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Heart of the sunset


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Title:HeartoftheSunset
Author:RexBeach
PostingDate:December14,2009[EBook#5099]ReleaseDate:February,2004
Language:English
***STARTOFTHISPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKHEARTOFTHE
SUNSET***

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HEARTOFTHESUNSET
ByRexBeach
Authorof"THESILVERHORDE""THESPOILERS""THEIRONTRAIL"
Etc.



CONTENTS
I.THEWATER-HOLE
II.THEAMBUSH
III.WHATHAPPENEDATTHEWATER-HOLE
IV.ANEVENINGATLASPALMAS
V.SOMETHINGABOUTHEREDITY
VI.AJOURNEY,ANDADARKMAN
VII.LUISLONGORIO
VIII.BLAZEJONES'SNEMESIS
IX.ASCOUTINGTRIP
X.ARANGER'SHORSE
XI.JUDGEELLSWORTHEXACTSAPROMISE
XII.LONGORIOMAKESBOLD
XIII.DAVELAWBECOMESJEALOUS
XIV.JOSESANCHEZSWEARSANOATH


XV.THETRUTHABOUTPANFILO
XVI.THERODEO
XVII.THEGUZMANINCIDENT
XVIII.EDAUSTINTURNSATBAY
XIX.RANGERS
XX.SUPERSTITIONSANDCERTAINTIES
XXI.ANAWAKENING
XXII.WHATELLSWORTHHADTOSAY
XXIII.THECRASH
XXIV.DAVELAWCOMESHOME
XXV.AWARNINGANDASURPRISE
XXVI.THEWATER-CURE
XXVII.LAFERIA
XXVIII.THEDOORSOFPARADISE
XXIX.THEPRIESTFROMMONCLOVA
XXX.THEMANOFDESTINY
XXXI.ASPANISHWILL
XXXII.THEDAWN


HEARTOFTHESUNSET
I


THEWATER-HOLE

Afitfulbreezeplayedamongthemesquitebushes.Thenakedearth,whereit
showedbetweentheclumpsofgrass,wasbakedplasterhard.Itburnedlikehot
slag,andexceptforapantinglizardhereandthere,oradust-grayjack-rabbit,
startledfromitscovert,nothinganimatestirreduponitsface.Highand
motionlessintheblindingskyabuzzardpoised;long-tailedMexicancrows
amongthethornybranchescreakedandwhistled,chokedandrattled,snoredand
grunted;adovemournedinconsolably,andoutoftheairissuedmetallicinsect
cries—thedirectionwhencetheycameasunascertainableastheirsourcewas
hidden.
Althoughthesunwashalf-waydownthewest,itsglareremaineduntempered,
andthetantalizingshadeofthesparsemesquitewasmoreofatrialthana
comforttothelonewomanwho,refusingitsdeceitfulinvitation,plodded
steadilyoverthewaste.Stop,indeed,shedarednot.Inspiteofherfatigue,
regardlessofthetorturefromfeetandlimbsunusedtowalking,shemust,asshe
constantlyassuredherself,keepgoinguntilstrengthfailed.Sofar,fortunately,
shehadkeptherhead,andsheretainedsufficientreasontodenythefanciful
apprehensionswhichclamoredforaudience.Ifsheonceallowedherselfto
becomepanicky,sheknew,shewouldfareworse—farworse—andnow,ifever,
sheneededallherfaculties.Somewheretothenorthward,perhapsamile,


perhapsaleaguedistant,laythewater-hole.
Butthecountrywasofadeadlyandadeceitfulsameness,devoidoflandmarks
andlackingwell-definedwater-courses.Theunendingmesquitewithitsfirst
springfoliageresembledalimitlesspeach-orchardsownbysomecarelessand
unbelievablyprodigalhand.Outofthesefalseacresoccasionalknollsandlow
stonyhillsliftedthemselvessothatonecame,nowandthen,tovantage-points
wheretheeyeleapedforgreatdistancesacrossimperceptiblevalleystohorizons
sofarawaythatthescatteredtree-clumpswereblendedintoanunbrokencarpet
ofgreen.Tothewomantheseoutlookswereunutterablydepressing,merely
servingtorevealthevastnessofthedesolationabouther.
Atthecrestofsuchariseshepausedandstudiedthecountrycarefully,but
withoutavail.Shefeltdizzilyforthedesertbagswungfromhershoulder,only
tofinditflatanddry;thegalvanizedmouthpieceburnedherfingers.Withalittle
shocksherememberedthatshehaddonethisverythingseveraltimesbefore,
andherrepeatedforgettingfrightenedher,sinceitseemedtoshowthathermind
hadbeenslightlyunbalancedbytheheat.Thatperhapsexplainedwhythedistant
horizonswamandwaveredso.
Inallprobabilityamansituatedasshewaswouldhavespokenaloud,inan
endeavortosteadyhimself;butthiswomandidnothingofthesort.Seating
herselfinthedensestshadeshecouldfind—itwasreallynoshadeatall—she
closedhereyesandrelaxed—noeasythingtodoinsuchastiflingtemperature
andwhenherthroatwasachingwithdrought.
Atlengthsheopenedhereyesagain,onlytofindthatshecouldmakeout
nothingfamiliar.Undoubtedlyshewaslost;thewater-holemightbeanywhere.
Shelistenedtensely,andtheveryairseemedtolistenwithher;theleaveshushed
theirfaintwhisperings;anear-bycactushelditsfortyfleshyearsalert,while
othersmoredistantpoisedinthesameharkeningattitude.Itseemedtothe
womanthatathousandearswerestrainingwithhers,yetnosoundcamesave
onlythemonotonouscrescendoanddiminuendoofthoselocust-criescomingout
ofnowhereandretreatingintothevoids.Atlast,asifsatisfied,theleavesbegan
towhispersoftlyagain.
AwaytoherleftlaytheyellowfloodoftheRioGrande,butthewoman,though
temptedtoswinginthatdirection,knewbetterthantoyield.Atleasttwenty
milesofbarrenslaybetween,andshetoldherselfthatshecouldnevercover


suchadistance.No,thewater-holewasnearer;itmustbecloseathand.Ifshe
couldonlythinkalittlemoreclearly,shecouldlocateit.Oncemoreshetried,as
shehadtriedmanytimesbefore,torecalltheexactpointwhereshehadshother
horse,andtomapinhermind'seyethefoot-wearycourseshehadtraveledfrom
thatpointonward.
Deserttravelwasnothingnewtoher,thirstandfatiguewereoldacquaintances,
yetshecouldnothelpwonderingif,inspiteofhertraining,inspiteofthat
inbornsenseofdirectionwhichshehadpridedherselfuponsharingwiththe
wildcreatures,shewerefatedtobecomeavictimofthechaparral.The
possibilitywasremote;deathatthismomentseemedasfaroffasever—if
anythingitwastoofaroff.No,shewouldfindthewater-holesomehow;orthe
unexpectedwouldhappen,asitalwaysdidwhenonewasindirestraits.Shewas
tooyoungandtoostrongtodieyet.Deathwasnotsoeasilywonasthis.
Rising,shereadjustedthestrapoftheemptywater-bagoverhershoulderandthe
loosecartridge-beltatherhip,thensetherdustyfeetdowntheslope.
Daydiedlingeringly.Thesungraduallylostitscruelty,butapartialrelieffrom
theheatmerelyemphasizedthetraveler'sthirstandmusculardistress.Onward
sheplodded,usinghereyesascarefullyassheknewhow.Shewatchedthe
eveningflightofthedoves,thinkingtoguideherselfbytheircourse,butshewas
notshrewdenoughtoreadthesignscorrectly.Thetracksshefoundwereold,for
themostpart,andtheyledinnoparticulardirection,nowhereunitinginto
anythinglikeatrail.Shewondered,ifshecouldbringherselftodrinktheblood
ofajack-rabbit,andifitwouldquenchherthirst.Butthethoughtwasrepellent,
and,besides,shewasnotagoodshotwitharevolver.Nordidthecactusoffer
anyrelief,sinceitwasonlyjustcomingintobloom,andasyetborenofruit.
Thesunhadgrownredandhugewhenatlastinthehard-bakeddirtshe
discoveredfreshhoof-prints.Theseseemedtoleadalongthelineinwhichshe
wastraveling,andshefollowedthemgladly,encouragedwhentheywerejoined
byothers,for,althoughtheymeanderedaimlessly,theyformedsomethingmore
likeatrailthananythingshehadasyetseen.Guessingattheirgeneraldirection,
shehurriedon,comingfinallyintoaregionwherethesoilwasshallowand
scarcelyservedtocovertherockysubstratum.Alowbluffroseonherleft,and
alongitscrestscatteredSpanishdaggerswereraggedlysilhouettedagainstthe
sky.


Shewasinawell-definedpathnow;shetriedtorun,butherlegswereheavy;
shestumbledagreatdeal,andherbreathmadestrange,distressingsoundsasit
issuedfromheropenlips.Houndingthesteepshoulderoftheridge,she
hasteneddownadeclivityintoaknotofscrub-oaksandebony-trees,thenhalted,
staringaheadofher.
Thenakednessofthestonyarroyo,thegnarledandstuntedthickets,were
softenedbythemagicoftwilight;theairhadsuddenlycooled;overheadthe
empty,flawlessskywasdeepeningswiftlyfrombluetopurple;thechaparralhad
awakenedandechoednowtothesoundsoflife.Nestlinginashallow,flinty
bowlwasapoolofwater,andonitsbrinkalittlefirewasburning.
Itwasatinyfire,overhungwithablackenedpot;theodorofgreasewoodand
mesquitesmokewassharp.Aman,risingswiftlytohisfeetatthefirstsound,
wasstaringatthenew-comer;hewasasalertasanywildthing.Butthewoman
scarcelyheededhim.Shestaggereddirectlytowardthepond,seeingnothing
afterthefirstglanceexceptthewater.Shewouldhaveflungherselffulllength
upontheedge,butthemansteppedforwardandstayedher,thenplacedatincup
inherhand.Shemumbledsomethinginanswertohisgreetingandthehoarse,
raven-likecroakinhervoicestartledher;thenshedrank,withtrembling
eagerness,drenchingthefrontofherdress.Thewaterwaswarm,butitwas
cleananddelicious.
"Easynow.Takeyourtime,"saidtheman,asherefilledthecup."Itwon'tgive
out."
Shekneltandwetherfaceandneck;thesensationwassogratefulthatshewas
temptedtoflingherselfbodilyintothepool.Themanwasstilltalking,butshe
tooknoheedofwhathesaid.Thenatlastshesankback,herfeetcurledunder
her,herbodysagging,herheaddrooping.Shefeltthestranger'shandsbeneath
herarms,feltherselfliftedtoamorecomfortableposition.Withoutasking
permission,thestrangerunlacedfirstone,thentheotherofherdustyboots,
seemingnottonoticeherweakattemptatresistance.Oncehehadplacedher
barefeetinthewater,sheforgotherresentmentintheintenserelief.
Themanleftherseatedinacollapsed,semi-consciousstate,andwentbackto
hisfire.Forthetimeshewastootiredtodomorethanrefillthedrinking-cup
occasionally,ortowetherfaceandarms,butasherporesdrankgreedilyher
exhaustionlessenedandhervitalityreturned.


Itwasdarkwhenforthefirsttimesheturnedherheadtowardthecamp-fireand
staredcuriouslyatthefigurethere.Theappetizingodorofbroilingbaconhad
drawnherattention,andasifnomovewentunnoticedthemansaid,without
liftinghiseyes:
"Let'emsoak!Supper'llbereadydirectly.How'dyoulikeyoureggs—ifwehad
any?"
Evidentlyheexpectednoreply,forafterachucklehebegantowhistlesoftly,in
apeculiarlyclearandliquidtone,almostlikesomebird-call.Hehadspoken
withanunmistakableTexasdrawl;thewomanputhimdownatoncefora
cowboy.Shesettledherbackagainstaboulderandrested.
Thepoolhadbecomeblackandmysterious,theskywasstuddedwithstarswhen
hecalledher,andshelaboriouslydrewonherstockingsandboots.Wellback
fromthefirehehadarrangedaseatforher,usingasaddle-blanketfora
covering,anduponthissheloweredherselfstiffly.Asshedidsoshetookfuller
noticeoftheman,andfoundhisappearancereassuring.
"IsupposeyouwonderhowI—happentobehere,"shesaid.
"Nowdon'ttalk'tilyou'rerested,miss.Thiscoffeeisstrongenoughtowalkon
itshands,andIreckonabouttwocupsofit'llrastleyouintoshape."Asshe
raisedthetinmugtoherlipshewavedahandandsmiled."Drinkhearty!"Heset
aplateofbreadandbaconinherlap,thenopenedaglassjarofjam."Here'sthe
dulces.I'vegotasortofsweettoothinmyhead.Ireckonyou'llhavetomakeout
withthis,'causeIrodeintoolatetorustleanyfreshmeat,andthedeliverywagonwon'tbe'roundbeforemorning."Sosaying,hewithdrewtothefire.
Thewomanateanddrankslowly.Shewastootiredtobehungry,andmeanwhile
theyoungmansquatteduponhisheelsandwatchedherthroughthesmokefrom
ahuskcigarette.Itwasperhapsfortunateforherpeaceofmindthatshecould
notcorrectlyinterprethisexpression,forhadshebeenabletodososhewould
haverealizedsomethingoftheturmoilintowhichherpresencehadthrownhim.
Hewasaccustomedtomeetingmeninunexpectedplaces—eveninthedesert's
isolation—buttohaveanightcampinthechaparralinvadedbyayoungand
unescortedwoman,tohaveafoot-soregoddessstumbleoutofthedarkand
collapseintohisarms,wasauniqueexperienceandonecalculatedtodisturba
personofhissolitaryhabits.


"Haveyouhadyoursupper?"shefinallyinquired.
"Who,me?Oh,I'lleatwiththehelp."Hesmiled,andwhenhisflashingteeth
showedwhiteagainsthisleatherytanthewomandecidedhewasnotatallbadlooking.Hewasverytallandquitelean,withthelonglegsofahorseman—this
latterfeatureaccentuatedbyhishigh-heeledbootsandbytheshortcanvas
cowboycoatthatreachedonlytohiscartridge-belt.Hisfeaturesshecouldnot
wellmakeout,forthefirewaslittlemorethanabedofcoals,andhefedit,
Indian-like,withatwigortwoatatime.
"Ibegyourpardon.I'mselfish."Sheextendedhercupandplateasaninvitation
forhimtosharetheircontents."Pleaseeatwithme."
Butherefused."Iain'thungry,"heaffirmed."Honest!"
Accustomedasshewastothediffidenceofranch-hands,sherefrainedfrom
urginghim,andproceededwithherrepast.Whenshehadfinishedshelayback
andwatchedhimasheatesparingly.
"MyhorsefellcrossingtheArroyoGrande,"sheannounced,abruptly.
"Hebrokealeg,andIhadtoshoothim."
"IsthereanywaterintheGrande?"askedtheman.
"No.Theytoldmetherewasplenty.Iknewofthischarco,soImadeforit."
"Whotoldyoutherewaswaterinthearroyo?"
"ThoseMexicansatthelittle-goatranch."
"Balli.SoyouwalkedinfromArroyoGrande.Lord!It'sagoodtenmiles
straightaway,andIreckonyoucamecrooked.Eh?"
"Yes.Anditwasveryhot.Iwasneverherebutonce,and—thecountrylooks
differentwhenyou'reafoot."
"Itcertainlydoes,"themannodded.Thenhecontinued,musingly:"Nowater
there,eh?Ifiguredtheremightbealittle."Thefactappearedtopleasehim,for
henoddedagainashewentonwithhismeal."Notmuchraindownhere,I
reckon."


"Verylittle.Whereareyoufrom?"
"Me?Hebbronville.MynameisLaw."
Evidently,thoughtthewoman,thisfellowbelongedtotheEastoutfit,orsomeof
theotherbigcattle-ranchesintheHebbronvilledistrict.Probablyhewasarange
bossoraforeman.Afteratimeshesaid,"IsupposethenearestranchisthatBalli
place?"
"Yes'm."
"I'dliketoborrowyourhorse."
Mr.Lawstaredintohisplate."Well,miss,I'mafraid—"
Sheadded,hastily,"I'llsendyouafreshonebyBalli'sboyinthemorning."
Helookedupatherfromunderthebrimofhishat."D'youreckonyoucould
findthatgoat-ranchbystar-light,miss?"
Thewomanwassilent.
"'Ain'tyoujustaboutcaughtupontraveling,foroneday?"heasked."Ireckon
youneedagoodrestaboutasmuchasanybodyIeversaw.Youcanhavemy
blanket,youknow."
Theprospectwasunwelcome,yetshereluctantlyagreed."Perhaps—Theninthe
morning—"
Lawshookhishead."Ican'tloanyoumyhorse,miss.I'vegottostayrighthere."
"ButBalli'sboycouldbringhimback."
"Igottomeetaman."
"Here?"
"Yes'm."
"Whenwillhecome?"


"He'doughttobehereatearlydarkto-morrowevening."Heedlessofher
dismay,hecontinued,"Yes'm,aboutsundown."
"But—Ican'tstayhere.I'llridetoBalli'sandhaveyourhorsebackby
afternoon."
"MymanmightcomeearlierthanIexpect,"Mr.Lawpersisted.
"Really,Ican'tseewhatdifferenceitwouldmake.Itwouldn'tinterferewithyour
appointmenttoletme—"
Lawsmiledslowly,and,settinghisplateaside,selectedafreshcigarette;thenas
hereachedforacoalheexplained:
"Ihaven'tgotwhatyou'dexactlycallanappointment.ThisfellerI'mexpectin'is
aMexican,anddaybeforeyesterdayhekilledamanoverinJimWellsCounty.
Theygotmeby'phoneatHebbronvilleandtoldmehe'dleft.He'sheadin'forthe
border,andhe'sduehereaboutsundown,nowthatArroyoGrande'sdry.Iwas
aimin'toletyouridehishorse."
"Then—you'reanofficer?"
"Yes'm.Ranger.SoyouseeIcan'thelpyoutogethometillmymancomes.Do
youlivearoundhere?"Thespeakerlookedupinquiringly,andafteraninstant's
hesitationthewomansaid,quietly:
"IamMrs.Austin."Shewasgratefulforthegloomthathidherface.
"Irodeoutthiswaytoexamineatractofgrazing-land."
ItseemedfullyaminutebeforetheRangeranswered;thenhesaid,inacasual
tone,"IreckonLasPalmasisquitearanch,ma'am."
"Yes.Butweneedmorepasture."
"IknowyourLaFeriaranch,too.IwaswithGeneralCastrowhenwehadthat
fightnearthere."
"YouwereaMaderista?"
"Yes'm.Machine-gunman.That'safinecountryoverthere.Seemslike


GodAlmightygotmixedandputtheMexicansonthewrongsideofthe
RioGrande.ButIreckonyouhaven'tseenmuchofLaFeriasincethe
lastrevolutionbrokeout."
"No.Wehavetriedtoremainneutral,but—"Againshehesitated."Mr.
Austinhasenemies.FortunatelybothsideshavesparedLaFeria."
Lawshruggedhisbroadshoulders."Oh,well,therevolutionisn'tover!Aranch
inMexicoismyideaofabadinvestment."Heroseand,takinghisblanket,
soughtafavorablespotuponwhichtospreadit.ThenhehelpedMrs.Austinto
herfeet—hermuscleshadstiffeneduntilshecouldbarelystand—afterwhichhe
fetchedhissaddleforapillow.Hemadenoapologiesforhismeagerhospitality,
nordidhisguestexpectany.
Whenhehadstakedouthishorseforthenighthereturnedtofindthewoman
rolledsnuglyinhercovering,asinacocoon.Thedyingembersflickeredinto
flameandlitherhairredly.ShehadlaidoffherfeltStetson,andoneloosened
braidlayoverherhardpillow.Thinkingherasleep,Lawstoodmotionless,
makingnoattempttohidehisexpressionofwondermentuntil,unexpectedly,she
spoke.
"WhatwillyoudowithmewhenyourMexicancomes?"shesaid.
"Well,ma'am,IreckonI'llhideyououtinthebrushtillItamehim.
Ihopeyousleepwell."
"Thankyou.I'musedtotheopen."
Henoddedasifhewellknewthatshewas;then,shakingouthisslicker,turned
away.
Ashelaystaringupthroughthethornymesquitebranchesthatroofedhim
inadequatelyfromthedewhemarveledmightily.Abright,steady-burningstar
peepedthroughtheleavesathim,andashewatcheditherememberedthatthis
red-hairedwomanwiththestill,whitefacewasknownfarandwidethroughthe
lowervalleyas"TheLoneStar."Well,hemused,thenamefittedher;shewas,if
reportsweretrue,quiteasmysterious,quiteascoldandfixedand
unapproachable,asthetitleimplied.Knowledgeofheridentityhadcomeasa
shock,forLawknewsomethingofherhistory,andtofindhersuingforhis
protectionwasquitethrilling.Talesofherpalebeautywerecommonandnot


tame,butshewasallandmorethanshehadbeendescribed.Andyetwhyhadno
onetoldhimshewassoyoung?Thiswoman'syouthandattractivenessamazed
him;hefeltthathehadmadeastartlingdiscovery.Wasshesocold,afterall,or
wasshemerelyreserved?Redhairaboveapurewhiteface;awoman'sform
wrappedinhisblanket;riperedlipscaressingtherimofhismeandrinking-cup!
Thosewerethingstothinkabout.Thosewerepicturesforalonelyman.
Shehadnotbeentooproudandcoldtolethimhelpher.Inherfatigueshehad
allowedhimtoliftherandtomakehermorecomfortable.Hotagainsthispalms
—palmsunaccustomedtothetouchofwoman'sflesh—hefeltthecontactofher
nakedfeet,asatthemomentwhenhehadplacedtheminthecoolingwater.Her
feebleresistancehadonlycalledattentiontohersex—totheslimwhitenessof
heranklesbeneathhershortriding-skirt.
Followinghisfirstamazementatbeholdingherhadcomeafantasticexplanation
ofherpresence—foramomentortwoithadseemedasifthefateshadtaken
heedofhisyearningsandhadsenthertohimoutofthedusk—wildfancies,like
these,bothermenwhoaremuchalone.Ofcoursehehadnotdreamedthatshe
wasthemistressofLasPalmas.Thatalteredmatters,andyet—theywereto
spendalongidledaytogether.IftheMexicandidnotcome,anothernightlike
thiswouldfollow,andshewasvirtuallyhisprisoner.Perhaps,afterall—
DaveLawstirrednervouslyandsighed.
"Don'tthisbeathell?"hemurmured.


II
THEAMBUSH

AlaireAustinsleptbadly.Theday'shardshipshadlefttheirtraces.Thetoxinsof
fatiguenotonlypoisonedhermuscleswithachesandpains,butdruggedher
brainandrenderedthenightalongsuccessionoftorturesduringwhichshe
experiencedforasecondtimetheagoniesofthirstandfatigueanddespair.
Extremephysicalordeals,likeprofoundemotionalupheavals,leaveimprints
uponthebrain,andwhilethebodymayrecoverquickly,itoftenrequires
considerabletimetorestexhaustednerves.Thefinerthenervousorganism,the
sloweristheprocessofrecuperation.Likemostnormalwomen,Alairehada
surprisingamountofendurance,bothnervousandmuscular,but,havingdrawn
heavilyagainstherreserveforce,shepaidthepenalty.Duringtheearlyhoursof
thenightsheslepthardlyatall,andassoonasherbodilydiscomfortbeganto
decreasehermindbecameunruly.Twicesheroseandlimpedtothewater-hole
foradrink,anditwasnotuntilnearlydawnthatshedroppedoffintocomplete
unconsciousness.Shewasawakenedbyasunbeamwhichpiercedherleafy
shelterandwithhottouchexploredherupturnedface.
Itwasstillearly;thesunhadjustclearedthevalley'srimandthegroundwas
dampwithdew.Somewherenearbyanunfamiliarbirdwassweetlytrilling.
Alairelisteneddreamilyuntilthebird-carolchangedtotheairofafamiliar
cowboysong,thenshesatup,queerlystartled.
DavidLawwaswateringhishorse,groomingtheanimalmeanwhilewitha
burlapdoth.Suchattentionwasunusualinastockcountrywherehorsesrun
wild,butthishorse,Mrs.Austinsaw,justifiedunusualcare.Itwasabeautiful
blood-baymare,andasthewomanlookeditlifteditshead,thenwithwet,
tremblingmuzzlecaresseditsowner'scheek.Undoubtedlythisattentionwas
meantforakiss,andwasasdaintilyconferredasanywoman'sfavor.Itbrought
arewardinalumpofsugar.Therefollowedanexhibitionofequinedelight;the


mare'slipstwitched,hernosewrinkledludicrously,shestretchedherneckand
tossedherheadasthesweetnesstickledherpalate.Eventhenervousswitching
ofhertailwaseloquentofpleasure.Meanwhiletheownershowedhiswhite
teethinasmile.
"Goodmorning,"saidMrs.Austin.
Lawliftedhishatinagracefulsaluteasheapproachedaroundtheedgeofthe
pool,hisspursjinglingmusically.Themarefollowed.
"Youhaveafinehorse,there."
"Yes'm.Herandmegetalongallright.Ihopewedidn'twakeyou,ma'am."
"No.Iwastootiredtosleepwell."
"Ofcourse.Iheardyoustirringaboutduringthenight."Lawpaused,andthe
mare,withsharpearscockedforward,lookedoverhisshoulderinquisitively.
"Telltheladygoodmorning,BessieBelle,"hedirected.Theanimalflungits
headhigh,thensteppedforwardand,stretchingitsneck,sniffeddoubtfullyatthe
visitor.
"Whatagracefulbow!"Mrs.Austinlaughed."Youtaughtherthat,Ipresume."
"Yes'm!She'dneverbeentoschoolwhenIgother;shewasplumbignorant.But
she'sgotalltheairsofafineladynow.SometimesIgowithoutsugar,butBessie
Belleneverdoes."
"Andyouwithasweettooth!"
TheRangersmiledpleasantly."She'saseasyasarockin'-chair.We'rekindof
sweethearts.Ain'twe,kid?"AgainBessieBelletossedherheadhigh."That's
'yes,'withthereverseEnglish,"thespeakerexplained."Nowyoujustrest
yourself,ma'am,andorderyourbreakfast.What'llitbe—quail,dove,or
cottontail?"
"Why—whateveryoucanget."
"Thatain'tthekindofrestaurantwerun.BessieBellewouldsurebeoffendedif
sheunderstoodyou.Everseeanybodycallaquail?"


"Canitreallybedone?"
Law'sfacebrightened."Youwait."Heledhismaredownthearroyo,then
returned,and,takinghisWinchesterfromitsscabbard,explained:"There'sapair
of'top-knots'onthatside-hillwaitin'foradrink.Watch'emrunintomylap
whenIgivethedistresssignalofoursecretorder."Heskirtedthewater-hole,
andseatedhimselfwithhisheelstogetherandhiselbowsproppeduponhis
spreadkneesinthemilitarypositionforcloseshooting.Fromwherehesathe
commandedanunobstructedviewofthethicket'sedge.Nexthemoistenedhis
lipsandutteredanindescribablelowwhistle.Atintervalsherepeatedthecall,
whilethewomanlookedonwithinterest.Suddenlyoutofthegrassburstablue
quail,runningwithwingsoutstretchedandeveryfeatherruffledangrily.It
paused,theman'scheekssnuggledagainstthestockofhisgun,andthebarkof
thethirty-thirtysoundedloudly.Mrs.Austinsawthathehadshotthelittlebird's
headoff.Shespoke,buthestilledherwithagesture,threwinasecondshell,
andrepeatedhismagiccall.Therewasalongerwaitthistime,butfinallythe
performancewasrepeated.Themarksmanrose,pickedupthetwobirds,and
camebacktothecamping-place.
"Kindofalow-downtrickwhenthey'vejuststartedhousekeeping,ain'tit?"he
smiled.
Mrs.Austinsawthatbothcrestedheadshadbeencleanlysevered."Thatisquite
wonderful"shesaid."Youmustbeanunusuallygoodshot."
"Yes'm.Youcanfoolturkeysthesameway.Turkeysareeasy."
"Whatdoyousaytothem?Whatbringsthemout,allruffledup?"sheasked,
curiously.
Lawhadoneofthebirdspickedbythistime."Itell'emasnakehasgotme.I
reckoneachonethinkstheotherisintroubleandcomestotherescue.Anyhow,
it'samightymeantrick."
Hewouldnotpermithertohelpwiththebreakfast,soshelaybackenjoyingthe
luxuryofherhardbedandwatchingherhost,whosepersonality,nowthatshe
sawhimbydaylight,hadbeguntochallengeherinterest.Oflateyearsshehad
purposelyavoidedmen,andcircumstanceshadnotpermittedhertostudythose
fewshehadbeenforcedtomeet;butnowthatfatehadthrownherintothe
companyofthisstranger,shepermittedsomeplaytohercuriosity.


PhysicallyLawwasofanadmirablemake—considerablyoversixfeetinheight,
withwideshouldersandlean,stronglimbs.Althoughhisfacewasschooledto
maskallbutthekeenestemotions,thedeftnessofhismovementswaseloquent,
betrayingthatcompletemuscularandnervouscontrolwhichcomesfromlifein
theopen.Apairofblue-gray,meditativeeyes,withawhimsicalfashionof
wrinklinghalf-shutwhenhetalked,relievedacountenancethatotherwisewould
havebeenatriflegrimandsomber.Thenosewasprominentandboldlyarched,
theearslargeandpronouncedandstandingwellawayfromthehead;themouth
wasthin-lippedandmobile.Alairetriedtoreadthatbronzedvisage,withlittle
successuntilsheclosedhereyesandregardedthementalimage.Thenshefound
theanswer:Lawhadthefaceandtheheadofahunter.Thealertears,the
watchfuleyes,thepredatorynosewerelikethoseofsomehuntinganimal.Yes,
thatwasdecidedlythestrongestimpressionhegave.Andyetinhisfacethere
wasnothinganimalinabadsense.Certainlyitshowednogrossness.Theman
waswild,untamed,ratherthansensual,anddespitehiscarelessuseoftheplains
vernacularheseemedtoberatherabovetheaverageineducationand
intelligence.Atanyrate,withoutbeingstupidlytongue-tied,heknewenoughto
remainsilentwhentherewasnothingtosay,andthatwasablessing,forMrs.
Austinherselfwasnottalkative,andidlechatterdistressedher.
Onthewhole,whenAlairehadfinishedheranalysissheratherresentedthegood
impressionLawhadmadeuponher,forongeneralprinciplesshechoseto
dislikeanddistrustmen.Rising,shewalkedpainfullytothepondandmadea
leisurelytoilet.
Breakfastwasreadywhenshereturned,andoncemorethemansatuponhis
heelsandsmokedwhilesheate.Alairecouldnotcatchhiseyesuponher,except
whenhespoke,atwhichtimehisgazewasdirectandopen;yetneverdidshe
feelfreefromhisintensestobservation.
Afterawhilesheremarked:"I'mgladtoseeaRangerinthiscounty.Therehas
beenalotofstealingdownourway,andtheAssociationmencan'tseemtostop
it.Perhapsyoucan."
"TheRangershaveareputationinthatline,"headmitted."Butthereisstealing
allupanddowntheborder,sincethewar.Youlostanystuff?"
"Yes.Mostlyhorses."


"Sure!TheyneedhorsesinMexico."
"Theranchershaveorganized.Theyhaveformedasortofvigilancecommittee
ineachtown,andtalkofusingbloodhounds."
"Bloodhoundsain'tanygood,outsideofnovels.Ifbeefgotscarce,them
Greaserswouldstealthedogsandeat'em."Headded,meditatively,"Dogain't
suchbadeatin',either."
"Haveyoutriedit?"
Mr.Lawnodded."Itwasbetterthansomeofthearmybeefwegotinthe
Philippines."Then,inanswertoherunspokeninquiry,"Yes'm,Iservedan
enlistmentthere."
"You—wereaprivatesoldier?"
"Yes'm."
Mrs.Austinwasincredulous,andyetshecouldnotwellexpresshersurprise
withouttoopersonalanimplication."Ican'timagineanybody—thatis,aman
likeyou,asacommonsoldier."
"Well,Iwasn'texactlythat,"hegrinned."No,IwasaboutthemostUNcommon
soldieroutthere.Ihadaspeakin'acquaintancewithmostoftheguard-housesin
theislandsbeforeIgotthrough."
"Butwhydidyouenlist—amanlikeyou?"
"Why?"Heponderedthequestion."Iwasyoung.IguessIneededthe
excitement.IhavetogetaboutsomuchorIdon'tenjoymyfood."
"DidyoujointheMaderistasforexcitement?"
"Mostly.Then,too,IbelievedPanchitoMaderowashonestandwouldgivethe
peonsland.AnhonestMexicanisworthfightin'for,anywhere.Thepeladosare
stillstrugglingfortheirland—forthatandachancetoliveandworkandbe
happy."
Mrs.Austinstirredimpatiently."Theyarefightingbecausetheyaretoldtofight.


ThereisnoPATRIOTISMinthem,"saidshe.
"Ithink,"hesaid,withgravedeliberateness,"themajorityfeelsomethingbig
andvagueandpowerfulstirringinsidethem.Theydon'tknowexactlywhatitis,
perhaps,butitisthere.Mexicohasoutgrownherdictators.Theyhavebeen
overthrownbythesamecausesthatbroughtontheFrenchRevolution."
"TheFrenchRevolution!"Alaireleanedforward,eyingthespeakerwithstartled
intensity."Youdon'ttalklikea—likeanenlistedman.Whatdoyouknowabout
theFrenchRevolution?"
Reachingforacoal,theRangerspokewithoutfacingher."I'vereadagoodbit,
ma'am,andI'manoblelistener.Iremembergood,too.Why,Ihadapictureof
theBastilleonce."Hepronouncedit"Bastilly,"andhishearersettledback."That
wassomecalaboose,now,wasn'tit?"Amomentlaterheinquired,ingenuously,
"Idon'tsupposeyoueversawthatBastille,didyou?"
"No.Onlytheplacewhereitstood."
"Sho!Youmusthavetraveledrightsmartforsuchayounglady."Hebeamed
amiablyuponher.
"Iwaseducatedabroad,andIonlycamehome—tobemarried."
Lawnotedthelifelesswayinwhichshespoke,andheunderstood."I'llbetyou
hablarthoseFrenchandGermanlingoeslikeanative,"heventured."Beatsme
howapersoncandoit."
"YouspeakSpanish,don'tyou?"
"Ohyes.ButIwasborninMexico,asnearasIcanmakeout."
"AndyouprobablyspeaksomeoftheFilipinodialects?"
"Yes'm,afew."
Therewassomethingwinningaboutthisyoungman'smodesty,andsomething
flatteringinhisrespectfuladmiration.Heseemed,also,toknowhisplace,afact
whichwasevenmoreinhisfavor.Undoubtedlyhehadforceandability;
probablyhisloveofadventureandahappylackofsettledpurposehadledhim


toneglecthismorecommonplaceopportunitiesandsenthimfirstintothearmy
andthenceintotheRangerservice.Theworldisfullofsuch,andthefrontieris
theirgathering-place.Mrs.AustinhadmetanumberofmenlikeLaw,andtoher
theyseemedtobethetruesoldiersoffortune—fellowswholivedpurelyforthe
funofliving,andleavenedtheirdayswithadventure.Theywerebuoyantsouls,
forthemostpart,driftingwiththetide,resentfulofauthorityandfreefromcare;
meetingeachdaywithenthusiasticexpectancyforwhatitheldinstore.They
wererestlessandimprovident;theworldcountedthemne'er-do-wells,andyet
sheknewthatatleasttheirhourswerefullandthattheirnames—someofthem
—werewrittenlargeinthedistantplaces.AlaireAustinoftentoldherselfthat,
hadshebeenbornaman,suchalifeasthismighthavebeenhers,andshetook
pleasureindreamingsometimesoftheexperiencethatfate,insuchacase,
wouldhavebroughttoher.
Beingawoman,however,andbeinganimatedatthisparticularmomentbya
peculiarlyfeminineimpulse,shefelturgedtoaddherowntouchtowhatnature
hadroughedout.Thismanhadbeendeniedwhatshetermedaneducation;
thereforeshedecidedtoputoneinhisway.
"Doyouliketoread?"sheaskedhim.
"Say!It'smyfavoriteformofexercise."Law'sblue-grayeyeswere
expressionless,hisfacewasbland."Why?"
"IhaveagreatmanybooksatLasPalmas.Youmightenjoysomeofthem."
"Nowthat'sniceofyou,ma'am.MebbeI'lllookintothiscattle-stealin'inyour
neighborhood,andifIdoI'llsurecomeborrowin'."
"Oh,I'llsendyouaboxfulwhenIgetback,"saidAlaire,andDavethankedher
humbly.
Later,whenhewenttomovehismareintoashadyspot,theRangerchuckled
andslappedhisthighwithhishat."BessieBelle,we'regoingtoimproveour
minds,"hesaid,aloud."We'regoingtobeliteraryandreadPilgrim'sProgress
andAliceinWonderland.Ibetwe'llenjoy'em,eh?But—doggone!She'sanice
lady,andyourcoatisjustthesamecolorasherhair."
Wheretheshadewasdensestandthebreezeplayedmostfreely,thereDavefixed
acomfortablecouchforhisguest,andduringtheheatoftheforenoonshedozed.


Asleepsheexerciseduponhimanevenmoredisturbingeffectthanwhenawake,
fornowhecouldstudyherbeautydeliberately,fromtheloosepileofwarm,red
hairtothenarrow,tight-lacedboots.Whathesawwasaltogetherdelightful.Her
slightlypartedlipsofferedanirresistibleattraction—almostaninvitation;the
heathadlentafeverishflushtohercheeks;Davecouldcounttheslow
pulsationsofherwhitethroat.Heclosedhiseyesandtriedtoquellhisunruly
longings.Hewasastrongman;adventurousdaysandnightsspentintheopen
hadcoarsenedthemasculinesideofhischaracter,perhapsatexpensetohisfiner
nature,foritisahumantendencytorevert.Hewasmasterfulandruthless;
lackingobligationsorresponsibilitiesofanysort,hehadbeenaccustomedto
takewhathewanted;thereforethegazehefixeduponthesleepingwoman
betrayedanardorcalculatedtodeepenthecolorinhercheeks,hadshebeheldit.
Andyet,strangelyenough,Daverealizedthathisemotionswereunaccountably
mixed.Thiswoman'sdistresshad,ofcourse,broughtapromptandnatural
response;butnowherimplicitconfidenceinhishonorandherutterdependence
uponhimawokehisdeepestchivalry.Then,too,theknowledgethatherlifewas
unhappy,indeedtragic,filledhimwithasortofwonderingpity.Ashecontinued
tolookatherthesefeelingsgrewuntilfinallyheturnedawayhisface.Withhis
chininhishandshestaredoutsomberlyintotheblindingheat.Hehadmetfew
women,oflateyears,andneveronequitelikethis—neverone,forinstance,who
madehimfeelsodissatisfiedwithhisownshortcomings.
Afteratimeheroseandwithdrewtotheshelterofanothertree,theretocontent
himselfwithmentalimagesofhisguest.
Butonecannotsleepwellwithatropicsunintheheavens,andsincetherewas
reallynothingforhertodountiltheheatabated,Alaire,whensheawoke,
obligedtheRangertoamuseher.
Althoughshewasinfactyoungerthanhe,marriedlifehadmaturedher,andshe
treatedhimthereforelikeaboy.Lawdidnotobject.Mrs.Austin'spositioninlife
wassuchthatmostmenwerehumbleinherpresence,andnowhersuperior
wisdomseemedtoexcitetheRanger'sliveliestadmiration.Onlynowandthen,
asifinanunguardedmoment,didheappeartoforgethimselfandspeakwithan
authorityequalingherown.Whathesaidatsuchtimesindicatedeithera
remarkablyretentivememoryorelseanabilitytothinkalongoriginallinestoo
rareamongmenofhiskindtobeeasilycredited.


Forinstance,duringadiscussionoftheMexicansituation—andofcoursetheir
talkdriftedthither,foratthemomentitwastheonevitallyinterestingtopic
alongtheborder—heexcusedthebarbarouspracticesoftheMexicansoldiersby
saying:
"Ofcoursethey'recruel,vindictive,treacherous,butafterallthereareonlya
hundredandfortygenerationsbetweenusandAdam;onlyahundredandforty
lifetimessincetheGardenofEden.Wecivilizedpeoplesareonlyalaportwo
aheadoftheuncivilizedones.Whenyouthinkthatittakestenthousand
generationstodevelopaplantandrootoutsomeofitsearlyheredities,youcan
seethathumanbeingshavealongwayyettogobeforetheybecomeperfect.
We'recreaturesofenvironment,justlikeplants.Environmenthasmadethe
Mexicanwhatheis."
Certainlythiswasanamazingspeechtoissuefromasun-brownedcowboy
sittingcross-leggedunderamesquite-tree.
Fromunderherhat-brimAlaireAustineyedthespeakerwithacuriosityinto
whichtherehadcomeavaguehostility.Forthemomentshewassuspiciousand
piqued,butLawdidnotappeartonotice,andashetalkedonherdoubts
graduallysubsided.
"Yousaid,lastnight,thatyouwerebornontheotherside?"Sheinclinedher
ruddyheadtothewest.
"Yes'm.Myfatherwasaminingman,andhedonewelloverthereuntilhe
lockedhornswiththeGuadalupes.OldDonEnriqueandhimhadarun-inatthe
finish,oversomelandorsomething.ItwaswhentheDonwasgobblingallthe
propertyinthestate,andlayingthefoundationforhisbigfortune.Youknowhe
hadpermissionfromthepresidenttostealallthelandhecaredto,justlikethe
restofthoselocalgovernorshad.Well,Guadalupetriedtorunmypeopleout."
"Didhesucceed?"
"No'm.Hekilled'em,buttheystayed."
"Not—really?"Thelistenerwasshocked."Americancitizens,too?"
"Timeswasn'tmuchdifferentthenthannow.There'splentyofgoodAmericans
beenkilledinMexicoandnothingdoneaboutit,eveninourday.Idon'tknow


allthedetails—nevercouldget'em,either—forIwasawayatschool;butafterI
camebackfromthePhilippinestheMaderofusswasjustbrewing,soIwent
overandjoinedit.Butitdidn'tlastlong,andtherewasn'tenoughfightingtosuit
me.I'vebeenback,offandon,since,andI'veburnedagooddealofGuadalupe
propertyandswumagoodmanyheadofGuadalupestock."
AsthemorningprogressedLawprovedhimselfaninterestingcompanion,andin
spiteofthediscomfortsofthesituationthehoursslippedpastrapidly.Luncheon
wasadisagreeablemeal,eatenwhilethearroyobakedandtheheatdevils
dancedonthehills;buttheunpleasantnesswasofbriefduration,andLaw
alwaysmanagedtobanishboredom.Nordidheseemtowasteathoughtupon
thenatureofthatgrimbusinesswhichbroughthimtothisplace.Quitethe
contrary,intheafternoonheputhismarethroughhertricksforAlaire's
edification,andgossipedidlyofwhateverinterestedhisguest.
ThenasthesunedgedtothewestandMrs.Austinbecamerestless,hesaddled
BessieBelleandledherdownthegulchintoasafercovert.
Returning,hecarefullyobliteratedalltracesofthecamp.Hewateredtheashes
ofthefire,gatheredupthetell-talescrapsofpaperandfragmentsoffood,and
thenwhentheplacesuitedhimfelltoexamininghisrifle.
Alairewatchedhimwithinterest."WhereshallIgo,"sheasked,"andwhatshall
Ido?"
"Youjustpickoutagoodcoverbeyondthewater-holeandstaythere,ma'am.It
maybealongwait,forsomethingmayhavehappened.Ifsowe'llhavetolie
close.Anddon'tworryyourselfnone,ma'am;hewon'tmakenotrouble."
Theafternoondrewtoaclose.Graduallytheblindingwhiteglareofthesun
lessenedandyellowed,theshadowofthebluffsbegantostretchout.The
shallowpoollaysilent,desertedsaveforfurtivelittleshapesthatdarted
nervouslyoutoftheleaves,orforwingedvisitorsthatdroppedoutoftheair.
Withthesunsettherecamethesoundofhoofsuponloosestones,branches
rustledagainstbreastingbodies,andMrs.Austincoweredlowinherhidingplace.Butitwasonlytheadvance-guardofabunchofbrushcattlecomingto
water.Theypausedatadistance,andnothingexcepttheirthirstfinallyovercame
theirsuspicions.Onebyonetheydriftedintosight,drankwarilyattheremotest
edgeofthetanque,then,alarmedatsomeimaginarysightorsound,went


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