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Deep Water








From: 'drag' Harlan

Despite his conviction that he stood in the presence of the mysterious
"Chief" of whom he had heard much, Harlan's expression did not change.
There was a new interest added to it, and a deeper glow in his eyes. But
he gave no outward evidence of surprise.

"I reckon I searched him," he said, answering Haydon's charge. "If I
found anything on him I'm turnin' it over to Barbara Morgan--or hangin'
onto it. That's my business."

Haydon laughed, for Harlan's voice had broken the tension that had come
with the interval of threatening silence.

Since he could not induce Harlan to divulge anything of interest there
was nothing to do but to withdraw as gracefully as possible. And he
backed away, smiling, saying placatively:

"No offense intended, Harlan. I was merely curious on Barbara's account."
He mounted his horse, urged it along the corral fence, and sent back a
smiling:

"So-long."

Motionless, still standing where he had stood when Haydon climbed on his
horse, Harlan watched while the man rode the short distance to the house.
At the corner around which he had appeared some minutes before, Haydon
brought his horse to a halt, waved a hand--at Barbara, Harlan
supposed--and then rode on, heading westward toward Sunset Trail.

Harlan watched him until he had penetrated far into the big valley; then
he turned, slowly, and sought Red Linton--finding him in the
blacksmith-shop.

Later in the day--after Harlan and Linton had talked long, standing in
the door of the blacksmith-shop--Linton mounted his horse and rode to
where Harlan stood.

Linton was prepared for a long ride. Folded in the slicker that was
strapped to the cantle of his saddle was food; he carried his rifle in
the saddle sheath, and a water-bag bulged above the horse's withers.

"You won't find all the T Down boys yearnin' to bust into this ruckus,"
Harlan said as he stood near Linton's horse as Linton grinned down at
him; "but there'll be some. Put it right up to them that it ain't goin'
to be no pussy-kitten job, an' that it's likely some of them won't ever
see the T Down again. But to offset that, you can tell 'em that if we
make good, the Rancho Seco will owe them a heap--an' they'll get what's
comin' to them."

He watched while Linton rode eastward over the big level; then he grinned
and walked to the ranchhouse, going around the front and standing in the
wide gateway where he saw Barbara sitting on a bench in the patio,
staring straight ahead, meditatively, unaware that he was standing in the
gateway, watching her.

Harlan watched the girl for a long time--until she turned and saw him.
Then she blushed and stood up, looking at him in slight wonderment as he
came toward her and stood within a few feet of her.

On Harlan's face was a slow, genial grin.

"Sunnin' yourself, eh?" he said. "Well, it's a mighty nice day--not too
hot. Have you knowed him long?"

The startling irrelevance of the question caused Barbara to gaze sharply
at Harlan, and when their eyes met she noted that his were twinkling with
a light that she could not fathom. She hated him when she could not
understand him.

"Mr. Haydon, do you mean?" she questioned, a sudden coldness in her
voice.

Harlan nodded.

"A little more than a year, I think. It was just after I returned from
school, at Denver."

He watched her, saying lowly:

"So it was Denver. I'd been wonderin'. I knowed it must have been some
place. Schoolin' is a thing that I never had time to monkey with--I
reckon my folks didn't believe a heap in 'em."

"You've lived in the West all your life--you were born in the West, I
suppose?"

He looked keenly at her. "I expect you knowed that without askin'. I've
been wonderin' if it would have made any difference."

"How?"

"In me. Do you think an education makes a man act different--gives him
different ideas about his actions--in his dealin's with women, for
instance?"

"I expect it does. Education should make a man more considerate of
women--it is refining."

"Then you reckon a man that ain't had any education is coarse, an' don't
know how to treat a woman?"

"I didn't say that; I said education should make a man treat women that
way."

"But it don't always?"

"I think not. I have known men--well educated men--who failed to treat
women as they should be treated."

"Then that ain't what you might call a hard-an'-fast rule--it don't
always work. An' there's hope for any man who ain't had schoolin'--if
he's wantin' to be a man."

"Certainly."

"But an educated man can't claim ignorance when he aims to mistreat a
woman. That's how it figures up, ain't it?"

She laughed. "It would seem to point to that conclusion."

"So you've knowed Haydon about a year? I reckon he's educated?"

"Yes." She watched him closely, wondering at his meaning--why he had
brought Haydon's name into the discussion. She was marveling at the
subtle light in his eyes.

"Your father liked Haydon--he told me Haydon was the only square man in
the country--besides himself an' Sheriff Gage."

"Father liked Haydon. I'm beginning to believe you really did have a
talk with father before he died!"

He smiled. "Goin' back to Haydon. I had a talk with him a little while
ago. I sort of took a shine to him." He drew from a pocket the section of
gold chain he had found on the desert, holding it out to her.

"Here's a piece of Haydon's watch chain," he said slowly, watching her
face. "The next time Haydon comes to see you, give it to him, tellin' him
I found it. It's likely he'll ask you where I found it. But you can say I
wasn't mentionin'."

He turned, looking back over his shoulder at her as he walked toward the
gate.

She stood, holding the glittering links in the palm of one hand, doubt
and suspicion in her eyes.

"Why," she called after him; "he was just here, and you say you talked
with him! Why didn't you give it to him?"

"Forgot it, ma'am. An' I reckon you'll be seein' him before I do."

Then he strode out through the gate, leaving her to speculate upon the
mystery of his words and his odd action in leaving the chain with her
when he could have personally returned it to Haydon.

Harlan, however, was grinning as he returned to the bunkhouse. For he
wanted Barbara to see Haydon's face when the section of chain was
returned to him, to gain whatever illumination she could from the
incident. He did not care to tell her--yet--that Haydon had killed her
father; but he did desire to create in her mind a doubt of Haydon, so
that she would hesitate to confide to him everything that happened at the
Rancho Seco.

For himself, he wanted to intimate delicately to Haydon his knowledge of
what had really occurred at Sentinel Rock; it was a message to the man
conveying a significance that Haydon could not mistake. It meant that for
some reason, known only to himself, Harlan did not intend to tell what he
knew.





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