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Bucky's First-rate Reasons








From: Bucky O'connor

How long Frances Mackenzie gave herself up to despair she never knew,
but when at last she resolutely took herself in hand it seemed hours
later. "Bucky told me to be brave, he told me not to lose my nerve," she
repeated to herself over and over again, drawing comfort from the memory
of his warm, vibrant voice. "He said he would come back, and he hates
a liar. So, of course, he will come." With such argument she tried to
allay her wild fears.

But on top of all her reassurances would come a swift, blinding vision
of gallant Bucky being led to his death that crumpled her courage as a
hammer might an empty egg shell. What was the use of her pretending all
was well when at that very moment they might be murdering him? Then in
her agony she would pace up and down, wringing her hands, or would beat
them on the stone walls till the soft flesh was bruised and bleeding.

It was in the reaction, after one of these paroxysms of despair, that
in her groping for an anchor to make fast her courage she thought of his
letter.

"He said in three hours I was to read it if he didn't come back. It must
be more than three hours now," she said aloud to herself, and knew a
fresh dread at his prolonged absence beyond the limit he had set.

In point of fact, he had been gone less than three-quarters of an hour,
but in each one of them she had lived a lifetime of pain and died many
deaths.

By snatches she read her letter, a sentence or a fragment of a sentence
at a time as the light served. Luckily he had left a case nearly full of
matches, and one after another of them dropped, charred and burned out,
before she had finished reading. After she had read it, her first love
letter, she must needs go over it again, to learn by heart the sweet
phrases in which he had wooed her. It was a commonplace note enough, far
more neutral than the strong, virile writer who had lacked the cunning
to transmit his feeling to ink and paper. But, after all, it was from
him, and it told the divine message, however haltingly. No wonder she
burned her little finger tips from the flame of the matches creeping
nearer unheeded. No wonder she pressed it to her lips in the darkness
and dreamed her happy dream in those few moments when she was lost in
her love before cruel realities pressed home on her again.

"I told you, Little Curly Haid, that I had first-rate reasons for not
wanting to be killed by these Mexicans. So I have, the best reasons
going. But they are not ripe to tell you, and so I write them.

"I guessed your secret, little pardner, right away when I seen you in a
girl's outfit. If I hadn't been blind as a bat I would have guessed it
long since, for all the time my feelings were telling me mighty loud
that you were the lovingest little kid Bucky had ever come across.

"I'll not leave you to guess my secret the way you did me yours, dear
Curly, but right prompt I'll set down adore (with one D) and say you hit
the bull's-eye that time without expecting to. But if I was saying it I
would not use any French words sweetheart, but plain American. And the
word would be l-o-v-e, without any D's. Now you have got the straight
of it, my dear. I love you--love you--love you, from the crown of that
curly hear to the soles of your little feet. What's more, you have got
to love me, too, since I am,

"Your future husband,

"BUCKY O CONNOR.

"P. S.--And now, Curly, you know my first-rate reasons for not meaning
to get shot up by any of these Mexican fellows."

So the letter ran, and it went to her heart directly as rain to the
thirsty roots of flowers. He loved her. Whatever happened, she would
always have that comfort. They might kill him, but they could not take
away that. The words of an old Scotch song that Mrs. Mackenzie sang came
back to her:

"The span o' life's nae large eneugh,
Nor deep enough the sea,
Nor braid eneugh this weary warld,
To part my love frae me."

No, they could not part their hearts in this world or the next, and
with this sad comfort she flung herself on the rough bed and sobbed. She
would grieve still, but the wildness of her grief and despair was gone,
scattered by the knowledge that however their troubles eventuated they
were now one in heart.

She was roused after a long time by the sound of the huge key grating
in the lock. Through the opened door a figure descended, and by an
illuminating swing of the turnkey's lantern she saw that it was Bucky.
Next moment the door had closed and they were in each other's arms.
Bucky's stubborn pride, the remembrance of the riches which of a sudden
had transformed his little partner into an heiress and set a high wall
of separation between them, these were swept clean away on a great wave
of love which took Bucky off his feet and left him breathless.

"I had almost given you up," she cried joyfully.

Again he passed his hand across her face. "You've been crying, little
pardner. Were you crying on account of me?"

"On account of myself, because I was afraid I had lost you. Oh, Bucky,
isn't it too good to be true?"

The ranger smiled, remembering that he had about fourteen hours to live,
if the Megales faction triumphed. "Good! I should think it is. Bully!
I've been famished to see Curly Haid again."

"And to know that everything is going to come out all right and that we
love each other."

"That's right good hearing and most ce'tainly true on my side of it. But
how do you happen to know it so sure?" he laughed gayly.

"Why, your letter, Bucky. It was the dearest letter. I love it."

"But you weren't to read it for three hours," he pretended to reprove,
holding her at arm's length to laugh at her.

"Wasn't it three hours? It seemed ever so much longer."

"You little rogue, you didn't play fair." And to punish her he drew
her soft, supple body to him in a close embrace, and for the first time
kissed the sweet mouth that yielded itself to him.

"Tell me all about what happened to you," she bade him playfully, after
speech was again in order.

"Sure." He caught her hand to lead her to the bench and she winced
involuntarily.

"I burned it," she explained, adding, with a ripple of shy laughter:
"When I was reading your letter. It doesn't really hurt, though."

But he had to see for himself and make much over the little blister that
the flame of a match revealed to him. For they were both very much in
love, and, in consequence, bubbling over with the foolishness that is
the greatest inherited wisdom of the ages.

But though her lover had acquiesced so promptly to her demand for a
full account of his adventures since leaving her, that young man had
no intention of offering an unexpurged edition of them. It was his hope
that O'Halloran would storm the prison during the night and effect a
rescue. If so, good; if not, there was no need of her knowing that for
them the new day would usher in fresh sorrow. So he gave her an account
of his trial and its details, told her how he had been convicted, and
how Colonel Onate had fought warily to get the sentence of execution
postponed in order to give their friends a chance to rescue them.

"When Megales remanded me to prison I wanted to let out an Arizona yell,
Curly. It sure seemed too good to be true."

"But he may want the sentence carried out some time, if he changes his
mind. Maybe in a week or two he may take a notion that--" She stopped,
plainly sobered by the fear that the good news of his return might not
be final.

"We won't cross that bridge till we come to it. You don't suppose our
friends are going to sit down and fold their hands, do you? Not if I've
got Mike O'Halloran and young Valdez sized up right. Fur is going to
begin to fly pretty soon in this man's country. But it's up to us to
help all we can, and I reckon we'll begin by taking a preliminary survey
of this wickiup."

Wickiup was distinctly good, since the word is used to apply to a frail
Indian hut, and this cell was nothing less than a tomb built in the
solid rock by blowing out a chamber with dynamite and covering the front
with a solid sheet of iron, into which a door fitted. It did not take a
very long investigation to prove to Bucky that escape was impossible by
any exit except the door, which meant the same thing as impossible
at all under present conditions. Yet he did not yield to this opinion
without going over every inch of the walls many times to make sure that
no secret panel opened into a tunnel from the room.

"I reckon they want to keep us, Curly. Mr. Megales has sure got us real
safe this time. I'd be plumb discouraged about breaking jail out of this
cage. It's ce'tainly us to stay hitched a while."

About dark tortillas and frijoles were brought down to them by the
facetious turnkey, who was accompanied as usual by two guards.

"Why don't my little birdies sing?" he asked, with a wink at the
soldiers. "One of them will not do any singing after daybreak to-morrow.
Ho, ho, my larks! Tune up, tune up!"

"What do you mean about one not singing after daybreak?" asked the girl,
with eyes dilating.

"What! Hasn't he told you? Senor the ranger is to be hanged at the dawn
unless he finds his tongue for Governor Megales. Ho, ho! Our birdie must
speak even if he doesn't sing." And with that as a parting shot the man
clanged the door to after him and locked it.

"You never told me, Bucky. You have been trying to deceive me," she
groaned.

He shrugged his shoulders. "What was the use, girlie? I knew it would
worry you, and do no good. Better let you sleep in peace, I thought."

"While you kept watch alone and waited through the long night. Oh,
Bucky!" She crept close to him and put her arms around his neck,
holding him tight, as if in the hope that she could keep him against the
untoward fate that was reaching for him. "Oh, Bucky, if I could only die
for you!"

"Don't give up, little friend. I don't. Somehow I'll slip out, and then
you'll have to live for me and not die for me."

"What is it that the governor wants you to say that you won't?"

"Oh, he wants me to sell our friends. I told him to go climb a giant
cactus."

"Of course you couldn't do that," she sighed regretfully.

He laughed. "Well, hardly, and call myself a white man."

"But--" She blanched at the alternative. "Oh, Bucky, we must do
something. We must--we must."

"It ain't so bad as it looks, honey. You want to remember that Mike
O'Halloran is on deck. What's the matter with him knocking out a
home run and bringing us both in. I put a heap of confidence in that
red-haided Irishman," he answered cheerfully.

"You say that just to--to give me courage. You don't really think he can
do anything," she said wanly.

"That's just what I think, Curly. Some men have a way of getting things
done. When you look at O'Halloran you feel this, the same as you do when
you look at Val Collins. Oh, he'll get us out all right. I've been in
several tighter holes than this one." His mention of Collins suggested a
diversion, and he took up a less distressing theme lightly. "Wonder what
Val is doing at this precise moment. I'll bet he's beginning to make
things warm for Wolf Leroy's bunch of miscreants. We'll have the robbers
of the Limited behind the bars within two weeks now, or I miss my
guess."

He had succeeded in diverting her attention better than he had dared to
hope. Her big eyes fixed on his much as if he had raised for her some
forgotten spectre.

"That's another thing I must tell you. I didn't think to before. But I
want you to know all about me now. Don't think me bad, Bucky. I'm only a
girl. I couldn't help myself," she pleaded.

"What is it you have done that is so awful?" he smiled, and went to
gather her into his arms.

She stayed him with a gesture of her hand. "No, not yet. Mebbe after you
know you won't want to. I was one of the robbers of the Limited."

"You--what!" he exclaimed, for once struck dumb with sheer amazement.

"Yes, Bucky. I expect you'll hate me now. What is it you called me--a
miscreant? Well, that's what I am."

His arms slipped round her as she began to sob, and he gentled her till
she could again speak. "Tell me all about it, little Curly." he said.

"I didn't go into it because I wanted to. My master made me. I don't
know much about the others, except that I heard the names they called
each other."

"Would you know them again if you saw them? But of course you would."

"Yes. But that's it, Bucky. I hated them all, and I was in mortal fear
all the time. Still--I can't betray them. They thought I went in freely
with them--all but Hardman. It wouldn't be right for me to tell what I
know. I've got to make you see that, dear."

"You'll not need to argue that with me, honey. I see it. You must keep
quiet. Don't tell anybody else what you've told me."

"And will they put me in the penitentiary when the rest go there?"


"Not while Bucky O'Connor is alive and kicking," he told her
confidently.

But the form in which he had expressed his feeling was unfortunate.
It brought them back to the menace of their situation. Neither of them
could tell how long he would be alive and kicking. She flung herself
into his arms and wept till she could weep no more.





Next: Le Roi Est Mort Vive Le Roi

Previous: A Clean White Man's Option



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