away on
schedule?"

"Whee!" wheed Shorty. "Watch my smoke-and their dust. Fan yerselves,
gents," and he sprang into the room, circling the Wainrights to come upon
them from the rear, true to the instincts of the cowman.

The elder Wainright had arguments upon his tongue-you could see them in
his eye, paradoxical as it may sound-but he permitted them to expire,
voiceless, and took to his heels, followed closely by his son. Jefferson
Wainright, senior, had been run off the Bar Y upon another occasion and
he had not relished the experience. He moved now with great rapidity and
singleness of purpose in the direction of the corrals, his son at his
heels and Shorty inconveniently close behind.

To Mr. Wainright's partial relief Shorty had as yet indulged in no target
practice, but it might. come at any moment. Sympathetic perspiration
streamed down the red face of Wainright, of Worcester blankets. He almost
breathed a sigh of relief when he reached the corrals, but a sudden
thought froze him with terror. They could not have more than a minute
left. It would be impossible to hook up their team in that time. As he
climbed through the bars he tried to explain that impossibility to
Shorty.

"Ride 'em, then," admonished their escort.

"But we have no saddles," expostulated the younger Wainright.

"No," agreed Shorty, "you ain't got nothin' but a minute an' you won't
have thet long. I commences shootin' when the minute's up-an' I ain't
a-goin' to shoot fer fun. I ben a-waitin' fer this chanct fer months."

Frantically the elder Wainright dragged a reluctant broncho by the
halter, got him outside the corral and struggled to clamber to his back.
It was an utter failure. Then he seized the rope again and tugging and
pulling started for the gate. His son, more successful, had succeeded in
mounting the other animal, and as he trotted past his father he whacked
that gentleman's unwilling companion on the rump with the bight of his
halter rope. The effects were thrilling and immediate. The broncho leaped
forward, upset Mr. Wainright, galloped over him and dashed out the gate
into the vast, unfenced immensity.

"Five seconds!" announced Shorty.

Mr. Wainright scrambled to his feet and started after the broncho. He
passed through the Bar Y gate behind his son and heir with one second to
spare. Disgusted, Shorty slipped his gun back into its holster.

"Now keep goin'," he told them, "an' don't never nary one of you come
back."

"Gosh ding it!" he soliloquized as he walked back toward the office, "I
wisht she'd only a-gave 'em four minutes."

He was suddenly confronted by Colby, running and out of wind. "What you
ben loin'?" demanded the foreman. "I jest seen the tail end of it from
the cook-house winder. Wot in 'ell do you mean by it, anyhow, eh?"

Shorty eyed him up and down insolently. "I ain't got no time fer you,
Colby," he said. "I'm gettin' my orders from the boss. If she tells me to
run any ornery critters offen the ranch I'm here to run 'em off, sabe?"

"You mean Miss Henders told you to run the Wainrights off?" demanded
Colby.

"I reckon you ain't deef," and Shorty continued his way toward the
office. Colby followed him. He found Texas Pete and Idaho standing in the
room. Diana was seated in her father's easy chair.

"What's the meaning of this business, Di?" demanded Colby. "Did you tell
Shorty to run the Wainrights off?"

"I ran them off, Hal," replied the girl. "I only asked Shorty to see that
they went. I have told Mr. Corson and Miss Manill to go, too. Idaho will
see that they get to town safely."

"You must be crazy!" exclaimed Colby. "They'll have the law on you."

"I am not crazy, Hal. I may have been a little blind, but I am far from
crazy-my eyes are open now, open wide enough for me to be able to
recognize my friends from my enemies."

"What do you mean?" he demanded, noting the directly personal
insinuation.

"I mean, Hal, that any of my men who would contemplate working for those
people after they had robbed me can't work for me. Pete has your check.
He is acting foreman until Bull returns." Her chin went up proudly as she
made the statement.

Colby was stunned. He took the check in silence and turned toward the
door, where he stopped and faced her. "Bull won't never come back," he
said, "'less it's with a halter -round his neck."

The other three men looked toward Diana for an intimation of her wishes,
but she only sat silently, tapping the toe of a spurred boot upon the
Navajo rug at her feet. Colby turned once more and passed out into the
gathering dusk.

A half-hour later Wild Bill, otherwise and quite generally known as
Willie, jogged dustily townward with Maurice B. Corson, Lillian Manill
and their baggage. Halfway there they overtook the Wainrights, the elder
riding the single horse, which his son had given up to him, while the
younger plodded along in the powdery dust. Corson told Willie to stop and
take them both into the buckboard.

"Not on your life," said Willie. "I gits my orders from the boss an' she
didn't say nothin' about pickin' up no dudes. Giddap!"

Later that evening a select gathering occupied a table at one side of
Gum's bar-room. There were the Wainrights, Mr. Maurice B. Corson, Miss
Lillian Manill, Hal Colby and Gum Smith. All but Gum seemed out of sorts,
but then he was the only one of them who had not been run off a ranch.

"We have the law on our side, Mr. Sheriff," Corson was saying, "and all
we ask is your official backing. I realize that the first thing to do is
get rid of the ruffians in her employ and then we can easily bring her to
terns. The worst of them is this man Bull, but now that he is practically
an outlaw it should be comparatively easy to get him.

"I have arranged for an exceptionally large gold shipment from the mine
on the next stage and I have taken pains not to keep the matter too
secret. The news is almost certain to reach him through the usual
channels and should serve as an exceptional bait to lure him into another
attempted holdup of the stage.

"You can then be on hand, in hiding, with a posse and should you fail to
get him alive it will be all the better for society at large if you get
him dead. Do you understand me?"

"That ain't no way to go about it," interrupted Colby. "You can't hide
nowhere within five miles o' the gap without them two hombres knowin' it.
Now you just forget that scheme an' leave it to me. You an' your posse
keep away from the gap. Just leave it to me.' 7

"Ah think Hal's about right," agreed Gum Smith. "Yo-all doan' know them
two. They shore is foxy. Why, jes look at all the times Ah've ben after
'em. Yo jes leave it to Hal here an' he shore'll git 'em."

"All right, said Corson, "and then we can get the other three later, some
way. Lure them into town one by one an' well, I don't need to tell you
gentlemen what's necessary. Only don't forget that they're worth a
thousand dollars apiece to me-if they can't bother us any more."

Worn out by the excitement of the day Diana retired to her room shortly
after the lonely evening meal. She had been keyed up to a high pitch of
nervous excitement for hours and now that she had been relaxed the
reaction came, leaving her tired and melancholy. She was almost too tired
to undress and so she threw herself into an easy chair and sat with her
head thrown back and her eyes closed.

The window of her room, overlooking the ranch yard toward the corrals,
was wide open to the cooling summer air. The lamp burning on her reading
table cast its golden light upon her loosened hair and regular profile.

Outside a figure moved cautiously around the house until it stood among
the trees beneath the window-the figure of a man who, looking up, could
just see the outlines of the girl's face above the sill. He watched her
for a moment and then glanced carefully about as though to assure himself
that there was none other near.

Presently, faintly, the notes of a meadow-lark rose softly upon the night
air. Diana's eyes flashed open. She listened intently. A moment later the
brief, sweet song was repeated. The girl rose to her feet, gathered her
hair quickly into a knot at the back of her head, and ran down the
stairway, along the hall, into the office. She walked quickly, her heart
beating a trifle wildly, to the door. Without hesitation she opened it
and stepped out into the night. Below her stood a tall man with broad
shoulders.

"Bull!" she exclaimed, in a low whisper.

The man swept his broad sombrero from his head. "Good evening, Senorita!"
he said. "It is not Senor Bull-it is Gregorio."

Diana Henders stepped back. She had removed her belt and gun. So sure she
had been that it was Bull and such confidence she had in him that she had
not given a thought to her unarmed condition. What better protection
could any girl demand than just Bull!

"What do you want here, Gregorio?" she demanded.

The Mexican perceived the girl's surprise, saw her draw back, and
grinned. It did not offend him that she might be afraid of him. He had
become what he was by inspiring fear in others and hoe was rather proud
of it-proud of being an outlaw, proud of being hunted by the gringoes,
whom he knew held his courage and his gun-hand, if not himself, in
respect.

"Do not be afraid, Senorita," he said. "I was sent to you by Senor Bull,
with a message." He held out a long, flat envelope. "You are to read it
and hide it where the others will not find it. He says that you will know
how to make use of it."

She took the proffered parcel. "Why did not Senor Bull come himself?" she
asked.

"How should I know, Senorita?" he replied. "Perhaps he thought that you
would not want The Black Coyote to come here. He knew that you recognized
him today. He saw it in your eyes."

She was silent a moment as though weighing the wisdom of a reply to his
statement, but she made none. "Is that all, Gregorio?" she asked.

"That is all, Senorita."

"Then thank you, and good-bye. Thank Senor Bull, too, and tell him that
his job is waiting for him-when he can come back."

Gregorio swept his hat low and turned back into the shadows. Diana
entered the office and closed the door. Going directly to her room she
took a chair beneath the reading-lamp and examined the outside of the
envelope Gregorio had given her.

It was addressed to Maurice B. Corson! How had Bull come by it? But of
course she knew-it was a piece of the mail that had come into his
possession through the robbing of the stage.

The girl shuddered and held it away from her. She saw that the envelope
had been opened. Bull had done that. She sat looking at the thing for a
long time. Could she bring herself to read the contents? It had not been
meant for her-to read it, then, would be to put herself on a par with The
Black Coyote. She would be as much a thief as he. The only right and
proper thing to do was to get the letter into Corson's hands as quickly
as possible-she could not be a party to Bull's crime.

She laid it, almost threw it, in fact, upon the table, as though it were
an unclean thing, and sat for a long time in deep thought. Occasionally
her eyes returned to the letter. The thing seemed to hold a malignant
fascination for her. What was in it?

It must concern her, or Bull would not have sent it to her. She would
send it to Corson the first thing in the morning. Bull would not ask her
to read something that did not concern her. She rose and commenced to
remove her clothing. Once or twice as she passed the table she stopped
and looked at the envelope and at last, in her night robe, as she went to
blow out the last lamp she stood for a full minute staring at the
superscription. Again she argued that Bull would not have sent it to her
had it been wrong for her to read it. Then she extinguished the light and
got into bed.

For an hour Diana Henders tossed about, sleepless. The envelope upon the
reading table haunted her. It had no business there. It belonged to
Maurice B. Corson. If it were to be found in her possession she could be
held as guilty as the robber who took it from the United States mail
pouch. They could send her to jail. Somehow that thought did not frighten
her at all.

What was in it? It must be something concerning the property they were
trying to steal' rom her. They were thieves. One was almost justified in
taking any steps to frustrate their dishonest plans.

Suddenly she recalled what Mary Donovan had said: "You've got to fight
the devil with fire!" .And then Diana Henders flung the covers from her
and swung her feet to the floor. A moment later she had lighted the lamp.
There was no more hesitation.

She took up the envelope and extracted its contents, which consisted of
three papers. The first she examined was a brief letter of transmission
noting the enclosures and signed by a clerk in Corson's office. The
second was John Manill's will-the later will that Corson had told her did
not exist. She read it through carefully. Word for word it was a
duplicate of the last will her father had made, except for the
substitution of Elias Henders' name as beneficiary. The clause leaving
the property to their joint heirs in the event. of her father's prior
death followed.

Suddenly Diana experienced a sensation of elation and freedom such as had
not been hers since her father's death. She could fight them now-she had
something to fight with, and Lillian Manill could claim only what was
legally hers.

An even division would entail unpleasant complications of administration,
but at least they could not take tier share from her. They might sell
theirs--they might and probably would sell it to the Wainrights, which
would be horrible of course, but she would stand her ground and get her
rights no matter who owned the other half.

She laid the will aside and picked up the third paper. It was a letter,
in her uncle's familiar handwriting, addressed to her father:

Dear El:

In the event that I go first I want to ask you to lock after Lillian for
me at least until she is married. Since her mother's death she has no one
but me and naturally I feel not only a certain responsibility for her but
a real affection that is almost paternal, since she was but a year old
when I married her mother. She has never known any other father, her own
having been killed before she was born. Although she knows the truth
concerning her parentage I think she looks upon me as a father and if I
am unable to do so I know that you will provide for her. I did not
mention her in my will because our understanding included only our legal
heirs, or I should say heir, now since Diana is the only one left, and as
she will inherit all our property eventually I hope that you will pass
this request on to her, which I shalt leave attached to my will.

Affectionately,  JOHN.

Diana sat with staring eyes fixed upon the letter in her hand-and she had
almost sent these papers back to Corson! She shuddered as she thought. of
the narrow escape she had had. Why, they were no better than common
criminals!

And she was sole heir to the Bar Y! She did not think of the gold mine,
or the value of the great herds and the broad acres. She thought only of
the Bar Y as something that she loved-as home.

Now no one could take it away from her, and yet she was not happy. There
was a little rift within the lute-Bull was an outlaw! And who else was
there than Bull upon whom she might depend for guidance and advice in the
handling of her affairs?

He was a good cattleman-her father had always said that, and had had
confidence in his judgment and ability. His one fault, they had thought,
had been his drinking, and this she felt, intuitively, he had overcome.
Of his loyalty there had never been any doubt until the whisperings of
the ugly rumors that had connected him with the robberies of the stage.
These she had consistently refused to believe-even to the point of
denying the evidence of her own eyes; but Gregorio had definitely
confounded the remnants of her hopes.

Yet still she thought of Bull as her sole resource-even now she had
confidence in him. She could not fathom the mental processes that
permitted her mind to dwell upon him without loathing or contempt-but,
after all, was she being influenced by the dictates. of her mind? She
shrank from contemplation of the alternative, yet it persistently
obtruded itself upon her reveries. If her mind refused to fly to the
defense of Bull, then it must be her heart that championed him. What
reason would not do, love had accomplished.

She flushed at the thought and tried to put it aside, for it was
impossible. It could not be that she, Diana Henders, could love an outlaw
and a criminal. No, she must put Bull out of her mind forever, and with
this resolve mingling with her tears she fell asleep.



CHAPTER XVII

THE BLACK COYOTE

WITH the coming of morning Diana Henders' mind had, to some extent at
least, emerged from the chaos of conflicting emotions that had obstructed
reasonable consideration of her plans for the immediate future. It had
been her intention to ride forthwith to Hendersville and confront Corson
and Lillian with the proofs of their perfidy, but now saner reflection
counseled more rational procedure. The law now was all upon her side, the
proofs were all in her hands. It was beyond their power to harm her. She
would continue in the even tenor of her ways, directing the affairs of
the ranch and mine, as though they did not exist. When they made a move
she would be prepared to meet it.

She spent an hour before breakfast in the office writing diligently and
then she sent for Texas Pete. When he arrived she handed him an envelope.

"Take this to Aldea, Pete," she said, "and mail it on the first eastbound
train. I can't trust to the stage-it is held up too often-and, Pete, I am
sending you because I know that I can trust you to get to Aldea as
quickly as you can without letting anything interfere. It means a great
deal to me, Pete."

"I'll git it there," said Texas Pete, and she knew that he would.

Ten minutes later she glanced through the doorway of the kitchen, where
she was talking with Wong, and saw a cloud of dust streaking swiftly
northward toward Hell's Bend Pass, across country in an airline. Roads
and trails were not for such as Texas Pete when speed was paramount.

The day, occupied by the normal duties of the ranch, passed without
unusual incident. There was no word from Corson. The next day came,
brought Texas Pete back from Aldea, and went its way with the infinite
procession of other yesterdays, and still no word from Corson. By this
time Diana was about convinced that the New Yorker, appreciating what the
theft of his letter must mean to him, had abandoned his scheme and that
doubtless the stage that arrived in Hendersville today would carry him
and his accomplice back to Aldea and an eastbound train.

Her mind was occupied with such satisfactory imaginings that morning when
the office doorway was darkened by the figure of a man. Looking up she
saw Gum Smith standing with hat in hand.

"Mo'nin', Miss," he greeted her.

Diana nodded, wondering what Gum Smith could be doing on the Bar Y, a
place where he had always been notoriously unwelcome.

"Ah've came on a mos' onpleasant duty, Miss," he explained. "As sheriff
o' this yere county it is mah duty to serve yoall with notice to vacate
this property by noon tomorrer, as the rightful an' lawful owners wishes
to occupy same."

"You mean Mr. Corson and Miss Manill?" inquired Diana, sweetly.

"Yes, Miss, an' they hopes they won't be no trouble. They's willin' to do
the right thing by yo, ef yo moves off peaceable-like an' pronto."

"Would you mind taking a note to Mr. Corson for me?" she asked. "I think
I can convince him that he is making a mistake."

Gum Smith would be glad to accommodate her. He said so, but he also
advised her, as "a friend of her father," to make her preparations for
early departure, since Mr. Corson's patience was exhausted and he had
determined to take drastic action to possess himself of the ranch, as
Miss Manill's agent.

When Mr. Maurice B. Corson read that note an hour later he swore in a
most unseemly manner. He did not divulge its contents to the Wainrights,
but he went into executive session with Gum Smith and Hal Colby from
which he did not emerge for an hour. A short time later the sheriff,
accompanied by a dozen deputies, rode out of Hendersville and some time
thereafter Corson, Lillian Manill and the Wainrights drove off in the
latter's buckboard which Diana had sent in to them the morning after
their hasty departure from the Bar Y

The ranch was deserted that afternoon, except for a couple of laborers,
the white cook at the cook-house and Wong at the residence. Texas Pete
and his vaqueros were spread over a vast principality occupied with the
various duties of their calling. Idaho had been left at home, in
accordance with time-honored custom, to act as body guard for Diana
should she wish to ride abroad, which she had wished to do, and they were
both off to the southeast somewhere, in the direction of the Johnson
Ranch.

It was a lazy afternoon. The air vibrated with heat. But in one corner of
the kitchen, far from the stove, which was now out, there was a cool
corner, or rather, one less like inferno. Here stood a long table that
had once graced the dining room, and upon it at full length, supine, lay
Wong, asleep, his long pipe with its tiny brass bowl still clutched in
onedepending hand.

He was aroused by the sound of voices in the front of the house. He
opened his eyes, sat up and listened. There was a woman's voice among
those of men, but it was not the voice of "Mlissee Dli." Wong arose and
walked toward the office. He stopped where he could observe the interior
without being observed. His slanting, oriental eyes narrowed at what they
saw. There were Corson and Miss Manill, the two Wainrights and Gum Smith.
Corson was going through Elias Henders' desk as though it belonged to
him. Presently, after having examined many papers, he evidently found
what he wanted, for there was a look of relief upon his face as he
stuffed them into an inside pocket of his coat after a superficial
glance.

The elder Wainright was continually glancing through the doorway with an
air of extreme nervousness. "You think it is perfectly safe, Sheriff?" he
demanded.

"Of course it is, Wainright," snapped Corson. "We've got the law on our
side, I tell you, and enough men out there to back it up. As soon as her
men find we mean business they won't bother us as long as she isn't here
to egg them on, and most of them would just as soon work for us anyway
when they find Colby is coming back as foreman-a lot of them are his
friends."

"I don't see why Colby didn't come along with us now," grumbled
Wainright.

"He wanted to wait until we were settled in our ownership and then we
could hire whom we pleased as foreman," said Corson. "I see how he feels
about it and it will help to make him stronger with the men and with the
neighbors if he hasn't taken any part in the eviction. It'll be better
for us in the long run, for we are going to need all the friends we can
get in the county."

"I am afraid we are," agreed Wainright. "I hope you will fire that Texas
Pete and the ones they call Shorty an' Idaho the very fast thing you do.
I don't like 'em."

"That's about the first thing I intend doing as soon as they get in,"
replied Corson. "Just now we'd better look up that damned insolent Chink
and tell him how many are going to be here for dinner, or supper, or
whatever they call it out here."

Wong tiptoed silently and swiftly to the kitchen, where Lillian Manill
found him a moment later and imparted her orders to him.

An hour later Texas Pete rode into the ranch yard with his men. He was
met at the corrals by a fellow he recognized as an habitue of Gum's
Place-one Ward, by name.

"Evenin'," said Ward.

"Evenin'," replied Texas Pete. "Wotinell are you doin' here, Ward?"

"They wants you, Shorty an' Idaho up to the office."

"Who wants us?"

"Miss Henders an' the people she's sold out to."

"Sold out, hell!" exclaimed Pete.

"Go on up an' ask 'em."

"I shore will. Come on Shorty. Idaho must be aroun' the bunk-house
somewheres." The two men started for the office. At the bunk-house they
looked for Idaho, but he was not there, so they went on without him. As
they approached the house they saw three men lolling on the veranda
outside the office door. They were not Bar Y men. Inside they saw Corson
sitting at the desk. He motioned them to enter.

"Come in, boys," he said, pleasantly.

As they entered the three men behind them rose and drew their six-guns
and at the same instant three others just within the office covered them
with theirs.

"Put 'em up!" they were advised, and Texas Pete and Shorty, being men of
discretion, put them up. While they had them up one of the gentlemen in
their rear relieved them of their weapons.

"Now look here, boys," said Corson, not unpleasantly, "we have no quarrel
with you and we don't want any, but you're rather quick with your guns
and we took this means of insuring an amicable interview. Mr. Wainright,
Miss Manill and I are now owners of the Bar Y Ranch. Miss Henders,
realizing that she had no claim, has vacated the premises and turned them
over to us. We shall not need your services any longer. We shall give you
a month's wages and escort you as far as town, where your weapons will be
turned over to you; but I want to warn you that you are not to return to
the Bar Y If you do I shall see that the law takes its full course with
you."

"Where's Miss Henders?" demanded Texas Pete. "She has left the ranch,"
replied Corson. "I do not know her exact plans, but I think she went
directly to Aldea to take the train for the East."

"I don't know her exact plans neither," said Texas Pete, "but I know you
are a damn liar. You got the drop on me an' Shorty, an' we goes to town
as you says, but if the rest that you have told us ain't straight we're
comin' back agin. An' when we do it's a-goin' to be gosh-almighty
onpleasant fer dudes in these parts. Sabe?"

"If you show your faces around here again you'll be shot on sight," said
Corson. "We've got the men and the money to run this ranch as we see fit,
and we mean business. The old, disgraceful, lawless days are about over
in this country, and there won't be any place for bad-men like you two."

"No, Pete," said Shorty, "we're did fer, our time's up, they ain't no
more place fer us 'an a jackrabbit. We're a-goin' to hev a new brand o'
bad-men now-the kind they raise in Noo York that wears funny pants an'
robs orphants."

"Take them to town, boys," said Corson, addressing his own men, "and then
come back here. You've all got jobs here on the Bar Y, and one of the
first duties you have is to shoot bad-men on sight, if they show up
around the ranch."

Texas Pete and Shorty turned and walked out with their escort, and
shortly after, still under guard, were loping away in the direction of
Hendersville.

The stage came down the pass with a load of passengers that day and among
them was a lawyer from Aldea imported by Corson and Wainright to draw up
the papers that would make one-third the Bar Y property Wainright's and
place a hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars in the hands of Corson
and Lillian Manill.

At the mine it stopped and took on the messenger with the bullion. Then
to the crack of Bill Gatlin's whip it lurched onward toward the gap, Bill
was discoursing to a tenderfoot who had remarked on the dry appearance of
the country that he had seen, stretching away as far as the eye could
reach, from the summit to the pass.

"I should hate to be caught out there alone," said the young man. "I'm
afraid I'd starve to death."

"Why that wouldn't be nothin'," observed Bill. "That wouldn't be nothin'
at all. Why back in the seventies when I was ridin' fer the Lazy H outfit
in Montana I was chasin' a critter one day when my pony stepped in a
badger hole an' after turnin' three complete somersaults lights plumb on
his feet an' starts across country scared stiff, which would a'ben all
right ef it hadn't a'ben that the last somersault shuck me clean outen
the saddle, an' by cracky it was jest my durn luck that my foot caught in
the stirrup an' that ornery critter up an' drags me. He was so sceart
that he never much more'n slowed up fer three days. Yes-, sir, he drug me
fer three days an' nights, an' all I hed to eat was when he drug me
through a strawberry patch an' all I hed to drink was when he drug me
through a river. No, sir, after thet it wouldn't seem bad at all to be
left out nowheres in no country."

The tenderfoot looked at Bill with deep and reverent awe, but he said
nothing. The stage bumped over the uneven road, lurching drunkenly around
curves. A masked man waited silently behind the boulders at the south end
of the gap. He appeared nervous, turning often to glance back into the
chapparal from which he had emerged a few moments before. "I wonder where
in hell Gregorio is," he muttered, half aloud, "he told me last night
that he would be here before me."

The stage drew nearer. Bill Gatlin reined his team to a walk at the first
deep chuck-hole at the entrance to the gap. The horses moved slowly,
picking their way and sometimes stumbling in the deep dust-filled
cavities that made this short stretch of scarce fifty yards the most
notorious piece of road within a hundred miles.

The lone highwayman could wait no longer for his accomplice--he must
essay the thing alone. He stepped forward to intercept the slow-moving
stage and as he did so a noise behind him attracted his attention, and a
single backward glance revealed to him a masked man and the familiar
habiliments of Gregorio. He breathed a quick sigh of relief, motioned to
his accomplice to hurry, and moved forward with the second man now close
at his heels.

Bill Gatlin and the messenger were not surprised when the two men stepped
into the middle of the gap and held them up. They would have been
surprised under ordinary circumstances, but today they had been
forewarned that there would doubtless be an attempted holdup on account
of the unusually valuable gold shipment, which was being used as a lure
to trap The Black Coyote, and they had been warned to offer no resistance
since Hal Colby had agreed to take the notorious robber if the matter was
left entirely in his hands without any interference whatsoever. All of
which pleased Bill Gatlin and the messenger immensely, since it relieved
them both of most of the danger and all the responsibility. Not only did
Bill Gatlin show no surprise at the appearance of the two masked figures,
but, as a matter of fact, he was already stopping his team as they
appeared, and had his hands in the air almost as soon as the command left
the lips of the foremost of them. As usual the Mexican kept the driver
and messenger covered while The Black Coyote approached the stage to
obtain the gold, but this time the second robber followed his principal
more closely than had formerly been his custom. The Coyote menaced the
passengers with his weapons, seeing that they kept their hands elevated,
and then with Gregorio on the watch behind him he slipped both his guns
back into their holsters and reached up to take the bags of gold away
from the messenger.

He had placed one foot on the hub of the front wheel to raise himself to
a height that would enable him to reach the precious pouches when his
confederate stepped quickly toward him, shoved the muzzles of his guns
into The Black Coyote's back, and ordered him to put up his hands.

"Step down and put 'em up," he said. "You're through."

"Durn my hide!" exclaimed Bill Gatlin. "Hays pretty cute. I thought he
was Gregorio all the time. He's got Bull to rights this time."

The Black Coyote stepped back from the stage with a growl. "You dirty
greaser, you," he cried. "I'll get you for this, Gregorio."

The latter nodded to the messenger. "Get down and get his guns," he said,
and when the man had done so, "Now yank off his mask."

The messenger jerked the black silk handkerchief from the face of The
Black Coyote with a single quick movement, and then stepped back
suddenly, his eyes wide with surprise. "Colby!" he ejaculated.

Bill Gatlin almost swallowed his quid of tobacco. "Well I'll be
hornswaggled!" he exclaimed, and then to the second robber, "an' you was
Gregorio all the time an' I mistook you fer Colby. The joke sure is on
me, an' the drinks too."

"They are," agreed the second robber. He shoved one of his guns into his
holster and removed his own mask. .

"Well now I will be hornswaggled," murmured Bill Gatlin-"ef it ain't
Bull!"

"Keep him covered," said Bull to the messenger, ":while I get our
horses."

Colby glared sullenly at Bull as the latter walked back up the road to
get the horses, but he said nothing. He was still half-dazed from the
surprise of seeing Bull disguised as Gregorio, for even to the latter's
guns Bull wore the entire outfit of the Mexican, and when Bull returned,
riding Gregorio's and leading Colby's animal, The Black Coyote eyed him
as though he still doubted his identity.

Bull drew rein beside him and nodded toward Colby's horse. "Climb
aboard," he said. Colby mounted and Bull tossed the noose of his reata
around his prisoner's neck, drawing up the slack until the honda touched
the collar of the man's shirt.

"Pull yer freight, Colby," said Bull, and the two started off down the
road toward Hendersville. A moment later the stage passed them.

"Want me to stay along with you in case you need any help?" called Bill
Gatlin.

"I won't want no help," said Bull.

As the stage grew away from them, concealing itself in its own dust, a
swarthy rider galloped up to Bull and Colby, reining in a blazed-face
chestnut beside them. It was Gregorio. Colby glared at the Mexican.

"You-you-" he shouted.

"Shut up, Colby," Bull interrupted him. "You got what was comin' to you.
It'll learn you not to ditch a pal."

Gregorio had dismounted and was stripping his outer garments and Bull
followed his example. As they exchanged clothing and horses they joked
together over the days work, which they considered good. Gregorio swung
himself into his saddle first.

"A Dios, Senor Bull!" he cried with a wave of his hand. "Perhaps in a few
days Gregorio comes out of the hills, eh?"

"I'll fix that up when I git through with this business, Gregorio,"
replied the American. "In the meantime just lay low."

"And I will work with you for the Bar Y Rancho?" inquired the Mexican.

"If I do, Gregorio. So-long!"

"A Dios, Senor!" and Gregorio wheeled his pony back toward the hills.

"Thet greaser's whiter'n some white men," said Bull.

When he trotted into Hendersville a few minutes behind the stage he found
that already the news had spread and a crowd, gathered about the stage in
front of The Donovan House, surrounded him and his prisoner.

"Durn his hide!" exclaimed one who had been fore most among the posse
that had ridden forth to hang Bull only a short time before, "I knew
right along 'twarn't Bull. I anus said they was something shady about
thet there Colby feller."

Bull had but just drawn rein when. Texas Pete and Shorty rode up, safely
delivered in town by their escort and having reclaimed their guns which
had been emptied of cartridges and dropped in the road at the edge, of
town while the escort galloped quickly out of range toward the Bar I'.

Texas Pete had no time for questions. His quick eyes took in the scene at
a glance and possibly he guessed the explanation, or caught it from the
comments of the crowd, but another and more important matter occupied his
thoughts as he forced his pony to Bull's side.

"Have you saw anything of Miss Di?" he asked. "Is she here in town?"

"I don't know. Why?"

"She ain't on the Bar Y Corson says she's sold out an' left fer Aldea,"
replied Texas Pete.

"Corson's a liar," snapped Bull. He turned toward the veranda Of The
Donovan House where he espied the proprietress. "Mrs. Donovan!" he called
to her, "is Miss Henders in town?"

"She is not, Bull," replied Mary Donovan.

Bull turned his eyes toward the crowd until they alighted upon a man he
knew bore a decent reputation--one who was not affiliated with Gum Smith
or his gang.

"Thompson," he called, "you take Colby an' keep him 'til I git back.
Don't let Gum Smith git his hands on him, an' shoot Colby if he makes any
funny plays. Git down offen your horse, Colby. Take him, Thompson. Come
on boys!" and with Texas Pete and Shorty at his pony's heels he started
on a run for the Bar Y As they raced along, now neck and neck, Texas Pete
jerked his head back in the general direction of Hendersville. "What was
it all about?" he inquired.

"I jest runded up The Black Coyote," replied Bull.

"Colby?"

Bull nodded. "I ben suspicionin' him," he said, "fer a long time back,
but I couldn't never call the turn on him. Then I runs onto Gregorio
while I'm hidin' out up Coyote Canyon. Him an' Colby ben workin' together
all along, but it seems lately the greaser's found out Colbys plannin' on
doublecrossin' him an' goin' south with all the swag. This was to be his
last job, an' Colby fixed it someway to have a big shipment of gold
today, so Gregorio an' me fixes it an' swaps clothes an' horses an' I
takes the greaser's place. Colby never got onto it at all. He thinks I
was the greaser plumb up to the minute I yanks off the mask."

"I thought Gregorio didn't have no use fer you, Bull," said Shorty.

"I done him a good turn a spell back." That was all he said about the
fight with the Apaches in Cottonwood Canyon, where he had risked his life
to save the Mexican's.

They rode on in silence for a while. The ranch buildings, nestling among
the trees, were visible in the distance when Texas Pete called attention
to a speck among the sagebrush far to the southeast. To an untrained eye
it was scarcely appreciable.

"There's a saddled cayuse," he said. "What fer is it doin' out yender?"

Bull strained his eyes in the direction of the animal. "Looks like the
L-O sorrel Idaho used to ride," he said.

"Idaho was left home with Miss Di," said Pete.

As one man the three reined toward the distant pony and with loosened
reins tore over the powdery earth, bounding in and out and over the brush
like so many nimble-footed jack-rabbits. Blazes, outdistancing the other
ponies, reached the L-O sorrel first. Bull threw himself from his saddle
and kneeled beside the prostrate form of a man, half hidden in the brush.
It was Idaho. As Bull lifted his head he opened his eyes. He looked at
Bull in a bewildered way for a moment, the expression of his face
denoting a concentrated effort to recall his mental faculties. Then Texas
Pete and Shorty reined in beside him in a cloud of dust and profanity.

"Where's the boss?" demanded Pete.

"What you loafin' out here fer?" inquired Shorty.

Slowly Idaho sat up, assisted by Bull. He looked at the reins looped
about his wrist. He felt of his side and brought his hand away covered
with blood.

"I done the best I could," he said, "but they was too many of them."

"Where's the boss, you ornery side-winder?" yelled Texas Pete. "Who's
'them'? What hev they done with her?"

"They was all masked," said Idaho. "I didn't know no more after they
creased me. I dunno what they done with her. Help me aboard thet cayuse,
you bow-legged flannel mouth, an' we'll pull our freight an' find her,
'stid o' sittin' round here listenin' to your yap,"

Pete, who had dismounted, helped Idaho, almost tenderly, into the saddle.

"You better beat it fer town," he said. "You ain't much good nohow an'
with a .45 between your ribs you ain't no good whatsumever."

"Shut up!" Idaho admonished him. "If I was perforated like a salt cellar
I'd be wuth two o' you." He reeled a little in the saddle, but shook
himself and straightened up. It was evident that he was weak from shock
and loss of blood, and that he was suffering pain beside.

"You'd better go back, Idaho," said Bull. "You ain't in no shape to ride
at all an' I reckon we got some hard ridin' ahead o' us."

"Go back, you damn fool," said Texas Pete, who, under the cloak of rough
and almost brutal badinage, had sought to hide his real concern for his
friend's welfare.

"Go chase yerselves," replied Idaho. "I'm goin' with you."

They wasted no more time in argument, but started a wide circle, looking
for the tracks of the abductors. They found sufficient evidence to
convince them that there had been upward of a dozen horsemen concerned in
the work, which corroborated Idaho's statement, and that approximately
half of these had ridden directly in the direction of the Bar Y, while
the others had taken a southerly route. It was the latter trail they
elected to follow after Bull discovered upon it the imprint of an iron
shoe, and as Captain, being tender in front, had recently had his
forefeet shod it was safe to assume that they had taken Diana Renders
this way.

They rode fast, for dusk was already on them, and when, a short time
later, it became too dark to distinguish the trail from the saddle they
were often compelled to stop and dismount, and, upon several occasions,
strike matches to make sure that they were still on the right track.
Their progress was, therefore, necessarily slow. Toward midnight they
lost the trail completely. It was there they left Idaho, too weak from
loss of blood to continue.



CHAPTER XVIII

THROUGH THE NIGHT

IN a back room of The Chicago Saloon Thompson sat guard over Hal Colby,
who was neatly and securely trussed and tied to a chair, in which he sat.
In The Donovan House the guests were seated at dinner when Gum Smith
entered and took his accustomed place. He had just come from the Bar Y
and as the streets of Hendersville had happened to be deserted at the
meal hour he had met no one.

"'Lo, Gum," greeted Bill Gatlin. "I reckon you hearn we got The Black
Coyote."

"Ah hain't see no one sence Ah reached town," replied Smith, "but Ah
knowed Colby'd git the critter," yet withall he looked a bit mystified
and uneasy. "Whar be he?" he asked.

"He's safe in The Chicago," said Wildcat Bob.

"Ah reckon Ah'd better git him over to the jail," said Gum Smith.

"I reckon you'll leave him at The Chicago," replied Wildcat. "Do you know
who he is?"

"Bull, o' course."

"Bull, hell-it's Colby."

Gum Smith paled, just a trifle. "They must be some mistake," he said,
weakly. "Who got him?"

"Bull got him an' they ain't no mistake," said Bill Gatlin. "I knew all
along 'twarn't Bull."

"Well," said Gum Smith, "The Chicago Saloon ain't no place fer a
dangerous prisoner. Soon's Ah've et my victuals Ah'll take him over to
the jail whar he'll be safe."

"I tells you you'll leave him at The Chicago," said Wildcat Bob.

"Ah'm sheriff o' this yere county," bawled Gum Smith, "an' nobody don't
want to interfere with me in the dis=charge o' mah duties. Do yo-all hear
me, Wildcat Bob?"

"I hears you, but jest like a jack-ass brayin' it don't make no
impression on my onderstandin'," replied Wildcat, embellishing his
remarks with lurid and descriptive profanity. He finished his meal first
and went out. When Gum Smith left The Donovan House he repaired at once
to his own saloon. Here he deputized a half a dozen loafers, gave each of
them several drinks, and led them to The Chicago Saloon, where he
demanded of the proprietor that he turn over to him, forthwith, the
person of Hal Colby, otherwise known as The Black Coyote.

"He's in the back room yonder," replied the owner of The Chicago Saloon.
"Ef you craves him, go git him. I don't want him."

In front of the door to the back room sat Wildcat Bob. His elbows were
resting can his knees and from each hand dangled a .45.

"In the name o' the lawr," piped Gum Smith in his high voice, "Ah demands
the pusson o' one Hal Colby."

"Git the hell outen here, you blankety, blank, blank, blank!" screamed
Wildcat Bob.

"Yo-all better listen to reason, Wildcat Bob," yelled the sheriff, "or
Ah'll have the lawr on yo."

Wildcat Bob, raising his voice yet higher again than that of his ancient
enemy bawled out an incoherent volley of blasphemous and obscene
invective. Gum Smith turned and whispered to one of his followers, who
withdrew from the room with two others. Presently Gum Smith stepped to
one side of the room and, pointing at the little old man sitting before
the locked door, called to his remaining deputies: "Take him, men-do yore
duty!"

One of the men stepped forward. Wildcat Bob whirled a gun about his
forefinger and without taking aim shot the fellow's hat from his head.
The three stepped back. Almost simultaneously there came the sound of the
crashing of glass from the interior of the room where Colby was confined,
the voice of Thompson raised in protest, and then shots. Wildcat Bob
leaped to his feet and reached for the knob of the door. As he did so his
back was toward the barroom for an instant and in that instant Gum Smith
raised his six-shooter and fired. Without a word Wildcat Bob crumpled to
the floor and lay there motionless.

Smith and his men leaped for the door. It was locked, and being a strong
door, withstood their combined efforts for several minutes. When at last
it gave before their assault and they stepped across the threshold they
saw only the body of Thompson sprawled upon the floor in a pool of blood.
The Black Coyote was gone.

Surrounded by masked men, her escort shot from his horse, Diana Henders
realized only too well the gravity of her situation and though she
recognized no individual among those who had lain in ambush for her she
guessed well enough that they had acted under orders from Corson. Her
note to him, revealing the fact that she knew the entire truth concerning
his duplicity and was in possession of the papers that proved it beyond
peradventure of a doubt, had, she guessed, prompted the desperate
adventure in which he pitted all against all. So suddenly had the masked
riders come upon them from the bed of a dry wash that they had had them
covered before they could draw, yet Idaho, true to the unwritten code of
his calling and his time, had invited death by drawing in the face of
their levelled guns in defense of a woman. Had he been alone, or with
another man, his hands had gone up the moment he had realized that the
odds were all against him, and one of them had gone up, but it had
carried a six-gun with it, and he had been shot out of the saddle for his
chivalry, and left for dead upon the parched ground as his assailants
galloped off toward the south with Diana.

Night fell and yet the men kept on, two riding ahead of Diana Henders and
four behind. They rode rapidly, not sparing their horses, and from both
their haste and the direction of their way the girl guessed that they
were making a try for the border. Once in the mountains they were forced
to a slower gait, and around nine o'clock they halted for a brief rest
where there was water for both the horses and their riders.

At first Diana had attempted to question them relative to their
intentions, but they would not tell her where they were taking her and at
last silenced her with oaths and threats. Nor did they remove their masks
until darkness equally as well hid their features from her. This and
their almost unbroken silence convinced her that her abductors were men
who feared recognition and therefore must have been recruited in the
neighborhood.

A shrewd guess suggested that an habitue of Gum's Place-Liquors and
Cigars-would have recognized them all. The abduction had therefore been
engineered or at least connived in by the sheriff, and this line of
reasoning but corroborated what was already a foregone conclusion that it
had been done at Corson's behest.

What their purpose was with her she could not guess. It might be a plan
to remove her temporarily to some hidden spot where she might not further
interfere with the plans of the New Yorker, or it might easily have a
more sinister purpose. She knew that Corson would never be safe in
possession of the Bar Y property while she lived and she did not believe
that he was fool enough not to appreciate that fact; but would he dare to
have her done away with? She wondered.

It was after midnight when they crossed the summit, at a point where
there appeared not the slightest vestige of a trail, and dropped down a
dangerous and rocky declivity into a wooded canyon. A dozen times the
girl's life was in jeopardy-her only safeguard the agility and
sure-footedness of Captain. A half-hour later the canyon widened into a
little pocket in the mountains and here they stopped again. Through the
gloom of the deep gorge her eyes finally distinguished the outlines of a
small cabin.

The men dismounted. "Get down," said one of them to Diana, and when she
had done so the fellow took her by the arm, with a gruff, "Come along!"
and led her toward the shack. He pushed open the door and told her to
enter. Following behind her, he struck a match, revealing a single room,
rudely furnished with a table, a few benches and a couple of cots, all
constructed in rustic fashion from branches of the trees which grew about
the place. On the table was a candle holder and a candle, which the man
lighted. At one end of the room was a blackened fireplace above which a
long shelf supported a few small boxes and cans. On pegs, flanking the
fireplace, were crude cooking utensils-a frying pan, a stew pan and a
coffee pot, while a larger kettle, for heating water, squatted in the
ashes of the dirty hearth.

The other men came in presently. All were masked again. One of them took
the kettle and went out, returning shortly with water. Another brought
wood and then a third set about preparing a meal. They had brought some
flour and bacon with them. There were baking powder, salt, pepper and
sugar in the cans upon the mantel shelf, together with one of coffee and
another of tea.

The aroma of cooking food awoke Diana to a realization of the fact that
she was hungry. Her situation, while grave, had not as yet reached a
point that she might consider dangerous. The attitude of the men had been
determined, albeit somewhat nervous, yet never at any time actually
menacing. What they had done had evidently been accomplished under orders
from some person or persons who were taking no active part in the actual
abduction-who were not even present when the thing was done nor now that
they had reached this hiding place in the mountains.

Diana Henders was more or less familiar with these southern hills and she
knew that she never had been in this spot before. What an ideal place it
would be to commit and effectually hide all traces of a crime! She put
such unpleasant thoughts from her and turned her attention to the bacon
sizzling upon the hearth the while it filled the room with its delicious
aroma. She was given a portion of the food and, seated upon one of the
rude cots, devoured it ravenously. Her fears, of what ever magnitude they
might be, had not spoiled her appetite, nor did she show in any other
outward manner that she was afraid, either of her abductors or
contemplation of the fate that awaited her.

The meal over, one of the men arose and left the cabin. From the
monosyllabic conversation that ensued she gathered that he had been sent
back along their route to a point where he could act as sentinel and thus
safeguard them from surprise. They did not appear to expect pursuit, but
took this precaution. evidently, in accordance with orders previously
received, or a plan prearranged.

After the meal the men smoked for a while and then, one by one, lay down
upon the rough boards to sleep, so disposing themselves that the girl
could not approach either the door or the single window without
disturbing one or more of them. The last man blew out the candle before
he lay down. Diana Renders stretched herself at length upon the rough
branches that formed the bottom of one of the cots and tried to sleep.
How long she lay awake she did not know, but eventually she fell into a
light slumber, from which she was awakened about three in the morning by
the sound of horses' feet on the ground outside the cabin. Then she heard
men's voices, speaking in subdued tones. A sudden premonition seized
her-rescue was at hand! She heard the door open and immediately two of
the men upon the floor awoke and sat up.

"Who's that?" demanded one.

"Me," replied one of the newcomers. "The rest o' you fellers wake up-we
got to get outta here." He stepped to the table, struck a match and
lighted the candle. In its first flare Diana recognized his figure as
that of the man who had gone out after the meal to act as guard along the
trail-the man with him was Hal Colby.

"Put out that light, you damn fool!" cried one of the awakened sleepers.
"Do you want this girl to reco'nize us all?" The light went out, quickly.
Hal Colby stepped across the room to her side.

"Everything's all right, Di," he said. "I've come for you."

The other man was speaking to his fellows. "They's someone on our
trail-Colby passed them on the cut-off. He'd ben ridin' behind 'em fer an
hour. He says they's three o' 'em. We gotta git out." Hastily the men
rose and sought their horses. Colby took Diana by the arm.

"Come!" he said. "I'll get you out o' here."

"Why should I want to get out when someone is coming to take me away from
these men?" she demanded.

"But I'm here-I'll take you out, Di. Come, we must hurry."

She shook her head. "No! I shall stay here."

"They won't let you-they'll take you along. You had better come with me.
I am your friend."

"You cannot be a friend of theirs arid mine, both."

He took her by the arm again. "Come! This is no time for fooling."

She struggled to free herself and when he attempted to drag her forcibly
she struck him in the face with a clenched fist.

"You-!" he cried, applying a vile epithet to her "You'll come, damn you,"
and he picked her up and carried her out into the waning night.

Most of the men had found their horses and mounted. "Where's her horse?"
demanded Colby of one of them, and when it was led forward he threw her
roughly into the saddle and with her own reata he bound her there. Then
he mounted his own animal and, leading hers, started down the rough and
wooded gorge, toward the south.

A few miles away three men drew rein upon a ridge. "We've lost the damn
trail agin," muttered Texas Pete, sourly.

Bull sat erect upon Blazes, his head thrown far back, his nostrils
dilated.

"What you lookin' up yender fer?" demanded Shorty. "The trail thet bunch
o' short-horn's on don't lead to heavin."

"Smell it?" asked Bull.

"What?"

"Wood smoke! They's a east wind. Come on!" He rode blindly through the
darkness, trusting to the instinct and the eyesight of his horse, toward
the east and the fire from which that tenuous suggestion of wood smoke
emanated. Where there was fire there should be a man-thus reasoned Bull.

A half-hour later the three slid and rolled with their horses down the
steep side of a gorge into a cup-like opening in the hills and before
them, in the growing dawn, they saw a mean, weatherworn shack. From the
crumbling chimney a thin wisp of smoke arose into the still air, to be
wafted gently westward after it had topped the summit of the canyon
walls. They hid their horses among the trees and the under-brush and
crept stealthily toward the building from three sides. Bull was the first
to come into the open and as he did so he stood erect and sprang toward
the doorway of the building, bursting into the interior with two guns
ready-in his hands. The place was empty. Embers smouldered upon the dirty
hearth. A greasy frying pan lay upon the floor at one side, a kettle half
filled with warm water upon the other. There was the odor of cigarette
smoke in the air of the single room.

"They ben here, but they's gone," said Bull as his two friends joined
him.

"They ain't ben gone long," said Shorty.

They found the trail leading down the canyon and followed it, while a few
miles ahead Colby and Diana with the six masked men debouched upon the
wide fiat at the foot of the hills. Here they halted.

"One o' you fellers swap horses with the girl," commanded Colby, "and
then you all circle back to the west an' north an' hit the high spots fer
Hendersville. Here, Grift, you take her horse."

"How come?" demanded Grift.

"Why to lead the folks back at Hendersville offen the trail, o' course,"
replied Colby. "You'll tell 'em you found her horse tother side o' the
West Ranch an' they'll look there 'til the cows comes home."

Grift, satisfied with this explanation, dismounted and took Diana's
horse, after which she was bound to the one he had quitted.

"Now beat it!" said Colby. "I'll take care o' the girl," and he started
off toward the south, while the others turned westward.

"I reckon I fooled 'em," remarked Colby when the others were out of
hearing.

Diana made no reply.

"Them three hombres is trailin' you, Di," he continued, "an they'll be
jest wise enough to foller Captain's tracks. I reckon I fooled 'em fine.
Grift never would o' swapped ef he'd a-knowed what my reason was."

Diana said nothing. She did not even look at him. They rode on in silence
then for some time.

"Look here, Di," he exclaimed finally. "You might as well come down offen
your high horse. You're mine now an' I'm agoin' to keep you-as long as I
want you. I'm rich now. I'll git all the money I wants from Lillian, but
you're the one I love-you're the one I want and you're the one I'm
a-goin' to have. After I gits all o' Lillian's money I'll quit her an'
you an' me'll do some travelin', but in the meantime I gotta marry her to
git the money. Sabe?"

"Cur!" muttered Diana, shuddering.

"Well, ef you wants to belong to a cur, call me one," he said, laughing.
"'cause you're goin' to belong to me after today. You won't never want to
go back then. You thought you'd turn me down, did you? You wanted that
dirty damn bandit, didn't cha? Well, you won't never git him. If he isn't
follerin' you with the three thets behind us he won't never catch up to
us this side o' the border, an' after that he couldn't never find us in a
hundred years. If he is with them he'll foller the Captain's hoof prints
until he catches up with 'em an' then that bunch o' bad-uns'll shoot him
full o' holes. I guess maybe I wasn't foolin' the whole bunch on 'em,
eh?"

Diana Henders looked her unutterable contempt and loathing. Colby fell
silent after a bit, seeing that it was impossible to draw the girl into
conversation. Thus they continued on for miles. Suddenly, from far away
toward the north, came, just barely audible to their ears, faintly the
sound of distant firearms.

Bull and his pals had come upon the six. There had been no preliminary-no
questions asked. The three had but put spurs to their horses and
overtaken the fleeing abductors, who, their work done, had no desire to
enter into an argument with anyone. The moment he thought that he was
within safe range Bull had opened with a single gun, and at the first
shot a man had tumbled from his saddle. It was a running fight from then
on until but a single one of the six remained. Holding one hand far above
his head he reined in his jaded mount, at the same time letting his gun
fall to the ground. Bull drew up beside him.

"Where's Miss Henders?" he demanded.

"I don't know nothin' about her-I ain't seen her."

"You lie," said Bull, in a low voice. "You're riding her horse now. Where
is she? I'll give you five seconds to answer before I send you to hell."

"Colby taken her-south-toward the border," cried Grift, and Bull
wondered, for he had left the man safely in Hendersville.

"You take thet horse home, Grift," said Bull, "to the Bar Y. Ef you've
lied to me about Miss Henders, or ef thet horse ain't in a Bar Y corral
when I gets back, I bore you. Sabe?"

Grift nodded.

"Now beat it," said Bull, and reined about toward the south.

Again the hard, pitiless grind commenced. Beneath a scorching sun, over
blistering alkali flats, the three urged their weary horses on.

"You gotta make it, Blazes. You gotta make it," whispered Bull in the ear
of the pony. "She cain't be much ahead, an' there ain't nothin' can step
away from me an' you, Blazes, forever. We'll catch up with 'em some day."



CHAPTER XIX

"TELL ME THAT YOU LOVE ME!"

IT was ten o'clock that morning before Bull, Texas Pete and Shorty picked
up Colby's trail and by that time the man and his unwilling companion
were a good four hours ahead of them. On tired horses, through the heat
of a blazing Arizona day, it seemed hopeless to expect to overhaul their
quarry before night had fallen and by that time Colby would have crossed
the border. Not however that that meant much to the three who pursued
him, to whom international boundary lines were of no more practical
import than parallels of latitude or isothermal lines.

Before noon they were obliged to stop and rest their horses at a water
hole that afforded a brackish but refreshing drink for the three jaded
animals. In the mud at the border they saw the fresh tracks of Colby's
pony and Diana's. It was evident that they had stopped here for a
considerable time, which, in truth, they had, so positive was Colby that
he had thrown their pursuers off the track, leading them into a gun fight
with a superior force that might reasonably have been expected to have
accounted for them to the last man.

Five minutes was all the rest that the pursuers allowed their horses.
Once again they were in the saddle. "Lookee yender!" exclaimed Texas
Pete, pointing toward the south. "Ef it ain't rainin' there I'm a
siwash."

"It's about a month too early for the rains," said Bull, "but it shore is
rainin'-rainin' like hell. Look at thet lightnin'. Say, if they ain't
crossed Salee's Flats yet they won't never git acrost, not while thet
rain lasts."

"'N' if they has crossed we won't never catch 'em," said Shorty.

"I'll catch 'em ef I hev to ride plumb to hell an' it takes me a hundred
years," said Bull.

The rain struck Colby and Diana at the northern edge of the Flats. It
came in driving sheets and sometimes in solid masses that almost crushed
them. It came with deafening reverberations of Titantic thunder and
vivid, almost terrifying, displays of lightning. It was bad where they
were, but Colby knew from experience of the country that in the low hills
at the upper end of the Flats it was infinitely worse-that there had been
a cloudburst. He put spurs to his horse and dragging Diana's into a
gallop urged them both to greater speed, knowing that if he did not cross
the wash in the center of the Flats within a few minutes he might not
cross it again for days. When they reached it three feet of turbid water
tumbled madly down the narrow bed between the precipitous clay walls. The
man found a steep path that stock had made for crossing when the bed of
the wash was dry and urged his horse downward. The force of the current
almost swept the animal from its feet, but with wide-spread legs it
stemmed the torrent, while Colby, taking a few turns of the lead rope
around his horn, dragged Diana's pony through in safety after him. At the
top of the bank the man turned and looked toward the north and then down
at the rising flood.

"If this rain holds out they won't nothin' more cross here fer a spell,"
he said, smiling. "In ten minutes she'll be plumb full. We kin take it
easier now."

He started off again, but now at a walk, for he knew that there was no
longer need for haste, if there had been before, which he had doubted.
The horses, cooled and refreshed by the rain, would have been equal to a
spurt now, but none was necessary, and so they came after a mile to the
dim outlines of an adobe house showing through the driving downpour,
directly ahead. Colby rode close to the door, and leaning from his
saddle, pounded upon it. There was no reply.

"I reckon we'll stop here a while," he said, dismounting.

He opened the door and looked in. The place was deserted. In rear of it
was an open shed for stock and to this they rode. Colby helped Diana from
her horse, removed the saddles and bridles from the animals and tied them
beneath the shed, then he led the girl to the house, her arms still bound
by the reata. There was no chance that she could escape now; so the man
removed her bonds.

"We'll rest here a few hours an' give the horses a chance, then we'll hit
the trail. We gotta find a place where we kin feed, my belly's wrapped
around my back-bone. Let's be friends, Di. You might as well make the
best of it. You cain't blame a feller fer lovin' you, an' I ain't so
bad-you might a-done a lot worse." He came toward her and raised his hand
as though to place it on her arm.

"Don't touch me!" She drew back with an appreciable shudder or revulsion.

He laughed. "You'll feel better after a while," he said. "We're both too
dog tired to be very good company. I'm goin' to get in a little sleep.
You'd better do the same; but I'll have to tie you up again unless you'll
promise not to try to escape."

She made no reply. "All right," he said, "ef you'd rather be tied." He
came then and tied her hands behind her. Keeping one end of the rope in
his own hand he lay down upon the dirt floor and was soon asleep. Diana
sat with her back against the wall listening to the rain beating upon the
roof and driving against the walls. The roof leaked badly in several
places and the water that came through formed puddles on the floor which
joined together into a little rivulet that wound to the doorway and
disappeared beneath the door.

How hopeless! Diana stifled a sob. She was tired and hungry and weak from
exhaustion. The frightful rain had cut off the frail vestige of a chance
of rescue that there had been before. By now no man or beast could cross
Salee's Flats. She knew one man who would try had he known of her
predicament, but how was he to know of it-a hunted fugitive hiding in the
mountains far to the north.

Realizing the necessity for haste if they were to cross the Flats before
the wash became an impassable torrent, the three pursuers drove their
tired horses onward at the top of their diminished speed. The race became
at once a test for the survival of the fittest, and Blazes forged
steadily farther and farther, ahead of the ponies. Long before Bull
reached the Flats the rain was upon him, refreshing both horse and man,
and Blazes, as though imbued with new life, increased the distance
between himself and the two ponies now far behind. The driving rain was
rapidly obliterating the trail that the man followed, yet he managed to
cling to it to the very brink of the wash-to the very point where Colby
and Diana had crossed, and there Bull drew rein to look down, scowling,
upon a seething barrier of yellow water. Twenty feet wide it was and ten
feet deep, swirling and boiling like a cauldron of hell. He eyed the
greasy, muddy footing of the bank. Had it been firm and dry he had put
Blazes to it for a jump, but he knew that it could not be done, nor could
he swim the horse. Even could the animal have made the crossing it could
not have clambered out upon the top of that perpendicular, constantly
caving wall, with the mighty current always dragging at it. But Bull was
not hopeless-he was merely devising ways and means. Not an instant had he
considered the possibility of giving up the. pursuit, or even of delaying
it by waiting for the waters to recede. Taking his rope in hand he
dismounted and stepped close to the brink of the torrent, upon both sides
of which grew numerous clumps of grease-wood. He seemed already to have
formed a plan, for he drew one of his six-guns and hurled it across the
wash. He followed it with the second gun and then with his heavy belt of
cartridges. Then came his boots, one by one.

Shaking down the honda he swung a noose at the end of his rope, which,
opening up, described a circle that seemed to revolve about his head at
an angle of forty-five degrees with the ground, like a rakish halo just
for an instant, and then it rose and sailed gracefully across the
new-born river to drop around a clump of grease-wood upon the opposite
bank.

"Come here!" said Bull to Blazes, and the horse stepped- to his side,
close to the water's edge. "Stand!" commanded Bull, knowing that Blazes
would stand where he was for hours, if necessary, until his master gave a
new order.

Bull drew in his rope until it became taut and then he dragged heavily
upon the grease-wood across the channel. It held despite his most
strenuous efforts. He tied the loose end about his waist, stepped to the
edge of the water and leaped in.

Hal Colby awoke and looked about him. His eyes fell upon the girl sitting
with her back against the wall across the room.

"Feelin' better?" he asked. "I am. Nothin' like sleep, onless it be
grub."

She did not reply. He rose to his feet and approached her. "You're shore
a sullen little devil, but I'll take that out o' youa little lovin'll do
that. Git up an' kiss me!"

"You unspeakable-THING! It would be an insult to a cur to call you that."

Colby laughed good-naturedly. "Ef you'd ruther have a bandit, I might
turn one," he said, and again he laughed, this time at his own joke.

"If you are trying to suggest that I would prefer Bull, you are right.
You may thank God that he is not here-but he will come-and you will pay."

"Well, you ain't got up and kissed me yet," said Colby. "Do you want me
to yank you up? You got a lot to learn an' I'm the hombre what can learn
you. I've hed a lot o' experience-I've tamed 'em before, as good as you.
Tamed 'em an' made 'em like it. If it cain't be did one way it can
another. Sometimes a quirt helps." He struck his chaps with the lash of
the one he carried. "Git up, you!" He seized her by the arm and jerked
her roughly to her feet. Again she struck him, and this time the man
struck back-a stinging blow across her shoulders with the quirt. "I'll
learn you!" he cried.

She tried to free herself, striking him repeatedly, but he held her off
and lashed her cruelly, nor did he appear to care where the quirt fell.

The tumbling waters, engulfing Bull, rolled him over and over before,
half-drowned, his powerful strokes succeeded in raising his head above
the surface. He had had no conception of the tremendous strength of the
current. He was but a bobbing bit of flotsam upon its surface. He could
not stem it. He was helpless. The rope about his waist suddenly tautened
and he was again dragged beneath the surface. He grasped it with his
hands and tried to pull himself in toward shore, but the giant waters
held him in their grip, dragging him downward, stronger by far than the
strength of many men.

Suddenly the muddy flood spewed him to the surface once more-this time
against the bank to which the opposite end of his rope was fastened and
was dragging heavily upon its precarious anchor. He clutched at the
slippery, red mud, clawing frantically for a hand-hold. The waters leaped
upon him and beat him down, but still he fought on valiantly, not for his
life but for the girl he loved, and at last he won, dragging himself
slowly out upon the bank. Almost exhausted he rose, staggering, to his
feet and looked back across the torrent at Blazes.

"It ain't no use, boy," he said, with a shake of his head. "I was a-goin'
to rope you an' drag you acrost, but it cain't be did. Now I reckon I'll
hev to hoof it."

He sat down in the mud and pulled on his boots, gathered up his guns and
belt, coiled his rope and turned his face southward. "Ef it takes a
hundred years an' I hev to foller him plumb to hell," he muttered, "I'll
git him!"

Still spent and blowing from his tremendous exertions against the flood,
he staggered on through the sticky clay and the blinding rain, his head
bent down against the storm. It was hard work, but never once did a
thought of surrender enter his mind. He would find a ranch house
somewhere and get a horse-he might even come upon some range stock. He
had his lariat and there was a bare chance that he might get close enough
to an animal to rope it. But he must have a horse! He felt
helpless-entirely impotent-without one.

Imagine yourself thrust into a cold and unfriendly world, if you are a
man, without a pocket knife, a bunch of keys, a handkerchief, money, or a
pair of shoes and you will be able to appreciate how a cowboy feels
without a horse.

Thus, buffeted by the storm, he shouldered on until suddenly there loomed
almost directly in his path the outlines of an adobe house. Fortune
smiled upon him! Here he would find a horse! He stepped to the door and
was about to knock when he heard the voice of a woman crying out in
protestation and pain. Then he flung the door wide and stepped into the
interior. Colby, holding Diana's wrist, was twisting it in an excess of
rage, for she had struck him and repulsed him until the last vestige of
his thin veneer of manhood had fallen from him, leaving exposed the raw,
primordial beast.

He saw Bull the instant that the latter opened the door and swinging the
girl in front of him reached for a gun. Diana, too, saw the figure in the
doorway. A great wave of joy swept through her, and then she saw Colby's
gun flash from its holster and knew that Bull could not shoot because of
fear of hitting her; but she did not know Bull as well as she thought she
knew him, and similarly was Colby deceived, for the man in the doorway
fired from the hip the instant that Colby's gun was raised. The weapon
fell from nerveless fingers, the grasp upon Diana's wrist relaxed, and
Hal Colby pitched forward upon his face, a bullet hole between his eyes.

Diana swayed for an instant, dazed by the wonder of her deliverance, and
then as Bull stepped toward her she went to meet him and put her arms
about his neck.

"Bull!" It was half a sob. The man took her in his arms.

"Diana!" The word carried all the reverence of a benediction.

Raising her face from his shoulder she pushed him away a little. "Bull,"
she said, "once you told me that you loved me. Tell me so again."

"'Love' don't tell half of it, girl," he said, his voice husky with
emotion.

"Oh, Bull," she cried, "I have been such a fool. I love you! I have
always loved you, but I did not know it until that night-the night they
came after you at the West Ranch."

"But you couldn't love me, Diana, thinkin' I was The Black Coyote!"

"I don't care, Bull, what you are. All I care or know is that you are my
man. We will go away together and start over again-will you, Bull, for my
sake?"

And then he told her that he didn't have to go away-told her who The
Black Coyote had been.

"Why, he even planted one o' the bullion sacks under my bed-roll at The
West Ranch to prove I was the right hombre," said Bull. "Saw a sack o'
dust I brung from Idaho, an' he tried to make 'em think it was yours. He
used to send me off alone the days he was a-goin' to hold up the stage,
so's when the time was ripe he could throw suspicion on me. He shore was
a clever feller, Hal was."

"But the day Mack was wounded?" she asked. "We saw you coming in from the
north and there was blood on your shirt."

"I got in a brush with Apaches up Cottonwood, me an' Gregorio, an' I got
scratched. 'Twasn't nothin'."

"And to think that all the time he was professing friendship for you he
was trying to make me believe that you were The Black Coyote.," cried
Diana. "He was worse than Mr. Corson and I thought him about the
wickedest man I had ever known."

"We gotta think about gittin' back an' havin' a friendly pow-wow with
thet there Corson gent," said Bull. "By golly, the sun's out!
Everything's happy, Diana, now thet you're safe."

They walked to the doorway. The rain had stopped as suddenly as it had
begun, and now the fierce sun blazed down upon the steaming mud.

"Where's your horses?" asked Bull.

"In a shed behind the house."

"Good! We'll start along. They's a bridge twentyfive miles below here ef
I ain't mistaken. I think I know this here shack. I was down this way two
year ago."

"But what about him?" She nodded back toward the body of Colby.

"He kin rot here fer all I care," said Bull, bitterly-" a-hurtin' you!
God, I wisht he had nine lives like a cat, so's I could kill him a few
more times."

She closed the door behind them. "We'll have to notify Gum Smith, so they
can send down and bury him."

"Gum Smith won't never get the chanct," he said.

They walked to the shed and he saddled the two horses, rested now and
refreshed a little by the past hours of relief from -the heat, and after
they had mounted and ridden halfway to the wash they saw the figures of
two men upon the opposite bank.

"Texas Pete and Shorty," he told her. They recognized the girl and Bull
and whooped and shouted in the exuberance of youth and joy.

It was a hard ride to the bridge through the heavy mud, but it was made
at last and then the four joined upon the same side and set out toward
home, picking up Idaho en route, still weak, but able to sit on a horse.

It was two days later before they rode into the Bar Y ranch yard, where
they were met with wild acclaim by Willie, Wong .and the men's cook.

"Where's Corson?" demanded Bull.

"The whole bunch has gone to town to close the deal. They was some hitch
the other day. Wong said he heard 'em talkin'. Corson wouldn't take
nothin' but gold an' Wainright had to send up to Aldea fer it. They say
it's comin' in on today's stage."

"I'm goin' to town," announced Bull.

"So am I," said Diana.

"We'll all go," said Shorty.

"Git us up some fresh horses, Willie," said Texas Pete. Then he turned to
Diana. "You ain't said yit thet I ain't foreman no more." They both
smiled.

"Not yet, Pete. I'll have to talk it over with Bull," said Diana.

Remounted, they galloped off toward Hendersville-all but Idaho. Him they
left behind, much to his disgust, for he needed rest.

They reached town half an hour after the stage had pulled in and,
entering The Donovan House, found Corson, Lillian Manill, the two
Wainrights, together with the attorney from Aldea and Gum Smith.

At sight of Bull, Gum Smith leaped to his feet. "Yo-all's undeh arrest!"
he squealed.

"What fer?" asked Bull.

"Fer robbin' the United States Mail, thet's what fer."

"Hold your horses, Gum," admonished Bull, "I -ain't quite ready fer you
yet. I craves conversation with these here dudes fust." He turned to the
elder Wainright. "'You was honin' to pay a hundred and twenty-five
thousand dollars to this here dude fer the Bar Y?'

"'Tain't none o' yore business," snapped Wainright.

Bull laid a hand upon the -butt of one of his guns. "Does I hev to run
you out o' Hendersville to git a civil answer?" he demanded.

Wainright paled. "I've paid already, an' the Bar Y's mine," he answered
surlily.

"You've ben stung. Them two's crooks. The girl ain't no relation to Miss
Henders' uncle an' we got the papers to prove it. We got the will, too,
thet this skunk tried to git hold of an' destroy. Leastwise Miss Henders
had 'em, but she sent 'em to Kansas City before Corson could git holt of
'em. Texas Pete, here, took 'em to Aldea. That's why you didn't find 'em
in the office, Corson, when you robbed the safe. Wong saw you and told us
about it just before we left the ranch today. All you got was the copies
she made. I don't wonder you wanted gold from Wainright."

"He's lyin," cried Corson to Wainright. "Do you believe what a fellow
like he is says? Why, he'll be in a federal penitentiary inside another
month for robbing the mail. There isn't a jury on earth would take his
word for anything."

"I ain't there yit an' no more I don't expect to be," said Bull.

"Yo-all's undeh arrest, jes the same, right now," cried Gum Smith, "an Ah
warns yo to come along peacable-like with me."

"Now I'm comin' to you, Gum," said Bull. "You better beat it, Gum. You
ain't wuth shootin', with cartridges the price they be," he continued.
"Gregorio had told me the whole story. He's goin' straight now an' wants
to square himself. He's writ out an' signed a confession thet's goin' to
make this climate bad fer your rheumatism."

"Gregorio's a dirty, lyin' greaser," screamed

Gum. "They won't no one bulieve him neither. They ain't no one got. the
goods on me."

"No," said Bull, "but you have. Nearly every ounce of thet gold-except
what you an' Colby spent an' what little you giv Gregorio's buried
underneath the floor of the back room o' your saloon, an' me an' Pete an'
Shorty's right here to see thet no hombre don't git it what don't belong
to it."

Gum Smith paled. "'Tain't so! It's a damn lie"'

"Thet's the second time I ben called a liar in five minutes," said Bull.
"I ain't did nothin' 'cause they's ladies present, but I'm goin' to send
'em outen the room in a minute an' then we'll talk about thet-ef you're
still here. I'd advise you not to be, though. Wainright, I seen your
buckboard tied out in front here. By crowdin' it'll hold five--meanin'
you, thet ornery lookin' dude son o' yourn, Corson, Miss Manill an' Gum.
You all be in it an' hittin' the trail north fer tother side o' the hill
inside o' five minutes or me an' the boys is goin' to start shootin', On
the way, Wainright, you an' Corson kin settle thet little matter o' the
hundred an' twenty-five thousand. Ef you kin git it back from him 'tain't
nothin' to me, but ef you don't you deserve to lose it, fer you're jest
as big a thief as he is, only not quite so bright in the head. Now git,
an' git damn pronto!" His voice had suddenly changed from mocking irony
to grim earnestness. It was a savage voice that uttered the final
command. Gum Smith was the first out of the room. He was followed by the
others. "See 'em to the edge of town, boys, an' see that they don't
linger," said Bull to Shorty an' Texas Pete.

"Oh, mamma!" exclaimed Shorty. "Lead me to them funny pants!"

Bull turned to the attorney from Aldea. "I ain't got no proof thet you
were in on this deal," he said; "so you kin wait an' go in on the stage
tomorrer."

"Thanks," said the attorney. "No, I thought it a perfectly legitimate
transaction; but I am glad they called me down, for now perhaps I can
transact some real business for some other clients of mine. I had not
been aware that the Bar Y was for sale, or I had been over here before. I
represent a large syndicate of eastern packers whom I know would be
interested in this property, and if Miss Henders will make me a
proposition I shall be glad to transmit it to them-you will find them
very different people to deal with than these others seem to have been."

"I thank you," said Diana, "but the Bar Y is not for sale. We are going
to run the ranch together, aren't we, Bull?"

"You bet we are," he replied.

Mary Donovan burst from an inner room at the moment. "Bliss me heart!"
she exclaimed. "An' I niver knew you was here 'til this very minute, an'
I heard what yese jest said, Diana Henders, an' I'm not after bein' such
a fool that I don't know what yese means. It makes me happy, God bless
ye! I must be after runnin' in an' tellin' me ould man-he'll be that
glad, he will."

"Your old man!" exclaimed Diana.

"Sure now," said Mary Donovan, blushing, "didn't yese know 'at me and Bob
was married the day before yesterday? Shure they had to shoot him before
I c'd git him. He niver was much, an' havin' a bullet hole clean through
him don't make him no better, but thin he's a man, an' a poor one's
better than none at all."



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The Bandit of Hell's Bend by Edgar Rice Burroughs





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