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Kate Uses Her Quirt

Part of: LUCK
From: Crooked Trails And Straight

Red-headed Bob Cullison finished making the diamond hitch and proudly
called his cousin Kate to inspect the packhorse.

"You never saw the hitch thrown better, sis," he bragged, boy-like. "Uncle
Luck says I do it well as he can."

"It's fine, Bob," his cousin agreed, with the proper enthusiasm in her
dark eyes. "You'll have to teach me how to do it one of these days."

She was in a khaki riding skirt, and she pulled herself to the saddle of
her own horse. From this position she gave him final instructions before
leaving. "Stay around the house, Bob. Dad will call the ranch up this
morning probably, and I want you to be where you can hear the 'phone ring.
Tell him about that white-faced heifer, and to be sure to match the goods
I gave him. You'll find dinner set out for you on the dining-room table."

It had been on Wednesday morning that Luck Cullison disappeared from the
face of the earth. Before twenty-four hours the gossip was being whispered
in the most distant canyons of Papago County. The riders of the Circle C
knew it, but none of them had yet told either Bob or Kate.

Now it was Friday morning and Kate was beginning to wonder why her father
did not call her up. Could it be that Soapy Stone was pulling off his
train robbery at Tin Cup and her father so busy that he could not take
time to ride to a telephone station? She did not like to leave the ranch
just now, even for a few hours, but other business called her away.
Sweeney was holding down the fort at the Del Oro against Fendrick's
sheepherders, and his weekly supply of provisions had to be taken to him.
Since she wanted to see with her own eyes how things were getting along at
the canyon, she was taking the supplies in person.

It was a beautiful morning, even for Arizona. The soft air was at its
winiest best. The spring rains had carpeted the hills with an unusually
fine grass, and the summer suns had not yet burnt this to the crisp brown
of August. Her young heart expanded with the very joy of life. Oh, how
good it was to be alive in a world of warm sunshine, of blue, unflecked
sky, and of cool, light breezes. Swifts basked on the rocks or darted like
arrows for safety, and lay palpitating with suspense. The clear call of
the quails sounded to right and left of her. To her eager consciousness it
was as if some bath of splendor had poured down overnight upon the old

She rode from sunlight into shadow and from shadow to sunlight again,
winding along the hill trail that took her toward the Del Oro. After hours
of travel she came to the saddle from which one looked down to the gap in
the canyon walls that had been the common watering place of all men's
cattle, but now was homesteaded by her father. Far below her it lay, a
dwarfed picture with detail blurred to a vague impressionistic map. She
could see the hut, the fence line running parallel to the stream on the
other side, some grazing cattle, Sweeney's horse in the corral.

The piteous bleating of a lamb floated to her. Kate dismounted and made
her way toward the sound. A pathetic little huddle of frightened life
tried to struggle free at her approach. The slim leg of the lamb had
become wedged at the intersection of several rocks in such a way that it
could not be withdrawn.

Kate pulled the boulder away, and released the prisoner. It looked at her
and bleated without attempting to move. She took the soft, woolly creature
in her arms, and examined the wounded limb, all torn and raw from its
efforts to escape. A wound, she recalled, ought to be washed with cold
water and bound. Returning to her horse, she put the little animal in
front of the saddle and continued on the trail that led down to the

Sweeney came out from the cabin and hailed her. He was a squat,
weather-beaten man, who had ridden for her father ever since she could

"What in Mexico you got there?" he asked in surprise.

She explained the circumstances under which she had found the lamb.

"And what you aiming to do with it?"

"I'm going to tie up its leg and take it across the river. Some of the
C. F. herders are sure to find it before night."

"Sho! What are you fooling with Cass Fendrick's sheep for?" he grumbled.

"It isn't a sheep, but a lamb. And I'm not going to see it suffer, no
matter who owns it."

She was already walking toward the river. Protestingly he followed, and
lent a hand at tying up the leg with the girl's handkerchief.

"I'll just ride across and leave it outside the fence," she said.

"Lemme go. I know the river better."

Sweeney did not wait for her assent, but swung to the saddle. She handed
him the lamb, and he forded the stream. At no place did the water come
above the fetlocks of the horse.

"I'm so glad you know the dangerous places. Be careful you don't drown,"
she mocked.

The rider's laughter rang back to her. One of her jokes went a long way
with Sweeney. The danger of the river had been the flimsiest of excuses.
What he had been afraid of was that one of Fendrick's herders might be
lurking in some arroyo beyond the fence. There was little chance that he
would dare hurt her, but he might shout something unpleasant.

In point of fact, Sweeney saw some one disappear into a wash as he reached
the fence. The rider held up the lamb, jabbered a sentence of broncho
Spanish at the spot where the man had been, put down his bleating burden,
and cantered back to his own side of the river without unnecessary delay.
No bullets had yet been fired in the Cullison-Fendrick feud, but a
"greaser" was liable to do anything, according to the old puncher's
notion. Anyhow, he did not want to be a temptation to anyone with a gun in
his hand.

An hour later, Kate, on the return trip, topped the rise where she had
found the lamb. Pulling up her pony, to rest the horse from its climb, she
gazed back across the river to the rolling ridges among which lay the
C. F. ranch. Oddly enough, she had never seen Cass Fendrick. He had come
to Papago County a few years before, and had bought the place from an
earlier settler. In the disagreement that had fallen between the two men,
she was wholly on the side of her father. Sometimes she had wondered what
manner of man this Cass Fendrick might be; disagreeable, of course, but
after precisely what fashion.

"Your property, I believe, Miss Cullison."

She turned at sound of the suave, amused drawl, and looked upon a dark,
slim young man of picturesque appearance. He was bowing to her with an
obvious intention of overdoing it. Voice and manner had the habit of the
South rather than of the West. A kind of indolent irony sat easily upon
the swarthy face crowned with a black sleek head of hair.

Her instinct told the girl who he was. She did not need to ask herself any
longer what Cass Fendrick looked like.

He was holding out to her the bloodstained kerchief that had been tied to
the lamb's leg.

"I didn't care to have it returned," she told him with cold civility.

"Now, if you'd only left a note to say so, it would have saved me a quite
considerable climb," he suggested.

In spite of herself a flicker of amusement lit her eyes. She had a sense
of humor, "I did not think of that, and since you have troubled to return
it to me, I can only say thank you."

She held out her hand for the kerchief, but he did not move. "I don't know
but what I'll keep it, after all, for a souvenir. Just to remind me that
Luck Cullison's daughter went out of her way to help one of Cass
Fendrick's sheep."

She ignored his sardonic mockery. "I don't let live creatures suffer when
I can help it. Are you going to give me my handkerchief?"

"Haven't made up my mind yet. Perhaps I'll have it washed and bring it
home to you."

She decided that he was trying to flirt with her, and turned the head of
her horse to start.

"Now your father has pulled his freight, I expect it will be safe to
call," he added.

The bridle rein tightened. "What nonsense are you saying about my

"No news, Miss Cullison; just what everybody is saying, that he has gone
to cover on account of the hold-up."

A chill fear drenched her heart. "Do you mean the hold-up of the Limited
at Tin Cup?"

"No, I don't." He looked at her sharply. "Mean to say you haven't heard of
the hold-up of the W.& S. Express Company at Saguache?"

"No. When was it?"

"Tuesday night. The man got away with twenty thousand dollars."

"And what has my father to do with that?" she demanded haughtily.

A satisfied spleen purred in his voice. "My dear young lady, that is what
everyone is asking."

"What do you mean? Say it." There was fear as well as anger in her voice.
Had her father somehow got into trouble trying to save Sam?

"Oh, I'm saying nothing. But what Sheriff Bolt means is that when he gets
his handcuffs on Luck Cullison, he'll have the man that can tell him where
that twenty thousand is."

"It's a lie."

He waved his hand airily, as one who declined responsibility in the
matter, but his dark, saturnine face sparkled with malice.

"Maybe so. Seems to be some evidence, but I reckon he can explain that
away--when he comes back. The hold-up dropped a hat with the initials
L. C. in the band, since identified as his. He had lost a lot of money at
poker. Next day he paid it. He had no money in the bank, but maybe he
found it growing on a cactus bush."

"You liar!" she panted, eyes blazing.

"I'll take that from you, my dear, because you look so blamed pretty when
you're mad; but I wouldn't take it from him--from your father, who is
hiding out in the hills somewhere."

Anger uncurbed welled from her in an inarticulate cry. He had come close
to her, and was standing beside the stirrup, one bold hand upon the rein.
Her quirt went swiftly up and down, cut like a thin bar of red-hot iron
across his uplifted face. He stumbled back, half blind with the pain.
Before he could realize what had happened the spur on her little boot
touched the side of the pony, and it was off with a bound. She was
galloping wildly down the trail toward home.

He looked after her, fingers caressing the welt that burned his cheek.

"You'll pay for that, Kate Cullison," he said aloud to himself.

Anger stung him, but deeper than his rage was a growing admiration. How
she had lashed out at him because he had taunted her of her father. By
Jove, a girl like that would be worth taming! His cold eyes glittered as
he put the bloodstained kerchief in his pocket. She was not through with
him yet--not by a good deal.

Next: Ain't She The Gamest Little Thoroughbred?

Previous: An Initialed Hat

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