The Project Gutenberg eBook of Buffalo Bill, Peacemaker; Or, On a Troublesome Trail

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Title: Buffalo Bill, Peacemaker; Or, On a Troublesome Trail

Author: Prentiss Ingraham

Release date: February 2, 2021 [eBook #64446]

Language: English

Credits: David Edwards, Susan Carr and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at


Buffalo Bill, Peacemaker


Colonel Prentiss Ingraham

Author of the celebrated “Buffalo Bill” stories published in the
Border Stories. For other titles see catalogue.




79-89 Seventh Avenue, New York

Copyright, 1910


Buffalo Bill, Peacemaker

(Printed in the United States of America)

All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign
languages, including the Scandinavian.



[Pg 1]


It is now some generations since Josh Billings, Ned Buntline, and Colonel Prentiss Ingraham, intimate friends of Colonel William F. Cody, used to forgather in the office of Francis S. Smith, then proprietor of the New York Weekly. It was a dingy little office on Rose Street, New York, but the breath of the great outdoors stirred there when these old-timers got together. As a result of these conversations, Colonel Ingraham and Ned Buntline began to write of the adventures of Buffalo Bill for Street & Smith.

Colonel Cody was born in Scott County, Iowa, February 26, 1846. Before he had reached his teens, his father, Isaac Cody, with his mother and two sisters, migrated to Kansas, which at that time was little more than a wilderness.

When the elder Cody was killed shortly afterward in the Kansas “Border War,” young Bill assumed the difficult rôle of family breadwinner. During 1860, and until the outbreak of the Civil War, Cody lived the arduous life of a pony-express rider. Cody volunteered his services as government scout and guide and served throughout the Civil War with Generals McNeil and A. J. Smith. He was a distinguished member of the Seventh Kansas Cavalry.

During the Civil War, while riding through the streets of St. Louis, Cody rescued a frightened schoolgirl from a band of annoyers. In true romantic style, Cody and Louisa Federci, the girl, were married March 6, 1866.

In 1867 Cody was employed to furnish a specified amount of buffalo meat to the construction men at work on the Kansas Pacific Railroad. It was in this period that he received the sobriquet “Buffalo Bill.”

In 1868 and for four years thereafter Colonel Cody[2] served as scout and guide in campaigns against the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians. It was General Sheridan who conferred on Cody the honor of chief of scouts of the command.

After completing a period of service in the Nebraska legislature, Cody joined the Fifth Cavalry in 1876, and was again appointed chief of scouts.

Colonel Cody’s fame had reached the East long before, and a great many New Yorkers went out to see him and join in his buffalo hunts, including such men as August Belmont, James Gordon Bennett, Anson Stager, and J. G. Heckscher. In entertaining these visitors at Fort McPherson, Cody was accustomed to arrange wild-West exhibitions. In return his friends invited him to visit New York. It was upon seeing his first play in the metropolis that Cody conceived the idea of going into the show business.

Assisted by Ned Buntline, novelist, and Colonel Ingraham, he started his “Wild West” show, which later developed and expanded into “A Congress of the Rough Riders of the World,” first presented at Omaha, Nebraska. In time it became a familiar yearly entertainment in the great cities of this country and Europe. Many famous personages attended the performances, and became his warm friends, including Mr. Gladstone, the Marquis of Lorne, King Edward, Queen Victoria, and the Prince of Wales, now King of England.

At the outbreak of the Sioux, in 1890 and 1891, Colonel Cody served at the head of the Nebraska National Guard. In 1895 Cody took up the development of Wyoming Valley by introducing irrigation. Not long afterward he became judge advocate general of the Wyoming National Guard.

Colonel Cody (Buffalo Bill) died in Denver, Colorado, on January 10, 1917. His legacy to a grateful world was a large share in the development of the West, and a multitude of achievements in horsemanship, marksmanship, and endurance that will live for ages. His life will continue to be a leading example of the manliness, courage, and devotion to duty that belonged to a picturesque phase of American life now passed, like the great patriot whose career it typified, into the Great Beyond.




Fate was in a very capricious mood when Buffalo Bill and his pards carried their activities into the Lone Star State. They galloped over the plains and plunged full tilt into one of the most surprising misplays ever made by that arrant gamester—Chance.

There was a triangle of blunders, and it so happened that there was a pard in each corner, ready to take advantage of what came his way and turn misfortune into fortune for Cattleman Perry, his daughter Hattie, and a worthy cowboy of the name of Dunbar. The powerful clique of cattle barons were beaten at their own game of freeze out—and for this they had the scout and his pards to thank.

Buffalo Bill dropped into his corner of the complication on the wide grazing grounds, en route to the town of Hackamore, where he was to join Wild Bill, old Nomad, the trapper, who had shared many dangers with the scout, Baron von Schuitzenhauser, his Dutch pard, and Little Cayuse, his Indian trailer. And when it is said that he “dropped” into the complication, the statement is to be taken literally.

It was a night, a night made brilliant by moon and stars. The scout was two days from Portales, New Mexico,[6] having diverged from the trail taken by his pards in order to halt for half a day in the town of Texico.

Buffalo Bill was off the trail, a plainsman having shown him a short cut that was to save many miles of saddle work. As Bear Paw forged ahead at a slow, steady gallop, the scout rocked gently in his saddle, half dozing.

He did not see the stovepipe that rose out of the ground in front of him, nor did he see the little ridgelike lifting of the earth adjacent to the stovepipe.

Bear Paw saw the pipe, however, and to evade it attempted to cross the small elevation. Intelligent horse though he was, how was he to know that elevation was not solid earth?

The black charger was in for a surprise. It was sprung with demoralizing suddenness.

Two strides carried Bear Paw over the high point of the ridge; a third stride brought a crash under his rear hoofs, and the after part of his body slumped downward.

A startled yell, seemingly coming out of the very earth, smote on the scout’s ears.

Caught at a disadvantage by the accident, Buffalo Bill was thrown backward out of his saddle and clear of the struggling horse.

Bear Paw’s front hoofs were on solid ground and, with a prodigious effort, he saved himself from sinking and clambered to safety beyond the deceptive ridge. But the scout dropped through the breach, grabbed at a log rafter, missed it, and fell in a huddle for a distance of ten feet.

He brought up on all fours, jarred through and through and blinking in a cloud of dust and a flood of[7] lamplight. A clutter of dirt and broken poles lay around him.

The transformation from an easy gallop over the cool, open plain to this underground hole with its light and dust, had been so abrupt that the scout was taken at a loss.

But he was not the only one taken at a loss. In front of him, as the flurry of dust was wafted aside, he saw a strapping figure in hickory shirt, homespun trousers and cowhide boots—a figure topped with a mop of red hair, under which was a lean, leathery face.

The face of the figure was blank. Two washed-out blue eyes stared at the scout; and the scout, on hands and knees, stared back.

“Who in blazes are ye?” demanded the red-headed man, all at once finding his voice.

“A stranger and a traveler,” answered the scout, the ludicrous nature of the situation gradually appealing to him. “A man who—er—a-tchoo!”

“What d’ye mean by knockin’ a hole in the roof an’ slammin’ in on me like this?” went on the other, coming out of his surprise with a manner distinctly hostile.

The scout picked himself up slowly, felt of his bruises, and gave vent to a grewsome laugh.

“If you think, amigo, that I meant to knock a hole in your roof,” said he, “you’ve another guess coming. If I had planned to pay you a visit I wouldn’t have gone about it like this, would I?”

“How do I know who ye are, or what ye’d do?” fumed the other, far and away more savage than the scout thought the mishap warranted. “I don’t want no truck with ye, anyways. If ye didn’t allow ter pay me a visit, an’ if ye ain’t here from ch’ice, then yore next move is[8] ter git out as quick as ye come in. Them’s the stairs”—he waved a hand toward a ladder that led upward to a flat door in the roof—“an’ at the same time we says hello, we also says good-by. Start yerself.”

“I’m not inclined to stay here any longer than you want to have me,” answered the scout, “but I landed with something of a jolt. If it’s all the same to you, I’ll just catch my breath before I try the stairs.”

“It ain’t all the same ter me,” barked the man. “I want ye ter go, an’ I want ye ter go ter oncet! With this ter back up the invite, I reckon ye won’t stand none on the order ter hike.”

The red-haired man made a swipe at his belt and lifted a hairy hand with a six-shooter. Buffalo Bill looked him in the eye and then coolly sat down on a two-legged stool that happened to be handy.

“I’ve heard a good deal about Texas hospitality,” said he, “but you’re giving it a hardware twist that I don’t like. And when I don’t like a thing,” he added significantly, “I’m apt to make it pretty plain.”

“Ye kain’t run in any rannikaboo on me,” snorted the red-haired person, jabbing the air with the point of his gun. “Ye say yer drappin’ in was a accident. I’m lettin’ it go at that, an’ givin’ ye a chance ter depart without any fireworks. An’ I ain’t sayin’ nothin’ about the damage ye done ter the dugout, nuther. Pick up yore hat an’ scatter. I’ll count three. When I say ‘one,’ ye’ll reach fer the hat; when I say ‘two,’ ye’ll be on the stairs; an’ when I say ‘three,’ ye’ll either be through that door in the roof or I’ll drop ye in yer tracks.”

The barbarous methods of this red-haired man were utterly uncalled for. He was showing a spirit that needed taming.


Buffalo Bill dropped his eyes to the litter on the floor. His hat lay there, and from under the brim of the hat showed two inches of revolver-muzzle. One of the scout’s six-shooters had been jarred from his belt and had fallen under the sombrero.


The word was a yelp, and the blued barrel of the Texan’s gun looked the scout full in the face.

“All right,” said Buffalo Bill cheerily.

He reached for his hat with both hands. But only one hand picked up the hat; the other caught the handle of the six-shooter.

Then something happened which the Texan had not been looking for. As the scout arose from the stool, the report of a firearm split the air. A bullet passed through the crown of the sombrero, singed the Texan’s ear and clipped a lock of his red hair.

For an instant, barely an instant, the Texan’s revolver shook uncertainly. That instant spelled opportunity for the scout. With the speed of thought he grabbed the hostile gun, jerked it away, and looked over the sights at its owner.

“Why don’t you count ‘two?’” inquired the scout pleasantly.

But the Texan had lost the count. Instead of trying to find it, and go on with it, he began to swear.

“Sit down,” ordered Buffalo Bill. “I’ve caught my breath, all right, but I want to read you a lesson in common civility, and show you how to treat a traveler who accidentally drops in on you through the roof of your dugout.”

Some one laughed. It was not the red-haired man, of course, for he was in anything but a merry mood.[10] The laughter came from behind the scout, and was the first intimation that there was any one else in the place.

The scout could not very well turn from the red-haired man and investigate.

“Who’s doing that?” he demanded.

“You git right out o’ here!” flamed the red-haired man. “This ain’t none o’ yore put-in, or——”

“I wasn’t talking to you,” cut in the scout sharply. “Who are you, behind there?”

“Nate Dunbar,” came the answer.

“If you’re a friend of this red-headed rawhide, Dunbar,” proceeded the scout, “why don’t you step up behind me and help him put me out?”

“For two reasons,” answered the voice behind. “First off, neighbor, I’m no friend of Red Steve’s. Then, again, I’m lashed and laid away on the shelf. If I was able to move, I’d take Red Steve down and choke the breath out of him.”

“Dunbar’s a hoss thief that I’ve captured,” cried Red Steve, “an’ I want ye ter go on erbout yore bizness an’ leave us alone.”

“I’m no horse thief,” said Dunbar, “and Red Steve talks crooked. He’s working for Benner, and Phelps, and the rest of those cattle barons on the Brazos. It’s tin-horn work, too, and Red has to use the double tongue.”

“I thought there was something more than just common incivility back of his treatment of me,” observed the scout, a glitter rising in the eyes that looked across the revolver sights. “Don’t you try to talk!” he said sternly to the man in front of him. “Walk around and take the ropes off Dunbar. When I count ‘one,’ you’ll begin to move; when I say ‘two,’ you’ll begin on the ropes; and[11] when I finish with ‘three,’ if Dunbar isn’t clear of his bonds, I’ll do something more than singe your ear and take a lock of your red hair. Chance, it seems, has bobbled, and dropped me into the right place at just about the right time. Now, then, one!”

There was that in the scout’s eyes and manner which caused Red Steve to start promptly toward the other side of the dugout. As he moved, the scout turned on the stool and let the revolver follow him.



On the plains of northwest Texas, in an early day, the dugout was a popular institution. No wind could shake such a house, and no earthquake could topple it over. In most structures, a man begins at the bottom and builds to the top, but in a dwelling like that under consideration a man begins at the top and works downward.

The usual underground house measured about fifteen by twenty feet, and was from seven to ten feet in height. Some three feet from the floor the walls were abruptly widened out, thus giving a shelf in the earthen wall. This shelf extended around the whole room, and was three feet in width—or more or less according to the fancy of the owner.

The shelf took the place of chairs, of dining table and of bunks. A few three-legged stools might be added, if the one who occupied the underground house had the wood and the time necessary to make them.

A fireplace was usually cut in the solid dirt wall and, with an ordinary posthole augur, a chimney was bored down to it. A joint of stovepipe, extending upward from the top of the hole, gave the fireplace a chance to breathe.

The construction of the roof was as simple as that of the rest of the house.

A log was laid lengthwise across the top of the dugout, in the direction of its greatest length. This was the ridgepole. Smaller logs were then placed with[13] one end on this and the other on the ground. Poles covered the rafters, hay covered the poles, and a layer of earth covered the hay. A door was contrived in the slant of roof from the ridgepole. Stairs communicating with the door were sometimes cut in the solid earth, and sometimes—as in the case of Red Steve’s dugout—the only stairway was a stepladder.

In a cattle country, where cowboys go galloping recklessly over the range, or where longhorns occasionally stampede, it stands the dugout dweller in hand to make his roof exceptionally strong. Either Red Steve had failed to make his roof of the proper strength, or else age had weakened it.

This was not the scout’s first visit to such a house, but it was the first time he had ever dropped bodily into a dugout and into the curious tangle he had found in this one.

A tin lamp stood on the earthen shelf. Red Steve, covered by the scout’s revolver, moved sullenly to the shelf at the end of the dugout. There, somewhat in the shadow, lay the form of a cowboy. The scout could not see much of him, but he knew very well that he would see more of him later.

“Two!” called Buffalo Bill. “That’s your cue to begin the untying, Red Steve.”

“This ain’t goin’ ter be the end of this,” snarled the red-haired Texan. “Ye ain’t got no bizness buttin’ in on me an’ makin’ me let this feller go. Some big men over on the Brazos’ll call ye ter time fer it.”

“I’ll foot any bill the big men over on the Brazos present,” returned the scout. “Meanwhile, you heard what I said a minute ago, Red Steve. Carry out your orders and there’ll be no trouble.”


“But ye don’t understand! This here galoot is a villain from the spurs up, so——”

“I can’t see much of him, but if he’s more of a villain than you’ve shown yourself to be, I’ll be more surprised than I was when I dropped through your roof. I said ‘two’ all of a minute ago,” the scout finished significantly.

Swearing under his breath, Red Steve went roughly to work at the ropes on the prisoner’s hands.

“He’s trying to tear my arms off, I reckon,” growled Nate Dunbar.


Steve’s weapon spoke hoarsely from the scout’s hand. A bullet “plunked” into the earth wall over the shelf, fanning close to Steve’s face.

“I haven’t counted ‘three,’ yet,” said the scout, “so that’s only a warning. Be a little more careful, Steve.”

The red-haired man, by that time, was firmly convinced that his unwelcome visitor had not been talking for effect. In a few moments he had removed the ropes. Dunbar got off the shelf and stamped his feet and thrashed his arms to get his blood back into normal circulation.

As he came out farther into the lamplight, Buffalo Bill saw that he was an athletic young fellow, of about twenty-one or two. He wore the high-heeled boots of a cowboy, “chaps” were buckled about his waist, and a blue flannel shirt covered his broad shoulders. His face was frank and pleasing, not to say handsome.

“You don’t know much about me, pardner,” he remarked to Buffalo Bill, “but I can show a clean record.”

“I’ll gamble on that, amigo,” said the scout. “Just from the looks of you, Dunbar, I’m positive I haven’t[15] made any mistake. How did you happen to fall into Red Steve’s clutches?”

“It was a put-up job,” was the answer. “Steve’s working for the cattlemen over on the Brazos, and they were paying him to keep me here until they figured out what to do with me.”

“Are you a rancher?”

“I’m a cattleman, and I’ve an interest in Dick Perry’s bunch of steers.”

“Who’s Dick Perry?”

“He’s the man the other cattlemen are trying to freeze out.”

A scowl came over Dunbar’s face and his eye flashed ominously.

“Why are the cattle barons trying to freeze him out?” asked the scout, conscious of a deep interest in the young cowboy and his fortunes.

“It’s all on account of Hattie.”


“Yes, Hattie Perry, Dick’s girl.”

“Ah! We’re running into romance, I reckon.”

The scowl faded from Dunbar’s face and a flush ran through his bronzed cheeks.

“You’ve been a friend of mine, stranger,” said he, “and I don’t mind throwing the proposition wide open for you. Lige Benner has wanted to marry Hattie for some time, and he asked her and got turned down. But that didn’t phase him, and he went to Dick with his proposition and got turned down again. Benner has acted like more kind of a wolf in this business than I know how to tell. When Perry turned on him, and told him where he was to get off, he swore that he’d make[16] Perry so much trouble that Perry would give up Hattie just to be able to live in peace.

“Right then and there, Benner started in to make trouble. Perry’s steers were run off in bunches, some of the ranch buildings were burned, and cowboys from up and down the Brazos came pestering around, doing all sorts of sneaking and underhand things. Every now and then, Benner has some skulking puncher nail a note to the ranch-house door telling Perry that he knows what to do when he’s got enough.”

The scout muttered an angry exclamation.

“That’s a fine state of affairs,” said he. “I shouldn’t think the other cattlemen would stand for such rascally work.”

“Nor I, either; but they do. The rest of the barons are friends of Benner’s, and they’re backing him to a man. Perry’s a late comer on the range, and the cattlemen would like to run him out. I reckon that’s the reason they’re standing by Benner like they are.”

“But what has Benner got against you, Dunbar, that he should have you roped and given into the custody of Red Steve?”

“Well, stranger,” answered Nate Dunbar, with some embarrassment, “Hattie has promised to marry me, and that’s reason enough for Benner taking the sort of stand against me that he does.”

“Oh!” exclaimed the scout, “so that’s how the wind blows, is it? This free country of ours has dropped into a fine state of lawlessness if a young lady can’t choose her own husband without turning loose the dogs of war. What does Dick Perry think about you, Nate?”

“He’s on my side. Didn’t I tell you I had an interest in his ranch? We’re friends, Dick and I are. Benner’s[17] rich, but that doesn’t make any difference with Hattie. She’s true blue, and all for me no matter what happens. But I sure hate to have all this trouble come upon her and her father.”

The scout, still keeping the business end of the revolver unswervingly upon Red Steve, debated the situation in his mind.

“How did Benner manage to get hold of you, Nate?” he inquired.

“I was out looking for strayed or stolen cattle,” said Dunbar, “when half a dozen of Benner’s men jumped me. It was in a dry wash, and the whelps rolled down on me so quick I couldn’t do a thing. It was yesterday this happened, and I was lugged to this dugout and left in the hands of Red Steve.”

“As scoundrelly a game as was ever played,” declared the scout, “and it doesn’t speak very well for the cattlemen in these parts.”

“These are flush days on this part of the range,” went on Dunbar; “anything with horns, hoofs and hide comes pretty near being worth its weight in gold. All the barons on the Brazos are rich, and Perry would be worth quite a pile if the rest of the ranchers would only let him and his stock alone. It ought to be stopped. By thunder, it’s a disgrace the way Perry is being treated.”

“You’re right,” said the scout, “this hectoring ought to be stopped. I’ve a notion to bear a hand and help you and Perry put an end to the lawless situation.”

A scornful laugh broke from Red Steve’s lips.

“You fellers ’u’d play hob puttin’ a kink in this game o’ the cattle barons,” he taunted. “The’s half a dozen of ’em an’ two or three hunnerd cowboys. Oh, yes, ye’ll play hob stoppin’ ’em!”


A look of fierce helplessness crossed Nate Dunbar’s face.

“If we can’t stop the lawless work,” he cried desperately, “there are still bushes at the trailside where a man can lurk and pick off some of the demons who’re causing this trouble.”

“That’s not the talk for a brave young chap like you to put up, Dunbar,” said the scout sternly. “We’ll see what we can do to end this rough situation by more honorable methods.”

“Who are you?” demanded Dunbar, facing the scout squarely.

“Buffalo Bill is what I’m usually called,” was the reply.

The words caused a sensation. Dunbar jumped, and stared; Red Steve also jumped, but in the direction of the ladder.

“Catch that man!” called the scout. “I’ve got a horse outside, and I don’t want him to get away with it.”

Dunbar caught Red Steve and jerked him roughly from the ladder. The spirit seemed to have been all taken out of Steve. His greatest desire now, it seemed, was to keep as great a distance between him and the scout as he could. Pushing against the earthen shelf on the farther side of the room, he watched the scout with weasel-like eyes.

“Where were you going in such a hurry, Red Steve?” demanded the scout.

“I don’t want no truck with you, that’s all,” answered the red-haired Texan. “I don’t want nothin’ ter do with ye, an’ that’s flat.”

“Then you were merely trying to cut loose from my society?”


“I wanted ter git out, an’ I want ter git out now. Why the blazes didn’t ye say ye was Buffler Bill afore? If ye had, I’d ’a’ got out a heap quicker. D’you hold any spite fer me drorin’ the gun on ye?”

“Not a particle, Red Steve,” laughed the scout. “You were trying to run away from here and strike a bee line for the Brazos. You were planning to tell the cattle barons that Buffalo Bill had shown up in this section and was going to help Nate Dunbar and Dick Perry regain their rancher’s rights.”

“How—how’d you know that?”

“I’m a good hand at guessing. I’ve no objection to your carrying that message, Red Steve, but I’ve a horse somewhere outside, and I didn’t want you to run off with him. As soon as Dunbar and I leave the dugout, you’ll be free to hike for the Brazos. Tell Benner and the rest of the cattle barons that Buffalo Bill, as usual, is taking the part of the under dog, that he’s going to extend a helping hand to Nate Dunbar and the Perrys, and that he and his pards will stay in this section long enough to make peace on the Brazos and to shake a foot at the wedding of Nate Dunbar and Miss Perry. All this you’re to tell Benner, Steve, and make it plain to him that it comes from me straight. I didn’t come loping in here to stir up trouble, but now that I’ve found it stirred up, I’m going to put a shoulder to the wheel and settle it.”

The scout turned to Dunbar.

“Have you any property in this hangout, Nate?” he asked.

“That gun you took away from Red Steve belongs to me, Buffalo Bill,” was the reply. “That’s about all I brought with me except my clothes.”


“What became of your horse?”

“That was left with Red Steve’s in a swale to the south of the hangout.”

“Then, amigo, here’s your gun, and we’ll be going.”

The scout motioned Dunbar toward the ladder. The cowboy started up.

“Don’t forget what I told you to tell Benner, Steve,” cautioned the scout as he followed Dunbar. “If this outfit of cattle barons gets in my way, we’re liable to juggle the hatchet somewhat before we bury it.”

As the scout stepped through the slanting door in the roof, a husky laugh floated upward from Red Steve.

“What do you suppose that means?” asked Buffalo Bill of Dunbar.

“Why,” was the answer, “you had Steve going, down there, an’ I reckon he feels good to see the last of you.”

“You’re wide of the mark, Nate. That scoundrel knows something that he thinks will give our work the double cross. But,” the scout added grimly, “that’s a bridge we’ll cross when we get to it.”

Pointing to a jagged break in the roof of the dugout, he went on:

“That’s where Bear Paw broke through with his hind hoofs, rolled me out of the saddle and dropped me below. I hope the horse wasn’t hurt.”

He whistled sharply. The shrill signal was answered by a loud neigh and a thump of approaching hoofs. Another moment and the gallant black was rubbing his nose against the scout’s shoulder.

“I suppose, old sport,” laughed the scout, slapping Bear Paw’s neck, “that you hadn’t a notion what had become of me. That’s the queerest adventure we’ve had[21] in some sort of a while, eh? How did you come through it, boy?”

As well as he could the scout examined the horse. An exclamation of relief escaped his lips.

“His shins are skinned a little,” he announced to Dunbar, “but he came through that affair a heap better than I had dared to hope. Get your horse, Nate,” he added, vaulting into the saddle, “and we’ll be touching the high places.”

Dunbar started south and vanished into a shallow swale. The scout rode after him.

“The horses are here, all right,” called Nate, “but I can’t locate the riding gear.”

“Wasn’t it taken to the dugout?” returned the scout.

“I didn’t see it in there, but—Ah,” he broke off abruptly, “here it is. I just stumbled over it.”

He saddled and bridled in record time, swung a leg over his bronk and rode to the scout’s side.

“Where now, Buffalo Bill?” he asked.

“Take me to Perry’s ranch, Nate,” said Buffalo Bill.

Impulsively Nate Dunbar reached out his hand and gave the scout’s a grateful grip.

“Let me rise to remark,” observed Nate, with a touch of sincere feeling, “that you’re a whole man. I’m playing in big luck to-night. There was about one chance in a thousand that you’d break a hole in that roof—but it’s the one chance that came my way. Dick Perry and Hattie are about discouraged with all their troubles, but they’ll take a fresh lease of hope when they learn that you’re on our side.”

With that, Dunbar pointed the way and set the pace.

“I don’t mind saying, Dunbar,” said the scout, “that I’ve taken a fancy to you. It’s been quite a while since[22] I got tangled up in a romance, and I’d find a good deal of fault with myself if I didn’t see this one through to a happy finish.”

“You’re white,” muttered the cowboy, “plumb white. I thought you had a lot of pards in your outfit?”

“They’re at Hackamore, waiting for me.”

“How many?”

“Four of them—but they’re four of the sort that can’t be picked up any day in the week. There’s Wild Bill Hickok, of Laramie, a man who doesn’t know what fear means, and who can lick his weight in wild cats. Then there’s my old trapper pard, Nick Nomad, who’s a diamond in the rough, and has gone through more tight corners with me than I can count. Next there’s the baron, who talks and fights with a Teutonic accent, but steps as high, wide and handsome as any of the rest.

“Last, but not least, I’ll mention Little Cayuse, the Piute boy, who’s a host in himself. These, Dunbar, comprise the force I can bring against the cattle barons. The barons will outnumber us, but our work will be to win by tact rather than by force; to compass our ends by diplomacy, and by the strong support of the law, which is at our back.”

“What do you consider the first move in this—er—campaign of tact and diplomacy?” queried Dunbar.

He was none too sanguine, and showed it.

“Inasmuch as Hattie Perry is the indirect cause of Perry’s troubles, we must eliminate her from the proposition.”

Dunbar turned in his saddle.

“Eliminate her?” he gasped.

The scout laughed.

“Exactly,” he declared. “Within a few days—or[23] hours, if we can arrange it so—there will be no Hattie Perry.”

“I’m over my head,” muttered Dunbar. “How are you going about it?”

“A sky pilot will be the key to the situation. Just as soon as possible, my lad, he will make you and Miss Perry one. The girl will cease to be Miss Perry, and will become Mrs. Dunbar. Lige Benner will be foiled. Simple, don’t you think?”

“Well, blazes!” murmured Dunbar, but with a flutter of happiness in his voice. “That’s sure the correct way to go at it, and yet I’m blamed if I ever thought of such a move.”

“I should think it would have occurred to you the first thing. Where’s the nearest sky pilot?”

“His headquarters are in Henrietta, but he rides circuit over a good part of this Brazos range. He was due in Hackamore yesterday.”

“How long does he stay there?”

“Why, long enough to round up the boys and tell ’em what to do to travel the straight and narrow trail. He’s a man, that sky pilot is, and a good friend of Perry’s and mine. His name’s Jordan.”

“Well, as soon as we get to the ranch we’ll lay the proposition before Perry and Hattie; then we’ll all ride over to Hackamore, and you and the girl will take the momentous step. I’ve a notion that that will settle everything and bring peace and happiness on the Brazos.”

For an hour the scout and the cowboy rode briskly through the moonlight. At the end of that time they reached the bank of the Brazos, and drew up at the door of a comfortable log cabin.

Silence reigned around the ranch house. No glimmer[24] of light showed through its small windows, and there was no sign of life in the vicinity.

“I don’t savvy this layout,” muttered Dunbar forebodingly.

“Why,” returned the scout, “it’s late. Perry and the rest have gone to bed.”

Dunbar tumbled out of the saddle and threw open the door. The scout, still sitting on his horse, heard the cowboy moving around in the cabin and stumbling over chairs and other pieces of furniture. Presently a glow of light came through the open door. Looking into the big room, the scout saw chairs overturned and the whole interior in disorder.

The cowboy ran to the door.

“Something’s happened here, Buffalo Bill!” he cried excitedly. “There’s been a fight of some kind in the house, and Perry and Hattie have disappeared. Fiend take the scoundrels! Benner and the barons are back of this!”

Buffalo Bill dismounted hurriedly and ran into the cabin. He saw at a glance that the place had been the scene of recent violence and that some rascally work had been carried out.

“Put up the horses, my lad,” said he calmly to Dunbar, “and then come in and we’ll do some figuring. Keep your nerve, Nate. If you go to pieces, you won’t be able to give me the help I need.”

While the cowboy was taking care of the horses, Buffalo Bill surveyed the interior of the cabin. The fine softening touch of a woman’s hand was everywhere visible. Over a table hung a book rack with a little treasury of well-worn volumes.

A lamp stood on the table, and on the side of the[25] table nearest the lamp a rocking-chair was overturned. An open book lay on the floor.

The scout picked up the book, and found that it was a copy of “Paul and Virginia.” He laid the book on the floor where he had found it.

There were yarn mottoes on the walls, framed in pine cones: “God Bless Our Home,” “Haste Makes Waste,” and “The Lord Loveth a Cheerful Giver.”

Something in those trite and homely sentiments touched the scout’s heart. The books and mottoes bespoke character—character that seemed out of place in that rough country—character that should not have been entangled in such a web of treachery and violence as had been thrown about the Perrys.

The scout opened one of two doors that were in the rear of the room, and carried the lamp into the kitchen. Here everything was in apple-pie order. Dishes were neatly arranged in a crude box cupboard, and the floor was as clean as a hickory-splint broom could make it. He tried the kitchen door, and found it locked.

Returning to the living room, he found Nate Dunbar standing in the middle of it and looking around dejectedly.

“They’ve been run off,” he declared hopelessly; “that’s what’s happened! If any harm comes to Hattie,” and here his voice fell husky and murderous, “I’ll camp on Lige Benner’s trail—and I’ll get him.”

“Don’t try to take the law into your own hands, Nate,” said the scout. “We’ll dig up all the information we can here, and then we’ll lay our plans. Who does most of the reading in this cabin?”

“Hattie. Those books are all hers.” Dunbar waved a trembling hand toward the shelf over the table.


The scout picked up an overturned chair, and seated himself.

“Miss Perry was here, sitting in the rocking-chair by the lamp and reading,” said he. “Some one came here and took her and her father away by force. It hardly seems to me as though these cattle barons, lawless though they are, would have dared to go to such extremes. They may be back of what has happened, but some of their hirelings did the work.”

Dunbar reeled against the wall, and caught his head in his hands.

“Tact and diplomacy!” he bitterly exclaimed. “How can you use weapons like those against such a pack of scoundrels? Cold steel is what they need! By Heaven, it’s only a two hours’ gallop to Benner’s! I’ll go there and make him answer for this!”

The cowboy jumped from the wall, and started for the door.


There was a compelling note in the scout’s voice. The cowboy halted, and turned his haggard face.

“Sit down!” ordered the scout. “If I and my pards are to help you, I want you to keep a cool head, and not go off on any fool tangent. You can be of assistance to me—but only by showing a different spirit.”

“Buffalo Bill,” cried Dunbar, “if you had seen the Perrys tramped on and mistreated as I have, you’d be murder mad just as I am over this last outrage.”

“Two wrongs never made a right, Nate.”

“Right! Who talks of right on the Brazos? These barons are jumping on right and justice rough shod, and what they need is a taste of their own medicine.”

“They’ll get it, Nate, but they’ll get it in my way.[27] There’ll be no parlor tactics, and when we hit it will be straight from the shoulder. But this talk of cold steel begs the whole question. Sit down and be sensible.”

Dunbar, with an effort, got the whip hand of himself.

“Isn’t there any one living in the cabin but Perry and his daughter?” went on the scout.

“No. I’ve been putting up here along with Dick and Hattie.”

“Where are the cowboys?”

“All gone—but me. They were scared off by the barons—scared off or bought off, I don’t know which. When I failed to get back yesterday, maybe Dick and Hattie thought I’d been bought off, too.”

“No, they didn’t. I’ve only known you for a few hours, Dunbar, but even that short acquaintance has convinced me that you’ve no yellow streak in your make-up. Perry and his daughter have known you a good deal longer than I have, and they’d never think you had turned traitor to their interests. How many cattle have you and Perry?”

“Perry came in here with a thousand head, but there’s no telling how many of our brand we could round up now. The herd has been rustled right and left.”

The scout was thoughtful for a few moments.

“What sort of a man is Perry?” he asked finally.

“The clear quill and as straight as a die.”


“As game a fighter as you can find. If he hadn’t been he’d have left the Brazos a month ago. But he’s too honest, too finely strung to handle a gang like the cattle barons, even if he had a large enough force behind him. Perry is an educated man, Buffalo Bill.”


“So I imagined. He hasn’t made the other cattlemen think that he’s better than they are, has he?”

“Not on your life! That ain’t Perry’s style. He’d be neighborly, if they’d let him.”

“I don’t believe,” said the scout, “that Perry was here when his daughter was taken away. There’d have been shooting, wouldn’t there?”

“Right off the reel,” answered Dunbar promptly. “Perry would have gone any length to defend himself.”

“There are no signs to indicate that revolvers were used. I suppose Perry kept his guns handy?”

“Always—since the barons turned loose on him.”

“Then here’s the way I figure it: You failed to come back to the cabin yesterday. Perry and Hattie believed that you had been trapped by Benner’s men. Perry went off to look for you. While he was gone, the trouble happened here. Perry may get back any minute, Dunbar, and then he can help us do our planning. Are there any horses in the corral?”


The cowboy was moody. He could see the logic of the scout’s suggestions, but he was not in a temper to be sanguine over results.

“How far is Benner’s ranch from here?” asked the scout.

“Twenty miles.” Dunbar showed some interest. “Are you thinking of going over there?”

“Not yet. We’ll give Perry a chance to get back here first. How long have you been hooked up with Perry, Nate?”

“Nearly a year. I came here from the Panhandle country, and Perry had just bought out the Star-A steers. He wanted a foreman, and I took hold. Later[29] on, when I saw how the other cattlemen were layin’ for him, I dropped a thousand-dollar stake into the pot. It was all I had. I reckoned, though, that I’d show Benner he had two to buck against. He had tried to hire me away from Perry, and the thousand I put up here was an answer to that.”

Buffalo Bill was liking the young fellow more and more. Nevertheless, he was not overlooking the powerful influence Hattie Perry must have had with Nate Dunbar.

“You’re all right, Nate,” said the scout. “The situation on the Brazos has reached a climax, and everything depends on the way you stack up from this on.”

“But we can’t do what you thought of while we were riding from Red Steve’s.”

“You mean that about the sky pilot, and eliminating Miss Perry as a factor in the trouble? That is still the work we must do, Nate, so it follows that our next step must be to find Miss Perry.”

“Why should those infernal scoundrels carry her off?” cried the cowboy.

“That was done, I believe, simply to frighten you and Perry, and force Perry to agree to Benner’s proposals.”

“Perry never’d agree!”

“At any rate, I’m sure the young lady has suffered no harm, and that she will be considerately treated. We must rescue her. With my pards to help, I’m sure we can accomplish that part of it.”

“But suppose Perry delays getting back? We ought to be doing something for Hattie right now.”

The scout pointed to the “Haste and Waste” motto on the wall.

“Keep that prominently before your eyes, Dunbar,”[30] admonished the scout. “If we get in too much of a hurry we may spoil everything. If Perry doesn’t come within an hour or two, I’ll send you to Hackamore after my pards. They ought to be here by sunup.”

“Then what’s to be done?”

“Why, then we’ll ride to Benner’s ranch.”

“Hattie won’t be there. He wouldn’t take Hattie there.”

“Of course he wouldn’t, but if he has had anything to do with spiriting the girl away from this cabin, we’ll find out about it and get him to tell us where she is.”

Dunbar shook his head doubtfully.

“If you and your pards go to Benner’s ranch, Buffalo Bill,” said he, “you’ll be right in the midst of the whole gang. There’s enough of the outfit to smother you and your pards ten deep.”

The scout smiled.

“I reckon you don’t know much about my pards,” said he.

At that moment the beat of horse’s hoofs were heard, swiftly approaching. Both the scout and the cowboy jumped to their feet.

“Perry!” exclaimed the scout, starting for the door.

As he stood in front of the cabin, the lamplight pouring through the open door at his back, a horseman drew to a halt.

“Well, by gorry!” the rider exclaimed, in a flutter of astonishment. “Have I got the blind staggers? Pard Cody, is that you?”

The surprise was mutual.

“There’s no mistake, Wild Bill,” answered the scout, as pleased as he was surprised. “Get down and tell me what brings you here.”



The Texas steer, with the long horns and the brand bigger than a gridiron, has passed away. With this half-wild “beef critter” has likewise passed the old-time grizzle-faced herder with his cowhide boots and appalling profanity. Grade shorthorns, Herefords, and other swells in the kingdom of range cattle have taken the longhorn’s place, and the present-day cattleman is a keen, shrewd business man who has reduced cattle raising and feeding to a science.

Perhaps the elimination of the longhorn and the picturesque soldier of circumstance who looked after him is not a subject for regret; yet in the early days—the days of this chronicle—the rangy steer of the wide horns was bringing a flood of wealth into Texas. Those were really flush days for the cattle barons.

In those boom times, ranchers whose principal asset was cattle, had more money than they had ever possessed before—and more, it is said, than they have ever had since. Just what caused the boom was a mystery; nevertheless, the boom was a very real event, and some of the barons took in more money than they knew how to spend. When such a thing happens to a free and easy-going people, foolish extravagance is the result.

This sort of extravagance, therefore, took the cattle country by the throat, and shook a golden stream out of its pockets. Now and then a cigar was lighted with a ten-dollar bill—whenever a baron wished to be particularly[32] spectacular. It may not have proved that the ranchers had money to burn, yet it proved that they did burn it nevertheless.

Many of the ranchers burned their money in “sparks,” otherwise diamonds, paying three or four times what the stones were worth per karat. There was much rivalry in the possession of these gems. If a baron’s neighbor flashed a gem as big as a Mexican bean on his little finger, then the other baron made haste to get one as big as a lima bean and display it ostentatiously.

A class of peddlers was brought into being, by this desire of the barons for jewels, whose like had never been known before and probably will never be known again. Hebrews with satchels traveled the cow country, each satchel containing a king’s ransom in diamonds. These stones were peddled from ranch to ranch. The idea of a man toting from one hundred thousand to two hundred thousand dollars’ worth of diamonds through the range lands, alone and unattended and yet without molestation, formed rather a strange commentary on those wild and troublous times. Yet this was one angle of the situation in the flush days.

When the craze for diamonds had died out, the barons developed another hobby. This time their barbaric fancy ran to watches, watch charms, and chains.

Wild Bill, old Nomad and Little Cayuse reached Hackamore in time to witness an object lesson in the reckless extravagance of the time and place. They were in the town many hours before Buffalo Bill had dropped through the roof of the dugout; in fact, they had reached Hackamore in ample time to put out their horses and sit in at dinner in the shack hotel.

The baron was not with them. He had heard of a[33] German rancher, living five miles out of Hackamore, and had separated from his pards to make the rancher’s acquaintance and gossip for a while in the language of the fatherland. Whenever the baron met a fellow countryman, there always followed a talkfest—and the baron would go many miles out of his way for a talkfest.

Dinner over, Wild Bill, Nomad, and Cayuse strolled out into Hackamore’s main street. Their legs were cramped from much saddle work and needed stretching. Also, anything in the nature of a town appealed to them after miles of lonely plains and unoccupied wilderness.

Hackamore was a mighty poor apology for a town, yet it had a huddle of buildings which formed a nucleus for people—and it was buildings and people the pards were eager to see.

There was a crowd in the street in front of the hotel.

“What’s the trouble?” asked Wild Bill of a lanky individual who was leaning against a post and picking his teeth with a sliver.

“Aw, shucks!” answered the lank person; “Lige Benner an’ Hank Phelps aire cuttin’ capers with their jewelry. All dumb foolishness, but I allow it kain’t be helped.”

The long Texan nibbled at a bar of tobacco, and settled back against the post with a resigned air.

Wild Bill elbowed his way through the crowd and came upon the two cattlemen.

Hank Phelps wore a high Mexican hat with tinkling silver ornaments festooned around the brim. His jacket was short, his trousers flared at the bottoms, and his waist was begirt with a gaudy sash. Phelps was American, through and through, but Mexican clothes were[34] more spectacular, and for this reason alone he wore them.

Lige Benner affected black. His black sombrero was set off with a twisted silver cord; there was a flowing white tie under the collar of his black silk shirt, and the bottoms of his black trousers were thrust into the tops of knee boots of patent leather. There were ornate silver spurs at the heels of the boots.

When close enough, the Laramie man saw that the buttons on Phelps’ short jacket were set with diamonds.

“Ugh!” muttered Wild Bill. “I wonder where they left the rest of their show? They’re got up like heroes in a blue-fire melodrama.”

“Did you speak?” demanded Benner, whirling on Wild Bill.

“I did,” answered Wild Bill. “You’re in mourning for somebody. Tell me who, and we’ll both weep.”

A gleam crept into Benner’s eyes. But he whirled away without giving further notice to the Laramie man.

“Look at this turnip, Hank,” said Benner, taking a watch from his pocket and passing it to the other baron for inspection.

Phelps took the timepiece and turned it over and over in his hands.

It was big and of an eighteen-karat yellow. There was a steer’s head engraved on the front, and a prairie scene on the back. The steer’s eyes were diamonds. The chain was as large as a steel hawser, and the dangling charm was massive and encrusted with “sparks.”

“Um!” mused Phelps. “How much did you pay for this timepiece, Lige?”

“Five hundred,” was the careless answer.


Phelps handed back the watch and pulled another from somewhere under his short jacket.

“I got one that’s just as good, an’ it only cost me four hundred.”

Benner pondered for a moment.

“Say, Hank,” said he, as a bright idea gathered in his brain. “I’ll bet a hundred I can throw my watch farther down the street than you can throw yours.”

“Well, great horn-toads!” muttered the Laramie man. “I wonder how far it is to the nearest asylum for the feeble-minded.”

“Did you speak?” asked Hank Phelps, whirling on Wild Bill.

“I did. I was wondering if they throw in a watch with every suit of greaser clothes they sell in this town?”

“Buy a suit and find out!”

“Whoosh! With all those diamond buttons? Mañana!”

Phelps, with a disgusted flirt of the shoulders, turned to Benner.

“Go you,” he said brusquely.

The money was flashed in a minute, another baron offering himself as stakeholder. The street was cleared down the middle, a long line of men grouped on either side.

A dollar was flipped into the air to see which should throw first. Benner won the toss.

Meanwhile, Wild Bill had been working out a mental problem. He measured Benner’s height and guessed at the possible strength of his arm; then he guessed at the weight of the watch. With these items to work on,[36] he found a place down the street where he believed Benner’s watch would land.

The Laramie man was prompted by curiosity alone. He wanted to see how much would be left of the expensive timekeeper when it hit the ground.

Benner drew back his arm. For a second, Wild Bill doubted whether he would keep his nerve and go on with his folly. But there was no backing down on the part of the cattle baron.

The hand came forward and the five-hundred dollar missile shot through the air, reflecting the sun like a live coal. It smashed to earth within a yard of where Wild Bill stood.

“Hooray for the man in black!” roared Wild Bill. “I had a notion he wouldn’t be fool enough to throw—but he was.”

“Hesh, neighbor!” said a Texan, who stood close to Wild Bill. “Don’t ye go fer ter git Lige Benner down on ye. He’s a power in these parts, an’ he won’t stand fer any funnin’.”

“No?” returned the Laramie man. “Well, I didn’t know they raised such trash in this part of the Lone Star State.”

At the head of the double line of spectators stood Hank Phelps, ready to sacrifice his own timepiece. There was no backing down for him, of course. He stood to win a hundred—by smashing a four-hundred-dollar watch. Profitable business! Anyhow, the crowd expected Hank Phelps to make good his side of the bet, and Hank Phelps wasn’t the man to let another outdo him.

The second watch shimmered along through the air and dropped into the dust a foot beyond Benner’s.


“Phelps has won!” roared the crowd. “The money belongs ter Phelps!”

The condition of those superb tickers was enough to make a blacksmith weep. The works had fallen out of Benner’s watch and rolled on into the dust. Phelps’ timepiece was crushed.

Wild Bill, however, had lost interest in the condition of the watches. A small square of paper had fallen from Benner’s watch with the works. The Laramie man had picked up the paper with the intention of returning it. There was writing on the small square. One glance at the writing was enough to make Wild Bill change his mind about handing the scrap to the owner of the watch. Instead of doing that, he pushed through the clamoring crowd in a hurried hunt for old Nomad.

Some people have a habit of carrying important memoranda inside their watch cases. Properly inscribed on thin paper, notes may be easily carried under the lid of a timepiece, the watch thus answering, in a way, for a secret pocket.

Wild Bill figured that Benner had been using his five-hundred-dollar watch for this purpose, and that, in the excitement of his wager with Phelps, he had forgotten the paper.

The breaking of the watch had released the scrap. The Laramie man, as we have seen, had picked it up, glanced at it, changed his mind about handing it over to Benner, and begun a search for the trapper.

Wild Bill found old Nomad standing in front of the hotel airing his opinion, in no uncertain language, about using watches for missiles when stones were so handy.

“Waugh!” rumbled Nomad, holding forth to a little group that had formed about him, “they ort ter lock[38] up fellers what does things like thet. Only a couple o’ ijuts would make sich er locoed play, anyways. Sufferin’ hyeners! Ain’t ther any fool killers eround these hyar parts?”

“Ye’d better stow yer guff,” cautioned a man in the crowd. “Them fellers aire cattle barons. If some o’ their punchers was ter hear ye, they might turn loose with their guns. Punchers is touchy, that-a-way.”

“I’m some techy myself, pilgrim, when et comes ter playin’ baseball with five-hunnerd-dollar tickers.”

At that moment Wild Bill stepped up and caught the old trapper by the arm.

“Trail along with me,” said the Laramie man. “I’ve got something important to talk over with you.”

There was a crowd in the hotel office, so the pards did not go in. Instead of entering the hotel, they went around behind.

“What’s ter pay, Wild Bill?” queried Nomad. “I jedge thar’s er screw loose, from ther looks o’ yer face.”

“You saw those ombrays throw the watches?” returned Hickok.

“Waugh! I was jest airin’ my opinions erbout thet fool pufformance when ye blowed up an’ made me break off. I reckon I could hev worked up er fight with some o’ them fellers ef ye’d ’a’ let me alone fer a minute longer.”

“Benner smashed his watch good and plenty, Nick. The works rolled out of the case, and a scrap of paper rolled out with the works.”

“Whatever was a scrap o’ paper doin’ in er watch?”

“This scrap had writing on it. More than likely Benner tucked it away under the watch lid for safe-keeping.[39] I picked it up and was going to give it to him; then I glanced at the paper and changed my mind.”

“Ye had a reason fer changin’ yore mind, I’ll bet a stack o’ blues!” exclaimed the old trapper, with growing interest. “What was et?”

Wild Bill lifted his right hand, palm upward, and opened his fingers. The little square scrap lay in the palm.

“It’s a corner torn off a playing card, Nick,” said the Laramie man. “Here’s what’s written on it.”

The writing was in a fine hand and Hickok lifted it closer to his eyes as he read:

“Dick Perry captured and held at my place. It’s a risky game, and I want you to come over in the morning and take him away.”

Finishing the reading, Hickok minced the scrap fine and flung the pieces away.

“H’m,” mused the trapper. “Thet sounds like underhand doin’s, all right, an’ yit, I dunno what bizness we got mixin’ in.”

“You got to have a good excuse for every blamed thing?” asked the Laramie man, with gentle irony. “I don’t believe Pard Cody will get here from Texico before some time to-morrow. Do you want to sit around and cool your heels till he comes, or would you like a little excitement by way of passing the time?”

“Snarlin’ catermounts, Hickok!” growled Nomad, “ye know I’m allers ripe an’ ready fer anythin’ with ginger in et, but we ain’t got much of er holt on the bizness thet consarns thet scrap o’ paper. Whose watch was et in?”

“Benner’s—the ombray in the black clothes.”


“Who sent et ter him? Thet’s the p’int.”

“I don’t know who sent it to him, and that isn’t the point. This Dick Perry is the bank that gets our gilt. Why was he captured? Why was the capture risky business? Why is Benner to take Dick Perry away in the morning?”

Nomad removed his hat and ran his fingers through his long hair.

“Pass ther ante, Wild Bill,” he replied. “Thar’s a hull lot erbout thet scrap o’ paper I don’t know, an’ I reckon thar’s a hull lot you don’t.”

“We can find out a little. Wait here a minute.”

The Laramie man disappeared around the front of the hotel. When he came back, which was only two or three minutes later, he was towing the lanky Texan whom he had seen leaning against the post just before the cattle barons performed with their watches.

“Whatever d’ye want with me, neighbor?” queried the Texan.

“You’re acquainted pretty well in this section?” asked Wild Bill.


“What’s your label?”

“Sim Pierce. Come from San Antone, ’riginally. Mebby ye’ve heerd tell o’ the Pierces o’ San Antone?”

“No. My name’s Hickok, and this is my pard, old Nomad. We belong with Buffalo Bill’s outfit of trouble-chasers.”

“Shucks!” muttered Sim Pierce. “I’ve heerd of all o’ ye. Tickled plumb through ter make yer acquaintance.”

They shook hands elaborately.


“What we want,” said Wild Bill, “is to get a little information.”

“Waal, let ’er go. If I got the brand ye want, et’s on tap.”

“Do you know a man called Dick Perry?”

Sim Pierce gave a jump that almost unjointed his shambling frame.

“Sure I know him,” said he. “But why?”

He squinted his eyes apprehensively at Wild Bill. From his manner, the Laramie man knew that he had opened up a pay streak that it would pay to develop.

“I’m just asking for information, that’s all,” said Wild Bill.

Sim Pierce seemed very much disturbed. After squinting around him apprehensively, he went on in a lowered voice.

“Come out flatfooted, neighbor, an’ tell me whether ye’re inquirin’ as a friend o’ Perry’s er a friend o’ the cattle baron?”

“Cattle barons? Which cattle barons?”

“Principally Benner an’ Phelps, them fellers that throwed the watches.”

“Pard,” rumbled Nomad, with an expression of profound disgust, “don’t fer a minit reckon we’re friends o’ them locoed rawhides, kase we ain’t. Us fellers hes got some self-respect. Ye hurt my dignity a hull lot by askin’ whether we’re friends o’ them fool mavericks.”

“Then, I take it,” pursued Sim Pierce, still with his air of mystery, “thet ye’re friendly ter Perry? The feller needs friends, an’ I reckon I’m the only one he’s got in this town, less’n it is the sky pilot, Jordan, who breezes in here oncet a month on his gospel circuit. But I ain’t talkin’ erbout my friendship fer Perry so’st every[42] one kin hear. Not me. I got too much regyard fer my health.”

“What’s the matter with Perry?”

“Nothin’, only the barons aire down on him.”

“Why are they down on him?”

“Kain’t savvy, but they’re makin’ life hard fer Perry, an’ no mistake. They’re tryin’ ter freeze him out o’ the grazin’ lands on the Brazos.”

“This Perry is straight goods?”

“Straight as a string.”

“And the cattle barons have got it in for him, and are trying to kick him out of these parts?”

“That’s the way the land lays.”

“Then I’m his friend right from the drop of the hat!”

“Me, too!” chimed in old Nomad. “Them watch-slingers hev showed their calibre a-plenty, so fur’s I’m consarned. I’m fer Perry.”

“Then stand right hyer an’ hold yer bronks a spell,” whispered Sim Pierce.

He vanished toward the front of the hotel. In less than five minutes he came back, bringing with him a slightly built, boyish-looking chap in a long, black coat.

“Gents,” said Sim Pierce, flourishing one of his long arms, “this here’s the Reverend Ben Jordan. He’s a gospel sharp, but it ain’t struck in enough so’t it hurts. He’s one o’ the boys, Ben Jordan is. He’s done more ter chase the devil off this range than ary other man in Texas.”

The Reverend Ben Jordan laughed. It was a whole-souled, hearty laugh that made Nomad and Wild Bill his friends right from the jump.

“There’s a good deal of the devil still left on the range, Sim,” said the sky pilot, “in spite of my efforts. These[43] gentlemen are Wild Bill and old Nomad, I believe you said, pards of Buffalo Bill’s?”

“Kerect,” answered Pierce.

Jordan grabbed Wild Bill’s hand, and then Nomad’s.

“I’m mighty glad to meet up with you,” said the sky pilot. “I’m an admirer of Buffalo Bill’s—an unknown admirer—and to meet his compadres is a pleasure I shall long remember. Sim says you gentlemen are also friends of Dick Perry’s. I’m glad of that, too. Perry, just now, needs all his friends. If——”

At that moment, Lige Benner and Hank Phelps came hurrying around the end of the hotel.

“There he is!” cried Benner, pointing to Wild Bill.

“Make him give up!” called Phelps.

Old Nomad edged around to Wild Bill’s side, and the pards presented a solid front. Benner and Phelps slackened pace. They were not in so much of a hurry as they had been, but they still had something on their minds—something that wasn’t pleasant.



“Did you say something?” asked Wild Bill, looking the cattle barons over with a grin which he made as irritating as possible.

“You were seen to pick up somethin’ in the road,” said Benner angrily, “somethin’ that came out of my watch. I want it.”

“Oh, you do. You’ll have to go into details a little more if you expect me to identify what you’ve lost. Was there anything but the works that came out of that watch?”

“You know mighty well there was!” scowled Benner.

“I know mighty well that you’ve got to tell me what you lost before I can tell you whether or not I know anything about it.”

“That is very reasonable, Mr. Benner,” put in the sky pilot. “It is necessary for——”

“Dry up!” interrupted Phelps roughly. “You ain’t got a thing to do with this, Jordan, so you keep out.”

“What have you got to do with it, Mr. Phelps?” queried the sky pilot pleasantly. “I thought it was Mr. Benner who had lost something.”

“Oh, I’ve got plenty to do with it!” snorted Phelps, giving his head a flirt that set all the dangling brim ornaments to clattering. “I sent him what he lost.”

Wild Bill was exceedingly glad to hear this, although he made no sign, to that effect.


“We’ve used our bazoos a-plenty,” growled Benner. “Are you going to give me that?” he demanded.

“I’ll give you a piece of my mind, in a minute, if you don’t tell me what you want, and what you think I’ve got,” said Wild Bill, between his teeth.

“Waugh!” chimed in the old trapper, who had been keeping silent only by a great effort. “Ef ye git too rantankerous, I’ll hand ye a fistful of five, with my compliments. We ain’t thieves, we ain’t. We’re pards o’ Buffler Bill’s, an’ no measly, locoed watch manglers aire goin’ ter insult us.”

Old Nomad looked so hostile that Benner cast a look around him as though searching for some of his cowboys.

“What I’m after,” he went on, less truculently, “is a piece of paper with some very important notes on it. I carried the paper under the lid of my watch, and I forgot to remove it when I threw the watch.”

“Tell me what was on the paper,” insisted Wild Bill. “I picked up something that wasn’t addressed or signed, and that might have been dropped by any man, woman or child in Hackamore. You tell me what was on the paper, Benner—this paper that Phelps sent to you—and if it matches what I read, I’ll tell you where the paper is.”

Wild Bill had the cattle barons in a corner. Neither would dare to repeat the contents of that piece of paper. It was the sort of writing that could not be turned into public talk without exciting comment.

“I was told you picked up the paper,” said Benner, with a fierce look at the Laramie man, “an’ you know well enough that it dropped out o’ my watch. There’s no[46] need of talking about what was written in the note—it was private, anyway.”

Phelps, meanwhile, had seen the little scraps lying on the ground. From these he must have inferred what had happened to Benner’s memoranda. Catching his companion’s arm, Phelps drew him to one side and whispered to him. Benner swept a look over the ground at the minced fragments of the bit of thin pasteboard, then lifted his eyes to Wild Bill.

“You’ll find, my man,” he cried, “that Lige Benner has some power up and down the Brazos. This ain’t the end of this flare-up.”

With that, he whirled around and he and Phelps vanished in the direction of the street.

“Waugh!” breathed the old trapper regretfully, “another chance fer a fight gone a-glimmerin’. Ain’t et possible fer us ter git inter a scrap noways?”

The sky pilot dropped a hand on his arm.

“You’re too gallant a man, Nomad,” said he, “to get into a fight for the mere love of it. It’s a sign of barbarism for men to be too free with their fists and their hardware.”

“I jest dote on barbarism,” carolled Nomad. “I’m plumb savage, elder, an’ I got ter hev a set-to oncet er day er git bilious.”

The sky pilot laughed genially and thumped the old war horse on the back.

“You’re a man after my own heart,” he declared, “and I can see that; what’s more, you’re about as barbarous as a chipmunk until your fur is ruffled the wrong way. I wouldn’t give two cents for a man who hadn’t the sand to stick up for his rights. Brother, you and I are going[47] to get along. Now, tell me what you’ve found out about the Perrys.”

Wild Bill and Nomad were taking a big liking to Jordan. He was vastly different from most circuit-riding ministers they had met.

“Where’s Sim Pierce?” queried Wild Bill, looking around for that worthy.

Sim Pierce had mysteriously vanished.

“Oh,” smiled Jordan, “Sim lit out. He’s careful of his health, you know, and he didn’t want Benner and Phelps to catch him fraternizing with you. These cattle barons seem to be a law unto themselves on the Brazos, and most of the people in these parts try to keep on the good side of them. But never mind Sim. Tell me about the Perrys.”

Feeling that here was a man to be trusted to the limit, Wild Bill told him about the paper that had dropped from Benner’s watch. A thoughtful frown crept over the sky pilot’s face as the Laramie man repeated the contents of the paper.

“The barons have been getting more and more reckless in their dealings with Perry,” said Jordan; “they have gone from one lawless act to another until now they have captured him and taken him away. Phelps admitted that he had sent that note to Benner; and that means, my friends, that Perry is being held a prisoner at Phelps’ ranch.”

“Whoop-ya!” murmured the trapper. “S’posin’ we ride out ter Phelps’ place an’ lift Perry’s blockade? What d’ye say? Et’s er noble deed, an’ mebbyso et’ll lead ter a ruction.”

“Will you be guided by me, my friends?” asked the sky pilot earnestly. “I am familiar with the situation[48] along this part of the Brazos, and I know pretty nearly everybody in this part of the country. Perhaps, equipped as I am, I can judge better than you what is best to be done.”

“Throw et up ter us, elder. Any palaver ye kin hand out will receive full attention.”

“Thank you. Don’t try to go to Phelps’ ranch this side of dewfall. Wait till night comes. From now on, Benner and Phelps will have both of you men watched. The barons know you got that note, and they can guess that you read it and then tore it up. If you try to go to Phelps’ before night, there’ll be trouble, and you’ll get the worst of it.”

“We’re not dodging trouble so you can notice it, amigo,” returned Wild Bill.

“I hope, for Dick Perry’s sake, that you will dodge trouble, and keep your hands clear so that you can help him. Will you give me a part in the work before you?”

This was embarrassing to the pards—to have a minister along with them when the prospects were bright for rough work.

“I’ll not be a hindrance to you,” continued Jordan, noting the pards’ hesitation, “but, on the other hand, my familiarity with the country may prove a help. I have a marriage ceremony for four o’clock; after that, I’ll join you at supper at the hotel. Following supper, we’ll saddle up and ride toward Phelps’ ranch. On the way, we’ll stop at Perry’s. Perry’s daughter, Hattie, must be about wild over what’s happened to her father.”

“Is there any one at Perry’s besides the girl?” asked Wild Bill.

“No one, now, but Nate Dunbar, a cowboy who works for Perry and has an interest in the cattle. Dunbar may[49] know something about Perry which will be a help to us. We’ll ride to Perry’s first, see Nate Dunbar and Hattie, then go on to Phelps’ ranch.”

“Parson,” spoke up Nomad, grabbing Jordan’s hand, “ye’ve shore made er hit with me. This hyar’s ther fust time on reecord I ever trotted a heat with a sky pilot, but I’m cottonin’ ter you real strong, an’ I fer one will be tickled ter hev ye go with us.”

“Nomad’s sentiments are mine, parson,” seconded Wild Bill. “You go ahead and splice that couple at four o’clock, then blow in at the hotel and we’ll sit in together at the chuck table.”

“Thank you for your confidence in me,” said Jordan quietly. “You’ll find that I’m not a figurehead in the enterprise, I think. You are brave men, and pards of one of the bravest and most chivalrous Westerners the border has ever known. It is a pleasure to be engaged in such a venture with you. Adios, for the present.”

The slender, boyish figure turned and swiftly vanished. Old Nomad stood staring after him.

“Hickok,” said he, slowly turning to the Laramie man, “I’m er Piegan of thet sky pilot ain’t cuttin’ a wider swath in my regyard than I ever thort one could. He seems ther clear quill.”

“And so he is, if I know the brand. But I hope our ride to the Brazos won’t turn out a Sunday-school picnic.”

“Et won’t be ther parson’s fault ef et does,” chuckled the trapper. “Did ye mark his eye, Pard Hickok? Et’s what they calls a fightin’ eye. Ef necessary, I’ll bet a blue stack thet Jordan kin convart the heathen by an upper cut an’ a right hook ter ther jaw. Oh, I’m plumb gone on him.”


“He’ll do,” returned Hickok briefly, but with conviction. “We’ve been in town about three hours, Nick, and we’ve got the cattle barons down on us.”

“What do we care? Thet means excitement—somethin’ ter fill in ther time till Buffler gits hyar. Ye was pinin’ fer thet, a spell ago.”

“I’m pining for it now, too. Come on, pard, and let’s mosey back into the main street.”

“Kerect. Ef any o’ Benner’s ’r Phelps’ punchers makes er dead set at us prior ter supper, us two’ll turn Hackamore inside out.”



The clerk at the Delmonico Hotel, as the shanty hostelry was called, made a mistake while Wild Bill, Nomad and Cayuse were at supper with the sky pilot. A man came in with a small package wrapped in a piece of newspaper.

“Charlie,” said the man to the clerk, “tuck this here package away in Lige Benner’s saddlebags.”

Charlie was shaking dice over the board counter with a cowboy. The clerk was trying to find out whether he’d give the cowboy a cigar for nothing or make him pay double for it.

“All right, neighbor,” said the preoccupied Charlie, turning from the counter with the package in one hand and the dice box in the other.

There were half a dozen pairs of saddlebags hanging from nails on the wall. Charlie was the custodian of those bags, and was supposed to know to whom each pair belonged.

He dropped the package under a flap of one of the bags and then turned and went on with his gambling.

Benner, Phelps and one or two more cattlemen came out of the dining room a few minutes later, closely followed by Wild Bill, Nomad, Cayuse and the sky pilot.

“Oh, Lige,” called the clerk, “there was a feller in here, a spell ago, with a package done up in a piece o’ newspaper. He said it was ter go in yore saddlebags, so I slipped it in.”


“Much obliged, Charlie,” answered Benner.

It was casual talk, and was overheard casually by the pards and the parson.

An hour later, when Nomad, Wild Bill, Cayuse and Jordan were riding at a leisurely clip for the Brazos, keeping a sharp lookout for hostile cowboys, the Laramie man reached into his warbag for a pouch of tobacco. His groping hand encountered something which he could not remember having placed in the bag.

“Thunder!” he exclaimed, drawing his horse to a halt.

“What’s up, pard?” asked Nomad, as he and the others likewise halted.

“I don’t know what’s up,” answered Wild Bill. “Lean over, Nick, and get a firestick to going. Have I got my own warbags, or somebody else’s?”

The trapper struck a light and held it over the battered leather receptacles which always traveled with Hickok whenever he rode.

“They’re yoren, Hickok,” declared Nomad. “Ye could pick out them bags from a thousand.”

“The bags may be mine, Nick, but I’ll take oath this don’t belong to me.”

In the glow of the match Wild Bill presented the package for the others’ inspection.

“Ye didn’t put that in yer warbags, eh?”

“No. I never saw it before. Strike another match and let’s see what’s inside.”

Examination showed Wild Bill and his companions two pairs of steel bracelets. Everybody was staring and wondering.

“Now, how the blazes did those ‘come-alongs’ get into my gear?” demanded Wild Bill, completely at sea. “I never owned a pair of manacles in my life, and the only[53] time I ever used any was when I was town marshal, up at Abilene. Even then I shied at the things. How did these get into my warbags? Parson, are you a mind reader?”

The sky pilot laughed.

“I don’t have to be a mind reader to settle that point, Mr. Hickok,” he answered. “Do you recall a brief conversation that passed between the clerk at the Delmonico Hotel and Lige Benner when we came out of the dining room, right after supper? The clerk called out to Benner that a man had brought a package wrapped in newspaper, and that the package had been put in Benner’s saddlebags. I shouldn’t wonder if the clerk had made a mistake in the bags. Instead of putting the package into Benner’s, Wild Bill, he put it into yours.”

“Pard Jordan,” chirped Nomad, “yore head is some level, an’ no mistake. Ye’ve called the turn. Pard Hickok has got sheriff’s property as was intended fer Benner.”

“Right-o!” declared Wild Bill, with a chuckle. “I’ve got some of Benner’s hardware, all right. The sheriff must be a friend of his, eh, Jordan?”

“That’s the pity of it, in this section,” the sky pilot answered. “The law winks at the lawlessness of the cattle barons, and that’s what makes the situation so hard for Perry. There is no doubt but that the sheriff sent those manacles to the hotel for Benner.”

“But whyever was it?” inquired Nomad. “Why ther blazes should Benner want come-alongs? Is he goin’ ter put ’em on Perry?”

“It’s likely that he needs them in his lawless work,” returned Jordan. “Those ugly things are only used on prisoners, and the only prisoners Benner may have to[54] take care of are those at the Perry ranch. I argue evil things from the fact that there are two sets of gyves.”

“What’s the argument?” came from Wild Bill, as he put the handcuffs in his pocket, filled his pipe, lighted it and made ready to continue the ride.

“Why,” said Jordan, “one pair would be enough for Perry. The other pair may be for Nate Dunbar, Perry’s partner. I’m afraid we’re going to find affairs in something of a tangle at Perry’s ranch. Let’s hurry on.”

For more than two hours they hurried, the sky pilot sitting his horse with all the skill and ease of a professional range rider, and bearing the discomforts of the rapid journey in admirable style.

At the end of two hours the party was in the scant timber that fringed the Brazos, and had pointed upstream. Abruptly, the sky pilot drew rein.

“Friends,” said he, “half a mile ahead of us is Perry’s ranch. We don’t know the situation there, and I am sorely troubled as to what we shall find. Some of Benner’s cowboys may be in possession of the place, or lurking in the vicinity. I would suggest that one of us ride ahead and reconnoitre; and the one to do this, it seems to me, is Wild Bill.”

“Just as you say, parson,” answered Wild Bill.

“Nomad, Little Cayuse and I will wait here,” went on Jordan. “If everything is all right at the ranch, and you want us to come on, fire your revolver three times into the air. The sound will carry this far, and we’ll hear it and come. If there is anything wrong, return to us and we’ll try to decide what is best to be done. I am exceedingly apprehensive over this matter.”

Wild Bill thought that Jordan was letting his apprehensions[55] carry him too far, and that there was no need for so much caution in approaching the ranch. However, all the pards were more than willing to please the sky pilot in such a small matter.

“I’m off, amigos,” announced Wild Bill.

His horse, Beeswax, answered to the touch of the spurs and bounded away through the timber.

Wild Bill halted when he came close to the ranch house, and swept his eyes carefully around the vicinity. He saw nothing to excite his suspicions. He could hear horses in the corral, and he could see a glow of lamplight coming from the windows of the cabin.

“The girl and Dunbar are in the house,” muttered the Laramie man, “and if they’re worried about Perry, the fact is not evident from this distance. I’ll slash along, just as though there weren’t any hostile barons on the Brazos. If any cowboys present themselves—well, they’ll make as good targets for me as Beeswax and I will make for them.”

He laughed softly and spurred onward. The door was open when he drew up before it, and a flood of lamplight poured through. A figure stood in the light—a figure that brought Wild Bill up rigidly in his saddle. His astonishment was intense.

“Well, by gorry!” he exclaimed. “Have I got the blind staggers? Pard Cody, is that you?”

“There’s no mistake, Wild Bill,” came back in the familiar tones of the king of scouts. “Get down and tell me what brings you here?”

Wild Bill got down and leaned against his saddle. He was dazed, and was trying to guess how fate had shuffled and dealt the cards in this amazing fashion.

“I can’t seem to pull myself together, Pard Cody,”[56] said Wild Bill. “Did you drop in here to spend the night on your way from Texico?”

“I dropped into another place before I came here,” answered the scout; “and, if I hadn’t, I shouldn’t be here now.”

A cowboy pushed into the light and out through the door behind the scout.

“Who’s this, Buffalo Bill?” the cowboy asked.

“It’s my pard from Laramie, Wild Bill Hickok,” said the scout.

“From Hackamore?”

“That’s the last place he hailed from, I reckon.”

“How does he happen to be here?”

“That’s what I’m trying to get him to tell me. First, though, you fellows strike hands. Hickok, this amigo is Nate Dunbar. He has an interest in Perry’s cattle, and he’s all right.”

They shook hands.

“Now,” went on the scout, “give me the right of this, Pard Hickok. Why are you here?”

“I’m here to see how things stack up at this ranch,” said Hickok. “Something came my way in Hackamore that offered a chance for excitement while we were waiting for you to ride in from Texico.”

“You came alone?”

“Hardly.” Pulling his revolver, the Laramie man fired three quick shots into the air. “The rest will hear that,” he explained, “and come a-running. Meanwhile, as explanations will consume a little time, where’ll I put the caballo?”

“In the corral,” answered Dunbar. “I’ll take the bronk.”


Turning the horse over to the cowboy, Wild Bill walked into the cabin with the scout.

“This has been a night of surprises,” said Buffalo Bill, “and not the least of the surprises is this meeting with you. I’m glad you’re here, though. There’s a tangle at this ranch, and we’re to unravel it.”

“Buenos!” murmured Wild Bill, taking a chair; “maybe I can help in the unraveling more than you think.”

A clatter of approaching hoofs sounded. The scout started forward in his chair.

“Don’t be in a taking, pard,” counseled Wild Bill. “Nomad, Little Cayuse and the sky pilot are riding up. I left them back in the timber.”



The coming of Jordan was another surprise to the scout. When he, and Dunbar, and the scout, and Nomad, and Wild Bill were gathered in the living room of the ranch house, with Little Cayuse on guard over the live stock at the corral, a council was held.

Hickok told of the watch-throwing contest in Hackamore, of the scrap of paper, its message, and how he, Nomad and Cayuse had happened to ride to Perry’s on their way to Phelps’ ranch. The “come-alongs” also came up for discussion.

“These may come handy, pards,” remarked the king of scouts significantly, looking the handcuffs over and then dropping them into his own pocket.

“Take this, too,” said Wild Bill, “unless you want to call in a blacksmith to get them off of whoever you put them on.”

He passed over a key, which went into the scout’s pocket along with the manacles.

Then Buffalo Bill told how he had dropped in on Red Steve and Nate Dunbar at the dugout, and of the ride to the ranch house.

“There’s no use waiting here any longer for Perry,” the scout finished. “From the information you bring, Wild Bill, it seems certain that Perry is in the hands of the cattle barons, and is being held at Phelps’ place.”

“Ther onnery cattle dealers tried ter make a clean sweep,” put in Nomad. “They captered Dunbar, Perry an’ the gal. Through a piece o’ luck thet was some wonderful,[59] ye managed ter help Dunbar. He’s at large, but the gal an’ her father aire still in the hands o’ ther enemy.”

“I’m terribly worried about Hattie and Dick,” said Jordan. “They’re fine people, and I’ve feared for a long while that something like this would happen. Benner is a man who believes that might makes right. He’s all-powerful on the Brazos, backed up as he is by Phelps and the other cattle barons. He can be as lawless as he pleases, and what law there is in this country will never touch him. The situation, gentlemen, is a sad commentary on our free institutions.”

“I reckon, pards,” observed Wild Bill, “that the girl is also at Phelps’.”

The scout nodded.

“That it seems to me,” he answered, “is where she would be taken. Both prisoners, I think, would be kept in the same place.”

“But,” went on Wild Bill, “these barons realize that they’re playing a risky game. Phelps understands that, anyhow, for he said so in that scrap of writing which Benner had in his watch.”

The scout knotted his forehead over a detail of the situation which he could not fathom.

“Why,” he queried, “should Phelps write that note and hand it to Benner? They were together in Hackamore. Why did Phelps put such stuff on paper when he could have told it to Benner?”

“It was private business, Buffalo Bill,” suggested the sky pilot dryly, “so private that the barons did not dare speak about it in Hackamore.”

“Granted. The explanation is a little far-fetched,[60] friend Jordan, but we’ll let it go. But why was Benner keeping the paper in his watch? One reading would have been enough for him, it seems to me. After getting the gist of the paper talk, it would have been safer for Benner to do with it what Wild Bill did afterwards—tear it up.”

“There’s no accounting for what those cattle barons do,” said the sky pilot, shaking his head. “They have suddenly become so prosperous that their heads are turned. ‘The love of gold is the root of all evil,’ my friends. Much wealth has a deplorable effect on the majority of us.”

“There’s a little evil, I reckon, parson,” returned the Laramie man, “that gold hasn’t much to do with. For instance, there’s no glittering wealth back of the barons’ persecution of the Perrys.”

“It’s the riches of which Benner has suddenly become possessed,” insisted the sky pilot, “that leads him into all these excesses. Too much money has turned his brain. What man, of Benner’s professed standing in this community, would allow himself to make war on the Perrys as he has done?”

Nate Dunbar muttered savagely under his breath.

“There’s just one thing to do,” he averred, with a snap of his jaws and a savage glimmer in his eyes.

“What’s thet?” asked the trapper.

“Lay for Benner!” said Dunbar, through his teeth. “Hang out in the brush and put a bullet where it will do the country the most good!”

Jordan leaned over and dropped a gentle hand on the cowboy’s shoulder.

“My friend,” he murmured, “those words are not from your heart. I know you too well. You’re not the sort of[61] fellow to skulk in the brush like a rattlesnake and strike at the man who comes along. Why, Nate, even a rattlesnake gives warning. No, no. Face this manfully, and in the open. Such injustice cannot thrive. Take my word for it, it will not succeed.”

“Amigo,” answered Dunbar. “I think a heap of you; we all do, at this ranch. But hasn’t injustice thrived here for months? What’s happened to Perry’s cattle? Might has made right for a long time. I’m getting tired waiting for a change.”

“It is a long lane that has no turning, Nate,” said the sky pilot with an encouraging smile, “and I have a feeling that this lane is close to that point. Providence has been kind to you and to the Perrys. Can’t you see the hand of Providence in what happened at Red Steve’s? Buffalo Bill was brought to your rescue, even as Wild Bill and old Nomad discovered things in Hackamore that brought them to the aid of Perry and Hattie. These,” the sky pilot indicated the scout and his pards with a gesture, “are stanch friends—men renowned for their deeds—against whom the cattle barons cannot prevail. Trust the future, man! Give Buffalo Bill and his friends your full confidence, and then abide by the result.”

Dunbar was heartened not a little by the sky pilot’s words.

“I’m willin’ to do anything a man can do,” said he. “I’m only human, parson, and it grinds me something terrible to see the Perrys treated as they have been. There are only four in Buffalo Bill’s party—six with you and me—and you know how many punchers Benner and Phelps can muster. That’s what makes the thing look hopeless.”


“The race is not always to the swift, Nate, nor the battle to the strong.”

“Well, parson, I always pin my faith on a horse that can go, and put my confidence in the outfit that has the biggest number.”

“Which is wrong, Nate. Intellect counts most in this world. It’s the thinkers who take victory from mere numbers and brute force.”

“And that’s over my head, parson. Not but that I believe in Buffalo Bill—only I want to be shown that things will come our way, and I want to be shown quick.”

“We’ll begin showing you to-morrow,” said the scout.

“How?” asked Dunbar.

“In the early morning I will ride to Phelps’ ranch and talk with——”

“Talking won’t do any good.”

“This talking will,” was the calm response.

“’Specially,” grinned the old trapper, “when Buffler backs up his palaverin’ in his customary way.”

The sky pilot turned on the scout.

“Do you really intend, Buffalo Bill,” he asked, “to visit Phelps’ ranch alone?”


“Will it be safe for you to do so?”

A flicker of smiles ran around the faces of the pards.

“I think it will be safe, Brother Jordan,” answered the scout gravely. “It is not my habit to tangle up with a situation I don’t think I can handle.”

“But, by now, Red Steve will have carried word to the cattle barons that you set Dunbar at liberty. Phelps and Benner will be down on you just as they are on Wild Bill and Nomad.”


“Even at that,” laughed the scout, “I’ll warrant that they will not be unduly discourteous.”

“Supposing,” interjected Dunbar, “that you don’t get to Phelps’ ranch until after Benner comes and takes Perry away?”

“I think I shall get there before them; but, if not, then I will go to Benner’s.”

“Take the rest of us with you!” begged the sky pilot.

“I’ll take you with me,” said the scout, “but you must remain at a distance. A show of force, at this stage of the game, is out of the question. A little tact is what we need now more than anything else. If we all rode to Phelps’ place in a crowd there would be war immediately; but the barons won’t think they have much to fear if I go there alone.”

“Which is ther same as sayin’,” guffawed Nomad, “thet Buffler’s plannin’ ter take ther cattle barons off’n their guard. He kin do it, too.”

The scout got up.

“Now that we have settled what we are to do,” said he, “we’d better all turn in and get a little sleep. Nick, you go to the corral and bunk down with Cayuse. The rest of us will find quarters in the house.”

It was with delightful anticipations for the following day that old Nomad shuffled off to the corral. To Little Cayuse he recounted the various phases of the problem that confronted the pards, and expanded glowingly upon the warm work that lay ahead.

“Things aire goin’ ter be red-hot on ther Brazos, kid,” declared Nomad. “How you like um, huh?”

“Like um buenos,” replied the little Piute. “Pa-e-has-ka heap big chief. Where he go, me trail along. Cattle barons muy malo; Pa-e-has-ka get um on the run. Ugh!”



Early the following morning, Nate Dunbar closed and locked the door of the Star-A ranch house. The saddle horses were in front of the cabin, all in fine fettle after rest and forage.

The scout’s Bear Paw, the Laramie man’s humorously named Beeswax, the old trapper’s Hide-rack, the Little Piute’s pinto Navi, Dunbar’s Buckskin, and the circuit-rider’s roan called George—these were all in readiness and champing the bit to get away.

An hour’s ride down the Brazos would bring the party within sight of the extensive ranch buildings belonging to the H-P outfit.

At the place where Phelps had located his ranch headquarters, the Brazos described a wide bend. Bunk house, chuck shanty, corrals for the horse herds and owner’s house were all located on the tongue of land half circled by the river.

From rising ground at a distance of a quarter of a mile the scout and his party looked down on the H-P headquarters.

Cowboys were going and coming, and at a hitching-pole in front of the owner’s cabin a number of tethered bronchos could be seen.

“Looks ter me,” remarked old Nomad, shading his eyes with his hand and staring steadily, “as though Phelps had visitors.”

“He’ll have another visitor, Nick,” laughed the scout, “before he’s many minutes older.”


“We’re goin’ ter hang out right hyar in ther scrub an’ watch fer trouble signs,” averred the trapper. “Ef we savvy thet ther baron is tryin’ ter put ther kybosh on ye, we’re goin’ ter turn loose an’ ride over ther hull H-P outfit.”

“Well,” cautioned the scout, “don’t you make any move until you’re mighty sure I want you.”

“Don’t worry about that, pard,” said Wild Bill reassuringly.

“Perhaps,” spoke up the sky pilot, “I could be of help if I went with you. I am well known at the H-P ranch, and a good many of the cowboys are personal friends of mine.”

“Are they so friendly toward you, friend Jordan,” asked the scout, “that they would take your part against Phelps?”

“Why, no. That would be rather too much to expect of them.”

“Then I don’t believe you could be of much help. Anyhow, I would rather not give Phelps a chance to think that I’m trying to hide behind a man of your cloth. Stay here with the rest, friend Jordan, and I’ll go down and see what I can find out.”

“Good luck go with you,” murmured the sky pilot.

The scout’s spurs rattled and Bear Paw galloped clear of the scrub and down the slope leading to the ranch houses.

A little distance from Phelps’ private quarters the scout passed a group of cowboys, lounging in the shade of a tree. There were four in the group, and they were reclining lazily and smoking and gossiping. Evidently they were visitors.

There were five saddle horses secured to the hitching-pole,[66] and this left one visitor to be accounted for. Probably, ran the scout’s thought, the missing visitor was in the cabin with Phelps.

The loafing cattlemen gave the scout keen attention as he loped past. Even though his name was unknown, yet he was a figure to command attention anywhere. The magnificent black war horse, without a peer for looks, mettle and speed, backed by the lithe, athletic form that swayed in perfect unison with the black’s movements, offered a picture not easily forgotten.

The cowboys sat up and stared. The scout waved a hand at them in friendly wise, slowed pace at the hitching-pole and dismounted. Quickly he buckled his reins about the pole, moved to the open door of the cabin and, unannounced, stepped inside.

A volley of savage oaths greeted his appearance. Calmly he leaned against the wall and took the measure of the situation.

He was in a room, a big room, whose floor was littered with catamount and wolf skins. The furniture, although of the pioneer variety, was comfortable and somewhat pretentious.

There were three men in the room. The one that commanded most of the scout’s attention was, to use a colloquial term, “buck-and-gagged;” that is, he was trussed up in a manner as uncomfortable as it was effective.

He was sitting on the floor, knees hunched up to his chin and his hands lashed around his knees. Under his knees and over his arms ran a piece of stick.

This man, it was clear, was a prisoner. The scout guessed that it was Dick Perry.

Perry, if that was really the man’s name, was middle-aged,[67] and well dressed—considering the clothes worn in that part of the country.

He wore a blue shirt and his trousers were tucked into the tops of knee boots. On the floor beside him lay a broad-brimmed hat. Hope flickered in his eyes as they rested on the scout—hope, and a wild appeal.

The other two men in the room were the spectacular persons already encountered by Wild Bill in the street of Hackamore—the baron in black and the baron in haciendado regalia.

The barons, the scout saw at a glance, had been indulging rather too freely in liquor. They had exploded their oaths and leaped from their chairs, but they were none too steady on their feet.

“What’re you doing here?” demanded the man in the greaser costume.

“I have just happened in for a little call,” answered the scout.

“Then happen out again. This ain’t my day for callers.”

“You seem to have a few, nevertheless.”

The scout went over towards the barons and calmly took a chair.

“Great tornadoes!” cried the man in black. “Who’s boss here, anyway, Phelps? Have you got the say about things on your own place?”

Phelps felt around himself uncertainly. He might have been groping for a revolver, but, if he was, he failed to get hold of one.

“Go ’way!” ordered Phelps, glaring. “If you haven’t got any business here, go ’way. Can’t you see it’s my busy day?”


“It’s my busy day, too,” returned the scout. “This is far from being a social call. Your name is Phelps?”

“That’s my name.”

“And yours”—the scout leveled a glance at the man in black—“is Benner?”

“Yes,” answered Benner, “if it means anything to you. But I don’t want to talk, and I don’t want any stranger butting in here. Phelps owns this place, and he’s ordered you out. Make yourself scarce.”

“If you don’t make yourself scarce,” declared Benner, “I’ll yell for some of my cowboys. They’ll handle you rough, but if you don’t go on my order you’ll bring it on yourself.”

The hands of both barons were now searching unsteadily for firearms. Fearing that one of them might lay hands on a six-shooter and accidentally work some havoc with it, the scout took time by the forelock and developed one of his own weapons.

“I reckon we’d better understand each other right from the start,” said he. “I came here to talk business, and I’m not going to leave until the business is settled. The cowboys outside are not going to interfere with us, and if one of you men lifts his voice to call for help, there’ll be fireworks—and the celebration will be mine, not yours. Hold out your hands.”

Both barons sputtered wrathfully.

“No man,” fumed Phelps, “can come into my house and draw a gun on me. By thunder, I won’t have it!”

“I’m here,” said the scout, “and the gun is drawn. I reckon you’ll have to have it—or something worse. Hold out your hands! I’m not in the habit of giving an order like that twice.”


There was that in the scout’s eyes and voice that struck fear to the hearts of the cattle barons.

They held out their hands—held them out at their sides, on a level with their shoulders. An idea of a grimly humorous turn flashed through the scout’s mind.

“Back to back, gentlemen,” said he, fanning the revolver back and forth so as to command the two impartially.

“Who are you?” demanded Phelps, with an oath.

“I’m a man who’s accustomed to being obeyed. Buffalo Bill is the name, gentlemen.”

The barons were not so far gone with liquor as not to feel a thrill at the sound of that name. And there were a few qualms mixed with the thrills.

“Red Steve was telling me about you!” broke from Benner. “He got to the ranch before I started for here and——”

“He delivered my message, did he?” asked the scout. “If he did, you’ll understand that this call of mine this morning is on behalf of the under dog. You heard what I said?” The scout got up and advanced toward the barons. “Back to back!”

The two men, their angry eyes on the revolver, placed themselves in the position required by the scout.

“I’ll go this buck-and-gag game one better,” proceeded the scout.

Shifting his revolver to his left hand, with his right he took a pair of handcuffs from his pocket. One of the cuffs he snapped around Phelps’ left wrist, the other around Benner’s right.

“I won’t stand for this!” cried Phelps; “I’ll be hanged if I——”


The muzzle of the scout’s revolver looked Phelps between the eyes, and his furious protest died on his lips.

“You’ll be hanged quick enough, I reckon,” remarked the scout, “if the law ever comes into its own on the Brazos. Just now you’ll stand for whatever I choose to throw your way.”

“And I’ve got four men right outside there,” muttered Benner.

“Phelps has more men outside than you have, Benner,” said the scout, “and they’re not helping him any more than yours are helping you.”

While he was talking he was snapping the other pair of handcuffs into place on Phelps’ right wrist and Benner’s left.

When the work was done, the cattle barons were cunningly fastened back to back, torturingly helpless. A coiled riata swung from a peg in the wall. The scout put up his revolver, took down the rope and made ready for a short cast of the loop over the heads and shoulders of the barons.

He opened the noose wide, for he wanted it to clear the outstretched arms of the captives. The two men were muttering and writhing, straining at the handcuffs to each other’s visible discomfort.

The noose left the scout’s hand, hovered over the heads of the two men and then dropped downward. When the circle of hemp had reached their knees, the scout jerked it suddenly taut. A low laugh came from Perry. He, at least, was enjoying this bit of work.

“Take it easy, gentlemen,” laughed Buffalo Bill; “we’re going to talk business in a minute.”



Considering the circumstances, Buffalo Bill’s manœuvre was audacious in the extreme. Overawing the barons and treating them in such a high-handed manner, right on their own ground, was a reckless proceeding. It needed a man of resource and determination like the scout to carry it through to a success.

Buffalo Bill, however, although he had acted on the spur of the moment, was not blind to the dangers that surrounded him. He was lightning quick in probing chances and forecasting probabilities.

There were two things he wanted to do. One was to snatch Perry out of that camp of enemies; and the other was to discover what had become of Perry’s daughter.

Moving quickly to the door, Buffalo Bill looked over the surroundings of the cabin. The four cowboys were still smoking and talking under the trees. In the other direction, cowboys were catching up horses out of the corral, saddling and riding away to their places on the range.

No one outside the cabin seemed to know or care what was happening to the cattle barons.

Mightily relieved, the scout whirled away from the open door. As he did so, there was a crash that shook the cabin floor. The two barons, in their struggles to free their feet of the encircling noose, had toppled over and fallen.


Secured to each other as they were, they were in a sorry plight. Buffalo Bill hurried to them and adjusted their arms so that they would be more comfortable.

“Stop your struggling,” said he, “and you’ll be a whole lot better off.”

“What do you mean by making an attack on me, right on my own ground?” asked Phelps.

“That’s where we begin to talk business, Phelps,” said the scout. “The prisoner you have in this room is Dick Perry?”

“Yes, that’s my name,” spoke up the prisoner.

In some manner Perry had freed himself of his gag and was able to talk.

Keeping a wary eye on the barons, Buffalo Bill backed over to Perry and pulled the stick from under his knees. Perry at once arose to his feet and slipped his hands out of the coils at his wrists.

“I owe you a debt of gratitude for this,” said he; “a debt that I——”

“Never mind that now, Perry,” interrupted the scout. “We’re not out of the woods yet by a long shot. Is your daughter here, at Phelps’ ranch?”

A wild look crossed Perry’s face.

“My daughter?” he returned. “Good heavens! You don’t mean to say that she—that these scoundrels have——”

“You’re in the dark, I see, Perry,” cut in the scout, “so the chances are that your daughter isn’t here. She was taken away from the ranch some time last night.”

Perry grabbed up a chair and started toward the two men on the floor. The scout caught him by the shoulders.


“Careful!” he warned. “A move like that won’t help us any. Don’t lose heart—we’ll find the girl.”

The scout went back to the cattle barons.

“Watch the lay of the land outside, Perry,” said the scout. “If you see any one coming this way, let me know at once.”

Perry put down the chair and cautiously took up a position by the open door.

“You’ve got the bulge on us, Buffalo Bill,” said Benner. “Take these confounded manacles off our hands.”

“They belong to you,” returned the scout, “and I reckon I’ll let you keep them. Those are the handcuffs that the clerk of the hotel said he had put in your saddlebags. The clerk put them in the wrong saddlebags, that’s all. Why did you want two pairs?”

“That’s our business,” snapped Phelps. “You’re playing a mighty reckless game, Buffalo Bill, and you’ve about one chance in a thousand to win out. You may be able to get away from this ranch, but the Brazos country isn’t big enough to hide you from the men Benner and I will put on your trail.”

“I’ll take care of that part of it. You fellows would have more success in your deviltry if you’d quit passing notes back and forth and hiding them in your watch cases.”

Both barons swore.

“Confound it, Phelps,” gurgled Benner, “that was your fault.”

“Oh, yes,” snorted Phelps, “whenever you make a misplay it’s my fault! When I gave you that information I couldn’t talk it, so I had to write.”

“And I wasn’t able to read it then, and so I had to put it in my watch and read it later. But you could[74] have waited. We’d have had plenty of chance to talk privately before we left Hackamore. That’s where you was lame. You didn’t wait.”

“And where was you lame?” taunted Phelps. “Making that bet to throw watches. Why didn’t you think of what was in that watch of yours, hey? You——”

“That’s enough,” interrupted the scout. “Save your bickering until Perry and I get away. Benner, what have you done with Hattie Perry?”

“I don’t know anything about Hattie Perry,” answered Benner sulkily.

“Yes, you do. You’re talking crooked, when you say that; I can see it in your face. Where is the girl? If you know when you’re well off, you’ll tell me, and not make any bones about it.”

“Who’re you, anyhow?” flashed Benner. “You may amount to something in your own neck of the woods, but you don’t cut much of a caper here on the Brazos. This is our ground, this is! When Perry sees his daughter next, she’ll be Mrs. Benner.”

Fortunately, Perry didn’t hear Benner’s remark.

“You’ll have another guess coming about that,” said the scout. “You’re about as contemptible a cur, Lige Benner, as a man could find in a month’s travel. You two men have a chance, here and now, to do the right thing and square yourselves. Tell me where Miss Perry is, and agree to return all the Star-A cattle you’ve rustled and leave Perry and Dunbar alone in future, and we’ll call this account settled. It will be mighty small payment for you scoundrels to make. Hang out against my proposition, and I’ll camp down on the Brazos until I’ve run you men to cover.”

“That’s big talk,” taunted Phelps.


“The way I’ve handled you this morning is a sample of the way I and my pards do things. If you want any more samples, you’ll find us ready to produce. What have you to say?”

“Be hanged to you,” snarled Benner. “You’re a long ways from being out of this yet. You——”

“Buffalo Bill!” called Perry from the door.

As the scout looked, Perry motioned frantically; and the scout ran to the door, the two cattle barons began to yell for help.

“That settles it,” muttered the scout; “it’s neck or nothing with us, Perry. That’s my horse—the black at the end of the hitching-pole. You annex the one hitched alongside. Sharp’s the word!”

Together they sprang through the door. Cowboys seemed to be coming from every direction, on foot and on horseback. The four who had been smoking under the tree were the ones who had caused Perry’s alarm. They had started toward the house in a body. Whether they were merely curious, or whether they had heard something which had aroused their suspicions, the scout never knew. Be that as it might, when the scout and Perry leaped through the door, the four men were almost upon them.

“Stop those fellows!” yelled Benner from inside the house.

There was small need of any urging on the part of the cattle barons. Benner’s cowboys, seeing Perry free and hurrying away with the man who had recently arrived on the black horse, suspected at once that a rescue had been effected.

The four cowboys hurled themselves at the scout and Perry. Benner’s men met with a surprise that literally[76] carried two of them off their feet—a right-hander from the scout did the trick for one, and a straight-out blow by Perry dropped the other.

The remaining two made an attempt to snatch their guns from their belts. The fugitives, however, took advantage of the attempt to use their fists again. The last pair were bowled over, and the scout and Perry jumped for their horses.

To tear the animals free of the hitching-pole required only a moment, but every moment was precious. The gathering minions of the barons were almost in front of the log house as the escaping men jumped to their saddles.

“Follow me, Perry!” shouted the scout, laying a course up the slope in the direction of the place where he had left his friends.

Wild Bill, Nomad, and Dunbar could be seen descending the slope, their horses at top speed, to cover their pard’s retreat with Perry.

Revolvers began to crack spitefully and leaden bees hissed through the air. The excitement of the moment, and the receding targets, caused every bullet to go wild.

The fusillade was returned from up the slope, and the mounted cowboys who had taken up the pursuit, drew wary rein to make out the number and disposition of the enemies up the “rise.” And while they were hesitating and making their calculations, Buffalo Bill and Perry were pounding along and making good in their dash for freedom.

“Whoop-ya!” roared old Nomad, while the scout and Perry drew closer up the slope, “le’s tear through ther tin-horn camp, pards, an’ raise Cain with a big ‘K!’ Le’s[77] cut loose an’ show ’em our own partic’ler brand o’ destruction! Le’s give ’em er taste o’——”

“Head the other way, quick!” shouted the scout, as he and Perry came thundering up. “Heels are trumps, pards, and see how quick you can play ’em.”

Nomad yielded. When the scout ordered a move contrary to Nomad’s desires, he always yielded.

In a galloping crowd, Dunbar, Wild Bill, Nomad, the scout and Perry swept over the top of the “rise” and into the scrub. Here they were joined by Jordan and Little Cayuse, and they skimmed the earth like a flock of low-flying birds.

There was no time for talk, no time for anything but an occasional look behind and a frantic urging of the horses.

Eight, nine, ten—a dozen mounted men flickered over the crest of the slope and settled themselves for what they evidently thought was to be a long chase.

“Twelve up!” shouted the Laramie man.

“Not so many, oh, not so many!” roared the old trapper. “We’re six! What’s two ter one? Waugh! Give ther word, Buffler, an’ we’ll turn on ’em.”

But the scout did not give the word. There might be no more than twelve in sight, but under the “rise” were enough cowboys to literally overwhelm the scout’s small party.

On went the race. Perry and Dunbar led the fugitives down into the timber, and there, where the scrub was thickest, there followed an exciting game of hare and hounds.

Knowing the country well, Perry and Dunbar were able to take advantage of every friendly swale and shallow seam in the river bottom. In brushy coverts the[78] fugitives waited for the dozen cowboys to rush past, then they doubled back, crossed the river, followed up the opposite bank, recrossed and paused for breath in a coulee.

“Sufferin’ reptyles!” mourned old Nomad, slapping Hide-rack’s sweaty neck, “thet’s new bizness fer We, Us an’ Comp’ny, dodgin’ trouble thet-a-way. I hope I’ll forgive myself some time fer doin’ et.”

“You’d have had to forgive yourself for not doing it, Nick,” returned the scout, dismounting to loosen his saddle cinches, “if we’d taken any other course. How many cowboys has Phelps got in his outfit, Perry?”

“He can muster thirty men, I guess, without much trouble,” answered Perry.

“All of that,” seconded Dunbar.

“It is well we took to our heels, friends,” spoke up the sky pilot. “If any blood had been shed, it would have been a blot on our consciences.”

“Ef we took on er few blots,” said Nomad, “I reckon we’d crimp them barons an’ save future trouble fer Perry.”

Cayuse, thoughtful as ever, had left Navi in the bottom of the coulee and crept up the bank to watch for enemies. Lying on the slope, only his head and the upright eagle plume in his scalplock showed over the crest.

All had dismounted and loosened cinches in order to give their panting horses more freedom in using their lungs.

“Dick,” said the sky pilot, reaching out his hand to the harassed rancher, “I’m sorry you are having this trouble, but I always feared it would come to something like this.”


“There was nothing I could do to help it, parson,” answered Perry, “short of leaving the country. I couldn’t do that, with all I’ve got in the world tied up at the Star-A.”

“It is my hope, my prayer, that you will be tided over your difficulties. If that can be accomplished, these good friends will see to it, I’m sure.”

“I’m obliged to Buffalo Bill and his pards. How they came to be mixed up in my troubles is more than I know. I want to know all about it, but first, tell me about Hattie. How do you know she has been taken away by Lige Benner? When did it happen?”

“Last night, Dick,” answered Dunbar heavily.

“Where were you yesterday, Nate?”

“Captured by some of Benner’s men while I was out looking for strays, turned over to Red Steve, then found and released by Buffalo Bill. That was in the first half of the night. The scout and I rode to the ranch and found everything in the living room in disorder—and Hattie gone.”

A groan was wrenched from Perry’s lips.

“Has it come to this,” he cried, “that these scoundrels must make war on women?”

His tortured soul found vent in language that shocked the minister’s ears.

“Peace, friend,” said Jordan. “You have much to be thankful for. You are not yourself. Try to be composed.”

“How did you fall into the hands of Phelps?” asked the scout, more to get the rancher’s mind to running in another channel than anything else.

“I went looking for Nate,” was the answer, “and some of Phelps’ men roped me in the timber. The noose[80] dropped before I could avoid it, and I was jerked from the back of my horse. They took me to the H-P ranch yesterday noon, and Phelps went to Hackamore to see Benner, report, and get him to send after me. Benner rode over this morning with an escort of cowboys. The plan was to take me to Benner’s ranch, but Phelps and Benner got to drinking and, before we started, Buffalo Bill came.”

Perry turned on the scout, his eyes wide with wonder.

“Buffalo Bill,” said he, “if any one had told me that it was possible for a man to do what you did at Phelps’ this morning I would not have believed it. In all my life I never saw such a nervy piece of work.”

Old Nomad began to chuckle.

“It won’t be long, amigos,” he remarked, “afore these hyar cattle barons o’ ther Brazos’ll begin ter git acquainted with Buffler Bill. None o’ Buffler’s pards stack up ter his level, but, ef I do say et, I reckon we reach purty middlin’ high.”

“What did you do, pard?” asked Wild Bill.

“I corrected the mistake which the clerk at the hotel made last evening,” laughed the scout.

“Meaning which?”

“Why, I gave Benner the handcuffs.”

“With his revolver,” put in Perry, “he forced the two cattle barons to stand back to back, and then he handcuffed their wrists together. He finished the work by putting the noose of a riata around their feet. And that’s the way we left them!”

“I came away,” added Buffalo Bill, “and forgot to leave the key to the bracelets, so——”

Old Nomad was a minute or two grasping the situation the scout had caused in Phelps’ cabin. Just at this[81] point it broke over him, and he leaned against Hide-rack and bellowed with mirth.

“Say,” he sputtered, “this hyar reminds me some o’ ther way Buffler went inter the Sioux kentry an’ took ole Lightnin’-thet-strikes right out from ther middle o’ his band. Waugh! Er-waugh! An’ our pard left them fellers back ter back, handcuffed ter each other, an’ with their men thicker eround ’em than what fleas is in ole Siskiyou county! I’d like ter lay off fer a hull day an’ enjoy thinkin’ erbout thet. I would so!”

“That was just my kind of a play,” commented Wild Bill regretfully. “Wish I could have been in on it myself.”

“Let me know, Buffalo Bill,” requested Perry, “how you knew I was at the H-P ranch? Phelps was trying to keep that quiet.”

The scout explained in a few words.

“Certainly,” murmured Perry, “I ought to be thankful that I have friends like you and your pards to lend me a helping hand at this critical time. Every man on the Brazos seems to have been against Dunbar and me!”

“Not every man, Dick,” protested Jordan. “Only Benner and Phelps are really against you. The rest of the cattlemen are so completely dominated by Benner and Phelps that they don’t dare take sides with you openly.”

“We know the stake Benner is playing for,” said Wild Bill, “but what does Phelps hope to make out of this rascally work?”

“For one thing,” replied Perry, “Phelps wants the Star-A range. He tried to buy out the man who sold to me. Maybe it would have been better if I had gone elsewhere for a location and let Phelps have the Star-A[82] range. We can never tell about these things until it’s too late.”

“Then, too,” spoke up Jordan, “Phelps is a bosom friend of Benner’s. That’s the principal reason, I suppose, why he’s taking a part in this rascally work. But prosperity is back of it all—too much prosperity for men who do not understand how to make the best use of their wealth.”

“Isn’t there something we can do for Hattie?” asked Perry tremulously. “Must we stay cooped up in this coulee, guarding against an attack from the H-P outfit, while my girl is in the hands of that scoundrel, Benner?”

“We’re going to do something for Miss Perry, amigo,” returned the scout, “and we’ll start the ball to rolling just as soon as we can decide what’s to be done. If your daughter had been at the H-P ranch, you’d have discovered it, I think. And I don’t believe Benner would have her taken to his place. Is there any one else besides Red Steve on whom Benner could depend for help in dealing with Miss Perry?”

“There’s Fritz Dinkelmann,” suggested Dunbar. “That Dutchman and his wife owe Benner money, and while I think Fritz is as honest as the usual run of men, still, being in debt head over ears to Benner he might be forced to——”

“Dinkelmann, Dinkelmann!” muttered Wild Bill. “Say, Nick, wasn’t that the Dutchman our Dutch pard went to see? Wasn’t it Dinkelmann who——”

A call came from Cayuse. As he shouted, he beckoned those below to come up the slope and see with their own eyes something he had discovered.

What the pards saw, peering over the crest of the[83] coulee bank, sent the hot blood pounding through their veins.

“It’s the baron—our Dutch pard!” shouted Wild Bill; “the fellow we were just talking about, Perry!”

“There’s a woman with him,” faltered Perry; “can it be—on my soul, I think it is——”

“Yes,” breathed Dunbar hoarsely, “it’s Hattie, Dick! I can see her plain. An’ behind the two are a score or two of cowboys from Benner’s ranch, and from the H-P outfit. They outnumber us, but we’ve got to do something! We can’t stand here like this.”

Dunbar whirled around and rushed stumbling down the slope toward the horses.

“How Benner and Phelps ever got out of those come-alongs so quick is more than I know,” muttered the scout, “but they’re leading those cowboys in the pursuit of the baron and the girl. Spurs and quirts, pards! We’re company front with one of the hardest jobs we ever tackled, but, as Dunbar says, we’ve got to make a move.”

No second urging was needed. Every one followed Dunbar down the slope, cinches were swiftly tightened, and the whole party mounted and rode away to the help of the baron and the girl.



It has been said early in this chronicle, that Chance made a triple blunder. In one corner of the triangle was Buffalo Bill, dropping through the roof of Red Steve’s dugout and effecting the release of Nate Dunbar; in another corner was Wild Bill, watching a queer contest of watch throwing and finding a scrap of paper which ultimately led to the relief of Dick Perry; and in the third corner was Villum von Schnitzenhauser, lured from the rest of his pards by the prospect of a talkfest with Fritz Dinkelmann.

The baron had heard of Fritz Dinkelmann at the house of a small rancher where he, and Wild Bill, and old Nomad, and Little Cayuse had halted for an hour on their journey toward Hackamore. The rancher had mentioned Dinkelmann in an off-hand way, and the baron had pressed inquiries.

Dinkelmann had been on the Brazos for ten years. Everybody in that section knew him, and knew how he had borrowed and borrowed from Lige Benner, until Benner had secured every head of the Dutchman’s stock and a mortgage on his land and the cabin roof that sheltered himself and his wife. Dinkelmann had been in the German army, and carried honorable wounds—mementos of the Franco-Prussian War.

This mention of Dinkelmann’s army experience was what stirred the baron most deeply; for the baron himself had served his time in the kaiser’s ranks, and had[85] won the Order of the Black Eagle for bravery on the field.

Yes, certainly, the baron would have to see Dinkelmann and engage in a talkfest. It would be some time before Buffalo Bill could reach Hackamore from Texico, and the baron could pass the night at Dinkelmann’s and get to Hackamore before the scout reached the town.

It was nine o’clock in the evening when the baron, having lost and found himself at least a dozen times, first sighted the glow of light in Dinkelmann’s cabin, rode up to the door and leaned down from his saddle to knock.

A buxom lady answered his summons, starting back in trepidation when she found the baron’s mule bulked across the entrance.

“Iss Misder Dinkelmann in der house, yes?” inquired the baron.

“Yah,” replied the buxom lady, but not with much enthusiasm.

“Meppy you peen Frau Dinkelmann, yes, no?”


“Vell, I peen Deutsch meinseluf, und I rite seferal miles oudt oof my vay schust for a leedle talk mit friendts from Chermany.”

“For vy you nod shpeak der Deutsche sprache?” inquired Frau Dinkelmann skeptically.

“Pecause I dry hardt to make some berfections in der English.”

The baron, however, in order to prove that he was not an impostor, rattled away in his native tongue. Herr Dinkelmann was in the cabin, but he was not feeling well. He was a good-for-nothing, the herr, and he was not brave enough to call his soul his own except when[86] he was at his schnapps. Would the baron put up his mule in the corral behind the house, and come in?

The baron would—and did.

He found the interior of the house a bare enough place. There were two chairs and a lounge in the front room, and a table on which stood the lamp.

Herr Dinkelmann was stretched out on the lounge. He was a short, fat man and seemed in great distress over something.

“Ged oop, you lazy lout, und see vat iss come already!” cried Frau Dinkelmann. “A visidor has come py us, und you peen so drunk like nodding. Fritz! Ged oop yourseluf und sit der lounge on, den look vat you see. A visidor yet.”

Frau Dinkelmann talked English, perhaps out of deference to the baron, perhaps only because she wanted to show him that she also was proficient in foreign tongues.

As she talked to Fritz, she grabbed him and heaved him bodily into a sitting position.

“Vat a fool I don’d know!” puffed Frau Dinkelmann. “Macht schnell, Fritz! Lieber Gott, vill you your eyes oben und see vat iss here?”

A groan escaped Fritz Dinkelmann’s lips. His eyes opened and he saw the baron’s hand. Grabbing at the hand, he clung to it with a fervor that almost threw him off the lounge.

“Safe me!” he blubbered; “safe me or I vill die! Vere vas it put you der schnapps, Katrina? Liebe Frau, gif me der pottle some more yet.”

Katrina stood in front of him and stuck up an admonitory finger.

“Hear me vat I say now und reflect,” she cried. “I gif[87] you nod der pottle some more yet to-nighdt. Dot’s all aboudt it. You make oof yourseluf some pigs, some mules, ven you der schnapps trink so great. It iss nod dot he loves der trink so,” she explained to the baron, “aber dot he vants it der Dutch courage vat you call. He iss troubles in, ve art bot’ troubles in, lieber Gott, und he takes der schnapps to forget him der troubles. Vat a nonsense.”

“I haf hat drouples meinseluf, yah, so helup me,” said the baron, “aber I look dem in der eyes und face dem oudt. Vat’s der use to trink und make some forgeddings? Der drouples vas dere alretty, ven ter trink iss gone. Fritz, mein lieber freund, douple der fist oop und knock der drouples oudt oof der vay.”

Fritz moaned and tried to slump back on the lounge.

“I don’d got it some nerve to knock me my drouples oudt mit der fist. Liebe Frau——”

But Katrina had grabbed him and pushed him back to a sitting posture.

“Iss it to dreat a visidor righdt you act like dot?” she cried. “I vill handt you vone auf der kopf oof you don’d make some vakings oop und act mit resbect.”

“Vat iss der name?” asked Fritz, displaying a feeble interest in the baron.

“Villum, Baron von Schnitzenhauser,” answered the baron. “Vat iss der madder? Some oof der shildren sick?”

“Kindern ve haf none,” answered Fritz.

“Haf you some cattles on der range?”

“Cattles ve haf nod, neider kinder. Ach, du lieber, vat a hardt time I don’d know. I dry to do der righdt t’ing mit eferypody, und pecause I owe Penner, he makes[88] me do der wrong t’ing, oder he takes from Katrina und me avay der leedle house vere ve lif.”

“Shut oop such talks!” cried Katrina. “Der Dutch courage don’d make some helps mit you. I go by der kitchen now to ged us der paron some subber. Shpeak mit him, Fritz, vile I peen avay.”

“Liebe Frau,” begged Fritz, stretching out his hands, “gif us first der schnapps.”

She struck his hands aside.

“Macht ruhig aboudt der schnapps, oder I vill der pottle preak on der shtones,” she cried angrily.

With that, she lost herself in the rear room.

The baron tried to talk with Fritz, but it was impossible to get much out of him. Even a mention of the German army failed to arouse any interest in the distressed Dutchman. Finally Fritz slumped back on the lounge and began to snore.

The baron would have been disgusted but for the fact that some great sorrow was preying upon the unfortunate Dinkelmann. He craved his schnapps to give him strength to bear his trials. Frau Dinkelmann, it was clear, didn’t believe in Dutch courage.

What was all the bother about? the baron asked himself. If it was the loss of cattle or a mortgage on the home that grieved and fretted his countryman, the baron would not have had much sympathy for him. The baron liked to see a man act in a manly way, face his misfortunes, and walk over them to peace, plenty, and happiness.

But there was something besides the loss of cattle and the mortgage on Dinkelmann’s mind.

While Dinkelmann snored, and his wife moved around[89] in the kitchen, the baron smoked, and tried to guess out the problem.

He was almost sorry he had not gone on to Hackamore with Nomad, Wild Bill, and Little Cayuse. Had he known the trail better, he would have excused himself and started out without waiting for supper. But he had lost his way so many times coming to Dinkelmann’s that he was afraid to attempt the unknown country by night.

While he sat and mused, he became conscious of a slight tapping, as of knuckles lightly drumming against a door. He started forward in his chair, and stared around. There were only three doors to that room—one at the front entrance, one leading into the kitchen, and another opening off to the right. The tapping came from the other side of the door on the right.

What did it mean? The baron sat and studied over the remarkable phenomenon until a shuffling sound struck on his ears. When that commenced, the knocking ceased.

Under the baron’s astounded eyes a bit of white cloth was showing itself beneath the door which had so mysteriously claimed his attention. Some one, it seemed, was trying to push the piece of cloth through into the living room.

Softly the baron arose, crossed to the door, bent down, and pulled the cloth away.

It was a small handkerchief. Turning it over in his hand, he saw that there was writing in pencil on one side of it.

The plot was thickening! The baron, overjoyed to find a little excitement where he had expected nothing more than a talkfest, sat down again, spread the handkerchief[90] out on his knee, and puzzled his brain over the following:

Stranger: Will you be a friend to a woman in distress? I am being detained in this room against my will. I must escape and go back to my home. The horse that brought me should be in the corral. The window of the room is boarded up on the outside, but the boards can be easily removed.”

Had the writing been in German, the baron would not have been long in deciphering it, but it was in English and, in places, almost illegible. However, he managed to get at the gist of the communication. A flutter of joy ran through him.

Here was an adventure!

And the baron could not live and be happy unless adventures were constantly piling in upon him.

From the moment the baron had deciphered the writing on the handkerchief, and had made up his mind to act upon the request of the imprisoned lady, he found nothing monotonous in his surroundings.

When Frau Dinkelmann asked him to come out into the kitchen and have some supper, he stuffed the handkerchief into his pocket, and moved with alacrity into the rear room.

Frau Dinkelmann, sitting on the opposite side of the table while the baron ate, talked unceasingly in the German language. The baron, even if he had been so inclined, could hardly have got a word in edgeways. But he wasn’t anxious to talk. He listened mechanically, and ate mechanically. His mind was busy with the imprisoned lady who had sent him a penciled appeal on her handkerchief.

“I vonder iss she young?” thought the baron; “und is[91] she goot-looking? Und vill she be gradeful oof I safe her from der Dinkelmann house?”

So far as the mere adventure went, the baron was not particular whether the lady was young or good-looking. But, if she happened to be both, the glamor of romance might be added to the undertaking.

“You vill shday der house in till morning?” inquired Frau Dinkelmann, dropping back into her English as the baron arose from the table.

“Could I talk mit Fritz in der morning?” he asked. “Vill he feel pedder mit himseluf den?”

“Yah, so. You shday und you can talk mit Fritz all vat you blease. I make you a bed der floor on.”

“I don’d like to shleep in der house,” demurred the baron. “I like pedder der oudttoors as a shleeping blace. I drafel mit fellers vat shleep oudtoors all der time, und I have got used to it.”

The baron was cunning. He knew that if he was supposed to be sleeping outdoors he would have a chance to examine the boarded-up window without arousing Frau Dinkelmann. He could also find the lady’s horse, and get both the horse and Toofer, the mule, ready for the road.

“Dere iss hay py der corral,” said Frau Dinkelmann.

“Den,” said the baron, going into the front room for his hat, “I vill shmoke, und shleep on der hay. Vat iss der preakfast time?”

“Sigs o’glock, oder venefer you retty vas for vat ve haf. Gott sei dank, ve got somet’ing to eat.”

Bidding Frau Dinkelmann good night, the baron left the house by the kitchen door, rounded the corner of the building, and crept stealthily to the boarded-up window.


Lightly he tapped on the boards. A tapping on the other side of the barrier answered him.

The baron breathed quick and hard. What would Nomad and Wild Bill not have given to be mixed up in such an adventure?

Ach, du lieber, but he was a lucky Dutchman!

After making sure that the lady had heard, and that she understood he would come to her rescue, the baron fell to examining the boards that closed up the opening.

They had been stoutly spiked to the side of the house. In prying them away, it would be necessary to use an axe, and there would be considerable noise.

The baron would have to wait until Frau Dinkelmann was fast asleep. Even then there was a chance that she would be aroused by his attack on the boards, but, if she was, he would rescue the lady anyway, and in spite of both the Dinkelmanns. The baron preferred, however, to rescue the lady quietly, and to get away from the house with her without making a scene with the muscular frau.

Leaving the cabin, he went to the woodpile and found an axe. This he carried to the window, and laid on the ground beneath it, where it would be conveniently at hand when the time came to remove the boards.

His next move was to go to the corral and look for the horse and the lady’s riding gear. He found both, and was not long in getting the horse and Toofer accoutred for the flight.

Leading the animals out of the corral, he hitched them to a post where they would be ready for use at a moment’s notice; then he stealthily approached the cabin, and peered through the window of the living room.

He was disappointed.


Frau Dinkelmann was wide awake. She had drawn a chair in front of the door leading into the prison chamber, and was sitting in it. She was knitting. Across her ample lap, the ball of yarn dancing around it as it unrolled, lay an old-fashioned pistol with a bright brass cap under the hammer.

The baron wondered if Frau Dinkelmann suspected that he was planning to assist the imprisoned lady. She was there on guard, that was evident.

Impatiently the baron went back to the corral. Sitting on a forkful of hay and leaning against the corral fence, he smoked three pipes very slowly, and again went to the house and stole a look through the window.

There was the frau, vigilant as ever, her needles flying and the ball dancing up and down the barrel and stock of the old pistol.

“Py shinks,” thought the baron, “vat oof she shdays dere all nighdt?”

The baron wasn’t afraid of the pistol—not for himself, but the lady would be endangered if he tried to take her away in spite of the watchful frau.

No, it would be better to wait until Frau Dinkelmann was sound asleep.

The baron returned to his place by the corral fence. Sitting down as before, he leaned back, and tried to beguile the tedious wait by wondering who the lady was, why she had been imprisoned in the house, and whether or not it was she who weighed so heavily on Fritz Dinkelmann’s mind.

Then, being tired, and growing confused over his knotty reflections, quite naturally he fell asleep. When he opened his eyes again, a dingy gray light tinged the[94] sky in the east. For a moment he blinked; then, with a muttered exclamation, he jumped to his feet.

“Himmelblitzen!” he gasped. “I haf shlept all der nighdt, und now it iss gedding tay! Dit I tream dot aboudt der laty vat vants to be resgued?”

His troubled eyes wandered toward the cabin, and then back to a post by the corral.

No, he had not dreamed about the lady. There, plainly before his eyes, was the boarded-up window, and here, hitched to the corral post, stood the weary horse and the mule.

Softly the baron made his way to the living-room window, and peered through.

The lamp, burning dimly, cast a sickly light over the room. In the chair in front of the door still sat the frau, but her knitting lay in her lap, and her head was bowed forward in slumber.

Hastily the baron passed to the rear of the house, picked up the axe, and pried at the boards covering the window. The first one came away with such a crash that he felt sure Frau Dinkelmann must have heard the noise. But, no. There was no sound in the living room to bolster up his fears.

He went to work at the second board, and got it off much more quietly than he had the first. It was not necessary to remove any more. A woman’s face appeared in the opening he had made, and a slender form forced itself through the breach and dropped to the ground at his side.

“Oh, thank you, thank you!” said the woman, catching one of the baron’s hands in both her own.

The baron’s heart fluttered. She was young and beautiful—and he had saved her from the Dinkelmanns!


“Dot’s all righdt, lady,” said the baron, throwing out his chest, “making resgues like dose vas my long suit. I peen a bard oof Puffalo Pill’s, und I learned how to do dot mit him. You know Puffalo Pill, yes?”

“I have heard of him,” the girl answered.

For the first time the baron noticed that the girl’s face, though very pretty, was haggard and worn.

“Ach,” he murmured sympathetically, “you haf hat some hardt times, I bed you! Vat iss your name?”

“Hattie Perry.”

“Vat a pooty name! Haddie Berry! I like dot name. Vere you vant to go, Miss Berry? Schust shpeak der vort, und it iss my law.”

“I want to go back to my father’s ranch,” said the girl, her voice trembling.

“Dot’s vere ve vill go, you bed you. Iss it far avay?”

“About three hours’ ride, if we hurry.”

“Den ve vill hurry fasder as dot und make it in an hour and a haluf,” laughed the baron. “Meppyso ve hat pedder ged avay mit ourselufs. Der olt laty insite der house has a bistol, und I don’d vant her to vake oop mit herseluf und see us pefore ve ged a gouple oof miles from here. Aber vait.”

The baron reached into his pocket and pulled out three twenty-dollar gold pieces. Reaching his hand inside the window, he laid the gold pieces on the sill back of the boards.

“Why did you do that?” asked the girl curiously.

“Dot’s somet’ing for der Dinkelmanns,” replied the baron. “I bed you dey don’t got mooch, und I don’d pelieve dey are as pad as vat some beobles mighdt t’ink. Now, den, Miss Berry, off ve go for der ranch vere you lif ven you are ad home.”


They hurried to the place where the animals had been hitched. The baron untied both mounts, he and the girl got into their saddles, and in a few minutes they were moving briskly along the timbered bank of the Brazos.

The baron felt like bursting into song. But he wanted to make a good impression on the girl—and he knew he couldn’t sing.



The dawn gave way to morning, and the sun rose while the baron and the girl were pushing on toward the Star-A ranch. The girl piloted their course, and lost a good deal of time giving a ranch, whose buildings stood on a tongue of land half encircled by the river, a wide berth.

“For vy you do dot?” asked the baron.

He had not, up to that moment, asked the girl any questions about herself. Fully two hours had passed since they had left the Dinkelmann cabin, and not half a dozen words had been exchanged between him and the girl.

“A man lives there who is an enemy of my father’s,” the girl answered. “He is a cattle baron, and his name is Phelps.”

“I peen some parons meinseluf,” said the Dutchman, “aber I don’d got some cattle. Iss he a pad feller, dis cattle paron?”

“Yes; fully as unscrupulous as that other cattle baron whose name is Benner.”

“Vat a lod oof cattle parons, und all pad eggs. Vell, vell, nefer mindt. Vere vas you ven der Dinkelmanns gaptured you, Miss Berry?”

“It wasn’t the Dinkelmanns who captured me, but some of Benner’s cowboys.”

“Ach, aber I vish I hat peen aroundt dot time! Vere dit it habben?”


“At the ranch. Nate had gone away early to look for some stray cattle. He didn’t come back when he said he would, and father went to hunt him up. Father didn’t come back either, and I was in the house reading when—when—when Benner’s cowboys came. I fought to get away from them, but there were two of them, and what could I do? They took me to Fritz Dinkelmann’s, and I was told that Benner was coming to see me this morning. Oh, but I am glad you came to my aid, Mr. von Schnitzenhauser!”

“So am I glad,” said the baron, “more glad as I can tell. Vy ditn’t you dry und knock der poards off from der insite, huh?”

“I did try—but I had only my hands.”

She lifted her hands to show him how they had been bruised and scratched.

“Ach, sure,” said the baron, “you couldn’t haf got oudt oof dot blace mitoudt an axe, same as vat I hat.”

“When I heard you come to the house last night,” the girl went on, “I made up my mind to see if you would befriend me. I was lucky in happening to have that bit of lead pencil in my pocket, and the handkerchief served very well for something to write on. I waited until I knew Mrs. Dinkelmann was in the kitchen, and then I tapped on the door to attract your attention, and began pushing the handkerchief through. I can’t begin to tell you how glad I was when I heard you rap on the boards at the window, but you were a long time getting me out.”

“Id vasn’t safe to dry it sooner,” explained the baron, keeping quiet about the way he went to sleep; “der olt laty vas on guard mit der bistol. Ach, vat a big bistol id vas! Und I bed you id shoots like anyding.”


“Well,” sighed the girl, “I am safely away from the house, and I shall soon be at home now.”

“You bed someding for nodding aboudt dot. Aber tell me vonce: Iss dot Dinkelmann a pad feller?”

“No, I don’t think he is, baron. He owes Benner money, though, and Benner forces Dinkelmann to do things that are not right. Dinkelmann is more to be pitied than condemned. He——”

The girl broke off suddenly, and a startled look crossed her face. Halting her horse, she bent her head in a listening attitude.

“Vat id iss?” queried the baron.

“Can’t you hear it?” whispered the girl, a catch in her voice. “Shooting!”

Yes, the baron heard the reports. They came from the direction of the Brazos, and he and the girl were traveling toward the stream.

“Let’s not go any farther this way,” cried the girl.

“Who you t’ink iss making dot noise?” asked the baron.

“I don’t know,” she answered tremblingly, “but it must be some of Phelps’ men or some of Benner’s.”

“It dakes two tifferent kinds oof men for dot pitzness, Miss Berry. Vone kindt does der shooding, und der odder kindt iss shod ad. Vich is vich?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” returned Hattie, “but I mustn’t fall into the hands of those cowboys again! I would rather die than have that happen.”

“Id von’t habben,” said the baron valiantly. “Schust make your trusting py me. I vill safe you, Miss Berry, yah, so helup me!”

For nearly an hour longer they continued to ride across the open plain. Hattie would not consent to[100] turn in the direction of the river, so they took a course that paralleled the stream.

They had a rough awakening from their fancied security. Shouts were suddenly heard behind. They looked around to see a large party of horsemen bearing down on them at full gallop.

The girl suddenly showed a spirit that aroused the baron’s admiration. Now, when her fortunes were at the lowest ebb, all her fears seemed to drop from her. Her face became set and resolute, her eyes flashed, and she goaded her horse to the best speed.

The baron’s mule, although a scrawny-looking brute, had both speed and bottom. Horse and mule, responding to the urging of their riders, flung onward neck and neck.

“How many are there in that party, baron?” asked the girl.

“More as I like to see,” said the baron. “I should say dere iss t’irty or fordy. Dere iss a greaser und a feller in plack clothes at der head oof der gang. Who vas dose din horns?”

“The man in the Mexican clothes is Phelps,” replied the girl, “and the other man is—Benner!” The last word came with bitter emphasis. “If they capture us, baron, I wish you would shoot that man in black.”

“Anyt’ing to oblige a laty,” returned the baron promptly, “aber I pedder do dot pefore ve ged gaptured, nicht wahr? Meppyso I don’d ged no chance afder dot, or——”

The baron, at that moment, received the start of his life. He gulped on his words, and nearly dropped from his saddle.


“Look vonce!” he gasped. “See who iss dot, Miss Berry!”

The baron pointed across the level to a spot where one horseman after another was swinging over the crest of a coulee—appearing as if by magic out of the earth, and pointing straight for the baron and the girl.

“Vone iss—meppy I vas treaming—vone iss Puffalo Pill,” mumbled the baron; “und anodder iss Vild Pill, und dere iss olt Nomat, und Leedle Cayuse, und some odder fellers vat I don’d know.”

“The other two,” cried the girl joyfully, “are my father and Nate.”

“From vere dit dose fellers come?”

“I don’t know, baron, but—but it is a blessing for us. And there’s the sky pilot,” went on the girl, still feasting her eyes on the approaching horsemen.

“Dot gifs us enough men to make a pooty fighdt, aber dose odder fellers haf seferal times as many as vat ve got.”

The scout, and those from the coulee, were not long in coming to the side of the baron and the girl. There were many things the baron and the girl wanted to know from the scout and those with him, and many things Buffalo Bill and his companions were eager to hear from the Dutchman and Hattie, but the course of events offered no opportunity for talk.

“They’re gaining on us, pard!” shouted Wild Bill.

“I reckon nothin’ kin stave off a fight now,” yelled old Nomad.

“No bloodshed, I beg of you!” implored the sky pilot. “Let me try my hand as peacemaker, friends! My profession earns me that right.”

Suddenly an idea flashed through the scout’s mind.[102] Forcing his horse alongside the sky pilot’s roan, he leaned from the saddle to shout:

“You can act as peacemaker, parson, but it must be in my way!”

“Any way, Buffalo Bill,” cried the sky pilot, “just so it really brings peace without the spilling of blood.”

“Dunbar,” roared the scout, “ride alongside Miss Perry.”

The other horsemen shifted their positions so that this manœuvre could be accomplished.

“You, Jordan,” went on the scout, “ride up behind Miss Perry and Dunbar. Get as close to them as you can.”

Every one in that party was a trained horseman. The reins were handled in masterly fashion, and the racing steeds weaved slowly into positions as ordered by the king of scouts.

“The rest of you,” thundered Buffalo Bill, “spread out so that Lige Benner and Hank Phelps can see what Miss Perry, Dunbar and the parson are doing.”

No one, as yet, had any idea what Buffalo Bill had at the back of his head.

“What’s ther game, Buffler?” demanded Nomad, swerving Hiderack toward the side.

“The ombrays behind are getting ready to use their guns!” warned Wild Bill.

“Never mind their guns—yet,” answered the scout.

“What am I to do?” called the sky pilot.

The scout, pointing to Dunbar and Hattie with his quirt as Bear Paw slashed along, yelled at the top of his voice:

Marry them!

For an instant a dead silence fell over the group of[103] racing fugitives; then, as the wonderful timeliness of the scout’s plan grew clear in the minds of the rest of the party, a cheer broke from the pards.

“Well thought of!” cried the sky pilot.

The book he had used, on the afternoon of the preceding day in Hackamore, came from his pocket; then, with the horses at break-neck pace, and Benner and Phelps close enough to see and understand what was going on, the sky pilot united Nate Dunbar and Hattie Perry in the holy bonds of wedlock.

There have been weddings in balloons, in the Mammoth Cave, on mountain heights and in the depths of mines, but where and when had a young couple ever joined hands for a journey through life as Nate and Hattie joined hands now?

With the final words, “I pronounce you man and wife,” Buffalo Bill ordered a halt.

“A hollow square, pards,” he cried, “with Mrs. Dunbar in the centre! We will face these cattle barons now and see if Lige Benner will listen to reason.”

Swiftly the horses were reined to a panting halt, and as swiftly the scout and his pards, Dunbar, Perry and Jordan took their places in a circle—all facing outward, the girl in the centre and each man with his weapons in hand—each man with the exception of the sky pilot.

Thus they waited for Benner and Phelps and their cowboys to reach them.

The approaching horsemen came furiously. There were fully twoscore. With skilled hands they manœuvred their horses into a “surround,” and the little circle formed by the scout and his friends formed a living and determined barrier between Hattie Dunbar and the barons.


Benner brought his horse nose to nose with Bear Paw.

“You,” yelped Benner in wild fury, shaking his fist at the scout, “are the cause of all this! You and your infernal pards!”

“Look out, you whelp!” cried Wild Bill, “or that black you’re wearing will be for yourself.”

“Quiet, Hickok!” cried the scout; “I’ll do my own talking. Lige Benner,” he went on, to the cattleman, “you have kept this range stirred up quite long enough. You have done about as you pleased, regardless of the law. There is nothing further, now, to keep you at loggerheads with the Perrys. Miss Perry has just become Mrs. Dunbar!”

“Be hanged to you!” yelped Benner. “The sky pilot has made her Mrs. Dunbar, but any man with a gun can make her a widow.”

At that, both Dunbar and Perry nearly precipitated hostilities by making a start at Benner. The cowboys half drew their guns. A sharp word from the scout, however, backed by a shrill command from Hattie, caused Perry and Dunbar to resume their places in the cordon.

“Let me speak,” said the sky pilot, lifting his hand. “Men, men,” he begged, “think of what you have been doing! There are many of you cowboys to whom I have preached; you who have heard me before, listen to me now. Boys, who is Lige Benner that you should cast away your manhood and sink yourselves to his level in carrying out his wicked and lawless schemes? You know what is right! You know what is fair play! Has Dick Perry received just treatment? Has he been dealt with on the square? Answer me that! I have friends among you; to those friends I would say, is your job[105] with Benner worth the price he compels you to pay for it? Is——”

“Another word out of you,” howled Benner, revolver in his hand, “and, parson though you are, I’ll shoot you out of your saddle. I’ll not sit here and let you try to turn my men against me!”

“And neither will you shoot me, Lige Benner,” answered the sky pilot, folding his arms, “for saying what you know to be the truth. You are a coward! Any man who would act as you have acted, is a coward.”

Benner made movements with his revolver hand which the scout did not like.

“Put up that gun, Benner!” said the scout.

“I’m my own boss,” roared Benner, “and I’ll not put it up till I get ready. I’d as soon send a bullet through you as through the meddling sky pilot.”

The scout spurred forward, straight toward Benner. For an instant it seemed as though the cattle baron would shoot, but he caught the scout’s eye and his hand grew paralyzed.

The scout, drawing rein at Benner’s saddle stirrup, twisted the revolver out of his hand and flung it to one of Benner’s cowboys.

“Keep that for him,” said he. “Benner may be a big man on the Brazos, but he’s not big enough to buck the United States Government. Now listen, every one of you men. I’ve something to say that’s of vital importance to all of you.

“The lawless doings on the Brazos have been heard of far beyond the confines of Texas. It was to investigate them that I came here. Chance, luck, what you will, threw me right into the thick of plot and counterplot before I had reached the town of Hackamore.


“Do you, Benner, or you, Phelps, want a company of regulars marching down the Brazos? Do you want your ranch buildings burned, your cattle scattered? Do you want to be run to cover and made to answer for your criminal deeds? If you do, make just one more move in this campaign of lawlessness. You seem to have all the legal machinery of this county under your thumbs, but I reckon you understand that fighting the United States Government is a different proposition.

“What do you fellows want, peace or war? I am here to give you either. All you have to do is to make a choice.

“If you’re for peace, there are conditions. Perry must be left alone. Any further persecution of him will be a signal for that company of regulars. The Star-A cattle that have been rustled and driven off must be returned. Those are the terms for peace.

“If you don’t want peace, then I give you my word that you, Benner, and you, Phelps, will see the inside of a federal prison, and that all your wealth won’t keep you out. That’s about all I’ve got to say. Think it over. I and my pards are going to the Star-A ranch with Perry, and Mr. and Mrs. Dunbar and the sky pilot. Try to interfere with us at your own peril.”

The scout, with a final look straight into Benner’s eyes, rode away.

“Break away, there on the north!” Buffalo Bill cried to the cowboys who fenced in that part of the circle.

The cowboys cleared the way in a hurry.

“Move on, friends!” cried the scout. “Take your time, there’s nothing to fear.”

Perry and the sky pilot, side by side, led the way out of the circle of cattlemen. Behind them rode Mr. and[107] Mrs. Dunbar. Then came the baron and Cayuse, Wild Bill and Nomad, and, at the end of the procession, Buffalo Bill.

“Gentlemen,” laughed the scout, “I bid you good day. Go home and do a little reflecting, all of you. You have plenty to think about, I take it.”

Benner snarled and showed his teeth like an angry catamount. But the fight had all gone out of Phelps. He was very much depressed.

Slowly the scout’s party rode off across the plain in the direction of the Brazos. For a long time the cattle barons and their cowboys kept their horses at a standstill, gazing after the scout. The only man in the vanishing party who loomed ominous in their eyes was Buffalo Bill. That day, if never before, the prince of plainsmen had made his power felt.

He, an agent of the government! Sent there to investigate the lawlessness on the Brazos! And neither Benner nor Phelps had ever dreamed of such a thing. They had showed their hands, hiding nothing, daring the scout and defying him. And now they knew that he had been sent there to take the measure of their culpability.

“I reckon I’ve had enough of this Perry business,” said Phelps. “You got me into it, Benner, confound you! And what have you gained? Why, you’ve even lost the girl.”

“I’m not done yet,” scowled Benner.

“You take my advice and throw up your hands.”

“Not till I’m even with Perry and Buffalo Bill,” was the snarling response.

“Count me out of your schemes, then, from now on. I tell you I’ve had enough.”


“Be hanged to you for a coward!” cried Benner. “Come on, you boys that go with me.”

The Benner forces separated from the Phelps outfit, each detachment of cowboys going their different ways.

“That fool’s going to get himself into more trouble, Mac,” remarked Phelps to McDermott, one of his foremen.

“That’s nothing to you, Hank,” replied the foreman.

“Nothing to me, no. I’ve come out of this business a heap better than I deserve. And I reckon I know how to let well enough alone.”



Nothing could have been more peaceful, that bright, sunny morning, than the surroundings of the Star-A ranch.

Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill sat out under the trees, a dozen yards from the ranch-house door. They were smoking their pipes and contemplating, with much satisfaction, the happy and peaceful scene before them.

“By gorry, pard,” said the Laramie man, “just hear the girl in that old log shack tune up that pretty bazoo of hers. Every once in a while she breaks into song. Joyful? Well, I reckon!”

“Contrast this scene with another of two days ago,” returned Buffalo Bill. “The cattle barons, headed by Lige Benner and Hank Phelps, were doing their best to run Perry out of the Brazos country. Dunbar had been treacherously waylaid and was being held a captive; Perry had been made a prisoner and was in ropes at the H-P ranch; and the girl had been spirited away by Lige Benner, who hoped to break her will and make her agree to become his wife. Then we came, Hickok—you, and I, and the rest of our pards—and shook up the whole bag of tricks. Dunbar and Perry were released, and the marriage knot was tied by the sky pilot, while the lot of us were racing away from Benner, Phelps and forty of their cowboys. What we did was certainly worth while.”

“I’ve never helped to do anything, pard,” returned[110] Wild Bill, “that I look back on with so much satisfaction.”

“Nor I. We have cause to congratulate ourselves.”

At that moment Nate Dunbar rode up to the cabin door on his favorite riding horse. He was prepared for a journey of some length, it seemed.

Dropping down from the saddle, he turned to throw his arms about his wife, who had hurried through the door to bid him good-by.

The pards turned their heads. When they looked up again, Nate Dunbar’s horse was in front of them, and the fine-looking young cowboy, his face wreathed in smiles, was on the ground and reaching out his hand.

“I’m off for town, amigos,” said he, “and I may be gone for two days. There are supplies to be bought, cowboys to be hired, and plenty of other business to be looked after. Dick thinks I’m the one to go. It was hard for Hattie to agree, but she always comes to time when she understands a thing is for the best.”

As the scout got up and wrung his hand, Dunbar bent forward to whisper:

“And there’s the wedding present for Hattie, you know. I didn’t have time to attend to that yesterday, when we were spliced on horseback, at twenty miles an hour! But now,” and he withdrew his hand to slap a jingling pocket, “I’ve both the time and the money, and Hattie’s going to have a ring with a hundred-dollar ‘spark’ in it. Oh, I’m sure one happy man, pards, and we all know we have Buffalo Bill and his friends to thank for it!”

“It has been pleasure enough for me and my pards to get you out of your tangle here, Nate,” said the scout.

“Which is no dream at all, Dunbar,” laughed Wild[111] Bill. “When Pard Cody puts up a talk like that, he reflects the feelings of all his pards. May your shadow never grow less, amigo mio, and may you never say a word that clouds the bright face of the girl in yonder cabin. She’s the biggest prize that will ever come to you in this life.”

“Truer words were never spoken!” declared Dunbar, flashing an affectionate glance at the cabin. “I’m hoping, Buffalo Bill, that you and your pards will stay here till I get back. I feel positive all our troubles are behind us, but my mind will be easier about the Star-A ranch if I know that you are here until I get back with an outfit of cowboys.”

“Don’t worry, Nate,” said the scout reassuringly. “We’ll have to stay. The baron, old Nomad and Little Cayuse have gone to Dinkelmann’s ranch for a day or two, so Hickok and I will have to stay here till they come back.”

“Gracias!” Deep feeling throbbed in Nate Dunbar’s voice as he added: “No man ever had better friends than Buffalo Bill and pards, and neither Hattie, nor Dick, nor I will ever forget what we owe you. I’d crawl the length of the Lone Star State to do any of you a good turn. Adios!”

Nate Dunbar jumped for his saddle, his spurs rattled, and he vanished along the trail through the timber, laying a course for Hackamore.

“That lad’s the clear quill, Pard Cody,” declared Hickok, gazing after Dunbar and wagging his head. “He’ll go far and do well, mark what I say. But he seems to think that he’s not through with the hostile cattle barons.”

“I don’t think he has any cause to be worried,” said[112] the scout. “Hank Phelps, if what I hear is true, has thrown up his hands and will have nothing more to do with the lawless element on the Brazos. Lige Benner is the only source of possible trouble; but, with public opinion setting in strong for the Perrys, I don’t believe Benner will dare let his animosity show itself. He——”

The scout halted abruptly. Through the timber behind him and the Laramie man came a rider at speed, his horse lathered and blowing. The man in the saddle was long and lean; his thin, hatchet-like face was full of excitement. As he threw himself from his horse, the animal staggered drunkenly with feet wide apart.

“Suffering horn toads!” exclaimed the Laramie man, passing his gaze from the nearly spent horse to the excited newcomer. “From the looks of your horse, neighbor, I reckon you only hit an occasional high place for a good distance back.”

“We flew,” grinned the man, “but we had ter. Ain’t forgot me, have ye?”

He looked at Wild Bill ingratiatingly.

“Dot and carry one!” cried Wild Bill, recognizing the newcomer suddenly. “Can this be Sim Pierce, the gent I came company front with in Hackamore? Sim Pierce, scion of the Pierces of San Antone?”

“Aw’ shucks!” said Sim Pierce deprecatingly, drawing a bar of chewing from his hip pocket, and loading himself with one corner of it.

Returning the tobacco to his pocket, he dropped down on the bench on which the pards were sitting, chewed wide and reflectively for a few moments, and hooked up one knee between his hands.

“Sim,” remarked Wild Bill, after the silence had begun to grow embarrassing, “did you ride your caballo into[113] a quiver just to come here and show Buffalo Bill and me how you handle a plug of Cowboy’s Pride?”

“Waal, not so you kin notice,” answered Sim. “I was glad I seen ye out hyer by yerselves. It gives me a chanst ter onbosom myself without lettin’ the Perrys savvy.”

“Perrys! Only one Perry and two Dunbars live in that house now.”

“Which I stand kerrected. Buffler Bill an’ pards have shore done a heap fer the Perrys an’ Nate Dunbar. Gosh-all-whittaker! Say, I’d have given my boots ter see a weddin’ in the saddle, hosses slashin’ erlong like all-possessed, sky pilot pufformin’ like he never done afore! Say, I’ll bet that was some fine as a spectacle.”

“Some, and that’s a fact, Sim,” said Wild Bill. “But you’re not telling why you raced up here like a scared coyote looking for home and mother. Does it pain you any to get down to cases?”

“Hyer’s where I git at it,” answered Sim. “That sky pilot, Jordan, the feller as done the knot tyin’ while the hosses was at a run, sent me hyer. He had a message fer Buffler Bill an’ pards.”

“Ah,” spoke up the scout. “What was the message?”

“‘Tell Buffler Bill,’ says the sky pilot, ‘not ter leave the Star-A ranch fer a spell yit. Tell him,’ he says further, ‘that ther trouble ain’t over fer ther Perrys.’ Things is hatchin’ right this minit, he allows, over ter Lige Benner’s. Lige ain’t feelin’ none too good over the way he got done up, an’ he’s plannin’ ter cut loose with some other kind of er rough house.”

“How did Jordan discover that?” queried Buffalo Bill.

“One o’ Benner’s men, who’s a friend o’ Jordan’s, sprung a leak. The sky pilot got all worked up. He’s a[114] nervy ombray, that same Jordan, but he’s been takin’ more physical exercise lately than what he kin stand. He’s laid up fer repairs in the Delmonico Ho-tel in Hackamore.”

“Not sick?”

“Not him—jest tired like. Preachin’ the Gospel is some differn’t from makin’ er splice in the saddle with the hosses jest er-smokin’. Right strenyus work fer a sky pilot, I call that.”

“What sort of deviltry is Lige Benner hatching, Sim?” went on the scout.

“Benner’s man didn’t say—mebby he didn’t know—but he allowed it was ter be pulled off some suddent. Jordan thought you fellers might git a line on purceedin’s an’ use yore original, Cody brand o’ kybosh.”

“That’s all?”

“That’s all. I’ll now go over ter the c’ral, put out my hoss an’ hang eround till arter dinner; then I’ll p’int fer Hackamore. Whar’s Nate?”

“Gone to town. You’d have passed him if you’d come the regular trail.”

“Shucks! Say, I was in sich a big hurry that I kim ’cross lots. Waal, hyer’s fer ther c’ral.”

Sim Pierce stepped toward his horse and laid hold of the bridle reins.

“Mind, Sim,” warned the scout as the man moved off, “not a word about this to Mrs. Dunbar or Perry. There may be nothing to it, and there’s no need of arousing the fears of those in the house.”

“Shore not,” flung back Pierce over his shoulder as he moved away with his horse. “I’ll keep mum, all right.”

“What do you think about this, Hickok?” queried the[115] scout thoughtfully, when he and the Laramie man were again alone.

“I don’t think that sky pilot would have sent Sim with a warning unless there was good ground for worry.”

“My notion, exactly. Jordan isn’t a man to shy at trifles. But how are we to know what’s taking place at Benner’s ranch?”

“I’ve got a way for discovering that, pard. Listen.”

With that, the Laramie man settled back and freed his mind of a daring expedient which had abruptly occurred to him.

“It might be safe enough for Buffalo Bill or one of his pards to call at Lige Benner’s ranch, but if one of us dropped in there, compadre, how much would he find out?”

“Not much, and that’s a fact,” said Buffalo Bill. “Benner is the kind of a snake-in-the-grass that strikes from cover, and he hunts his cover well. If you or I went to his place, Hickok, we might or might not come away with our scalps; but—and mark this—if anything happened to us, Lige Benner would fix things so he could prove an alibi.”

“Right-o. I wasn’t thinking along that line, however. If Benner is laying his wires, Buffalo Bill or his pards wouldn’t be able to discover anything; but if some one went there who wasn’t known to be one of Cody’s pards, there’d be a fine opportunity for getting a line on Benner.”

“Well, yes. I’m not catching your drift, though, Hickok.”

“Here’s the drift: Suppose I fix up in different clothes and ride to Benner’s? Maybe I’m a cowpuncher hunting a job, and maybe I’m a Jew peddler, or any other thing[116] that seems most likely to fill the bill. Benner wouldn’t know me from Adam, and I’m willing to gamble my spurs that I’d uncover a pay streak of information.”

The scout shook his head dubiously.

“Benner and all his men know you, pard,” said he. “It’s a question whether you could hide your identity so they wouldn’t know you. If you blew in there in a disguise, and they discovered who you were, there’d be fireworks and fatalities. Is it worth the risk?”

“Not is it worth the risk, pard, but is there a chance that the risk would work out? Personally, I wouldn’t be averse to a little excitement, but——”

“That’s the way you always stack up, Hickok, and that’s the point that would work most against you.”

“But,” went on Hickok, “I understand my responsibilities, and that, if I don’t get away without arousing suspicion, what information I pick up won’t do Perry or the Dunbars any good. Which and wherefore is the reason I’ll play my cards with care and caution. Besides, you know how well I can make up. If I wasn’t a pard of Cody’s, and mired in the West, I reckon I’d be on the stage. Am I, or am I not, an actor?”

“You are,” laughed the scout; “one of the best actors I’ve seen in many a day. I remember how you played the part of a vaquero, over in Arizona, and fooled the rest of your pards.”

“Ah! Well, if I could fool my pards, why can’t I fool Benner and his outfit? I can, and I will. Just give me leave to try, that’s all.”

The scout reflected. When Wild Bill left only the scout would be with Perry and Mrs. Dunbar. If Benner and his men tried to make a raid on the Star-A, there would be merry doings to follow and perhaps some losses[117] of Star-A property. But a raid was too open a warfare for Benner, the scout knew. The unscrupulous cattleman liked best a covert and more reprehensible hostility—something like a bullet from ambush, or a knife in the back. But, after the lesson Benner had received at the hands of the scout and his pards, it was doubtful whether he would even dare to launch lead from cover. If he was planning reprisal against Perry and Dunbar, Benner would proceed by more devious ways to effect his purposes. It was necessary that his plans should be known so that they might be guarded against.

“While we’re hemming and hawing and sidestepping, pard,” spoke up Wild Bill, “the plot is thickening over at Benner’s. And Benner’s, you know, is a good two hours’ ride down the Brazos. Come to centre quick, so I can mosey along—if I’m going.”

“We’re not at all sure there’s any plotting going on at Benner’s,” said the scout.

“So far as that goes, we’re not sure of much of anything in this world but death and taxes. Anyhow, Pard Cody, about two minutes ago you rose to remark that Jordan wasn’t a man to send a messenger with a warning unless there was really something on the carpet.”

“Nor do I think he is,” answered the scout. “Jordan, for a sky pilot, is about as clear-headed, practical a man as I ever met. But suppose it was part of Benner’s game to steer this man of his against the sky pilot with a fake report of trouble brewing? What if that’s a part of Benner’s plan?”

“How would Benner gain anything by that?” asked Wild Bill, wrinkling his brows over this new phase of the matter.

“He might gain just the point you’re suggesting—that[118] one of us ride to his ranch for investigation. Perhaps that’s what he’s working for.”

“So he can get hold of one of us?”


“Well, Benner’s long-headed, Pard Cody, but he’s not so long-headed as all that comes to. I’ll gamble that Benner’s man who tipped off the sky pilot was acting in good faith. We know Jordan has friends at Benner’s; and maybe Perry has a few there, too, and that they’re trying to show friendship in the only way they dare, and hold their jobs. Which is it, yes or no?”

“Go ahead,” said the scout; “but, if you’re not back by some time to-night, you’ll know I’m hitting the trail on the hunt for you.”

“I’ll get back, and don’t you forget that. Stay right here for half an hour and I’ll show you something.”

Wild Bill, as he spoke, got up from the bench. A moment later he had disappeared in the bunk house behind the ranch headquarters.

The scout, filling and lighting his pipe, leaned back on the bench and gave way to reflections that were not wholly agreeable.

Here, where he and his friends had wrought peace and happiness on the Star-A section of the Brazos, had suddenly appeared the ugly, serpent-like head of under-handed war.

Perry, just when he was securing the respect and confidence of the cattlemen up and down the river—excepting Benner, of course—might be called on to face more troubles. And of these he had had enough, and more than enough.

Mr. and Mrs. Dunbar, too, might be rudely disturbed in their new-found dream of happiness. This possibility[119] the scout regretted deeply, for he had taking a great liking to Dunbar and his wife, and would have gone far to insure their tranquil future.

The scout wished that he had not allowed the baron, the trapper and the little Piute to leave Perry’s for the Dinkelmann ranch. If clouds were really beginning to show in the peaceful skies, all the pards should be corraled in one place, ready to hurl their united strength against any quarter of the compass from which a sudden call might come.

“Podner, who lives hyer?”

The raucous voice broke in suddenly on the scout’s reflections. Lifting his eyes he stared at about as ornery a specimen of the genus hobo as he had ever set eyes on.

The man’s face was dirty; his slouch hat was full of bullet holes and the crown was loose and flapping. Through the crown protruded a few stray locks of unkempt hair. Over the man’s left eye was a red handkerchief bandage. His face was dirty. His ragged blue flannel shirt and his torn, greasy trousers were belted in at the waist with a section of frayed rope. On one foot he wore a boot, and on the other a moccasin. But he was riding a good horse, well accoutred—a horse the scout recognized as Wild Bill’s.

“Get off that horse, you!” cried the scout, rising sternly. “If——”

The scout’s voice trailed into silence, and the silence was broken by a hearty laugh from the man in the saddle.

“By gorry,” came the familiar tones of the Laramie man, “if I didn’t fool the king of scouts himself, I’m a yap! Whoosh! You must have mislaid the eagle eye, pard! What chance has Benner got to get next to me if you went so wide of the mark?”


The scout joined in his pard’s laugh.

“You’ll do, Wild Bill,” said he, “all but the horse. Your get-up don’t jibe with the riding gear and the animal you’re riding. The horse and trappings will be a dead give-away.”

“Nary, Pard Cody. The horse and trappings are going to be a big help.”


“Why, look. I come breezing up to Benner’s hangout with a yarn to the effect that I lifted the horse at the Star-A. That ought to get me in with Benner, if he’s at all crooked. A man who’ll steal a horse will probably be the sort of a chap he’d like to use in his present game of cold deck and loaded ivories. I’ve the medicine tongue for a job like that, don’t you think?”

“You’re one of the most resourceful men in a pinch I ever saw, Hickok,” declared the scout. “Lay your own plans and carry them out in your own way, but be sure and get back here to-night.”

“That’s me. When I come, I’ll come loaded.”

“With information, I hope, and with none of Benner’s lead. So long, and good luck to you.”


Wild Bill kicked his heels into Beeswax’s ribs and started through the timber, en route down the river and headed for Benner’s.

“He’ll make good,” thought the scout, “and if there’s anything brewing at trouble headquarters, Wild Bill will hustle back with the news.”

Getting up from the bench, he knocked the ashes out of his pipe and went to join Perry and Sim Pierce in front of the cabin.



Lige Benner had his private quarters in a big adobe house. The house capped a “rise” of ground, and from its windows Benner could look below and see the big bunk house, the huge “chuck shanty,” the blacksmith shop, the tool sheds, the wagon shelters and one of his horse corrals. In point of size the various buildings formed a small village, inhabited by at least fifty men.

The lord of the village lived on the low hill, kept ceaseless vigilance over his men and ruled them with an iron hand.

It was currently reported that a love affair, in early life, had ended disastrously for Benner and had soured his disposition.

Where he came from, when he settled on the Brazos, no one knew. He had been so long in his present location, however, that his original hailing place had long since ceased to be a matter of any interest.

Steers bearing his brand—the Circle-B—were numbered by thousands, and ranged over many square miles of country.

At this particular time the cattle business was enjoying unprecedented prosperity, and wealth flowed in on Benner far and away beyond his powers of spending. This very fact seemed to render him irritable. He pictured to himself the delights which money could buy in Galveston, San Antonio, New Orleans and New York, and fretted because he dared not leave his ranch to go to[122] places where his money could bring him a larger return of enjoyment. He hadn’t a foreman whom he could trust. A younger brother, a hunchback, lived with him, but even this brother had little of his confidence. Jerry, as the hunchback was called, was all well enough as an aide, but if Benner had absented himself for any great length of time from the ranch, Jerry would surely have manipulated affairs to his own profit.

Jerry was a schemer. Shrewd as a fox, he was as sly as a serpent, brutal and utterly unscrupulous. His nature seemed to have been warped into ugly channels when his body was broken.

Benner had given Jerry a home, and Jerry repaid his brother by giving him advice. The advice, although not always honest, never failed to redound to Lige Benner’s benefit. So, while he had come to trust to Jerry’s shrewdness in counsel, he came also to distrust his principles—principles which Benner occasionally appropriated to his own use.

During the forenoon of the day that had witnessed the call of Sim Pierce at the Star-A ranch, Lige Benner and his hunchback brother were in the big living room of the adobe house.

Jerry’s crippled body was almost lost in the depths of an easy-chair. He was smoking a home-made cigarette and watching Lige with two brilliant, ferret-like eyes. Lige Benner, deeply wrought up over something, was pacing up and down the room.

“What’s the use of fretting?” asked Jerry in his thin, high-pitched, querulous voice. “Do as I tell you, Lige, and you’ll get even with that outfit up the river.”

“I can’t get the girl, can I?” fumed Lige, halting and whirling on the crooked form in the chair.


“You can get something better, Lige,” answered the hunchback, his eyes glimmering, “and that’s revenge for having lost the girl.”

“Revenge on who?”

“On Dunbar, on Perry—perhaps on Buffalo Bill and his pards.”

“Without making trouble for myself?”

It was not so much the coward that spoke, as the man of secret ways and dark.

“Yes, Lige, and without making trouble for yourself,” said Jerry. “I’ve thought it all out. That’s why I sent one of the men to watch the Star-A ranch, and it’s why I sent Red Steve to Hackamore after Abraham Isaacs.”

“What in the fiend’s name are you intending to do with Abraham Isaacs? How’ll he help me get revenge on Perry, and Dunbar, and Buffalo Bill?”

“Wait till Red Steve gets here with Isaacs.”

A cackling laugh came from Jerry. He had a way of laughing which was by sound alone, for not a muscle of his cadaverous face moved. It was more the laugh of a hyena than of a human being.

“What you’ve got up your sleeve is too many for me, Jerry,” growled Lige, “but if you can pull off the game as you say, I’ll give you five thousand in gold. D’you hear? Five thousand in yellow boys if you make trouble for Perry and Dunbar without making any for me.”

A greedy sparkle appeared and disappeared in the hunchback’s eyes.

“I’ll get that money, Lige,” said he, “and you can bank on it.”

Lige whirled and stared at him.

“You’re an artful little devil,” he grunted, “and I shouldn’t wonder if you made good.”


“I run to headwork, Lige,” piped Jerry, highly pleased with the left-handed compliment. “I’m a cripple, and can’t ever do anything worth while with my body—but it’s the mind that rules! It’s the brain that accomplishes things! If I can’t work myself I can make others work for me. If——”

A man, covered with the dust of the trail, appeared in the open outside door.

“Come in, Hamp!” cried Jerry, breaking off his words the moment his eyes had fallen on the man. “You’re just from the Star-A ranch?”

Hamp pushed into the room and stood staring grimly from Lige to Jerry, snapping at his leg with his quirt.

“That’s whar I’m from,” he answered.

“You watched the place, Hamp?”queried the hunchback eagerly.

“Shore I did, all last night an’ half the forenoon. When somethin’ happened I thort ye wanted ter know. I come right hyer with it.”

“No one saw you watching the place, Hamp?”

“Nary a soul.”

“Who’s there?”

“Buffler Bill an’ pards, Mr. an’ Mrs. Dunbar, an’ Perry.”

Lige Benner scowled at mention of Mrs. Dunbar.

“They’re there now, Hamp?” went on Jerry.

“Naw, not now. When I left only Buffler Bill, Wild Bill, the gal an’ Perry was thar. The Dutchman, the ole juniper of a trapper an’ the little Injun had left fer a call on Dinkelmann. When Dunbar pulled out, I pulled out, too.”

The fact that Dunbar had “pulled out” aroused considerable interest in Lige and Jerry.


“Why did Dunbar leave, and where did he go, Hamp?” demanded Jerry.

“Dunbar pulled out fer Hackamore ter be gone two or three days. He’s gone arter cowboys ter help run the ranch, arter supplies, an’”—here a snarling laugh came from Hamp’s bearded lips—“ter git a diming ring fer his wife.”

The hunchback slapped his clawlike hands.

“I’d reckoned on taking the first fall out of Perry,” said he, “but events are shaping up so Dunbar is to get it. That’s all, Hamp.”

“Hit the bunk house,” said Lige; “no range work for you, Hamp, till to-morrow. Keep mum about what you’ve done, too. There’s twenty pesos in gold for you, if I learn you haven’t said a word about the work you’ve done.”

Hamp mumbled something under his breath, turned and shuffled out.

“We’re getting along in fine shape, Lige,” crowed the hunchback. “It won’t be long till you get part of your revenge now. We’ll take care of Dunbar first.”

“I want to get Perry, too,” snapped Lige; “don’t forget that while your brain’s at work.”

“It’ll be easy to get Perry—but Dunbar first, Dunbar first.”

“And what about Buffalo Bill?”

“He’ll come harder, and it’ll take more scheming, Lige. We’ll save Buffalo Bill for the last. Oh, this is fine—finer than I expected. So Dunbar has gone to Hackamore to buy a diamond ring for Mrs. Dunbar, hey?”

Jerry went off into one of his mirthless cackles again.


“It couldn’t have happened better, Lige,” he declared, “honest it couldn’t.”

“Stop your confounded sputtering and tell me what you’re going to make happen? What are you keeping me in the dark for?”

“I’m keeping you in the dark, Lige, until I can make sure of Isaacs.”

“Isaacs is going to help?”

“Yes, Lige, if I can get him to. Have you got any influence with Abraham Isaacs?”

“I’ve bought stuff from him.”

“Then buy some more stuff from him, Lige! Buy as much as you can, but don’t take the stuff or pay him the money until he’ll promise to help us.”

“Ole Abe Isaacs would sell his soul if he saw a chance for profit. I can make a deal with him, but what in blazes can that old Jew do for us?”

“I’ll tell you later, Lige, when——”

“Oh, be hanged to you.”

Lige Benner whirled away and stepped into the open door. As he did so, a cowboy hurried up from the foot of the hill.

“Feller down there wants a job, Benner,” grinned the cowboy.

“I’ve got all the men I want.”

“He’s a hoss thief, I reckon,” went on the cowboy, “an’——”

“If you’re sure of that,” cut in Benner sharply, “send the fellow to Hackamore with a couple of the men.”

“But if he is a hoss thief, then he’s been liftin’ some o’ the cattle belongin’ ter Buffler Bill’s pards an’——”

“Been stealing horses belonging to Buffalo Bill’s[127] pards?” demanded Benner. “Send the man up here and tell him to bring the horse.”

“That’s right, Lige,” said Jerry. “It’ll pay to look into this.”

Lige and Jerry Benner stood in the door of the adobe house as the stranger came up the hill.

“He looks like a bad egg,” muttered Lige.

“That’s right, Lige,” said Jerry, “he does. I reckon either of us is competent to tell a bad egg from a good one.”

Lige didn’t like the tone of his brother’s voice, and turned on him sharply. Jerry didn’t take his eyes from the figure advancing up the slope, but the weird laugh came through his motionless lips.

Before the brothers had a chance to talk any further, the stranger came to a halt at the door. His horse was a “rangy” animal and undoubtedly possessed both speed and bottom; and the trappings, although showing signs of hard usage, were of the best.

The ragged and tattered man in the saddle did not harmonize with his equipment. Any one could see, with half an eye, that something was wrong.

“Who are you?” demanded Lige Benner roughly.

The man on the horse pulled down the brim of his ragged old hat, drew the back of a dirty hand across his lips and answered:

“Gringo Pete Billings is the handle I tote, amigo. Don’t go fer ter think I’m as tough as what I look, kase I ain’t.”

“You couldn’t be, gringo,” spoke up Jerry, with a cackle.

Gringo Pete pulled himself together and stared at the[128] big-headed, short-bodied, long-armed form at Lige Benner’s side.

“Say, I’m convarsin’ with Lige Benner. Aire you him? Which of ye is him, huh?”

“I’m Lige Benner,” said the rancher.

“Then kindly request Leetle Sawed-off ter hold his yaup. I want him ter cork, I do. I don’t jest savvy what he says, but someways his tork grinds on me er heap.”

“Never mind what you like, or don’t like,” returned Lige Benner sharply. “Tell us what you want here?”

“I want er job, that’s what.”

“Where are you from?”

“Ever’whar. Thar ain’t no settled place whar I hail from.”

“What sort of a job do you want?”

“Ain’t pertic’ler. Anythin’ I kin git.”

“What can you do?”

“Whatever anybody wants me ter do. I ain’t pertic’ler about that, nuther.”

“What ails your eye?”

“Had er argyment with er greaser. The eye’ll be all right in er month, but the greaser’ll be laid up fer a y’ar, anyways. Oh, I’m some persimmons on the wrassle! Ain’t no three greasers kin git the best o’ me when I’m feelin’ right.”

“What have you been doing lately?”

Gringo Pete ran his one uncovered eye thoughtfully over Lige Benner, then lifted it thoughtfully to the blue sky.

“Say,” he answered finally, “you got ter have my pussonal hist’ry? Kase if ye hev, I reckon I’ll look fer a job some’rs else.”


He picked up the reins as though he would ride on.

“Wait, Gringo!” chirped Jerry. “Lige, stop him. He’ll be useful to us.”

“I was going to stop him, anyway,” returned Lige Benner, getting around in front of Gringo’s horse. “Don’t be in a rush,” he added. “You’ve got a horse here that don’t belong to you.”

“Waal,” returned Gringo, “does it belong ter you?”


“Then what reason ye got ter find fault, huh?”

“No reason at all. I’d like to know, though, where you stole the animal, and how.”

“I didn’t steal it—jest borried it.”

“Well, where did you ‘borrow’ the horse?”

“Back at the Star-A ranch. Walked inter the c’ral big as life, put on the gear an’ rode off. That’s all thar was to it. When I git through with the critter, I’m goin’ ter take it back.”

“You must be a pretty slick thief if you could steal a horse belonging to one of Buffalo Bill’s pards, and make a safe getaway.”

A fierce look crossed the dirty face of Gringo Pete.

“I don’t mind tellin’ ye,” he scowled, “that the reason I took the animile is bekase it belonged ter one o’ that ole rawhide’s pards. Some day, ye kin bet yer bottom dollar, I’m goin’ ter git Buffler Bill’s skelp!”

These remarks caused both Lige and Jerry to take renewed interest in their unsavory visitor.

“What have you got against Buffalo Bill?” asked Lige, with a significant look at Jerry.

“What hev I got ag’in him?” shouted Gringo, “me?” He stood up in the stirrups and shook his fist up the river. “Wasn’t it him as trimmed me fer all I was[130] wuth? Wasn’t it that thar long-haired, meddlin’ coyote that busted up my bizness an’ took ev’ry dollar I got in the world? An’ ain’t I follered him all the way from Arizony ter Texas jest ter play even?”

“How did he trim you?” demanded Lige Benner, more and more interested.

Gringo Pete suddenly collapsed into his saddle.

“I’m torkin’ more’n what I ort,” he mumbled. “I belonged ter a gang this hyar long-haired trouble-chaser put out o’ bizness. That’s all I’m tellin’. I want a job hyar bekase Buffler Bill is on the Brazos, an’ I want ter be nigh him. When he leaves—if he ever does—I’ll leave, too. I’ll foller him ter Ballyhack but what I’ll land on him afore I’m done. Now, do yer torkin’. Am I ter stay hyer, er am I ter ride on?”

“Stay here, Gringo,” piped Jerry.

“Get down,” added Lige. “I’ll have one of my men take care of your horse. I reckon we can give you a job.”

Gringo Pete got down and Lige Benner yelled for one of his men to come up from below.

“Don’t ye go ter puttin’ that hoss in yer wrangler’s herd,” protested Peter, “an’ don’t go gittin’ my gear mixed up with yer punchers’ equipment. S’posin’ some’un from ther Star-A blowed in hyer huntin’ that ’ar hoss?”

“I’ll have the animal picketed down there among those trees,” said Lige, pointing to a little grove at the foot of the slope and on the river bank. “Your ridin’ traps will be left with the animal. If any one comes here from the Star-A looking for the horse, it’s a safe gamble the brute won’t be found. Make your mind easy about that, Gringo. Go into the house.”

Gringo Pete turned and followed Jerry into the living[131] room. Lige lingered in front to give orders to the man who had come for the horse. When Lige got into the house, Gringo was comfortably seated in a rocking-chair, smoking a black cigar which Jerry had given him.

“Lige,” said Jerry, fixing his glittering eyes on his brother, “I’ve got a place for Gringo in my department.”

That was the first time Lige Benner had learned that Jerry had a “department” at the ranch.

“All right,” said Lige, “make your own deal with him.”

“I’m going to have him work with Red Steve, Lige.”

Red Steve was always called on for the murderous, underhand work that could not be safely entrusted to any one else. To yoke Gringo with Red Steve meant that the stranger was to be given labor of the “strong-arm” variety without delay.

“Have it your way, Jerry,” answered Lige.

“I’d like ter fix it so’st I kin have a leetle time o’ my own, now and then,” put in Gringo. “’Casionally I’d like ter take a pasear up the Brazos, keepin’ track o’ Buffler Bill.”

“You’ll have plenty of time for that, Gringo,” said Jerry, with another of his weird laughs. “I’ll——”

A man appeared in the door—a red-haired, evil-looking Texan.

“I’m back,” the newcomer bawled, “an’ I’ve got Abraham Isaacs along.”

“Dry up, Steve!” called Lige angrily. “Can’t you see we’re not alone here?”

Lige turned to Jerry. The hunchback was already on his feet and opening a door leading into a rear room.

“In here with you, Gringo,” said Jerry. “When I’m ready to talk with you again I’ll let you know.”


“What am I ter do in thar?” queried Gringo Pete, moving toward the open door.

“You’re to stay in that room till you’re called, Gringo,” replied the hunchback.

Gringo Pete passed through the door. It was closed behind him, and he heard a bolt shoot into place.

“By gorry!” thought Gringo Pete, otherwise Wild Bill, “suppose they’ve cottoned to the fact that I’m a fake. And suppose they have shoved the bolt on me, not because they want to have a private talk with this Isaacs, but because they are making me a prisoner on general principles? Well, we’ll see,” he finished grimly. “That talk I put up seemed to sink pretty deep.”

He looked around him. His slouching manner had dropped from him as if by magic, and he had instantly become the alert, energetic Laramie man, ready for any turn of the wheel of fate.

He was in a small room—a room with a single window opening in the direction of the river. Crossing to the window he looked out.

The cowboy called by Lige Benner was moving down the hill and toward the small grove with Beeswax. What concerned Wild Bill most, however, was the figure of the red-haired Texan, leaning against the wall of the house, close to the window, and evidently on guard.

“They sent Red Steve there to make sure I didn’t try to get away,” muttered Wild Bill. “Oh, I’m going to like this job, I know I am. It has all the exciting trimmings that capture my nimble fancy.”

There was a table and a bed in the room. In one corner, also, there was a stone fireplace, built in the Mexican style. The stone chimney ran up along the end of the partition that separated the chamber from the living[133] room. Recalling the “lay” of the living room, Wild Bill remembered that there was a fireplace in that department, and in the corner. The two angles formed by the partition and the adobe wall of the house, gave opportunity for two Mexican fireplaces from the one chimney—a fireplace in each room.

With a stealthy, reassuring glance through the window at the lounging form of Red Steve, Wild Bill crossed to the narrow fireplace, crawled into it and stood upright.

Voices reached his ears from the living room, and every spoken word was clear and distinct.



The flues from the two fireplaces joined at a point a little way above Wild Bill’s head. The sound of voices, coming through the fireplace in the living room, ascended the flue and echoed down to the listener’s ear. The sound was amplified, in its passage, as though it had come through a whispering gallery.

“I want to buy some stuff, Isaacs,” came the voice of Lige Benner. “What have you got in that old grip?”

“I haf got vatches, der finest dot efer vas brought into Texas, mein friendt,” were the words of Isaacs. “Und I haf brecious shtones like you nefer see pefore—rings, und sooch like. Vat it iss you vant, mein friendt? Nodding is too goot for you rich cattle barons—und so I pring nodding but der best to der cattle country. Vat iss it you vant?”

“I spoiled that five-hundred-dollar watch I bought of you a month ago, and I’d like another.”

“I schust sold Hank Phelps a fine vatch—ach, so fine!—for six hundret tollar. He had chewels all ofer him, yes. Dot vatch vas der piggest bargain yet. I lose money on him—so much as fifty tollar. Hank Phelps told me dot he spoil a vatch, too.”

“I want a better watch than Phelps bought,” said Benner.

“Ach, so! Vone baron geds someding, den der odder baron vants someding better. Here iss der king of all vatches, der best vatch in Texas. I gif you der vatch[135] for one t’ousant tollar, und I lose one hundret tollar on him by wholesale. But you vas my friendt, Benner, und I vould do a lot for you, yes.”

Wild Bill, uncomfortably situated in the fireplace, was disappointed. He thought he was going to overhear something bearing on Perry and the plot Benner was said to be hatching against the Star-A rancher. But it seemed that Benner had merely summoned Abraham Isaacs to the ranch to buy some jewelry.

Those flush days in Texas had started the cattlemen to spending their money right and left. Wealth was lavished on watches and diamonds, and a class of peddlers had sprung into existence, the like of which had never been known before—and has never been known since.

Hebrews traveled the length and breadth of the cattle country, carrying satchels filled with diamonds and watches. It is said that the value of the contents of these old satchels sometimes amounted to as much as two hundred thousand dollars! And, what is still more remarkable, the peddlers were never molested while riding across the lonely plains.

Lige Benner beat the Hebrew down to eight hundred dollars for the watch. He also selected a watch charm, diamond studded, for four hundred dollars, and a chain for a hundred more. This made a purchase of thirteen hundred dollars, all told, on which the crafty Isaacs would realize, at the least, full five hundred dollars in profit. A good day’s work for Isaacs, but——

“I can give you the gold right now for all that plunder, Isaacs,” said Lige Benner, “but I won’t until you agree to do something for Jerry here.”

“Hey?” queried the Jew, with a gasp. “Vat iss it you[136] vant me to do? A sale iss a sale, mein friendt, mitout anyding extra.”

“Well, you’ll do this for Jerry, or there won’t be any sale.”

“What iss it?”

Here the voice of the hunchback entered the conversation. The talk was getting interesting, and Wild Bill listened with all his ears.

“Here it is, Abe. A young fellow by the name of Dunbar has gone to Hackamore to buy a diamond ring. I want you to sell it to him, Abe.”

“Iss dot all? I vill be gladt.”

“No, Abe, that’s not all. Are there any other diamond merchants in Hackamore?”

“I’m der only vone.”

“Then Dunbar will have to buy of you?”

“He vill haf to buy of me if he buys of anypody, yes.”

“Good! Now, when he starts to leave town, or just after he leaves, I want you to accuse him of stealing some of your plunder. Do you understand, Abe?”

“But vat if he don’t shteal him?”

“Accuse him, anyway.”

“Den maybe I get meinself into troubles. I say he shteal, und he don’t shteal. Vat vill happen mit me?”

“I’ll take care of that, Abe. Have you got any bogus diamonds along with you, Abe?”

“Sure I haf. I carry der paste chems for peoples dot don’t vas aple to puy der real shtones. Aber I don’t pring any of dem here to Benner, no, pecause I knows he vants only der best, yes.”

“Well, I want some of that bogus jewelry, Abe. You’ll accuse Dunbar of stealing from you; the sheriff will have to chase after him, and look through his saddlebags.[137] The stones will be found in the saddlebags, Abe, so you won’t get yourself into trouble.”

“How vill der shtones get into der sattlepags if Dunbar don’t take dem?”

“Leave that to me, Abe. Will you do as I say?”

There followed a brief silence.

“I don’t like dot,” said the Jew finally. “It looks pad for me to mix in sooch business. Hein, hein! No, I cannod assist mit it.”

“Then,” came the voice of Benner, “I don’t want this truck I’ve picked out. Keep the stuff, and I’ll wait till the next peddler blows in.”

“You von’t take vat you puy?” cried Isaacs, with a groan of dismay.

“Not unless you help Jerry.”

“Subbose I say dot I help him, und subbose I don’t? I got your money, und you got der vatch und der odder t’ings. How about dot?”

“Not so fast, Abe,” chimed in Jerry. “Lige is going to give you five hundred dollars in gold to bind the bargain, and you’re to keep the stuff he has bought until after this flare-up with Dunbar. When that’s over, Abe, you come here and give Lige his jewelry, and take the rest of your money.”

“Chentlemen,” wailed the Jew, “I don’t like dis business! But vat can I do? I haf to lif. Yes, yes, I vill do vat you say, but it iss a hardt bargain.”

“Hard bargain!” cried Lige Benner derisively. “Why, you old skinner, you’re soaking everybody in the cattle country, and you don’t let it worry you very much. You haven’t got a hair-trigger conscience, Abe, not by a long shot.”

“I don’d soak nopody, mein friendt, nefer. I sell so[138] close to der cost dot I vill be ruined if I don’t raise der prices vone of dose days.”

Lige Benner laughed at this.

“Remember this, Abe,” went on Jerry: “You will be as deep in the plot as anybody, and if you say a word about the scheme you will get yourself into trouble, but——”

“Ach, Himmel!”

“But if you keep still, Abe, nobody will be the wiser, and nothing will happen to you or to us. Understand, Abe?”

“Yah, you bet you I geep so still as a clam. I don’t speak nodding at all to anybody.”

“You’ll have to go right back to Hackamore, Abe, so as to be sure Dunbar doesn’t get away from town before he buys the diamond ring of you.”

“Vat tifference does it make, Cherry, vedder he puys from me?”

“Why, Abe, if you have dealings with him it will make it look more reasonable when you accuse him of stealing from you. Can’t you see that?”

“Vat a fine headt for sooch dings you haf, mein friendt! Yah, I see dot. I vill make it look so reasonaple as I can. Gif me der fife hundret tollars und I vill go pack by der town.”

Wild Bill could hear some one moving about the room. After that there was a jingling of gold.

“How I like der fine yellow goldt!” came the greedy, gloating voice of Isaacs. “See how dot shines! Vat a rich mans you was, Misder Benner!”

“Never mind that,” said Benner dryly. “Count the stuff and then hike for Hackamore. See that this game[139] is played right, Isaacs, or you’ll never sell any more stuff on the Brazos.”

“I do der best vat I can, chentlemen; und I am to get der resdt of der gold ven I get droo?”

“You are,” said Benner. “In the meantime, you have the plunder and part of the purchase price. That gives you the long end of the deal.”

There was a little more talk, and then Abraham Isaacs, having identified himself with as villainous a scheme as was ever hatched, took his leave.

Wild Bill, frowning blackly, got out of the fireplace and into the room. Stepping to the window he looked cautiously out.

Red Steve was still leaning against the wall of the building, and apparently had not moved since Wild Bill had looked at him last. The Laramie man went over and seated himself in a chair.

“The fiends!” he muttered, anger mounting high in his breast. “So that’s to be Lige Benner’s vengeance on Nate Dunbar, is it? He’ll take away the lad’s good name, get him sent to prison, and cover Mrs. Dunbar and Dick Perry with disgrace! They’d never stay in the cattle country after such a game as that! Lucky I came here! By gorry, this might have been pushed through to a success if I hadn’t got next to it. I reckon I’ve learned enough. My next move is to get away and let Pard Cody know how I’ve developed this pay streak. A quick move will save Perry and Dunbar. A——”

The bolt on the other side of the door was shoved back and the door pushed open.

“Come out here, Gringo,” said Jerry Benner, showing[140] his thin, wizened face; “come out here and we’ll tell you what you are to do.”

Wild Bill had been forgetting that he was to be hired by Lige Benner.

But this would give him an opportunity to get away from the Circle-B outfit and strike a bee line for the Star-A ranch. He got up and passed out into the living room.



Red Steve had been summoned from his post and into the living room. He was there to meet Wild Bill when he entered. Lige Benner was also there, an exultant look on his face which proved he was well pleased with the treacherous work planned by his brother. Isaacs, of course, was already on his way back to Hackamore.

“Red Steve,” said Jerry, waving a hand toward Wild Bill, “this is Gringo Pete Billings, who comes from nowhere on a horse belonging to one of Buffalo Bill’s pards. By the same token, Steve, Gringo hates Buffalo Bill, and I think he’s a good enough hater to be a valuable man for the White Caps.”

Red Steve passed his keen little eyes over Wild Bill, measuring him with a stare that would have made almost any one else but the Laramie man uncomfortable and apprehensive.

“How am I sizin’ up, friend?” grinned Wild Bill. “My clothes ain’t none too good, but they’re the best I got since Cody an’ pards got through with me, over in Arizony.”

Wild Bill scowled and leaned against the wall.

“Ye don’t look none too promisin’ as a good citizen,” growled Red Steve, “but what I want fer the White Caps ain’t good citizens, but fellers that’ll do what I tell ’em. Ye say ye’ve got it in fer this king o’ scouts?”

“Want me ter sing it?” yelped Wild Bill. “Ain’t I[142] follered Buffler Bill from Arizony jest ter git even with him? Ain’t I hyer on the Brazos jest a-campin’ on his trail?”

“What’re ye wantin’ ter do ter that feller as is called the king o’ scouts?”

“The wust I kin.”

“Supposin’ he was staked out on the perary, an’ a thousand head o’ stampedin’ steers run over him?”

Wild Bill’s blood began to boil. For a moment—just a moment—it seemed as though he would throw off his rôle of avenger for fictitious wrongs and tell Red Steve, Lige and Jerry just what he thought of their murderous, cold-blooded schemes. But he got a grip on himself at the right instant, and went on with the part he was playing.

“Kin ye do it, Red Steve?” he demanded. “Tork’s cheap, but it takes somethin’ besides tork ter git Buffler Bill in a fix like that.”

“Nigh ter Crowder’s ole c’ral, clost ter the Brazos, thar’s a thousand head o’ Circle-B cattle rounded up. The White Caps’ll hev charge o’ them cattle, an’ the longhorns aire goin’ ter git away. The stampede’ll head over ther place whar Buffler Bill an’ Dick Perry aire staked out. Arter it’s over, an’ them stakes aire pulled, the hull play’ll look like er happenchance. The scout an’ Perry got in the way o’ ther herd; they was on foot, an’ they couldn’t save theirselves, not noways.” A savage grin crossed Red Steve’s villainous face. “What d’ye think, Gringo Pete?” he asked.

“I think ye’re some hard ter beat if ye kin pull off a game like that. How’re ye figgerin’ ter do it?”

Wild Bill’s “pay streak” was developing undreamed-of possibilities. Used though he was to the merciless tactics[143] of the frontier, his blood was running cold at these desperate schemes, so calmly broached.

To Lige Benner and his inner circle of helpers, a man’s good name or even his life weighed little against an overmastering desire for vengeance.

“Come with me, Gringo Pete,” said Red Steve. “I’ll take ye down where ye can tork with the rest o’ the White Caps. The’s six o’ us now, all told, countin’ you an’ me. This way!”

Steve exchanged a reassuring look with Lige Benner, then led Wild Bill out of the house and down toward the grove where the Laramie man’s horse had been taken.

“Jerry, you scheming imp,” cried Lige Benner, whirling on his brother, “what’s all this you’ve been up to?”

The hunchback was devoid of feeling. His crippled body matched his crippled nature, making him abnormal, fiendish in his schemes and fiendish in having them carried out. His murderous disposition had turned a fresh page—a page which even his brother Lige had never suspected before.

“I’m planning for you, Lige,” cackled Jerry, “what you’ve never had the nerve to plan for yourself—much less to attempt to execute.”

“Be hanged to you! You’re going too far with your staking and your stampeding! Look out, or you’ll bring the whole cattle country down on me—say nothing of Buffalo Bill’s pards.”

“How’ll they come down on you, Lige?” purred the hunchback. “I’ve done all this White Cap planning, haven’t I? This is the first you’ve heard of it, Lige, ain’t it?”


“I’m mixed up in it, just the same, you foxy, cold-blooded whelp. Tell me what you’ve done.”

“I had Steve organize a gang of White Caps, Lige,” explained Jerry. “There are six in the gang now, and that’s a-plenty, I reckon. They wear white caps to disguise themselves. When this trouble happens to Dunbar, word will be sent to the ranch. Perry will go to Hackamore to help Dunbar, and Buffalo Bill, of course, will go with him. Both will be caught by the White Caps and staked out. Then the steers will be stampeded——”

Lige Benner was walking the floor again. He had not the nerve to let his brother’s diabolical plot be carried out.

“I’ll not stand for it, Jerry!” he cried. “Working that trick with Dunbar is clever, and all right; but this other thing I won’t stand for. It would never succeed.”

Jerry ruffled up his humped back and spit at Lige like an angry cat.

“I’ve started out to do the job, Lige,” he screeched, “and I’ll do it!”

“You’ll not stake Cody out and run a herd of stampeded steers over him,” declared Lige Benner, tossing his hands, “and that’s flat. I’ll get my revenge on Cody some other way.”

Jerry’s anger died down suddenly, but a treacherous sparkle smoldered in his eyes.

“All right, Lige, all right,” said he. “I’ve got to ride to Hackamore to carry out my part of the scheme against Dunbar.”

“Your part? What’s your part?”

The jibbering laugh came from the wizened, expressionless face of the hunchback.

“How are those paste diamonds to be found in Dunbar’s[145] saddlebags, Lige,” he asked, “if I don’t put ’em there? That’s my work. I didn’t want to ride into Hackamore with Abraham Isaacs because people might think of it later, and suspect something. But I can go into town now, and——”

The words died on the hunchback’s lips. He was looking at the seemingly blank wall—staring hard.

“What ails you, Jerry?” queried Lige.

Without speaking, Jerry shambled to the wall and swept one clawlike hand over it; then he looked at the hand and turned on Lige with eyes that gleamed like coals.

“Look, Lige!” he whispered hoarsely.

He held up his hand. Lige Benner saw that it had been blackened with something from the wall.

“What is it?” went on Lige curiously.

“Soot! Soot and ashes, Lige. Here’s where Gringo Pete Billings was leaning while Red Steve was talking to him. Gringo Pete couldn’t have picked up soot and ashes on his clothes between the Star-A ranch and here.”

Lige Benner had not the wit necessary to follow these deductions back to their cause, but he knew that some discovery of importance had been made by Jerry.

The hunchback whirled around, without waiting for further talk, and rushed into the rear room. He saw the chair where Wild Bill had been sitting when summoned into the living room to talk with Red Steve. The chair also had traces of soot and ashes on its seat and back.

Like a hound on the scent, Jerry glided to the fireplace, staring into it and upward with sharp, glimmering eyes. The next moment the hunchback got into the fireplace.


“Go into the next room and talk, Lige,” he called out; “talk out loud, Lige, just like you were talking with Isaacs.”

Gradually Lige Benner’s mind was leading him to the truth. As his brother proceeded with his investigations, the trend of the hunchback’s suspicions was made so manifest that Lige could not escape understanding them.

In the living room Lige spoke two or three sentences in the easy, conversational tone used with Isaacs. Jerry rushed in on him suddenly, his eyes blazing.

“Gringo Pete is a spy!” he snarled, dancing around his brother in grotesque wrath and excitement; “he’s a spy, I tell you, Lige! He came here to find out something, and he crawled into the fireplace and overheard all that passed between us and Isaacs!”

Lige Benner’s wrath was rising in a way that matched Jerry’s.

“What’s Gringo Pete’s object?” he asked, trying to keep his head clear and get at all the angles of the situation.

“His object, Lige, was to find out what we’re going to do,” declared Jerry.

“Of course; but why?”

“Why? Oh, use your brains, Lige, if you’ve got any!”

“He hates Buffalo Bill as much as I do. Even if he did find out anything——”

“Idiot! Don’t be a fool! Lige, can’t you see that Gringo Pete’s yarn may have been faked up? Why, Lige, that tramp of the plains may have been sent here by the scout himself—sent here to keep track of what we’re doing! And look what he’s found out, Lige! He’s learned all about the game we’re planning to play on Dunbar, and Red Steve’s giving him the facts about that[147] other scheme the White Caps are mixed up in! If Gringo Pete gets away from us, we lose out. Can’t you see that, Lige?”

The wrath and apprehension of the hunchback was something terrible to witness. He hopped around the room like a huge toad, talking to himself and throwing his long arms all around him.

Suddenly Lige grabbed his brother and shook him.

“Pass up that foolishness, Jerry!” he ordered. “If Gringo Pete is a spy, we’ll capture him and keep him right here. The game at Hackamore will go on. I’m willing to bet against long odds that the game wins out. Get ready to go to Hackamore. I’ll see that Gringo Pete is taken care of.”

“Go on, Lige, go on!” breathed the hunchback, waving a skinny hand toward the door. “Hurry, Lige, hurry—or you’ll be too late.”

Lige Benner ran out of the house and down the slope toward the small grove at the edge of the river. From the open door the hunchback watched him.



Wild Bill Hickok was due for a “flash in the pan”—something very unusual with him.

As he followed Red Steve down the hill, the Laramie man was congratulating himself on the fact that he was to meet the other White Caps in the same grove where his horse had been secured and the riding gear left. He was casting about in his mind for some excuse that would enable him to get the trappings on Beeswax and fare away, all without exciting the suspicions of Red Steve and the other four men in his detachment.

Wild Bill was also thinking that he would like to learn more of the plot against Buffalo Bill and Perry, but he did not want to delay his departure too long and so run the risk of not being able to get away at all.

“That thar Jerry feller is as savage as a Feejee,” said Wild Bill to Red Steve, when they were close to the grove.

“He’s ther brains o’ this hyer ranch when thar’s any schemin’ goin’ on,” returned Red Steve. “It was him as hatched up this hyer plot about the stakes an’ the stampede. That’s purty vi’lent, but when ye’re dealin’ with fellers like Buffler Bill an’ Perry, no halfway measures ain’t a-goin’ ter pass muster.”

“I reckon that’s so! Whar is this hyer Crowder’s corral?”

“Between this ranch an’ the Star-A. Thar’s them[149] boys o’ mine,” Red Steve added, pointing. “They’re sizin’ up that ’ar hoss o’ yourn.”

The two men entered the grove and came front to front with four men whose faces were as villainous as that of Red Steve. They were looking Beeswax over with critical eyes.

The horse was picketed, and the saddle, bridle and blanket were hanging from the limb of a nearby tree.

“Purty good hoss, that,” remarked Wild Bill.

Four pairs of eyes turned on him suspiciously.

“Who the blazes aire you?” asked one of the quartette.

“He’s got a clean bill, pards,” spoke up Red Steve. “I know his looks is ag’in him, but he’s all right in spite o’ his looks. He suits Jerry an’ Lige, so he’s got ter suit us. He’s ter be one o’ the White Caps. Gringo Pete, that feller’s Shorty Dobbs; the one behind him is Ace Hawkins; the one back o’ Ace is Splinters Gibson; an’ t’other ’un is Weasel Skinner. We all got ter be friends, fellers. Don’t act measly to’rds yer new pard.”

The four ruffians tried hard to show their friendship.

“Ye got er blame’ good hoss,” remarked Shorty Dobbs, with an up-and-down look over Wild Bill and a more or less admiring glance in the direction of Beeswax.

“He’s second ter but one hoss on the Brazos,” declared Wild Bill proudly, “an’ that one hoss is Buffler Bill’s Bear Paw.”

“I know this hoss,” said Weasel Skinner. “The last time I seed this hoss, Wild Bill Hickok was a-ridin’ him.”

The Laramie man chuckled.

“The hoss belonged ter Wild Bill afore I took him,”[150] said he. “That ole Laramie fossil won’t never see Beeswax no more. The animile is mine, now.”

“Hickok’ll git his hoss back if he has ter take yer h’ar ter do it,” asserted Splinters Gibson.

“No feller o’ Hickok’s size’ll ever git my skelp,” bragged Wild Bill, taking a tremendous pleasure in this turn of the talk. “I kin show Hickok the way I wear my back h’ar any day ye kin find in the almanac.”

“Ye got gas enough fer a b’loon ascension,” grunted Ace Hawkins, “an’ mebby that’s all thar is to ye.”

“Mebby,” agreed Wild Bill, “an’ mebby ye ain’t got as much sense as what the law allows.”

“I got sand if I ain’t got sense,” flared Ace Hawkins, “an’ if ye say the word, I’ll knock yer spine up through the top o’ yer head till it sticks out like a flagpole. I——”

“Hush!” cried Red Steve. “Consarn it, kain’t ye ack like gents an’ pards? Don’t ye try h’istin’ any flagpoles like that, Ace, er ye’ll hear from me right quick. This here’s our new pard, an’ here ye go treatin’ him like a hired man. Us fellers has got ter all hang tergether.”

“Er we’ll hang another way if we don’t,” spoke up Shorty Dobbs with a shake of his bullet-like head.

Out of the tails of his eyes, Wild Bill had caught a look at the top of the hill through the trees. He saw Lige Benner running through the door of the adobe house, and Jerry Benner standing in the doorway and watching him.

Something was wrong. Wild Bill didn’t know what it was but thought he’d take time by the forelock and get clear.

“That Beeswax hoss is shore the slickest animile fer tricks ye ever seen,” said Wild Bill.


He was in a hurry, but it would never have done to let Red Steve and his men see it.

“What tricks kin he do?” asked Splinters Gibson.

“Waal, he kin lay down an’ roll over with me on his back,” averred the Laramie man gravely, “an’ without never hurtin’ me none.”

“I got money as says he kain’t,” growled Ace Hawkins.

“I don’t want yer money,” said Wild Bill, “but I’ll show ye.”

He pulled up the picket pin—there was no time to get saddle and bridle on Beeswax—and made a hackamore of the picket rope.

“Stop that man!” came a voice from near the foot of the hill.

Wild Bill understood the words, and they certified to Lige Benner’s hostile intentions toward him. But the shouted order was not so clearly understood by Red Steve and his men.

“Who was that a-yellin’?” demanded Red Steve.

“Sounded like Lige’s voice,” answered Shorty Dobbs.

“Now, ye watch!” bellowed Wild Bill, at the top of his voice, hoping to drown out any more noise Lige Benner might make.

As he spoke, he jumped to the back of the horse. If he could get away with the hackamore, and minus his riding gear, Wild Bill was going to be entirely satisfied. Kicking his heels into Beeswax’s ribs, he started through the timber in the direction of the trail to the Star-A.

“Hyer!” roared the voice of Shorty Dobbs; “make ’im lay down an’ roll over!”

“Got ter git ter clear ground afore I kin do that,”[152] shouted Wild Bill, turning in his saddle. “Trail erlong, amigos!”

Red Steve and his four White Caps might have started after Wild Bill, still in the hope that he would make Beeswax “lie down and roll over” had not Lige Benner, at that moment, come tearing in among them.

“He’s a spy!” bawled Benner; “Gringo Pete is a spy! He’s trying to get away!”

The last word died in a fusillade of revolvers. Red Steve, his four men and Lige Benner had each drawn a six-shooter and sent their leaden respects after Wild Bill.

The Laramie man felt that he was safe. What horse was there at the Circle-B that could overhaul old Beeswax?

In that supreme moment, gloating over what he had accomplished, the Laramie man must needs turn, shake his fist and taunt those behind on their poor marksmanship.

“Yah! You men couldn’t hit the side of a barn! By-by!”

While Wild Bill was looking behind, something mighty important was happening in front. As he turned around to keep Beeswax in the right course, the Laramie man was made unpleasantly aware of the change in the situation.

Four of the Circle-B cowboys were riding in from the range. These four were directly in front of Wild Bill, and not more than twenty feet distant. They had heard Wild Bill’s shout, and their attention had already been attracted by the discharge of revolvers. When the whoops and yells of Lige Benner, Red Steve and the[153] rest reached their ears, they spread out and prepared to blockade the racing fugitive.

“Keep clear!” shouted Wild Bill.

He made a fierce attempt to get at his revolvers. They were under his ragged disguise, and he had been under the impression that they were placed where they could be conveniently drawn.

But in this he was mistaken. Some part of his costume got between his itching fingers and the hand grips of his guns.

In a flash he realized that his weapons were not to serve him. He had the coil of rope and the picket pin in front of him, and he grabbed up the pin and hurled it with all his force.

One of the blockading cowboys was ready to fire his revolver. Before the trigger could be pulled, the sharp point of the pin had struck his arm. He gave a yell of rage and pain, and his weapon dropped from his nerveless fingers.

“Stop!” cried another of the cowpunchers; “stop or I’ll bore ye!”

Wild Bill leaned far from his horse’s back and struck out with his fist.

The cowboy who had voiced the threat, slewed backward in his saddle, so wrapped up in his own pressing complaints that he had no time to give further attention to the Laramie man.

Once more Wild Bill was beginning to congratulate himself. Two of the four cowboys were out of the running; if he could dodge the other two, the trail to the Star-A would be clear before him.

But right here the picket rope and pin, which had served Wild Bill so well, now proved his undoing.


The rope, weighted by the pin, was cutting all sorts of capers around Beeswax’s flying heels. As hard luck would have it, chance threw the rope into a loop, and the loop caught the horse’s front feet.

Down went Beeswax—and he really did roll over. But Wild Bill was not on the horse’s back. The Laramie man had been hurled a dozen feet onward.

When he dropped, he came down all of a heap; and before he could collect his scattered wits, two cowboys were on him, and Lige Benner, Red Steve, and many more were rushing at top speed for the scene to lend their assistance.

Wild Bill was caught!



Wild Bill was a terribly surprised man. He didn’t mind the jolt of his fall, nor the roughness with which the cattlemen treated him, but the blow to his confidence was a hard thing for him to get over.

He fought as long as he could, and only ceased his struggles when ropes made it impossible for him to move.

The set-to had disarranged his entire make-up, and had even caused him to lose a portion of it. Under the ragged garments he wore his usual costume, and the amazement of Lige Benner was great when he discovered that his prisoner was no less a person than Wild Bill himself.

“You came here in disguise to spy on me, did you, Wild Bill?” scowled Lige Benner, looking down on his captive and wondering what he should do with him.

“I came here to find out what I could about your criminal doings,” answered Wild Bill, “and it’s dollars to chalk marks that I’ve seen and heard enough to put a rope around your neck. A nice sort of respectable cattle baron you are!”

“He’s too blame’ mouthy!” growled Red Steve. “The thing ter do with him is ter put him whar he kain’t bother us.”

“I’ll do that,” returned Benner.

“How’s my horse?” asked the Laramie man.


“Nothin’ wrong with the caballo,” said one of the cowboys.

“Take good care of him. I told you, Hawkins,” Wild Bill went on to the White Cap, “that Beeswax could lay down and roll over with me.”

“He done it, all right,” returned Hawkins, with a sputter of profanity. “But I reckon it was a put-up job, an’ that ye didn’t calculate ter have it that-a-way.” He turned to Lige Benner and Red Steve. “Say, you fellers goin’ ter let Wild Bill keep his hair arter the way he’s fooled us? Why, he knows enough ter make us all a mighty sick lot, I can tell ye.”

“I’ll take care of Wild Bill,” said Benner shortly. “Carry him up to the cabin.”

Wild Bill was lifted by four men and toted up the hill to the adobe house. He saw Jerry on a horse in front of the cabin as he was carried toward the door.

“You kept him from getting away, eh, Lige?” chirruped the hunchback. “That’s good, mighty good! Keep a tight hold on him, Lige. When I get back, some time to-night, I want to see that fellow here.”

“You’ll see him here, Jerry, and don’t you forget that,” answered Benner.

Jerry, with a look of malicious triumph at Wild Bill, whirled his horse and started toward the trail for Hackamore. The prisoner was carried on through the living room of the house and dropped on the bed in the rear chamber. Benner drove everybody out but Red Steve, then drew up a chair to the head of the bed and sat down.

“Why did you do this, Hickok?” he asked, with a black scowl.


“You know why I did it,” was the reply. “What’s the use of threshing that all over again?”

“You’ve put me in a hard position.”

“Not half so hard as you’ll be in later, Benner. You can wipe me off the slate, if you want to, but that’s not going to help your case any. Buffalo Bill knows I came here, and if I don’t get back to the Star-A ranch he’ll know what’s happened to me. You’re going to get scratched, Benner, no matter which way the cat jumps.”

Benner’s face was a study.

“How much did you find out?” he demanded.

“A heap more than I expected to,” was Wild Bill’s answer.

“He’s buffaloed us oncet, Lige,” said Red Steve, “an’ don’t let him do it ag’in. His light kin be snuffed so’st nobody’ll ever know who done it. I’ll take the job.”

“Not yet awhile,” returned Benner. “See that he’s bound so he can’t slip the ropes, Steve, and then put your men on guard around the house.”

“I’ll stay right in this hyer room with him, if ye want,” offered Red Steve.

“That’s not what I want. You can stay at the door of the living room, and you can put one or two men at the outside window, but Wild Bill stays in here alone.”

It was evident that Lige Benner hesitated to trust Red Steve alone with the prisoner. The fiery-haired Texan would perhaps have taken matters into his own hands, in spite of Benner’s orders.

“Ye needn’t be afeared I’d sponge him out, Lige,” leered Red Steve, catching the drift of arrangements.

“If you tried that,” said Benner, “you’d get sponged out yourself. I’m going to have the country watched, all around the ranch. If Buffalo Bill, or any of his[158] pards, come here looking for Hickok, we’ll have them before we know what they’re doing.”

“Purvidin’ they’re reckernized,” qualified Red Steve. “I hadn’t a notion Gringo Pete was Wild Bill—an’ I looked Gringo Pete over mighty close, too. Say, he’s some on playin’ a part, Wild Bill is.”

“You’re a very accomplished man, Wild Bill,” said Benner, with some sarcasm, “but this time your accomplishments have loaded you up with more trouble than you can handle.”

“It looks that way, for a fact,” returned the Laramie man cheerfully. “Would you mind telling me, Benner, how you happened to learn I wasn’t what I seemed?”

“Jerry got next to that. Jerry can get next to anything in the lame-duck line.”

“Which indicates that Jerry also has his accomplishments,” grinned Wild Bill. “But how did he turn the trick against me?”

Benner explained that point in a few words. Wild Bill cast a rueful look in the direction of the fireplace.

“If I hadn’t been a little shy on reasoning myself,” he muttered, “this wouldn’t have happened, and I’d now be on the way to the Star-A. Nobody but myself to blame. Go ahead and do your worst, Benner. After that, you take my advice and get out from under.”

Benner whirled on his heel, beckoned Red Steve to follow, and the two men passed out of the room. The door was closed and the bolt shoved into place.

“Same thing I heard a while ago,” reflected Wild Bill, “only the case is different. I’ve been more kinds of a chucklehead this trip than I know how to mention. Oh, I’m proud of myself! And Pard Cody will be just as proud when he finds out about it. Here I am, loaded[159] to the guards with information that means liberty and good name for Dunbar, and perhaps life itself for Perry, and not able to do a thing to tell what I know. Pleasant situation! Mighty pleasant—if you don’t care what you say.”

The Laramie man was greatly cast down, but he never allowed chagrin or dejection to cut very deep into his optimistic nature. He was caught hard and fast in the clutch of circumstances; yet it was better to face the gloomy situation with some show of grace, than to deaden his resources by giving way to despair.

But Wild Bill was sorry for Dunbar and Perry—sorrier for them than he was for himself.

The afternoon passed. Wild Bill, his limbs cramped and numb from the ropes, twisted around on the bed and fretted for some one to talk to.

He beguiled some of the time by working at his bonds. They were knotted firmly, but he tried sawing the hempen strands in two by working the rope up and down on the side board of the bed.

These tactics might have won out if he had had two or three days to keep at them, but a few hours grinding would accomplish little.

When the shadows of evening began to settle down, the bolt was pushed back, the door opened, and Benner and Red Steve came in again, the latter bringing the prisoner’s supper.

Wild Bill’s hands were not unbound. Red Steve propped him up on the bed and fed him.

“Have you made up your mind what you’re going to do with me?” inquired the prisoner, when the meal was finished.

Lige Benner stood gloomily by with folded arms.


“You’ll be kept here to-night,” said he. “In the morning we’ll know how your account is to be settled.”

Red Steve looked at the ropes, reported that the prisoner had been tampering with them, and tied them in such a way that the sawing on the side board of the bed could not be continued.

“You’ll not be able to get away from here, Hickok,” said Benner. “Even if you got rid of your ropes, you couldn’t get out; and if you got out, you’d be dropped in your tracks by a bullet before you’d gone a dozen yards. You’ll have to make the most of it. You’ve forced my hand and will have to take the consequences.”

“All right,” answered Wild Bill amiably. “But wait till this trail’s run out before you do any talking. I’ve got pards that won’t care a whoop for you and your Circle-B outfit when they learn what’s happened to me.”

Red Steve picked up the empty dishes, and he and Benner again left the room.

From then on, while the night steadily deepened, Wild Bill allowed certain possible events to pass in review. Already, no doubt, Jerry Benner had worked his plot against Dunbar. Word of Dunbar’s predicament had gone to the Star-A ranch, and the scout had started at once for Hackamore with Perry. On the way to the town, the White Caps would lay for Buffalo Bill and Perry.

Wild Bill chuckled as his mind took up that phase of the question.

“I’d like to be around and see what Pard Cody does to those White Caps,” he muttered.

The hours passed while he reflected. Stygian darkness settled down on the bedroom, only a lightish blur marking the window opening. Wild Bill could hear Red[161] Steve moving around in the living room, and he could hear some one outside the window; but he heard something else—something that caused him to give over his reflections and centre his attentions on the peculiar noise. The sound was like a muffled scraping, and it was coming steadily nearer. Wild Bill tried to locate it, but the darkness confused him and he could not.

At last he heard deep breathing, stifled to the merest rasping whisper, accompanying muffled footfalls. A form, barely distinguishable, reached the bed. Wild Bill was about to speak, when a hand dropped over his lips.

“Cork!” whispered a husky voice. “I’m Ace Hawkins, an’ if ye breathe a word out loud, things’ll go hard fer the two o’ us. We’ll palaver a spell.”

For a moment the Laramie man was dazed. Ace Hawkins, one of Red Steve’s White Caps, there in the room with him! And he had come in stealthily! Why?

Quick as lightning, Wild Bill’s brain solved the problem in what he conceived the most logical way.

The White Caps were taking the fate of the prisoner in their own hands. Benner was not desperate enough to suit them. They would put the prisoner out of the way without letting Benner know anything about the proceeding until it was too late for him to interfere.

Wild Bill tried to sink his teeth into the hand that smothered his lips.

“Quit that, you!” hissed Hawkins. “What fer kind of way is that ter act? Ain’t I come here ter help ye, runnin’ all kinds o’ risks? Red Steve is at the door of the other room, an’ Shorty Dobbs an’ Splinters Gibson is outside the winder. I was around the side o’ the house, an’ took my life in my hands, by climbin’ to the[162] roof an’ comin’ down the chimbly. I’d be skelped good an’ proper if Red Steve knowed whar I was.”

Was Wild Bill dreaming all this? Ace Hawkins, who had seemed to be the most savage of the White Caps, was sneaking around and running the risk of life itself in order to do him a good turn. Naturally, the Laramie man couldn’t believe it.

“That’s a good yarn, Hawkins,” murmured Wild Bill.

“It’s straight,” protested Hawkins.

“I don’t believe such a crooked coyote as you are could talk straight if he tried.”

“Then ye got an eye-opener comin’ ter you. Ye come hyer, didn’t ye, bekase the sky pilot sent a warnin’ from Hackamore?”

“That’s a bull’s-eye hit, anyhow.”

“Did ye hyer how the sky pilot got tipped off ter the trouble a-brewin’ at the Circle-B?”

“I heard that a friend of his, from the Circle-B outfit, gave him the news.”

“Which is kerrect. I’m thet thar friend.”

“You? One of Red Steve’s White Caps! Say, Hawkins, you’re piling it on pretty thick.”

“I ain’t so tough as what ye reckon, Wild Bill. Jordan, the sky pilot, has showed me the error o’ my ways, he has, an’ I’m tryin’ ter be white. I useter be bad enough, but I’m differ’nt now.”

“How are you different? Haven’t you tangled up with Red Steve’s White Caps? Is that the way you’re trying to be ‘white?’ Don’t take any more falls out of the truth, Hawkins. If you’re here to do me up, go ahead.”

A muffled exclamation broke from Hawkins’ lips.

“I j’ined the White Caps so’st I could keep track of[163] ’em an’ of Red Steve,” he averred. “I wanted ter git a chanst ter back-cap ’em, same as what I’m doin’ now. I’m ready ter prove it, Wild Bill. Wait!”

Again Hawkins bent over Wild Bill. The prisoner felt the cowboy’s groping hands at his wrists, and then cold, sharp steel bit at the hempen strands.

Wild Bill, his wonder growing, pulled his arms in front of him. While he was rubbing his hands to restore circulation, Hawkins was using the knife at his ankles.

“Now,” whispered Hawkins, “ye’re free. Does that prove anythin’? Am I straight goods, er ain’t I?”

“You seem to be all right,” returned Wild Bill, sitting up on the edge of the bed, “but this may all be a play to help Red Steve get the best of me.”


Hawkins pressed something into Wild Bill’s hands. They were a couple of six-shooters.

“Them’s yourn,” went on Hawkins. “Red Steve give ’em ter me ter take keer of, when ye was landed on at the foot o’ the hill. Yer hoss is in the grove whar he was left that other time. I’ve got the saddle an’ bridle on him. All ye got ter do, Wild Bill, is ter crawl up the chimbly, git ter the ground same as I come up, go down the hill an’ git inter the saddle. I’ll go with ye, an’ we’ll talk further. Yore move is ter git back ter the Star-A an’ tell Buffler Bill what ye know. Ye ort ter hev made that move afore, but thar wasn’t no way I could help pull it off till now.”

Wild Bill had been pleasantly disappointed. He had thought Hawkins was a foe, and here he was turning out to be a friend. The Laramie man reached out gropingly in the dark.

“Where’s your fist, Hawkins?” he murmured.



Wild Bill shook the hand.

“You’re a whole man, Hawkins,” went on Wild Bill. “I’d never have believed this of you if I hadn’t gone through it personally.”

“Ye needn’t thank me,” said Hawkins deprecatingly. “Thank the sky pilot. If it hadn’t been fer him, I’d be here clamorin’ fer yer skelp. The sky pilot advised me ter hang on with Steve an’ Benner, playin’ a double part an’ watchin’ my chance ter do a good turn fer right an’ jestice. But we kain’t stand hyer palaverin’. It ain’t safe. Any minit Red Steve may come in, an’ the fat ’u’d be in the fire. Ye’ve been in that chimbly oncet, an’ hyer’s whar ye foller me up ag’in. Come on, an’ come quiet.”

Hawkins guided Wild Bill across the room to the fireplace; then, getting inside, the two men mounted up and up, planting their feet on the projecting stones and wedging themselves in the flue with their arms and elbows.

Great care had to be exercised in order not to alarm Red Steve. The Laramie man had not forgotten that the two flues constituted a whispering gallery, and that unusual noises in the chimney would reach the ears of any one in the living room.

But Red Steve may have been half dozing. At any rate, he heard nothing and was not aroused.

Hawkins was first to climb over the top of the big chimney. As Wild Bill followed him, they could hear Shorty Dobbs and Splinters Gibson talking below, near the window at the end of the adobe house.

“So fur, so good,” whispered Hawkins, “but we ain’t out o’ the woods yit. We’ll have ter hang ter the aidge o’ the roof an’ drap. I’ll drap fust, then you foller.”


Like a shadow, Hawkins lowered himself from the roof’s edge and let go. A slight thump came back to Wild Bill.

It was not a long drop—the house was only a one-story affair—but there was a chance to sprain an ankle, for all that.

Wild Bill slipped carefully from the edge of the roof, hung a moment, and then loosened his fingers. His foot struck on a stone, and he fell with quite a scramble. There was a stir around the corner, and a dark form showed itself.

Hawkins pressed Wild Bill down on the ground with a quick hand.

“What ther nation is goin’ on, Ace?” called a voice.

“Nawthin’,” answered Hawkins. “I jest fell asleep standin’ up, an’ tumbled over.”

“Waal, keep yer eyes open. Splinters says we’re goin’ ter ride ter the Star-A purty soon.”

The form disappeared, and Ace Hawkins drew a long breath of relief.

“Now fer down hill,” he murmured, “an’ the quicker we skin out, the better.”

With Hawkins leading, the two moved noiselessly down the slope, in the direction of the river and the little grove of trees.

“Hyer we aire, all serene,” said Hawkins, “an’ yore hoss is right ferninst ye, Wild Bill.”

“I can see him,” answered the Laramie man. “I’ll not be bagged again, Hawkins.”

“Lige Benner has got watchers out, all around the camp. Ye’ll hev ter git clear without causin’ any ruction, if possible, an’ I’d suggest that ye ride in the water, a little off the bank. The Brazos ain’t bein’ watched[166] so much as the trails. Mebby ye’ll git away without trouble. I’m hopin’ so, anyways.”

“What’re you goin’ to do, Hawkins?”

“I’m stayin’ with the White Caps. That’s what the sky pilot said fer me ter do.”

“But when they find out that I’ve got away, more than likely you’ll be suspected.”

“I don’t reckon so.”

“Your safest move is to come with me.”

“I’m goin’ ter stay on, with the White Caps an’ try ter pervent them kerryin’ out any deviltry. Thar’s a lot o’ it on the programme, as I reckon ye know.”

Wild Bill passed to his horse, unhitched the animal and got into the saddle.

“Don’t let the brute lay down an’ roll over with ye,” said Ace Hawkins humorously.

“Nary, pard,” chuckled Wild Bill; “nor I won’t walk lame or play dead for Benner and his gang any more. But I’d sure like to do something to get even with you for this night’s work.”

“What I’m doin’ I’m doin’ on account o’ the sky pilot. He’s a friend o’ Perry’s.”

“All right, Hawkins, let it go at that. Has that hunchback returned from Hackamore yet?”

“I reckon not.”

“You think the White Caps are going to make a move against Perry and Buffalo Bill?”

“They’ll move ag’in Perry. Prob’ly some un has come in with news, an’ that’s why the White Caps aire gittin’ ready ter move. What the news is I don’t know. But you hustle ter tell Buffler Bill what ye know. Thar’s been sich a delay gittin’ you loose that the scout’ll have to make his play ag’in long odds; but, like as not, a[167] quick move fer Perry an’ Dunbar’ll put ’em right. If I kin——”

At that moment a call for Hawkins came from up the hill.

“The White Caps is waitin’ fer me,” added Hawkins hastily. “Ride the river fer a mile, then take ter the trail. Adios!”

With an answer to the call from above on his lips, Ace Hawkins hurried out of the grove.

Wild Bill waited for nothing further but spurred to the river’s edge and into the water; then, turning Beeswax in the direction of the Star-A he proceeded cautiously to pass the guards posted by Benner.



Nate Dunbar’s first inquiry, after he had put up his horse in the Hackamore corral and dropped in at the Delmonico Hotel, was for a jewelry peddler.

“There was one here,” said the hotel clerk, “but one o’ Benner’s men come in arter him an’ he’s gone ter the Circle-B. He’ll be back, I reckon, as soon’s he unloads some o’ his stuff on Lige Benner.”

It was after twelve o’clock, and Dunbar scoured the dust from his face and hands and went into the dining room for his dinner.

The first thing he wanted to buy was a ring with a genuine “spark” for Hattie. But he’d have to postpone that and go hunting for cowboys and ranch supplies.

At the general store where he got the goods for the ranch he heard of two or three experienced men who were out of a job. He found them in a saloon, and hired two of the men on the spot. The third of the trio was a fellow whose looks wouldn’t pass muster.

The troubles of Perry and Dunbar were well known all up and down the Brazos. A few days before, public opinion had been solidly against them; but now, thanks to the energy of Buffalo Bill and his pards, public opinion had undergone a change.

Everywhere he went Dunbar was greeted cordially.

“Always knew you an’ Dick Perry would come out on top,” ran the general theme of talk.

Nate Dunbar smiled grimly. He knew that nearly[169] every one in Hackamore was under the thumb of the cattle barons, and that the spectacular work of the scout and his pards, alone, had faced every cattle baron but Lige Benner the other way around. It wasn’t for himself that the people of Hackamore showed so much sympathetic interest in him and Perry and their fortunes, but because of the potent influence of the king of scouts and his compadres.

If was three o’clock in the afternoon when Dunbar saw Abraham Isaacs riding into Hackamore. Instantly the young rancher bethought himself of the diamond ring which he had set his heart on buying for his wife.

He was at the hotel as soon as the Jew got there.

“Got any nice stones set in a ring, Uncle?” asked Nate. “If you have, I reckon you and I can do business.”

Isaacs peered at him from under his bushy brows.

“Who you was, young chentleman?” he asked.

“Dunbar, of the Star-A ranch,” was the answer.

A flicker ran through the Jew’s eyes, and he trembled a little as he shifted his battered satchel from one hand to the other.

“Ach, mein friendt,” said he, “I haf got some of der finest shtones in rings vat efer you see, yah, so. You got der money to buy, I got der rings to sell. Vat you like?”

“Come off some place where we can be by ourselves,” answered Nate. “I don’t like to buy finery with so many folks lookin’ on.”

The clerk offered them the use of a room, and they were soon in chairs, looking over the peddler’s stock.

“What I want,” said Dunbar, “is the real, gen-u-ine thing in stones. This ring’s to be for Mrs. Dunbar, and[170] she hasn’t her equal among womenkind in all Texas. I want something that’s up to the mark, or it don’t go; and, what’s more, I haven’t a mint of money to squander, either.”

“Vat you like to pay?”

The Jew was studying the handsome face of the young man, studying it compassionately. If it wasn’t for the gain to be had from Benner, Isaacs would never have taken part in the contemptible plot hatched by Jerry. But money was the Jew’s life blood. His compassion was strong, but his love for money was stronger.

“A hundred pesos is the extent of my pile,” said Dunbar.

“Act, Himmel! Vat you expect to get for a hundert tollars? It vill be shmall, mein friendt. Tiamonts iss vort’ mooch money. A hundert-toller bigness in a tiamont iss shmall.”

“Well, anyways, a hundred-dollar bigness is all I can stand for,” returned Dunbar regretfully. “Next time you come around, Isaacs, maybe I’ll be in better case so that we can dicker for a watch. How much is this?”

He picked up a ring and held it where the slanting rays of the sun entered a window and struck a rainbow of color from the single stone.

“A hundert und feefty toller, Misder Dunbar,” replied the Jew, “but I geave him to you for one hundert toller. You look like a fine poy, und I haf got tender feelings for fine poys. Ven you puy der vatch, den I make it oop vat I lose on der ring. Hein?”

“I’ve bought something, uncle. Put the ring in a box and I’ll stow it away.”

The ring was put in a case, and the money changed hands. Dunbar, whistling blithely, left the room. Isaacs[171] looked after him, shook his head forebodingly, and began replacing his jewelry in the satchel.

While he was about it, a tapping came on the window of the room. He looked up and saw Jerry Benner peering in at him through the glass. A shiver ran through the humped form of Isaacs. Here was where the plot was to begin!

Jerry motioned with his hand that Isaacs was to lift the window sash. The Jew obeyed, and the crooked form of the hunchback floundered into the room.

“He’s bought his ring, has he, Abe?” asked Jerry.

“Yah, so,” murmured the Jew, “he has bought der ring.”

“Well, you get those paste stones in a hurry and bring them to me. Hurry, Abe. He left his saddle and saddlebags at the corral. It’s a good chance, Abe, for me to do what I’m planning.”

“Ach, Cherry,” said Isaacs, clutching his hands, “he looks like a goot poy.”

“Never you mind about that, Abe,” snapped Jerry. “If you want to collect the rest of what’s coming from Lige, get you those bogus stones. Hustle! Sim Pierce is talking with Dunbar, and Dunbar may leave for home before he intended. Hurry up, Abe.”

With a stifled groan, the harassed Jew turned and left the room, taking his precious satchel with him. He returned in a few moments with the false stones, and the designing Jerry got through the window with them and moved in the direction of the corral.

Sim Pierce was the first man Dunbar saw when he stepped through the door of the hotel, the present for Hattie in his pocket.

“Hello, Nate!” called Sim. “I was out ter the Star-A[172] an’ had dinner. Buffler Bill told me you was in town. Have ye seen the sky pilot yit?”

“Is Jordan in town, Sim?” queried Nate, surprised.

“He was some tired an’ out o’ sorts, an’ he allowed he’d go ter bed fer a day. He’s at the Delmonico, but I reckon he’s snoozin’, an’ makin’ up fer the sleep he lost when he tied that knot on hossback.”

Sim Pierce chuckled and nudged Dunbar in the ribs. The cowboy grinned responsively.

“Whyever did you make such a quick trip to the ranch, Sim?” Nate asked.

Sim drew Nate off toward the hitching pole in front of the hotel, looked carefully around, and told the young rancher what he had already told Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill. Dunbar at once began to worry.

“I’m going to let the rest of my work here in town wait,” said he, “and I’m going back to the ranch. If any trouble happens, I want to be there.”

“I reckoned you’d feel that-er-way, Nate,” returned Sim, “but afore ye go, I’d advise ye ter palaver with Jordan. If he knowed ye was in town he’d be anxious ter see ye.”

Dunbar ran back into the hotel and inquired his way to the sky pilot’s room. He was with Jordan no more than fifteen minutes, and when he left him he hurriedly settled his bill, saddled and bridled his horse and started at speed for the Star-A.

All this was circumstantial evidence against Nate. He had told the clerk that he expected to remain in Hackamore two days, but here he was leaving in haste before he had been in town much more than four hours.

Nate had hardly hit the trail before Abraham Isaacs[173] began to stir up the whole hotel with the howling announcement that he had been robbed.

As ill luck would have it, Bloom, the sheriff, happened to be in the hotel office at the time. He took Isaacs in hand, questioned him, and the clerk cut into the talk to tell about Dunbar’s hurried flight for the Brazos.

“He’s the man!” declared Bloom, with a snap of his lean jaws. “You, an’ you, an’ you,” he turned to indicate three cowboys who were in the office, “will come with me. You can’t refuse the law when you’re called upon. We’re a ‘possey come-and-git-us,’ and we’ve got to overhaul Dunbar and see if he’s got the stolen goods.”

Sim Pierce, strolling toward the hotel from down the street, saw the sheriff and the four cowboys hustling off along the trail. He knew, from the way they rode, that there was something up.

In the office the clerk told him about the robbery of Isaacs, and about Dunbar being suspected.

“It ain’t so!” bellowed Sim Pierce. “That ’er boy is as squar’ a piece o’ furniture as ever come out o’ the fact’ry. I tell ye I won’t b’leeve it.”

“You’re not the only one who won’t believe it, Sim,” came a quiet voice behind Pierce, and he turned to meet the indignant, boyish face of Jordan, the sky pilot. “We’ll wait till Bloom and his posse get back, though, before we express ourselves too strongly. I’ve a notion”—he dropped his voice to a whisper—“that this may be a part of Lige Benner’s plot. We’ll see, Sim, we’ll see.”

It was two hours later that the “possey come-and-git-us” loped back to town. They brought Nate Dunbar with them, and Nate’s hands were in manacles.

They had found the missing diamonds in his saddlebags. Nate didn’t know how they had got there, but[174] he did know that the first he saw of them was when the sheriff pulled them out of the bags.

Although burning with indignation, Jordan, the sky pilot, kept in the background.

“Sim,” said he to Pierce, “get a fresh horse and ride for the Star-A ranch as fast as you can go. Don’t tell Hattie anything about this, but tell Buffalo Bill and his pards. I’ll do nothing here until I can have a talk with the scout. He’s the one to handle this, and the only one!”

So, while Sim Pierce raced through the night, and Jerry Benner rode slowly and exultantly in the direction of the Circle-B ranch, Nate Dunbar sat helpless in the shanty which served for the Hackamore jail. The young rancher was so dazed by recent events that he could not think.



Sim Pierce had left the Star-A ranch, on the occasion of his first visit, immediately after dinner. While Mrs. Dunbar, happy as a lark, was clearing away the dishes and singing about her work, the scout and Dick Perry sat in front of the cabin.

Perry was an educated man—altogether of too fine a grain, the scout thought, to be “pioneering it” in the cattle country.

“Thanks to you and your pards, Buffalo Bill,” said Perry, “the worst of the Star-A troubles are over. Hear that girl singing away in the kitchen!” An affectionate smile crept over Perry’s face as he listened. “Just to be near happiness like hers, fills me with the joy of life and living.”

The scout nodded.

“You have a whole lot to be glad about, Perry,” said he.

“If anybody continues to stir up trouble on the Brazos, amigo, it will be the Benners.”

“Is there more than one Benner, then?”

“Haven’t you heard about Lige’s hunchback brother, Jerry?”

“Come to think of it, I believe I did hear something about a hunchback.”

“Jerry,” went on the rancher, “is a regular demon. He hasn’t any more heart in him than a stone, and his wits are as keen as a razor. Jerry is twice as sharp as Lige and twice as savage.”


The scout laughed.

“I thought Lige was savage enough,” he remarked, “but if Jerry is any worse, I’d like to see him, just out of curiosity.”

“Jerry’s a schemer,” pursued Perry, “and I’ve heard it said that Lige is half afraid of him.”

“Lige is a good deal of a coward. Any man who favors snake-in-the-grass methods in preference to a stand in the open, is a coward—and a knave, as well.” The scout got up from his chair. “I’m going over to the hammock, Perry,” said he, “and take a siesta.”

“When will Wild Bill be back?” asked Perry, as the scout moved off.

“Some time to-night.”

“And the baron, Nomad and Cayuse?”

“I’m not expecting them until they get here.”

The scout reached the canvas hammock, swung under a tree near the place where he and Wild Bill had had their talk earlier in the day, and stretched himself out comfortably.

The Laramie man was a great deal in his mind. How was he making it at the Circle-B ranch? Somehow, what Perry had had to say about Jerry Benner had increased the scout’s worry on Wild Bill’s account.

If Jerry was so much sharper than his brother, it might be that Wild Bill would stand in a good deal of danger from him.

The scout’s worries did not bother him long. Lulled by the peaceful quiet of his surroundings, he fell asleep. Several hours later he was awakened by some one moving round the hammock. He opened his eyes to find old Nomad, the baron and Little Cayuse clustered about him.


“Buenos, pards!” laughed the scout, sitting up in the hammock. “I thought you were going to stay all night at Dinkelmann’s?”

“Dere don’d vas anypody ad home,” answered the baron, “neider Fritz nor Katrina. Ve hang aroundt a vile, und den ve come pack.”

“Nothin’ doin’,” rumbled the old trapper. “Waugh! I never see sich er quiet time. I ain’t reached a p’int yit whar I like ter fool erway my time hossback ridin’. Thet’s all thet happened on this ride ter the Dutchman’s. I was er hopin’ some o’ them measley cowpunchers would try ter ride circles around us, jest ter give us a chanst ter cop out a leetle excitement. But nary nothin’ happened. Whar’s Wild Bill?”

Gathering his pards closely around him, the scout told of the warning of impending trouble that had been sent to the ranch by the sky pilot.

Old Nomad began to mutter wrathfully.

“Shore, oh, shore,” he snorted, “somethin’ ’u’d sartingly git started ther minit I pulled out. An’ Wild Bill’s gone ter put ther leetle Hickok kybosh on ther rantankerous doin’s, hey? Whyever did you stay behind, pard?”

The scout explained that Wild Bill had gone to the Circle-B ranch in disguise, and that he hoped to find out what the trouble was to be, in case the sky pilot had not been wrongly informed.

“Sufferin’ catermounts!” mourned the old trapper. “An’ all this hyer happens while I’m chasin’ up Dutchmen with ther baron. Cayuse, ain’t ye plumb mad at yerself fer bein’ sidetracked when thar was somethin’ excitin’ goin’ on?”


Little Cayuse had never very much to say on any subject. He merely grunted in answer to the trapper’s query.

The baron looked very much distressed.

“I peen so sorry as plazes,” said he, “dot I vasn’t here meinseluf when Vild Pill vent avay. Meppy he vould haf took me mit him. I peen some fine fellers in a disguise!”

“Hyer thet!” whooped the trapper. “Et don’t make no diff’rence how the baron’s got up, the lingo he uses is a dead give-away on him. Wild Bill, I reckon, kin kerry ther game through. I’m hopin’ he runs inter somethin’ lively—an’ thet he passes et eround. Ranchin’ et is purty tame bizness, seems ter me.”

The scout and his pards talked until supper time, and after supper they smoked out under the trees and watched and waited for Wild Bill. As the hours passed without bringing him, the scout’s uneasiness increased.

Perry and his daughter were in the house. The girl was reading aloud, and her father sat in a near-by chair, listening.

It must have been nearly nine o’clock when a beat of hoofs in the trail brought the pards off the bench.

“Thar he comes!” declared old Nomad, with intense satisfaction. “Now we’ll know what kind of er b’ar he’s ketched by ther tail.”

A call from the scout brought the horseman to a halt some distance away from the house.

“That you, Hickok?” asked Buffalo Bill.

“Nary, it ain’t, Buffler Bill,” answered a voice. “This hyer’s Sim Pierce ag’in. I’m droppin’ in purty frequent, hey?”

“What’s to pay now, Sim?” returned the scout.


“Who’s with ye? I got ter know that afore I open up.”

Sim Pierce slid down from his horse and moved closer to the group under the shadowy branches of the tree.

“Old Nomad, the baron and Little Cayuse are with me, Sim,” replied the scout.

“Perry an’ Mrs. Dunbar in the house?”


“Waal, ther’s the deuce ter pay, an’ no mistake. Dunbar’s been arrested.”

Startled exclamations went up from the pards.

“What was he arrested for?” demanded the scout.

“For stealing dimings off of a Jew peddler named Abe Isaacs.”

“A frame-up!” breathed the trapper; “a frame-up o’ Benner’s!”

“What proof is there that Dunbar stole the diamonds?” went on the scout.

“He was ketched by the sher’ff with the stones in his saddlebags.”

“I feel so madt aboudt dot I vish I couldt fight,” flared the baron. “Tunpar vouldn’t do sooch t’ings, und dot’s all aboudt it. Oof he vas ketched mit der tiamonts, den somepody pud dem in his sattlepags. You hear vat I say!”

“Tell us all you know about it, Sim,” said the scout.

Sim unbosomed himself, finally getting down to the point that it was the sky pilot who had sent him to the ranch this second time, just as he had done the first.

“He wants ye ter hotfoot it ter Hackamore, Buffler Bill,” finished Pierce, “kase if anythin’s done fer Nate[180] ye’re the one thet’s got ter do it. The Hackamore sher’ff’ll pay some attention ter you, which he won’t ter the rest o’ us.”

“I’ll git the hosses, Buffler,” tuned up the trapper joyfully, “an’ we’ll hit the breeze to’rds Hackamore.”

“Not so fast, Nick!” demurred the scout. “I’m the only one that’s going to Hackamore. The rest of you are to stay here with Mrs. Dunbar and Perry. What’s on for to-night is more than any of us know. It’s a cinch, I think, that this pretended robbery in Hackamore is only a part of Lige Benner’s plot. He may try to pull off another part of it here at the ranch, so you fellows have got to stay and keep your eyes skinned. When Wild Bill gets here, tell him where I am.”

The scout’s order was received in gloomy silence. All the lively doings seemed to be monopolized by Benner’s ranch and the town of Hackamore, and the peaceful quiet at the Star-A was not at all alluring.

Buffalo Bill was not long in getting riding leather on Bear Paw. When he drew up in front of his pards, he leaned from the saddle for a few words of caution.

“Don’t tell Hattie and her father anything about this, pards,” said he. “Jordan and I will get Dunbar out of the scrape, and there’s no use pestering Perry and the girl with the details. Dunbar can tell them all about it when we bring him back. And don’t fail to stay here on guard. Lige Benner isn’t above sending some of his cowboys here to raise a ruction. If they come, you take care of them.”

The scout straightened in his saddle and gathered up his reins.

“All right, Sim,” said he.


The spurs clinked and the two horses leaped forward into the shadows that overhung the trail.

“Orders is orders,” growled old Nomad, “but I shore wisht I was goin’ erlong with Buffler, er else over ter pay a visit at the Circle-B.”



It was midnight when Buffalo Bill turned his horse over to Sim Pierce to be taken to the corral, and stepped into the office of the Delmonico Hotel.

There were but three men in the office—Jordan, Isaacs and the clerk.

The moment the scout entered the room a load of anxiety seemed to drop from the sky pilot’s shoulders. He started toward the scout with outstretched hand.

“I’m more than glad to see you, Buffalo Bill!” he exclaimed. “Our friend Nate is the victim of some dastardly plot, and circumstantial evidence is all against him.”

“Let’s go to the jail and see him, Jordan,” said the scout.

“The sheriff won’t allow any one to see him.”

“I reckon he’ll let me.”

“He says he won’t let a soul into the jail to-night. But here’s some one else you can talk with—Abraham Isaacs, the man from whom the diamonds were taken.”

The scout whirled on Isaacs. Under his searching eyes, the Jew lowered his face. The two hands that held his battered satchel on his knees trembled perceptibly. In three strides the scout was at the Jew’s side.

“Your name is Abraham Isaacs, is it?” he demanded sharply.

“Yah, so,” the Jew answered, keeping his eyes averted.


“You say young Dunbar stole some diamonds from you?”

“I say dot I lose some tiamonts. Dey was foundt on Dunbar. Vat you t’ink?”

“I think there’s been a hocus-pocus, and that Dunbar is getting the worst of it. Where are the diamonds you lost, Isaacs?”

The Jew opened the satchel and took out a handful of rings, watch charms and buttons—all set with stones. The diamond-mounted buttons were affected by some of the wealthy cattle barons.

Buffalo Bill picked up one of the rings and looked at it closely. Isaacs scarcely breathed during the examination, fearing that Buffalo Bill might discover that the stone was an imitation.

“Nate wasn’t intending to return to the ranch for a day or two,” said the scout, dropping the ring into the Jew’s hand. “Why did he start back in the afternoon of the same day he reached Hackamore?”

“Pecause,” croaked Isaacs, “he wanted to get avay mit der tiamonts.”

“That wasn’t the reason,” spoke up Jordan calmly. “He didn’t know I had sent Sim Pierce to the Star-A ranch. When he saw Pierce, and Pierce told him, Nate came to my room and I gave him the information I had sent to you. He was worried, and decided to ride back to the ranch at once. There is no doubt but it was that move that aroused suspicion against him. The sheriff was here in the office when Isaacs reported the robbery, and he at once started after Nate with a posse. When Nate was overhauled and searched, the diamonds were found in his saddlebags.”


“How was it possible for Nate to take the stones—assuming that he did take them?”

“I vas mit him in vone of der hotel rooms,” answered the Jew, “und I sold him a tiamont ring vort’ vone hundert an’ feefty toller for vone hundert tollar. It must haf been vile he vas buying der ring dot he took der odder t’ings. Dot’s der only shance he vouldt haf.”

“You’re too sharp, Isaacs,” declared the scout, “to let any one fool you that way. Nate couldn’t have taken the stones right under your eyes.”

“Vell, how it vas der shtones vas foundt in his sattlepags?”

“There’s an explanation,” said the scout curtly, “and Nate isn’t involved in it. Were Benner, or any of his men, in town during the afternoon?”

“Jerry Benner was in town, Buffler Bill,” called the clerk from behind the counter.

“Was he at this hotel at the time of the robbery?”

“Nix, he wasn’t at this hotel at all. I only heerd he was in town from fellers that seen him.”

“Did you see Jerry Benner, Isaacs?” asked the scout, fixing a keen glance on the Jew.

“How shouldt I see him?” quavered Isaacs.

“I don’t know how you did, but did you?”

“No, I dit nod see Cherry.”

Once more the scout turned to the clerk.

“Keep your eyes on the Jew, will you,” he asked, “while Jordan and I go to the jail for a talk with Nate Dunbar? If he tries to get away, pull a gun on him. This robbery business is going to be sifted to the bottom, and those who have got Dunbar into this fix are going to suffer for it.”

“I’ll watch him, ye kin bet on that,” said the clerk.[185] “He won’t leave here, Buffler Bill, an’ when ye want him ye’ll know whar ter find him.”

“Buenos!” The scout whirled away towards the door. “Come on, parson,” said he; “we’ll now move toward the jail.”

The jail was an isolated shanty at the end of the street. Gloomy shadows hung around it. As the scout and the sky pilot came up in front of the small structure, a man started up out of the shadows and planted himself in front of them.

“That’s far enough!” the man snapped.

“It’s not far enough to suit me,” returned the scout.

“Well, I’m the one that’s boss here.”

“Who are you?”

“Bloom, the sheriff.”

“And I’m Buffalo Bill, and a friend of Nate Dunbar. I’ve come to talk with him, and Mr. Jordan is with me.”

“You can’t talk with him to-night. That shot goes as it lays.”

Bloom, the sheriff, had a rifle in his hands. As he spoke he brought it to “port arms” and glared at the scout over the barrel.

“I’d rather not have any trouble with you, Bloom,” said the scout, the words clicking like the snap of a breechblock, “but you’re putting on the screws at a time when it’s unnecessary and useless. Why can’t we go in and talk with Nate?”

“Because I tell you you can’t,” ground out the sheriff.

The next moment the scout had made a move. It was a lightning-like move, and when the sheriff had caught his breath the scout was standing in front of him with the rifle. Nor was the rifle at “port arms;” its point was leveled at Bloom’s breast.


“That’s the way you stack up, is it?” asked the sheriff, in a tense voice.

“It is,” was the cool reply. “Maybe you’d like to lock me up with Dunbar? Think twice before you try. This is not a time to say ‘no’ to me, Bloom. Lead the way into the jail.”

The sheriff hesitated.

“On an occasion like this I’m not in the habit of repeating an order,” went on the scout significantly.

The sheriff snapped his jaws together, whirled on his heel and unlocked the door of the jail. When he had stepped inside, the scout and the sky pilot crossed the threshold after him.

“Strike a light, Bloom,” ordered the scout.

A match was scratched and a lamp lighted. In the middle of the shanty’s one room stood a bench; and on the bench, wrists and ankles manacled, sat Dunbar.

His face was haggard, but a light of hope shone in his eyes as they rested on the scout.

“Buffalo Bill!” he exclaimed joyfully. “I thought you’d come as soon as you found out what had happened to me. Does Hattie know? Or Dick?”

“Neither of them has been told, Nate,” answered the scout, stepping to the young rancher’s side and dropping a kindly hand on his shoulder. “Nor will they know,” he added, “until we get you out of this and you tell them yourself.”

The handcuffs rattled as Dunbar gripped the scout’s hand.

“You’re a friend worth having, amigo,” he murmured, “same as Jordan, there.”

“This foul injustice, Nate,” said the sky pilot, “will not be allowed to continue long. Truth will prevail, and[187] those who have caused this trouble will be made to suffer for it.”

“What do you know about those diamonds they say you stole, Nate?” inquired the scout. “Anything?”

“Not a thing, Buffalo Bill,” protested Dunbar. “I was hiking for the ranch when Bloom, and three cowboys, came slashing up alongside my horse, with their guns out. They ordered me to lift my hands. I did as they told me. Bloom hunted through my saddlebags and pulled out the diamonds. That was the first time I ever saw them.”

“Likely yarn,” grunted Bloom. “Caught with the goods on, an’ you haven’t the nerve to own up.”

“I didn’t take the diamonds!” cried Dunbar angrily.

“You’ll have a chance to prove it in court. And I reckon you won’t prove it. You’ll go to the nearest ‘pen,’ and that’ll stop these troubles in the cow country.”

The scout turned slowly and swept his eyes over Bloom.

“You’re doing a heap of talking, seems to me,” said he, “for a man who’s merely an officer of the law. What is it to you whether Dunbar goes free, or goes over the road? Anything personal in it for you?”

The sheriff scowled but did not reply.

“He’s a friend of Lige Benner’s,” declared Dunbar, “and no friend of Perry’s or mine. While we were having our hard time on the Brazos, he was throwing the gaff into us every chance he got.”

“You’re a pill,” scowled Bloom, “and you ought to be run out of the country. That’s how I feel.”

“Well,” said the scout scathingly, “be advised by me, Bloom, and don’t let your personal spite interfere with your duties as a public officer.”


“You’re not so high an’ mighty,” sneered Bloom. “Because you’re a government scout, you ain’t bigger’n the whole State of Texas.”

“I’m big enough to look after you and take care of Nate,” replied Buffalo Bill. “The boy’s no thief.”

“Prove it!” grunted Bloom.

The door was kicked open just at that moment, and Wild Bill pushed breathlessly into the room.

“Sure we’ll prove it!” he cried; “by gorry, that’s what I’m here for—it’s what I’ve been pounding over this range for during the last five hours. Nate’s innocent! Listen to the mellow trill of my bazoo, all hands!”

Wild Bill dropped wearily down on the bench beside Dunbar.

The Laramie man presented an appearance that was badly demoralized, to say the least. He still wore his mismatched footgear and his torn slouch hat. Where the disguise had been stripped away his usual costume showed itself, but it did not appreciably improve his appearance. His hands, face and clothing were covered with grime.

“Can—can this be Mr. Hickok?” faltered the sky pilot.

“It’s Wild Bill, parson,” laughed the scout. “Where’d you come from, pard?”

“From the Star-A ranch last, amigo,” replied Wild Bill. “Old Nomad gave me a tip as to what had happened, and where you were, and I raced on here. Beeswax has had some travel to-night—and it was a bee line and the keen jump every foot of the way.”

“What happened at the Circle-B?”

“I’m getting to that. The Jew, Abe Isaacs, is at the hotel. I tarried there just long enough to see him in the office and to find out that you were at the jail. I[189] think the Jew better be here with us while the case is tried.”

“This case ain’t goin’ to be tried,” cried the sheriff, “till it comes up in the regular way.”

“Who’s he, Pard Cody?” asked Wild Bill, nodding toward Bloom.

“He’s the sheriff,” answered the scout.

“Oh, is that all? Can’t he be quiet till he’s spoken to? You’re the judge, Buffalo Bill, and the parson is the jury. I’m attorney for the defense, and the sheriff can be attorney for the prosecution, if he wants to. Who’s going after Isaacs—the judge or the jury?”

“The jury had better go,” laughed Jordan; “the judge has to keep an eye on the attorney for the prosecution. I’ll be back before many minutes have passed.”

The sky pilot left the jail.

“I’ve stood for this foolishness about as long as I’m a-going to,” snarled Bloom. “Give me that gun, Buffalo Bill, and clear out o’ here.”

“Not till after the trial,” was the cool reply. “Calm down, Bloom. Don’t get rantankerous. I’ve got a Long Tom and two sixes, and Pard Hickok has a pair of forty-fives. Just reflect on the amount of lead we could throw at one broadside, and take things as you find them.”

“Has the sheriff got an ax to grind, Pard Cody,” asked Wild Bill, “or is he just naturally ugly?”

“A little of both, I reckon.”

“You fellers can’t ride roughshod over the law o’ this State,” cried Bloom.

“We’ll ride roughshod over you,” flung back Wild Bill, “if you give us any more of your back talk. What[190] I’ve gone through to-night hasn’t sweetened my temper any.”

“Have you found out something that proves I’m not a thief?” asked Nate.

“I’m next to a whole lote, Nate, that maybe you never dreamed about,” said Wild Bill. “But wait till the case comes to trial; wait till—— Ah, the parson and the Hebrew! Here’s where we get busy.”

It seemed evident that Isaacs had not come willingly to the jail. The sky pilot had an arm hooked through his and was half dragging him along. From one of the Jew’s hands swung his always-present satchel.

Isaacs’ face was an ashen hue under the lamplight, and with his free hand he pulled nervously at his long beard.

“Here’s Mr. Isaacs, Buffalo Bill,” announced the sky pilot, pushing his companion forward.

“Don’t be scared, Isaacs,” said Wild Bill, getting up from the bench, “you’re only a witness. Sit down.”

“Chentlemen,” quavered the Jew, sinking down on the bench, “vat is der meaning of dis?”

“You’ll know in a little while,” answered Wild Bill. “If the attorney for the prosecution—or persecution—will state his case, I’ll come back at him with a handful of cold facts. Go on, Bloom.”

“You fellers’ll not make a fool o’ me,” growled the sheriff. “Just get done with your play and mosey out o’ here. That’s all I want o’ you.”

“Then, your honor,” said Wild Bill, bowing to the scout, “I might as well open up my bag of tricks. This Jew, Abraham Isaacs, came to the Circle-B ranch yesterday and had a palaver with Lige and Jerry Benner. Isaacs was piloted out there by Red Steve, as graceless[191] a scoundrel as ever went unhung. Lige selected about thirteen hundred dollars worth of jewelry from that bag of Isaacs’, but said he wouldn’t take the stuff unless Isaacs would help him prove Nate Dunbar a thief. Jerry Benner did most of the talking, and——”

“Lieber Gott,” wailed Isaacs suddenly, slumping down on the floor and hugging Wild Bill about the knees. “Dot iss plendy! Say no more, mein friendt! Say no more!”

Wild Bill kicked the peddler away.

“Get back on your bench,” he ordered sternly, “and don’t butt into my argument. Isaacs agreed to come back to Hackamore, while Dunbar was in town, and put up a howl that he had been robbed. Jerry Benner was also to come to town, get some fake diamonds from Isaacs, and put them in Dunbar’s saddlebags. That’s what happened. Lige Benner and his brother Jerry fixed up this little game, and Abraham Isaacs helped them carry it through. Is that so?” he cried, turning on the Jew. “Answer!”

“Ach, it iss so!” groaned Isaacs. “Vat a miserable mans I vas! I didn’t vant to do dot, aber I lose der sale if I don’t.”

“You admit,” went on Wild Bill, “that you gave those diamonds to Jerry Benner?”

“Yah, so!”

“And that Benner was going to put them in Dunbar’s saddlebags?”

“It vas like you say! Vat a most unhabby man iss me! Mercy, chentlemen! Don’t do nodding mit me. It vas Lige und Cherry Benner.”

“The defense rests,” said Wild Bill.


“The case goes to the jury,” said the scout, turning to the sky pilot. “What’s your verdict, parson?”

“Not guilty,” said the sky pilot promptly.

“The prisoner at the bar is discharged,” declared the scout. “Bloom, take off those manacles.”

“I’ll not do any such thing!” cried the sheriff. “I’ll let you kill me first.”

“He ought to be killed, Pard Cody,” growled the Laramie man, “even if you make up your mind you won’t do it. I’d like the pleasure of taking off those iron gyves myself. Hold that rifle on him while I go through his clothes.”

Buffalo Bill brought the rifle to bear on Bloom, and ordered him to put his hands in the air. Bloom fumed and protested, but his hands went up nevertheless.

The Laramie man searched his pockets, found a bunch of keys, and soon had the manacles off the young rancher’s wrists and ankles.

“You men will pay for this high-handed proceeding!” scowled Bloom.

Wild Bill laughed.

“You were the only one who did anything high-handed, sheriff,” he returned.

“How did you find out all this, Wild Bill?” queried the dazed Dunbar. “I had a notion that Lige Benner was back of the play, but there wasn’t any way I could prove it. I seemed to be tied up hard and fast in circumstantial evidence.”

Wild Bill told what had happened to him at the Circle-B ranch. He protected Ace Hawkins, however, by failing to mention his name in the presence of the sheriff. Bloom was manifestly a friend of the Benners, and not to be trusted with any information about Hawkins. The[193] Laramie man let it appear as though he had effected his own escape by way of the chimney.

“That sounds too good to be true,” said Bloom sarcastically.

“I reckon it does, to you,” returned Wild Bill.

“If you know when you’re well off, sheriff,” said the scout, “you’ll let this matter drop. You don’t show up very well in what has happened. I’m ready to meet you, though, on any grounds you care to cut out.”

Bloom made no answer, but stared stonily at the scout.

“Nate,” pursued Buffalo Bill, “you’ll march out of here arm in arm with your good friend, the sky pilot; Wild Bill, you’ll personally conduct Abe Isaacs back to the hotel office where we can get his testimony in writing; I’ll bring up the rear of the procession and stay company front with Bloom, ready to begin on him whenever he makes the proper sign.”

But the sheriff made no “sign.” The scout and his party walked unmolested out of the jail, and proceeded in the direction of the Delmonico Hotel.

“Shake, Pard Hickok,” said the scout, when they were nearing the hotel office. “You’ve done fine work, although it’s hard to understand how you slipped your bonds and got out of that chimney—but you’re here, and that proves that you called the turn somehow.”

Wild Bill chuckled as he looked around and took the scout’s hand.

“I’m in on this, Wild Bill,” spoke up Dunbar, seizing the Laramie man’s hand when the scout was through with it. “This is something more I owe the scout and his pards.”

“You owe more to the sky pilot, Dunbar, than to any one else,” answered Wild Bill.


“How is that?” asked Jordan.

“I’ll tell you later.”

The trembling Isaacs was conducted into the hotel office and made to write out an account of his agreement with Lige and Jerry Benner. Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill, and Jordan signed the paper as witnesses.

“Now, Isaacs,” said the scout, folding the paper and thrusting it into his pocket, “as it will soon be known to the Benners that they have lost out through you, I’d suggest that you do not linger in Hackamore. An extended sojourn might not be pleasant for you. It’s only a suggestion, however, and you can do as you please.”

“I vill go,” declared Isaacs eagerly, “und I vill go now.”

And he did go—taking Lige Benner’s five hundred dollars with him.

The morning gray was streaking the east when all this business was finished.

“Suppose we go to bed?” said the scout.

“Come out hyer fust, you men,” called a voice from the front of the hotel.

It was the clerk. He had accompanied Isaacs to the corral to make sure that he took his own horse, and he was now calling those in the office from the hitching pole.

Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill, and Jordan hurriedly answered the clerk’s summons. In the dim, ghostly light of coming day a weary horse could be seen with drooping head over the pole. A man was hanging to the saddle—bound to the horn and cantle by a rope. His arms hung limply, and his head was bowed over on the horse’s neck.

“Who is it?” demanded the scout.


“Pass the ante,” the clerk answered. “The hoss must hev come up hyer while I was at the c’ral. The man’s tied in the saddle. By jings, he’s shot an’ past talkin’! It’s—it’s one o’ Benner’s men. It’s Ace Hawkins.”

The sky pilot and Wild Bill both started hastily forward.



The limp form in the saddle was untied and carried into the hotel. The clerk proffered the use of a room—the same room in which Dunbar had talked with Isaacs—and Hawkins was borne in there and laid down on the bed. A doctor was sent for.

“He’s got his gruel, that’s my opinion,” announced Wild Bill, surveying a wound in Hawkins’ breast.

“This,” said Jordan, in a voice that throbbed with deep feeling, “is my friend—the very man who came from Benner’s ranch and told me that trouble was brewing for Perry and Dunbar.”

“And he’s the man, parson,” added Wild Bill, “who helped me out of Benner’s adobe house. Red Steve and his White Caps were standing guard around the house to see that I didn’t make a getaway; and it was Hawkins, here, who came down the chimney, took the ropes off me, and helped me get out and find my horse. He said he had helped me because he was a friend of yours, and that you had brought him to see where he had been going wrong. When I left Hawkins, he was just starting off with Red Steve and the other White Caps. The scoundrels must have found out he helped me to get away—and paid him for it.”

Wild Bill, with sadness and regret in his face, looked down on the unconscious man.

“It was in a good cause, a good cause,” murmured the sky pilot. “Although a brand snatched from the burning,[197] yet Ace Hawkins is nevertheless sure of his reward.”

The minister bent over and parted the tangled hair from Hawkins’ forehead; then, gently, he began chafing his temples.

Buffalo Bill had laid a hand on his heart.

“He’s alive yet,” said he.

At that moment the doctor came.

“A shooting, eh?” said he, looking down at the man on the bed with merely professional interest. “Pretty bad, but I’ll see what I can do.”

The most the doctor could do was to revive Hawkins. The man opened his eyes, and stared around.

“Whar’s Buffler Bill?” he asked feebly.

“Here!” said the scout, pushing close to the bed.

“Yer pard, Hickok——”

“Here, too, Hawkins,” cut in Wild Bill, stepping to the scout’s side.

Hawkins lifted a hand, and brushed it across his forehead.

“The little hoss brought me ter town, eh?” he muttered. “I was purty nigh fagged when I got that thar rope around me an’ tied ter the saddle horn. I reckon I’m about done an’——” He paused abruptly, a faint gleam coming into his eyes as they rested on the sky pilot. “That you, parson?”

“It’s I, Ace,” said Jordan, coming up on the other side of the bed and taking Hawkins by the hand. “Who did this?”

“Red Steve. I reckoned he might.”

“Because you helped me?” asked Wild Bill.

“Nary,” said Hawkins, a faint smile hovering around[198] his lips, “the White Caps hadn’t found that out yit. This was done bekase I tried ter help Perry.”

“Perry?” gasped Nate Dunbar.

“Yes, Perry,” went on Hawkins. “I got ter be muy pronto if I git you fellers headed right. Remember when I left ye, Wild Bill?”


“Well, the White Caps rode ter the Star-A ranch. I was afeared we might see ye thar, but we didn’t. A trick was played on Perry.”

“Trick?” echoed the scout. “What sort of a trick?”

“Why, Red Steve had Shorty Dobbs take off his white fixin’s an’ ride up ter the ranch house. Shorty asked for Perry. When Perry come out, Shorty told him that Nate Dunbar had been arrested in Hackamore for stealin’ dimings from Isaacs, that Buffler Bill had gone to town, and that Buffler had sent him—Shorty—arter Perry. Perry wasn’t ter tell anybody what had happened ’r whar he was goin’. He sneaked out ter the c’ral, got onter his hoss, an’ started with Shorty. When them two come ter whar the rest of us was waitin’ fer ’em, in the timber, Perry was nabbed. I tried ter help Perry, an’ then’s when Red Steve let me have it. I knowed right off I’d got my whatfer, but I wanted ter make Hackamore an’ tell the facts ter Buffler Bill.”

Hawkins’ strength failed at this point, and the doctor had to give him a stimulant to enable him to rally. Presently he went on.

“They chased me, Red Steve, Shorty, an’ the rest, but the little hoss was too fast fer ’em. I tell ye what, that buckskin kin go! I was afeared, though, that I’d play out afore we reached town, an’ that the hoss would kerry[199] me back ter the Circle-B. But he didn’t. He brung me hyer.”

“What about Perry, Hawkins?” asked the scout.

“It’s long odds whether ye save him er not. They’ve took him ter Crowder’s c’ral—they—they——”

Hawkins’ head fell back, and his eyes closed. Jordan threw a questioning, startled look at the doctor, but the doctor shook his head.

“Not yet, parson,” said he; “it won’t be long, though.”

“They’ve bagged Dick Perry—the scoundrels!” muttered Nate Dunbar. “What’re they going to do with him?”

“If they follow out the plan as I got it from Red Steve,” said Wild Bill, “they’re going to stake Perry out and head a drove of stampeding longhorns his way.”

The sky pilot’s face went white.

“They couldn’t be so inhuman!” he declared. “They wouldn’t dare do such a murderous thing!”

“You don’t know Red Steve, parson,” said Wild Bill. “Even Lige Benner balked at that game—but his brother Jerry stood for it, and Red Steve is going to do this unknown to Lige.”

“We’ve got to do something,” cried Dunbar. “We can’t stand here like this.”

“That’s right, Nate,” agreed the scout; “we’ve got to make a quick move for Perry. The three of us can manage it, I reckon. It’s a fight against long odds, for Red Steve and his White Caps have several hours the start of us, but we’ll do what we can. Do you know where Crowder’s corral is?”

“Yes. The corral ain’t used now, except for an occasional round-up.”


“Well, that’s our destination. Spurs and quirts, friends!”

As they started from the room, the scout turned and looked back. Jordan was just laying a blanket over the silent form on the bed. He caught the scout’s look, and nodded.

Buffalo Bill hurried on after Dunbar and Wild Bill. In ten minutes they were slashing along the trail toward the Brazos, Dunbar laying a course that was to bring them to Crowder’s old corral by the shortest route.

“This is a bad job for Red Steve,” remarked Buffalo Bill, as they galloped along.

“It’s not the only notch Red Steve has on his guns,” said Dunbar.

“That Ace Hawkins was plumb white!” declared the Laramie man. “He did what he thought was right, and it seems hard that he’s got to pay for it like this.”

“Hawkins and the sky pilot must have been pretty good friends, Pard Hickok. If they hadn’t been, Hawkins would never have gone to the parson, as he did, and told him that trouble was hatching at the Circle-B ranch.”

“Human nature is a queer country,” mused Wild Bill. “No Apache Injun could have thought up a worse scheme than Red Steve concocted for putting Perry out of the way. Hawkins looked to be on a par with Steve, Shorty Dobbs, and the other White Caps, but, from the way he’s acted, is easy to see you can’t always judge a man by his looks. I take off my hat to Ace Hawkins! He was a whole man.”

Dunbar’s mind was running on Perry—as was quite natural, in the circumstances.

“Red Steve decoyed Perry away from the ranch,” said[201] Dunbar, “and got him to leave without telling Hattie, or any of your pards, Buffalo Bill, where he was going. It was my trouble that was getting Dick away—and the whelps downed him in the trail, and by now must have him at Crowder’s corral. If we can save Dick, well and good; if we can’t, I’ll camp on Red Steve’s trail, and stay there until I get him or he gets me, one or t’other.”

“If I get a good chance,” cried Wild Bill, “I’ll camp on Red Steve’s trail myself, just on account of Ace Hawkins. Hawkins, while he was with Steve’s gang, was playing a part, same as I was. He did it well, too; so well that he fooled me. But, talking of snakes, that Jerry Benner is the most venomous rattler loose in this cattle country. Lige can’t hold a candle to him.”

The horses were none too fresh, especially Beeswax; but they stretched themselves gallantly to their work. Dunbar set the pace. The scout had brought Bloom’s rifle with him. He had taken it from the jail, in order to be on the safe side; and when the start for Crowder’s corral was made it seemed good business to keep the gun in hand against possible emergencies.

After two hours of rapid travel, the three riders topped a “rise” that gave them a distant view of the Brazos.

“Over there,” announced Dunbar, pointing with his quirt, “is Crowder’s corral.”



The Brazos River, along this part of its course, flowed through bluffy country. Here and there the low bluffs gave way to show the river, sparkling in between.

The old corral came distinctly into view at about the time a wave of stampeding cattle rolled down toward the plain out of the mouth of one of the gullies in the bluffs.

Buffalo Bill shifted his eyes from the log walls of the corral to the rushing tide of steers.

“There goes the stampede!” shouted Wild Bill. “We’re not a minute too soon!”

“Where’s Perry?” demanded the frantic Dunbar, sweeping his eyes over the level country in the vicinity of the corral.

“If you want to locate Perry,” answered the scout, “watch the cattle. The scoundrels who started that stampede must have got them headed in the way they want them to go.”

The thump of hoofs and the click of knocking horns could be heard distinctly, while the gully began to smoke from the dust kicked up by the racing steers.

“I can’t see Perry,” cried Dunbar; “that confounded dust blurs everything. Let’s head off the cattle, if we can! Perhaps we can get them to milling!”

Everything considered, this seemed to be the best course. It was doubtful whether the frenzied longhorns would keep to the course marked out for them by Red[203] Steve and his men, and in this very doubt lay a chance for Perry.

Uncertainty, however, hedged in every move the scout and his two companions could make. Had they known definitely just where Perry was, they could have planned their efforts in his behalf more intelligently.

The three riders scattered, Dunbar riding to nag at the herd’s flank close in toward the bluffs. Wild Bill made a dead set at the rolling, dusty tide nearer the corral. The scout, on the other hand, pointed Bear Paw in a direction that would cut the wide path along which the steers were running at a hundred yards or more in advance of the leaders.

As the scout rode, he not only watched the steers, but kept on the alert for some sign of Red Steve and the scoundrels with him.

The dust had become a dense cloud, and screened most of the frenzied herd. From the depths of the cloud came the clickety-clack of striking horns and the rumble of hoofs.

Suddenly the scout grew rigid in his saddle. The next moment he had lifted himself high in his stirrups, and was peering ahead at the object that had flashed before his eyes.

The dust whirled and eddied about the object so that, for a few moments, the scout was not sure of what he saw. When Bear Paw had brought him closer, every doubt faded.

Perry was before him, and directly in the course of the charging steers!

Four stakes had been planted in the earth, so as to form a square. In the centre of the square lay Perry,[204] flat on his back, arms and legs stretched out. Each wrist and each ankle was fastened to a stake.

The cattleman’s torture, as he lay helpless between the stakes, hearing the stampeding herd draw closer and closer, must have been intense.

What was there the scout could do? While Bear Paw continued to race on, Buffalo Bill once more lifted himself in his stirrups and shouted for Wild Bill and Dunbar.

The dust was so thick he could not see either of the men, and the noise was so great his voice could not travel far.

If anything was done for Perry, it must be the scout alone who did it.

There was but one move open to him. This was to fling himself forward and get between the approaching steers and the helpless man roped to the stakes.

Just what could be accomplished by this move was problematical. There was absolutely no other way, however, by which even possible aid could be given to Perry.

It was a time when seconds counted. Half a minute brought the scout in the position he had settled upon, and he pulled Bear Paw to a sharp halt. He was between the rancher and the moving dust cloud—the cloud from whose forward edge pushed the foam-flecked nostrils and the wide horns of the charging leaders.

Turning half around in his saddle so as to face the steer, the scout lifted the gun from the saddle horn.

Could quick work with the rifle save Perry, or would that rushing tide of steers overwhelm Buffalo Bill and the unfortunate cattle baron?

Even as this momentous problem flashed through the scout’s brain the rifle was at his shoulder.



The hoarse roar of the gun echoed suddenly against the background of noise caused by the steers.

One of the animals pitched forward.

Swiftly the scout worked the breech mechanism and forced a fresh cartridge into place.


Another steer went down.

He picked the animals off the edge of the herd, so that those behind had to swerve farther and farther to the right in order to find clear ground.

Sping! coughed the rifle; clatter, clatter, sping!

Six shots emptied the magazine, but the last two bullets dropped steers in such a way that those behind tumbled over the slain, so that there was a horrible tangle of living and struggling animals, rolling and floundering on the plain.

But the main part of the herd had been deflected. Sitting breathless in his saddle, the king of scouts saw the edge of the rushing herd just graze the stakes. Loose earth was thrown at him and Perry by the flying hoofs, and a choking fog rolled around and over them.

In three or four minutes the last of the steers had passed. Six had been left on the plain, and to those six Buffalo Bill and Perry owed their lives.

Wild Bill and Dunbar, now that the dust had settled somewhat so they could see, put spurs to their horses and dashed toward the scout.

“What were you killing Circle-B steers for, pard?” asked Wild Bill, his voice husky with the dust.

“To turn the herd so it would go around Perry,” answered the scout.

“Perry?” echoed Dunbar.


The scout backed Bear Paw one side and waved his hand toward the stakes, and the man bound between them.

A bellow of anger broke from the Laramie man, to be taken up and re-echoed by Dunbar.

Throwing himself from his saddle, the young rancher jerked a knife from his pocket and slashed the ropes that held Perry in his torturing position.

For some time Perry could not move or speak, so worn out and spent was he from the ordeal through which he had passed. At last he succeeded in rising to a sitting posture and turned his bloodshot eyes on the scout.

“Cody,” said he huskily, “you fought against long odds, and you won out with the narrowest kind of a margin. If you hadn’t turned those steers by a few feet, just where and when you did, you and I would both have been done for.”

“A miss is as good as a mile,” laughed the scout. “There wasn’t time to cut the ropes and ride away with you, so I had to stand my ground and fall back on the rifle. Red Steve pegged you out, like that?”

“I don’t know who it was. The scoundrels wore white caps drawn over their heads. They got hold of me by a trick—a trick that would have worked successfully ninety-nine times out of a hundred. A man came to the house and asked for me. When I went out, he said that Nate had been arrested for stealing diamonds, that Buffalo Bill had gone to Hackamore, and that I was wanted there. I wasn’t to tell my daughter, nor any of Buffalo Bill’s pards. I could understand about not telling Hattie, but why I was not to tell the scout’s pards was a mystery. I see now that Red Steve was afraid, if old Nomad, the baron and Little Cayuse knew where I was going,[207] they might try to dissuade me, or to let some one else go. I hadn’t got far from the house along the trail when the white-capped men made an attack. The attack was unexpected, and I was taken at a disadvantage. They bound me and carried me to the old corral. There I was left till morning, when they brought me here and staked me out.

“I hadn’t an idea what they were intending to do; but, when I heard the rumble of racing hoofs, I surmised what the fiends were about. They were planning to have those cattle race over me and trample my life out! This must have been some of Lige Benner’s doing. But how did you three manage to learn of my predicament?”

“If you feel able to ride, Perry,” said the scout, “we can talk that over on the way back to the ranch. What became of your horse?”

“He got away during the fight I had with the White Caps on the trail. I presume he went back to the ranch. Hattie is probably doing a lot of worrying, and the quicker Nate and I reach the ranch house, the better it will be.”

“Dunbar and I might do a little riding and see if we can’t locate Red Steve, or some of his men,” suggested Wild Bill.

“No use,” said the scout. “Those scoundrels are on their way back to the Circle-B ranch by now. We will leave them alone till some other time. Our trails will cross again, pard, and when they do——”

The scout finished with a grim frown and a shrug of the shoulders.

“When our trails cross again,” said Wild Bill, “we’ll remember Ace Hawkins. I’ve marked Red Steve for my own private kybosh. Take notice, everybody!”


Perry got up behind Dunbar, and on the way to the Star-A ranch the events that had led up to the stampede and the rescue of Perry were recounted for the rancher’s benefit.

When the recital was done, Perry was silent for some time.

“I wonder,” he finally muttered, “when Nate and I will reach the end of this hostility? How much longer will Benner keep up his evil work?”

“I think you’ve seen the last of it, Perry,” said Wild Bill. “When he learns how his latest plans have failed, all around, he’ll probably take a vacation in some other part of the State and stay there till the last of the trouble blows over.”

“And he tried to rob Dunbar of his good name, and me of my life,” exclaimed Perry, “just to satisfy his desire for vengeance!”

“He was hit pretty hard, during that other set-to we had with him,” said Wild Bill, “and it’s hard for Lige Benner to forget.”

“He’s got something else to forget now,” commented Dunbar grimly.



When the scout, the Laramie man, Nate Dunbar and Perry rode up to the ranch house, they found Nomad and Cayuse just about to start off on their horses.

The girl was in front of the cabin. At sight of her husband and her father, she ran toward them with a cry of joy. Nate flung himself from his saddle and clasped his wife in his arms.

Hattie did not know how great a reason she had for rejoicing over the return of Dunbar and Perry. But she was soon to know.

“Waugh,” whooped the old trapper. “Ef hyer ain’t the lot o’ ye. Wouldn’t give us a chance ter ride out an’ hunt ye up, would ye, Perry? Mrs. Dunbar was erbout worried ter death, an’ Cayuse an’ me was goin’ on er hike ter see ef we couldn’t locate ye. Whar’d ye go ter, last night? An’ Buffler, how’d you come out in Hackamore? Ye must hev made good, er Nate wouldn’t be hyar with ye.”

“Hackamore?” echoed Mrs. Dunbar, withdrawing from her husband’s arms and turning to her father, “what happened in Hackamore, dad? This is the first time I’ve heard that anything was going wrong in town.”

“Nate will tell you all about it, Hattie,” said Perry. “Get us something to eat, will you, while he’s doing it? We’re a lot of hungry men, girl, I can tell you that. I’ll take your horse, Nate.”


Nomad and Cayuse dropped into line and led their horses back to the corral with the others.

The baron was asleep in the hammock. When the meal was ready Nomad turned the hammock upside down and informed the sputtering baron that everybody had got back and that all hands were sitting in at the chuck table.

“Vat a habbiness!” cried the baron bursting in on the scout and the rest just as they were taking their chairs for a late breakfast. “Vat a fine pitzness dot eferybody got oudt oof eferyt’ing und dot ve vas all corraled again mit ourselufs! Nodding much habbened to me dis trip, aber I don’d mind dot. Der bleasure oof finding you all togedder, iss more as I can oxbress.”

“Choke off, pard,” cried old Nomad; “Buffler is erbout ter tell us what happened in Hackamore, while us fellers was gyardin’ Mrs. Dunbar an’ the Star-A cabin. Don’t keep him hangin’ fire.”

The events that had transpired in Hackamore were recounted, and Hattie Dunbar flushed, and paled, and trembled at the peril her husband had so narrowly escaped.

“We owe a lot to you, Mr. Hickok,” said the girl. “We’ll never forget what we owe Mr. Hickok, will we, Nate?”

“No, Hattie,” answered Nate. “I reckon you, and I, and Dick can keep track of our obligations.”

“The sky pilot gets all the credit,” asserted Wild Bill.

And then, of course, he had to explain how it was Hawkins’ friendship for Jordan that had brought about the escape from the adobe house on the hill. To that escape, and to the knowledge Wild Bill had acquired in[211] the adobe house, the rescue of Dunbar from the toils of the law was due.

“I hope,” said Hattie tremulously, “that we have reached the end of Lige Benner’s persecutions. Couldn’t something be done to him for what he tried to do to Nate?”

“I doubt it,” answered Buffalo Bill. “We have a clear case against both Benners, Lige and Jerry, and this statement in writing by Abe Isaacs clinches the evidence, but I don’t believe Lige Benner could be punished by any court in this part of the country. He is too powerful. I think, however, that you and your people, Mrs. Dunbar, will never be troubled any more by the Benners. They went too far, in this last work, and everybody on the Brazos will learn of it. Every respectable cattleman will have nothing but contempt and disgust for the Benners after this.”

“We could swing Red Steve for what he’s done, Pard Cody,” declared Wild Bill.

“Providing we could catch him,” said the scout.

“And providing you could prove that he was the man who shot Hawkins,” added Dunbar.

“I’m pretty sure Red Steve was one of the White Caps,” put in Perry, “but I didn’t get a look at his face, and I couldn’t swear to it.”

“How about the man who came here and lured you out into the trail?” queried the scout.

“I never saw that man before.”

“They call him Shorty Dobbs over at the Circle-B,” said the Laramie man.

“I don’t think Dobbs has been with Benner long,” spoke up Dunbar.

“All’s well that ends well, they say,” observed Perry,[212] “and I wish some one would tell me for certain that the present peace on the Brazos will last.”

“I and my pards will stay around here until we’re sure there’ll be nothing but peace on the river,” said the scout.

“That makes me feel easier in my mind,” declared Perry. “With you and your pards for friends and champions, Buffalo Bill, anything Benner can do won’t worry me much.”

“Buffler hes got somethin’ up his sleeve,” said old Nomad, “an’ I’ll bet a blue stack on it.”

“Vat it iss, bard?” queried the inquisitive baron.

“He’s goin’ ter hang eround ther Brazos an’ lay fer Red Steve. Steve was erbout ther fust ruffian the scout got acquainted with on the Brazos, an’ I reckon he’s plannin’ ter make Steve ther last, as well.”

“Red Steve richly deserves punishment for his misdeeds,” said the scout. “I couldn’t leave the Brazos while Red Steve was still at large without feeling I had failed in my duty.”

“Same here,” seconded the Laramie man. “But don’t you forget, Pard Cody, that I’ve marked Red Steve for my own. He and I are going to come together, before many days, and then he’ll go to some place where the law’s doing its regulation work and answer for Ace Hawkins.”

“The law’s in full bloom in Hackamore, Hickok,” laughed the scout.

“It’s not the sort of Bloom that spells right and justice. The sheriff in Hackamore is working for the Benners, if I’m any judge.”

“Bloom has always been hand-and-glove with Lige Benner,” said Perry. “And he has never been a friend of[213] Nate’s and mine. He was only too willing, I’ll warrant you, to arrest Nate for taking those diamonds.”

“Ten to one,” spoke up Wild Bill, “Jerry Benner gave Bloom his cue before Abe Isaacs made his howl about the stones being stolen.”

“Ther hull thing sounds like er frame-up, from start ter finish,” dropped in old Nomad. “Thet Jerry Benner must er had a powerful head ter set a thing like thet ter goin’.”

“That head of his will get Lige Benner into trouble, one of these days,” averred Wild Bill.

“Oh,” exclaimed Nate Dunbar, pushing back from the table, “I was forgetting something.”

His hand went into an inside pocket and he brought out a little, plush-covered box.

“I didn’t finish all the business that took me to Hackamore,” he went on, “but I did manage to wind up the most important part of it. That’s for you, Hattie.”

A cry of delight broke from the girl when she saw the diamond.

“Whenever I look at this ring, Nate,” she said, slipping it on her finger and holding it where the sun struck vari-colored hues from the stone, “I shall always remember your peril in Hackamore, and the gallant friends who saved you from the plots of Lige Benner.”

“Amen to that,” added Dick Perry.



Buffalo Bill was in earnest when he said that he could not leave the Brazos while Red Steve was at large, and, after a day’s rest, the scout set out for Hackamore with his trapper pard. It was his intention to call on Sheriff Bloom and learn what, if anything, he knew about Steve.

The pards were riding quietly along the trail when Nomad suddenly drew rein.

“I’m a Piegan, Buffler,” he howled, “ef it ain’t thet thar Thunderbolt critter, ther demon o’ ther range, ther big medicine steer thet kain’t be captured er killed. Wisht we had er rifle!”

Thunderbolt was an outcast. In all that cattle country of the Brazos every man’s hand was against him.

Bred on the wild llano, he was early compelled to shift for himself, growing up into a wild and untrammeled freedom. He rebelled against authority and asked only to be let alone.

Grass and water were free. He took his forage wherever he found it. In the winter he starved more or less, fighting out the “northers” under the lee of hills, or in the leafless shelters of the Brazos thickets; but in the spring and summer he roamed at will, grazing wherever fancy led him and sniffing the air and watching keen-eyed for human foes.

When he was three years old, this maverick fell in with a bunch of cattle from one of the Brazos ranches.[215] He experienced a desire for brute companionship, and when the cowboys came he was caught in a gully and hurried in the direction of the branding pen.

A rope was thrown. Imbued with the strength of a huge body and the unfettered years, he snapped the rope in twain, overset a horse and threw a cowboy sprawling. Then he raced for the great out-doors, bent only on getting clear of these human foes, with their ropes, and their fires, and their branding irons.

Six men on fleet horses took after him. One rider, his mount fleeter than the others, came near to running him down. Just as the noose was leaving the pursuer’s hand, the maverick whirled to an about face and charged.

A revolver echoed. Its puny report was almost lost in the immensity of the plain. The bullet bit into the maverick’s dusty side, ran like fire along his ribs and filled his heart with madness.

Like a thunderbolt he collided with horse and rider; and when he broke away and raced on to his hardly won freedom, he left a dead cow pony behind him, and a cowboy with a broken arm.

From that moment, the maverick was called Red Thunderbolt throughout the range. War was declared on him, and cunning traps were devised for his capture.

But never a trap closed upon Red Thunderbolt. His brute cunning was more than a match for the cunning of his foes.

But the maverick did not come off scatheless in his various encounters with mounted men. He broke more ropes than ever went wrong on that range before; and he broke more saddle cinches and injured more good saddle leather than natural wear and tear would have accomplished in half a dozen years.


Also, he killed a cowboy.

When goaded into frenzy by the pestering horsemen with their ropes and guns, Red Thunderbolt pitted his life against the lives of his enemies. He was playing the game, and the unfortunate cowboy had yielded to the fortunes of war.

From that time on, the nature of the campaign against Thunderbolt underwent a change. No further attempts were made to rope the unmanageable maverick, but all cowboys were armed with rifles and ordered to shoot him on sight, and to shoot to kill.

Again and again the longhorn was wounded. His red hide was scarred with bullet wounds. Nevertheless, he continued to live and to defy his enemies, and it seemed that he bore a charmed life.

Wild tales of what Red Thunderbolt had done and was capable of doing were noised up and down the Brazos.

It was gravely declared that he was seen at Portala’s, on the upper river, at noon of a certain day; and, at two o’clock in the afternoon of that day, he was also discovered racing across the range a hundred and fifty miles to the south of Portala’s.

From this it was argued that Thunderbolt, whenever he chose to “let himself out,” had the speed of a lightning express train.

The maverick, from accounts, was able to appear in two widely separated places at the same time.

His strength was talked of in awed whispers, and took on an aspect as incredible as his speed.

It was related that before the killing of Dusenberry, two cowboys had roped Thunderbolt, and that he had pulled both men, saddles and all, over their horses’ heads. Thunderbolt had faded away with the saddles. The[217] missing gear had at last been found in a dry wash—with the ropes neatly coiled and lying over the saddle horns!

Such wonder tales, aroused by the remarkable prowess of Thunderbolt, filled every rider of the range with something akin to panic.

Cowboys no longer hunted the maverick by ones or in couples—they rather avoided him, or the haunts where he was supposed to be, unless they traveled in parties of three or more.

For two years Red Thunderbolt kept up the battle, spreading terror wherever he went and growing wise in the ways of the cowboy hunters. He was a veteran.

One day, he was feeding in the Whiplash Hills that bordered the Brazos. He was close to a trail, and the wind was in the wrong direction for him to scent the approach of a man on foot, who came suddenly into view around the base of an uplift.

Thunderbolt was less than a hundred feet from the man. The latter, recognizing the steer, gave a wild yell, and jerked a revolver from his belt.

There was nothing the man could climb and get out of the longhorn’s way, nothing he could get behind.

The maverick, seeing the glimmering thing rise in the man’s hand, realized that there was danger. Thunderbolt had learned that the safest way out of danger was by charging, not running.

So his head dropped, he gave a wild bellow, and started for the man like a red streak.


The lead went wide. Another moment and the man was lifted clear of the ground and thrown a dozen feet, alighting on the earth with cruel force.

Red Thunderbolt, from the impetus of his first charge,[218] passed on around the base of the hill. It was his intention to turn and repeat the charge, trampling and horning the man on the ground as long as he showed any signs of life.

But, when the trail beyond the hill’s base opened before Thunderbolt’s eyes, he saw a sight that gave him pause.

Two mounted men were coming toward him at speed—and they were not the sort of men with whom the maverick was familiar.

Their horses were larger than the usual cow pony, larger and stronger. And the men who backed them were clad differently than the human enemies whom Thunderbolt had heretofore encountered. Furthermore, they were thundering toward him, ropes in their hands, fiercely determined.

“Waugh!” howled one of the horsemen. “I’m er Piegan, Buffler, ef et ain’t thet thar Thunderbolt critter, ther demon o’ ther range, ther big medicine steer thet kain’t be captered er killed. Wisht we had er rifle!”

“That was a man’s shout we heard, Nick!” answered Buffalo Bill. “We’ll keep Thunderbolt busy while the man gets away, anyhow. Let’s see what we can do with our ropes.”

Again Thunderbolt made up his mind to throw himself headlong into the threatening danger, escaping the coil by either killing or crippling his foes.

“He’s chargin’!” whooped the old trapper. “Look out fer yerself, pard!”

The king of scouts needed no urging. He had already measured his peril.

Thunderbolt was almost upon him when, with a prick of the rowels, he whirled Bear Paw aside. The longhorn[219] tore on, the tip of one branching horn missing Bear Paw by no more than an inch.

Nomad’s rope shot through the air and the noose dropped on the steer’s head. It seemed as though it must surely close around the steer’s neck. Thunderbolt, however, by a flirt of the head, caused the menacing coil to fall into the trail.

Old Nomad roared in a strange outburst of disgust and admiration.

“Looket thar! Thunder an’ kerry one! Say, Buffler, did ye see how he got out from under? Tork erbout yore knowin’ steers, I reckon he heads the percession. Watch yer eye! He’s game, an’ he’s comin’ at us ag’in.”

Thunderbolt seemed to have settled on Buffalo Bill as the one foeman most worthy of his valor. Whirling around on his hind hoofs, he bellowed and started like a cyclone for the scout.

Then Nomad, watching with all his eyes, saw something he had never seen before.

The king of scouts, noose in hand, rushed at Thunderbolt. Both horseman and steer were going head-on toward each other, and neither seemed to have the least notion of dodging.

When they were almost together, Bear Paw, who had not his equal in all Texas for jumping, went into the air like a bird suddenly taking wing. He passed clean over the charging steer, and at the same moment the scout dropped his own noose.

The stout hempen coil encircled the steer’s neck. The scout had barely time to halt Bear Paw and turn and brace the horse for the shock that followed.

The impact, when the rope was all payed out, was terrific. Bear Paw’s hind hoofs were jerked into the[220] air. What might have happened, had the rope held, is problematical. But the rope broke from the saddle and Red Thunderbolt raced on with the loose end flying.

“Waal, sufferin, whipperwills!” boomed the old trapper. “I never seen ye do nothin’ like thet afore, Buffler! Et was some great, et was so. An’ Thunderbolt got enough. He’s sizzlin’ erlong to’rds the open, an’ mighty glad, I opine, ter git erway from sich a jumpin’, rope-throwin’ pair o’ marvels as you an’ Bear Paw.”

“He’s got my rope!” yelled the scout. “Let’s follow him!”

With that, both riders raced around the foot of the hill.

The scout and the trapper were no more than a moment racing around the foot of the hill; but when the trail around the turn was before them, there was not a trace of Red Thunderbolt, and no sign of the man whose wild shout had first claimed the attention of the pards.

“Hyar’s a go!” muttered Nomad, pulling Hide-rack to a halt, and screwing up his face into a puzzled frown. “Whar’d thet steer hike ter, Buffler?”

“He’s made a getaway through some gully,” was the answer. “I reckon there’s no use hunting for him, pard. A steer as knowing as he is can be trusted to keep away from us. That was a good rope of mine,” he added regretfully. “Thunderbolt must have pulled on it like a locomotive to tear it away from the saddle.”

“An’ ther ombray thet we heerd a yellin’,” went on the trapper, “he ain’t eround, nuther. Must be he took ter his heels as soon as Thunderbolt begun payin’ attention ter us.”

“The man was on foot,” said the scout, indicating boot-tracks in the trail. “I don’t blame him for taking to his[221] heels. I’d have done the same, if I’d been in his place. Still, the fellow might crawl out of his crevice and say something to us, I should think. If we hadn’t interfered, the longhorn would have charged him again.”

“Ther feller shot at ther maverick oncet. I heerd the bark of er gun.”

“So did I. But what good is a revolver against Red Thunderbolt? There’s not enough powder back of a revolver bullet to get it through the longhorn’s hide. I’m beginning to understand, now, why Thunderbolt has made such a big impression on the Brazos cattlemen.”

“Same hyar.”

Nomad lifted himself in his stirrups and made a trumpet of his hands; then he yelled for the missing man who had faced the steer on foot, and fired the revolver.

No answer was returned.

“Don’t bother, Nick,” said the scout. “The fellow couldn’t have been hurt very much, seeing that he was able to use his legs and get away. We’ll ride on to Hackamore.”

The pards thereupon continued their journey in the direction of town.

The coming interview with Bloom was delicate business. Diplomacy would be necessary—diplomacy, backed by nerve.

As peacemaker, however, the scout felt that a truce must be patched up with Bloom.

Nate Dunbar was in Hackamore, hiring cowboys and buying supplies for the ranch. He had gone on this errand once before, only to be interrupted by a plot of Benner’s that had well-nigh turned out disastrously.

“How ye goin’ erbout et ter tork with Bloom?” asked[222] Old Nomad, as he and the scout galloped onward, stirrup to stirrup.

“We’ve got to handle him with gloves, I reckon,” answered the scout.

“He ort ter be handled with the buckskin end of er quirt,” growled the trapper.

“That’s right, Nick. But now that Benner has been properly disciplined, I’m in hopes that Bloom will see things differently. We can’t leave this part of Texas until we patch up a peace between Bloom and the ranchers at the Star-A. There must be peace all up and down the Brazos when we leave the river.”

“I’m more of er hand fer distarbin’ ther peace, Buffler, than fer makin’ et. Thar’s er heap more excitement in diggin’ up the hatchet than in buryin’ et.”

“Bosh!” laughed the scout. “Nick, you and I never went into a job yet without having for our end and aim the establishment of peace and security. Drastic measures are sometimes necessary in order to smooth the kinks out of law and order.”

“H’m,” muttered Nomad. “I reckon I think too much o’ ther fightin’ end. In smoothin’ out kinks, I’d ruther land on ’em with both feet, with a gun in each fist. Rubbin’ the tangles out with love pats an’ coo-coo words is some more’n I kin do. Thar’s erbout as much sentiment in me as thar is in er horn toad. Anyways, this hyar di-plom-a-cy—is thet what ye call et?—ain’t wuth er whoop ef it ain’t backed by narve. By ther same token, what good’s narve ef ye ain’t got a leetle hardware tucked away up yore sleeve?”

The scout laughed again.

“I reckon we’ll have excitement enough to please you before we’re done with the Brazos,” said he, “but it’s[223] only going to be incidental to the main question of peace.”

The trapper chuckled, fancying he was catching Buffalo Bill’s drift.

“We’ll make peace, Buffler,” he declared, “ef we hev ter shoot holes in every bloomin’ statute of ther State o’ Texas!”

“Not so bad as that. We’re backing up the law, Nick. Bloom hasn’t been looking after the law as he was sworn to do.”

“Nary, he hasn’t. Ef he don’t do his duty, we’ll climb his neck an’ choke him till he sees et right an’ promises ter be good. Oh, I dunno. I reckon bein’ peacemaker kerries plenty o’ blue-fire trimmin’s. I knowed er feller, up in the Niobrara kentry, called Piegan Charlie. Charlie went an’ took an’ got married. I was lopin’ past his wickiup one day, an’ I found him an’ Mrs. Charlie engaged in er argyment. Charlie was pushin’ Mrs. Charlie agin’ the side o’ the house, an’ argyin’ with a broomstick. I got all worked up with er fool desire ter be one o’ these hyar peacemakers. Thet’s what I did. So, like er ijut, I drapped off’n my hoss, caught Charlie by the scruff o’ the neck, an’ throwed him inter a rainwater bar’l. While I was prancin’ eround an’ yellin’ fer peace an’ domestic quiet, Mrs. Charlie come up behind me an’ rapped me over the head with er washboard. She screeched out thet I hadn’t no bizness meddlin’ with her husband er distarbin’ ther fambly. When Charlie got out o’ the bar’l, he begun shootin’ at me. So I loped on, sadder an’ a heap wiser.”

By the time the scout had finished enjoying his pard’s reminiscence, they were in Hackamore.

There was quite a crowd collected around the front of[224] the Delmonico, peering curiously through the open door of the office and the office windows.

“Somethin’ goin’ on, an’ I’ll bet er blue stack,” muttered Nomad.

“Looks like it,” the scout answered.

“What’s up, Pinkey?” queried the trapper, as the man in charge of the corral came to look after their riding gear.

“Dunno,” answered Pinkey. “Thar’s so much goin’ on in this man’s town et’s hard ter keep track o’ all the doin’s. Mebby a dog fight, er a man fight—thar ain’t much diff’rence when it comes ter rowdyin’.”

At this point a lanky individual, who had seen the pards ride up to the corral, hurried toward the group by the corral gate.

“Buffler Bill! Buffler Bill!” the man cried.

“Et’s Sim Pierce, thet’s who et is,” said Nomad, recognizing the approaching man. “What’s agitatin’ ye, Sim?”

“Row on in the orfice o’ the Delmonico,” panted Sim Pierce. “Jake Phelps, Hank’s cousin er somethin’, is rowin’ it with Nate Dunbar. I reckon ye kin stop it, muy pronto, Buffler Bill. Hustle in an’ stop ’em afore they git ter drorin’ hardware an’ throwin’ lead.”

The scout started for the office at a run.



The scout reached the door of the office, only to be grabbed by one of the men who had been standing there and looking in, but who had now retired with others to a safer position.

“Keep away!” breathed the man. “They’ve got their shooters out, an’ there’ll be fireworks in a brace o’ shakes. If you go in there you’ll be right in the middle of the celebration.”

“That’s where I want to be,” answered the scout, shaking the hand from his arm, “and I want to get in there before the celebration begins.”

He stepped to the door and looked in.

Nate Dunbar and Jake Phelps were standing no more than a dozen feet apart, Phelps with his back to the counter and Dunbar across the room.

Furious anger burned in the face of Jake Phelps. In Dunbar’s face there was only determination—but it was deadly.

Each man held a revolver in his right hand, and each watched like a cat for the first move of the other to lift his weapon. Only a hair’s breadth separated these men from rash and ugly work.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Buffalo Bill sprang into the room and placed himself squarely between Dunbar and Jake Phelps.

“I reckon this has gone far enough,” said he curtly.


“Buffalo Bill!” exclaimed Dunbar. “Get away, amigo, and give me my chance at that hound!”

Dunbar’s voice, husky with pent-up passion, rang surprisingly in the scout’s ears. He had not much time to remark upon the depth of the young rancher’s feeling, however, before his keen eye caught a hostile move of Jake Phelps’ right hand.

In the wizardry of six-shooter practice, Buffalo Bill was second to none. Jake Phelps was perhaps a fraction of a second in lifting his revolver, yet, in that brief period of time, the scout had drawn—not only his own revolver, but also a very effectual “bead.”

“Down with that hand!” he ordered. “Don’t you dare say no to me!”

The compelling voice of the scout, no less than the bewildering magic that loaded his right hand with a six-shooter, caused Jack Phelps to gasp. From sheer amazement he suffered the hand to drop.

“That’s right,” said the scout, “but see that you keep that hand where it is. Just remember, Jake Phelps, that what I miss in the original deal I always make up in the draw. You’re a friend of mine, Nate?”

He kept his back to Dunbar and his eyes on Phelps as he asked the question.

“Great guns,” cried the young rancher, “don’t I owe you about everything I’ve got in the world?”

“I wouldn’t put it so strong as that, Nate,” said the scout, with a quiet laugh. “If you’re my friend, though, you’ll put up your gun. I’ll guarantee that Jake Phelps doesn’t take any advantage of you.”

“But you don’t understand——”

“I’m going to understand all about this before I get[227] through. In the meantime, you’ll please understand that I have requested you to put up your revolver.”

“She’s up,” said Dunbar promptly.

“Buenos! Now, Nate, kindly talk at the back of my head and tell me the cause of this flare-up.”

Old Nomad was standing in the door, leaning negligently against the door casing and fanning himself with his hat. Pard Buffler was “on the job,” and the trapper realized that there wasn’t any cause for any one to worry. But that peacemaker racket, while all right in its way, wasn’t making much of a hit with Nomad.

“I was sitting here minding my own business,” said Dunbar, “when Jake Phelps came in. He began saying things to r’ile me. His palaver wasn’t thrown at me, but was fired at the clerk. I allowed him to talk about me as much as he pleased, but when he turned his dirty tongue loose on Dick Perry, then on you, and, at the last, dragged in the name of my wife, my patience had reached the limit. He’s a low-down whelp!”

“What did he say about me?” inquired the scout.

“He said you were a meddler in other men’s affairs and——”

“Which was the truth, in a way.”

“It wasn’t so much what he said about you as the way he said it.”

In the West there are some things a man has to say with a smile—if he would avoid gun play.

“Anything else, Nate?” asked the scout.

“Well, he remarked that Dick Perry was a blackguard an——”

“Waugh!” came from the door. “Did he refer ter me with any o’ his fool talk, Nate?”



“I’m relieved a hull lot,” grinned the trapper. “Ef he’d er called me a goat, er somethin’ like thet, I mout hev shot him up.”

“Got anything to tell us, Jake?” asked the scout.

“Well, yes,” answered Jake; “you fellers over at the Star-A ranch are a lot of measley tin horns. You can put up a good front, but your work is all rhinecaboo. I rode into town after the H-P pay-roll, and strolled in here to stuff the coin into my saddlebags. I saw Dunbar. What I said, I said so as to show this town he ain’t half a man.” Jake Phelps laughed, and looked around in a cheap attempt at bravado. “He dassen’t fight. Everybody can see that.”

“Anybody can see with half an eye that Nate Dunbar has you beat a mile in everything that makes a man a man. You’re nine-tenths pure guff, Jake, and the other tenth is just plain dog.”

The scout put up his revolver. Phelps was still armed, but the scout looked him squarely in the eye and he made no attempt to use his weapon.

“You’ve got your pay-roll money, have you?” went on Buffalo Bill.

“What business is that of——”

“That’s going far enough. I’ll give you five minutes to get out of town.”

“Ho!” glowered Jake. “You the boss of this town? You got more ter say about things in Hackamore than the sheriff?”

“Never mind that. If you’re not out of town in five minutes, I’ll go gunning for you myself.”

“I’ll take a shot at that meachin’ whelp behind you yet!” gritted Jake. “He can’t make any dead-set at me without getting all that’s coming. I’ll have his scalp,[229] that’s what I’ll have. I’m going to make a widder of Mrs. Dunbar, and then Lige Benner——”

The scout jumped at Phelps, grabbed him by the shoulders, and flung him bodily toward the door. Old Nomad stepped aside and helped him out of the room with a kick. The clerk, who had been on hands and knees behind the counter, carried out Phelps’ saddlebags and threw them after him.

From the hitching pole, where his horse was tied, Jake Phelps swore and howled his threats.

“I’ll square up with you for all this, my buck!” shouted Nate Dunbar, from a window.

“You’ll have to get Buffalo Bill’s permission to call your soul your own before you do,” taunted Jake, tying the bags to the saddle, mounting, and spurring away.

Dunbar turned to the scout with a gloomy face.

“Amigo,” said he, “it would have been better if you’d let me had it out with that skunk.”

“There was nothing to the row, Nate,” the scout answered. “Phelps has had too much red eye, and you lost your temper too easily. Have you finished your work here?”


“Then you’d better ride for the Star-A ranch, Nate. And don’t forget yourself and take the trail to the Phelps outfit.”

“You know me too well for that,” answered the young rancher. “When I say I’ll do a thing don’t I generally do it?”

“You do,” returned the scout gravely, “and that’s what makes Nate Dunbar stack up so high with me. You’ll leave Jake Phelps alone?”



“Thet’s ther tork, pard,” approved old Nomad. “Even a measley, no-’count yaller pup like Jake Phelps kin shoot. It would be tough on that Hattie girl if you was wiped out. Go home, Nate, an’ tell ’em out thar ter the ranch thet Buffler an’ Pard Nomad hev struck town and aire already at their peacemakin’.”

Nate pricked up his ears.

“I was wondering why you were here,” said he.

“We’ve come to see Bloom, the sheriff.”

“Bloom’s travelin’ this-a-way as fast as his legs kin kerry him,” spoke up Nomad, taking a squint through the door and up the street.

“Then here’s where I pull out,” said Nate. “There’s no love lost between Bloom and me, and if I met him now and he gave me any of his back talk, the fur would fly. Be back to the ranch soon, Buffalo Bill?”

“To-morrow, I hope.”

Dunbar left the hotel by a rear door. Old Nomad, with a queer grin on his weather-beaten face, pushed into the office and dropped on a chair.

“Now fer more peacemakin’,” he remarked, “an’ from ther looks o’ ther sher’ff, I reckon et’ll be real saloobrious. I’m fixin’ ter enjoy what’s comin’, I am so.”

“There’ll be no trouble,” said the scout, himself taking a seat.

“Waal, ef thar is, I shore reckon they’ll hev ter git another sher’ff ter bloom in this man’s berg.”

A moment later the sheriff rushed into the room. He was at white heat, and the looks he threw at the scout and the trapper were anything but reassuring.

The crowd outside once more clustered about the open door and the windows. There was to be something more[231] doing, and each spectator held his breath and watched and listened.

“Somebody said there was a row here,” growled Bloom. “I heard up the street that Jake Phelps an’ that pesky trouble maker, Nate Dunbar, was roughin’ it with each other.”

The sheriff was addressing himself to the hotel clerk, but Buffalo Bill took it upon himself to answer.

“They didn’t get so far as an exchange of shots, sheriff. I happened in, just as the affair began to look serious, and ordered Jake Phelps out of town.”

Bloom had whirled away on his heel as soon as the scout began to speak; then, suddenly changing his mind, he whirled back when he had finished.

“You ordered him out o’ town?” he scowled.

“Oh, yes,” answered the scout passively. “If they had both stayed in town there would have been trouble.”

“Tell me this, you who make yourself so high and mighty wherever you happen to plant yourself: What business you got orderin’ anybody out o’ Hackamore?”

A glimmer arose in the scout’s eyes.

“Well,” said he, “if you come to simmer it down to a fine point, I was doing business that you ought to have been around here to attend to.”

“You my deperty?” flared Bloom; “have I ever asked you to help me?”

“No, Bloom; I sort of asked myself.”

“You take my advice, Cody, and keep hands off my work. You and I have come together once, and if that ever happens again, sparks are sure goin’ to fly.”

There was only the clerk in the office, apart from the scout, the trapper, and the sheriff. The spectators kept[232] outside, confining their view of what was going on to the open door and the windows.

“Right here, then,” said Buffalo Bill, “is where the sparks begin to fly.” He turned to the trapper. “As it may get rather hot for some of the people outside, Nick,” he added, “you’d better close the door.”

“On ther jump, pard,” carolled Nomad.

The trend of affairs was vastly to his liking.

“Leave that door open!” snarled the sheriff.

Nomad’s answer was to slam the door, turn around, and put his back to it.

“How does thet hit ye?” he asked truculently.

“There’s more’n one door,” grunted the sheriff, moving toward the dining-room entrance.

The scout got up and barred the way in that direction. For an instant the sheriff glared, one hand half starting toward his hip.

“I have only the most peaceable intentions, Bloom,” said the scout, as pleasantly as possible. “There’s a little matter I want to talk over with you.”

“There ain’t any matter, little or big, that I want to talk over with you,” snapped Bloom.

“This has to do with your business. From what you’ve just been saying, you’re mighty particular to attend to your own business, seems to me.”

The sheriff grunted and swept his eyes toward the two windows. In each opening were framed as many excited faces as could crowd into it. Bloom felt that the eyes of the town were upon him, that his prestige would suffer if he did not in some way stir himself.

“Sit down,” proceeded the scout; “have a cigar and we’ll smoke a talk.”


There was a friendly smile on Buffalo Bill’s face as he held out a weed.

With a muttered oath the sheriff grabbed the cigar, crushed it in his thick fingers, and flung it in the scout’s face. A gasp came from the faces in the windows.

“Snarlin’ catermounts!” fumed the trapper. “Ef ye don’t make him eat thet cigyar ye ain’t no friend o’ mine.”

The scout was still smiling.

“Sit down, Bloom.”

The voice was as soft as velvet, but it cut like steel.

The sheriff invited the scout to go to a warmer region than the Brazos, and started to brush by in the direction of the rear door.

Then something happened. It happened with a suddenness that deceived the eye.

One moment Bloom was pushing for the rear door, and the next he was sprawled in a chair, and the scout had the revolver that had been dangling from his belt.

A titter came from the windows, and a whoop from old Nomad.

“Et ain’t well ter fool with We, Us an’ Comp’ny when we’re loaded,” exulted the trapper, “er when we’re out spreadin’ harmony an’ good will up an’ down ther Brazos.”

The sheriff’s face was as black as a thundercloud. He realized fully the ignominy of his position—and, quite as fully, his own helplessness.

“More of your high-handed proceedings,” he ground out. “Some day you’ll get jumped on good and proper for your meddlin’, and after that you’ll ’tend to your own business an’ let other folks’ business alone.”

“Some day,” said the scout, “but not to-day. Try and[234] be a gentleman, Bloom. I reckon it’ll be hard for you, but, anyhow, make the effort.”

The sheriff was beside himself with anger; in fact, he was so wrought up that words failed him. He gurgled and glared. Old Nomad stood at the door surveying the sheriff with great satisfaction.

“Ther further we go on this hyar peacemakin’ tour, Buffler,” he remarked, “ther better I like et.”

“Bloom,” pursued the scout, “a little history has been made during the last few days, and one detail of it I am going to offer for your attention. A man by the name of Ace Hawkins was shot and killed by a fellow calling himself Red Steve.”

“You can’t tell me a thing I don’t know,” snorted the sheriff. “Ace Hawkins was a desperado—he deserved all he got, no matter who gave it to him.”

“Wrong, in two ways. Hawkins was not a desperado. He was a man who was doing his best to further the cause of right and justice. Error number one for you. Whether or not he deserved the fate that overtook him, however, need command little of our attention. It was not Red Steve’s place to hand out his destiny with the point of a six-shooter. What have you done to apprehend Red Steve?”

“Nothin’, and I won’t do anythin’.”

“Why not? Aren’t you sworn to look after the law in this county?”

“It ain’t part o’ my duty to take advice from you.”

“I’m going to tell you a few things, Bloom. Red Steve works for Lige Benner, and you’ve a notion that Lige Benner wanted Ace Hawkins sponged off the slate. You’re a friend of Benner’s. You think it will please Benner if you don’t take any action against Red Steve.[235] Probably you’re right in your surmise, but you’re ’way wrong in letting yourself be swayed by your likes and dislikes in a matter that touches upon your duty as sheriff. You’d better take my advice and help me and my pards lay Red Steve by the heels.”

This was straight talk, and as logical as it was straight. Bloom knew the scout had the right end of the argument, and he hated to have the men outside hear him lectured in just that way. The scout had purposely raised his voice and spoken deliberately and clearly, in order that his words might carry, and his full meaning reach the ears of the townspeople.

“Confound you and your advice!” barked Bloom. “I know what my duty is a heap better’n you, and I’m here to stand by it.”

“Will you stand by your duty, in this case,” fenced the scout, “or will you stand by Lige Benner and Red Steve?”

“I ain’t goin’ to tell you what I’ll do. What’s more, I’ve got enough o’ this talk.”

“Then you’re going to get more than enough, Bloom, because I’m not more than half done. In shielding Red Steve you’re trying to shield Lige Benner. You’re afraid that if you press matters against Red Steve that it will be shown that Lige Benner had at least a guilty knowledge of Red Steve’s murderous intentions against Hawkins. Isn’t that it?”

Steadily, relentlessly, the sheriff was being forced into a tight corner. It was like a trial. Bloom, accused of dereliction of duty, was being catechised by the scout, and the townspeople outside were the jury. Between duty and private desire the unfortunate sheriff writhed and sputtered.


“I’m not going to take any more talk from you,” he shouted. “There’s a hull lot to this Red Steve matter you don’t know anything about.”

“I know all about it,” declared the scout, “much more, in fact, than you do.”

“How do you know Red Steve did that shooting?”

“Ace Hawkins said so.”

“That’s what you say,” sneered the sheriff.

“There are others who heard Hawkins make his statement, and they will bear me out. Wild Bill Hickok, for one——”

“He’s your pard. I wouldn’t believe him any quicker’n I’d believe you.”

Old Nomad’s gorge was rising. The sheriff was a coyote, and Buffalo Bill was putting up with too much from him. He made an attempt to slip in a few words, but the scout looked toward him and waved him to silence.

“There’s the sky pilot, Jordan,” went on the scout. “He’ll back up my statement. I reckon there’s not a man on the Brazos who would refuse to believe the sky pilot.”

This statement rather floored the sheriff.

“When the sky pilot talks to me,” said he, “then I’ll know what to think, but——”

Just here the door opened at old Nomad’s back. He turned quickly to deny the newcomer entrance, but recoiled when he saw who was coming into the office.

“Benner!” exclaimed old Nomad, wondering what this new move was to signify.

“Benner!” cried Bloom, jumping to his feet.

Benner pushed on into the room and came to a halt within a short distance of the scout.


“Yes, Benner,” said the cattle baron. “I’ve come here to say that Buffalo Bill is right. Red Steve was the man who did the trick for Ace Hawkins. Is that enough for you, Bloom?”

The scout was surprised by this totally unexpected coming of Lige Benner—surprised, perhaps, far more by his appearance and his words than by the mere fact of his presence.

There was a haggard, careworn look in Benner’s face—an earnestness in his manner that contrasted strongly with his spectacular attire.

If the scout was surprised by Benner’s words, the sheriff seemed even more so. He stared.

“Come again with that, Benner,” said he.

“I’ve been standing outside listening to what was going on in here,” continued Benner. “The time came when I thought I ought to take part in the talk. Red Steve is guilty of shooting Ace Hawkins. I had nothing to do with the crime, and knew nothing about it until it was accomplished. Both men worked for me. Red Steve himself told me he was guilty, and tried to find excuse for what he had done by saying that Ace Hawkins was a traitor, that he was working for me and trying to help Perry and Dunbar. That, of course, was no excuse at all. I told him he would have to come to Hackamore and stand trial. It was my intention to bring him myself, but he escaped on foot from the ranch and, at the present moment, is somewhere on the Brazos, a fugitive. I rode to town to get you to take up the pursuit of Red Steve. It’s up to you, Bloom.”

Lige Benner dropped wearily into a chair and drew one hand across his forehead. Bloom continued to stare at him, Nomad regarded him with suspicion, and only[238] the scout—adept at reading motives in a man’s face—gave him approval.

“That’s the talk, Benner!” the scout exclaimed.

“Don’t ye bank too much on his tork, Buffler,” put in the old trapper. “Lige Benner is tricky; he’s showed himself ter be a snake in the grass right along; an’ how d’ye know he ain’t got somethin’ up his sleeve right now? Don’t give him a chance ter trap ye.”

Benner flung himself around in his chair, but the fierce protest faded from his face as he looked at Nomad.

“I’ve made mistakes, I reckon,” said Benner slowly, “a lot of ’em, but I’m not making any mistake now, old Nomad, and don’t you make any. I’m tired of this squabbling in the cattle country. I’ll admit I never liked Perry or Dunbar. They blew in here and spoiled one of the objects I had set my heart on achieving. I did everything I could to carry out that object, but the scout and his pards made that impossible; then, listening to advisers, I set out to secure revenge. There I failed again. My hands are in the air. Now I want Red Steve captured, so it can be proved that I had nothing to do with what happened to Ace Hawkins.”

“If he’s captured,” returned the scout, “are you willing to cry quits in this fight on Perry and Dunbar? Will you be for peace in the cattle country, Benner?”

“I’m for peace now,” was the reply; “if I hadn’t been I shouldn’t have come here as I did to-day.”

“I believe you,” said the scout quietly. “Have you any idea where Red Steve can be found, or what he intends to do?”

“If he is hunted for at once, he’ll be found somewhere on the Brazos. He got away, as I said, on foot. Since he has no horse, about the first move he makes[239] will be to get a mount somewhere. After he does that it will be hard to capture him. He knows this country like a book, and he’ll hole himself away where he’ll never be found.”

“My pards are looking for Red Steve on the river,” proceeded the scout. “If he’s there, you can gamble that they’ll find him.”

“I’ve sent out some of my cowboys to prosecute the search. Between them and your pards, Buffalo Bill, the chances seem pretty fair for taking the scoundrel. You understand my attitude? There may be a suspicion that I was back of Red Steve in the shooting of Ace Hawkins. I want that suspicion brushed aside and my entire innocence made clear. Red Steve is the one to do this. Whatever else I have done, I’ve never tried to get any man’s blood on my hands. I’ve gone far in this war with Perry and Dunbar, but never so far as that.”

A sneer curled Bloom’s lip as he gazed at Benner.

“Lost your nerve, have you?” he rasped.

Benner lifted his eyes to Bloom’s.

“You’ll find,” said he, “that I have plenty of nerve to avenge any insult you heave at me. Walk softly, Bloom, when you’re going over my feet. That’s my advice to you. So far as Dunbar and Perry are concerned. I’ve buried the hatchet; but, so far as you are concerned, I’ll dig it up if you give me half a chance. Spread your blankets and go to sleep on that.”

Benner’s spirit was not broken. There was plenty of snap and ginger in his words. It was clear to the scout that the cattle baron was swerved by only one motive, and that was to have Red Steve captured, so that the owner of the Circle-B ranch would be cleared of the taking off of Ace Hawkins.


The capture of Red Steve, therefore, had become a factor in the business Buffalo Bill was so anxious to accomplish—the peace of the Brazos country.

“I’m mighty glad,” scowled Bloom, in no wise relishing the manner of the cattle baron, “that Hank Phelps is still got the nerve to hold his grudge against Perry and Dunbar.”

“Don’t be too sure of that,” said Benner. “Phelps is a friend of mine, and I’m going to see him to-morrow. I think he’ll promise to coöperate with me in establishing peace on the Brazos. He’s about as tired of these foolish squabbles as I am.”

He got up and moved toward the door.

“We’re on good terms now, Buffalo Bill?” he asked, halting at the threshold.

“Yes,” answered the scout.

“Well, I’ve gone on record. All these men”—he waved his hand toward the faces in the windows—“are witnesses. From now on, Perry and Dunbar will receive from me the same treatment other ranchers on the river give each other. That shot goes as it lays.”

He left the hotel, and could be seen making his way through the crowd in front.

“Gi’me that gun!” snapped Bloom, stretching out his hand to the scout.

The weapon was handed over without comment. Then Bloom himself started for the door.

“Has he got the right ter leave, Buffler?” asked Nomad.

The scout nodded. The trapper stepped aside, and Bloom flung out of the office. Nomad came over and dropped down in a chair beside the scout.

“Waugh!” he muttered. “Blamed ef we didn’t git[241] out o’ thet without er fight. I never thort we would, one spell. But I ain’t takin’ none too much stock in this hyar flop o’ Benner’s. Et’s too suddent.”

“Benner’s all right, Nick,” averred Buffalo Bill, with confidence.

“Shore he ain’t figgerin’ on somethin’?”

“I’m sure he is figuring on something. The shooting of Ace Hawkins might have far-reaching results for him; so he wants Red Steve captured, so he can be forced to tell the truth.”

“Sufferin’ twisters! Why, Benner hired Red Steve in the fust place bekase he was a desperado, an’ willin’ ter do any leetle job a honest cowpuncher might shy around. Now thet Red Steve’s done jest what Benner mout hev knowed he’d do, Benner gits what looks like an attack o’ narves. I kain’t b’leeve in et, not complete.”

“I never thought Benner was so desperate as some folks tried to make out,” Buffalo Bill answered. “He has his good points, Nick.”

“Up ter now,” said Nomad dryly, “he’s been purty successful keepin’ his good p’ints buried out o’ sight. But I’m s’prised at one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“Why, Bloom an’ Benner ain’t the team I thort they was. They ain’t pullin’ tergether like they was well matched.”

“It looks as though we’d been a little wide of our trail, old pard,” said the scout. “We’ve been thinking, all along, that Bloom, by his ugly actions, was trying to keep on the right side of Lige Benner. I think, come to sift the reasons close to bed rock, that Bloom is in the game against Perry and Dunbar just because he hates the Star-A ranchers. He’s taken a dislike to[242] them—to Nate in particular—and that’s why he acts as he does.”

“Mebbyso. He’s ’er whelp. He’d do a heap ter land on Nate somehow. I’m bettin’——”

A pounding of hoofs out in front, suddenly brought to a stop, a concerted rush of the men around the hotel toward the hitching pole, and a wild voice suddenly lifted, caused the old trapper to break off his remarks. The voice, husky with excitement, floated into the office through the open front door.

“Where’s a doctor? I want a doctor on the jump!”

Buffalo Bill and old Nomad, at this startling summons, left their chairs and went to the door.

A cowboy, his horse lathered and panting painfully, was at a halt before the hotel. A crowd of curious men surrounded him.

“I’ll go fer a doctor,” said Sim Pierce, and hustled off without waiting for further news.

“What’s the matter?” asked the scout.

“I was lopin’ inter town with a pard,” replied the cowboy, “when we found Jake Phelps’ hoss, without no saddle, runnin’ to’rds ther ranch. A mile farder we found Jake hisself, layin’ face down in the trail. He come in arter the pay-rool money, an’ the money was gone. Jake was about gone, too, an’ he may be clean gone by now. I left Jeems with him, while I hit the breeze fer a sawbones. We gotter have the doc in er hurry, an’ mebby it won’t do no good at that.”

This news hit the scout between the eyes. Already the bystanders were exchanging significant glances.

The scout grabbed Nomad’s arm and pulled him back into the office.

“This looks bad, pard,” he whispered.


“Ye don’t think Nate had anythin’ ter do with what happened ter Jake Phelps?” gasped the old trapper.

“Certainly not, but there are others who’ll think so—after what happened between Nate and Jake Phelps here in Hackamore. Take my word for it, Bloom will be the first one to voice the suspicion.”



The cowboy jumped from his weary horse, loosened the cinches to give the animal’s lungs greater freedom, and came into the office to wait for the doctor.

The cowboy was excited, and tramped up and down, rolling a cigarette.

“You’re from Hank Phelps’ ranch?” asked the scout.

“That’s me,” was the answer. “My name’s Quiller, an’ I’ve worked fer Hank for two years. He’s all right, Hank is.”

“How was Jake Phelps hurt?”

“Looks like he’d been hit on the head with a club er somethin’.”

“Then he wasn’t shot?”

“Not as Jeems an’ me could see. But I didn’t tarry long arter we found Jake; I jest hustled right in arter the doc. There was some queer things about Jake’s fix. The feller that swiped the pay-roll money took Jake’s saddle along. What’s this I hear about Jake’s havin’ a row with Nate Dunbar afore leavin’ fer home?”

“They had some words, Quiller,” answered the scout.

“I’m wonderin’—I’m wonderin’——”

Quiller was leaning against the counter, holding a lighted match to his cigarette.

“You’re wondering,” spoke up the scout, “whether Nate Dunbar had anything to do with what happened to Jake Phelps. Well, stop your wondering. He didn’t.”

“But the’ was bad blood between ’em, wasn’t they?”[245] went on the cowboy, wrinkling his brows. “When they separated didn’t they both say they’d git even with each other? An’ didn’t Dunbar hit the trail right arter Jake did?”

“All that happened, yes. But that doesn’t prove anything against Nate. I’m rather thinking that it makes the future dark for Red Steve.”

Old Nomad jumped at that; and Quiller, the match going out without lighting his cigarette, flung away the burnt firestick and groped in his pocket for another.

“What about Red Steve?” demanded Quiller.

“He’s loose in the Brazos country,” answered the scout. “Benner was going to bring him to Hackamore for the shooting of Ace Hawkins, but Red Steve slipped away from the Circle-B ranch on foot.”

“On foot, hey? Then why didn’t Red Steve, if he done this, take Jake’s hoss? Red Steve wouldn’t never hev let the hoss git away from him arter he had nabbed the money.”

“Perhaps Red Steve had a horse already,” suggested the scout. “It’s possible he picked up a horse without any gear, and that he took the saddle to ride in.”

“It’s possible, I reckon.”

But it was plain that Quiller’s mind was running on Nate Dunbar. Circumstances seemed to point more decisively in the direction of the Star-A rancher than toward Red Steve.

“The man who took the money,” pursued the scout, noting the trend of the cowboy’s thoughts, “was the man who look the saddle. Nate Dunbar’s not a thief.”

“It’s hard ter tell what a man is when he makes a play o’ this kind.”


“And certainly Nate wouldn’t take the saddle. Why should he? He had a good saddle of his own.”

This fact seemed to make some impression on Quiller. Before he could express himself, however, the doctor came riding up in front. With the doctor was Bloom and Sim Pierce, both ready for the trail.

“Come on, you there!” roared Bloom.

Quiller ran out, tightened his cinches, swung into the saddle, and the four riders fared out of town at a gallop.

“See how it is, Nick?” queried the scout. “Already suspicion is leveled at Nate Dunbar. You can gamble that Bloom will do everything possible to make it bad for the boy. I reckon we had also better be getting saddle leather between our knees.”

“Ter go whar, Buffler?”

“Why, to the H-P ranch. I want to watch this thing and find out just what develops. We must keep in touch with every detail. It’s liable to mean a whole lot for Nate.”

“Waugh! Ye’re shore right thar. But et’s Red Steve as turned ther trick, ye kin take et from me. When’ll we ride?”


“Whoop! When ye tune up like thet, ye shore ketch me plumb whar I live. Spurs an’ quirts an’ a call on Hank Phelps. This hyar peace bizness is gittin’ some excitin’.”

Pinkney brought out their saddles and bridles. Bear Paw and old Hide-rack seemed surprised at the sudden getaway. Probably, in their brute minds, they had been expecting an all-night stay in the comfortable corral.

“It beats the nation,” remarked the scout, when he[247] and his old pard were galloping along the trail, “what beastly luck comes Nate Dunbar’s way.”

“Some fellers,” commented old Nomad, “tumbles inter bad luck jest as nacherly as some others tumbles inter good. Nate’s shore gittin’ his share o’ misfortun’s hyar on ther Brazos.”

“And to have this happen,” frowned the scout, “just when we were having such good success as peace commissioners!”

“Ain’t thet allers ther way?” answered the trapper. “Did we ever start out ter do a sartin thing thet some other thing didn’t butt in on us? Thet sorter bizness comes so frequent, Buffler, et ort ter be expected. But, say!”


“Sarcumstances does look mighty bad for Nate, huh?”


“Ef Red Steve hes got er hoss, an’ er saddle, an’ a wad o’ dinero, he won’t hang eround ther Brazos. He’ll git ter whar he kain’t be found. Then, ef he does thet, how aire we goin’ ter prove it was him, an’ not Nate, as done ther trick fer Jake Phelps?”

“It’s a hard proposition we’re facing,” said the scout gloomily. “But Nate may be able to prove an alibi.”


“Oh, in a dozen ways. Suppose he met some one riding his way? That man might give information that would clear Nate. We’ve got Nate’s side of this to hear yet. Just now, it looks as though he and Lige Benner would have to work shoulder to shoulder.”

“Fer why?”

“Why, because Benner will be suspected of complicity in what happened to Ace Hawkins, same as Nate will[248] be suspected in the matter of Jake Phelps. The capture of Red Steve will help out both of them.”

“Thet’s so. A good head is a heap better fer a feller, any time, than a pair of guns. Let’s don’t fergit thet Pard Hickok is camped on Red Steve’s trail. Mebby Hickok hes got hands on Red Steve by this time.”

“I’m hoping he has had some success.” The scout pointed to a rapidly approaching cloud of dust in advance of him and Nomad. “Some one coming this way,” said he.

As the rider approached, and the faint wind whipped the dust aside, the pards made out that it was Sim Pierce.

“Sim’s in somethin’ of er hurry,” muttered Nomad. “What d’ye reckon he’s got on his mind?”

“We’ll know in a few moments,” answered the scout grimly.

As Sim Pierce’s horse came nose to nose with Bear Paw and Hide-rack, Sim drew to a halt.

“This here’s luck an’ no mistake!” exclaimed Sim.

“What’s the matter, Pierce?”

“I was pikin’ fer Hackamore ter find ye, Buffler Bill. Findin’ ye on the trail this-a-way saves considerable time.”

“What have you to tell me?”

“A hull lot. I don’t know principally whar ter begin.”

“How about Jake?”

“He’s in bad shape, but he ain’t cashed in. They’re took him on ter the ranch.”

“What does the doctor think?”

“He dunno what ter think. Mebby Jake’ll pull through, an’ mebby he won’t. An’ nobody knows what[249] ter think about the way he was hurt. ’Pears like some’un come up behind him an’ hit him over the head with the handle of a quirt. An’ yit thar’s things about it which don’t make it look like that, neither.”

“Can’t Jake talk?”

“Nary, he kain’t. He jest lays quiet an’ limp, with his eyes closed—more’n two-thirds acrost the divide, if I’ve got any savvy about sich things. But all this ain’t what I want ter tell ye.”

“Then get down to cases, Sim,” urged the scout, “if it’s important.”

“Waal, it sure is important. When Bloom, an’ the doctor, an’ Quiller, an’ me got ter whar Jeems had Jake stretched out on the grass, thar was five other cowboys from the H-P ranch thar. Bloom’s a pill. He’s talkin’ all the time as how it must ’a’ been Nate Dunbar who done the bizness fer Jake. Them cowboys ketches fire right off. ‘If Dunbar’s at the Star-A,’ they says, ‘we’ll git him; an’ he won’t last long when we do git him.’ With that the five of ’em wheels around an’ starts fer the H-P ranch, ter pick up another bunch o’ punchers, I opine, an’ ride fer the Star-A ter git Nate. Bloom, although he’s sher’ff an’ ort ter stand up fer the law, never says ay, yes, er no ter ’em, but lets ’em go on. That’s what was kerryin’ me back ter town ter see you, Buffler Bill. Thar’ll be a swarm o’ H-P cowboys comin’ down on the Star-A folks bymby, an’ somebody like you ort ter be out thar.”

Sim Pierce’s news was intensely disquieting.

“Since Bloom won’t do his duty,” said the scout, “it’s up to us to take care of Nate. We’ll change our minds about riding for the H-P ranch, Nick,” he added, “and strike a bee line for the Star-A.”


“I’ll go with ye,” declared Sim Pierce. “Mebby ye’re goin’ ter need me.”

“We may need all the men we can muster,” answered the scout. “This affair has taken an angle that may result in a world of trouble for our friends at the Star-A.”

The horses were turned from the trail and headed toward another part of the Brazos.

Buffalo Bill wished to spare Mrs. Dunbar as much as possible, so he and the trapper, and Pierce slowed their gait when close to the ranch and rode up slowly. They saw Nate out near the corral, heating an iron to brand a “dogie.” Dick Perry was with Nate. The calf was bound and lying on the ground, and the two ranchers were leaning against the corral fence, talking. The coming of the scout and his companions aroused their curiosity.

“Well, well!” laughed Nate, “this is almost too good to be true, Buffalo Bill. I thought you weren’t going to get back here before to-morrow?”

“Something has happened that brought me here, Nate,” answered the scout, dismounting and turning Bear Paw over to Nomad to be cared for.

“You’ve been riding pretty fast, it looks like,” spoke up Perry.

There was anxiety in his voice. Ever since he had been fighting the cattle barons, he had never known when or how the lightning was going to strike. Very little was needed to arouse his apprehensions.

“I was in a hurry, Perry,” the scout answered. “Nate,” and he turned to the younger of the two ranchers, “what did you do on the way back from town?”

“Do?” echoed Dunbar; “why, I just rode. What else[251] was there to do? I picked up that stray calf on the way, and snaked it along for the last mile. You’ve got me guessing, Buffalo Bill. What’s gone crossways?”

“Did you ride the Star-A trail all the way?” asked the scout.

“Didn’t I tell you I would?”

“Yes. You didn’t follow Jake Phelps, did you?”

Protest flashed in Nate’s eyes.

“What’s the use of asking me such a question, amigo?” he demanded. “A promise to you is a promise. I haven’t seen Jake Phelps since he rode away from the front of the hotel.”

“I could have made affidavit to that!” exclaimed the scout, with a feeling of relief.

“But what’s this all about?” put in Perry.

“Well, Jake Phelps was badly hurt on the way from Hackamore to the H-P ranch. Two cowboys, coming into town from the ranch, found his horse, racing for home without a saddle. A little farther along the trail they found Nate, saddle and money gone, sprawled out on the ground.”

Perturbation was written large in the faces of Dunbar and Perry. They stared at the scout and then at each other. For a moment no one spoke.

“Was—was he killed?” asked Nate finally, moistening his dry lips with his tongue.

“No,” said the scout, “but he was in pretty bad shape. The doctor doesn’t know whether he’ll pull through or not. The worst part of it is, he’s unconscious and can’t tell what happened to him. The longer he remains unconscious, Nate,” the scout answered kindly, “the worse it becomes for you. Of course, none of us believes you had anything to do with what happened, but Bloom is[252] no friend of yours, and Bloom is with the H-P outfit now.”

Again was there a silence. Nate threw a look toward the house where his bride of a few days was busy with her household work. His lips twitched. Presently he pulled his revolver from its holster and handed it out to Buffalo Bill.

“Examine that, amigo,” he begged. “Every chamber is loaded—not a bullet missing. I haven’t touched the gun since I put it up in the office of the Delmonico Hotel.”

The scout waved the weapon away.

“Your bare word is enough for me,” said he, “and for the rest of your friends. Anyhow, Nate, it wasn’t a bullet that caused the trouble for Jake Phelps.”

“What was it?”

“The handle of a quirt, or a club of some sort.”

“I hadn’t a quirt with me,” protested Nate. “As for a club——”

He changed ends with the revolver and looked at the handgrip absently.

“This,” said he, “is the only club I could have used. Does it look as though I had used it?”

He held it up.

“This is tough,” muttered Perry. “If it isn’t one thing with us, it’s another, right along. My boy,” and he laid a hand on Nate’s shoulder, “that quarrel with Jake Phelps was bad business for you.”

From this it appeared that Nate had already told Perry of what had taken place in the hotel office.

“A quarrel of any kind is always bad business,” dropped in the scout, “but what makes this particularly bad for Nate is the fact that Jake was knocked down[253] and robbed on the trail. There are those in town who overheard the last words spoken by Nate and Jack Phelps. Those last words were threats. Nate left town very soon after Jake rode away. That also is known.”

Anger rose in Dunbar’s eyes and flamed in his face.

“But who dares call me a thief?” he cried. “If I followed Jack Phelps to have it out with him, would I have taken his dirty money? Would I have used a club when I had a gun handy? As a matter of fact, could I have got close enough to him to use a club before he would have sent a bullet into me? Why don’t people use a little reason? Great guns! They might give me credit for not being such a fool!”

“Maybe Lige Benner is back of this in some way?” suggested Perry.

“No,” said the scout, “Benner is not back of it,” and he went on to tell how the owner of the Circle-B ranch had come to the hotel and made his peace with the Star-A ranchers through the scout.

This line of talk brought Red Steve prominently to the fore.

“Et was Red Steve as done et,” declared the old trapper. “He laid fer Jake. Mebbyso he knowed Jake had the pay-roll money. Red was plannin’ ter git out o’ the kentry, an’ the money would shore come handy fer him.”

“It was Red Steve!” declared Perry.

“Admitting that it was Red Steve,” said Dunbar, “the same thing would apply to him that applied to me. How could he ever get close enough to Jake to hit him over the head with a club. It don’t sound reasonable. There’s something more back of it.”

“It all depends,” qualified the scout, “on the lay of the land at the place where the attack on Jake was[254] made. If there were bushes where Red Steve could lie concealed——”

“Thar warn’t,” spoke up Pierce. “It was flat kentry, whar the attack was made, an’ nothin’ but grass. Thar warn’t no place whar a feller could hide. How Red Steve ever done it is a myst’ry, but he sure done it someway.”

“It was Red Steve, of course,” averred Buffalo Bill. “Where are the rest of my pards, Perry?”

“They’re out looking for Red Steve,” answered Perry; “they left pretty soon after you struck out for town.”

“The baron and Little Cayuse went with them?”


“Then we are short-handed and no mistake,” muttered the scout.

“Short-handed for what?” asked Dunbar.

“Tell him, Sim,” said Buffalo Bill, “just as you told me.”

Sim Pierce told about the five cowboys who had started back to Phelps’ ranch with the evident intention of increasing their numbers and coming to the Star-A after Nate. Dunbar’s face blanched. But it was not fear for himself that suddenly raced through him. He was thinking of Hattie.

“Dick,” said he, turning to his father-in-law, “you take Hattie at once and go with her to some safe place where——”

“No,” interrupted Perry, his face set and hard, “Hattie and I will stay right here. If the H-P cowboys come they’ll find us at home. Hattie can use a gun as well as anybody, and there’ll be trouble if the Phelps outfit try to take you out of the house.”


Old Nomad walked over to Perry and gripped his hand.

“Perry,” he said approvingly, “ye’re the clear quill. I allers knowed et, but ther fact never stuck out o’ ye same as now. We’re all goin’ ter stand by Nate. I’m only sorry a heap thet Wild Bill, the baron, an’ Leetle Cayuse ain’t hyar ter help out. But,” and the old trapper swept his grim eyes over the group, “we’re quite er sizeable handful, I reckon.”

“Go in and tell your wife, Nate,” counseled Buffalo Bill. “She must know all about this, and it’s better to have it come from you. Tell her not to be alarmed, for the chances are good that Red Steve is going to be captured by Wild Bill. Pard Hickok, you know, has made a vow that he’ll lay Red Steve by the heels. Ace Hawkins befriended Hickok, and that means that our pard will do his best to have the law avenge him. The principal thing is to keep the Phelps outfit from doing anything rash until Red Steve is located and brought in—or until Jake Phelps recovers his wits and tells the truth about what happened to him.”

Nate started for the house to perform his disagreeable duty. The scout would have spared Mrs. Dunbar the details, if he could, but Perry’s decision to stay with her and see Nate through the gathering storm made it necessary for the girl to be told everything.

“Nick,” said the scout, “I want you and Pierce to watch the trails. Get out a little way from the ranch house, and when you see the cowboys coming, rush in with the news.”

Nomad and Pierce departed at once. Perry went thoughtfully over to the fire, picked up the white-hot branding iron and seared the calf with the Star-A brand;[256] then he released the animal and it darted away into the timber.

“No matter what happens, Buffalo Bill,” said Perry, with deep feeling, “your generous aid will always be remembered and appreciated. What we should have done without you and your pards, during our troubles here, is more than I know. But all our other troubles were small compared with this.”

“You’ll pull through this flare-up with ground to spare, Perry,” asserted the scout. “Don’t lose your nerve, now, of all times. I——”

The scout broke off abruptly. There was a thump of hoofs along the trail, swiftly approaching. A moment later a pinto pony with a small rider broke into sight and headed for the corral.

“Cayuse!” exclaimed the scout. “This is better than I hoped for.”



“How, Pa-e-has-ka?” said Little Cayuse, sliding from Navi’s back. “You make um heap quick ride to town.”

The sharp-eyed lad saw that there was something unusual in the wind. A look at the scout’s face, even if there had been no other evidences of trouble, would have been enough for him.

“Where are Wild Bill and the baron?” the scout asked.

He was hoping they might be so close that Cayuse could go after them and get them to the ranch before H-P outfit arrived.

“All same down river,” reported Cayuse. “Make um hunt for Red Steve.”

“Are they having any luck?”

“Find um trail, lose um, find um again.”

“They’ve hit Red Steve’s trail, have they?”

“Hit um trail man on foot. Mebbyso Red Steve, mebbyso somebody else. Quien sabe?”

The boy shrugged his shoulders and grunted.

“How far away are Wild Bill and the baron?”

“Mebbyso ten mile.”

This was too far. The scout could not send Cayuse after his missing pards with any hope that they would be able to reach the Star-A ranch before the mob of cowboys arrived. Anyway, if they were on Red Steve’s trail, the scout preferred to leave them to run it out. It was of the utmost importance that Red Steve be found.


Something of what was passing in the scout’s mind was divined by Perry.

“If you could get your pards here, Buffalo Bill,” said the rancher, “it might be a good idea.”

“I doubt whether Cayuse could cover the ten miles and bring them here before the mob arrives,” answered the scout. “Besides, Perry, it is almost as important that Red Steve be apprehended before he can get out of the country. I think we had better leave Wild Bill and the baron to take care of that part of the work. From what Cayuse tells us, I believe luck has been with them, and that they are on the right scent.”

Cayuse was deeply interested in the mysterious state of affairs at the ranch. He was not given to asking questions; it was rather his part to keep his ears and eyes wide open and pick up what he wanted to know from the ordinary course of events.

The scout, however, proceeded to explain to him just what the situation meant. The boy’s eyes sparkled as he listened.

“Cayuse make um ride back plenty good time, hey?” he asked. “Buenos! Me like um.”

“Why did you come back?” the scout asked.

“Wild Bill say Cayuse come, make um stay ’long with Perry and white squaw. Him say tell um Pa-e-has-ka we find um trail, mebbyso follow um trail all night. Ugh!”

“I see. Wild Bill thinks he may be all night running out the trail, and if I got back from town he wanted me to know that he thought he was meeting with some success. Put out your pinto, Cayuse, and we’ll go into the house. There’ll be some preparations to be made,[259] Perry,” he added to the rancher while the Piute boy was attending to Navi.

“It won’t take long to make the preparations,” returned the rancher. “From the looks of things, I shouldn’t wonder if Nate and Hattie were already making preparations.”

A wooden shutter closed over one of the cabin windows, on the side facing the corral.

“Those shutters,” went on Perry, “are bullet-proof. Nate rigged them up when we first began having trouble with the barons. I never thought we’d have to use them in helping to keep a mob of lynchers away from Nate.”

The scout caught the discouraged note in the rancher’s voice.

“There’ll be no lynching,” said he, with a resolute snap of the jaws, “even if there are lynchers coming. Rest assured of that. I have a little authority from the United States Government, and I’ll use it.”

“What do those frenzied cowboys care for the government?” returned Perry. “They’re mad for vengeance by now, and it will be useless to try to reason with them.”

“We may find a way to bring them to their senses.”

“It’s a shame and a disgrace that Bloom is not standing shoulder to shoulder with us,” said Perry bitterly. “He doesn’t care a rap for law and order, if there’s any violence aimed at us out here. In this case he seems to have helped inflame the mob to do its dastardly work.”

Cayuse came out of the corral, closed and locked the gate and stepped to Buffalo Bill’s side. The little Piute had his revolver in his hands and, as he walked toward the house at the scout’s side, he was poking cartridges into the cylinder.


He was perfectly cool, and his matter-of-fact way in making preparations showed that he could be depended on to do his best.

In the house the scout found everything in order. The shutters were closed over the windows, and the interior of the cabin was dark and stuffy. A rifle lay across a table in the living room. Dunbar was laying a supply of cartridges beside it. Not far away his wife was loading a shotgun. The two were working silently.

“Mrs. Dunbar,” said Buffalo Bill, admiration mounting in his breast as he saw how bravely the girl was rising to the occasion, “you’re a brick.”

“Those scoundrels,” Mrs. Dunbar answered, with flashing eyes, “will not take Nate out of this house if I can do anything to help it.”

“They’ll not take him, Mrs. Dunbar,” returned the scout reassuringly. “There are a few of us here to make sure of that. Don’t be alarmed.”

“When will we ever get to the end of these troubles?” murmured the girl, with a catch in her voice.

“You are almost at the end of them now,” answered the scout, in a kindly voice. “It is always darkest just before dawn, you know.”

“The day of hope is a long while breaking for us,” said Mrs. Dunbar.

“It will be all the brighter when it finally comes. Let’s go out in front, Perry, and wait there for developments.”

There was a bench near the front door of the cabin. Here Perry and Buffalo Bill seated themselves. Little Cayuse sat just inside the door, his head bowed over and his arms folded. Suddenly he broke into a crooning chant that came weirdly to the ears of the rancher and the scout.


“What’s that?” asked Perry; “what’s the boy doing, Buffalo Bill?”

“He is calling on his fathers and his Piute gods. He wants the Great Spirit to be kind to Nate Dunbar and the white squaw. Listen!”

“Ta-vi kwai-nant-si ya-ga-wats
Si-chom-pa kung-war-ru

The strange words floated out of the door, not unmusically, although they were little more than a whisper.

“What is it?” queried Perry. “What’s the chant about?”

“It’s the ‘Eagle Tears’ song—

“‘At morn the eagle will cry,
On the farther shore of the sea,
And the rainbow will be in the sky.’”

“A rainbow,” murmured Perry, “is a sign of hope.”

“Exactly,” smiled the scout, “and Little Cayuse is doing something which, he believes, will bring Mr. and Mrs. Dunbar a happy day. He has a song for everything—for sadness, for victory, for bringing courage to a warrior’s heart. The boy thinks a lot of Mrs. Dunbar. She has been mighty kind to Cayuse, while we have been staying at your ranch, Perry, and kindness is something the Piute boy never forgets.”

“You and your pards are all our good friends,” said Perry, “down even to Little Cayuse. Well, if we do get out of this, it will be Buffalo Bill and his pards who makes the strike for us. I’ve been wondering if we couldn’t send word to Bloom over at the H-P ranch and demand that he come here and keep this mob away.”

The scout shook his head.


“It would be foolish to try such a move as that,” he declared. “Bloom can not be depended on to do anything for law and order when you and Dunbar are concerned. If we sent Cayuse after him he wouldn’t come. Even if he did come, he wouldn’t be a help, but a hindrance.”

“If he should come here and demand that we turn Nate over to him——”

“We’d tell him mañana, Perry. We’ve got to keep Nate out of Bloom’s hands entirely.”

“A nice state of affairs this range has dropped into,” fretted Perry, “when honest cattlemen can’t look to the legal authorities for protection against mobs of lynchers. If we——”

He broke off abruptly and jumped to his feet. The scout also started up.

Old Nomad and Sam Pierce had broken into sight along the timbered trail, running at top speed toward the house.

“I reckon we’re close to a show-down,” said the scout.

“They’re on ther way, Buffler,” puffed the old trapper, as he and Pierce came to the front of the cabin.

“Who, Nomad?”

It was Hattie’s voice from the door.

“The punchers from the H-P ranch gal,” answered the trapper.

“How many are there of them, Nick?” inquired the scout.


“Did you recognize any of them?”

“They was too fur off, Buffler, ter make out who they aire.”


“You could have recognized Hank Phelps easily enough, in his Mexican clothes.”

“Waal, I didn’t see him, an’ I don’t reckon he’s erlong.”

“Into the house, pards,” ordered the scout, “and we’ll make ready to hold our ground.”

Perry had already pushed into the cabin. Pierce and Nomad followed him. The scout was last to enter, and he closed the door and dropped a stout oak bar across it.

A few moments later there came a sodden roll of hoofs, growing louder and louder.

The scout, peering through a loophole, saw fifteen armed men debouch from the timber and surround the cabin.

“Not a shot is to be fired,” said Buffalo Bill to the silent little group in the cabin, “until I give the word. We will use our weapons only as a last resort and not until every other expedient is exhausted.”

From his loophole the scout saw one of the cowboys throw himself from the saddle and advance upon the front door. The plans of the H-P men must have been well considered, for each of the party moved at once to his post in the cordon that surrounded the cabin. There was no talking, no confusion. A fist pounded on the door.

“Who’s there?” called the scout.

“A crowd of fellers from the H-P ranch,” answered a hoarse voice, “and we mean business right from the drop o’ the hat.”

“What do you want?”

“We want the murderin’ hound that done fer Jake Phelps!”

A stifled cry escaped Mrs. Dunbar. Nate stepped over[264] and put his arm around her waist, at the same time whispering to her encouragingly.

“Is Jake Phelps done for?” asked the scout, intent on securing a little information.

“Purty nigh,” was the answer. “He ain’t never spoke a word since he was found on the trail, where Dunbar knocked him out o’ the saddle.”

Here was something, at all events. Phelps was still alive, and while there was life there was hope that he would recover.

“Wait a minute,” said the scout. “I don’t like talking through a door, and I’m coming out.”

Perry made a gesture of protest.

“I want to reason with these men,” said the scout, in a low tone, “and I can do it better face to face with them.”

“But what if they should capture you?” murmured Mrs. Dunbar, her voice sharp with apprehension. “What should we do then, Buffalo Bill, with you taken from us?”

“He won’t be captered, gal,” returned old Nomad. “I’ll let Buffler out, an’ I’ll stand by ther door ter let him in ag’in. He’ll come in a-hummin’ ef they make er move ter rush him.”

The scout took a precautionary look through the loophole and stepped to the door. The trapper lifted the bar and the scout stepped to the front of the cabin.

The cowboy scowled at him. There were no more than five of the H-P outfit in sight, the others being scattered around the cabin.

“Call the rest of your party here,” said the scout. “I want to talk to all of you.”

“Think I’m easy?” snorted the cowboy. “When them[265] from the back part o’ the house come here, Dunbar’ll hike through the kitchen door an’ git inter the woods.”

“Dunbar isn’t going to run,” declared the scout. “I knew you men were coming from the Phelps ranch, and brought the news here two or three hours ago. If Nate had wanted to run he would have had plenty of chance. He’s an innocent man, and I think I can make you fellows see it and leave here in peace.”

“He ain’t innercent,” cried the cowboy. “He done fer Jake Phelps, an’ us fellers aire here ter git him if we have ter burn the house.”

“Not Nate Dunbar but Red Steve is the man you want.”

“We know who we want, an’ we ain’t goin’ ter waste much more time gittin’ him, nuther.”

“What’s your name?” queried the scout, suddenly changing his tactics.

These men were not in a mood to listen to reason. Impatient yells had come from all around the cabin, demanding that the spokesman stop his talking and do something.

“Prouther,” said the cowboy.

“For whatever happens here, Prouther,” threatened the scout, “I shall hold you and those with you responsible. You’ll not take Nate Dunbar away from us. If you try it, there’ll be shooting; and you men out here will be better targets than those of us who are in the house.”

Two of the other cowboys had dismounted and come to Prouther’s side.

“What good’s all this chinnin’?” growled one.

“He come out ter talk, Klinger,” answered Prouther, “an’ I reckoned we might as well listen.”


“While we’re listenin’,” said the third cowboy, “mebby them in the cabin aire doin’ somethin’. Pass it up an’ let’s git busy.”

“What’s yer answer?” demanded Prouther, facing the scout truculently.

“Before I give you my answer,” said Buffalo Bill, “let me tell you this: There’s law on the Brazos still, if not State law then national law. I represent the government. My name is Cody, and I’m on detached service. I reckon you men know me.” His face hardened and his lithe, muscular form straightened to its full height. “Whenever I lay hold of a proposition I generally make good. I tell you, Nate Dunbar had nothing to do with the injury from which Jake Phelps is lying unconscious at the H-P ranch. He——”

“Bosh!” howled Klinger. “Didn’t him an’ Jake git ter loggerheads in Hackamore? Didn’t you order Jake out o’ town? An’ didn’t Dunbar foller him? What did he foller him fer if it wasn’t ter do him up?”

“Nate didn’t follow Jake Phelps, but came straight to the Star-A by the most direct trail. Suppose he did follow him. If Nate wanted to do Phelps up, as you say, then why didn’t he use his revolver instead of a club? What was Phelps doing with his own revolver while Dunbar was riding up behind him and hitting him with a club? Can’t you men use a little reason?”

But the would-be lynchers had no reason. They were blindly determined to take the law in their own hands.

“We know Dunbar done it!” Prouther whooped. “Will ye trot him out here, or hev we got ter come in arter him?”

“Think this over well before you make a move!” warned the scout.


Suddenly, as by a preconcerted signal, Klinger and Prouther hurled themselves at Buffalo Bill. He received them—and they must have been astonished at the manner of their reception.

The scout’s fists shot out right and left like the piston-rods of a locomotive. Prouther and Klinger reeled back under the impact of the blows. With an oath, the other man fumbled at his revolver. Before he could draw it, the scout leaped into the air, after the manner of a French savateur, and kicked the weapon out of his hand.

Nomad, who had been watching proceedings with cat-like vigilance, threw open the door and the scout faded inside the cabin. When the wrathful cowboys pulled themselves together, only the blank expanse of the door faced them. Yelling furiously, they began slamming bullets into the stout oak barrier.

Those behind heard the shooting and likewise opened a fusillade.

“All we can do now,” said Nate Dunbar, his face white and set, “is to give them as good as they send—or better.”

“Wait!” interposed the scout, “we’re not in the last ditch yet.”

“What d’ye want ter wait fer, Buffler?” spoke up old Nomad. “All them thar ijuts aire in plain sight. We kin pick ’em off in one, two, three style.”

“We’re not here to pick anybody off, Nick,” said the scout. “We’re here to save Nate Dunbar, and not to make this matter any worse than it is. Let them waste their ammunition on the walls of the cabin, if they want to. It’s not hurting us, and it’s allowing some of their steam to escape. Maybe they won’t be under such high pressure after they shoot a while.”


For a minute or two the bullets continued to thump against the cabin walls. After that there came an interval of silence while the cowboys moved farther back into the timber. From the loopholes they could be seen preparing torches.

“They’re going to fire the house!” gasped Perry.

“Them fellers’ll do anythin’,” averred Sim Pierce. “They’re crazy mad. When they come ter think this over termorrer, they’ll wonder how the blazes they ever let their senses run away from ’em in this way. It’s a rough bizness, an’ no mistake.”

“They’ll not fire the house,” said Buffalo Bill. “In order to do that, they’ll have to come within range of our guns. They have at least sense enough to understand that we can pick them off as fast as they come at us with their torches.”

But, in this, the scout was mistaken. The H-P men had taken the box from a lumber wagon, and were manipulating it in such a way that half a dozen of them could carry it and advance with it for a breastwork.

“Thet’s er whale of er idee!” growled the old trapper. “I reckon et kyboshes us some, too. Hey, Buffler?”

The scout peered gravely at the advancing wagon box. It moved forward for a dozen feet, and then rested. During the rest, Prouther showed himself, and the other cowboys advanced a little.

“We’re goin’ ter give ye another chance!” yelled Prouther.

“Another chance for what?” called back the scout.

“Why, ter give up that feller we want. If ye don’t give him up, we’ll shore burn the ranch house. If we kain’t git him one way, we kin another.”

“There’s no way you can git him!” the scout roared[269] defiantly. “We’re well armed in here, Prouther, and you’ll find it out to your cost if you keep on as you’re going.”

“Talk’s cheap. Aire we ter have Dunbar? Yes or no.”


There was no mistaking the finality the scout put into the word. Again the wagon box was picked up and started forward.

Then, like a bombshell, a voice came from the woods back of the H-P men:

“Stand where you are! If another shot is fired at that cabin, or if you fellows carry this lawless game any further, I’ll riddle the lot of you! I’m here with twenty-five men, and they’re armed with rifles. I’ve done a lot to make war on the Brazos, and now I’ll do just as much to make peace. You hear me!”

There followed a breathless silence, during which a man in black rode out of the timber and pulled his horse to a halt.

“My men are back there,” he went on, waving his hand in the direction of the woods, “and each one of them has his rifle leveled.” He laughed. “I reckon that, between us, Buffalo Bill and I have a cinch on this lay-out.”

“Er-waugh!” muttered old Nomad dazedly. “I’m er Piegan ef et ain’t Lige Benner! An’ he fightin’ fer us an’ not ag’in us! Hev I got ther blind staggers?”



“What’s back of this?” breathed Dick Perry suspiciously. “What’s Lige Benner’s real purpose in acting this way?”

The rancher had for so long been the victim of Benner’s plots, that even now he could not take his show of friendship at face value.

“Benner,” answered the scout, “has undergone a change of heart. There’s nothing back of this move of his except a desire to establish peace on the river. He’s tired of the squabbling. For once in his life, at least, Lige Benner is showing that there’s some good in him. Watch—watch and listen! Let’s see how he handles the affair.”

All eyes in the cabin peered from the loopholes. Horseman after horseman had ridden from the woods into plain view—all Circle-B men, and numbering fully a score and five. Each of Benner’s men had a rifle, and each held it trained on a hostile cowboy.

The H-P contingent were stunned into silence and inaction. The wagon box tumbled over and the torches dropped from the hands of the would-be firebugs.

Certainly it was an odd situation. Both Phelps’ men and Benner’s had fought side by side against the Star-A ranchers, along at the first of the troubles. Each side had comrades in the other side, and for the two parties to stand ready to leap at each other’s throat formed a strange commentary on the ways of fate.


“You see,” called Lige Benner, “I’m the boss of this end of the business. There are fifteen of you and twenty-six of us. We have rifles, and you have small arms. Likewise, we have the drop.”

“I—I thort you fellers was friends o’ our’n!” stuttered Prouther.

“So we are,” answered Benner. “We’re the best friends you H-P fellers ever had. What we’re doing now is the friendliest kind of an act. Prouther, we’re keeping you from doing something you’d be sorry for—something you’d be brought to book for. You’re fighting Buffalo Bill, and you’re laying yourself wide open by your lawlessness. If you had been allowed to keep on, sooner or later Buffalo Bill would have made you pay up in full.”

“But Nate Dunbar done up Jake Phelps!”

“Be hanged to that! Dunbar is as guilty of that as I am—just about. But I’ve talked enough. You punchers will file past me, one at a time, and drop your guns in front of my horse. After that, you will take to your mounts and hustle for home—and you’ll stay home when you get there, for I intend to keep this force of men on guard here until this Jake Phelps matter is settled, and settled right. You can head the procession, Prouther!”

“I’m blamed if I’ll give up my guns!” howled Prouther.

“You’ll give them up, and no more words about it. If you’ll ride over to the Circle-B, in two or three days, you can have the weapons back again. Start yourself, Prouther!”

Prouther tried to haggle further. Thereupon Benner ordered one of his men to dismount and take his weapons away from him. Prouther swore, but he had to yield.[272] Two rifles were aimed at him, and the faces behind the guns were full of grim resolution.

The rest of the H-P men did not make so much trouble. They realized that they were helpless to do otherwise than obey orders. One by one they defiled past Lige Benner, and one by one they snatched their weapons from their belts and flung them angrily down.

When they were all disarmed, Benner ordered them to their horses. They rushed at their animals, hurled themselves into their saddles and careered away, roaring their threats as to what they would do later.

As soon as the last hoofbeat had died to silence, Buffalo Bill pulled open the cabin door and passed out in front. Lige Benner rode up to him, dismounted, and came forward with outstretched hand.

“Do you believe that I mean well now?” he asked.

“I never doubted that you meant to do the right thing, Benner,” answered the scout heartily, giving the offered hand a cordial clasp. “How were you able to get here just when we most needed help?”

“I left Hackamore just after I talked with you, and rode for home. I hadn’t been there long when I heard this about Dunbar. A little while after that, one of our boys who had been over at the H-P ranch, rode in and told me that the lynching party of fifteen had started for the Star-A. As quick as I could, I got this force of men together, gave them a short talk, and we rode here. I reckon you know the rest.”

Dunbar, Perry, Hattie Dunbar, Sim Pierce, old Nomad and Little Cayuse had crowded through the door while Lige Benner was talking. The scout stepped a little apart and waited to see what would happen between Benner and the Star-A ranchers.


There was an embarrassing pause, for a few moments. Benner cut it short by stepping up to Perry.

“Dick Perry,” said he, “let me frankly say that I never liked you, but also let me confess that I had no real reason for putting myself at swords’ points with you. I was in the wrong. I did not make this about face because I felt that I was in the wrong, but because I felt that I should be drawn into a bad tangle unless Red Steve was captured and made to tell the truth about Ace Hawkins. But I’m receding from that position. I’m beginning to want peace on the Brazos for its own sake. I take it, you and Dunbar are as anxious to find Red Steve as I am? Then let’s make common cause. Will you take my hand?”

Perry hesitated. In the gathering dusk, the scout saw his eyes flash and his face harden; then, generously, he threw past grievances to the winds and took the hand held out to him.

Nate Dunbar pushed forward with his wife. His left arm encircled Hattie’s waist, and together they stood in front of their old enemy.

“Hattie and I want to be in on this,” said Nate. “I don’t say, mind you, that you saved me from those H-P men. They never would have got me, for I had Buffalo Bill and his pards on my side. But you did keep us from shooting into the party of lynchers, and that would have caused no end of trouble. Red Steve must have been the man who tackled Jake Phelps on the trail. As you say, Benner, we have common cause against him. Perry has met you halfway, and with him for an example, Hattie and I won’t hang back in doing the same thing.”

They shook hands, and Benner doffed his black sombrero and bowed to Mrs. Dunbar.


“Whoop-ya!” jubilated old Nomad. “Ring ther bells! Let the band toot! Allymand left an’ all sashay! Peace is shore beginnin’ ter ride circles eround the diffikilties on ther Brazos! Be happy, ever’body, kase ther merlennium hes come! Who’d ever a-thort et?”

“I have to say, Buffalo Bill,” went on Benner, as soon as the old trapper had eased himself of his glorying, “that my men will remain on guard around this cabin until this trouble about Jake Phelps has been straightened out. There’ll be no more lynching parties. Have your pards learned anything regarding Red Steve?”

“Wild Bill Hickok and the baron are on his trail,” said the scout. “They’ll be heard from before long.”

“Wild Bill Hickok is a man of parts,” said Benner, with a rueful laugh. “I know from personal experience with him what he can do. If any one can catch Red Steve, it’s Wild Bill Hickok. We’re to remain quietly until he reports?”


“Then I and my men will stay out here.”

“You can come in the house with the rest of us, Benner,” said Perry.

“I’d prefer to be with my men,” was the answer.

“Anyhow,” put in Dunbar, “we’ll see that you and your men have supper.”

Benner went back to his men, and the latter began caring for their horses. Guards were posted to command all approaches to the Star-A ranch, and rifles were kept within easy reach.

Preparing supper for thirty or more was something of a task, but Dunbar helped his wife, and Little Cayuse carried out the food when it was ready.

There was peace on that part of the Brazos, albeit an[275] armed peace. Real peace could not come until Red Steve was captured, and had been forced to confess all he knew about Ace Hawkins and Jake Phelps.

Following supper, the scout and his pards smoked with Benner in front of the cabin. At a late hour Benner went to his blankets under the trees. Cayuse bunked down at the corral by the horses, and the others hunted berths on the floor of the ranch living room.

It was in the small hours of the morning that Little Cayuse crept into the living room and crawled to the scout.

“Come, Pa-e-has-ka!” he whispered.

The scout sat up.

“What’s wanted?” he asked.

“Wild Bill make um palaver by corral. You come, Pa-e-has-ka.”

The scout wondered at all this mysteriousness on Wild Bill’s part, but he presumed that Hickok, not knowing the lay of the situation, had made up his mind to proceed carefully. The main fact seemed to be that the Laramie man had returned from his search with important news about Red Steve. Thrilled with hope, the scout left the house quietly and met Hickok by the corral.

They talked for several minutes in low tones, and the scout’s voice betrayed traces of considerable excitement. At the end of their talk, Buffalo Bill saddled Bear Paw, gave instructions to Cayuse to say nothing, and slipped away into the darkest part of the night with Wild Bill.

Morning came, and great was the excitement when it was discovered that Buffalo Bill had vanished. Nomad fretted, the rest wondered, and Cayuse held his peace.

Breakfast was prepared, and while Benner and his men were eating out under the trees, and the others were[276] taking their meal in the house, Buffalo Bill came slashing up to the corral, cared for Bear Paw, and hurried to the cabin.

There was a queer look on his face, and a queer gleam in his eyes. Over all, however, was an expression of triumph not unmixed with amazement.

“Whar ther nation you been, Buffler?” whooped the old trapper, when the king of scouts pushed into the kitchen and took his seat at the table.

“Been having a little ride, pard,” laughed the scout indefinitely.

“Took er leetle pasear around lookin’ fer Red Steve?”

“Well, you might call it that. I’m hungry as a bear that has just come out of his hole in the spring. Load that plate full, Nate.”

“Sim hyar reckoned he wouldn’t git ter see ye afore he started fer Hackamore.”

“Got ter go back,” put in Sim. “I ain’t needed here, anyways, with all these men o’ Benner’s standing between Nate an’ trouble. I’ll borry a rifle an’ take it erlong in case I meet up with Red Thunderbolt. Say, I’d like ter put a bullet inter that critter. The’s a thousand out for Red Thunderbolt.”

“A thousand?” asked the scout, falling to with his knife and fork.

“Shore. The cattle barons, up an’ down the river, have offered a thousand in cash fer the man thet knocks over that murderin’ maverick. Now, if I could do the trick——”

“You can’t, Sim,” cut in Dunbar. “It’s been tried too many times. Red Thunderbolt bears a charmed life.”

“Don’t leave the ranch just yet, Pierce,” said the scout. “There’s something I want you to do.”


“Waal, if ye got any bizness on hand fer me, o’ course I’ll hang eround. Any more peace-makin’?” grinned Pierce.

“That’s what it’s to be.”

The scout’s face had become sphinxlike, and prying eyes learned nothing from a study of it.

“Buffler, ye’re holdin’ somethin’ back!” rumbled the trapper. “Consarn et, pard, kain’t ye see how I’m on tenterhooks? Why don’t ye le’go with what ye got on yer mind? What’s ther use o’ hangin’ fire?”

The scout laughed.

“Don’t get inquisitive, Nick. I’ve got a big surprise in store for all of you, but I must spring it in my own way, and at my own time.”

“What kind of er s’prise?”

“The kind that will make you sit up, open your eyes, and gasp. I want several in the party.”

“Me an’ Pierce?” quizzed Nomad.

“More than that. Hattie must be along, and Nate, and Perry; also Sim, and you, Nick, and Cayuse.”

“Jumpin’ catermounts! Why, ye’re cleanin’ out ther hull ranch house. Ef Wild Bill an’ the baron’ ’u’d on’y happen erlong, I reckon ye’d take them, too, hey?”

The scout laughed.

“Benner will also be with us,” said he, “and Hank Phelps.”

The name of Benner was a little surprising, but the mention of Hank Phelps quite took the breath of the others.

“The way Hank Phelps feels toward us, Buffalo Bill,” said Perry, “it’s doubtful whether he would agree to go.”

“I think he’ll go, all right, if the invitation is handed to him in the right way.”


“Arter what happened hyar last night,” chuckled Nomad, “d’ye opine Phelps would accept any o’ our invitation, no matter how et was handed ter him?”

“I reckon he will. You see, to make sure the invitation is given as it should be, I intend to offer it myself.”

They all stared at that.

“How ye goin’ ter work et?” demanded Nomad.

“I’m going to ride to the H-P ranch directly after breakfast.”

“All o’ us with ye?”

“Certainly not, Nick. Do you imagine that I would take Nate over to Phelps’ place, while things are as we have them now? It would be worse than foolish. I’m going to call on Phelps alone.”

“Don’t!” begged Perry. “Ruffianly work will be done, Buffalo Bill. I know Phelps better than you do. He’s probably as crazy mad over what happened to Jake as any of his men. You’ll have more on your hands than you can attend to.”

“I think not,” said the scout quietly.

“Stay away from the H-P ranch, amigo,” urged Nate.

“But it’s necessary for you, necessary for peace on the Brazos, that I call on him. So I’m going.”

When the scout spoke in the tone of voice he used then, further argument was useless. Everybody was burning with curiosity to know what he had at the back of his head, but he continued smilingly indefinite.

“Cayuse,” said he, when he had finished and risen from the table, “go out and get Bear Paw ready for the trail. In two hours,” he added to Perry, “I want all the rest of you to ride to the forks of the trail just where it divides for Hackamore and the Circle-B ranch. If I’m not there with Phelps when you get there, wait for us.[279] Benner will ride with you, Perry. The Circle-B men will take care of the ranch until we get back.”

“I don’t like ther pizen lay-out, not noways,” declared Nomad, “but orders is orders. Ef we wait more’n two hours fer ye at the forks o’ ther trail, and ye don’t come, I’ll ride ter Phelps’ hangout, an’ purceed ter tear things.”

“Don’t do anything rash, Nick,” counseled the scout, leaving by the kitchen door and climbing into his saddle.

At the edge of the timber he drew rein to talk with Benner.

“I’ve got something important to say to you, Benner,” said he, “and my time is limited. Mount and ride a ways with me.”

“I’ll do it.”

Benner’s horse was put under saddle in record time, and he and the scout started side by side along the trail that led to the H-P ranch.

“I’m going over to call on Phelps,” announced the scout.

Benner started in his saddle.

“Alone?” he inquired.

“Yes. Business calls me.”

“It’s dangerous, considering the temper Phelps is in about Jake. If Jake happens to have crossed the divide, I would be willing to gamble you have trouble getting clear of his place with your scalp.”

“Do you really think so?” asked the scout, with a keen glance at his companion. “Didn’t I call on Phelps once before, when you and he were in the ranch house? And didn’t I get away with ground to spare?”

A flush stole over Benner’s bronzed face. The scout had referred to an incident during the time when Phelps and Benner were at war with Perry and Dunbar. On[280] that occasion, Buffalo Bill had rescued Perry from Phelps’ ranch house, and had left Benner and Phelps handcuffed back to back.

“I renig,” said Benner, with a short laugh. “You’re able to take care of yourself in any and all circumstances, Buffalo Bill. I reckon you can call on Phelps and get away again. But what’s the use?”

“We’re close to the end of this trouble trail,” proceeded the scout earnestly. “A little quick work this morning will settle everything. Perry, Mr. and Mrs. Dunbar, Sim Pierce, old Nomad and Little Cayuse are going to start on horseback inside of two hours for the place where the trail forks to go to Hackamore and to your place. They will wait for Phelps and me at the forks. You, Benner, are to ride with the party from the Star-A.”

Benner was intensely interested.

“Have you discovered something of importance?” he asked.

“I have—something of the utmost importance; something that will spell peace on the Brazos.”

“Something that will clear me of any suspicion regarding the taking off of Ace Hawkins?”

“I believe so.”

“And clear Nate Dunbar?”


“What is it?”

“I’ll show you later. Meanwhile, be prepared for a big surprise.”

“You’ve got me all worked up,” muttered Benner, with a low laugh.

“Everybody will be worked up before we are through.[281] It’s the biggest thing, Benner, that ever happened in this Brazos country.”

“Why are you taking Phelps along?”

“Because he must hear what we hear, and see what we see. That’s of the utmost importance.”

“Can’t I go to Phelps’ ranch with you?” suggested Benner. “I know Hank pretty well, and, if he gets ugly, perhaps I could help you handle him.”

“No, Benner,” answered the scout firmly, “I prefer to go alone. You ride with Perry, Dunbar and my pards. They have nothing but friendly feelings for you now. Have your cowboys watch the Star-A ranch until we get back there.”

“Just as you say. I’m a good soldier, Cody, and know how to obey my superior officer. Is that all?”


“Adios, then.”

Benner wheeled his horse and rode back along the trail to the Star-A. The scout spurred into faster gait, and laid a rapid course in the direction of the H-P ranch.

Benner turned to look back at him.

“I wouldn’t be in Phelps’ shoes for a bushel of dinero,” thought Benner, “if he tries to do what Buffalo Bill don’t want him to.”



From rising ground, where Buffalo Bill had left his pards on the previous occasion when he had gone alone into Phelps’ hangout, the scout surveyed the situation at the hostile ranch.

Everything was quiet about the buildings, but it was the brooding quiet that oftentimes precedes a violent storm. Cowboys passed and re-passed slowly under the scout’s eyes, but they seemed to avoid the log house in which Phelps made his headquarters.

In that building, no doubt, lay Jake Phelps, the mysteriously injured relative of Hank Phelps. It might be that the building was being avoided by the cowboys, on the injured man’s account.

Without lingering long over his survey, the scout started Bear Paw and rode down the hill up which he had once raced with the H-P cowboys tight after him. He hoped that performance was not again to be repeated.

No one appeared to molest him. He was seen, nevertheless, and several cowboys, out behind Hank Phelps’ quarters, gathered in an excited group.

Leaving Bear Paw at a little distance from the log house, Buffalo Bill dismounted and moved briskly forward on foot.

Before he had come within a dozen feet of the front door of the house, Phelps himself appeared in the opening. He seemed, for a moment, as though loath to believe his eyes.


Recovering himself quickly, Phelps stepped through the door and faced the scout. Rage was growing in Phelps’ face.

“What do you want here?”

“I want you, Phelps,” answered the scout.

A harsh laugh escaped the cattleman’s lips.

“You called on me once before,” said he, “and you got away that time. You’ll not be so lucky now, Buffalo Bill.”

“You mean that you will try to prevent me from going away when I get ready to leave?” asked the scout calmly.

“That’s what I mean.”

“Why will you do that?”

“Don’t you try to play lame-duck with me!” answered Phelps fiercely. “You can do it with Lige Benner, but I’m cut out of different cloth. You’ve been helping that young whelp over at the Star-A. What’s come of it? Jake lies in there”—he waved an angry hand at the house behind him—“unconscious and fighting for life. That’s what’s come of your work on the Brazos. But you’ve done more, Buffalo Bill!”

Phelps was rapidly lashing himself into uncontrollable fury.

“What more have I done?” returned the scout, still calmly.

“When Jake and that cur at the Star-A quarreled in Hackamore, you sent Jake out of town; then, by thunder, you sent Dunbar after him! You’re at the bottom of the whole villainous business! You set Dunbar on to steal the pay-roll money, and——”

“I wouldn’t go any further with that, if I were you,” cut in the scout significantly. “I reckon you understand that I’ve heard about enough in that strain.”


“You’ll hear all I’m going to tell!” stormed Phelps. “I’m on my own ground here, Cody! This isn’t the Star-A ranch. You haven’t got Benner and his outfit to stand between you and trouble. You were a fool to come here like this. But that’s your fault. Now that you’re here, you’ll take what I’m going to give you. I’ll square up for Jake!”

Jumping back, Phelps gave vent to a furious yell. At the same moment he jerked a revolver from his hip.

The cowboys, out behind the house, heard the yell, and came rushing around in front. One of them carried a rope.

But, if Phelps had been quick in executing his manœuvre, the scout had been even quicker. Seizing the angry man’s arm, the scout wrestled with him for possession of the revolver.

It was a critical moment for Buffalo Bill. He was fighting the cattleman on his own ground, and cowboys were rushing to the scene.

But the scout secured the revolver. That was the main thing. Throwing his left arm around Phelps’ throat, the scout backed against the log wall of the building, keeping the cattle baron in front of him by main strength. With his right hand he pushed out the revolver over Phelps’ squirming shoulder.

“Steady, you men!” called the scout, recognizing Prouther as one of the six cowboys. “I didn’t come here to make war, but to make peace. Leave us alone and all will be well. Try to stir up trouble, and a good many things will go wrong.”

“Take him, confound you!” roared Phelps, fighting for his freedom and half strangled by the arm around his throat.


The cowboys appeared undecided. At this moment two other actors appeared on the scene. They came from somewhere within the house and stepped hastily through the door.

One of them was Bloom, the sheriff. The other was the doctor.

“Ah!” came from Bloom. “So the chivalrous Mr. Cody has paid us a visit, has he? In his usual manner he has begun to make things lively. Go ’way, you men,” and Bloom turned and waved the cowboys off. “I reckon Phelps and I can look after this Cody person.”

The cowboys retreated to a distance. The scout released Phelps, but kept his revolver.

“Tut, tut!” cried the doctor. “This here ain’t accordin’ to Hoyle. We’re gents all, so why the nation should we act like a pack of rowdies? Hank Phelps, you ca’m down. I got the highest respect for Buffalo Bill, an’ I know he ain’t here for no wrong purpose. Bloom, don’t be unmannerly. Confound it, can’t you two give Buffalo Bill a chance to tell what he’s come here for?”

Here was an unexpected aide in the person of the doctor. The scout felt that he was indeed fortunate to find the doctor at the house.

“I’m not lookin’ at Buffalo Bill with the same eye as you, doc,” grunted Bloom. “Him an’ me don’t hitch.”

“That is regrettable,” said the doctor. “When people can’t hitch, Bloom, it’s best to let each other alone.”

“Why don’t Cody let me alone?” babbled Phelps. “What does he come crowhopping around here for?”

“That’s his nature,” sneered Bloom. “He makes it a point to blow in where he ain’t wanted.”

“If you’ll go in the house with me,” said the scout, “I’ll tell you what I want in a few minutes.”


“Invite him in, Hank,” suggested Bloom, “but walk behind him.”

“Oh, you fellers do make me all-fired tired,” grunted the doctor. “Come in, Buffalo Bill. I’m gladder’n blazes that I happen to be here.”

The doctor returned into the house. Buffalo Bill followed him, and the two others followed Buffalo Bill. Once inside, the scout was not asked to be seated.

“First, doctor,” said the scout, “I’d like to know how Jake Phelps is coming along?”

The doctor shook his head forebodingly.

“He got a rap on the head that was some fierce,” said he, “but it don’t seem to be a fracture. Yet, if it ain’t a fracture, why don’t he corral his wits, open his eyes and talk? He ain’t said a word since he was found in the trail. I’ve done my best to bring him around, because I know two words from Jake would do a hull lot o’ good. He could tell us, right off the bat, who it was knocked him out; then, without any guessin’, the law could get in its work. Personally, I don’t stand for any such foolishness as went on at the Star-A ranch last night. I’m a law and order man, I am, and such doin’s look too much like anarchy to suit me.”

“What are Jake’s chances, doctor?”

“Mebby slim, mebby good. I’m puzzled to beat four of a kind. A few hours more ought to tell the story, though, one way or the other.”

“He was hit with a club?”

“I wouldn’t say that.”

“Or the butt of a revolver?”

“I wouldn’t say that, either. He was hit, an’ laid out senseless; but what it was hit him is more’n I can savvy.”

“The blow was on the head, wasn’t it?”


“Toby sure. It wouldn’t have grabbed his wits if it hadn’t been on the head.”

“Do you think that Nate Dunbar could have ridden up behind Phelps and struck him a blow on the head with a quirt handle?”

“It wasn’t a quirt handle. I’m darned if I know what it was, as I was jest sayin’. And I’ve been tellin’ both Hank and Bloom that Nate Dunbar couldn’t have done it, that Nate would have used the business end of a shooter and not bothered with the thing—whatever it was—that collided with Jake’s head. But they’re set in their notions an’ won’t listen to reason.”

“Dunbar did it!” cried Phelps.

“He shore did!” agreed Bloom; “and Buffalo Bill sent Nate Dunbar after Jake so’t he could do it.”

“Bloom,” said the scout, “you’re a cur dog. As an officer of the law, you should be trying to bring evil-doers to justice and bring peace on the Brazos. But you’re doing neither. All your energy is expended in fomenting trouble and discord. But we’ll settle this matter once and for all. You’ll know, presently, just what happened to Jake. I invite you, and Phelps, and the doctor to ride with me.”

“It’s a trap!” yelped Bloom. “He’s layin’ for us, Phelps.”

“Hush your yaup!” cried the doctor, “or I’ll give you somethin’ that’ll make you feel real bad. Phelps is going with Buffalo Bill; so’m I; so’re you. Do you understand me? As a man with the free and unrestricted right of franchise, a man who voted for you for sheriff, you’re going, Bloom, or I’ll see to it that you’re everlastingly snowed under at the next election. Phelps is going because[288] I say so, and that’s why. Git your hosses. While you’re about it, git mine. Vamos!”

“You can boss Bloom,” answered Phelps, “but you can’t boss me. I’m staying here, with Jake.”

The doctor stepped to the door.

“Prouther!” he called.

“Hyer!” answered the voice of Prouther.

“Get up Phelps’ hoss, and Bloom’s, and mine. We’re goin’ to take a hossback ride through this beautiful morning quiet. Pronto, boy, pronto!”

“On the jump.”

The doctor turned back, pulled a cigar from his pocket, bit off the end and scratched a match.

“Sorry I ain’t got another,” said he.

“Look here, doc,” fussed Phelps, “you can’t handle me like this.”

“I can’t, hey?” returned the doctor, puffing at his weed. “I’m doing it, Hank, and you say I can’t. Poof! Why, if I wanted to, I could rope, down and tie you. Buffalo Bill says he’s going to settle this mystery about Jake.”

“It ain’t any mystery,” scowled Bloom. “He’s fixed up something to make it look as though Dunbar didn’t——”

There was a tramp of feet. The next moment, Buffalo Bill had Bloom against the wall and was twisting his fingers about his throat.

“Say you didn’t mean that,” said the scout.

The sheriff glared and stuttered.

“Out with it!” went on the scout.

“I—d-d-didn’t mean it——” gurgled Bloom.

“That will do.” Buffalo Bill threw the sheriff from[289] him. “There’s a yellow streak in Bloom, doctor,” he added, “that has to be handled just so.”

“I’ve noticed it before,” agreed the doctor. “Bloom means well—sometimes—but he’s got a poor way of showing it—at all times. However, he ain’t such a bad sheriff, where his personal likes and dislikes don’t get tangled up with his duty. Don’t get sore, Bloom,” he added, to the sheriff; “I felt like doing the same thing to you when your mouth went off like that. Watch yourself, man, or your tongue will do harm for you.”

Bloom was angry. It happened, however, that the doctor was a politician. Whatever the doctor said, in politics in that county, was usually what the voters abided by. Nothing was to be gained by rowing with the doctor.

“I want to do my duty,” declared Bloom, caressing his throat, “but I’ll be durn if I want to stand for Cody and all his high and mighty purceedin’s. When he blows in here and begins straightening things out on the Brazos, does he come to me and ask my help? Nary. For all he cared, the sheriff didn’t amount to a whoop. He just went it himself.”

“So there’s your grouch, is it?” grinned the doctor. “Jealous! Jealous old sore-head! Cody’s doing things and never asking you to chime in and help. Oh, gosh! Well, what’s the odds so long as a good live man brings order out of chaos? Makes the bird of peace wing brightly up and down the river without molting a feather? Puts all you cattlemen into harmony with each other? Besides, it appears to me as though he’s asking you to do something now, and you’re hanging out about it. You travel with Hank and me, Bloom, or I’ll get your scalp when you’re up for nomination next time. That’s about as flat as I can make it.”


At that moment, Prouther came up with the horses.

“All aboard!” called the doctor, picking up his hat from a chair. “Here’s where we ride with the king of scouts, and find out what he’s got to show us. I’ll bet a pill against a dose of salts it’s worth while. Come, gentlemen!”

“Will Jake be all right?” asked Phelps anxiously.

“We can’t help him any by staying,” answered the doctor. “Maybe if we clear out he’ll come around while we’re gone. I’ll have Prouther come in and sit with him.”

The doctor hurried into a rear room for a moment, and then reappeared.

“Same’s usual,” said he, wrinkling his forehead perplexedly. “Ain’t it fierce that I can’t do a thing? Well, anyhow, over the hills and far away with Scout Cody. Chirk up, gents! I feel as though something important was about to happen. Oh, my prophetic soul!”

The doctor was a queer one. The scout had never seen much of him before, but he was wonderfully taken with the old fellow. He was an able aide in this emergency, that was certain.

The three men went out and mounted. The doctor kept sharp eyes on Phelps. He seemed perfectly sure of Bloom and gave him scant attention.

“How long will we be gone, Buffalo Bill?” asked the doctor.

“Two or three hours,” answered the scout; “I can’t say exactly.”

“I can’t go away from here for two or three hours,” expostulated Phelps.

“Tut!” returned the doctor, “you can stay away six, if necessary, in order to get to the bottom of these mysteries. It’s time, well spent, Hank. Prouther,” he added[291] to the cowboy who held his horse while he mounted, “go in and sit with Jake till we come back. You won’t have to do anything but stay with him. He’s not very good company, Jake ain’t, but I’m hoping for the best. Go on, Prouther.”

Prouther looked toward Phelps to have the order confirmed. Phelps nodded, half sullenly. Meanwhile, the scout had been mounting Bear Paw.

“Which way, Buffalo Bill?” called the doctor.

“Up the hill,” answered the scout. “We’ll ride, first, for the forks of the trail, where it separates for the Circle-B and for Hackamore.”

Bloom and Phelps evidently did not care to ride beside the scout. They started on ahead, leaving the doctor to follow with Buffalo Bill.

“What do you expect to prove by this little junket, my friend?” asked the doctor, as they rode.

“I expect to prove whether or not Lige Benner had anything to do with the shooting of Ace Hawkins, for one thing,” was the reply.

“He didn’t—take it from me.”

“I don’t think he did, either, but Benner himself is anxious to have that point cleared up.”

“Jerry, Lige’s brother,” mused the doctor, “is Lige’s worst enemy. Lige has fired Jerry. Sent him to Houston, with a couple of thousand and his blessing. He went two days ago. Pity he ever came to the Circle-B at all. Lige Benner is a pretty good sort of a fellow, Cody, down at bottom.”

“I believe that, too, after the way he stood by us at the Star-A last night.”

“What else do you expect to prove by this trip of ours this morning?”


“Nate Dunbar’s innocence in the matter of Jake’s injury.”

“I had already gathered that. Anything more to be brought out?”

“Well, yes. For instance, we’re to get back the pay-roll money and Jake’s saddle.”

“Better and better. Go on. You delight me.”

“And then, doctor,” said the scout, “we will prove how Jake got his injury.”

“Whoop!” tuned up the doctor. “I can’t begin to tell you how glad I am that I’ve come. My friend, you’re a man after my own heart. You do things. While the trouble pot is boiling on the Brazos, you keep busy and find out the reason—then settle the reason. There is much cause for rejoicing m the fact that you paid the Brazos country a visit, just when you did. No man but you could have laid hold here and man handled this emergency in the correct way. I take off my hat to you.”

The scout laughed.

“You’ll have to take it off to some of my pards, this trip,” said he.

Bloom and Phelps, who had been galloping at a good pace along the trail, suddenly drew rein.

“I reckon this is as far as I’m going,” declared Phelps.

“Now, Hank!” protested the doctor indulgently, “what’s broke loose now?”

“Here’s the trap I told you about,” snapped Bloom. “Look ahead, there!”

The forks of the trail were in sight. A group of riders were in plain view.

“A trap, eh?” jeered the doctor. “Why, Hattie Dunbar is one of that outfit. Not afraid of Mrs. Dunbar, are you, Bloom? And there’s Lige Benner, too, on my soul!![293] Why, you’re old friends of Benner’s, both of you. If he can be riding in peace and amity with Mr. and Mrs. Dunbar and Perry, you fellows ought not to object. And is that Sim Pierce? It is. Sim’s everybody’s friend. Old Nomad is with the lot, and the little Piute Indian. What’s to be feared from that trap, Bloom?”

The sheriff swore under his breath. He had no logical answer ready.

“How much farther have we got to go from the forks?” demanded Phelps of the scout.

“About a mile.”

“Ride on, Hank,” urged the doctor. “The quicker we ride, the quicker we’ll be going back to the H-P ranch and Jake. Don’t waste time like this.”

Phelps rattled his spurs and made off. Bloom rushed on beside him.

“Waugh!” yelled the old trapper, waving his hat as those from the H-P ranch came up; “blamed ef ye didn’t do ther trick. Got Sawbones, too, an’ our friend, the sheriff. Whoop!”

There were no greetings exchanged between Phelps, Bloom and the other party. The doctor was gay and civil with all, and especially with Mrs. Dunbar.

“Now, then, amigos,” called the scout, “follow my lead. It won’t be long before you get developments.”

The scout set the pace, and behind him came the strangely assorted party. The course carried the riders along that part of the trail which the scout and the trapper had covered on the preceding day when riding to Hackamore. They galloped around the base of the hill, on for a hundred yards, then swerved to pass into a gully between two uplifts.

“I wonder whatever we’re comin’ in hyar fer?” muttered[294] Nomad. “Ef I had ther sense of er locoed steer, mebbyso I could figger out which way the wind lies. But I kain’t. I’ll hev ter wait till somebody drors a diagram, an’ explains in words o’ one syllable.”

A little way through the gully the party came upon a ruinous adobe shack. In front of the door stood Wild Bill Hickok.

“Hello!” called Hickok. “You’re bringing quite a party, Pard Cody. Come in.”

“Are we in time?” asked the scout.

“Just about,” was the answer.

“Dismount, friends,” said Buffalo Bill. “Little Cayuse will take care of the horses while we’re in the ’dobe.”



The surprises began for old Nomad with this unexpected meeting with Wild Bill.

“How’d ye know Hickok was hyar, Buffler?” the trapper asked, as the party moved in the direction of the adobe.

“Wild Bill came to the Star-A ranch last night,” answered the scout, “and I went away with him.”

“Waugh! So ye was with Wild Bill when ye was absent from the ranch, hey? Has he diskivered somethin’?”

“He has.”

“Whar’s ther baron?”

“We’ll see the baron later, Nick.”

The adobe shack had long been abandoned. It was scarcely more than a shelter at best.

Buffalo Bill and his party were ushered into the hovel by Wild Bill. On a blanket, at one side of the only room the hut contained, lay a man groaning with pain and with a bandage about his forehead.

“Red Steve!” gasped Lige Benner, pushing eagerly forward.

“I don’t care who the nation he is,” growled the doctor, “he’s a man that needs attention.”

“He’s already had attention, doc,” said Wild Bill.

“Not professional,” and the doctor’s critical eye surveyed the rough bandage. “Why wasn’t a doctor called[296] before?” he demanded, fixing an accusing eye on Wild Bill.

“Because Red Steve wouldn’t have it. He swore he’d kill himself if I went for a doctor. You see, Steve has something on his mind. He was afraid he’d be landed for the shooting of Ace Hawkins. I didn’t dare tell him he was to have visitors this morning—but he’s got to a point where he don’t much care what happens to him. He’s got his ticket, friends.”

The doctor went down on his knees and began an examination.

“How did he get his ticket?” he demanded.

“The horns of Red Thunderbolt did the business for Steve. When I found him he was about gone. I did what I could to keep him alive, and, when I got the chance, I rode to the Star-A ranch. There were a lot of men hanging around the ranch, and I hadn’t a notion what was tip, so I sneaked in and sent Cayuse for Pard Cody.”

“Sufferin’ twisters!” exclaimed old Nomad. “Say, Buffler, was Red Steve the feller we heard yell, back thar in the trail yisterday? Is he the feller thet fired the shot, then dug out while we was mixin’ things with Red Thunderbolt?”

“He’s the man, Nick,” answered the scout. “Red Steve was badly hurt, but he managed to get into this gully and into this ruined ’dobe. If we’d known who he was,” the scout added, “we might have found him long ago.”

“Blame’ quare how things turns out some times,” muttered Nomad.

Red Steve’s eyes were closed, and he seemed scarcely to breathe. Only a groan, now and then coming through his tense lips, gave evidence that he was still alive.

The doctor looked up and shook his head.


“Red Steve is a whole lot nearer the Great Divide than what Jake is,” announced the doctor.

“He’s got to talk before he goes,” cried Benner; “he’s got to stay here long enough to do me justice.”

“He must say something for Nate, too,” put in Mrs. Dunbar. “He must tell about the attack on Jake Phelps and clear Nate. Doctor! Do what you can! He must talk!”

In their excitement and apprehension, those interested in what Red Steve had to say showed themselves in rather a merciless light. The doctor raised his hand.

“I haven’t my medicine case with me,” said he, “but if we had a little liquor——”

He turned and peered at Bloom. The latter, somewhat reluctantly, drew a flask from his pocket. The doctor, lifting Red Steve’s head with one arm, pressed the flask to his lips. A swallow of the fiery liquor gurgled down the desperado’s throat.

“Get him to talk about Nate first,” said Perry.

“It isn’t necessary for him to say anything about Nate, Perry,” returned the scout. “We’ll prove Nate’s innocence in another way. Anyhow, from the very facts of the case, it’s certain Red Steve had nothing to do with what happened to Jake Phelps. Red Steve was wounded by Red Thunderbolt several hours before that attack was made on Jake. That eliminates Red Steve.”

A broken cry escaped Mrs. Dunbar.

“Cheer up, Mrs. Dunbar!” said the scout reassuringly. “Nate will be freed of all suspicion absolutely. Just be patient.”

“I said all along,” scowled Phelps, “that Red Steve wasn’t the one who made that attack on Jake.”

“So did I,” seconded the sheriff.


“But you said it was Nate, you fellows,” put in the scout, “and that’s where you were wrong.”

“I’ll believe it when you prove it,” said Phelps, with a glaring look at Dunbar.

“Hist!” breathed the doctor.

All eyes turned to Red Steve. He was staring upward into the doctor’s face. It was plain to every one that he had not many minutes to live—perhaps not many seconds.

“Steve!” called Lige Benner, bending down. “Don’t you know me?”

“Share I know ye,” was the gruff response—as gruff, at least, as a feeble voice could make it.

“Tell these people,” went on Benner, “who it was shot Ace Hawkins!”

“It won’t do me any hurt ter tell that, I reckon,” answered Red Steve stumblingly. “Ye got it out o’ me at the ranch, Benner, an’ ye turned me adrift. It was yer fiend of a brother that put me up ter it. Jerry Benner said fer me ter do it. He didn’t think Hawkins was actin’ right, Jerry didn’t. He thought Hawkins was playin’ double with him an’ Lige. Lige said he wouldn’t stand fer no shootin’, but Jerry says fer me ter go ahead an’ never mind Lige. So I did, an’ it was me bored Hawkins.”

“And I didn’t have a thing to do with it?” demanded Benner.

“Nary a thing. Ye didn’t know it was done till ye found it out from Jerry. Then ye fired me. I expected ye would send me ter Hackamore, an’ hey me put in the lockup, an’ tried, so I hoofed it away from ther Circle-B. Then—then I met that ther horned killer in the road. I was on foot an’ couldn’t git away. He come at me—an’[299] right thar’s whar I got my gruel. I heered some’un in the trail behind me, an’ I was afeared it mout be some’un chasin’ arter me, so I crawled inter the gully, an’ ter this place.”

Red Steve sank back weakly. Once more Bloom’s flask was used, and he revived a little.

“Wild Bill Hickok,” went on Red Steve painfully, “has done a heap fer me sence he located me hyer last night. He ain’t got no cause ter think much o’ me, but he done all a feller could ter bring me back ter y’arth.”

“I wanted to save you for the law, Steve,” said Wild Bill.

“I know what ye wanted, but—I—fooled—” He paused and pulled himself together with a fierce effort. “I fooled the law,” he finished. “Allers—allers knowed I—I would.”

Then, again, he dropped back. The doctor’s fingers touched his pulse.

“Red Steve has taken the One-way Trail, friends,” said the doctor gravely. “I hold that there’s something good in the worst of us—even in Red Steve. Let us hope that there was enough good in him to help the poor fellow where he’s going now.”

The doctor turned and went out of the hut. Wild Bill gently pulled a fold of the blanket over the face on the floor.

“I’ll send some of my boys from the Star-A to put him away,” said Lige Benner.

“We’re not ready to go to the Star-A ranch yet, Benner,” remarked the scout.

“How much longer will we be?”

“Not much.”

“Red Thunderbolt scores another victim,” said Perry.


“I wonder when that maverick will finally be put out of commission?”

“Perhaps that question can be answered if you come with me, Perry,” suggested the scout. “You’ll go along, Hickok, and show us the place,” he added. “I was there last night, but it might take a little time for me to find it to-day.”

“There’s nothing more to keep me here,” said Wild Bill.

Thoughtfully, the party left the hut. Hank Phelps seemed in more tractable mood. The tragic end of Red Steve’s life story had wrought a deep impression.

“How’re you goin’ to prove Nate Dunbar didn’t get the best of Jake?” asked Bloom of the scout.

“By a very simple method,” was the answer, “but it will be as conclusive as it is simple.”

“Have your pards nabbed the feller that done it?”

“They have.”

“I reckon you’ve got hold o’ some’un who’s willing to shoulder the blame jest to clear Nate Dunbar of——”

The scout whirled in his tracks and gave Bloom a square look. Bloom’s words died on his lips immediately.

“That’s right,” said the scout, “step carefully, Bloom. We’ve had one row over your recklessness in using language. Our next row will be more serious. Mount, friends,” he went on to the rest. “I’ll not be detaining you much longer.”

They all took to their saddles again. This time Wild Bill took the lead. The course they traversed was back into the trail, then off toward the timbered bottoms of the Brazos.

“We’ve had er s’prise er two,” observed the old trapper[301] to the doctor, “an’ now thar’s more comin’. Got any idee what we’ll find next, doc?”

“Not the slightest, my friend,” was the reply, “but if the two Bills are back of it we can rest assured that it will be worth while, amply worth while.”

The first sign that the party had of their proximity to their destination was given by a voice very familiar to the pards.

“Dis vay, people! Here iss vere you vant to go! I peen here waiting so long as I can’t tell. Dis vay, bards!”

The baron showed himself in front of a copse of bushes. He was on foot, and seemed to have been on guard. But what was he guarding?

“Howdy, baron!” said old Nomad. “You an’ Wild Bill appear ter hev been doin’ a few things.”

“You bed my life!” jubilated the baron, “aber ve ditn’t know how mooch ve hat tone ondil Puffalo Pill came oudt dis vay lashdt night und toldt us. Ach, Mrs. Tunpar, I vas so habby dot I vas aple to helup!”

The baron made his nicest bow to Mrs. Dunbar—he had always an eye for the fair—and the lady favored him with a smile in return.

“What have you done, baron?” she asked.

“Puffalo Pill vill show you dot. He knows aboudt it.”

Again the riders dismounted, and left their animals with Cayuse; then they followed Wild Bill, Buffalo Bill, and the baron behind the screen of bushes to a slope leading down to the water’s edge.

The slope itself was clear of bushes and trees, but at the top of it were two large sycamores, growing quite close together. Tightly wedged between the trees was a broken and twisted object which had once been[302] saddle. To the saddle a pair of saddlebags were attached. The bags were buckled tightly, and seemed not to have suffered very materially.

But it was not the saddle nor the bags that aroused wonder in the minds of the spectators over the mysterious ways of fate. A stout rope was attached to the saddle, while a second rope was writhed around one of the sycamores, one coil wedged over the loose end in such a manner as to make the rope fast. Both ropes—the one from the tree and the one from the saddle—passed between the two trees and down the slope. They ended at the carcass of a steer. At the end of each rope was a tightly drawn noose—a noose that encircled the steer’s head at the root of the wide-branching horns.

The steer’s head was drawn grewsomely backward, so that both ropes were taut as fiddle strings between the trees and the horns.

It was a most amazing situation—one to be understood only by a sorting of the details.

“Great guns!” exclaimed Lige Benner. “Why, that’s Red Thunderbolt.”

“The same,” said Wild Bill. “Red Thunderbolt, the man-killing maverick. He has Dusenberry’s life and Red Steve’s charged up against him.”

“Who killed Red Thunderbolt?” queried Perry. “Was it you, Wild Bill, or the baron?”

“Neither of us,” answered Hickok. “Red Thunderbolt wasn’t made to bite the dust by means of a bullet. Can’t you see what happened? He rushed through between those trees, trailing two ropes, one with a saddle attached; the saddle wedged against the tree trunks, and the other rope twisted around one of the sycamores. Red Thunderbolt charged down the slope. He was[303] brought up short and thrown, with the result that he broke his neck.”

Exclamations of wonder came from those who had just reached the scene. Even Bloom had something to say about the queerness of it all.

“It don’t seem possible, not at all possible,” said the doctor, “and yet, friends, we have the proof plainly before our eyes. Truth, they say, is stranger than fiction. I’m beginning to believe it.”

“There’s also a saying, doctor,” said the scout, “that truth, crushed to earth, will rise again. By this accident to Red Thunderbolt, several things are proved. That loose rope—the one whose end is wrapped around the sycamore—belongs to me. I dropped it over Red Thunderbolt’s horns yesterday on the trail. When the steer got to the end of the rope, he jerked it away from my saddle and went on.”

“But where did the other rope come from?” asked Perry.

“Phelps,” said the scout, turning on the cattleman, “I wish you’d examine that smashed saddle wedged between the trees.”

“No need for me to examine it,” answered Phelps. “I’ve already recognized it, Buffalo Bill—not only the saddle, but the saddlebags, as well. They’re Jake’s.”

“The saddle and saddlebags he took with him when he went to Hackamore after the pay-roll money?”


“You’re positive of that, are you?”

“Of course I am. There can’t be any mistake.”

“Very good. Now, let me sketch for you, very briefly, what happened to Jake Phelps. On his way home from town he encountered Red Thunderbolt. The maverick[304] was still trailing the rope he had stolen from me. Very likely the steer charged Jake. Red Thunderbolt must have been in a killing mood after his experience with Red Steve, Nomad, and me yesterday. Jake didn’t get out of the way—perhaps he couldn’t. He had only a revolver.

“Of course, a revolver is not very good artillery for attacking a veteran maverick like Red Thunderbolt. Jake, very foolishly, instead of taking to his heels and trying to make his escape, used his rope. He made a good cast, for, as you see, his noose dropped right over mine. Then, when Red Thunderbolt got to the end of the rope, the saddle cinches broke, and the saddle and saddlebags were stripped away. Jake was unhorsed, and quite likely got a bad tumble. The steer charged him, and one of the steer’s horns inflicted that peculiar bruise on Jake’s head—the injury which suggested that a club or some other blunt instrument had been used.”

The doctor threw up his hands.

“Holy mackerel!” he cried; “no wonder I couldn’t figure out what it was that had played hob with Jake. This is certainly the queerest thing that ever happened on the banks of the Brazos. Every detail of it is queer, and the farther you look into it the queerer it becomes. Buffalo Bill,” and here he faced the scout, “you and your pards have given this cattle country something to talk about for many a month to come.”

“Do you grasp the logic of these events, Phelps?” queried the scout, giving his attention to the H-P rancher. “Are you willing to admit that circumstances, as we find them here, prove Nate Dunbar’s innocence?”

“I don’t know what to think,” mumbled Phelps.

“He don’t know what to think!” mimicked the doctor.[305] “Say, Hank, if you’ve got brains why don’t you use ’em? Here’s a chance for you to recede gracefully from the fool position you’ve occupied ever since Jake was hurt. What are you going to do about it?”

“I’m going to take the facts as I find them,” replied Phelps. “But, first, I’m going to see what’s in those saddlebags.”

“That’s right,” approved Buffalo Bill. “I was careful to instruct the baron and Wild Bill not to let a thing be touched. Everything here is just as they found it. Go ahead and look through the saddlebags.”

Phelps went to the broken and twisted saddle, and cut the saddlebags away. Then he unbuckled the stout straps, and drew forth a canvas bag full of jingling yellow wealth. Untying the bag, he looked into it.

“The gold is here,” said he. “It’s not necessary to count it. I’m willing to concede that the bag is just as it was when Jake tucked it away in the bags.”

“Then you’re satisfied?” asked the scout.

“I am—entirely so.”

“Now say you’ve made a fool of yourself,” counseled the doctor, “and also thank Buffalo Bill and Benner for keeping your men from bringing shame and disgrace on the cattle country last night.”

“I was a little hasty,” acknowledged Phelps, “and I’m sorry I took the attitude I did; still, I don’t see how I could have thought any differently, considering the circumstances.”

“What about you, Bloom?” asked the scout. “Haven’t you got anything to say about this?”

“Not a thing,” answered the sheriff sourly.

“Oh, that’s Bloom for you!” cried the doctor sarcastically.[306] “His yellow streak is cropping out again. What’s wrong with this evidence, Bloom?”

“It could have been manufactured,” growled Bloom, with an uneasy look in the scout’s direction.

“Sure it could!” taunted the doctor. “Wild Bill and the baron could have caught Red Thunderbolt, broken the steer’s neck, and then fixed all this up. But where did they get the saddle and the saddlebags? I reckon they’re the ones who stole them from Jake, aren’t they? Say, Bloom, you’re the limit. If I didn’t think such a terrible lot of your family, I’d come over there and kick you down the slope and into the river. He’s got a fine family,” the doctor explained to those around him. “I brought his boy through the measles last year. Fine boy, too. Nothing like the sheriff.”

“I believe what my judgment tells me to believe,” cried Bloom on the defensive.

“Your judgment is a fearful and a wonderful thing, Bloom. I’m glad not many people are equipped with the same sort. I guess, friends,” he went on, “that there’s nothing more to be gained here. Nate Dunbar has been proved innocent of the trouble that happened to Jake Phelps; Lige Benner has been cleared of every suspicion of complicity in what happened to Ace Hawkins; and Buffalo Bill and pards have brought peace and good will to the Brazos range. I reckon that’s enough. Suppose we ride? I want to get back to the H-P outfit and see how Jake’s getting along.”

The scout left Nomad and Cayuse with Wild Bill and the baron. They were to get the scout’s rope and Red Thunderbolt’s hide. There was a reward of one thousand dollars out for the maverick, and the baron was laying his plans to file a request for the money.



On the way back to the Star-A ranch, close to which those from Phelps’ place would have to ride, a scurry of dust in the road claimed the attention of the riders.

“Mebbyso,” remarked old Nomad, “trouble’s goin’ te bust through thet cloud o’ dust. Pard Buffler an’ compadres don’t no more’n git time ter breathe arter one shake-up than another hits ’em. Who’s thet shackin’ this-a-way?”

When the form of the galloping horseman emerged from the cloud, the man was recognized as Prouther.

“Something’s happened to Jake!” exclaimed Phelps, fearing the worst.

“Don’t lose your nerve, Hank, till you hear what’s happened to him,” cautioned the doctor. “I’m wondering how Prouther was able to guess where we were.”

When he came close, Prouther jerked his horse back on its haunches.

“Waal, here ye aire!” he exclaimed. “Didn’t reckon I could spot ye, but I had a notion ye rode over ter the Star-A ranch, seein’ as how Buffler Bill was with ye. So I shot along in this direction. Ye wasn’t at the Star-A, but them Circle-B men reckoned ye was some place over hyer. So hyer I come, an’ hyer ye aire. I reckon thar’s been a mistake, Hank.”

“I reckon there has,” said the doctor dryly, “several mistakes. Why did you leave Jake? Didn’t I tell you to stay with him?”


“Waal, doc,” said Prouther, “he come to.”

“Whoop!” jubilated the doctor. “He came to, eh? Then he’ll pull through. That was all I was waiting for. Was he rational?”

“Meanin’ which?” asked Prouther innocently.

“Dunderhead! Was he in his right senses when he woke up?”

“He was. It’s what he said as brung me hyer at sich a clip.”

“What did he say?”

“He allowed it was Red Thunderbolt as made him all the trouble.”

“Ha! Better late than never. This is right from headquarters. Bloom! Do you hear that, Bloom?”

Bloom heard it, but he made no comments.

“What else did Jake say?” asked Phelps eagerly.

“Said he was ridin’ fer home when Red Thunderbolt charged him,” went on Prouther; “he said Nate Dunbar didn’t have nothin’ ter do with it. Jake said he tried ter rope Thunderbolt, an’ the steer galloped on with his saddle an’ saddlebags, leaving Jake on the ground. Jake was some shook up, and he was climbin’ to his feet an’ rubbin’ his eyes when he see Thunderbolt comin’ at him full tilt. Thunderbolt landed. The sunshine was blotted out fer Jake, an’ thet’s all he kin recollect until he woke up, with me settin’ by him fannin’ him. I was afeared,” Prouther added, “that Bloom might be doin’ somethin’ with Dunbar. That’s why I pulled out ter find you all.”

“I reckon this case is double proof!” laughed the doctor. “Say, Prouther, you were one of the crazy men who came to the Star-A last night to ‘get’ Nate Dunbar. Now how do you feel?”


“Meachin’,” answered Prouther promptly, “meachin’ as sin. I’m a heap sorry for it all, Dunbar,” he added sheepishly.

“All’s well that ends well,” said the doctor. “Maybe, if you cowpunchers are good from now on, Dunbar will overlook that little play.”

“You’re sure Jake will live now, are you, doc?” asked Phelps.

“Want me to sing it?” grunted the doctor. “Of course I’m sure. He’ll be as well as ever in a week. The first thing, after he’s up, you’ve got to make him do something.”

“What’s that?”

“Why, steer him over to the Star-A, and make him shake hands with Dunbar.”

“I’ll do it, doc, and I’ll begin by shaking hands with Dunbar myself.”

They had reached the point where the north and south trail branched, the branch leading to the Star-A ranch.

Phelps rode up to Dunbar, and offered his hand. Dunbar lost no time in taking it. The hand grip went around, Perry, Mrs. Dunbar, Buffalo Bill, and Benner all coming in for their share of the reconciliation.

“Peace on the Brazos from now henceforward, eh, Phelps?” asked Benner.

“Yes,” replied Phelps. “I’ve had enough of the squabbling.”

“Same here. Red Thunderbolt’s out of the running, too. I’ll hand five hundred over to Wild Bill and the baron, if you will?”

“I’ll send the money this afternoon.”

“Bully! I’ll do the same. Thunderbolt wasn’t shot, but it was the scout’s rope and Jake’s saddle that landed[310] him. The scout’s rope is good for my five hundred to the baron.”

“And the truth of this business, first brought out by the help of that trailing saddle of Jake’s,” said Phelps, “is worth five hundred to me.”

“Then, truly,” chuckled the doctor, “all’s well that ends well. When you’re in Hackamore next, Cody, come and see me. I’d like to talk with you.”

“You’ll see me, doctor,” answered the scout.

“And I want you to pay me another visit at the H-P ranch,” said Phelps. “I can promise you a different welcome next time you come, Buffalo Bill.”

“I doubt whether I shall have time.”

“If he has any time,” put in Benner, “he’ll spend it at the Circle-B.”

“Not at all,” cried Dunbar, “he’ll spend all his time at the Star-A.”

“We’ll see about it later,” said the scout, and the party separated.

Phelps, Prouther, the doctor, and Bloom rode off toward the H-P ranch, while the scout and the others turned their horses into the branch trail.

In front of the Star-A ranch, that night, the scout and his pards sat long with the Star-A ranchers. It was to be their last chat together, for in the early morning Buffalo Bill and compadres were to fare toward Hackamore, turning their backs permanently on the Brazos country.

“It has peen a mighdy valuple nighdt’s vork for Hickok und me,” piped the baron, shaking a bag of gold. “I ditn’t t’ink, ven Vild Pill und me vas following dose[311] dracks oof der feller on foot, dot ve should make fife hundert each oudt oof der pitzness. Sooch,” added the baron with great complaisance, “is vat dey call luck.”

“It was a hard job we had, pards, all the same,” said Wild Bill. “We found the steer first—tumbled over those two ropes by pure accident. After we found the steer, we went hunting for the man who owned the saddle.”

“Und mitoudt looking indo der sattlepags,” cut in the baron.

“It was an easy trail to follow—that one left by Red Thunderbolt. The trailing saddle had gouged its way over the earth, and any one could have taken that back track. But we lost the gouge marks in the trail by that gully. I was trying to pick them up when I found the ’dobe and Red Steve inside. That was enough for me. I left the baron with Red Steve while I went to the Star-A to tell Buffalo Bill, and when Pard Cody came back with me we arranged that little surprise party. It was a question whether Red Steve could last until the scout got back with his party, but fortune favored us.”

“I vas sent py der sgout to see dot nopody tampered mit der lay-oudt vere Red T’underboldt was,” added the baron. “Und dere ve vas ven ve vas foundt.”

“It all worked out very nicely for Nate,” said Mrs. Dunbar.

“With the scout and his pards to help in the working out, Hattie,” dropped in Perry.

“We’ll none of us ever forget Buffalo Bill and his pards,” declared Nate Dunbar, with much feeling.

“And I’ve erbout made up my mind ter one thing,” said old Nomad.

“What’s that?” asked Wild Bill.


“Why,” chuckled the trapper, “I b’leeve thar’s more excitement ter be had by a feller who’s huntin’ fer peace than by a feller who’s huntin’ fer trouble. Hey, Buffler?”

“In some places, perhaps,” answered the scout, “and in some circumstances. But not as a general thing, Nick.”


No. 103 of the Buffalo Bill Border Stories, entitled, “Buffalo Bill’s Big Surprise,” is a thrilling story of Indian warfare, haunted ranches, and exciting adventure. Every boy that loves the great scout will want to read this book.



Price, Fifteen Cents

Red-blooded Adventure Stories for Men

There is no more romantic character in American history than William F. Cody, or as he was internationally known, Buffalo Bill. He, with Colonel Prentiss Ingraham, Wild Bill Hickock, General Custer, and a few other adventurous spirits, laid the foundation of our great West.

There is no more brilliant page in American history than the winning of the West. Never did pioneers live more thrilling lives, so rife with adventure and brave deeds as the old scouts and plainsmen. Foremost among these stands the imposing figure of Buffalo Bill.

All of the books in this list are intensely interesting. They were written by the close friend and companion of Buffalo Bill—Colonel Prentiss Ingraham. They depict actual adventures which this pair of hard-hitting comrades experienced, while the story of these adventures is interwoven with fiction; historically the books are correct.


1 Buffalo Bill, the Border King By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
2 Buffalo Bill’s Raid By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
3 Buffalo Bill’s Bravery By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
4 Buffalo Bill’s Trump Card By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
5 Buffalo Bill’s Pledge By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
6 Buffalo Bill’s Vengeance By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
7 Buffalo Bill’s Iron Grip By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
8 Buffalo Bill’s Capture By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
9 Buffalo Bill’s Danger Line By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
10 Buffalo Bill’s Comrades By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
11 Buffalo Bill’s Reckoning By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
12 Buffalo Bill’s Warning By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
13 Buffalo Bill at Bay By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
14 Buffalo Bill’s Buckskin Pards By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
15 Buffalo Bill’s Brand By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
16 Buffalo Bill’s Honor By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
17 Buffalo Bill’s Phantom Hunt By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
18 Buffalo Bill’s Fight With Fire By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
19 Buffalo Bill’s Danite Trail By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
20 Buffalo Bill’s Ranch Riders By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
21 Buffalo Bill’s Death Trail By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
22 Buffalo Bill’s Trackers By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
23 Buffalo Bill’s Mid-air Flight By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
24 Buffalo Bill, Ambassador By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
25 Buffalo Bill’s Air Voyage By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
26 Buffalo Bill’s Secret Mission By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
27 Buffalo Bill’s Long Trail By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
28 Buffalo Bill Against Odds By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
29 Buffalo Bill’s Hot Chase By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
30 Buffalo Bill’s Redskin Ally By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
31 Buffalo Bill’s Treasure Trove By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
32 Buffalo Bill’s Hidden Foes By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
33 Buffalo Bill’s Crack Shot By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
34 Buffalo Bill’s Close Call By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
35 Buffalo Bill’s Double Surprise By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
36 Buffalo Bill’s Ambush By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
37 Buffalo Bill’s Outlaw Hunt By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
38 Buffalo Bill’s Border Duel By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
39 Buffalo Bill’s Bid for Fame By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
40 Buffalo Bill’s Triumph By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
41 Buffalo Bill’s Spy Trailer By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
42 Buffalo Bill’s Death Call By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
43 Buffalo Bill’s Body Guard By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
44 Buffalo Bill’s Still Hunt By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
45 Buffalo Bill and the Doomed Dozen By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
46 Buffalo Bill’s Prairie Scout By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
47 Buffalo Bill’s Traitor Guide By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
48 Buffalo Bill’s Bonanza By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
49 Buffalo Bill’s Swoop By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
50 Buffalo Bill and the Gold King By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
51 Buffalo Bill, Deadshot By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
52 Buffalo Bill’s Buckskin Bravos By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
53 Buffalo Bill’s Big Four By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
54 Buffalo Bill’s One-armed Pard By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
55 Buffalo Bill’s Race for Life By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
56 Buffalo Bill’s Return By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
57 Buffalo Bill’s Conquest By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
58 Buffalo Bill to the Rescue By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
59 Buffalo Bill’s Beautiful Foe By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
60 Buffalo Bill’s Perilous Task By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
61 Buffalo Bill’s Queer Find By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
62 Buffalo Bill’s Blind Lead By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
63 Buffalo Bill’s Resolution By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
64 Buffalo Bill, the Avenger By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
65 Buffalo Bill’s Pledged Pard By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
66 Buffalo Bill’s Weird Warning By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
67 Buffalo Bill’s Wild Ride By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
68 Buffalo Bill’s Redskin Stampede By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
69 Buffalo Bill’s Mine Mystery By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
70 Buffalo Bill’s Gold Hunt By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
71 Buffalo Bill’s Daring Dash By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
72 Buffalo Bill on Hand By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
73 Buffalo Bill’s Alliance By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
74 Buffalo Bill’s Relentless Foe By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
75 Buffalo Bill’s Midnight Ride By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
76 Buffalo Bill’s Chivalry By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
77 Buffalo Bill’s Girl Pard By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
78 Buffalo Bill’s Private War By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
79 Buffalo Bill’s Diamond Mine By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
80 Buffalo Bill’s Big Contract By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
81 Buffalo Bill’s Woman Foe By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
82 Buffalo Bill’s Ruse By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
83 Buffalo Bill’s Pursuit By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
84 Buffalo Bill’s Hidden Gold By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
85 Buffalo Bill in Mid-air By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
86 Buffalo Bill’s Queer Mission By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
87 Buffalo Bill’s Verdict By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
88 Buffalo Bill’s Ordeal By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
89 Buffalo Bill’s Camp Fires By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
90 Buffalo Bill’s Iron Nerve By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
91 Buffalo Bill’s Rival By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
92 Buffalo Bill’s Lone Hand By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
93 Buffalo Bill’s Sacrifice By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
94 Buffalo Bill’s Thunderbolt By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
95 Buffalo Bill’s Black Fortune By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
96 Buffalo Bill’s Wild Work By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
97 Buffalo Bill’s Yellow Trail By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
98 Buffalo Bill’s Treasure Train By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
99 Buffalo Bill’s Bowie Duel By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
100 Buffalo Bill’s Mystery Man By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
101 Buffalo Bill’s Bold Play By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
102 Buffalo Bill: Peacemaker By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
103 Buffalo Bill’s Big Surprise By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
104 Buffalo Bill’s Barricade By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
105 Buffalo Bill’s Test By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
106 Buffalo Bill’s Powwow By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
107 Buffalo Bill’s Stern Justice By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
108 Buffalo Bill’s Mysterious Friend By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
109 Buffalo Bill and the Boomers By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
110 Buffalo Bill’s Panther Fight By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
111 Buffalo Bill and the Overland Mail By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
112 Buffalo Bill on the Deadwood Trail By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
113 Buffalo Bill in Apache Land By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
114 Buffalo Bill’s Blindfold Duel By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
115 Buffalo Bill and the Lone Camper By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
116 Buffalo Bill’s Merry War By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
117 Buffalo Bill’s Star Play By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
118 Buffalo Bill’s War Cry By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
119 Buffalo Bill on Black Panther’s Trail By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
120 Buffalo Bill’s Slim Chance By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
121 Buffalo Bill Besieged By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
122 Buffalo Bill’s Bandit Round-up By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
123 Buffalo Bill’s Surprise Party By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
124 Buffalo Bill’s Lightning Raid By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
125 Buffalo Bill in Mexico By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
126 Buffalo Bill’s Traitor Foe By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
127 Buffalo Bill’s Tireless Chase By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
128 Buffalo Bill’s Boy Bugler By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
129 Buffalo Bill’s Sure Guess By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
130 Buffalo Bill’s Record Jump By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
131 Buffalo Bill in the Land of Dread By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
132 Buffalo Bill’s Tangled Clue By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
133 Buffalo Bill’s Wolf Skin By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
134 Buffalo Bill’s Twice Four Puzzle By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
135 Buffalo Bill and the Devil Bird By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
136 Buffalo Bill and the Indian’s Mascot By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
137 Buffalo Bill Entrapped By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
138 Buffalo Bill’s Totem Trail By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
139 Buffalo Bill at Fort Challis By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
140 Buffalo Bill’s Determination By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
141 Buffalo Bill’s Battle Axe By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
142 Buffalo Bill’s Game with Fate By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
143 Buffalo Bill’s Comanche Raid By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
144 Buffalo Bill’s Aerial Island By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
145 Buffalo Bill’s Lucky Shot By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
146 Buffalo Bill’s Sioux Friends By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
147 Buffalo Bill’s Supreme Test By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
148 Buffalo Bill’s Boldest Strike By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
149 Buffalo Bill and the Red Hand By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
150 Buffalo Bill’s Dance with Death By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
151 Buffalo Bill’s Running Fight By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
152 Buffalo Bill in Harness By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
153 Buffalo Bill Corralled By Col. Prentiss Ingraham
154 Buffalo Bill’s Waif of the West By Col. Prentiss Ingraham



Clean Adventure Stories for Boys

Price, Fifteen Cents

The Most Complete List Published

The following list does not contain all the books that Horatio Alger wrote, but it contains most of them, and certainly the best.

Horatio Alger is to boys what Charles Dickens is to grown-ups. His work is just as popular to-day as it was years ago. The books have a quality, the value of which is beyond computation.

There are legions of boys of foreign parents who are being helped along the road to true Americanism by reading these books which are so peculiarly American in tone that the reader cannot fail to absorb some of the spirit of fair play and clean living which is so characteristically American.

In this list are included certain books by Edward Stratemeyer upon whose shoulders the cloak of Horatio Alger has fallen. They are books of the Alger type, and to a very large extent vie with Mr. Alger’s books in interest and wholesomeness.


1 Driven from Home By Horatio Alger, Jr.
2 A Cousin’s Conspiracy By Horatio Alger, Jr.
3 Ned Newton By Horatio Alger, Jr.
4 Andy Gordon By Horatio Alger, Jr.
5 Tony, the Tramp By Horatio Alger, Jr.
6 The Five Hundred Dollar Check By Horatio Alger, Jr.
7 Helping Himself By Horatio Alger, Jr.
8 Making His Way By Horatio Alger, Jr.
9 Try and Trust By Horatio Alger, Jr.
10 Only an Irish Boy By Horatio Alger, Jr.
11 Jed, the Poorhouse Boy By Horatio Alger, Jr.
12 Chester Rand By Horatio Alger, Jr.
13 Grit, the Young Boatman of Pine Point By Horatio Alger, Jr.
14 Joe’s Luck By Horatio Alger, Jr.
15 From Farm Boy to Senator By Horatio Alger, Jr.
16 The Young Outlaw By Horatio Alger, Jr.
17 Jack’s Ward By Horatio Alger, Jr.
18 Dean Dunham By Horatio Alger, Jr.
19 In a New World By Horatio Alger, Jr.
20 Both Sides of the Continent By Horatio Alger, Jr.
21 The Store Boy By Horatio Alger, Jr.
22 Brave and Bold By Horatio Alger, Jr.
23 A New York Boy By Horatio Alger, Jr.
24 Bob Burton By Horatio Alger, Jr.
25 The Young Adventurer By Horatio Alger, Jr.
26 Julius, the Street Boy By Horatio Alger, Jr.
27 Adrift in New York By Horatio Alger, Jr.
28 Tom Brace By Horatio Alger, Jr.
29 Struggling Upward By Horatio Alger, Jr.
30 The Adventures of a New York Telegraph Boy By Horatio Alger, Jr.
31 Tom Tracy By Horatio Alger, Jr.
32 The Young Acrobat By Horatio Alger, Jr.
33 Bound to Rise By Horatio Alger, Jr.
34 Hector’s Inheritance By Horatio Alger, Jr.
35 Do and Dare By Horatio Alger, Jr.
36 The Tin Box By Horatio Alger, Jr.
37 Tom, the Bootblack By Horatio Alger, Jr.
38 Risen from the Ranks By Horatio Alger, Jr.
39 Shifting for Himself By Horatio Alger, Jr.
40 Wait and Hope By Horatio Alger, Jr.
41 Sam’s Chance By Horatio Alger, Jr.
42 Striving for Fortune By Horatio Alger, Jr.
43 Phil, the Fiddler By Horatio Alger, Jr.
44 Slow and Sure By Horatio Alger, Jr.
45 Walter Sherwood’s Probation By Horatio Alger, Jr.
46 The Trials and Triumphs of Mark Mason By Horatio Alger, Jr.
47 The Young Salesman By Horatio Alger, Jr.
48 Andy Grant’s Pluck By Horatio Alger, Jr.
49 Facing the World By Horatio Alger, Jr.
50 Luke Walton By Horatio Alger, Jr.
51 Strive and Succeed By Horatio Alger, Jr.
52 From Canal Boy to President By Horatio Alger, Jr.
53 The Erie Train Boy By Horatio Alger, Jr.
54 Paul, the Peddler By Horatio Alger, Jr.
55 The Young Miner By Horatio Alger, Jr.
56 Charlie Codman’s Cruise By Horatio Alger, Jr.
57 A Debt of Honor By Horatio Alger, Jr.
58 The Young Explorer By Horatio Alger, Jr.
59 Ben’s Nugget By Horatio Alger, Jr.
60 The Errand Boy By Horatio Alger, Jr.
61 Frank and Fearless By Horatio Alger, Jr.
62 Frank Hunter’s Peril By Horatio Alger, Jr.
63 Adrift in the City By Horatio Alger, Jr.
64 Tom Thatcher’s Fortune By Horatio Alger, Jr.
65 Tom Turner’s Legacy By Horatio Alger, Jr.
66 Dan, the Newsboy By Horatio Alger, Jr.
67 Digging for Gold By Horatio Alger, Jr.
68 Lester’s Luck By Horatio Alger, Jr.
69 In Search of Treasure By Horatio Alger, Jr.
70 Frank’s Campaign By Horatio Alger, Jr.
71 Bernard Brook’s Adventures By Horatio Alger, Jr.
72 Robert Coverdale’s Struggles By Horatio Alger, Jr.
73 Paul Prescott’s Charge By Horatio Alger, Jr.
74 Mark Manning’s Mission By Horatio Alger, Jr.
75 Rupert’s Ambition By Horatio Alger, Jr.
76 Sink or Swim By Horatio Alger, Jr.
77 The Backwood’s Boy By Horatio Alger, Jr.
78 Tom Temple’s Career By Horatio Alger, Jr.
79 Ben Bruce By Horatio Alger, Jr.
80 The Young Musician By Horatio Alger, Jr.
81 The Telegraph Boy By Horatio Alger, Jr.
82 Work and Win By Horatio Alger, Jr.
83 The Train Boy By Horatio Alger, Jr.
84 The Cash Boy By Horatio Alger, Jr.
85 Herbert Carter’s Legacy By Horatio Alger, Jr.
86 Strong and Steady By Horatio Alger, Jr.
87 Lost at Sea By Horatio Alger, Jr.
88 From Farm to Fortune By Horatio Alger, Jr.
89 Young Captain Jack By Horatio Alger, Jr.
90 Joe, the Hotel Boy By Horatio Alger, Jr.
91 Out for Business By Horatio Alger, Jr.
92 Falling in With Fortune By Horatio Alger, Jr.
93 Nelson, the Newsboy By Horatio Alger, Jr.
94 Randy of the River By Horatio Alger, Jr.
95 Jerry, the Backwoods Boy By Horatio Alger, Jr.
96 Ben Logan’s Triumph By Horatio Alger, Jr.
97 The Young Book Agent By Horatio Alger, Jr.
98 The Last Cruise of _The Spitfire_ By Edward Stratemeyer
99 Reuben Stone’s Discovery By Edward Stratemeyer
100 True to Himself By Edward Stratemeyer
101 Richard Dare’s Venture By Edward Stratemeyer
102 Oliver Bright’s Search By Edward Stratemeyer
103 To Alaska for Gold By Edward Stratemeyer
104 The Young Auctioneer By Edward Stratemeyer
105 Bound to Be an Electrician By Edward Stratemeyer
106 Shorthand Tom By Edward Stratemeyer
107 Fighting for His Own By Edward Stratemeyer
108 Joe, the Surveyor By Edward Stratemeyer
109 Larry, the Wanderer By Edward Stratemeyer
110 The Young Ranchman By Edward Stratemeyer
111 The Young Lumbermen By Edward Stratemeyer
112 The Young Explorers By Edward Stratemeyer
113 Boys of the Wilderness By Edward Stratemeyer
114 Boys of the Great Northwest By Edward Stratemeyer
115 Boys of the Gold Fields By Edward Stratemeyer
116 For His Country By Edward Stratemeyer
117 Comrades in Peril By Edward Stratemeyer
118 The Young Pearl Hunters By Edward Stratemeyer
119 The Young Bandmaster By Edward Stratemeyer
120 Boys of the Fort By Edward Stratemeyer
121 On Fortune’s Trail By Edward Stratemeyer
122 Lost in the Land of Ice By Edward Stratemeyer
123 Bob, the Photographer By Edward Stratemeyer

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Transcriber’s Notes

The Table of Contents at the beginning of the book was created by the transcriber.

Inconsistencies in hyphenation such as “matter-of-fact”/“matter of fact” have been maintained.

Minor punctuation and spelling errors have been silently corrected and, except for those changes noted below, all misspellings in the text, especially in dialogue, and inconsistent or archaic usage, have been retained.

  1. Page 2: “A Congress of the Rough-riders of the World” changed to “A Congress of the Rough Riders of the World”.
  2. Page 76: “roared old Nomand, while the scout” changed to “roared old Nomad, while the scout”.
  3. Page 124: “quereid the hunchback eagerly” changed to “queried the hunchback eagerly”.
  4. Page 185: “I’m Buffalo Bill, anr a frienh” changed to “I’m Buffalo Bill, and a friend”.
  5. Page 228: “more ter say about things in Haokamore” changed to “more ter say about things in Hackamore”.