STEWART EDWARD WHITE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. THE OLE VIRGINIA II. THE EMIGRANTS III. THE REMITTANCE MAN IV. THE CATTLE RUSTLERS V. THE DRIVE VI. CUTTING OUT VII. A CORNER IN HORSES VIII. THE CORRAL BRANDING IX. THE OLD TIMER X. THE TEXAS RANGERS XI. THE SAILOR WITH ONE HAND XII. THE MURDER ON THE BEACH XIII. BURIED TREASURE XIV. THE CHEWED SUGAR CANE XV. THE CALABASH STEW XVI. THE HONK-HONK BREED
PART II—THE TWO GUN MAN
I. THE CATTLE RUSTLERS II. THE MAN WITH NERVE III. THE AGREEMENT IV. THE ACCOMPLISHMENT
PART III—THE RAWHIDE
I. THE PASSING OF THE COLT'S FORTY-FIVE II. THE SHAPES OF ILLUSION III. THE PAPER A YEAR OLD IV. DREAMS V. THE ARRIVAL VI. THE WAGON TIRE VII. ESTRELLA VIII. THE ROUND-UP IX. THE LONG TRAIL X. THE DISCOVERY XI. THE CAPTURE XII. IN THE ARROYO XIII. THE RAWHIDE XIV. THE DESERT
THE OLE VIRGINIA
The ring around the sun had thickened all day long, and the turquoise blue of the Arizona sky had filmed. Storms in the dry countries are infrequent, but heavy; and this surely meant storm.
We had ridden since sun-up over broad mesas, down and out of deep canons, along the base of the mountain in the wildest parts of the territory. The cattle were winding leisurely toward the high country; the jack rabbits had disappeared; the quail lacked; we did not see a single antelope in the open.
"It's a case of hole up," the Cattleman ventured his opinion. "I have a ranch over in the Double R. Charley and Windy Bill hold it down. We'll tackle it. What do you think?"
The four cowboys agreed. We dropped into a low, broad watercourse, ascended its bed to big cottonwoods and flowing water, followed it into box canons between rim-rock carved fantastically and painted like a Moorish facade, until at last in a widening below a rounded hill, we came upon an adobe house, a fruit tree, and a round corral. This was the Double R.
Charley and Windy Bill welcomed us with soda biscuits. We turned our horses out, spread our beds on the floor, filled our pipes, and squatted on our heels. Various dogs of various breeds investigated us. It was very pleasant, and we did not mind the ring around the sun.
"Somebody else coming," announced the Cattleman finally.
"Uncle Jim," said Charley, after a glance.
A hawk-faced old man with a long white beard and long white hair rode out from the cottonwoods. He had on a battered broad hat abnormally high of crown, carried across his saddle a heavy "eight square" rifle, and was followed by a half-dozen lolloping hounds.
The largest and fiercest of the latter, catching sight of our group, launched himself with lightning rapidity at the biggest of the ranch dogs, promptly nailed that canine by the back of the neck, shook him violently a score of times, flung him aside, and pounced on the next. During the ensuing few moments that hound was the busiest thing in the West. He satisfactorily whipped four dogs, pursued two cats up a tree, upset the Dutch oven and the rest of the soda biscuits, stampeded the horses, and raised a cloud of dust adequate to represent the smoke of battle. We others were too paralysed to move. Uncle Jim sat placidly on his white horse, his thin knees bent to the ox-bow stirrups, smoking.
In ten seconds the trouble was over, principally because there was no more trouble to make. The hound returned leisurely, licking from his chops the hair of his victims. Uncle Jim shook his head.
"Trailer," said he sadly, "is a little severe."
We agreed heartily, and turned in to welcome Uncle Jim with a fresh batch of soda biscuits.
The old man was one of the typical "long hairs." He had come to the Galiuro Mountains in '69, and since '69 he had remained in the Galiuro Mountains, spite of man or the devil. At present he possessed some hundreds of cattle, which he was reputed to water, in a dry season, from an ordinary dishpan. In times past he had prospected.
That evening, the severe Trailer having dropped to slumber, he held forth on big-game hunting and dogs, quartz claims and Apaches.
"Did you ever have any very close calls?" I asked.
He ruminated a few moments, refilled his pipe with some awful tobacco, and told the following experience:
In the time of Geronimo I was living just about where I do now; and that was just about in line with the raiding. You see, Geronimo, and Ju , and old Loco used to pile out of the reservation at Camp Apache, raid south to the line, slip over into Mexico when the soldiers got too promiscuous, and raid there until they got ready to come back. Then there was always a big medicine talk. Says Geronimo:
"I am tired of the warpath. I will come back from Mexico with all my warriors, if you will escort me with soldiers and protect my people."
"All right," says the General, being only too glad to get him back at all.
So, then, in ten minutes there wouldn't be a buck in camp, but next morning they shows up again, each with about fifty head of hosses.
"Where'd you get those hosses?" asks the General, suspicious.
"Had 'em pastured in the hills," answers Geronimo.
"I can't take all those hosses with me; I believe they're stolen!" says the General.
"My people cannot go without their hosses," says Geronimo.
So, across the line they goes, and back to the reservation. In about a week there's fifty-two frantic Greasers wanting to know where's their hosses. The army is nothing but an importer of stolen stock, and knows it, and can't help it.
Well, as I says, I'm between Camp Apache and the Mexican line, so that every raiding party goes right on past me. The point is that I'm a thousand feet or so above the valley, and the renegades is in such a devil of a hurry about that time that they never stop to climb up and collect me. Often I've watched them trailing down the valley in a cloud of dust. Then, in a day or two, a squad of soldiers would come up, and camp at my spring for a while. They used to send soldiers to guard every water hole in the country so the renegades couldn't get water. After a while, from not being bothered none, I got thinking I wasn't worth while with them.
Me and Johnny Hooper were pecking away at the old Virginia mine then. We'd got down about sixty feet, all timbered, and was thinking of cross-cutting. One day Johnny went to town, and that same day I got in a hurry and left my gun at camp.
I worked all the morning down at the bottom of the shaft, and when I see by the sun it was getting along towards noon, I put in three good shots, tamped 'em down, lit the fusees, and started to climb out.
It ain't noways pleasant to light a fuse in a shaft, and then have to climb out a fifty-foot ladder, with it burning behind you. I never did get used to it. You keep thinking, "Now suppose there's a flaw in that fuse, or something, and she goes off in six seconds instead of two minutes? where'll you be then?" It would give you a good boost towards your home on high, anyway.
So I climbed fast, and stuck my head out the top without looking—and then I froze solid enough. There, about fifty feet away, climbing up the hill on mighty tired hosses, was a dozen of the ugliest Chiricahuas you ever don't want to meet, and in addition a Mexican renegade named Maria, who was worse than any of 'em. I see at once their hosses was tired out, and they had a notion of camping at my water hole, not knowing nothing about the Ole Virginia mine.
For two bits I'd have let go all holts and dropped backwards, trusting to my thick head for easy lighting. Then I heard a little fizz and sputter from below. At that my hair riz right up so I could feel the breeze blow under my hat. For about six seconds I stood there like an imbecile, grinning amiably. Then one of the Chiricahuas made a sort of grunt, and I sabed that they'd seen the original exhibit your Uncle Jim was making of himself.
Then that fuse gave another sputter and one of the Apaches said "Un dah." That means "white man." It was harder to turn my head than if I'd had a stiff neck; but I managed to do it, and I see that my ore dump wasn't more than ten foot away. I mighty near overjumped it; and the next I knew I was on one side of it and those Apaches on the other. Probably I flew; leastways I don't seem to remember jumping.
That didn't seem to do me much good. The renegades were grinning and laughing to think how easy a thing they had; and I couldn't rightly think up any arguments against that notion—at least from their standpoint. They were chattering away to each other in Mexican for the benefit of Maria. Oh, they had me all distributed, down to my suspender buttons! And me squatting behind that ore dump about as formidable as a brush rabbit!
Then, all at once, one of my shots went off down in the shaft.
"Boom!" says she, plenty big; and a slather of rock, and stones come out of the mouth, and began to dump down promiscuous on the scenery. I got one little one in the shoulder-blade, and found time to wish my ore dump had a roof. But those renegades caught it square in the thick of trouble. One got knocked out entirely for a minute, by a nice piece of country rock in the head.
"Otra vez!" yells I, which means "again."
"Boom!" goes the Ole Virginia prompt as an answer.
I put in my time dodging, but when I gets a chance to look, the Apaches has all got to cover, and is looking scared.
"Otra vez!" yells I again.
"Boom!" says the Ole Virginia.
This was the biggest shot of the lot, and she surely cut loose. I ought to have been half-way up the bill watching things from a safe distance, but I wasn't. Lucky for me the shaft was a little on the drift, so she didn't quite shoot my way. But she distributed about a ton over those renegades. They sort of half got to their feet uncertain.
"Otra vez!" yells I once more, as bold as if I could keep her shooting all day.
It was just a cold, raw blazer; and if it didn't go through I could see me as an Apache parlour ornament. But it did. Those Chiricahuas give one yell and skipped. It was surely a funny sight, after they got aboard their war ponies, to see them trying to dig out on horses too tired to trot.
I didn't stop to get all the laughs, though. In fact, I give one jump off that ledge, and I lit a-running. A quarter-hoss couldn't have beat me to that shack. There I grabbed old Meat-in-the-pot and made a climb for the tall country, aiming to wait around until dark, and then to pull out for Benson. Johnny Hooper wasn't expected till next day, which was lucky. From where I lay I could see the Apaches camped out beyond my draw, and I didn't doubt they'd visited the place. Along about sunset they all left their camp, and went into the draw, so there, I thinks, I sees a good chance to make a start before dark. I dropped down from the mesa, skirted the butte, and angled down across the country. After I'd gone a half mile from the cliffs, I ran across Johnny Hooper's fresh trail headed towards camp!
My heart jumped right up into my mouth at that. Here was poor old Johnny, a day too early, with a pack-mule of grub, walking innocent as a yearling, right into the bands of those hostiles. The trail looked pretty fresh, and Benson's a good long day with a pack animal, so I thought perhaps I might catch him before he runs into trouble. So I ran back on the trail as fast as I could make it. The sun was down by now, and it was getting dusk.
I didn't overtake him, and when I got to the top of the canon I crawled along very cautious and took a look. Of course, I expected to see everything up in smoke, but I nearly got up and yelled when I see everything all right, and old Sukey, the pack-mule, and Johnny's hoss hitched up as peaceful as babies to the corral.
"THAT'S all right!" thinks I, "they're back in their camp, and haven't discovered Johnny yet. I'll snail him out of there."
So I ran down the hill and into the shack. Johnny sat in his chair—what there was of him. He must have got in about two hours before sundown, for they'd had lots of time to put in on him. That's the reason they'd stayed so long up the draw. Poor old Johnny! I was glad it was night, and he was dead. Apaches are the worst Injuns there is for tortures. They cut off the bottoms of old man Wilkins's feet, and stood him on an ant-hill—.
In a minute or so, though, my wits gets to work.
"Why ain't the shack burned?" I asks myself, "and why is the hoss and the mule tied all so peaceful to the corral?"
It didn't take long for a man who knows Injins to answer THOSE conundrums. The whole thing was a trap—for me—and I'd walked into it, chuckle-headed as a prairie-dog!
With that I makes a run outside—by now it was dark—and listens. Sure enough, I hears hosses. So I makes a rapid sneak back over the trail.
Everything seemed all right till I got up to the rim-rock. Then I heard more hosses—ahead of me. And when I looked back I could see some Injuns already at the shack, and starting to build a fire outside.
In a tight fix, a man is pretty apt to get scared till all hope is gone. Then he is pretty apt to get cool and calm. That was my case. I couldn't go ahead—there was those hosses coming along the trail. I couldn't go back—there was those Injins building the fire. So I skirmished around till I got a bright star right over the trail head, and I trained old Meat-in-the-pot to bear on that star, and I made up my mind that when the star was darkened I'd turn loose. So I lay there a while listening. By and by the star was blotted out, and I cut loose, and old Meat-in-the-pot missed fire—she never did it before nor since; I think that cartridge—
Well, I don't know where the Injins came from, but it seemed as if the hammer had hardly clicked before three or four of them bad piled on me. I put up the best fight I could, for I wasn't figuring to be caught alive, and this miss-fire deal had fooled me all along the line. They surely had a lively time. I expected every minute to feel a knife in my back, but when I didn't get it then I knew they wanted to bring me in alive, and that made me fight harder. First and last, we rolled and plunged all the way from the rim-rock down to the canon-bed. Then one of the Injins sung out:
And I thought of that renegade Mexican, and what I'd heard bout him, and that made me fight harder yet.
But after we'd fought down to the canon-bed, and had lost most of our skin, a half-dozen more fell on me, and in less than no time they had me tied. Then they picked me up and carried me over to where they'd built a big fire by the corral.
Uncle Jim stopped with an air of finality, and began lazily to refill his pipe. From the open mud fireplace he picked a coal. Outside, the rain, faithful to the prophecy of the wide-ringed sun, beat fitfully against the roof.
"That was the closest call I ever had," said he at last.
"But, Uncle Jim," we cried in a confused chorus, "how did you get away? What did the Indians do to you? Who rescued you?"
Uncle Jim chuckled.
"The first man I saw sitting at that fire," said he, "was Lieutenant Price of the United States Army, and by him was Tom Horn."
"'What's this?' he asks, and Horn talks to the Injins in Apache.
"'They say they've caught Maria,' translates Horn back again.
"'Maria-nothing!' says Lieutenant Price. 'This is Jim Fox. I know him.'"
"So they turned me loose. It seems the troops had driven off the renegades an hour before."
"And the Indians who caught you, Uncle Jim? You said they were Indians."
"Were Tonto Basin Apaches," explained the old man—"government scouts under Tom Horn."
 Pronounced "Hoo."
After the rain that had held us holed up at the Double R over one day, we discussed what we should do next.
"The flats will be too boggy for riding, and anyway the cattle will be in the high country," the Cattleman summed up the situation. "We'd bog down the chuck-wagon if we tried to get back to the J. H. But now after the rain the weather ought to be beautiful. What shall we do?"
"Was you ever in the Jackson country?" asked Uncle Jim. "It's the wildest part of Arizona. It's a big country and rough, and no one lives there, and there's lots of deer and mountain lions and bear. Here's my dogs. We might have a hunt."
"Good!" said we.
We skirmished around and found a condemned army pack saddle with aparejos, and a sawbuck saddle with kyacks. On these, we managed to condense our grub and utensils. There were plenty of horses, so our bedding we bound flat about their naked barrels by means of the squaw-hitch. Then we started.
That day furnished us with a demonstration of what Arizona horses can do. Our way led first through a canon-bed filled with rounded boulders and rocks, slippery and unstable. Big cottonwoods and oaks grew so thick as partially to conceal the cliffs on either side of us. The rim-rock was mysterious with caves; beautiful with hanging gardens of tree ferns and grasses growing thick in long transverse crevices; wonderful in colour and shape. We passed the little canons fenced off by the rustlers as corrals into which to shunt from the herds their choice of beeves.
The Cattleman shook his head at them. "Many a man has come from Texas and established a herd with no other asset than a couple of horses and a branding-iron," said he.
Then we worked up gradually to a divide, whence we could see a range of wild and rugged mountains on our right. They rose by slopes and ledges, steep and rough, and at last ended in the thousand-foot cliffs of the buttes, running sheer and unbroken for many miles. During all the rest of our trip they were to be our companions, the only constant factors in the tumult of lesser peaks, precipitous canons, and twisted systems in which we were constantly involved.
The sky was sun-and-shadow after the rain. Each and every Arizonan predicted clearing.
"Why, it almost never rains in Arizona," said Jed Parker. "And when it does it quits before it begins."
Nevertheless, about noon a thick cloud gathered about the tops of the Galiuros above us. Almost immediately it was dissipated by the wind, but when the peaks again showed, we stared with astonishment to see that they were white with snow. It was as though a magician had passed a sheet before them the brief instant necessary to work his great transformation. Shortly the sky thickened again, and it began to rain.
Travel had been precarious before; but now its difficulties were infinitely increased. The clay sub-soil to the rubble turned slippery and adhesive. On the sides of the mountains it was almost impossible to keep a footing. We speedily became wet, our hands puffed and purple, our boots sodden with the water that had trickled from our clothing into them.
"Over the next ridge," Uncle Jim promised us, "is an old shack that I fixed up seven years ago. We can all make out to get in it."
Over the next ridge, therefore, we slipped and slid, thanking the god of luck for each ten feet gained. It was growing cold. The cliffs and palisades near at hand showed dimly behind the falling rain; beyond them waved and eddied the storm mists through which the mountains revealed and concealed proportions exaggerated into unearthly grandeur. Deep in the clefts of the box canons the streams were filling. The roar of their rapids echoed from innumerable precipices. A soft swish of water usurped the world of sound.
Nothing more uncomfortable or more magnificent could be imagined. We rode shivering. Each said to himself, "I can stand this—right now—at the present moment. Very well; I will do so, and I will refuse to look forward even five minutes to what I may have to stand," which is the true philosophy of tough times and the only effective way to endure discomfort.
By luck we reached the bottom of that canon without a fall. It was wide, well grown with oak trees, and belly deep in rich horse feed—an ideal place to camp were it not for the fact that a thin sheet of water a quarter of an inch deep was flowing over the entire surface of the ground. We spurred on desperately, thinking of a warm fire and a chance to steam.
The roof of the shack had fallen in, and the floor was six inches deep in adobe mud.
We did not dismount—that would have wet our saddles—but sat on our horses taking in the details. Finally Uncle Jim came to the front with a suggestion.
"I know of a cave," said he, "close under a butte. It's a big cave, but it has such a steep floor that I'm not sure as we could stay in it; and it's back the other side of that ridge."
"I don't know how the ridge is to get back over—it was slippery enough coming this way—and the cave may shoot us out into space, but I'd like to LOOK at a dry place anyway," replied the Cattleman.
We all felt the same about it, so back over the ridge we went. About half way down the other side Uncle Jim turned sharp to the right, and as the "hog back" dropped behind us, we found ourselves out on the steep side of a mountain, the perpendicular cliff over us to the right, the river roaring savagely far down below our left, and sheets of water glazing the footing we could find among the boulders and debris. Hardly could the ponies keep from slipping sideways on the slope, as we proceeded farther and farther from the solidity of the ridge behind us, we experienced the illusion of venturing out on a tight rope over abysses of space. Even the feeling of danger was only an illusion, however, composite of the falling rain, the deepening twilight, and the night that had already enveloped the plunge of the canon below. Finally Uncle Jim stopped just within the drip from the cliffs.
"Here she is," said he.
We descended eagerly. A deer bounded away from the base of the buttes. The cave ran steep, in the manner of an inclined tunnel, far up into the dimness. We had to dig our toes in and scramble to make way up it at all, but we found it dry, and after a little search discovered a foot-ledge of earth sufficiently broad for a seat.
"That's all right," quoth Jed Parker. "Now, for sleeping places."
We scattered. Uncle Jim and Charley promptly annexed the slight overhang of the cliff whence the deer had jumped. It was dry at the moment, but we uttered pessimistic predictions if the wind should change. Tom Rich and Jim Lester had a little tent, and insisted on descending to the canon-bed.
"Got to cook there, anyways," said they, and departed with the two pack mules and their bed horse.
That left the Cattleman, Windy Bill, Jed Parker, and me. In a moment Windy Bill came up to us whispering and mysterious.
"Get your cavallos and follow me," said he.
We did so. He led us two hundred yards to another cave, twenty feet high, fifteen feet in diameter, level as a floor.
"How's that?" he cried in triumph. "Found her just now while I was rustling nigger-heads for a fire."
We unpacked our beds with chuckles of joy, and spread them carefully within the shelter of the cave. Except for the very edges, which did not much matter, our blankets and "so-guns," protected by the canvas "tarp," were reasonably dry. Every once in a while a spasm of conscience would seize one or the other of us.
"It seems sort of mean on the other fellows," ruminated Jed Parker.
"They had their first choice," cried we all.
"Uncle Jim's an old man," the Cattleman pointed out.
But Windy Bill had thought of that. "I told him of this yere cave first. But he allowed he was plumb satisfied."
We finished laying out our blankets. The result looked good to us. We all burst out laughing.
"Well, I'm sorry for those fellows," cried the Cattleman. We hobbled our horses and descended to the gleam of the fire, like guilty conspirators. There we ate hastily of meat, bread and coffee, merely for the sake of sustenance. It certainly amounted to little in the way of pleasure. The water from the direct rain, the shivering trees, and our hat brims accumulated in our plates faster than we could bail it out. The dishes were thrust under a canvas. Rich and Lester decided to remain with their tent, and so we saw them no more until morning.
We broke off back-loads of mesquite and toiled up the hill, tasting thickly the high altitude in the severe labour. At the big cave we dumped down our burdens, transported our fuel piecemeal to the vicinity of the narrow ledge, built a good fire, sat in a row, and lit our pipes. In a few moments, the blaze was burning high, and our bodies had ceased shivering. Fantastically the firelight revealed the knobs and crevices, the ledges and the arching walls. Their shadows leaped, following the flames, receding and advancing like playful beasts. Far above us was a single tiny opening through which the smoke was sucked as through a chimney. The glow ruddied the men's features. Outside was thick darkness, and the swish and rush and roar of rising waters. Listening, Windy Bill was reminded of a story. We leaned back comfortably against the sloping walls of the cave, thrust our feet toward the blaze, smoked, and hearkened to the tale of Windy Bill.
There's a tur'ble lot of water running loose here, but I've seen the time and place where even what is in that drip would be worth a gold mine. That was in the emigrant days. They used to come over south of here, through what they called Emigrant Pass, on their way to Californy. I was a kid then, about eighteen year old, and what I didn't know about Injins and Agency cattle wasn't a patch of alkali. I had a kid outfit of h'ar bridle, lots of silver and such, and I used to ride over and be the handsome boy before such outfits as happened along.
They were queer people, most of 'em from Missoury and such-like southern seaports, and they were tur'ble sick of travel by the time they come in sight of Emigrant Pass. Up to Santa Fe they mostly hiked along any old way, but once there they herded up together in bunches of twenty wagons or so, 'count of our old friends, Geronimo and Loco. A good many of 'em had horned cattle to their wagons, and they crawled along about two miles an hour, hotter'n hell with the blower on, nothin' to look at but a mountain a week way, chuck full of alkali, plenty of sage-brush and rattlesnakes—but mighty little water.
Why, you boys know that country down there. Between the Chiricahua Mountains and Emigrant Pass it's maybe a three or four days' journey for these yere bull-slingers.
Mostly they filled up their bellies and their kegs, hoping to last through, but they sure found it drier than cork legs, and generally long before they hit the Springs their tongues was hangin' out a foot. You see, for all their plumb nerve in comin' so far, the most of them didn't know sic 'em. They were plumb innocent in regard to savin' their water, and Injins, and such; and the long-haired buckskin fakes they picked up at Santa Fe for guides wasn't much better.
That was where Texas Pete made his killing.
Texas Pete was a tough citizen from the Lone Star. He was about as broad as he was long, and wore all sorts of big whiskers and black eyebrows. His heart was very bad. You never COULD tell where Texas Pete was goin' to jump next. He was a side-winder and a diamond-back and a little black rattlesnake all rolled into one. I believe that Texas Pete person cared about as little for killin' a man as for takin' a drink—and he shorely drank without an effort. Peaceable citizens just spoke soft and minded their own business; onpeaceable citizens Texas Pete used to plant out in the sagebrush.
Now this Texas Pete happened to discover a water hole right out in the plumb middle of the desert. He promptly annexed said water hole, digs her out, timbers her up, and lays for emigrants.
He charged two bits a head—man or beast—and nobody got a mouthful till he paid up in hard coin.
Think of the wads he raked in! I used to figure it up, just for the joy of envyin' him, I reckon. An average twenty-wagon outfit, first and last, would bring him in somewheres about fifty dollars—and besides he had forty-rod at four bits a glass. And outfits at that time were thicker'n spatter.
We used all to go down sometimes to watch them come in. When they see that little canvas shack and that well, they begun to cheer up and move fast. And when they see that sign, "Water, two bits a head," their eyes stuck out like two raw oysters.
Then come the kicks. What a howl they did raise, shorely. But it didn't do no manner of good. Texas Pete didn't do nothin' but sit there and smoke, with a kind of sulky gleam in one corner of his eye. He didn't even take the trouble to answer, but his Winchester lay across his lap. There wasn't no humour in the situation for him.
"How much is your water for humans?" asks one emigrant.
"Can't you read that sign?" Texas Pete asks him.
"But you don't mean two bits a head for HUMANS!" yells the man. "Why, you can get whisky for that!"
"You can read the sign, can't you?" insists Texas Pete.
"I can read it all right?" says the man, tryin' a new deal, "but they tell me not to believe more'n half I read."
But that don't go; and Mr. Emigrant shells out with the rest.
I didn't blame them for raisin' their howl. Why, at that time the regular water holes was chargin' five cents a head from the government freighters, and the motto was always "Hold up Uncle Sam," at that. Once in a while some outfit would get mad and go chargin' off dry; but it was a long, long way to the Springs, and mighty hot and dusty. Texas Pete and his one lonesome water hole shorely did a big business.
Late one afternoon me and Gentleman Tim was joggin' along above Texas Pete's place. It was a tur'ble hot day—you had to prime yourself to spit—and we was just gettin' back from drivin' some beef up to the troops at Fort Huachuca. We was due to cross the Emigrant Trail—she's wore in tur'ble deep—you can see the ruts to-day. When we topped the rise we see a little old outfit just makin' out to drag along.
It was one little schooner all by herself, drug along by two poor old cavallos that couldn't have pulled my hat off. Their tongues was out, and every once in a while they'd stick in a chuck-hole. Then a man would get down and put his shoulder to the wheel, and everybody'd take a heave, and up they'd come, all a-trembling and weak.
Tim and I rode down just to take a look at the curiosity.
A thin-lookin' man was drivin', all humped up.
"Hullo, stranger," says I, "ain't you 'fraid of Injins?"
"Yes," says he.
"Then why are you travellin' through an Injin country all alone?"
"Couldn't keep up," says he. "Can I get water here?"
"I reckon," I answers.
He drove up to the water trough there at Texas Pete's, me and Gentleman Tim followin' along because our trail led that way. But he hadn't more'n stopped before Texas Pete was out.
"Cost you four bits to water them hosses," says he.
The man looked up kind of bewildered.
"I'm sorry," says he, "I ain't got no four bits. I got my roll lifted off'n me."
"No water, then," growls Texas Pete back at him.
The man looked about him helpless.
"How far is it to the next water?" he asks me.
"Twenty mile," I tells him.
"My God!" he says, to himself-like.
Then he shrugged his shoulders very tired.
"All right. It's gettin' the cool of the evenin'; we'll make it." He turns into the inside of that old schooner.
"Gi' me the cup, Sue."
A white-faced woman who looked mighty good to us alkalis opened the flaps and gave out a tin cup, which the man pointed out to fill.
"How many of you is they?" asks Texas Pete.
"Three," replies the man, wondering.
"Well, six bits, then," says Texas Pete, "cash down."
At that the man straightens up a little.
"I ain't askin' for no water for my stock," says he, "but my wife and baby has been out in this sun all day without a drop of water. Our cask slipped a hoop and bust just this side of Dos Cabesas. The poor kid is plumb dry."
"Two bits a head," says Texas Pete.
At that the woman comes out, a little bit of a baby in her arms. The kid had fuzzy yellow hair, and its face was flushed red and shiny.
"Shorely you won't refuse a sick child a drink of water, sir," says she.
But Texas Pete had some sort of a special grouch; I guess he was just beginning to get his snowshoes off after a fight with his own forty-rod.
"What the hell are you-all doin' on the trail without no money at all?" he growls, "and how do you expect to get along? Such plumb tenderfeet drive me weary."
"Well," says the man, still reasonable, "I ain't got no money, but I'll give you six bits' worth of flour or trade or an'thin' I got."
"I don't run no truck-store," snaps Texas Pete, and turns square on his heel and goes back to his chair.
"Got six bits about you?" whispers Gentleman Tim to me.
"Not a red," I answers.
Gentleman Tim turns to Texas Pete.
"Let 'em have a drink, Pete. I'll pay you next time I come down."
"Cash down," growls Pete.
"You're the meanest man I ever see," observes Tim. "I wouldn't speak to you if I met you in hell carryin' a lump of ice in your hand."
"You're the softest I ever see," sneers Pete. "Don't they have any genooine Texans down your way?"
"Not enough to make it disagreeable," says Tim.
"That lets you out," growls Pete, gettin' hostile and handlin' of his rifle.
Which the man had been standin' there bewildered, the cup hangin' from his finger. At last, lookin' pretty desperate, he stooped down to dig up a little of the wet from an overflow puddle lyin' at his feet. At the same time the hosses, left sort of to themselves and bein' drier than a covered bridge, drug forward and stuck their noses in the trough.
Gentleman Tim and me was sittin' there on our hosses, a little to one side. We saw Texas Pete jump up from his chair, take a quick aim, and cut loose with his rifle. It was plumb unexpected to us. We hadn't thought of any shootin', and our six-shooters was tied in, 'count of the jumpy country we'd been drivin' the steers over. But Gentleman Tim, who had unslung his rope, aimin' to help the hosses out of the chuckhole, snatched her off the horn, and with one of the prettiest twenty-foot flip throws I ever see done he snaked old Texas Pete right out of his wicky-up, gun and all. The old renegade did his best to twist around for a shot at us; but it was no go; and I never enjoyed hog-tying a critter more in my life than I enjoyed hog-tying Texas Pete. Then we turned to see what damage had been done.
We were some relieved to find the family all right, but Texas Pete had bored one of them poor old crow-bait hosses plumb through the head.
"It's lucky for you you don't get the old man," says Gentleman Tim very quiet and polite.
Which Gentleman Tim was an Irishman, and I'd been on the range long enough with him to know that when he got quiet and polite it was time to dodge behind something.
"I hope, sir" says he to the stranger, "that you will give your wife and baby a satisfying drink. As for your hoss, pray do not be under any apprehension. Our friend, Mr. Texas Pete, here, has kindly consented to make good any deficiencies from his own corral."
Tim could talk high, wide, and handsome when he set out to.
The man started to say something; but I managed to herd him to one side.
"Let him alone," I whispers. "When he talks that way, he's mad; and when he's mad, it's better to leave nature to supply the lightnin' rods."
He seemed to sabe all right, so we built us a little fire and started some grub, while Gentleman Tim walked up and down very grand and fierce.
By and by he seemed to make up his mind. He went over and untied Texas Pete.
"Stand up, you hound," says he. "Now listen to me. If you make a break to get away, or if you refuse to do just as I tell you, I won't shoot you, but I'll march you up country and see that Geronimo gets you."
He sorted out a shovel and pick, made Texas Pete carry them right along the trail a quarter, and started him to diggin' a hole.
Texas Pete started in hard enough, Tim sittin' over him on his hoss, his six-shooter loose, and his rope free. The man and I stood by, not darin' to say a word. After a minute or so Texas Pete began to work slower and slower. By and by he stopped.
"Look here," says he, "is this here thing my grave?"
"I am goin' to see that you give the gentleman's hoss decent interment," says Gentleman Tim very polite.
"Bury a hoss!" growls Texas Pete.
But he didn't say any more. Tim cocked his six-shooter.
"Perhaps you'd better quit panting and sweat a little," says he.
Texas Pete worked hard for a while, for Tim's quietness was beginning to scare him up the worst way. By and by he had got down maybe four or five feet, and Tim got off his hoss.
"I think that will do," says he.
"You may come out. Billy, my son, cover him. Now, Mr. Texas Pete," he says, cold as steel, "there is the grave. We will place the hoss in it. Then I intend to shoot you and put you in with the hoss, and write you an epitaph that will be a comfort to such travellers of the Trail as are honest, and a warnin' to such as are not. I'd as soon kill you now as an hour from now, so you may make a break for it if you feel like it."
He stooped over to look into the hole. I thought he looked an extra long time, but when he raised his head his face had changed complete.
"March!" says he very brisk.
We all went back to the shack. From the corral Tim took Texas Pete's best team and hitched her to the old schooner.
"There," says he to the man. "Now you'd better hit the trail. Take that whisky keg there for water. Good-bye."
We sat there without sayin' a word for some time after the schooner had pulled out. Then Tim says, very abrupt:
"I've changed my mind."
He got up.
"Come on, Billy," says he to me. "We'll just leave our friend tied up. I'll be back to-morrow to turn you loose. In the meantime it won't hurt you a bit to be a little uncomfortable, and hungry—and thirsty."
We rode off just about sundown, leavin' Texas Pete lashed tight.
Now all this knocked me hell-west and crooked, and I said so, but I couldn't get a word out of Gentleman Tim. All the answer I could get was just little laughs.
We drawed into the ranch near midnight, but next mornin' Tim had a long talk with the boss, and the result was that the whole outfit was instructed to arm up with a pick or a shovel apiece, and to get set for Texas Pete's. We got there a little after noon, turned the old boy out—without firearms—and then began to dig at a place Tim told us to, near that grave of Texas Pete's. In three hours we had the finest water-hole developed you ever want to see. Then the boss stuck up a sign that said:
PUBLIC WATER-HOLE. WATER, FREE.
"Now you old skin," says he to Texas Pete, "charge all you want to on your own property. But if I ever hear of your layin' claim to this other hole, I'll shore make you hard to catch."
Then we rode off home. You see, when Gentleman Tim inspected that grave, he noted indications of water; and it struck him that runnin' the old renegade out of business was a neater way of gettin' even than merely killin' him.
Somebody threw a fresh mesquite on the fire. The flames leaped up again, showing a thin trickle of water running down the other side of the cave. The steady downpour again made itself prominent through the re-established silence.
"What did Texas Pete do after that?" asked the Cattleman.
"Texas Pete?" chuckled Windy Bill. "Well, he put in a heap of his spare time lettin' Tim alone."
THE REMITTANCE MAN
After Windy Bill had finished his story we began to think it time to turn in. Uncle Jim and Charley slid and slipped down the chute-like passage leading from the cave and disappeared in the direction of the overhang beneath which they had spread their bed. After a moment we tore off long bundles of the nigger-head blades, lit the resinous ends at our fire, and with these torches started to make our way along the base of the cliff to the other cave.
Once without the influence of the fire our impromptu links cast an adequate light. The sheets of rain became suddenly visible as they entered the circle of illumination. By careful scrutiny of the footing I gained the entrance to our cave without mishap. I looked back. Here and there irregularly gleamed and spluttered my companions' torches. Across each slanted the rain. All else was of inky blackness except where, between them and me, a faint red reflection shone on the wet rocks. Then I turned inside.
Now, to judge from the crumbling powder of the footing, that cave had been dry since Noah. In fact, its roof was nearly a thousand feet thick. But since we had spread our blankets, the persistent waters had soaked down and through. The thousand-foot roof had a sprung a leak. Three separate and distinct streams of water ran as from spigots. I lowered my torch. The canvas tarpaulin shone with wet, and in its exact centre glimmered a pool of water three inches deep and at least two feet in diameter.
"Well, I'll be," I began. Then I remembered those three wending their way along a wet and disagreeable trail, happy and peaceful in anticipation of warm blankets and a level floor. I chuckled and sat on my heels out of the drip.
First came Jed Parker, his head bent to protect the fire in his pipe. He gained the very centre of the cave before he looked up.
Then he cast one glance at each bed, and one at me. His grave, hawk-like features relaxed. A faint grin appeared under his long moustache. Without a word he squatted down beside me.
Next the Cattleman. He looked about him with a comical expression of dismay, and burst into a hearty laugh.
"I believe I said I was sorry for those other fellows," he remarked.
Windy Bill was the last. He stooped his head to enter, straightened his lank figure, and took in the situation without expression.
"Well, this is handy," said he; "I was gettin' tur'ble dry, and was thinkin' I would have to climb way down to the creek in all this rain."
He stooped to the pool in the centre of the tarpaulin and drank.
But now our torches began to run low. A small dry bush grew near the entrance. We ignited it, and while it blazed we hastily sorted a blanket apiece and tumbled the rest out of the drip.
Our return without torches along the base of that butte was something to remember. The night was so thick you could feel the darkness pressing on you; the mountain dropped abruptly to the left, and was strewn with boulders and blocks of stone. Collisions and stumbles were frequent. Once I stepped off a little ledge five or six feet—nothing worse than a barked shin. And all the while the rain, pelting us unmercifully, searched out what poor little remnants of dryness we had been able to retain.
At last we opened out the gleam of fire in our cave, and a minute later were engaged in struggling desperately up the slant that brought us to our ledge and the slope on which our fire burned.
"My Lord!" panted Windy Bill, "a man had ought to have hooks on his eyebrows to climb up here!"
We renewed the fire—and blessed the back-load of mesquite we had packed up earlier in the evening. Our blankets we wrapped around our shoulders, our feet we hung over the ledge toward the blaze, our backs we leaned against the hollow slant of the cave's wall. We were not uncomfortable. The beat of the rain sprang up in the darkness, growing louder and louder, like horsemen passing on a hard road. Gradually we dozed off.
For a time everything was pleasant. Dreams came fused with realities; the firelight faded from consciousness or returned fantastic to our half-awakening; a delicious numbness overspread our tired bodies. The shadows leaped, became solid, monstrous. We fell asleep.
After a time the fact obtruded itself dimly through our stupor that the constant pressure of the hard rock had impeded our circulation. We stirred uneasily, shifting to a better position.
That was the beginning of awakening. The new position did not suit. A slight shivering seized us, which the drawing closer of the blanket failed to end. Finally I threw aside my hat and looked out. Jed Parker, a vivid patch-work comforter wrapped about his shoulders, stood upright and silent by the fire. I kept still, fearing to awaken the others. In a short time I became aware that the others were doing identically the same thing. We laughed, threw off our blankets, stretched, and fed the fire.
A thick acrid smoke filled the air. The Cattleman, rising, left a trail of incandescent footprints. We investigated hastily, and discovered that the supposed earth on the slant of the cave was nothing more than bat guano, tons of it. The fire, eating its way beneath, had rendered untenable its immediate vicinity. We felt as though we were living over a volcano. How soon our ledge, of the same material, might be attacked, we had no means of knowing. Overcome with drowsiness, we again disposed our blankets, resolved to get as many naps as possible before even these constrained quarters were taken from us.
This happened sooner and in a manner otherwise than we had expected. Windy Bill brought us to consciousness by a wild yell.
Consciousness reported to us a strange, hurried sound like the long roll on a drum. Investigation showed us that this cave, too, had sprung a leak; not with any premonitory drip, but all at once, as though someone had turned on a faucet. In ten seconds a very competent streamlet six inches wide had eroded a course down through the guano, past the fire and to the outer slope. And by the irony of fate that one—and only one—leak in all the roof expanse of a big cave was directly over one end of our tiny ledge. The Cattleman laughed.
"Reminds me of the old farmer and his kind friend," said he. "Kind friend hunts up the old farmer in the village.
"'John,' says he, 'I've bad news for you. Your barn has burned up.'
"'My Lord!' says the farmer.
"'But that ain't the worst. Your cow was burned, too.'
"'My Lord!' says the farmer.
"'But that ain't the worst. Your horses were burned.'
"'My Lord!' says the farmer.
"'But, that ain't the worst. The barn set fire to the house, and it was burned—total loss.'
"'My Lord!' groans the farmer.
"'But that ain't the worst. Your wife and child were killed, too.'
"'At that the farmer began to roar with laughter.
"'Good heavens, man!' cries his friend, astonished, 'what in the world do you find to laugh at in that?'
"'Don't you see?' answers the farmer. 'Why, it's so darn COMPLETE!'
"Well," finished the Cattleman, "that's what strikes me about our case; it's so darn complete!"
"What time is it?" asked Windy Bill.
"Midnight," I announced.
"Lord! Six hours to day!" groaned Windy Bill. "How'd you like to be doin' a nice quiet job at gardenin' in the East where you could belly up to the bar reg'lar every evenin', and drink a pussy cafe and smoke tailor-made cigareets?"
"You wouldn't like it a bit," put in the Cattleman with decision; whereupon in proof he told us the following story:
Windy has mentioned Gentleman Tim, and that reminded me of the first time I ever saw him. He was an Irishman all right, but he had been educated in England, and except for his accent he was more an Englishman than anything else. A freight outfit brought him into Tucson from Santa Fe and dumped him down on the plaza, where at once every idler in town gathered to quiz him.
Certainly he was one of the greenest specimens I ever saw in this country. He had on a pair of balloon pants and a Norfolk jacket, and was surrounded by a half-dozen baby trunks. His face was red-cheeked and aggressively clean, and his eye limpid as a child's. Most of those present thought that indicated childishness; but I could see that it was only utter self-unconsciousness.
It seemed that he was out for big game, and intended to go after silver-tips somewhere in these very mountains. Of course he was offered plenty of advice, and would probably have made engagements much to be regretted had I not taken a strong fancy to him.
"My friend," said I, drawing him aside, "I don't want to be inquisitive, but what might you do when you're home?"
"I'm a younger son," said he. I was green myself in those days, and knew nothing of primogeniture.
"That is a very interesting piece of family history," said I, "but it does not answer my question."
"Well now, I hadn't thought of that," said he, "but in a manner of speaking, it does. I do nothing."
"Well," said I, unabashed, "if you saw me trying to be a younger son and likely to forget myself and do something without meaning to, wouldn't you be apt to warn me?"
"Well, 'pon honour, you're a queer chap. What do you mean?"
"I mean that if you hire any of those men to guide you in the mountains, you'll be outrageously cheated, and will be lucky if you're not gobbled by Apaches."
"Do you do any guiding yourself, now?" he asked, most innocent of manner.
But I flared up.
"You damn ungrateful pup," I said, "go to the devil in your own way," and turned square on my heel.
But the young man was at my elbow, his hand on my shoulder.
"Oh, I say now, I'm sorry. I didn't rightly understand. Do wait one moment until I dispose of these boxes of mine, and then I want the honour of your further acquaintance."
He got some Greasers to take his trunks over to the hotel, then linked his arm in mine most engagingly.
"Now, my dear chap," said he, "let's go somewhere for a B & S, and find out about each other."
We were both young and expansive. We exchanged views, names, and confidences, and before noon we had arranged to hunt together, I to collect the outfit.
The upshot of the matter was that the Honourable Timothy Clare and I had a most excellent month's excursion, shot several good bear, and returned to Tucson the best of friends.
At Tucson was Schiefflein and his stories of a big strike down in the Apache country. Nothing would do but that we should both go to see for ourselves. We joined the second expedition; crept in the gullies, tied bushes about ourselves when monumenting corners, and so helped establish the town of Tombstone. We made nothing, nor attempted to. Neither of us knew anything of mining, but we were both thirsty for adventure, and took a schoolboy delight in playing the game of life or death with the Chiricahuas.
In fact, I never saw anybody take to the wild life as eagerly as the Honourable Timothy Clare. He wanted to attempt everything. With him it was no sooner see than try, and he had such an abundance of enthusiasm that he generally succeeded. The balloon pants soon went. In a month his outfit was irreproachable. He used to study us by the hour, taking in every detail of our equipment, from the smallest to the most important. Then he asked questions. For all his desire to be one of the country, he was never ashamed to acknowledge his ignorance.
"Now, don't you chaps think it silly to wear such high heels to your boots?" he would ask. "It seems to me a very useless sort of vanity."
"No vanity about it, Tim," I explained. "In the first place, it keeps your foot from slipping through the stirrup. In the second place, it is good to grip on the ground when you're roping afoot."
"By Jove, that's true!" he cried.
So he'd get him a pair of boots. For a while it was enough to wear and own all these things. He seemed to delight in his six-shooter and his rope just as ornaments to himself and horse. But he soon got over that. Then he had to learn to use them.
For the time being, pistol practice, for instance, would absorb all his thoughts. He'd bang away at intervals all day, and figure out new theories all night.
"That bally scheme won't work," he would complain. "I believe if I extended my thumb along the cylinder it would help that side jump."
He was always easing the trigger-pull, or filing the sights. In time he got to be a fairly accurate and very quick shot.
The same way with roping and hog-tying and all the rest.
"What's the use?" I used to ask him. "If you were going to be a buckeroo, you couldn't go into harder training."
"I like it," was always his answer.
He had only one real vice, that I could see. He would gamble. Stud poker was his favourite; and I never saw a Britisher yet who could play poker. I used to head him off, when I could, and he was always grateful, but the passion was strong.
After we got back from founding Tombstone I was busted and had to go to work.
"I've got plenty," said Tim, "and it's all yours."
"I know, old fellow," I told him, "but your money wouldn't do for me."
Buck Johnson was just seeing his chance then, and was preparing to take some breeding cattle over into the Soda Springs Valley. Everybody laughed at him—said it was right in the line of the Chiricahua raids, which was true. But Buck had been in there with Agency steers, and thought he knew. So he collected a trail crew, brought some Oregon cattle across, and built his home ranch of three-foot adobe walls with portholes. I joined the trail crew; and somehow or another the Honourable Timothy got permission to go along on his own hook.
The trail was a long one. We had thirst and heat and stampedes and some Indian scares. But in the queer atmospheric conditions that prevailed that summer, I never saw the desert more wonderful. It was like waking to the glory of God to sit up at dawn and see the colours change on the dry ranges.
At the home ranch, again, Tim managed to get permission to stay on. He kept his own mount of horses, took care of them, hunted, and took part in all the cow work. We lost some cattle from Indians, of course, but it was too near the Reservation for them to do more than pick up a few stray head on their way through. The troops were always after them full jump, and so they never had time to round up the beef. But of course we had to look out or we'd lose our hair, and many a cowboy has won out to the home ranch in an almighty exciting race. This was nuts for the Honourable Timothy Clare, much better than hunting silver-tips, and he enjoyed it no limit.
Things went along that way for some time, until one evening as I was turning out the horses a buckboard drew in, and from it descended Tony Briggs and a dapper little fellow dressed all in black and with a plug hat.
"Which I accounts for said hat reachin' the ranch, because it's Friday and the boys not in town," Tony whispered to me.
As I happened to be the only man in sight, the stranger addressed me.
"I am looking," said he in a peculiar, sing-song manner I have since learned to be English, "for the Honourable Timothy Clare. Is he here?"
"Oh, you're looking for him are you?" said I. "And who might you be?"
You see, I liked Tim, and I didn't intend to deliver him over into trouble.
The man picked a pair of eye-glasses off his stomach where they dangled at the end of a chain, perched them on his nose, and stared me over. I must have looked uncompromising, for after a few seconds he abruptly wrinkled his nose so that the glasses fell promptly to his stomach again, felt his waistcoat pocket, and produced a card. I took it, and read:
JEFFRIES CASE, Barrister.
"A lawyer!" said I suspiciously.
"My dear man," he rejoined with a slight impatience, "I am not here to do your young friend a harm. In fact, my firm have been his family solicitors for generations."
"Very well," I agreed, and led the way to the one-room adobe that Tim and I occupied.
If I had expected an enthusiastic greeting for the boyhood friend from the old home, I would have been disappointed. Tim was sitting with his back to the door reading an old magazine. When we entered he glanced over his shoulder.
"Ah, Case," said he, and went on reading. After a moment he said without looking up, "Sit down."
The little man took it calmly, deposited himself in a chair and his bag between his feet, and looked about him daintily at our rough quarters. I made a move to go, whereupon Tim laid down his magazine, yawned, stretched his arms over his head, and sighed.
"Don't go, Harry," he begged. "Well, Case," he addressed the barrister, "what is it this time? Must be something devilish important to bring you—how many thousand miles is it—into such a country as this."
"It is important, Mr. Clare," stated the lawyer in his dry sing-song tones; "but my journey might have been avoided had you paid some attention to my letters."
"Letters!" repeated Tim, opening his eyes. "My dear chap, I've had no letters."
"Addressed as usual to your New York bankers."
Tim laughed softly. "Where they are, with my last two quarters' allowance. I especially instructed them to send me no mail. One spends no money in this country." He paused, pulling his moustache. "I'm truly sorry you had to come so far," he continued, "and if your business is, as I suspect, the old one of inducing me to return to my dear uncle's arms, I assure you the mission will prove quite fruitless. Uncle Hillary and I could never live in the same county, let alone the same house."
"And yet your uncle, the Viscount Mar, was very fond of you," ventured Case. "Your allowances—"
"Oh, I grant you his generosity in MONEY affairs—"
"He has continued that generosity in the terms of his will, and those terms I am here to communicate to you."
"Uncle Hillary is dead!" cried Tim.
"He passed away the sixteenth of last June."
A slight pause ensued.
"I am ready to hear you," said Tim soberly, at last.
The barrister stooped and began to fumble with his bag.
"No, not that!" cried Tim, with some impatience. "Tell me in your own words."
The lawyer sat back and pressed his finger points together over his stomach.
"The late Viscount," said he, "has been graciously pleased to leave you in fee simple his entire estate of Staghurst, together with its buildings, rentals, and privileges. This, besides the residential rights, amounts to some ten thousands pounds sterling per annum."
"A little less than fifty thousand dollars a year, Harry," Tim shot over his shoulder at me.
"There is one condition," put in the lawyer.
"Oh, there is!" exclaimed Tim, his crest falling. "Well, knowing my Uncle Hillary—"
"The condition is not extravagant," the lawyer hastily interposed. "It merely entails continued residence in England, and a minimum of nine months on the estate. This provision is absolute, and the estate reverts in its discontinuance, but may I be permitted to observe that the majority of men, myself among the number, are content to spend the most of their lives, not merely in the confines of a kingdom, but between the four walls of a room, for much less than ten thousand pounds a year. Also that England is not without its attractions for an Englishman, and that Staghurst is a country place of many possibilities."
The Honourable Timothy had recovered from his first surprise.
"And if the conditions are not complied with?" he inquired.
"Then the estate reverts to the heirs at law, and you receive an annuity of one hundred pounds, payable quarterly."
"May I ask further the reason for this extraordinary condition?"
"My distinguished client never informed me," replied the lawyer, "but"—and a twinkle appeared in his eye—"as an occasional disburser of funds—Monte Carlo—"
Tim burst out laughing.
"Oh, but I recognise Uncle Hillary there!" he cried. "Well, Mr. Case, I am sure Mr. Johnson, the owner of this ranch, can put you up, and to-morrow we'll start back."
He returned after a few minutes to find me sitting' smoking a moody pipe. I liked Tim, and I was sorry to have him go. Then, too, I was ruffled, in the senseless manner of youth, by the sudden altitude to which his changed fortunes had lifted him. He stood in the middle of the room, surveying me, then came across and laid his arm on my shoulder.
"Well," I growled, without looking up, "you're a very rich man now, Mr. Clare."
At that he jerked me bodily out of my seat and stood me up in the centre of the room, the Irish blazing out of his eyes.
"Here, none of that!" he snapped. "You damn little fool! Don't you 'Mr. Clare' me!"
So in five minutes we were talking it over. Tim was very much excited at the prospect. He knew Staghurst well, and told me all about the big stone house, and the avenue through the trees; and the hedge-row roads, and the lawn with its peacocks, and the round green hills, and the labourers' cottages.
"It's home," said he, "and I didn't realise before how much I wanted to see it. And I'll be a man of weight there, Harry, and it'll be mighty good."
We made all sorts of plans as to how I was going to visit him just as soon as I could get together the money for the passage. He had the delicacy not to offer to let me have it; and that clinched my trust and love of him.
The next day he drove away with Tony and the dapper little lawyer. I am not ashamed to say that I watched the buckboard until it disappeared in the mirage.
I was with Buck Johnson all that summer, and the following winter, as well. We had our first round-up, found the natural increase much in excess of the loss by Indians, and extended our holdings up over the Rock Creek country. We witnessed the start of many Indian campaigns, participated in a few little brushes with the Chiricahuas, saw the beginning of the cattle-rustling. A man had not much opportunity to think of anything but what he had right on hand, but I found time for a few speculations on Tim. I wondered how he looked now, and what he was doing, and how in blazes he managed to get away with fifty thousand a year.
And then one Sunday in June, while I was lying on my bunk, Tim pushed open the door and walked in. I was young, but I'd seen a lot, and I knew the expression of his face. So I laid low and said nothing.
In a minute the door opened again, and Buck Johnson himself came in.
"How do," said he; "I saw you ride up."
"How do you do," replied Tim.
"I know all about you," said Buck, without any preliminaries; "your man, Case, has wrote me. I don't know your reasons, and I don't want to know—it's none of my business—and I ain't goin' to tell you just what kind of a damn fool I think you are—that's none of my business, either. But I want you to understand without question how you stand on the ranch."
"Quite good, sir," said Tim very quietly.
"When you were out here before I was glad to have you here as a sort of guest. Then you were what I've heerd called a gentleman of leisure. Now you're nothin' but a remittance man. Your money's nothin' to me, but the principle of the thing is. The country is plumb pestered with remittance men, doin' nothin', and I don't aim to run no home for incompetents. I had a son of a duke drivin' wagon for me; and he couldn't drive nails in a snowbanks. So don't you herd up with the idea that you can come on this ranch and loaf."
"I don't want to loaf," put in Tim, "I want a job."
"I'm willing to give you a job," replied Buck, "but it's jest an ordinary cow-puncher's job at forty a month. And if you don't fill your saddle, it goes to someone else."
"That's satisfactory," agreed Tim.
"All right," finished Buck, "so that's understood. Your friend Case wanted me to give you a lot of advice. A man generally has about as much use for advice as a cow has for four hind legs."
He went out.
"For God's sake, what's up?" I cried, leaping from my bunk.
"Hullo, Harry," said he, as though he had seen me the day before, "I've come back."
"How come back?" I asked. "I thought you couldn't leave the estate. Have they broken the will?"
"No," said he.
"Is the money lost?"
"The long and short of it is, that I couldn't afford that estate and that money."
"What do you mean?"
"I've given it up."
"Given it up! What for?"
"To come back here."
I took this all in slowly.
"Tim Clare," said I at last, "do you mean to say that you have given up an English estate and fifty thousand dollars a year to be a remittance man at five hundred, and a cow-puncher on as much more?"
"Exactly," said he.
"Tim," I adjured him solemnly, "you are a damn fool!"
"Maybe," he agreed.
"Why did you do it?" I begged.
He walked to the door and looked out across the desert to where the mountains hovered like soap-bubbles on the horizon. For a long time he looked; then whirled on me.
"Harry," said he in a low voice, "do you remember the camp we made on the shoulder of the mountain that night we were caught out? And do you remember how the dawn came up on the big snow peaks across the way—and all the canon below us filled with whirling mists—and the steel stars leaving us one by one? Where could I find room for that in English paddocks? And do you recall the day we trailed across the Yuma deserts, and the sun beat into our skulls, and the dry, brittle hills looked like papier-mache, and the grey sage-bush ran off into the rise of the hills; and then came sunset and the hard, dry mountains grew filmy, like gauze veils of many colours, and melted and glowed and faded to slate blue, and the stars came out? The English hills are rounded and green and curried, and the sky is near, and the stars only a few miles up. And do you recollect that dark night when old Loco and his warriors were camped at the base of Cochise's Stronghold, and we crept down through the velvet dark wondering when we would be discovered, our mouths sticky with excitement, and the little winds blowing?"
He walked up and down a half-dozen times, his breast heaving.
"It's all very well for the man who is brought up to it, and who has seen nothing else. Case can exist in four walls; he has been brought up to it and knows nothing different. But a man like me—
"They wanted me to canter between hedge-row,—I who have ridden the desert where the sky over me and the plain under me were bigger than the Islander's universe! They wanted me to oversee little farms—I who have watched the sun rising over half a world! Talk of your ten thou' a year and what it'll buy! You know, Harry, how it feels when a steer takes the slack of your rope, and your pony sits back! Where in England can I buy that? You know the rising and the falling of days, and the boundless spaces where your heart grows big, and the thirst of the desert and the hunger of the trail, and a sun that shines and fills the sky, and a wind that blows fresh from the wide places! Where in parcelled, snug, green, tight little England could I buy that with ten thou'—aye, or an hundred times ten thou'? No, no, Harry, that fortune would cost me too dear. I have seen and done and been too much. I've come back to the Big Country, where the pay is poor and the work is hard and the comfort small, but where a man and his soul meet their Maker face to face."
The Cattleman had finished his yarn. For a time no one spoke. Outside, the volume of rain was subsiding. Windy Bill reported a few stars shining through rifts in the showers. The chill that precedes the dawn brought us as close to the fire as the smouldering guano would permit.
"I don't know whether he was right or wrong," mused the Cattleman, after a while. "A man can do a heap with that much money. And yet an old 'alkali' is never happy anywhere else. However," he concluded emphatically, "one thing I do know: rain, cold, hunger, discomfort, curses, kicks, and violent deaths included, there isn't one of you grumblers who would hold that gardening job you spoke of three days!"
THE CATTLE RUSTLERS
Dawn broke, so we descended through wet grasses to the canon. There, after some difficulty, we managed to start a fire, and so ate breakfast, the rain still pouring down on us. About nine o'clock, with miraculous suddenness, the torrent stopped. It began to turn cold. The Cattleman and I decided to climb to the top of the butte after meat, which we entirely lacked.
It was rather a stiff ascent, but once above the sheer cliffs we found ourselves on a rolling meadow tableland a half-mile broad by, perhaps, a mile and a half in length. Grass grew high; here and there were small live oaks planted park-like; slight and rounded ravines accommodated brooklets. As we walked back, the edges blended in the edges of the mesa across the canon. The deep gorges, which had heretofore seemed the most prominent elements of the scenery, were lost. We stood, apparently, in the middle of a wide and undulating plain, diversified by little ridges, and running with a free sweep to the very foot of the snowy Galiuros. It seemed as though we should be able to ride horseback in almost any given direction. Yet we knew that ten minutes' walk would take us to the brink of most stupendous chasms—so deep that the water flowing in them hardly seemed to move; so rugged that only with the greatest difficulty could a horseman make his way through the country at all; and yet so ancient that the bottoms supported forests, rich grasses, and rounded, gentle knolls. It was a most astonishing set of double impressions.
We succeeded in killing a nice, fat white-tail buck, and so returned to camp happy. The rain, held off. We dug ditches, organised shelters, cooked a warm meal. For the next day we planned a bear hunt afoot, far up a manzanita canon where Uncle Jim knew of some "holing up" caves.
But when we awoke in the morning we threw aside our coverings with some difficulty to look on a ground covered with snow; trees laden almost to the breaking point with snow, and the air filled with it.
"No bear today" said the Cattleman.
"No," agreed Uncle Jim drily. "No b'ar. And what's more, unless yo're aimin' to stop here somewhat of a spell, we'll have to make out to-day."
We cooked with freezing fingers, ate while dodging avalanches from the trees, and packed reluctantly. The ropes were frozen, the hobbles stiff, everything either crackling or wet. Finally the task was finished. We took a last warming of the fingers and climbed on.
The country was wonderfully beautiful with the white not yet shaken from the trees and rock ledges. Also it was wonderfully slippery. The snow was soft enough to ball under the horses' hoofs, so that most of the time the poor animals skated and stumbled along on stilts. Thus we made our way back over ground which, naked of these difficulties, we had considered bad enough.
Imagine riding along a slant of rock shelving off to a bad tumble, so steep that your pony has to do more or less expert ankle work to keep from slipping off sideways. During the passage of that rock you are apt to sit very light. Now cover it with several inches of snow, stick a snowball on each hoof of your mount, and try again. When you have ridden it—or its duplicate—a few score of times, select a steep mountain side, cover it with round rocks the size of your head, and over that spread a concealing blanket of the same sticky snow. You are privileged to vary these to the limits of your imagination.
Once across the divide, we ran into a new sort of trouble. You may remember that on our journey over we had been forced to travel for some distance in a narrow stream-bed. During our passage we had scrambled up some rather steep and rough slopes, and hopped up some fairly high ledges. Now we found the heretofore dry bed flowing a good eight inches deep. The steep slopes had become cascades; the ledges, waterfalls. When we came to them, we had to "shoot the rapids" as best we could, only to land with a PLUNK in an indeterminately deep pool at the bottom. Some of the pack horses went down, sousing again our unfortunate bedding, but by the grace of fortune not a saddle pony lost his feet.
After a time the gorge widened. We came out into the box canon with its trees. Here the water spread and shoaled to a depth of only two or three inches. We splashed along gaily enough, for, with the exception of an occasional quicksand or boggy spot, our troubles were over.
Jed Parker and I happened to ride side by side, bringing up the rear and seeing to it that the pack animals did not stray or linger. As we passed the first of the rustlers' corrals, he called my attention to them.
"Go take a look," said he. "We only got those fellows out of here two years ago."
I rode over. At this point the rim-rock broke to admit the ingress of a ravine into the main canon. Riding a short distance up the ravine, I could see that it ended abruptly in a perpendicular cliff. As the sides also were precipitous, it became necessary only to build a fence across the entrance into the main canon to become possessed of a corral completely closed in. Remembering the absolute invisibility of these sunken canons until the rider is almost directly over them, and also the extreme roughness and remoteness of the district, I could see that the spot was admirably adapted to concealment.
"There's quite a yarn about the gang that held this hole," said Jed Parker to me, when I had ridden back to him "I'll tell you about it sometime."
We climbed the hill, descended on the Double R, built a fire in the stove, dried out, and were happy. After a square meal—and a dry one—I reminded Jed Parker of his promise, and so, sitting cross-legged on his "so-gun" in the middle of the floor, he told us the following yarn:
There's a good deal of romance been written about the "bad man," and there's about the same amount of nonsense. The bad man is justa plain murderer, neither more nor less. He never does get into a real, good, plain, stand-up gunfight if he can possibly help it. His killin's are done from behind a door, or when he's got his man dead to rights. There's Sam Cook. You've all heard of him. He had nerve, of course, and when he was backed into a corner he made good; he was sure sudden death with a gun. But when he went for a man deliberate, he didn't take no special chances. For a while he was marshal at Willets. Pretty soon it was noted that there was a heap of cases of resisting arrest, where Sam as marshal had to shoot, and that those cases almost always happened to be his personal enemies. Of course, that might be all right, but it looked suspicious. Then one day he killed poor old Max Schmidt out behind his own saloon. Called him out and shot him in the stomach. Said Max resisted arrest on a warrant for keepin' open out of hours! That was a sweet warrant to take out in Willets, anyway! Mrs. Schmidt always claimed that she saw that deal played, and that, while they were talkin' perfectly peacable, Cook let drive from the hip at about two yards' range. Anyway, we decided we needed another marshal. Nothin' else was ever done, for the Vigilantes hadn't been formed, and your individual and decent citizen doesn't care to be marked by a gun of that stripe. Leastwise, unless he wants to go in for bad-man methods and do a little ambusheein' on his own account.
The point is, that these yere bad men are a low-down, miserable proposition, and plain, cold-blood murderers, willin' to wait for a sure thing, and without no compunctions whatsoever. The bad man takes you unawares, when you're sleepin', or talkin', or drinkin', or lookin' to see what for a day it's goin' to be, anyway. He don't give you no show, and sooner or later he's goin' to get you in the safest and easiest way for himself. There ain't no romance about that.
And, until you've seen a few men called out of their shacks for a friendly conversation, and shot when they happen to look away; or asked for a drink of water, and killed when they stoop to the spring; or potted from behind as they go into a room, it's pretty hard to believe that any man can be so plumb lackin' in fair play or pity or just natural humanity.
As you boys know, I come in from Texas to Buck Johnson's about ten year back. I had a pretty good mount of ponies that I knew, and I hated to let them go at prices they were offerin' then, so I made up my mind to ride across and bring them in with me. It wasn't so awful far, and I figured that I'd like to take in what New Mexico looked like anyway.
About down by Albuquerque I tracked up with another outfit headed my way. There was five of them, three men, and a woman, and a yearlin' baby. They had a dozen hosses, and that was about all I could see. There was only two packed, and no wagon. I suppose the whole outfit—pots, pans, and kettles—was worth five dollars. It was just supper when I run across them, and it didn't take more'n one look to discover that flour, coffee, sugar, and salt was all they carried. A yearlin' carcass, half-skinned, lay near, and the fry-pan was, full of meat.
"Howdy, strangers," says I, ridin' up.
They nodded a little, but didn't say nothin'. My hosses fell to grazin', and I eased myself around in my saddle, and made a cigareet. The men was tall, lank fellows, with kind of sullen faces, and sly, shifty eyes; the woman was dirty and generally mussed up. I knowed that sort all right. Texas was gettin' too many fences for them.
"Havin' supper?" says I, cheerful.
One of 'em grunted "Yes" at me; and, after a while, the biggest asked me very grudgin' if I wouldn't light and eat, I told them "No," that I was travellin' in the cool of the evenin'.
"You seem to have more meat than you need, though," says I. "I could use a little of that."
"Help yourself," says they. "It's a maverick we come across."
I took a steak, and noted that the hide had been mighty well cut to ribbons around the flanks and that the head was gone.
"Well," says I to the carcass, "No one's going to be able to swear whether you're a maverick or not, but I bet you knew the feel of a brandin' iron all right."
I gave them a thank-you, and climbed on again. My hosses acted some surprised at bein' gathered up again, but I couldn't help that.
"It looks like a plumb imposition, cavallos," says I to them, "after an all-day, but you sure don't want to join that outfit any more than I do the angels, and if we camp here we're likely to do both."
I didn't see them any more after that until I'd hit the Lazy Y, and had started in runnin' cattle in the Soda Springs Valley. Larry Eagen and I rode together those days, and that's how I got to know him pretty well. One day, over in the Elm Flat, we ran smack on this Texas outfit again, headed north. This time I was on my own range, and I knew where I stood, so I could show a little more curiosity in the case.
"Well, you got this far," says I.
"Yes," says they.
"Where you headed?"
"Over towards the hills."
"What to do?"
"Make a ranch, raise some truck; perhaps buy a few cows."
They went on.
"Truck" says I to Larry, "is fine prospects in this country."
He sat on his horse looking after them.
"I'm sorry for them" says he. "It must he almighty hard scratchin'."
Well, we rode the range for upwards of two year. In that time we saw our Texas friends—name of Hahn—two or three times in Willets, and heard of them off and on. They bought an old brand of Steve McWilliams for seventy-five dollars, carryin' six or eight head of cows. After that, from time to time, we heard of them buying more—two or three head from one man, and two or three from another. They branded them all with that McWilliams iron—T 0—so, pretty soon, we began to see the cattle on the range.
Now, a good cattleman knows cattle just as well as you know people, and he can tell them about as far off. Horned critters look alike to you, but even in a country supportin' a good many thousand head, a man used to the business can recognise most every individual as far as he can see him. Some is better than others at it. I suppose you really have to be brought up to it. So we boys at the Lazy Y noted all the cattle with the new T 0, and could estimate pretty close that the Hahn outfit might own, maybe, thirty-five head all told.
That was all very well, and nobody had any kick comin'. Then one day in the spring, we came across our first "sleeper."
What's a sleeper? A sleeper is a calf that has been ear-marked, but not branded. Every owner has a certain brand, as you know, and then he crops and slits the ears in a certain way, too. In that manner he don't have to look at the brand, except to corroborate the ears; and, as the critter generally sticks his ears up inquirin'-like to anyone ridin' up, it's easy to know the brand without lookin' at it, merely from the ear-marks. Once in a great while, when a man comes across an unbranded calf, and it ain't handy to build a fire, he just ear-marks it and let's the brandin' go till later. But it isn't done often, and our outfit had strict orders never to make sleepers.
Well, one day in the spring, as I say, Larry and me was ridin', when we came across a Lazy Y cow and calf. The little fellow was ear-marked all right, so we rode on, and never would have discovered nothin' if a bush rabbit hadn't jumped and scared the calf right across in front of our hosses. Then we couldn't help but see that there wasn't no brand.
Of course we roped him and put the iron on him. I took the chance to look at his ears, and saw that the marking had been done quite recent, so when we got in that night I reported to Buck Johnson that one of the punchers was gettin' lazy and sleeperin'. Naturally he went after the man who had done it; but every puncher swore up and down, and back and across, that he'd branded every calf he'd had a rope on that spring. We put it down that someone was lyin', and let it go at that.
And then, about a week later, one of the other boys reported a Triangle-H sleeper. The Triangle-H was the Goodrich brand, so we didn't have nothin' to do with that. Some of them might be sleeperin' for all we knew. Three other cases of the same kind we happened across that same spring.
So far, so good. Sleepers runnin' in such numbers was a little astonishin', but nothin' suspicious. Cattle did well that summer, and when we come to round up in the fall, we cut out maybe a dozen of those T 0 cattle that had strayed out of that Hahn country. Of the dozen there was five grown cows, and seven yearlin's.
"My Lord, Jed," says Buck to me, "they's a heap of these youngsters comin' over our way."
But still, as a young critter is more apt to stray than an old one that's got his range established, we didn't lay no great store by that neither. The Hahns took their bunch, and that's all there was to it.
Next spring, though, we found a few more sleepers, and one day we came on a cow that had gone dead lame. That was usual, too, but Buck, who was with me, had somethin' on his mind. Finally he turned back and roped her, and threw her.
"Look here, Jed," says he, "what do you make of this?"
I could see where the hind legs below the hocks had been burned.
"Looks like somebody had roped her by the hind feet," says I.
"Might be," says he, "but her heels lame that way makes it look more like hobbles."
So we didn't say nothin' more about that neither, until just by luck we came on another lame cow. We threw her, too.
"Well, what do you think of this one?" Buck Johnson asks me.
"The feet is pretty well tore up," says I, "and down to the quick, but I've seen them tore up just as bad on the rocks when they come down out of the mountains."
You sabe what that meant, don't you? You see, a rustler will take a cow and hobble her, or lame her so she can't follow, and then he'll take her calf a long ways off and brand it with his iron. Of course, if we was to see a calf of one brand followin' of a cow with another, it would be just too easy to guess what had happened.
We rode on mighty thoughtful. There couldn't be much doubt that cattle rustlers was at work. The sleepers they had ear-marked, hopin' that no one would discover the lack of a brand. Then, after the calf was weaned, and quit followin' of his mother, the rustler would brand it with his own iron, and change its ear-mark to match. It made a nice, easy way of gettin' together a bunch of cattle cheap.
But it was pretty hard to guess off-hand who the rustlers might be. There were a lot of renegades down towards the Mexican line who made a raid once in a while, and a few oilers  livin' near had water holes in the foothills, and any amount of little cattle holders, like this T 0 outfit, and any of them wouldn't shy very hard at a little sleeperin' on the side. Buck Johnson told us all to watch out, and passed the word quiet among the big owners to try and see whose cattle seemed to have too many calves for the number of cows.
The Texas outfit I'm tellin' you about had settled up above in this Double R canon where I showed you those natural corrals this morning. They'd built them a 'dobe, and cleared some land, and planted a few trees, and made an irrigated patch for alfalfa. Nobody never rode over this way very much, 'cause the country was most too rough for cattle, and our ranges lay farther to the southward. Now, however, we began to extend our ridin' a little.
I was down towards Dos Cabesas to look over the cattle there, and they used to send Larry up into the Double R country. One evenin' he took me to one side.
"Look here, Jed," says he, "I know you pretty well, and I'm not ashamed to say that I'm all new at this cattle business—in fact, I haven't been at it more'n a year. What should be the proportion of cows to calves anyhow?"
"There ought to be about twice as many cows as there're calves," I tells him.
"Then, with only about fifty head of grown cows, there ought not to be an equal number of yearlin's?"
"I should say not," says I. "What are you drivin' at?"
"Nothin' yet," says he.
A few days later he tackled me again.
"Jed," says he, "I'm not good, like you fellows are, at knowin' one cow from another, but there's a calf down there branded T 0 that I'd pretty near swear I saw with an X Y cow last month. I wish you could come down with me."
We got that fixed easy enough, and for the next month rammed around through this broken country lookin' for evidence. I saw enough to satisfy me to a moral certainty, but nothin' for a sheriff; and, of course, we couldn't go shoot up a peaceful rancher on mere suspicion. Finally, one day, we run on a four-months' calf all by himself, with the T 0 iron onto him—a mighty healthy lookin' calf, too.
"Wonder where HIS mother is!" says I.
"Maybe it's a 'dogie,'" says Larry Eagen—we calls calves whose mothers have died "dogies."
"No," says I, "I don't hardly think so. A dogie is always under size and poor, and he's layin' around water holes, and he always has a big, sway belly onto him. No, this is no dogie; and, if it's an honest calf, there sure ought to be a T 0 cow around somewhere."
So we separated to have a good look. Larry rode up on the edge of a little rimrock. In a minute I saw his hoss jump back, dodgin' a rattlesnake or somethin', and then fall back out of sight. I jumped my hoss up there tur'ble quick, and looked over, expectin' to see nothin' but mangled remains. It was only about fifteen foot down, but I couldn't see bottom 'count of some brush.