Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership
DefectiveByDesign.org




A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      The Return of the Mucker (1916)
Author:     Edgar Rice Burroughs
eBook No.:  0601481.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

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html

To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au

Title:      The Return of the Mucker
Author:     Edgar Rice Burroughs



CHAPTER I

THE MURDER TRIAL

BILLY BYRNE squared his broad shoulders and filled his deep
lungs with the familiar medium which is known as air in
Chicago.  He was standing upon the platform of a New York
Central train that was pulling into the La Salle Street Station,
and though the young man was far from happy something in
the nature of content pervaded his being, for he was coming
home.

After something more than a year of world wandering and
strange adventure Billy Byrne was coming back to the great
West Side and Grand Avenue.

Now there is not much upon either side or down the center
of long and tortuous Grand Avenue to arouse enthusiasm,
nor was Billy particularly enthusiastic about that more or less
squalid thoroughfare.

The thing that exalted Billy was the idea that he was
coming back to SHOW THEM.  He had left under a cloud and
with a reputation for genuine toughness and rowdyism that
has seen few parallels even in the ungentle district of his birth
and upbringing.

A girl had changed him.  She was as far removed from
Billy's sphere as the stars themselves; but Billy had loved her
and learned from her, and in trying to become more as he
knew the men of her class were he had sloughed off much of
the uncouthness that had always been a part of him, and all
of the rowdyism.  Billy Byrne was no longer the mucker.

He had given her up because he imagined the gulf between
Grand Avenue and Riverside Drive to be unbridgeable; but he
still clung to the ideals she had awakened in him.  He still
sought to be all that she might wish him to be, even though
he realized that he never should see her again.

Grand Avenue would be the easiest place to forget his
sorrow--her he could never forget.  And then, his newly
awakened pride urged him back to the haunts of his former
life that he might, as he would put it himself, show them.  He
wanted the gang to see that he, Billy Byrne, wasn't afraid to
be decent.  He wanted some of the neighbors to realize that he
could work steadily and earn an honest living, and he looked
forward with delight to the pleasure and satisfaction of rubbing
it in to some of the saloon keepers and bartenders who
had helped keep him drunk some five days out of seven, for
Billy didn't drink any more.

But most of all he wanted to vindicate himself in the eyes
of the once-hated law.  He wanted to clear his record of the
unjust charge of murder which had sent him scurrying out of
Chicago over a year before, that night that Patrolman Stanley
Lasky of the Lake Street Station had tipped him off that
Sheehan had implicated him in the murder of old man Schneider.

Now Billy Byrne had not killed Schneider.  He had been
nowhere near the old fellow's saloon at the time of the
holdup; but Sheehan, who had been arrested and charged
with the crime, was an old enemy of Billy's, and Sheehan had
seen a chance to divert some of the suspicion from himself
and square accounts with Byrne at the same time.

The new Billy Byrne was ready to accept at face value
everything which seemed to belong in any way to the environment
of that exalted realm where dwelt the girl he loved.  Law,
order, and justice appeared to Billy in a new light since he
had rubbed elbows with the cultured and refined.

He no longer distrusted or feared them.  They would give
him what he sought--a square deal.

It seemed odd to Billy that he should be seeking anything
from the law or its minions.  For years he had waged a
perpetual battle with both.  Now he was coming back voluntarily
to give himself up, with every conviction that he should
be exonerated quickly.  Billy, knowing his own innocence,
realizing his own integrity, assumed that others must
immediately appreciate both.

"First," thought Billy, "I'll go take a look at little old
Grand Ave., then I'll give myself up.  The trial may take a
long time, an' if it does I want to see some of the old bunch
first."

So Billy entered an "L" coach and leaning on the sill of an
open window watched grimy Chicago rattle past until the
guard's "Granavenoo" announced the end of his journey.

Maggie Shane was sitting on the upper step of the long
flight of stairs which lean precariously against the scarred face
of the frame residence upon the second floor front of which
the lares and penates of the Shane family are crowded into
three ill-smelling rooms.

It was Saturday and Maggie was off.  She sat there rather
disconsolate for there was a dearth of beaux for Maggie, none
having arisen to fill the aching void left by the sudden
departure of "Coke" Sheehan since that worthy gentleman
had sought a more salubrious clime--to the consternation of
both Maggie Shane and Mr. Sheehan's bondsmen.

Maggie scowled down upon the frowsy street filled with
frowsy women and frowsy children.  She scowled upon the
street cars rumbling by with their frowsy loads.  Occasionally
she varied the monotony by drawing out her chewing gum to
wondrous lengths, holding one end between a thumb and
finger and the other between her teeth.

Presently Maggie spied a rather pleasing figure sauntering
up the sidewalk upon her side of the street.  The man was too
far away for her to recognize his features, but his size and
bearing and general appearance appealed to the lonesome
Maggie.  She hoped it was someone she knew, or with whom
she might easily become acquainted, for Maggie was bored to
death.

She patted the hair at the back of her head and righted the
mop which hung over one eye.  Then she rearranged her skirts
and waited.  As the man approached she saw that he was
better looking than she had even dared to hope, and that
there was something extremely familiar about his appearance.  
It was not, though, until he was almost in front of the house
that he looked up at the girl and she recognized him.

Then Maggie Shane gasped and clutched the handrail at
her side.  An instant later the man was past and continuing his
way along the sidewalk.

Maggie Shane glared after him for a minute, then she ran
quickly down the stairs and into a grocery store a few doors
west, where she asked if she might use the telephone.

"Gimme West 2063," she demanded of the operator, and a
moment later: "Is this Lake Street?"

"Well say, Billy Byrne's back.  I just see him."

"Yes an' never mind who I am; but if youse guys want him
he's walkin' west on Grand Avenoo right now.  I just this
minute seen him near Lincoln," and she smashed the receiver
back into its hook.

Billy Byrne thought that he would look in on his mother,
not that he expected to be welcomed even though she might
happen to be sober, or not that he cared to see her; but
Billy's whole manner of thought had altered within the year,
and something now seemed to tell him that it was his duty to
do the thing he contemplated.  Maybe he might even be of
help to her.

But when he reached the gloomy neighborhood in which
his childhood had been spent it was to learn that his mother
was dead and that another family occupied the tumble-down
cottage that had been his home.

If Billy Byrne felt any sorrow because of his mother's death
he did not reveal it outwardly.  He owed her nothing but for
kicks and cuffs received, and for the surroundings and
influences that had started him upon a life of crime at an age
when most boys are just entering grammar school.

Really the man was relieved that he had not had to see her,
and it was with a lighter step that he turned back to retrace
his way along Grand Avenue.  No one of the few he had met
who recognized him had seemed particularly delighted at his
return.  The whole affair had been something of a disappointment.
Therefore Billy determined to go at once to the Lake
Street Station and learn the status of the Schneider murder
case.  Possibly they had discovered the real murderer, and if
that was the case Billy would be permitted to go his way; but
if not then he could give himself up and ask for a trial, that
he might be exonerated.

As he neared Wood Street two men who had been watching
his approach stepped into the doorway of a saloon, and
as he passed they stepped out again behind him.  One upon
either side they seized him.

Billy turned to remonstrate.

"Come easy now, Byrne," admonished one of the men,
"an' don't make no fuss."

"Oh," said Billy, "it's you, is it?  Well, I was just goin' over
to the station to give myself up."

Both men laughed, skeptically.  "We'll just save you the
trouble," said one of them.  "We'll take you over.  You might
lose your way if you tried to go alone."

Billy went along in silence the rest of the way to where the
patrol waited at another corner.  He saw there was nothing to
be gained by talking to these detectives; but he found the
lieutenant equally inclined to doubt his intentions.  He, too,
only laughed when Billy assured him that he was on his way
to the station at the very instant of arrest.

As the weeks dragged along, and Billy Byrne found no
friendly interest in himself or his desire to live on the square,
and no belief in his protestations that he had had naught to
do with the killing of Schneider he began to have his doubts
as to the wisdom of his act.

He also commenced to entertain some of his former opinions
of the police, and of the law of which they are supposed
to be the guardians.  A cell-mate told him that the papers had
scored the department heavily for their failure to apprehend
the murderer of the inoffensive old Schneider, and that public
opinion had been so aroused that a general police shakeup
had followed.

The result was that the police were keen to fasten the guilt
upon someone--they did not care whom, so long as it was
someone who was in their custody.

"You may not o' done it," ventured the cell-mate; "but
they'll send you up for it, if they can't hang you.  They're goin'
to try to get the death sentence.  They hain't got no love for
you, Byrne.  You caused 'em a lot o' throuble in your day an'
they haven't forgot it.  I'd hate to be in your boots."

Billy Byrne shrugged.  Where were his dreams of justice?
They seemed to have faded back into the old distrust and
hatred.  He shook himself and conjured in his mind the vision
of a beautiful girl who had believed in him and trusted him--
who had inculcated within him a love for all that was finest
and best in true manhood, for the very things that he had
most hated all the years of his life before she had come into
his existence to alter it and him.

And then Billy would believe again--believe that in the end
justice would triumph and that it would all come out right,
just the way he had pictured it.

With the coming of the last day of the trial Billy found it
more and more difficult to adhere to his regard for law, order,
and justice.  The prosecution had shown conclusively that Billy
was a hard customer.  The police had brought witnesses who
did not hesitate to perjure themselves in their testimony--
testimony which it seemed to Billy the densest of jurymen
could plainly see had been framed up and learned by rote
until it was letter-perfect.

These witnesses could recall with startling accuracy every
detail that had occurred between seventeen minutes after eight
and twenty-one minutes past nine on the night of September
23 over a year before; but where they had been and what
they had done ten minutes earlier or ten minutes later, or
where they were at nine o'clock in the evening last Friday
they couldn't for the lives of them remember.

And Billy was practically without witnesses.

The result was a foregone conclusion.  Even Billy had to
admit it, and when the prosecuting attorney demanded the
death penalty the prisoner had an uncanny sensation as of the
tightening of a hempen rope about his neck.

As he waited for the jury to return its verdict Billy sat in
his cell trying to read a newspaper which a kindly guard had
given him.  But his eyes persisted in boring through the white
paper and the black type to scenes that were not in any
paper.  He saw a turbulent river tumbling through a savage
world, and in the swirl of the water lay a little island.  And he
saw a man there upon the island, and a girl.  The girl was
teaching the man to speak the language of the cultured, and
to view life as people of refinement view it.

She taught him what honor meant among her class, and
that it was better to lose any other possession rather than lose
honor.  Billy realized that it had been these lessons that had
spurred him on to the mad scheme that was to end now with
the verdict of "Guilty"--he had wished to vindicate his honor.  
A hard laugh broke from his lips; but instantly he sobered
and his face softened.

It had been for her sake after all, and what mattered it if
they did send him to the gallows?  He had not sacrificed his
honor--he had done his best to assert it.  He was innocent.  
They could kill him but they couldn't make him guilty.  A
thousand juries pronouncing him so could not make it true
that he had killed Schneider.

But it would be hard, after all his hopes, after all the plans
he had made to live square, to SHOW THEM.  His eyes still
boring through the paper suddenly found themselves attracted
by something in the text before them--a name, Harding.

Billy Byrne shook himself and commenced to read:


The marriage of Barbara, daughter of Anthony Harding,
the multimillionaire, to William Mallory will take place on the
twenty-fifth of June.


The article was dated New York.  There was more, but Billy
did not read it.  He had read enough.  It is true that he had
urged her to marry Mallory; but now, in his lonesomeness and
friendlessness, he felt almost as though she had been untrue to
him.

"Come along, Byrne," a bailiff interrupted his thoughts, "the
jury's reached a verdict."

The judge was emerging from his chambers as Billy was led
into the courtroom.  Presently the jury filed in and took their
seats.  The foreman handed the clerk a bit of paper.  Even
before it was read Billy knew that he had been found guilty.  
He did not care any longer, so he told himself.  He hoped that
the judge would send him to the gallows.  There was nothing
more in life for him now anyway.  He wanted to die.  But
instead he was sentenced to life imprisonment in the penitentiary
at Joliet.

This was infinitely worse than death.  Billy Byrne was
appalled at the thought of remaining for life within the grim
stone walls of a prison.  Once more there swept over him all
the old, unreasoning hatred of the law and all that pertained
to it.  He would like to close his steel fingers about the fat
neck of the red-faced judge.  The smug jurymen roused within
him the lust to kill.  Justice!  Billy Byrne laughed aloud.

A bailiff rapped for order.  One of the jurymen leaned close
to a neighbor and whispered.  "A hardened criminal," he said.  
"Society will be safer when he is behind the bars."

The next day they took Billy aboard a train bound for
Joliet.  He was handcuffed to a deputy sheriff.  Billy was calm
outwardly; but inwardly he was a raging volcano of hate.


In a certain very beautiful home on Riverside Drive, New
York City, a young lady, comfortably backed by downy
pillows, sat in her bed and alternated her attention between
coffee and rolls, and a morning paper.

On the inside of the main sheet a heading claimed her
languid attention: CHICAGO MURDERER GIVEN LIFE
SENTENCE.  Of late Chicago had aroused in Barbara Harding a
greater proportion of interest than ever it had in the
past, and so it was that she now permitted her eyes to wander
casually down the printed column.


Murderer of harmless old saloon keeper is finally brought
to justice.  The notorious West Side rowdy, "Billy" Byrne,
apprehended after more than a year as fugitive from justice, is
sent to Joliet for life.


Barbara Harding sat stony-eyed and cold for what seemed
many minutes.  Then with a stifled sob she turned and buried
her face in the pillows.

The train bearing Billy Byrne and the deputy sheriff toward
Joliet had covered perhaps half the distance between Chicago
and Billy's permanent destination when it occurred to the
deputy sheriff that he should like to go into the smoker and
enjoy a cigar.

Now, from the moment that he had been sentenced Billy
Byrne's mind had been centered upon one thought--escape.  
He knew that there probably would be not the slightest
chance for escape; but nevertheless the idea was always
uppermost in his thoughts.

His whole being revolted, not alone against the injustice
which had sent him into life imprisonment, but at the thought
of the long years of awful monotony which lay ahead of him.

He could not endure them.  He would not!  The deputy
sheriff rose, and motioning his prisoner ahead of him,
started for the smoker.  It was two cars ahead.  The train was
vestibuled.  The first platform they crossed was tightly enclosed;
but at the second Billy saw that a careless porter had left
one of the doors open.  The train was slowing down for some
reason--it was going, perhaps, twenty miles an hour.

Billy was the first upon the platform.  He was the first to see
the open door.  It meant one of two things--a chance to
escape, or, death.  Even the latter was to be preferred to life
imprisonment.

Billy did not hesitate an instant.  Even before the deputy
sheriff realized that the door was open, his prisoner had
leaped from the moving train dragging his guard after him.



CHAPTER II

THE ESCAPE

BYRNE had no time to pick any particular spot to jump
for.  When he did jump he might have been directly over a
picket fence, or a bottomless pit--he did not know.  Nor did
he care.

As it happened he was over neither.  The platform chanced
to be passing across a culvert at the instant.  Beneath the
culvert was a slimy pool.  Into this the two men plunged,
alighting unharmed.

Byrne was the first to regain his feet.  He dragged the deputy
sheriff to his knees, and before that frightened and astonished
officer of the law could gather his wits together he had been
relieved of his revolver and found himself looking into its cold
and business-like muzzle.

Then Billy Byrne waded ashore, prodding the deputy sheriff
in the ribs with cold steel, and warning him to silence.  Above
the pool stood a little wood, thick with tangled wildwood.  
Into this Byrne forced his prisoner.

When they had come deep enough into the concealment of
the foliage to make discovery from the outside improbable
Byrne halted.

"Now say yer prayers," he commanded.  "I'm a-going to
croak yeh."

The deputy sheriff looked up at him in wild-eyed terror.

"My God!" he cried.  "I ain't done nothin' to you, Byrne.  
Haven't I always been your friend?  What've I ever done to
you?  For God's sake Byrne you ain't goin' to murder me, are
you?  They'll get you, sure."

Billy Byrne let a rather unpleasant smile curl his lips.

"No," he said, "youse ain't done nothin' to me; but you
stand for the law, damn it, and I'm going to croak everything
I meet that stands for the law.  They wanted to send me up
for life--me, an innocent man.  Your kind done it--the cops.  
You ain't no cop; but you're just as rotten.  Now say yer
prayers."

He leveled the revolver at his victim's head.  The deputy
sheriff slumped to his knees and tried to embrace Billy Byrne's
legs as he pleaded for his life.

"Cut it out, you poor boob," admonished Billy.  "You've
gotta die and if you was half a man you'd wanna die like
one."

The deputy sheriff slipped to the ground.  His terror had
overcome him, leaving him in happy unconsciousness.  Byrne
stood looking down upon the man for a moment.  His wrist
was chained to that of the other, and the pull of the deputy's
body was irritating.

Byrne stooped and placed the muzzle of the revolver back
of the man's ear.  "Justice!" he muttered, scornfully, and his
finger tightened upon the trigger.

Then, conjured from nothing, there rose between himself
and the unconscious man beside him the figure of a beautiful
girl.  Her face was brave and smiling, and in her eyes was trust
and pride--whole worlds of them.  Trust and pride in Billy
Byrne.

Billy closed his eyes tight as though in physical pain.  He
brushed his hand quickly across his face.

"Gawd!" he muttered.  "I can't do it--but I came awful
close to it."

Dropping the revolver into his side pocket he kneeled
beside the deputy sheriff and commenced to go through the
man's clothes.  After a moment he came upon what he
sought--a key ring confining several keys.

Billy found the one he wished and presently he was free.  
He still stood looking at the deputy sheriff.

"I ought to croak you," he murmured.  "I'll never make my
get-away if I don't; but SHE won't let me--God bless her."

Suddenly a thought came to Billy Byrne.  If he could have a
start he might escape.  It wouldn't hurt the man any to stay
here for a few hours, or even for a day.  Billy removed the
deputy's coat and tore it into strips.  With these he bound the
man to a tree.  Then he fastened a gag in his mouth.

During the operation the deputy regained consciousness.  He
looked questioningly at Billy.

"I decided not to croak you," explained the young man.  
"I'm just a-goin' to leave you here for a while.  They'll be
lookin' all along the right o' way in a few hours--it won't be
long afore they find you.  Now so long, and take care of
yerself, bo," and Billy Byrne had gone.

A mistake that proved fortunate for Billy Byrne caused the
penitentiary authorities to expect him and his guard by a later
train, so no suspicion was aroused when they failed to come
upon the train they really had started upon.  This gave Billy a
good two hours' start that he would not otherwise have
had--an opportunity of which he made good use.

Wherefore it was that by the time the authorities awoke to
the fact that something had happened Billy Byrne was fifty
miles west of Joliet, bowling along aboard a fast Santa Fe
freight.  Shortly after night had fallen the train crossed the
Mississippi.  Billy Byrne was hungry and thirsty, and as the
train slowed down and came to a stop out in the midst of a
dark solitude of silent, sweet-smelling country, Billy opened
the door of his box car and dropped lightly to the ground.

So far no one had seen Billy since he had passed from the
ken of the trussed deputy sheriff, and as Billy had no desire to
be seen he slipped over the edge of the embankment into a
dry ditch, where he squatted upon his haunches waiting for
the train to depart.  The stop out there in the dark night was
one of those mysterious stops which trains are prone to make,
unexplained and doubtless unexplainable by any other than a
higher intelligence which directs the movements of men and
rolling stock.  There was no town, and not even a switch light.  
Presently two staccato blasts broke from the engine's whistle,
there was a progressive jerking at coupling pins, which started
up at the big locomotive and ran rapidly down the length of
the train, there was the squeaking of brake shoes against
wheels, and the train moved slowly forward again upon its
long journey toward the coast, gaining momentum moment by
moment until finally the way-car rolled rapidly past the hidden
fugitive and the freight rumbled away to be swallowed up in
the darkness.

When it had gone Billy rose and climbed back upon the
track, along which he plodded in the wake of the departing
train.  Somewhere a road would presently cut across the track,
and along the road there would be farmhouses or a village
where food and drink might be found.

Billy was penniless, yet he had no doubt but that he should
eat when he had discovered food.  He was thinking of this as
he walked briskly toward the west, and what he thought of
induced a doubt in his mind as to whether it was, after all,
going to be so easy to steal food.

"Shaw!" he exclaimed, half aloud, "she wouldn't think it
wrong for a guy to swipe a little grub when he was starvin'.  It
ain't like I was goin' to stick a guy up for his roll.  Sure she
wouldn't see nothin' wrong for me to get something to eat.  I
ain't got no money.  They took it all away from me, an' I got
a right to live--but, somehow, I hate to do it.  I wisht there
was some other way.  Gee, but she's made a sissy out o' me!
Funny how a feller can change.  Why I almost like bein' a
sissy," and Billy Byrne grinned at the almost inconceivable
idea.

Before Billy came to a road he saw a light down in a little
depression at one side of the track.  It was not such a light as
a lamp shining beyond a window makes.  It rose and fell,
winking and flaring close to the ground.

It looked much like a camp fire, and as Billy drew nearer
he saw that such it was, and he heard a voice, too.  Billy
approached more carefully.  He must be careful always to see
before being seen.  The little fire burned upon the bank of a
stream which the track bridged upon a concrete arch.

Billy dropped once more from the right of way, and
climbed a fence into a thin wood.  Through this he approached
the camp fire with small chance of being observed.  
As he neared it the voice resolved itself into articulate words,
and presently Billy leaned against a tree close behind the
speaker and listened.

There was but a single figure beside the small fire--that of
a man squatting upon his haunches roasting something above
the flames.  At one edge of the fire was an empty tin can from
which steam arose, and an aroma that was now and again
wafted to Billy's nostrils.

Coffee!  My, how good it smelled.  Billy's mouth watered.  
But the voice--that interested Billy almost as much as the
preparations for the coming meal.

   We'll dance a merry saraband from here to drowsy Samarcand.
  Along the sea, across the land, the birds are flying South,
 And you, my sweet Penelope, out there somewhere you wait for me,
  With buds, of roses in your hair and kisses on your mouth.


The words took hold of Billy somewhere and made him
forget his hunger.  Like a sweet incense which induces pleasant
daydreams they were wafted in upon him through the rich,
mellow voice of the solitary camper, and the lilt of the meter
entered his blood.

But the voice.  It was the voice of such as Billy Byrne
always had loathed and ridiculed until he had sat at the feet
of Barbara Harding and learned many things, including love.  
It was the voice of culture and refinement.  Billy strained his
eyes through the darkness to have a closer look at the man.  
The light of the camp fire fell upon frayed and bagging
clothes, and upon the back of a head covered by a shapeless,
and disreputable soft hat.

Obviously the man was a hobo.  The coffee boiling in a
discarded tin can would have been proof positive of this
without other evidence; but there seemed plenty more.  Yes,
the man was a hobo.  Billy continued to stand listening.

  The mountains are all hid in mist, the valley is like amethyst,
  The poplar leaves they turn and twist, oh, silver, silver green!
  Out there somewhere along the sea a ship is waiting patiently,
  While up the beach the bubbles slip with white afloat between.


"Gee!" thought Billy Byrne; "but that's great stuff.  I
wonder where he gets it.  It makes me want to hike until I find
that place he's singin' about."

Billy's thoughts were interrupted by a sound in the wood to
one side of him.  As he turned his eyes in the direction of the
slight noise which had attracted him he saw two men step
quietly out and cross toward the man at the camp fire.

These, too, were evidently hobos.  Doubtless pals of the
poetical one.  The latter did not hear them until they were
directly behind him.  Then he turned slowly and rose as they
halted beside his fire.

"Evenin', bo," said one of the newcomers.

"Good evening, gentlemen," replied the camper, "welcome
to my humble home.  Have you dined?"

"Naw," replied the first speaker, "we ain't; but we're goin'
to. Now can the chatter an' duck.  There ain't enough fer one
here, let alone three.  Beat it!" and the man, who was big and
burly, assumed a menacing attitude and took a truculent step
nearer the solitary camper.

The latter was short and slender.  The larger man looked as
though he might have eaten him at a single mouthful; but the
camper did not flinch.

"You pain me," he said.  "You induce within me a severe
and highly localized pain, and furthermore I don't like your
whiskers."

With which apparently irrelevant remark he seized the matted
beard of the larger tramp and struck the fellow a quick,
sharp blow in the face.  Instantly the fellow's companion was
upon him; but the camper retained his death grip upon the
beard of the now yelling bully and continued to rain blow
after blow upon head and face.

Billy Byrne was an interested spectator.  He enjoyed a good
fight as he enjoyed little else; but presently when the first
tramp succeeded in tangling his legs about the legs of his
chastiser and dragging him to the ground, and the second
tramp seized a heavy stick and ran forward to dash the man's
brains out, Billy thought it time to interfere.

Stepping forward he called aloud as he came: "Cut it out,
boes!  You can't pull off any rough stuff like that with this
here sweet singer.  Can it!  Can it!" as the second tramp raised
his stick to strike the now prostrate camper.

As he spoke Billy Byrne broke into a run, and as the stick
fell he reached the man's side and swung a blow to the
tramp's jaw that sent the fellow spinning backward to the
river's brim, where he tottered drunkenly for a moment and
then plunged backward into the shallow water.

Then Billy seized the other attacker by the shoulder and
dragged him to his feet.

"Do you want some, too, you big stiff?" he inquired.

The man spluttered and tried to break away, striking at
Billy as he did so; but a sudden punch, such a punch as Billy
Byrne had once handed the surprised Harlem Hurricane, removed
from the mind of the tramp the last vestige of any
thought he might have harbored to do the newcomer bodily
injury, and with it removed all else from the man's mind,
temporarily.

As the fellow slumped, unconscious, to the ground, the
camper rose to his feet.

"Some wallop you have concealed in your sleeve, my
friend," he said; "place it there!" and he extended a slender,
shapely hand.

Billy took it and shook it.

"It don't get under the ribs like those verses of yours,
though, bo," he returned.

"It seems to have insinuated itself beneath this guy's thick
skull," replied the poetical one, "and it's a cinch my verses,
nor any other would ever get there."

The tramp who had plumbed the depths of the creek's foot
of water and two feet of soft mud was crawling ashore.

"Whadda YOU want now?" inquired Billy Byrne.  "A piece
o' soap?"

"I'll get youse yet," spluttered the moist one through his
watery whiskers.

"Ferget it," admonished Billy, "an' hit the trail."  He pointed
toward the railroad right of way.  "An' you, too, John L," he
added turning to the other victim of his artistic execution, who
was now sitting up.  "Hike!"

Mumbling and growling the two unwashed shuffled away,
and were presently lost to view along the vanishing track.

The solitary camper had returned to his culinary effort, as
unruffled and unconcerned, apparently, as though naught had
occurred to disturb his peaceful solitude.

"Sit down," he said after a moment, looking up at Billy,
"and have a bite to eat with me.  Take that leather easy chair.  
The Louis Quatorze is too small and spindle-legged for comfort."
He waved his hand invitingly toward the sward beside
the fire.

For a moment he was entirely absorbed in the roasting fowl
impaled upon a sharp stick which he held in his right hand.  
Then he presently broke again into verse.

  Around the world and back again; we saw it all.  The mist and rain

   In England and the hot old plain from Needles to Berdoo.
  We kept a-rambling all the time.  I rustled grub, he rustled rhyme--
   Blind-baggage, hoof it, ride or climb--we always put it through.


"You're a good sort," he broke off, suddenly.  "There ain't
many boes that would have done as much for a fellow."

"It was two against one," replied Billy, "an' I don't like
them odds.  Besides I like your poetry.  Where d'ye get it--
make it up?"

"Lord, no," laughed the other.  "If I could do that I wouldn't
be pan-handling.  A guy by the name of Henry Herbert
Knibbs did them.  Great, ain't they?"

"They sure is.  They get me right where I live," and then,
after a pause; "sure you got enough fer two, bo?"

"I have enough for you, old top," replied the host, "even if
I only had half as much as I have.  Here, take first crack at
the ambrosia.  Sorry I have but a single cup; but James has
broken the others.  James is very careless.  Sometimes I almost
feel that I shall have to let him go."

"Who's James?" asked Billy.

"James?  Oh, James is my man," replied the other.

Billy looked up at his companion quizzically, then he tasted
the dark, thick concoction in the tin can.

"This is coffee," he announced.  "I thought you said it was
ambrose."

"I only wished to see if you would recognize it, my friend,"
replied the poetical one politely.  "I am highly complimented
that you can guess what it is from its taste."

For several minutes the two ate in silence, passing the tin
can back and forth, and slicing--hacking would be more
nearly correct--pieces of meat from the half-roasted fowl.  It
was Billy who broke the silence.

"I think," said he, "that you been stringin' me--'bout
James and ambrose."

The other laughed good-naturedly.

"You are not offended, I hope," said he.  "This is a sad old
world, you know, and we're all looking for amusement.  If a
guy has no money to buy it with, he has to manufacture it."

"Sure, I ain't sore," Billy assured him.  "Say, spiel that part
again 'bout Penelope with the kisses on her mouth, an' you
can kid me till the cows come home."

The camper by the creek did as Billy asked him, while the
latter sat with his eyes upon the fire seeing in the sputtering
little flames the oval face of her who was Penelope to him.

When the verse was completed he reached forth his hand
and took the tin can in his strong fingers, raising it before his
face.

"Here's to--to his Knibbs!" he said, and drank, passing the
battered thing over to his new friend.

"Yes," said the other; "here's to his Knibbs, and--
Penelope!"

"Drink hearty," returned Billy Byrne.

The poetical one drew a sack of tobacco from his hip
pocket and a rumpled package of papers from the pocket of
his shirt, extending both toward Billy.

"Want the makings?" he asked.

"I ain't stuck on sponging," said Billy; "but maybe I can
get even some day, and I sure do want a smoke.  You see I
was frisked.  I ain't got nothin'--they didn't leave me a sou
markee."

Billy reached across one end of the fire for the tobacco and
cigarette papers.  As he did so the movement bared his wrist,
and as the firelight fell upon it the marks of the steel bracelet
showed vividly.  In the fall from the train the metal had bitten
into the flesh.

His companion's eyes happened to fall upon the telltale
mark.  There was an almost imperceptible raising of the man's
eyebrows; but he said nothing to indicate that he had noticed
anything out of the ordinary.

The two smoked on for many minutes without indulging in
conversation.  The camper quoted snatches from Service and
Kipling, then he came back to Knibbs, who was evidently his
favorite.  Billy listened and thought.

"Goin' anywheres in particular?" he asked during a
momentary lull in the recitation.

"Oh, south or west," replied the other.  "Nowhere in
particular--any place suits me just so it isn't north or east."

"That's me," said Billy.

"Let's travel double, then," said the poetical one.  "My
name's Bridge."

"And mine's Billy.  Here, shake," and Byrne extended his
hand.

"Until one of us gets wearied of the other's company," said
Bridge.

"You're on," replied Billy.  "Let's turn in."

"Good," exclaimed Bridge.  "I wonder what's keeping
James.  He should have been here long since to turn down my
bed and fix my bath."

Billy grinned and rolled over on his side, his head uphill
and his feet toward the fire.  A couple of feet away Bridge
paralleled him, and in five minutes both were breathing deeply
in healthy slumber.



CHAPTER III

"FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD"

"'WE KEPT a-rambling all the time.  I rustled grub, he rustled
rhyme,'" quoted Billy Byrne, sitting up and stretching himself.

His companion roused and came to one elbow.  The sun
was topping the scant wood behind them, glinting on the
surface of the little creek.  A robin hopped about the sward
quite close to them, and from the branch of a tree a hundred
yards away came the sweet piping of a song bird.  Farther off
were the distance-subdued noises of an awakening farm.  The
lowing of cows, the crowing of a rooster, the yelping of a
happy dog just released from a night of captivity.

Bridge yawned and stretched.  Billy rose to his feet and
shook himself.

"This is the life," said Bridge.  "Where you going?"

"To rustle grub," replied Billy.  "That's my part o' the
sketch."

The other laughed.  "Go to it," he said.  "I hate it.  That's the
part that has come nearest making me turn respectable than
any other.  I hate to ask for a hand-out."

Billy shrugged.  He'd done worse things than that in his life,
and off he trudged, whistling.  He felt happier than he had for
many a day.  He never had guessed that the country in the
morning could be so beautiful.

Behind him his companion collected the material for a fire,
washed himself in the creek, and set the tin can, filled with
water, at the edge of the kindling, and waited.  There was
nothing to cook, so it was useless to light the fire.  As he sat
there, thinking, his mind reverted to the red mark upon Billy's
wrist, and he made a wry face.

Billy approached the farmhouse from which the sounds of
awakening still emanated.  The farmer saw him coming, and
ceasing his activities about the barnyard, leaned across a gate
and eyed him, none too hospitably.

"I wanna get something to eat," explained Billy.

"Got any money to pay for it with?" asked the farmer
quickly.

"No," said Billy; "but me partner an' me are hungry, an'
we gotta eat."

The farmer extended a gnarled forefinger and pointed
toward the rear of the house.  Billy looked in the direction
thus indicated and espied a woodpile.  He grinned good naturedly.

Without a word he crossed to the corded wood, picked up
an ax which was stuck in a chopping block, and, shedding his
coat, went to work.  The farmer resumed his chores.  Half an
hour later he stopped on his way in to breakfast and eyed the
growing pile that lay beside Billy.

"You don't hev to chop all the wood in the county to get a
meal from Jed Watson," he said.

"I wanna get enough for me partner, too," explained Billy.

"Well, yew've chopped enough fer two meals, son," replied
the farmer, and turning toward the kitchen door, he called:
"Here, Maw, fix this boy up with suthin' t'eat--enough fer a
couple of meals fer two on 'em."

As Billy walked away toward his camp, his arms laden with
milk, butter, eggs, a loaf of bread and some cold meat, he
grinned rather contentedly.

"A year or so ago," he mused, "I'd a stuck 'em up fer this,
an' thought I was smart.  Funny how a feller'll change--an' all
fer a skirt.  A skirt that belongs to somebody else now, too.  
Hell! what's the difference, anyhow?  She'd be glad if she
knew, an' it makes me feel better to act like she'd want.  That
old farmer guy, now.  Who'd ever have taken him fer havin' a
heart at all?  Wen I seen him first I thought he'd like to sic
the dog on me, an' there he comes along an' tells 'Maw' to
pass me a hand-out like this!  Gee! it's a funny world.  She used
to say that most everybody was decent if you went at 'em
right, an' I guess she knew.  She knew most everything, anyway.
Lord, I wish she'd been born on Grand Ave., or I on
Riverside Drive!"

As Billy walked up to his waiting companion, who had
touched a match to the firewood as he sighted the numerous
packages in the forager's arms, he was repeating, over and
over, as though the words held him in the thrall of fascination:
"There ain't no sweet Penelope somewhere that's longing
much for me."

Bridge eyed the packages as Billy deposited them carefully
and one at a time upon the grass beside the fire.  The milk was
in a clean little graniteware pail, the eggs had been placed in a
paper bag, while the other articles were wrapped in pieces of
newspaper.

As the opening of each revealed its contents, fresh, clean,
and inviting, Bridge closed one eye and cocked the other up
at Billy.

"Did he die hard?" he inquired.

"Did who die hard?" demanded the other.

"Why the dog, of course."

"He ain't dead as I know of," replied Billy.

"You don't mean to say, my friend, that they let you get
away with all this without sicing the dog on you," said Bridge.

Billy laughed and explained, and the other was relieved--
the red mark around Billy's wrist persisted in remaining
uppermost in Bridge's mind.

When they had eaten they lay back upon the grass and
smoked some more of Bridge's tobacco.

"Well," inquired Bridge, "what's doing now?"

"Let's be hikin'," said Billy.

Bridge rose and stretched.  "'My feet are tired and need a
change.  Come on!  It's up to you!'" he quoted.

Billy gathered together the food they had not yet eaten, and
made two equal-sized packages of it.  He handed one to
Bridge.

"We'll divide the pack," he explained, "and here, drink the
rest o' this milk, I want the pail."

"What are you going to do with the pail?" asked Bridge.

"Return it," said Billy.  "'Maw' just loaned it to me."

Bridge elevated his eyebrows a trifle.  He had been mistaken,
after all.  At the farmhouse the farmer's wife greeted them
kindly, thanked Billy for returning her pail--which, if the
truth were known, she had not expected to see again--and
gave them each a handful of thick, light, golden-brown cookies,
the tops of which were encrusted with sugar.

As they walked away Bridge sighed.  "Nothing on earth like
a good woman," he said.

"'Maw,' or 'Penelope'?" asked Billy.

"Either, or both," replied Bridge.  "I have no Penelope, but
I did have a mighty fine 'maw'."

Billy made no reply.  He was thinking of the slovenly,
blear-eyed woman who had brought him into the world.  The
memory was far from pleasant.  He tried to shake it off.

"'Bridge,'" he said, quite suddenly, and apropos of nothing,
in an effort to change the subject.  "That's an odd name.  
I've heard of Bridges and Bridger; but I never heard Bridge
before."

"Just a name a fellow gave me once up on the Yukon,"
explained Bridge.  "I used to use a few words he'd never heard
before, so he called me 'The Unabridged,' which was too long.  
The fellows shortened it to 'Bridge' and it stuck.  It has always
stuck, and now I haven't any other.  I even think of myself,
now, as Bridge.  Funny, ain't it?"

"Yes," agreed Billy, and that was the end of it.  He never
thought of asking his companion's true name, any more than
Bridge would have questioned him as to his, or of his past.  
The ethics of the roadside fire and the empty tomato tin do
not countenance such impertinences.

For several days the two continued their leisurely way
toward Kansas City.  Once they rode a few miles on a freight
train, but for the most part they were content to plod joyously
along the dusty highways.  Billy continued to "rustle grub,"
while Bridge relieved the monotony by an occasional burst of
poetry.

"You know so much of that stuff," said Billy as they were
smoking by their camp fire one evening, "that I'd think you'd
be able to make some up yourself."

"I've tried," admitted Bridge; "but there always seems to be
something lacking in my stuff--it don't get under your belt--
the divine afflatus is not there.  I may start out all right, but I
always end up where I didn't expect to go, and where nobody
wants to be."

"'Member any of it?" asked Billy.

"There was one I wrote about a lake where I camped
once," said Bridge, reminiscently; "but I can only recall one
stanza."

"Let's have it," urged Billy.  "I bet it has Knibbs hangin' to
the ropes."

Bridge cleared his throat, and recited:


  Silver are the ripples,
  Solemn are the dunes,
  Happy are the fishes,
  For they are full of prunes.


He looked up at Billy, a smile twitching at the corners of
his mouth.  "How's that?" he asked.

Billy scratched his head.

"It's all right but the last line," said Billy, candidly.  "There
is something wrong with that last line."

"Yes," agreed Bridge, "there is."

"I guess Knibbs is safe for another round at least," said
Billy.

Bridge was eying his companion, noting the broad shoulders,
the deep chest, the mighty forearm and biceps which the
other's light cotton shirt could not conceal.

"It is none of my business," he said presently; "but from
your general appearance, from bits of idiom you occasionally
drop, and from the way you handled those two boes the night
we met I should rather surmise that at some time or other you
had been less than a thousand miles from the w.k. roped
arena."

"I seen a prize fight once," admitted Billy.

It was the day before they were due to arrive in Kansas
City that Billy earned a hand-out from a restaurant keeper in
a small town by doing some odd jobs for the man.  The food
he gave Billy was wrapped in an old copy of the Kansas City
Star.  When Billy reached camp he tossed the package to
Bridge, who, in addition to his honorable post as poet laureate,
was also cook.  Then Billy walked down to the stream,
near-by, that he might wash away the grime and sweat of
honest toil from his hands and face.

As Bridge unwrapped the package and the paper unfolded
beneath his eyes an article caught his attention--just casually
at first; but presently to the exclusion of all else.  As he read
his eyebrows alternated between a position of considerable
elevation to that of a deep frown.  Occasionally he nodded
knowingly.  Finally he glanced up at Billy who was just rising from
his ablutions.  Hastily Bridge tore from the paper the article
that had attracted his interest, folded it, and stuffed it into one
of his pockets--he had not had time to finish the reading and
he wanted to save the article for a later opportunity for
careful perusal.

That evening Bridge sat for a long time scrutinizing Billy
through half-closed lids, and often he found his eyes wandering
to the red ring about the other's wrist; but whatever may
have been within his thoughts he kept to himself.

It was noon when the two sauntered into Kansas City.  Billy
had a dollar in his pocket--a whole dollar.  He had earned it
assisting an automobilist out of a ditch.

"We'll have a swell feed," he had confided to Bridge, "an'
sleep in a bed just to learn how much nicer it is sleepin' out
under the black sky and the shiny little stars."

"You're a profligate, Billy," said Bridge.

"I dunno what that means," said Billy; "but if it's something
I shouldn't be I probably am."

The two went to a rooming-house of which Bridge knew,
where they could get a clean room with a double bed for fifty
cents.  It was rather a high price to pay, of course, but Bridge
was more or less fastidious, and he admitted to Billy that he'd
rather sleep in the clean dirt of the roadside than in the breed
of dirt one finds in an unclean bed.

At the end of the hall was a washroom, and toward this
Bridge made his way, after removing his coat and throwing it
across the foot of the bed.  After he had left the room Billy
chanced to notice a folded bit of newspaper on the floor
beneath Bridge's coat.  He picked it up to lay it on the little
table which answered the purpose of a dresser when a single
word caught his attention.  It was a name: Schneider.

Billy unfolded the clipping and as his eyes took in the
heading a strange expression entered them--a hard, cold
gleam such as had not touched them since the day that he
abandoned the deputy sheriff in the woods midway between
Chicago and Joliet.

This is what Billy read:


Billy Byrne, sentenced to life imprisonment in Joliet
penitentiary for the murder of Schneider, the old West Side saloon
keeper, hurled himself from the train that was bearing him to
Joliet yesterday, dragging with him the deputy sheriff to whom
he was handcuffed.

The deputy was found a few hours later bound and
gagged, lying in the woods along the Santa Fe, not far from
Lemont.  He was uninjured.  He says that Byrne got a good
start, and doubtless took advantage of it to return to Chicago,
where a man of his stamp could find more numerous and
safer retreats than elsewhere.


There was much more--a detailed account of the crime for
the commission of which Billy had been sentenced, a full and
complete description of Billy, a record of his long years of
transgression, and, at last, the mention of a five-hundred-dollar
reward that the authorities had offered for information
that would lead to his arrest.

When Billy had concluded the reading he refolded the
paper and placed it in a pocket of the coat hanging upon the
foot of the bed.  A moment later Bridge entered the room.  
Billy caught himself looking often at his companion, and
always there came to his mind the termination of the article he
had found in Bridge's pocket--the mention of the five-hundred-dollar
reward.

"Five hundred dollars," thought Billy, "is a lot o' coin.  I
just wonder now," and he let his eyes wander to his companion
as though he might read upon his face the purpose which
lay in the man's heart.  "He don't look it; but five hundred
dollars is a lot o' coin--fer a bo, and wotinell did he have
that article hid in his clothes fer?  That's wot I'd like to know.  
I guess it's up to me to blow."

All the recently acquired content which had been Billy's
since he had come upon the poetic Bridge and the two had
made their carefree, leisurely way along shaded country roadsides,
or paused beside cool brooklets that meandered lazily
through sweet-smelling meadows, was dissipated in the instant
that he had realized the nature of the article his companion
had been carrying and hiding from him.

For days no thought of pursuit or capture had arisen to
perplex him.  He had seemed such a tiny thing out there
amidst the vastness of rolling hills, of woods, and plain that
there had been induced within him an unconscious assurance
that no one could find him even though they might seek for
him.

The idea of meeting a plain clothes man from detective
headquarters around the next bend of a peaceful Missouri
road was so preposterous and incongruous that Billy had
found it impossible to give the matter serious thought.

He never before had been in the country districts of his
native land.  To him the United States was all like Chicago or
New York or Milwaukee, the three cities with which he was
most familiar.  His experience of unurban localities had been
gained amidst the primeval jungles of far-away Yoka.  There
had been no detective sergeants there--unquestionably there
could be none here.  Detective sergeants were indigenous to
the soil that grew corner saloons and poolrooms, and to none
other--as well expect to discover one of Oda Yorimoto's
samurai hiding behind a fire plug on Michigan Boulevard, as
to look for one of those others along a farm-bordered road.

But here in Kansas City, amidst the noises and odors that
meant a large city, it was different.  Here the next man he met
might be looking for him, or if not then the very first
policeman they encountered could arrest him upon a word
from Bridge--and Bridge would get five hundred dollars.
Just then Bridge burst forth into poetry:


  In a flannel shirt from earth's clean dirt,
    Here, pal, is my calloused hand!
  Oh, I love each day as a rover may,
    Nor seek to understand.
  To enjoy is good enough for me;
    The gypsy of God am I.
  Then here's a hail to--


"Say," he interrupted himself; "what's the matter with going
out now and wrapping ourselves around that swell feed you
were speaking of?"

Billy rose.  It didn't seem possible that Bridge could be
going to double-cross him.


  In a flannel shirt from earth's clean dirt,
    Here, pal, is my calloused hand!


Billy repeated the lines half aloud.  They renewed his
confidence in Bridge, somehow.

"Like them?" asked the latter.

"Yes," said Billy; "s'more of Knibbs?"

"No, Service.  Come on, let's go and dine.  How about the
Midland?" and he grinned at his little joke as he led the way
toward the street.

It was late afternoon.  The sun already had set; but it still
was too light for lamps.  Bridge led the way toward a certain
eating-place of which he knew where a man might dine
well and from a clean platter for two bits.  Billy had been
keeping his eyes open for detectives.  They had passed
no uniformed police--that would be the crucial test, thought
he--unless Bridge intended tipping off headquarters on the
quiet and having the pinch made at night after Billy had gone
to bed.

As they reached the little restaurant, which was in a
basement, Bridge motioned Billy down ahead of him.  Just for an
instant he, himself, paused at the head of the stairs and looked
about.  As he did so a man stepped from the shadow of a
doorway upon the opposite side of the street.

If Bridge saw him he apparently gave no sign, for he turned
slowly and with deliberate steps followed Billy down into the
eating-place.



CHAPTER IV

ON THE TRAIL

AS THEY entered the place Billy, who was ahead, sought a
table; but as he was about to hang up his cap and seat
himself Bridge touched his elbow.

"Let's go to the washroom and clean up a bit," he said, in
a voice that might be heard by those nearest.

"Why, we just washed before we left our room," expostulated Billy.

"Shut up and follow me," Bridge whispered into his ear.

Immediately Billy was all suspicion.  His hand flew to the
pocket in which the gun of the deputy sheriff still rested.  They
would never take him alive, of that Billy was positive.  He
wouldn't go back to life imprisonment, not after he had tasted
the sweet freedom of the wide spaces--such a freedom as the
trammeled city cannot offer.

Bridge saw the movement.

"Cut it," he whispered, "and follow me, as I tell you.  I just
saw a Chicago dick across the street.  He may not have seen
you, but it looked almighty like it.  He'll be down here in
about two seconds now.  Come on--we'll beat it through the
rear--I know the way."

Billy Byrne heaved a great sigh of relief.  Suddenly he was
almost reconciled to the thought of capture, for in the instant
he had realized that it had not been so much his freedom that
he had dreaded to lose as his faith in the companion in whom he
had believed.

Without sign of haste the two walked the length of the
room and disappeared through the doorway leading into the
washroom.  Before them was a window opening upon a squalid
back yard.  The building stood upon a hillside, so that while
the entrance to the eating-place was below the level of the
street in front, its rear was flush with the ground.

Bridge motioned Billy to climb through the window while
he shot the bolt upon the inside of the door leading back into
the restaurant.  A moment later he followed the fugitive, and
then took the lead.

Down narrow, dirty alleys, and through litter-piled back
yards he made his way, while Billy followed at his heels.  Dusk
was gathering, and before they had gone far darkness came.

They neither paused nor spoke until they had left the
business portion of the city behind and were well out of the
zone of bright lights.  Bridge was the first to break the silence.

"I suppose you wonder how I knew," he said.

"No," replied Billy.  "I seen that clipping you got in your
pocket--it fell out on the floor when you took your coat off
in the room this afternoon to go and wash."

"Oh," said Bridge, "I see.  Well, as far as I'm concerned
that's the end of it--we won't mention it again, old man.  I
don't need to tell you that I'm for you."

"No, not after tonight," Billy assured him.

They went on again for some little time without speaking,
then Billy said:

"I got two things to tell you.  The first is that after I seen
that newspaper article in your clothes I thought you was
figurin' on double-crossin' me an' claimin' the five hun.  I
ought to of known better.  The other is that I didn't kill
Schneider.  I wasn't near his place that night--an' that's straight."

"I'm glad you told me both," said Bridge.  "I think we'll
understand each other better after this--we're each runnin' 
away from something.  We'll run together, eh?" and he extended his
hand.  "In flannel shirt from earth's clean dirt, here, pal,
is my calloused hand!" he quoted, laughing.

Billy took the other's hand.  He noticed that Bridge hadn't
said what HE was running away from.  Billy wondered; but
asked no questions.

South they went after they had left the city behind, out into
the sweet and silent darkness of the country.  During the night
they crossed the line into Kansas, and morning found them in
a beautiful, hilly country to which all thoughts of cities, crime,
and police seemed so utterly foreign that Billy could scarce
believe that only a few hours before a Chicago detective had
been less than a hundred feet from him.

The new sun burst upon them as they topped a grassy hill.  
The dew-bespangled blades scintillated beneath the gorgeous
rays which would presently sweep them away again into the
nothingness from which they had sprung.

Bridge halted and stretched himself.  He threw his head back
and let the warm sun beat down upon his bronzed face.


  There's sunshine in the heart of me,
  My blood sings in the breeze;
  The mountains are a part of me,
  I'm fellow to the trees.
  My golden youth I'm squandering,
  Sun-libertine am I,
  A-wandering, a-wandering,
  Until the day I die.


And then he stood for minutes drinking in deep breaths of
the pure, sweet air of the new day.  Beside him, a head taller,
savagely strong, stood Billy Byrne, his broad shoulders
squared, his great chest expanding as he inhaled.

"It's great, ain't it?" he said, at last.  "I never knew the
country was like this, an' I don't know that I ever would have
known it if it hadn't been for those poet guys you're always
spouting.

"I always had an idea they was sissy fellows," he went on;
"but a guy can't be a sissy an' think the thoughts they musta
thought to write stuff that sends the blood chasin' through a
feller like he'd had a drink on an empty stomach.

"I used to think everybody was a sissy who wasn't a tough
guy.  I was a tough guy all right, an' I was mighty proud of it.  
I ain't any more an' haven't been for a long time; but before I
took a tumble to myself I'd have hated you, Bridge.  I'd a-hated
your fine talk, an' your poetry, an' the thing about you
that makes you hate to touch a guy for a hand-out.

"I'd a-hated myself if I'd thought that I could ever talk
mushy like I am now.  Gee, Bridge, but I was the limit!  A
girl--a nice girl--called me a mucker once, an' a coward.  I
was both; but I had the reputation of bein' the toughest guy
on the West Side, an' I thought I was a man.  I nearly poked
her face for her--think of it, Bridge!  I nearly did; but something
stopped me--something held my hand from it, an' lately
I've liked to think that maybe what stopped me was something
in me that had always been there--something decent
that was really a part of me.  I hate to think that I was such a
beast at heart as I acted like all my life up to that minute.  I
began to change then.  It was mighty slow, an' I'm still a
roughneck; but I'm gettin' on.  She helped me most, of course,
an' now you're helpin' me a lot, too--you an' your poetry
stuff.  If some dick don't get me I may get to be a human
bein' before I die."

Bridge laughed.

"It IS odd," he said, "how our viewpoints change with
changed environment and the passing of the years.  Time was,
Billy, when I'd have hated you as much as you would have
hated me.  I don't know that I should have said hate, for that
is not exactly the word.  It was more contempt that I felt for
men whom I considered as not belonging upon that intellectual
or social plane to which I considered I had been born.

"I thought of people who moved outside my limited sphere
as 'the great unwashed.' I pitied them, and I honestly believe
now that in the bottom of my heart I considered them of
different clay than I, and with souls, if they possessed such
things, about on a par with the souls of sheep and cows.

"I couldn't have seen the man in you, Billy, then, any more
than you could have seen the man in me.  I have learned much
since then, though I still stick to a part of my original articles
of faith--I do believe that all men are not equal; and I know
that there are a great many more with whom I would not pal
than there are those with whom I would.

"Because one man speaks better English than another, or
has read more and remembers it, only makes him a better
man in that particular respect.  I think none the less of you
because you can't quote Browning or Shakespeare--the thing
that counts is that you can appreciate, as I do, Service and
Kipling and Knibbs.

"Now maybe we are both wrong--maybe Knibbs and
Kipling and Service didn't write poetry, and some people will
say as much; but whatever it is it gets you and me in the same
way, and so in this respect we are equals.  Which being the
case let's see if we can't rustle some grub, and then find a nice
soft spot whereon to pound our respective ears."

Billy, deciding that he was too sleepy to work for food,
invested half of the capital that was to have furnished the
swell feed the night before in what two bits would purchase
from a generous housewife on a near-by farm, and then,
stretching themselves beneath the shade of a tree sufficiently
far from the road that they might not attract unnecessary
observation, they slept until after noon.

But their precaution failed to serve their purpose entirely.  A
little before noon two filthy, bearded knights of the road
clambered laboriously over the fence and headed directly for
the very tree under which Billy and Bridge lay sleeping.  In the
minds of the two was the same thought that had induced
Billy Byrne and the poetic Bridge to seek this same secluded
spot.

There was in the stiff shuffle of the men something rather
familiar.  We have seen them before--just for a few minutes it
is true; but under circumstances that impressed some of their
characteristics upon us.  The very last we saw of them they
were shuffling away in the darkness along a railroad track,
after promising that eventually they would wreak dire vengeance
upon Billy, who had just trounced them.

Now as they came unexpectedly upon the two sleepers they
did not immediately recognize in them the objects of their
recent hate.  They just stood looking stupidly down on them,
wondering in what way they might turn their discovery to
their own advantage.

Nothing in the raiment either of Billy or Bridge indicated
that here was any particularly rich field for loot, and, too, the
athletic figure of Byrne would rather have discouraged any
attempt to roll him without first handing him the "k.o.", as
the two would have naively put it.

But as they gazed down upon the features of the sleepers
the eyes of one of the tramps narrowed to two ugly slits while
those of his companion went wide in incredulity and surprise.

"Do youse know dem guys?" asked the first, and without
waiting for a reply he went on: "Dem's de guys dat beat us
up back dere de udder side o' K. C. Do youse get 'em?"

"Sure?" asked the other.

"Sure, I'd know dem in a t'ous'n'.  Le's hand 'em a couple
an' beat it," and he stooped to pick up a large stone that lay
near at hand.

"Cut it!" whispered the second tramp.  "Youse don't know
dem guys at all.  Dey may be de guys dat beats us up; but dat
big stiff dere is more dan dat.  He's wanted in Chi, an' dere's
half a t'ou on 'im."

"Who put youse jerry to all dat?" inquired the first tramp,
skeptically.

"I was in de still wit 'im--he croaked some guy.  He's a
lifer.  On de way to de pen he pushes dis dick off'n de rattler
an' makes his get-away.  Dat peter-boy we meets at Quincy
slips me an earful about him.  Here's w'ere we draws down de
five hundred if we're cagey."

"Whaddaya mean, cagey?"

"Why we leaves 'em alone an' goes to de nex' farm an' calls
up K. C. an' tips off de dicks, see?"

"Youse don't tink we'll get any o' dat five hun, do youse,
wit de dicks in on it?"

The other scratched his head.

"No," he said, rather dubiously, after a moment's deep
thought; "dey don't nobody get nothin' dat de dicks see first;
but we'll get even with dese blokes, annyway."

"Maybe dey'll pass us a couple bucks," said the other
hopefully.  "Dey'd orter do dat much."

Detective Sergeant Flannagan of Headquarters, Chicago,
slouched in a chair in the private office of the chief of
detectives of Kansas City, Missouri.  Sergeant Flannagan was
sore.  He would have said as much himself.  He had been sent
west to identify a suspect whom the Kansas City authorities
had arrested; but had been unable to do so, and had been
preparing to return to his home city when the brilliant aureola
of an unusual piece of excellent fortune had shone upon him
for a moment, and then faded away through the grimy entrance
of a basement eating-place.

He had been walking along the street the previous evening
thinking of nothing in particular; but with eyes and ears alert
as becomes a successful police officer, when he had espied two
men approaching upon the opposite sidewalk.

There was something familiar in the swing of the giant
frame of one of the men.  So, true to years of training,
Sergeant Flannagan melted into the shadows of a store entrance
and waited until the two should have come closer.

They were directly opposite him when the truth flashed
upon him--the big fellow was Billy Byrne, and there was a
five-hundred-dollar reward out for him.

And then the two turned and disappeared down the stairway
that led to the underground restaurant.  Sergeant Flannagan
saw Byrne's companion turn and look back just as
Flannagan stepped from the doorway to cross the street after
them.

That was the last Sergeant Flannagan had seen either of
Billy Byrne or his companion.  The trail had ceased at the
open window of the washroom at the rear of the restaurant,
and search as he would be had been unable to pick it up
again.

No one in Kansas City had seen two men that night
answering the descriptions Flannagan had been able to give--
at least no one whom Flannagan could unearth.

Finally he had been forced to take the Kansas City chief
into his confidence, and already a dozen men were scouring
such sections of Kansas City in which it seemed most likely an
escaped murderer would choose to hide.

Flannagan had been out himself for a while; but now he
was in to learn what progress, if any, had been made.  He had
just learned that three suspects had been arrested and was
waiting to have them paraded before him.

When the door swung in and the three were escorted into
his presence Sergeant Flannagan gave a snort of disgust,
indicative probably not only of despair; but in a manner
registering his private opinion of the mental horse power and
efficiency of the Kansas City sleuths, for of the three one was
a pasty-faced, chestless youth, even then under the influence of
cocaine, another was an old, bewhiskered hobo, while the
third was unquestionably a Chinaman.

Even professional courtesy could scarce restrain Sergeant
Flannagan's desire toward bitter sarcasm, and he was upon
the point of launching forth into a vitriolic arraignment of
everything west of Chicago up to and including, specifically,
the Kansas City detective bureau, when the telephone bell at
the chief's desk interrupted him.  He had wanted the chief to
hear just what he thought, so he waited.

The chief listened for a few minutes, asked several questions
and then, placing a fat hand over the transmitter, he wheeled
about toward Flannagan.

"Well," he said, "I guess I got something for you at last.  
There's a bo on the wire that says he's just seen your man
down near Shawnee.  He wants to know if you'll split the
reward with him."

Flannagan yawned and stretched.

"I suppose," he said, ironically, "that if I go down there I'll
find he's corraled a nigger," and he looked sorrowfully at the
three specimens before him.

"I dunno," said the chief.  "This guy says he knows Byrne
well, an' that he's got it in for him.  Shall I tell him you'll be
down--and split the reward?"

"Tell him I'll be down and that I'll treat him right," replied
Flannagan, and after the chief had transmitted the message,
and hung up the receiver: "Where is this here Shawnee,
anyhow?"

"I'll send a couple of men along with you.  It isn't far across
the line, an' there won't be no trouble in getting back without
nobody knowin' anything about it--if you get him."

"All right," said Flannagan, his visions of five hundred
already dwindled to a possible one.

It was but a little past one o'clock that a touring car rolled
south out of Kansas City with Detective Sergeant Flannagan
in the front seat with the driver and two burly representatives
of Missouri law in the back.



CHAPTER V

ONE TURN DESERVES ANOTHER

WHEN the two tramps approached the farmhouse at which
Billy had purchased food a few hours before the farmer's wife
called the dog that was asleep in the summer kitchen and took
a shotgun down from its hook beside the door.

From long experience the lady was a reader of character--
of hobo character at least--and she saw nothing in the
appearance of either of these two that inspired even a modicum
of confidence.  Now the young fellow who had been there
earlier in the day and who, wonder of wonders, had actually
paid for the food she gave him, had been of a different stamp.  
His clothing had proclaimed him a tramp, but, thanks to the
razor Bridge always carried, he was clean shaven.  His year of
total abstinence had given him clear eyes and a healthy skin.  
There was a freshness and vigor in his appearance and carriage
that inspired confidence rather than suspicion.

She had not mistrusted him; but these others she did
mistrust.  When they asked to use the telephone she refused
and ordered them away, thinking it but an excuse to enter the
house; but they argued the matter, explaining that they had
discovered an escaped murderer hiding near--by--in fact in her
own meadow--and that they wished only to call up the
Kansas City police.

Finally she yielded, but kept the dog by her side and the
shotgun in her hand while the two entered the room and
crossed to the telephone upon the opposite side.

From the conversation which she overheard the woman
concluded that, after all, she had been mistaken, not only
about these two, but about the young man who had come
earlier in the day and purchased food from her, for the
description the tramp gave of the fugitive tallied exactly with
that of the young man.

It seemed incredible that so honest looking a man could be
a murderer.  The good woman was shocked, and not a little
unstrung by the thought that she had been in the house alone
when he had come and that if he had wished to he could
easily have murdered her.

"I hope they get him," she said, when the tramp had
concluded his talk with Kansas City.  "It's awful the carryings
on they is nowadays.  Why a body can't never tell who to
trust, and I thought him such a nice young man.  And he paid
me for what he got, too."

The dog, bored by the inaction, had wandered back into
the summer kitchen and resumed his broken slumber.  One of
the tramps was leaning against the wall talking with the
farmer woman.  The other was busily engaged in scratching his
right shin with what remained of the heel of his left shoe.  He
supported himself with one hand on a small table upon the
top of which was a family Bible.

Quite unexpectedly he lost his balance, the table tipped, he
was thrown still farther over toward it, and all in the flash of
an eye tramp, table, and family Bible crashed to the floor.

With a little cry of alarm the woman rushed forward to
gather up the Holy Book, in her haste forgetting the shotgun
and leaving it behind her leaning against the arm of a chair.

Almost simultaneously the two tramps saw the real cause of
her perturbation.  The large book had fallen upon its back,
open; and as several of the leaves turned over before coming
to rest their eyes went wide at what was revealed between.

United States currency in denominations of five, ten, and
twenty-dollar bills lay snugly inserted between the leaves of the
Bible.  The tramp who lay on the floor, as yet too surprised to
attempt to rise, rolled over and seized the book as a football
player seizes the pigskin after a fumble, covering it with his
body, his arms, and sticking out his elbows as a further
protection to the invaluable thing.

At the first cry of the woman the dog rose, growling, and
bounded into the room.  The tramp leaning against the wall
saw the brute coming--a mongrel hound-dog, bristling and
savage.

The shotgun stood almost within the man's reach--a step
and it was in his hands.  As though sensing the fellow's
intentions the dog wheeled from the tramp upon the floor,
toward whom he had leaped, and sprang for the other ragged
scoundrel.

The muzzle of the gun met him halfway.  There was a
deafening roar.  The dog collapsed to the floor, his chest torn
out.  Now the woman began to scream for help; but in an
instant both the tramps were upon her choking her to silence.

One of them ran to the summer kitchen, returning a moment
later with a piece of clothesline, while the other sat
astride the victim, his fingers closed about her throat.  Once he
released his hold and she screamed again.  Presently she was
secured and gagged.  Then the two commenced to rifle the
Bible.

Eleven hundred dollars in bills were hidden there, because
the woman and her husband didn't believe in banks--the
savings of a lifetime.  In agony, as she regained consciousness,
she saw the last of their little hoard transferred to the pockets
of the tramps, and when they had finished they demanded to
know where she kept the rest, loosening her gag that she
might reply.

She told them that that was all the money she had in the
world, and begged them not to take it.

"Youse've got more coin dan dis," growled one of the men,
"an' youse had better pass it over, or we'll find a way to
make youse."

But still she insisted that that was all.  The tramp stepped
into the kitchen.  A wood fire was burning in the stove.  A pair
of pliers lay upon the window sill.  With these he lifted one of
the hot stove-hole covers and returned to the parlor, grinning.

"I guess she'll remember she's got more wen dis begins to
woik," he said.  "Take off her shoes, Dink."

The other growled an objection.

"Yeh poor boob," he said.  "De dicks'll be here in a little
while.  We'd better be makin' our get-away wid w'at we got."

"Gee!" exclaimed his companion.  "I clean forgot all about
de dicks," and then after a moment's silence during which his
evil face underwent various changes of expression from fear to
final relief, he turned an ugly, crooked grimace upon his
companion.

"We got to croak her," he said.  "Dey ain't no udder way.  
If dey finds her alive she'll blab sure, an' dey won't be no
trouble 'bout gettin' us or identifyin' us neither."

The other shrugged.

"Le's beat it," he whined.  "We can't more'n do time fer dis
job if we stop now; but de udder'll mean--" and he made a
suggestive circle with a grimy finger close to his neck.

"No it won't nothin' of de kind," urged his companion.  "I
got it all doped out.  We got lots o' time before de dicks are
due.  We'll croak de skirt, an' den we'll beat it up de road AN'
MEET DE DICKS--see?"

The other was aghast.

"Wen did youse go nuts?" he asked.

"I ain't gone nuts.  Wait 'til I gets t'rough.  We meets de
dicks, innocent-like; but first we caches de dough in de
woods.  We tells 'em we hurried right on to lead 'em to dis
Byrne guy, an' wen we gets back here to de farmhouse an'
finds wot's happened here we'll be as flabbergasted as dey be."

"Oh, nuts!" exclaimed the other disgustedly.  "Youse don't
tink youse can put dat over on any wise guy from Chi, do
youse?  Who will dey tink croaked de old woman an' de ki-yi?
Will dey tink dey kilt deyreselves?"

"Dey'll tink Byrne an' his pardner croaked 'em, you simp,"
replied Crumb.

Dink scratched his head, and as the possibilities of the
scheme filtered into his dull brain a broad grin bared his
yellow teeth.

"You're dere, pal," he exclaimed, real admiration in his
tone.  "But who's goin' to do it?"

"I'll do it," said Crumb.  "Dere ain't no chanct of gettin' in
bad for it, so I jest as soon do the job.  Get me a knife, or an
ax from de kitchen--de gat makes too much noise."


Something awoke Billy Byrne with a start.  Faintly, in the
back of his consciousness, the dim suggestion of a loud noise
still reverberated.  He sat up and looked about him.

"I wonder what that was?" he mused.  "It sounded like the
report of a gun."

Bridge awoke about the same time, and turned lazily over,
raising himself upon an elbow.  He grinned at Billy.

"Good morning," he said, and then:

  Says I, "Then let's be on the float.  You certainly have got my goat;
  You make me hungry in my throat for seeing things that's new.
  Out there somewhere we'll ride the range a-looking for the new and strange;
  My feet are tired and need a change.  Come on!  It's up to you!"

"Come on, then," agreed Billy, coming to his feet.

As he rose there came, faintly, but distinct, the unmistakable
scream of a frightened woman.  From the direction of
the farmhouse it came--from the farmhouse at which Billy
had purchased their breakfast.

Without waiting for a repetition of the cry Billy wheeled
and broke into a rapid run in the direction of the little cluster
of buildings.  Bridge leaped to his feet and followed him,
dropping behind though, for he had not had the road work
that Billy recently had been through in his training for the
battle in which he had defeated the "white hope" that time in
New York when Professor Cassidy had wagered his entire pile
upon him, nor in vain.

Dink searched about the summer kitchen for an ax or
hatchet; but failing to find either rummaged through a table
drawer until he came upon a large carving knife.  This would
do the job nicely.  He thumbed the edge as he carried it back
into the parlor to Crumb.

The poor woman, lying upon the floor, was quite conscious.
Her eyes were wide and rolling in horror.  She struggled
with her bonds, and tried to force the gag from her mouth
with her tongue; but her every effort was useless.  She had
heard every word that had passed between the two men.  She
knew that they would carry out the plan they had formulated
and that there was no chance that they would be interrupted
in their gruesome work, for her husband had driven over to a
farm beyond Holliday, leaving before sunrise, and there was
little prospect that he would return before milking time in the
evening.  The detectives from Kansas City could not possibly
reach the farm until far too late to save her.

She saw Dink return from the summer kitchen with the
long knife.  She recalled the day she had bought that knife in
town, and the various uses to which she had put it.  That very
morning she had sliced some bacon with it.  How distinctly
such little things recurred to her at this frightful moment.  And
now the hideous creature standing beside her was going to use
it to cut her throat.

She saw Crumb take the knife and feel of the blade,
running his thumb along it.  She saw him stoop, his eyes
turned down upon hers.  He grasped her chin and forced it
upward and back, the better to expose her throat.

Oh, why could she not faint?  Why must she suffer all these
hideous preliminaries?  Why could she not even close her eyes?

Crumb raised the knife and held the blade close above her
bared neck.  A shudder ran through her, and then the door
crashed open and a man sprang into the room.  It was Billy
Byrne.  Through the window he had seen what was passing in
the interior.

His hand fell upon Crumb's collar and jerked him backward
from his prey.  Dink seized the shotgun and turned it
upon the intruder; but he was too close.  Billy grasped the
barrel of the weapon and threw the muzzle up toward the
ceiling as the tramp pulled the trigger.  Then he wrenched it
from the man's hands, swung it once above his head and
crashed the stock down upon Dink's skull.

Dink went down and out for the count--for several counts,
in fact.  Crumb stumbled to his feet and made a break for the
door.  In the doorway he ran full into Bridge, winded, but
ready.  The latter realizing that the matted one was attempting
to escape, seized a handful of his tangled beard, and, as he
had done upon another occasion, held the tramp's head in
rigid position while he planted a series of blows in the fellow's
face--blows that left Crumb as completely out of battle as
was his mildewed comrade.

"Watch 'em," said Billy, handing Bridge the shotgun.  Then
he turned his attention to the woman.  With the carving knife
that was to have ended her life he cut her bonds.  Removing
the gag from her mouth he lifted her in his strong arms and
carried her to the little horsehair sofa that stood in one corner
of the parlor, laying her upon it very gently.

He was thinking of "Maw" Watson.  This woman resembled
her just a little--particularly in her comfortable, motherly
expansiveness, and she had had a kind word and a cheery
good-bye for him that morning as he had departed.

The woman lay upon the sofa, breathing hard, and moaning
just a little.  The shock had been almost too much even for
her stolid nerves.  Presently she turned her eyes toward Billy.

"You are a good boy," she said, "and you come just in the
nick o' time.  They got all my money.  It's in their clothes," and
then a look of terror overspread her face.  For the moment she
had forgotten what she had heard about this man--that he
was an escaped convict--a convicted murderer.  Was she any
better off now that she had let him know about the money
than she was with the others after they discovered it?

At her words Bridge kneeled and searched the two tramps.  
He counted the bills as he removed them from their pockets.

"Eleven hundred?" he asked, and handed the money to
Billy.

"Eleven hundred, yes," breathed the woman, faintly, her
eyes horror-filled and fearful as she gazed upon Billy's face.
She didn't care for the money any more--they could have it
all if they would only let her live.

Billy turned toward her and held the rumpled green mass
out.

"Here," he said; "but that's an awful lot o' coin for a
woman to have about de house--an' her all alone.  You ought
not to a-done it."

She took the money in trembling fingers.  It seemed incredible
that the man was returning it to her.

"But I knew it," she said finally.

"Knew what?" asked Billy.

"I knew you was a good boy.  They said you was a
murderer."

Billy's brows contracted, and an expression of pain crossed
his face.

"How did they come to say that?" he asked.

"I heard them telephonin' to Kansas City to the police," she
replied, and then she sat bolt upright.  "The detectives are on
their way here now," she almost screamed, "and even if you
ARE a murderer I don't care.  I won't stand by and see 'em get
you after what you have done for me.  I don't believe you're a
murderer anyhow.  You're a good boy.  My boy would be
about as old and as big as you by now--if he lives.  He ran
away a long time ago--maybe you've met him.  His name's
Eddie--Eddie Shorter.  I ain't heard from him fer years.

"No," she went on, "I don't believe what they said--you
got too good a face; but if you are a murderer you get out
now before they come an' I'll send 'em on a wild-goose chase
in the wrong direction."

"But these," said Billy.  "We can't leave these here."

"Tie 'em up and give me the shotgun," she said.  "I'll bet
they don't come any more funny business on me."  She had
regained both her composure and her nerve by this time.

Together Billy and Bridge trussed up the two tramps.  An
elephant couldn't have forced the bonds they placed upon
them.  Then they carried them down cellar and when they had
come up again Mrs. Shorter barred the cellar door.

"I reckon they won't get out of there very fast," she said.  
"And now you two boys run along.  Got any money?" and
without waiting for a reply she counted twenty-five dollars
from the roll she had tucked in the front of her waist and
handed them to Billy.

"Nothin' doin'," said he; "but t'anks just the same."

"You got to take it," she insisted.  "Let me make believe I'm
givin' it to my boy, Eddie--please," and the tears that came
to her eyes proved far more effective than her generous words.

"Aw, all right," said Billy.  "I'll take it an' pass it along to
Eddie if I ever meet him, eh?"

"Now please hurry," she urged. "I don't want you to be
caught--even if you are a murderer.  I wish you weren't
though."

"I'm not," said Billy; "but de law says I am an' what de
law says, goes."

He turned toward the doorway with Bridge, calling a goodbye
to the woman, but as he stepped out upon the veranda the
dust of a fast-moving automobile appeared about a bend in
the road a half-mile from the house.

"Too late," he said, turning to Bridge.  "Here they come!"

The woman brushed by them and peered up the road.

"Yes," she said, "it must be them.  Lordy!  What'll we do?"

"I'll duck out the back way, that's what I'll do," said Billy.

"It wouldn't do a mite of good," said Mrs. Shorter, with a
shake of her head.  "They'll telephone every farmer within
twenty mile of here in every direction, an' they'll get you sure.  
Wait!  I got a scheme.  Come with me," and she turned and
bustled through the little parlor, out of a doorway into something
that was half hall and half storeroom.  There was a
flight of stairs leading to the upper story, and she waddled up
them as fast as her legs would carry her, motioning the two
men to follow her.

In a rear room was a trapdoor in the ceiling.

"Drag that commode under this," she told them.  "Then
climb into the attic, and close the trapdoor.  They won't never
find you there."

Billy pulled the ancient article of furniture beneath the
opening, and in another moment the two men were in the
stuffy atmosphere of the unventilated loft.  Beneath them
they heard Mrs. Shorter dragging the commode back to its
accustomed place, and then the sound of her footsteps descending
the stair.

Presently there came to them the rattling of a motor without,
followed by the voices of men in the house.  For an
hour, half asphyxiated by the closeness of the attic, they waited,
and then again they heard the sound of the running engine,
diminishing as the machine drew away.

Shortly after, Mrs. Shorter's voice rose to them from below:

"You ken come down now," she said, "they've gone."

When they had descended she led them to the kitchen.

"I got a bite to eat ready for you while they was here," she
explained.  "When you've done you ken hide in the barn 'til
dark, an' after that I'll have my ol' man take you 'cross to
Dodson, that's a junction, an' you'd aughter be able to git
away easy enough from there.  I told 'em you started for
Olathe--there's where they've gone with the two tramps.

"My, but I did have a time of it!  I ain't much good at
story-tellin' but I reckon I told more stories this arternoon
than I ever tole before in all my life.  I told 'em that they was
two of you, an' that the biggest one hed red hair, an' the little
one was all pock-marked.  Then they said you prob'ly wasn't
the man at all, an' my! how they did swear at them two
tramps fer gettin' 'em way out here on a wild-goose chase; but
they're goin' to look fer you jes' the same in Olathe, only they
won't find you there," and she laughed, a bit nervously
though.

It was dusk when Mr. Shorter returned from Holliday, but
after he had heard his wife's story he said that he'd drive
"them two byes" all the way to Mexico, if there wasn't any
better plan.

"Dodson's far enough," Bridge assured him, and late that
night the grateful farmer set them down at their destination.

An hour later they were speeding south on the Missouri
Pacific.

Bridge lay back, luxuriously, on the red plush of the smoker seat.

"Some class to us, eh, bo?" asked Billy.

Bridge stretched.

   The tide-hounds race far up the shore--the hunt is on!  The breakers roar!
 Her spars are tipped with gold, and o'er her deck the spray is flung,
   The buoys that frolic in the bay, they nod the way, they nod the way!
 The hunt is up!  I am the prey!  The hunter's bow is strung!



CHAPTER VI

"BABY BANDITS"


IT WAS twenty-four hours before Detective Sergeant Flannagan
awoke to the fact that something had been put over on
him, and that a Kansas farmer's wife had done the putting.

He managed to piece it out finally from the narratives of
the two tramps, and when he had returned to the Shorter
home and listened to the contradictory and whole-souled
improvisations of Shorter pere and mere he was convinced.

Whereupon he immediately telegraphed Chicago headquarters
and obtained the necessary authority to proceed upon the
trail of the fugitive, Byrne.

And so it was that Sergeant Flannagan landed in El Paso a
few days later, drawn thither by various pieces of intelligence
he had gathered en route, though with much delay and consequent vexation.

Even after he had quitted the train he was none too sure
that he was upon the right trail though he at once repaired to
a telegraph office and wired his chief that he was hot on the
trail of the fugitive.

As a matter of fact he was much hotter than he imagined,
for Billy and Bridge were that very minute not two squares
from him, debating as to the future and the best manner of
meeting it before it arrived.

"I think," said Billy, "that I'll duck across the border.  I
won't never be safe in little old U. S., an' with things hoppin'
in Mexico the way they have been for the last few years I
orter be able to lose myself pretty well.

"Now you're all right, ol' top.  You don't have to duck
nothin' for you ain't did nothin'.  I don't know what you're
runnin' away from; but I know it ain't nothin' the police is
worryin' about--I can tell that by the way you act--so I
guess we'll split here.  You'd be a boob to cross if you don't
have to, fer if Villa don't get you the Carranzistas will, unless
the Zapatistas nab you first.

"Comin' or goin' some greasy-mugged highbinder's bound
to croak you if you cross, from what little I've heard since we
landed in El Paso.

"We'll feed up together tonight, fer the last time.  Then I'll
pull my freight."  He was silent for a while, and then: "I hate
to do it, bo, fer you're the whitest guy I ever struck," which
was a great deal for Billy Byrne of Grand Avenue to say.

Bridge finished rolling a brown paper cigarette before he
spoke.

"Your words are pure and unadulterated wisdom, my
friend," he said.  "The chances are scarcely even that two
gringo hoboes would last the week out afoot and broke in
Viva Mexico; but it has been many years since I followed the
dictates of wisdom.  Therefore I am going with you."

Billy grinned.  He could not conceal his pleasure.

"You're past twenty-one," he said, "an' dry behind the
ears.  Let's go an' eat.  There is still some of that twenty-five
left."

Together they entered a saloon which Bridge remembered
as permitting a very large consumption of free lunch upon the
purchase of a single schooner of beer.

There were round tables scattered about the floor in front
of the bar, and after purchasing their beer they carried it to
one of these that stood in a far corner of the room close to a
rear door.

Here Bridge sat on guard over the foaming open sesame to
food while Billy crossed to the free lunch counter and appropriated
all that a zealous attendant would permit him to carry
off.

When he returned to the table he took a chair with his
back to the wall in conformity to a habit of long standing
when, as now, it had stood him in good stead to be in a
position to see the other fellow at least as soon as the other
fellow saw him.  The other fellow being more often than not a
large gentleman with a bit of shiny metal pinned to his left
suspender strap.

"That guy's a tight one," said Billy, jerking his hand in the
direction of the guardian of the free lunch.  "I scoops up about
a good, square meal for a canary bird, an' he makes me
cough up half of it.  Wants to know if I t'ink I can go into the
restaurant business on a fi'-cent schooner of suds."

Bridge laughed.

"Well, you didn't do so badly at that," he said.  "I know
places where they'd indict you for grand larceny if you took
much more than you have here."

"Rotten beer," commented Billy.

"Always is rotten down here," replied Bridge.  "I sometimes
think they put moth balls in it so it won't spoil."

Billy looked up and smiled.  Then he raised his tall glass
before him.

"Here's to," he started; but he got no further.  His eyes
traveling past his companion fell upon the figure of a large
man entering the low doorway.

At the same instant the gentleman's eyes fell upon Billy.  
Recognition lit those of each simultaneously.  The big man
started across the room on a run, straight toward Billy Byrne.  

The latter leaped to his feet.  Bridge, guessing what had
happened, rose too.

"Flannagan!" he exclaimed.

The detective was tugging at his revolver, which had stuck
in his hip pocket.  Byrne reached for his own weapon.  Bridge
laid a hand on his arm.

"Not that, Billy!" he cried.  "There's a door behind you.  
Here," and he pulled Billy backward toward the doorway in
the wall behind them.

Byrne still clung to his schooner of beer, which he had
transferred to his left hand as he sought to draw his gun.  
Flannagan was close to them.  Bridge opened the door and
strove to pull Billy through; but the latter hesitated just an
instant, for he saw that it would be impossible to close and
bar the door, provided it had a bar, before Flannagan would
be against it with his great shoulders.

The policeman was still struggling to disentangle his revolver
from the lining of his pocket.  He was bellowing like a
bull--yelling at Billy that he was under arrest.  Men at the
tables were on their feet.  Those at the bar had turned around
as Flannagan started to run across the floor.  Now some of
them were moving in the direction of the detective and his
prey, but whether from curiosity or with sinister intentions it is
difficult to say.

One thing, however, is certain--if all the love that was felt
for policemen in general by the men in that room could have
been combined in a single individual it still scarcely would
have constituted a grand passion.

Flannagan felt rather than saw that others were closing in
on him, and then, fortunately for himself, he thought, he
managed to draw his weapon.  It was just as Billy was fading
through the doorway into the room beyond.  He saw the
revolver gleam in the policeman's hand and then it became
evident why Billy had clung so tenaciously to his schooner of
beer.  Left-handed and hurriedly he threw it; but even Flannagan
must have been constrained to admit that it was a good
shot.  It struck the detective directly in the midst of his
features, gave him a nasty cut on the cheek as it broke and filled
his eyes full of beer--and beer never was intended as an eye
wash.

Spluttering and cursing, Flannagan came to a sudden stop,
and when he had wiped the beer from his eyes he found that
Billy Byrne had passed through the doorway and closed the
door after him.

The room in which Billy and Bridge found themselves was
a small one in the center of which was a large round table at
which were gathered a half-dozen men at poker.  Above the
table swung a single arc lamp, casting a garish light upon the
players beneath.

Billy looked quickly about for another exit, only to find
that besides the doorway through which he had entered there
was but a single aperture in the four walls-a small window,
heavily barred.  The place was a veritable trap.

At their hurried entrance the men had ceased their play,
and one or two had risen in profane questioning and protest.  
Billy ignored them.  He was standing with his shoulder against
the door trying to secure it against the detective without; but
there was neither bolt nor bar.

Flannagan hurtling against the opposite side exerted his
noblest efforts to force an entrance to the room; but Billy
Byrne's great weight held firm as Gibraltar.  His mind revolved
various wild plans of escape; but none bade fair to offer the
slightest foothold to hope.

The men at the table were clamoring for an explanation of
the interruption.  Two of them were approaching Billy with the
avowed intention of "turning him out," when he turned his
head suddenly toward them.

"Can de beef, you poor boobs," he cried.  "Dere's a bunch
o' dicks out dere--de joint's been pinched."

Instantly pandemonium ensued.  Cards, chips, and money
were swept as by magic from the board.  A dozen dog-eared
and filthy magazines and newspapers were snatched from a
hiding place beneath the table, and in the fraction of a second
the room was transformed from a gambling place to an
innocent reading-room.

Billy grinned broadly.  Flannagan had ceased his efforts to
break down the door, and was endeavoring to persuade Billy
that he might as well come out quietly and submit to arrest.  
Byrne had drawn his revolver again.  Now he motioned to
Bridge to come to his side.

"Follow me," he whispered.  "Don't move 'til I move--then
move sudden."  Then, turning to the door again, "You big
stiff," he cried, "you couldn't take a crip to a hospital, let
alone takin' Billy Byrne to the still.  Beat it, before I come out
an' spread your beezer acrost your map."

If Billy had desired to arouse the ire of Detective Sergeant
Flannagan by this little speech he succeeded quite as well as
he could have hoped.  Flannagan commenced to growl and
threaten, and presently again hurled himself against the door.

Instantly Byrne wheeled and fired a single shot into the arc
lamp, the shattered carbon rattled to the table with fragments
of the globe, and Byrne stepped quickly to one side.  The door
flew open and Sergeant Flannagan dove headlong into the
darkened room.  A foot shot out from behind the opened
door, and Flannagan, striking it, sprawled upon his face
amidst the legs of the literary lights who held dog-eared
magazines rightside up or upside down, as they chanced to have
picked them up.

Simultaneously Billy Byrne and Bridge dodged through the
open doorway, banged the door to behind them, and sped
across the barroom toward the street.

As Flannagan shot into their midst the men at the table
leaped to their feet and bolted for the doorway; but the
detective was up and after them so quickly that only two
succeeded in getting out of the room.  One of these generously
slammed the door in the faces of his fellows, and there they
pulled and hauled at each other until Flannagan was among
them.

In the pitch darkness he could recognize no one; but to be
on the safe side he hit out promiscuously until he had driven
them all from the door, then he stood with his back toward
it--the inmates of the room his prisoners.

Thus he remained for a moment threatening to shoot at the
first sound of movement in the room, and then he opened the
door again, and stepping just outside ordered the prisoners to
file out one at a time.

As each man passed him Flannagan scrutinized his face,
and it was not until they had all emerged and he had reentered
the room with a light that he discovered that once
again his quarry had eluded him.  Detective Sergeant Flannagan
was peeved.

The sun smote down upon a dusty road.  A heat-haze lay
upon the arid land that stretched away upon either hand
toward gray-brown hills.  A little adobe hut, backed by a few
squalid outbuildings, stood out, a screaming high-light in its
coat of whitewash, against a background that was garish with
light.

Two men plodded along the road.  Their coats were off, the
brims of their tattered hats were pulled down over eyes closed
to mere slits against sun and dust.

One of the men, glancing up at the distant hut, broke into
verse:

  Yet then the sun was shining down, a-blazing on the little town,
 A mile or so 'way down the track a-dancing in the sun.
   But somehow, as I waited there, there came a shiver in the air,
 "The birds are flying south," he said.  "The winter has  begun."


His companion looked up at him who quoted.

"There ain't no track," he said, "an' that 'dobe shack don't
look much like a town; but otherwise his Knibbs has got our
number all right, all right.  We are the birds a-flyin' south, and
Flannagan was the shiver in the air.  Flannagan is a reg'lar
frost.  Gee! but I betcha dat guy's sore."

"Why is it, Billy," asked Bridge, after a moment's silence,
"that upon occasion you speak king's English after the manner
of the boulevard, and again after that of the back alley?
Sometimes you say 'that' and 'dat' in the same sentence.  Your
conversational clashes are numerous.  Surely something or
someone has cramped your original style."

"I was born and brought up on 'dat,'" explained Billy.
"SHE taught me the other line of talk.  Sometimes I forget.  I
had about twenty years of the other and only one of hers,
and twenty to one is a long shot--more apt to lose than
win."

"'She,' I take it, is PENELOPE," mused Bridge, half to
himself.  "She must have been a fine girl."

"'Fine' isn't the right word," Billy corrected him.  "If a
thing's fine there may be something finer, and then something
else finest.  She was better than finest.  She--she was--why,
Bridge, I'd have to be a walking dictionary to tell you what
she was."

Bridge made no reply, and the two trudged on toward the
whitewashed hut in silence for several minutes.  Then Bridge
broke it:

 And you, my sweet Penelope, out there somewhere you wait for me
 With buds of roses in your hair and kisses on your mouth.


Billy sighed and shook his head.

"There ain't no such luck for me," he said.  "She's married
to another gink now."

They came at last to the hut, upon the shady side of which
they found a Mexican squatting puffing upon a cigarette, while
upon the doorstep sat a woman, evidently his wife, busily
engaged in the preparation of some manner of foodstuff
contained in a large, shallow vessel.  About them played a
couple of half-naked children.  A baby sprawled upon a blanket
just within the doorway.

The man looked up, suspiciously, as the two approached.  
Bridge saluted him in fairly understandable Spanish, asking for
food, and telling the man that they had money with which to
pay for a little--not much, just a little.

The Mexican slowly unfolded himself and arose, motioning
the strangers to follow him into the interior of the hut.  The
woman, at a word from her lord and master, followed them,
and at his further dictation brought them frijoles and tortillas.

The price he asked was nominal; but his eyes never left
Bridge's hands as the latter brought forth the money and
handed it over.  He appeared just a trifle disappointed when
no more money than the stipulated purchase price was revealed to sight.

"Where you going?" he asked.

"We're looking for work," explained Bridge.  "We want to
get jobs on one of the American ranches or mines."

"You better go back," warned the Mexican.  "I, myself,
have nothing against the Americans, senor; but there are
many of my countrymen who do not like you.  The Americans
are all leaving.  Some already have been killed by bandits.  It is
not safe to go farther.  Pesita's men are all about here.  Even
Mexicans are not safe from him.  No one knows whether he is
for Villa or Carranza.  If he finds a Villa ranchero, then Pesita
cries Viva Carranza! and his men kill and rob.  If, on the
other hand, a neighbor of the last victim hears of it in time,
and later Pesita comes to him, he assures Pesita that he is for
Carranza, whereupon Pesita cries Viva Villa! and falls upon
the poor unfortunate, who is lucky if he escapes with his life.  
But Americans!  Ah, Pesita asks them no questions.  He hates
them all, and kills them all, whenever he can lay his hands
upon them.  He has sworn to rid Mexico of the gringos."

"Wot's the Dago talkin' about?" asked Billy.

Bridge gave his companion a brief synopsis of the Mexican's
conversation.

"Only the gentleman is not an Italian, Billy," he concluded.  
"He's a Mexican."

"Who said he was an Eyetalian?" demanded Byrne.

As the two Americans and the Mexican conversed within
the hut there approached across the dusty flat, from the
direction of the nearer hills, a party of five horsemen.

They rode rapidly, coming toward the hut from the side
which had neither door nor window, so that those within had
no warning of their coming.  They were swarthy, ragged
ruffians, fully armed, and with an equipment which suggested
that they might be a part of a quasi-military organization.

Close behind the hut four of them dismounted while the
fifth, remaining in his saddle, held the bridle reins of the
horses of his companions.  The latter crept stealthily around
the outside of the building, toward the door--their carbines
ready in their hands.

It was one of the little children who first discovered the
presence of the newcomers.  With a piercing scream she bolted
into the interior and ran to cling to her mother's skirts.

Billy, Bridge, and the Mexican wheeled toward the doorway
simultaneously to learn the cause of the girl's fright, and as
they did so found themselves covered by four carbines in the
hands of as many men.

As his eyes fell upon the faces of the intruders the
countenance of the Mexican fell, while his wife dropped to the floor
and embraced his knees, weeping.

"Wotinell?" ejaculated Billy Byrne.  "What's doin'?"

"We seem to have been made prisoners," suggested Bridge;
"but whether by Villistas or Carranzistas I do not know."

Their host understood his words and turned toward the
two Americans.

"These are Pesita's men," he said.

"Yes," spoke up one of the bandits, "we are Pesita's men,
and Pesita will be delighted, Miguel, to greet you, especially
when he sees the sort of company you have been keeping.  
You know how much Pesita loves the gringos!"

"But this man does not even know us," spoke up Bridge.  
"We stopped here to get a meal.  He never saw us before.  We
are on our way to the El Orobo Rancho in search of work.  
We have no money and have broken no laws.  Let us go our
way in peace.  You can gain nothing by detaining us, and as
for Miguel here--that is what you called him, I believe--I
think from what he said to us that he loves a gringo about as
much as your revered chief seems to."

Miguel looked his appreciation of Bridge's defense of him;
but it was evident that he did not expect it to bear fruit.  Nor
did it.  The brigand spokesman only grinned sardonically.

"You may tell all this to Pesita himself, senor," he said.  
"Now come--get a move on--beat it!"  The fellow had once
worked in El Paso and took great pride in his "higher
English" education.

As he started to herd them from the hut Billy demurred.  He
turned toward Bridge.

"Most of this talk gets by me," he said.  "I ain't jerry to all
the Dago jabber yet, though I've copped off a little of it in the
past two weeks.  Put me wise to the gink's lay."

"Elementary, Watson, elementary," replied Bridge.  "We are
captured by bandits, and they are going to take us to their
delightful chief who will doubtless have us shot at sunrise."

"Bandits?" snapped Billy, with a sneer.  "Youse don't call
dese little runts bandits?"

"Baby bandits, Billy, baby bandits," replied Bridge.

"An' you're goin' to stan' fer lettin' 'em pull off this rough
stuff without handin' 'em a come-back?" demanded Byrne.

"We seem to be up against just that very thing," said
Bridge.  "There are four carbines quite ready for us.  It would
mean sudden death to resist now.  Later we may find an
opportunity--I think we'd better act simple and wait."  He
spoke in a quick, low whisper, for the spokesman of the
brigands evidently understood a little English and was on the
alert for any trickery.

Billy shrugged, and when their captors again urged them
forward he went quietly; but the expression on his face might
have perturbed the Mexicans had they known Billy Byrne of
Grand Avenue better--he was smiling happily.

Miguel had two ponies in his corral.  These the brigands
appropriated, placing Billy upon one and Miguel and Bridge
upon the other.  Billy's great weight rendered it inadvisable to
double him up with another rider.

As they were mounting Billy leaned toward Bridge and
whispered:

"I'll get these guys, pal--watch me," he said.

"I am with thee, William!--horse, foot, and artillery,"
laughed Bridge.

"Which reminds me," said Billy, "that I have an ace-in-the-hole
--the boobs never frisked me."

"And I am reminded," returned Bridge, as the horses started
off to the yank of hackamore ropes in the hands of the
brigands who were leading them, "of a touching little thing of
Service's:


  Just think!  Some night the stars will gleam
    Upon a cold gray stone,
  And trace a name with silver beam,
    And lo! 'twill be your own.


"You're a cheerful guy," was Billy's only comment.



CHAPTER VII

IN PESITA'S CAMP

PESITA was a short, stocky man with a large, dark mustache.
He attired himself after his own ideas of what should constitute
the uniform of a general--ideas more or less influenced
and modified by the chance and caprice of fortune.

At the moment that Billy, Bridge, and Miguel were dragged
into his presence his torso was enwrapped in a once resplendent
coat covered with yards of gold braid.  Upon his shoulders
were brass epaulets such as are connected only in one's
mind with the ancient chorus ladies of the light operas of
fifteen or twenty years ago.  Upon his legs were some rusty
and ragged overalls.  His feet were bare.

He scowled ferociously at the prisoners while his lieutenant
narrated the thrilling facts of their capture--thrilling by
embellishment.

"You are Americanos?" he asked of Bridge and Billy.

Both agreed that they were.  Then Pesita turned toward
Miguel.

"Where is Villa?" he asked.

"How should I know, my general?" parried Miguel.  "Who
am I--a poor man with a tiny rancho--to know of the
movements of the great ones of the earth?  I did not even
know where was the great General Pesita until now I am
brought into his gracious presence, to throw myself at his feet
and implore that I be permitted to serve him in even the
meanest of capacities."

Pesita appeared not to hear what Miguel had said.  He
turned his shoulder toward the man, and addressed Billy in
broken English.

"You were on your way to El Orobo Rancho, eh?  Are you
acquainted there?" he asked.

Billy replied that they were not--merely looking for
employment upon an American-owned ranch or in an American
mine.

"Why did you leave your own country?" asked Pesita.  
"What do you want here in Mexico?"

"Well, ol' top," replied Billy, "you see de birds was flyin'
south an' winter was in de air, an a fat-head dick from Chi
was on me trail--so I ducks."

"Ducks?" queried Pesita, mystified.  "Ah, the ducks--they
fly south, I see."

"Naw, you poor simp--I blows," explained Billy.

"Ah, yes," agreed Pesita, not wishing to admit any
ignorance of plain American even before a despised gringo.  "But
the large-faced dick--what might that be?  I have spend much
time in the States, but I do not know that."

"I said 'fat-head dick'--dat's a fly cop," Billy elucidated.

"It is he then that is the bird."  Pesita beamed at this
evidence of his own sagacity.  "He fly."

"Flannagan ain't no bird--Flannagan's a dub."

Bridge came to the rescue.

"My erudite friend means," he explained, "that the police
chased him out of the United States of America."

Pesita raised his eyebrows.  All was now clear to him.

"But why did he not say so?" he asked.

"He tried to," said Bridge.  "He did his best."

"Quit yer kiddin'," admonished Billy.

A bright fight suddenly burst upon Pesita.  He turned upon
Bridge.

"Your friend is not then an American?" he asked.  "I
guessed it.  That is why I could not understand him.  He speaks
the language of the gringo less well even than I. From what
country is he?"

Billy Byrne would have asserted with some show of asperity
that he was nothing if not American; but Bridge was quick to
see a possible loophole for escape for his friend in Pesita's
belief that Billy was no gringo, and warned the latter to
silence by a quick motion of his head.

"He's from 'Gran' Avenoo,'" he said.  "It is not exactly in
Germany; but there are a great many Germans there.  My
friend is a native, so he don't speak German or English
either--they have a language of their own in 'Gran' Avenoo'."

"I see," said Pesita--"a German colony.  I like the
Germans--they furnish me with much ammunition and rifles.  
They are my very good friends.  Take Miguel and the gringo
away"--this to the soldiers who had brought the prisoners to
him--"I will speak further with this man from Granavenoo."

When the others had passed out of hearing Pesita addressed
Billy.

"I am sorry, senor," he said, "that you have been put to so
much inconvenience.  My men could not know that you were
not a gringo; but I can make it all right.  I will make it all
right.  You are a big man.  The gringos have chased you from
their country as they chased me.  I hate them.  You hate them.  
But enough of them.  You have no business in Mexico except
to seek work.  I give you work.  You are big.  You are strong.  
You are like a bull.  You stay with me, senor, and I make you
captain.  I need men what can talk some English and look like
gringo.  You do fine.  We make much money--you and I. We
make it all time while we fight to liberate my poor Mexico.  
When Mexico liberate we fight some more to liberate her
again.  The Germans they give me much money to liberate
Mexico, and--there are other ways of getting much money
when one is riding around through rich country with soldiers
liberating his poor, bleeding country.  Sabe?"

"Yep, I guess I savvy," said Billy, "an' it listens all right to
me's far's you've gone.  My pal in on it?"

"Eh?"

"You make my frien' a captain, too?"

Pesita held up his hands and rolled his eyes in holy horror.  
Take a gringo into his band?  It was unthinkable.

"He shot," he cried.  "I swear to kill all gringo.  I become
savior of my country.  I rid her of all Americanos."

"Nix on the captain stuff fer me, then," said Billy, firmly.  
"That guy's a right one.  If any big stiff thinks he can croak
little ol' Bridge while Billy Byrne's aroun' he's got anudder
t'ink comin'.  Why, me an' him's just like brudders."

"You like this gringo?" asked Pesita.

"You bet," cried Billy.

Pesita thought for several minutes.  In his mind was a
scheme which required the help of just such an individual as
this stranger--someone who was utterly unknown in the surrounding
country and whose presence in a town could not by
any stretch of the imagination be connected in any way with
the bandit, Pesita.

"I tell you," he said.  "I let your friend go.  I send him under
safe escort to El Orobo Rancho.  Maybe he help us there after
a while.  If you stay I let him go.  Otherwise I shoot you both
with Miguel."

"Wot you got it in for Mig fer?" asked Billy.  "He's a
harmless sort o' guy."

"He Villista.  Villista with gringos run Mexico--gringos and
the church.  Just like Huerta would have done it if they'd given
him a chance, only Huerta more for church than for gringos."

"Aw, let the poor boob go," urged Billy, "an' I'll come
along wit you.  Why he's got a wife an' kids--you wouldn't
want to leave them without no one to look after them in this
God-forsaken country!"

Pesita grinned indulgently.

"Very well, Senor Captain," he said, bowing low.  "I let
Miguel and your honorable friend go.  I send safe escort with
them."

"Bully fer you, ol' pot!" exclaimed Billy, and Pesita smiled
delightedly in the belief that some complimentary title had
been applied to him in the language of "Granavenoo."  "I'll go
an' tell 'em," said Billy.

"Yes," said Pesita, "and say to them that they will start
early in the morning."

As Billy turned and walked in the direction that the soldiers
had led Bridge and Miguel, Pesita beckoned to a soldier who
leaned upon his gun at a short distance from his "general"--a
barefooted, slovenly attempt at a headquarters orderly.

"Send Captain Rozales to me," directed Pesita.

The soldier shuffled away to where a little circle of men in
wide-brimmed, metal-encrusted hats squatted in the shade of a
tree, chatting, laughing, and rolling cigarettes.  He saluted one
of these and delivered his message, whereupon the tall, gaunt
Captain Rozales arose and came over to Pesita.

"The big one who was brought in today is not a gringo,"
said Pesita, by way of opening the conversation.  "He is from
Granavenoo.  He can be of great service to us, for he is very
friendly with the Germans--yet he looks like a gringo and
could pass for one.  We can utilize him.  Also he is very large
and appears to be equally strong.  He should make a good
fighter and we have none too many.  I have made him a
captain."

Rozales grinned.  Already among Pesita's following of a
hundred men there were fifteen captains.

"Where is Granavenoo?" asked Rozales.

"You mean to say, my dear captain," exclaimed Pesita,
"that a man of your education does not know where Granavenoo is?
I am surprised.  Why, it is a German colony."

"Yes, of course.  I recall it well now.  For the moment it had
slipped my mind.  My grandfather who was a great traveler
was there many times.  I have heard him speak of it often."

"But I did not summon you that we might discuss European
geography," interrupted Pesita.  "I sent for you to tell you
that the stranger would not consent to serve me unless I
liberated his friend, the gringo, and that sneaking spy of a
Miguel.  I was forced to yield, for we can use the stranger.  So
I have promised, my dear captain, that I shall send them upon
their road with a safe escort in the morning, and you shall
command the guard.  Upon your life respect my promise, Rozales;
but if some of Villa's cutthroats should fall upon you,
and in the battle, while you were trying to defend the gringo
and Miguel, both should be slain by the bullets of the
Villistas--ah, but it would be deplorable, Rozales, but it would
not be your fault.  Who, indeed, could blame you who had
fought well and risked your men and yourself in the performance
of your sacred duty?  Rozales, should such a thing
occur what could I do in token of my great pleasure other
than make you a colonel?"

"I shall defend them with my life, my general," cried
Rozales, bowing low.

"Good!" cried Pesita.  "That is all."

Rozales started back toward the ring of smokers.

"Ah, Captain!" cried Pesita.  "Another thing.  Will you make
it known to the other officers that the stranger from Granavenoo
is a captain and that it is my wish that he be well treated,
but not told so much as might injure him, or his usefulness,
about our sacred work of liberating poor, bleeding unhappy
Mexico."

Again Rozales bowed and departed.  This time he was not
recalled.

Billy found Bridge and Miguel squatting on the ground
with two dirty-faced peons standing guard over them.  The
latter were some little distance away.  They made no objection
when Billy approached the prisoners though they had looked
in mild surprise when they saw him crossing toward them
without a guard.

Billy sat down beside Bridge, and broke into a laugh.

"What's the joke?" asked Bridge.  "Are we going to be
hanged instead of being shot?"

"We ain't goin' to be either," said Billy, "an' I'm a captain.  
Whaddaya know about that?"

He explained all that had taken place between himself and
Pesita while Bridge and Miguel listened attentively to his every
word.

"I t'ought it was about de only way out fer us," said Billy.  
"We were in worse than I t'ought."

"Can the Bowery stuff, Billy," cried Bridge, "and talk like a
white man.  You can, you know."

"All right, bo," cried Billy, good-naturedly.  "You see I
forget when there is anything pressing like this, to chew
about.  Then I fall back into the old lingo.  Well, as I was
saying, I didn't want to do it unless you would stay too, but
he wouldn't have you.  He has it in for all gringos, and that
bull you passed him about me being from a foreign country
called Grand Avenue!  He fell for it like a rube for the
tapped-wire stuff.  He said if I wouldn't stay and help him he'd croak
the bunch of us."

"How about that ace-in-the-hole, you were telling me
about?" asked Bridge.

"I still got it," and Billy fondled something hard that swung
under his left arm beneath his shirt; "but, Lord, man! what
could I do against the whole bunch?  I might get a few of
them; but they'd get us all in the end.  This other way is
better, though I hate to have to split with you, old man."

He was silent then for a moment, looking hard at the
ground.  Bridge whistled, and cleared his throat.

"I've always wanted to spend a year in Rio," he said.  
"We'll meet there, when you can make your get-away."

"You've said it," agreed Byrne.  "It's Rio as soon as we can
make it.  Pesita's promised to set you both loose in the
morning and send you under safe escort--Miguel to his happy
home, and you to El Orobo Rancho.  I guess the old stiff isn't
so bad after all."

Miguel had pricked up his ears at the sound of the word
ESCORT.  He leaned far forward, closer to the two Americans,
and whispered.

"Who is to command the escort?" he asked.

"I dunno," said Billy.  "What difference does it make?"

"It makes all the difference between life and death for your
friend and for me," said Miguel.  "There is no reason why I
should need an escort.  I know my way throughout all Chihuahua
as well as Pesita or any of his cutthroats.  I have
come and gone all my life without an escort.  Of course your
friend is different.  It might be well for him to have company
to El Orobo.  Maybe it is all right; but wait until we learn who
commands the escort.  I know Pesita well.  I know his methods.  
If Rozales rides out with us tomorrow morning you may say
good-bye to your friend forever, for you will never see him in
Rio, or elsewhere.  He and I will be dead before ten o'clock."

"What makes you think that, bo?" demanded Billy.

"I do not think, senor," replied Miguel; "I know."

"Well," said Billy, "we'll wait and see."

"If it is Rozales, say nothing," said Miguel.  "It will do no
good; but we may then be on the watch, and if possible you
might find the means to obtain a couple of revolvers for us.  In
which case--" he shrugged and permitted a faint smile to flex
his lips.

As they talked a soldier came and announced that they
were no longer prisoners--they were to have the freedom of
the camp; "but," he concluded, "the general requests that you
do not pass beyond the limits of the camp.  There are many
desperadoes in the hills and he fears for your safety, now that
you are his guests."

The man spoke Spanish, so that it was necessary that
Bridge interpret his words for the benefit of Billy, who had
understood only part of what he said.

"Ask him," said Byrne, "if that stuff goes for me, too."

"He says no," replied Bridge after questioning the soldier,
"that the captain is now one of them, and may go and come as
do the other officers.  Such are Pesita's orders."

Billy arose.  The messenger had returned to his post at
headquarters.  The guard had withdrawn, leaving the three
men alone.

"So long, old man," said Billy.  "If I'm goin' to be of any
help to you and Mig the less I'm seen with you the better.  I'll
blow over and mix with the Dago bunch, an' practice sittin'
on my heels.  It seems to be the right dope down here, an' I
got to learn all I can about bein' a greaser seein' that I've
turned one."

"Good-bye Billy, remember Rio," said Bridge.

"And the revolvers, senor," added Miguel.

"You bet," replied Billy, and strolled off in the direction of
the little circle of cigarette smokers.

As he approached them Rozales looked up and smiled.
Then, rising, extended his hand.

"Senor Captain," he said, "we welcome you.  I am Captain
Rozales."  He hesitated waiting for Billy to give his name.

"My monacker's Byrne," said Billy.  "Pleased to meet you,
Cap."

"Ah, Captain Byrne," and Rozales proceeded to introduce
the newcomer to his fellow-officers.

Several, like Rozales, were educated men who had been
officers in the army under former regimes, but had turned
bandit as the safer alternative to suffering immediate death at
the hands of the faction then in power.  The others, for the
most part, were pure-blooded Indians whose adult lives had
been spent in outlawry and brigandage.  All were small of
stature beside the giant, Byrne.  Rozales and two others spoke
English.  With those Billy conversed.  He tried to learn from
them the name of the officer who was to command the escort
that was to accompany Bridge and Miguel into the valley on
the morrow; but Rozales and the others assured him that they
did not know.

When he had asked the question Billy had been looking
straight at Rozales, and he had seen the man's pupils contract
and noticed the slight backward movement of the body which
also denotes determination.  Billy knew, therefore, that Rozales
was lying.  He did know who was to command the escort, and
there was something sinister in that knowledge or the fellow
would not have denied it.

The American began to consider plans for saving his friend
from the fate which Pesita had outlined for him.  Rozales, too,
was thinking rapidly.  He was no fool.  Why had the stranger
desired to know who was to command the escort?  He knew
none of the officers personally.  What difference then, did it
make to him who rode out on the morrow with his friend?
Ah, but Miguel knew that it would make a difference.  Miguel
had spoken to the new captain, and aroused his suspicions.

Rozales excused himself and rose.  A moment later he was
in conversation with Pesita, unburdening himself of his suspicions,
and outlining a plan.

"Do not send me in charge of the escort," he advised.  
"Send Captain Byrne himself."

Pesita pooh-poohed the idea.

"But wait," urged Rozales.  "Let the stranger ride in command,
with a half-dozen picked men who will see that nothing
goes wrong.  An hour before dawn I will send two men--they
will be our best shots--on ahead.  They will stop at a place we
both know, and about noon the Captain Byrne and his escort
will ride back to camp and tell us that they were attacked by
a troop of Villa's men, and that both our guests were killed.
It will be sad; but it will not be our fault.  We will swear
vengeance upon Villa, and the Captain Byrne will hate him as
a good Pesitista should."

"You have the cunning of the Coyote, my captain," cried
Pesita.  "It shall be done as you suggest.  Go now, and I will
send for Captain Byrne, and give him his orders for the
morning."

As Rozales strolled away a figure rose from the shadows at
the side of Pesita's tent and slunk off into the darkness.



CHAPTER VIII

BILLY'S FIRST COMMAND

AND so it was that having breakfasted in the morning Bridge
and Miguel started downward toward the valley protected by
an escort under Captain Billy Byrne.  An old service jacket
and a wide-brimmed hat, both donated by brother officers,
constituted Captain Byrne's uniform.  His mount was the largest
that the picket line of Pesita's forces could produce.  Billy
loomed large amongst his men.

For an hour they rode along the trail, Billy and Bridge
conversing upon various subjects, none of which touched
upon the one uppermost in the mind of each.  Miguel rode,
silent and preoccupied.  The evening before he had whispered
something to Bridge as he had crawled out of the darkness to
lie close to the American, and during a brief moment that
morning Bridge had found an opportunity to relay the Mexican's
message to Billy Byrne.

The latter had but raised his eyebrows a trifle at the time,
but later he smiled more than was usual with him.  Something
seemed to please him immensely.

Beside him at the head of the column rode Bridge and
Miguel.  Behind them trailed the six swarthy little troopers--
the picked men upon whom Pesita could depend.

They had reached a point where the trail passes through a
narrow dry arroyo which the waters of the rainy season had
cut deep into the soft, powdery soil.  Upon either bank grew
cacti and mesquite, forming a sheltering screen behind which a
regiment might have hidden.  The place was ideal for an
ambuscade.

"Here, Senor Capitan," whispered Miguel, as they neared
the entrance to the trap.

A low hill shut off from their view all but the head of the
cut, and it also hid them from the sight of any possible enemy
which might have been lurking in wait for them farther down
the arroyo.

At Miguel's words Byrne wheeled his horse to the right
away from the trail which led through the bottom of the waterway
and around the base of the hill, or rather in that direction,
for he had scarce deviated from the direct way before one
of the troopers spurred to his side, calling out in Spanish
that he was upon the wrong trail.

"Wot's this guy chewin' about?" asked Billy, turning to
Miguel.

"He says you must keep to the arroyo, Senor Capitan,"
explained the Mexican.

"Tell him to go back into his stall," was Byrne's laconic
rejoinder, as he pushed his mount forward to pass the brigand.

The soldier was voluble in his objections.  Again he reined
in front of Billy, and by this time his five fellows had spurred
forward to block the way.

"This is the wrong trail," they cried.  "Come this other way,
Capitan.  Pesita has so ordered it."

Catching the drift of their remarks, Billy waved them to one
side.

"I'm bossin' this picnic," he announced.  "Get out o' the
way, an' be quick about it if you don't want to be hurted."

Again he rode forward.  Again the troopers interposed their
mounts, and this time their leader cocked his carbine.  His
attitude was menacing.  Billy was close to him.  Their ponies
were shoulder to shoulder, that of the bandit almost broadside
of the trail.

Now Billy Byrne was more than passing well acquainted
with many of the fundamental principles of sudden brawls. It
is safe to say that he had never heard of Van Bibber; but he
knew, as well as Van Bibber knew, that it is well to hit first.

Without a word and without warning he struck, leaning
forward with all the weight of his body behind his blow, and
catching the man full beneath the chin he lifted him as neatly
from his saddle as though a battering ram had struck him.

Simultaneously Bridge and Miguel drew revolvers from their
shirts and as Billy wheeled his pony toward the remaining five
they opened fire upon them.

The battle was short and sweet.  One almost escaped but
Miguel, who proved to be an excellent revolver shot, brought
him down at a hundred yards.  He then, with utter disregard
for the rules of civilized warfare, dispatched those who were
not already dead.

"We must let none return to carry false tales to Pesita," he
explained.

Even Billy Byrne winced at the ruthlessness of the
cold-blooded murders; but he realized the necessity which
confronted them though he could not have brought himself to do the
things which the Mexican did with such sang-froid and even
evident enjoyment.

"Now for the others!" cried Miguel, when he had assured
himself that each of the six were really quite dead.

Spurring after him Billy and Bridge ran their horses over
the rough ground at the base of the little hill, and then
parallel to the arroyo for a matter of a hundred yards, where
they espied two Indians, carbines in hand, standing in evident
consternation because of the unexpected fusillade of shots
which they had just heard and which they were unable to
account for.

At the sight of the three the sharpshooters dropped behind
cover and fired.  Billy's horse stumbled at the first report,
caught himself, reared high upon his hind legs and then
toppled over, dead.

His rider, throwing himself to one side, scrambled to his feet
and fired twice at the partially concealed men.  Miguel and
Bridge rode in rapidly to close quarters, firing as they came.  
One of the two men Pesita had sent to assassinate his "guests"
dropped his gun, clutched at his breast, screamed, and sank
back behind a clump of mesquite.  The other turned and
leaped over the edge of the bank into the arroyo, rolling and
tumbling to the bottom in a cloud of dry dust.

As he rose to his feet and started on a run up the bed of
the dry stream, dodging a zigzag course from one bit of scant
cover to another Billy Byrne stepped to the edge of the
washout and threw his carbine to his shoulder.  His face was
flushed, his eyes sparkled, a smile lighted his regular features.

"This is the life!" he cried, and pulled the trigger.

The man beneath him, running for his life like a frightened
jackrabbit, sprawled forward upon his face, made a single
effort to rise and then slumped limply down, forever.

Miguel and Bridge, dismounted now, came to Byrne's side.  
The Mexican was grinning broadly.

"The captain is one grand fighter," he said.  "How my dear
general would admire such a man as the captain.  Doubtless he
would make him a colonel.  Come with me Senor Capitan and
your fortune is made."

"Come where?" asked Billy Byrne.

"To the camp of the liberator of poor, bleeding Mexico--to
General Francisco Villa."

"Nothin' doin'," said Billy.  "I'm hooked up with this Pesita
person now, an' I guess I'll stick.  He's given me more of a run
for my money in the last twenty-four hours than I've had
since I parted from my dear old friend, the Lord of Yoka."

"But Senor Capitan," cried Miguel, "you do not mean to
say that you are going back to Pesita!  He will shoot you
down with his own hand when he has learned what has
happened here."

"I guess not," said Billy.

"You'd better go with Miguel, Billy," urged Bridge.  "Pesita
will not forgive you this.  You've cost him eight men today
and he hasn't any more men than he needs at best.  Besides
you've made a monkey of him and unless I miss my guess
you'll have to pay for it."

"No," said Billy, "I kind o' like this Pesita gent.  I think I'll
stick around with him for a while yet.  Anyhow until I've had
a chance to see his face after I've made my report to him.  
You guys run along now and make your get-away good, an'
I'll beat it back to camp."

He crossed to where the two horses of the slain marksmen
were hidden, turned one of them loose and mounted the other.

"So long, boes!" he cried, and with a wave of his hand
wheeled about and spurred back along the trail over which
they had just come.

Miguel and Bridge watched him for a moment, then they,
too, mounted and turned away in the opposite direction.  
Bridge recited no verse for the balance of that day.  His heart
lay heavy in his bosom, for he missed Billy Byrne, and was
fearful of the fate which awaited him at the camp of the
bandit.

Billy, blithe as a lark, rode gaily back along the trail to
camp.  He looked forward with unmixed delight to his coming
interview with Pesita, and to the wild, half-savage life which
association with the bandit promised.  All his life had Billy
Byrne fed upon excitement and adventure.  As gangster, thug,
holdup man and second-story artist Billy had found food for
his appetite within the dismal, sooty streets of Chicago's great
West Side, and then Fate had flung him upon the savage
shore of Yoka to find other forms of adventure where the
best that is in a strong man may be brought out in the stern
battle for existence against primeval men and conditions.  The
West Side had developed only Billy's basest characteristics.  He
might have slipped back easily into the old ways had it not
been for HER and the recollection of that which he had read in
her eyes.  Love had been there; but greater than that to hold a
man into the straight and narrow path of decency and honor
had been respect and admiration.  It had seemed incredible to
Billy that a goddess should feel such things for him--for the
same man her scornful lips once had branded as coward and
mucker; yet he had read the truth aright, and since then Billy
Byrne had done his best according to the fight that had been
given him to deserve the belief she had in him.

So far there had crept into his consciousness no disquieting
doubts as to the consistency of his recent action in joining
the force of a depredating Mexican outlaw.  Billy knew nothing
of the political conditions of the republic.  Had Pesita told him
that he was president of Mexico, Billy could not have disputed
the statement from any knowledge of facts which he possessed.  
As a matter of fact about all Billy had ever known of Mexico
was that it had some connection with an important place
called Juarez where running meets were held.

To Billy Byrne, then, Pesita was a real general, and Billy,
himself, a bona fide captain.  He had entered an army which
was at war with some other army.  What they were warring
about Billy knew not, nor did he care.  There should be
fighting and he loved that--that much he knew.  The ethics of
Pesita's warfare troubled him not.  He had heard that some
great American general had said: "War is hell."  Billy was
willing to take his word for it, and accept anything which
came in the guise of war as entirely proper and as it should
be.

The afternoon was far gone when Billy drew rein in the
camp of the outlaw band.  Pesita with the bulk of his raiders
was out upon some excursion to the north.  Only half a dozen
men lolled about, smoking or sleeping away the hot day.  They
looked at Billy in evident surprise when they saw him riding
in alone; but they asked no questions and Billy offered no
explanation--his report was for the ears of Pesita only.

The balance of the day Billy spent in acquiring further
knowledge of Spanish by conversing with those of the men
who remained awake, and asking innumerable questions.  It
was almost sundown when Pesita rode in.  Two riderless
horses were led by troopers in the rear of the little column
and three men swayed painfully in their saddles and their
clothing was stained with blood.

Evidently Pesita had met with resistance.  There was much
voluble chattering on the part of those who had remained
behind in their endeavors to extract from their returning
comrades the details of the day's enterprise.  By piecing
together the various scraps of conversation he could understand
Billy discovered that Pesita had ridden far to demand tribute
from a wealthy ranchero, only to find that word of his coming
had preceded him and brought a large detachment of Villa's
regulars who concealed themselves about the house and
outbuildings until Pesita and his entire force were well within
close range.

"We were lucky to get off as well as we did," said an
officer.

Billy grinned inwardly as he thought of the pleasant frame
of mind in which Pesita might now be expected to receive the
news that eight of his troopers had been killed and his two
"guests" safely removed from the sphere of his hospitality.

And even as his mind dwelt delightedly upon the subject a
ragged Indian carrying a carbine and with heavy silver spurs
strapped to his bare feet approached and saluted him.

"General Pesita wishes Senor Capitan Byrne to report to
him at once," said the man.

"Sure Mike!" replied Billy, and made his way through the
pandemonium of the camp toward the headquarters tent.

As he went he slipped his hand inside his shirt and
loosened something which hung beneath his left arm.

"Li'l ol' ace-in-the-hole," he murmured affectionately.

He found Pesita pacing back and forth before his tent--an
energetic bundle of nerves which no amount of hard riding
and fighting could tire or discourage.

As Billy approached Pesita shot a quick glance at his face,
that he might read, perhaps, in his new officer's expression
whether anger or suspicion had been aroused by the killing of
his American friend, for Pesita never dreamed but that Bridge
had been dead since mid-forenoon.

"Well," said Pesita, smiling, "you left Senor Bridge and
Miguel safely at their destination?"

"I couldn't take 'em all the way," replied Billy, "cause I
didn't have no more men to guard 'em with; but I seen 'em
past the danger I guess an' well on their way."

"You had no men?" questioned Pesita.  "You had six
troopers."

"Oh, they was all croaked before we'd been gone two
hours.  You see it happens like this: We got as far as that dry
arroyo just before the trail drops down into the valley, when
up jumps a bunch of this here Villa's guys and commenced
takin' pot shots at us.

"Seein' as how I was sent to guard Bridge an' Mig, I makes
them dismount and hunt cover, and then me an' my men
wades in and cleans up the bunch.  They was only a few of
them but they croaked the whole bloomin' six o' mine.

"I tell you it was some scrap while it lasted; but I saved
your guests from gettin' hurted an' I know that that's what
you sent me to do.  It's too bad about the six men we lost but,
leave it to me, we'll get even with that Villa guy yet.  Just lead
me to 'im."

As he spoke Billy commenced scratching himself beneath
the left arm, and then, as though to better reach the point of
irritation, he slipped his hand inside his shirt.  If Pesita noticed
the apparently innocent little act, or interpreted it correctly
may or may not have been the fact.  He stood looking straight
into Byrne's eyes for a full minute.  His face denoted neither
baffled rage nor contemplated revenge.  Presently a slow smile
raised his heavy mustache and revealed his strong, white teeth.

"You have done well, Captain Byrne," he said.  "You are a
man after my own heart," and he extended his hand.

A half-hour later Billy walked slowly back to his own
blankets, and to say that he was puzzled would scarce have
described his mental state.

"I can't quite make that gink out," he mused.  "Either he's a
mighty good loser or else he's a deep one who'll wait a year
to get me the way he wants to get me."

And Pesita a few moments later was saying to Captain
Rozales:

"I should have shot him if I could spare such a man; but it
is seldom I find one with the courage and effrontery he
possesses.  Why think of it, Rozales, he kills eight of my men,
and lets my prisoners escape, and then dares to come back
and tell me about it when he might easily have gotten away.  
Villa would have made him an officer for this thing, and
Miguel must have told him so.  He found out in some way
about your little plan and he turned the tables on us.  We can
use him, Rozales, but we must watch him.  Also, my dear
captain, watch his right hand and when he slips it into his
shirt be careful that you do not draw on him--unless you
happen to be behind him."

Rozales was not inclined to take his chief's view of Byrne's
value to them.  He argued that the man was guilty of disloyalty
and therefore a menace.  What he thought, but did not advance
as an argument, was of a different nature.  Rozales was
filled with rage to think that the newcomer had outwitted him,
and beaten him at his own game, and he was jealous, too, of
the man's ascendancy in the esteem of Pesita; but he hid his
personal feelings beneath a cloak of seeming acquiescence in
his chief's views, knowing that some day his time would come
when he might rid himself of the danger of this obnoxious
rival.

"And tomorrow," continued Pesita, "I am sending him to
Cuivaca.  Villa has considerable funds in bank there, and this
stranger can learn what I want to know about the size of the
detachment holding the town, and the habits of the garrison."



CHAPTER IX

BARBARA IN MEXICO

THE manager of El Orobo Rancho was an American named
Grayson.  He was a tall, wiry man whose education had been
acquired principally in the cow camps of Texas, where, among
other things one does NOT learn to love nor trust a greaser.  As
a result of this early training Grayson was peculiarly unfitted
in some respects to manage an American ranch in Mexico; but
he was a just man, and so if his vaqueros did not love him,
they at least respected him, and everyone who was or possessed
the latent characteristics of a wrongdoer feared him.

Perhaps it is not fair to say that Grayson was in any way
unfitted for the position he held, since as a matter of fact he
was an ideal ranch foreman, and, if the truth be known, the
simple fact that he was a gringo would have been sufficient to
have won him the hatred of the Mexicans who worked under
him--not in the course of their everyday relations; but when
the fires of racial animosity were fanned to flame by some
untoward incident upon either side of the border.

Today Grayson was particularly rabid.  The more so
because he could not vent his anger upon the cause of it, who
was no less a person than his boss.

It seemed incredible to Grayson that any man of intelligence
could have conceived and then carried out the fool thing
which the boss had just done, which was to have come from
the safety of New York City to the hazards of warring
Mexico, bringing--and this was the worst feature of it--his
daughter with him.  And at such a time!  Scarce a day passed
without its rumors or reports of new affronts and even
atrocities being perpetrated upon American residents of Mexico.
Each day, too, the gravity of these acts increased.  From
mere insult they had run of late to assault and even to
murder.  Nor was the end in sight.

Pesita had openly sworn to rid Mexico of the gringo--to
kill on sight every American who fell into his hands.  And
what could Grayson do in case of a determined attack upon
the rancho?  It is true he had a hundred men--laborers and
vaqueros, but scarce a dozen of these were Americans, and
the rest would, almost without exception, follow the inclinations
of consanguinity in case of trouble.

To add to Grayson's irritability he had just lost his
bookkeeper, and if there was one thing more than any other that
Grayson hated it was pen and ink.  The youth had been a
"lunger" from Iowa, a fairly nice little chap, and entirely
suited to his duties under any other circumstances than those
which prevailed in Mexico at that time.  He was in mortal
terror of his life every moment that he was awake, and at last
had given in to the urge of cowardice and resigned.  The day
previous he had been bundled into a buckboard and driven
over to the Mexican Central which, at that time, still was
operating trains--occasionally--between Chihuahua and Juarez.

His mind filled with these unpleasant thoughts, Grayson sat
at his desk in the office of the ranch trying to unravel the
riddle of a balance sheet which would not balance.  Mixed
with the blue of the smoke from his briar was the deeper
azure of a spirited monologue in which Grayson was engaged.

A girl was passing the building at the moment.  At her side
walked a gray-haired man--one of those men whom you just
naturally fit into a mental picture of a director's meeting
somewhere along Wall Street.

"Sich langwidge!" cried the girl, with a laugh, covering her
ears with her palms.

The man at her side smiled.

"I can't say that I blame him much, Barbara," he replied.  
"It was a very foolish thing for me to bring you down here at
this time.  I can't understand what ever possessed me to do it."

"Don't blame yourself, dear," remonstrated the girl, "when
it was all my fault.  I begged and begged and begged until you
had to consent, and I'm not sorry either--if nothing happens
to you because of our coming.  I couldn't stay in New York
another minute.  Everyone was so snoopy, and I could just tell
that they were dying to ask questions about Billy and me."

"I can't get it through my head yet, Barbara," said the
man, "why in the world you broke with Billy Mallory.  He's
one of the finest young men in New York City today--just
my ideal of the sort of man I'd like my only daughter to
marry."

"I tried, Papa," said the girl in a low voice; "but I
couldn't--I just couldn't."

"Was it because--" the man stopped abruptly.  "Well, never
mind dear, I shan't be snoopy too.  Here now, you run along
and do some snooping yourself about the ranch.  I want to
stop in and have a talk with Grayson."

Down by one of the corrals where three men were busily
engaged in attempting to persuade an unbroken pony that a
spade bit is a pleasant thing to wear in one's mouth, Barbara
found a seat upon a wagon box which commanded an excellent
view of the entertainment going on within the corral.  
As she sat there experiencing a combination of admiration for
the agility and courage of the men and pity for the horse
the tones of a pleasant masculine voice broke in upon her
thoughts.

   "Out there somewhere!" says I to me.  "By Gosh, I guess, thats poetry!
 "Out there somewhere--Penelope--with kisses on her mouth!"
   And then, thinks I, "O college guy! your talk it gets me in the eye,
  The north is creeping in the air, the birds are flying south."


Barbara swung around to view the poet.  She saw a slender
man astride a fagged Mexican pony.  A ragged coat and
ragged trousers covered the man's nakedness.  Indian moccasins
protected his feet, while a torn and shapeless felt hat sat
upon his well-shaped head.  AMERICAN was written all over
him.  No one could have imagined him anything else.  Apparently
he was a tramp as well--his apparel proclaimed him
that; but there were two discordant notes in the otherwise
harmonious ensemble of your typical bo.  He was clean shaven
and he rode a pony.  He rode erect, too, with the easy seat of
an army officer.

At sight of the girl he raised his battered hat and swept it
low to his pony's shoulder as he bent in a profound bow.

"I seek the majordomo, senorita," he said.

"Mr. Grayson is up at the office, that little building to the
left of the ranchhouse," replied the girl, pointing.

The newcomer had addressed her in Spanish, and as he
heard her reply, in pure and liquid English, his eyes widened a
trifle; but the familiar smile with which he had greeted her left
his face, and his parting bow was much more dignified though
no less profound than its predecessor.

  And you, my sweet Penelope, out there somewhere you wait for me,
  With buds of roses in your hair and kisses on your mouth.


Grayson and his employer both looked up as the words of
Knibbs' poem floated in to them through the open window.

"I wonder where that blew in from," remarked Grayson, as
his eyes discovered Bridge astride the tired pony, looking at
him through the window.  A polite smile touched the stranger's
lips as his eyes met Grayson's, and then wandered past him to
the imposing figure of the Easterner.

"Good evening, gentlemen," said Bridge.

"Evenin'," snapped Grayson.  "Go over to the cookhouse
and the Chink'll give you something to eat.  Turn your pony in
the lower pasture.  Smith'll show you where to bunk tonight,
an' you kin hev your breakfast in the mornin'.  S'long!"  The
ranch superintendent turned back to the paper in his hand
which he had been discussing with his employer at the moment
of the interruption.  He had volleyed his instructions at
Bridge as though pouring a rain of lead from a machine gun,
and now that he had said what he had to say the incident
was closed in so far as he was concerned.

The hospitality of the Southwest permitted no stranger to
be turned away without food and a night's lodging.  Grayson
having arranged for these felt that he had done all that might
be expected of a host, especially when the uninvited guest was
so obviously a hobo and doubtless a horse thief as well, for
who ever knew a hobo to own a horse?

Bridge continued to sit where he had reined in his pony.  He
was looking at Grayson with what the discerning boss judged
to be politely concealed enjoyment.

"Possibly," suggested the boss in a whisper to his aide, "the
man has business with you.  You did not ask him, and I am
sure that he said nothing about wishing a meal or a place to
sleep."

"Huh?" grunted Grayson, and then to Bridge, "Well, what
the devil DO you want?"

"A job," replied Bridge, "or, to be more explicit, I need a
job--far be it from me to WISH one."

The Easterner smiled.  Grayson looked a bit mystified--and
irritated.

"Well, I hain't got none," he snapped.  "We don't need
nobody now unless it might be a good puncher--one who
can rope and ride."

"I can ride," replied Bridge, "as is evidenced by the fact
that you now see me astride a horse."

"I said RIDE," said Grayson.  "Any fool can SIT on a horse.
NO, I hain't got nothin', an' I'm busy now.  Hold on!" he
exclaimed as though seized by a sudden inspiration.  He looked
sharply at Bridge for a moment and then shook his head
sadly.  "No, I'm afraid you couldn't do it--a guy's got to be
eddicated for the job I got in mind."

"Washing dishes?" suggested Bridge.

Grayson ignored the playfulness of the other's question.

"Keepin' books," he explained.  There was a finality in his
tone which said: "As you, of course, cannot keep books the
interview is now over.  Get out!"

"I could try," said Bridge.  "I can read and write, you
know.  Let me try."  Bridge wanted money for the trip to Rio,
and, too, he wanted to stay in the country until Billy was
ready to leave.

"Savvy Spanish?" asked Grayson.

"I read and write it better than I speak it," said Bridge,
"though I do the latter well enough to get along anywhere
that it is spoken."

Grayson wanted a bookkeeper worse than he could ever
recall having wanted anything before in all his life.  His better
judgment told him that it was the height of idiocy to employ a
ragged bum as a bookkeeper; but the bum was at least as
much of a hope to him as is a straw to a drowning man, and
so Grayson clutched at him.

"Go an' turn your cayuse in an' then come back here," he
directed, "an' I'll give you a tryout."

"Thanks," said Bridge, and rode off in the direction of the
pasture gate.

"'Fraid he won't never do," said Grayson, ruefully, after
Bridge had passed out of earshot.

"I rather imagine that he will," said the boss.  "He is an
educated man, Grayson--you can tell that from his English,
which is excellent.  He's probably one of the great army of
down-and-outers.  The world is full of them--poor devils.  
Give him a chance, Grayson, and anyway he adds another
American to our force, and each one counts."

"Yes, that's right; but I hope you won't need 'em before
you an' Miss Barbara go," said Grayson.

"I hope not, Grayson; but one can never tell with conditions
here such as they are.  Have you any hope that you will
be able to obtain a safe conduct for us from General Villa?"

"Oh, Villa'll give us the paper all right," said Grayson; "but
it won't do us no good unless we don't meet nobody but
Villa's men on the way out.  This here Pesita's the critter I'm
leery of.  He's got it in for all Americans, and especially for El
Orobo Rancho.  You know we beat off a raid of his about six
months ago--killed half a dozen of his men, an' he won't
never forgive that.  Villa can't spare a big enough force to give
us safe escort to the border and he can't assure the safety of
the train service.  It looks mighty bad, sir--I don't see what in
hell you came for."

"Neither do I, Grayson," agreed the boss; "but I'm here
and we've got to make the best of it.  All this may blow over--
it has before--and we'll laugh at our fears in a few weeks."

"This thing that's happenin' now won't never blow over 'til
the stars and stripes blow over Chihuahua," said Grayson with
finality.

A few moments later Bridge returned to the office, having
unsaddled his pony and turned it into the pasture.

"What's your name?" asked Grayson, preparing to enter it
in his time book.

"Bridge," replied the new bookkeeper.

"'Nitials," snapped Grayson.

Bridge hesitated.  "Oh, put me down as L. Bridge," he said.

"Where from?" asked the ranch foreman.

"El Orobo Rancho," answered Bridge.

Grayson shot a quick glance at the man.  The answer
confirmed his suspicions that the stranger was probably a
horse thief, which, in Grayson's estimation, was the worst
thing a man could be.

"Where did you get that pony you come in on?" he
demanded.  "I ain't sayin' nothin' of course, but I jest want to
tell you that we ain't got no use for horse thieves here."

The Easterner, who had been a listener, was shocked by the
brutality of Grayson's speech; but Bridge only laughed.

"If you must know," he said, "I never bought that horse,
an' the man he belonged to didn't give him to me.  I just took
him."

"You got your nerve," growled Grayson.  "I guess you
better git out.  We don't want no horse thieves here."

"Wait," interposed the boss.  "This man doesn't act like a
horse thief.  A horse thief, I should imagine, would scarcely
admit his guilt.  Let's have his story before we judge him."

"All right," said Grayson; "but he's just admitted he stole
the horse."

Bridge turned to the boss.  "Thanks," he said; "but really I
did steal the horse."

Grayson made a gesture which said: "See, I told you so."

"It was like this," went on Bridge.  "The gentleman who
owned the horse, together with some of his friends, had been
shooting at me and my friends.  When it was all over there
was no one left to inform us who were the legal heirs of the
late owners of this and several other horses which were left
upon our hands, so I borrowed this one.  The law would say,
doubtless, that I had stolen it; but I am perfectly willing to
return it to its rightful owners if someone will find them for
me."

"You been in a scrap?" asked Grayson.  "Who with?"

"A party of Pesita's men," replied Bridge.

"When?"

"Yesterday."

"You see they are working pretty close," said Grayson, to
his employer, and then to Bridge: "Well, if you took that
cayuse from one of Pesita's bunch you can't call that stealin'.  
Your room's in there, back of the office, an' you'll find some
clothes there that the last man forgot to take with him.  You
ken have 'em, an' from the looks o' yourn you need 'em."

"Thank you," replied Bridge.  "My clothes are a bit rusty.  I
shall have to speak to James about them," and he passed
through into the little bedroom off the office, and closed the
door behind him.

"James?" grunted Grayson.  "Who the devil does he mean
by James?  I hain't seen but one of 'em."

The boss was laughing quietly.

"The man's a character," he said.  "He'll be worth all you
pay him--if you can appreciate him, which I doubt, Grayson."

"I ken appreciate him if he ken keep books," replied
Grayson.  "That's all I ask of him."

When Bridge emerged from the bedroom he was clothed in
white duck trousers, a soft shirt, and a pair of tennis shoes,
and such a change had they wrought in his appearance that
neither Grayson nor his employer would have known him
had they not seen him come from the room into which they
had sent him to make the exchange of clothing.

"Feel better?" asked the boss, smiling.

"Clothes are but an incident with me," replied Bridge.  "I
wear them because it is easier to do so than it would be to
dodge the weather and the police.  Whatever I may have upon
my back affects in no way what I have within my head.  No, I
cannot say that I feel any better, since these clothes are not as
comfortable as my old ones.  However if it pleases Mr. Grayson
that I should wear a pink kimono while working for him
I shall gladly wear a pink kimono.  What shall I do first, sir?"
The question was directed toward Grayson.

"Sit down here an' see what you ken make of this bunch of
trouble," replied the foreman.  "I'll talk with you again this
evenin'."

As Grayson and his employer quitted the office and walked
together toward the corrals the latter's brow was corrugated
by thought and his facial expression that of one who labors to
fasten upon a baffling and illusive recollection.

"It beats all, Grayson," he said presently; "but I am sure
that I have known this new bookkeeper of yours before.  The
moment he came out of that room dressed like a human being
I knew that I had known him; but for the life of me I can't
place him.  I should be willing to wager considerable, however,
that his name is not Bridge."

"S'pect you're right," assented Grayson.  "He's probably one
o' them eastern dude bank clerks what's gone wrong and
come down here to hide.  Mighty fine place to hide jest now,
too.

"And say, speakin' of banks," he went on, "what'll I do
'bout sendin' over to Cuivaca fer the pay tomorrow.  Next
day's pay day.  I don't like to send this here bum, I can't trust
a greaser no better, an' I can't spare none of my white men
thet I ken trust."

"Send him with a couple of the most trustworthy Mexicans
you have," suggested the boss.

"There ain't no sich critter," replied Grayson; "but I guess
that's the best I ken do.  I'll send him along with Tony an'
Benito--they hate each other too much to frame up anything
together, an' they both hate a gringo.  I reckon they'll hev a
lovely trip."

"But they'll get back with the money, eh?" queried the
boss.

"If Pesita don't get 'em," replied Grayson.



CHAPTER X

BILLY CRACKS A SAFE

BILLY BYRNE, captain, rode into Cuivaca from the south.  He
had made a wide detour in order to accomplish this; but
under the circumstances he had thought it wise to do so.  In
his pocket was a safe conduct from one of Villa's generals
farther south--a safe conduct taken by Pesita from the body
of one of his recent victims.  It would explain Billy's presence
in Cuivaca since it had been intended to carry its rightful
possessor to Juarez and across the border into the United
States.

He found the military establishment at Cuivaca small and ill
commanded.  There were soldiers upon the streets; but the
only regularly detailed guard was stationed in front of the
bank.  No one questioned Billy.  He did not have to show his
safe conduct.

"This looks easy," thought Billy.  "A reg'lar skinch."

He first attended to his horse, turning him into a public
corral, and then sauntered up the street to the bank, which he
entered, still unquestioned.  Inside he changed a bill of large
denomination which Pesita had given him for the purpose of
an excuse to examine the lay of the bank from the inside.  Billy
took a long time to count the change.  All the time his eyes
wandered about the interior while he made mental notes of
such salient features as might prove of moment to him later.  
The money counted Billy slowly rolled a cigarette.

He saw that the bank was roughly divided into two sections
by a wire and wood partition.  On one side were the customers,
on the other the clerks and a teller.  The latter sat behind
a small wicket through which he received deposits and cashed
checks.  Back of him, against the wall, stood a large safe of
American manufacture.  Billy had had business before with
similar safes.  A doorway in the rear wall led into the yard
behind the building.  It was closed by a heavy door covered
with sheet iron and fastened by several bolts and a thick,
strong bar.  There were no windows in the rear wall.  From
that side the bank appeared almost impregnable to silent
assault.

Inside everything was primitive and Billy found himself
wondering how a week passed without seeing a bank robbery
in the town.  Possibly the strong rear defenses and the armed
guard in front accounted for it.

Satisfied with what he had learned he passed out onto the
sidewalk and crossed the street to a saloon.  Some soldiers and
citizens were drinking at little tables in front of the bar.  A
couple of card games were in progress, and through the open
rear doorway Billy saw a little gathering encircling a cock
fight.

In none of these things was Billy interested.  What he had
wished in entering the saloon was merely an excuse to place
himself upon the opposite side of the street from the bank that
he might inspect the front from the outside without arousing
suspicion.

Having purchased and drunk a bottle of poor beer, the
temperature of which had probably never been below eighty
since it left the bottling department of the Texas brewery
which inflicted it upon the ignorant, he sauntered to the front
window and looked out.

There he saw that the bank building was a two-story affair,
the entrance to the second story being at the left side of the
first floor, opening directly onto the sidewalk in full view of
the sentry who paced to and fro before the structure.

Billy wondered what the second floor was utilized for.  He
saw soiled hangings at the windows which aroused a hope
and a sudden inspiration.  There was a sign above the entrance
to the second floor; but Billy's knowledge of the language had
not progressed sufficiently to permit him to translate it,
although he had his suspicions as to its meaning.  He would
learn if his guess was correct.

Returning to the bar he ordered another bottle of beer, and
as he drank it he practiced upon the bartender some of his
recently acquired Spanish and learned, though not without
considerable difficulty, that he might find lodgings for the
night upon the second floor of the bank building.

Much elated, Billy left the saloon and walked along the
street until he came to the one general store of the town.  After
another heart rending scrimmage with the language of Ferdinand
and Isabella he succeeded in making several purchases--
two heavy sacks, a brace, two bits, and a keyhole saw.  Placing
the tools in one of the sacks he wrapped the whole in the
second sack and made his way back to the bank building.

Upon the second floor he found the proprietor of the
rooming-house and engaged a room in the rear of the building,
overlooking the yard.  The layout was eminently satisfactory
to Captain Byrne and it was with a feeling of great
self-satisfaction that he descended and sought a restaurant.

He had been sent by Pesita merely to look over the ground
and the defenses of the town, that the outlaw might later ride
in with his entire force and loot the bank; but Billy Byrne, out
of his past experience in such matters, had evolved a much
simpler plan for separating the enemy from his wealth.

Having eaten, Billy returned to his room.  It was now dark
and the bank closed and unlighted showed that all had left
it. Only the sentry paced up and down the sidewalk in front.

Going at once to his room Billy withdrew his tools from
their hiding place beneath the mattress, and a moment later
was busily engaged in boring holes through the floor at the
foot of his bed.  For an hour he worked, cautiously and
quietly, until he had a rough circle of holes enclosing a space
about two feet in diameter.  Then he laid aside the brace and
bit, and took the keyhole saw, with which he patiently sawed
through the wood between contiguous holes, until, the circle
completed, he lifted out a section of the floor leaving an
aperture large enough to permit him to squeeze his body
through when the time arrived for him to pass into the bank
beneath.

While Billy had worked three men had ridden into Cuivaca.  
They were Tony, Benito, and the new bookkeeper of El
Orobo Rancho.  The Mexicans, after eating, repaired at once
to the joys of the cantina; while Bridge sought a room in the
building to which his escort directed him.

As chance would have it, it was the same building in which
Billy labored and the room lay upon the rear side of it
overlooking the same yard.  But Bridge did not lie awake to
inspect his surroundings.  For years he had not ridden as many
miles as he had during the past two days, so that long unused
muscles cried out for rest and relaxation.  As a result, Bridge
was asleep almost as soon as his head touched the pillow, and
so profound was his slumber that it seemed that nothing short
of a convulsion of nature would arouse him.

As Bridge lay down upon his bed Billy Byrne left his room
and descended to the street.  The sentry before the bank paid
no attention to him, and Billy passed along, unhindered, to
the corral where he had left his horse.  Here, as he was
saddling the animal, he was accosted, much to his disgust, by
the proprietor.

In broken English the man expressed surprise that Billy
rode out so late at night, and the American thought that he
detected something more than curiosity in the other's manner
and tone--suspicion of the strange gringo.

It would never do to leave the fellow in that state of mind,
and so Billy leaned close to the other's ear, and with a broad
grin and a wink whispered: "Senorita," and jerked his thumb
toward the south.  "I'll be back by mornin'," he added.

The Mexican's manner altered at once.  He laughed and
nodded, knowingly, and poked Billy in the ribs.  Then he
watched him mount and ride out of the corral toward the
south--which was also in the direction of the bank, to the
rear of which Billy rode without effort to conceal his movements.

There he dismounted and left his horse standing with the
bridle reins dragging upon the ground, while he removed the
lariat from the pommel of the saddle, and, stuffing it inside his
shirt, walked back to the street on which the building stood,
and so made his way past the sentry and to his room.

Here he pushed back the bed which he had drawn over the
hole in the floor, dropped his two sacks through into the
bank, and tying the brace to one end of the lariat lowered it
through after the sacks.

Looping the middle of the lariat over a bedpost Billy
grasped both strands firmly and lowered himself through the
aperture into the room beneath.  He made no more noise in
his descent than he had made upon other similar occasions in
his past life when he had practiced the gentle art of
porch-climbing along Ashland Avenue and Washington Boulevard.

Having gained the floor he pulled upon one end of the
lariat until he had drawn it free of the bedpost above, when
it fell into his waiting hands.  Coiling it carefully Billy placed it
around his neck and under one arm.  Billy, acting as a
professional, was a careful and methodical man.  He always saw that
every little detail was properly attended to before he went on
to the next phase of his endeavors.  Because of this ingrained
caution Billy had long since secured the tops of the two sacks
together, leaving only a sufficient opening to permit of their
each being filled without delay or inconvenience.

Now he turned his attention to the rear door.  The bar and
bolts were easily shot from their seats from the inside, and
Billy saw to it that this was attended to before he went further
with his labors.  It were well to have one's retreat assured at
the earliest possible moment.  A single bolt Billy left in place
that he might not be surprised by an intruder; but first he had
tested it and discovered that it could be drawn with ease.

These matters satisfactorily attended to Billy assaulted the
combination knob of the safe with the metal bit which he had
inserted in the brace before lowering it into the bank.

The work was hard and progressed slowly.  It was necessary
to withdraw the bit often and lubricate it with a piece of soap
which Billy had brought along in his pocket for the purpose;
but eventually a hole was bored through into the tumblers of
the combination lock.

From without Billy could hear the footsteps of the sentry
pacing back and forth within fifty feet of him, all unconscious
that the bank he was guarding was being looted almost
beneath his eyes.  Once a corporal came with another soldier
and relieved the sentry.  After that Billy heard the footfalls no
longer, for the new sentry was barefoot.

The boring finished, Billy drew a bit of wire from an inside
pocket and inserted it in the hole.  Then, working the wire
with accustomed fingers, he turned the combination knob this
way and that, feeling with the bit of wire until the tumblers
should all be in line.

This, too, was slow work; but it was infinitely less liable to
attract attention than any other method of safe cracking with
which Billy was familiar.

It was long past midnight when Captain Byrne was rewarded
with success--the tumblers clicked into position, the handle
of the safe door turned and the bolts slipped back.

To swing open the door and transfer the contents of the
safe to the two sacks was the work of but a few minutes.  As
Billy rose and threw the heavy burden across a shoulder he
heard a challenge from without, and then a parley.  Immediately
after the sound of footsteps ascending the stairway to the
rooming-house came plainly to his ears, and then he had
slipped the last bolt upon the rear door and was out in the
yard beyond.

Now Bridge, sleeping the sleep of utter exhaustion that the
boom of a cannon might not have disturbed, did that inexplicable
thing which every one of us has done a hundred times
in our lives.  He awakened, with a start, out of a sound sleep,
though no disturbing noise had reached his ears.

Something impelled him to sit up in bed, and as he did so
he could see through the window beside him into the yard at
the rear of the building.  There in the moonlight he saw a man
throwing a sack across the horn of a saddle.  He saw the man
mount, and he saw him wheel his horse around about and
ride away toward the north.  There seemed to Bridge nothing
unusual about the man's act, nor had there been any indication
either of stealth or haste to arouse the American's suspicions.
Bridge lay back again upon his pillows and sought to
woo the slumber which the sudden awakening seemed to have
banished for the remainder of the night.

And up the stairway to the second floor staggered Tony
and Benito.  Their money was gone; but they had acquired
something else which appeared much more difficult to carry
and not so easily gotten rid of.

Tony held the key to their room.  It was the second room
upon the right of the hall.  Tony remembered that very distinctly.
He had impressed it upon his mind before leaving the
room earlier in the evening, for Tony had feared some such
contingency as that which had befallen.

Tony fumbled with the handle of a door, and stabbed
vainly at an elusive keyhole.

"Wait," mumbled Benito.  "This is not the room.  It was the
second door from the stairway.  This is the third."

Tony lurched about and staggered back.  Tony reasoned:
"If that was the third door the next behind me must be the
second, and on the right;" but Tony took not into consideration
that he had reversed the direction of his erratic wobbling.  
He lunged across the hall--not because he wished to but
because the spirits moved him.  He came in contact with a
door.  "This, then, must be the second door," he soliloquized,
"and it is upon my right.  Ah, Benito, this is the room!"

Benito was skeptical.  He said as much; but Tony was
obdurate.  Did he not know a second door when he saw one?
Was he, furthermore, not a grown man and therefore entirely
capable of distinguishing between his left hand and his right?
Yes!  Tony was all of that, and more, so Tony inserted the key
in the lock--it would have turned any lock upon the second
floor--and, lo! the door swung inward upon its hinges.

"Ah!  Benito," cried Tony.  "Did I not tell you so?  See!  This
is our room, for the key opens the door."

The room was dark.  Tony, carried forward by the weight
of his head, which had long since grown unaccountably
heavy, rushed his feet rapidly forward that he might keep
them within a few inches of his center of equilibrium.

The distance which it took his feet to catch up with his
head was equal to the distance between the doorway and the
foot of the bed, and when Tony reached that spot, with
Benito meandering after him, the latter, much to his astonishment,
saw in the diffused moonlight which pervaded the room,
the miraculous disappearance of his former enemy and erstwhile
friend.  Then from the depths below came a wild scream
and a heavy thud.

The sentry upon the beat before the bank heard both.  For
an instant he stood motionless, then he called aloud for the
guard, and turned toward the bank door.  But this was locked
and he could but peer in through the windows.  Seeing a dark
form within, and being a Mexican he raised his rifle and fired
through the glass of the doors.

Tony, who had dropped through the hole which Billy had
used so quietly, heard the zing of a bullet pass his head, and
the impact as it sploshed into the adobe wall behind him.  
With a second yell Tony dodged behind the safe and besought
Mary to protect him.

From above Benito peered through the hole into the blackness
below.  Down the hall came the barefoot landlord, awakened by
the screams and the shot.  Behind him came Bridge,
buckling his revolver belt about his hips as he ran.  Not having
been furnished with pajamas Bridge had not thought it necessary
to remove his clothing, and so he had lost no time in
dressing.

When the two, now joined by Benito, reached the street
they found the guard there, battering in the bank doors.  
Benito, fearing for the life of Tony, which if anyone took
should be taken by him, rushed upon the sergeant of the
guard, explaining with both lips and hands the remarkable
accident which had precipitated Tony into the bank.

The sergeant listened, though he did not believe, and when
the doors had fallen in, he commanded Tony to come out
with his hands above his head.  Then followed an investigation
which disclosed the looting of the safe, and the great hole in
the ceiling through which Tony had tumbled.

The bank president came while the sergeant and the landlord
were in Billy's room investigating.  Bridge had followed
them.

"It was the gringo," cried the excited Boniface.  "This is his
room.  He has cut a hole in my floor which I shall have to pay
to have repaired."

A captain came next, sleepy-eyed and profane.  When he
heard what had happened and that the wealth which he had
been detailed to guard had been taken while he slept, he tore
his hair and promised that the sentry should be shot at dawn.

By the time they had returned to the street all the male
population of Cuivaca was there and most of the female.

"One-thousand dollars," cried the bank president, "to the
man who stops the thief and returns to me what the villain
has stolen."

A detachment of soldiers was in the saddle and passing the
bank as the offer was made.

"Which way did he go?" asked the captain.  "Did no one
see him leave?"

Bridge was upon the point of saying that he had seen him
and that he had ridden north, when it occurred to him that a
thousand dollars--even a thousand dollars Mex--was a great
deal of money, and that it would carry both himself and Billy
to Rio and leave something for pleasure beside.

Then up spoke a tall, thin man with the skin of a coffee
bean.

"I saw him, Senor Capitan," he cried.  "He kept his horse in
my corral, and at night he came and took it out saying that
he was riding to visit a senorita.  He fooled me, the scoundrel;
but I will tell you--he rode south.  I saw him ride south with
my own eyes."

"Then we shall have him before morning," cried the captain,
"for there is but one place to the south where a robber
would ride, and he has not had sufficient start of us that he
can reach safety before we overhaul him.  Forward!  March!"
and the detachment moved down the narrow street.  "Trot!
March!"  And as they passed the store: "Gallop!  March!"

Bridge almost ran the length of the street to the corral.  His
pony must be rested by now, and a few miles to the north the
gringo whose capture meant a thousand dollars to Bridge was
on the road to liberty.

"I hate to do it," thought Bridge; "because, even if he is a
bank robber, he's an American; but I need the money and in
all probability the fellow is a scoundrel who should have been
hanged long ago."

Over the trail to the north rode Captain Billy Byrne, secure
in the belief that no pursuit would develop until after the
opening hour of the bank in the morning, by which time he
would be halfway on his return journey to Pesita's camp.

"Ol' man Pesita'll be some surprised when I show him what
I got for him," mused Billy.  "Say!" he exclaimed suddenly and
aloud, "Why the devil should I take all this swag back to that
yellow-faced yegg?  Who pulled this thing off anyway?  Why
me, of course, and does anybody think Billy Byrne's boob
enough to split with a guy that didn't have a hand in it at all.  
Split!  Why the nut'll take it all!

"Nix!  Me for the border.  I couldn't do a thing with all this
coin down in Rio, an' Bridgie'll be along there most any time.  
We can hit it up some in lil' ol' Rio on this bunch o' dough.  
Why, say kid, there must be a million here, from the weight of
it."

A frown suddenly clouded his face.  "Why did I take it?" he
asked himself.  "Was I crackin' a safe, or was I pullin' off
something fine fer poor, bleedin' Mexico?  If I was a-doin' that
they ain't nothin' criminal in what I done--except to the guy
that owned the coin.  If I was just plain crackin' a safe on my
own hook why then I'm a crook again an' I can't be that--
no, not with that face of yours standin' out there so plain
right in front of me, just as though you were there yourself,
askin' me to remember an' be decent.  God!  Barbara--why
wasn't I born for the likes of you, and not just a measly,
ornery mucker like I am.  Oh, hell! what is that that Bridge
sings of Knibbs's:


  There ain't no sweet Penelope somewhere that's longing much for me,
 But I can smell the blundering sea, and hear the rigging hum;
  And I can hear the whispering lips that fly before the out-bound ships,
 And I can hear the breakers on the sand a-calling "Come!"


Billy took off his hat and scratched his head.

"Funny," he thought, "how a girl and poetry can get a
tough nut like me.  I wonder what the guys that used to hang
out in back of Kelly's 'ud say if they seen what was goin' on
in my bean just now.  They'd call me Lizzy, eh?  Well, they
wouldn't call me Lizzy more'n once.  I may be gettin' soft in
the head, but I'm all to the good with my dukes."

Speed is not conducive to sentimental thoughts and so Billy
had unconsciously permitted his pony to drop into a lazy
walk.  There was no need for haste anyhow.  No one knew yet
that the bank had been robbed, or at least so Billy argued.  He
might, however, have thought differently upon the subject of
haste could he have had a glimpse of the horseman in his
rear--two miles behind him, now, but rapidly closing up
the distance at a keen gallop, while he strained his eyes across
the moonlit flat ahead in eager search for his quarry.

So absorbed was Billy Byrne in his reflections that his ears
were deaf to the pounding of the hoofs of the pursuer's horse
upon the soft dust of the dry road until Bridge was little more
than a hundred yards from him.  For the last half-mile Bridge
had had the figure of the fugitive in full view and his mind
had been playing rapidly with seductive visions of the
one-thousand dollars reward--one-thousand dollars Mex, perhaps,
but still quite enough to excite pleasant thoughts.  At the first
glimpse of the horseman ahead Bridge had reined his mount
down to a trot that the noise of his approach might thereby
be lessened.  He had drawn his revolver from its holster, and
was upon the point of putting spurs to his horse for a sudden
dash upon the fugitive when the man ahead, finally attracted
by the noise of the other's approach, turned in his saddle and
saw him.

Neither recognized the other, and at Bridge's command of,
"Hands up!"  Billy, lightning-like in his quickness, drew and
fired.  The bullet raked Bridge's hat from his head but left him
unscathed.

Billy had wheeled his pony around until he stood broadside
toward Bridge.  The latter fired scarce a second after Billy's
shot had pinged so perilously close--fired at a perfect target
but fifty yards away.

At the sound of the report the robber's horse reared and
plunged, then, wheeling and tottering high upon its hind feet,
fell backward.  Billy, realizing that his mount had been hit,
tried to throw himself from the saddle; but until the very
moment that the beast toppled over the man was held by his
cartridge belt which, as the animal first lunged, had caught
over the high horn of the Mexican saddle.

The belt slipped from the horn as the horse was falling, and
Billy succeeded in throwing himself a little to one side.  One
leg, however, was pinned beneath the animal's body and the
force of the fall jarred the revolver from Billy's hand to drop
just beyond his reach.

His carbine was in its boot at the horse's side, and the
animal was lying upon it.  Instantly Bridge rode to his side and
covered him with his revolver.

"Don't move," he commanded, "or I'll be under the painful
necessity of terminating your earthly endeavors right here and
now."

"Well, for the love o' Mike!" cried the fallen bandit
"You?"

Bridge was off his horse the instant that the familiar voice
sounded in his ears.

"Billy!" he exclaimed.  "Why--Billy--was it you who
robbed the bank?"

Even as he spoke Bridge was busy easing the weight of the
dead pony from Billy's leg.

"Anything broken?" he asked as the bandit struggled to
free himself.

"Not so you could notice it," replied Billy, and a moment
later he was on his feet.  "Say, bo," he added, "it's a mighty
good thing you dropped little pinto here, for I'd a sure got
you my next shot.  Gee! it makes me sweat to think of it.  But
about this bank robbin' business.  You can't exactly say that
I robbed a bank.  That money was the enemy's resources, an' I
just nicked their resources.  That's war.  That ain't robbery.  I
ain't takin' it for myself--it's for the cause--the cause o' poor,
bleedin' Mexico," and Billy grinned a large grin.

"You took it for Pesita?" asked Bridge.

"Of course," replied Billy.  "I won't get a jitney of it.  I
wouldn't take none of it, Bridge, honest.  I'm on the square
now."

"I know you are, Billy," replied the other; "but if you're
caught you might find it difficult to convince the authorities of
your highmindedness and your disinterestedness."

"Authorities!" scoffed Billy.  "There ain't no authorities in
Mexico.  One bandit is just as good as another, and from Pesita
to Carranza they're all bandits at heart.  They ain't a one of
'em that gives two whoops in hell for poor, bleedin' Mexico--
unless they can do the bleedin' themselves.  It's dog eat dog
here.  If they caught me they'd shoot me whether I'd robbed
their bank or not.  What's that?"  Billy was suddenly alert,
straining his eyes back in the direction of Cuivaca.

"They're coming, Billy," said Bridge.  "Take my horse
--quick!  You must get out of here in a hurry.  The whole
post is searching for you.  I thought that they went toward
the south, though.  Some of them must have circled."

"What'll you do if I take your horse?" asked Billy.

"I can walk back," said Bridge, "it isn't far to town.  I'll tell
them that I had come only a short distance when my horse
threw me and ran away.  They'll believe it for they think I'm a
rotten horseman--the two vaqueros who escorted me to town
I mean."

Billy hesitated.  "I hate to do it, Bridge," he said.

"You must, Billy," urged the other.

"If they find us here together it'll merely mean that the two
of us will get it, for I'll stick with you, Billy, and we can't
fight off a whole troop of cavalry out here in the open.  If you
take my horse we can both get out of it, and later I'll see you
in Rio.  Good-bye, Billy, I'm off for town," and Bridge turned
and started back along the road on foot.

Billy watched him in silence for a moment.  The truth of
Bridge's statement of fact was so apparent that Billy was
forced to accept the plan.  A moment later he transferred the
bags of loot to Bridge's pony, swung into the saddle, and
took a last backward look at the diminishing figure of the
man swinging along in the direction of Cuivaca.

"Say," he muttered to himself; "but you're a right one,
bo," and wheeling to the north he clapped his spurs to his
new mount and loped easily off into the night.




CHAPTER XI

BARBARA RELEASES A CONSPIRATOR

IT was a week later, yet Grayson still was growling about the
loss of "that there Brazos pony."  Grayson, the boss, and the
boss's daughter were sitting upon the veranda of the ranchhouse
when the foreman reverted to the subject.

"I knew I didn't have no business hirin' a man thet can't
ride," he said.  "Why thet there Brazos pony never did stumble,
an' if he'd of stumbled he'd a-stood aroun' a year waitin'
to be caught up agin.  I jest cain't figger it out no ways how
thet there tenderfoot bookkeeper lost him.  He must a-shooed
him away with a stick.  An' saddle an' bridle an' all gone too.  
Doggone it!"

"I'm the one who should be peeved," spoke up the girl
with a wry smile.  "Brazos was my pony.  He's the one you
picked out for me to ride while I am here; but I am sure poor
Mr. Bridge feels as badly about it as anyone, and I know that
he couldn't help it.  We shouldn't be too hard on him.  We
might just as well attempt to hold him responsible for the
looting of the bank and the loss of the pay-roll money."

"Well," said Grayson, "I give him thet horse 'cause I knew
he couldn't ride, an' thet was the safest horse in the cavvy.  I
wisht I'd given him Santa Anna instid--I wouldn't a-minded
losin' him.  There won't no one ride him anyhow he's thet
ornery."

"The thing that surprises me most," remarked the boss, "is
that Brazos doesn't come back.  He was foaled on this range,
and he's never been ridden anywhere else, has he?"

"He was foaled right here on this ranch," Grayson corrected
him, "and he ain't never been more'n a hundred mile from
it. If he ain't dead or stolen he'd a-ben back afore the
bookkeeper was.  It's almighty queer."

"What sort of bookkeeper is Mr. Bridge?" asked the girl.  

"Oh, he's all right I guess," replied Grayson grudgingly.  "A
feller's got to be some good at something.  He's probably one
of these here paper-collar, cracker-fed college dudes thet don't
know nothin' else 'cept writin' in books."

The girl rose, smiled, and moved away.

"I like Mr. Bridge, anyhow," she called back over her
shoulder, "for whatever he may not be he is certainly a well-bred
gentleman," which speech did not tend to raise Mr.
Bridge in the estimation of the hard-fisted ranch foreman.

"Funny them greasers don't come in from the north range
with thet bunch o' steers.  They ben gone all day now," he
said to the boss, ignoring the girl's parting sally.

Bridge sat tip-tilted against the front of the office building
reading an ancient magazine which he had found within.  His
day's work was done and he was but waiting for the gong
that would call him to the evening meal with the other
employees of the ranch.  The magazine failed to rouse his
interest.  He let it drop idly to his knees and with eyes closed
reverted to his never-failing source of entertainment.

  And then that slim, poetic guy he turned and looked me in the eye,
 "....It's overland and overland and overseas to--where?"
 "Most anywhere that isn't here," I says.  His face went kind of queer.
 "The place we're in is always here.  The other place is there."


Bridge stretched luxuriously.  "'There,'" he repeated.  "I've
been searching for THERE for many years; but for some reason
I can never get away from HERE.  About two weeks of any
place on earth and that place is just plain HERE to me, and I'm
longing once again for THERE."

His musings were interrupted by a sweet feminine voice
close by.  Bridge did not open his eyes at once--he just sat
there, listening.

 As I was hiking past the woods, the cool and sleepy summer woods,
   I saw a guy a-talking to the sunshine in the air,
 Thinks I, "He's going to have a fit--I'll stick around and watch a bit,"
   But he paid no attention, hardly knowing I was there.


Then the girl broke into a merry laugh and Bridge opened
his eyes and came to his feet.

"I didn't know you cared for that sort of stuff," he said.  
"Knibbs writes man-verse.  I shouldn't have imagined that it
would appeal to a young lady."

"But it does, though," she replied; "at least to me.  There's a
swing to it and a freedom that 'gets me in the eye.'"

Again she laughed, and when this girl laughed, harder-headed
and much older men than Mr. L. Bridge felt strange
emotions move within their breasts.

For a week Barbara had seen a great deal of the new
bookkeeper.  Aside from her father he was the only man of
culture and refinement of which the rancho could boast, or, as
the rancho would have put it, be ashamed of.

She had often sought the veranda of the little office and
lured the new bookkeeper from his work, and on several
occasions had had him at the ranchhouse.  Not only was he an
interesting talker; but there was an element of mystery about
him which appealed to the girl's sense of romance.

She knew that he was a gentleman born and reared, and she
often found herself wondering what tragic train of circumstances
had set him adrift among the flotsam of humanity's
wreckage.  Too, the same persistent conviction that she had
known him somewhere in the past that possessed her father
clung to her mind; but she could not place him.

"I overheard your dissertation on HERE AND THERE," said the
girl.  "I could not very well help it--it would have been rude
to interrupt a conversation."  Her eyes sparkled mischievously
and her cheeks dimpled.

"You wouldn't have been interrupting a conversation,"
objected Bridge, smiling; "you would have been turning a
monologue into a conversation."

"But it was a conversation," insisted the girl.  "The
wanderer was conversing with the bookkeeper.  You are a victim of
wanderlust, Mr. L. Bridge--don't deny it.  You hate bookkeeping,
or any other such prosaic vocation as requires permanent
residence in one place."

"Come now," expostulated the man.  "That is hardly fair.  
Haven't I been here a whole week?"

They both laughed.

"What in the world can have induced you to remain so
long?" cried Barbara.  "How very much like an old timer you
must feel--one of the oldest inhabitants."

"I am a regular aborigine," declared Bridge; but his heart
would have chosen another reply.  It would have been glad to
tell the girl that there was a very real and a very growing
inducement to remain at El Orobo Rancho.  The man was too
self-controlled, however, to give way to the impulses of his
heart.

At first he had just liked the girl, and been immensely glad
of her companionship because there was so much that was
common to them both--a love for good music, good pictures,
and good literature--things Bridge hadn't had an opportunity
to discuss with another for a long, long time.

And slowly he had found delight in just sitting and looking
at her.  He was experienced enough to realize that this was a
dangerous symptom, and so from the moment he had been
forced to acknowledge it to himself he had been very careful
to guard his speech and his manner in the girl's presence.

He found pleasure in dreaming of what might have been as
he sat watching the girl's changing expression as different
moods possessed her; but as for permitting a hope, even, of
realization of his dreams--ah, he was far too practical for
that, dreamer though he was.

As the two talked Grayson passed.  His rather stern face
clouded as he saw the girl and the new bookkeeper laughing
there together.

"Ain't you got nothin' to do?" he asked Bridge.

"Yes, indeed," replied the latter.

"Then why don't you do it?" snapped Grayson.

"I am," said Bridge.

"Mr. Bridge is entertaining me," interrupted the girl, before
Grayson could make any rejoinder.  "It is my fault--I took
him from his work.  You don't mind, do you, Mr. Grayson?"

Grayson mumbled an inarticulate reply and went his way.

"Mr. Grayson does not seem particularly enthusiastic about
me," laughed Bridge.

"No," replied the girl, candidly; "but I think it's just
because you can't ride."

"Can't ride!" ejaculated Bridge.  "Why, haven't I been riding
ever since I came here?"

"Mr. Grayson doesn't consider anything in the way of
equestrianism riding unless the ridden is perpetually seeking
the life of the rider," explained Barbara.  "Just at present he is
terribly put out because you lost Brazos.  He says Brazos never
stumbled in his life, and even if you had fallen from his back
he would have stood beside you waiting for you to remount
him.  You see he was the kindest horse on the ranch--
especially picked for me to ride.  However in the world DID
you lose him, Mr. Bridge?"

The girl was looking full at the man as she propounded her
query.  Bridge was silent.  A faint flush overspread his face.  He
had not before known that the horse was hers.  He couldn't
very well tell her the truth, and he wouldn't lie to her, so he
made no reply.

Barbara saw the flush and noted the man's silence.  For the
first time her suspicions were aroused, yet she would not
believe that this gentle, amiable drifter could be guilty of any
crime greater than negligence or carelessness.  But why his
evident embarrassment now?  The girl was mystified.  For a
moment or two they sat in silence, then Barbara rose.

"I must run along back now," she explained.  "Papa will be
wondering what has become of me."

"Yes," said Bridge, and let her go.  He would have been
glad to tell her the truth; but he couldn't do that without
betraying Billy.  He had heard enough to know that Francisco
Villa had been so angered over the bold looting of the bank
in the face of a company of his own soldiers that he would
stop at nothing to secure the person of the thief once his
identity was known.  Bridge was perfectly satisfied with the
ethics of his own act on the night of the bank robbery.  He
knew that the girl would have applauded him, and that
Grayson himself would have done what Bridge did had a like
emergency confronted the ranch foreman; but to have admitted
complicity in the escape of the fugitive would have been to
have exposed himself to the wrath of Villa, and at the same
time revealed the identity of the thief.  "Nor," thought Bridge,
"would it get Brazos back for Barbara."

It was after dark when the vaqueros Grayson had sent to
the north range returned to the ranch.  They came empty-handed
and slowly for one of them supported a wounded
comrade on the saddle before him.  They rode directly to the
office where Grayson and Bridge were going over some of the
business of the day, and when the former saw them his brow
clouded for he knew before he heard their story what had
happened.

"Who done it?" he asked, as the men filed into the office,
half carrying the wounded man.

"Some of Pesita's followers," replied Benito.  

"Did they git the steers, too?" inquired Grayson.  

"Part of them--we drove off most and scattered them.  We
saw the Brazos pony, too," and Benito looked from beneath
heavy lashes in the direction of the bookkeeper.

"Where?" asked Grayson.

"One of Pesita's officers rode him--an Americano.  Tony
and I saw this same man in Cuivaca the night the bank was
robbed, and today he was riding the Brazos pony."  Again the
dark eyes turned toward Bridge.

Grayson was quick to catch the significance of the Mexican's
meaning.  The more so as it was directly in line with
suspicions which he himself had been nursing since the robbery.

During the colloquy the boss entered the office.  He had
heard the returning vaqueros ride into the ranch and noting
that they brought no steers with them had come to the office
to hear their story.  Barbara, spurred by curiosity, accompanied
her father.

"You heard what Benito says?" asked Grayson, turning
toward his employer.

The latter nodded.  All eyes were upon Bridge.

"Well," snapped Grayson, "what you gotta say fer yourself?
I ben suspectin' you right along.  I knew derned well that that
there Brazos pony never run off by hisself.  You an' that other
crook from the States framed this whole thing up pretty slick,
didn'tcha?  Well, we'll--"

"Wait a moment, wait a moment, Grayson," interrupted the
boss.  "Give Mr. Bridge a chance to explain.  You're making a
rather serious charge against him without any particularly
strong proof to back your accusation."

"Oh, that's all right," exclaimed Bridge, with a smile.  "I
have known that Mr. Grayson suspected me of implication in
the robbery; but who can blame him--a man who can't ride
might be guilty of almost anything."

Grayson sniffed.  Barbara took a step nearer Bridge.  She
had been ready to doubt him herself only an hour or so ago;
but that was before he had been accused.  Now that she found
others arrayed against him her impulse was to come to his
defense.

"You didn't do it, did you, Mr. Bridge?"  Her tone was
almost pleading.

"If you mean robbing the bank," he replied; "I did not
Miss Barbara.  I knew no more about it until after it was over
than Benito or Tony--in fact they were the ones who discovered
it while I was still asleep in my room above the bank."

"Well, how did the robber git thet there Brazos pony
then?" demanded Grayson savagely.  "Thet's what I want to
know."

"You'll have to ask him, Mr. Grayson," replied Bridge.

"Villa'll ask him, when he gits holt of him," snapped
Grayson; "but I reckon he'll git all the information out of you
thet he wants first.  He'll be in Cuivaca tomorrer, an' so will
you."

"You mean that you are going to turn me over to General
Villa?" asked Bridge.  "You are going to turn an American
over to that butcher knowing that he'll be shot inside of
twenty-four hours?"

"Shootin's too damned good fer a horse thief," replied Grayson.

Barbara turned impulsively toward her father.  "You won't
let Mr. Grayson do that?" she asked.

"Mr. Grayson knows best how to handle such an affair as
this, Barbara," replied her father.  "He is my superintendent,
and I have made it a point never to interfere with him."

"You will let Mr. Bridge be shot without making an effort
to save him?" she demanded.

"We do not know that he will be shot," replied the ranch
owner.  "If he is innocent there is no reason why he should be
punished.  If he is guilty of implication in the Cuivaca bank
robbery he deserves, according to the rules of war, to die, for
General Villa, I am told, considers that a treasonable act.  
Some of the funds upon which his government depends for
munitions of war were there--they were stolen and turned
over to the enemies of Mexico."

"And if we interfere we'll turn Villa against us," interposed
Grayson.  "He ain't any too keen for Americans as it is.  Why,
if this fellow was my brother I'd hev to turn him over to the
authorities."

"Well, I thank God," exclaimed Bridge fervently, "that in
addition to being shot by Villa I don't have to endure the
added disgrace of being related to you, and I'm not so sure
that I shall be hanged by Villa," and with that he wiped the
oil lamp from the table against which he had been leaning,
and leaped across the room for the doorway.

Barbara and her father had been standing nearest the exit,
and as the girl realized the bold break for liberty the man was
making, she pushed her father to one side and threw open the
door.

Bridge was through it in an instant, with a parting, "God
bless you, little girl!" as he passed her.  Then the door was
closed with a bang.  Barbara turned the key, withdrew it from
the lock and threw it across the darkened room.

Grayson and the unwounded Mexicans leaped after the
fugitive only to find their way barred by the locked door.  
Outside Bridge ran to the horses standing patiently with
lowered heads awaiting the return of their masters.  In an
instant he was astride one of them, and lashing the others
ahead of him with a quirt he spurred away into the night.

By the time Grayson and the Mexicans had wormed their
way through one of the small windows of the office the new
bookkeeper was beyond sight and earshot.

As the ranch foreman was saddling up with several of his
men in the corral to give chase to the fugitive the boss strolled
in and touched him on the arm.

"Mr. Grayson," he said, "I have made it a point never to
interfere with you; but I am going to ask you now not to
pursue Mr. Bridge.  I shall be glad if he makes good his
escape.  Barbara was right--he is a fellow-American.  We cannot
turn him over to Villa, or any other Mexican to be murdered."

Grumblingly Grayson unsaddled.  "Ef you'd seen what I've
seen around here," he said, "I guess you wouldn't be so keen
to save this feller's hide."

"What do you mean?" asked the boss.

"I mean that he's ben tryin' to make love to your daughter."

The older man laughed.  "Don't be a fool, Grayson," he
said, and walked away.

An hour later Barbara was strolling up and down before
the ranchhouse in the cool and refreshing air of the Chihuahua
night.  Her mind was occupied with disquieting reflections
of the past few hours.  Her pride was immeasurably hurt by
the part impulse had forced her to take in the affair at the
office.  Not that she regretted that she had connived in the
escape of Bridge; but it was humiliating that a girl of her
position should have been compelled to play so melodramatic
a part before Grayson and his Mexican vaqueros.

Then, too, was she disappointed in Bridge.  She had looked
upon him as a gentleman whom misfortune and wanderlust
had reduced to the lowest stratum of society.  Now she feared
that he belonged to that substratum which lies below the
lowest which society recognizes as a part of itself, and which is
composed solely of the criminal class.

It was hard for Barbara to realize that she had associated
with a thief--just for a moment it was hard, until recollection
forced upon her the unwelcome fact of the status of another
whom she had known--to whom she had given her love.  The
girl did not wince at the thought--instead she squared her
shoulders and raised her chin.

"I am proud of him, whatever he may have been," she
murmured; but she was not thinking of the new bookkeeper.  
When she did think again of Bridge it was to be glad that he
had escaped--"for he is an American, like myself."

"Well!" exclaimed a voice behind her.  "You played us a
pretty trick, Miss Barbara."

The girl turned to see Grayson approaching.  To her
surprise he seemed to hold no resentment whatsoever.  She
greeted him courteously.

"I couldn't let you turn an American over to General
Villa," she said, "no matter what he had done."

"I liked your spirit," said the man.  "You're the kind o' girl
I ben lookin' fer all my life--one with nerve an' grit, an' you
got 'em both.  You liked thet bookkeepin' critter, an' he wasn't
half a man.  I like you an' I am a man, ef I do say so myself."

The girl drew back in astonishment.

"Mr. Grayson!" she exclaimed.  "You are forgetting yourself."

"No I ain't," he cried hoarsely.  "I love you an' I'm goin' to
have you.  You'd love me too ef you knew me better."

He took a step forward and grasped her arm, trying to
draw her to him.  The girl pushed him away with one hand,
and with the other struck him across the face.

Grayson dropped her arm, and as he did so she drew
herself to her full height and looked him straight in the eyes.

"You may go now," she said, her voice like ice.  "I shall
never speak of this to anyone--provided you never attempt to
repeat it."

The man made no reply.  The blow in the face had cooled
his ardor temporarily, but had it not also served another
purpose?--to crystallize it into a firm and inexorable resolve.

When he had departed Barbara turned and entered the
house.



CHAPTER XII

BILLY TO THE RESCUE

IT WAS nearly ten o'clock the following morning when Barbara,
sitting upon the veranda of the ranchhouse, saw her father
approaching from the direction of the office.  His face wore a
troubled expression which the girl could not but note.

"What's the matter, Papa?" she asked, as he sank into a
chair at her side.

"Your self-sacrifice of last evening was all to no avail," he
replied.  "Bridge has been captured by Villistas."

"What?" cried the girl.  "You can't mean it--how did you
learn?"

"Grayson just had a phone message from Cuivaca," he
explained.  "They only repaired the line yesterday since Pesita's
men cut it last month.  This was our first message.  And do
you know, Barbara, I can't help feeling sorry.  I had hoped
that he would get away."

"So had I," said the girl.

Her father was eyeing her closely to note the effect of his
announcement upon her; but he could see no greater concern
reflected than that which he himself felt for a fellow-man and
an American who was doomed to death at the hands of an
alien race, far from his own land and his own people.

"Can nothing be done?" she asked.

"Absolutely," he replied with finality.  "I have talked it over
with Grayson and he assures me that an attempt at intervention
upon our part might tend to antagonize Villa, in which
case we are all as good as lost.  He is none too fond of us as it
is, and Grayson believes, and not without reason, that he
would welcome the slightest pretext for withdrawing the
protection of his favor.  Instantly he did that we should become
the prey of every marauding band that infests the mountains.  
Not only would Pesita swoop down upon us, but those
companies of freebooters which acknowledge nominal loyalty
to Villa would be about our ears in no time.  No, dear, we
may do nothing.  The young man has made his bed, and now
I am afraid that he will have to lie in it alone."

For awhile the girl sat in silence, and presently her father
arose and entered the house.  Shortly after she followed him,
reappearing soon in riding togs and walking rapidly to the
corrals.  Here she found an American cowboy busily engaged
in whittling a stick as he sat upon an upturned cracker box
and shot accurate streams of tobacco juice at a couple of
industrious tumble bugs that had had the great impudence to
roll their little ball of provender within the whittler's range.

"O Eddie!" she cried.

The man looked up, and was at once electrified into action.  
He sprang to his feet and whipped off his sombrero.  A broad
smile illumined his freckled face.

"Yes, miss," he answered.  "What can I do for you?"

"Saddle a pony for me, Eddie," she explained.  "I want to
take a little ride."

"Sure!" he assured her cheerily.  "Have it ready in a jiffy,"
and away he went, uncoiling his riata, toward the little group
of saddle ponies which stood in the corral against necessity for
instant use.

In a couple of minutes he came back leading one, which he
tied to the corral bars.

"But I can't ride that horse," exclaimed the girl.  "He
bucks."

"Sure," said Eddie.  "I'm a-goin' to ride him."

"Oh, are you going somewhere?" she asked.

"I'm goin' with you, miss," announced Eddie, sheepishly.

"But I didn't ask you, Eddie, and I don't want you--
today," she urged.

"Sorry, miss," he threw back over his shoulder as he
walked back to rope a second pony; "but them's orders.  
You're not to be allowed to ride no place without a escort.  
'Twouldn't be safe neither, miss," he almost pleaded, "an' I
won't hinder you none.  I'll ride behind far enough to be there
ef I'm needed."

Directly he came back with another pony, a sad-eyed,
gentle-appearing little beast, and commenced saddling and
bridling the two.

"Will you promise," she asked, after watching him in silence
for a time, "that you will tell no one where I go or whom I
see?"

"Cross my heart hope to die," he assured her.

"All right, Eddie, then I'll let you come with me, and you
can ride beside me, instead of behind."

Across the flat they rode, following the windings of the
river road, one mile, two, five, ten.  Eddie had long since been
wondering what the purpose of so steady a pace could be.  
This was no pleasure ride which took the boss's daughter--
"heifer," Eddie would have called her--ten miles up river at a
hard trot.  Eddie was worried, too.  They had passed the
danger line, and were well within the stamping ground of
Pesita and his retainers.  Here each little adobe dwelling, and
they were scattered at intervals of a mile or more along the
river, contained a rabid partisan of Pesita, or it contained no
one--Pesita had seen to this latter condition personally.

At last the young lady drew rein before a squalid and
dilapidated hut.  Eddie gasped.  It was Jose's, and Jose was a
notorious scoundrel whom old age alone kept from the active
pursuit of the only calling he ever had known--brigandage.  
Why should the boss's daughter come to Jose?  Jose was hand
in glove with every cutthroat in Chihuahua, or at least within
a radius of two hundred miles of his abode.

Barbara swung herself from the saddle, and handed her
bridle reins to Eddie.

"Hold him, please," she said.  "I'll be gone but a moment."

"You're not goin' in there to see old Jose alone?" gasped
Eddie.

"Why not?" she asked.  "If you're afraid you can leave my
horse and ride along home."

Eddie colored to the roots of his sandy hair, and kept
silent.  The girl approached the doorway of the mean hovel
and peered within.  At one end sat a bent old man, smoking.  
He looked up as Barbara's figure darkened the doorway.

"Jose!" said the girl.

The old man rose to his feet and came toward her.

"Eh?  Senorita, eh?" he cackled.

"You are Jose?" she asked.

"Si, senorita," replied the old Indian.  "What can poor old
Jose do to serve the beautiful senorita?"

"You can carry a message to one of Pesita's officers,"
replied the girl.  "I have heard much about you since I came to
Mexico.  I know that there is not another man in this part of
Chihuahua who may so easily reach Pesita as you."  She raised
her hand for silence as the Indian would have protested.  Then
she reached into the pocket of her riding breeches and withdrew
a handful of silver which she permitted to trickle, tinklingly,
from one palm to the other.  "I wish you to go to the
camp of Pesita," she continued, "and carry word to the man
who robbed the bank at Cuivaca--he is an American--that
his friend, Senor Bridge has been captured by Villa and is
being held for execution in Cuivaca.  You must go at once--
you must get word to Senor Bridge's friend so that help may
reach Senor Bridge before dawn.  Do you understand?"

The Indian nodded assent.

"Here," said the girl, "is a payment on account.  When I
know that you delivered the message in time you shall have as
much more.  Will you do it?"

"I will try," said the Indian, and stretched forth a clawlike
hand for the money.

"Good!" exclaimed Barbara.  "Now start at once," and she
dropped the silver coins into the old man's palm.


It was dusk when Captain Billy Byrne was summoned to
the tent of Pesita.  There he found a weazened, old Indian
squatting at the side of the outlaw.

"Jose," said Pesita, "has word for you."

Billy Byrne turned questioningly toward the Indian.

"I have been sent, Senor Capitan," explained Jose, "by the
beautiful senorita of El Orobo Rancho to tell you that your
friend, Senor Bridge, has been captured by General Villa, and
is being held at Cuivaca, where he will doubtless be shot--if
help does not reach him before tomorrow morning."

Pesita was looking questioningly at Byrne.  Since the gringo
had returned from Cuivaca with the loot of the bank and
turned the last penny of it over to him the outlaw had looked
upon his new captain as something just short of superhuman.  
To have robbed the bank thus easily while Villa's soldiers
paced back and forth before the doorway seemed little short
of an indication of miraculous powers, while to have turned
the loot over intact to his chief, not asking for so much as a
peso of it, was absolutely incredible.

Pesita could not understand this man; but he admired him
greatly and feared him, too.  Such a man was worth a hundred
of the ordinary run of humanity that enlisted beneath Pesita's
banners.  Byrne had but to ask a favor to have it granted, and
now, when he called upon Pesita to furnish him with a
suitable force for the rescue of Bridge the brigand enthusiastically
acceded to his demands.

"I will come," he exclaimed, "and all my men shall ride
with me.  We will take Cuivaca by storm.  We may even
capture Villa himself."

"Wait a minute, bo," interrupted Billy Byrne.  "Don't get
excited.  I'm lookin' to get my pal outen' Cuivaca.  After that I
don't care who you capture; but I'm goin' to get Bridgie out
first.  I ken do it with twenty-five men--if it ain't too late.  
Then, if you want to, you can shoot up the town.  Lemme
have the twenty-five, an' you hang around the edges with the
rest of 'em 'til I'm done.  Whaddaya say?"

Pesita was willing to agree to anything, and so it came that
half an hour later Billy Byrne was leading a choice selection of
some two dozen cutthroats down through the hills toward
Cuivaca.  While a couple of miles in the rear followed Pesita
with the balance of his band.

Billy rode until the few remaining lights of Cuivaca shone
but a short distance ahead and they could hear plainly the
strains of a grating graphophone from beyond the open windows
of a dance hall, and the voices of the sentries as they
called the hour.

"Stay here," said Billy to a sergeant at his side, "until you
hear a hoot owl cry three times from the direction of the
barracks and guardhouse, then charge the opposite end of the
town, firing off your carbines like hell an' yellin' yer heads off.  
Make all the racket you can, an' keep it up 'til you get 'em
comin' in your direction, see?  Then turn an' drop back slowly,
eggin' 'em on, but holdin' 'em to it as long as you can.  Do
you get me, bo?"

From the mixture of Spanish and English and Granavenooish
the sergeant gleaned enough of the intent of his commander to
permit him to salute and admit that he understood
what was required of him.

Having given his instructions Billy Byrne rode off to the
west, circled Cuivaca and came close up upon the southern
edge of the little village.  Here he dismounted and left his horse
hidden behind an outbuilding, while he crept cautiously forward
to reconnoiter.

He knew that the force within the village had no reason to
fear attack.  Villa knew where the main bodies of his enemies
lay, and that no force could approach Cuivaca without word
of its coming reaching the garrison many hours in advance of
the foe.  That Pesita, or another of the several bandit chiefs in
the neighborhood would dare descend upon a garrisoned
town never for a moment entered the calculations of the rebel
leader.

For these reasons Billy argued that Cuivaca would be
poorly guarded.  On the night he had spent there he had seen
sentries before the bank, the guardhouse, and the barracks in
addition to one who paced to and fro in front of the house in
which the commander of the garrison maintained his headquarters.
Aside from these the town was unguarded.

Nor were conditions different tonight.  Billy came within a
hundred yards of the guardhouse before he discovered a
sentinel.  The fellow lolled upon his gun in front of the
building--an adobe structure in the rear of the barracks.  The
other three sides of the guardhouse appeared to be unwatched.

Billy threw himself upon his stomach and crawled slowly
forward stopping often.  The sentry seemed asleep.  He did not
move.  Billy reached the shadow at the side of the structure
and some fifty feet from the soldier without detection.  Then he
rose to his feet directly beneath a barred window.

Within Bridge paced back and forth the length of the little
building.  He could not sleep.  Tomorrow he was to be shot!
Bridge did not wish to die.  That very morning General Villa
in person had examined him.  The general had been exceedingly
wroth--the sting of the theft of his funds still irritated him;
but he had given Bridge no inkling as to his fate.  It had
remained for a fellow-prisoner to do that.  This man, a deserter,
was to be shot, so he said, with Bridge, a fact which gave
him an additional twenty-four hours of life, since, he asserted,
General Villa wished to be elsewhere than in Cuivaca when
an American was executed.  Thus he could disclaim responsibility
for the act.

The general was to depart in the morning.  Shortly after,
Bridge and the deserter would be led out and blindfolded
before a stone wall--if there was such a thing, or a brick wall,
or an adobe wall.  It made little difference to the deserter, or to
Bridge either.  The wall was but a trivial factor.  It might go far
to add romance to whomever should read of the affair later;
but in so far as Bridge and the deserter were concerned it
meant nothing.  A billboard, thought Bridge, bearing the slogan:
"Eventually!  Why not now?" would have been equally
as efficacious and far more appropriate.

The room in which he was confined was stuffy with the
odor of accumulated filth.  Two small barred windows alone
gave means of ventilation.  He and the deserter were the only
prisoners.  The latter slept as soundly as though the morrow
held nothing more momentous in his destiny than any of the
days that had preceded it.  Bridge was moved to kick the
fellow into consciousness of his impending fate.  Instead he
walked to the south window to fill his lungs with the free air
beyond his prison pen, and gaze sorrowfully at the star-lit sky
which he should never again behold.


In a low tone Bridge crooned a snatch of the poem that he
and Billy liked best:

  And you, my sweet Penelope, out there somewhere you wait for me,
  With buds of roses in your hair and kisses on your mouth.

Bridge's mental vision was concentrated upon the veranda
of a white-walled ranchhouse to the east.  He shook his head
angrily.

"It's just as well," he thought.  "She's not for me."

Something moved upon the ground beyond the window.  
Bridge became suddenly intent upon the thing.  He saw it rise
and resolve itself into the figure of a man, and then, in a low
whisper, came a familiar voice:


"There ain't no roses in my hair, but there's a barker in my
shirt, an' another at me side.  Here's one of 'em.  They got
kisses beat a city block.  How's the door o' this thing fastened?"
The speaker was quite close to the window now, his
face but a few inches from Bridge's.

"Billy!" ejaculated the condemned man.

"Surest thing you know; but about the door?"

"Just a heavy bar on the outside," replied Bridge.

"Easy," commented Billy, relieved.  "Get ready to beat it
when I open the door.  I got a pony south o' town that'll have
to carry double for a little way tonight."

"God bless you, Billy!" whispered Bridge, fervently.

"Lay low a few minutes," said Billy, and moved away
toward the rear of the guardhouse.

A few minutes later there broke upon the night air the
dismal hoot of an owl.  At intervals of a few seconds it was
repeated twice.  The sentry before the guardhouse shifted his
position and looked about, then he settled back, transferring
his weight to the other foot, and resumed his bovine meditations.

The man at the rear of the guardhouse moved silently along
the side of the structure until he stood within a few feet of the
unsuspecting sentinel, hidden from him by the corner of the
building.  A heavy revolver dangled from his right hand.  He
held it loosely by the barrel, and waited.

For five minutes the silence of the night was unbroken,
then from the east came a single shot, followed immediately by
a scattering fusillade and a chorus of hoarse cries.

Billy Byrne smiled.  The sentry resumed indications of
quickness.  From the barracks beyond the guardhouse came sharp
commands and the sounds of men running.  From the opposite
end of the town the noise of battle welled up to ominous
proportions.

Billy heard the soldiers stream from their quarters and a
moment later saw them trot up the street at the double.  
Everyone was moving toward the opposite end of the town
except the lone sentinel before the guardhouse.  The moment
seemed propitious for his attempt.

Billy peered around the corner of the guardhouse.  Conditions
were just as he had pictured they would be.  The sentry
stood gazing in the direction of the firing, his back toward the
guardhouse door and Billy.

With a bound the American cleared the space between
himself and the unsuspecting and unfortunate soldier.  The butt
of the heavy revolver fell, almost noiselessly, upon the back of
the sentry's head, and the man sank to the ground without
even a moan.

Turning to the door Billy knocked the bar from its place,
the door swung in and Bridge slipped through to liberty.

"Quick!" said Billy.  "Follow me," and turned at a rapid
run toward the south edge of the town.  He made no effort
now to conceal his movements.  Speed was the only essential,
and the two covered the ground swiftly and openly without
any attempt to take advantage of cover.

They reached Billy's horse unnoticed, and a moment later
were trotting toward the west to circle the town and regain
the trail to the north and safety.

To the east they heard the diminishing rifle fire of the
combatants as Pesita's men fell steadily back before the
defenders, and drew them away from Cuivaca in accordance
with Billy's plan.

"Like takin' candy from a baby," said Billy, when the
flickering lights of Cuivaca shone to the south of them, and
the road ahead lay clear to the rendezvous of the brigands.

"Yes," agreed Bridge; "but what I'd like to know, Billy, is
how you found out I was there."

"Penelope," said Byrne, laughing.

"Penelope!" queried Bridge.  "I'm not at all sure that I
follow you, Billy."

"Well, seein' as you're sittin' on behind you can't be leadin'
me," returned Billy; "but cuttin' the kid it was a skirt tipped it
off to me where you was--the beautiful senorita of El Orobo
Rancho, I think Jose called her.  Now are you hep?"

Bridge gave an exclamation of astonishment.  "God bless
her!" he said.  "She did that for me?"

"She sure did," Billy assured him, "an' I'll bet an iron case
she's a-waitin' for you there with buds o' roses in her hair an'
kisses on her mouth, you old son-of-a-gun, you."  Billy laughed
happily.  He was happy anyway at having rescued Bridge,
and the knowledge that his friend was in love and that the girl
reciprocated his affection--all of which Billy assumed as the
only explanation of her interest in Bridge--only added to his
joy.  "She ain't a greaser is she?" he asked presently.

"I should say not," replied Bridge.  "She's a perfect queen
from New York City; but, Billy, she's not for me.  What she
did was prompted by a generous heart.  She couldn't care for
me, Billy.  Her father is a wealthy man--he could have the
pick of the land--of many lands--if she cared to marry.  You
don't think for a minute she'd want a hobo, do you?"

"You can't most always tell," replied Billy, a trifle sadly.  "I
knew such a queen once who would have chosen a mucker, if
he'd a-let her.  You're stuck on her, ol' man?"

"I'm afraid I am, Billy," Bridge admitted; "but what's the
use?  Let's forget it.  Oh, say, is this the horse I let you take
the night you robbed the bank?"

"Yes," said Billy; "same little pony, an' a mighty
well-behaved one, too.  Why?"

"It's hers," said Bridge.

"An' she wants it back?"

"She didn't say so; but I'd like to get it to her some way,"
said Bridge.

"You ride it back when you go," suggested Billy.

"But I can't go back," said Bridge; "it was Grayson, the
foreman, who made it so hot for me I had to leave.  He tried
to arrest me and send me to Villa."

"What for?" asked Billy.

"He didn't like me, and wanted to get rid of me."  Bridge
wouldn't say that his relations with Billy had brought him into
trouble.

"Oh, well, I'll take it back myself then, and at the same
time I'll tell Penelope what a regular fellow you are, and
punch in the foreman's face for good luck."

"No, you mustn't go there.  They know you now.  It was
some of El Orobo's men you shot up day before yesterday
when you took their steers from them.  They recognized the
pony, and one of them had seen you in Cuivaca the night of
the robbery.  They would be sure to get you, Billy."

Shortly the two came in touch with the retreating Pesitistas
who were riding slowly toward their mountain camp.  Their
pursuers had long since given up the chase, fearing that they
might be being lured into the midst of a greatly superior force,
and had returned to Cuivaca.

It was nearly morning when Bridge and Billy threw themselves
down upon the latter's blankets, fagged.

"Well, well," murmured Billy Byrne; "li'l ol' Bridgie's found
his Penelope," and fell asleep.



CHAPTER XIII

BARBARA AGAIN

CAPTAIN BILLY BYRNE rode out of the hills the following afternoon
upon a pinto pony that showed the whites of its eyes in
a wicked rim about the iris and kept its ears perpetually
flattened backward.

At the end of a lariat trailed the Brazos pony, for Billy,
laughing aside Bridge's pleas, was on his way to El Orobo
Rancho to return the stolen horse to its fair owner.

At the moment of departure Pesita had asked Billy to ride
by way of Jose's to instruct the old Indian that he should bear
word to one Esteban that Pesita required his presence.

It is a long ride from the retreat of the Pesitistas to Jose's
squalid hut, especially if one be leading an extra horse, and so
it was that darkness had fallen long before Billy arrived in
sight of Jose's.  Dismounting some distance from the hut, Billy
approached cautiously, since the world is filled with dangers
for those who are beyond the law, and one may not be too
careful.

Billy could see a light showing through a small window,
and toward this he made his way.  A short distance from
Jose's is another, larger structure from which the former
inhabitants had fled the wrath of Pesita.  It was dark and
apparently tenantless; but as a matter of fact a pair of eyes
chanced at the very moment of Billy's coming to be looking
out through the open doorway.

The owner turned and spoke to someone behind him.

"Jose has another visitor," he said.  "Possibly this one is less
harmless than the other.  He comes with great caution.  Let us
investigate."

Three other men rose from their blankets upon the floor
and joined the speaker.  They were all armed, and clothed in
the nondescript uniforms of Villistas.  Billy's back was toward
them as they sneaked from the hut in which they were
intending to spend the night and crept quietly toward him.

Billy was busily engaged in peering through the little window
into the interior of the old Indian's hovel.  He saw an
American in earnest conversation with Jose.  Who could the
man be?  Billy did not recognize him; but presently Jose
answered the question.

"It shall be done as you wish, Senor Grayson," he said.

"Ah!" thought Billy; "the foreman of El Orobo.  I wonder
what business he has with this old scoundrel--and at night."

What other thoughts Billy might have had upon the subject
were rudely interrupted by four energetic gentlemen in his
rear, who leaped upon him simultaneously and dragged him
to the ground.  Billy made no outcry; but he fought none the
less strenuously for his freedom, and he fought after the
manner of Grand Avenue, which is not a pretty, however
effective, way it may be.

But four against one when all the advantages lie with the
four are heavy odds, and when Grayson and Jose ran out to
investigate, and the ranch foreman added his weight to that of
the others Billy was finally subdued.  That each of his antagonists
would carry mementos of the battle for many days was
slight compensation for the loss of liberty.  However, it was
some.

After disarming their captive and tying his hands at his
back they jerked him to his feet and examined him.

"Who are you?" asked Grayson.  "What you doin' sneakin'
'round spyin' on me, eh?"

"If you wanna know who I am, bo," replied Billy, "go ask
de Harlem Hurricane, an' as fer spyin' on youse, I wasn't; but
from de looks I guess youse need spyin, yuh tinhorn."

A pony whinnied a short distance from the hut.

"That must be his horse," said one of the Villistas, and
walked away to investigate, returning shortly after with the
pinto pony and Brazos.

The moment Grayson saw the latter he gave an exclamation
of understanding.

"I know him now," he said.  "You've made a good catch,
Sergeant.  This is the fellow who robbed the bank at Cuivaca.
I recognize him from the descriptions I've had of him, and
the fact that he's got the Brazos pony makes it a cinch.  Villa
oughter promote you for this."

"Yep," interjected Billy, "he orter make youse an admiral at
least; but youse ain't got me home yet, an' it'll take more'n
four Dagos an' a tin-horn to do it."

"They'll get you there all right, my friend," Grayson
assured him.  "Now come along."

They bundled Billy into his own saddle, and shortly after
the little party was winding southward along the river in the
direction of El Orobo Rancho, with the intention of putting
up there for the balance of the night where their prisoner
could be properly secured and guarded.  As they rode away
from the dilapidated hut of the Indian the old man stood
silhouetted against the rectangle of dim light which marked the
open doorway, and shook his fist at the back of the departing
ranch foreman.

"El cochino!" he cackled, and turned back into his hut.

At El Orobo Rancho Barbara walked to and fro outside
the ranchhouse.  Within her father sat reading beneath the rays
of an oil lamp.  From the quarters of the men came the strains
of guitar music, and an occasional loud laugh indicated the
climax of some of Eddie Shorter's famous Kansas farmer
stories.

Barbara was upon the point of returning indoors when her
attention was attracted by the approach of a half-dozen horsemen.
They reined into the ranchyard and dismounted before
the office building.  Wondering a little who came so late,
Barbara entered the house, mentioning casually to her father
that which she had just seen.

The ranch owner, now always fearful of attack, was upon
the point of investigating when Grayson rode up to the
veranda and dismounted.  Barbara and her father were at the
door as he ascended the steps.

"Good news!" exclaimed the foreman.  "I've got the bank
robber, and Brazos, too.  Caught the sneakin' coyote up to--
up the river a bit."  He had almost said "Jose's;" but caught
himself in time.  "Someone's been cuttin' the wire at the north
side of the north pasture, an' I was ridin' up to see ef I could
catch 'em at it," he explained.

"He is an American?" asked the boss.

"Looks like it; but he's got the heart of a greaser," replied
Grayson.  "Some of Villa's men are with me, and they're a-goin'
to take him to Cuivaca tomorrow."

Neither Barbara nor her father seemed to enthuse much.  To
them an American was an American here in Mexico, where
every hand was against their race.  That at home they might
have looked with disgust upon this same man did not alter
their attitude here, that no American should take sides against
his own people.  Barbara said as much to Grayson.

"Why this fellow's one of Pesita's officers," exclaimed
Grayson.  "He don't deserve no sympathy from us nor from no
other Americans.  Pesita has sworn to kill every American that
falls into his hands, and this fellow's with him to help him do
it. He's a bad un."

"I can't help what he may do," insisted Barbara.  "He's an
American, and I for one would never be a party to his death
at the hands of a Mexican, and it will mean death to him to
be taken to Cuivaca."

"Well, miss," said Grayson, "you won't hev to be
responsible--I'll take all the responsibility there is and
welcome.  I just thought you'd like to know we had him."
He was addressing his employer.  The latter nodded, and
Grayson turned and left the room.  Outside he cast a sneering
laugh back over his shoulder and swung into his saddle.

In front of the men's quarters he drew rein again and
shouted Eddie's name.  Shorter came to the door.

"Get your six-shooter an' a rifle, an' come on over to the
office.  I want to see you a minute."

Eddie did as he was bid, and when he entered the little
room he saw four Mexicans lolling about smoking cigarettes
while Grayson stood before a chair in which sat a man with
his arms tied behind his back.  Grayson turned to Eddie.

"This party here is the slick un that robbed the bank, and
got away on thet there Brazos pony thet miserable bookkeepin'
dude giv him.  The sergeant here an' his men are a-goin' to
take him to Cuivaca in the mornin'.  You stand guard over
him 'til midnight, then they'll relieve you.  They gotta get a
little sleep first, though, an' I gotta get some supper.  Don't
stand fer no funny business now, Eddie," Grayson admonished
him, and was on the point of leaving the office when a
thought occurred to him.  "Say, Shorter," he said, "they ain't
no way of gettin' out of the little bedroom in back there
except through this room.  The windows are too small fer a
big man to get through.  I'll tell you what, we'll lock him up in
there an' then you won't hev to worry none an' neither will
we. You can jest spread out them Navajos there and go to
sleep right plump ag'in the door, an' there won't nobody hev
to relieve you all night."

"Sure," said Eddie, "leave it to me--I'll watch the slicker."

Satisfied that their prisoner was safe for the night the
Villistas and Grayson departed, after seeing him safely locked
in the back room.

At the mention by the foreman of his guard's names--
Eddie and Shorter--Billy had studied the face of the young
American cowpuncher, for the two names had aroused within
his memory a tantalizing suggestion that they should be very
familiar.  Yet he could connect them in no way with anyone
he had known in the past and he was quite sure that he never
before had set eyes upon this man.

Sitting in the dark with nothing to occupy him Billy let his
mind dwell upon the identity of his jailer, until, as may have
happened to you, nothing in the whole world seemed equally
as important as the solution of the mystery.  Even his impending
fate faded into nothingness by comparison with the momentous
question as to where he had heard the name Eddie
Shorter before.

As he sat puzzling his brain over the inconsequential matter
something stirred upon the floor close to his feet, and presently
he jerked back a booted foot that a rat had commenced to
gnaw upon.

"Helluva place to stick a guy," mused Billy, "in wit a bunch
o' man-eatin' rats.  Hey!" and he turned his face toward the
door.  "You, Eddie!  Come here!"

Eddie approached the door and listened.

"Wot do you want?" he asked.  "None o' your funny
business, you know.  I'm from Shawnee, Kansas, I am, an'
they don't come no slicker from nowhere on earth.  You
can't fool me."

Shawnee, Kansas!  Eddie Shorter!  The whole puzzle was
cleared in Billy's mind in an instant.

"So you're Eddie Shorter of Shawnee, Kansas, are you?"
called Billy.  "Well I know your maw, Eddie, an' ef I had such
a maw as you got I wouldn't be down here wastin' my time
workin' alongside a lot of Dagos; but that ain't what I started
out to say, which was that I want a light in here.  The damned
rats are tryin' to chaw off me kicks an' when they're done wit
them they'll climb up after me an' old man Villa'll be sore as
a pup."

"You know my maw?" asked Eddie, and there was a
wistful note in his voice.  "Aw shucks! you don't know her--
that's jest some o' your funny, slicker business.  You wanna git
me in there an' then you'll try an' git aroun' me some sort o'
way to let you escape; but I'm too slick for that."

"On the level Eddie, I know your maw," persisted Billy.  "I
ben in your maw's house jest a few weeks ago.  'Member the
horsehair sofa between the windows?  'Member the Bible on
the little marble-topped table?  Eh?  An' Tige?  Well, Tige's
croaked; but your maw an' your paw ain't an' they want you
back, Eddie.  I don't care ef you believe me, son, or not; but
your maw was mighty good to me, an' you promise me you'll
write her an' then go back home as fast as you can.  It ain't
everybody's got a swell maw like that, an' them as has ought
to be good to 'em."

Beyond the closed door Eddie's jaw was commencing to
tremble.  Memory was flooding his heart and his eyes with
sweet recollections of an ample breast where he used to pillow
his head, of a big capable hand that was wont to smooth his
brow and stroke back his red hair.  Eddie gulped.

"You ain't joshin' me?" he asked.  Billy Byrne caught the
tremor in the voice.

"I ain't kiddin' you son," he said.  "Wotinell do you take
me fer--one o' these greasy Dagos?  You an' I're Americans--
I wouldn't string a home guy down here in this here Godforsaken
neck o' the woods."

Billy heard the lock turn, and a moment later the door was
cautiously opened revealing Eddie safely ensconced behind
two six-shooters.

"That's right, Eddie," said Billy, with a laugh.  "Don't you
take no chances, no matter how much sob stuff I hand you,
fer, I'll give it to you straight, ef I get the chanct I'll make my
get-away; but I can't do it wit my flippers trussed, an' you wit
a brace of gats sittin' on me.  Let's have a light, Eddie.  That
won't do nobody any harm, an' it may discourage the rats."

Eddie backed across the office to a table where stood a
small lamp.  Keeping an eye through the door on his prisoner
he lighted the lamp and carried it into the back room, setting
it upon a commode which stood in one corner.

"You really seen maw?" he asked.  "Is she well?"

"Looked well when I seen her," said Billy; "but she wants
her boy back a whole lot.  I guess she'd look better still ef he
walked in on her some day."

"I'll do it," cried Eddie.  "The minute they get money for
the pay I'll hike.  Tell me your name.  I'll ask her ef she
remembers you when I get home.  Gee! but I wish I was
walkin' in the front door now."

"She never knew my name," said Billy; "but you tell her
you seen the bo that mussed up the two yeggmen who rolled
her an' were tryin' to croak her wit a butcher knife.  I guess
she ain't fergot.  Me an' my pal were beatin' it--he was on the
square but the dicks was after me an' she let us have money
to make our get-away.  She's all right, kid."

There came a knock at the outer office door.  Eddie sprang
back into the front room, closing and locking the door after
him, just as Barbara entered.

"Eddie," she asked, "may I see the prisoner?  I want to talk
to him."

"You want to talk with a bank robber?" exclaimed Eddie.  
"Why you ain't crazy are you, Miss Barbara?"

"No, I'm not crazy; but I want to speak with him alone for
just a moment, Eddie--please."

Eddie hesitated.  He knew that Grayson would be angry if
he let the boss's daughter into that back room alone with an
outlaw and a robber, and the boss himself would probably be
inclined to have Eddie drawn and quartered; but it was hard
to refuse Miss Barbara anything.

"Where is he?" she asked.

Eddie jerked a thumb in the direction of the door.  The key
still was in the lock.

"Go to the window and look at the moon, Eddie," suggested
the girl.  "It's perfectly gorgeous tonight.  Please, Eddie,"
as he still hesitated.

Eddie shook his head and moved slowly toward the window.

"There can't nobody refuse you nothin', miss," he said;
"'specially when you got your heart set on it."

"That's a dear, Eddie," purred the girl, and moved swiftly
across the room to the locked door.

As she turned the key in the lock she felt a little shiver of
nervous excitement run through her.  "What sort of man
would he be--this hardened outlaw and robber--this renegade
American who had cast his lot with the avowed enemies
of his own people?" she wondered.

Only her desire to learn of Bridge's fate urged her to
attempt so distasteful an interview; but she dared not ask
another to put the question for her, since should her complicity
in Bridge's escape--provided of course that he had
escaped--become known to Villa the fate of the Americans
at El Orobo would be definitely sealed.

She turned the knob and pushed the door open, slowly.  A
man was sitting in a chair in the center of the room.  His back
was toward her.  He was a big man.  His broad shoulders
loomed immense above the back of the rude chair.  A shock of
black hair, rumpled and tousled, covered a well-shaped head.

At the sound of the door creaking upon its hinges he
turned his face in her direction, and as his eyes met hers all
four went wide in surprise and incredulity.

"Billy!" she cried.

"Barbara!--you?" and Billy rose to his feet, his bound
hands struggling to be free.

The girl closed the door behind her and crossed to him.

"You robbed the bank, Billy?" she asked.  "It was you,
after the promises you made me to live straight always--for
my sake?"  Her voice trembled with emotion.  The man could
see that she suffered, and yet he felt his own anguish, too.

"But you are married," he said.  "I saw it in the papers.  
What do you care, now, Barbara?  I'm nothing to you."

"I'm not married, Billy," she cried.  "I couldn't marry Mr.
Mallory.  I tried to make myself believe that I could; but at last
I knew that I did not love him and never could, and I
wouldn't marry a man I didn't love.

"I never dreamed that it was you here, Billy," she went on.  
"I came to ask you about Mr. Bridge.  I wanted to know if he
escaped, or if--if--oh, this awful country!  They think no
more of human life here than a butcher thinks of the life of
the animal he dresses."

A sudden light illumined Billy's mind.  Why had it not
occurred to him before?  This was Bridge's Penelope!  The
woman he loved was loved by his best friend.  And she had
sent a messenger to him, to Billy, to save her lover.  She had
come here to the office tonight to question a stranger--a man
she thought an outlaw and a robber--because she could not
rest without word from the man she loved.  Billy stiffened.  He
was hurt to the bottom of his heart; but he did not blame
Bridge--it was fate.  Nor did he blame Barbara because she
loved Bridge.  Bridge was more her kind anyway.  He was a
college guy.  Billy was only a mucker.

"Bridge got away all right," he said.  "And say, he didn't
have nothin' to do with pullin' off that safe crackin'.  I done it
myself.  He didn't know I was in town an' I didn't know he
was there.  He's the squarest guy in the world, Bridge is.  He
follered me that night an' took a shot at me, thinkin' I was
the robber all right but not knowin' I was me.  He got my
horse, an' when he found it was me, he made me take your
pony an' make my get-away, fer he knew Villa's men would
croak me sure if they caught me.  You can't blame him fer
that, can you?  Him an' I were good pals--he couldn't do
nothin' else.  It was him that made me bring your pony back
to you.  It's in the corral now, I reckon.  I was a-bringin' it
back when they got me.  Now you better go.  This ain't no
place fer you, an' I ain't had no sleep fer so long I'm most
dead."  His tones were cool.  He appeared bored by her company;
though as a matter of fact his heart was breaking with
love for her--love that he believed unrequited--and he
yearned to tear loose his bonds and crush her in his arms.

It was Barbara's turn now to be hurt.  She drew herself up.

"I am sorry that I have disturbed your rest," she said, and
walked away, her head in the air; but all the way back to the
ranchhouse she kept repeating over and over to herself: "Tomorrow
they will shoot him!  Tomorrow they will shoot him!
Tomorrow they will shoot him!"



CHAPTER XIV

'TWIXT LOVE AND DUTY

FOR an hour Barbara Harding paced the veranda of the
ranchhouse, pride and love battling for the ascendency within
her breast.  She could not let him die, that she knew; but how
might she save him?

The strains of music and the laughter from the bunkhouse
had ceased.  The ranch slept.  Over the brow of the low bluff
upon the opposite side of the river a little party of silent
horsemen filed downward to the ford.  At the bluff's foot a
barbed-wire fence marked the eastern boundary of the ranch's
enclosed fields.  The foremost horseman dismounted and cut
the strands of wire, carrying them to one side from the path
of the feet of the horses which now passed through the
opening he had made.

Down into the river they rode following the ford even in the
darkness with an assurance which indicated long familiarity.  
Then through a fringe of willows out across a meadow
toward the ranch buildings the riders made their way.  The
manner of their approach, their utter silence, the hour, all
contributed toward the sinister.

Upon the veranda of the ranchhouse Barbara Harding
came to a sudden halt.  Her entire manner indicated final
decision, and determination.  A moment she stood in thought
and then ran quickly down the steps and in the direction of
the office.  Here she found Eddie dozing at his post.  She did
not disturb him.  A glance through the window satisfied her
that he was alone with the prisoner.  From the office building
Barbara passed on to the corral.  A few horses stood within
the enclosure, their heads drooping dejectedly.  As she entered
they raised their muzzles and sniffed suspiciously, ears a-cock,
and as the girl approached closer to them they moved warily
away, snorting, and passed around her to the opposite side of
the corral.  As they moved by her she scrutinized them and her
heart dropped, for Brazos was not among them.  He must
have been turned out into the pasture.

She passed over to the bars that closed the opening from
the corral into the pasture and wormed her way between two
of them.  A hackamore with a piece of halter rope attached to
it hung across the upper bar.  Taking it down she moved off
across the pasture in the direction the saddle horses most often
took when liberated from the corral.

If they had not crossed the river she felt that she might find
and catch Brazos, for lumps of sugar and bits of bread had
inspired in his equine soul a wondrous attachment for his
temporary mistress.

Down the beaten trail the animals had made to the river
the girl hurried, her eyes penetrating the darkness ahead and
to either hand for the looming bulks that would be the horses
she sought, and among which she might hope to discover the
gentle little Brazos.

The nearer she came to the river the lower dropped her
spirits, for as yet no sign of the animals was to be seen.  To
have attempted to place a hackamore upon any of the wild
creatures in the corral would have been the height of
foolishness--only a well-sped riata in the hands of a strong
man could have captured one of these.

Closer and closer to the fringe of willows along the river
she came, until, at their very edge, there broke upon her
already taut nerves the hideous and uncanny scream of a
wildcat.  The girl stopped short in her tracks.  She felt the chill
of fear creep through her skin, and a twitching at the roots of
her hair evidenced to her the extremity of her terror.  Should
she turn back?  The horses might be between her and the river,
but judgment told her that they had crossed.  Should she brave
the nervous fright of a passage through that dark, forbidding
labyrinth of gloom when she knew that she should not find
the horses within reach beyond?

She turned to retrace her steps.  She must find another way!

But was there another way?  And "Tomorrow they will shoot
him!"  She shuddered, bit her lower lip in an effort to command
her courage, and then, wheeling, plunged into the thicket.

Again the cat screamed--close by--but the girl never
hesitated in her advance, and a few moments later she broke
through the willows a dozen paces from the river bank.  Her
eyes strained through the night; but no horses were to be
seen.

The trail, cut by the hoofs of many animals, ran deep and
straight down into the swirling water.  Upon the opposite side
Brazos must be feeding or resting, just beyond reach.

Barbara dug her nails into her palms in the bitterness of her
disappointment.  She followed down to the very edge of the
water.  It was black and forbidding.  Even in the daytime she
would not have been confident of following the ford--by
night it would be madness to attempt it.

She choked down a sob.  Her shoulders drooped.  Her head
bent forward.  She was the picture of disappointment and
despair.

"What can I do?" she moaned.  "Tomorrow they will shoot
him!"

The thought seemed to electrify her.

"They shall not shoot him!" she cried aloud.  "They shall
not shoot him while I live to prevent it!"

Again her head was up and her shoulders squared.  Tying
the hackamore about her waist, she took a single deep breath
of reassurance and stepped out into the river.  For a dozen
paces she found no difficulty in following the ford.  It was
broad and straight; but toward the center of the river, as she
felt her way along a step at a time, she came to a place where
directly before her the ledge upon which she crossed shelved
off into deep water.  She turned upward, trying to locate the
direction of the new turn; but here too there was no footing.
Down river she felt solid rock beneath her feet.  Ah! this was
the way, and boldly she stepped out, the water already above
her knees.  Two, three steps she took, and with each one her
confidence and hope arose, and then the fourth step--and
there was no footing.  She felt herself lunging into the stream,
and tried to draw back and regain the ledge; but the force of
the current was too much for her, and, so suddenly it seemed
that she had thrown herself in, she was in the channel swimming
for her life.

The trend of the current there was back in the direction of
the bank she had but just quitted, yet so strong was her
determination to succeed for Billy Byrne's sake that she turned
her face toward the opposite shore and fought to reach the
seemingly impossible goal which love had set for her.  Again
and again she was swept under by the force of the current.  
Again and again she rose and battled, not for her own life; but
for the life of the man she once had loathed and whom she
later had come to love.  Inch by inch she won toward the shore
of her desire, and inch by inch of her progress she felt her
strength failing.  Could she win?  Ah! if she were but a man,
and with the thought came another: Thank God that I am a
woman with a woman's love which gives strength to drive me
into the clutches of death for his sake!

Her heart thundered in tumultuous protest against the strain
of her panting lungs.  Her limbs felt cold and numb; but she
could not give up even though she was now convinced that
she had thrown her life away uselessly.  They would find her
body; but no one would ever guess what had driven her to
her death.  Not even he would know that it was for his sake.
And then she felt the tugging of the channel current suddenly
lessen, an eddy carried her gently inshore, her feet touched the
sand and gravel of the bottom.

Gasping for breath, staggering, stumbling, she reeled on a
few paces and then slipped down clutching at the river's bank.  
Here the water was shallow, and here she lay until her
strength returned.  Then she urged herself up and onward,
climbed to the top of the bank with success at last within
reach.

To find the horses now required but a few minutes' search.  
They stood huddled in a black mass close to the barbed-wire
fence at the extremity of the pasture.  As she approached them
they commenced to separate slowly, edging away while they
faced her in curiosity.  Softly she called: "Brazos!  Come,
Brazos!" until a unit of the moving mass detached itself and
came toward her, nickering.

"Good Brazos!" she cooed.  "That's a good pony," and
walked forward to meet him.

The animal let her reach up and stroke his forehead, while
he muzzled about her for the expected tidbit.  Gently she
worked the hackamore over his nose and above his ears, and
when it was safely in place she breathed a deep sigh of relief
and throwing her arms about his neck pressed her cheek to
his.

"You dear old Brazos," she whispered.

The horse stood quietly while the girl wriggled herself to his
back, and then at a word and a touch from her heels moved
off at a walk in the direction of the ford.  The crossing this
time was one of infinite ease, for Barbara let the rope lie loose
and Brazos take his own way.

Through the willows upon the opposite bank he shouldered
his path, across the meadow still at a walk, lest they arouse
attention, and through a gate which led directly from the
meadow into the ranchyard.  Here she tied him to the outside
of the corral, while she went in search of saddle and bridle.  
Whose she took she did not know, nor care, but that the
saddle was enormously heavy she was perfectly aware long
before she had dragged it halfway to where Brazos stood.

Three times she essayed to lift it to his back before she
succeeded in accomplishing the Herculean task, and had it
been any other horse upon the ranch than Brazos the thing
could never have been done; but the kindly little pony stood
in statuesque resignation while the heavy Mexican tree was
banged and thumped against his legs and ribs, until a lucky
swing carried it to his wethers.

Saddled and bridled Barbara led him to the rear of the
building and thus, by a roundabout way, to the back of the
office building.  Here she could see a light in the room in
which Billy was confined, and after dropping the bridle reins
to the ground she made her way to the front of the structure.

Creeping stealthily to the porch she peered in at the window.
Eddie was stretched out in cramped though seeming
luxury in an office chair.  His feet were cocked up on the desk
before him.  In his lap lay his six-shooter ready for any
emergency.  Another reposed in its holster at his belt.

Barbara tiptoed to the door.  Holding her breath she turned
the knob gently.  The door swung open without a sound, and
an instant later she stood within the room.  Again her eyes
were fixed upon Eddie Shorter.  She saw his nerveless fingers
relax their hold upon the grip of his revolver.  She saw the
weapon slip farther down into his lap.  He did not move, other
than to the deep and regular breathing of profound slumber.

Barbara crossed the room to his side.

Behind the ranchhouse three figures crept forward in the
shadows.  Behind them a matter of a hundred yards stood a
little clump of horses and with them were the figures of more
men.  These waited in silence.  The other three crept toward the
house.  It was such a ranchhouse as you might find by the
scores or hundreds throughout Texas.  Grayson, evidently, or
some other Texan, had designed it.  There was nothing Mexican
about it, nor anything beautiful.  It stood two storied,
verandaed and hideous, a blot upon the soil of picturesque
Mexico.

To the roof of the veranda clambered the three prowlers,
and across it to an open window.  The window belonged to
the bedroom of Miss Barbara Harding.  Here they paused and
listened, then two of them entered the room.  They were gone
for but a few minutes.  When they emerged they showed
evidences, by their gestures to the third man who had awaited
outside, of disgust and disappointment.

Cautiously they descended as they had come and made
their way back to those other men who had remained with
the horses.  Here there ensued a low-toned conference, and
while it progressed Barbara Harding reached forth a steady
hand which belied the terror in her soul and plucked the
revolver from Eddie Shorter's lap.  Eddie slept on.

Again on tiptoe the girl recrossed the office to the locked
door leading into the back room.  The key was in the lock.  
Gingerly she turned it, keeping a furtive eye upon the sleeping
guard, and the muzzle of his own revolver leveled menacingly
upon him.  Eddie Shorter stirred in his sleep and raised a hand
to his face.  The heart of Barbara Harding ceased to beat while
she stood waiting for the man to open his eyes and discover
her; but he did nothing of the kind.  Instead his hand dropped
limply at his side and he resumed his regular breathing.

The key turned in the lock beneath the gentle pressure of
her fingers, the bolt slipped quietly back and she pushed the
door ajar.  Within, Billy Byrne turned inquiring eyes in the
direction of the opening door, and as he saw who it was
who entered surprise showed upon his face; but he spoke no
word for the girl held a silencing finger to her lips.

Quickly she came to his side and motioned him to rise
while she tugged at the knots which held the bonds in place
about his arms.  Once she stopped long enough to recross the
room and close the door which she had left open when she
entered.

It required fully five minutes--the longest five minutes of
Barbara Harding's life, she thought--before the knots gave to
her efforts; but at last the rope fell to the floor and Billy
Byrne was free.

He started to speak, to thank her, and, perhaps, to scold
her for the rash thing she had undertaken for him; but
she silenced him again, and with a whispered, "Come!" turned
toward the door.

As she opened it a crack to reconnoiter she kept the
revolver pointed straight ahead of her into the adjoining
room.  Eddie, however, still slept on in peaceful ignorance of
the trick which was being played upon him.

Now the two started forward for the door which opened
from the office upon the porch, and as they did so Barbara
turned again toward Billy to caution him to silence for his
spurs had tinkled as he moved.  For a moment their eyes were
not upon Eddie Shorter and Fate had it that at that very
moment Eddie awoke and opened his own eyes.

The sight that met them was so astonishing that for a
second the Kansan could not move.  He saw Barbara Harding,
a revolver in her hand, aiding the outlaw to escape, and in the
instant that surprise kept him motionless Eddie saw, too,
another picture--the picture of a motherly woman in a little
farmhouse back in Kansas, and Eddie realized that this man,
this outlaw, had been the means of arousing within him a
desire and a determination to return again to those loving
arms.  Too, the man had saved his mother from injury, and
possible death.

Eddie shut his eyes quickly and thought hard and fast.  Miss
Barbara had always been kind to him.  In his boyish heart he
had loved her, hopelessly of course, in a boyish way.  She
wanted the outlaw to escape.  Eddie realized that he would do
anything that Miss Barbara wanted, even if he had to risk his
life at it.

The girl and the man were at the door.  She pushed him
through ahead of her while she kept the revolver leveled upon
Eddie, then she passed out after him and closed the door,
while Eddie Shorter kept his eyes tightly closed and prayed to
his God that Billy Byrne might get safely away.

Outside and in the rear of the office building Barbara
pressed the revolver upon Billy.

"You will need it," she said.  "There is Brazos--take him.  
God bless and guard you, Billy!" and she was gone.

Billy swallowed bard.  He wanted to run after her and take
her in his arms; but he recalled Bridge, and with a sigh turned
toward the patient Brazos.  Languidly he gathered up the reins
and mounted, and then unconcernedly as though he were an
honored guest departing by daylight he rode out of the
ranchyard and turned Brazos' head north up the river road.

And as Billy disappeared in the darkness toward the north
Barbara Harding walked slowly toward the ranchhouse, while
from a little group of men and horses a hundred yards away
three men detached themselves and crept toward her, for they
had seen her in the moonlight as she left Billy outside the
office and strolled slowly in the direction of the house.

They hid in the shadow at the side of the house until the
girl had turned the corner and was approaching the veranda,
then they ran quickly forward and as she mounted the steps
she was seized from behind and dragged backward.  A hand
was clapped over her mouth and a whispered threat warned
her to silence.

Half dragging and half carrying her the three men bore her
back to where their confederates awaited them.  A huge fellow
mounted his pony and Barbara was lifted to the horn of the
saddle before him.  Then the others mounted and as silently as
they had come they rode away, following the same path.

Barbara Harding had not cried out nor attempted to, for
she had seen very shortly after her capture that she was in the
hands of Indians and she judged from what she had heard of
the little band of Pimans who held forth in the mountains to
the east that they would as gladly knife her as not.

Jose was a Piman, and she immediately connected Jose with
the perpetration, or at least the planning of her abduction.  
Thus she felt assured that no harm would come to her, since
Jose had been famous in his time for the number and size of
the ransoms he had collected.

Her father would pay what was demanded, she would be
returned and, aside from a few days of discomfort and hardship,
she would be none the worse off for her experience.  
Reasoning thus it was not difficult to maintain her composure
and presence of mind.

As Barbara was borne toward the east, Billy Byrne rode
steadily northward.  It was his intention to stop at Jose's hut
and deliver the message which Pesita had given him for the
old Indian.  Then he would disappear into the mountains to
the west, join Pesita and urge a new raid upon some favored
friend of General Francisco Villa, for Billy had no love for
Villa.

He should have been glad to pay his respects to El Orobo
Rancho and its foreman; but the fact that Anthony Harding
owned it and that he and Barbara were there was sufficient
effectually to banish all thoughts of revenge along that line.

"Maybe I can get his goat later," he thought, "when he's
away from the ranch.  I don't like that stiff, anyhow.  He orter
been a harness bull."

It was four o'clock in the morning when Billy dismounted
in front of Jose's hut.  He pounded on the door until the
man came and opened it.

"Eh!" exclaimed Jose as he saw who his early morning
visitor was, "you got away from them.  Fine!" and the old
man chuckled.  "I send word to Pesita two, four hours ago that
Villistas capture Capitan Byrne and take him to Cuivaca."

"Thanks," said Billy.  "Pesita wants you to send Esteban to
him.  I didn't have no chance to tell you last night while them
pikers was stickin' aroun', so I stops now on my way back to
the hills."

"I will send Esteban tonight if I can get him; but I do not
know.  Esteban is working for the pig, Grayson."

"Wot's he doin' fer Grayson?" asked Billy.  "And what was
the Grayson guy doin' up here with you, Jose?  Ain't you
gettin' pretty thick with Pesita's enemies?"

"Jose good friends everybody," and the old man grinned.  
"Grayson have a job he want good men for.  Jose furnish
men.  Grayson pay well.  Job got nothin' do Pesita, Villa,
Carranza, revolution--just private job.  Grayson want senorita.  
He pay to get her.  That all."

"Oh," said Billy, and yawned.  He was not interested in Mr.
Grayson's amours.  "Why didn't the poor boob go get her
himself?" he inquired disinterestedly.  "He must be a yap to
hire a bunch o' guys to go cop off a siwash girl fer him."

"It is not a siwash girl, Senor Capitan," said Jose.  "It is one
beautiful senorita--the daughter of the owner of El Orobo
Rancho."

"What?" cried Billy Byrne.  "What's that you say?"

"Yes, Senor Capitan, what of it?" inquired Jose.  "Grayson
he pay me furnish the men.  Esteban he go with his warriors.  I
get Esteban.  They go tonight take away the senorita; but not
for Grayson," and the old fellow laughed.  "I can no help can
I?  Grayson pay me money get men.  I get them.  I no help if
they keep girl," and he shrugged.

"They're comin' for her tonight?" cried Billy.

"Si, senor," replied Jose.  "Doubtless they already take her."

"Hell!" muttered Billy Byrne, as he swung Brazos about so
quickly that the little pony pivoted upon his hind legs and
dashed away toward the south over the same trail he had just
traversed.



CHAPTER XV

AN INDIAN'S TREACHERY

THE Brazos pony had traveled far that day but for only a
trifle over ten miles had he carried a rider upon his back.  He
was, consequently, far from fagged as he leaped forward to
the lifted reins and tore along the dusty river trail back in the
direction of Orobo.

Never before had Brazos covered ten miles in so short a
time, for it was not yet five o'clock when, reeling with fatigue,
he stopped, staggered and fell in front of the office building  at
El Orobo.

Eddie Shorter had sat in the chair as Barbara and Billy had
last seen him waiting until Byrne should have an ample start
before arousing Grayson and reporting the prisoner's escape.  
Eddie had determined that he would give Billy an hour.  He
grinned as he anticipated the rage of Grayson and the Villistas
when they learned that their bird had flown, and as he mused
and waited he fell asleep.

It was broad daylight when Eddie awoke, and as he
looked up at the little clock ticking against the wall, and saw
the time he gave an exclamation of surprise and leaped to his
feet.  Just as he opened the outer door of the office he saw a
horseman leap from a winded pony in front of the building.  
He saw the animal collapse and sink to the ground, and then
he recognized the pony as Brazos, and another glance at the
man brought recognition of him, too.

"You?" cried Eddie.  "What are you doin' back here?  I
gotta take you now," and he started to draw his revolver; but
Billy Byrne had him covered before ever his hand reached the
grip of his gun.

"Put 'em up!" admonished Billy, "and listen to me.  This
ain't no time fer gunplay or no such foolishness.  I ain't back
here to be took--get that out o' your nut.  I'm tipped off that
a bunch o' siwashes was down here last night to swipe Miss
Harding.  Come!  We gotta go see if she's here or not, an' don't
try any funny business on me, Eddie.  I ain't a-goin' to be
taken again, an' whoever tries it gets his, see?"

Eddie was down off the porch in an instant, and making
for the ranchhouse.

"I'm with you," he said.  "Who told you?  And who done
it?"

"Never mind who told me; but a siwash named Esteban
was to pull the thing off for Grayson.  Grayson wanted Miss
Harding an' he was goin' to have her stolen for him."

"The hound!" muttered Eddie.

The two men dashed up onto the veranda of the ranchhouse
and pounded at the door until a Chinaman opened it
and stuck out his head, inquiringly.

"Is Miss Harding here?" demanded Billy.

"Mlissy Hardie Kleep," snapped the servant.  "Wally wanee
here flo blekfas?", and would have shut the door in their faces
had not Billy intruded a heavy boot.  The next instant he
placed a large palm over the celestial's face and pushed the
man back into the house.  Once inside he called Mr. Harding's
name aloud.

"What is it?" asked the gentleman a moment later as he
appeared in a bedroom doorway off the living-room clad in
his pajamas.  "What's the matter?  Why, gad man, is that you?
Is this really Billy Byrne?"

"Sure," replied Byrne shortly; "but we can't waste any time
chinnin'.  I heard that Miss Barbara was goin' to be swiped
last night--I heard that she had been.  Now hurry and see if
she is here."

Anthony Harding turned and leaped up the narrow stairway
to the second floor four steps at a time.  He hadn't gone
upstairs in that fashion in forty years.  Without even pausing
to rap he burst into his daughter's bedroom.  It was empty.  
The bed was unruffled.  It had not been slept in.  With a moan
the man turned back and ran hastily to the other rooms upon
the second floor--Barbara was nowhere to be found.  Then he
hastened downstairs to the two men awaiting him.

As he entered the room from one end Grayson entered it
from the other through the doorway leading out upon the
veranda.  Billy Byrne had heard footsteps upon the boards
without and he was ready, so that as Grayson entered he
found himself looking straight at the business end of a sixshooter.
The foreman halted, and stood looking in surprise
first at Billy Byrne, and then at Eddie Shorter and Mr.
Harding.

"What does this mean?" he demanded, addressing Eddie.  
"What you doin' here with your prisoner?  Who told you to
let him out, eh?"

"Can the chatter," growled Billy Byrne.  "Shorter didn't let
me out.  I escaped hours ago, and I've just come back from
Jose's to ask you where Miss Harding is, you low-lived cur,
you.  Where is she?"

"What has Mr. Grayson to do with it?" asked Mr. Harding.  
"How should he know anything about it?  It's all a mystery to
me--you here, of all men in the world, and Grayson talking
about you as the prisoner.  I can't make it out.  Quick, though,
Byrne, tell me all you know about Barbara."

Billy kept Grayson covered as he replied to the request of
Harding.

"This guy hires a bunch of Pimans to steal Miss Barbara,"
he said.  "I got it straight from the fellow he paid the money
to for gettin' him the right men to pull off the job.  He wants
her it seems," and Billy shot a look at the ranch foreman that
would have killed if looks could.  "She can't have been gone
long.  I seen her after midnight, just before I made my getaway,
so they can't have taken her very far.  This thing here
can't help us none neither, for he don't know where she is
any more'n we do.  He thinks he does; but he don't.  The
siwashes framed it on him, an' they've doubled-crossed him.  I
got that straight too; but, Gawd!  I don't know where they've
taken her or what they're goin' to do with her."

As he spoke he turned his eyes for the first time away from
Grayson and looked full in Anthony Harding's face.  The
latter saw beneath the strong character lines of the other's
countenance the agony of fear and doubt that lay heavy upon
his heart.

In the brief instant that Billy's watchful gaze left the figure
of the ranch foreman the latter saw the opportunity he craved.  
He was standing directly in the doorway--a single step would
carry him out of range of Byrne's gun, placing a wall between
it and him, and Grayson was not slow in taking that step.

When Billy turned his eyes back the Texan had disappeared,
and by the time the former reached the doorway
Grayson was halfway to the office building on the veranda of
which stood the four soldiers of Villa grumbling and muttering
over the absence of their prisoner of the previous evening.

Billy Byrne stepped out into the open.  The ranch foreman
called aloud to the four Mexicans that their prisoner was at
the ranchhouse and as they looked in that direction they saw
him, revolver in hand, coming slowly toward them.  There was
a smile upon his lips which they could not see because of the
distance, and which, not knowing Billy Byrne, they would not
have interpreted correctly; but the revolver they did understand,
and at sight of it one of them threw his carbine to his
shoulder.  His finger, however, never closed upon the trigger,
for there came the sound of a shot from beyond Billy Byrne
and the Mexican staggered forward, pitching over the edge of
the porch to the ground.

Billy turned his head in the direction from which the shot
had come and saw Eddie Shorter running toward him, a
smoking six-shooter in his right hand.

"Go back," commanded Byrne; "this is my funeral."

"Not on your life," replied Eddie Shorter.  "Those greasers
don't take no white man off'n El Orobo, while I'm here.  Get
busy!  They're comin'."

And sure enough they were coming, and as they came their
carbines popped and the bullets whizzed about the heads of
the two Americans.  Grayson, too, had taken a hand upon the
side of the Villistas.  From the bunkhouse other men were
running rapidly in the direction of the fight, attracted by the
first shots.

Billy and Eddie stood their ground, a few paces apart.  Two
more of Villa's men went down.  Grayson ran for cover.  Then
Billy Byrne dropped the last of the Mexicans just as the men
from the bunkhouse came panting upon the scene.  There were
both Americans and Mexicans among them.  All were armed
and weapons were ready in their hands.

They paused a short distance from the two men.  Eddie's
presence upon the side of the stranger saved Billy from instant
death, for Eddie was well liked by both his Mexican and
American fellow-workers.

"What's the fuss?" asked an American.

Eddie told them, and when they learned that the boss's
daughter had been spirited away and that the ranch foreman
was at the bottom of it the anger of the Americans rose to a
dangerous pitch.

"Where is he?" someone asked.  They were gathered in a
little cluster now about Billy Byrne and Shorter.

"I saw him duck behind the office building," said Eddie.

"Come on," said another.  "We'll get him."

"Someone get a rope."  The men spoke in low, ordinary
tones--they appeared unexcited.  Determination was the most
apparent characteristic of the group.  One of them ran back
toward the bunkhouse for his rope.  The others walked slowly
in the direction of the rear of the office building.  Grayson was
not there.  The search proceeded.  The Americans were in
advance.  The Mexicans kept in a group by themselves a little
in rear of the others--it was not their trouble.  If the gringos
wanted to lynch another gringo, well and good--that was the
gringos' business.  They would keep out of it, and they did.

Down past the bunkhouse and the cookhouse to the stables
the searchers made their way.  Grayson could not be found.  In
the stables one of the men made a discovery--the foreman's
saddle had vanished.  Out in the corrals they went.  One of the
men laughed--the bars were down and the saddle horses
gone.  Eddie Shorter presently pointed out across the pasture
and the river to the skyline of the low bluffs beyond.  The
others looked.  A horseman was just visible urging his mount
upward to the crest, the two stood in silhouette against the
morning sky pink with the new sun.

"That's him," said Eddie.

"Let him go," said Billy Byrne.  "He won't never come back
and he ain't worth chasin'.  Not while we got Miss Barbara to
look after.  My horse is down there with yours.  I'm goin'
down to get him.  Will you come, Shorter?  I may need help--I
ain't much with a rope yet."

He started off without waiting for a reply, and all the
Americans followed.  Together they circled the horses and
drove them back to the corral.  When Billy had saddled and
mounted he saw that the others had done likewise.

"We're goin' with you," said one of the men.  "Miss Barbara
b'longs to us."

Billy nodded and moved off in the direction of the
ranchhouse.  Here he dismounted and with Eddie Shorter and Mr.
Harding commenced circling the house in search of some
manner of clue to the direction taken by the abductors.  It was
not long before they came upon the spot where the Indians'
horses had stood the night before.  From there the trail led
plainly down toward the river.  In a moment ten Americans
were following it, after Mr. Harding had supplied Billy Byrne
with a carbine, another six-shooter, and ammunition.

Through the river and the cut in the barbed-wire fence,
then up the face of the bluff and out across the low mesa
beyond the trail led.  For a mile it was distinct, and then
disappeared as though the riders had separated.

"Well," said Billy, as the others drew around him for
consultation, "they'd be goin' to the hills there.  They was
Pimans--Esteban's tribe.  They got her up there in the hills
somewheres.  Let's split up an' search the hills for her.
Whoever comes on 'em first'll have to do some shootin' and the rest
of us can close in an' help.  We can go in pairs--then if
one's killed the other can ride out an' lead the way back to
where it happened."

The men seemed satisfied with the plan and broke up into
parties of two.  Eddie Shorter paired off with Billy Byrne.

"Spread out," said the latter to his companions.  "Eddie an'
I'll ride straight ahead--the rest of you can fan out a few
miles on either side of us.  S'long an' good luck," and he
started off toward the hills, Eddie Shorter at his side.

Back at the ranch the Mexican vaqueros lounged about,
grumbling.  With no foreman there was nothing to do except
talk about their troubles.  They had not been paid since the
looting of the bank at Cuivaca, for Mr. Harding had been
unable to get any silver from elsewhere until a few days since.  
He now had assurances that it was on the way to him; but
whether or not it would reach El Orobo was a question.

"Why should we stay here when we are not paid?" asked
one of them.

"Yes, why?" chorused several others.

"There is nothing to do here," said another. "We will go to
Cuivaca. I, for one, am tired of working for the gringos."

This met with the unqualified approval of all, and a few
moments later the men had saddled their ponies and were
galloping away in the direction of sun-baked Cuivaca.  They
sang now, and were happy, for they were as little boys playing
hooky from school--not bad men; but rather irresponsible
children.

Once in Cuivaca they swooped down upon the drinking-place,
where, with what little money a few of them had left
they proceeded to get drunk.

Later in the day an old, dried-up Indian entered.  He was
hot and dusty from a long ride.

"Hey, Jose!" cried one of the vaqueros from El Orobo
Rancho; "you old rascal, what are you doing here?"

Jose looked around upon them.  He knew them all--they
represented the Mexican contingent of the riders of El Orobo.  
Jose wondered what they were all doing here in Cuivaca at
one time.  Even upon a pay day it never had been the rule of
El Orobo to allow more than four men at a time to come to
town.

"Oh, Jose come to buy coffee and tobacco," he replied.  He
looked about searchingly.  "Where are the others?" he asked,
"--the gringos?"

"They have ridden after Esteban," explained one of the
vaqueros.  "He has run off with Senorita Harding."

Jose raised his eyebrows as though this was all news.

"And Senor Grayson has gone with them?" he asked.  "He
was very fond of the senorita."

"Senor Grayson has run away," went on the other speaker.  
"The other gringos wished to hang him, for it is said he has
bribed Esteban to do this thing."

Again Jose raised his eyebrows.  "Impossible!" he ejaculated.  
"And who then guards the ranch?" he asked presently.

"Senor Harding, two Mexican house servants, and a Chinaman,"
and the vaquero laughed.

"I must be going," Jose announced after a moment.  "It is a
long ride for an old man from my poor home to Cuivaca, and
back again."

The vaqueros were paying no further attention to him, and
the Indian passed out and sought his pony; but when he had
mounted and ridden from town he took a strange direction
for one whose path lies to the east, since he turned his pony's
head toward the northwest.

Jose had ridden far that day, since Billy had left his humble
hut.  He had gone to the west to the little rancho of one of
Pesita's adherents who had dispatched a boy to carry word to
the bandit that his Captain Byrne had escaped the Villistas,
and then Jose had ridden into Cuivaca by a circuitous route
which brought him up from the east side of the town.

Now he was riding once again for Pesita; but this time he
would bear the information himself.  He found the chief in
camp and after begging tobacco and a cigarette paper the
Indian finally reached the purpose of his visit.

"Jose has just come from Cuivaca," he said, "and there he
drank with all the Mexican vaqueros of El Orobo Rancho--
ALL, my general, you understand.  It seems that Esteban has
carried off the beautiful senorita of El Orobo Rancho, and the
vaqueros tell Jose that ALL the American vaqueros have ridden
in search of her--ALL, my general, you understand.  In such
times of danger it is odd that the gringos should leave El
Orobo thus unguarded.  Only the rich Senor Harding, two
house servants, and a Chinaman remain."

A man lay stretched upon his blankets in a tent next to
that occupied by Pesita.  At the sound of the speaker's voice,
low though it was, he raised his head and listened.  He heard
every word, and a scowl settled upon his brow.  Barbara
stolen!  Mr Harding practically alone upon the ranch!  And
Pesita in possession of this information!

Bridge rose to his feet.  He buckled his cartridge belt about
his waist and picked up his carbine, then he crawled under the
rear wall of his tent and walked slowly off in the direction of
the picket line where the horses were tethered.

"Ah, Senor Bridge," said a pleasant voice in his ear;
"where to?"

Bridge turned quickly to look into the smiling, evil face of
Rozales.

"Oh," he replied, "I'm going out to see if I can't find some
shooting.  It's awfully dull sitting around here doing nothing."

"Si, senor," agreed Rozales; "I, too, find it so.  Let us
go together--I know where the shooting is best."

"I don't doubt it," thought Bridge; "probably in the back;"
but aloud he said: "Certainly, that will be fine," for he
guessed that Rozales had been set to watch his movements
and prevent his escape, and, perchance, to be the sole witness
of some unhappy event which should carry Senor Bridge to
the arms of his fathers.

Rozales called a soldier to saddle and bridle their horses
and shortly after the two were riding abreast down the trail
out of the hills.  Where it was necessary that they ride in single
file Bridge was careful to see that Rozales rode ahead, and the
Mexican graciously permitted the American to fall behind.

If he was inspired by any other motive than simple espionage
he was evidently content to bide his time until chance
gave him the opening he desired, and it was equally evident
that he felt as safe in front of the American as behind him.

At a point where a ravine down which they had ridden
debauched upon a mesa Rozales suggested that they ride to
the north, which was not at all the direction in which Bridge
intended going.  The American demurred.

"But there is no shooting down in the valley," urged
Rozales.

"I think there will be," was Bridge's enigmatical reply, and
then, with a sudden exclamation of surprise he pointed over
Rozales' shoulder.  "What's that?" he cried in a voice tense
with excitement.

The Mexican turned his head quickly in the direction
Bridge's index finger indicated.

"I see nothing," said Rozales, after a moment.

"You do now, though," replied Bridge, and as the Mexican's
eyes returned in the direction of his companion he was
forced to admit that he did see something--the dismal, hollow
eye of a six-shooter looking him straight in the face.

"Senor Bridge!" exclaimed Rozales.  "What are you doing?
What do you mean?"

"I mean," said Bridge, "that if you are at all solicitous of
your health you'll climb down off that pony, not forgetting to
keep your hands above your head when you reach the
ground.  Now climb!"

Rozales dismounted.

"Turn your back toward me," commanded the American,
and when the other had obeyed him, Bridge dismounted and
removed the man's weapons from his belt.  "Now you may go,
Rozales," he said, "and should you ever have an American in
your power again remember that I spared your life when I
might easily have taken it--when it would have been infinitely
safer for me to have done it."

The Mexican made no reply, but the black scowl that
clouded his face boded ill for the next gringo who should be

so unfortunate as to fall into his hands.  Slowly he wheeled
about and started back up the trail in the direction of the
Pesita camp.

"I'll be halfway to El Orobo," thought Bridge, "before he
gets a chance to tell Pesita what happened to him," and then
he remounted and rode on down into the valley, leading
Rozales' horse behind him.

It would never do, he knew, to turn the animal loose too
soon, since he would doubtless make his way back to camp,
and in doing so would have to pass Rozales who would catch
him.  Time was what Bridge wanted--to be well on his way to
Orobo before Pesita should learn of his escape.

Bridge knew nothing of what had happened to Billy, for
Pesita had seen to it that the information was kept from the
American.  The latter had, nevertheless, been worrying not a
little at the absence of his friend for he knew that he had
taken his liberty and his life in his hands in riding down to El
Orobo among avowed enemies.

Far to his rear Rozales plodded sullenly up the steep trail
through the mountains, revolving in his mind various exquisite
tortures he should be delighted to inflict upon the next gringo
who came into his power.




CHAPTER XVI

EDDIE MAKES GOOD

BILLY BYRNE and Eddie Shorter rode steadily in the direction
of the hills.  Upon either side and at intervals of a mile or
more stretched the others of their party, occasionally visible;
but for the most part not.  Once in the hills the two could no
longer see their friends or be seen by them.

Both Byrne and Eddie felt that chance had placed them
upon the right trail for a well-marked and long-used path
wound upward through a canyon along which they rode.  It
was an excellent location for an ambush, and both men
breathed more freely when they had passed out of it into
more open country upon a narrow tableland between the first
foothills and the main range of mountains.

Here again was the trail well marked, and when Eddie,
looking ahead, saw that it appeared to lead in the direction of
a vivid green spot close to the base of the gray brown hills he
gave an exclamation of assurance.

"We're on the right trail all right, old man," he said.  
"They's water there," and he pointed ahead at the green
splotch upon the gray.  "That's where they'd be havin' their
village.  I ain't never been up here so I ain't familiar with the
country.  You see we don't run no cattle this side the river--
the Pimans won't let us.  They don't care to have no white
men pokin' round in their country; but I'll bet a hat we find a
camp there."

Onward they rode toward the little spot of green.  Sometimes
it was in sight and again as they approached higher
ground, or wound through gullies and ravines it was lost to
their sight; but always they kept it as their goal.  The trail they
were upon led to it--of that there could be no longer the
slightest doubt.  And as they rode with their destination in
view black, beady eyes looked down upon them from the very
green oasis toward which they urged their ponies--tiring now
from the climb.

A lithe, brown body lay stretched comfortably upon a bed
of grasses at the edge of a little rise of ground beneath which
the riders must pass before they came to the cluster of huts
which squatted in a tiny natural park at the foot of the main
peak.  Far above the watcher a spring of clear, pure water
bubbled out of the mountain-side, and running downward
formed little pools among the rocks which held it.  And with
this water the Pimans irrigated their small fields before it sank
from sight again into the earth just below their village.  Beside
the brown body lay a long rifle.  The man's eyes watched,
unblinking, the two specks far below him whom he knew
and had known for an hour were gringos.

Another brown body wormed itself forward to his side and
peered over the edge of the declivity down upon the white
men.  He spoke a few words in a whisper to him who watched
with the rifle, and then crawled back again and disappeared.  
And all the while, onward and upward came Billy Byrne and
Eddie Shorter, each knowing in his heart that if not already,
then at any moment a watcher would discover them and a
little later a bullet would fly that would find one of them, and
they took the chance for the sake of the American girl who
lay hidden somewhere in these hills, for in no other way could
they locate her hiding place more quickly.  Any one of the
other eight Americans who rode in pairs into the hills at other
points to the left and right of Billy Byrne and his companion
would have and was even then cheerfully taking the same
chances that Eddie and Billy took, only the latter were now
assured that to one of them would fall the sacrifice, for as
they had come closer Eddie had seen a thin wreath of smoke
rising from among the trees of the oasis.  Now, indeed, were
they sure that they had chanced upon the trail to the Piman
village.

"We gotta keep our eyes peeled," said Eddie, as they
wound into a ravine which from its location evidently led
directly up to the village.  "We ain't far from 'em now, an' if
they get us they'll get us about here."

As though to punctuate his speech with the final period a
rifle cracked above them.  Eddie jumped spasmodically and
clutched his breast.

"I'm hit," he said, quite unemotionally.

Billy Byrne's revolver had answered the shot from above
them, the bullet striking where Billy had seen a puff of smoke
following the rifle shot.  Then Billy turned toward Eddie.

"Hit bad?" he asked.

"Yep, I guess so," said Eddie.  "What'll we do?  Hide up
here, or ride back after the others?"

Another shot rang out above them, although Billy had been
watching for a target at which to shoot again--a target which
he had been positive he would get when the man rose to fire
again.  And Billy did see the fellow at last--a few paces from
where he had first fired; but not until the other had dropped
Eddie's horse beneath him.  Byrne fired again, and this time he
had the satisfaction of seeing a brown body rise, struggle a
moment, and then roll over once upon the grass before it
came to rest.

"I reckon we'll stay here," said Billy, looking ruefully at
Eddie's horse.

Eddie rose and as he did so he staggered and grew very
white.  Billy dismounted and ran forward, putting an arm
about him.  Another shot came from above and Billy Byrne's
pony grunted and collapsed.

"Hell!" exclaimed Byrne.  "We gotta get out of this," and
lifting his wounded comrade in his arms he ran for the shelter
of the bluff from the summit of which the snipers had fired
upon them.  Close in, hugging the face of the perpendicular
wall of tumbled rock and earth, they were out of range of the
Indians; but Billy did not stop when he had reached temporary
safety.  Farther up toward the direction in which lay the
village, and halfway up the side of the bluff Billy saw what he
took to be excellent shelter.  Here the face of the bluff was less
steep and upon it lay a number of large bowlders, while others
protruded from the ground about them.

Toward these Billy made his way.  The wounded man
across his shoulder was suffering indescribable agonies; but he
bit his lip and stifled the cries that each step his comrade took
seemed to wrench from him, lest he attract the enemy to their
position.

Above them all was silence, yet Billy knew that alert, red
foemen were creeping to the edge of the bluff in search of
their prey.  If he could but reach the shelter of the bowlders
before the Pimans discovered them!

The minutes that were consumed in covering the hundred
yards seemed as many hours to Billy Byrne; but at last he
dragged the fainting cowboy between two large bowlders close
under the edge of the bluff and found himself in a little,
natural fortress, well adapted to defense.

From above they were protected from the fire of the
Indians upon the bluff by the height of the bowlder at the
foot of which they lay, while another just in front hid them
from possible marksmen across the canyon.  Smaller rocks
scattered about gave promise of shelter from flank fire, and as
soon as he had deposited Eddie in the comparative safety of
their retreat Byrne commenced forming a low breastwork
upon the side facing the village--the direction from which
they might naturally expect attack.  This done he turned his
attention to the opening upon the opposite side and soon had
a similar defense constructed there, then he turned his attention
to Eddie, though keeping a watchful eye upon both
approaches to their stronghold.

The Kansan lay upon his side, moaning.  Blood stained his
lips and nostrils, and when Billy Byrne opened his shirt and
found a gaping wound in his right breast he knew how
serious was his companion's injury.  As he felt Billy working
over him the boy opened his eyes.

"Do you think I'm done for?" he asked in a tortured
whisper.

"Nothin' doin'," lied Billy cheerfully.  "Just a scratch.  You'll
be all right in a day or two."

Eddie shook his head wearily.  "I wish I could believe you,"
he said.  "I ben figgerin' on goin' back to see maw.  I ain't
thought o' nothin' else since you told me 'bout how she
missed me.  I ken see her right now just like I was there.  I'll
bet she's scrubbin' the kitchen floor.  Maw was always a-scrubbin'
somethin'.  Gee! but it's tough to cash in like this
just when I was figgerin' on goin' home."

Billy couldn't think of anything to say.  He turned to look
up and down the canyon in search of the enemy.

"Home!" whispered Eddie.  "Home!"

"Aw, shucks!" said Billy kindly.  "You'll get home all right,
kid.  The boys must a-heard the shootin' an' they'll be along in
no time now.  Then we'll clean up this bunch o' coons an'
have you back to El Orobo an' nursed into shape in no
time."

Eddie tried to smile as he looked up into the other's face.  
He reached a hand out and laid it on Billy's arm.

"You're all right, old man," he whispered.  "I know you're
lyin' an' so do you; but it makes me feel better anyway to
have you say them things."

Billy felt as one who has been caught stealing from a blind
man.  The only adequate reply of which he could think was,
"Aw, shucks!"

"Say," said Eddie after a moment's silence, "if you get out
o' here an' ever go back to the States promise me you'll look
up maw and paw an' tell 'em I was comin' home--to stay.  
Tell 'em I died decent, too, will you--died like paw was
always a-tellin' me my granddad died, fightin' Injuns 'round
Fort Dodge somewheres."

"Sure," said Billy; "I'll tell 'em.  Gee!  Look who's comin'
here," and as he spoke he flattened himself to the ground just
as a bullet pinged against the rock above his head and the
report of a rifle sounded from up the canyon.  "That guy most
got me.  I'll have to be 'tendin' to business better'n this."

He drew himself slowly up upon his elbows, his carbine
ready in his hand, and peered through a small aperture
between two of the rocks which composed his breastwork.  
Then he stuck the muzzle of the weapon through, took aim
and pulled the trigger.

"Didje get him?" asked Eddie.

"Yep," said Billy, and fired again.  "Got that one too.  Say,
they're tough-lookin' guys; but I guess they won't come so
fast next time.  Those two were right in the open, workin' up
to us on their bellies.  They must a-thought we was sleepin'."

For an hour Billy neither saw nor heard any sign of the
enemy, though several times he raised his hat above the
breastwork upon the muzzle of his carbine to draw their fire.

It was midafternoon when the sound of distant rifle fire
came faintly to the ears of the two men from somewhere far
below them.

"The boys must be comin'," whispered Eddie Shorter hopefully.

For half an hour the firing continued and then silence again
fell upon the mountains.  Eddie began to wander mentally.  He
talked much of Kansas and his old home, and many times he
begged for water.

"Buck up, kid," said Billy; "the boys'll be along in a minute
now an' then we'll get you all the water you want."

But the boys did not come.  Billy was standing up now,
stretching his legs, and searching up and down the canyon for
Indians.  He was wondering if he could chance making a break
for the valley where they stood some slight chance of meeting
with their companions, and even as he considered the matter
seriously there came a staccato report and Billy Byrne fell
forward in a heap.

"God!" cried Eddie.  "They got him now, they got him."

Byrne stirred and struggled to rise.

"Like'll they got me," he said, and staggered to his knees.

Over the breastwork he saw a half-dozen Indians running
rapidly toward the shelter--he saw them in a haze of red that
was caused not by blood but by anger.  With an oath Billy
Byrne leaped to his feet.  From his knees up his whole body
was exposed to the enemy; but Billy cared not.  He was in a
berserker rage.  Whipping his carbine to his shoulder he let
drive at the advancing Indians who were now beyond hope of
cover.  They must come on or be shot down where they were,
so they came on, yelling like devils and stopping momentarily
to fire upon the rash white man who stood so perfect a target
before them.

But their haste spoiled their marksmanship.  The bullets
zinged and zipped against the rocky little fortress, they nicked
Billy's shirt and trousers and hat, and all the while he stood
there pumping lead into his assailants--not hysterically; but
with the cool deliberation of a butcher slaughtering beeves.

One by one the Pimans dropped until but a single Indian
rushed frantically upon the white man, and then the last of
the assailants lunged forward across the breastwork with a
bullet from Billy's carbine through his forehead.

Eddie Shorter had raised himself painfully upon an elbow
that he might witness the battle, and when it was over he sank
back, the blood welling from between his set teeth.

Billy turned to look at him when the last of the Pimans was
disposed of, and seeing his condition kneeled beside him and
took his head in the hollow of an arm.

"You orter lie still," he cautioned the Kansan.  "Tain't
good for you to move around much."

"It was worth it," whispered Eddie.  "Say, but that was
some scrap.  You got your nerve standin' up there against the
bunch of 'em; but if you hadn't they'd have rushed us and
some of 'em would a-got in."


"Funny the boys don't come," said Billy.

"Yes," replied Eddie, with a sigh; "it's milkin' time now, an'
I figgered on goin' to Shawnee this evenin'.  Them's nice
cookies, maw.  I--"

Billy Byrne was bending low to catch his feeble words, and
when the voice trailed out into nothingness he lowered the
tousled red head to the hard earth and turned away.

Could it be that the thing which glistened on the eyelid of
the toughest guy on the West Side was a tear?

The afternoon waned and night came, but it brought to
Billy Byrne neither renewed attack nor succor.  The bullet
which had dropped him momentarily had but creased his
forehead.  Aside from the fact that he was blood covered from
the wound it had inconvenienced him in no way, and now
that darkness had fallen he commenced to plan upon leaving
the shelter.

First he transferred Eddie's ammunition to his own person,
and such valuables and trinkets as he thought "maw" might
be glad to have, then he removed the breechblock from
Eddie's carbine and stuck it in his pocket that the weapon
might be valueless to the Indians when they found it.

"Sorry I can't bury you old man," was Billy's parting
comment, as he climbed over the breastwork and melted into
the night.

Billy Byrne moved cautiously through the darkness, and he
moved not in the direction of escape and safety but directly
up the canyon in the way that the village of the Pimans lay.

Soon he heard the sound of voices and shortly after saw
the light of cook fires playing upon bronzed faces and upon
the fronts of low huts.  Some women were moaning and
wailing.  Billy guessed that they mourned for those whom his
bullets had found earlier in the day.  In the darkness of the
night, far up among the rough, forbidding mountains it was
all very weird and uncanny.

Billy crept closer to the village.  Shelter was abundant.  He
saw no sign of sentry and wondered why they should be so
lax in the face of almost certain attack.  Then it occurred to
him that possibly the firing he and Eddie had heard earlier in
the day far down among the foothills might have meant the
extermination of the Americans from El Orobo.

"Well, I'll be next then," mused Billy, and wormed closer to
the huts.  His eyes were on the alert every instant, as were his
ears; but no sign of that which he sought rewarded his
keenest observation.

Until midnight he lay in concealment and all that time the
mourners continued their dismal wailing.  Then, one by one,
they entered their huts, and silence reigned within the village.

Billy crept closer.  He eyed each hut with longing, wondering
gaze.  Which could it be?  How could he determine?  One
seemed little more promising than the others.  He had noted
those to which Indians had retired.  There were three into
which he had seen none go.  These, then, should be the first to
undergo his scrutiny.

The night was dark.  The moon had not yet risen.  Only a
few dying fires cast a wavering and uncertain light upon the
scene.  Through the shadows Billy Byrne crept closer and
closer.  At last he lay close beside one of the huts which was
to be the first to claim his attention.

For several moments he lay listening intently for any sound
which might come from within; but there was none.  He
crawled to the doorway and peered within.  Utter darkness
shrouded and hid the interior.

Billy rose and walked boldly inside.  If he could see no one
within, then no one could see him once he was inside the
door.  Therefore, so reasoned Billy Byrne, he would have as
good a chance as the occupants of the hut, should they prove
to be enemies.

He crossed the floor carefully, stopping often to listen.  At
last he heard a rustling sound just ahead of him.  His fingers
tightened upon the revolver he carried in his right hand, by
the barrel, clublike.  Billy had no intention of making any
more noise than necessary.

Again he heard a sound from the same direction.  It was
not at all unlike the frightened gasp of a woman.  Billy emitted
a low growl, in fair imitation of a prowling dog that has been
disturbed.

Again the gasp, and a low: "Go away!" in liquid feminine
tones--and in English!

Billy uttered a low: "S-s-sh!" and tiptoed closer.  Extending
his hands they presently came in contact with a human body
which shrank from him with another smothered cry.

"Barbara!" whispered Billy, bending closer.

A hand reached out through the darkness, found him, and
closed upon his sleeve.

"Who are you?" asked a low voice.

"Billy," he replied.  "Are you alone in here?"

"No, an old woman guards me," replied the girl, and at the
same time they both heard a movement close at hand, and
something scurried past them to be silhouetted for an instant
against the path of lesser darkness which marked the location
of the doorway.

"There she goes!" cried Barbara.  "She heard you and she
has gone for help."

"Then come!" said Billy, seizing the girl's arm and dragging
her to her feet; but they had scarce crossed half the distance
to the doorway when the cries of the old woman without
warned them that the camp was being aroused.

Billy thrust a revolver into Barbara's hand.  "We gotta make
a fight of it, little girl," he said.  "But you'd better die than be
here alone."

As they emerged from the hut they saw warriors running
from every doorway.  The old woman stood screaming in
Piman at the top of her lungs.  Billy, keeping Barbara in front
of him that he might shield her body with his own, turned
directly out of the village.  He did not fire at first hoping that
they might elude detection and thus not draw the fire of the
Indians upon them; but he was doomed to disappointment,
and they had taken scarcely a dozen steps when a rifle spoke
above the noise of human voices and a bullet whizzed past
them.

Then Billy replied, and Barbara, too, from just behind his
shoulder.  Together they backed away toward the shadow of
the trees beyond the village and as they went they poured shot
after shot into the village.

The Indians, but just awakened and still half stupid from
sleep, did not know but that they were attacked by a vastly
superior force, and this fear held them in check for several
minutes--long enough for Billy and Barbara to reach the
summit of the bluff from which Billy and Eddie had first been
fired upon.

Here they were hidden from the view of the Indians, and
Billy broke at once into a run, half carrying the girl with a
strong arm about her waist.

"If we can reach the foothills," he said, "I think we can
dodge 'em, an' by goin' all night we may reach the river and
El Orobo by morning.  It's a long hike, Barbara, but we gotta
make it--we gotta, for if daylight finds us in the Piman
country we won't never make it.  Anyway," he concluded
optimistically, "it's all down hill."

"We'll make it, Billy," she replied, "if we can get past the
sentry."

"What sentry?" asked Billy.  "I didn't see no sentry when I
come in."

"They keep a sentry way down the trail all night," replied
the girl.  "In the daytime he is nearer the village--on the top
of this bluff, for from here he can see the whole valley; but at
night they station him farther away in a narrow part of the
trail."

"It's a mighty good thing you tipped me off," said Billy;
"for I'd a-run right into him.  I thought they was all behind us
now."

After that they went more cautiously, and when they
reached the part of the trail where the sentry might be
expected to be found, Barbara warned Billy of the fact.  Like
two thieves they crept along in the shadow of the canyon
wall.  Inwardly Billy cursed the darkness of the night which
hid from view everything more than a few paces from them;
yet it may have been this very darkness which saved them,
since it hid them as effectually from an enemy as it hid the
enemy from them.  They had reached the point where Barbara
was positive the sentry should be.  The girl was clinging tightly
to Billy's left arm.  He could feel the pressure of her fingers as
they sunk into his muscles, sending little tremors and thrills
through his giant frame.  Even in the face of death Billy Byrne
could sense the ecstasies of personal contact with this girl--the
only woman he ever had loved or ever would.

And then a black shadow loomed before them, and a rifle
flashed in their faces without a word or a sign of warning.



CHAPTER XVII

"YOU ARE MY GIRL!"

MR. ANTHONY HARDING was pacing back and forth the
length of the veranda of the ranchhouse at El Orobo waiting
for some word of hope from those who had ridden out in
search of his daughter, Barbara.  Each swirling dust devil that
eddied across the dry flat on either side of the river roused
hopes within his breast that it might have been spurred into
activity by the hoofs of a pony bearing a messenger of good
tidings; but always his hopes were dashed, for no horseman
emerged from the heat haze of the distance where the little
dust devils raced playfully among the cacti and the greasewood.

But at last, in the northwest, a horseman, unheralded by
gyrating dust column, came into sight.  Mr. Harding shook his
head sorrowfully.  It had not been from this direction that he
had expected word of Barbara, yet he kept his eyes fastened
upon the rider until the latter reined in at the ranchyard and
loped a tired and sweating pony to the foot of the veranda
steps.  Then Mr. Harding saw who the newcomer was.

"Bridge!" he exclaimed.  "What brings you back here?  Don't
you know that you endanger us as well as yourself by being
seen here?  General Villa will think that we have been harboring you."

Bridge swung from the saddle and ran up onto the veranda.
He paid not the slightest attention to Anthony Harding's
protest.

"How many men you got here that you can depend on?"
he asked.

"None," replied the Easterner.  "What do you mean?"

"None!" cried Bridge, incredulity and hopelessness showing
upon his countenance.  "Isn't there a Chinaman and a couple
of faithful Mexicans?"

"Oh, yes, of course," assented Mr. Harding; "but what are
you driving at?"

"Pesita is on his way here to clean up El Orobo.  He can't
be very far behind me.  Call the men you got, and we'll get
together all the guns and ammunition on the ranch, and
barricade the ranchhouse.  We may be able to stand 'em off.  
Have you heard anything of Miss Barbara?"

Anthony Harding shook his head sadly.

"Then we'll have to stay right here and do the best we
can," said Bridge.  "I was thinking we might make a run for it
if Miss Barbara was here; but as she's not we must wait for
those who went out after her."

Mr. Harding summoned the two Mexicans while Bridge ran
to the cookhouse and ordered the Chinaman to the ranchhouse.
Then the erstwhile bookkeeper ransacked the bunkhouse for
arms and ammunition.  What little he found he
carried to the ranchhouse, and with the help of the others
barricaded the doors and windows of the first floor.

"We'll have to make our fight from the upper windows," he
explained to the ranch owner.  "If Pesita doesn't bring too
large a force we may be able to stand them off until you can
get help from Cuivaca.  Call up there now and see if you can
get Villa to send help--he ought to protect you from Pesita.  I
understand that there is no love lost between the two."

Anthony Harding went at once to the telephone and rang
for the central at Cuivaca.

"Tell it to the operator," shouted Bridge who stood peering
through an opening in the barricade before a front window;
"they are coming now, and the chances are that the first thing
they'll do is cut the telephone wires."

The Easterner poured his story and appeal for help into the
ears of the girl at the other end of the line, and then for a few
moments there was silence in the room as he listened to her
reply.

"Impossible!" and "My God! it can't be true," Bridge heard
the older man ejaculate, and then he saw him hang up the
receiver and turn from the instrument, his face drawn and
pinched with an expression of utter hopelessness.

"What's wrong?" asked Bridge.

"Villa has turned against the Americans," replied Harding,
dully.  "The operator evidently feels friendly toward us, for
she warned me not to appeal to Villa and told me why.  Even
now, this minute, the man has a force of twenty-five hundred
ready to march on Columbus, New Mexico.  Three Americans
were hanged in Cuivaca this afternoon.  It's horrible, sir!  It's
horrible!  We are as good as dead this very minute.  Even if we
stand off Pesita we can never escape to the border through
Villa's forces."

"It looks bad," admitted Bridge.  "In fact it couldn't look
much worse; but here we are, and while our ammunition
holds out about all we can do is stay here and use it.  Will you
men stand by us?" he addressed the Chinaman and the two
Mexicans, who assured him that they had no love for Pesita
and would fight for Anthony Harding in preference to going
over to the enemy.

"Good!" exclaimed Bridge, "and now for upstairs.  They'll
be howling around here in about five minutes, and we want
to give them a reception they won't forget."

He led the way to the second floor, where the five took up
positions near the front windows.  A short distance from the
ranchhouse they could see the enemy, consisting of a detachment
of some twenty of Pesita's troopers riding at a brisk trot
in their direction.

"Pesita's with them," announced Bridge, presently.  "He's
the little fellow on the sorrel.  Wait until they are close up,
then give them a few rounds; but go easy on the ammunition
--we haven't any too much."

Pesita, expecting no resistance, rode boldly into the
ranchyard.  At the bunkhouse and the office his little force halted
while three or four troopers dismounted and entered the
buildings in search of victims.  Disappointed there they moved
toward the ranchhouse.

"Lie low!" Bridge cautioned his companions.  "Don't let
them see you, and wait till I give the word before you fire."

On came the horsemen at a slow walk.  Bridge waited until
they were within a few yards of the house, then he cried:
"Now!  Let 'em have it!"  A rattle of rifle fire broke from the
upper windows into the ranks of the Pesitistas.  Three troopers
reeled and slipped from their saddles.  Two horses dropped in
their tracks.  Cursing and yelling, the balance of the horsemen
wheeled and galloped away in the direction of the office
building, followed by the fire of the defenders.

"That wasn't so bad," cried Bridge.  "I'll venture a guess
that Mr. Pesita is some surprised--and sore.  There they go
behind the office.  They'll stay there a few minutes talking it
over and getting up their courage to try it again.  Next time
they'll come from another direction.  You two," he continued,
turning to the Mexicans, "take positions on the east and
south sides of the house.  Sing can remain here with Mr.
Harding.  I'll take the north side facing the office.  Shoot at the
first man who shows his head.  If we can hold them off until
dark we may be able to get away.  Whatever happens don't let
one of them get close enough to fire the house.  That's what
they'll try for."

It was fifteen minutes before the second attack came.  Five
dismounted troopers made a dash for the north side of the
house; but when Bridge dropped the first of them before he
had taken ten steps from the office building and wounded a
second the others retreated for shelter.

Time and again as the afternoon wore away Pesita made
attempts to get men close up to the house; but in each
instance they were driven back, until at last they desisted from
their efforts to fire the house or rush it, and contented
themselves with firing an occasional shot through the windows
opposite them.

"They're waiting for dark," said Bridge to Mr. Harding
during a temporary lull in the hostilities, "and then we're
goners, unless the boys come back from across the river in
time."

"Couldn't we get away after dark?" asked the Easterner.

"It's our only hope if help don't reach us," replied Bridge.

But when night finally fell and the five men made an
attempt to leave the house upon the side away from the office
building they were met with the flash of carbines and the ping
of bullets.  One of the Mexican defenders fell, mortally wounded,
and the others were barely able to drag him within and
replace the barricade before the door when five of Pesita's
men charged close up to their defenses.  These were finally
driven off and again there came a lull; but all hope of escape
was gone, and Bridge reposted the defenders at the upper
windows where they might watch every approach to the
house.

As the hours dragged on the hopelessness of their position
grew upon the minds of all.  Their ammunition was almost
gone--each man had but a few rounds remaining--and it was
evident that Pesita, through an inordinate desire for revenge,
would persist until he had reduced their fortress and claimed
the last of them as his victim.

It was with such cheerful expectations that they awaited the
final assault which would see them without ammunition and
defenseless in the face of a cruel and implacable foe.

It was just before daylight that the anticipated rush
occurred.  From every side rang the reports of carbines and the
yells of the bandits.  There were scarcely more than a dozen of
the original twenty left; but they made up for their depleted
numbers by the rapidity with which they worked their firearms
and the loudness and ferocity of their savage cries.

And this time they reached the shelter of the veranda and
commenced battering at the door.

At the report of the rifle so close to them Billy Byrne
shoved Barbara quickly to one side and leaped forward to
close with the man who barred their way to liberty.

That they had surprised him even more than he had them
was evidenced by the wildness of his shot which passed
harmlessly above their heads as well as by the fact that he had
permitted them to come so close before engaging them.

To the latter event was attributable his undoing, for it
permitted Billy Byrne to close with him before the Indian
could reload his antiquated weapon.  Down the two men went,
the American on top, each striving for a death-hold; but in
weight and strength and skill the Piman was far outclassed by
the trained fighter, a part of whose daily workouts had
consisted in wrestling with proficient artists of the mat.

Barbara Harding ran forward to assist her champion but as
the men rolled and tumbled over the ground she could find
no opening for a blow that might not endanger Billy Byrne
quite as much as it endangered his antagonist; but presently
she discovered that the American required no assistance.  She
saw the Indian's head bending slowly forward beneath the
resistless force of the other's huge muscles, she heard the crack
that announced the parting of the vertebrae and saw the limp
thing which had but a moment before been a man, pulsing
with life and vigor, roll helplessly aside--a harmless and
inanimate lump of clay.

Billy Byrne leaped to his feet, shaking himself as a great
mastiff might whose coat had been ruffled in a fight.

"Come!" he whispered.  "We gotta beat it now for sure.  
That guy's shot'll lead 'em right down to us," and once more
they took up their flight down toward the valley, along an
unknown trail through the darkness of the night.

For the most part they moved in silence, Billy holding the
girl's arm or hand to steady her over the rough and dangerous
portions of the path.  And as they went there grew in
Billy's breast a love so deep and so resistless that he found
himself wondering that he had ever imagined that his former
passion for this girl was love.

This new thing surged through him and over him with all
the blind, brutal, compelling force of a mighty tidal wave.  It
battered down and swept away the frail barriers of his new-found
gentleness.  Again he was the Mucker--hating the artificial
wall of social caste which separated him from this girl;
but now he was ready to climb the wall, or, better still, to
batter it down with his huge fists.  But the time was not yet--
first he must get Barbara to a place of safety.

On and on they went.  The night grew cold.  Far ahead
there sounded the occasional pop of a rifle.  Billy wondered
what it could mean and as they approached the ranch and he
discovered that it came from that direction he hastened their
steps to even greater speed than before.

"Somebody's shootin' up the ranch," he volunteered.  
"Wonder who it could be."

"Suppose it is your friend and general?" asked the girl.

Billy made no reply.  They reached the river and as Billy
knew not where the fords lay he plunged in at the point at
which the water first barred their progress and dragging the
girl after him, plowed bull-like for the opposite shore.  Where
the water was above his depth he swam while Barbara clung
to his shoulders.  Thus they made the passage quickly and
safely.

Billy stopped long enough to shake the water out of his
carbine, which the girl had carried across, and then forged
ahead toward the ranchhouse from which the sounds of battle
came now in increased volume.

And at the ranchhouse "hell was popping."  The moment
Bridge realized that some of the attackers had reached the
veranda he called the surviving Mexican and the Chinaman to
follow him to the lower floor where they might stand a better
chance to repel this new attack.  Mr. Harding he persuaded to
remain upstairs.

Outside a dozen men were battering to force an entrance.  
Already one panel had splintered, and as Bridge entered the
room he could see the figures of the bandits through the hole
they had made.  Raising his rifle he fired through the aperture.  
There was a scream as one of the attackers dropped; but the
others only increased their efforts, their oaths, and their threats
of vengeance.

The three defenders poured a few rounds through the
sagging door, then Bridge noted that the Chinaman ceased
firing.

"What's the matter?" he asked.

"Allee gonee," replied Sing, pointing to his ammunition
belt.

At the same instant the Mexican threw down his carbine
and rushed for a window on the opposite side of the room.  His
ammunition was exhausted and with it had departed his
courage.  Flight seemed the only course remaining.  Bridge
made no effort to stop him.  He would have been glad to fly,
too; but he could not leave Anthony Harding, and he was
sure that the older man would prove unequal to any sustained
flight on foot.

"You better go, too, Sing," he said to the Chinaman,
placing another bullet through the door; "there's nothing more
that you can do, and it may be that they are all on this side
now--I think they are.  You fellows have fought splendidly.  
Wish I could give you something more substantial than
thanks; but that's all I have now and shortly Pesita won't
even leave me that much."

"Allee light," replied Sing cheerfully, and a second later he
was clambering through the window in the wake of the loyal
Mexican.

And then the door crashed in and half a dozen troopers
followed by Pesita himself burst into the room.

Bridge was standing at the foot of the stairs, his carbine
clubbed, for he had just spent his last bullet.  He knew that he
must die; but he was determined to make them purchase his
life as dearly as he could, and to die in defense of Anthony
Harding, the father of the girl he loved, even though hopelessly.

Pesita saw from the American's attitude that he had no
more ammunition.  He struck up the carbine of a trooper who
was about to shoot Bridge down.

"Wait!" commanded the bandit.  "Cease firing!  His ammunition
is gone.  Will you surrender?" he asked of Bridge.

"Not until I have beaten from the heads of one or two of
your friends," he replied, "that which their egotism leads them
to imagine are brains.  No, if you take me alive, Pesita, you
will have to kill me to do it."

Pesita shrugged.  "Very well," he said, indifferently, "it
makes little difference to me--that stairway is as good as a
wall.  These brave defenders of the liberty of poor, bleeding
Mexico will make an excellent firing squad.  Attention, my
children!  Ready!  Aim!"

Eleven carbines were leveled at Bridge.  In the ghastly light
of early dawn the sallow complexions of the Mexicans took
on a weird hue.  The American made a wry face, a slight
shudder shook his slender frame, and then he squared his
shoulders and looked Pesita smilingly in the face.

The figure of a man appeared at the window through
which the Chinaman and the loyal Mexican had escaped.  
Quick eyes took in the scene within the room.

"Hey!" he yelled.  "Cut the rough stuff!" and leaped into
the room.

Pesita, surprised by the interruption, turned toward the
intruder before he had given the command to fire.  A smile lit
his features when he saw who it was.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, "my dear Captain Byrne.  Just in time
to see a traitor and a spy pay the penalty for his crimes."

"Nothin' doin'," growled Billy Byrne, and then he threw his
carbine to his shoulder and took careful aim at Pesita's face.

How easy it would have been to have hesitated a moment
in the window before he made his presence known--just long
enough for Pesita to speak the single word that would have
sent eleven bullets speeding into the body of the man who
loved Barbara and whom Billy believed the girl loved.  But did
such a thought occur to Billy Byrne of Grand Avenue?  It did
not.  He forgot every other consideration beyond his loyalty to
a friend.  Bridge and Pesita were looking at him in wide-eyed
astonishment.

"Lay down your carbines!"  Billy shot his command at the
firing squad.  "Lay 'em down or I'll bore Pesita.  Tell 'em to
lay 'em down, Pesita.  I gotta bead on your beezer."

Pesita did as he was bid, his yellow face pasty with rage.

"Now their cartridge belts!" snapped Billy, and when these
had been deposited upon the floor he told Bridge to disarm
the bandit chief.

"Is Mr. Harding safe?" he asked of Bridge, and receiving an
affirmative he called upstairs for the older man to descend.

As Mr. Harding reached the foot of the stairs Barbara
entered the room by the window through which Billy had
come--a window which opened upon the side veranda.

"Now we gotta hike," announced Billy.  "It won't never be
safe for none of you here after this, not even if you do think
Villa's your friend--which he ain't the friend of no American."

"We know that now," said Mr. Harding, and repeated to
Billy that which the telephone operator had told him earlier in
the day.

Marching Pesita and his men ahead of them Billy and the
others made their way to the rear of the office building where
the horses of the bandits were tethered.  They were each armed
now from the discarded weapons of the raiders, and well
supplied with ammunition.  The Chinaman and the loyal Mexican
also discovered themselves when they learned that the
tables had been turned upon Pesita.  They, too, were armed
and all were mounted, and when Billy had loaded the remaining
weapons upon the balance of the horses the party rode
away, driving Pesita's live stock and arms ahead of them.

"I imagine," remarked Bridge, "that you've rather
discouraged pursuit for a while at least," but pursuit came sooner
than they had anticipated.

They had reached a point on the river not far from Jose's
when a band of horsemen appeared approaching from the
west.  Billy urged his party to greater speed that they might
avoid a meeting if possible; but it soon became evident that
the strangers had no intention of permitting them to go
unchallenged, for they altered their course and increased their
speed so that they were soon bearing down upon the fugitives
at a rapid gallop.

"I guess," said Billy, "that we'd better open up on 'em.  It's
a cinch they ain't no friends of ours anywhere in these parts."

"Hadn't we better wait a moment," said Mr. Harding; "we
do not want to chance making any mistake."

"It ain't never a mistake to shoot a Dago," replied Billy.  
His eyes were fastened upon the approaching horsemen, and
he presently gave an exclamation of recognition.  "There's
Rozales," he said.  "I couldn't mistake that beanpole nowheres.  
We're safe enough in takin' a shot at 'em if Rosie's with 'em.  
He's Pesita's head guy," and he drew his revolver and took a
single shot in the direction of his former comrades.  Bridge
followed his example.  The oncoming Pesitistas reined in.  
Billy returned his revolver to its holster and drew his carbine.

"You ride on ahead," he said to Mr. Harding and Barbara.  
"Bridge and I'll bring up the rear."

Then he stopped his pony and turning took deliberate aim
at the knot of horsemen to their left.  A bandit tumbled from
his saddle and the fight was on.

Fortunately for the Americans Rozales had but a handful
of men with him and Rozales himself was never keen for a
fight in the open.

All morning he hovered around the rear of the escaping
Americans; but neither side did much damage to the other,
and during the afternoon Billy noticed that Rozales merely
followed within sight of them, after having dispatched one of
his men back in the direction from which they had come.

"After reinforcements," commented Byrne.

All day they rode without meeting with any roving bands
of soldiers or bandits, and the explanation was all too sinister
to the Americans when coupled with the knowledge that Villa
was to attack an American town that night.

"I wish we could reach the border in time to warn 'em,"
said Billy; "but they ain't no chance.  If we cross before sunup
tomorrow morning we'll be doin' well."

He had scarcely spoken to Barbara Harding all day, for his
duties as rear guard had kept him busy; nor had he conversed
much with Bridge, though he had often eyed the latter whose
gaze wandered many times to the slender, graceful figure of
the girl ahead of them.

Billy was thinking as he never had thought before.  It
seemed to him a cruel fate that had so shaped their destinies
that his best friend loved the girl Billy loved.  That Bridge was
ignorant of Billy's infatuation for her the latter well knew.  He
could not blame Bridge, nor could he, upon the other hand,
quite reconcile himself to the more than apparent adoration
which marked his friend's attitude toward Barbara.

As daylight waned the fugitives realized from the shuffling
gait of their mounts, from drooping heads and dull eyes that
rest was imperative.  They themselves were fagged, too, and
when a ranchhouse loomed in front of them they decided to
halt for much-needed recuperation.

Here they found three Americans who were totally unaware
of Villa's contemplated raid across the border, and who when
they were informed of it were doubly glad to welcome six
extra carbines, for Barbara not only was armed but was
eminently qualified to expend ammunition without wasting it.

Rozales and his small band halted out of range of the
ranch; but they went hungry while their quarry fed themselves
and their tired mounts.

The Clark brothers and their cousin, a man by the name of
Mason, who were the sole inhabitants of the ranch counseled
a long rest--two hours at least, for the border was still ten
miles away and speed at the last moment might be their sole
means of salvation.

Billy was for moving on at once before the reinforcements,
for which he was sure Rozales had dispatched his messenger,
could overtake them.  But the others were tired and argued,
too, that upon jaded ponies they could not hope to escape and
so they waited, until, just as they were ready to continue their
flight, flight became impossible.

Darkness had fallen when the little party commenced to
resaddle their ponies and in the midst of their labors there
came a rude and disheartening interruption.  Billy had kept
either the Chinaman or Bridge constantly upon watch toward
the direction in which Rozales' men lolled smoking in the
dark, and it was the crack of Bridge's carbine which awoke
the Americans to the fact that though the border lay but a
few miles away they were still far from safety.

As he fired Bridge turned in his saddle and shouted to the
others to make for the shelter of the ranchhouse.

"There are two hundred of them," he cried.  "Run for
cover!"

Billy and the Clark brothers leaped to their saddles and
spurred toward the point where Bridge sat pumping lead into
the advancing enemy.  Mason and Mr. Harding hurried Barbara
to the questionable safety of the ranchhouse.  The Mexican
followed them, and Bridge ordered Sing back to assist in
barricading the doors and windows, while he and Billy and
the Clark boys held the bandits in momentary check.

Falling back slowly and firing constantly as they came the
four approached the house while Pesita and his full band
advanced cautiously after them.  They had almost reached the
house when Bridge lunged forward from his saddle.  The Clark
boys had dismounted and were leading their ponies inside the
house.  Billy alone noted the wounding of his friend.  Without
an instant's hesitation he slipped from his saddle, ran back to
where Bridge lay and lifted him in his arms.  Bullets were
pattering thick about them.  A horseman far in advance of his
fellows galloped forward with drawn saber to cut down the
gringos.

Billy, casting an occasional glance behind, saw the danger
in time to meet it--just, in fact, as the weapon was cutting
through the air toward his head.  Dropping Bridge and dodging
to one side he managed to escape the cut, and before the
swordsman could recover Billy had leaped to his pony's side
and seizing the rider about the waist dragged him to the
ground.

"Rozales!" he exclaimed, and struck the man as he had
never struck another in all his life, with the full force of his
mighty muscles backed by his great weight, with clenched fist
full in the face.

There was a spurting of blood and a splintering of bone,
and Captain Guillermo Rozales sank senseless to the ground,
his career of crime and rapine ended forever.

Again Billy lifted Bridge in his arms and this time he
succeeded in reaching the ranchhouse without opposition
though a little crimson stream trickled down his left arm to
drop upon the face of his friend as he deposited Bridge upon
the floor of the house.

All night the Pesitistas circled the lone ranchhouse.  All
night they poured their volleys into the adobe walls and
through the barricaded windows.  All night the little band of
defenders fought gallantly for their lives; but as day
approached the futility of their endeavors was borne in upon
them, for of the nine one was dead and three wounded, and
the numbers of their assailants seemed undiminished.

Billy Byrne had been lying all night upon his stomach
before a window firing out into the darkness at the dim forms
which occasionally showed against the dull, dead background
of the moonless desert.

Presently he leaped to his feet and crossed the floor to the
room in which the horses had been placed.

"Everybody fire toward the rear of the house as fast as they
can," said Billy.  "I want a clear space for my getaway."

"Where you goin?" asked one of the Clark brothers.

"North," replied Billy, "after some of Funston's men on the
border."

"But they won't cross," said Mr. Harding.  "Washington
won't let them."

"They gotta," snapped Billy Byrne, "an' they will when
they know there's an American girl here with a bunch of
Dagos yappin' around."

"You'll be killed," said Price Clark.  "You can't never get
through."

"Leave it to me," replied Billy.  "Just get ready an' open
that back door when I give the word, an' then shut it again in
a hurry when I've gone through."

He led a horse from the side room, and mounted it.

"Open her up, boes!" he shouted, and "S'long everybody!"

Price Clark swung the door open.  Billy put spurs to his
mount and threw himself forward flat against the animal's
neck.  Another moment he was through and a rattling fusillade
of shots proclaimed the fact that his bold feat had not gone
unnoted by the foe.

The little Mexican pony shot like a bolt from a crossbow
out across the level desert.  The rattling of carbines only served
to add speed to its frightened feet.  Billy sat erect in the saddle,
guiding the horse with his left hand and working his revolver
methodically with his right.

At a window behind him Barbara Harding stood breathless
and spellbound until he had disappeared into the gloom of the
early morning darkness to the north, then she turned with a
weary sigh and resumed her place beside the wounded Bridge
whose head she bathed with cool water, while he tossed in the
delirium of fever.

The first streaks of daylight were piercing the heavens, the
Pesitistas were rallying for a decisive charge, the hopes of the
little band of besieged were at low ebb when from the west
there sounded the pounding of many hoofs.

"Villa," moaned Westcott Clark, hopelessly.  "We're done
for now, sure enough.  He must be comin' back from his raid
on the border."

In the faint light of dawn they saw a column of horsemen
deploy suddenly into a long, thin line which galloped forward
over the flat earth, coming toward them like a huge, relentless
engine of destruction.

The Pesitistas were watching too.  They had ceased firing
and sat in their saddles forgetful of their contemplated charge.

The occupants of the ranchhouse were gathered at the small
windows.

"What's them?" cried Mason--"them things floating over
'em."

"They're guidons!" exclaimed Price Clark "--the guidons of
the United States cavalry regiment.  See 'em!  See 'em?  God!
but don't they look good?"

There was a wild whoop from the lungs of the advancing
cavalrymen.  Pesita's troops answered it with a scattering
volley, and a moment later the Americans were among them in
that famous revolver charge which is now history.

Daylight had come revealing to the watchers in the
ranchhouse the figures of the combatants.  In the thick of the fight
loomed the giant figure of a man in nondescript garb which
more closely resembled the apparel of the Pesitistas than it did
the uniforms of the American soldiery, yet it was with them he
fought.  Barbara's eyes were the first to detect him.

"There's Mr. Byrne," she cried.  "It must have been he who
brought the troops."

"Why, he hasn't had time to reach the border yet,"
remonstrated one of the Clark boys, "much less get back here with
help."

"There he is though," said Mr. Harding.  "It's certainly
strange.  I can't understand what American troops are doing
across the border--especially under the present administration."

The Pesitistas held their ground for but a moment then they
wheeled and fled; but not before Pesita himself had forced his
pony close to that of Billy Byrne.

"Traitor!" screamed the bandit.  "You shall die for this,"
and fired point-blank at the American.

Billy felt a burning sensation in his already wounded left
arm; but his right was still good.

"For poor, bleeding Mexico!" he cried, and put a bullet
through Pesita's forehead.


Under escort of the men of the Thirteenth Cavalry who
had pursued Villa's raiders into Mexico and upon whom Billy
Byrne had stumbled by chance, the little party of fugitives
came safely to United States soil, where all but one breathed
sighs of heartfelt relief.

Bridge was given first aid by members of the hospital corps,
who assured Billy that his friend would not die.  Mr. Harding
and Barbara were taken in by the wife of an officer, and it
was at the quarters of the latter that Billy Byrne found her
alone in the sitting-room.

The girl looked up as he entered, a sad smile upon her face.  
She was about to ask him of his wound; but he gave her no
opportunity.

"I've come for you," he said.  "I gave you up once when I
thought it was better for you to marry a man in your own
class.  I won't give you up again.  You're mine--you're my girl,
and I'm goin' to take you with me.  Were goin' to Galveston
as fast as we can, and from there we're goin' to Rio.  You
belonged to me long before Bridge saw you.  He can't have
you.  Nobody can have you but me, and if anyone tries to
keep me from taking you they'll get killed."

He took a step nearer that brought him close to her.  She
did not shrink--only looked up into his face with wide eyes
filled with wonder.  He seized her roughly in his arms.

"You are my girl!" he cried hoarsely.  "Kiss me!"

"Wait!" she said.  "First tell me what you meant by saying
that Bridge couldn't have me.  I never knew that Bridge
wanted me, and I certainly have never wanted Bridge. O Billy!
Why didn't you do this long ago?  Months ago in New York I
wanted you to take me; but you left me to another man
whom I didn't love. I thought you had ceased to care, Billy,
and since we have been together here--since that night in the
room back of the office--you have made me feel that I was
nothing to you.  Take me, Billy!  Take me anywhere in the
world that you go.  I love you and I'll slave for you--anything
just to be with you."

"Barbara!" cried Billy Byrne, and then his voice was
smothered by the pressure of warm, red lips against his own.

A half hour later Billy stepped out into the street to make
his way to the railroad station that he might procure
transportation for three to Galveston.  Anthony Harding was going
with them.  He had listened to Barbara's pleas, and had finally
volunteered to back Billy Byrne's flight from the jurisdiction
of the law, or at least to a place where, under a new name, he
could start life over again and live it as the son-in-law of old
Anthony Harding should live.

Among the crowd viewing the havoc wrought by the raiders
the previous night was a large man with a red face.  It
happened that he turned suddenly about as Billy Byrne was
on the point of passing behind him.  Both men started as
recognition lighted their faces and he of the red face found
himself looking down the barrel of a six-shooter.

"Put it up, Byrne," he admonished the other coolly.  "I
didn't know you were so good on the draw."

"I'm good on the draw all right, Flannagan," said Billy,
"and I ain't drawin' for amusement neither.  I gotta chance to
get away and live straight, and have a little happiness in life,
and, Flannagan, the man who tries to crab my game is goin'
to get himself croaked.  I'll never go back to stir alive.  See?"

"Yep," said Flannagan, "I see; but I ain't tryin' to crab
your game.  I ain't down here after you this trip.  Where you
been, anyway, that you don't know the war's over?  Why
Coke Sheehan confessed a month ago that it was him that
croaked Schneider, and the governor pardoned you about ten
days ago."

"You stringin' me?" asked Billy, a vicious glint in his eyes.

"On the level," Flannagan assured him.  "Wait, I gotta
clippin' from the Trib in my clothes somewheres that gives all
the dope."

He drew some papers from his coat pocket and handed one
to Billy.

"Turn your back and hold up your hands while I read,"
said Byrne, and as Flannagan did as he was bid Billy unfolded
the soiled bit of newspaper and read that which set him
a-trembling with nervous excitement.

A moment later Detective Sergeant Flannagan ventured a
rearward glance to note how Byrne was receiving the joyful
tidings which the newspaper article contained.

"Well, I'll be!" ejaculated the sleuth, for Billy Byrne was
already a hundred yards away and breaking all records in his
dash for the sitting-room he had quitted but a few minutes
before.

It was a happy and contented trio who took the train the
following day on their way back to New York City after
bidding Bridge good-bye in the improvised hospital and exacting
his promise that he would visit them in New York in the
near future.


It was a month later; spring was filling the southland with
new, sweet life.  The joy of living was reflected in the song of
birds and the opening of buds.  Beside a slow-moving stream a
man squatted before a tiny fire.  A battered tin can, half filled
with water stood close to the burning embers.  Upon a sharpened
stick the man roasted a bit of meat, and as he watched it
curling at the edges as the flame licked it he spoke aloud
though there was none to hear:

  Just for a con I'd like to know (yes, he crossed over long ago;
 And he was right, believe me, bo!) if somewhere in the South,
  Down where the clouds lie on the sea, he found his sweet Penelope
 With buds of roses in her hair and kisses on her mouth.


"Which is what they will be singing about me one of these days,"
he commented.



THE END





This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia