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Hands Up







Part of: MELISSY OF THE BAR DOUBLE G
From: Brand Blotters

Melissy had been up the Can del Oro for wild poppies in her runabout and
had just reached the ranch. She was disposing of her flowers in ollas when
Jim Budd, waiter, chambermaid, and odd jobs man at the Bar Double G,
appeared in the hall with a frightened, mysterious face.

"What's the matter, Jim? You and Hop Ling been quarrelling again?" she
asked carelessly.

"No'm, that ain't it. It's wusser'n that. I got to tell you-all su'thin' I
hearn yore paw say."

The girl looked up quickly at him. "What do you mean, Jim?"

"That Mistah Norris he come back whilst you wus away, and him and yore paw
wus in that back room a-talkin' mighty confidential."

"Yes, and you listened. Well?"

Jim swelled with offended dignity. "No'm, I didn't listen neither. I des
natcherally hearn, 'count of that hole fer the stovepipe what comes
through the floor of my room."

"But what was it you heard?" she interrupted impatiently.

"I wus a-comin' to that. Plum proverdenshul, I draps into my room des as
yore paw wus sayin', 'Twenty thousand dollars goin' down to the Fort on
the stage to-day?' 'Cose I pricks up my ears then and tuk it all in. This
yere Norris had foun' out that Mistah Morse was shippin' gold from his
mine to-day on the Fort Allison stage, and he gits yore paw to go in with
him an' hold it up. Yore paw cussed and said as how 't wus his gold anyhow
by rights."

The girl went white and gave a little broken cry. "Oh, Jim! Are you
sure?"

"Yas'm, 'cose I'm suah. Them's his ve'y words. Hope to die if they ain't.
They wus drinkin', and when 't wus all fixed up that 't wus to be at the
mouth of the Box canyon they done tore an old black shirt you got for a
dust-rag and made masks out of it and then rode away."

"Which way did they go?"

"Tow'ds the Box canyon Miss M'lissy."

A slender, pallid figure of despair, she leaned against the wall to
support the faintness that had so suddenly stolen the strength from her
limbs, trying desperately to think of some way to save her father from
this madness. She was sure he would bungle it and be caught eventually,
and she was equally sure he would never let himself be taken alive. Her
helplessness groped for some way out. There must be some road of escape
from this horrible situation, and as she sought blindly for it the path
opened before her.

"Where is Hop?" she asked quickly.

"A-sleepin' in his room, ma'am."

"Go to the store and tend it till I come back, Jim. I may be an hour, or
mebbe two, but don't you move out of it for a moment. And don't ever speak
of any of this, not a word, Jim."

"No'm, 'cose I won't."

His loyalty she did not doubt an instant, though she knew his simple wits
might easily be led to indiscretion. But she did not stay to say more now,
but flew upstairs to the room that had been her brother's before he left
home. Scarce five minutes elapsed before she reappeared transformed. It
was a slim youth garbed as a cowpuncher that now slipped along the passage
to the rear, softly opened the door of the cook's room, noiselessly
abstracted the key, closed the door again as gently, and locked it from
the outside. She ran into her own room, strapped on her revolver belt, and
took her empty rifle from its case. As she ran through the room below the
one Jim occupied, she caught sight of a black rag thrown carelessly into
the fireplace and stuffed it into her pocket.

"That's just like Dad to leave evidence lying around," she said to
herself, for even in the anxiety that was flooding her she kept her quiet
commonsense.

After searching the horizon carefully to see that nobody was in sight,
she got into the rig and drove round the corral to the irrigating ditch.
This was a wide lateral of the main canal, used to supply the whole lower
valley with water, and just now it was empty. Melissy drove down into its
sandy bed and followed its course as rapidly as she could. If she were
only in time! If the stage had not yet passed! That was her only fear, the
dread of being too late. Not once did the risk of the thing she intended
occur to her. Physical fear had never been part of her. She had done the
things her brother Dick had done. She was a reckless rider, a good shot,
could tramp the hills or follow the round-up all day without knowing
fatigue. If her flesh still held its girlish curves and softness, the
muscles underneath were firm and compact. Often for her own amusement and
that of her father she had donned her brother's chaps, his spurs,
sombrero, and other paraphernalia, to masquerade about the house in them.
She had learned to imitate the long roll of the vaquero's stride, the
mannerisms common to his class, and even the heavy voice of a man. More
than once she had passed muster as a young man in the shapeless garments
she was now wearing. She felt confident that the very audacity of the
thing would carry it off. There would be a guard for the treasure box, of
course, but if all worked well he could be taken by surprise. Her rifle
was not loaded, but the chances were a hundred to one that she would not
need to use it.

For the first time in his life the roan got the whip from his mistress.

"Git up, Bob. We've got to hurry. It's for dad," she cried, as they raced
through the sand and sent it flying from the wheels.

The Fort Allison stage passed within three miles of the Lee ranch on its
way to Mesa. Where the road met in intersection with the ditch she had
chosen as the point for stopping it, and no veteran at the business could
have selected more wisely, for a reason which will hereafter appear. Some
fifty yards below this point of intersection the ditch ran through a grove
of cottonwoods fringing the bank. Here the banks sloped down more
gradually, and Melissy was able to drive up one side, turn her rig so that
the horse faced the other way, and draw down into the ditch again in order
that the runabout could not be seen from the road. Swiftly and skilfully
she obliterated the track she had made in the sandy bank.

She was just finishing this when the sound of wheels came to her. Rifle in
hand, she ran back along the ditch, stooping to pass under the bridge, and
waited at the farther side in a fringe of bushes for the coming of the
stage.

Even now fear had no place in the excitement which burned high in her. The
girl's wits were fully alert, and just in time she remembered the need of
a mask. Her searching fingers found the torn black shirt in a pocket and a
knife in another. Hastily she ripped the linen in half, cut out eyeholes,
and tied the mask about her head. With perfectly steady hands she picked
up the rifle from the ground and pushed the muzzle of it through the
bushes.

Leisurely the stage rolled up-grade toward the crossing. The Mexican
driver was half asleep and the "shotgun messenger" was indolently rolling
a cigarette, his sawed-off gun between his knees. Alan McKinstra was the
name of this last young gentleman. Only yesterday he had gone to work for
Morse, and this was the first job that had been given him. The stage never
had been held up since the "Monte Cristo" had struck its pay-streak, and
there was no reason to suppose it would be. Nevertheless, Morse proposed
to err on the side of caution.

"I reckon the man that holds down this job don't earn his salt, Jose. It's
what they call a sinecure," Alan was saying at the very instant the
summons came.

"Throw up your hands!"

Sharp and crisp it fell on Alan's ears. He sat for a moment stunned, the
half-rolled cigarette still between his fingers. The driver drew up his
four horses with a jerk and brought them to a huddled halt.

"Hands up!" came again the stinging imperative.

Now, for the first time, it reached Alan's consciousness that the stage
was actually being held up. He saw the sun shining on the barrel of a
rifle and through the bushes the masked face of a hidden cowpuncher. His
first swift instinct was to give battle, and he reached for the shotgun
between his knees. Simultaneously the driver's foot gave it a push and
sent the weapon clattering to the ground. Jose at least knew better than
to let him draw the road agent's fire while he sat within a foot of the
driver. His hands went into the air, and after his Alan's and those of the
two passengers.

"Throw down that box."

Alan lowered his hands and did as directed.

"Now reach for the stars again."

McKinstra's arms went skyward. Without his weapon, he was helpless to do
otherwise. The young man had an odd sense of unreality about the affair, a
feeling that it was not in earnest. The timbre of the fresh young voice
that came from the bushes struck a chord in his memory, though for the
life of him he could not place its owner.

"Drive on, Jose. Burn the wind and keep a-rollin' south."

The Mexican's whip coiled over the head of the leaders and the broncos
sprang forward with a jump. It was the summit of a long hill, on the edge
of which wound the road. Until the stage reached the foot of it there
would be no opportunity to turn back. Round a bend of the road it swung at
a gallop, and the instant it disappeared Melissy leaped from the bushes,
lifted the heavy box, and carried it to the edge of the ditch. She flew
down the sandy bottom to the place where the rig stood, drove swiftly
back again, and, though it took the last ounce of strength in her, managed
to tumble the box into the trap.

Back to the road she went, and from the place where the box had fallen
made long strides back to the bushes where she had been standing at the
moment of the hold-up. These tracks she purposely made deep and large,
returning in her first ones to the same point, but from the marks where
the falling treasure box had struck into the road she carefully
obliterated with her hand the foot-marks leading to the irrigation ditch,
sifting the sand in carefully so as to leave no impression. This took
scarcely a minute. She was soon back in her runabout, driving homeward
fast as whip and voice could urge the horse.

She thought she could reason out what McKinstra and the stage-driver would
do. Mesa was twenty-five miles distant, the "Monte Cristo" mine seventeen.
Nearer than these points there was no telephone station except the one at
the Lee ranch. Their first thought would be to communicate with Morse,
with the officers at Mammoth, and with the sheriff of Mesa County. To do
this as soon as possible they would turn aside and drive to the ranch
after they reached the bottom of the hill and could make the turn. It was
a long, steep hill, and Melissy estimated that this would give her a start
of nearly twenty minutes. She would save about half a mile by following
the ditch instead of the road, but at best she knew she was drawing it
very fine.

She never afterward liked to think of that drive home. It seemed to her
that Bob crawled and that the heavy sand was interminable. Feverishly she
plied the whip, and when at length she drew out of the ditch she sent her
horse furiously round the big corral. Though she had planned everything to
the last detail, she knew that any one of a hundred contingencies might
spoil her plan. A cowpuncher lounging about the place would have ruined
everything, or at best interfered greatly. But the windmill clicked over
sunlit silence, empty of life. No stir or movement showed the presence of
any human being.

Melissy drove round to the side door, dumped out the treasure-box, ran
into the house, and quickly returned with a hammer and some tacks, then
fell swiftly to ripping the oilcloth that covered the box which stood
against the wall to serve as a handy wash-stand for use by dusty
travellers before dining. The two boxes were of the same size and shape,
and she draped the treasure chest with the cloth, tacked it in place,
restored to the top of it the tin basin, and tossed the former wash-stand
among a pile of old boxes from the store, that were to be used for
kindling. After this she ran upstairs, scudded softly along the corridor,
and silently unlocked the cook's door, dropping the key on the floor to
make it appear as if something had shaken it from the keyhole. Presently
she was in her brother's room, doffing his clothes and dressing herself in
her own.

A glance out of the window sapped the color from her cheek, for she saw
the stage breasting the hill scarce two hundred yards from the house. She
hurried downstairs, pinning her belt as she ran, and flashed into the
store, where Jim sat munching peanuts.

"The stage is coming, Jim. Remember, you're not to know anything about it
at all. If they ask for Dad, say he's out cutting trail of a bunch of hill
cows. Tell them I started after the wild flowers about fifteen minutes
ago. Don't talk much about it, though. I'll be back inside of an hour."

With that she was gone, back to her trap, which she swung along a trail
back of the house till it met the road a quarter of a mile above. Her
actions must have surprised steady old Bob, for he certainly never before
had seen his mistress in such a desperate hurry as she had been this day
and still was. Nearly a mile above, a less well defined track deflected
from the main road. Into this she turned, following it until she came to
the head-gates of the lateral which ran through their place. The main
canal was full of water, and after some effort she succeeded in opening
the head-gates so as to let the water go pouring through.

Returning to the runabout, the girl drove across a kind of natural meadow
to a hillside not far distant, gathered a double handful of wild flowers,
and turned homeward again. The stage was still there when she came in
sight of the group of buildings at the ranch.

As she drew up and dismounted with her armful of flowers, Alan McKinstra
stepped from the store to the porch and came forward to assist her.

"The Fort Allison stage has been robbed," he blurted out.

"What nonsense! Who would want to rob it?" she retorted.

"Morse had a gold shipment aboard," he explained in a low voice, and added
in bitter self-condemnation: "He sent me along to guard it, and I never
even fired a shot to save it."

"But--do you mean that somebody held up the stage?" she gasped.

"Yes. But whoever it was can't escape. I've 'phoned to Jack Flatray and to
Morse. They'll be right out here. The sheriff of Mesa County has already
started with a posse. They'll track him down. That's a cinch. He can't get
away with the box without a rig. If he busts the box, he's got to carry it
on a horse and a horse leaves tracks."

"But who do you think it was?"

"Don't know. One of the Roaring Fork bunch of bad men, likely. But I don't
know."

The young man was plainly very much excited and disturbed. He walked
nervously up and down, jerking his sentences out piecemeal as he thought
of them.

"Was there only one man? And did you see him?" Melissy asked
breathlessly.

He scarcely noticed her excitement, or if he did, it seemed to him only
natural under the circumstances.

"I expect there were more, but we saw only one. Didn't see much of him. He
was screened by the bushes and wore a black mask. So long as the stage was
in sight he never moved from that place; just stood there and kept us
covered."

"But how could he rob you if he didn't come out?" she asked in wide-eyed
innocence.

"He didn't rob us any. He must 'a' heard of the shipment of gold, and
that's what he was after. After he'd got us to rights he made me throw the
box down in the road. That's where it was when he ordered us to move on
and keep agoing."

"And you went?"

"Jose handled the lines, but 't would 'a' been the same if I'd held them.
That gun of his was a right powerful persuader." He stopped to shake a
fist in impotent fury in the air. "I wish to God I could meet up with him
some day when he didn't have the drop on me."

"Maybe you will some time," she told him soothingly. "I don't think you're
a bit to blame, Alan. Nobody could think so. Ever so many times I've heard
Dad say that when a man gets the drop on you there's nothing to do but
throw up your hands."

"Do you honest think so, Melissy? Or are you just saying it to take the
sting away? Looks like I ought to 'a' done something mor'n sit there like
a bump on a log while he walked off with the gold."

His cheerful self-satisfaction was under eclipse. The boyish pride of him
was wounded. He had not "made good." All over Cattleland the news would be
wafted on the wings of the wind that Alan McKinstra, while acting as
shotgun messenger to a gold shipment, had let a road agent hold him up for
the treasure he was guarding.

"Very likely they'll catch him and get the gold back," she suggested.

"That won't do me any good," he returned gloomily. "The only thing that
can help me now is for me to git the fellow myself, and I might just as
well look for a needle in a haystack."

"You can't tell. The robber may be right round here now." Her eyes,
shining with excitement, passed the crowd moving in and out of the store,
for already the news of the hold-up had brought riders and ranchmen
jogging in to learn the truth of the wild tale that had reached them.

"More likely he's twenty miles away. But whoever he is, he knows this
county. He made a slip and called Jose by his name."

Melissy's gaze was turned to the dust whirl that advanced up the road that
ran round the corral. "That doesn't prove anything, Alan. Everybody knows
Jose. He's lived all over Arizona--at Tucson and Tombstone and Douglas."

"That's right too," the lad admitted.

The riders in advance of the dust cloud resolved themselves into the
persons of her father and Norris. Her incautious admission was already
troubling her.

"But I'm sure you're right. No hold-up with any sense would stay around
here and wait to be caught. He's probably gone up into the Galiuros to
hide."

"Unless he's cached the gold and is trying to throw off suspicion."

The girl had moved forward to the end of the house with Alan to meet her
father. At that instant, by the ironic humor of chance, her glance fell
upon a certain improvised wash-stand covered with oilcloth. She shook her
head decisively. "No, he won't risk waiting to do that. He'll make sure of
his escape first."

"I reckon."

"Have you heard, Daddy?" Melissy called out eagerly. She knew she must
play the part expected of her, that of a young girl much interested in
this adventure which had occurred in the community.

He nodded grimly, swinging from the saddle. She observed with surprise
that his eye did not meet hers. This was not like him.

"What do you think?"

His gaze met that of Norris before he answered, and there was in it some
hint of a great fear. "Beats me, 'Lissy."

He had told the simple truth, but not the whole truth. The men had waited
at the entrance to the Box canyon for nearly two hours without the arrival
of the stage. Deciding that something must have happened, they started
back, and presently met a Mexican who stopped to tell them the news. To
say that they were dazed is to put it mildly. To expect them to believe
that somebody else had heard of the secret shipment and had held up the
stage two miles from the place they had chosen, was to ask a credulity too
simple. Yet this was the fact that confronted them.

Arrived at the scene of the robbery both men had dismounted and had
examined the ground thoroughly. What they saw tended still more to
bewilder them. Neither of them was a tenderfoot, and the little table at
the summit of the long hill told a very tangled tale to those who had eyes
to read. Obvious tracks took them at once to the spot where the bandit had
stood in the bushes, but there was something about them that struck both
men as suspicious.

"Looks like these are worked out on purpose," commented Lee. "The guy's
leaving too easy a trail to follow, and it quits right abrupt in the
bushes. Must 'a' took an airship from here, I 'low."

"Does look funny. Hello! What's this?"

Norris had picked up a piece of black cloth and was holding it out. A
startled oath slipped from the lips of the Southerner. He caught the rag
from the hands of his companion and studied it with a face of growing
astonishment.

"What's up?"

Lee dived into his pocket and drew forth the mask he had been wearing.
Silently he fitted it to the other. The pieces matched exactly, both in
length and in the figure of the pattern.

When the Southerner looked up his hands were shaking and his face ashen.

"For God's sake, Phil, what does this mean?" he cried hoarsely.

"Search me."

"It must have been--looks like the hold-up was somebody--my God, man, we
left this rag at the ranch when we started!" the rancher whispered.

"That's right."

"We planned this thing right under the nigger's room. He must 'a' heard
and---- But it don't look like Jim Budd to do a thing like that."

Norris had crossed the road again and was standing on the edge of the
lateral.

"Hello! This ditch is full of water. When we passed down it was empty," he
said.

Lee crossed over and stood by his side, a puzzled frown on his face.
"There hadn't ought to be water running hyer now," he said, as if to
himself. "I don't see how it could 'a' come hyer, for Bill Weston--he's
the ditch rider--went to Mesa this mo'ning, and couldn't 'a' got back to
turn it in."

The younger man stooped and examined a foot-print at the edge of the
ditch. It was the one Melissy had made just as she stepped into the rig.

"Here's something new, Lee. We haven't seen this gentleman's track before.
Looks like a boy's. It's right firm and deep in this soft ground. I'll bet
a cooky your nigger never made that track."

The Southerner crouched down beside him, and they looked at it together,
head to head.

"No, it ain't Jim's. I don't rightly savez this thing at all," the old
man muttered, troubled at this mystery which seemed to point to his
household.

"By Moses, I've got it! The guy who did the holding up had his horse down
here. He loaded the sack on its back and drove off up the ditch. All we
got to do is follow the ditch up or down till we come to the place where
he climbed out and struck across country."

"That's right, Phil. He must have had a pardner up at the head-gates. They
had some kind of signal arranged, and when Mr. Hold-up was ready down come
the water and washed out his tracks. It's a blame' smooth piece of
business if you ask me."

"The fellow made two bad breaks, though. That piece of shirt is one. This
foot-print is another. They may land him in the pen yet."

"I don't think it," returned the old man with composure, and as he spoke
his foot erased the telltale print. "I 'low there won't anybody go to the
pen for he'pin himself to Mr. Morse's gold dust. I don't give a cuss who
it was."

Norris laughed in his low, easy way. "I'm with you, Mr. Lee. We'll make a
thorough job while we're at it and mess up these other tracks. After that
we'll follow the ditch up and see if there's anything doing."

They remounted their broncos and rode them across the tracks several
times, then followed the lateral up, one on either side of the ditch,
their eyes fastened to the ground to see any evidence of a horse having
clambered over the bank. They drew in sight of the ranch house without
discovering what they were looking for. Lee's heart was in his mouth, for
he knew that he would see presently what his eye sought.

"I reckon the fellow went down instead of up," suggested Norris.

"No, he came up."

Lee had stopped and was studying wheel tracks that ran up from the ditch
to his ranch house. His face was very white and set. He pointed to them
with a shaking finger.

"There's where he went in the ditch, and there's where he came out."

Norris forded the stream, cast a casual eye on the double track, and
nodded. He was still in a fog of mystery, but the old man was already
fearing the worst.

He gulped out his fears tremblingly. For himself, he was of a flawless
nerve, but this touched nearer home than his own danger.

"Them wheel-tracks was made by my little gyurl's runabout, Phil."

"Good heavens!" The younger man drew rein sharply and stared at him. "You
don't think----"

He broke off, recalling the sharp, firm little foot-print on the edge of
the ditch some miles below.

"I don't reckon I know what to think. If she was in this, she's got some
good reason." A wave of passion suddenly swept the father. "By God! I'd
like to see the man that dares mix her name up in this."

Norris met this with his friendly smile. "You can't pick a row with me
about that, old man. I'm with you till the cows come home. But that ain't
quite the way to go at this business. First thing, we've got to wipe out
these tracks. How? Why, sheep! There's a bunch of three hundred in that
pasture. We'll drive the bunch down to the ditch and water them here.
Savez?"

"And wipe out the wheel-marks in the sand. Bully for you, Phil."

"That's the idea. After twelve hundred chisel feet have been over this
sand I reckon the wheel-tracks will be missing."

They rode up to the house, and the first thing that met them was the
candid question of the girl:

"Have you heard, Daddy?"

And out of his troubled heart he had answered, "Beats me, 'Lissie."

"They've sent for the officers. Jack Flatray is on the way himself. So is
Sheriff Burke," volunteered Alan gloomily.

"Getting right busy, ain't they?" Norris sneered.

Again Lee glanced quickly at Norris. "I reckon, Phil, we better drive that
bunch of sheep down to water right away. I clean forgot them this
mo'ning."

"Sure." The younger man was not so easily shaken. He turned to McKinstra
naturally. "How many of the hold-ups were there?"

"I saw only one, and didn't see him very good. He was a slim fellow in a
black mask."

"You don't say. Were you the driver?"

Alan felt the color suffuse his face. "No, I was the guard."

"Oh, you were the guard."

Alan felt the suave irony that covered this man's amusement, and he
resented it impotently. When Melissy came to his support he was the more
grateful.

"And we all think he did just right in using his common sense, Mr.
Norris," the girl flashed.

"Oh, certainly."

And with that he was gone after her father to help him water the sheep.

"I don't see why those sheep have to be watered right now," she frowned
to Alan. "Dad did water them this morning. I helped him."

Together they went into the store, where Jose was telling his story for
the sixth time to a listening circle of plainsmen.

"And right then he come at you and ree-quested yore whole outfit to poke a
hole in the scenery with yore front feet?" old Dave Ellis asked just as
Melissy entered.

"Si, Senor."

"One of MacQueen's Roaring Fork gang did it, I'll bet," Alan contributed
sourly.

"What kind of a lookin' guy was he?" spoke up a dark young man known as
Bob Farnum.

"A big man, senor, and looked a ruffian."

"They're always that way until you run 'em down," grinned Ellis. "Never
knew a hold-up wasn't eight foot high and then some--to the fellow at the
wrong end of the gun."

"If you mean to say, Dave Ellis, that I lay down to a bluff----" Alan was
beginning hotly when the old frontiersman interrupted.

"Keep your shirt on, McKinstra. I don't mean to say it. Nobody but a darn
fool makes a gun-play when the cards are stacked that-a-way. Yore bad play
was in reaching for the gun at all."

"Well, Jack Flatray will git him. I'll bet a stack of blues on that,"
contributed a fat ranchman wheezily.

"Unless you mussed up the trail coming back," said Ellis to the
stage-driver.

"We didn't. I thought of that, and I had Jose drive clear round the place.
Jack will find it all right unless there's too much travel before he gets
here," said Alan.

Farnum laughed malevolently. "Mebbe he'll get him and mebbe he won't.
Jack's human, like the rest of us, if he is the best sheriff in Arizona.
Here's hoping he don't get him. Any man that waltzes out of the cactus and
appropriates twenty thousand dollars belonging to Mr. Morse is welcome to
it for all of me. I don't care if he is one of MacQueen's bad men. I wish
it had been forty thousand."

Farnum did not need to explain the reasons for his sentiments. Everybody
present knew that he was the leader of that bunch of cattlemen who had
bunched themselves together to resist the encroachments of sheep upon the
range. Among these the feeling against Morse was explosively dangerous. It
had found expression in more than one raid upon his sheep. Many of them
had been destroyed by one means or another, but Morse, with the obstinacy
characteristic of him, had replaced them with others and continually
increased his herds. There had been threats against his life, and one of
his herders had been wounded. But the mine-owner went his way with quiet
fearlessness and paid no attention to the animosity he had stirred up. The
general feeling was that the trouble must soon come to a head. Nobody
expected the rough and ready vaqueros, reckless and impulsive as they
were, to submit to the loss of the range, which meant too the wiping out
of their means of livelihood, without a bitter struggle that would be both
lawless and bloody.

Wherefore there was silence after Farnum had spoken, broken at length by
the amiable voice of the fat ranchman, Baker.

"Well, we'll see what we'll see," he wheezed complacently. "And anyways I
got to have some horseshoe plug, Melissy."

The girl laughed nervously as she reached for what he wanted. "You're a
safe prophet, Mr. Baker," she said.

"He'd be a safe one if he'd prophesy that Jack Flatray would have Mr.
Hold-up in the calaboose inside of three days," put in a half-grown lad in
leathers.

"I ain't so sure about that. You'll have to show me, and so will Mr.
Deputy Sheriff Flatray," retorted Farnum.

A shadow darkened the doorway.

"Good afternoon, gentlemen all--and Miss Lee," a pleasant voice drawled.

The circle of eyes focused on the new-comer and saw a lean, muscular,
young fellow of medium height, cool and alert, with the dust of the desert
on every sunbaked inch of him.

"I'm damned if it ain't Jack here already!" gasped Baker.





Next: Watering Sheep

Previous: The Tenderfoot Takes Up A Claim



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