Bucky Makes A Discovery
From: Bucky O'connor
For a week Bucky had been in the little border town of Noches, called
there by threats of a race war between the whites and the Mexicans.
Having put the quietus on this, he was returning to Epitaph by way of
the Huachuca Mountains. There are still places in Arizona where rapid
transit can be achieved more expeditiously on the back of a bronco than
by means of the railroad, even when the latter is available. So now
Bucky was taking a short cut across country instead of making the two
train changes, with the consequent inevitable delays that would have
been necessary to travel by rail.
He traveled at night and in the early morning, to avoid the heat of the
midday sun, and it was in the evening of the second and last day that
the skirts of happy chance led him to an adventure that was to affect
his whole future life. He knew a waterhole on the Del Oro, where cows
were wont to frequent even in the summer drought, and toward this he was
making in the fag-end of the sultry day. While still some hundred yards
distant he observed a spiral of smoke rising from a camp-fire at the
spring, and he at once made a more circumspect approach. For it might be
any one of a score of border ruffians who owed him a grudge and would be
glad to pay it in the silent desert that tells no tales and betrays no
secrets to the inquisitive.
He flung the bridle-rein over his pony's neck and crept forward on foot,
warily and noiselessly. While still some little way from the water-hole
he was arrested by a sound that startled him. He could make out a
raucous voice in anger and a pianissimo accompaniment of womanish sobs.
"You're mine to do with as I like. I'm your uncle. I've raised you
from a kid, and, by the great mogul! you can't sneak off with the first
good-for nothing scoundrel that makes eyes at you. Thought you had
slipped away from me, you white-faced, sniveling little idiot, but I'll
show you who is master."
The lash of a whip rose and fell twice on quivering flesh before Bucky
leaped into the fireglow and wrested the riding-whip from the hands of
the angry man who was plying it.
"Dare to touch a woman, would you?" cried the ranger, swinging the
whip vigorously across the broad shoulders of the man. "Take that--and
that--and that, you brute!"
But when Bucky had finished with the fellow and flung him a limp,
writhing huddle of welts to the ground, three surprises awaited him. The
first was that it was not a woman he had rescued at all, but a boy, and,
as the flickering firelight played on his face, the ranger came to an
unexpected recognition. The slim lad facing him was no other than Frank
Hardman, whom he had left a few days before at the Rocking Chair under
the care of motherly Mrs. Mackenzie. The young man's eyes went back with
instant suspicion to the fellow he had just punished, and his suspicions
were verified when the leaping light revealed the face of the showman
Bucky laughed. "I ce'tainly seem to be interfering in your affairs a
good deal, Mr. Anderson. You may take my word for it that you was the
last person in the world I expected to meet here, unless it might be
this boy. I left him safe at a ranch fifty miles from here, and I left
you a staid business man of Epitaph. But it seems neither of you stayed
hitched. Why for this yearning to travel?"
"He found me where I was staying. I was out riding alone on an errand
for Mrs. Mackenzie when he met me and made me go with him. He has
arranged to have me meet his wife in Mexico. The show wouldn't draw well
without me. You know I do legerdemain," Frank explained, in his low,
"So you had plans of your own, Mr. Anderson. Now, that was right
ambitious of you. But I reckon I'll have to interfere with them again.
Go through him, kid, and relieve him of any guns he happens to be
garnished with. Might as well help yourself to his knives, too. He's so
fond of letting them fly around promiscuous he might hurt himself. Good.
Now we can sit down and have a friendly talk. Where did you say you was
intending to spend the next few weeks before I interrupted so unthinking
and disarranged your plans? I'm talking to you, Mr. Anderson."
"I was heading for Sonora," the man whined.
What Bucky thought was: "Right strange direction to be taking for
Sonora. I'll bet my pile you were going up into the hills to meet some
of Wolf Leroy's gang. But why you were taking the kid along beats me,
unless it was just cussedness." What he said was:
"Oh, you'll like Epitaph a heap better. I allow you ought to stay at
that old town. It's a real interesting place. Finished in the adobe
style and that sort of thing. The jail's real comfy, too."
"Would you like something to eat, sir?" presently asked Frank timidly.
"Would I? Why, I'm hungry enough to eat a leather mail-sack. Trot on
your grub, young man, and watch my smoke."
Bucky did ample justice to the sandwiches and lemonade the lad set in
front of him, but he ate with a wary eye on a possible insurrection on
the part of his prisoner.
"I'm a new man," he announced briskly, when he had finished. "That veal
loaf sandwich went sure to the right spot. If you had been a young lady
instead of a boy you couldn't fix things up more appetizing."
The lad's face flushed with embarrassment, apparently at the ranger's
compliment, and the latter, noticed how delicate the small face was. It
made an instinctive, wistful appeal for protection, and Bucky felt an
odd little stirring at his tender Irish heart.
"Might think I was the kid's father to see what an interest I take in
him," the young man told himself reprovingly. "It's all tommyrot, too.
A boy had ought to have more grit. I expect he needed that licking all
right I saved him from."
When Bucky had eaten, the camp things were repacked for travel. Epitaph
was only twenty-three miles away, and the ranger preferred to ride
in the cool of the night rather than sit up till daybreak with his
prisoner. Besides, he could then catch the morning train from that town
and save almost a day.
So hour after hour they plodded on, the prisoner in front, O'Connor in
the center, and Frank Hardman bringing up the rear. It was an Arizona
night of countless stars, with that peculiar soft, velvety atmosphere
that belongs to no other land or time. In the distance the jagged,
violet line of mountains rose in silhouette against a sky not many
shades lighter, while nearer the cool moonlight flooded a land grown
magical under its divine touch.
The ranger rode with a limp ease that made for rest, his body shifting
now and again in the saddle, so as to change the weight and avoid
It must have been well past midnight that he caught the long breath of
a sigh behind him. The trail had broadened at that point, for they were
now down in the rolling plain, so that two could ride abreast in the
road. Bucky fell back and put a sympathetic hand on the shoulder of the
"Plumb fagged out, kid?" he asked.
"I am tired. Is it far?"
"About four miles. Stick it out, and we'll be there in no time."
"Don't call me sir. Call me Bucky."
Bucky laughed. "You're ce'tainly the queerest kid I've run up against.
I guess you didn't scramble up in this rough-and-tumble West like I did.
You're too soft for this country." He let his firm brown fingers travel
over the lad's curly hair and down the smooth cheek. "There it is again.
Shrinking away as if I was going to hurt you. I'll bet a biscuit you
never licked the stuffing out of another fellow in your life."
"No, sir," murmured the youth, and Bucky almost thought he detected a
little, chuckling laugh.
"Well, you ought to be ashamed of it. When come back from old Mexico I'm
going to teach you how to put up your dukes. You're going to ride the
range with me, son, and learn to stick to your saddle when the bronc and
you disagrees. Oh, I'll bet all you need is training. I'll make a man
out of you yet," the ranger assured his charge cheerfully. "Will you?"
came the innocent reply, but Bucky for a moment had the sense of being
"Yes, I 'will you,' sissy," he retorted, without the least exasperation.
"Don't think you know it all. Right now you're riding like a wooden man.
You want to take it easy in the saddle. There's about a dozen different
positions you can take to rest yourself." And Bucky put him through a
course of sprouts. "Don't sit there laughing at folks that knows a heap
more than you ever will get in your noodle, and perhaps you won't be so
done up at the end of a little jaunt like this," he concluded. And to
his conclusion he presently added a postscript: "Why, I know kids your
age can ride day and night for a week on the round-up without being all
in. How old are you, son?"
"That's a lie," retorted the ranger, with immediate frankness. "You're
not a day over fifteen, I'll bet."
"I meant to say fifteen," meekly corrected the youth.
"That's another of them. You meant to say eighteen, but you found I
wouldn't swallow it. Now, Master Frank, you want to learn one thing
prompt if you and I are to travel together. I can't stand a liar. You
tell the truth, or I'll give you the best licking you ever had in your
"You're as bad a bully as he is," the boy burst out, flushing angrily.
"Oh, no, I'm not," came the ranger's prompt unmoved answer. "But just
because you're such a weak little kid that I could break you in two
isn't any reason why I should put up with any foolishness from you.
I mean to see that you act proper, the way an honest kid ought to do.
"I'd like to know who made you my master?" demanded the boy hotly.
"You've ce'tainly been good and spoiled, but you needn't ride your high
hawss with me. Here's the long and the short of it. To tell lies ain't
square. If I ask you anything you don't want to answer tell me to go to
hell, but don't lie to me. If you do I'll punish you the same as if you
were my brother, so long as you trail with me. If you don't like it, cut
loose and hit the pike for yourself."
"I've a good mind to go."
Bucky waved a hand easily into space. "That's all right, too, son.
There's a heap of directions you can hit from here. Take any one you
like. But if I was as beat as you are, I think I'd keep on the Epitaph
road." He laughed his warm, friendly laugh, before the geniality of
which discord seemed to melt, and again his arm went round the other's
weary shoulders with a caressing gesture that was infinitely protecting.
The boy laughed tremulously. "You're awfully good to me. I know I'm a
cry-baby, sissy boy, but if you'll be patient with me I'll try to be
It certainly was strange the way Bucky's pulse quickened and his blood
tingled when he touched the little fellow and heard that velvet
voice's soft murmur. Yes, it surely was strange, but perhaps the young
Irishman's explanation was not the correct one, after all. The cause he
offered to himself for this odd joy and tender excitement was perfectly
"I'm surely plumb locoed, or else gone soft in the haid," he told
But the reason for those queer little electric shocks that pulsed
through him was probably a more elemental and primeval one than even
Arrived at Epitaph, Bucky turned loose his prisoner with a caution and
made his preparations to leave immediately for Chihuahua. Collins had
returned to Tucson, but was in touch with the situation and ready to set
out for any point where he was needed.
Bucky, having packed, was confronted with a difficulty. He looked at it,
and voiced his perplexity.
"Now, what am I going to do with you, Curly Haid? I expect I had better
ship you back to the Rocking Chair."
"I don't want to go back there. He'll come out again and find me after
"Where do you want to go, then? If you were a girl I could put you in
the convent school here," he reflected aloud.
Again that swift, deep blush irradiated the youth's cheeks. "Why can't I
go with you?" he asked shyly.
The ranger laughed. "Mebbe you think I'm going on a picnic. Why, I'm
starting out to knock the chip off Old Man Trouble's shoulder. Like as
not some greaser will collect Mr. Bucky's scalp down in manyana land.
No, sir, this doesn't threaten to be a Y. P. S. C. E. excursion."
"If it is so dangerous as that, you will need help. I'm awful good at
making up, and I can speak Spanish like a native."
"Sho! You don't want to go running your neck into a noose. It's a
jail-break I'm planning, son. There may be guns a-popping before we
get back to God's country--if we ever do. Add to that, trouble and then
some, for there's a revolution scheduled for old Chihuahua just now, as
your uncle happens to know from reliable information."
"Two can always work better than one. Try me, Bucky," pleaded the boy,
the last word slipping out with a trailing upward inflection that was
"Sure you won't faint if we get in a tight pinch, Curly?" scoffed
O'Connor, even though in his mind he was debating a surrender. For he
was extraordinarily taken with the lad, and his judgment justified what
the boy had said.
"I shall not be afraid if you are with me."
"But I may not be with you. That's the trouble. Supposing I should be
caught, what would you do?"
"Follow any orders you had given me before that time. If you had not
given any, I would use my best judgment."
"I'll give them now," smiled Bucky. "If I'm lagged, make straight for
Arizona and tell Webb Mackenzie or Val Collins."
"Then you will take me?" cried the boy eagerly.
"Only on condition that you obey orders explicitly. I'm running this
"I wouldn't think of disobeying."
"And I don't want you to tell me any lies."
Bucky's big brown fist caught the little one and squeezed it. "Then it's
a deal, kid. I only hope I'm doing right to take you."
"Of course you are. Haven't you promised to make a man of me?" And again
Bucky caught that note of stifled laughter in the voice, though the big
brown eyes met his quite seriously.
They took the train that night for El Paso, Bucky in the lower berth and
his friend in the upper of section six of one of the Limited's Pullman
cars. The ranger was awake and up with the day. For a couple of hours
he sat in the smoking section and discussed politics with a Chicago
drummer. He knew that Frank was very tired, and he let him sleep till
the diner was taken on at Lordsburg. Then he excused himself to the
"I reckon I better go and wake up my pardner. I see the chuck-wagon is
toddling along behind us."
Bucky drew aside the curtains and shook the boy gently by the shoulder.
Frank's eyes opened and looked at the ranger with that lack of
comprehension peculiar to one roused suddenly from deep sleep.
"Time to get up, Curly. The nigger just gave the first call for the
An understanding of the situation flamed over the boy's face. He
snatched the curtains from the Arizonian and gathered them tightly
together. "I'll thank you not to be so familiar," he said shortly from
behind the closed curtains.
"I beg your pahdon, your royal highness. I should have had myself
announced and craved an audience, I reckon," was Bucky's ironic retort;
and swiftly on the heels of it he added. "You make me tired, kid."
O'Connor was destined to be "made tired" a good many times in the
course of the next few days. In all the little personal intimacies
Frank possessed a delicate fastidiousness outside the experience of the
ranger. He was a scrupulously clean man himself, and rather nice as
to his personal habits, but it did not throw him into a flame of
embarrassment to brush his teeth before his fellow passengers. Nor did
it send him into a fit if a friend happened to drop into his room while
he was finishing his dressing. Bucky agreed with himself that this
excess of shyness was foolishness, and that to indulge the boy was
merely to lay up future trouble for him. A dozen times he was on the
point of speaking his mind on the subject, but some unusual quality of
innocence in the lad tied his tongue.
"Blame it all, I'm getting to be a regular old granny. What Master Frank
needs is a first-class dressing-down, and here the little cuss has got
me bluffed to a fare-you-well so that I'm mum as a hooter on the nest,"
he admitted to himself ruefully. "Just when something comes up that
needs a good round damn I catch that big brown Sunday school eye of his,
and it's Bucky back to Webster's unabridged. I've got to quit trailing
with him, or I'll be joining the church first thing I know. He makes me
feel like I want to be good, confound the little swindle."
Notwithstanding the ranger's occasional moments of exasperation, the two
got along swimmingly. Each of them found a continued pleasure in delving
into the other's unexplored mental recesses. They drifted into one of
those quick, spontaneous likings that are rare between man and man. Some
subtle quality of affection bubbled up like a spring in the hearts of
each for the other. Young Hardman could perhaps have explained what lay
at the roots of it, but O'Connor admitted that he was "buffaloed" when
he attempted an analysis of his unusual feeling.
From El Paso a leisurely run on the Mexican Central Pacific took them to
Chihuahua, a quaint old city something about the size of El Paso. Both
Bucky and his friend were familiar with the manners of the country, so
that they felt at home among the narrow adobe streets, the lounging,
good-natured peons, and the imitation Moorish architecture. They found
rooms at a quiet, inconspicuous hotel, and began making their plans for
an immediate departure in the event that they succeeded in their object.
At a distance it had seemed an easy thing to plan the escape of David
Henderson and to accomplish it by craft, but a sight of the heavy stone
walls that encircled the prison and of the numerous armed guards who
paced to and fro on the walls, put a more chilling aspect on their
"It isn't a very gay outlook," Bucky admitted cheerfully to his
companion, "but I expect we can pull it off somehow. If these Mexican
officials weren't slower than molasses in January it might have been
better to wait and have him released by process of law on account of
Hardman's confession. But it would take them two or three years to come
to a decision. They sure do hate to turn loose a gringo when they have
got the hog-tie on him. Like as not they would decide against him at the
last, then. Course I've got the law machinery grinding, too, but I'm not
banking on it real heavy. We'll get him out first any old way, then get
the government to O. K. the thing."
"How were you thinking of proceeding?"
"I expect it's time to let you in on the ground floor, son. I reckon you
happen to know that down in these Spanish countries there's usually a
revolution hatching. There s two parties among the aristocrats, those
for the government and those ferninst. The 'ins' stand pat, but the
'outs' have always got a revolution up their sleeves. Now, there's
mostly a white man mixed up in the affair. They have to have him to run
it and to shoot afterward when the government wins. You see, somebody
has to be shot, and it's always so much to the good if they can line
up gringoes instead of natives. Nine times out of ten it's an
Irish-American lad that is engineering the scheme. This time it happens
to be Mickey O'Halloran, an old friend of mine. I'm going to put it up
to Mick to find a way."
"But it isn't any affair of his. He won't do it, will he?"
"Oh, I thought I told you he was Irish."
"And spoiling for trouble, of course. Is it likely he could keep his
fist out of the hive when there's such a gem of a chance to get stung?"
It had been Frank's suggestion that they choose rooms at a hotel which
open into each other and also connect with an adjoining pair. The reason
for this had not at first been apparent to the ranger, but as soon as
they were alone Frank explained.
"It is very likely that we shall be under surveillance after a day or
two, especially if we are seen around the prison a good deal. Well,
we'll slip out the back way to-night, disguised in some other rig, come
boldly in by the front door, and rent the rooms next ours. Then we shall
be able to go and come, either as ourselves or as our neighbors. It will
give us a great deal more liberty."
"Unless we should get caught. Then we would have a great deal less.
What's your notion of a rig-up to disguise us, kid?"
"We might have several, in case of emergencies. For one thing, we
could easily be street showmen. You can do fancy shooting and I can do
sleight-of-hand tricks or tell fortunes."
"You would be a gipsy lad?"
The youngster blushed. "A gipsy girl, and you might be my husband."
"I'm no play actor, even if you are," said Bucky. "I don't want to be
your husband, thank you."
"All you would have to do is to be sullen and rough. It is easy enough."
"And you think you could pass for a girl? You're slim and soft enough,
but I'll bet you would give it away inside of an hour."
The boy laughed, and shot a swift glance at O'Connor under his long
lashes. "I appeared as a girl in one of the acts of the show for years.
Nobody ever suspected that I wasn't."
"We might try it, but we have no clothes for the part."
"Leave that to me. I'll buy some to-day while you are looking the ground
over for our first assault an the impregnable fortress."
"I don't know. It seems to me pretty risky. But you might buy the
things, and we'll see how you look in them. Better not get all the
things at the same store. Sort of scatter your purchases around."
They separated at the door of the hotel, Frank to choose the materials
he needed, and O'Connor to look up O'Halloran and get a permit to
visit the prison from the proper authorities. When the latter returned
triumphantly with his permit he found the boy busy with a needle and
thread and surrounded by a litter of dress-making material.
"I'm altering this to fit me and fixing it up," he explained.
"Holy smoke! Who taught you to sew?" asked Bucky, in surprise.
"My aunt, Mrs. Hardman. I used to do all the plain sewing on my
costumes. Did you see your friend and get your permit?"
"You bet I did, and didn't. Mickey was out, but I left him a note.
The other thing I pulled off all right. I'm to be allowed to visit the
prison and make a careful inspection of it at my leisure There's nothing
like a pull, son."
"Does the permit say you are to be allowed to steal any one of the
prisoners you take a fancy to? asked Frank, with a smile.
"No, it forgot to say that. When do you expect to have that toggery
"A good deal of it is already made, as you see. I'm just making a few
changes. Do you want to try on your suit?"
"Is THIS mine?" asked the ranger, picking up with smiling contempt the
rather gaudy blouse that lay on a chair.
"Yes, sir, that is yours. Go and put it on and we'll see how it fits."
Bucky returned a few minutes later in his gipsy uniform, with a
"I'll have to stain your face. Then you'll do very well," said Frank,
patting and pulling at the clothes here and there. "It's a good fit, if
I do say it that chose it. The first thing you want to do when you get
out in it is to roll in the dust and get it soiled. No respectable gipsy
wears new clothes. Better have a tear or two in it, too."
"You ce'tainly should have been a girl, the way you take to clothes,
"Making up was my business for a good many years, you know," returned
the lad quietly. "If you'll step into the other room for about fifteen
minutes I'll show you how well I can do it."
It was a long half-hour later that Bucky thumped on the door between
the rooms. "Pretty nearly ready, kid? Seems to me it is taking you a
thundering long time to get that outfit on."
"How long do you think it ought to take a lady to dress?"
"Ten minutes is long enough, and fifteen, say, if she is going to a
dance. You've been thirty-five by my Waterbury."
"It's plain you never were married, Mr. Innocent. Why, a girl can't fix
her hair in less than half an hour."
"Well, you got a wig there, ain't you? It doesn't take but about five
seconds to stick that on. Hurry up, gringo! I'm clean through this old
"Read the advertisements," came saucily through the door.
"I've read the durned things twice."
"Learn them by heart," the sweet voice advised.
"Oh, you go to Halifax!"
Nevertheless, Mr. Bucky had to wait his comrade's pleasure. But when he
got a vision of the result, it was so little what he had expected
that it left him staring in amazement, his jaw fallen and his eyes
The vision swept him a low bow. "How do you like Bonita?" it demanded
Bucky's eyes circled the room, to make sure that the boy was not hidden
somewhere, and came back to rest on his surprise with a look that was
almost consternation. Was this vivid, dazzling creature the boy he had
been patronizing, lecturing, promising to thrash any time during the
past four days? The thing was unbelievable, not yet to be credited by
his jarred brain. How incredibly blind he had been! What an idiot of
sorts! Why, the marks of sex sat on her beyond any possibility of
doubt. Every line of the slim, lissom figure, every curve of the soft,
undulating body, the sweep of rounded arm, of tapering waist-line, of
well-turned ankle, contributed evidence of what it were folly to ask
further proof. How could he have ever seen those lovely, soft-lashed
eyes and the delicate little hands without conviction coming home to
him? And how could he have heard the low murmur of her voice, the catch
of her sobs, without knowing that they were a denial of masculinity?
She was dressed like a Spanish dancing girl, in short kilts, red sash,
and jaunty little cap placed sidewise on her head. She wore a wig of
black hair, and her face was stained to a dusky, gipsy hue. Over her
thumb hung castanets and in her hand was a tambourine. Roguishly
she began to sway into a slow, rhythmic dance, beating time with her
instruments as she moved. Gradually the speed quickened to a faster
time. She swung gracefully to and fro with all the lithe agility of
the race she personified. No part could have been better conceived or
executed. Even physically she displayed the large, brilliant eyes, the
ringleted, coal-black hair, the tawny skin, and the flashing smile that
showed small teeth of dazzling ivory, characteristic of the Romanies
he had met. It was a daring part to play, but the young man watching
realized that she had the free grace to carry it out successfully.
She danced the fandango to a finish, swept him another low bow, and
presented laughingly to him the tambourine for his donation. Then,
suddenly flinging aside the instrument, she curtsied and caught at his
"Will the senor have his fortune told?"
Bucky drew a handful of change from his pocket and selected a gold
eagle. "I suppose I must cross your palm with gold," he said, even while
his subconscious mind was running on the new complication presented to
him by this discovery.
He was very clear about one thing. He must not let her know that he knew
her for a girl. To him she must still be a boy, or their relation would
become impossible. She had trusted in her power to keep her secret from
him. On no other terms would she have come with him; of so much he was
sure, even while his mind groped for a sufficient reason to account for
an impulse that might have impelled her. If she found out that he knew,
the knowledge would certainly drive her at once from him. For he knew
that not the least charm of the extraordinary fascination she had
for him lay in her sweet innocence of heart, a fresh innocence
that consisted with this gay Romany abandon, and even with a mental
experience of the sordid, seamy side of life as comprehensive as that of
many a woman twice her age. She had been defrauded out of her childish
inheritance of innocence, but, somehow, even in her foul environment
the seeds of a rare personal purity had persistently sprung up and
flourished. Some flowers are of such native freshness that no nauseous
surroundings can kill their fragrance. And this was one of them.
Meanwhile, her voice ran on with the patter of her craft. There was the
usual dark woman to be circumvented and the light one to be rewarded.
Jealousies and rivalries played their part in the nonsense she glibly
recited, and somewhere in the future lay, of course, great riches and
happiness for him.
With a queer little tug at his heart he watched the dainty finger
that ran so lightly over his open palm, watched, too, the bent head so
gracefully fine of outline and the face so mobile of expression when the
deep eyes lifted to his in question of the correctness of her reading.
He would miss the little partner that had wound himself so tightly
round his heart. He wondered if he would find compensating joy in this
exquisite creature whom a few moments had taken worlds distant from him.
Suddenly tiring of her diversion, she dropped his hand. "You don't say
I do it well," she charged, aware suspiciously, at last, of his grave
"You do it very well indeed. I didn't think you had it in you, kid.
What's worrying me is that I can never live up to such a sure enough
gipsy as you."
"All you have to do is to look sour and frown if anybody gets too
familiar with me. You can do that, can't you?"
"You bet I can," he answered promptly, with unnecessary emphasis.
"And look handsome," she teased.
"Oh, that will be easy for me--since you are going to make me up. As a
simple child of nature I'm no ornament to the scenery, but art's a heap
She thought, but did not say, that art would go a long way before it
could show anything more pleasing than this rider of the plains. It was
not alone his face, with the likable blue eyes that could say so many
things in a minute, but the gallant ease of his bearing. Such a springy
lightness, such sinewy grace of undulating muscle, were rare even on
the frontier. She had once heard Webb Mackenzie say of him that he could
whip his weight in wildcats, and it was easy of belief after seeing how
surely he was master of the dynamic power in him. It is the emergency
that sifts men, and she had seen him rise to several with a readiness
that showed the stuff in him.
That evening they slipped out unobserved in the dusk, and a few minutes
later a young gipsy and his bride presented themselves at the inn to be
put up. The scowling young Romany was particular, considering that he
spent most nights in the open, with a sky for a roof. So the master of
the inn thought when he rejected on one pretense or another the first
two rooms that were shown him. He wanted two rooms, and they must
connect. Had the innkeeper such apartments? The innkeeper had, but he
would very much like to see the price in advance if he was going to
turn over to guests of such light baggage the best accommodations in the
house. This being satisfactorily arranged, the young gipsies were left
to themselves in the room they had rented.
The first thing that the man did when they were alone was to roll a
cigarette, which operation he finished deftly with one hand, while the
other swept a match in a circular motion along his trousers leg. In very
fair English the Spanish gipsy said: "You ce'tainly ought to learn to
smoke, kid. Honest, it's more comfort than a wife."
"How do you know, since you are not married?" she asked archly.
"I been noticing some of my poor unfortunate friends," he grinned.
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