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Brand blotters


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Title:BrandBlotters
Author:WilliamMacLeodRaine
Illustrator:ClarenceRowe
ReleaseDate:December7,2008[EBook#27436]
Language:English

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“WHOAREYOU?”“WATER!”HEGASPED.Page20.



BRANDBLOTTERS
BY

WILLIAMMACLEODRAINE
AUTHOROF
WYOMING,BUCKYO’CONNOR,MAVERICKS,
ATEXASRANGER,RIDGWAYOF
MONTANA,ETC.
ILLUSTRATIONSBY

CLARENCEROWE

GROSSET&DUNLAP
PUBLISHERSNEWYORK
MadeintheUnitedStatesofAmerica


Copyright,1909,byJ.B.LIPPINCOTTCO.
Copyright,1911,bySTREET&SMITH
COPYRIGHT,1912,BY
G.W.DILLINGHAMCOMPANY
BrandBlotters


TO
FRANKN.SPINDLER
InMemoryofCertainSundayAfternoonTramps
LongAgo,DuringWhichWeSolvedthe
ProblemsoftheNation


CONTENTS
PARTI
MELISSYOFTHEBARDOUBLEG
CHAPTER

I
II
III


IV
V
VI
VII
VIII
IX
X
XI
XII
XIII
XIV

PAGE

ACROSSEDTRAIL
BRANDBLOTTING
ANACCUSATION
THEMANWITHTHECHIHUAHUAHAT
THETENDERFOOTTAKESUPACLAIM
”HANDSUP”
WATERINGSHEEP
THEBOONE-BELLAMYFEUDISRENEWED
THEDANGERLINE
JACKGOESTOTHEHEADOFTHECLASS
ACONVERSATION
THETENDERFOOTMAKESAPROPOSITION
OLDACQUAINTANCES
CONCERNINGTHEBOONE-BELLAMY-YARNELL
FEUD

11
18
35
49
61
75
98
109
121
141
156
163
182
191

PARTII
DeadMAN’SCACHE
CHAPTER

I
II
III
IV
V
VI

PAGE

KIDNAPPED
ACAPTURE
THETABLESTURNED
THEREALBUCKYANDTHEFALSE
APHOTOGRAPH
INDEADMAN’SCACHE

199
209
217
231
243
255


VII
VIII
IX
X
XI
XII
XIII
XIV

“TRAPPED!”
ANESCAPEANDACAPTURE
ABARGAIN
THEPRICE
SQUIRELATIMERTAKESAHAND
THETAKINGOFTHECACHE
MELISSYENTERTAINS
BLACKMACQUEENCASHESHISCHECKS

266
276
286
301
306
322
334
340


PARTI
MELISSYOFTHEBARDOUBLEG
11


CHAPTERI
ACROSSEDTRAIL

Thetenderfootrosefromtheledgeuponwhichhehadbeenlyingandstretched
himselfstiffly.Thechillofthelongnighthadsethimshivering.Hisbonesached
fromthepressureofhisbodyupontherockwherehehadsleptandwakedand
dozedagainwithtroubleddreams.Thesharpnessofhishungermadehimlightheaded.Thirsttorturedhim.Histhroatwasalime-kiln,histongueswollentillit
filledhismouth.
If the night had been bad, he knew the day would be a hundred times worse.
Already a gray light was sifting into the hollow of the sky. The vague misty
outlines of the mountains were growing sharper. Soon from a crotch of them
wouldrisearedhotcannonballtopouritsheatintotheparcheddesert.
HewasheadedfortheSonoraline,forthehillswherehehadheardamanmight
drop out of sight of the civilization that had once known him. There were
12
reasonswhyhehadstartedinahurry,withoutahorseorfoodoracanteen,and
these same reasons held good why he could not follow beaten tracks. All
yesterday he had traveled without sighting a ranch or meeting a human being.
Butheknewhemustgettowatersoon—ifheweretoreachitatall.
Alightbreezewasstirring,andonittherewasbornetohimafaintrumbleasof
thunder.Instantlythemancametoarigidalertness.Thundermightmeanrain,
andrainwouldbesalvation.Butthesounddidnotdieaway.Instead,itdeepened
to a steady roar, growing every instant louder. His startled glance swept the
cañonthatdrovelikeaswordcleftintothehills.Pouringdownit,withtherush
ofatidalwave,cameawallofcattle,athousandbackstossingupanddownas
theswellofatroubledsea.Thoughhehadneverseenonebefore,themanonthe
lipofthegulchknewthathewaswatchingacattlestampede.Undertheimpact
ofthegallopinghoofsthegrounduponwhichhestoodquaked.
Acrydivertedhisattention.Fromthebedofthesandywashamanhadstarted
upandwasrunningforhislifetowardthecañonwalls.Beforehehadtakenhalf

13


adozenstepstheavalanchewasuponhim,hadcuthimdown,sweptoverhim.
Thethudofthehoofsdiedaway.Intotheopendesertthestampedehadpassed.
Ahuddledmasslaymotionlessonthesandinthetrackoftheavalanche.
Alongraggedbreathwhistledthroughtheclosedlipsofthetenderfoot.Heran
along the edge of the rock wall till he found a descent less sharp, lowered
himselfbymeansofjuttingquartzandmesquitcroppingoutfromthecrevices,
andsocamethroughalittledrawtothecañon.
He dropped on a knee beside the sprawling, huddled figure. No second glance
was needed to see that the man was dead. Life had been trampled out of him
almost instantly and his features battered beyond any possible recognition.
Unusedtoscenesofviolence,thestrangerstoopingoverhimfeltsuddenlysick.
Itmadehimshuddertorememberthatifhecouldhavefoundawaydowninthe
darknesshe,too,wouldhavesleptinthewarmsandofthedrywash.Ifhehad,
thefateofthismanwouldhavebeenhis.
Underthedoubledbodywasacanteen.Thetremblingfingersofthetenderfoot
unscrewedthecork.Tippingthevessel,hedrankavidly.Oneswallow,asecond,
thenafewtricklingdrops.Thecanteenhadbeenalmostempty.
Uncovering,hestoodbareheadedbeforetheinertbodyandspokegentlyinthe
low,softvoiceoneinstinctivelyusesinthepresenceofthedead.
“Friend, I couldn’t save your life, but your water has saved mine, I reckon.
Anyhow,itgivesmeanotherchancetofightforit.IwishIcoulddosomething
foryou...carryamessagetoyourfolksandtellthemhowithappened.”
Hedroppeddownagainbesidethedeadmanandrifledthepockets.Inthemhe
found two letters addressed in an illiterate hand to James Diller, Cananea,
Sonora, Mexico. An idea flashed into his brain and for a moment held him
motionless while he worked it out. Why not? This man was about his size,
dressedmuchlikehim,andsomutilatedthatidentificationwasimpossible.
Fromhisownpockethetookaleatherbillbookandamonogrammedcigarcase.
Withasharpstonehescarredtheformer.Themetalcasehecrushedoutofshape
beneath the heel of his boot. Having first taken one twenty dollar yellowback
from the well-padded book, he slipped it and the cigarcase into the inner coat
pocketofthedeadman.Irregularlyinadozenplaceshegashedwithhisknife
thederbyhathewaswearing,rippedthebandhalfloose,draggeditinthedust,
andjumpedonittillthehatwasflatasapancake.Finallyhekickeditintothe
sandadozenyardsaway.


“Thecattlewouldgetittangledintheirhoofsanddragitthatfarwiththem,”he
surmised.
Thesoftgrayhatofthedeadmanhehimselfappropriated.Againhespoketothe
lifelessbody,loweringhisvoicetoamurmur.
“Ireckonyouwouldn’tgrudgemethisifyouknew.I’mupagainstit.IfIgetout
ofthesehillsaliveI’llbelucky.ButifIdo—well,itwon’tdoyouanyharmto
bemistakenforme,anditwillaccommodatememightily.Ihatetoleaveyou
herealone,butit’swhatI’vegottodotosavemyself.”
Heturnedawayandploddedupthedrycreekbed.
The sun was at the meridian when three heavily armed riders drew up at the
mouth of the cañon. They fell into the restful, negligent postures of horsemen
accustomedtotaketheireaseinthesaddle.
“Do you figure maybe he’s working up to the headwaters of Dry Sandy?” one
suggested.
A squat, bandy-legged man with a face of tanned leather presently answered.
“No, Tim, I expect not. The way I size him up Mr. Richard Bellamy wouldn’t
knowDrySandyfromanirrigationditch.Mr.R.B.hopeshe’shittin’thehigh
spotsforSonora,butheain’tanywayssure.Rightaboutnowhe’sridin’thegrub
line,unlesshe’smadeastrikesomewhere.”
Thethirdmemberoftheparty,alean,wide-shouldered,sinewyyouth,bluesilk
kerchiefknottedlooselyaroundhisneck,brokeinwithagesturethatsweptthe
sky.“Funnyaboutallthembuzzards.Whataretheydoinghere,sheriff?”
The squat man opened his mouth to answer, but Tim took the word out of his
mouth.
“Look!” His arm had shot straight out toward the cañon. A coyote was
disappearing on the lope. “Something lying there in the wash at the bend,
Burke.”
SheriffBurkeslidhisriflefromitsscabbard.“We’llnottakeanychances,boys.
Spreadoutfarasyou can.Tim, ride closetotheleftwall.You keepalongthe
rightone,Flatray.Me,I’lltakethecenter.That’sright.”
Theyrodeforwardcautiously.OnceFlatrayspoke.
“Bythetrackstherehasbeenalotofcattledownhereonthejumprecently.”


“That’swhat,”Timagreed.
Flatrayswungfromhissaddleandstoopedoverthebodylyingatthebendofthe
wash.
“Crushedtodeathinacattlestampede,lookslike,”hecalledtothesheriff.
“Searchhim,Jack,”thesheriffordered.
The young man gave an exclamation of surprise. He was standing with a
cigarcaseinonehandandabillbookintheother.“It’sthemanwe’reafter—it’s
Bellamy.”
Burkelefthishorseandcameforward.“Howdoyouknow?”
“Initialsonthecigarcase,R.B.Samemonogramonthebillbook.”
Thesheriffhadstoopedtopickupabatteredhatashemovedtowardthedeputy.
Nowheshowedtheinitialsstampedonthesweatband.“R.B.here,too.”
“Suit of gray clothes, derby hat, size and weight about medium. We’ll never
know about the scar on the eyebrow, but I guess Mr. Bellamy is identified
withoutthat.”
“Musthavecampedherelastnightandwhilehewasasleepthecattlestampeded
downthecañon,”Timhazarded.
“That guess is as good as any. They ce’tainly stomped the life out of him
thorough.Anyhow,Bellamyhasmetupwithhispunishment.We’llhavetopack
thebodybacktotown,boys,”thesherifftoldthem.
Half an hour later the party filed out to the creosote flats and struck across
countrytowardMesa.FlatraywasridingpillionbehindTim.Hisownhorsewas
beingusedasapacksaddle.


CHAPTERII
BRANDBLOTTING

Thetenderfoot,slitheringdownahillsideofshale,caughtatagreasewoodbush
andwaited.Thesoundofarifleshothaddriftedacrosstheridgetohim.Friend
orfoe,itmadenodifferencetohimnow.Hehadreachedtheendofhistether,
mustgettowatersoonorgiveupthefight.
No second shot broke the stillness. A swift zigzagged across the cattle trail he
was following. Out of a blue sky the Arizona sun still beat down upon a land
parched by æons of drought, a land still making its brave show of greenness
againstadunbackground.
Arrow straight the man made for the hill crest. Weak as a starved puppy, his
knees bent under him as he climbed. Down and up again a dozen times, he
pushed feverishly forward. All day he had been seeing things. Cool lakes had
dancedonthehorizonlinebeforehistorturedvision.Strangefancieshadpassed
19
inandoutofhismind.Hewonderedifthis,too,wereadelusion.Howlongthat
stiffascenttookhimheneverknew,butatlasthereachedthesummitandcrept
overitscactus-coveredshoulder.
Helookedintoavalleydressedinitsyoungspringgarb.Ofalldesertsthisisthe
loveliestwhentheearlyrainshavegivenrebirthtothehopethatstirswithinits
bosomonceayear.Butthetenderfootsawnothingofitspatheticpromise,ofits
fragilebeautysosoontobeblasted.Hissunkeneyessweptthesceneandfound
atfirstonlyadesertwasteinwhichlaydeath.
“Ilose,”hesaidtohimselfoutloud.
Withthewordshegaveupthelongstruggleandsanktotheground.Forhours
hehadbeenexhaustedtothelimitofendurance,butthewilltolivehadkepthim
going.Nowthedrivingforcewithinhadrundown.Hewoulddiewherehelay.
Another instant, and he was on his feet again eager, palpitant, tremulous. For
plainlytherehadcometohimthebleatingofacalf.


Moving to the left, he saw rising above the hill brow a thin curl of smoke. A
dozenstaggeringstepsbroughthimtotheedgeofadraw.Thereinthehollow
below,almostwithinastone’sthrow,wasayoungwomanbendingoverafire.
He tried to call, but his swollen tongue and dry throat refused the service.
Instead,hebegantoruntowardher.
Beyondthewashwasadeadcow.Notfarfromitlayacalfonitsside,allfour
feet tied together. From the fire the young woman took a red-hot running iron
andmovedtowardthelittlebleater.
Thecracklingofatwigbroughtheraroundasasuddentightreindoesahighstrunghorse.Themanhademergedfromthepricklypearsandwascloseupon
her.Hisstepsdragged.Thesagofhisshouldersindicatedextremefatigue.The
darkhollowsbeneaththeeyestoldofdaysoftorment.
The girl stood before him slender and straight. She was pale to the lips. Her
breathcamefastandraggedasifshehadbeenrunning.
Abruptlysheshotherchallengeathim.“Whoareyou?”
“Water,”hegasped.
Oneswift,searchinglookthegirlgavehim,then“Wait!”sheordered,andwas
off into the mesquit on the run. Three minutes later the tenderfoot heard her
gallopingthroughthebrush.Withaquick,tightreinshedrewup,swungfrom
thesaddleexpertlyasavaquero,andbegantountieacanteenheldbybuckskin
thongstothesideofthesaddle.
Hedranklong,drainingthevesseltothelastdrop.
Fromhersaddlebagsshebroughttwosandwicheswrappedinoiledpaper.
“You’rehungry,too,Iexpect,”shesaid,hereyesshiningwithtenderpity.
Sheobservedthathedidnotwolfhisfood,voraciousthoughhewas.Whilehe
ate she returnedto the fire with the running iron and heaped live coals around
theendofit.
“You’vehadaprettytoughtimeofit,”shecalledacrosstohimgently.
“Ithasn’tbeenexactlyapicnic,butI’mallrightnow.”
The girl liked the way he said it. Whatever else he was—and already faint
doubtswerebeginningtostirinher—hewasnotaquitter.
“Youwereaboutallin,”shesaid,watchinghim.


“Justaboutonelittlekickleftinme,”hesmiled.
“That’swhatIthought.”
She busied herself over the fire inspecting the iron. The man watched her
curiously.Whatcoulditmean?Acowkilledwantonly,acalfbawlingwithpain
and fear, and this girl responsible for it. The tenderfoot could not down the
suspicion stirring in his mind. He knew little of the cattle country. But he had
read books and had spent a week in Mesa not entirely in vain. The dead cow
withthelittlestainofreddownitsnosepointedsurelytoonething.Hewasnear
enoughtoseeaholeintheforeheadjustabovetheeyes.Instinctivelyhisgaze
passedtotheriflelyinginthesandclosetohishand.Herbackwasstillturnedto
him.Heleanedover,drewtheguntohim,andthrewoutanemptyshellfromthe
barrel.
Attheclickoftheleverthegirlswungarounduponhim.
“Whatareyoudoing?”shedemanded.
Heputtherifledownhurriedly.“Justseeingwhatmakeitis.”
“Andwhatmakeisit?”sheflashed.
Hewastrapped.“Ihadn’tfoundoutyet,”hestammered.
“No,butyoufoundouttherewasanemptyshellinit,”sheretortedquickly.
Theireyesfastened.Shewasgrayasashes,butshedidnotflinch.Bychancehe
had stumbled upon the crime of crimes in Cattleland, had caught a rustler
redhandedatwork.Lookingintothefineface,nostrilsdelicatelyfashioned,eyes
clearanddeep,thethingwasscarcecredibleofher.Why,shecouldnotbeaday
morethantwenty,andineverylineofherwasthelookofpride,ofgoodblood.
“Yes,Ihappenedtothrowitout,”heapologized.
Butshewouldhavenoevasion,wouldnotlethisdoubtssleep.Therewassuperb
courageinthescornfulferocitywithwhichsheretorted.
“Happened!AndIsupposeyouhappenedtonoticethatthebrandonthecowisa
BarDoubleG,whilethatonthecalfisdifferent.”
“No,Ihaven’tnoticedthat.”
“Plentyoftimetoseeityet.”Then,withaswiftblazeoffeeling,“What’stheuse
ofpretending?Iknowwhatyouthink.”
“ThenyouknowmorethanIdo.Mythoughtsdon’tgoanyfartherthanthis,that


youhavesavedmylifeandI’mgratefulforit.”
“Iknowbetter.YouthinkI’marustler.Butdon’tsayit.Don’tyoudaresayit.”
Brought up in an atmosphere of semi-barbaric traditions, silken-strong, with
instincts unwarped by social pressure, she was what the sun and wind and
freedomofArizonahadmadeher,apoeticcreationfarfromcommonplace.So
he judged her, and in spite of the dastardly thing she had done he sensed an
innaterefinementstrangelyatvariancewiththecircumstances.
“Allright.Iwon’t,”heanswered,withafaintsmile.
“Now you’ve got to pay for your sandwiches by making yourself useful. I’m
goingtofinishthisjob.”Shesaiditwithanedgeofself-scorn.Heguessedher
furiouswithself-contempt.
Underherdirectionshekneltonthecalfsoastoholditsteadywhilesheplied
thehotiron.Theodorofburnthairandfleshwasalreadyacridinhisnostrils.
UpontheredflankFwaswritteninraw,searedflesh.Hejudgedthatthebrand
shewantedwasnotyetcomplete.Probablytheironhadgottoocoldtofinishthe
work,andshehadbeenforcedtoreheatit.
The little hand that held the running iron was trembling. Looking up, the
tenderfootsawthatshewaswhiteenoughtofaint.
“Ican’tdoit.You’llhavetoletmeholdhimwhileyoublurthebrand,”shetold
him.
They changed places. She set her teeth to it and held the calf steady, but the
brandernoticedthatshehadtolookawaywhenthered-hotironcamenearthe
fleshofthevictim.
“Blurthebrandrightout.Doitquick,please,”sheurged.
A sizzle of burning skin, a piteous wail from the tortured animal, an acrid
pungentodor,andthethingwasdone.Thegirlgottoherfeet,quiveringlikean
aspen.
“Haveyouaknife?”sheaskedfaintly.
“Yes.”
“Cuttherope.”
The calf staggered to all fours, shook itself together, and went bawling to the
deadmother.


Thegirldrewadeepbreath.“Theysayitdoesnothurtexceptwhileitisbeing
done.”
His bleak eyes met hers stonily. “And of course it will soon get used to doing
withoutitsmother.Thatisameredetail.”
Ashudderwentthroughher.
Thewholethingwasincomprehensibletohim.Whyunderheavenhadshedone
it? How could one so sensitive have done a wanton cruel thing like this? Her
reason he could not fathom. The facts that confronted him were that she had
doneit,andhadmeanttocarrythecrimethrough.Onlydetectionhadchanged
herpurpose.
Sheturneduponhim,plainlysickofthewholebusiness.“Let’sgetawayfrom
here.Where’syourhorse?”
“Ihaven’tany.Istartedonfootandgotlost.”
“Fromwhere?”
“FromMammoth.”
Sharplyherkeeneyesfixedhim.HowcouldamanhavegotlostnearMammoth
and wandered here? He would have had to cross the range, and even a child
wouldhaveknownenoughtoturnbackintothevalleywherethetownlay.
“Howlongago?”
“Daybeforeyesterday.”Headdedafteramoment:“Iwaslookingforajob.”
Shetookinthesofthandsandtheunweatheredskinofthedarkface.“Whatsort
ofajob?”
“AnythingIcando.”
“Butwhatcanyoudo?”
“Icanride.”
Shemusttakehimhomewithher,ofcourse,andfeedandresthim.Thatwent
withoutsaying.Butwhatafterthat?Heknewtoomuchtobeturnedadriftwith
thestoryofwhathehadseen.Ifshecouldgetaholdonhim—whetheroffearor
of gratitude—so as to insure his silence, the truth might yet be kept quiet. At
leastshecouldtry.
“Didyoueverridetherange?”


“No.”
“Whatsortofworkhaveyoudone?”
Afterascarcelynoticeablepause,“Clericalwork,”heanswered.
“You’refromtheEast?”shesuggested,hereyesnarrowing.
“Yes.”
“MynameisMelissyLee,”shetoldhim,watchinghimverysteadily.
Oncemoretheleastofpauses.“MineisDiller—JamesDiller.”
“That’sfunny.Iknowanothermanofthatname.Atleast,Iknowhimbysight.”
The man who had called himself Diller grew wary. “It’s a common enough
name.”
“Yes.IfIfindyouworkatmyfather’sranchwouldyoubetooparticularabout
whatitis?”
“Tryme.”
“Andyourmemory—isitinconvenientlygood?”Herglancesweptasbychance
overthesceneofherrecentoperations.
“I’vegotarightgoodforgettery,too,”heassuredher.
“You’renotinthehabitoftalkingmuchaboutthethingsyousee.”Sheputitin
theformofastatement,buttherisinginflectionindicatedtheinterrogative.
Hisblackeyesmetherssteadily.“Icanpadlockmymouthwhenitisnecessary,”
heanswered,thesuggestionofaSoutherndrawlinhisintonation.
Shewantedanassurancemoredirect.“Whenyouthinkitnecessary,Isuppose.”
“ThatiswhatImeanttosay.”
“Come.Onegoodturndeservesanother.Whataboutthis?”Shenoddedtoward
thedeadcow.
“IhavenotseenathingIoughtnottohaveseen.”
“Didn’tyouseemeblotabrandonthatcalf?”
Heshookhishead.“Can’trecallitatall,MissLee.”
Swiftlyherkeenglancerakedhimagain.Judgedbyhisclothes,hewasoneof
theworld’sineffectives,flotsamtossed intothedesertbythewashoffate;but
there was that in the steadiness of his eye, in the set of his shoulders, in the


carriageofhislean-loined,slimbodythatspokeofbreeding.Hewasnoboozefighting grubliner. Disguised though he was in cheap slops, she judged him a
manofparts.Hewoulddototrust,especiallysinceshecouldnothelpherself.
“We’llbegoing.Youtakemyhorse,”sheordered.
“Andletyouwalk?”
“Howlongsinceyouhaveeaten?”sheaskedbrusquely.
“Aboutsevenminutes,”hesmiled.
“Butbeforethat?”
“Twodays.”
“Well,then.Anybodycanseeyou’reasweakasakitten.DoasIsay.”
“Whycan’twebothride?”
“Wecanassoonaswegetacrossthepass.UntilthenI’llwalk.”
Erectasawillowsapling,shetookthehillswithanelasticeasethatshowedher
deep-bosomed in spite of her slenderness. The short corduroy riding skirt and
high-lacedbootsweremadeforuse,notgrace,butthemaninthesaddlefound
eveninhermannerofwalkingthecharmofherdirect,youngcourage.Freeof
limb, as yet unconscious of sex, she had the look of a splendid boy. The
descending sun was in her sparkling hair, on the lank, undulating grace of her
changinglines.
Activeasacatthoughitwas,thecowponyfoundthesteeppasswithitsloose
rubble hard going. Melissy took the climb much easier. In the way she sped
throughthemesquit,evadingtheclutchofthechollabysuppledipstorightand
left,therewasakindofpantherinelitheness.
Atthesummitshewaitedforthehorsetoclamberuptheshaleafterher.
“Get down in your collar, you Buckskin,” she urged, and when the pony was
againbesideherpettedtheanimalwithlittlelovepatsonthenose.
Carelessly she flung at Diller a question. “From what part of the East did you
say?”
Hewasonthespotpromptlythistime.“FromKeokuk.”
“Keokuk,Indiana?”
“Iowa,”hesmiled.


“Oh,isitIowa?”Hehadsidesteppedherlittletrap,butshedidnotgiveup.“Just
arrived?”
“I’vebeenherdingsheepforamonth.”
“Oh, sheep-herding!” Her disdain implied that if he were fit for nothing better
thansheep-herding,theWestcouldfindpreciouslittleuseforhim.
“ItwasallIcouldgettodo.”
“WheredidyousayyouwrangledMary’slittlelamb?”
“IntheCatalinas.”
“Whoseoutfit?”
Questionandanswerweretossedbackandforthlightly,butbothwerewatching
warily.
“Outfit?”herepeated,puzzled.
“Yes.Whowereyouworkingfor?”
“Don’trememberhisname.HewasaMexican.”
“MusthavebeenoneofthecampsofAntonioValdez.”
“Yes,that’sit.That’sthename.”
“OnlyherunshissheepintheGaliuros,”shedemurred.
“IsittheGaliuros?ThoseSpanishnames!Ican’tkeepthemapartinmymind.”
Shelaughedwithhard,youngcruelty.“Itishardtorememberwhatyounever
heard,isn’tit?”
Themanwasontherack.Tinybeadsofperspirationstoodoutonhisforehead.
Buthegotalipsmileintoworkingorder.
“Justwhatdoyoumean,MissLee?”
“You had better get your story more pat. I’ve punched a dozen holes in it
already.FirstyoutellmeyouarefromtheEast,andevenwhileyouweretelling
me I knew you were a Southerner from the drawl. No man ever got lost from
Mammoth. You gave a false name. You said you had been herding sheep, but
you didn’t know what an outfit is. You wobbled between the Galiuros and the
Catalinas.”
“I’mnotanative.ItoldyouIcouldn’trememberSpanishnames.”


“Itwasn’tnecessarytotellme,”shecounteredquickly.“Amanthatcan’trecall
eventhenameofhisboss!”
“I’mnotinthewitnessbox,MissLee,”hetoldherstiffly.
“Notyet,butyou’reliabletobesoon,Ireckon.”
“Inacattlerustlingcase,Isupposeyoumean.”
“No,Idon’t.”Shewentonwithherindictmentofhisstory,thoughhisthrusthad
brought the color to her cheek. “When I offered you Antonio Valdez for an
employeryoujumpedathim.Ifyouwanttoknow,hehappenstobeourherder.
Hedoesn’townasheepandneverwill.”
“Youknowallaboutit,”hesaidwithobvioussarcasm.
“Iknowyou’renotwhoyousayyouare.”
“PerhapsyouknowwhoIamthen.”
“Idon’tknoworcare.It’snoneofmybusiness.Butothersmaythinkitistheirs.
You can’t be so reckless with the truth without folks having notions. If I were
youI’dgetastorythatwillhangtogether.”
“You’resuchagooddetective.MaybeIcouldgetyoutoinventoneforme,”he
suggestedmaliciously.
Herindignationflashed.“I’mnosuchthing.ButI’mnotquiteafool.Ababein
armswouldn’tswallowthatfairytale.”
Awkward as her knowledge might prove, he could not help admiring the
resourceandshrewdnessofthegirl.Shehadvirtuallyservednoticethatifshe
hadasecretthatneededkeepingsohadhe.
Theylookeddownoveradesertgreenwithbajadas,pricklypears,andmesquit.
Totheright,closetoaspurofthehills,werethedwarfedhousesofaranch.The
fansofawindmillcaughtthesunandflasheditbacktothetravelers.
“TheBarDoubleG.Myfatherownsit,”MissLeeexplained.
“Oh!Yourfatherownsit.”Hereflectedamomentwhilehestudiedher.“Let’s
understandeachother,MissLee.I’mnotwhatIclaimtobe,yousay.We’llputit
thatyouhaveguessedright.Whatdoyouintendtodoaboutit?I’mwillingtobe
madewelcomeattheBarDoubleG,butIdon’twanttobetoowelcome.”
“I’mnotgoingtodoanything.”
“SolongasIremembernottorememberwhatI’veseen.”


ThebloodburnedinhercheeksbeneaththeirArizonatan.Shedidnotlookat
him.“Ifyouliketoputitthatway.”
Hecountedittohercreditthatshewasashamedofthebargainineveryhonest
fiberofher.
“NomatterwhattheysayI’vedone.You’llkeepfaith?”
“Idon’tcarewhatyou’vedone,”sheflungbackbitterly.“It’snoneofmyaffair.I
toldyouthatbefore.Mencomeouthereforallsortsofreasons.Wedon’taskfor
abillofparticulars.”
“Then I’ll be right glad to go down to the Bar Double G with you, and say
thanksforthechance.”
He had dismounted when they first reached the pass. Now she swung to the
saddle and he climbed behind her. They reached presently one of the nomadic
trailsofthecattlecountrywhichwanderleisurelyaroundhillsandovergulches
along the line of least resistance. This brought them to a main traveled road
leadingtotheranch.
Theyrodeinsilenceuntilthepasturefencewaspassed.
“WhatamItotellthemyournameis?”sheaskedstiffly.
Hetookhistimetoanswer.“TomMorseisagoodname,don’tyouthink?How
wouldT.L.Morsedo?”
Sheofferednocomment,butsatinfrontofhim,unresponsiveasthesphinx.The
rigorofherflatbacktoldhimthat,thoughshemighthavetokeephisshameful
secret for the sake of her own, he could not presume upon it the least in the
world.
Melissy turned the horse over to a little Mexican boy and they were just
mounting the steps of the porch when a young man cantered up to the house.
Leanandmuscularandsunbaked,helookedoutofcool,grayeyesuponaman’s
worldthathadoftenputhimthroughtheacidtest.Theplain,cactus-tornchaps,
flannel shirt open at the sinewy throat, dusty, wide-brimmed hat, revolver
peeping from its leather pocket on the thigh: every detail contributed to the
impressionofefficiencyhecreated.Eventheonetouchofswaggerabouthim,
the blue silk kerchief knotted loosely around his neck, lent color to his virile
competency.
Hedraggedhishorsetoastandstillandleapedoffatthesameinstant.“Evenin’,
’Lissie.”


Shewasbusylacinghershoeanddidnotlookup.Heguessedthathewasbeing
snubbed and into his eyes came a gleam of fun. A day later than he had
promised,JackFlatraywasofopinionthathewasbeingpunishedfortardiness.
Casuallyheexplained.“Couldn’tmakeitanysooner.Burkehadahurry-upjob
thattookusintothehills.FellowbythenameofBellamy,wantedformurderat
Nemo,Arkansas,hadbeentrackedtoMesa.Amessagecameoverthewiresto
arrest him. When Burke sent me to his room he had lit out, taken a swift hike
intothehills.Musta-hadsomewarning,forhedidn’tevenwaitforahorse.”
Thedilatedeyesofthegirlwentpastthedeputytothemanshehadrescued.He
wasleaningagainstoneoftheporchposts,tenseandrigid,onhisfacethelook
ofthehuntedbroughttobay.
“Anddidyoufindhim?”sheaskedmechanicallyofthedeputy.
“Wefoundhim.Hehadbeentrampledtodeathbyacattlestampede.”
Hermindgropedblindlyforanexplanation.Herwoman’sinstincttoldherthat
the man panting on the porch within six feet of the officer was the criminal
wanted.Theremustbeamistakesomewhere.
“Didyouidentifyhim?”
“Iguessthereisnodoubtaboutit.Hispapersandbelongingsallshowedhewas
ourman.”
“Oh!”Theexcitementofhisnewshadforamomentthawedher,butadignified
aloofnessshowedagaininhermanner.“Ifyouwanttoseefatheryou’llfindhim
inthecorral,Mr.Flatray.”
“Well, I don’t know as I’m looking for him awful hard,” the blue kerchiefed
youthsmiledgenially.“Anyway,IcanwaitafewminutesifIhaveto.”
“Yes.”Sheturnedawayindifferently.“I’llshowyouyourroom,Mr.Morse.”
Thedeputywatchedthemdisappearintothehousewithastonishmentprintedon
hisface.He hadriddentwenty-sevenmilestoseeMelissyLeeandhehadnot
quiteexpectedthissortofagreeting.
“Ifthatdon’tbeattheDutch.LookslikeI’lldomycallin’ontheoldmanafter
all,maybe,”hemurmuredwithagrin.


35


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