Informational Site NetworkInformational Site Network
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories

Riding The Ranges

From: The Heritage Of The Desert

THE shepherds were home in the oasis that evening, and next day the
tragedy of the sheep was a thing of the past. No other circumstance
of Hare's four months with the Naabs had so affected him as this swift
inevitable sweeping away of the flock; nothing else had so vividly
told him the nature of this country of abrupt heights and depths. He
remembered August Naab's magnificent gesture of despair; and now the man
was cheerful again; he showed no sign of his great loss. His tasks were
many, and when one was done, he went on to the next. If Hare had not had
many proofs of this Mormon's feeling he would have thought him callous.
August Naab trusted God and men, loved animals, did what he had to do
with all his force, and accepted fate. The tragedy of the sheep had been
only an incident in a tragical life--that Hare divined with awe.

Mescal sorrowed, and Wolf mourned in sympathy with her, for their
occupation was gone, but both brightened when August made known his
intention to cross the river to the Navajo range, to trade with the
Indians for another flock. He began his preparations immediately. The
snow-freshets had long run out of the river, the water was low, and he
wanted to fetch the sheep down before the summer rains. He also wanted
to find out what kept his son Snap so long among the Navajos.

"I'll take Billy and go at once. Dave, you join George and Zeke out on
the Silver Cup range. Take Jack with you. Brand all the cattle you can
before the snow flies. Get out of Dene's way if he rides over, and avoid
Holderness's men. I'll have no fights. But keep your eyes sharp for
their doings."

It was a relief to Hare that Snap Naab had not yet returned to the
oasis, for he felt a sense of freedom which otherwise would have been
lacking. He spent the whole of a long calm summer day in the orchard and
the vineyard. The fruit season was at its height. Grapes, plums, pears,
melons were ripe and luscious. Midsummer was vacationtime for the
children, and they flocked into the trees like birds. The girls
were picking grapes; Mother Ruth enlisted Jack in her service at the
pear-trees; Mescal came, too, and caught the golden pears he threw down,
and smiled up at him; Wolf was there, and Noddle; Black Bolly pushed
her black nose over the fence, and whinnied for apples; the turkeys
strutted, the peafowls preened their beautiful plumage, the guinea-hens
ran like quail. Save for those frowning red cliffs Hare would have
forgotten where he was; the warm sun, the yellow fruit, the merry
screams of children, the joyous laughter of girls, were pleasant
reminders of autumn picnic days long gone. But, in the face of those
dominating wind-scarred walls, he could not forget.

That night Hare endeavored to see Mescal alone for a few moments, to
see her once more with unguarded eyes, to whisper a few words, to say
good-bye; but it was impossible.

On the morrow he rode out of the red cliff gate with Dave and the
pack-horses, a dull ache in his heart; for amid the cheering crowd of
children and women who bade them good-bye he had caught the wave of
Mescal's hand and a look of her eyes that would be with him always. What
might happen before he returned, if he ever did return! For he knew now,
as well as he could feel Silvermane's easy stride, that out there under
the white glare of desert, the white gleam of the slopes of Coconina,
was wild life awaiting him. And he shut his teeth, and narrowed his
eyes, and faced it with an eager joy that was in strange contrast to the
pang in his breast.

That morning the wind dipped down off the Vermillion Cliffs and whipped
west; there was no scent of river-water, and Hare thought of the
fatality of the sheep-drive, when, for one day out of the year, a
moistened dank breeze had met the flock on the narrow bench. Soon the
bench lay far behind them, and the strip of treacherous sand, and the
maze of sculptured cliff under the Blue Star, and the hummocky low
ridges beyond, with their dry white washes. Silvermane kept on in front.
Already Hare had learned that the gray would have no horse before him.
His pace was swift, steady, tireless. Dave was astride his Navajo mount,
an Indian-bred horse, half mustang, which had to be held in with a firm
rein. The pack train strung out far behind, trotting faithfully along,
with the white packs, like the humps of camels, nodding up and down.
Jack and Dave slackened their gait at the foot of the stony divide. It
was an ascent of miles, so long that it did not appear steep. Here the
pack-train caught up, and thereafter hung at the heels of the riders.

From the broad bare summit Jack saw the Silver Cup valley-range with
eyes which seemed to magnify the winding trail, the long red wall, the
green slopes, the dots of sage and cattle. Then he made allowance for
months of unobstructed vision; he had learned to see; his eyes had
adjusted themselves to distance and dimensions.

Silver Cup Spring lay in a bright green spot close under a break in the
rocky slope that soon lost its gray cliff in the shaggy cedared side of

The camp of the brothers was situated upon this cliff in a split between
two sections of wall. Well sheltered from the north and west winds was
a grassy plot which afforded a good survey of the valley and the
trails. Dave and Jack received glad greetings from Zeke and George, and
Silvermane was an object of wonder and admiration. Zeke, who had often
seen the gray and chased him too, walked round and round him, stroking
the silver mane, feeling the great chest muscles, slapping his flanks.

"Well, well, Silvermane, to think I'd live to see you wearing a saddle
and bridle! He's even bigger than I thought. There's a horse, Hare!
Never will be another like him in this desert. If Dene ever sees that
horse he'll chase him to the Great Salt Basin. Dene's crazy about fast
horses. He's from Kentucky, somebody said, and knows a horse when he
sees one."

"How are things?" queried Dave.

"We can't complain much," replied Zeke, "though we've wasted some time
on old Whitefoot. He's been chasing our horses. It's been pretty hot and
dry. Most of the cattle are on the slopes; fair browse yet. There's a
bunch of steers gone up on the mountain, and some more round toward the
Saddle or the canyon."

"Been over Seeping Springs way?"

"Yes. No change since your trip. Holderness's cattle are ranging in the
upper valley. George found tracks near the spring. We believe somebody
was watching there and made off when we came up."

"We'll see Holderness's men when we get to riding out," put in George.
"And some of Dene's too. Zeke met Two-Spot Chance and Culver below at
the spring one day, sort of surprised them."

"What day was that?"

"Let's see, this's Friday. It was last Monday."

"What were they doing over here?"

"Said they were tracking a horse that had broken his hobbles. But they
seemed uneasy, and soon rode off."

"Did either of them ride a horse with one shoe shy?"

"Now I think of it, yes. Zeke noticed the track at the spring."

"Well, Chance and Culver had been out our way," declared Dave. "I saw
their tracks, and they filled up the Blue Star waterhole--and cost us
three thousand sheep."

Then he related the story of the drive of the sheep, the finding of
the plugged waterhole, the scent of the Colorado, and the plunge of the
sheep into the canyon.

"We've saved one, Mescal's belled lamb," he concluded.

Neither Zeke nor George had a word in reply. Hare thought their silence
unnatural. Neither did the mask-like stillness of their faces change.
But Hare saw in their eyes a pointed clear flame, vibrating like a
compass-needle, a mere glimmering spark.

"I'd like to know," continued Dave, calmly poking the fire, "who hired
Dene's men to plug the waterhole. Dene couldn't do that. He loves a
horse, and any man who loves a horse couldn't fill a waterhole in this

Hare entered upon his new duties as a range-rider with a zeal that
almost made up for his lack of experience; he bade fair to develop
into a right-hand man for Dave, under whose watchful eye he worked. His
natural qualifications were soon shown; he could ride, though his seat
was awkward and clumsy compared to that of the desert rangers, a fault
that Dave said would correct itself as time fitted him close to
the saddle and to the swing of his horse. His sight had become
extraordinarily keen for a new-comer on the ranges, and when experience
had taught him the land-marks, the trails, the distances, the difference
between smoke and dust and haze, when he could distinguish a band of
mustangs from cattle, and range-riders from outlaws or Indians; in a
word, when he had learned to know what it was that he saw, to trust
his judgment, he would have acquired the basic feature of a rider's
training. But he showed no gift for the lasso, that other essential
requirement of his new calling.

"It's funny," said Dave, patiently, "you can't get the hang of it. Maybe
it's born in a fellow. Now handling a gun seems to come natural for some
fellows, and you're one of them. If only you could get the rope away as
quick as you can throw your gun!"

Jack kept faithfully at it, unmindful of defeats, often chagrined when
he missed some easy opportunity. Not improbably he might have failed
altogether if he had been riding an ordinary horse, or if he had to try
roping from a fiery mustang. But Silvermane was as intelligent as he
was beautiful and fleet. The horse learned rapidly the agile turns and
sudden stops necessary, and as for free running he never got enough. Out
on the range Silvermane always had his head up and watched; his life had
been spent in watching; he saw cattle, riders, mustangs, deer, coyotes,
every moving thing. So that Hare, in the chasing of a cow, had but to
start Silvermane, and then he could devote himself to the handling of
his rope. It took him ten times longer to lasso the cow than it took
Silvermane to head the animal. Dave laughed at some of Jack's exploits,
encouraged him often, praised his intent if not his deed; and always
after a run nodded at Silvermane in mute admiration.

Branding the cows and yearlings and tame steers which watered at Silver
Cup, and never wandered far away, was play according to Dave's version.
"Wait till we get after the wild steers up on the mountain and in the
canyons," he would say when Jack dropped like a log at supper. Work it
certainly was for him. At night he was so tired that he could scarcely
crawl into bed; his back felt as if it were broken; his legs were raw,
and his bones ached. Many mornings he thought it impossible to arise,
but always he crawled out, grim and haggard, and hobbled round the
camp-fire to warm his sore and bruised muscles. Then when Zeke and
George rode in with the horses the day's work began. During these weeks
of his "hardening up," as Dave called it, Hare bore much pain, but he
continued well and never missed a day. At the most trying time when for
a few days he had to be helped on and off Silvermane--for he insisted
that he would not stay in camp--the brothers made his work as light as
possible. They gave him the branding outfit to carry, a running-iron and
a little pot with charcoal and bellows; and with these he followed the
riders at a convenient distance and leisurely pace.

Some days they branded one hundred cattle. By October they had August
Naab's crudely fashioned cross on thousands of cows and steers. Still
the stock kept coming down from the mountain, driven to the valley by
cold weather and snow-covered grass. It was well into November before
the riders finished at Silver Cup, and then arose a question as to
whether it would be advisable to go to Seeping Springs or to the canyons
farther west along the slope of Coconina. George favored the former, but
Dave overruled him.

"Father's orders," he said. "He wants us to ride Seeping Springs last
because he'll be with us then, and Snap too. We're going to have trouble
over there."

"How's this branding stock going to help the matter any, I'd like to
know?" inquired George. "We Mormons never needed it."

"Father says we'll all have to come to it. Holderness's stock is
branded. Perhaps he's marked a good many steers of ours. We can't tell.
But if we have our own branded we'll know what's ours. If he drives our
stock we'll know it; if Dene steals, it can be proved that he steals."

"Well, what then? Do you think he'll care for that, or Holderness

"No, only it makes this difference: both things will then be barefaced
robbery. We've never been able to prove anything, though we boys know;
we don't need any proof. Father gives these men the benefit of a doubt.
We've got to stand by him. I know, George, your hand's begun to itch for
your gun. So does mine. But we've orders to obey."

Many gullies and canyons headed up on the slope of Coconina west of
Silver Cup, and ran down to open wide on the flat desert. They contained
plots of white sage and bunches of rich grass and cold springs. The
steers that ranged these ravines were wild as wolves, and in the tangled
thickets of juniper and manzanita and jumbles of weathered cliff they
were exceedingly difficult to catch.

Well it was that Hare had received his initiation and had become inured
to rough, incessant work, for now he came to know the real stuff of
which these Mormons were made. No obstacle barred them. They penetrated
the gullies to the last step; they rode weathered slopes that were
difficult for deer to stick upon; they thrashed the bayonet-guarded
manzanita copses; they climbed into labyrinthine fastnesses, penetrating
to every nook where a steer could hide. Miles of sliding slope and
marble-bottomed streambeds were ascended on foot, for cattle could climb
where a horse could not. Climbing was arduous enough, yet the hardest
and most perilous toil began when a wild steer was cornered. They roped
the animals on moving slopes of weathered stone, and branded them on the
edges of precipices.

The days and weeks passed, how many no one counted or cared. The circle
of the sun daily lowered over the south end of Coconina; and the black
snow-clouds crept down the slopes. Frost whitened the ground at dawn,
and held half the day in the shade. Winter was close at the heels of the
long autumn.

As for Hare, true to August Naab's assertion, he had lost flesh and
suffered, and though the process was heartbreaking in its severity,
he hung on till he hardened into a leather lunged, wire-muscled man,
capable of keeping pace with his companions.

He began his day with the dawn when he threw off the frost-coated
tarpaulin; the icy water brought him a glow of exhilaration; he drank in
the spiced cold air, and there was the spring of the deer-hunter in his
step as he went down the slope for his horse. He no longer feared that
Silvermane would run away. The gray's bell could always be heard near
camp in the mornings, and when Hare whistled there came always the
answering thump of hobbled feet. When Silvermane saw him striding
through the cedars or across the grassy belt of the valley he would
neigh his gladness. Hare had come to love Silvermane and talked to him
and treated him as if he were human.

When the mustangs were brought into camp the day's work began, the
same work as that of yesterday, and yet with endless variety, with
ever-changing situations that called for quick wits, steel arms,
stout hearts, and unflagging energies. The darkening blue sky and the
sun-tipped crags of Vermillion Cliffs were signals to start for camp.
They ate like wolves, sat for a while around the camp-fire, a ragged,
weary, silent group; and soon lay down, their dark faces in the shadow
of the cedars.

In the beginning of this toil-filled time Hare had resolutely set
himself to forget Mescal, and he had succeeded at least for a time, when
he was so sore and weary that he scarcely thought at all. But she came
back to him, and then there was seldom an hour that was not hers. The
long months which seemed years since he had seen her, the change in him
wrought by labor and peril, the deepening friendship between him and
Dave, even the love he bore Silvermane--these, instead of making dim the
memory of the dark-eyed girl, only made him tenderer in his thought of

Snow drove the riders from the canyon-camp down to Silver Cup, where
they found August Naab and Snap, who had ridden in the day before.

"Now you couldn't guess how many cattle are back there in the canyons,"
said Dave to his father.

"I haven't any idea," answered August, dubiously.

"Five thousand head."

"Dave!" His father's tone was incredulous.

"Yes. You know we haven't been back in there for years. The stock has
multiplied rapidly in spite of the lions and wolves. Not only that, but
they're safe from the winter, and are not likely to be found by Dene or
anybody else."

"How do you make that out?"

"The first cattle we drove in used to come back here to Silver Cup
to winter. Then they stopped coming, and we almost forgot them. Well,
they've got a trail round under the Saddle, and they go down and winter
in the canyon. In summer they head up those rocky gullies, but they
can't get up on the mountain. So it isn't likely any one will ever
discover them. They are wild as deer and fatter than any stock on the

"Good! That's the best news I've had in many a day. Now, boys, we'll
ride the mountain slope toward Seeping Springs, drive the cattle down,
and finish up this branding. Somebody ought to go to White Sage. I'd
like to know what's going on, what Holderness is up to, what Dene is
doing, if there's any stock being driven to Lund."

"I told you I'd go," said Snap Naab.

"I don't want you to," replied his father. "I guess it can wait till
spring, then we'll all go in. I might have thought to bring you boys out
some clothes and boots. You're pretty ragged. Jack there, especially,
looks like a scarecrow. Has he worked as hard as he looks?"

"Father, he never lost a day," replied Dave, warmly, "and you know what
riding is in these canyons."

August Naab looked at Hare and laughed. "It'd be funny, wouldn't it, if
Holderness tried to slap you now? I always knew you'd do, Jack, and now
you're one of us, and you'll have a share with my sons in the cattle."

But the generous promise failed to offset the feeling aroused by the
presence of Snap Naab. With the first sight of Snap's sharp face and
strange eyes Hare became conscious of an inward heat, which he had felt
before, but never as now, when there seemed to be an actual flame within
his breast. Yet Snap seemed greatly changed; the red flush, the swollen
lines no longer showed in his face; evidently in his absence on the
Navajo desert he had had no liquor; he was good-natured, lively,
much inclined to joking, and he seemed to have entirely forgotten his
animosity toward Hare. It was easy for Hare to see that the man's evil
nature was in the ascendancy only when he was under the dominance of
drink. But he could not forgive; he could not forget. Mescal's dark,
beautiful eyes haunted him. Even now she might be married to this man.
Perhaps that was why Snap appeared to be in such cheerful spirits.
Suspense added its burdensome insistent question, but he could not bring
himself to ask August if the marriage had taken place. For a day he
fought to resign himself to the inevitability of the Mormon custom, to
forget Mescal, and then he gave up trying. This surrender he felt to be
something crucial in his life, though he could not wholly understand it.
It was the darkening of his spirit; the death of boyish gentleness;
the concluding step from youth into a forced manhood. The desert
regeneration had not stopped at turning weak lungs, vitiated blood, and
flaccid muscles into a powerful man; it was at work on his mind,
his heart, his soul. They answered more and more to the call of some
outside, ever-present, fiercely subtle thing.

Thenceforth he no longer vexed himself by trying to forget Mescal; if
she came to mind he told himself the truth, that the weeks and months
had only added to his love. And though it was bitter-sweet there was
relief in speaking the truth to himself. He no longer blinded himself by
hoping, striving to have generous feelings toward Snap Naab; he called
the inward fire by its real name--jealousy--and knew that in the end it
would become hatred.

On the third morning after leaving Silver Cup the riders were working
slowly along the slope of Coconina; and Hare having driven down a bunch
of cattle, found himself on an open ridge near the temporary camp.
Happening to glance up the valley he saw what appeared to be smoke
hanging over Seeping Springs.

"That can't be dust," he soliloquized. "Looks blue to me."

He studied the hazy bluish cloud for some time, but it was so many miles
away that he could not be certain whether it was smoke or not, so he
decided to ride over and make sure. None of the Naabs was in camp, and
there was no telling when they would return, so he set off alone. He
expected to get back before dark, but it was of little consequence
whether he did or not, for he had his blanket under the saddle, and
grain for Silvermane and food for himself in the saddle-bags.

Long before Silvermane's easy trot had covered half the distance Hare
recognized the cloud that had made him curious. It was smoke. He thought
that range-riders were camping at the springs, and he meant to see what
they were about. After three hours of brisk travel he reached the top of
a low rolling knoll that hid Seeping Springs. He remembered the springs
were up under the red wall, and that the pool where the cattle drank was
lower down in a clump of cedars. He saw smoke rising in a column from
the cedars, and he heard the lowing of cattle.

"Something wrong here," he muttered. Following the trail, he rode
through the cedars to come upon the dry hole where the pool had once
been. There was no water in the flume. The bellowing cattle came from
beyond the cedars, down the other side of the ridge. He was not long in
reaching the open, and then one glance made all clear.

A new pool, large as a little lake, shone in the sunlight, and round it
a jostling horned mass of cattle were pressing against a high corral.
The flume that fed water to the pool was fenced all the way up to the

Jack slowly rode down the ridge with eyes roving under the cedars and up
to the wall. Not a man was in sight.

When he got to the fire he saw that it was not many hours old and was
surrounded by fresh boot and horse tracks in the dust. Piles of slender
pine logs, trimmed flat on one side, were proof of somebody's intention
to erect a cabin. In a rage he flung himself from the saddle. It was not
many moments' work for him to push part of the fire under the fence,
and part of it against the pile of logs. The pitch-pines went off like
rockets, driving the thirsty cattle back.

"I'm going to trail those horse-tracks," said Hare.

He tore down a portion of the fence enclosing the flume, and gave
Silvermane a drink, then put him to a fast trot on the white trail. The
tracks he had resolved to follow were clean-cut. A few inches of snow
had fallen in the valley, and melting, had softened the hard ground.
Silvermane kept to his gait with the tirelessness of a desert horse.
August Naab had once said fifty miles a day would be play for the
stallion. All the afternoon Hare watched the trail speed toward him and
the end of Coconina rise above him. Long before sunset he had reached
the slope of the mountain and had begun the ascent. Half way up he came
to the snow and counted the tracks of three horses. At twilight he rode
into the glade where August Naab had waited for his Navajo friends.
There, in a sheltered nook among the rocks, he unsaddled Silvermane,
covered and fed him, built a fire, ate sparingly of his meat and bread,
and rolling up in his blanket, was soon asleep.

He was up and off before sunrise, and he came out on the western slope
of Coconina just as the shadowy valley awakened from its misty sleep
into daylight. Soon the Pink Cliffs leaned out, glimmering and vast, to
change from gloomy gray to rosy glow, and then to brighten and to redden
in the morning sun.

The snow thinned and failed, but the iron-cut horsetracks showed plainly
in the trail. At the foot of the mountain the tracks left the White Sage
trail and led off to the north toward the cliffs. Hare searched the red
sage-spotted waste for Holderness's ranch. He located it, a black patch
on the rising edge of the valley under the wall, and turned Silvermane
into the tracks that pointed straight toward it.

The sun cleared Coconina and shone warm on his back; the Pink Cliffs
lifted higher and higher before him. From the ridge-tops he saw the
black patch grow into cabins and corrals. As he neared the ranch he came
into rolling pasture-land where the bleached grass shone white and the
cattle were ranging in the thousands. This range had once belonged to
Martin Cole, and Hare thought of the bitter Mormon as he noted the snug
cabins for the riders, the rambling, picturesque ranch-house, the large
corrals, and the long flume that ran down from the cliff. There was a
corral full of shaggy horses, and another full of steers, and two lines
of cattle, one going into a pond-corral, and one coming out. The air was
gray with dust. A bunch of yearlings were licking at huge lumps of brown
rock-salt. A wagonful of cowhides stood before the ranch-house.

Hare reined in at the door and helloed.

A red-faced ranger with sandy hair and twinkling eyes appeared.

"Hello, stranger, get down an' come in," he said.

"Is Holderness here?" asked Hare.

"No. He's been to Lund with a bunch of steers. I reckon he'll be in
White Sage by now. I'm Snood, the foreman. Is it a job ridin' you want?"


"Say! thet hoss--" he exclaimed. His gaze of friendly curiosity had
moved from Hare to Silvermane. "You can corral me if it ain't thet
Sevier range stallion!"

"Yes," said Hare.

Snood's whoop brought three riders to the door, and when he pointed to
the horse, they stepped out with good-natured grins and admiring eyes.

"I never seen him but onc't," said one.

"Lordy, what a hoss!" Snood walked round Silvermane. "If I owned this
ranch I'd trade it for that stallion. I know Silvermane. He an' I hed
some chases over in Nevada. An', stranger, who might you be?"

"I'm one of August Naab's riders."

"Dene's spy!" Snood looked Hare over carefully, with much interest, and
without any show of ill-will. "I've heerd of you. An' what might one of
Naab's riders want of Holderness?"

"I rode in to Seeping Springs yesterday," said Hare, eying the foreman.
"There was a new pond, fenced in. Our cattle couldn't drink. There were
a lot of trimmed logs. Somebody was going to build a cabin. I burned
the corrals and logs--and I trailed fresh tracks from Seeping Springs to
this ranch."

"The h--l you did!" shouted Snood, and his face flamed. "See here,
stranger, you're the second man to accuse some of my riders of such
dirty tricks. That's enough for me. I was foreman of this ranch till
this minute. I was foreman, but there were things gain' on thet I didn't
know of. I kicked on thet deal with Martin Cole. I quit. I steal no
man's water. Is thet good with you?"

Snood's query was as much a challenge as a question. He bit savagely at
his pipe. Hare offered his hand.

"Your word goes. Dave Naab said you might be Holderness's foreman, but
you weren't a liar or a thief. I'd believe it even if Dave hadn't told

"Them fellers you tracked rode in here yesterday. They're gone now. I've
no more to say, except I never hired them."

"I'm glad to hear it. Good-day, Snood, I'm in something of a hurry."

With that Hare faced about in the direction of White Sage. Once clear of
the corrals he saw the village closer than he had expected to find it.
He walked Silvermane most of the way, and jogged along the rest, so that
he reached the village in the twilight. Memory served him well. He rode
in as August Naab had ridden out, and arrived at the Bishop's barn-yard,
where he put up his horse. Then he went to the house. It was necessary
to introduce himself for none of the Bishop's family recognized in
him the young man they had once befriended. The old Bishop prayed and
reminded him of the laying on of hands. The women served him with food,
the young men brought him new boots and garments to replace those that
had been worn to tatters. Then they plied him with questions about the
Naabs, whom they had not seen for nearly a year. They rejoiced at his
recovered health; they welcomed him with warm words.

Later Hare sought an interview alone with the Bishop's sons, and he told
them of the loss of the sheep, of the burning of the new corrals, of
the tracks leading to Holderness's ranch. In turn they warned him of his
danger, and gave him information desired by August Naab. Holderness's
grasp on the outlying ranges and water-rights had slowly and surely
tightened; every month he acquired new territory; he drove cattle
regularly to Lund, and it was no secret that much of the stock came from
the eastern slope of Coconina. He could not hire enough riders to do his
work. A suspicion that he was not a cattle-man but a rustler had
slowly gained ground; it was scarcely hinted, but it was believed.
His friendship with Dene had become offensive to the Mormons, who had
formerly been on good footing with him. Dene's killing of Martin
Cole was believed to have been at Holderness's instigation. Cole had
threatened Holderness. Then Dene and Cole had met in the main street
of White Sage. Cole's death ushered in the bloody time that he had
prophesied. Dene's band had grown; no man could say how many men he had
or who they were. Chance and Culver were openly his lieutenants, and
whenever they came into the village there was shooting. There were ugly
rumors afloat in regard to their treatment of Mormon women. The wives
and daughters of once peaceful White Sage dared no longer venture
out-of-doors after nightfall. There was more money in coin and more
whiskey than ever before in the village. Lund and the few villages
northward were terrorized as well as White Sage. It was a bitter story.

The Bishop and his sons tried to persuade Hare next morning to leave
the village without seeing Holderness, urging the futility of such a

"I will see him," said Hare. He spent the morning at the cottage, and
when it came time to take his leave he smiled into the anxious faces.
"If I weren't able to take care of myself August Naab would never have
said so."

Had Hare asked himself what he intended to do when he faced Holderness
he could not have told. His feelings were pent-in, bound, but at the
bottom something rankled. His mind seemed steeped in still thunderous

How well he remembered the quaint wide street, the gray church! As he
rode many persons stopped to gaze at Silvermane. He turned the corner
into the main thoroughfare. A new building had been added to the several
stores. Mustangs stood, bridles down, before the doors; men lounged
along the railings.

As he dismounted he heard the loungers speak of his horse, and he saw
their leisurely manner quicken. He stepped into the store to meet more
men, among them August Naab's friend Abe. Hare might never have been in
White Sage for all the recognition he found, but he excited something
keener than curiosity. He asked for spurs, a clasp-knife and some other
necessaries, and he contrived, when momentarily out of sight behind
a pile of boxes, to whisper his identity to Abe. The Mormon was
dumbfounded. When he came out of his trance he showed his gladness, and
at a question of Hare's he silently pointed toward the saloon.

Hare faced the open door. The room had been enlarged; it was now on a
level with the store floor, and was blue with smoke, foul with the fumes
of rum, and noisy with the voices of dark, rugged men.

A man in the middle of the room was dancing a jig.

"Hello, who's this?" he said, straightening up.

It might have been the stopping of the dance or the quick spark in
Hare's eyes that suddenly quieted the room. Hare had once vowed to
himself that he would never forget the scarred face; it belonged to the
outlaw Chance.

The sight of it flashed into the gulf of Hare's mind like a meteor into
black night. A sudden madness raced through his veins.

"Hello, Don't you know me?" he said, with a long step that brought him
close to Chance.

The outlaw stood irresolute. Was this an old friend or an enemy? His
beady eyes scintillated and twitched as if they sought to look him over,
yet dared not because it was only in the face that intention could be

The stillness of the room broke to a hoarse whisper from some one.

"Look how he packs his gun."

Another man answering whispered: "There's not six men in Utah who pack a
gun thet way."

Chance heard these whispers, for his eye shifted downward the merest
fraction of a second. The brick color of his face turned a dirty white.

"Do you know me?" demanded Hare.

Chance's answer was a spasmodic jerking of his hand toward his hip.
Hare's arm moved quicker, and Chance's Colt went spinning to the floor.

"Too slow," said Hare. Then he flung Chance backward and struck him
blows that sent his head with sodden thuds against the log wall. Chance
sank to the floor in a heap.

Hare kicked the outlaw's gun out of the way, and wheeled to the crowd.
Holderness stood foremost, his tall form leaning against the bar, his
clear eyes shining like light on ice.

"Do you know me?" asked Hare, curtly.

Holderness started slightly. "I certainly don't," he replied.

"You slapped my face once." Hare leaned close to the rancher. "Slap it
now--you rustler!"

In the slow, guarded instant when Hare's gaze held Holderness and the
other men, a low murmuring ran through the room.

"Dene's spy!" suddenly burst out Holderness.

Hare slapped his face. Then he backed a few paces with his right arm
held before him almost as high as his shoulder, the wrist rigid, the
fingers quivering.

"Don't try to draw, Holderness. Thet's August Naab's trick with a gun,"
whispered a man, hurriedly.

"Holderness, I made a bonfire over at Seeping Springs," said Hare. "I
burned the new corrals your men built, and I tracked them to your ranch.
Snood threw up his job when he heard it. He's an honest man, and
no honest man will work for a water-thief, a cattle-rustler, a
sheep-killer. You're shown up, Holderness. Leave the country before some
one kills you--understand, before some one kills you!"

Holderness stood motionless against the bar, his eyes fierce with
passionate hate.

Hare backed step by step to the outside door, his right hand still high,
his look holding the crowd bound to the last instant. Then he slipped
out, scattered the group round Silvermane, and struck hard with the

The gray, never before spurred, broke down the road into his old wild

Men were crossing from the corner of the green square. One, a compact
little fellow, swarthy, his dark hair long and flowing, with jaunty and
alert air, was Dene, the outlaw leader. He stopped, with his companions,
to let the horse cross.

Hare guided the thundering stallion slightly to the left. Silvermane
swerved and in two mighty leaps bore down on the outlaw. Dene saved
himself by quickly leaping aside, but even as he moved Silvermane struck
him with his left fore-leg, sending him into the dust.

At the street corner Hare glanced back. Yelling men were rushing from
the saloon and some of them fired after him. The bullets whistled
harmlessly behind Hare. Then the corner house shut off his view.

Silvermane lengthened out and stretched lower with his white mane flying
and his nose pointed level for the desert.

Next: The Desert-hawk

Previous: The Scent Of Desert-water

Add to Informational Site Network

Viewed 523