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Hidden trails


HIDDENTRAILS

BYWILLIAMPATTERSONWHITE

FRONTISPIECE

BYRALPHPALLENCOLEMAN

GARDENCITYNEWYORK

DOUBLEDAY,PAGE&COMPANY

1920

COPYRIGHT,1920,BY
DOUBLEDAY,PAGE&COMPANY

ALLRIGHTSRESERVED,INCLUDINGTHATOFTRANSLATION
INTOFOREIGNLANGUAGES,INCLUDINGTHESCANDINAVIAN




Copyright1918bytheRidgwayCompany

CONTENTS

I.THEHAPPYHEART

II.JOHNNY’SDECISION

III.PLANS

IV.THENORTHERNTRAIL

V.PARADISEBEND

VI.THEHEMPENSHADOW

VII.SCOTTYMACKENZIE

VIII.DOROTHYBURR

IX.THEOTHERWOMAN



X.THELIGHTTHATLIES

XI.VERYSTRAYMEN

XII.LAGUERRETALKS

XIII.RIDERSATROCKET

XIV.BECAUSE

XV.TARGETPRACTISE

XVI.THEAGENCY


XVII.THEINEXPLICABLEREDHEAD

XVIII.TwoANDTwo

XIX.BUSHWHACKERS



XX.GOVERNMENTMONEY

XXI.TELEGRAMS

XXII.WHATDOROTHYSAID

XXIII.ABURROBRAYS

XXIV.AFAIRANDSUMMERMORNING

XXV.GREENANDGOLD

XXVI.THECLAWSOFTHELEOPARD

XXVII.THEENDTHEREOF

HIDDENTRAILS


CHAPTERI
THEHAPPYHEART

THEREwasmorethanafairsprinklingofcustomers
intheHappyHeartSaloon.TomDowlingofthe
88,RaceyDawsonoftheCrossin-a-box,andTelescopeLaguerreoftheBarS
weredrapedagainstthebar
earnestlyengagedinloweringthetideinabottleofOld
Crow.FouroftheHogpenoutfitandaskinnygentleman
hailingfromtheDoubleDiamondAwereabsorbedindraw
atthetableinthefarcorner.Attheothertable,nearthe
door,satJohnnyRamsayoftheCrossin-a-box.Hewas
atall,leanyoungman,withacool,sardonicgrayeyeand
asunburnedface.

Takinginfinitepains,hebuilthimselfacigarette.But
insteadoflightingtheslim,whiteroll,hecrushed
itbetweenhisbrownfingers,blewawaytheclinging
grainsoftobacco,andclaspedhishandsbehindhis
head.Heglancedathisthreefriendsbracedatthebar


andyawned.Hegazedatthecardplayers,andhisyawn
becamewider.Hetiltedbackinhischairandstaredat
theceiling.

Then,becausehewasbored,hebroughtthefrontlegs
ofthechairtothefloorwithacrash,fishedoutatremendousclasp-knifeand
begantowhittlethetable-top.Ina
plaintivemonotonehebegantosing:

“Iain’tgotnosweetheart,

Iain’tgotnosweetheart,

Iain’tgotnosweetheart,

Tositantalkwithme.”

“IshorewishtoGawdyuhhadasweetheart!”apeevishvoiceannouncedatthe
tailofthefirstverse.“Then
maybeyuh’dstopchoppinmytabletopieces!”

Johnnyliftedcoolgrayeyestothehotandangryface


oftheHappyHeart’sproprietor.

“She’sarightnicetable,”heobservedpleasantly,and
madethechipsfly.

“Say—”begantheoutragedproprietor.

“Nowlookhere,”urgedJohnny,“Iain’tgotathingto
do,notonel’ilthing,an’Iain’tgotnosweetheartlikeI
say,an’Igottadosomethin,ain’tI,causeifIdon’tI’m
likelytodomostanythin’.Sotherey’are.”

Thefacileexplanationwasnotilluminating.Nordid
itsatisfytheproprietor.ButJohnnyRamsaywasknown
asanimpulsiveyoungmanofuncertaintemper.Theproprietorhadnowishto
antagonizetheyoungman.Heresortedtodiplomacy.

“Ifit’sallthesametoyou,Johnny,”hesaid,inawheedling
tone,“I’djustassoonyuh’dcutsomethinelse,atree
maybe,orthewife’skindlinoranythin’likethat.But
yuhknowhowitisyoreself,folksliketoplaycardsonthat


table,anwhittlinherup’llsorto’spileher.”

“Puttinherthatawaymakesitacatwithanothertail
entirely,”Johnnydeclaredhandsomely,andclosedhis
knife.

Satisfied,theproprietordeparted.Thecustomerswho
hadwatchedthelittlescenegrinnedateachother
andreturnedtotheirliquor.Johnnyattackedtheconstruction
ofanothercigarette.

Atthisjunctureastrangerenteredthesaloonand
crossedtothebar.Hewasamanofmiddleheight,this
stranger,withacurlingbrownbeardandaquick,bright
eye.Johnnyidlywatchedhimashestoodwithonefoot
ontherailanddrankhiswhiskey.TheCrossin-a-box
punchernotedthatthebrown-beardedman,whilecareless
inattitudeanddemeanour,was,overtherimofhisglass,
subjectingeachoccupantoftheroomtoacloseandheedful
scrutiny.



“Mustbeadeputyorsomethin’,”thoughtJohnny,
andturnedhiseyestowardthebackoftheroom,forhe
perceivedthathisturnwascomingnext.

Johnny’srovingglancefellononeoftherearwindows.
Thiswindowwasopenandthroughitamanwasstaring,
withapeculiarmalevolence,atthebrown-beardedstranger.
Butontheinstantthemanwheeledanddisappeared.

“Nowthat’sshoreaoddnumber,”commentedJohnny,
referringtothemalevolentone,nothisdisappearance.
“An’Idunnoknowhim,either.Whoeverheis,the
jiggerwiththebrownwhiskersain’tpopularwithhima
li’lbit.”

Johnny,reflectingonthestrangenessoflife,tiltedhis
chairbackagainstthewall.Hehookedhisheelsina
rungandhisthumbsinhisbeltandappearedtodrowse.
Buthewasnotdrowsing.Farfromit.Throughtheslits
ofhisnarrowedeyelidshewasalternatelywatchingthe
brown-beardedstrangerandthefrontdoor.For,inthe


longhorncountry,whenonegentlemanbestowsbaleful
glaresuponanother,itbehoovestheinnocentbystanderto
bevigilant.
Johnnywasnotgreatlysurprisedwhenthevindictive-lookingwindow-gazer
walkedinfromthestreetandwent
immediatelytothebar.

Hewasnotaprepossessingperson,thissecondstranger.
Inthefirstplacehislongframewasrawbonedtoadegree,
andheshambledratherthanwalked.Hishands,large
andsplay-fingered,bristledtothenailswithstiffredhair.
Hisfacewashairless,freckled,hollow-cheekedandlong-jawed.Hisnosewas
hookedlikeaneagle’sbeak,andhis
eyeswereofablank,curiousyellow.

Theman,ashestoodinfrontofthebar,pushedback
hishat,awide,whiteStetsonwithanextrahighcrown.
Johnnysawthattheman’sforeheadwasreptilianandhis
hairthehueofflame.

Thebrown-beardedstranger,beyondakeenglance,
paidthenewcomernoattention.Theredheadappeared


nottobeconsciousoftheother’spresence.Johnny
slumpedfartherdowninhischairandbecameevenmore
watchful.

Theflame-hairedstranger,limitinghimselftoonefinger
atathrow,hadtwodrinks.Thenheslouchedacrossthe
floortowherethecardplayerswerebusy.Hewatched
themforaspace.

“Gents,”hesaidsuddenlyinasingularlypleasantvoice,
“gents,isthishereaprivategameorcananybodygetin?
Yuhsee,IgotsomedineroI’dshoreadmiretogetaction
on.”

“Shoreyuhcan,”agreedtheskinnygentlemanfromthe
DoubleDiamondA,whowaslosing.“Sitin,anwel
come.Maybeyuh’llchangemyluck.”

“Yuhcanjustkissyorecoingood-bye,”laughedoneof
theHogpenboys.“Yuh’llshoreloseit.Luck’swithme
to-day.”



“Thatso?”saidtheredhead,smilinginsuchawaythat
thelongcaninesshowedontheleftsideofhismouth.
“Thenlet’sallhaveadrinkonthestrengthofit.Name
yorepizen,gents.”

Bottleandglasseswerebroughttothetablebythebar
tender.Johnnyobservedthatthestrangerdidnotover
stephislimitofonefinger.Purthermore,themandrank
butthemerestswallowoftheonefinger.

Playwasresumed.Thebrown-beardedmanstillstood
atthebar.Hehadhadthreedrinks,perhapsfour.On
thispointtheobservantJohnnywasnotpositive.

Ofthemenatthebar,Dowlingbegantodrawunderthe
influence.Fiveminuteslaterhewanderedout,aper
ceptiblestaggerinhiswalk.RaceyDawsonandTelescope
Laguerrecontinuedtotalkanddrink.Dawsonwasnot
onetobecomeplasteredveryeasily,andastoLaguerre,
hisabilitytocarryliquorwasmarvelous.



Johnnywatchedthecardplayers.Whenitcamethe
red-hairedstranger’sturntodealJohnnywasfairlycer
tainthatthemandealthimselftwocardsfromthebottom
ofthepack.But“fairlycertain”isnotconviction,and
itwasnoneofhisbusinessanyway.SoreasonedJohnny.
Alertastheproverbialweasel,heceasednottoobserve.

“He’skeepinafterWindy,”saidJohnnytohimself,as
theplayproceeded.

WindywastheskinnygentlemanfromtheDouble
DiamondA,andhisfinancialstatewasbecomingtottery.
Whateverhelostwasaddedtothegrowingcolumnsof
chipsinfrontoftheredhead.TothesecolumnstheHogpenboyslikewise
contributedtosomeextent.

“He’sshorearingtailedwonder,”admittedJohnny,
afterthedealhadgoneroundthreetimes,andthestranger
hadheldwonderfulhandsthreetimes.“Thisisgettin’
interestin’.Thatlasttimehedealthimselfthreecards


fromthebottom.He’sgettinreckless,thatjigger.He
don’tcarenothina-tallwhathedoes.An’yetIcouldn’t
swearhedonenothinouto’theway.Hisfingersisso
—quick.”

Windy,broke,wasendeavouringtoputuphissix-shooterassecurity.

“No,”demurredtheredhead.“Igotagun.Don’t
wantanother.Ponyansaddle?Notme,stranger.I
gotthemtoo.”

Windyroseandwenttothebarandendeavouredto
pawnhisgunwiththebartender.Buttheproprietor,enteringatthemoment,that
businessarrangementwas
nippedinthebud.

“Nogunsgoes,Windy,”theproprietorstatedfirmly.
“Icouldn’tgiveyuhasimoleonforabushelo’Colts.I
gotnineteeninaboxbehindthebarnow.Someofem’s
beentheresixmonthsannoactionyet.Ican’tsell‘em
causeifIdotheowner’sboundtoturnupwiththeprice


anwanthisgunback.FivedollarsapieceIgaveon‘em—
ninety-fivewheels,I’mtellinyuh.AnImightjust
aswellaslungthecoininthestoveforallthegoodshe
doesme.No,Windy,I’msorry,causeyo’rearealgent
anareg’larcustomer,butyuhgottatakeyoregunango
some’erselsewithher.No,sirree—poniesansaddles
don’tgoneither.Igotfoursaddlesanfiveponiesinthe
corral,anGawdknowswhentheboys’llcomefor‘em.
Sothereyare.”

Windydepartedaftervaineffortstoraiseevensucha
minorsumasfourbitsamongtheotheroccupantsofthe
room.

Johnnyperceivedthattheredhead,whosedealitwas,
haddonenothingbutshuffleandre-shufflethecardsand
watchWindywhilethelatterwasendeavouringtoeffecta
loan.Oncehehadlickedhislips,andtheyelloweyeshad
flickeredforaninstanttothebrown-beardedcitizenstandingatthebar.Forall
thattheredheadwasleaninghis
stomachagainstthetableandhadsloucheddownhis


shouldersinadecidedslump,therewastoJohnny’smind
morethanahintoftensenessintheman’saspect.Some
howheremindedJohnnyofadynamitecartridgeafterthe
fusehasbeenlit.Therewasaboutboththesamesuggestionofviolent
possibilities.

AtWindy’sdeparturetheredheadstraightenedinhis
chair.Buthedidnotbegindealing.Helaidthecards
onthetable.

“Say,mister,”hecalledtothebrown-beardedman,
“howabouttakinourfriend’splace?Justforahandor
twotillhegetsback?”

Thethinlipshadwidenedintoasmile,asmilethatdisplayedthelongcanineson
theleftsideofhismouth.But
theyelloweyeswerenotsmiling.Blankandcoldand
fixed,theystaredatthebrown-beardedman.

Thelatterturnedanindifferentheadandregardedthe
speaker.



“Idunno,”hesaid.“Idon’tfeellikepoker.”

“Justtoobligeus,”theredheadwheedledinhismelodiousvoice.

Brownbeardshookhishead.

“No,Iguessnot.”

“Well,o’course,”saidtheredheadinatonepregnant
withinsult,“ifyuh’drathernotorsomethin’.”

Brownbeardretortedbystridingtothetable,pulling
outWindy’schairandsittingdown.

“I’llgoyou,”hesaidshortly,hiseyes,narrowed,gazing
fixedlyattheredhead.

“Now,that’sthetalk!”criedtheredheadcheerily,
whilethethreeHogpenboyslookedfromonetotheother
inwonderment.



Itseemedtothemthattheirlittleplaymatehadwilfully
endeavouredtoantagonizeBrownbeard.Why?Butthe
cardshadbeendealtandtheypickeduptheirhandswith
thequestionunanswered.

Johnnyshiftedslightlyinhischair.Whathadbeen
apparenttotheHogpenpunchershadnotescapedhis
attention.Moreandmoreastimeprogressedhedisliked
theredhead.

Thedealcircledthetable,andWindyhadnotyetreturned.Theredheaddidnot
oncelooktowardthedoor
way,butitwasmanifestthathewasacceleratingtheplay.
Hemadehisbetsquicklyandhandledhiscardswithsuspicioushaste.

ItcameBrownbeard’sturntodeal.Hegatheredupthe
cards,shuffledthemmethodicallyandbegantodeal.At
theinstantthatheflippedacardtotheredheadthe
latter’slongleftarmlashedoutwiththespeedofastriking
snake,hisfingersstruckthecardsinthedealer’shandand
sentthemflying.



Johnnydidnotseetheredheadgoafterhisgun.But
therewasaflashandacrashandaburstofgraysmoke,
andBrownbeardhuddleddowninhischair,thenflopped
forwardacrossthetable,hisfaceamongthescattered
cards.

Theredheadwasonhisfeet,hisgun,thinsmokespiral-ingfromthemuzzle,still
inhishand.Therewasagreat
andrighteousindignationintheredhead’sfaceandin
hisvoicewhenheexclaimed:

“Hetriedtoskinus,thetinhorn!Didjaseehim
dealfromthebottomofthedeck?”

“No,Ididn’t,”saidoneoftheHogpenboys,slidingout
ofhischairwithaverypaleface.

“Ididn’tseenothinlikethateither,”declaredJohnny,
whohadcomeoutofhisseeminglethargyonthe
jump.



“Well,Iseenhim,”averredwithfinalitytheredhead.“Thetinhorn!Ididn’tthink
helookedlikethator
I’dnever’veaskedhimover.”

“Wouldn’tyuh?”queriedJohnnywithalevelglanceof
frankaversion.

Theredheadcontinuedtoignorehim,andwithanice
perceptiontiltedandpulledawaythetableasLaguerre
andaHogpenboyraisedthebodyofBrownbeard.They
laidthebodyonthetopofthebarnearthedoor.There
wasnoneedtolistenforheartbeats.Theredhead’s
bullethadboredtheskullfromfronttorear.It
wasJohnnywhoplacedBrownbeard’shatoverthe
deadface,anditwastheproprietorwhoremovedthe
spurstotheendthatthebarmightnotbeunduly
scratched.

Johnnyandtheothersstoodtogetherinthevicinityof
thecorpseandeyedtheredhead.Whichpersonhadresumedhisseatatthetable
andwascuttingthecards,right


handagainstleft.Helookedupandgrinnedashecaught
theirglances.

“Somesudden,”hesaidquietly,“butshehadtobe
done.Ican’tletnobodyworkagamelikethatonme.
Nosir,notwhileIgotmyhealthanagun.Shewas
theonlytrailout,gents,anthat’swhatever.”

Stilltheysurveyedhiminsilence.Johnnyyearnedto
givevoicetohissuspicion.Butthereitwassuspicion.
Hewasnotsureofhisground.Theothers,althoughthey
hadseennothingtohangsuspicionupon,wereinstinctively
awarethatallwasnotright.Thekilling,fairenoughon
itsface,yetboreanearmarkortwoofevil.Theredhead
hadbeentooabrupt,foronething,andforanother,hehad
urgedBrownbeard,whopatentlyhadnotdesiredtoplay,
tositinthegame.

EnteredthenSlimBerdan,thetownmarshal,andafew
curiouscitizens.



“Whatwasthetrouble?”askedSlimBerdan,aslight,
wirymanwithablackmustacheandgoatee.

OneoftheHogpenboystoldhimwhatheknewofthe
case.Themarshallistenedinsilence.Theredhead
displayednointerestinwhatthepuncherhadtosay.He
wasplayingsolitairenow,andhisfacewasserious.

WhentheHogpenboyhadfinished,themarshalwalked
straightacrossthefloortothetablewheretheredhead
sat.ThelatterraisedhisyelloweyestoBerdan’sexpressionlessface.The
marshal’shandswereathissides.
Theywerenotthreateninglyclosetohisguns.Theywere
merelyconvenientlyby.

“Stranger,”saidthemarshal,“wedon’tknownothin
aboutyuh,anweain’taimin’toknownothinaboutyuh.
Iain’tsayinawordaboutthemeritso’thiscase.Maybe
youknow‘embetter’nIdo.ButI’mtellinyuhthis:
yuhgottwentyminutestopullyorefreightouto’Farewell.Attheendo’that
timeifyo’restillintownwe’ll
sorto’makeouttohangyuhsome.”



“ButIlikeFarewell,”protestedtheredheadinjuredly.
“Iwasfigurinonstayinawhile.”

“You’llshorestayquiteawhileifyo’rehereafterthe
twentyminutesareup,”saidthemarshal,and,asifthe
matterhadbeensettled,heturnedhisbackandwalked
away.

“Icanseehemeansit,”mournedtheredhead,rising
tohisfeetandgrinningimpudentlyatthelineofunfriendly
facesacrosstheroom.“AnjustwhenIthoughtI’d
foundmyhappyhome.”

Hedeparted,scuffinghistoes.Tenminuteslaterthey
sawhimridepastthesaloononhiswayoutoftown.


CHAPTERII
JOHNNY’SDECISION

“IFIwantedtokillaman,”declaredJohnnyslowly,
“Idunnobutwhatasgoodawayasanywouldbeto
callhimaskinanplughimquick.”

Theothersnodded.Johnnywasvoicingtheirown
thoughts.

“Deesfellershedeednotevenreachforhergun,”said
Laguerre,jerkinghisheadtowardthepoorclayonthetop
ofthebar.“Undemcard’wasscattairso,wecannot
tellw’eddairshewasdealdeskeengameornot.Bygar,
Johnnyeesright.”

“Ontheotherhand,”putinSlimBerdan,“thisred-hairedgentdoesjustexactly
whathe’doughttodoneprovidedtheotherfellerwascheatin’.Inacaselikethis
here
yuhcan’tprovenothin’.Yuhcanthinkawholelot,an’
yuhcantellthejiggerwhokeepsaliveatthefinishto


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