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The Accomplishment







Part of: THE RAWHIDE
From: Arizona Nights

The next morning Buck Johnson took a trip down into the "pasture" of
five hundred wire-fenced acres.

"He means business," he confided to Jed Parker, on his return. "That
cavallo of his is a heap sight better than the Shorty horse we let him
take. Jed, you found your man with nerve, all right. How did you do
it?"

The two settled down to wait, if not with confidence, at least with
interest. Sometimes, remembering the desperate character of the
outlaws, their fierce distrust of any intruder, the wildness of the
country, Buck Johnson and his foreman inclined to the belief that the
stranger had undertaken a task beyond the powers of any one man.
Again, remembering the stranger's cool grey eye, the poise of his
demeanour, the quickness of his movements, and the two guns with tied
holsters to permit of easy withdrawal, they were almost persuaded that
he might win.

"He's one of those long-chance fellows," surmised Jed. "He likes
excitement. I see that by the way he takes up with my knife play.
He'd rather leave his hide on the fence than stay in the corral."

"Well, he's all right," replied Senor Buck Johnson, "and if he ever
gets back, which same I'm some doubtful of, his dinero'll be here for
him."

In pursuance of this he rode in to Willets, where shortly the overland
train brought him from Tucson the five thousand dollars in double
eagles.

In the meantime the regular life of the ranch went on. Each morning
Sang, the Chinese cook, rang the great bell, summoning the men. They
ate, and then caught up the saddle horses for the day, turning those
not wanted from the corral into the pasture. Shortly they jingled away
in different directions, two by two, on the slow Spanish trot of the
cow-puncher. All day long thus they would ride, without food or water
for man or beast, looking the range, identifying the stock, branding
the young calves, examining generally into the state of affairs, gazing
always with grave eyes on the magnificent, flaming, changing,
beautiful, dreadful desert of the Arizona plains. At evening when the
coloured atmosphere, catching the last glow, threw across the
Chiricahuas its veil of mystery, they jingled in again, two by two,
untired, unhasting, the glory of the desert in their deep-set, steady
eyes.

And all the day long, while they were absent, the cattle, too, made
their pilgrimage, straggling in singly, in pairs, in bunches, in long
files, leisurely, ruminantly, without haste. There, at the long
troughs filled by the windmill of the blindfolded pump mule, they
drank, then filed away again into the mists of the desert. And Senor
Buck Johnson, or his foreman, Parker, examined them for their
condition, noting the increase, remarking the strays from another
range. Later, perhaps, they, too, rode abroad. The same thing
happened at nine other ranches from five to ten miles apart, where
dwelt other fierce, silent men all under the authority of Buck Johnson.

And when night fell, and the topaz and violet and saffron and amethyst
and mauve and lilac had faded suddenly from the Chiricahuas, like a
veil that has been rent, and the ramparts had become slate-grey and
then black--the soft-breathed night wandered here and there over the
desert, and the land fell under an enchantment even stranger than the
day's.

So the days went by, wonderful, fashioning the ways and the characters
of men. Seven passed. Buck Johnson and his foreman began to look for
the stranger. Eight, they began to speculate. Nine, they doubted. On
the tenth they gave him up--and he came.

They knew him first by the soft lowing of cattle. Jed Parker, dazzled
by the lamp, peered out from the door, and made him out dimly turning
the animals into the corral. A moment later his pony's hoofs impacted
softly on the baked earth, he dropped from the saddle and entered the
room.

"I'm late," said he briefly, glancing at the clock, which indicated
ten; "but I'm here."

His manner was quick and sharp, almost breathless, as though he had
been running.

"Your cattle are in the corral: all of them. Have you the money?"

"I have the money here," replied Buck Johnson, laying his hand against
a drawer, "and it's ready for you when you've earned it. I don't care
so much for the cattle. What I wanted is the man who stole them. Did
you bring him?"

"Yes, I brought him," said the stranger. "Let's see that money."

Buck Johnson threw open the drawer, and drew from it the heavy canvas
sack.

"It's here. Now bring in your prisoner."

The two-gun man seemed suddenly to loom large in the doorway. The
muzzles of his revolvers covered the two before him. His speech came
short and sharp.

"I told you I'd bring back the cows and the one who rustled them," he
snapped. "I've never lied to a man yet. Your stock is in the corral.
I'll trouble you for that five thousand. I'm the man who stole your
cattle!"





Next: The Passing Of The Colt's Forty-five

Previous: The Agreement



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