The Light of Western Stars
Part 6 out of 8
Fust time in my life! But the trustin' face of thet boo-tiful
gurl, as she lay in my arms an' hugged me an' yelled, made my
spirit leap like a shootin' star. I just began to jump from
buffalo to buffalo. I must hev jumped a mile of them bobbin'
backs before I come to open places. An' here's where I performed
the greatest stunts of my life. I hed on my big spurs, an' I
jest sit down an' rid an' spurred till thet pertickler buffalo I
was on got near another, an' then I'd flop over. Thusly I got to
the edge of the herd, tumbled off'n the last one, an' rescooed
"Well, as my memory takes me back, thet was a most affectin' walk
home to the little town where she lived. But she wasn't troo to
me, an' married another feller. I was too much a sport to kill
him. But thet low-down trick rankled in my breast. Gurls is
strange. I've never stopped wonderin' how any gurl who has been
hugged an' kissed by one man could marry another. But matoor
experience teaches me thet sich is the case."
The cowboys roared; Helen and Mrs. Beck and Edith laughed till
they cried; Madeline found repression absolutely impossible;
Dorothy sat hugging her knees, her horror at the story no greater
than at Monty's unmistakable reference to her and to the
fickleness of women; and Castleton for the first time appeared to
be moved out of his imperturbability, though not in any sense by
humor. Indeed, when he came to notice it, he was dumfounded by
"By Jove! you Americans are an extraordinary people," he said.
"I don't see anything blooming funny in Mr. Price's story of his
adventure. By Jove! that was a bally warm occasion. Mr. Price,
when you speak of being frightened for the only time in your
life, I appreciate what you mean. I have experienced that. I
was frightened once."
"Dook, I wouldn't hev thought it of you," replied Monty. "I'm
sure tolerable curious to hear about it."
Madeline and her friends dared not break the spell, for fear that
the Englishman might hold to his usual modest reticence. He had
explored in Brazil, seen service in the Boer War, hunted in India
and Africa--matters of experience of which he never spoke. Upon
this occasion, however, evidently taking Monty's recital word for
word as literal truth, and excited by it into a Homeric mood, he
might tell a story. The cowboys almost fell upon their knees in
their importunity. There was a suppressed eagerness in their
solicitations, a hint of something that meant more than desire,
great as it was, to hear a story told by an English lord.
Madeline divined instantly that the cowboys had suddenly fancied
that Castleton was not the dense and easily fooled person they
had made such game of; that he had played his part well; that he
was having fun at their expense; that he meant to tell a story, a
lie which would simply dwarf Monty's. Nels's keen, bright
expectation suggested how he would welcome the joke turned upon
Monty. The slow closing of Monty's cavernous smile, the gradual
sinking of his proud bearing, the doubt with which he began to
regard Castleton--these were proofs of his fears.
"I have faced charging tigers and elephants in India, and
charging rhinos and lions in Africa," began Castleton, his quick
and fluent speech so different from the drawl of his ordinary
conversation; "but I never was frightened but once. It will not
do to hunt those wild beasts if you are easily balled up. This
adventure I have in mind happened in British East Africa, in
Uganda. I was out with safari, and we were in a native district
much infested by man-eating lions. Perhaps I may as well state
that man-eaters are very different from ordinary lions. They are
always matured beasts, and sometimes--indeed, mostly--are old.
They become man-eaters most likely by accident or necessity.
When old they find it more difficult to make a kill, being
slower, probably, and with poorer teeth. Driven by hunger, they
stalk and kill a native, and, once having tasted human blood,
they want no other. They become absolutely fearless and terrible
in their attacks.
"The natives of this village near where we camped were in a
terrorized state owing to depredations of two or more man-eaters.
The night of our arrival a lion leaped a stockade fence, seized a
native from among others sitting round a fire, and leaped out
again, carrying the screaming fellow away into the darkness. I
determined to kill these lions, and made a permanent camp in the
village for that purpose. By day I sent beaters into the brush
and rocks of the river-valley, and by night I watched. Every
night the lions visited us, but I did not see one. I discovered
that when they roared around the camp they were not so liable to
attack as when they were silent. It was indeed remarkable how
silently they could stalk a man. They could creep through a
thicket so dense you would not believe a rabbit could get
through, and do it without the slightest sound. Then, when ready
to charge, they did so with terrible onslaught and roar. They
leaped right into a circle of fires, tore down huts, even dragged
natives from the low trees. There was no way to tell at which
point they would make an attack.
"After ten days or more of this I was worn out by loss of sleep.
And one night, when tired out with watching, I fell asleep. My
gun-bearer was alone in the tent with me. A terrible roar
awakened me, then an unearthly scream pierced right into my ears.
I always slept with my rifle in my hands, and, grasping it, I
tried to rise. But I could not for the reason that a lion was
standing over me. Then I lay still. The screams of my gun-bearer
told me that the lion had him. I was fond of this fellow and
wanted to save him. I thought it best, however, not to move
while the lion stood over me. Suddenly he stepped, and I felt
poor Luki's feet dragging across me. He screamed, 'Save me,
master!' And instinctively I grasped at him and caught his foot.
The lion walked out of the tent dragging me as I held to Luki's
foot. The night was bright moonlight. I could see the lion
distinctly. He was a huge, black-maned brute, and he held Luki
by the shoulder. The poor lad kept screaming frightfully. The
man-eater must have dragged me forty yards before he became aware
of a double incumbrance to his progress. Then he halted and
turned. By Jove! he made a devilish fierce object with his
shaggy, massive head, his green-fire eyes, and his huge jaws
holding Luki. I let go of Luki's foot and bethought myself of
the gun. But as I lay there on my side, before attempting to
rise, I made a horrible discovery. I did not have my rifle at
all. I had Luki's iron spear, which he always had near him. My
rifle had slipped out of the hollow of my arm, and when the lion
awakened me, in my confusion I picked up Luki's spear instead.
The bloody brute dropped Luki and uttered a roar that shook the
ground. It was then I felt frightened. For an instant I was
almost paralyzed. The lion meant to charge, and in one spring he
could reach me. Under circumstances like those a man can think
many things in little time. I knew to try to run would be fatal.
I remembered how strangely lions had been known to act upon
occasion. One had been frightened by an umbrella; one had been
frightened by a blast from a cow-horn; another had been
frightened by a native who in running from one lion ran right at
the other which he had not seen. Accordingly, I wondered if I
could frighten the lion that meant to leap at me. Acting upon
wild impulse, I prodded him in the hind quarters with the spear.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am a blooming idiot if that lion did not
cower like a whipped dog, put his tail down, and begin to slink
away. Quick to see my chance, I jumped up yelling, and made
after him, prodding him again. He let out a bellow such as you
could imagine would come from an outraged king of beasts. I
prodded again, and then he loped off. I found Luki not badly
hurt. In fact, he got well. But I've never forgotten that
When Castleton finished his narrative there was a trenchant
silence. All eyes were upon Monty. He looked beaten, disgraced,
a disgusted man. Yet there shone from his face a wonderful
admiration for Castleton.
"Dook, you win!" he said; and, dropping his head, he left the
camp-fire circle with the manner of a deposed emperor.
Then the cowboys exploded. The quiet, serene, low-voiced Nels
yelled like a madman and he stood upon his head. All the other
cowboys went through marvelous contortions. Mere noise was
insufficient to relieve their joy at what they considered the
fall and humiliation of the tyrant Monty.
The Englishman stood there and watched then in amused
consternation. They baffled his understanding. Plain it was to
Madeline and her friends that Castleton had told the simple
truth. But never on the earth, or anywhere else, could Nels and
his comrades have been persuaded that Castleton had not lied
deliberately to humble their great exponent of Ananias.
Everybody seemed reluctant to break the camp-fire spell. The
logs had burned out to a great heap of opal and gold and red
coals, in the heart of which quivered a glow alluring to the
spirit of dreams. As the blaze subsided the shadows of the pines
encroached darker and darker upon the circle of fading light. A
cool wind fanned the embers, whipped up flakes of white ashes,
and moaned through the trees. The wild yelps of coyotes were
dying in the distance, and the sky was a wonderful dark-blue dome
spangled with white stars.
"What a perfect night!" said Madeline. "This. is a night to
understand the dream, the mystery, the wonder of the Southwest.
Florence, for long you have promised to tell us the story of the
lost mine of the padres. It will give us all pleasure, make us
understand something of the thrall in which this land held the
Spaniards who discovered it so many years ago. It will be
especially interesting now, because this mountain hides somewhere
under its crags the treasures of the lost mine of the padres."
'In the sixteenth century," Florence began, in her soft, slow
voice so suited to the nature of the legend, "a poor young padre
of New Spain was shepherding his goats upon a hill when the
Virgin appeared before him. He prostrated himself at her feet,
and when he looked up she was gone. But upon the maguey plant
near where she had stood there were golden ashes of a strange and
wonderful substance. He took the incident as a good omen and
went again to the hilltop. Under the maguey had sprung up
slender stalks of white, bearing delicate gold flowers, and as
these flowers waved in the wind a fine golden dust, as fine as
powdered ashes, blew away toward the north. Padre Juan was
mystified, but believed that great fortune attended upon him and
his poor people. So he went again and again to the hilltop in
hope that the Virgin would appear to him.
"One morning, as the sun rose gloriously, he looked across the
windy hill toward the waving grass arid golden flowers under the
maguey, and he saw the Virgin beckoning to him. Again he fell
upon his knees; but she lifted him and gave him of the golden
flowers, and bade him leave his home and people to follow where
these blowing golden ashes led. There he would find gold--pure
gold--wonderful fortune to bring back to his poor people to build
a church for them, and a city.
"Padre Juan took the flowers and left his home, promising to
return, and he traveled northward over the hot and dusty desert,
through the mountain passes, to a new country where fierce and
warlike Indians menaced his life. He was gentle and good, and of
a persuasive speech. Moreover, he was young and handsome of
person. The Indians were Apaches, and among them he became a
missionary, while always he was searching for the flowers of
gold. He heard of gold lying in pebbles upon the mountain
slopes, but he never found any. A few of the Apaches he
converted; the most of them, however, were prone to be hostile to
him and his religion. But Padre Juan prayed and worked on.
"There came a time when the old Apache chief, imagining the padre
had designs upon his influence with the tribe, sought to put him
to death by fire. The chief's daughter, a beautiful, dark-eyed
maiden, secretly loved Juan and believed in his mission, and she
interceded for his life and saved him. Juan fell in love with
her. One day she came to him wearing golden flowers in her dark
hair, and as the wind blew the flowers a golden dust blew upon
it. Juan asked her where to find such flowers, and she told him
that upon a certain day she would take him to the mountain to
look for them. And upon the day she led up to the mountain-top
from which they could see beautiful valleys and great trees and
cool waters. There at the top of a wonderful slope that looked
down upon the world, she showed Juan the flowers. And Juan found
gold in such abundance that he thought he would go out of his
mind. Dust of gold! Grains of gold! Pebbles of gold! Rocks of
gold! He was rich beyond all dreams. He remembered the Virgin
and her words. He must return to his people and build their
church, and the great city that would bear his name.
"But Juan tarried. Always he was going manana. He loved the
dark-eyed Apache girl so well that he could not leave her. He
hated himself for his infidelity to his Virgin, to his people.
He was weak and false, a sinner. But he could not go, and he
gave himself up to love of the Indian maiden.
"The old Apache chief discovered the secret love of his daughter
and the padre. And, fierce in his anger, he took her up into the
mountains and burned her alive and cast her ashes upon the wind.
He did not kill Padre Juan. He was too wise, and perhaps too
cruel, for he saw the strength of Juan's love. Besides, many of
his tribe had learned much from the Spaniard.
"Padre Juan fell into despair. He had no desire to live. He
faded and wasted away. But before he died he went to the old
Indians who had burned the maiden, and he begged them, when he
was dead, to burn his body and to cast his ashes to the wind from
that wonderful slope, where they would blow away to mingle
forever with those of his Indian sweetheart.
"The Indians promised, and when Padre Juan died they burned his
body and took his ashes to the mountain heights and cast them to
the wind, where they drifted and fell to mix with the ashes of
the Indian girl he had loved.
"Years passed. More padres traveled across the desert to the
home of the Apaches, and they heard the story of Juan. Among
their number was a padre who in his youth had been one of Juan's
people. He set forth to find Juan's grave, where he believed he
would also find the gold. And he came back with pebbles of gold
and flowers that shed a golden dust, and he told a wonderful
story. He had climbed and climbed into the mountains, and he had
come to a wonderful slope under the crags. That slope was yellow
with golden flowers. When he touched them golden ashes drifted
from them and blew down among the rocks. There the padre found
dust of gold, grains of gold, pebbles of gold, rocks of gold.
"Then all the padres went into the mountains. But the discoverer
of the mine lost his way. They searched and searched until they
were old and gray, but never found the wonderful slope and
flowers that marked the grave and the mine of Padre Juan.
"In the succeeding years the story was handed down from father to
son. But of the many who hunted for the lost mine of the padres
there was never a Mexican or an Apache. For the Apache the
mountain slopes were haunted by the spirit of an Indian maiden
who had been false to her tribe and forever accursed. For the
Mexican the mountain slopes were haunted by the spirit of the
false padre who rolled stones upon the heads of those adventurers
who sought to find his grave and his accursed gold."
Florence's story of the lost mine fired Madeline's guests with
the fever for gold-hunting. But after they had tried it a few
times and the glamour of the thing wore off they gave up and
remained in camp. Having exhausted all the resources of the
mountain, such that had interest for them, they settled quietly
down for a rest, which Madeline knew would soon end in a desire
for civilized comforts. They were almost tired of roughing it.
Helen's discontent manifested itself in her remark, "I guess
nothing is going to happen, after all."
Madeline awaited their pleasure in regard to the breaking of
camp; and meanwhile, as none of them cared for more exertion, she
took her walks without them, sometimes accompanied by one of the
cowboys, always by the stag-hounds. These walks furnished her
exceeding pleasure. And, now that the cowboys would talk to her
without reserve, she grew fonder of listening to their simple
stories. The more she knew of them the more she doubted the
wisdom of shut-in lives. Companionship with Nels and most of the
cowboys was in its effect like that of the rugged pines and crags
and the untainted wind. Humor, their predominant trait when a
person grew to know them, saved Madeline from finding their
hardness trying. They were dreamers, as all men who lived lonely
lives in the wilds were dreamers.
The cowboys all had secrets. Madeline learned some of them. She
marveled most at the strange way in which they hid emotions,
except of violence of mirth and temper so easily aroused. It was
all the more remarkable in view of the fact that they felt
intensely over little things to which men of the world were blind
and dead. Madeline had to believe that a hard and perilous life
in a barren and wild country developed great principles in men.
Living close to earth, under the cold, bleak peaks, on the
dust-veiled desert, men grew like the nature that developed them-
-hard, fierce, terrible, perhaps, but big--big with elemental
But one day, while out walking alone, before she realized it she
had gone a long way down a dim trail winding among the rocks. It
was the middle of a summer afternoon, and all about her were
shadows of the crags crossing the sunlit patches. The quiet was
undisturbed. She went on and on, not blind to the fact that she
was perhaps going too far from camp, but risking it because she
was sure of her way back, and enjoying the wild, craggy recesses
that were new to her. Finally she came out upon a bank that broke
abruptly into a beautiful little glade. Here she sat down to
rest before undertaking the return trip.
Suddenly Russ, the keener of the stag-hounds, raised his head and
growled. Madeline feared he might have scented a mountain-lion
or wildcat. She quieted him and carefully looked around. To
each side was an irregular line of massive blocks of stone that
had weathered from the crags. The little glade was open and
grassy, with here a pine-tree, there a boulder. The outlet seemed
to go down into a wilderness of canons and ridges. Looking in
this direction, Madeline saw the slight, dark figure of a woman
coming stealthily along under the pines. Madeline was amazed,
then a little frightened, for that stealthy walk from tree to
tree was suggestive of secrecy, if nothing worse.
Presently the woman was joined by a tall man who carried a
package, which he gave to her. They came on up the glade and
appeared to be talking earnestly. In another moment Madeline
recognized Stewart. She had no greater feeling of surprise than
had at first been hers. But for the next moment she scarcely
thought at all--merely watched the couple approaching. In a
flash came back her former curiosity as to Stewart's strange
absences from camp, and then with the return of her doubt of him
the recognition of the woman. The small, dark head, the brown
face, the big eyes--Madeline now saw distinctly--belonged to the
Mexican girl Bonita. Stewart had met her there. This was the
secret of his lonely trips, taken ever since he had come to work
for Madeline. This secluded glade was a rendezvous. He had her
Quietly Madeline arose, with a gesture to the dogs, and went back
along the trail toward camp. Succeeding her surprise was a
feeling of sorrow that Stewart's regeneration had not been
complete. Sorrow gave place to insufferable distrust that while
she had been romancing about this cowboy, dreaming of her good
influence over him, he had been merely base. Somehow it stung
her. Stewart had been nothing to her, she thought, yet she had
been proud of him. She tried to revolve the thing, to be fair to
him, when every instinctive tendency was to expel him, and all
pertaining to him, from her thoughts. And her effort at
sympathy, at extenuation, failed utterly before her pride.
Exerting her will-power, she dismissed Stewart from her mind.
Madeline did not think of him again till late that afternoon,
when, as she was leaving her tent to join several of her guests,
Stewart appeared suddenly in her path.
"Miss Hammond, I saw your tracks down the trail," he began,
eagerly, but his tone was easy and natural. "I'm thinking--well,
maybe you sure got the idea--"
"I do not wish for an explanation," interrupted Madeline.
Stewart gave a slight start. His manner had a semblance of the
old, cool audacity. As he looked down at her it subtly changed.
What effrontery, Madeline thought, to face her before her guests
with an explanation of his conduct! Suddenly she felt an inward
flash of fire that was pain, so strange, so incomprehensible,
that her mind whirled. Then anger possessed her, not at Stewart,
but at herself, that anything could rouse in her a raw emotion.
She stood there, outwardly cold, serene, with level, haughty eyes
upon Stewart; but inwardly she was burning with rage and shame.
"I'm sure not going to have you think--" He began passionately,
but he broke off, and a slow, dull crimson blotted over the
healthy red-brown of his neck and cheeks.
"What you do or think, Stewart, is no concern of mine."
"Miss--Miss Hammond! You don't believe--" faltered Stewart.
The crimson receded from his face, leaving it pale. His eyes were
appealing. They had a kind of timid look that struck Madeline
even in her anger. There was something boyish about him then.
He took a step forward and reached out with his hand open-palmed
in a gesture that was humble, yet held a certain dignity.
"But listen. Never mind now what you--you think about me.
There's a good reason--"
"I have no wish to hear your reason."
"But you ought to," he persisted.
Stewart underwent another swift change. He started violently. A
dark tide shaded his face and a glitter leaped to his eyes. He
took two long strides--loomed over her.
"I'm not thinking about myself," he thundered. "Will you
"No," she replied; and there was freezing hauteur in her voice.
With a slight gesture of dismissal, unmistakable in its finality,
she turned her back upon him. Then she joined her guests.
Stewart stood perfectly motionless. Then slowly he began to lift
his right hand in which he held his sombrero. He swept it up and
up high over his head. His tall form towered. With fierce
suddenness he flung his sombrero down. He leaped at his black
horse and dragged him to where his saddle lay. With one pitch he
tossed the saddle upon the horse's back. His strong hands
flashed at girths and straps. Every action was swift, decisive,
fierce. Bounding for his bridle, which hung over a bush, he ran
against a cowboy who awkwardly tried to avoid the onslaught.
"Get out of my way!" he yelled.
Then with the same savage haste he adjusted the bridle on his
"Mebbe you better hold on a minnit, Gene, ole feller," said Monty
"Monty, do you want me to brain you?" said Stewart, with the
short, hard ring in his voice.
"Now, considerin' the high class of my brains, I oughter be real
careful to keep 'em," replied Monty. "You can betcher life,
Gene, I ain't goin' to git in front of you. But I jest says--
Stewart raised his dark face. Everybody listened. And everybody
heard the rapid beat of a horse's hoofs. The sun had set, but
the park was light. Nels appeared down the trail, and his horse
was running. In another moment he was in the circle, pulling his
bay back to a sliding halt. He leaped off abreast of Stewart.
Madeline saw and felt a difference in Nels's presence.
"What's up, Gene?" he queried, sharply.
"I'm leaving camp," replied Stewart, thickly. His black horse
began to stamp as Stewart grasped bridle and mane and kicked the
Nels's long arm shot out, and his hand fell upon Stewart, holding
"Shore I'm sorry," said Nels, slowly. "Then you was goin' to hit
"I am going to. Let go, Nels."
"Shore you ain't goin', Gene?"
"Let go, damn you!" cried Stewart, as he wrestled free.
"What's wrong?" asked Nels, lifting his hand again.
"Man! Don't touch me!"
Nels stepped back instantly. He seemed to become aware of
Stewart's white, wild passion. Again Stewart moved to mount.
"Nels, don't make me forget we've been friends," he said.
"Shore I ain't fergettin'," replied Nels. "An' I resign my job
right here an' now!"
His strange speech checked the mounting cowboy. Stewart stepped
down from the stirrup. Then their hard faces were still and cold
while their eyes locked glances.
Madeline was as much startled by Nels's speech as Stewart. Quick
to note a change in these men, she now sensed one that was
"Resign?" questioned Stewart.
"Shore. What 'd you think I'd do under circumstances sich as has
"But see here, Nels, I won't stand for it."
"You're not my boss no more, an' I ain't beholdin' to Miss
Hammond, neither. I'm my own boss, an' I'll do as I please.
Nels's words were at variance with the meaning in his face.
"Gene, you sent me on a little scout down in the mountains,
didn't you?" he continued.
"Yes, I did," replied Stewart, with a new sharpness in his voice.
"Wal, shore you was so good an' right in your figgerin', as
opposed to mine, that I'm sick with admirin' of you. If you
hedn't sent me--wal, I'm reckonin' somethin' might hev happened.
As it is we're shore up against a hell of a proposition!"
How significant was the effect of his words upon all the cowboys!
Stewart made a fierce and violent motion, terrible where his
other motions had been but passionate. Monty leaped straight up
into the air in a singular action as suggestive of surprise as it
was of wild acceptance of menace. Like a stalking giant Nick
Steele strode over to Nels and Stewart. The other cowboys rose
silently, without a word.
Madeline and her guests, in a little group, watched and listened,
unable to divine what all this strange talk and action meant.
"Hold on, Nels, they don't need to hear it," said Stewart,
hoarsely, as he waved a hand toward Madeline's silent group.
"Wal, I'm sorry, but I reckon they'd as well know fust as last.
Mebbe thet yearnin' wish of Miss Helen's fer somethin' to happen
will come true. Shore I--"
"Cut out the joshin'," rang out Monty's strident voice.
It had as decided an effect as any preceding words or action.
Perhaps it was the last thing needed to transform these men,
doing unaccustomed duty as escorts of beautiful women, to their
natural state as men of the wild.
"Tell us what's what," said Stewart, cool and grim. "Don Carlos
an' his guerrillas are campin' on the trails thet lead up here.
They've got them trails blocked. By to-morrer they'd hed us
corralled. Mebbe they meant to surprise us. He's got a lot of
Greasers an' outlaws. They're well armed. Now what do they mean?
You-all can figger it out to suit yourselves. Mebbe the Don
wants to pay a sociable call on our ladies. Mebbe his gang is
some hungry, as usual. Mebbe they want to steal a few hosses, or
anythin' they can lay hands on. Mebbe they mean wuss, too. Now
my idee is this, an' mebbe it's wrong. I long since separated
from love with Greasers. Thet black-faced Don Carlos has got a
deep game. Thet two-bit of a revolution is hevin' hard times.
The rebels want American intervention. They'd stretch any point
to make trouble. We're only ten miles from the border. Suppose
them guerrillas got our crowd across thet border? The U. S.
cavalry would foller. You-all know what thet'd mean. Mebbe Don
Carlos's mind works thet way. Mebbe it don't. I reckon we'll
know soon. An' now, Stewart, whatever the Don's game is, shore
you're the man to outfigger him. Mebbe it's just as well you're
good an' mad about somethin'. An' I resign my job because I want
to feel unbeholdin' to anybody. Shore it struck me long since
thet the old days hed come back fer a little spell, an' there I
was trailin' a promise not to hurt any Greaser."
XIX Don Carlos
Stewart took Nels, Monty, and Nick Steele aside out of earshot,
and they evidently entered upon an earnest colloquy. Presently
the other cowboys were called. They all talked more or less, but
the deep voice of Stewart predominated over the others. Then the
consultation broke up, and the cowboys scattered.
"Rustle, you Indians!" ordered Stewart.
The ensuing scene of action was not reassuring to Madeline and
her friends. They were quiet, awaiting some one to tell them
what to do. At the offset the cowboys appeared to have forgotten
Madeline. Some of them ran off into the woods, others into the
open, grassy places, where they rounded up the horses and burros.
Several cowboys spread tarpaulins upon the ground and began to
select and roll small packs, evidently for hurried travel. Nels
mounted his horse to ride down the trail. Monty and Nick Steele
went off into the grove, leading their horses. Stewart climbed
up a steep jumble of stone between two sections of low, cracked
cliff back of the camp.
Castleton offered to help the packers, and was curtly told he
would be in the way. Madeline's friends all importuned her: Was
there real danger? Were the guerrillas coming? Would a start be
made at once for the ranch? Why had the cowboys suddenly become
so different? Madeline answered as best she could; but her
replies were only conjecture, and modified to allay the fears of
her guests. Helen was in a white glow of excitement.
Soon cowboys appeared riding barebacked horses, driving in others
and the burros. Some of these horses were taken away and
evidently hidden in deep recesses between the crags. The string
of burros were packed and sent off down the trail in charge of a
cowboy. Nick Steele and Monty returned. Then Stewart appeared,
clambering down the break between the cliffs.
His next move was to order all the baggage belonging to Madeline
and her guests taken up the cliff. This was strenuous toil,
requiring the need of lassoes to haul up the effects.
"Get ready to climb," said Stewart, turning to Madelines party.
"Where?" asked Helen.
He waved his hand at the ascent to be made. Exclamations of
dismay followed his gesture.
"Mr. Stewart, is there danger?" asked Dorothy; and her voice
This was the question Madeline had upon her lips to ask Stewart,
but she could not speak it.
"No, there's no danger," replied Stewart, "but we're taking
precautions we all agreed on as best."
Dorothy whispered that she believed Stewart lied. Castleton asked
another question, and then Harvey followed suit. Mrs. Beck made
a timid query.
"Please keep quiet and do as you're told," said Stewart, bluntly.
At this juncture, when the last of the baggage was being hauled
up the cliff, Monty approached Madeline and removed his sombrero.
His black face seemed the same, yet this was a vastly changed
"Miss Hammond, I'm givin' notice I resign my job," he said.
"Monty! What do you mean? What does Nels mean now, when danger
"We jest quit. Thet's all," replied Monty, tersely. He was stern
and somber; he could not stand still; his eyes roved everywhere.
Castleton jumped up from the log where he had been sitting, and
his face was very red.
"Mr. Price, does all this blooming fuss mean we are to be robbed
or attacked or abducted by a lot of ragamuffin guerrillas?"
"You've called the bet."
Dorothy turned a very pale face toward Monty.
"Mr. Price, you wouldn't--you couldn't desert us now? You and Mr.
"Desert you?" asked Monty, blankly.
"Yes, desert us. Leave us when we may need you so much, with
something dreadful coming."
Monty uttered a short, hard laugh as he bent a strange look upon
"Me an' Nels is purty much scared, an' we're goin' to slope.
Miss Dorothy, bein' as we've rustled round so much; it sorta
hurts us to see nice young girls dragged off by the hair."
Dorothy uttered a little cry and then became hysterical.
Castleton for once was fully aroused.
"By Gad! You and your partner are a couple of blooming cowards.
Where now is that courage you boasted of?"
Monty's dark face expressed extreme sarcasm.
"Dook, in my time I've seen some bright fellers, but you take the
cake. It's most marvelous how bright you are. Figger'n' me an'
Nels so correct. Say, Dook, if you don't git rustled off to
Mexico an' roped to a cactus-bush you'll hev a swell story fer
your English chums. Bah Jove! You'll tell 'em how you seen two
old-time gun-men run like scared jack-rabbits from a lot of
Greasers. Like hell you will! Unless you lie like the time you
told about proddin' the lion. That there story allus--"
"Monty, shut up!" yelled Stewart, as he came hurriedly up. Then
Monty slouched away, cursing to himself.
Madeline and Helen, assisted by Castleton, worked over Dorothy,
and with some difficulty quieted her. Stewart passed several
times without noticing them, and Monty, who had been so
ridiculously eager to pay every little attention to Dorothy, did
not see her at all. Rude it seemed; in Monty's ease more than
that. Madeline hardly knew what to make of it.
Stewart directed cowboys to go to the head of the open place in
the cliff and let down lassoes. Then, with little waste of
words, he urged the women toward this rough ladder of stones.
"We want to hide you," he said, when they demurred. "If the
guerrillas come we'll tell them you've all gone down to the
ranch. If we have to fight you'll be safe up there."
Helen stepped boldly forward and let Stewart put the loop of a
lasso round her and tighten it. He waved his hand to the cowboys
"Just walk up, now," he directed Helen.
It proved to the watchers to be an easy, safe, and rapid means of
scaling the steep passage. The men climbed up without
assistance. Mrs. Beck, as usual, had hysteria; she half walked
and was half dragged up. Stewart supported Dorothy with one arm,
while with the other he held to the lasso. Ambrose had to carry
Christine. The Mexican women required no assistance. Edith
Wayne and Madeline climbed last; and, once up, Madeline saw a
narrow bench, thick with shrubs, and overshadowed by huge,
leaning crags. There were holes in the rock, and dark fissures
leading back. It was a rough, wild place. Tarpaulins and
bedding were then hauled up, and food and water. The cowboys
spread comfortable beds in several of the caves, and told
Madeline and her friends to be as quiet as possible, not to make
a light, and to sleep dressed, ready for travel at a moment's
After the cowboys had gone down it was not a cheerful group left
there in the darkening twilight. Castleton prevailed upon them
"This is simply great," whispered Helen.
"Oh, it's awful!" moaned Dorothy. "It's your fault, Helen. You
prayed for something to happen."
"I believe it's a horrid trick those cowboys are playing," said
Madeline assured her friends that no trick was being played upon
them, and that she deplored the discomfort and distress, but felt
no real alarm. She was more inclined to evasive kindness here
than to sincerity, for she had a decided uneasiness. The swift
change in the manner and looks of her cowboys had been a shock to
her. The last glance she had of Stewart's face, then stern,
almost sad, and haggard with worry, remained to augment her
Darkness appeared to drop swiftly down; the coyotes began their
haunting, mournful howls; the stars showed and grew brighter; the
wind moaned through the tips of the pines. Castleton was
restless. He walked to and fro before the overhanging shelf of
rock, where his companions sat lamenting, and presently he went
out to the ledge of the bench. The cowboys below had built a
fire, and the light from it rose in a huge, fan-shaped glow.
Castleton's little figure stood out black against this light.
Curious and anxious also, Madeline joined him and peered down
from the cliff. The distance was short, and occasionally she
could distinguish a word spoken by the cowboys. They were
unconcernedly cooking and eating. She marked the absence of
Stewart, and mentioned it to Castleton. Silently Castleton
pointed almost straight down, and there in the gloom stood
Stewart, with the two stag-hounds at his feet.
Presently Nick Steele silenced the camp-fire circle by raising a
warning hand. The cowboys bent their heads, listening. Madeline
listened with all her might. She heard one of the hounds whine,
then the faint beat of horse's hoofs. Nick spoke again and turned
to his supper, and the other men seemed to slacken in attention.
The beat of hoofs grew louder, entered the grove, then the circle
of light. The rider was Nels. He dismounted, and the sound of
his low voice just reached Madeline.
"Gene, it's Nels. Somethin' doin'," Madeline heard one of the
cowboys call, softly.
"Send him over," replied Stewart.
Nels stalked away from the fire.
"See here, Nels, the boys are all right, but I don't want them to
know everything about this mix-up," said Stewart, as Nels came
up. "Did you find the girl?"
Madeline guessed that Stewart referred to the Mexican girl
"No. But I met"--Madeline did not catch the name--"an' he was
wild. He was with a forest-ranger. An' they said Pat Hawe had
trailed her an' was takin' her down under arrest."
Stewart muttered deep under his breath, evidently cursing.
"Wonder why he didn't come on up here?" he queried, presently.
"He can see a trail."
"Wal, Gene, Pat knowed you was here all right, fer thet ranger
said Pat hed wind of the guerrillas, an' Pat said if Don Carlos
didn't kill you--which he hoped he'd do--then it 'd be time
enough to put you in jail when you come down."
"He's dead set to arrest me, Nels."
"An' he'll do it, like the old lady who kept tavern out West.
Gene, the reason thet red-faced coyote didn't trail you up here
is because he's scared. He allus was scared of you. But I reckon
he's shore scared to death of me an' Monty."
"Well, we'll take Pat in his turn. The thing now is, when will
that Greaser stalk us, and what'll we do when he comes?"
"My boy, there's only one way to handle a Greaser. I shore told
you thet. He means rough toward us. He'll come smilin' up, all
soci'ble like, insinuatin' an' sweeter 'n a woman. But he's
treacherous; he's wuss than an Indian. An', Gene, we know for a
positive fact how his gang hev been operatin' between these hills
an' Agua Prieta. They're no nervy gang of outlaws like we used
to hev. But they're plumb bad. They've raided and murdered
through the San Luis Pass an' Guadalupe Canon. They've murdered
women, an' wuss than thet, both north an' south of Agua Prieta.
Mebbe the U. S. cavalry don't know it, an' the good old States;
but we, you an' me an' Monty an' Nick, we know it. We know jest
about what thet rebel war down there amounts to. It's guerrilla
war, an' shore some harvest-time fer a lot of cheap thieves an'
Oh, you're right, Nels. I'm not disputing that," replied
Stewart. "If it wasn't for Miss Hammond and the other women, I'd
rather enjoy seeing you and Monty open up on that bunch. I'm
thinking I'd be glad to meet Don Carlos. But Miss Hammond! Why,
Nels, such a woman as she is would never recover from the sight
of real gun-play, let alone any stunts with a rope. These
Eastern women are different. I'm not belittling our Western
women. It's in the blood. Miss Hammond is--is--"
"Shore she is," interrupted Nels; "but she's got a damn sight
more spunk than you think she has, Gene Stewart. I'm no
thick-skulled cow. I'd hate somethin' powerful to hev Miss
Hammond see any rough work, let alone me an' Monty startin'
somethin'. An' me an' Monty'll stick to you, Gene, as long as
seems reasonable. Mind, ole feller, beggin' your pardon, you're
shore stuck on Miss Hammond, an' over-tender not to hurt her
feelin's or make her sick by lettin' some blood. We're in bad
here, an' mebbe we'll hev to fight. Sabe, senor? Wal, we do you
can jest gamble thet Miss Hammond'll be game. An' I'll bet you a
million pesos thet if you got goin' onct, an' she seen you as
I've seen you--wal, I know what she'd think of you. This old
world 'ain't changed much. Some women may be white-skinned an'
soft-eyed an' sweet-voiced an' high-souled, but they all like to
see a man! Gene, here's your game. Let Don Carlos come along.
Be civil. If he an' his gang are hungry, feed 'em. Take even a
little overbearin' Greaser talk. Be blind if he wants his gang to
steal somethin'. Let him think the women hev mosied down to the
ranch. But if he says you're lyin'--if he as much as looks round
to see the women--jest jump him same as you jumped Pat Hawe. Me
an' Monty'll hang back fer thet, an' if your strong bluff don't
go through, if the Don's gang even thinks of flashin' guns, then
we'll open up. An' all I got to say is if them Greasers stand
fer real gun-play they'll be the fust I ever seen."
"Nels, there are white men in that gang," said Stewart.
"Shore. But me an' Monty'll be thinkin' of thet. If they start
anythin' it'll hev to be shore quick."
"All right, Nels, old friend, and thanks," replied Stewart. Nels
returned to the camp-fire, and Stewart resumed his silent guard.
Madeline led Castleton away from the brink of the wall.
"By Jove! Cowboys are bloom~ng strange folk!" he exclaimed.
"They are not what they pretend to be."
"Indeed, you are right," replied Madeline. "I cannot understand
them. Come, let us tell the others that Nels and Monty were only
talking and do not intend to leave us. Dorothy, at least, will be
less frightened if she knows."
Dorothy was somewhat comforted. The others, however, complained
of the cowboys' singular behavior. More than once the idea was
advanced that an elaborate trick had been concocted. Upon
general discussion this idea gained ground. Madeline did not
combat it, because she saw it tended to a less perturbed
condition of mind among her guests. Castleton for once proved
that he was not absolutely obtuse, and helped along the idea.
They sat talking in low voices until a late hour. The incident
now began to take on the nature of Helen's long-yearned-for
adventure. Some of the party even grew merry in a subdued way.
Then, gradually, one by one they tired and went to bed. Helen
vowed she could not sleep in a place where there were bats and
crawling things. Madeline fancied, however, that they all went
to sleep while she lay wide-eyed, staring up at the black bulge
of overhanging rock and beyond the starry sky.
To keep from thinking of Stewart and the burning anger he had
caused her to feel for herself, Madeline tried to keep her mind
on other things. But thought of him recurred, and each time
there was a hot commotion in her breast hard to stifle.
Intelligent reasoning seemed out of her power. In the daylight
it had been possible for her to be oblivious to Stewart's deceit
after the moment of its realization. At night, however, in the
strange silence and hovering shadows of gloom, with the speaking
stars seeming to call to her, with the moan of the wind in the
pines, and the melancholy mourn of coyotes in the distance, she
was not able to govern her thought and emotion. The day was
practical, cold; the night was strange and tense. In the
darkness she had fancies wholly unknown to her in the bright
light of the sun. She battled with a haunting thought. She had
inadvertently heard Nels's conversation with Stewart; she had
listened, hoping to hear some good news or to hear the worst; she
had learned both, and, moreover, enlightenment on one point of
Stewart's complex motives. He wished to spare her any sight that
might offend, frighten, or disgust her. Yet this Stewart, who
showed a fineness of feeling that might have been wanting even in
Boyd Harvey, maintained a secret rendezvous with that pretty,
abandoned Bonita. Here always the hot shame, like a live,
stinging, internal fire, abruptly ended Madeline's thought. It
was intolerable, and it was the more so because she could neither
control nor understand it. The hours wore on, and at length, as
the stars began to pale and there was no sound whatever, she fell
She was called out of her slumber. Day had broken bright and
cool. The sun was still below the eastern crags. Ambrose, with
several other cowboys, had brought up buckets of spring-water,
and hot coffee and cakes. Madeline's party appeared to be none
the worse for the night's experience. Indeed, the meager
breakfast might have been as merrily partaken of as it was
hungrily had not Ambrose enjoined silence.
"They're expectin' company down below," he said.
This information and the summary manner in which the cowboys soon
led the party higher up among the ruined shelves of rock caused a
recurrence of anxiety. Madeline insisted on not going beyond a
projection of cliff from which she could see directly down into
the camp. As the vantage-point was one affording concealment,
Ambrose consented, but he placed the frightened Christine near
Madeline and remained there himself.
"Ambrose, do you really think the guerrillas will come?" asked
"Sure. We know. Nels just rode in and said they were on their
way up. Miss Hammond, can I trust you? You won't let out a
squeal if there's a fight down there? Stewart told me to hide
you out of sight or keep you from lookin'."
"I promise not to make any noise," replied Madeline. Madeline
arranged her coat so that she could lie upon it, and settled down
to wait developments. There came a slight rattling of stones in
the rear. She turned to see Helen sliding down a bank with a
perplexed and troubled cowboy. Helen came stooping low to where
Madeline lay and said: "I am going to see what happens, if I die
in the attempt! I can stand it if you can. She was pale and
big-eyed. Ambrose promptly swore at the cowboy who had let her
get away from him. "Take a half-hitch on her yourself an' see
where you end up," replied the fellow, and disappeared in the
jumble of rocks. Ambrose, finding words useless, sternly and
heroically prepared to carry Helen back to the others. He laid
hold of her. In a fury, with eyes blazing, Helen whispered:
"Let go of me! Majesty, what does this fool mean?"
Madeline laughed. She knew Helen, and had marked the whisper,
when ordinarily Helen would have spoken imperiously, and not low.
Madeline explained to her the exigency of the situation. "I
might run, but I'll never scream," said Helen. With that Ambrose
had to be content to let her stay. However, he found her a place
somewhat farther back from Madeline's position, where he said
there was less danger of her being seen. Then he sternly bound
her to silence, tarried a moment to comfort Christine, and
returned to where Madeline lay concealed. He had been there
scarcely a moment when he whispered:
"I hear hosses. The guerrillas are comin'."
Madeline's hiding-place was well protected from possible
discovery from below. She could peep over a kind of parapet,
through an opening in the tips of the pines that reached up to
the cliff, and obtain a commanding view of the camp circle and
its immediate surroundings. She could not, however, see far
either to right or left of the camp, owing to the obstructing
foliage. Presently the sound of horses' hoofs quickened the beat
of her pulse and caused her to turn keener gaze upon the cowboys
Although she had some inkling of the course Stewart and his men
were to pursue, she was not by any means prepared for the
indifference she saw. Frank was asleep, or pretended to be.
Three cowboys were lazily and unconcernedly attending to
camp-fire duties, such as baking biscuits, watching the ovens,
and washing tins and pots. The elaborate set of aluminum plates,
cups, etc., together with the other camp fixtures that had done
service for Madeline's party, had disappeared. Nick Steele sat
with his back to a log, smoking his pipe. Another cowboy had
just brought the horses closer into camp, where they stood
waiting to be saddled. Nels appeared to be fussing over a pack.
Stewart was rolling a cigarette. Monty had apparently nothing to
do for the present except whistle, which he was doing much more
loudly than melodiously. The whole ensemble gave an impression
of careless indifference.
The sound of horses' hoofs grew louder and slowed its beat. One
of the cowboys pointed down the trail, toward which several of
his comrades turned their heads for a moment, then went on with
Presently a shaggy, dusty horse bearing a lean, ragged, dark
rider rode into camp and halted. Another followed, and another.
Horses with Mexican riders came in single file and stopped behind
The cowboys looked up, and the guerrillas looked down. "Buenos
dias, senor," ceremoniously said the foremost guerrilla.
By straining her ears Madeline heard that voice, and she
recognized it as belonging to Don Carlos. His graceful bow to
Stewart was also familiar. Otherwise she would never have
recognized the former elegant vaquero in this uncouth, roughly
Stewart answered the greeting in Spanish, and, waving his hand
toward the camp-fire, added in English, "Get down and eat."
The guerrillas were anything but slow in complying. They crowded
to the fire, then spread in a little circle and squatted upon the
ground, laying their weapons beside them. In appearance they
tallied with the band of guerrillas that had carried Madeline up
into the foothills, only this band was larger and better armed.
The men, moreover, were just as hungry and as wild and beggarly.
The cowboys were not cordial in their reception of this visit,
but they were hospitable. The law of the desert had always been
to give food and drink to wayfaring men, whether lost or hunted
"There's twenty-three in that outfit," whispered Ambrose,
"includin' four white men. Pretty rummy outfit."
"They appear to be friendly enough," whispered Madeline.
"Things down there ain't what they seem," replied Ambrose.
"Ambrose, tell me--explain to me. This is my opportunity. As
long as you will let me watch them, please let me know the--the
"Sure. But recollect, Miss Hammond, that Gene'll give it to me
good if he ever knows I let you look and told you what's what.
Well, decent-like Gene is seem' them poor devils get a square
meal. They're only a lot of calf-thieves in this country.
Across the border they're bandits, some of them, the others just
riffraff outlaws. That rebel bluff doesn't go down with us. I'd
have to see first before I'd believe them Greasers would fight.
They're a lot of hard-ridin' thieves, and they'd steal a fellow's
blanket or tobacco. Gene thinks they're after you ladies--to
carry you off. But Gene-- Oh, Gene's some highfalutin in his
ideas lately. Most of us boys think the guerrillas are out to
Whatever might have been the secret motive of Don Carlos and his
men, they did not allow it to interfere with a hearty
appreciation of a generous amount of food. Plainly, each
individual ate all that he was able to eat at the time. They
jabbered like a flock of parrots; some were even merry, in a kind
of wild way. Then, as each and every one began to roll and smoke
the inevitable cigarette of the Mexican, there was a subtle
change in manner. They smoked and looked about the camp, off
into the woods, up at the crags, and back at the leisurely
cowboys. They had the air of men waiting for something.
"Senor," began Don Carlos, addressing Stewart. As he spoke he
swept his sombrero to indicate the camp circle.
Madeline could not distinguish his words, but his gesture plainly
indicated a question in regard to the rest of the camping party.
Stewart's reply and the wave of his hand down the trail meant
that his party had gone home. Stewart turned to some task, and
the guerrilla leader quietly smoked. He looked cunning and
thoughtful. His men gradually began to manifest a restlessness,
noticeable in the absence of former languor and slow puffing of
cigarette smoke. Presently a big-boned man with a bullet head
and a blistered red face of evil coarseness got up and threw away
his cigarette. He was an American.
"Hey, cull," he called in loud voice, "ain't ye goin' to cough up
"My boys don't carry liquor on the trail," replied Stewart. He
turned now to face the guerrillas.
"Haw, haw! I heerd over in Rodeo thet ye was gittin' to be shore
some fer temperance," said this fellow. "I hate to drink water,
but I guess I've gotter do it."
He went to the spring, sprawled down to drink, and all of a
sudden he thrust his arm down in the water to bring forth a
basket. The cowboys in the hurry of packing had neglected to
remove this basket; and it contained bottles of wine and liquors
for Madeline's guests. They had been submerged in the spring to
keep them cold. The guerrilla fumbled with the lid, opened it,
and then got up, uttering a loud roar of delight.
Stewart made an almost imperceptible motion, as if to leap
forward; but he checked the impulse, and after a quick glance at
Nels he said to the guerrilla:
"Guess my party forgot that. You're welcome to it." Like bees
the guerrillas swarmed around the lucky finder of the bottles.
There was a babel of voices. The drink did not last long, and it
served only to liberate the spirit of recklessness. The several
white outlaws began to prowl around the camp; some of the
Mexicans did likewise; others waited, showing by their
ill-concealed expectancy the nature of their thoughts.
It was the demeanor of Stewart and his comrades that puzzled
Madeline. Apparently they felt no anxiety or even particular
interest. Don Carlos, who had been covertly watching them, now
made his scrutiny open, even aggressive. He looked from Stewart
to Nels and Monty, and then to the other cowboys. While some of
his men prowled around the others watched him, and the waiting
attitude had taken on something sinister. The guerrilla leader
seemed undecided, but not in any sense puzzled. When he turned
his cunning face upon Nels and Monty he had the manner of a man
in whom decision was lacking.
In her growing excitement Madeline had not clearly heard
Ambrose's low whispers and she made an effort to distract some of
her attention from those below to the cowboy crouching beside
The quality, the note of Ambrose's whisper had changed. It had a
slight sibilant sound.
"Don't be mad if sudden-like I clap my hands over your eyes, Miss
Hammond," he was saying. "Somethin's brewin' below. I never seen
Gene so cool. That's a dangerous sign in him. And look, see how
the boys are workin' together! Oh, it's slow and accident-like,
but I know it's sure not accident. That foxy Greaser knows, too.
But maybe his men don't. If they are wise they haven't sense
enough to care. The Don, though--he's worried. He's not payin'
so much attention to Gene, either. It's Nels and Monty he's
watchin'. And well he need do it! There, Nick and Frank have
settled down on that log with Booly. They don't seem to be
packin' guns. But look how heavy their vests hang. A gun in
each side! Those boys can pull a gun and flop over that log
quicker than you can think. Do you notice how Nels and Monty and
Gene are square between them guerrillas and the trail up here?
It doesn't seem on purpose, but it is. Look at Nels and Monty.
How quiet they are confabbin' together, payin' no attention to
the guerrillas. I see Monty look at Gene, then I see Nels look
at Gene. Well, it's up to Gene. And they're goin' to back him.
I reckon, Miss Hammond, there'd be dead Greasers round that camp
long ago if Nels and Monty were foot-loose. They're beholdin' to
Gene. That's plain. And, Lord! how it tickles me to watch them!
Both packin' two forty-fives, butts swingin' clear. There's
twenty-four shots in them four guns. And there's twenty-three
guerrillas. If Nels and Monty ever throw guns at that close
range, why, before you'd know what was up there'd be a pile of
Greasers. There! Stewart said something to the Don. I wonder
what. I'll gamble it was something to get the Don's outfit all
close together. Sure! Greasers have no sense. But them white
guerrillas, they're lookin' some dubious. Whatever's comin' off
will come soon, you can bet. I wish I was down there. But maybe
it won't come to a scrap. Stewart's set on avoidin' that. He's
a wonderful chap to get his way. Lord, though, I'd like to see
him go after that overbearin' Greaser! See! the Don can't stand
prosperity. All this strange behavior of cowboys is beyond his
pulque-soaked brains. Then he's a Greaser. If Gene doesn't
knock him on the head presently he'll begin to get over his
scare, even of Nels and Monty. But Gene'll pick out the right
time. And I'm gettin' nervous. I want somethin' to start.
Never saw Nels in but one fight, then he just shot a Greaser's
arm off for tryin' to draw on him. But I've heard all about him.
And Monty! Monty's the real old-fashioned gun-man. Why, none of
them stories, them lies he told to entertain the Englishman, was
a marker to what Monty has done. What I don't understand is how
Monty keeps so quiet and easy and peaceful-like. That's not his
way, with such an outfit lookin' for trouble. O-ha! Now for the
grand bluff. Looks like no fight at all!"
The guerrilla leader had ceased his restless steps and glances,
and turned to Stewart with something of bold resolution in his
"Gracias, senor," he said. "Adios." He swept his sombrero in
the direction of the trail leading down the mountain to the
ranch; and as he completed the gesture a smile, crafty and
jeering, crossed his swarthy face.
Ambrose whispered so low that Madeline scarcely heard him. "If
the Greaser goes that way he'll find our horses and get wise to
the trick. Oh, he's wise now! But I'll gamble he never even
starts on that trail."
Neither hurriedly nor guardedly Stewart rose out of his leaning
posture and took a couple of long strides toward Don Carlos.
"Go back the way you came," he fairly yelled; and his voice had
the ring of a bugle.
Ambrose nudged Madeline; his whisper was tense and rapid: "Don't
miss nothin'. Gene's called him. Whatever's comin' off will be
here quick as lightnin'. See! I guess maybe that Greaser don't
savvy good U. S. lingo. Look at that dirty yaller face turn
green. Put one eye on Nels and Monty! That's great--just to see
'em. Just as quiet and easy. But oh, the difference! Bent and
stiff--that means every muscle is like a rawhide riata. They're
watchin' with eyes that can see the workin's of them Greasers'
minds. Now there ain't a hoss-hair between them Greasers and
Don Carlos gave Stewart one long malignant stare; then he threw
back his head, swept up the sombrero, and his evil smile showed
"Senor--" he began.
With magnificent bound Stewart was upon him. The guerrilla's cry
was throttled in his throat. A fierce wrestling ensued, too
swift to see clearly; then heavy, sodden blows, and Don Carlos
was beaten to the ground. Stewart leaped back. Then, crouching
with his hands on the butts of guns at his hips, he yelled, he
thundered at the guerrillas. He had been quicker than a panther,
and now his voice was so terrible that it curdled Madeline's
blood, and the menace of deadly violence in his crouching
position made her shut her eyes. But she had to open them. In
that single instant Nels and Monty had leaped to Stewart's side.
Both were bent down, with hands on the butts of guns at their
hips. Nels's piercing yell seemed to divide Monty's roar of
rage. Then they ceased, and echoes clapped from the crags. The
silence of those three men crouching like tigers about to leap
was more menacing than the nerve-racking yells.
Then the guerrillas wavered and broke and ran for their horses.
Don Carlos rolled over, rose, and staggered away, to be helped
upon his mount. He looked back, his pale and bloody face that of
a thwarted demon. The whole band got into action and were gone
in a moment.
"I knew it," declared Ambrose. "Never seen a Greaser who could
face gun-play. That was some warm. And Monty Price never
flashed a gun! He'll never get over that. I reckon, Miss
Harnmond, we're some lucky to avoid trouble. Gene had his way,
as you seen. We'll be makin' tracks for the ranch in about two
"Why?" whispered Madeline, breathlessly. She became conscious
that she was weak and shaken.
"Because the guerrillas sure will get their nerve back, and come
sneakin' on our trail or try to head us off by ambushin',"
replied Ambrose. "That's their way. Otherwise three cowboys
couldn't bluff a whole gang like that. Gene knows the nature of
Greasers. They're white-livered. But I reckon we're in more
danger now than before, unless we get a good start down the
mountain. There! Gene's callin'. Come! Hurry!"
Helen had slipped down from her vantage-point, and therefore had
not seen the last act in that little camp-fire drama. It seemed,
however, that her desire for excitement was satisfied, for her
face was pale and she trembled when she asked if the guerrillas
"I didn't see the finish, but those horrible yells were enough
Ambrose hurried the three women over the rough rocks, down the
cliff. The cowboys below were saddling horses in haste.
Evidently all the horses had been brought out of hiding.
Swiftly, with regard only for life and limb, Madeline, Helen, and
Christine were lowered by lassoes and half carried down to the
level. By the time they were safely down the other members of
the party appeared on the cliff above. They were in excellent
spirits, appearing to treat the matter as a huge joke.
Ambrose put Christine on a horse and rode away through the pines;
Frankie Slade did likewise with Helen. Stewart led Madeline's
horse up to her, helped her to mount, and spoke one stern word,
"Wait!" Then as fast as one of the women reached the level she
was put upon a horse and taken away by a cowboy escort. Few
words were spoken. Haste seemed to be the great essential. The
horses were urged, and, once in the trail, spurred and led into a
swift trot. One cowboy drove up four pack-horses, and these were
hurriedly loaded with the party's baggage. Castleton and his
companions mounted, and galloped off to catch the others in the
lead. This left Madeline behind with Stewart and Nels and Monty.
"They're goin' to switch off at the holler thet heads near the
trail a few miles down," Nels was saying, as he tightened his
saddle-girth. "Thet holler heads into a big canon. Once in
thet, it'll be every man fer hisself. I reckon there won't be
anythin' wuss than a rough ride."
Nels smiled reassuringly at Madeline, but he did not speak to
her. Monty took her canteen and filled it at the spring and hung
it over the pommel of her saddle. He put a couple of biscuits in
"Don't fergit to take a drink an' a bite as you're ridin' along,"
he said. "An' don't worry, Miss Majesty. Stewart'll be with you,
an' me an' Nels hangin' on the back-trail."
His somber and sullen face did not change in its strange
intensity, but the look in his eyes Madeline felt she would never
forget. Left alone with these three men, now stripped of all
pretense, she realized how fortune had favored her and what peril
still hung in the balance. Stewart swung astride his big black,
spurred him, and whistled. At the whistle Majesty jumped, and
with swift canter followed Stewart. Madeline looked back to see
Nels already up and Monty handing him a rifle. Then the pines
hid her view.
Once in the trail, Stewart's horse broke into a gallop. Majesty
changed his gait and kept at the black's heels. Stewart called
back a warning. The low, wide-spreading branches of trees might
brush Madeline out of the saddle. Fast riding through the forest
along a crooked, obstructed trail called forth all her alertness.
Likewise the stirring of her blood, always susceptible to the
spirit and motion of a ride, let alone one of peril, now began to
throb and burn away the worry, the dread, the coldness that had
weighted her down.
Before long Stewart wheeled at right angles off the trail and
entered a hollow between two low bluffs. Madeline saw tracks in
the open patches of ground. Here Stewart's horse took to a brisk
walk. The hollow deepened, narrowed, became rocky, full of logs
and brush. Madeline exerted all her keenness, and needed it, to
keep close to Stewart. She did not think of him, nor her own
safety, but of keeping Majesty close in the tracks of the black,
of eluding the sharp spikes in the dead brush, of avoiding the
treacherous loose stones.
At last Madeline was brought to a dead halt by Stewart and his
horse blocking the trail. Looking up, she saw they were at the
head of a canon that yawned beneath and widened its gray-walled,
green-patched slopes down to a black forest of fir. The drab
monotony of the foothills made contrast below the forest, and
away in the distance, rosy and smoky, lay the desert. Retracting
her gaze, Madeline saw pack-horses cross an open space a mile
below, and she thought she saw the stag-hounds. Stewart's dark
eyes searched the slopes high up along the craggy escarpments.
Then he put the black to the descent.
If there had been a trail left by the leading cowboys, Stewart
did not follow it. He led off to the right, zigzagging an
intricate course through the roughest ground Madeline had ever
ridden over. He crashed through cedars, threaded a tortuous way
among boulders, made his horse slide down slanting banks of soft
earth, picked a slow and cautious progress across weathered
slopes of loose rock. Madeline followed, finding in this ride a
tax on strength and judgment. On an ordinary horse she never
could have kept in Stewart's trail. It was dust and heat, a
parching throat, that caused Madeline to think of time; and she
was amazed to see the sun sloping to the west. Stewart never
stopped; he never looked back; he never spoke. He must have
heard the horse close behind him. Madeline remembered Monty's
advice about drinking and eating as she rode along. The worst of
that rough travel came at the bottom of the canon. Dead cedars
and brush and logs were easy to pass compared with the miles, it
seemed, of loose boulders. The horses slipped and stumbled.
Stewart proceeded here with exceeding care. At last, when the
canon opened into a level forest of firs, the sun was setting red
in the west.
Stewart quickened the gait of his horse. After a mile or so of
easy travel the ground again began to fall decidedly, sloping in
numerous ridges, with draws between. Soon night shadowed the
deeper gullies. Madeline was refreshed by the cooling of the
Stewart traveled slowly now. The barks of coyotes seemed to
startle him. Often he stopped to listen. And during one of
those intervals the silence was broken by sharp rifle-shots.
Madeline could not tell whether they were near or far, to right
or left, behind or before. Evidently Stewart was both alarmed
and baffled. He dismounted. He went cautiously forward to
listen. Madeline fancied she heard a cry, low and far away. It
was only that of a coyote, she convinced herself, yet it was so
wailing, so human, that she shuddered. Stewart came back. He
slipped the bridles of both horses, and he led them. Every few
paces he stopped to listen. He changed his direction several
times, and the last time he got among rough, rocky ridges. The
iron shoes of the horses cracked on the rocks. That sound must
have penetrated far into the forest. It perturbed Stewart, for he
searched for softer ground. Meanwhile the shadows merged into
darkness. The stars shone. The wind rose. Madeline believed
Stewart halted again. In the gloom Madeline discerned a log
cabin, and beyond it pear-pointed dark trees piercing the
sky-line. She could just make out Stewart's tall form as he
leaned against his horse. Either he was listening or debating
what to do--perhaps both. Presently he went inside the cabin.
Madeline heard the scratching of a match; then she saw a faint
light. The cabin appeared to be deserted. Probably it was one
of the many habitations belonging to prospectors and foresters
who lived in the mountains. Stewart came out again. He walked
around the horses, out into the gloom, then back to Madeline. For
a long moment he stood as still as a statue and listened. Then
she heard him mutter, "If we have to start quick I can ride
bareback." With that he took the saddle and blanket off his
horse and carried them into the cabin.
"Get off," he said, in a low voice, as he stepped out of the
He helped her down and led her inside, where again he struck a
match. Madeline caught a glimpse of a rude fireplace and
rough-hewn logs. Stewart's blanket and saddle lay on the
hard-packed earthen floor.
"Rest a little," he said. "I'm going into the woods a piece to
listen. Gone only a minute or so."
Madeline had to feel round in the dark to locate the saddle and
blanket. When she lay down it was with a grateful sense of ease
and relief. As her body rested, however, her mind became the old
thronging maze for sensation and thought. All day she had
attended to the alert business of helping her horse. Now, what
had already happened, the night, the silence, the proximity of
Stewart and his strange, stern caution, the possible happenings
to her friends--all claimed their due share of her feeling. She
went over them all with lightning swiftness of thought. She
believed, and she was sure Stewart believed, that her friends,
owing to their quicker start down the mountain, had not been
headed off in their travel by any of the things which had delayed
Stewart. This conviction lifted the suddenly returning dread
from her breast; and as for herself, somehow she had no fear.
But she could not sleep; she did not try to.
Stewart's soft steps sounded outside. His dark form loomed in
the door. As he sat down Madeline heard the thump of a gun that
he laid beside him on the sill; then the thump of another as he
put that down, too. The sounds thrilled her. Stewart's wide
shoulders filled the door; his finely shaped head and strong,
stern profile showed clearly in outline against the sky; the wind
waved his hair. He turned his ear to that wind and listened.
Motionless he sat for what to her seemed hours.
Then the stirring memory of the day's adventure, the feeling of
the beauty of the night, and a strange, deep-seated, sweetly
vague consciousness of happiness portending, were all burned out
in hot, pressing pain at the remembrance of Stewart's disgrace in
her eyes. Something had changed within her so that what had been
anger at herself was sorrow for him. He was such a splendid man.
She could not feel the same; she knew her debt to him, yet she
could not thank him, could not speak to him. She fought an
Then she rested with closed eyes, and time seemed neither short
nor long. When Stewart called her she opened her eyes to see the
gray of dawn. She rose and stepped outside. The horses whinnied.
In a moment she was in the saddle, aware of cramped muscles and a
weariness of limbs. Stewart led off at a sharp trot into the fir
forest. They came to a trail into which be turned. The horses
traveled steadily; the descent grew less steep; the firs thinned
out; the gray gloom brightened.
When Madeline rode out of the firs the sun had arisen and the
foothills rolled beneath her; and at their edge, where the gray
of valley began, she saw a dark patch that she knew was the
XX The Sheriff of El Cajon
About the middle of the forenoon of that day Madeline reached the
ranch. Her guests had all arrived there late the night before,
and wanted only her presence and the assurance of her well-being
to consider the last of the camping trip a rare adventure.
Likewise, they voted it the cowboys' masterpiece of a trick.
Madeline's delay, they averred, had been only a clever coup to
give a final effect. She did not correct their impression, nor
think it needful to state that she had been escorted home by only
Her guests reported an arduous ride down the mountain, with only
one incident to lend excitement. On the descent they had fallen
in with Sheriff Hawe and several of his deputies, who were
considerably under the influence of drink and very greatly
enraged by the escape of the Mexican girl Bonita. Hawe had used
insulting language to the ladies and, according to Ambrose, would
have inconvenienced the party on some pretext or other if he had
not been sharply silenced by the cowboys.
Madeline's guests were two days in recovering from the hard ride.
On the third day they leisurely began to prepare for departure.
This period was doubly trying for Madeline. She had her own
physical need of rest, and, moreover, had to face a mental
conflict that could scarcely be postponed further. Her sister
and friends were kindly and earnestly persistent in their
entreaties that she go back East with them. She desired to go.
It was not going that mattered; it was how and when and under
what circumstances she was to return that roused in her
disturbing emotion. Before she went East she wanted to have
fixed in mind her future relation to the ranch and the West.
When the crucial hour arrived she found that the West had not
claimed her yet. These old friends had warmed cold ties.
It turned out, however, that there need be no hurry about making
the decision. Madeline would have welcomed any excuse to
procrastinate; but, as it happened, a letter from Alfred made her
departure out of the question for the present. He wrote that his
trip to California had been very profitable, that he had a
proposition for Madeline from a large cattle company, and,
particularly, that he wanted to marry Florence soon after his
arrival home and would bring a minister from Douglas for that
Madeline went so far, however, as to promise Helen and her
friends that she would go East soon, at the very latest by
Thanksgiving. With that promise they were reluctantly content to
say good-by to the ranch and to her. At the last moment there
seemed a great likelihood of a hitch in plans for the first stage
of that homeward journey. All of Madeline's guests held up their
hands, Western fashion, when Link Stevens appeared with the big
white car. Link protested innocently, solemnly, that he would
drive slowly and safely; but it was necessary for Madeline to
guarantee Link's word and to accompany them before they would
enter the car. At the station good-bys were spoken and repeated,
and Madeline's promise was exacted for the hundredth time.
Dorothy Coombs's last words were: "Give my love to Monty Price.
Tell him I'm--I'm glad he kissed me!"
Helen's eyes had a sweet, grave, yet mocking light as she said:
"Majesty, bring Stewart with you when you come. He'll be the
Madeline treated the remark with the same merry lightness with
which it was received by the others; but after the train had
pulled out and she was on her way home she remembered Helen's
words and looks with something almost amounting to a shock. Any
mention of Stewart, any thought of him, displeased her.
"What did Helen mean?" mused Madeline. And she pondered. That
mocking light in Helen's eyes had been simply an ironical glint,
a cynical gleam from that worldly experience so suspicious and
tolerant in its wisdom. The sweet gravity of Helen's look had
been a deeper and more subtle thing. Madeline wanted to
understand it, to divine in it a new relation between Helen and
herself, something fine and sisterly that might lead to love.
The thought, however, revolving around a strange suggestion of
Stewart, was poisoned at its inception, and she dismissed it.
Upon the drive in to the ranch, as she was passing the lower
lake, she saw Stewart walking listlessly along the shore. When he
became aware of the approach of the car he suddenly awakened from
his aimless sauntering and disappeared quickly in the shade of
the shrubbery. This was not by any means the first time Madeline
had seen him avoid a possible meeting with her. Somehow the act
had pained her, though affording her a relief. She did not want
to meet him face to face.
It was annoying for her to guess that Stillwell had something to
say in Stewart's defense. The old cattleman was evidently
distressed. Several times he had tried to open a conversation
with Madeline relating to Stewart; she had evaded him until the
last time, when his persistence had brought a cold and final
refusal to hear another word about the foreman. Stillwell had
As days passed Stewart remained at the ranch without his old
faithfulness to his work. Madeline was not moved to a kinder
frame of mind to see him wandering dejectedly around. It hurt
her, and because it hurt her she grew all the harder. Then she
could not help hearing snatches of conversation which
strengthened her suspicions that Stewart was losing his grip on
himself, that he would soon take the downward course again.
Verification of her own suspicion made it a belief, and belief
brought about a sharp conflict between her generosity and some
feeling that she could not name. It was not a question of
justice or mercy or sympathy. If a single word could have saved
Stewart from sinking his splendid manhood into the brute she had
recoiled from at Chiricahua, she would not have spoken it. She
could not restore him to his former place in her regard; she
really did not want him at the ranch at all. Once, considering
in wonder her knowledge of men, she interrogated herself to see
just why she could not overlook Stewart's transgression. She
never wanted to speak to him again, or see him, or think of him.
In some way, through her interest in Stewart, she had come to
feel for herself an inexplicable thing close to scorn.
A telegram from Douglas, heralding the coming of Alfred and a
minister, put an end to Madeline's brooding, and she shared
something of Florence Kingsley's excitement. The cowboys were as
eager and gossipy as girls. It was arranged to have the wedding
ceremony performed in Madeline's great hall-chamber, and the
dinner in the cool, flower-scented patio.
Alfred and his minister arrived at the ranch in the big white
car. They appeared considerably wind-blown. In fact, the
minister was breathless, almost sightless, and certainly hatless.
Alfred, used as he was to wind and speed, remarked that he did
not wonder at Nels's aversion to riding a fleeting cannon-ball.
The imperturbable Link took off his cap and goggles and,
consulting his watch, made his usual apologetic report to
Madeline, deploring the fact that a teamster and a few stray
cattle on the road had held him down to the manana time of only a
mile a minute.
Arrangements for the wedding brought Alfred's delighted approval.
When he had learned all Florence and Madeline would tell him he
expressed a desire to have the cowboys attend; and then he went
on to talk about California, where he was going take Florence on
a short trip. He was curiously interested to find out all about
Madeline's guests and what had happened to them. His keen glance
at Madeline grew softer as she talked.
"I breathe again," he said, and laughed. "I was afraid. Well, I
must have missed some sport. I can just fancy what Monty and
Nels did to that Englishman. So you went up to the crags.
That's a wild place. I'm not surprised at guerrillas falling in
with you up there. The crags were a famous rendezvous for
Apaches--it's near the border--almost inaccessible--good water
and grass. I wonder what the U. S. cavalry would think if they
knew these guerrillas crossed the border right under their noses.
Well, it's practically impossible to patrol some of that
border-line. It's desert, mountain, and canon, exceedingly wild
and broken. I'm sorry to say that there seems to be more trouble
in sight with these guerrillas than at any time heretofore.
Orozco, the rebel leader, has failed to withstand Madero's army.
The Federals are occupying Chihuahua now, and are driving the
rebels north. Orozco has broken up his army into guerrilla bands.
They are moving north and west, intending to carry on guerrilla
warfare in Sonora. I can't say just how this will affect us
here. But we're too close to the border for comfort. These
guerrillas are night-riding hawks; they can cross the border,
raid us here, and get back the same night. Fighting, I imagine,
will not be restricted to northern Mexico. With the revolution a
failure the guerrillas will be more numerous, bolder, and
hungrier. Unfortunately, we happen to be favorably situated for
them down here in this wilderness corner of the state."
On the following day Alfred and Florence were married. Florence's
sister and several friends from El Cajon were present, besides
Madeline, Stillwell, and his men. It was Alfred's express wish
that Stewart attend the ceremony. Madeline was amused when she
noticed the painfully suppressed excitement of the cowboys. For
them a wedding must have been an unusual and impressive event.
She began to have a better understanding of the nature of it when
they cast off restraint and pressed forward to kiss the bride.
In all her life Madeline had never seen a bride kissed so much
and so heartily, nor one so flushed and disheveled and happy.
This indeed was a joyful occasion. There was nothing of the
"effete East" about Alfred Hammond; he might have been a
Westerner all his days. When Madeline managed to get through the
press of cowboys to offer her congratulations Alfred gave her a
bear hug and a kiss. This appeared to fascinate the cowboys.
With shining eyes and faces aglow, with smiling, boyish boldness,
they made a rush at Madeline. For one instant her heart leaped
to her throat. They looked as if they could most shamelessly
kiss and maul her. That little, ugly-faced, soft-eyed, rude,
tender-hearted ruffian, Monty Price, was in the lead. He
resembled a dragon actuated by sentiment. All at once Madeline's
instinctive antagonism to being touched by strange hands or lips
battled with a real, warm, and fun-loving desire to let the
cowboys work their will with her. But she saw Stewart hanging at
the back of the crowd, and something--some fierce, dark
expression of pain--amazed her, while it froze her desire to be
kind. Then she did not know what change must have come to her
face and bearing; but she saw Monty fall back sheepishly and the
other cowboys draw aside to let her lead the way into the patio.
The dinner began quietly enough with the cowboys divided between
embarrassment and voracious appetites that they evidently feared
to indulge. Wine, however, loosened their tongues, and when
Stillwell got up to make the speech everybody seemed to expect of
him they greeted him with a roar.
Stillwell was now one huge, mountainous smile. He was so happy
that he appeared on the verge of tears. He rambled on
ecstatically till he came to raise his glass.
"An' now, girls an' boys, let's all drink to the bride an' groom;
to their sincere an' lastin' love; to their happiness an'
prosperity; to their good health an' long life. Let's drink to
the unitin' of the East with the West. No man full of red blood
an' the real breath of life could resist a Western girl an' a
good hoss an' God's free hand--that open country out there. So
we claim Al Hammond, an' may we be true to him. An', friends, I
think it fittin' that we drink to his sister an' to our hopes.
Heah's to the lady we hope to make our Majesty! Heah's to the
man who'll come ridin' out of the West, a fine, big-hearted man
with a fast hoss an' a strong rope, an' may he win an' hold her!
Come, friends, drink."
A heavy pound of horses' hoofs and a yell outside arrested
Stillwell's voice and halted his hand in midair.
The patio became as silent as an unoccupied room.
Through the open doors and windows of Madeline's chamber burst
the sounds of horses stamping to a halt, then harsh speech of
men, and a low cry of a woman in pain.
Rapid steps crossed the porch, entered Madeline's room. Nels
appeared in the doorway. Madeline was surprised to see that be
had not been at the dinner-table. She was disturbed at sight of
"Stewart, you're wanted outdoors," called Nels, bluntly. "Monty,
you slope out here with me. You, Nick, an' Stillwell--I reckon
the rest of you hed better shut the doors an' stay inside."
Nels disappeared. Quick as a cat Monty glided out. Madeline
beard his soft, swift steps pass from her room into her office.
He bad left his guns there. Madeline trembled. She saw Stewart
get up quietly and without any change of expression on his dark,
sad face leave the patio. Nick Steele followed him. Stillwell
dropped his wine-glass. As it broke, shivering the silence, his
huge smile vanished. His face set into the old cragginess and
the red slowly thickened into black. Stillwell went out and
closed the door behind him.
Then there was a blank silence. The enjoyment of the moment had
been rudely disrupted. Madeline glanced down the lines of brown
faces to see the pleasure fade into the old familiar hardness.
"What's wrong?" asked Alfred, rather stupidly. The change of
mood had been too rapid for him. Suddenly he awakened,
thoroughly aroused at the interruption. "I'm going to see who's
butted in here to spoil our dinner," he said, and strode out.
He returned before any one at the table had spoken or moved, and
now the dull red of anger mottled his forehead.
"It's the sheriff of El Cajon!" he exclaimed, contemptuously.
"Pat Hawe with some of his tough deputies come to arrest Gene
Stewart. They've got that poor little Mexican girl out there
tied on a horse. Confound that sheriff!"
Madeline calmly rose from the table, eluding Florence's
entreating hand, and started for the door. The cowboys jumped
up. Alfred barred her progress.
"Alfred, I am going out," she said.
"No, I guess not," he replied. "That's no place for you."
"I am going." She looked straight at him.
"Madeline! Why, what is it? You look-- Dear, there's pretty
sure to be trouble outside. Maybe there'll be a fight. You can
do nothing. You must not go."
"Perhaps I can prevent trouble," she replied.
As she left the patio she was aware that Alfred, with Florence at
his side and the cowboys behind, were starting to follow her.
When she got out of her room upon the porch she heard several men
in loud, angry discussion. Then, at sight of Bonita helplessly
and cruelly bound upon a horse, pale and disheveled and
suffering, Madeline experienced the thrill that sight or mention
of this girl always gave her. It yielded to a hot pang in her
breast--that live pain which so shamed her. But almost instantly,
as a second glance showed an agony in Bonita's face, her bruised
arms where the rope bit deep into the flesh, her little brown
hands stained with blood, Madeline was overcome by pity for the
unfortunate girl and a woman's righteous passion at such
barbarous treatment of one of her own sex.
The man holding the bridle of the horse on which Bonita had been
bound was at once recognized by Madeline as the big-bodied,
bullet-headed guerrilla who had found the basket of wine in the
spring at camp. Redder of face, blacker of beard, coarser of
aspect, evidently under the influence of liquor, he was as
fierce-looking as a gorilla and as repulsive. Besides him there
were three other men present, all mounted on weary horses. The
one in the foreground, gaunt, sharp-featured, red-eyed, with a
pointed beard, she recognized as the sheriff of El Cajon.
Madeline hesitated, then stopped in the middle of the porch.
Alfred, Florence, and several others followed her out; the rest
of the cowboys and guests crowded the windows and doors.
Stillwell saw Madeline, and, throwing up his hands, roared to be
heard. This quieted the gesticulating, quarreling men.
"Wal now, Pat Hawe, what's drivin' you like a locoed steer on the
rampage?" demanded Stillwell.
"Keep in the traces, Bill," replied Hawe. "You savvy what I come
fer. I've been bidin' my time. But I'm ready now. I'm hyar to
arrest a criminal."
The huge frame of the old cattleman jerked as if he had been
stabbed. His face turned purple.
"What criminal?" he shouted, hoarsely.
The sheriff flicked his quirt against his dirty boot, and he
twisted his thin lips into a leer. The situation was agreeable
"Why, Bill, I knowed you hed a no-good outfit ridin' this range;
but I wasn't wise thet you hed more 'n one criminal."
"Cut that talk! Which cowboy are you wantin' to arrest?"
Hawe's manner altered.
"Gene Stewart," he replied, curtly.
"On what charge?"
"Fer killin' a Greaser one night last fall."
"So you're still harpin' on that? Pat, you're on the wrong
trail. You can't lay that killin' onto Stewart. The thing's
ancient by now. But if you insist on bringin' him to court, let
the arrest go to-day--we're hevin' some fiesta hyar--an' I'll
fetch Gene in to El Cajon."
"Nope. I reckon I'll take him when I got the chance, before he
"I'm givin' you my word," thundered Stillwell.
"I reckon I don't hev to take your word, Bill, or anybody
Stillwell's great bulk quivered with his rage, yet he made a
successful effort to control it.
"See hyar, Pat Hawe, I know what's reasonable. Law is law. But
in this country there always has been an' is now a safe an' sane
way to proceed with the law. Mebbe you've forgot that. The law
as invested in one man in a wild country is liable, owin' to that
man's weaknesses an' onlimited authority, to be disputed even by
a decent ole cattleman like myself. I'm a-goin' to give you a
hunch. Pat, you're not overliked in these parts. You've rid too
much with a high hand. Some of your deals hev been shady, an'
don't you overlook what I'm sayin'. But you're the sheriff, an'
I'm respectin' your office. I'm respectin' it this much. If the
milk of human decency is so soured in your breast that you can't
hev a kind feelin', then try to avoid the onpleasantness that'll
result from any contrary move on your part to-day. Do you get
"Stillwell, you're threatenin' an officer," replied Hawe,
"Will you hit the trail quick out of hyar?" queried Stillwell, in
strained voice. "I guarantee Stewart's appearance in El Cajon
any day you say."
"No. I come to arrest him, an' I'm goin' to."
"So that's your game!" shouted Stillwell. "We-all are glad to
get you straight, Pat. Now listen, you cheap, red-eyed coyote of
a sheriff! You don't care how many enemies you make. You know
you'll never get office again in this county. What do you care
now? It's amazin' strange how earnest you are to hunt down the
man who killed that particular Greaser. I reckon there's been
some dozen or more killin's of Greasers in the last year. Why
don't you take to trailin' some of them killin's? I'll tell you
why. You're afraid to go near the border. An' your hate of Gene
Stewart makes you want to hound him an' put him where he's never
been yet--in jail. You want to spite his friends. Wal, listen,
you lean-jawed, skunk-bitten coyote! Go ahead an' try to arrest
Stillwell took one mighty stride off the porch. His last words
had been cold. His rage appeared to have been transferred to
Hawe. The sheriff had begun to stutter and shake a lanky red
hand at the cattleman when Stewart stepped out.
"Here, you fellows, give me a chance to say a word."
As Stewart appeared the Mexican girl suddenly seemed vitalized
out of her stupor. She strained at her bonds, as if to lift her
hands beseechingly. A flush animated her haggard face, and her
big dark eyes lighted.
"Senor Gene!" she moaned. "Help me! I so seek. They beat me,
rope me, 'mos' keel me. Oh, help me, Senor Gene!"
"Shut up, er I'll gag you," said the man who held Bonita's horse.
"Muzzle her, Sneed, if she blabs again," called Hawe. Madeline
felt something tense and strained working in the short silence.
Was it only a phase of her thrilling excitement? Her swift
glance showed the faces of Nels and Monty and Nick to be
brooding, cold, watchful. She wondered why Stewart did not look
toward Bonita. He, too, was now dark-faced, cool, quiet, with
something ominous about him.
"Hawe, I'll submit to arrest without any fuss," he said, slowly,
"if you'll take the ropes off that girl."
"Nope," replied the sheriff. "She got away from me onct. She's
hawg-tied now, an' she'll stay hawg-tied."
Madeline thought she saw Stewart give a slight start. But an
unaccountable dimness came over her eyes, at brief intervals
obscuring her keen sight. Vaguely she was conscious of a clogged
and beating tumult in her breast.
"All right, let's hurry out of here," said Stewart. "You've made
annoyance enough. Ride down to the corral with me. I'll get my
horse and go with you."
"Hold on!" yelled Hawe, as Stewart turned away. "Not so fast.
Who's doin' this? You don't come no El Capitan stunts on me.
You'll ride one of my pack-horses, an' you'll go in irons."
"You want to handcuff me?" queried Stewart, with sudden swift
start of passion.
"Want to? Haw, haw! Nope, Stewart, thet's jest my way with
hoss-thieves, raiders, Greasers, murderers, an' sich. See hyar,
you Sneed, git off an' put the irons on this man."
The guerrilla called Sneed slid off his horse and began to fumble
in his saddle-bags.
"You see, Bill," went on Hawe, "I swore in a new depooty fer this
particular job. Sneed is some handy. He rounded up thet little
Mexican cat fer me."
Stillwell did not hear the sheriff; he was gazing at Stewart in a
kind of imploring amaze.
"Gene, you ain't goin' to stand fer them handcuffs?" he pleaded.
"Yes," replied the cowboy. "Bill, old friend, I'm an outsider
here. There's no call for Miss Hammond and--and her brother and
Florence to be worried further about me. Their happy day has
already been spoiled on my account. I want to get out quick."
"Wal, you might be too damn considerate of Miss Hammond's
sensitive feelin's." There was now no trace of the courteous,
kindly old rancher. He looked harder than stone. "How about my
feelin's? I want to know if you're goin' to let this sneakin'
coyote, this last gasp of the old rum-guzzlin' frontier sheriffs,
put you in irons an' hawg-tie you an' drive you off to jail?"
"Yes," replied Stewart, steadily.
"Wal, by Gawd! You, Gene Stewart! What's come over you? Why,
man, go in the house, an' I'll 'tend to this feller. Then
to-morrow you can ride in an' give yourself up like a gentleman."
"No. I'll go. Thanks, Bill, for the way you and the boys would
stick to me. Hurry, Hawe, before my mind changes."
His voice broke at the last, betraying the wonderful control he
had kept over his passions. As he ceased speaking he seemed
suddenly to become spiritless. He dropped his head.
Madeline saw in him then a semblance to the hopeless, shamed
Stewart of earlier days. The vague riot in her breast leaped
into conscious fury--a woman's passionate repudiation of
Stewart's broken spirit. It was not that she would have him be a
lawbreaker; it was that she could not bear to see him deny his
manhood. Once she had entreated him to become her kind of a
cowboy--a man in whom reason tempered passion. She had let him
see how painful and shocking any violence was to her. And the
idea had obsessed him, softened him, had grown like a stultifying
lichen upon his will, had shorn him of a wild, bold spirit she
now strangely longed to see him feel. When the man Sneed came
forward, jingling the iron fetters, Madeline's blood turned to
fire. She would have forgiven Stewart then for lapsing into the
kind of cowboy it had been her blind and sickly sentiment to
abhor. This was a man's West--a man's game. What right had a
woman reared in a softer mold to use her beauty and her influence
to change a man who was bold and free and strong? At that
moment, with her blood hot and racing, she would have gloried in
the violence which she had so deplored: she would have welcomed
the action that had characterized Stewart's treatment of Don
Carlos; she had in her the sudden dawning temper of a woman who
had been assimilating the life and nature around her and who
would not have turned her eyes away from a harsh and bloody deed.
But Stewart held forth his hands to be manacled. Then Madeline
heard her own voice burst out in a ringing, imperious "Wait!"
In the time it took her to make the few steps to the edge of the
porch, facing the men, she not only felt her anger and justice
and pride summoning forces to her command, but there was
something else calling--a deep, passionate, mysterious thing not
born of the moment.
Sneed dropped the manacles. Stewart's face took on a chalky
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