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A Conversation

From: Brand Blotters

Not five minutes after Melissy had left the deputy sheriff, another rider
galloped up the road. Jack, returning from his room, where he had left the
box of gold locked up, waited on the porch to see who this might be.

The horseman proved to be the man Norris, or Boone, and in a thoroughly
bad temper, as Jack soon found out.

"Have you see anything of 'Lissie Lee?" he demanded immediately.

"Miss Lee has just left me. She has gone to her room," answered Flatray

"Well, I want to see her," said the other hoarsely.

"I reckon you better postpone it to to-morrow. She's some played out and
needs sleep."

"Well, I'm going to see her now."

Jack turned, still all gentleness, and called to Jim Budd, who was in the

"Oh, Jim! Run upstairs and knock on Miss Melissy's door and tell her Mr.
Norris is down here. Ask if she will see him to-night."

"You're making a heap of formality out of this, Mr. Buttinsky," sneered
the cowpuncher.

Jack made no answer, unless it were one to whistle gently and look out
into the night as if he were alone.

"No, seh. She doan' wan' tuh see him to-night," announced Jim upon his

"That seems to settle it, Mr. Norris," said Jack pleasantly.

"Not by a hell of a sight. I've got something to say to her, and I'm going
to say it."

"To-morrow," amended the officer.

"I said to-night."

"But your say doesn't go here against hers. I reckon you'll wait."

"Not so's you could notice it." The cowpuncher took a step forward toward
the stairway, but Flatray was there before him.

"Get out of the way, you. I don't stand for any butting-in," the cowboy

"Don't be a goat, Norris. She's tired, and she says she don't want to see
you. That's enough, ain't it?"

Norris leaped back with an oath to draw his gun, but Jack had the quickest
draw in Arizona. The puncher found himself looking into the business end
of a revolver.

"Better change your mind, seh," suggested the officer amiably. "I take it
you've been drinking and you're some excited. If you were in condition to
savez the situation, you'd understand that the young lady doesn't care
to see you now. Do you need a church to fall on you before you can take a

"I reckon if you knew all about her, you wouldn't be so anxious to stand
up for her," Norris said darkly.

"I expect we cayn't any of us stand the great white light on all our acts;
but if any one can, it's that little girl upstairs."

"What would you say if I told you that she's liable to go to Yuma if I
lift my hand?"

"I'd say I was from Missouri and needed showing."

"Put up that gun, come outside with me, and if I take a notion I'll show
you all right."

Jack laughed as his gun disappeared. "I'd be willing to bet high that
there are a good many citizens around here haided straighter for Yuma than
Miss Melissy."

Without answering, Norris led the way out and stopped only when his arm
rested on the fence of the corral.

"Nobody can hear us now," he said brusquely, and the ranger got a whiff of
his hot whisky breath. "You've put it up to me to make good. All right,
I'll do it. That little girl in there, as you call her, is the bad man who
held up the Fort Allison stage."

The officer laughed tolerantly as he lit a cigarette.

"I hear you say it, Norris."

"I didn't expect you to believe it right away, but it's a fact just the

Flatray climbed to the fence and rested his feet on a rail. "Fire ahead.
I'm listenin'."

"The first men on the ground after that hold-up were me and Lee. We
covered the situation thorough and got hold of some points right away."

"That's right funny too. When I asked you if you'd been down there you
both denied it," commented the officer.

"We were protecting the girl. Mind you, we didn't know who had done it
then, but we had reasons to think the person had just come from this

"What reasons?" briefly demanded Flatray.

"We don't need to go into them. We had them, anyhow. Then I lit on a
foot-print right on the edge of the ditch that no man ever made. We didn't
know what to make of it, but we wiped it out and followed the ditch, one
on each side. We'd figured that was the way he had gone. You see, though
water was running in the ditch now, it hadn't been half an hour before."

"You don't say!"

"There wasn't a sign of anybody leaving the ditch till we got to the
ranch; then we saw tracks going straight to the house."

"So you got a bunch of sheep and drove them down there to muss things up

Norris looked sharply at him. "You got there while we were driving them
back. Well, that's right. We had to help her out."

"You're helping her out now, ain't you?" Jack asked dryly.

"That's my business. I've got my own reasons, Mr. Deputy. All you got to
do is arrest her."

"Just as soon as you give me the evidence, seh."

"Haven't I given it to you? She was seen to drive away from the house in
her rig. She left footprints down there. She came back up the ditch and
then rode right up to the head-gates and turned on the water. Jim Little
saw her cutting across country from the head-gates hell-to-split."

"Far as I can make out, all the evidence you've given me ain't against
her, but against you. She was out drivin' when it happened, you say, and
you expect me to arrest her for it. It ain't against the law to go
driving, seh. And as for that ditch fairy tale, on your own say-so you
wiped out all chance to prove the story."

"Then you won't arrest her?"

"If you'll furnish the evidence, seh."

"I tell you we know she did it. Her father knows it."

"Is it worryin' his conscience? Did he ask you to lay an information
against her?" asked the officer sarcastically.

"That isn't the point."

"You're right. Here's the point." Not by the faintest motion of the body
had the officer's indolence been lifted, but the quiet ring of his voice
showed it was gone. "You and Lee were overheard planning that robbery the
day after you were seen hanging around the 'Monte Cristo.' You started out
to hold up the stage. It was held up. By your own story you were the first
men on the ground after the robbery. I tracked you straight from there
here along the ditch. I found a black mask in Lee's coat. A dozen people
saw you on that fool sheep-drive of yours. And to sum up, I found the
stolen gold right here where you must have hidden it."

"You found the gold? Where?"

"That ain't the point either, seh. The point is that I've got you where I
want you, Mr. Norris, alias Mr. Boone. You're wound up in a net you cayn't
get away from. You're wanted back East, and you're wanted here. I'm onto
your little game, sir. Think I don't know you've been trying to
manufacture evidence against me as a rustler? Think I ain't wise to your
whole record? You're arrested for robbing the Fort Allison stage."

Norris, standing close in front of him, shot his right hand out and
knocked the officer backward from the fence. Before the latter could get
on his feet again the cowpuncher was scudding through the night. He
reached his horse, flung himself on, and galloped away. Harmlessly a
bullet or two zipped after him as he disappeared.

The deputy climbed over the fence again and laughed softly to himself.
"You did that right well, Jack. He'll always think he did that by his
lone, never will know you was a partner in that escape. It's a fact,
though, I could have railroaded him through on the evidence, but not
without including the old man. No, there wasn't any way for it but that
grandstand escape of Mr. Boone's."

Still smiling, he dusted himself, put up his revolver, and returned to the

Next: The Tenderfoot Makes A Proposition

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