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Desert Conquest - or, Precious Waters
by A. M. Chisholm
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"You keepee hossee off flowah bed," commanded Feng. "What foh you lidee him all oveh?"

"Ask th' harrse!" Quilty retorted. "The sight iv yez onsettles him, lowgrade baste as he is. Dom a Chinaman dead or alive, annyway!"

"You no good!" retorted Feng. "Me savvy you. You Ilishman, all same mick, all same flannel mout', all same bogtlotteh! You bum lailway man! You get dlunk, fo'get switch, thlain lun off tlack; you swingee lante'n, yellee 'All aboa'd!' you say, 'Jim Kli! what keepee Numbeh Eight?' You sellee ticket, knockee down change. No good, lailway man! Me savvy you, all light."

"Ye cross iv a limon peel and a case iv jandhers!" cried Mr. Quilty in wrath at these aspersions on an honourable calling, "I'm a notion to get down an' slug the head off iv yez! Faix, ut's no murder to kill a Chinaman, but a bright jewel in me starry crown, ye long-nailed, rat-eatin', harrse-haired, pipe-hittin' slave iv th' black pill! I'll make yez think I'm a Hip Sing Tong or a runaway freight on th' big hill. I'll slaughter yez, mind, if I get off. Do yez know where yez will go whin yez die at my hands?"

"Me go to heaven," said Feng, with comfortable conviction.

"Th' —— ye say!" ejaculated Mr. Quilty, in shocked amazement. "I think I see ye there!"

"You no see me," said Feng. "No Ilish lailway man stop in heaven. Me catchee heaven all light. Missionally say so."

"Is ut mish-naries they send to waste time on the loikes iv yez?" snorted Mr. Quilty. "Hivin! Fine comp'ny ye'd be f'r the holy men and blessid saints an' martyrs an' pure, snow-white angels! Why, ye idolatrous, stick-burnin', kow-towin', joss-worshippin' pagan son iv a mat-sailed junk and a chopstick, they'd slam the pearly gates forninst yer face and stick their holy fingers to their blessid noses at yez. Hivin! Ye'll never smell ut, nor scuffle yer filthy shoes on th' goolden streets. Purgathry! Faix, yer ticket reads straight through, wid no stop-off priv'leges whatever. Th' cindher pit f'r yours! Be th' Rock iv Cashel, I'll l'arn yez to insult th' heav'nly throng!"

So saying, he dropped ungracefully from his horse and made a rush for Feng, who retreated, slammed the screen door, and, from inside, threatened the storming party with a formidable butcher knife.

"Whurroo!" shouted Mr. Quilty, dancing on the steps. "Come out, ye yelly plague, knife and all, an' l'ave me knock the stuffin' out iv yez! Annyways, I'll tell ye what ye are. Ye're a——"

But Casey, fearful of Mr. Quilty's descriptive powers, saw fit to interrupt.

"Hello! What's all the row? That you, Corney?"

"Yer owner has saved yer life," Mr. Quilty informed Feng. "Sure ut's me, Casey. I'm after l'arnin' this Oriental curse iv the wurruld how to talk to his betters." He mounted the steps, peering suspiciously at the occupants of the veranda. "Who's these?" he demanded. "I can't see in the dark. Miss Burnaby, is ut, an' Misther Wade an' his leddy? I believe yez were here all the time!"

"We just came in from the other side," Casey lied manfully.

"Yes, ye did! I can see yez laughin', and I don't blame yez. 'Twas funny how scared the Chink was. Well, ut does thim lower races good to be bawled out wanst in a while by their superiors."

Casey led the way indoors, and lighted the lamps. He established Mr. Quilty in a comfortable chair, with a cigar and a cold drink.

"Th' health and inclinations iv all here," said Mr. Quilty, waving his glass gracefully. "I'm glad to see yez all lookin' so well, more partic'larly the leddies."

"Thank you, Mr. Quilty," said Clyde.

"It's very nice of you, Mr. Quilty," said Kitty Wade.

"It's not often I have the good forchune to be in leddies' society," Mr. Quilty continued. "Me tongue has lost th' right twist for compliments; but, sure, if ut hadn't ut wouldn't begin to do th' pair iv yez justice. Oh, divil th' bit iv soodher am I givin' yez. It's two pretty women yez are. Well, well, I'm an old felly who's had his day. Ye won't mind me. Annyways, wan iv yez has a man, an' th' other is spoken for, belike. Now whatever makes Casey, there, blush? I didn't think he knowed how. An' Miss Burnaby, too! What'll yez do whin they's rice lodged in yer clothes and yer hats, an' white ribbons on yer trunks, an' th' waiters grin whin ye go into the diner? Let me tell ye, now——"

"Please, please, Mr. Quilty!" Clyde pleaded.

"Have I rung th' bell?" he demanded.

"Bull's-eye," said Wade. "Own up to it, you two. It's obvious."

"Oh, is it?" said Clyde. "Well, if we're half as bad as you and Kitty were——"

"Don't mind him; he was in love with me once," said Kitty.

"He is yet," said Clyde.

"Faix, I don't wonder at ut," said Mr. Quilty gallantly.

"Very skilful shift of topic," said Wade. "I admit everything. I guess we were bad enough; but you and Casey are the limit."

"But look at th' fine excuse both iv thim has," said Mr. Quilty, beaming. "Here's long life an' happiness, an' may yer only troubles be—well, well, niver mind th' troubles. There's time enough to think iv them whin they come. Which puts me in mind that I do be forgettin' what I come for. Ut's about Tom. D'ye know where he's at?"

"Not exactly. Why?"

"Mebbe ye heard that th' water comp'ny is payin' off its men an' shuttin' down. Well, then, there's all iv thim hard-faced tillikums iv Cross, deceased, paid off; an' instid iv gittin' dhrunk like dacint Christians, what do they do but outfit thimselves an' start back fer th' hills, six iv thim—an' a divil iv a harrd-bunch, savin' th' leddies' presence. Wan iv thim made a brag that they'd get Tom. So I come out to tell yez, in case ye had word from him. An' they's officers out afther that young divil iv a brother iv Miss Sheila's. Somebody ought to tell the boys to skin their eyes, if so be they're hangin' around."



CHAPTER XXX

Casey and Sheriff Dove did not start the next afternoon. A telegram had detained the sheriff, and he did not reach Chakchak till night. He spent the evening with them, taking a great fancy to Clyde. He even blossomed out as a story teller, spinning yarns without embellishment and with great clearness. He told of cattle wars, of outlaws, of Indian fighters, of strange occurrences, of strange men, primitive of mind and of action, who had played their parts in the history of the West. It was information at first-hand, rare nowadays, and the listeners found the evening too short.

"Blanket time," said the sheriff, looking at his watch. "I ain't a young nighthawk no more. If we're to git a good start——"

"We'd like to hear more, sheriff," said Clyde.

"Sho!" said Sheriff Dove, well pleased. "I could keep yarnin' half the night to a pretty girl. I ain't too old for that. Maybe when we get back we'll have another session."

Outside on the veranda she slipped her arm in his. "Take good care of Casey for me, sheriff, please."

"I sure will, little girl," he replied. "Don't you go to worryin', now. There's no call to. If it was easier travellin' you might come along, for all the trouble there'll be." He smiled down at her in fatherly fashion, his great, sinewy arm pressing hers, and the pressure reassured her.

"Thank you, sheriff. You—you're a dear!"

"Do I git a bid to the weddin'?"

"Of course you do." Clyde blushed and laughed. "Only I don't know just when it will be."

"Make it soon," he advised. "Life's short, little girl. Take all the happiness you can git. Good night."

They rode westward in the morning before the sun had risen, and camped that night in the foothills, having seen nobody. They entered the pass, and immediately came upon the trail of horses.

"Looks like there's been some travel," said the sheriff. "This here pass used much?"

"Not at this time of year. The Indians use it in the fall. They hunt across the range."

"These horses is shod," the sheriff remarked. "I sh'd say there's been half a dozen of 'em. Not less. Maybe more. I've knowed men that could tell exact."

"Not many of them left now."

"That's so. There ain't much need for trailin' these days. Too many telegraph wires."

They held to the pass, as did the hoofprints, eventually dropping down into the valley of the Klimminchuck, where they camped for the night beside the ford, cooked supper, unrolled their blankets, and lay by the fire, smoking.

"This bunch of hosses," the sheriff observed, "seems to have split up here. Two or three of 'em crossed over, but the most went down the valley. What's down there?"

"Just valley. It's partly open and part heavy timber. There was a pack trail cut through once, but it's mostly grown up."

"Nobody lives down there?"

"Not a soul. Now and then somebody traps in winter."

"Um." The sheriff was thoughtful for some moments. "Does McHale know the country hereabouts?"

"Fairly well. Better than I do. And McCrae knows it better than he does."

"Um." The sheriff became silent again. "When a man goes to hidin' out," he observed after a long pause, "he 'most always hits for the country he knows. Seems like it's human nature. I'd do it myself, and so'd you. Seems like a man that's wanted is suspicious of strange ground. He don't know what's in it, and he's afraid of gettin' cornered. He don't know what he's goin' to run up against any mile. It's a mean feelin', that. It keeps a man on edge every minute. So he naturally makes for the district he's at home in. It's a mistake, but they all make it. They figure they can dodge around where they know the trails and cut-offs. Consequently it's just a matter of time till they're caught. It's like an old buck that won't leave his range. Any man can git him that wants to spend a week at it."

"That's so," Casey agreed.

"So when I want a man and don't know where he's gone, I find out what place he thinks he knows best," the sheriff continued. "The system wins nine times out of ten. Now you say McHale's only out temporary. He's got a clear self-defence case, or thinks he has, and he's merely side-steppin' trouble. In that case he won't go as far as another man might. My tumtum is that he's somewheres down along this valley."

"Good reasoning," Casey admitted.

"The way to see a man down in a hole is to look over the edge," said the sheriff; "and the way to find a man in a valley is to get up on a hill. They ain't no such thing as a smokeless campfire invented yet, though, if a man rustles dry sticks and does his cookin' at noon of a bright day, he don't make much smoke. A feller fooled me once that way. He didn't take a chance on noon, but done his cookin' at night, down in a hole. Only way I got him, the fire burned in under a rock into some old roots, and sorter smudged along one mornin' when he was asleep."

Casey glanced up at the bulk of the ranges outlined in blackness against the sky. "If you say so, sheriff, we'll climb."

"I hate to," the sheriff admitted. "Couldn't you make a good guess?"

"No. I don't know any more than you do."

"Well," said the sheriff thoughtfully, "we'll try the valley first. We may come on some sign. It's bound to take time, anyway. There's a whole heap of country here if it was smoothed out and stretched level."

He knocked out his pipe and pulled his blanket around him, for down in that deep, watered valley the nights were cold. Casey followed his example. In two minutes both men were asleep, with the rush of the water and the crunch-crunch of the horses' teeth cropping the grasses in their ears.

They breakfasted in the dawn, saddled, and took a course downstream, The trail petered out; the hoof marks vanished. They rode with care through thick brush, and more easily in open, parklike glades. Grouse rose almost under their horses' hoofs, to sit bright-eyed on adjacent limbs, watching the travellers. Occasionally deer by twos and threes bounded springily away, white flags waving. Once the horses snorted and showed a disinclination to proceed, sniffing the air nervously.

"Bear," said Casey.

"Down among them berry bushes, I reckon," said the sheriff.

As he spoke, a black, furry head, short ears, and sharp muzzle rose above the tangled bushes. A narrow, red tongue licked out. Cunning little eyes regarded them with indignant suspicion.

"Woof!" said the bear. The sound was something between the snort of a hog and the first interrogative note of a watchdog, which hears a noise that requires explanation.

"Well, sport," said the sheriff, "berryin' good this mornin'?"

But at the sound of the human voice the black head disappeared beneath the surface of foliage. There was a momentary swaying of bushes in one spot, like the swirl of disturbed water after a fish; but there was nothing to mark the line of the beast's flight. For all his bulk he melted through the tangle as soundlessly as a spirit.

"Bears is learnin' manners nowadays," the sheriff commented. "Course, these here black ones never was much different from pigs. But take grizzlies. When I come West with my old people, a little shaver just able to set a pony, they was plumb sassy. I never did see such biggotty-actin' critters. Britch-loaders hadn't been in so durn long, and men didn't go huntin' grizzlies with the little old pea rifle just for fun. They was range bosses, and they knowed it. Now it's only once in a while you'll find one that wants all the trail."

In the afternoon they came to an abandoned cabin, and dismounted to investigate. Casey shook his head at the filthy litter. "Nobody's been here," said he.

The sheriff peered narrowly about. "No?" he said. "Well, how about that?" He pointed to the ground. "Moccasin track, or part of one. Who wears moccasins?"

"McCrae does, most of the time."

"Then he's been here. He couldn't pass without lookin' in."

"Why not?"

"Because four men out of five can't go by an old shack without takin' a peep inside. I can't, myself. I judge you can't, either. Do you remember ever doin' it?"

"Why, no," Casey admitted, "now you speak of it, I don't. And I do remember rubbering into dozens of old wikiups one place and another."

"Sure," said the sheriff. "Human nature again. Anything that's made by a man and left behind will draw another man like molasses will a fly. I never knew a man yet that wouldn't nose around an old camping spot. Not that he expects to find anything, or wants to. He just can't help it. McCrae didn't stop here. Where did he go? We might as well look around a little."

In the process of looking around, they came on an abandoned camp. By the quantity of ashes a number of fires had been burned. There were the poles of a lean-to and a bough bed beneath it, and at a little distance were other beds of boughs. The ground was trampled, and the grass beaten down in the vicinity.

The sheriff nosed among the signs, lifting the boughs of the beds, trying the ashes with his finger for heat, making an examination of the ground, and wandering off in a circle around the camp, where horses had been picketed. Finally he came back to the fireplace, filled his pipe, and lay down. Casey, meanwhile, had been forming his own conclusions.

"Well?" he asked.

"Well," said the sheriff, "I reckon you been usin' your eyes, too. Let's hear about it."

"It's your hunt."

"So it is. McCrae's met up with McHale. This here is their camp."

"How do you know?"

"You askin' because you don't know yourself, or because you want me to tell you?"

"I think you're right, but I'd like to know how you get at it."

"Well, I ain't no Old Sleuth nor Sherlock Holmes," said the sheriff, "but I've lived some years out of doors. I ain't workin' out no chain of reasonin'; I'm just usin' my eyes and a bit of savvy. This is how she works out:

"McHale and McCrae is both foot-loose, and both know this part of the country. They leave about the same time, and chances is they make for it. Then they meet. That's easy. Then we find the moccasin track. That fits McCrae. Next we find a lean-to with a two-man bough bed. There's the hollows where two men lay. That helps prove our first guess. It shows that some one was with McCrae, and the only other man hidin' out is McHale."

"But there are other bough beds. How do you know they weren't all made by one outfit?"

"There's only one lean-to."

"Two men may have been more particular than the others."

"The boughs of them other beds were cut later than this lean-to one."

"But the boughs are all green."

"The ends where they were cut are different. There's more gum on these than the others. That shows they were cut before. Then there's more needles broken off and sifted through to the ground beneath this bed. That shows it's been slept on more. Where would a man get his boughs? The nearest trees, of course. Well, there's more gum where the limbs were cut on the nearest trees than on them farther away. Then there's been a bunch of horses staked out. Why didn't they bell 'em and let 'em range? Either because they didn't have no bells, or didn't want to use 'em. McHale and McCrae would keep their hosses on a rope so's they could make a quick get-away if they had to. They wouldn't take a chance on their strayin'. Now the grass that's been eaten down by the hosses is beginnin' to sprout again in some places, and not in others. Maybe that's because the pickets were shifted, but it's more likely that some hosses was here before the rest. That's about all. She works out all right, don't she?"

"Down to the hock card," Casey admitted. "I saw some of the signs, but not all. You filled in the gaps."

"It's a pity if I wouldn't savvy a few things about my own business," said the sheriff. "Some of it's guesswork, but the main features ain't. Now, when we go farther, we got to do straight guessin'. Who was this bunch that come in here where the two men was already camped? My guess is that it was this here Dade and his outfit. But they don't find the two here when they come, or there'd sure be sign of it. It looks to me like them two boys got to know that somebody was on their back trail, and moved camp sudden. But not so durn sudden they had to leave anything behind. Question is, where have they went to—the whole b'ilin' of 'em?"

"Down the valley. Otherwise we'd have seen some sign."

"I reckon that's so. If Dade works out things the way I have, he knows he's close on to McHale. Say he's got four or five men with him. He can comb the valley pretty clean. But here's another thing: How long will them two boys let themselves be chased?"

"Not very long. It's not safe to crowd either of them."

"If it was me," said the sheriff reflectively, "and a feud party was out on my trail, I'd be apt as not to bushwhack 'em some. You bet I wouldn't stand on ceremony with such hostiles. If I knowed the country I'd cache myself alongside some good open spot, wait till they got into the middle of it, and then slam loose. With two men that savvy their guns any one that got away would sure have a pull with Providence and be workin' it awful hard."

"Sandy would do that in a minute; but I think Tom doesn't want any more trouble if he can help it."

"He may get it shoved onto him. Well, seein' we're here, we may as well eat. Then we'll move on."

When their meal was over they followed the valley. Sunset found them at the edge of thick timber.

"How far does this run?" asked the sheriff.

"I don't know. I was never here before."

"Then we'll camp," said Dove, "and tackle her by daylight."

It was almost dark when Casey, sitting by the fire, suddenly held up his hand. "Somebody coming."

The sheriff listened for a moment. "Two horses," he announced. "May be Jack Pugh." Nevertheless, the old frontiersman shifted his position so that his gun lay ready to his hand.

A moment later two shadowy horsemen appeared, resolving themselves, as they approached, into Farwell and old Simon.

"Hello, the camp!" cried the former. "That you, Dunne?"

"Yes. What on earth are you doing here?"

"Same thing as yourself. This old Siwash missed you somehow. He found McHale and young McCrae, and, on the way out, he ran into Dade, Lewis, and the rest—six in all. When he got to the ranch you were gone, and nobody could tell him where. He came over to Talapus to tell them he'd seen Sandy. That's where I ran into him. And so, knowing that Sandy was with McHale, I got the old man to come back with me. I wanted to be in it if help was needed. We picked up your trail—or he did—and here we are."

"Well, it's blamed decent of you, Farwell," said Casey. "I didn't know that you and Sandy were such friends."

"We're not. The kid doesn't like me. I told you he pulled a gun on me once. All the same, it was up to me this time. I'm going to marry Sheila."

"The devil you are!" Casey exclaimed.

"You're blamed flattering," said Farwell. "You bet I'm going to marry her."

"You're getting one of the finest girls on earth."

"I know that as well as you do," said Farwell. "Then you see how it was up to me——"

He broke off suddenly. Rolling softly along the hills, flung back and forth across the valley from rock wall to rock wall, repeated and magnified a hundred times, came an echo. So distant was it that the original sound itself was not heard; merely the reverberations of it struck the ear. But unmistakably it was made by a far-off gun. Before the echoes had died away others followed, until their resonance resembled continuous thunder.

"Hiyu shootum!" said Simon.

"You bet," the sheriff agreed. "I reckon the boys has got tired bein' moved on. Or else they been jumped sudden. That shootin's all of six miles off. Maybe more. It'll be plumb dark in no time. If there's no more shootin' it's settled by now. If there is it's a stand-off. Either way we have to wait till it gets light."



CHAPTER XXXI

"I been thinkin' we might as well move on a ways," said McHale. "Here's old Simon drops in on us. Somebody else might. I don't feel right about it. I want to git some place, like up in one o' them basins, where strangers won't be passin' by every day."

"Well, I'll go you," Sandy agreed; "but there's an old bear that I want first. He's got a foot as big as a fiddle; I'll bet he weighs as much as a steer."

"What'll you do with a bear? We don't want to go packin' a green hide about with us. The horses hate the smell of it."

"Let 'em get used to it, then," Sandy returned. "I'm starting after that bear now. Better come along. If I don't get him I'll go to-morrow."

But McHale refused to accompany him. He hated climbing. If he could go on a horse that would be different. Therefore Sandy set out alone.

He ascended a shoulder of the mountain, working his way upward to where he had located the range of the big bear. It was steady climbing, and rough as well, but Sandy was in hard, lean condition, with the limitless wind and springy muscles of youth. He arrived at his objective point, a spot which gave him a clear view of the mountain side for a mile on either hand. Somewhere in that area, he had already decided, the bear would be feeding. He settled down for a long, careful inspection; first with the naked eye, which yielded nothing, and next with a pair of binoculars. Sandy, when hunting, possessed unlimited patience. He settled himself comfortably, and kept the glasses at work. Finally his patience was rewarded. A mile or more up the hillside a huge, brown shape shambled into view.

"Lord! he's a big brute," Sandy muttered. "That's a hide worth getting. I'll wait till he settles down for keeps."

Apparently the bear had found food to his liking. He was busy with paw and tongue beside a rotten log. Sandy mapped out a route in his mind, and decided to make a start. It was then noon. As he rose he happened to look up the valley.

It lay below him, ashimmer in the summer sun, a panorama of green, light and dark of shade, with the silver ribbon of the Klimminchuck appearing and disappearing down its length. It was, perhaps, as beautiful a mountain valley scene as eye ever beheld; but Sandy McCrae would not have looked at it twice save for a thin, gray thread which appeared above the treetops some miles away. It became a column, ballooned, and then was invisible. But he knew that somebody had just started a fire.

He picked out the spot with the glasses. Smoke was plainly visible through the powerful lenses. It was close to the river—beside the bank, in fact—and he could catch glimpses of one or two horses. But, because of the trees, he could see little more.

"Darn the luck," said Sandy. "There's the biggest hide in the whole range waiting for me, and somebody has to come butting in. Well, there's only one thing to do."

That thing being to get back to camp as fast as possible, Sandy proceeded to do it. He went downhill at a pace that would have shaken an older and heavier man to pieces; for going downhill is, contrary to the popular idea, much harder on the human frame than going up. He broke into camp and roused McHale from a state of somnolence and tobacco.

"I could 'a' tanned your young hide when you bulled off after that bear," said the latter. "Now I seem to see what them salvation scouts calls 'the finger of Providence' in the play. In other words, it's plumb safe to keep one eye skinned. Do I look like I was scared, Sandy?"

"Nah!" said Sandy contemptuously.

"Well, you're going to see me act like I was." He rose swiftly, his laziness falling from him now that there was work to do. "Go and fetch in them cayuses. I'll break camp."

The horses being on picket caused no delay. When Sandy brought them in, McHale had their entire outfit in two heaps, ready to pack. With the skill and swiftness of experience they made the packs, threw the hitches, drew the lash ropes tight. The result was two compact bundles which could not work loose.

"I dunno who our friends are," said McHale, as they rode out of camp, "but if it's this here Dade bunch, say, what a surprise they'd have give me all by myself. I can just see me gettin' up in time to fall down."

"They've got no license to chase us all over," said Sandy. "We don't have to stand for it, do we? How'd it be if we held up their camp? Or else we could lay for them as they came along, and settle it right there."

"Bushwhack 'em?" said McHale. "No, I reckon not. We want to keep out of trouble. If we held 'em up what'd we do with them? We couldn't tie 'em and leave 'em; and we couldn't pack 'em around. Nothing for it but to run like men. The country's big enough for both of us."

Sandy grunted disapproval, but said no more. Personally he would have welcomed a fight. He was a marvellously quick and accurate shot with either rifle or revolver, and he was ready to make a friend's quarrel his own. However, he deferred to McHale's views.

Farther down the Klimminchuck they turned up a nameless tributary creek, following its course with difficulty, for the way was choked with down timber and slides, until they reached a beautiful little basin high up above the valley. There the creek had its source or sources; for the drainings of the basin were collected in a little lake lying beneath bare cliffs. The water was swarming with trout, so that one supply of food was assured.

Beside the lake and the cliffs they made camp. They could not see the valley, neither could they be seen thence; but by walking half a mile they could look down into it. Sandy, mindful of his disappointment, began to prospect for bear.

McHale relapsed once more into a morass of sleep and tobacco. But while Sandy was ranging afield he lay on the edge of the basin drowsing and watching the valley, for he did not intend to be taken by surprise.

But that was exactly what happened. He had withdrawn from his post of observation earlier than usual, and he and Sandy were smoking after supper in the fading light, when a little cavalcade rode into the basin, preceded by one who walked slowly, studying the ground.

McHale saw them at the same moment that they perceived the camp. He leaped to his feet with an oath, snatching up his rifle and a gunny sack, which, among other things, contained their cartridges. His belt gun he never laid aside.

Sandy also jumped for his gun, slamming the lever down and up as the weapon came to his shoulder. He stood fairly in the open, covering the foremost man. But McHale caught his arm.

"Come on and get back among them rocks," he cried. "We can't stand 'em off here."

Behind them as they ran a sudden yell went up, and a single bullet buzzed past like a mad bee. But they reached the shelter of the rocks fallen from the cliff at some remote period, and dropped to cover. Before them the great slabs formed a natural breastwork; behind them rose the sheer cliff, gray and weather-stained. Their backs were amply protected; in front they must take care of themselves.

The newcomers dismounted in the concealment of trees. Five minutes afterward a man walked leisurely forward. McHale recognized Dade. At fifty paces he halted him.

"I wouldn't come no nearer, Dade, if I was you."

"I'm coming a heap closer pretty soon."

"All right; you're expected," McHale retorted. "You call a feud on me, do you? Now you listen here: You call it off and call your bunch off, or there'll be doin's."

"I'm talkin' to your partner," said Dade. "I s'pose it's young McCrae. We got nothing against you, McCrae. You come out o' there, take your horse and your dunnage, and git. Nobody'll hurt you."

"Is that so?" sneered Sandy. "Go plumb to blazes, will you?"

"I'll think about it," said Dade coolly.

"You'll do more than think about it if you crowd in here," Sandy retorted.

"Nobody wants to crowd you," said Dade. "We're after McHale, and we're goin' to get him. Don't you mix up in it. If you do you may get hurt."

"That ain't such bad advice, kid," interrupted McHale. "I'm able for 'em, I reckon. Better pull your freight like he tells you. This ain't your show, nohow, and you've got your folks to think of."

"Do you think I'm a yellow dog, or what?" Sandy snapped back, glaring at him. "Quit? I think I see myself. I'll smash this Dade's belt buckle right now." He lifted his rifle.

"Hold on," said McHale. "This kid is some obstinate," he called to Dade. "His tumtum is that he'll stick. I don't want him in it."

"He's got his chance," said Dade. "It's up to him."

Young McCrae launched a string of epithets at him, the cream of the vocabularies of certain mule skinners of his acquaintance. Meanwhile his finger itched on the trigger.

"You're a durn poor persuader," said McHale. "The kid will stick. Far's I'm concerned, if you want me, come and get me. Don't show your hide no more. I'm surely done talkin' to you."

Dade turned and walked away. Sandy covered him.

"Not in the back," said McHale.

Immediately afterward a thirty-thirty struck a rock in front of them, glancing off at an angle, wailing away into the distance. Sandy McCrae, lying at full length peering along the slim barrel of his weapon, pressed the trigger and swore in disappointment.

"Centred a stump," he said. "There it is yet. It looked like somebody."

All was quiet for five minutes. Then a sleet of lead pelted their position, patting against the cliff behind them, and splashing upon the rocks in front. Splinters and particles of stone, lead, and nickel flew everywhere.

"Git down low," McHale advised, hugging a bowlder.

"I am down," said Sandy.

"Then dig a hole." McHale laughed, and then swore as a sharp fragment of rock ripped his cheek.

"Hit you?"

"Nope. Rock sliver. I'll bet their guns is gettin' hot. This won't last."

The fusillade ceased. McHale shoved his rifle barrel through a crevice.

"Maybe some gent will stick out his head to see how many corpses there is of us. This light's gettin' durn bad. I wish I had an ivory foresight, 'stead o' this gold bead. I can't see——"

His rifle muzzle leaped in recoil as he spoke. Two hundred yards away a man making a rush forward for a closer position winced and half halted. Instantly Sandy's rifle lanced the dimming light with a twelve-foot shaft of flame. The man straightened, staggered, and threw both arms upward as if to shield his face. Sandy fired again as the lever clashed back into place. The man fell forward.

"Got him!" cried Sandy exultantly. "Centred him twice, Tom!"

"I reckon you did. That's one out of it." He fired again without result. Sandy shot three times rapidly, and swore at the light.

"You're overshootin'," said McHale. "You can't draw the foresight fine enough in this light. Hold lower."

"Nothing to hold on," grumbled McCrae. "They're cached close. If one of them would only come out to fetch in that dead one I wouldn't do a thing to him."

McHale eyed him speculatively. "Seems like your young soul ain't swamped by no wave of remorse at killin' a man. Don't make you feel shaky nor nothin'?"

Young McCrae smiled grimly. "Not that I can notice. All that lead they slung at us scared remorse clean out of my system. I'm lookin' for a chance to repeat."

But darkness settled down without that chance, making accurate shooting impossible. Objects at fifty yards became indistinct. Only the smoky-red reflection of the sunset remained.

"Think they've got enough?" asked Sandy.

"Why, they ain't got started yet. Lucky we had our supper. We can stand quite a racket on a full stomach. Might as well smoke, I reckon."

Sandy shivered slightly as the chill of the mountain night air struck through his thin clothing. "Wish I'd grabbed a blanket or a coat."

"It'll be a heap worse before mornin'," said McHale.

"You're a cheerful devil!"

"Think of how good the sun'll feel. Maybe something will happen to warm us up before then."

A forty-pound stone suddenly crashed down to one side of them, smashing in the rocks and bushes with terrific impact. Sandy leaped to his feet, his revolver streaming continuous fire at the top of the cliff.

"Git down, you durn fool!" cried McHale.

Sandy dropped just in time. A volley came from in front, and a leaden storm howled overhead.

"Talk about luck!" said McHale. "Don't you take a chance like that again." He rolled over on his back and put his rifle to his shoulder. "If I could only git that cuss up there against the sky line——"

But the top of the cliff was fringed with bushes. Another stone bounded down, struck a projection, leaped out, and hit ten feet in front of them. McHale fired by guess; but, like most guesswork shooting, without result. Another stone struck in front. He moved in closer to the cliff and chuckled grimly.

"We're right under a ledge. Them rocks all bounced off it. Mighty lucky for us. You feelin' any warmer now?"

"You bet. Summer done come again. I wish I could see to shoot." He fired at the flash of a gun, and winced suddenly.

"Burned me that time!"

A glancing bullet had ripped the flesh of his left side along the ribs. McHale made a bandage of the handkerchief he wore around his neck.

"You'll sure have a sore side, kid. Keep down tight. Don't take no more chances." But a moment afterward he grunted and his rifle clattered against the rocks.

"What is it?"

"My right arm. Busted above the elbow." He breathed deeply with the first pain throbs following the shock, and gritted his teeth. "Ain't this hell? I'm out of it for rifle shootin'. Here, come and cut off my shirt sleeve and tie her up some. See how much blood she's pumpin'! Take a turn above the hole and twist her up tight. Blamed if I want to bleed to death. I got a lot of things to see to first."

Sandy examined the wound by the feeble light of matches, which McHale held in his left hand, and declared that the arteries were uninjured. He cut off a leg of his trousers below the knee, and, with McHale's shirt sleeve, organized a bandage, binding it with the thongs of his moccasins, swearing steadily below his breath.

McHale leaned back against the rock and demanded his pipe. Sandy filled it, and held a match to the load. McHale puffed great smoke clouds into the darkness.

"Tobacco's sure a fine anaesthetic. She beats chloroform and tooth jerkers' gas. And now, kid, you git!"

"Do what?"

"Make a get-away. Hike. Leak out o' this. You can do it in the dark just as easy as a weasel."

"Say," said Sandy, "you didn't get hit alongside the head, too, did you?"

"Not yet. This is straight goods. I mean it. There's no use you stickin'. There's too many accidents happenin'. Come mornin' maybe you don't git a chance."

"Come mornin'," Sandy replied, "when I can see my sights, I'll clean the whole bunch out."

"Other people can see sights then. Kid, they got me rounded up. I ain't no good except on a horse. If I could make a get-away I would. But I can't. You can. There's no sense in both of us bein' wiped out. Also, there's your folks. I ain't got any. And, then, I've lived longer than you, and I've had a heap more fun. I'm plumb satisfied with the deal. If I quit the game now I break better'n even. Shake hands and git out o' here while you can."

"Forget it!" snapped Sandy. "Would you quit me? Not any. D'ye think I could look Casey in the face, or Sheila, or my old dad? Would one of them quit you? You bet they wouldn't. I'll see this through. Here, gimme what rifle cartridges you got, and shut up that line of talk. I won't stand for it, and I won't go."

"'Most every family has one blame fool in it," said McHale. "All right, durn you, stay. If I could chase you out I'd do it. Reach down and pull my belt gun for me. I can shoot left-handed some."

They passed the night miserably, waiting for an attack which did not come. The pain of their wounds was added to the discomfort of the cold. Dawn found them shivering, numbed, weary-eyed, staring through the lifting gloom, their weapons ready. As the light grew they could see their own camp, but no one occupied it. Farther off a column of smoke rose.

"Cookin' breakfast down in a hole," said McHale. "Playin' it plumb safe. They ain't takin' a chance on your shootin'."

"They'd better not," said Sandy. His young face showed grimed and pinched in the growing light, but his eyes were hard and clear. "Do you s'pose I could sneak over and get a stand on them?"

"I wouldn't try. You bet somebody's keeping cases on these rocks."

Half an hour passed, an hour. The sun struck the basin, mottling its green with gold, striking their chilled bodies with grateful warmth.

"Say," asked Sandy, "don't you want a drink of water?"

"Quit foolin'," McHale replied. "I been thinkin' of it for hours. I could drink that there lake dry."

Still nothing happened. The waiting began to get on their nerves.

"What d'you s'pose they're framing up?" Sandy asked.

"Don't know. Durn it! I can't do nothin' unless they run in on us," McHale grumbled. "Wisht I could hold a rifle."

"Let 'em try to run in," said Sandy grimly. He had McHale's rifle in addition to his own. "They've got to come two hundred yards without cover. I'll stop every blamed one of them in one hundred."

Suddenly he lifted his rifle, hesitated, and lay with his cheek to the stock, staring along the sights.

"See somethin'?" McHale asked.

"Over there past those jack pines. Man on a horse. He'll come out again."

Far off among the trees they saw not one mounted man, but several. They could catch glimpses merely. The horsemen appeared to be making for the valley, but not by the way in which they had come.

"By thunder!" cried McHale, "it looks like they're pullin' out."

His further remarks were lost in a rolling fire as Sandy unhooked his entire magazine at the retreating figures. He caught up McHale's rifle and emptied that, too.

"Save some ca'tridges for seed," advised McHale. "What's the use of snapshootin' at that range? You can't hit nothin'."

"You never know what luck you'll have," said Sandy. "I couldn't draw a sight with them moving in the brush. How many did you count?"

"Five—near as I could make it."

"Say, how'd it be if I went after them?"

"It'd be one durn young fool the less," McHale replied. "You want to know when you're well off. Don't stand up yet. There may be some play to this that we don't savvy."

"Rats! They've got a bellyful, I tell you. Five's the bunch, ain't it?—all but that one we got. I ain't going to stay cached here all day. I want some grub."

But McHale persuaded him to wait ten minutes. Then, after exposing a hat and a rolled-up coat as decoys without the least result, they emerged from their fortress.

"Didn't rustle our hosses," said McHale. "That's luck. I wonder what they done with that feller you downed. Let's look at their camp."

Down in the hollow where the besiegers had built their fire they found what they sought. It lay covered by a blanket. Sandy stripped the covering away.

"Dade, by thunder!" he exclaimed. McHale looked down thoughtfully at the dead man.

"I'm sure glad it was him," he observed. "I reckon that settles this feud business. That's why them fellers pulled out. It was his war, and when he got downed they didn't see no sense carryin' it on."

"Well, they might have buried him, anyway," Sandy grumbled.

"Maybe they figured you'd want to peel off his scalp," said McHale, with mild sarcasm. "I'm sure willing to take a little trouble like buryin' Dade."

"So'm I," Sandy admitted, replacing the blanket. "I guess we're pretty lucky. Come on while I rustle some grub. We want to pull out of here. You've got to get to a doctor as soon as you can."

They were eating breakfast when Casey, Farwell, the sheriff, and Simon rode into the basin, causing Sandy to snatch up his rifle under the impression that their assailants were returning. The four had made the best time they could, but had been at a loss to know the exact point until Sandy's farewell fusillade.

"You sure missed a heap of fun, Casey," said McHale.

"Well, some of it didn't miss you," said Casey. "I'm blame sorry about that arm, Tom. It'll be a tough ride for you."

"I'm able for it, I reckon. I wish you'd run into them fellers."

"Never saw hair nor hide of them. Just as well, maybe. Now, Tom, this is Sheriff Dove. He wants you, and I think he wants Sandy. I told him that you both had too much sense to make things hard for him."

"Far's I'm concerned I'm his meat," said McHale. "I'd have to come in, anyway, now. Sandy was a durn fool ever to hide out. I shouldn't have let him. Lucky for me I did, though."

"That's sense," said the sheriff. "You boys will find I'm all right to get on with. I haven't heard you say anything, McCrae?"

"I guess I don't need to say anything," said Sandy. "Casey came along with you, didn't he? That's good enough for me."

"I'm right obliged to him, too," said Dove. "He's sure saved me a lot of trouble. Lemme see that arm of yours, McHale. I savvy a little about them things. Anyway, I'll fix up some splints for it till you can get hold of a regular medicine man."



CHAPTER XXXII

"And so you're going to marry this Casey Dunne," said old Jim Hess. He and Clyde sat on the veranda at Chakchak, and they had been discussing the ranch, its owner, and the events that had led up to his absence.

"Yes, Uncle Jim, I'm going to marry him."

"Well," said the big railway man, "making allowance for your natural partiality, his stock seems to be worth about par. I'll know better when I've had a look at him. I tell you one thing, I'm glad he isn't a foreigner. I never liked those fellows who tagged about after you. This country can produce as good men as you'll find. The others weren't my sort. All right in their way, perhaps, but they seemed to go too much on family and ancestry. That's good enough, too, but it seems to me that the ancestors of some of them must have been a blamed sight better men than they were. After all, a girl doesn't marry the ancestor. Dunne seems to have hoed his own row. That's what I did. I'm prepared to like him. Only I don't want you to make any mistake."

"There's no mistake, Uncle Jim," she said, patting his big hand. "Casey's a man. You will like him. Look away out there where the dust is rising! Aren't those men on horseback? Yes, they are. It must be Casey coming home." Her pleasure was apparent in her voice.

The dust cloud resolved itself into four mounted men and three pack animals. They moved slowly, at a walk almost, the dust puffing up from the hoofs drifting over and enveloping them.

"Which is your Casey Dunne?" asked Hess.

Clyde stared with troubled eyes.

"I—I don't see him. There's Tom McHale, and the sheriff, and Sandy McCrae, and the old Indian. Why, Tom McHale has been hurt. His arm is in a sling. How slowly they ride! It's—it's like a funeral. Surely nothing can have happened. Oh, surely——" She caught her breath sharply, her eyes dilating. "Look!" she cried. "The last pack horse!"

The load on the last horse was a shapeless thing, not compact and built up like a pack, but hanging low on either side, shrouded by a canvas. From under this cover a hand and arm dangled, swinging to and fro with each motion of the animal.

Clyde felt a great fear, cold as the clutch of a dead hand itself, close on her heart, driving the young blood from her cheeks. "It can't be!" she said to herself. "Oh—it can't be."

Hess swore beneath his breath. If it were Casey Dunne lying across that pack horse——He put a huge protective arm around Clyde's shoulders, as if to shield her from the evil they both feared.

But she slipped from beneath his arm and fled down the steps toward the party who would have passed in the direction of the stables without halting. The sheriff, seeing her, pulled up. She caught McHale's hardened paw in both her hands, searching his eyes for the truth. But McHale's face, though weary and lined with pain, and, moreover, rendered decidedly unprepossessing by a growth of stubble, contained no signs of disaster.

"Where's Casey, Tom?"

"Casey?" McHale replied. "Why, he hiked on ahead to git a medicine man to fix up this arm of mine. Arm's done busted. He ought to be here most any time now."

To Clyde it was as if the sun had shot through a lowering, ominous cloud. She was faint with the joy of relief. "Thank God! Thank God!" she murmured.

"You seem to be upset about something, ma'am," said the sheriff gently. "Has anything went wrong?"

Hess answered for her. "What have you got on that last pack horse, sheriff?"

Jim Dove looked around and muttered an oath. "If that ain't plumb careless of me! I thought I had him all covered up. Rope must have slipped. That's Jake Betts, holdup and bad man, that's been callin' himself Dade around here. There's five hundred reward for him, and to collect the money I had to pack him in. I sure didn't allow to scare any women by lettin' an arm hang loose. And the little lady thought it was Dunne? Dunne's all safe and rugged. We thought he'd be here ahead of us."

Hess followed the sheriff to the stable and introduced himself, going directly to the point, as was his custom.

"Sheriff," he said, "I've just come, and naturally I don't know all that has happened, but there are two or three things I want you to know. In the first place, my niece, Miss Burnaby, is going to marry this man Dunne. And, in the second place, I'm now running this irrigation company and the railway that owns it, and so far as any prosecutions are concerned I won't have anything to do with them. Does that make any difference to you?"

"Some," said the sheriff. "It lets young McCrae out, I reckon."

"How about McHale?"

"That's a killin'. You got nothin' to do with that. Anyway, he's got a good defence."

"I'll sign his bail bond to any amount."

"I reckon there won't be no trouble about that," said the sheriff. "I know a man when I see him. McHale's all right. You won't find me makin' things hard for anybody around here, Mr. Hess."

In half an hour Casey rode up, bringing with him a man of medicine in the person of Doctor Billy Swift. And Billy Swift, whose chronic grievance was that Coldstream was altogether too healthy for a physician to live in, greeted his patients with enthusiasm and got busy at once.

Hess, strolling up from a confidential talk with Sheriff Dove, ran into Clyde and Casey snugly ensconced in a corner of the veranda, where thick hop vines shaded them from the public gaze.

"Excuse me!" said Hess, with little originality, but much embarrassment.

"Not at all," Casey replied, under the impression that he was carrying off matters very nonchalantly. Clyde laughed at both of them.

"We don't mind you, Uncle Jim, do we, Casey?"

"Look here," said Hess, "if this is the young man who has been raisin' Cain around here, and destroying my property before I owned it, suppose you introduce me?"

The two men shook hands, gripping hard, measuring each other with their eyes. And Clyde was tactful enough to leave them to develop their acquaintance alone.

"I want to thank you for your wire to Clyde," said Casey. "You can guess what it meant to all of us here."

"I've a fair notion," said Hess. "Of course, I only know what Clyde has told me, but I can see that you people have been up against a hard proposition. After this I hope you won't have much to kick at. We won't take advantage of that clause in the old railway charter—at least not enough to interfere with men who are actually using water now. But I want you to be satisfied with enough to irrigate, used economically."

"That's all we ever wanted."

"I'm glad to hear it. Now I've fixed up this matter of young McCrae's. That's settled. No more trouble about it. As to your man, McHale, I'm told that his trial will be a mere matter of form. Wade will look after that. Now, about Clyde."

"Yes," said Casey.

"She's her own mistress—you understand that. You have a good property here—not as much money as she has, but enough to get along on if she hadn't anything. That's all right. I suppose her money's no drawback, eh? Don't look mad about it, young man. You're fond of her, of course. I understand you made what you've got yourself?"

"Every cent. I've been out for myself since I was about fifteen. This is what I've got to show for it."

"And it's a good little stake," said Hess heartily. "I made my own pile, too. That's what I like. Now, I'm going to ask you a personal question: What sort of life have you behind you? You understand me. There must be no comeback where Clyde is concerned. I want a straight answer."

"You'll get it. I've always been too busy to be foolish. My habits are about average—possibly better than average. I'm absolutely healthy. I've not had a day's sickness—bar accidents—since I grew up. There's absolutely no reason why I shouldn't marry Clyde."

"That's the boy!" said old Jim Hess, with satisfaction, gripping his hand again. "Your stock's par with me, remember, and I want you to consider me your friend, even if I am to be a relation by marriage."

Shortly afterward Sheila and Farwell arrived on hard-ridden horses.

"She hustled me right over here," said the latter. "Didn't even give me time to shave. I told her McHale and Sandy were all right, but she had to come to see for herself."

"Seeing that Sandy has eaten six fried eggs with bacon and bread buns to match, I imagine he may be regarded as convalescent," laughed Casey. "Tom has the tobacco trust half broken already."

Sandy McCrae squirmed uneasily in his sister's embrace, finding it embarrassing.

"That's plenty, that's plenty!" he growled. "You'd think I was a sole survivor or something. Say, what are you trying to do—choke me? There, you've kissed me three times already. Ouch! Darn it, don't hug me. My side's sore. Try that hold on Farwell. He looks as if he wouldn't mind."

Casey laughed. Sheila and Farwell reddened. A smothered chuckle from McHale showed that he was enjoying himself. He grinned over Sandy's shoulder.

"Howdy, Miss Sheila? Brothers don't know their own luck. Wisht I had a sister about your size."

"I'll adopt you right now!" she declared, and proceeded to give practical proof of it, somewhat to his confusion.

"You're an awful bluff, Tom," she accused him. "Really, I believe you're bashful with girls. I never suspected it before."

"It's just want of practice," grinned McHale. "Some day when I have time I'm going out to get me a girl like you. There was one down at——"

But Clyde's appearance interrupted McHale's reminiscences. She and Sheila, arms about each other, strolled away to exchange confidences. Casey and Farwell followed.

"We ain't in it," said McHale.

"Well, who wants to be?" said Sandy.

"A few weeks ago," McHale mused, "them two girls warmed up to each other about as much as two wet sticks of wood; and them two sports would have locked horns at the bat of an eye. Look at 'em now! What done it?"

"Does your arm hurt you much?" Sandy asked.

"Sortin' out the hand done it," McHale continued, unheeding. "Each girl finds out that the other ain't organizin' to be hostile. And the men find out that they're playin' different systems; likewise, that each has a good point or two."

"She sure must have been a hard trip for you down from the hills," Sandy commented, with much sarcasm.

"Love," said McHale sentimentally, "is a durn funny thing."

Sandy's disgusted comment consisted of but one word not usually associated with the tender passion. "Well, may be—sometimes," McHale admitted.

It was a merry party that sat down to the best supper Feng could prepare on short notice. Wade was in great form. He outdid himself, keeping up a rapid fire of jokes and conversation. The sheriff, infected by his example, uncovered a vein of unsuspected humour. McHale, who referred to himself as "a temp'rary southpaw," contributed his quota. Sandy was silent and dour, as usual. Jim Hess said little, but he beamed on everybody, enjoying their happiness.

When Sheila insisted that she must go, Casey saddled Dolly for Clyde and Shiner for himself. He rode with Sheila, temporarily relinquishing Clyde to Farwell. A couple of hundred yards behind the others, just free of their dust, they jogged easily side by side.

"Our rides together are about over, Casey," she said, with a little sigh.

"How is that?"

"You know as well as I do. The blessed proprieties are butting in here nowadays; and, besides, we both belong to other people. Dick wants to be married soon. Of course, I'll have to go where he goes. Thank goodness, he hasn't got any people to be my people, and to pass judgment on me."

"I'll be sorry to lose you, Sheila; and I think you'll be sorry to go."

"Yes. I'll miss the rolling country, and the hills to the west, and the long days outdoors. Oh, heavens, how I'll miss them! And yet it's worth while, Casey!"

"I'm awfully glad, for your sake, that you think so much of him, old girl. He's a fine chap—when you get to know him. But I'll miss you. How long is it since we had our first ride together?"

"Seven years—no, eight. I was riding a bad pinto. Dad traded him afterward. You wouldn't let me go home alone. Remember?"

"Of course. Awful brute for a girl to ride!"

"He never set me afoot," she said proudly. "But you'll be leaving here, too, Casey."

"I don't think so."

"Oh, yes, you will. Clyde's money——"

"Hang her money! Don't throw that up to me."

"Nonsense! Don't be so touchy. I wish I had it. You'll go where there are people and things happening. You'll keep the ranch, but Tom will look after it."

"No, no."

"Yes, yes. You won't be idle—you're not that kind—but you'll find other interests, and the money may be a stepping-stone. She's a dear girl, Casey. Be good to her."

"I couldn't be anything else. You needn't tell me I'm not worthy of her; I know it."

"You're worthy of any girl," she said firmly. "Not a bit of hot air, either, old boy. I almost fell in love with you myself."

"By George!" he exclaimed, "there were times when I wondered how much I thought of you."

She laughed, well pleased. "We know the difference now, don't we? What a mistake it would have been! I'm glad we kept these thoughts to ourselves—glad we never played at being in love. Now we can talk without fear of misunderstanding. Somehow, now, the years here seem like a dream to me. Yes, I know they've been busy years, crowded with work for both of us; but just now they don't seem real. We seem—I seem—to be standing at the boundary of a new life. All that is over was just preparation for it—the long days in the sun and the wind, the quiet nights beneath the stars, the big, lonely, brown land, and the hazy blue of the hills. The girl that lived among them seems like a little, dead sister. And yet I love these things. Wherever I go, whatever happens to me, I shall think of them always."

"That's absolutely true. They are in your heart—a part of you. I understand. The little boy that lay on a lake shore years ago and watched the old stone hookers wallowing through the long swells doesn't seem to be Casey Dunne. And yet I can smell the wet sand and the clean lake breezes now. These are the things that keep our hearts young. You were born in the West, Sheila, and I in the East; but the roots of our beings fed on the clean things of the earth that mothered us some thousands of miles apart, and the taste will never be forgotten. In the years to come we will think of the years here as to-night we think of our childhood."

She held out her hand. Gauntlet met gauntlet in the hard grip of comradeship.

"Good-bye, Casey. It's not likely we'll ever talk of these things again. I'm glad you've been a part of my life."

"Good luck to you always, Sheila."

"They've left us behind," she said. "Come on! One last good run, Casey!"

Clyde and Farwell, riding decorously at an easy jog trot, heard the thunder of hoofs behind them, and turned to see the bay and the buckskin sweep past, encouraged by voice and heel.

"She'll kill herself some day," Farwell ejaculated, and he scolded her roundly when they rode up to where she and Casey had finally halted their blown steeds.

"Listen to him!" cried Sheila, in derision. "As if I didn't savvy a horse! All right, my lord, I won't do it again till next time. And now, Casey, you and Clyde must not come any farther. It will be dark before you get back."

"If you want to be rid of us——" he suggested.

"You've been sorry for yourself for the last hour, and you needn't deny it," she retorted.

Clyde and Casey rode slowly homeward through the falling dusk. For the first time since his return they were really alone together. She made him tell her all that had occurred, down to the minutest detail.

"But now there will be no more trouble of any kind," she predicted.

"Thanks to you."

"Thanks to Uncle Jim."

"Both of you. He's a big man—a nation builder—but if his niece hadn't had the good taste to fall in love with me his interest would have been less personal. He wouldn't have got around to a little matter like this for months. Anyway, we bracket you together. Do you know that some of the kids are being taught to pray for you?"

"Not really?"

"Fact. Doctor Swift told me. 'God bless pa, and ma, and Mister Jim Hess, and Miss Burnaby.' That's the formula. Swift predicts that the next batch of christenings will include a 'Yim Hess' Swanson and a 'Clyde Burnaby' Brule. Such is fame! Think you can stand the dizzy popularity?"

"Lovely!" cried Clyde. "I'll order silver mugs to-morrow, and start a savings account for each baby."

"Go slow!" he laughed. "You'll have 'em all named after you at that rate."

"I'll get the mugs and a spoon, anyway. I never was so flattered before. I've just begun to live since I came out here. Why, Casey, my life was absolutely empty. You can't imagine how lonely and bored I was."

"What a shame! We'll see that it doesn't occur again. Which opens an interesting question: When are you going to marry me?"

"Why—I hadn't thought. I suppose we should think of it."

"Well, it's usual, under the circumstances."

"Next June? I think I should like to be a June bride."

"See here, young lady," said Casey severely, "what sort of a gold brick is this? Are you aware that we are in the fag end of July?"

"It's really not a long engagement. A year soon passes."

"And the years soon pass. I'm not going to be defrauded of a year's happiness. I'll stand for any time in September, but not a day later."

"September! But, my dearest boy, that's only a few weeks."

"That's why I said September."

She laughed happily. "Very well, September. But I'll have a thousand things to do. I'll have to go back with Uncle Jim."

"What's the use? Stay here. Kitty Wade will stay, too. I'll coax her."

"But I've all sorts of things to buy?"

"Order 'em by mail."

"My trousseau by mail!" she exclaimed, in horror. "It would be sacrilege."

"Oh, well, suit yourself," said Casey, with a sigh of resignation. "Thank the Lord it only happens once."

She laughed. "And then there's our honeymoon to plan. Where shall we spend it?"

"It's up to you. Wherever you say."

"You've never been to Europe?"

"No. But I'd rather do my honeymooning where I can ask for what I want with some chance of getting it."

"But I speak French, German, and Italian—not fluently, but well enough to get along on."

"And I talk United States, Chinook, and some Cree—we ought to get along almost anywhere," he laughed. "Let's leave this Europe business open. Now here's a really serious question: When our honeymoon is over—what?"

"I don't understand."

"Where shall we live? I can sell out here, if you like."

"But you wouldn't like?"

"I'd hate to," he admitted.

"I know. So should I. We'll live here, at Chakchak. It shall be our home."

"Would you be contented? It's lonely at times. The winters are long. You'd miss your friends and your old life."

"I ran away from both. I love your country because it's yours. It shall be mine, too. Look!" Away in the distance a tiny point of light twinkled. "There are the lights of Chakchak—our home lights, dear!"

Her hand sought his in the darkness, met, and clasped it. A star shot in a blazing trail across the velvet blackness of the sky. The first breath of the night breeze, cold from the mountain passes, brushed their cheeks. Save for the distant light the world was dark, the land lonely, silent, devoid of life. The great spaces enfolded them, wrapped them in silence as in a vast robe. But the old, sweet song was in their hearts as they rode slowly forward—to the Light!



STORIES OF RARE CHARM BY

GENE STRATTON-PORTER

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset and Dunlap's list

LADDIE.



Illustrated by Herman Pfeifer.

This is a bright, cheery tale with the scenes laid in Indiana. The story is told by Little Sister, the youngest member of a large family, but it is concerned not so much with childish doings as with the love affairs of older members of the family. Chief among them is that of Laddie, the older brother whom Little Sister adores, and the Princess, an English girl who has come to live in the neighborhood and about whose family there hangs a mystery. There is a wedding midway in the book and a double wedding at the close.

THE HARVESTER. Illustrated by W. L. Jacobs.

"The Harvester," David Langston, is a man of the woods and fields, who draws his living from the prodigal hand of Mother Nature herself. If the book had nothing in it but the splendid figure of this man it would be notable. But when the Girl comes to his "Medicine Woods," and the Harvester's whole being realizes that this is the highest point of life which has come to him—there begins a romance of the rarest idyllic quality.

FRECKLES. Decorations by E. Stetson Crawford.

Freckles is a nameless waif when the tale opens, but the way in which he takes hold of life; the nature friendships he forms in the great Limberlost Swamp; the manner in which everyone who meets him succumbs to the charm of his engaging personality; and his love-story with "The Angel" are full of real sentiment.

A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST.

Illustrated by Wladyslaw T. Brenda.

The story of a girl of the Michigan woods; a buoyant, lovable type of the self-reliant American. Her philosophy is one of love and kindness towards all things; her hope is never dimmed. And by the sheer beauty of her soul, and the purity of her vision, she wins from barren and unpromising surroundings those rewards of high courage.

AT THE FOOT OF THE RAINBOW.

Illustrations in colors by Oliver Kemp.

The scene of this charming love story is laid in Central Indiana. The story is one of devoted friendship, and tender self-sacrificing love. The novel is brimful of the most beautiful word painting of nature, and its pathos and tender sentiment will endear it to all.

GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK



MYRTLE REED'S NOVELS

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LAVENDER AND OLD LACE.



A charming story of a quaint corner of New England where bygone romance finds a modern parallel. The story centers round the coming of love to the young people on the staff of a newspaper—and it is one of the prettiest, sweetest and quaintest of old fashioned love stories, * * * a rare book, exquisite in spirit and conception, full of delicate fancy, of tenderness, of delightful humor and spontaneity.

A SPINNER IN THE SUN.

Miss Myrtle Reed may always be depended upon to write a story in which poetry, charm, tenderness and humor are combined into a clever and entertaining book. Her characters are delightful and she always displays a quaint humor of expression and a quiet feeling of pathos which give a touch of active realism to all her writings. In "A Spinner in the Sun" she tells an old-fashioned love story, of a veiled lady who lives in solitude and whose features her neighbors have never seen. There is a mystery at the heart of the book that throws over it the glamour of romance.

THE MASTER'S VIOLIN.

A love story in a musical atmosphere. A picturesque, old German virtuoso is the reverent possessor of a genuine "Cremona." He consents to take for his pupil a handsome youth who proves to have an aptitude for technique, but not the soul of an artist. The youth has led the happy, careless life of a modern, well-to-do young American and he cannot, with his meagre past, express the love, the passion and the tragedies of life and all its happy phases as can the master who has lived life in all its fulness. But a girl comes into his life—a beautiful bit of human driftwood that his aunt had taken into her heart and home, and through his passionate love for her, he learns the lessons that life has to give—and his soul awakes.

Founded on a fact that all artists realize.

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AMELIA E. BARR'S STORIES

DELIGHTFUL TALES OF OLD NEW YORK

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THE BOW OF ORANGE RIBBON. With Frontispiece.

This exquisite little romance opens in New York City in "the tender grace" of a May day long past, when the old Dutch families clustered around Bowling Green. It is the beginning of the romance of Katherine, a young Dutch girl who has sent, as a love token, to a young English officer, the bow of orange ribbon which she has worn for years as a sacred emblem on the day of St. Nicholas. After the bow of ribbon Katherine's heart soon flies. Unlike her sister, whose heart has found a safe resting place among her own people, Katherine's heart must rove from home—must know to the utmost all that life holds of both joy and sorrow. And so she goes beyond the seas, leaving her parents as desolate as were Isaac and Rebecca of old.

THE MAID OF MAIDEN LANE; A Love Story. With Illustrations by S. M. Arthur.

A sequel to "The Bow of Orange Ribbon." The time is the gracious days of Seventeen-hundred and ninety-one, when "The Marseillaise" was sung with the American national airs, and the spirit affected commerce, politics and conversation. In the midst of this period the romance of "The Sweetest Maid in Maiden Lane" unfolds. Its chief charm lies in its historic and local color.

SHEILA VEDDER. Frontispiece in colors by Harrison Fisher.

A love story set in the Shetland Islands.

Among the simple, homely folk who dwelt there Jan Vedder was raised; and to this island came lovely Sheila Jarrow. Jan knew, when first he beheld her, that she was the one woman in all the world for him, and to the winning of her love he set himself. The long days of summer by the sea, the nights under the marvelously soft radiance of Shetland moonlight passed in love-making, while with wonderment the man and woman, alien in traditions, adjusted themselves to each other. And the day came when Jan and Sheila wed, and then a sweeter love story is told.

TRINITY BELLS. With eight Illustrations by C. M. Relyea.

The story centers around the life of little Katryntje Van Clyffe, who, on her return home from a fashionable boarding school, faces poverty and heartache. Stout of heart, she does not permit herself to become discouraged even at the news of the loss of her father and his ship "The Golden Victory." The story of Katryntje's life was interwoven with the music of the Trinity Bells which eventually heralded her wedding day.

* * * * *

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GROSSET & DUNLAP, 526 WEST 26TH ST., NEW YORK



CHARMING BOOKS FOR GIRLS

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WHEN PATTY WENT TO COLLEGE, By Jean Webster. Illustrated by C. D. Williams.

One of the best stories of life in a girl's college that has ever been written. It is bright, whimsical and entertaining, lifelike, laughable and thoroughly human.

JUST PATTY, By Jean Webster. Illustrated by C. M. Relyea.

Patty is full of the joy of living, fun-loving, given to ingenious mischief for its own sake, with a disregard for petty convention which is an unfailing source of joy to her fellows.

THE POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL, By Eleanor Gates. With four full page illustrations.

This story relates the experience of one of those unfortunate children whose early days are passed in the companionship of a governess, seldom seeing either parent, and famishing for natural love and tenderness. A charming play as dramatized by the author.

REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM, By Kate Douglas Wiggin.

One of the most beautiful studies of childhood—Rebecca's artistic, unusual and quaintly charming qualities stand out midst a circle of austere New Englanders. The stage version is making a phenomenal dramatic record.

NEW CHRONICLES OF REBECCA, By Kate Douglas Wiggin. Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

Additional episodes in the girlhood of this delightful heroine that carry Rebecca through various stages to her eighteenth birthday.

REBECCA MARY, By Annie Hamilton Donnell. Illustrated by Elizabeth Shippen Green.

This author possesses the rare gift of portraying all the grotesque little joys and sorrows and scruples of this very small girl with a pathos that is peculiarly genuine and appealing.

EMMY LOU: Her Book and Heart, By George Madden Martin. Illustrated by Charles Louis Hinton.

Emmy Lou is irresistibly lovable, because she is so absolutely real. She is just a bewitchingly innocent, huggable little maid. The book is wonderfully human.

* * * * *

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TITLES SELECTED FROM GROSSET & DUNLAP'S LIST

RE-ISSUES OF THE GREAT LITERARY SUCCESSES OF THE TIME

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BEN HUR. A Tale of the Christ. By General Lew Wallace.

This famous Religious-Historical Romance with its mighty story, brilliant pageantry, thrilling action and deep religious reverence, hardly requires an outline. The whole world has placed "Ben-Hur" on a height of pre-eminence which no other novel of its time has reached. The clashing of rivalry and the deepest human passions, the perfect reproduction of brilliant Roman life, and the tense, fierce atmosphere of the arena have kept their deep fascination.

THE PRINCE OF INDIA. By General Lew Wallace.

A glowing romance of the Byzantine Empire, showing, with vivid imagination, the possible forces behind the internal decay of the Empire that hastened the fall of Constantinople.

The foreground figure is the person known to all as the Wandering Jew, at this time appearing as the Prince of India, with vast stores of wealth, and is supposed to have instigated many wars and fomented the Crusades.

Mohammed's love for the Princess Irene is beautifully wrought into the story, and the book as a whole is a marvelous work both historically and romantically.

THE FAIR GOD. By General Lew Wallace. A Tale of the Conquest of Mexico. With Eight Illustrations by Eric Pape.

All the annals of conquest have nothing more brilliantly daring and dramatic than the drama played in Mexico by Cortes. As a dazzling picture of Mexico and the Montezumas it leaves nothing to be desired.

The artist has caught with rare enthusiasm the spirit of the Spanish conquerors of Mexico, its beauty and glory and romance.

TARRY THOU TILL I COME or, Salathiel, the Wandering Jew. By George Croly. With twenty illustrations by T. de Thulstrup.

A historical novel, dealing with the momentous events that occurred, chiefly in Palestine, from the time of the Crucifixion to the destruction of Jerusalem.

The book, as a story, is replete with Oriental charm and richness, and the character drawing is marvelous. No other novel ever written has portrayed with such vividness the events that convulsed Rome and destroyed Jerusalem in the early days of Christianity.

* * * * *

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NOVELS OF SOUTHERN LIFE

By THOMAS DIXON, JR.

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list

THE LEOPARD'S SPOTS: A Story of the White Man's Burden, 1865-1900. With illustrations by C. D. Williams.

A tale of the South about the dramatic events of Destruction, Reconstruction and Upbuilding. The work is able and eloquent and the verifiable events of history are followed closely in the development of a story full of struggle.

THE CLANSMAN. With illustrations by Arthur I. Keller.

While not connected with it in any way, this is a companion volume to the author's "epoch-making" story The Leopard's Spots. It is a novel with a great deal to it, and which very properly is going to interest many thousands of readers. * * * It is, first of all, a forceful, dramatic, absorbing love story, with a sequence of events so surprising that one is prepared for the fact that much of it is founded on actual happenings; but Mr. Dixon has, as before, a deeper purpose—he has aimed to show that the original formers of the Ku Klux Klan were modern knights errant taking the only means at hand to right intolerable wrongs.

THE TRAITOR. A Story of the Fall of the Invisible Empire. Illustrations by C. D. Williams.

The third and last book in this remarkable trilogy of novels relating to Southern Reconstruction. It is a thrilling story of love, adventure, treason, and the United States Secret Service dealing with the decline and fall of the Ku Klux Klan.

COMRADES. Illustrations by C. D. Williams.

A novel dealing with the establishment of a Socialistic Colony upon a deserted island off the coast of California. The way of disillusionment is the course over which Mr. Dixon conducts the reader.

THE ONE WOMAN. A Story of Modern Utopia.

A love story and character study of three strong men and two fascinating women. In swift, unified, and dramatic action, we see Socialism a deadly force, in the hour of the eclipse of Faith, destroying the home life and weakening the fiber of Anglo Saxon manhood.

* * * * *

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THE END

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