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Title:      The Ghost
Author:     Max Brand
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Language:   English
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Date first posted:          June 2006
Date most recently updated: June 2006

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Title:      The Ghost
Author:     Max Brand

The gold strike which led the fortune-hunters to Murrayville brought
with them the usual proportion of bad men and outlaws. Three months
after the rush started a bandit appeared so consummate in skill and so
cool in daring that all other offenders against the law disappeared in
the shade of his reputation. He was a public dread. His comings were
unannounced; his goings left no track. Men lowered their voices when
they spoke of him. His knowledge of affairs in the town was so uncanny
that people called him the "Ghost."

The stages which bore gold to the railroad one hundred and thirty miles
to the south left at the most secret hours of the night, but the Ghost
knew. Once he "stuck up" the stage not a mile from town while the guards
were still occupied with their flasks of snakebite. Again, when the
stage rolled on at midday, eighty miles south of Murrayville, and the
guards nodded in the white-hot sun, the Ghost rose from behind a bush,
shot the near-leader, and had the cargo at his mercy in thirty seconds.

He performed these feats with admirable _finesse._ Not a single death
lay charged to his account, for he depended upon surprise rather than
slaughter. Yet so heavy was the toll he exacted that the miners passed
from fury to desperation.

They organized a vigilance committee. They put a price on his head.
Posses scoured the region of his hiding-place, Hunter's Caon, into
which he disappeared when hard pressed, and left no more trace than the
morning mist which the sun disperses. A hundred men combed the myriad
recesses of the caon in vain. Their efforts merely stimulated the

While twoscore men rode almost within calling distance, the Ghost
appeared in the moonlight before Pat McDonald and Peters and robbed them
of eighteen pounds of gold-dust which they carried in their belts. When
the vigilance committee got word of this insolent outrage they called a
mass-meeting so large that even drunken Geraldine was enrolled.

Never in the history of Murrayville had there been so grave and
dry-throated an affair. William Collins, the head of the vigilantes,
addressed the assembly. He rehearsed the list of the Ghost's outrages,
pointed out that what the community needed was an experienced man-hunter
to direct their efforts, and ended by asking Silver Pete to stand up
before them. After some urging Pete rose and stood beside Collins, with
his hat pushed back from his gray and tousled forelock and both hands
tugging at his cartridge-belt.

"Men," went on Collins, placing one hand on the shoulder of the
man-killer, "we need a leader who is a born and trained fighter, a man
who will attack the Ghost with system and never stop after he takes up
the trail. And I say the man we need is Silver Pete!"

Pete's mouth twitched back on one side into the faint semblance of a
grin, and he shrugged off the patronizing hand of the speaker. The
audience stirred, caught each other with side-glances, and then stared
back at Silver Pete. His reputation gave even Murrayville pause, for his
reputed killings read like the casualty list of a battle.

"I repeat," said Collins, after the pause, in which he allowed his first
statement to shudder its way home, "that Silver Pete is the man for us.
I've talked it over with him before this, and he'll take the job, but he
needs an inducement. Here's the reward I propose for him or for any
other man who succeeds in taking the Ghost prisoner or in killing him.
We'll give him any loot which may be on the person of the bandit. If the
Ghost is disposed of in the place where he has cached his plunder, the
finder gets it all. It's a high price to pay, but this thing has to be
stopped. My own opinion is that the Ghost is a man who does his robbing
on the side and lives right here among us. If that's the case, we'll
leave it to Silver Pete to find him out, and we'll obey Pete's orders.
He's the man for us. He's done work like this before. He has a straight
eye, and he's fast with his six-gun. If you want to know Pete's
reputation as a fighting man--"

"He'll tell you himself," said a voice, and a laugh followed.

Silver Pete scowled in the direction of the laugh, and his right hand
caressed the butt of his gun, but two miners rose from the crowd holding
a slender fellow between them.

"It's only Geraldine," said one of them. "There ain't no call to flash
your gun, Pete."

"Take the drunken fool away," ordered Collins angrily. "Who let him in
here? This is a place for men and not for girl-faced clowns!"

"Misher Collins," said Geraldine, doffing his broad-brimmed hat and
speaking with a thick, telltale accent--"Misher Collins, I ask your
pardon, shir."

He bowed unsteadily, and his hat brushed the floor.

"I plumb forgot I was in church with Silver Pete for a preacher!" he
went on.

The audience turned their heads and chuckled deeply.

"Take him out, will you?" thundered Collins. "Take him out, or I'll come
down there and kick him out myself!"

The two men at Geraldine's side turned him about and led him toward the
door. Here he struggled away from his guides. "Misher Collins!" he cried
in a voice half-whining and half-anger, "if I capture the Ghost do _I_
get the loot?"

A yell of laughter drowned the reply, and Geraldine staggered from the

"What do you say, men?" roared Collins, enraged by these repeated
interruptions. "Is Silver Pete the man for us?"

There was no shout of approval but a deep muttering of consent.

"I'd hire the devil himself," murmured one man, "if he'd get rid of the

"All right," said Collins, and he turned to Pete. "You're in charge
here, and it's up to you to tell us what to do. You're the foreman, and
we're all in your gang."

The crowd was delighted, for Pete, finding himself deserted before the
mass of waiting men, shifted uneasily from one foot to the other and
kept changing the angle of the hat upon his mop of gray hair.

"Speech!" yelled a miner. "Give us a speech, Pete!" Silver Pete favored
the speaker with a venomous scowl.

"Speech nothin'," he answered. "I ain't here to talk. I ain't no
gossipin' bit of calico. I got a hunch my six-gun'll do my chatterin'
for me."

"But what do you want us to do, Pete?" asked Collins. "How are we going
to help you?"

"Sit tight and chaw your own tobacco," he said amiably. "I don't want no
advice. There's been too many posses around these diggin's. Maybe I'll
start and hunt the Ghost by myself. Maybe I won't. If I want help I'll
come askin' it."

As a sign that the meeting had terminated he pulled his hat farther down
over his eyes, hitched his belt, and stalked through the crowd without
looking to either side.

Thereafter Murrayville saw nothing of him for a month, during which the
Ghost appeared five times and escaped unscathed. The community pondered
and sent out to find Pete, but the search was vain. There were those who
held that he must have been shot down in his tracks by the Ghost, and
even now decorated some lank hillside. The majority felt that having
undertaken his quest alone Pete was ashamed to appear in the town
without his victim.

On the subject of the quest Geraldine composed a ballad which he sang to
much applause in the eight saloons of the town. It purported to be the
narrative of Silver Pete's wanderings in search of the Ghost. In singing
it Geraldine borrowed a revolver and belt from one of the bystanders,
pushed back his hat and roughed up his hair, and imitated the scowling
face of Pete so exactly that his hearers fairly wept with pleasure. He
sang his ballad to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne," and the sad narrative
concluded with a wailing stanza:

     "I don't expect no bloomin' tears;
     The only thing I ask
     Is something for a monument
     In the way of a whisky flask."

Geraldine sang himself into popularity and many drinks with his song,
and for the first time the miners began to take him almost seriously. He
had appeared shortly after old John Murray struck gold six months
before, a slender man of thirty-five, with a sadly drooping mouth and
humorous eyes.

He announced himself as Gerald Le Roy Witherstone, and was, of course,
immediately christened "Geraldine."

Thereafter he wandered about the town, with no apparent occupation
except to sing for his drinks in the saloons. Hitherto he had been
accepted as a harmless and amusing man-child, but his ballad gave him at
once an Homeric repute, particularly when men remembered that the song
was bound to come sooner or later to the ear of Silver Pete.

For the time being Pete was well out of ear-shot. After the meeting, at
which he was installed chief man-hunter of the community, he spent most
of the evening equipping himself for the chase. Strangely enough, he did
not hang a second revolver to his belt nor strap a rifle behind his
saddle; neither did he mount a fleet horse. To pursue the elusive Ghost
he bought a dull-eyed mule with a pendulous lower lip. On the mule he
strapped a heavy pack which consisted chiefly of edibles, and in the
middle of the night he led the mule out of Murrayville in such a way as
to evade observation. Once clear of the town he headed straight for
Hunter's Caon.

Once inside the mouth of the caon he began his search. While he worked
he might have been taken for a prospector, for there was not a big rock
in the whole course of the caon which he did not examine from all
sides. There was not a gully running into Hunter's which he did not
examine carefully. He climbed up and down the cliffs on either side as
if he suspected that the Ghost might take to wings and fly up the sheer
rock to a cave.

The first day he progressed barely a half-mile. The second day he
covered even less ground. So his search went on. In the night he built a
fire behind a rock and cooked. Through four weeks his labor continued
without the vestige of a clue to reward him. Twice during that time he
saw posses go thundering through the valley and laughed to himself. They
did not even find him, and yet he was making no effort to elude them.
What chance would they have of surprising the Ghost?

This thought encouraged him, and he clung to the invisible trail,
through the day and through the night, with the vision of the outlaw's
loot before him. He ran out of bacon. Even his coffee gave out. For ten
days he lived on flour, salt, and water, and then, as if this saintly
fast were necessary before the vision, Pete saw the Ghost.

It was after sunset, but the moon was clear when he saw the fantom rider
race along the far side of the valley. The turf deadened the sound of
the horse's hoofs, and, like another worldly apparition, the Ghost
galloped close to the wall of the valley--and disappeared.

Peter rubbed his eyes and looked again. It give him a queer sensation,
as if he had awakened suddenly from a vivid dream, for the horse, with
its rider, had vanished into thin air between the eyes of Peter and the
sheer rock of the valley wall. A little shudder passed through his body,
and he cursed softly to restore his courage.

Yet the dream of plunder sent his blood hotly back upon its course. He
carefully observed the marks which should guide him to the point on the
rock at which the rider disappeared. He hobbled the mule, examined his
revolver, and spun the cylinder, and then started down across the caon.

He had camped upon high ground, and his course led him on a sharp
descent to the stream which cut the heart of the valley. Here, for two
hundred yards, trees and the declivity of the ground cut off his view,
but when he came to the higher ground again he found that he had
wandered only a few paces to the left of his original course.

The wall of the valley was now barely fifty yards away, and as nearly as
he could reckon the landmarks, the point at which the rider vanished was
at or near a shrub which grew close against the rock. For an instant
Pete thought that the tree might be a screen placed before the entrance
of a cave. Yet the rider had made no pause to set aside the screen. He
walked up to it and peered beneath the branches. He even fumbled at the
base of the trunk, to make sure that the roots actually entered the
earth. After this faint hope disappeared, Pete stepped back and sighed.
His reason vowed that it was at this point that the horse turned to air,
and Pete's was not a nature which admitted the supernatural.

He turned to the left and walked along the face of the cliff for fifty
paces. It was solid rock. A chill like a moving piece of ice went up
Pete's back.

He returned to the shrub and passed around it to the right.

At first he thought it merely the black shadow of the shrub. He stepped
closer and then crouched with his revolver raised, for before him opened
a crevice directly behind the shrub. It was a trifle over six feet high
and less than half that in width; a man could walk through that aperture
and lead a horse. Pete entered the passage with cautious steps.

Between each step he paused and listened. He put forth a foot and felt
the ground carefully with it, for fear of a pebble which might roll
beneath his weight, or a twig which might snap. His progress was so
painfully slow that he could not even estimate distances in the
pitch-dark. The passage grew higher and wider--it turned sharply to the
right--a faint light shone.

Pete crouched lower and the grin of expectancy twisted at his lips. At
every step, until this moment; he had scarcely dared to breathe, for
fear of the bullet which might find him out. Now all the advantage was
on his side. Behind him was the dark. Before him was the light which
must outline, however faintly, the figure of any one who lurked in wait.
With these things in mind he went on more rapidly. The passage widened
again and turned to the left. He peered cautiously around the edge of
rock and looked into as comfortable a living-room as he had ever seen.

The rock hung raggedly from the top of the cave, but the sides were
smooth from the action of running water through long, dead ages. The
floor was of level-packed gravel. Silver Pete remained crouched at the
sharp angle of the passage until he heard the stamp and snort of a
horse. It gave him heart and courage to continue the stealthy progress,
inch by inch, foot by foot, pace by pace toward the light, and as he
stole forward more and more of the cave developed before him.

A tall and sinewy horse was tethered at one end, and at the opposite
side sat a man with his back to Pete, who leveled his revolver and drew
a bead on a spot between the shoulder blades. Yet he did not fire, for
the thought came to him that if it were an honor to track the Ghost to
his abode and kill him, it would be immortal glory to bring back the
bandit alive, a concrete testimony to his own prowess.

Once more that catlike progress began until he could see that the Ghost
sat on his saddle in front of a level-topped boulder in lieu of a table.
The air was filled with the sweet savor of fried bacon and coffee. Pete
had crawled to the very edge of the cave when the horse threw up its
head and snorted loudly. The Ghost straightened and tilted back his head
to listen.

"Up with yer hands!" snarled Silver Pete.

He had his bead drawn and his forefinger tightened around the trigger,
but the Ghost did not even turn. His hands raised slowly above his
shoulders to the level of his head and remained there.

"Stand up!" said Pete, and rose himself from the ground, against which
he had flattened himself. For if the Ghost had decided to try a quick
play with his gun the shot in nine cases out of ten would travel

"Turn around!" ordered Pete, feeling more and more sure of himself as he
studied the slight proportions of the outlaw.

The Ghost turned and showed a face with a sad mouth and humorous eyes.

"By God!" cried Silver Pete, and took a pace back which brought his
shoulders against the wall of rock, "Geraldine!"

If the Ghost had had his gun on his hip he could have shot Pete ten
times during that moment of astonishment, but his belt and revolver hung
on a jutting rock five paces away. He dropped his hands to his hips and
smiled at his visitor.

"When they put you on the job, Pete," he said, "I had a hunch I should
beat it."

At this inferred compliment the twisted smile transformed one side of
Silver Pete's face with sinister pleasure, but there was still wonder in
his eyes.

"Damn me, Geraldine," he growled, "I can't believe my eyes!"

Geraldine smiled again.

"Oh, it's me, all right," he nodded. "You got me dead to rights, Pete.
What do you think the boys will do with me?"

"And you're--the Ghost?" sighed Silver Pete, pushing back his hat as
though to give his thoughts freer play. He had met many a man of grim
repute along the "border," but never such nonchalance as he found in the

"What'll they do with you?" he repeated, "I dunno. You ain't plugged
nobody, Geraldine. I reckon they'll ship you South and let the sheriff
handle you. Git away from that gun!"

For Geraldine had stepped back with apparent unconcern until he stood
within a yard of his revolver. He obeyed the orders with unshaken good
humor, but it seemed to Silver Pete that a yellow light gleamed for an
instant in the eyes of the Ghost. It was probably only a reflection from
the light of the big torch that burned in a corner of the cave.

"Gun?" grinned Geraldine. "Say, Pete, do you think I'd try and gunplay
while _you_ have the drop on me?"

He laughed.

"Nope," he went on. "If you was one of those tinhorn gunmen from the
town over yonder, I'd lay you ten to one I could drill you and make a
getaway, but you ain't one of them, Pete, and, seeing it's you, I ain't
going to try no funny stuff. I don't hanker after no early grave, Pete!"

This tribute set a placid glow of satisfaction in Pete's eyes.

"Take it from me, Geraldine," he said, "you're wise. But there ain't no
need for you to get scared of me so long as you play the game square and
don't try no fancy moves. Now show me where you got the loot stowed and
show it quick. If you don't--"

The threat was unfinished, for Geraldine nodded.

"Sure I'll show it to you, Pete," he said. "I know when I got a hand
that's worth playing, and I ain't a guy to bet a measly pair of treys
against a full house. Take a slant over there behind the rock and you'll
find it all."

He indicated a pile of stones of all sizes which lay heaped in a corner.
Pete backed toward it with his eye still upon the Ghost. A few kicks
scattered the rocks and exposed several small bags. When he stirred
these with his foot their weight was eloquent, and the gun-fighter's
smile broadened.

"Think of them tin-horns," he said, "that offered all your pickings to
the man that got you dead or alive, Geraldine!"

The Ghost sighed.

"Easy pickings," he agreed. "No more strong-arm work for you, Pete!"

The jaw of Silver Pete set sternly again.

"Lead your hoss over here," he said, "and help me stow this stuff in the
saddlebags. And if you make a move to get the hoss between me and you--"

The Ghost grinned in assent, saddled his mount, and led him to Pete.
Then in obedience to orders he unbuckled the slicker strapped behind the
saddle and converted it into a strong bag which easily held the bags of
loot. It made a small but ponderous burden, and he groaned with the
effort as he heaved it up behind the saddle and secured it. Pete took
the bridle and gestured at the Ghost with the revolver.

"Now git your hands up over your head agin, Geraldine," he said, "and go
out down the tunnel about three paces ahead of me."

"Better let me take the torch," suggested the Ghost, "it'll show us the

Pete grunted assent, and Geraldine, on his way toward the torch, stopped
at the boulder to finish off his coffee. He turned to Pete with the cup
poised at his lips.

"Say, Pete," he said genially. "Anything wrong with a cup of coffee and
a slice of bacon before we start back?"

"By God, Geraldine," grinned the gun-fighter, "you're a cool bird, but
your game is too old!"

Nevertheless his very soul yearned toward the savor of bacon and coffee.

"Game?" repeated the Ghost, who caught the gleam of Pete's eye. "What
game? I say let's start up the coffee-pot and the frying-pan. I can turn
out flapjacks browner than the ones mother used to make, Pete!"

Pete drew a great breath, for the taste of his flour and water diet of
the past few days was sour in his mouth.

"Geraldine," he said at last, "it's a go! But if you try any funny
passes I ain't going to wait for explanations. Slide out the chow!"

He rolled a large stone close to the boulder which served as
dining-table to the bandit, and sat down to watch the preparations. The
Ghost paid little attention to him, but hummed as he worked. Soon a fire
snapped and crackled. The coffee can straddled one end of the fire; the
frying-pan occupied the other. While the bacon fried he mixed
self-rising pancake flour in a tin plate, using water from a tiny stream
which trickled down from the rocks at one side of the cave, disappearing
again through a fissure in the floor. Next he piled the crisp slices of
bacon on a second tin plate and used the fried-out fat to cook the

"What I can't make out," said Geraldine, without turning to his guest,
"is why you'd do this job for those yellow livers over in the town."

Pete moved the tip of his tongue across his lips, for his mouth watered
in anticipation.

"Why, you poor nut," he answered compassionately, "I ain't working for
them. I'm working for the stuff that's up there behind the saddle."

Geraldine turned on him so suddenly that Pete tightened his grip upon
the revolver, but the Ghost merely stared at him.

"Say," he grinned at last, "have you got a hunch they'll really let you
walk off with all that loot?"

The face of the gunman darkened.

"I sure think they'll let me," he said with a sinister emphasis. "That
was the way they talked."

Geraldine sighed in apparent bewilderment, but turned back to his work
without further comment. In a few moments he rose with the plates of
bacon and flapjacks piled on his left arm and the can of coffee in his
right hand. He arranged them on the boulder before Silver Pete, and then
sat on his heels on the other side of the big stone. The gun-fighter
laid his revolver beside his tin cup and attacked the food with the will
of ten. Yet even while he ate the eye which continually lingered on the
Ghost noted that the latter stared at him with a curious and almost
pitying interest. He came to a pause at last, with a piece of bacon
folded in a flapjack.

"Look here," he said, "just what were you aiming at a while ago?"

Geraldine shrugged his shoulders and let his eye wander away as though
the subject embarrassed him.

"Damn it!" said Pete with some show of anger, "don't go staring around
like a cross-eyed girl. What's biting you?"

"It ain't my business," he said. "As long as I'm done for, I don't care
what they do to you."

He stopped and drummed his finger-tips against his chin while he scowled
at Pete.

"If it wasn't for you I'd be a free bird," he went on bitterly. "Do you
think I'm goin' to weep any of the salt and briny for you, what?" \

"Wha'd'ya mean?" Pete blurted. "D'ya mean to say them quitters are going
to double-cross me?"

The Ghost answered nothing, but the shrug of his shoulders was eloquent.
Pete started up with his gun in his hand.

"By God, Geraldine," he said, "you ain't playin' fair with me! Look what
I done for you. Any other man would of plugged you the minute they seen
you, but here I am lettin' you walk back safe and sound--treating you as
if you was my own brother, almost!"

He hesitated a trifle over this simile. Legend told many things of what
Silver Pete had done to his own brother. Nevertheless, Geraldine met his
stare with an eye full as serious.

"I'm going to do it," he said in a low voice, as if talking to himself.
"Just because you come out here and caught me like a man there ain't no
reason I should stand by and see you made a joke of. Pete, I'm going to
tell you!"

Pete settled back on his stone with his fingers playing nervously about
the handle of his gun.

"Make it short, Geraldine," he said with an ominous softness. "Tell me
what the wall-eyed cayuses figure on doin'!"

The Ghost studied him as if he found some difficulty in opening his
story in a delicate manner.

"Look here, Pete," he said at last. "There ain't no getting out of it
that some of the things you've done read considerable different from
Bible stories."

"Well?" snarled Silver Pete.

"Well," said the Ghost, "those two-card Johnnies over to town know
something of what you've done, and they figure to double-cross you."

He paused, and in the pause Pete's mouth twitched so that his teeth
glinted yellow.

"Anybody could say that," he remarked. "What's your proof?"

"Proof?" echoed the Ghost angrily. "Do you think I'm telling you this
for fun? No, Pete," he continued with a hint of sadness in his voice,
"it's because I don't want to see those guys do you dirt. You're a real
man and they're only imitation-leather. The only way they're tough is
their talk."

"Damn them!" commented Pete.

"Well," said Geraldine, settling into the thread of his narrative, "they
knew that once you left the town on this job you wouldn't come back
until you had the Ghost. Then when you started they got together and
figured this way. They said you was just a plain man-killer and that you
hadn't any more right to the reward than the man in the moon. So they
figured that right after you got back with the Ghost, dead or alive,
they'd have the sheriff pay you a little visit and stick you in the
coop. They've raked up plenty of charges against you, Peter."

"What?" asked Pete hoarsely.

The Ghost lowered his voice to an insinuating whisper.

"One thing is this. They say that once you went prospecting with a guy
called Red Horry. Horace was his right name."

Silver Pete shifted his eyes and his lips fixed in a sculptured grin.

"They say that you went with him and that you was pals together for
months at a time. They say once you were bit by a rattler and Red Horry
stuck by you and saved you and hunted water for you and cared for you
like a baby. They say you got well and went on prospecting together and
finally he struck a mine. It looked rich. Then one day you come back to
Truckee and say that Red Horry got caught in a landslide and was killed
and you took the mine. And they say that two years later they found a
skeleton, and through the skull, right between the eyes, was a little
round hole, powerful like a hole made by a .45. They say--"

"They lie!" yelled Silver Pete, rising. "And you lie like the rest of
them. I tell you it was--it was--"

"Huh!" said Geraldine, shrugging away the thought with apparent scorn.
"Of course they lie. Nobody could look at you and think you'd plug a
pal--not for nothing."

Pete dropped back to his stone.

"Go on," he said. "What else do they say?"

"I don't remember it all," said the Ghost, puckering his brows with the
effort of recollection, "but they got it all planned out when you come
back with the loot they'll take it and split it up between
them--one-third to Collins, because he made the plan first.

"They even made up a song about you," went on Geraldine, "and the song
makes a joke out of you all the way through, and it winds up like
this--you're supposed to be talking, see?

     "I don't expect no bloomin' tears;
     The only thing I ask
     Is something for a monument
     In the way of a whisky flask."

"Who made up the song, Geraldine?" asked Pete.

"I dunno," answered the Ghost. "I reckon Collins had a hand in it."

"Collins," repeated the gun-fighter. "It sounds like him. I'll get him

"And it was Collins," went on the Ghost, leaning a little forward across
the boulder, while he lowered his voice for secrecy. "It was Collins who
got them to send out three men to watch you from a distance. They was to
trail you and see that if you ever got to the Ghost you didn't make off
with the loot without showing up in town. Ever see anybody trailing you,

The gun-fighter flashed a glance over his shoulder toward the dark and
gaping opening of the passage from the cave. Then he turned back to the

"I never thought of it," he whispered. "I didn't know they was such
skunks. But, by God, they won't ever see the money! I'll take it and
line out for new hunting grounds."

"And me?" asked the Ghost anxiously.

"You?" said Silver Pete, and the whisper made the words trebly sinister.
"I can't leave you free to track me up, can I? I'll just tie you up and
leave you here."

"To starve?" asked the Ghost with horror.

"You chose your own house," said Pete, "an" now I reckon it's good
enough for you to live in it."

"But what'll you do if they're following you up?" suggested the Ghost.
"What'll you do if they've tracked you here and the sheriff with them?
What if they get you for Red Horry?"

The horse had wandered a few paces away. Now its hoof struck a loose
pebble which turned with a crunching sound like a footfall.

"My God!" yelled the Ghost, springing up and pointing toward the
entrance passage, "they've got you, Pete!"

The gun-fighter whirled to his feet, his weapon poised and his back to
the Ghost. Geraldine drew back his arm and lunged forward across the
boulder. His fist thudded behind Silver Pete's ear. The revolver
exploded and the bullet clicked against a rock, while Pete collapsed
upon his face, with his arms spread out crosswise. The Ghost tied his
wrists behind his back with a small piece of rope. Silver Pete groaned
and stirred, but before his brain cleared his ankles were bound fast and
drawn up to his wrists, so that he lay trussed and helpless. The Ghost
turned him upon one side and then, strangely enough, set about clearing
up the tinware from the boulder. This he piled back in its niche after
he had rinsed it at the runlet of water. A string of oaths announced the
awakening of Silver Pete. Geraldine went to him and leaned over his

Pete writhed and cursed, but Geraldine kneeled down and brushed the sand
out of the gun-fighter's hair and face. Then he wiped the blood from a
small cut on his chin where his face struck a rock when he fell.

"I have to leave you now, Pete," he said, rising from this work of
mercy. "You've been good company, Pete, but a little of you goes a long

He turned and caught his horse by the bridle.

"For God's sake!" groaned Silver Pete, and Geraldine turned. "Don't
leave me here to die by inches. I done some black things, Geraldine, but
never nothing as black as this. Take my own gun and pull a bead on me
and we'll call everything even."

The Ghost smiled on him.

"Think it over, Pete," he said. "I reckon you got enough to keep your
mind busy. So-long!"

He led his horse slowly down the passage, and the shouts and pleadings
of Silver Pete died out behind him. At the mouth of the passage his
greatest shout rang no louder than the hum of a bee.

Grimly silent was the conclave in Billy Hillier's saloon. That evening,
while the sunset was still red in the west, the Ghost had stopped the
stage scarcely a mile from Murrayville, shot the sawed-off shotgun out
of the very hands of the only guard who dared to raise a weapon, and had
taken a valuable packet of the "dust." They sent out a posse at once,
which rode straight for Hunter's Caon, and arrived there just in time
to see the fantom horseman disappear in the mouth of the ravine. They
had matched speed with that rider before, and they gave up the vain
pursuit. That night they convened in Hillier's, ostensibly to talk over
new plans for apprehending the outlaw, but they soon discovered that
nothing new could be said. Even Collins was silent, twisting his glass
of whisky between his fingers and scowling at his neighbors along the
bar. It was small wonder, therefore, if not a man smiled when a singing
voice reached them from a horseman who cantered down the street:

     "I don't expect no bloomin' tears;
     The only thing I ask
     Is something for a monument
     In the way of a whisky flask."

The sound of the gallop died out before the saloon, the door opened, and
Geraldine staggered into the room, carrying a small but apparently
ponderous burden in his arms. He lifted it to the bar which creaked
under the weight.

"Step up and liquor!" cried Geraldine in a ringing voice. "I got the

A growl answered him. It was a topic over which they were not prepared
to laugh.

"Get out and tell that to your hoss, son," said one miner. "We got other
things to think about than your damfoolery."

"Damfoolery?" echoed Geraldine. "Step up and look at the loot! Dust,
boys, real dust!"

He untied the mouth of a small buckskin bag and shoved it under the nose
of the man who had spoken to him. The latter jumped back with a yell and
regarded Geraldine with fascinated eyes.

"By God, boys," he said, "it _is_ dust!"

Geraldine fought off the crowd with both hands.

"All mine!" he cried. "Mine, boys! You voted the loot to the man who
caught the Ghost!"

"And where's the Ghost?" asked several men together.

"Geraldine," said Collins, pushing through the crowd, "if this is
another joke we'll hang you for it!"

"It's too heavy for a joke," grinned Geraldine. "I'll put the loot in
your hands, Collins, and when I show you the Ghost I'll ask for it

Collins caught his shoulder in a strong grasp.

"Honest to God?" he asked. "Have you got him?"

"I have," said Geraldine, "and I'll give him to you on one ground."

"Out with it," said Collins.

"Well," said Geraldine, "when you see him you'll recognize him. He's
been one of us!"

"I knew it," growled Collins; "some dirty dog that lived with us and
knifed us in the back all the time."

"But, remember," said Geraldine, "he never shot to kill, and that's why
you sha'n't string him up. Is it a bargain?"

"It's a bargain," said Collins, "we'll turn him over to the sheriff. Are
you with me, boys?"

They yelled their agreement, and in thirty seconds every man who had a
horse was galloping after Collins and Geraldine. At the shrub beside the
wall of the valley Geraldine drew rein, and they followed him in an awed
and breathless body into the passage.

"I went out scouting on my own hook," explained Geraldine, as he went
before them, "and I saw the Ghost ride down the caon and disappear in
here. I followed him."

"Followed up this passage all alone?" queried Collins.

"I did," said Geraldine.

"And what did you do to him?"

"You'll see in a minute. There was only one shot fired, and it came from
his gun."

They turned the sharp angle and entered the lighted end of the passage.
In another moment they crowded into the cave and stood staring at the
tightly bound figure of Silver Pete. His eyes burned furiously into the
face of Geraldine. The men swarmed about his prostrate body.

"Untie his feet, boys," said Collins, "and we'll take him back. Silver
Pete, you can thank your lucky stars that Geraldine made us promise to
turn you over to the law."

"How did you do it?" he continued, turning to Geraldine.

"I'm not very handy with a gun," said the Ghost, "so I tackled him with
my fists. Look at that cut on his jaw. That's where I hit him!"

A little murmur of wonder passed around the group. One of them cut the
rope which bound Pete's ankles together, and two more dragged him to his

"Stand up like a man, Pete," said Collins, "and thank Geraldine for not
cutting out your rotten heart!"

But Silver Pete, never moving his eyes from the face of the Ghost, broke
into a long and full-throated laugh.

"Watch him, boys!" called Collins sharply. "He's going looney! Here,
Jim, grab on that side and I'll take him here. Now start down the

Yet, as they went forward, the rumbling laugh of the gun-fighter broke
out again and again.

"I got to leave you here," said the Ghost, when they came out from the
mouth of the passage. "My way runs east, and I got a date at Tuxee for
to-night. I'll just trouble you for that there slicker with the dust in
it, Collins."

Without a word the vigilance men unstrapped the heavy packet which he
had tied behind his saddle. He fastened it behind Geraldine's saddle and
then caught him by the hand.

"Geraldine," he said, "you're a queer cuss! We haven't made you out yet,
but we're going to take a long look at you when you come back to
Murrayville to-morrow."

"When I come back," said Geraldine, "you can look at me as long as you

His eyes changed, and he laid a hand on Collins's shoulder.

"Take it from me," he said softly, "you've given me your word that the
boys won't do Pete dirt. Remember, he never plugged any of you. He's got
his hands tied now, Collins, and if any of the boys try fancy stunts
with him--maybe I'll be making a quick trip back from Tuxee. Savvy?"

His eyes held Collins for the briefest moment, and then he swung into
his saddle and rode east with the farewell yells of the posse ringing
after him. By the time they were in their saddles Geraldine had topped a
hill several hundred yards away and his figure was black against the
moon. A wind from the east blew back his song to them faintly:

     "I don't expect no bloomin' tears;
     The only thing I ask
     Is something for a monument
     In the way of a whisky flask."

"Look at him, boys," said Collins, turning in his saddle. "If it wasn't
for what's happened to-night, I'd lay ten to one that that was the Ghost
on the wing for his hiding-place!"


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