Higher Than Statute Law
From: Hidden Gold
Wade descended the stairs of the hotel and went into the barroom, fuming
with rage and chagrin because Helen had seen him in such a temper. Like
most men of action, he took pride in his self-control, which seldom
failed him, but the villainy of the Senator's attitude had momentarily
mastered his patience.
Gathered about the bar were a number of men whom he knew, but beyond a
nod here and there he took no notice of them, and went to sit down alone
at a small table in the corner. His friends respected his desire to be
left alone, although several eyed him curiously and exchanged
significant remarks at his appearance. They seemed to be of the opinion
that, at last, his fighting blood had been aroused, and now and then
they shot approving glances in his direction.
"Whiskey," Wade called to the bartender, and a bottle and glass were
placed on the table in front of him.
With a steady hand the ranchman poured out and quickly swallowed two
stiff drinks of the fiery liquor, although he was not ordinarily a
drinking man. The fact that he drank now showed his mental state more
clearly than words could have expressed it. Searching in his pockets, he
found tobacco and papers and rolled and lighted a cigarette. Nothing
could be done for Santry until night, and meanwhile he intended to get
something to eat and take the sleep that he needed to fit himself for
the task ahead of him. He ordered a steak, which on top of the whiskey
put new life into him.
The more he thought of his outburst of temper before Helen the more it
annoyed him, for he realized that he had "bitten off a bigger wad than
he could chew," as Bill Santry would have expressed it. Rascal though
the Senator was, so far as he was concerned, Wade felt that his hands
were tied on Helen's account. For her sake, he could not move against
her father in a country where the average man thought of consequences
after the act rather than before it. In a sense Wade felt that he stood
sponsor for Crawling Water in the hospitality which it offered Helen,
and he could not bring peril down on her head.
But as for Moran and his hirelings, that was a different matter! When
the ranchman thought of Moran, no vengeance seemed too dire to fit his
misdeeds. In that direction he would go to the limit, and he only hoped
that he might get his hands on Moran in the mix-up. He still looked upon
his final visit to Rexhill as a weakness, but it had been undertaken
solely on Santry's account. It had failed, and no one now could expect
tolerance of him except Helen. If the posse was still at the ranch, when
he and Santry returned there at the head of their men, they would attack
in force, and shoot to kill if necessary.
He learned from Lem Trowbridge, who presently joined him at the table,
that the posse would probably still be there, for the report in town
was that Moran had taken possession of the property and meant to stay
"He does, eh?" Wade muttered grimly. "Well, he may, but it will be with
his toes up. I'm done, Lem. By Heaven, it's more than flesh and blood
"It sure is! We're with you, Gordon. Your men were over at my place a
few hours ago. We grubbed them and loaned them all the guns we could
spare. I sent over my new Winchester and a belt of shells for you."
"That's all right. You're more than welcome to all the help I can give
you, not only against Moran and his gang, but against Rexhill. If you
like, we'll run him out of town while you're putting the fear of God
into Moran. Lord! I sure would like to go back to the ranch with you,
but it's your own quarrel and I won't butt in."
Wade briefly explained his attitude toward the Rexhills and added that
their cause would not be helped by violence toward the Senator, who was
a big man at Washington, and might stir the authorities into action on
his behalf if he could prove personal abuse. The noise that would be
made by such a happening might drown out the justice of the cattlemen's
"Well, that's true, too," Trowbridge admitted. "I can see the point all
right. What we want to do is to get something 'on' the Senator. I mean
something sure--something like this Jensen shooting."
Wade nodded slowly.
"That's the idea, but I'm afraid we can't do it, Lem. I haven't a doubt
but that Moran is mixed up in the killing, but I hardly believe Rexhill
is. Anyhow, they've probably covered their tracks so well that we'll
never be able to connect them with it."
"Oh, I don't know. You can't always tell what time'll bring to light."
Trowbridge lowered his voice. "What's your idea about Santry? Do you
want help there?"
"No." Wade spoke with equal caution. "I believe I can manage all right
alone. The Sheriff will probably be looking for us to rush the jail, but
he won't expect me to come alone. Bat Lewis goes on duty as the relief,
about nine o'clock. I mean to beat him to it, and if the Sheriff opens
up for me I'll be away with Santry before Bat appears. But I must get
some sleep, Lem."
The two men arose.
"Well, good luck to you, Gordon." Trowbridge slapped his friend on the
shoulder, and they separated.
"Frank, can you let me have a bed?" Wade asked of the hotel proprietor,
a freckled Irishman.
"Sure; as many as you want."
"One will do, Frank; and another thing," the ranchman said guardedly.
"I'll need an extra horse to-night, and I don't want to be seen with him
until I need him. Can you have him tied behind the school-house a little
before nine o'clock?"
"You bet I can!" The Irishman slowly dropped an eyelid, for the
school-house was close by the jail.
Wade tumbled into the bed provided for him and slept like a log, having
that happy faculty of the healthy man, of being able to sleep when his
body needed it, no matter what impended against the hour of awakening.
When he did wake up, the afternoon was well advanced, and after another
hearty meal he walked over to the Purnells' to pass the time until it
was late enough for him to get to work.
"Now, Gordon will tell you I'm right," Mrs. Purnell proclaimed
triumphantly, when the young man entered the cottage. "I want Dorothy to
go with me to call on Miss Rexhill, and she doesn't want to go. The
idea! When Miss Rexhill was nice enough to call on us first."
Mrs. Purnell set much store upon her manners, as the little Michigan
town where she was born understood good breeding, and she had not been
at all annoyed by Helen Rexhill's patronage, which had so displeased
Wade. To her mind the Rexhills were very great people, and great people
were to be expected to bear themselves in lofty fashion. Dorothy had
inherited her democracy from her father and not from her mother, who,
indeed, would have been disappointed if Helen Rexhill appeared any less
than the exalted personage she imagined herself to be.
"Oh, I'd like to meet her well enough, only...." Dorothy stopped,
unwilling to say before Wade that she did not consider the Rexhills
sufficiently good friends of his, in the light of recent developments,
for them to be friends of hers.
"Of course, go," he broke in heartily. "She's not responsible for what
her father does in the way of business, and I reckon she'd think it
funny if you didn't call."
"There now!" Mrs. Purnell exclaimed triumphantly.
"All right, I'll go." In her heart Dorothy was curious to meet the other
woman and gauge her powers of attraction. "We'll go to-morrow, mother."
Quite satisfied, Mrs. Purnell made some excuse to leave them together,
as she usually did, for her mother heart had traveled farther along the
Road to To-morrow than her daughter's fancy. She secretly hoped that the
young cattleman would some day declare his love for Dorothy and ask for
her hand in marriage.
In reply to the girl's anxious questions Wade told her of what had
happened since their meeting on the trail, as they sat together on the
porch of the little cottage. She was wearing a plain dress of green
gingham, which, somehow, suggested to him the freshness of lettuce. She
laughed a little when he told her of that and called him foolish, though
the smile that showed a dimple in her chin belied her words.
"Then the posse is still at the ranch?" she asked.
"I think so. If they are, we are going to run them off to-morrow
morning, or perhaps to-night. I've had enough of this nonsense and I
mean to meet Moran halfway from now on."
"Yes, I suppose you must," she admitted reluctantly. "But do be careful,
"As careful as I can be under the circumstances," he said cheerfully,
and told her that his chief purpose in coming to see her was to thank
her again for the service she had rendered him.
"Oh, you don't need to thank me for that. Do you know"--she puckered up
her brows in a reflective way--"I've been thinking. It seems very
strange to me that Senator Rexhill and Moran should be willing to go to
such lengths merely to get hold of this land as a speculation. Doesn't
it seem so to you?"
"Yes, it does, but that must be their reason."
"I'm not so sure of that, Gordon. There must be something more behind
all this. That's what I have been thinking about. You remember that when
Moran first came here he had an office just across the street from his
"Yes. Simon Barsdale had Moran's present office until he moved to
Sheridan. You were his stenographer for a while, I remember." Wade
looked at her curiously, wondering what she was driving at.
"Moran bought Mr. Barsdale's safe." Her voice sounded strange and
unnatural. "I know the old combination. I wonder if it has been
"Lem Trowbridge was saying only this morning," said Wade thoughtfully,
for he was beginning to catch her meaning, "that if we could only get
proof of something crooked we might...."
"Well, I think we can," Dorothy interrupted.
They looked searchingly at each other in the gathering dusk, and he
tried to read the light in her eyes, and being strangely affected
himself by their close proximity, he misinterpreted it. He slipped his
hand over hers and once more the desire to kiss her seized him. He let
go of her hand and was just putting his arm around her shoulders when,
to his surprise, she appeared suddenly indignant.
He was abashed, and for a moment neither said a word.
"What is the combination?" he finally asked hoarsely.
"I promised Mr. Barsdale never to tell any one." Her lips wreathed into
a little smile. "I'll do it myself."
"No, you won't." Wade shook his head positively. "Do you suppose I'm
going to let you steal for me? It will be bad enough to do it myself;
but necessity knows no law. Well, we'll let it go for the present then.
Don't you think of doing it, Dorothy. Will you promise me?"
"I never promise," she said, smiling again, and ignoring her last words
in womanly fashion, "but if you don't want me to...."
"Well, I don't," he declared firmly. "Let it rest at that. We'll
probably find some other way anyhow."
She asked him then about Santry, but he evaded a direct answer beyond
expressing the conviction that everything would end all right. They
talked for a while of commonplaces, although nothing that he said seemed
commonplace to her and nothing that she said seemed so to him. When it
was fully dark he arose to go. Then she seemed a little sorry that she
had not let him put his arm around her, and she leaned toward him as
she had done on the trail; but he was not well versed in woman's
subtleties, and he failed to guess her thoughts and walked away, leaving
her, as Shakespeare put it, to
"Twice desire, ere it be day,
That which with scorn she put away."
Having mounted his horse at the livery stable, he first made sure that
the extra horse was behind the school-house, where he tied his own, and
then walked around to the jail. On the outside, this building was a
substantial log structure; within, it was divided into the Sheriff's
office and sleeping room, the "bull pen," and a single narrow cell, in
which Wade guessed that Santry would be locked. After examining his
revolver, he slipped it into the side pocket of his coat and walked
boldly up to the jail. Then, whistling merrily, for Bat Lewis, the
deputy, was a confirmed human song-bird, he knocked sharply on the door
with his knuckles.
"It's me--Bat," he called out, mimicking Lewis' voice, in answer to a
question from within.
"You're early to-night. What's struck you?" Sheriff Thomas opened the
door, and turning, left it so, for the "relief" to enter. He had half
feared that an attempt might be made to liberate Santry, but had never
dreamed that any one would try the thing alone. He was glad to be
relieved, for a poker game at which he wanted to sit in would soon start
at the Gulch Saloon.
He was the most surprised man in Wyoming, when he felt the cold muzzle
of Wade's Colt boring into the nape of his neck and heard the ranchman's
stern warning to keep quiet or take the consequences. Sheriff Thomas had
earned his right to his "star" by more than one exhibition of nerve, but
he was too familiar with gun ethics to argue with the business end of a
"Not a sound!" Outwardly cold as ice, but inwardly afire, Wade shoved
the weapon against his victim's neck and marched him to the middle of
the room. "I've got the upper hand, Sheriff, and I intend to keep it."
"You're a damn fool, Wade." The Sheriff spoke without visible emotion
and in a low tone. "You'll go up for this. Don't you realize that...."
"Can it!" snapped Wade, deftly disarming the officer with his free hand.
"Never mind the majesty of the law and all that rot. I thought that all
over before I came. Now that I've got you and drawn your teeth, you'll
take orders from me. Get my foreman out of that cell and be quick about
There was nothing to do but obey, which Thomas quietly did, although
somewhat in fear of what Santry might do when at liberty. When the cell
door was unlocked, the old plainsman, in a towering rage at the
injustice of his incarceration, seemed inclined to choke his erstwhile
"None of that, Bill," Wade admonished curtly. "He's only been a tool in
this business, although he ought to know better. We'll tie him up and
gag him; that's all. Rip up one of those blankets."
"I knew you'd come, boy!" The foreman's joy was almost like that of a
big dog at sight of his master. "By the great horned toad, I knew it!"
With his sinewy hands he tore the blanket into strips as easily as
though the wool had been paper. "Now for him, drat him!"
Wade stood guard while the helpless Sheriff was trussed up and his mouth
stopped by Santry, and if the ranch owner felt any compunction at the
sight, he had only to think of his own men as he had seen them the night
before, lying on the floor of the ranch house.
"Make a good job of it, Bill," was his only comment.
"You bet!" Santry chuckled as he drew the last of the knots tight.
"That'll hold him for a spell, I reckon. How you feel, Sheruff, purty
comfortable?" The flowing end of the gag so hid the officer's features
that he could express himself only with his eyes, which he batted
furiously. "Course," Santry went on, in mock solicitude, "if I'd thought
I mighta put a bit of sugar on that there gag, to remind you of your
mammy like, but it ain't no great matter. You can put a double dose in
your cawfee when you git loose."
"Come on, Bill!" Wade commanded.
"So long, Sheruff," Santry chuckled.
There was no time to waste in loitering, for at any moment Bat Lewis
might arrive and give an alarm which would summon reenforcements from
amongst Moran's following. Hurrying Santry ahead of him, Wade swung open
the door and they looked out cautiously. No one was in sight, and a
couple of minutes later the two men were mounted and on their way out of
"By the great horned toad!" Santry exulted, as they left the lights of
Crawling Water behind them. "It sure feels good to be out of that there
boardin'-house. It wasn't our fault, Gordon, and say, about this here
"I know all about that, Bill," Wade interposed. "The boys told me.
They're waiting for us at the big pine. But your arrest, that's what I
want to hear about."
"Well, it was this-a-way," the old man explained. "They sneaked up on
the house in the dark and got the drop on us. Right here I rise to
remark that never no more will I separate myself from my six-shooter.
More'n one good man has got hisself killed just because his gun wasn't
where it oughter be when he needed it. Of course, we put up the best
scrap we could, but we didn't have no chance, Gordon. The first thing I
knew, while I was tusslin' with one feller, somebody fetched me a rap on
the head with a pistol-butt, an' I went down for the count. Any of the
boys shot up?"
Wade described the appearance of the ranch house on the previous night,
and Santry swore right manfully.
"What's on the cards now?" he demanded. "How much longer are we goin' to
"No longer," Wade declared crisply. "That's why the boys are waiting for
us at the pine. We're going to run Moran and his gang off the ranch as
soon as we can get there, and then we're going to run them out of the
"Whoop-e-e-e-e-e!" The old plainsman's yell of exultation split the
night like the yelp of a coyote, and he brought his hand down on Wade's
back with a force which made the latter wince. "By the great horned
toad, that's talkin! That's the finest news I've heard since my old
mammy said to the parson, 'Call him Bill, for short.' Whoop-e-e-e-e!"
Wade's warning to keep still was lost on the wind, for Santry stuck his
spurs into his horse's flanks and charged along the trail like an
old-time knight. With a grim smile his employer put on speed and
Next: The Battle At The Ranch
Previous: The Old Trail