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In The Land Of Revolutions








From: Bucky O'connor

The knock that sounded on the door was neither gentle nor apologetic. It
sounded as if somebody had flung a baseball bat at it.

O'Connor smiled, remembering that soft tap of yore. "I reckon--" he was
beginning, when the door opened to admit a visitor.

This proved to be a huge, red-haired Irishman, with a face that served
just now merely as a setting for an irresistible smile. The owner of the
flaming head looked round in surprise on the pair of Romanies and began
an immediate apology to which a sudden blush served as accompaniment.

"Beg pardon. I didn't know The damned dago told me--" He stopped in
confusion, with a scrape and a bow to the lady.

"Sir, I demand an explanation of this most unwarrantable intrusion,"
spoke the ranger haughtily, in his best Spanish.

A patter of soft foreign vowels flowed from the stranger's
embarrassment.

"You durned old hawss-stealing greaser, cayn't you talk English?"
drawled the gipsy, with a grin.

The other's mouth fell open with astonishment He stared at the slim,
dusky young Spaniard for an instant before he fell upon him and began to
pound his body with jovial fists.

"You would, would you, you old pie-eating fraud! Try to fool your Uncle
Mick and make him think you a greaser, would you? I'll learn yez to play
horse with a fullgrown, able-bodied white man." He punctuated his points
with short-arm jolts that Bucky laughingly parried.

"Before ladies, Mick! Haven't you forgot your manners, Red-haid?"

Swiftly Mr. O'Halloran came to flushed rigidity. "Madam, I must still
be apologizing. The surprise of meeting me friend went to me head, I
shouldn't wonder."

Bucky doubled up with apparent mirth. "Get into the other room, Curly,
and get your other togs on," he ordered. "Can't you see that Mick is
going to fall in love with you if he sees you a minute longer, you young
rascal? Hike!"

"Don't you talk that way to a lady, Bucky," warned O'Halloran, again
blushing vividly, after she had disappeared into the next room. "And I
want to let yez have it right off the bat that if you've been leading
that little Mexican senorita into trouble you've got a quarrel on with
Mike O'Halloran."

"Keep your shirt on, old fire-eater. Who told you I was wronging her
any?"

"Are you married to her?"

"You bet I ain't. You see, Mick, that handsome lady you're going to lick
the stuffing out of me about is only a plumb ornery sassy young boy,
after all."

"No!" denied Mick, his eyes two excited interrogation-points. "You can't
stuff me with any such fairy-tale, me lad."

"All right. Wait and see," suggested the ranger easily. "Have a smoke
while you're falling out of love."

"You young limb, I want you to tell me all about it this very minute,
before I punch holes in yez."

Bucky lit his cigar, leaned back, and began to tell the story of Frank
Hardman and the knife-thrower. Only one thing he omitted to tell, and
that was the conviction that had come home to him a few moments ago that
his little comrade was no boy, but a woman. O'Halloran was a chivalrous
Irishman, a daredevil of an adventurer, with a pure love of freedom that
might very likely in the end bring him to face a row of loaded carbines
with his back to a wall, but Bucky had his reticencies that even loyal
friendship could not break down. This girl's secret he meant to guard
until such time as she chose of her own free will to tell it.

Frank returned just as he finished the tale of the knife episode, and
Mick's frank open eyes accused him of idiocy for ever having supposed
that this lad was a woman. Why, he was a little fellow not over
fifteen--not a day past fifteen, he would swear to that. He was, to be
sure, a slender, girlish young fellow, a good deal of a sissy by the
look of him, but none the less a sure enough boy. Convinced of this,
the big Irishman dismissed him promptly from his thoughts and devoted
himself to Bucky.

"And what are yez doing down in greaser land? Thought you was rustling
cows for a living somewheres in sunburnt Arizona," he grinned amiably.

"Me? Oh, I came down on business. We'll talk about that presently. How's
your one-hawss revolution getting along, Reddy? I hope it's right peart
and healthy."

O'Halloran's eyes flashed a warning, with the slightest nod in the world
toward the boy.

"Don't worry about him. He's straight as a string and knows how to keep
his mouth shut. You can tell him anything you would me." He turned to
the boy sitting quietly in an inconspicuous corner. "Mum's the word,
Frank. You understand that, of course?"

The boy nodded. "I'll go into the next room, if you like."

"It isn't necessary. Fire ahead, Mike."

The latter got up, tiptoed to each door in turn, flung it suddenly open
to see that nobody was spying behind it, and then turned the lock. "I
have use for me head for another year or two, and it's just as well to
see that nobody is spying. You understand, Bucky, that I'm risking me
life in telling you what I'm going to. If you have any doubts about this
lad--" He stopped, keen eyes fixed on Frank.

"He's as safe as I am, Mike. Is it likely I would take any risks about
a thing of that sort with my old bunkie's tough neck inviting the
hangman?" asked O'Connor quietly.

"Good enough. The kid looks stanch, and, anyhow, if you guarantee him
that's enough for me." He accepted another of the ranger's cigars,
puffed it to a red glow, and leaned back to smile at his friend. "Glory,
but it's good to see ye, Bucky, me bye. You'll never know how a man's
eyes ache to see a straight-up white man in this land of greasers. It's
the God's truth I'm telling ye when I say that I haven't had a scrimmage
with me hands since I came here. The only idea this forsaken country
has of exchanging compliments is with a knife in the dark." He shook his
flaming head regretfully at the deplorably lost condition of a country
where the shillalah was unknown as a social institution.

"If I wasn't tied up with this Valdez bunch I'd get out to-morrow, and
sometimes I have half a mind to pull out anyhow. If you've never been
associated, me lad, with half a dozen most divilishly polite senors,
each one of them watching the others out of the corner of his slant eyes
for fear they are going to betray him or assassinate him first, you'll
never know the joys of life in this peaceful and contented land of
indolence. Life's loaded to the guards with uncertainties, so eat,
drink, and be merry, for to-morrow you hang, or your friend will carve
ye in the back with a knife, me old priest used to say, or something
like it. 'Tis certain he must have had in mind the Spanish-American, my
son."

"Which is why you're here, you old fraud," smiled Bucky. "You've got
to grumble, of course, but you couldn't be dragged away while there's a
chance of a row. Don't I know you of old, Reddy?"

"Anyway, here I am, with me neck so near to the rope it fairly aches
sometimes. If you have any inclinations toward suicide, I'll be glad to
introduce ye to me revolutionary friends."

"Thank you, no. The fact is that we have a little private war of our
own on hand, Mike. I was thinking maybe you'd like to enlist, old
filibuster."

"Is the pay good?"

"Nothing a day and find yourself," answered Bucky promptly.

"No reasonable man could ask fairer than that," agreed O'Halloran,
his grin expanding. "Well, then, what's the row? Would ye like to be
dictator of Chihuahua or Emperor of Mexico?"

"There's an American in the government prison here under a life
sentence. He is not guilty, and he has already served fifteen years."

"He is like to serve fifteen more, if he lives that long."

"Wrong guess. I mean to get him out."

"And I'm meaning to go to Paradise some day, but will I?"

"You're going to help me get him out, Mike."

"Who told ye that, me optimistic young friend?"

"I didn't need to be told."

"Well, I'll not lift a finger, Bucky--not a finger."

"I knew you wouldn't stand to see a man like Henderson rot in a dungeon.
No Irishman would."

"You needn't blarney me. I'm too old a bird to be caught with chaff.
It's a dirty shame, of course, about this man Henderson, but I'm not
running the criminal jurisprudence of Mexico meself."

"And I said to Webb Mackenzie: 'Mickey O'Halloran is the man to see;
he'll know the best way to do it as nobody else would.' I knew I could
depend on you."

"You've certainly kissed the blarney stone, Mr. O'Connor," returned the
revolutionist dryly. "Well, then, what do you want me to do?"

"Nothing much. Get Henderson out and help us to get safely from the
country whose reputation you black-eye so cheerfully."

"Mercy of Hiven! Bring me the moon and a handful of stars, says he, as
cool as you please."

The ranger told the story of Henderson and Mackenzie's lost child in
such a way that it lost nothing in the telling. O'Halloran was moved.
"'Tis a damned shame about this man Henderson," he blurted out.

Bucky leaned back comfortably and waved airily his brown hand. "It's up
to you," his gay, impudent eyes seemed to say.

"I don't say I won't be able to help you," conceded O'Halloran. "It
happens, me bye, that you've dropped in on me just before the band
begins to play." He lowered his voice almost to a whisper. "There's
a shipment of pianos being brought down the line this week. The night
after they arrive I'm looking for music."

"I see. The piano boxes are filled with rifles and ammunition."

"You have a mind like a tack, Bucky. Rifles is the alias of them pianos.
They'll make merry music once we get them through."

"That's all very well, but have you reckoned with the government at
Mexico? Chihuahua isn't the whole country, Mickey. Suppose President
Diaz takes a hand in the game and sends troops in on you?"

"He won't," answered the other, with a wink. "He's been seen. The
president isn't any too friendly to that old tyrant Megales, who is now
governor here. There's an election next week. The man that gets most
votes will be elected, and I'm thinking, Bucky, that the man with most
rifles will the most votes. Now, says Diaz, in effect, with an official
wave of his hand, 'Settle your own rows, gintlemen. I don't give a damn
whether Megales or Valdez is governor of Chihuahua, subject, of coorse,
to the will of the people.' Then he winks at Valdez wid his off eye as
much as to say: 'Go in an' win, me boy; me prayers are supporting ye.
But be sure ye do nothing too illegal.' So there ye are, Bucky. If ould
Megales was to wake up election morning and find that the polling-places
was in our hands, his soldiers disarmed or bought over, and everything
contributing smoothly to express the will of the people in electing him
to take a swift hike out of Chihuahua, it is likely that he might accept
the inevitable as the will of fate and make a strategic retreat to
climes more healthy."

"And if in the meantime he should discover those rifles, or one of
those slant-eyed senors should turn out a Benedict Arnold, what then, my
friend?"

"Don't talk in that cruel way. You make me neck ache in anticipation,"
returned O'Halloran blithely.

"I think we'll not travel with you in public till after the election,
Mr. O'Halloran," reflected Bucky aloud.

"'Twould be just as well, me son. My friends won't be overpopular with
Megales if the cards fall his way."

"If you win, I suppose we may count Henderson as good as a free man?"

"It would be a pity if me pull wouldn't do a little thing like that,"
scoffed the conspirator genially.

"But, win or lose, I may be able to help you. We need musicians to play
those pianos we're bringing in. Well, the most dependable men we can set
to play some of them are the prisoners in the fortress. There's likely
to be a wholesale jail delivery the night before the election. Now, it's
just probable that the lads we free will fight to keep their freedom.
That's why we use them. They HAVE to be true to us because, if they
don't, WHICHEVER SIDE WINS back they go to jail."

"Of course. I wish I could take a hand myself. But I can't, because I'm
a soldier of a friendly power. We'll get Henderson out the night before
the election and leave on the late train. You'll have to arrange the
program in time for us to catch that train."

O'Halloran looked drolly at him. "I'm liking your nerve, young man.
I pull the chestnuts out of the fire for yez and, likely enough, get
burned. You walk off with your chestnut, and never a 'Thank ye' for poor
Mickey the catspaw."

"It doesn't look like quite a square deal, does it?" laughed the ranger.
"Well, we might vary the program a bit. Bucky O'Connor, Arizona ranger,
can't stop and take a hand in such a game, but I don't know anything to
prevent a young gipsy from Spain staying over a few days."

"If you stay, I shall," announced the boy Frank.

"You'll do nothing of the kind, seh. You'll do just as I say, according
to the agreement you made with me when I let you come," was Bucky's curt
answer. "We're not playing this game to please you, Master Frank."

Yet though the ranger spoke curtly, though he still tried to hold toward
his comrade precisely the same attitude as he had before discovering her
sex, he could not put into his words the same peremptory sting that, he
had done before when he found that occasionally necessary. For no matter
how severely he must seem to deal with her to avoid her own suspicions
as to what he knew, as well as to keep from arousing those of others,
his heart was telling a very different story all the time. He could see
again the dainty grace with which she had danced for him, heard again
that low voice breaking into a merry piping lilt, warmed once more to
the living, elusive smile, at once so tender and mocking. He might set
his will to preserve an even front to her gay charm, but it was beyond
him to control the thrills that shot his pulses.





Next: First Blood!

Previous: Bucky Makes A Discovery



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