Hagar's Eyes

: The Range Boss

Randerson had been in no hurry to make an attempt to catch the rustlers

whose depredations he had reported to Ruth. He had told the men to be

doubly alert to their work, and he had hired two new men--from the

Diamond H--to replace those who had left the Flying W. His surmise that

they wanted to join Chavis had been correct, for the two new men--whom he

had put on special duty and had been given permission to come and go when
br /> they pleased--had reported this fact to him. There was nothing to do,

however, but to wait, in the hope that one day the rustlers would attempt

to run cattle off when one or more of the men happened to be in the

vicinity. And then, if the evidence against the rustlers were convincing

enough, much would depend on the temper of himself and the men as to

whether Ruth's orders that there should be no hanging would be observed.

There would be time enough to decide that question if any rustlers were


He had seen little of the Easterner during the past two or three weeks.

Masten rarely showed himself on the range any more--to Randerson's

queries about him the men replied that they hadn't seen him. But

Randerson was thinking very little about Masten as he rode through the

brilliant sunshine this afternoon. He was going again to Catherson's, to

see Hagar. Recollections of the change that had come over the girl were

disquieting, and he wanted to talk to her again to determine whether she

really had changed, or whether he had merely fancied it.

Far down the river he crossed at a shallow ford, entered a section of

timber, and loped Patches slowly through this. He found a trail that he

had used several times before, when he had been working for the Diamond H

and necessity or whim had sent him this way, and rode it, noting that it

seemed to have been used much, lately.

"I reckon old Abe's poundin' his horses considerable. Why, it's right

plain," he added, after a little reflection, "this here trail runs into

the Lazette trail, down near the ford. An' Abe's wearin' it out, ridin'

to Lazette for red-eye. I reckon if I was Abe, I'd quit while the

quittin's good." He laughed, patting Patches' shoulder. "Shucks, a man

c'n see another man's faults pretty far, but his own is pretty near

invisible. You've rode the Lazette trail a heap, too, Patches," he said,

"when your boss was hittin' red-eye. We ain't growin' no angels' wings,

Patches, which would give us the right to go to criticizin' others."

Presently he began to ride with more caution, for he wanted to surprise

Hagar. A quarter of a mile from the cabin he brought Patches to a halt on

a little knoll and looked about him. He had a good view of the cabin in

the clearing, and he watched it long, for signs of life. He saw no such


"Abe's out putterin' around, an' Hagar's nappin', I reckon--or tryin' on

her new dresses," he added as an after-thought.

He was about to ride on, when a sound reached his ears, and he drew the

reins tight on Patches and sat rigid, alert, listening.

The perfect silence of the timber was unbroken. He had almost decided

that his ears had played him a trick when the sound came again, nearer

than before--the sound of voices. Quickly and accurately he determined

from which direction they came, and he faced that way, watching a narrow

path that led through the timber to a grass plot not over a hundred feet

from him, from which he was screened by some thick-growing brush at his


He grinned, fully expecting to see Abe and Hagar on the path presently.

"Abe's behavin' today," he told himself as he waited. "I'll sure surprise

them, if--"

Suddenly he drew his breath sharply, his teeth came together viciously,

and his brows drew to a frown, his eyes gleaming coldly underneath. For

he saw Willard Masten coming along the path, smiling and talking, and

beside him, his arm around her waist, also smiling, but with her head

bent forward a little, was Hagar Catherson.

The color slowly left Randerson's face as he watched. He had no nice

scruples about eavesdropping at this moment--here was no time for

manners; the cold, contemptuous rage that fought within him was too deep

and gripping to permit of any thought that would not center about the two

figures on the path. He watched them, screened by the brush, with the

deadly concentration of newly aroused murder-lust. Once, as he saw them

halt at the edge of the grass plot, and he observed Masten draw Hagar

close to him and kiss her, his right hand dropped to the butt of his

pistol at his right hip, and he fingered it uncertainly. He drew the hand

away at last, though, with a bitter, twisting smile.

Five minutes later, his face still stony and expressionless, he

dismounted lightly and with infinite care and caution led Patches away

from the knoll and far back into the timber. When he was certain there

was no chance of his being seen or heard by Masten and Hagar, he mounted,

urged Patches forward and made a wide detour which brought him at length

to the path which had been followed by Masten and Hagar in reaching the

grass plot. He loped the pony along this path, and presently he came upon

them--Hagar standing directly in the path, watching him, red with

embarrassment which she was trying hard to conceal; Masten standing on

the grass plot near her, staring into the timber opposite; Randerson,

trying to appear unconcerned and making a failure of it.

"It's Rex!" ejaculated the girl. Her hands had been clasped in front of

her; they dropped to her sides when she saw Randerson, and her fingers

began to twist nervously into the edges of her apron. A deep breath,

which was almost a sigh of relief, escaped her. "I thought it was Dad!"

she said.

Evidently Masten had likewise expected the horseman to be her father, for

at her exclamation he turned swiftly. His gaze met Randerson's, his

shoulders sagged a little, his eyes wavered and shifted from the steady

ones that watched him.

His composure returned quickly, however, and he smiled blandly, but there

was a trace of derision in his voice:

"You've strayed off your range, haven't you, Randerson?" he said


"Why, I reckon I have." Randerson's voice was low, almost gentle, and he

smiled mildly at Hagar, who blushingly returned it but immediately looked


"I expect dad must be gone somewhere--that you're lookin' for him,"

Randerson said. "I thought mebbe I'd ketch him here."

"He went to Red Rock this mornin'," said the girl. She looked up, and

this time met Randerson's gaze with more confidence, for his pretense of

casualness had set her fears at rest. "Mr. Masten come over to see him,


The lie came hesitatingly through her lips. She looked at Masten as

though for confirmation, and the latter nodded.

"Catherson is hard to catch," he said. "I've been over here a number of

times, trying to see him." His voice was a note too high, and Randerson

wondered whether, without the evidence of his eyes, he would have

suspected Masten. He decided that he would, and his smile was a trifle


"I reckon Catherson is a regular dodger," he returned. "He's always

gallivantin' around the country when somebody wants to see him." He

smiled gently at Hagar, with perhaps just a little pity.

"It's getting along in the afternoon, Hagar," he said. "Dad ought to be

amblin' back here before long." His face grew grave at the frightened

light in her eyes when he continued: "I reckon me an' Masten better wait

for him, so's he won't dodge us any more." He cast a glance around him.

"Where's your cayuse?" he said to Masten.

"I left him down near the ford," returned the other.

"Right on your way back to the Flyin' W," said Randerson, as though the

discovery pleased him. "I'm goin' to the Flyin' W, too, soon as I see

Catherson. I reckon, if you two ain't got no particular yearnin' to go

prowlin' around in the timber any longer, we'll all go back to

Catherson's shack an' wait for him there. Three'll be company, while it'd

be mighty lonesome for one."

Masten cleared his throat and looked intently at Randerson's

imperturbable face. Did he know anything? A vague unrest seized Masten.

Involuntarily he shivered, and his voice was a little hoarse when he

spoke, though he attempted to affect carelessness:

"I don't think I will wait for Catherson," he said, "I can see him

tomorrow, just as well."

"Well, that's too bad," drawled Randerson. "After waitin' this long, too!

But I reckon you're right; it wouldn't be no use waitin'. I'll go too, I

reckon. We'll ride to the Flyin' W together."

"I don't want to force my company on you, Randerson," laughed Masten

nervously. "Besides, I had thought of taking the river trail--back toward

Lazette, you know."

Randerson looked at him with a cold smile. "The Lazette trail suits me

too," he said; "we'll go that way."

Masten looked at him again. The smile on Randerson's face was

inscrutable. And now the pallor left Masten's cheeks and was succeeded by

a color that burned. For he now was convinced and frightened. He heard

Randerson speaking to Hagar, and so gentle was his voice that it startled

him, so great was the contrast between it and the slumbering threat in

his eyes and manner:

"Me an' Masten is goin' to make a short cut over to where his horse is,

Hagar; we've changed our minds about goin' to the shack with you. We've

decided that we're goin' to talk over that business that he come here

about--not botherin' your dad with it." His lips straightened at the

startled, dreading look that sprang into her eyes. "Dad ain't goin' to

know, girl," he assured her gravely. "I'd never tell him. You go back to

the shack an' pitch into your work, sort of forgettin' that you ever saw

Mr. Masten. For he's goin' away tonight, an' he ain't comin' back."

Hagar covered her face with her hands and sank into the grass beside the

path, crying.

"By God, Randerson!" blustered Masten, "what do you mean? This is going


A look silenced him--choked the words in his throat, and he turned

without protest, at Randerson's jerk of the head toward the ford, and

walked without looking back, Randerson following on Patches.

When they reached the narrow path that led to the crossing, just before

entering the brush Randerson looked back. Hagar was still lying in the

grass near the path. A patch of sunlight shone on her, and so clear was

the light that Randerson could plainly see the spasmodic movement of her

shoulders. His teeth clenched tightly, and the muscles of his face corded

as they had done in the Flying W ranchhouse the day that Aunt Martha had

told him of Pickett's attack on Ruth.

He watched silently while Masten got on his horse, and then, still

silent, he followed as Masten rode down the path, across the river,

through the break in the canyon wall and up the slope that led to the

plains above. When they reached a level space in some timber that fringed

the river, Masten attempted to urge his horse through it, but was brought

to a halt by Randerson's voice:

"We'll get off here, Masten."

Masten turned, his face red with wrath.

"Look here, Randerson," he bellowed; "this ridiculous nonsense has gone

far enough. I know, now, that you were spying on us. I don't know why,

unless you'd selected the girl yourself--"

"That's ag'in you too," interrupted Randerson coldly. "You're goin' to


"You're making a lot of fuss about the girl," sneered Masten. "A man--"

"You're a heap careless with words that you don't know the meanin' of,"

said Randerson. "We don't raise men out here that do things like you do.

An' I expect you're one in a million. They all can't be like you, back

East; if they was, the East would go to hell plenty rapid. Get off your


Masten demurred, and Randerson's big pistol leaped into his hand. His

voice came at the same instant, intense and vibrant:

"It don't make no difference to me how you get off!"

He watched Masten get down, and then he slid to the ground himself, the

pistol still in hand, and faced Masten, with only three or four feet of

space separating them.

Masten had been watching him with wide, fearing eyes, and at the menace

of his face when he dismounted Masten shrank back a step.

"Good Heavens, man, do you mean to shoot me?" he said, the words

faltering and scarcely audible.

"I reckon shootin' would be too good for you." Again Randerson's face had

taken on that peculiar stony expression. Inexorable purpose was written

on it; what he was to do he was in no hurry to be about, but it would be

done in good time.

"I ain't never claimed to be no angel," he said. "I reckon I'm about the

average, an' I've fell before temptation same as other men. But I've

drawed the line where you've busted over it. Mebbe if it was some other

girl, I wouldn't feel it like I do about Hagar. But when I tell you that

I've knowed that girl for about five years, an' that there wasn't a mean

thought in her head until you brought your dirty carcass to her father's

shack, an' that to me she's a kid in spite of her long dresses and her

newfangled furbelows, you'll understand a heap about how I feel right

now. Get your paws up, for I'm goin' to thrash you so bad that your own

mother won't know you--if she's so misfortunate as to be alive to look at

you! After that, you're goin' to hit the breeze out of this country, an'

if I ever lay eyes on you ag'in I'll go gunnin' for you!"

While he had been speaking he had holstered the pistol, unstrapped his

cartridge belt and let guns and belt fall to the ground. Then without

warning he drove a fist at Masten's face.

The Easterner dodged the blow, evaded him, and danced off, his face

alight with a venomous joy. For the dreaded guns were out of Randerson's

reach, he was a fair match for Randerson in weight, though Randerson

towered inches above him; he had had considerable experience in boxing at

his club in the East, and he had longed for an opportunity to avenge

himself for the indignity that had been offered him at Calamity. Besides,

he had a suspicion that Ruth's refusal to marry before the fall round-up

had been largely due to a lately discovered liking for the man who was

facing him.

"I fancy you'll have your work cut out for you, you damned meddler!" he

sneered as he went in swiftly, with a right and left, aimed at

Randerson's face.

The blows landed, but seemingly had no effect, for Randerson merely

gritted his teeth and pressed forward. In his mind was a picture of a

girl whom he had "dawdled" on his knee--a "kid" that he had played with,

as a brother might have played with a younger sister.