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Copyright, 1910, by 

Copyright, 1920, by 


They were riding hard . . . Frontispiece 
" Gentlemen be seated! " 38 


Chapter I 

"Little Next Door her years are few 
Loves me, more than her elders do; 
Says, my wrinkles become me so; 
Marvels much at the tales I know. 
Says, we shall marry when she is grown M 

THE little happy song stopped short. 
John Wesley Pringle, at the mesa s last 
headland, drew rein to adjust his geography. 
This was new country to him. 

Close behind, Organ Mountain flung up a: 
fantasy of spires, needle-sharp and bare and 
golden. The long straight range saw- 
toothed limestone save for this twenty-mile 
sheer upheaval of the Organ stretched away 
to north and south against the unclouded sky, 
till distance turned the barren gray to blue- 

2 The Desire of the Moth 

black, to blue, to misty haze; till the sharp, 
square-angled masses rounded to hillocks 
to a blur a wavy line nothing. 

More than a hundred miles to the north 
west, two midget mountains wavered in the 
sky. John Wesley nodded at their unforgot- 
ten shapes and pieced this vast landscape to 
the patchwork map in his head. Those toy 
hills were San Mateo and Magdalena. 
Pringle had passed that way on a bygone 
year, headed east. He was going west, now. 

" I m too prosperous here," he had ex 
plained to Beebe and Ballinger, his partners 
on Rainbow. " I m tedious to myself. Guess 
I ll take a pasear back to Prescott. Rail 
road? Who, me? Why, son, I like to travel 
when I go anywheres. Just starting and ar 
riving don t delight me any. Besides, I don t 
know that strip along the border. I ll ride." 

It was a tidy step to Prescott say, as far 
as from Philadelphia to Savannah, or from 

The Desire of the Moth 3 

Richmond to Augusta ; but John Wesley had 
made many such rides in the Odyssey of his 
wonder years. Some of them had been 
made in haste. But there was no haste now. 
Sam Bass, his corn-fed sorrel, was hardly 
less sleek and sturdy than at the start, though 
a third of the way was behind him. Pringle 
rode by easy stages, and where he found him 
self pleased, there he tarried for a space. 

With another friendly nod to the northward 
hills that marked a day of his past, Pringle 
turned his eyes to the westlands, outspread 
and vast before him. To his right the desert 
stretched away, a mighty plain dotted with 
low hills, rimmed with a curving, jagged 
range. Beyond that range was a nothing 
ness, a hiatus that marked the sunken valley 
of the Rio Grande; beyond that, a headlong 
infinity of unknown ranges, tier on tier, yel 
low or brown or blue ; broken, tumbled, hud 
dled, scattered, with gulfs between to tell of 

4 The Desire of the Moth 

unseen plains and hidden happy valleys al 
together giving an impression of rushing 
toward him, resistless, like the waves of a 
stormy sea. 

At his feet the plain broke away sharply, 
in a series of steplike sandy benches, to where 
the Rio Grande bore quartering across the 
desert, turning to the Mexican sea ; the Me- 
silla Valley here, a slender ribbon of mossy 
green, broidered with loops of flashing river 
a ribbon six miles by forty, orchard, wood 
land, and green field, greener for the desolate 
gray desert beyond and the yellow hills of 
sand edging the valley floor. Below him 
Las Uvas, chief town of the valley, lay bask 
ing in the sun, tiny square and street bordered 
with greenery: its domino houses white- 
walled in the sun, with larger splashes of red 
from courthouse or church or school. 

Far on the westering desert, beyond the 
valley, Pringle saw a white feather of smoke 

The Desire of the Moth 5 

from a toiling train; beyond that a twisting 
gap in the blue of the westmost range. 

" That s our road." He lifted his bridle 
rein. " Amble along, Sam ! " 

To that amble he crooned to himself, pleas 
antly, half-dreamily as if he voiced indi 
rectly some inner thought quaint snatches 
of old song: 

" She came to the gate and she peeped in 
Grass and the weeds up to her chin; 
Saidj f A rake and a hoe and a fantail plow 
Would suit you better than a wife just now. * 

And again: 

" Schooldays are over now, 

Lost all our bliss; 
But love remembers yet 

Quarrel and kiss. 
Still, as in days of yore " 

Then, after a long silence, with a thought 
ful earnestness that Rainbow would scarce 
have credited, he quoted a verse from what 
he was wont to call Billy Beebe s Bible : 

6 The Desire of the Moth 

" One Moment in Annihilation s waste, 
One Moment of the Well of Life to taste 
The Stars are setting, and the Caravan 

Starts for the Dawn of Nothing. Oh, make 


After late dinner at the Gadsden Purchase, 
Pringle had tidings of the Motion Picture 
Palace ; and thither he bent his steps. He was 
late and the palace was a very small palace 
indeed; it was with difficulty that he spied in 
the semidarkness an empty seat in a side sec 
tion. A fat lady and a fatter man, in the 
seats nearest the aisle, obligingly moved over 
rather than risk any attempt to squeeze by. 

Beyond them, as he took the end seat, 
Pringle was dimly aware of a girl who looked 
at him rather attentively. 

He turned his mind to the screen, where a 
natty and noble young man, with a chin, bit 
off his words distinctly and smote his extended 
palm with folded gloves to emphasize the re 
marks he was making to a far less natty man 

The Desire of the Moth 7 

with black mustaches. John Wesley rightly 
concluded that this second man, who gnashed 
his teeth so convincingly, and at whom an in 
credibly beautiful young lady looked with 
haughty disdain, was the villain, and 

The blond and shaven hero, with a mag 
nificent gesture, motioned the villain to be 
gone ! That baffled person, after waiting 
long enough to register despair, spread his 
fingers across his brow and be-went; the hero 
turned, held out his arms; the scornful 
young beauty crept into them. Click! On 
the screen appeared a scroll: 

Keep Your Seats. Two Minutes to Change 

The lights were turned on. Pringle looked 
at the crowd girls, grandmas, mothers with 
their families, many boys, and few men; 
Americans, Mexicans, well-dressed folk and 

8 The Desire of the Moth 

roughly dressed, all together. Many were 
leaving; among them Pringle s fat and oblig 
ing neighbors rose with a pleasant: " Excuse 
me, please ! " 

A stream of newcomers trickled in through 
the door. As Pringle sat down the lights 
were dimmed again. Simultaneously the girl 
he had noticed beyond the fat couple moved 
over to the seat next to his own. Pringle did 
not look at her; and a little later he felt a 
hand on his sleeve. 

" Tut, tut! " said Pringle in a tolerant un 
dertone. " Why, chicken, you re not trying 
to get gay with your old Uncle Dudley, are 

" John Wesley Pringle ! " came the answer 
in a furious whisper, each indignant word a 
missile. " How dare you! How dare you 
speak to me like that? " 

" What ! " said Pringle, peering. " What ! 
Stella Vorhis ! I can hardly believe it I " 

The Desire of the Moth 9 

" But it s oh-so-true ! " said Stella, rising. 
" Let s go we can t talk here." 

* That was one awful break I made. I 
most sincerely and humbly beg your pardon," 
Pringle said on the sidewalk. 

Stella laughed. 

u That s all right I understand forget 
it! You hadn t looked at me. But I knew 
you when you first came in only I wasn t 
sure till the lights were turned on. Of course 
it would be great fun to tease you pretend to 
be shocked and dreadfully angry, and all that 
but I haven t got time. And oh, John Wes 
ley, I m so delighted to see you again ! Let s 
go over to the park. Not but what I was 
dreadfully angry, sure enough, until I had a 
second to thinL Why don t you say you re 
glad to see me after five years? " 

" Stella 1 You know I am. Six years, 
please. But I thought you were still in Pres- 

io The Desire of the Moth 

" We came here three years ago. Here s a 
bench. Now tell it to me ! " 

But Pringle stood beside and looked down 
at her without speech, with a smile unex 
pected from a face so lean, so brown, so year- 
bitten and iron-hard a smile which happily 
changed that face, and softened it. 

The girl s eyes danced at him. 

" I m so glad you ve come, John Wesley! 
Good old Wes ! " 

" So I am both those little things. Six 
years!" he said slowly. "Dear me dear 
both of us ! That will make you twenty-five. 
You don t look a day over twenty-four ! But 
you re still Stella Vorhis?" 

She met his gaze gravely; then her lids 
drooped and a wave of red flushed her face. 

" I am Stella Vorhis yet." 

" Meaning for a little while yet?" 

" Meaning, for a little while yet. That 
will come later, John Wesley. Oh, I ll tell 

The Desire of the Moth 11 

you, but not just now. You tell about John 
Wesley, first and remember, anything you 
say may be used against you. Where have 
you been ? Were you dead ? Why didn t you 
write? Has the world used you well? Sit 
down, Mr. John Wesley Also-Ran Pringle, 
and give an account of yourself! " 

He sat beside her: she laid her hand across 
his gnarled brown fingers with an uncon 
scious caress. 

" It s good to see you, old-timer! Begin 
now I, John Wesley Pringle, am come from 
going to and fro upon the earth and from 
walkng up and down in it. But I didn t ask 
you where you were living. Perhaps you 
have a home of your own now." 

John Wesley firmly lifted her slim fingers 
from his hand and as firmly deposited them 
in her lap. 

" Kindly keep your hands to yourself, 
young woman," he said with stately dignity. 

12 The Desire of the Moth 

" Here is an exact account of all my time 
since I saw you : I have been hungry, thirsty, 
sleepy, tired. To remedy these evils, upon 
expert advice I have eaten, drunk, slept, and 
rested. I have worked and played, been dull 
and gay, busy and idle, foolish and unwise. 
That s all. Oh, yes I m living in Rainbow 
Mountain ; cattle. Two pardners nice boys 
but educated. Had another one; he s mar 
ried now, poor dear and just as happy as if 
he had some sense." 

"You re not?" 

" Not what happy or married? " 

"Married, silly !" 

"And I m not. Now it s your turn* 
Where do you live? Here in town? " 

" Oh, no. Dad s got a farm twenty miles 
up the river and a ranch out on the flat. I 
just came down on the morning train to do a 
little shopping and go back on the four-forty- 
eight and I ll have to be starting soon. 

The Desire of the Moth 13 

You ll walk down to the station with me?" 

"But the sad story of your life?" ob 
jected Pr ingle. 

u Oh, I ll tell you that by installments. 
You re to make us a long, long visit, you 
know just as long as you can stay. You re 
horseback, of course? Well, then, ride up 
to-night. Ask for Aden Station. We live 
just beyond there." 

" But the Major was a very hostile major 
when I saw him last." 

" Oh, father s got all over that. He 
hadn t heard your side of it then. He often 
speaks of you now and he ll be glad to see 

" To-morrow, then. My horse is tired 
I ll stay here to-night." 

" You ll find dad changed," said the girl. 
" This is the first time in his life he has ever 
been at ease about money matters. He s 
really quite well-to-do." 

14 The Desire of the Moth 

" That s good. I m doing well in that line 
too. I forgot to tell you." There was no 
elation in his voice; he looked back with a 
pang to the bold and splendid years of their 
poverty. " Then the Major will quit wander 
ing round like a lost cat, won t he?" 

" I think he likes it here only for the 
crazy-mad political feeling; and I think he s 
settled down for good." 

" High time, I think, at his age." 

1 You needn t talk ! Dad s only ten years 
older than you are." She leaned her cheek 
on her hand, she brushed back a little stray 
tendril of midnight hair from her dark eyes, 
and considered him thoughtfully. " Why, 
John Wesley, I ve known you nearly all my 
life and you don t look much older now than 
when I first saw you." 

* That was in Virginia City. You were 
just six years old and your pony ran away 
with you. We were great old chums for a 

The Desire of the Moth 15 

month or so. The next time I saw you 

"At Bakersfield at mother s funeral," 
said the girl softly. " Then you came to 
Prescott, and you had lost your thumb in the 
meantime; and I was Little Next Door to 
you " 

" And Prescott and me, we agreed it was 
best for both of us that I should go 

( Yes ; and when you came back you were 
going to stay. Why didn t you stay, John 

" I think," said Pringle reflectively, " that 
I have forgotten that." 

" Do you know, John Wesley, I have never 
been back to any place we have left once? 
And of all the people I have ever known, you 
are the only one I have ever lost track of and 
found again. And you re always just the 
same old John Wesley; always gay and 

1 6 The Desire of the Moth 

cheerful; nearly always in trouble; always 
strong and resourceful " 

"How true!" said Pringle. " Yes, yes; 
go on 1 " 

Well, you are! And you re so so reli 
able; like Faithful John in the fairy story. 
You re different from anyone else I know. 
You re a good boy; when you are grown up 
you shall have a yoke of oxen, over and 
above your wages." 

" This is very gratifying indeed," observed 
Pringle. " But a sweetly solemn thought 
comes to me. You were going to tell me 
about another boy the onliest little boy?" 

" He s not a boy," said Stella, flushing 
hotly. " He s a man a man s man. You ll 
like him, John Wesley he s just your kind. 
I m not going to tell you. You ll see him at 
our house, with the others. And he ll be the 
very one you d pick out for me yourself. Of 
course you ll want to tease me by pretending 

The Desire of the Moth 17 

to guess someone else ; but you ll know which 
one he is, without me telling you. He stands 
out apart from all other men in every way. 
Come on, John Wesley it s time to go down 
to the station." 

Pringle caught step with her. 

" And how long if a reliable old faithful 
John may ask before you become Stella 
Some-One-Else ?" 

" At Christmas. And I am a very lucky 
girl, John. What an absurd convention it is 
that people are never supposed to congratu 
late the girl as if no man was ever worth 
having! Silly, isn t it?" 

" Very silly. But then, it s a silly world." 

" A delightful world," said Stella, her eyes 
sparkling. u You don t know how happy I 
am. Or perhaps you do know. Tell me hon 
estly, did you ever 1 like anyone, this way? " 

" I refuse to answer, by advice of counsel," 
said John Wesley, " I ll say this much, 

1 8 The Desire of the Moth 

though. X marks no spot where any Annie 
Laurie gave me her promise true." 

When the train had gone John Wesley 
wandered disconsolately back to his hotel and 
rested his elbows on the bar. The white- 
aproned attendant hastened to serve him. 

"What will it be, sir?" 

" Give me a gin pitfall," said John Wesley. 

Chapter II 

" Horrible ! " said Anastacio. 

Matthew Lisner, sheriff of Dona Ana, bent 
a hard eye on his subordinate. 

11 It s got to be done," he urged. " To elect 
our ticket we must have all the respectable 
and responsible people of the valley. If we 
can provoke Foy into an outbreak " 

" Not we you," corrected Anastacio. 
" Myself, I do not feel provoking." 

u Are you going to lay down on me? " 

"If you care to put it that way yes. Kit 
Foy is just the man to leave alone." 

" Now, listen ! " said the sheriff impa 
tiently. " Half the valley is owned by new 
comers, men of substance, who, with the 

votes they influence or control, will decide 

20 The Desire of the Moth 

the election. Foy is half a hero with them, 
because of these vague old stories. But let 
him be stirred up to violence now and you ll 
see ! They won t see any romance in it 
just an open outrage; they will flock to us to 
the last man. Ours is the party of law and 
order " 

" Law to order, some say." 

The veins swelled in the sheriff s heavy 
face and thick neck; he regarded his deputy 

" That comes well from you, Barela ! 
Don t you see, with the law on our side all 
these men of substance will be with us uncon 
ditionally? I tell you, Christopher Foy is 
the brains of his party. Once he is dis 
credited " 

" And I tell you that I am the brains of 
your party and I ll have nothing to do with 
your fine plan. Tis an old stratagem to call 
oppression, law, and resistance to oppression, 

The Desire of the Moth 21 

lawlessness. You tried just that in ninety- 
six, didn t you? And I never could hear that 
our side had any the best of it or that the 
good name of Dona Ana was in any way bet 
tered by our wars. Come, Mr. Lisner the 
Kingdom of Lady Ann has been quiet now 
for nearly eight years. Let us leave it so. 
For myself, the last row brought me reputa 
tion and place, made me chief deputy under 
two sheriffs so I need have the less hesita 
tion in setting forth my passionate preference 
for peace. " 

" You have as much to gain as I have," 
growled the sheriff. " Besides your own 
cinch, you have one of your genie for deputy 
in every precinct in the county." 

" Exactly ! And if we have wars again, 
who but the Barelas would bear the brunt? 
No, no, Mr. Matt Lisner; while I may be a 
merely ornamental chief deputy, it will never 
be denied that I am a very careful chief to 

22 The Desire of the Moth 

my gente. Be sure that I shall think more 
than once or twice before I set a man of my 
men at a useless hazard to pleasure you-r- 
or to reelect you." 

" You speak plainly." 

" I intend to. I speak for three hundred 
and we vote solid. Make no mistake, Mr. 
Lisner. You need me in your business, but 
I can do nicely without you/ 

" Perhaps you d like to be sheriff your 

" I might like it except that I am not as 
young and foolish as I was,." said Anastacio, 
smiling. " Now that I am so old, and so wise 
and all, it is clear to see that neither my 
self nor any of the fighting men of the 
mad old days on either side should be 

" You were not always so thoughtful of the 
best interests of the dear pee-pul," sneered 
the sheriff. 

The Desire of the Moth 23 

" That I wasn t. I was as silly and hot- 
brained a fool as either side could boast. 
But you, Sheriff, are neither silly nor hot 
headed. In cold blood you are planning that 
men shall die; that other men shall rot in 
prison. Why? For hate and revenge ? Not 
even that. Oh, a little spice of revenge, per 
haps; Foy and his friends made you some 
thing of a laughing stock. But your main 
motive is money. And I don t see why. 
You ve got all the money any one man needs 


" I notice you get your share." 

" I hope so. But, even as a money-making 
proposition, your troubled-voters policy is a 
mistake. All the mountain men want is to be 
let alone, and you might be sheriff for life 
for all they care. But you fan up every little 
bicker into a lawsuit don t I know? Just 
for the mileage ten cents a mile each way in 
a county that s jam full of miles from one 

24 The Desire of the MotK 

edge to the other; ten cents a mile each way 
for each and every arrest and subpoena. You 
drag them to court twice a year the farmer 
at seed time and harvest, the cowman from 
the spring and fall round-ups. It hurts, it 
cripples them, they ride thirty miles to vote 
against you ; it costs you all the extra mileage 
money to offset their votes. As a final folly, 
you purpose deliberately to stir up the old 
factions. What was it Napoleon said? It 
is worse than a crime: it is a blunder. I ll 
tell you now, not a Barela nor an Ascarate 
shall stir a foot in such a quarrel. If you 
want to bait Kit Foy, do it yourself or set 
your city police on him." 

" I will." 

A faint tinge of color came to the 
clear olive of Anastacio s cheek as he 

" But don t promise my place to any of 
them, sheriff. I might hear of it." 

The Desire of the Moth 25 

" Stranger," said Ben Creagan, " you can t 
play pool I I can t and I beat you four 
straight games. You better toddle your little 
trotters off to bed." The words alone might 
have been mere playfulness ; glance and tone 
made plain the purposed offense. 

The after-supper crowd in the hotel bar 
room had suddenly slipped away, leaving 
Max Barkeep, three others, and John Wesley 
Pringle the last not unnoting of nudge and 
whisper attending the exodus. Since that, 
Pringle had suffered, unprotesting, more 
gratuitous insults than he had met in all the 
rest of his stormy years. His curiosity was 
aroused; he played the stupid, unseeing, pa 
tient, and timid person he was so eminently 
not. Plainly these people desired his ab 
sence; and Pringle highly resolved to know 
why. He now blinked mildly. 

"But I m not sleepy a-tall," he ob 

26 The Desire of the Moth 

He tried and missed an easy shot; he 
chalked his cue with assiduous care. 

" Here, you ! Quit knockin those balls 
round!" bawled Max, the bartender. 
" What you think this is a kindergarten?" 

" Why, I paid for all the games I lost, 
didn t I?" asked Pringle, much abashed. 

He mopped his face. It was warm, though 
the windows and doors were open. 

" Well, nobody s going to play any more 
with you," snapped Max. " You bore em." 

He pyramided the balls and covered the 
table. With a sad and lingering backward 
look Pringle slouched abjectly through the 
wide-arched doorway to the bar. 

" Come on, fellers have something." 

"Naw!" snarled Jose Espalin. "I m 
a-tryin to theenk. Shut up, won t you ? " 

Pringle sighed patiently at the rebuff and 
stole a timid glance at the thinker. Espalin 
was a lean little, dried-up manikin, with legs, 

The Desire of the Moth 27 

arms, and mustaches disproportionately long 
for his dwarfish body. His black, wiry hair 
hung in ragged witchlocks ; his black pin-point 
eyes were glittering, cold, and venomous. 
He looked, thought Pringle, very much like 
a spider. 

" I m steerin you right, old man," said 
Creagaru " You d better drag it for bed." 

" I ain t sleepy, I tell you." 

Espalin leaped up, snarling. 

"Say! You lukeing for troubles, maybe? 
Bell, I theenk thees hombre got a gun. Shall 
we freesk him? " 

As he flung the query over his shoulder his 
beady little eyes did not leave Pringle s. 

Bell Applegate got leisurely to his feet a 
tall man, well set up, with a smooth-shaved, 
florid face and red hair. 

" If he has we ll jack him in the jug." He 
threw back the lapel of his coat, displaying 
a silver star. 

The Desire of the Moth 

" But I ain t got no gun," protested John 
Wesley meekly. " You-all can see for your- 

We will don t worry ! Don t you make 
one wrong move or I ll put out your 

"Be you the sheriff?" 

"Police. Go to him, Ben!" 

" No gun," reported Ben after a swift 
search of the shrinking captive. 

" I done told you so, didn t I? " 

" Mighty good thing for you, old rooster. 
Gun-toting is strictly barred in Las Uvas. 
You got to take your gun off fifteen minutes 
after you get in from the road and you can t 
put it on till fifteen minutes before you take 
the road again." 

;< Is that er police regulations or state 

14 State law and has been any time these 
twenty-five years. Say, you doddering old 

The Desire of the Moth 29 

fool, what do you think this is a night 

" I I guess I ll go to bed," said Pringle 

" I I guess if you come back I ll throw 
you out," mimicked Ben with a guffaw. 

Pringle made no answer. He shuffled into 
the hall and up the stairway to his bedroom. 
He unlocked the door noisily; he opened it 
noisily; he took his sixshooter and belt from 
the wall quietly and closed the door, noisily 
again ; he locked it from the outside. Then 
he did a curious thing; he sat down very gen 
tly and removed his boots. 

The four in the barroom listened, grinning. 
When they heard Pringle s door slam shut 
Bell Applegate nodded and Creagan went out 
on the street. Behind him, at a table near 
the pool-room door, the law planned ways 
and means in a slinking undertone. 

30 The Desire of the Moth 

" You keep in the background, Joe. Let us 
do the talking. Foy just naturally despises 
you we might not get him to stay the fif 
teen minutes out. You stay back there. Re 
member now, don t shoot till Ben lets him 
get his arm loose. Sabe?" 

" Maybe Meester Ben don t find 

" Oh, yes, he will. Ditch meeting to-night. 
Ought to be out about now. Setting the time 
to use the water and assessing fatiga work. 
Every last man with a water right will be 
there, sure, and Foy s got a dozen. Max, 
you are to be a witness, remember, and you 
mustn t be mixed up in it. Got your story 

" Foy he comes in and makes a war-talk 
about Dick Marr," recited Max. " After we 
powwow awhile you see his gun. You tell 
him he s under arrest for carryin concealed 
weapons. You and Ben grabbed his arm; he 

The Desire of the Moth 31 

jerked loose and went after his gun. And 
then Joe shot him." 

" That s it. We ll all stick to that. S-sti 
Here they come ! " 

There are men whose faces stand out in a 
crowd, men you turn to look after on the 
street. Such quite apart from his sprightly 
past was Christopher Foy, who now entered 
with Creagan. He was about thirty, above 
middle height, every mold and line of him 
slender and fine and strong. His face was 
resolute, vivacious, intelligent; his eyes were 
large and brown, pleasant and fearless. A 
wide black hat, pushed back now, showed a 
broad forehead white against crisp coal-black 
hair and the pleasant tan of neck and cheek. 
But it was not his dark, forceful face alone 
that lent him such distinction. Rather it was 
the perfect poise and balance of the man, 
the ease and unconscious grace of every swift 
and sure motion. He wore a working garb 

32 The Desire of the Moth 

now blue overalls and a blue rowdy. But 
he wore them with an air that made him well 

Foy paused for a second; Applegate rose. 

" Well, Chris ! " he laughed. " There has 
been a time when you might not have fancied 
this particular bunch hey? All over now, 
please the pigs. Come in and give it a name. 
Beer for mine." 

" I ll smoke," said Foy. 

" Me too," said Espalin. 

He lit a cigar and returned to his chair. 
Ben Creagan passed behind the bar and 
handed over a sixshooter and a cartridge 

" Here, Chris here s the gun I borrowed 
of you when I broke mine. Much obliged." 

Foy twirled the cylinder to make sure the 
hammer was on an empty chamber and 
buckled the belt under his rowdy. 

" My hardware is mostly plows and scrap- 

The Desire of the Moth 33 

ers and irrigating hoes nowadays," he re 
marked. u Good thing too." 

" All the same, Foy, I d keep a gun with 
me if I were you. Dick Marr is drinking 
again and when he soaks it up he gets dis 
contented over old times, you know." Apple- 
gate lowered his voice, with a significant 
glance at Espalin. " He threatened your life 
to-day. I thought you ought to know it." 

Foy considered his cigar. 

" That s awkward," he replied briefly. 

"Chris," said Ben, " this isn t the first 
time. Dick s heart is bad to you. I m sorry. 
He was my friend and you were not. But 
you re not looking for any trouble now. 
Dick is. And I m afraid he ll keep on till 
he gets it. Me and the sheriff we managed 
to get him off to bed, but he says he s going 
to shoot you on sight and I believe he means 
it. You ought to have him bound over to 
keep the peace." 

34 The Desire of the Moth 

Foy smiled and shook his head. 

" I can t do that and it would only make 
him madder than ever. But I ll get out of 
his way and keep out of his way. I ll go up 
to the Jornado to-night and stay with the Bar 
Cross boys awhile. He won t come up 

" You ll enjoy having people tellin how 
you run away to keep from meeting Dick 
Marr?" said Applegate incredulously. 

"Why shouldn t they say it? It will be 
exactly true," responded Foy quietly, " and 
you re authorized to say so. I m learning 
some sense now; I m getting to own quite a 
mess of property; I m going to be married 
soon; and I don t want to fight anyone. Be 
sides, quite apart from my own interests, 
other men will be drawn into it if I shoot it 
out with Marr. No knowing where it will 
stop. No, sir; I ll go punch cows till Marr 
quiets down. Maybe it s just the whisky talk- 

The Desire of the Moth 35 

ing. Dick isn t such a bad fellow when he s 
not fighting booze. Or maybe he ll go away. 
He hasn t much to keep him here." 

u Say, I could get a job offered to him out 
in San Simon," said Applegate, bright 

His eye rested on the clock over the long 
mirror. He stepped over to the show case, 
clipped the end from a cigar and obtained a 
light from a shapely bronze lady with a torch. 
When he came back he fell in on Foy s left; 
at Foy s right Creagan leaned his elbows on 
the bar. 

" Well, I m obliged to you, boys," said 
Foy. This one s on me. Come on, Joe 
have a hoot." 

Thanks, no," said Espalin. " I not 
dreenkin none thees times. Eef I dreenk 
some I get full, and loose my job maybe." 

" Vichy," said Foy. " Take something 
yourself, Max." 

36 The Desire of the Moth 

As Mr. Max poured the drinks an odd ex 
perience befell Mr. Jose Espalin. His tilted 
chair leaned against the casing of the billiard- 
room door. As Max filled the first glass 
Espalin became suddenly aware of something 
round and hard and cold pressed against his 
right temple. Mr. Espalin felt some curios 
ity, but he sat perfectly still. The object 
shifted a few inches; Mr. Espalin perceived 
from the tail of his eye the large, unfeeling 
muzzle of a sixshooter; beyond it, a glimpse 
of the forgotten elderly stranger, Mr. 

Only Mr. Pringle s fighting face appeared, 
and that but for a moment; he laid a finger to 
lip and crouched, hidden by the partition and 
by Espalin s body. Mr. Espalin gathered 
that Pringle desired no outcry and shunned 
observation; he sat motionless accordingly; 
he felt a hand at his belt, which removed his 

The Desire of the Moth 37 

" Happy days ! " said Foy, and raised his 
glass to his lips. 

Creagan seized the uplifted wrist with 
both hands, Applegate pounced on the other 
arm. Pringle leaped through the doorway. 
But something happened swifter than 
Pringle s swift rush. Foy s knee shot up 
to Applegate s stomach. Applegate fell, 
sprawling. Foy hurled himself on Creagan 
and bore him crashing to the floor. Foy 
whirled over; he rose on one hand and knee, 
gun drawn, visibly annoyed ; also considerably 
astonished at the unexpected advent of Mr. 
Pringle. Applegate lay groaning on the floor. 
Pringle kicked his gun from the holster and 
set foot upon it; one of his own guns covered 
the bartender and the other kept watch on 
Espalin, silent on his still-tilted chair. 

" Who re you ! " challenged Foy. 

" Friend with the countersign. Don t 
shoot! Don t shoot me, anyhow." 

38 The Desire of the Moth 

Foy rose from hand and knee to knee and 
foot. This rescuer, so opportunely arrived 
from nowhere, seemed to be an ally. But 
to avoid mistakes, Foy s gun followed 
Pringle s motions, at the same time willing 
and able to blow out Creagan s brains if ad 
visable. He also acquired Creagan s gun 
quite subconsciously. 

" Let me introduce myself, gentlemen, " 
said Pringle. " I m Jack-in-a-Pinch, Little 
Friend of the Under Dog see Who s This ? 
page two-thirteen. My German friend, come 
out from behind that bar hands up step 
lively ! Spot yourself ! My Mexican friend, 
join Mr. Max. Move, you poisonous little 
spider jump! That s better ! Gentlemen 
be seated! Right there smack, slapdab 
on the floor. Sit down and think. Say! 
I m serious. Am I going to have to kill 
some few of you just because you don t 
know who lam? I ll count three! One! 

The Desire of the Moth 39 

two! That s it. Very good hold that 
register anticipation! I am a worldly man," 
said Pringle with emotion, " but this spec 
tacle touches me it does indeed ! " 

u I ll get square with you ! " gurgled Ap- 
plegate, as fiercely as his breathless condition 
would permit. 

"George may I call you George? I 
don t know your name. You may get square 
with me, George but you ll never be square 
with anyone. You are a rhomboidinaltitudin- 
ous isosohedronal catawampus, George ! " 

George raved unprintably. He made a 
motion to rise, but reconsidered it as he noted 
the tension of Pringle s trigger finger. 

" Don t be an old fuss-budget, George," 
said Pringle reprovingly. " Because I for 
got to tell you I ve got my gun now and 
yours. You won t need to arrest me, though, 
for I m hitting the trail in fifteen minutes. 
But if I wasn t going and if you had your 

40 The Desire of the Moth 

gun you couldn t arrest one side of me. 
You couldn t arrest one of my old boots! 
Listen, George! You heard this Chris-gen 
tleman give his reasons for wanting peace? 
Yes? Well, it s oh-so-different here. I hate 
peace ! I loathe, detest, abhor, and abominate 
peace ! My very soul with strong disgust is 
stirred by peace ! I m growing younger 
every year, I don t own any property here, 
I m not going to be married; I ain t feeling 
pretty well anyhow; and if you don t think 
I ll shoot, try to get up ! Just look as if you 
thought you wanted to wish to try to make 
an effort to get up." 

"How who " began Creagan; but 

Pringle cut him short. 

u Ask me no more, sweet! You have no 
speaking part here. We ll do the talking. I 
just love to talk. I am the original tongue- 
tied man; I ebb and flow. Don t let me hear 
a word from any of you! Well, pardner? " 

The Desire of the Moth 41 

Foy, still kneeling in fascinated amaze, 
now rose. Creagan s nose was bleeding pro 

" That was one awful wallop you handed 
our gimlet-eyed friend," said Pringle admir 
ingly. " Neatest bit of work I ever saw. 
Sir, to you ! My compliments ! " He placed 
a chair near the front door and sat down. 
" I feel like a lion in a den of Daniels," he 

" But how did you happen to be here so 
handy?" inquired Foy. 

" Didn t happen I did it on purpose," 
said John Wesley. " You see, these four 
birds tipped their hand. All evening they 
been instructing me where I got off. They 
would-ed I had the wings of a dove, so 
I might fly far, far away and be at rest. 
Now, I put it to you, do I look like a 

" Not at present," laughed Foy. 

42 The Desire of the Moth 

" Well, I didn t like it nobody would. I 
see there was a hen on, I knew the lay of the 
ground from looking after my horse. So 
I clomped off to bed, got my good old Ex- 
calibur gun full name X. L. V. Caliber 
slipped off my boots, tippytoed down the back 
stairs like a Barred Rock cat, oozed in by the 
side door and here I be ! I overheard their 
pleasant little plan to do you. I meant to do 
the big rescue act, but you mobilize too quick 
for me. All the same, maybe it s as well I 
chipped in, because take a look at them 
cartridges in your gun, will you? Your 
own gun the one they borrowed from 

Foy twisted a bullet from a cartridge. 
There was no powder. The four men on the 
floor looked unhappy under his thoughtful 

"Nice little plant what? Do we kill 
em?" said Pringle cheerfully. "I don t 

The Desire of the Moth 43 

know the rules well enough to break them. 
What was the big idea ? Was they vexed at 
you, son? " 

" It would seem so," said Foy, smiling. 
" We had a little war here a spell back. I 
suspect they wanted to stir it up again for 
political effect. Election this fall." 

" And you were not in their party? I 
see ! " said Pringle, nodding intelligently. 
" Well, they sure had it fixed to make your 
side lose one vote fixed good and proper. 
The Ben-boy was to let your right hand loose 
and the Joe-boy was to shoot you as you 
pulled your gun. Why, if you had lived to 
make a statement your own story woulda 
mighty near let them out." 

" I believe that I am greatly obliged to 
you, sir." 

" I believe you are," said Pringle. " And 
but, also, I know the two gentlemen you 
were drinking with should be very grateful 

44 The Desire of the Moth 

to you. They had just half a second more to 
live and you beat me to it. Too bad! 
Well, what next ?" 

Foy pondered a little. 

u I guess I ll go up to the Bar Cross 
wagon, as I intended, till things simmer 
down. The Las Uvas warriors seldom ever 
bother the Bar Cross Range. My horse is 
hitched up the street. How d you like to 
go along with me, stranger? You and me 
would make a fair-sized crowd. " 

11 I d like it fine and dandy," said Pringle. 
u But I got a little visit to make to-morrow. 
Maybe I ll join you later. I like Las Uvas," 
stated John Wesley, beaming. " Nice, lively 
little place ! I think I ll settle down here 
after a bit. Some of the young fellows are 
shy on good manners. But I can teach em. 
I d enjoy it. ... Now, let s see : If you ll 
hold these lads a few minutes I ll get my 
boots and saddle up and bring my horse to 

The Desire of the Moth 45 

the door; then I ll pay Max my hotel bill and 
talk to them while you get your horse; and 
we ll ride together till we get out in the open. 
How s that for a lay?" 

That was a good lay, it seemed; and it 
was carried out with one addition: After 
Foy brought his horse he rang Central and 
called up the sheriff. 

" Hello! That you, Mr. Lisner? This 
is Kitty Foy," he said sweetly. " Sheriff, I 
hate to bother you, but old Nueces River, 
your chief of police, is out of town. And I 
thought you ought to know that the police 
force is all balled up. They re here at the 
Gadsden Purchase. Bell Applegate is sick 
seems to be indigestion; Espalin is having a 
nervous spell; and Ben Creagan is bleeding 
from his happiest vein. You d better come 
see to em. Good-by ! " 

Pringle smiled benevolently from the 

46 The Desire of the Moth 

There ! I almost forgot to tell you boys. 
We disapprove of your actions oh-very- 
much ! You know you were doing what was 
very, very wrong like three little mice that 
were playing in the barn though the old 
mouse said : * Little mice, beware ! When the 
owl comes singing " Too-whoo " take care ! 
If you do it again we shall consider it de 
liberately unfriendly of you. . . . Well, I ll 
toddle my decrepit old bones out of this. 
Eleven o clock ! How time has flown, to be 
sure ! Thank you for a pleasant evening. 
Good-by, George. Good-by, all! Be good 
little boys go nighty-nighty ! " 

They raced to the corner, scurried down 
the first side street, turned again, and slowed 
to a gallop. Pringle was in high feather; he 
caroled blithesome as he rode : 

" So those three little oivls Hew back up in the 

Inky, dinky, dovdum, day! 

The Desire of the Moth 47 

And they said, Those little mice make us feel 

so nice and warm I 
Inky, dinky, doodum, day! 
Then they all began to sing, Too-whit! Too- 


I don t think much, of this song, do you? 
But there s one thing about it tis certainly 
Inky, dinky, doodum, day!" 

They reached the open; the gallop became 
a trot. 

" I go north here," said Foy at the cross 
roads above the town. " Which way for 

"North too," said Pringle. "I don t 
know just where, but you can tell me. I go 
to a railroad station first Aden. Then to 
the Vorhis place? " 

" Vorhis? I m going there myself? " said 
Foy. " You didn t tell me your name yet." 

" Pringle." 

"What? Not John Wesley Pringle? 
Great Scott, man! I ve heard Stella talk 

48 The Desire of the Moth 

about you a thousand times. Say, I m sure 
glad to meet you ! My name s Foy Christo 
pher Foy." 

" Why, yes," said Pringle. " I think I ve 
heard Stella speak of you, too." 

Chapter III 

BEING a child must have been great fun 
once. Nowadays one would as lief be 
a Strasburg goose. When you and I went to 
school it was not quite so bad. True, neither 
of us could now extract a cube root with a 
stump puller, and it is sad to reflect how little 
call life has made for duodecimals. Some 
times it seems that all our struggle with 
moody verbs and insubordinate conjunctions 
was a wicked waste poor little sleepy puz- 
zleheads! But there were certain joyous 
facts which we remember yet. Lake Erie 
was very like a whale; Lake Ontario was a 
seal; and Italy was a boot. 

The great Chihuahuan desert is a boot too ; 
a larger boot than Italy. The leg of it is 
in Mexico, the toe is in Arizona, the heel in 


5<3 The Desire of the Moth 

New Mexico ; and the Jornado is in the boot- 

El Jornado del Muerto the Journey of 
the Dead Man ! From what dim old legend 
has the name come down? No one knows. 
The name has outlived the story. 

Perhaps some grim, hard-riding Spaniard 
made his last ride here; weary at last of 
war, turned his dead face back to Spain 
and the pleasant valleys of his childhood. 
We have a glimpse of him, small in the 
mighty silence; his faithful few about him, 
with fearful backward glances; a gray sea of 
waving grama breaking at their feet; the 
great mountains looking down on them. 
Plymouth Rock is unnamed yet. Then the 
mist shuts down. 

The Santa Fe Trail reaches across the 
Jornado; tradition tells of vague, wild bat 
tles with Apache and Navajo; there are 
grave-cairns on lone dim ridges, whereon 

The Desire of the Moth 51 

each passer casts a stone. Young mothers 
dreamed over the cradles of those who now 
sleep here, undreaming; here is the end of 
all dreams. 

Doniphan passed this way; Kit Carson 
rode here; the Texans journeyed north along 
that old road in 62 to return no more. 

These were but passers-by. The history of 
the Jornado, of indwellers named and known, 
begins with six Americans, as follows: San- 
doval, a Mexican; Toussaint, a Frenchman; 
Fest, a German; Martin, a German; Roul- 
lier, a Swiss; and Teagardner, a Welshman. 

You might have thought the Jornado a 
vast and savage waste or a pleasant place and 
a various. That depended upon you. Ma 
terials for either opinion were plenty; lava 
flow, saccaton flats, rolling sand hills sage 
brush, mesquite and yucca, bunch grass and 
shallow lakes, bench and hill, ridge and 
groundswell and wandering draw; always the 

52 The Desire of the Moth 

great mountains round about; the mountains 
and the warm sun over all. 

A certain rich man desired to be Presi 
dent to please his wife, perhaps. He was a 
favorite son sure of his home-state vote in 
any grand old national convention. He gave 
largely to charities and campaign funds, and 
his left hand would have been justly aston 
ished to know what his right hand was about. 

Those were bargain-counter days. Fum 
bling the wares, our candidate saw, among 
other things, that New Mexico had six con 
ventional votes. He sent after them. 

So the Bar Cross Cattle Company was 
founded; range, the Jornado. Our candidate 
provided the money and a manager, also 
ambidextrous with instructions to get those 
votes and incidentally to double the money, as 
a good and faithful manager should. 

He got the six votes, but our candidate 
never became president. Poor fellow, his 

The Desire of the Moth 53 

millions could not bring him happiness. He 
died, an embittered and disappointed man, in 
the obscurity of the United States Senate. 

The Bar Cross brand was the sole fruit 
of that ambition. Other ranches had dwin 
dled or vanished; favored by environment 
the Bar Cross, almost alone, withstood the 
devastating march of progress. It was still 
a mark of distinction to be a Bar Cross man. 
The good old customs and certain bad old 
customs, too still held on the Bar Cross 
Range, fifty miles by one hundred, on the Jor- 
nado. Scattered here and there were smaller 
ranches: among them the V H the Vorhis 

Stella Vorhis and John Wesley, far out on 
the plain, rode through the pleasant after 
noon. The V H. Ranch was in sight now, 
huddled low before them; beyond, a cluster 
of low hills rose from the plain, visible center 
of a world fresh, eager, and boundless. 

54 The Desire of the Moth 

The girl s eye kindled with delight as it 
sought the far horizons, the misty parapets 
gleaming up through the golden air; she was 
one who found dear and beautiful this gray 
land, silent and ensunned. She flung up her 
hand exultingly. 

"Isn t it wonderful, John Wesley? Do 
you know what it makes me think of? This : 

. . . Magic casements, opening on the foam 
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn! 

" Think, John ! This country hasn t 
changed a bit since the day Columbus set 
out from Spain." 

" How true ! Fine old bird, Columbus he 
saw America first. Great head he showed, 
too, getting himself named Christopher. 
Otherwise you might have said, the day An 
tony discovered Cleopatra or something 
like that. Wise old Chris ! " 

Stella s eyes narrowed reflectively. 

The Desire of the Moth 55 

" John Wesley, you ve been reading ! You 
never used to know anything about Mark 

" I cribbed that remark from Billy Beebe 
and he swiped it from a magazine. I don t 
know much about Mark, even this very yet. 
Good old easy Mark! " 

" That s the how of it. You ve been ab 
sorbing knowledge from those pardners of 
yours. Your talk shows it. You re changed 
a lot that way. Every other way you re 
the same old Wes! " 

" Now, that sounds better! " said Pringle 
in his most complacent tones. " I want to 
talk about myself, always, Stella May Vor- 
his; we ve come thirty miles and I ve heard 
Christopher Foy, Foy, Foy, all the way ! It s 
exasperating! It s sickening! " 

But Stella was not to be flustered. She 
held her head proudly. 

:< It s you that have been talking about 

56 The Desire of the Moth 

him. I told you you d like him, John Wes 

" Yes, you did and I do. He s a self- 
starter. He s a peppermist. He s a regular 
guy. It wasn t only the way he smashed 
those thugs taken by surprise and all 
but that he had judgment enough not to 
shoot when there was no need for it; that s 
what gets me I And then he went and spoiled 
it all." 


" Hiking on up to the ranch with the 
Major, without even waking you up. Why, 
if it was me, do you s pose I d leave another 
man no matter how old and safe he was 
to tell such a story as that his own way and 
hog all the credit for himself? That Las 
Uvas push is a four-flush he needn t stir 
a peg for them. No, sir! I d have stayed 
right there till you got ready to come and 
every time I d narrate that tale about the 

The Desire of the Moth 57 

scrap it would get scarier and scarier." 
" I know, without telling, what my Chris 
does is the brave thing, the best thing," said 
the girl, with softly shining eyes. " And he 
never brags any more than you do, Wes. 
You re always making fun of yourself. And 
I m afraid you don t know how serious a 
menace this Las Uvas gang is. It isn t what 
Chris may do or may not do. All they want 
is a pretext. Why, John, there are men 
down there who are really quite truthful as 
men go till they get on the witness stand. 
But the minute they re under oath they begin 
to lie. Force of habit, I guess. The whole 
courthouse ring hates Chris and fears him 
especially Matt Lisner, the sheriff. In the 
old trouble, whenever he was outwitted or 
outfought, Chris did it. Besides She 
paused; the color swept to her cheek. 

" Besides you. Yes, yes," grumbled 
Pringle. " Might have been expected. 

58 The Desire of the Moth 

These women! Does the Foy-boy 

" He knows that Lisner wanted to marry 
me," said Stella. Neck and cheek were crim 
son now; but it was characteristic that her 
level eyes met Pringle s fearlessly. u But be 
fore that he he persecuted me, John. 
Chris must not know. He would kill him. 
But I wanted you to know in case anything 
happened to Chris. There is nothing they 
will stick at, these men. Lisner is the vilest; 
he hates Chris worst of all." She was in 
deep distress; there were tears in her eyes as 
she smiled at him. " And I wish oh, John 
Wesley, you don t know how I wish you were 
staying here dear old friend! " 

" As a dear and highly valuable old 
friend," said Pringle sedately, " let me point 
out how shrewd and sensible a plan it would 
be for you and your Chris to go on a honey 
moon at once and never come back." 

The Desire of the Moth 59 

" I am beginning to think so. Up to last 
night I had only my fears to go on." 

u But now you know. We managed to 
make a joke of last night but what that 
push had in mind was plain murder. I would 
dearly like/ said John Wesley, " to visit Las 
Uvas some dark night in a Zeppelin." 

At the corral gate the Major met them, 
with a face so troubled that Stella cried out 
in alarm: 

" Father! What is it? Chris?" 
" Stella be brave ! Dick Marr was killed 
at midnight and they re swearing it off on 

" But John Wesley was with him." 
u That s just it. Applegate and Creagan 
tell it that they saw Chris leaving town at 
eleven o clock, that he said he was coming 
up here, and that he made a war-talk about 
Marr. But not a word about Pringle or the 

60 The Desire of the Moth 

fight at the hotel. Joe Espalin doesn t ap 
pear no claim that he saw Foy at all." 

" That looks ugly," observed Pringle. 

" Ugly ! Your testimony is to be thrown 
out as a lie made of whole cloth. Espalin 
and the barkeeper don t appear. They re 
afraid the Mexican will get tangled up, and 
Max will swear he didn t see Chris at all. 
It s cut and dried. You are to be canceled. 
Marr was found this morning at the first 
crossroad above town. His watch was 
stopped at ten minutes to twelve mashed, it 
seemed, where it hit on a stone when he fell. 
If they had told about the mix-up with you 
and Chris last night, I might have thought 
they really believed Chris killed Marr or 
suspected it. As it stands, we know the whole 
thing is a black, rotten conspiracy." 

"But where s Chris?" demanded Stella, 

" We have none of us seen Chris you 

The Desire of the Moth 61] 

want to remember that. You won t have to 
lie, Stella you didn t see him. Pringle, I 
bank on you." 

" Sure ! I can lie and stick to it, though 
I m sadly out of practice," said Pringle. 
" But hadn t we better fix up the same history 
to tell? And where s your man Hargis that 
stays here? Will he do?" 

" Unsaddle and I ll tell you. We ve only 
got a few minutes. I saw the dust of them 
coming down from the north as I drove in 
this bunch of saddle horses. Some of them 
went up by train to Upham, you know. 
Hargis has gone to the round-up, and Pm 
just as well pleased. I m not sure he can be 
trusted. We are to know not the first word 
of what has happened. We haven t seen 
Chris and haven t heard of the murder. 
Come in we ll start dinner and be taken by 
surprise. Pringle, throw your gun over on 
the bunk. Stella, get that look off your face. 

62 The Desire of the Moth 

After you hear the news you can look any old 
way and it ll be natural enough. But you ve 
got to be unconcerned and unsuspicious when 
they first come." 

He started a fire. Stella set about prepar 
ing dinner. 

Who brought the news ? " she asked. 

" Joe Cowan and a relay. Someone rode 
to Jeff Isaack s ranch as fast as ever a horse 
could go. Jeff came to Quartzite; Dodd 
passed the word on to Goldenburg s and 
Cowan came here. At every ranch they 
drove all the fresh saddle horses out of the 
way, so a posse couldn t get a remount with 
out losing time. Kitty Foy has got good 
friends, and they don t believe he d shoot any 
man in the back." 

" And Foy s drifted with Cowan? " 

" He hadn t a chance to get clear," said 
the Major. :t We had no fresh horses here. 
They ve sworn in a small army of deputies. 

The Desire of the Moth 63 

Nearly a hundred men are out hunting for 
him by this time. One posse was to go up the 
San Andres on the east, leaving a man at 
every waterhole. The sheriff wired for a 
special train, took a carload of saddle horses 
and dropped a couple of men off at every 
station. At Upham the rest of them were to 
unload and string out across the Jornado, so 
as to cut Chris off from the Bar Cross round 
up at Alaman. It s some of that bunch I saw 
coming, I guess. And the others were to scat 
ter out and come up the middle of the plain. 
They ll drag the Jornado with a fine-toothed 

" How s he to get away, then? " 
" Cowan took Kit s horse and led his own, 
which was about give out. He turned back 
east, up a draw where he won t be seen un 
less somebody s right on top of him. Eight 
or ten miles out he ll turn Foy s horse loose ; 
he ll carry the extra saddle on a ways and 

64 The Desire of the Moth 

drop it in a washout. They ll find Foy s 
horse and think he s roped a fresh one. 
Then Cowan will start up a fresh bunch of 
mares and raise big dust. He will ride 
straight to the first posse he sees, claiming 
he s run his horse down chasing the mares. 
That ll let him out maybe." 

"And Foy?" 

" We rode my horse double to the edge of 
the hills, to where he could walk on a ledge 
and leave no tracks," said the Major. 
1 Then I went on. I rounded up this bunch 
of saddle horses and brought them back. He 
went up on Little Thumb Butte. It s all 
bluffs and bowlders there. Up on the highest 
big cliff, at the very top, is a deep crack that 
winds up in a cave like a tunnel. You know 
the place, Stella ? " 

" Yes. But, dad, they ll hunt out the hills 
the first thing." 

" They will not! " said the Major trium- 

The Desire of the Moth 65 

phantly. " They ll read our sign; they ll see 
where four shod horses came up the road. 
I ll claim one of them was a horse I was lead 
ing that ll be that bald-faced roan out in 
the corral. We all want to stick to that." 

" But he s bigger than any of our horses," 
objected Pringle. " They ll know better by 
the tracks." 

"Exactly! So they ll find a fresh-shod 
track going east a track matching the 
fourth track we left on the road. They ll 
reason that we re trying to keep them from 
following that track. So they ll follow it up; 
they ll find Kit s give-out horse and then 
they ll know they re right." 

" It seems to me," said Pringle reflectively, 
" that friend Cowan may have an interesting 
time if they get him." 

The Major permitted himself a grin. 

" He yanked the shoes off his horse before 
he left. Once he mixes his tracks up with a 

66 The Desire of the Moth 

bunch of wild mares he ll be all right. They 
may think, but they can t prove anything. 
And Foy ll be all right if only the posse fol 
lows the plain trail." 

" It s too much to hope," said Stella. 
" They ll split up. Some of them will hunt 
out the hills anyway to-morrow, if not to 

u That s my idea of it," said Pringle. 

" They won t find the cave if they do," said 
Vorhis hopefully. " If he can get to the Bar 
Cross they ll see him through, once they hear 
his story. Not telling about that clean-up you 
and Kit made last night is a dead give 

" Any chance of Foy slipping out afoot? " 
Too far. But he could stand a siege till 
we could get word to his friends if, by any 
chance, the posse should find his cave. He 
took my rifle. He can see them coming; he ll 
have every advantage against attack; and 

The Desire of the Moth 67 

there s another way out of the cave, up on top 
of the hill. There s just one thing against 
him. There wasn t even a canteen here. He 
took some jerky and canned stuff but only 
one measly beer bottle of water. When that s 
used up it s going to be a dull time for him. 
We can t get water to him very handy with 
out leaving some sign. We mustn t get hos 
tile with the posse. Take it easy you espe 
cially, Pringle. Stella and me, they know 
where we stand. But you re a stranger. 
Maybe they ll let you go on. If you once get 
away bring the Bar Cross boys and they ll 
take Foy out of here in broad day." 

Very pretty but there s four men in Las 
Uvas that know me and three of them are 
police. Maybe they ll stay in the city though 
being police? " 

" No, they won t," said the Major gloom 
ily. " They ll be along deputized, of 
course. Maybe they won t be in the first 

68 The Desire of the Moth 

batch though. Your part is to be the disin 
terested traveler, wanting to be on your 

" It won t work, Major. This is a put-up 
job. Even if Applegate and his strikers 
aren t along they ve given my description. 
Somebody will know I was with Foy last 
night, and they ll know I m lying." 

The Major sighed. "That s so, too. I m 
afraid you re in for trouble." 

" I m used to that," said Pringle lightly. 
" Once, in Arizona " 

" Don t throw it up to me, John," said the 
Major a trifle sheepishly. " I ll say this 
though : I wouldn t ask for a better man in a 
tight than you." 

" Thanks so much!" murmured Pringle. 
" And that Sir Hubert Stanley thing." 

" One more point, John: You don t know 
Foy. I do. Foy ll never give up. He s des 
perate and he s not pleased. There s no 

The Desire of the Moth 69 

question of surrender and standing trial; un 
derstand that He d be lynched, probably, 
if they ever got him in Las Uvas. A trial, 
even, would be just lynching under another 
name. They don t want to capture him any 
way they want a chance to kill him." 

" I wouldn t want the job," said Pringle. 

" Hush ! " said Stella. " I hear them com 
ing. Talk about something else the war in 

The Major picked up a paper. 

"What do you think about the United 
States building a big navy, John? " he asked 

Stealthy footsteps rustled without. 

" Fine ! " said Pringle. " I m strong for it, 
We want dreadnoughts, and lots of em 
biggest we can build. But that ain t all. 
When we make the navy appropriations we 
ought to set by about fifty-some-odd million 
and build a big multiple-track railroad, so we 

70 The Desire of the Moth 

can carry our navy inland in case of war. 
The ocean is no place for a battleship these 

"Stop your kidding!" 

" I m not kidding," said John Wesley in 
dignantly. " I never was twice as serious in 
my whole life. My plan is sound, statesman 
like " 

" Shut up, you idiot! I want to read." 

" Oh, very well, then! I ll grind the cof 

Men crept close to the open door on each 
side of the kitchen. Stella slipped a pan of 
biscuits in the oven ; she laid the table briskly, 
with a merry clatter of tinware; her face was 
cheerful and unclouded. The Major leaned 
back in one chair, his feet on another; he 
was deep in the paper; he puffed his pipe. 
John Wesley Pringle twirled the coffee 
mill between his knees and sang a merry 

The Desire of the Moth 71 

" There were three little mice, playing in the 


Inky, dinky, doodum, day! 
Though they knew they were doing what was 

very, very wrong 
Inky, dinky, doodum, day! 
And the song of the owls, it sounded so nice 
That closer and closer crept the three little mice. 
And the owls came and gobbled them " 

A shadow fell across the floor. 
" Hands up ! " said the sheriff of Dona, 
Ana. " We want Chris Foy ! " 

Chapter IV 

NAVAJO, Pima, and Hopi enjoy seven 
cardinal points north, east, west, 
south, up, down, and right here. In these and 
any intermediate directions from the Vorhis 
Ranch the diligent posse comitatus made 
swift and jealous search through the slow 
hours of afternoon. It commandeered the 
V H Saddle horses in the corral; it searched 
for sign in the soft earth of the wandering 
draws between the dozen low hills scattered 
round Big Thumb Butte and Little Thumb 
Butte; it rode circles round the ranch; the 
sign of Christopher Foy s shod horse was 
found and followed hotfoot by a detachment. 
Eight men had arrived in the first bunch, with 
the sheriff; others from every angle joined by 

twos and threes from hour to hour till the 

The Desire of the Moth 73 

number rose to above a score. A hasty elec 
tion provided a protesting cook and a horse 
wrangler; a V H beef was slaughtered. 

The posse was rather equally divided be 
tween two classes simpletons and fools. 
The first unquestionably believed Foy to be a 
base and cowardly murderer, out of law, 
whom it were most righteous to harry; else, 
as the storied juryman put it, " How came he 
there?" The other party were of those 
who hold that evildoing may permanently 
prosper and endure. 

In the big living room of the adobe ranch 
house much time had been wasted in cross- 
questions and foolish answers. Stella Vorhis 
had been banished to her own room and 
Sheriff Matt Lisner had privately told off a 
man to make sure she did not escape. 

Lisner and Ben Creagan, Grossest of the 
four examiners, had been prepared to meet 
by crushing denial an eager and indignant 

74 The Desire of the Moth 

statement from Pringle, adducing the Gads- 
den House affair and his subsequent com- 
panying with Foy as proof positive of Foy s 
innocence. That no such accusation came 
from Pringle set these able but mystified de- 
niers entirely at a loss, left the denial high 
and dry. Creagan mopped his brow fur 

"Vorhis," said Sheriff Matt, red and 
angry from an hour s endeavor, " I think 
you re telling a pack of lies every word of 
it. You know mighty well where Foy is." 

The Major s gray goatee quivered. 

" Guess I ll tell you lies if I want to," he 
retorted defiantly. 

" But, Sheriff, he may be telling us the 
truth," urged Paul Breslin. " Foy may very 
well have ridden here alone before Vorhis 
got here. I ve known the Major a long time. 
He isn t the man to protect a red-handed 
murderer. * 

The Desire of the Moth 75 

" Aw, bah! How do you know I won t? 
How do you know he s a murderer? You 
make me sick!" declared the Major hotly. 
Breslin was an honest, well-meaning farmer; 
the Major was furious to find such a man 
allied with Foy s foes certain sign that 
other decent blockheads would do likewise. 
" Matt Lisner tells you Kit Foy is a murderer 
and you believe him implicitly: Matt Lisner 
tells you I m a liar but you stumble at that. 
Why? Because you think about me that s 
why ! Why don t you try that plan about Foy 

" But Foy s run away," stammered Breslin, 

"Run away, hell! He s not here, you 
mean. According to your precious story, Foy 
was leaving before Marr was killed or be 
fore you say Marr was killed. Why don t 
you look for him with the Bar Cross round 
up ? There s where he started for, you say ? " 

76 The Desire of the Moth 

" I wired up and had a trusty man go out 
there quietly at once. He s staying there still 
quietly," said the sheriff. u Foy isn t there 
and the Bar Cross hasn t heard of the kill 
ing yet. It won t do, Major. Foy s run 

John Wesley Pringle, limp, slack, and rum 
pled in his chair, yawned, stretching his arms 

This man Foy," he ventured amiably, 
" if he really run away, he done a wise little 
stunt for himself, I think. Because every 
little ever and anon, thin scraps of talk float 
in from your cookfire in the yard and there s 
a heap of it about ropes and lynching, for in 
stance. If he hasn t run away yet, he d bet 
ter and I ll tell him so if I sec him. Stubby, 
red-faced, spindlin , thickset, jolly little man, 
ain t he? Heavy-complected, broad-shoul 
dered, dark blond, very tall and slender, 
weighs about a hundred and ninety, with a 

The Desire- of the Moth 77 

pale skin and a hollow-cheeked, plump, seri 
ous face? " 

At this ill-timed and unthinkable levity 
Breslin stared in bewilderment; Lisner 
glared, gripping his fist convulsively; and 
Mr. Ben Creagan, an uneasy third inquisitor, 
breathed hard through his nose. Anastacio 
Barela, the fourth and last inquisitor, main 
tained unmoved the disinterested attitude he 
had held since the interrogation began. Feet 
crossed, he lounged in his chair, graceful, 
silent, smoking, listening, idly observant of 
wall and ceiling. 

No answer being forthcoming to his query 
Pringle launched another: 

" Speaking of faces, Creagan, old sport, 
what s happened to you and your nose ? You 
look like someone had spread you on the 
minutes." He eyed Creagan with solicitous 

Mr. Creagan s battered face betrayed emo- 

78 The Desire of the Moth 

tion. Pringle s shameless mendacity shocked 
him. But it was Creagan s sorry plight that 
he must affect never to have seen this insolent 
Pringle before. The sheriff s face mottled 
with wrath. Pringle reflected swiftly: The 
sheriff s rage hinted strongly that he was in 
Creagan s confidence and hence was no strarx- 
ger to last night s mishap at the hotel; their 1 
silence proclaimed their treacherous intent. 

On the other hand, these two, if not the, 
others, knew very well that Pringle had left 
town with Foy and had probably stayed with 
him; that the Major must know all that Foy 
and Pringle knew. Evidently, Pringle de 
cided, these two, at least, could expect no 
direct information from their persistent ques 
tionings; what they hoped for was uncon 
scious betrayal by some slip of the tongue. 
As for young Breslin, Pringle had long since 
sized him up for what the Major knew him 
to be a good-hearted, right-meaning simple- 

The Desire of the Moth 79 

ton. In the indifferent-seeming Anastacio, 
Pringle recognized an unknown quantity. 

That, for a certainty, Christopher Foy had 
not killed Marr, was a positive bit of knowl 
edge which Pringle shared only with the mur 
derer himself and with that murderer s ac 
complices, if any. So much was plain, and 
Pringle felt a curiosity, perhaps pardonable, 
as to who the murderer really was. 

Duty and inclination thus happily wedded, 
Pringle set himself to goad ferret-eyed Crea- 
gan and the heavy-jawed sheriff into unwise 
speech. And inattentive Anastacio had a 
shrewd surmise at Pringle s design. He knew 
nothing of the fight at the Gadsden House, 
but he sensed an unexplained tension and he 
knew his chief. 

" And this man, too what about him?" 
said Breslin, regarding Pringle with a puz 
zled face. " Granted that the Major might 
have a motive for shielding Foy he may 

8o The Desire of the Moth 

even believe Foy to be innocent why should 
this stranger put himself in danger for Foy? " 

" Here, now none of that! " said Pringle 
with some asperity. " I may be a stranger to 
you, but I m an old friend of the Major s. 
I m his guest, eating his grub and drinking 
his baccy; if he sees fit to tell any lies I back 
him up, of course. Haven t you got any 
principle at all? What do you think I am? " 

" I know what you are," said the sheriff. 
"You re a damned liar! " 

" An amateur only," said Pringle modestly. 
" I never take money for it." He put by a 
wisp of his frosted hair, the better to scruti 
nize, with insulting slowness, the sheriff s sav 
age face. * Your ears are very large ! " he 
murmured at last. " And red ! " 

The sheriff leaped up. 

" You insolent cur-dog! " he roared. 

" L To stand and be still to the Birken ead 
drill is a dam tough bullet to chew, " quoted 

The Desire of the Moth 81 

Pringle evenly. " But he done it old Prin- 
gle John Wesley Pringle liar and cur-dog 
too ! We ll discuss the cur-dog later. Now, 
about the liar. You re mighty certain, seems 
tome. Why? How do you know I m lying? 
For I am lying I ll not deceive you. I m 
lying; you know I m lying; I know that you 
know I m lying: and you apprehend clearly 
that I am aware that you are cognizant of 
the fact that I am fully assured that you 
know I am lying. Just like that! What a 
very peculiar set of happenstances ! I am a 
nervous woman and this makes my head go 

" The worst day s work you ever did for 
yourself," said the angry sheriff, " was when 
you butted into this business." 

" Yes, yes; go on. Was this to-day or yes 
terday at the hotel?" 

"Liar!" roared Lisner. "You never 
were at the Gadsden House." 

82 The Desire of the Moth 

" Who said I was?" 

The words cracked like a whiplash. Sim 
ultaneously Pringle s tilted chair came down 
to its four legs and Pringle sat poised, his 
weight on the balls of his feet, ready for a 
spring. The sheriff paused midway of a step ; 
his mottled face grew ashen. A gurgle very 
like a smothered chuckle came from Ana- 
stacio. Creagan flung himself into the 

u Aw, Matt, let s have the girl in here. 
We can t get nothing from these stiff-necked 

" Might as well," agreed Lisner in a tone 
that tried to be contemptuous but trembled. 
" We re wasting time here." 

" Lisner," said the Major in his gentlest 
tone, " be well advised and leave my daugh 
ter be." 

"And if I don t?" sneered Lisner. He 
had no real desire to question Stella, but wel- 

The Desire of the Moth 83 

corned the change of venue as a diversion 
from his late indiscretion. u If, in the per 
formance of my duty, I put a few civil ques 
tions to Miss Vorhis in the presence of her 
father, mind you then what? " 

" But you won t! " said the Major softly. 

" Do you know, Sheriff, I think the Major 
has the right idea?" said Pringle. " We 
won t bother the young lady." 

u Who s going to stop me? " 

Anastacio, in his turn, brought his chair to 
the floor, at the same time unclasping his 
hands from behind his head. 

" I ll do that little thing, Sheriff," he an 
nounced mildly. " Miss Vorhis has already 
told us that she has not seen Foy since yester 
day noon. That is quite sufficient." 


" This makes me fidgety. Somebody say 
something, quick anything!" begged Prin 
gle. " All right, then; I will. Let s go back 

84 The Desire of the Moth 

we ve dropped a stitch. That goes about 
me being a liar and a damned one, Sheriff; 
but I m hurt to have you think I m a cur-dog. 
You re the sheriff, doin your duty, as you so 
aptly observed. And you ve done took my 
gun away. But if bein a cur-dog should hap 
pen to vex me honest, Sheriff, I m that sen 
sitive that I ll tell you now not hissing or 
gritting or gnashing my teeth just telling 
you the first time I meet you in a strictly 
private and unofficial way I m goin to remold 
you closer to my heart s desire ! " 

"You brazen hussy! You know you 

"You re still harpin on that, Sheriff? 
That doesn t make it any easier to be a cur- 
dog. How did you know I lied? You say 
so, mighty positive but what are your rea 
sons? Why don t you tell your associates? 
There is an honest man in this room. I am 
not sure there are not two - " 

The Desire of the Moth 85 

Anastacio s eyes again removed themselves 
from the ceiling. 

u If you mean me and somehow I am 
quite clear as to that " 

" I mean Mr. Breslin." 

" Oh, him of course ! " said Anastacio in 
a shocked voice. " Breslin, by all means, for 
the one you were sure of. But the second 
man, the one you had hopes of who should 
that be but me ? I thank you. I am touched. 
I am myself indifferent honest, as Shake- 
spere puts it." 

The sheriff licked his dry lips. 

" If you think I am going to stay here to 
be insulted M 

" You are ! " taunted John Wesley Pringle. 
" You ll stay right here. What? Leave me 
here to tell what I have to say to an honest 
man and a half? Impossible ! You ll not let 
me out of your sight." 

" My amateur Ananias," interrupted Ana- 

86 The Desire of the Moth 

stacio dispassionately, " you are, unintention 
ally, perhaps, doing me half of a grave injus 
tice. In this particular instance for this day 
and date only I am as pure as a new-mown 
hay. To prevent all misapprehension let me 
say now that I never thought Foy killed Dick 

"In heaven s name, why?" demanded 

" My honest but thick-skulled friend, let 
me put in my oar," implored the Major. 
" Let me show you that Matt Lisner never 
thought Foy was guilty. Foy said last night, 
before the killing, that he was coming up 
here, didn t he?" 

" Hey, Major hold up ! " cried Pringle. 
But Vorhis was not to be stopped. 

" Don t you see, you doddering imbecile? 
If Foy had really killed Dick Marr he might 
have gone to any other place in the world 
but he wouldn t have come here." 

The Desire of the Moth 87 

u Aha! So Foy did come here, hey?" 
croaked the sheriff, triumphant in his turn. 
"Thanks, Major, for the information, 
though I was sure before, humanly speaking, 
that he came this way." 

" Which is another way of saying that you 
don t think Foy did the killing that you 
don t even suspect him of it," said Anastacio. 
as the Major subsided, crestfallen. " Matt 
Lisner, I know that you hate Foy. I know 
that you welcome this chance to get rid of 
him. Make no mistake, Breslin. I was not 
wanted here. I wasn t asked and none of 
my people were brought along. I tagged 
along, though to wait. It s one of the best 
little things I do waiting. And I came to 
protect Foy, not to capture him. I came to 
keep right at his side, in case he surrendered 
without a fight for fear he might be killed 
. . . escaping ... on the way back. It s 
a way that we have in Las Uvas ! " 

88 The Desire of the Moth 

Lisner threw a look of hate at his deputy. 

You don t mean to tell me there s any 
danger of anything like that?" said Breslin, 
staggered and aghast. 

" Every danger. That s an old gag the 
ley fuga" 

" You lie ! " bawled Creagan. His six- 
shooter covered Anastacio. 

" That ll keep. Put up your gun, Bennie," 
said Anastacio with great composure. " Sup 
per s most ready. Besides, the Barelas 
won t like it if you shoot me this way. 
There s a lot of the Barelas, Ben. I ll tell 
you what I ll do, though I ll slip the idea to 
my crowd, and any time you want to kill me 
on an even break, no Barela or Ascarate will 
take it up. Put it right in your little holster 
put it up, I say! That s right. You see, 
Breslin? Don t let Foy out of your sight if 
he should be taken." 

" But he ll never let himself be taken 

The Desire of the Moth 89 

alive," said Vorhis. " Even if anyone wants 
to take him alive. Pass the word to your 
friends, Breslin, unless you want them to take 
part in a deliberate, foreplanned murder." 

" Damn you, what do you mean? " shouted 
the sheriff. 

" By God, sir, I mean just what I say! " 

" Why, girls I " said Pringle. " You shock 
me ! This is most unladylike. This is scan 
dalous talk. Be nice! Please pretty 
please ! See, here comes some more pussy 
foot posse three, six, eleven hungry men. 
Have they got Foy? No; they have not got 
Foy. Is he up? He is up. Look who s here 
too! Good old Applegate and Brother Es- 
palin. I wonder now if they re goin to give 
me the cut direct, like Creagan did? You 
notice, Mr. Breslin." 

The horsemen rode into the corral. 

"No; don t go, Sheriff," said Anastacio. 
" I m anxious to see if those two will recog- 

9O The Desire of the Moth 

nize Ananias the Amateur. They ll be here 
directly. You, either, Creagan. Else I ll 
shoot you both in the back, accidentally, clean 
ing my gun." 

From without was the sound of spurred 
feet in haste ; three men appeared at the open 

"Why, if it ain t George! Good old 
George ! " cried Pringle, rising with out 
stretched arms. " And my dear friend Es- 
palin ! What a charming reunion ! " 

Applegate s eyes threw a startled question 
at his chief and at Creagan; Espalin slipped 
swiftly back through the door. 

" I don t know you, sir," said Applegate. 

" George ! You re never going to disown 
me ! Joe s gone, too. Nobody loves me ! " 

The third man, a grizzled and bristly old 
warrior with a limp, broke in with a roar. 

"What in hell s going on here?" he 

The Desire of the Moth 91 

" You are, for one thing, if you don t mod 
erate your voice," said Anastacio. " Nueces, 
you bellow like the bulls of Bashan. Mr. Ap- 
plegate, meet Mr. Pringle." 

" What does he mean, then, by such 
monkeyshines ? " demanded the other old 
Nueces River, chief of police, ex-ranger, and, 
for this occasion, deputy sheriff. " I got no 
time for foolishness. And you can t run no 
whizzer on me, Barela. Don t you try it! " 

" Oh, they re just joking, Nueces," said the 
Major. " Tell us how about it. Here, I ll 
light the lamp; it s getting dark. Find any 
sign of Foy? " 

Nueces leveled a belligerent finger at the 

" You ve been joking, too ! I ve heard 
about you. Lisner, I m ashamed of you ! 
Let Vorhis pull the wool over your eyes, 
while you sit here and jaw all afternoon, do 
ing nothing ! " 

92 The Desire of the Moth 

"Why, what did you find out?" 
u A-plenty. Them stiffs you sent out found 
Foy s horse, to begin with." 

" Sure it was Foy s horse ? " queried Lisner 

" Sure I I know the horse that big calico 
horse of his." 

" Why didn t you follow him up? " 
" Follow hell ! Oh, some of the silly fools 
are milling round out there going over to 
the San Andres to-night to take a big hunt 
manana. Not me. That horse was a blind. 
They pottered round tryin to find some trace 
of Foy blind fools ! till I met up with em. 
I d done gathered in that mizzable red 
headed Joe Cowan on a give-out horse, claim- 
in he d been chousin after broom-tails. 
He d planted Foy s horse, I reckon. 
But it can t be proved, so I let him go. 
He ll have to walk in; that s one good 

The Desire of the Moth 93 

" But Foy where do you figure Foy s 

" Maybe he simply was not," suggested 
Pringle, " like Enoch when he was translated 
into all European languages, including the 

" Pringle, if you say another word I ll have 
you gagged ! " said the exasperated sheriff. 
" Don t you reckon, Nueces, that Cowan 
brought Foy a barefooted horse? He can t 
have gone on afoot or you d have seen his 

" Sheriff, you certainly are an easy mark! " 
returned Nueces, in great disgust. " Foy 
didn t go on afoot or horseback, because he 
was never there. I ve told you twice : Cowan 
left that calico horse on purpose for us to 
find. Vorhis is Foy s friend. Can t you see, 
if Foy had tried to get away by hard riding 
he would have had a fresh horse, not the one 
he rode from Las Uvas, and you wouldn t 

94 The Desire of the Moth 

have found a penful of fresh horses to chase 
him with? Not in a thousand years! That 
was to make it nice and easy for you to ride 
on a six-year-old kid could see through it! 
It s a wonder you didn t all fall for it and 
chase away. No, sir! Foy either stopped 
down on the river and sent his horse on to 
fool us or, more likely, he s up in the Buttes. 
Did you look there? " 

" I sent the boys round to out sign. I did 
n t feel justified in hunting out the rough 
places till we had more men. Too much 
cover for him." 

"And none for you, I s pose? Mamma! 
but you re a fine sheriff! Look now: After 
we started back here we sighted a dust comin 
way up north. We went over, and twas 
Hargis, the Major s buckaroo, throwin in a 
bunch from the round-up. He didn t know 
nothin and was not right sure of that till I 
mentioned your reward. Soon as ever I men- 

The Desire of the Moth 95 

tioned twenty-five hundred, he loosened up 
right smart." 

" Well? Did he know where Foy was? " 

"No; but he knew of the place where I 
judge Foy is, this very yet. Gosh ! " said 
Nueces River in deep disgust, " it beats hell 
what men will do for a little dirty money! 
Seems there s a cave near the top of the least 
of them two buttes the roughest one a cave 
with two mouths, one right on the big top. 
Nobody much knows where it is, only the V 
H outfit." 

Pringle had edged across the room. He 
now plucked at Bell Applegate s sleeve. 

" Say, is that right about that reward > 
twenty-five hundred?" he whispered. His 
eyes glistened. 

" Forty-five," said Bell behind his hand. 
" The Masons, they put up a thousand, and 
Dick s old uncle that would have let Dick 
starve or work he tacked on a thousand 

96 The Desire of the Moth 

more. Dead or alive ! " He looked down at 
Pringle s face, at Pringle s working fingers, 
opening and shutting avariciously; he sneered. 
" Don t you wish you may get it? S-sh! 
Hear what the old man s saying." 

During the whispered colloquy the old 
ranger had kept on : 

" There s where he is, a twenty-to-one 
shot! He ll lay quiet, likely, thinkin we ll 
miss him. Brush growin over both the cave 
mouths, Hargis says, so you might pass right 
by if you didn t know where to look. These 
short nights he couldn t never get clear on 
foot. Thirty mile to the next water we d 
find his tracks and catch him. But he might 
make a break to get away, at that. Never 
can tell about a he-man like that. We can t 
take no chances. We ll pick a bite of supper 
and then we surround that hill, quiet as mice, 
and close up on him. He can t see us to shoot 
if we re fool enough to make any noise. 

The Desire of the Moth 97 

Come daylight, we ll have him cornered, 
every man behind a bowlder. If he shows 
up he s our meat; if he don t we ll starve 
him out." 

" And suppose he isn t there?" said 
Creagan. " What would we look like, 
watching an empty cave two or three 

What do we look like now? Give you 
three guesses," retorted Nueces. " And 
how d we look rushin that empty cave if it 
didn t happen to be empty? Excuse me ! I d 
druther get three grand heehaws and a tiger 
for bein ridiculous than to have folks tiptoe 
by a-whisperin : How natural he looks ! 
I been a pretty tough old bird in my day but 
goin up a tunnel after Kitty Foy ain t my 
idea of foresight." 

" Some man some good man, too will 
have to stay here and stand guard on the 
Major and this fresh guy, Pringle," said the 

98 The Desire of the Moth 

sheriff thoughtfully. " He ll get his slice of 
the money, of course." 

" You ll find a many glad to take that end 
of the job; for," said Nueces River, " it is in 
my wise old noddle some of us are going to be 
festerin in Abraham s bosom before we earn 
that reward money. Leave Applegate he s 
in bad shape for climbing anyway; bruise on 
his belly big as a washpan." 

" Bronc bucked me over on the saddle 
horn," explained Applegate. " Sure, I ll stay. 
And the Pringle person will be right here 
when you get back, too." 

" Let the Major take some supper in to 
Miss Vorhis," suggested Breslin. " I ll keep 
an eye on him. He can eat with her and cheer 
her up a little. This is hard lines for a girl." 

Lisner shrugged his shoulders. 

"We have to keep her here till Foy s 
caught. She might bring a sight of trouble 
down on us." 

The Desire of the Moth 99 

" Say, what s the matter with me going out 
and eating a few? " asked Pringle. 

" You stay here ! You talk too much with 
your mouth," replied the sheriff. " I ll send 
in a snack for you and Bell. Come on, boys." 

They filed out to the cook s fire in the 
walled courtyard. 

" George, dear," said Pringle when the 
two were left alone, " is that right about 
the reward? Cause I sure want to get in 

on it." 

" Damn likely. You knew where Foy was. 
You know where he is now. Why didn t you 
tell us, if you wanted in on the reward? " 

" Why, George, I didn t know there was 
any reward. Besides, him and me split up 
as soon as we got clear of town." 

"You re a damn liar!" 

" That s what the sheriff said. Somebody 
must a give me away," complained John 
Wesley. He rolled a cigarette and walked to 

ioo The Desire of the Moth 

the table. " All the same, you re making a 
mistake. You hadn t ought to roil me. Just 
for that, soon as they re all off on their man 
hunt, I m goin to study up some scheme to 
get away." 

" I got a picture of you gettin away! " 
" George," said John Wesley, " you see 
that front door ? Well, that s what we call in 
theatrical circles a practical door. Along 
toward morning I m going out through that 
practical door. You ll see ! " 

He raised the lamp, held the cigarette over 
the chimney top and puffed till he got a light; 
so doing he smoked the chimney. To inspect 
the damage he raised the lamp higher. 
Swifter than thought he hurled it at his ward 
er s head. The blazing lamp struck Apple- 
gate between the eyes. Pringle s fist flashed 
up and smote him grievously under the jaw; 
he fell crashing; the half-drawn gun clattered 
from his slackened fingers. Pringle caught it 

The Desire of the Moth 101 

up and plunged into the dark through the 
practical door. 

He ran down the adobe wall of the water 
pen; a bullet whizzed by; he turned the cor 
ner; he whisked over the wall, back into the 
water pen. Shouts, curses, the sound of rush 
ing feet without the wall. Pringle crouched 
in the deep shadow of the wall, groped his 
way to the long row of watering troughs, and 
wormed himself under the upper trough, 
where the creaking windmill and the splash 
ing of water from the supply pipe would 
drown out the sound of his labored breath. 

Horsemen boiled from the yard gate with 
uproar and hullabaloo; Pringle heard their 
shouts; he saw the glare of soap weeds, fired 
to help their search. 

The lights died away; the shouts grew 
fainter: they swelled again as the searchers 
straggled back, vociferous. Pringle caught 
scraps of talk as they watered their horses. 

IO2 The Desire of the Moth 

" Clean getaway! " 

" One bad actor, that hombre! " 

"Regular Go-Getter!" 

" Batting average about thirteen hundred, 
I should figger." 

"Life-size he-man! Where do you sup 
pose " 

" Saw a lad make just such another break 
once in Van Zandt County " 

"Say! Who re you crowdin ?" 

" Hi, fellers ! Bill s giving some more his 
tory of the state of Van Zandt! " 

" Applegate s pretty bad hurt." 

" in a gopher hole and near broke my 

fool neck." 

Where d this old geezer come from, any 
way? Never heard of him before ! " 

" Tain t fair, just when we was all 
crowdin up for supper! He might have 

" This will be merry hell and repeat if he 

The Desire of the Moth 103 

hooks up with Foy," said Creagan s voice, 
adding a vivid description of Pringle. 

Old Nueces answered, raising his voice : 

" He s afoot. We got to beat him to it. 
Let s ride ! " 

"That s right," said the sheriff. "But 
we ll grab something to eat first. Saddle up, 
Hargis, and lead us to your little old cave. 
Robbins, while we snatch a bite you bunch 
what canteens we ve got and fill em up. 
Then you watch the old man and that girl, 
and let Breslin come with us. You can eat 
after we ve gone." 

" Don t let the girl heave a pillow at you, 
Robbins ! " warned a voice. 

" Better not stop to eat," urged Nueces. 

" We can lope up and get to the foot of 
Thumb Butte before Pringle gets halfway 
if he s going there at all. Most likely he s 
had a hand in the Marr killing and is just 
running away to save his own precious 

IO4 The Desire of the Moth 

neck," said the sheriff. " We ll scatter out 
around the hill when we get to the roughs, 
and go up afoot till every man can see or 
hear his neighbor, so Pringle can t get 
through. Then we ll wait till daylight." 

" That may suit you," retorted Nueces. 
u Me, I don t intend for any man that will 
buck a gun with a lamp to throw in with Kit 
Foy while I stuff my paunch. That sort is 
just the build to do a mile in nothing flat 
and it s only three miles to the hill. I m goin 
now, and I m goin hellity-larrup ! Come on, 
anybody with more brains than belly I m off 
to light a line of soap weeds on that hill so 
this Mr. Pringle-With-the-Punch don t walk 
himself by. If he wants up he ll have to hoof 
it around the other side of the hill. We won t 
make any light on the north side. That Bar 
Cross outfit is too damn inquisitive. The 
night herders would see it; they d smell trou 
ble; and like as not the whole bilin of em 

The Desire of the Moth 105 

would come pryin down here by daylight. 
Guess they haven t heard about Foy or they d 
be here now. They re strong for Foy. Come 
on, you waddies ! " 

Mr. Pringle-With-the-Punch, squeezed, 
cramped, and muddy under the trough, heard 
this supperless plan with displeasure ; his hope 
had been otherwise. He heard the sound of 
hurried mounting; from the thunder of gal 
loping hoofs it would seem that a goodly 
number of the posse had come up to the speci 
fications laid down by the old ranger. 

The others clanked away, leaving their 
horses standing. The man Robbins grum 
bled from saddle to saddle and gathered can 
teens. As he filled them from the supply pipe 
directly above Mr. Pringle s head, he set 
them on the ground within easy reach of Mr. 
Pringle s hand. Acting on this hint Mr. Prin 
gle s hand withdrew a canteen, quite unos 
tentatiously. An unnecessary precaution, as 

io6 The Desire of the Moth 

it turned out; Mr. Robbins, having filled that 
batch, went to the horses farther down the 
troughs to look for more canteens. So Prin- 
gle wriggled out with his canteen, selected 
a horse, and rode quietly through the open 

"Going already?" called Robbins as he 

Secure under cover of darkness, Pringle 
answered in the voice of one who, riding, 

"Yes, indeedy; I ain t no hawg. Wasn t 
much hungry nohow ! " 

Chapter V 

AT the foot of Little Thumb Butte a 
lengthening semicircle of fire flared 
through the night. John Wesley Pringle 
swung far out on the plain to circle 
round it. 

" This takes time," he muttered to him 
self, " but at least I know where not to go. 
That old rip-snorter sure put a spoke in my 
wheel ! Looks like Foy might see them lights 
and drift out away from this. But he won t, 
I guess they said his hidey-hole was right on 
top, and the shoulder of the hill will hide 
the fires from him. Probably asleep, anyhow, 
thinkin he s safe. I slep three hours this 
morning at the Major s; but Foy he didn t 
sleep any. Even if he did leave, they d 

track him up in the morning and get him 

io8 The Desire of the Moth 

and he knows it. Somebody s goin to be 
awfully annoyed when he misses this 

He could see the riders, dim-flitting as 
they passed between him and the flames. 
Once he stopped to listen; he heard the re 
maining half of the man-hunt leaving the 
ranch. They were riding hard. Thereafter 
Pringle had no mercy on his horse. Ride as 
he might, those who followed had the inner 
circle; when he rounded the fires and struck 
the hill his start was perilously slight. While 
the footing was soft he urged the wearied 
horse up the slope ; at the first rocky space he 
abandoned the poor beast lest the floundering 
of shod hoofs should betray him. He took 
off saddle and bridle; he hung the canteen 
over his shoulder and pressed on afoot. 

A light breeze had overcast the stars with 
thin and fleecy clouds. This made for Prin- 
gle s safety; it also made the going harder 

The Desire of the Moth 109 

and it would have been hard going by day 

The slope became steeper; ledges of rock, 
little at first, became larger and more fre 
quent; he came to bluffs that barred his prog 
ress, slow and painful at best; he was forced 
to search to left or right for broken places 
where he could climb. Bits of rock, dis 
lodged by his feet, fell clattering despite his 
utmost care ; he heard the like from below, to 
the left, to the right. The short night wore 
swiftly on. 

With equal fortune John Wesley should 
have maintained his lead. But he found 
more than his share of no-thoroughfares. 
Before long his ears told him that men were 
almost abreast of him on each side. He was 
handicapped now, because he must shun any 
chance meeting. His immediate neighbors, 
however, had no such fear; they edged closer 
and closer together as they climbed. At last, 

i io The Desire of the Moth 

stopped against a perpendicular wall ten feet 
high, he heard them creeping toward him 
from both sides, with a guarded " Coo-ee ! " 
each to the other; John Wesley slipped down 
the hill to the nearest bush. His neighbors 
came together and held a whispered dis 
course. They viewed the barrier with 
marked patience, it seemed; they sat down in 
friendly fashion and smoked cigarette after 
cigarette; the hum of their hushed voices 
reached Pringle, murmuring and indistinct. 
It might almost be thought that they were 
willing for others to precede them in the 
place of honor. A faint glow showed in 
the east; the moon had thoughts of 

After an interminable half-hour the two 
worthies passed on to the right. Pringle took 
to the left, more swiftly. Time for caution 
had passed; moonlight might betray him. 
When he found a way up that unlucky wall 

The Desire of the Moth in 

others of the search party farther to the left 
were well beyond him. 

Perhaps a quarter of a mile away, the last 
sheer cliff, the Thumb which gave the hill its 
name, frowned above him, a hundred feet 
from base to crest. Pringle bore obliquely 
up to the right. Speed was his best safety 
now; he pushed on boldly, cheered by the 
thought that if seen by any of the posse he 
would be taken for one of their own num 
ber. But Foy, seeing him, would make the 
same mistake ! It was an uncomfortable re 

The pitch was less abrupt now, and there 
were no more ledges ; instead, bowlders were 
strewn along the rounded slope, with bush 
and stunted tree between. Through these 
Pringle breasted his way, seeking even more 
to protect himself from above than from be 
low, forced at times to crawl through an open 
space exposed to possible fire from both sides; 

H2 The Desire of the Moth 

so came at last to the masses of splintered 
and broken rock at the foot of the cliff, where 
he sank breathless and panting. 

The tethered constellations paled in the 
sky; the moon rose and lit the cliff with silver 
fire. The worst was yet to come. Foy 
would ask no questions of any prowler, that 
was sure; he would reason that a friend 
would call out boldly. And John Wesley 
had no idea where Foy or his cave might be. 
Yet he must be found. 

With a hearty swig at the canteen Pringle 
crept off to the right. The moonlight beat 
full upon the cliff. He had little trouble in 
that ruin of broken stone to find cover from 
foes below; but at each turn he confidently 
looked forward to a bullet from his friend. 

"Foy! Foy!" he called softly as he 
crawled. " It s Pringle ! Don t shoot I " 

After a space he came to an angle where 
the cliff turned abruptly west and dwindled 

The Desire of the Moth 113 

sharply in height. He remembered what 
the Major had said the upper entrance of 
the cave came out on the highest crest of the 
hill. He turned back to retrace his painful 
way. The smell of dawn was in the air; 
the east sparkled. No sound came from 
the ambush all around. The end was 

He passed by his starting-point; he crept 
on by slide and bush and stone. The moon 
magic faded and paled, mingled with the 
swift gray of dawn. He held his perilous 
way. Cold sweat stood on his brow. If 
Foy or a foe of Foy were on the cliff now, 
how easy to topple down a stone upon him! 
The absolute stillness was painful. A 
thought came to him of Stella Vorhis her 
laughing eyes, her misty hair, the little hand 
that had lingered upon his own. Such a 
little, little hand! 

Before him a narrow slit opened in the 

H4 The Desire of the Moth 

wall such a crevice as the Major had de 

" Foy! Oh, Foy! " he called. No answer 
came. He raised his voice a little louder. 
u Foy! Speak if you re there! It s Prin- 

A gentle voice answered from the cleft: 

" Let us hope, for your sake, that you are 
not mistaken about that. I should be dread 
fully vexed if you were deceiving me. 
The voice is the voice of Pringle, but how 
about the face? I can only see your 

" I would raise my head, so you could take 
a nice look by the well-known cold gray light 
of the justly celebrated dawn," rejoined Prin 
gle, " if I wasn t reasonably sure that a rifle 
shot would promptly mar the classic outlines 
of my face. They re all around you, Foy. 
Hargis, he gave you away. Don t show a 
finger nail of yourself. Let me crawl up be- 

The Desire of the Moth 115 

hind that big rock ahead and then you can 
identify me." 

" It s you, all right," said Foy when Prin- 
gle reached the rock and straightened him 
self up. 

u I told you so," said Pringle, peering into 
the shadows of the cleft. " I can t see you. 
And how am I going to get to you ? There 
are twenty men with point-blank range. I m 
muddy, scratched, bruised, tired and hungry, 
sleepy and cross and there s thirty feet in 
the open between here and you, and it nearly 
broad daylight. If I try to cross that I ll 
run twenty-five hundred pounds to the ton, 
pure lead. Well, we can put up a pretty 
nifty fight, even so. You go back to the other 
outlet of your cave and I ll stay here. I m 
kinder lonesome, too. . . . Toss me some 
cartridges first. I only got five. I left in a 
hurry. You got forty-fives?" 

" Plenty. But you can t stay there. 

n6 The Desire of the Moth 

They ll pot you from the top of the bluff, first 
off. Besides, you got a canteen, I see. You 
back up to that mountain mahogany bush, 
slip under it, and worm down through the 
rocks till you come to a little scrub-oak tree 
and a big granite bowlder. They ll give you 
shelter to cross the ridge into a deep ravine 
that leads here where I am. You ll be out 
of sight all the way up once you hit the ravine. 
I d I d worm along pretty spry if I was you, 
going down as far as the scrub oak say, 
about as swift as a rattlesnake strikes and 
pray any little prayers you happen to remem 
ber. And say, Pringle, before you go ... 
I m rather obliged to you for coming up here ; 
risking taking cold and all. If it ll cheer you 
up any I ll undertake that anyone getting you 
on the trip will think there s one gosh-awful 
echo here." 

"S long!" said Pringle. 

He wriggled backward and disappeared. 

The Desire of the Moth 117 

Ten minutes later he writhed under the bush 
at Foy s feet. 

" Never saw me ! " he said. " But 111 al 
ways sleep in coils after this always sup 
posing we got any after this coming to us." 

" One more crawl," said Foy, leading the 
way. " We ll go up on top. Regular fort up 
there. If we ve got to die we ll die in the 


He stooped at what seemed the end of the 
passage and crawled out of sight under the 
low branches of a stunted cedar. Pringle 
followed and found himself in the pitch dark. 

u Grab hold of my coat tail. I know my 
way, feeling the wall. Watch your step or 
you ll bark your shins." 

The cave floor was smooth underfoot, ex 
cept for scattered rocks; it rose and dipped, 
but the general trend was sharply upward. 

" You re quite an institution, Pringle. 
You ve made good Stella s word of you the 

ii8 The Desire of the Moth 

best ever ! " said Foy as they mounted. " But 
you can t do me any good, really. I ll enjoy 
your company, but I wish you hadn t 


That s all right. I always like to finish 
what I begin." 

"Well," remarked Foy cheerfully, "I 
reckon we ve reached the big finish, both of 
us. I don t see any way out. All they ve 
got to do is to sit tight till we starve out for 
water. Wish you was out of it. It s going 
to be tough on Stella, losing her friend and 
and me, both at once. How s she making 
out? Full of fight and hope to the last, I ll 

They had me under herd; but she was 
wishing for the Bar Cross buddies to butt in, 
I believe. Reckon your sheriff-man guessed 
it. He had her under guard, too." 

" Nice man, the sheriff ! How d you get 
away from your herder?" 

The Desire of the Moth 119 

" He don t just remember," said Pringle. 

"Who was it?" 

" Applegate. Dreadful absent-minded, 
Applegate is. Ouch ! There went my other 
shin. Had any sleep? " 

" Most all night. Something woke me up 
about two hours ago, and I kept on the look 

out ever since." 

" That was me, I guess. I had to step 
lively. They was crowding me." 

" If the Bar Cross happened to get word," 
observed Foy thoughtfully, " we might stand 
some hack. But they won t. It s good- 
by, vain world, for ours! Say, in case a 
miracle happens for you, just make a memo 
about the sheriff being a nuisance, will 

" I ll tie a string on my finger. Any 
thing else?" 

* You might stick around and cheer Stella 
up a little. I ll do as much for you some- 

I2O The Desire of the Moth 

time. I m thinking she ll feel pretty bad at 
first. Here we are ! " 

A faint glimmer showed ahead. They 
crawled under low bushes and stumbled out, 
in what seemed at first a dazzle of light; 
into a small saucer-shaped plat of earth a 
few feet across, enclosed by an irregular oval 
made by great blocks of stone, man-high. 
Below, a succession of little cliffs fell away, 
stair fashion, to an exceeding high and nar 
row gap which separated Little Thumb Butte 
from its greater neighbor, Big Thumb Butte. 

" Castle Craney Crow," smiled Foy with a 
proprietary wave of his hand. " Just right 
for our business, isn t it? Make yourself 
at home, while I take a peep around about." 
He bent to peer through bush and crack. 
" Nothing stirring," he announced. He 
leaned his rifle against a walling rock. 
" Let s have a look at that water." 

He raised the canteen to his lips. Pringle 

The Desire of the Moth 121 

struck swift and hard to the tilted chin. Foy 
dropped like a poled bullock; his head struck 
heavily against the sharp corner of a rock. 
Pringle pounced on the stricken man. He 
threw Foy s sixshooter aside ; he pulled Foy s 
wrists behind him and tied them tightly with 
a handkerchief. Then he rolled his captive 

Foy s eyes opened; they rolled back till 
only the whites were visible ; his lips twitched. 
Pringle hastily bound his handkerchief to the 
gash the stone had made; he sprinkled the 
blood-streaked face with water; he spilled 
drops of water between the parted lips. Foy 
did not revive. 

Pringle stuck his hat on the rifle muzzle 
and waved it over the parapet of rock. 

"Hello!" he shouted. "Bring on your 
reward! I ve got Foy! It s me Pringle! 
Come get him; and be quick he s bleeding 
mighty bad." 

122 The Desire of the Moth 

" Come out, you ! Hands up and no mon 
key business! " answered a startled voice not 
fifty yards away. 

"Who s that? That you, Nueces? Give 
me your word and I ll lug him out. No time 
to lose he s hurt, and hurt bad." 

" You play fair and we will. I give my 
word! " shouted Nueces. 

" Here goes ! " Pringle pitched the rifle 
over. A moment later he staggered out be 
tween the rocks, bearing Foy s heavy weight 
in his arms. The head hung helpless, blood- 
spattered; the body was limp and slack; the 
legs dragged sprawling; the dreaded hands 
were bound. 

Pringle laid his burden on the grass. 

" Here he is, you hyenas I His hands are 
tied are you still afraid of him? Damn 
you ! The man s bleeding to death ! " 

Chapter VI 

" "\7OU treacherous, dirty hound ! " said 

A Breslin. 

" Of all the low-down skunks I ever seen, 
you sure are the skunkiest!" said Nueces. 
" The sheriff was right after all. Cur-dog 
fits you to a T." He finished washing out 
the cut on Foy s head as he spoke. " Now 
the bandages, Anastacio. We ll have the 
blood stopped in a jiffy. Funny he hasn t 
come to. It s been a long while. It ain t the 
head ails him. This isn t such a deep cut; 
it oughtn t to put him out. Just happened to 
strike a vein." He bound up the cut with the 
deftness of experience. 

" I hit him under the jaw," observed 
Pringle. " That s what did the business for 

him. He ll be around directly." 

124 The Desire of the Moth 

Anastacio looked up at Pringle; measure 
less contempt was in his eyes. 

" Judas Iscariot could have sublet his job 
to you at half price if you d been in the 
neighborhood. You are the limit, plus! I 
hope to see you fry in a New English hell! " 

" Oh, that s all right, too," said Pringle 
unabashed. " I might just as well have that 
forty-five hundred as anyone. It wouldn t 
amount to much split amongst all you fel 
lows, but it s quite a bundle for one man. 
That ll keep the wolf from the well-known 
door for quite a while." 

" You won t touch a cent of it I " declared 
the sheriff. 

" Won t I though? We ll see about that. 
I captured him alone, didn t I ? Oh, I reckon 
I ll finger the money, alrighty ! " 

"Here, fellows; give him a bait of 
whisky," said Creagan. 

Breslin, kneeling at Foy s side, took 

The Desire of the Moth 1125 

extended flask. They administered the 
stimulant cautiously, a sip at a time. Foy s 
eyes flickered; his breath came freer. 

" He s coming! " said Breslin. " Give him 
a sip of water now." 

u He ll be O. K. in five minutes, far as 
settin up goes," said old Nueces, well 
pleased; " but he ain t goin to be any too 
peart for quite some time not for gettin* 
down off o this hill. See he s battin his 
eyes and working his hands around. He sure 
heard the birdies singl " 

" The rest of you boys had just as well go 
on down to the shack," directed the sheriff. 
" Creagan and Joe and me will take care of 
Foy till he s able to move or be moved, and 
bring him into camp. You just lead up our 
three horses and an extra one for Foy up 
as far as you can fetch em. One of you can 
ride home behind someone. Call down to 
the bunch under the cliff that we ve got era, 

126 The Desire of the Moth 

and for them to hike out to the ranch and 
take a nap. You d better turn old Vorhis 
loose and that girl. They can t do any 
harm now." 

" Bring my horse, too," said Anastacio. 
" I m staying. I want to be sure the invalid 
gets . . . proper care." 

" Me too," said Breslin. 

" And I m staying to kinder superintend," 
said Nueces dryly. " Sheriff," he added, as the 
main body of the posse fell off down the hill 

u and you, too, Barela I don t just know 
what s going on here, but I m stayin with you 
to a fare-you-well. You two seem to be buck 
ing each other." 

No one answered. 

"Sulky, hey? Well, anyhow, call it off 
long enough to drive this Pringle thing away 
from here. He ain t fittin for no man to 
herd with." 

" I m staying right with this man Foy till 

The Desire of the Moth 127 

I get that reward," announced Pringle. 
" Those are my superintentions. Much I 
care what you think about me ! There s other 
places besides this." 

Breslin raised his eye from Foy s face and 
regarded Pringle without heat a steady, 
contemplative look, as of one who studies 
some strange and interesting animal. Then 
he waved his hand down the pass, where 
certain of the departing posse, were bringing 
the saddle horses in obedience to the sheriff s 

" They ll carry a nice report of you," ob 
served Breslin quietly. " What do you sup 
pose that little girl will think?" 

A flicker of red came to Pringle s hard 
brown face. Even the scorn of Espalin and 
Creagan had left him unabashed, but now 
he winced visibly; and, for once, he had no 
reply to make. 

Foy gasped, struggled to a sitting position, 

128 The Desire of the Moth 

aided by his oddly assorted ministrants, 
gazed round in a dazed condition and lapsed 
back into unconsciousness. 

" I ll take my dyin oath it ain t the cut 
that ails him," said the ranger, tucking a coat 
under Foy s blood-stained head. " That must 
have been a horrible jolt on his jaw, Pringle. 
You re no kind of a man at all no part of a 
man. You re a shameless, black-hearted 
traitor ; but I got to hand it to you as a slug 
ger. Two knock-outs in one day and such 
men as them ! I don t understand it." 

" He most keel Applegate," said the Mex 

"Aw, it s easy!" said Pringle eagerly. 
" There ain t one man in a thousand knows 
how to fight. It ain t cussin and gritting 
your teeth, and swellin up your biceps and 
clenching your fists up tight that does the 
trick. You want to hit like there wasn t any 
body there. I ll show you sometime." 

The Desire of the Moth 129 

He paused inquiringly, as if to book any 
acceptance of this kindly offer. No such en 
gagements being made, Pringle continued: 

" Supposin you was throwin a baseball 
and your hand struck a man accidentally; 
you d hurt him every time only you d break 
your arm that way. That ain t the way to 
strike. I ll show you." 

" That wasn t no olive branch I was hold- 
in out," stated Nueces River. " You ll show 
me nothin turncoat! " 

" It helps a lot, too, when the man you hit 
is not expecting it," suggested Anastacio 
smoothly. " You might show me sometime 
when I m looking for it." 

"Now what s biting you?" demanded 
Pringle testily. " What did you expect me 
to do send em a note by registered mail? " 

" I m not speaking about Applegate. 
That was all right. I am speaking about 
your friend." 

130 The Desire of the Moth 

"Here; Kit s coming to life again," said 

Kitty Foy rolled over; they propped him 
up; he looked round rather wildly from one 
to the other. His face cleared. His eye fell 
upon Pringle, where it rested with a steady 
intentness. When he spoke, at last, he ig 
nored the others entirely. 

" And I thought you were my friend, 
Pringle. I trusted you ! " he said with omi 
nous quietness. " I ll make a note of it. I 
have a good memory, Pringle and good 
friends. Give me some water, someone. I 
feel sick." 

Espalin brought a canteen. 

" Take your time, Chris," said Lisner. 
" Tell us when you feel able to go." 

" I ll be all right after a little. Say, boys, 
it was the queerest feeling coming to, I 
mean. I could almost hear your voices, first. 
Then I heard them a long ways off but I 

The Desire of the Moth 131 

couldn t make any sense to the words. Here ; 
let me lean my back up against this rock and 
sit quiet for a while. Then we ll go. I m 
giddy yet. 7 

"I ve got it!" announced Nueces a mo 
ment later. " Barela, he s hankering to be 
sheriff that s the trouble. He wanted to 
take Chris himself, to help things along. 
That would be quite a feather in any man s 
hat done fair. And the sheriff, natural 
enough, he don t want nothing of the kind." 

That s it," said Anastacio, amusement in 
his eyes. " I knew you were a good gunman, 
Nueces, but I never suspected you of brains 

"What s the matter with that guess?" 
said Nueces sulkily. " Kid, you re always 
ridin me. Don t you try to use any spurs ! " 

" I m in on that," said Pringle, rising 
brightly. That s my happy chance to join 
in this lovin conversation. Speaking about 

132 The Desire of the Moth 

gunmen, I m a beaut ! See that hawk screech- 
in around up there? Well, watch ! " 

The hawk soared high above. Pringle 
barely raised Foy s rifle to his shoulder as 
he fired; the hawk tumbled headlong. Prin 
gle jerked the lever, throwing another cart 
ridge into the barrel, as if to fire again at the 
falling bird. Inconceivably swift, the cocked 
rifle whirled to cover the seated posse. 

" Steady!" said Pringle. "I m watchin 
you, Nueces! Chris, when you re able to 
walk, go on down and pick you a horse from 
that bunch. Unsaddle the others and drive 
em along a ways as you go." Still speaking, 
he edged behind the cover of a high rock. 
" I ll address the meetin till you get a good 
head start. . . . Steady in the boat! " 

" Well, by Heck! " said Nueces. 

" And I thought you had betrayed me ! " 
cried Foy. 

" Well, I hadn t. This was the only show 

The Desire of the Moth 133 

to get off. ... I hate to kill you, Nueces; 
but I will if you make a move." 

"Hell! I ain t makin no move! What 
do you think I am a damn fool?" said 
Neuces. " If I moved any it was because I 
am about to crack under the justly celebrated 
strain. Say, young fellow, it strikes me that 
you change sides pretty often." 

" Yes; I am the Acrobat of the Breakfast 
Table," said Pringle modestly. " Thanks 
for the young fellow. That listens good." 

" Look out I don t have you performing 
on a tight rope yet!" growled the sheriff 
hoarsely. " There ll be more to this. You 
haven t got out of the country yet." 

" That will be all from you, Sheriff. You, 
too, Creagan and Espalin. Not a word or 
I ll shoot. And I don t care how soon you 
begin to talk. That goes ! " 

Espalin shriveled up; the sheriff and Crea 
gan sat sullen and silent. 

134 The Desire of the Moth 

Foy got to his feet rather unsteadily. 

" Chris, you might slip around and gather 
up their guns," said Pringle. " Pick out one 
for yourself. I left yours where I threw it 
when I picked it out of your belt. I meant 
to knock you out, Chris there wasn t any 
other way; but I didn t mean to plumb kill 
you. You hit your head on a rock when you 
fell. It wouldn t have done any good to have 
got the drop on you. You had made up your 
mind not to surrender. You would have shot 
anyhow; and, of course, I couldn t shoot. I d 
just have got myself killed for nothing. No 
good to play I d taken you prisoner. This 
crowd knew you wouldn t be taken except 
by treachery. So I played traitor. As it was, 
when I knocked you out you didn t look much 
like no put-up job. You was bleeding like 
a stuck pig." 

" Hold on, there, before you try to take 
my gun I " warned old Nueces River as Foy 

The Desire of the Moth 135 

came to him for his gun, collecting. " You 
got the big drop on me, Pringle, and I would 
n t raise a hand to keep Chris from getting 
off anyhow not now. But I used to be a 
ranger and the rangers were sworn never 
to give up their guns." 

" How about it, Pringle ? " asked Foy, who 
had already relieved the sheriff and his satel 
lites of their guns. " He ll do exactly as he 
says both ways." 

" I wasn t done talking yet," said Nueces 
irritably. " But I ll let Chris take my gun, 
on one condition." 

"What s that?" inquired Pringle. 

Why, if you ain t busy next Saturday I d 
like to have you call around about one 
o clock, say and kick me good and hard." 

" Let him keep his gun. He called me a 
young fellow. And I don t want Breslin s, 
anyway. He s all right. Not to play any 
favorites, let Anastacio keep his. There are 

136 The Desire of the Moth 

times," said Pringle, " when I have great 
hopes of Anastacio. I m thinking some of 
taking him in hand to see if I can t make a 
man of him." 

" Ananias the Amateur," said Anastacio, 
" I thank you for those kind words. And I d 
like to see you Saturday about two when 
you get through with Nueces. I m next on 
the waiting list. This will be a lesson to me 
never to let my opinion of a man be changed 
by anything he may do." 

" If you fellows feel that way," said Foy, 
" how about me? How do you suppose I 
feel? This man has risked his life fifty times 
for me and what did I think of him? " 

" If you ask me, Christopher," said Ana 
stacio, " I think you were quite excusable. It 
was all very well to dissemble his love but 
I should feel doubtful of any man that 
handed me such a wallop as that until the mat 
ter had been fully explained." 

The Desire of the Moth 137 

" What I want to know, Pringle, is, how 
the deuce you got up here so slick?" said 

" Oh, that s easy! I can run a mile in 
nothing flat" 

"Oh that s it? You hid in the water 

" Under the troughs. Bright idea of 
yours, them fires ! I knew just where not to 
go. After you left I hooked a horse. If 
you d had sense enough to go with the sheriff 
and eat your supper like a human being I d 
a hooked two horses, and Chris and me 
would now be getting farther and farther. I 
don t want you ever to do that again. Sup 
pose Chris had killed me when I tried to 
knock him out? Fine large name I would V 
left for myself, wouldn t I?" 

" If you had fought it out with us," said 
Breslin musingly, " you would have been 
killed both of you; and you would have 

138 The Desire of the Moth 

killed others. Mr. Pringle, you have done 
a fine thing. I apologize to you." 

"Why, that all goes without saying, my 
boy. As for my part why, I don t bother 
much about a blue tin heaven or a comic- 
supplement hell, but I m right smart inter 
ested in right here and now. It s a right 
nice little old world, take it by and large, 
and I like to help out at whatever comes my 
way, if it takes fourteen innings. But, so 
long as you feel that way about it, maybe 
you ll believe me now, when I say that Chris 
topher Foy was with me all last night and he 
didn t shoot Dick Marr." 

" That s right," said Foy. " I don t know 
who killed Dick Marr; but I do know that 
Creagan, Joe Espalin, and Applegate in 
tended to kill me last night. They gave me 
back my sixshooter, that Ben Creagan had 
borrowed and it was loaded with blanks. 
Then they pitched onto me, and if it hadn t 

The Desire of the Moth 139 

been for Pringle they d have got me sure I 
We left town at eleven o clock and rode 
straight to the Vorhis Ranch." 

" I believe you," said Anastacio. " You 
skip along now, Chris. You re fit to ride." 

" Why shouldn t I stay and see it out? " 

" It won t do. For one thing, your thinker 
isn t working as per invoice," said Nueces 
River. " You re in no fix to do yourself jus 
tice. We ll look after your interests. You 
know some of the posse might be coming 
back, askin fool questions. Pull your freight 
up to the Bar Cross till we send for you." 

" Well if you think Pringle isn t running 
any risks I ll go." 

" We ll take care of Pringle. Guess we ll 
make him sheriff next fall, maybe just to 
keep Anastacio in his place. Drift! " 

" No sheriffin for mine, thanks. Con 
tracting is my line. Subcontracting 1 " 

" So long, boys ! You know what I d like 

140 The Desire of the Moth 

to say. You gave me a square deal, you 
three chaps," said Foy. " Get word to 
Stella as soon as ever you can. She thinks 
I m a prisoner, you know. You know what 
I want to say there, Pringle tell her for 
me. . . . Say! Why don t you all go in 
now? You boys all know that Stella s en 
gaged to me, don t you? What s the good 
of keeping her in suspense? Go on to the 
ranch, right away." 

" I told you your head wasn t working 
just right," jeered Nueces. " We want to 
give you a good start. They ll be after you 
again, and you re in no fix to do any hard 
riding. But one of us will go. Breslin, 
you go." 

Too late," observed Anastacio quietly. 
There is Miss Vorhis now, with her father. 
They re climbing to the Gap. Go on, Foy." 

They ve got a led horse," said Nueces 
as Stella and the Major came to the highest 

The Desire of the Moth 141 

point of the Gap. " Who s that for? Chris? 
But they couldn t know about Chris. And 
how did they get here so quick? Don t seem 
like they ve had hardly time." 

Stella dismounted; she pressed on up the 
hill to meet her lover. The first sunshafts 
struck into the Gap, lit up the narrow walls 
with red glory. 

"Magic Casements!" thought Pringle.- 

"Watch Foy get over the ground! " said 
Anastacio. " He ll break his neck before he 
gets down. I don t blame him. He s nearly 
down. Look the other way, boys ! " 

They looked the other way, and there were 
none to see that meeting. Unless, perhaps, 
the gods looked down from high Olympus 
the poor immortals -and turned away, dis 
consolate, to the cheerless fields of asphodel. 

" But they re not going away," said Bres- 
lin after a suitable interval. "They re wait 
ing; and the Major s waving his hat at us." 

142 The Desire of the Moth 

" I ll go see what they want," said Ana- 

In a few minutes he was back, rather 
breathless and extremely agitated in appear 

"Well? Spill it!" said Nueces. "Get 
your breath first. What s the trouble ? " 

" Applegate s dead. Joe Espalin, I arrest 
you for the murder of Richard Marr! Ap- 
plegate confessed!" 

" He lied ! He lied ! " screamed Espalin. 
" I was with Ben till daylight, at the monte 
game; they all tell you. The sheriff he try 
to make me keel heem he try to buy me to 
do eet he keel Dick Marr heemself 1 " 

"That s right!" spoke Creagan, sud 
denly white and haggard. His voice was a 
cringing whine; his eyes groveled. "Marr 
was at Lisner s house. We all went over 
there after the fight. Lisner waked Marr up 
he d been tryin to egg Marr on to kill 

The Desire of the Moth 143 

Foy all day, but Marr was too drunk. He 
was sobering up when we waked him. Lisner 
tried to rib him up to go after Foy and way 
lay him told him he had been threatening 
Foy s life while he was drunk, and that Foy d 
kill him if he didn t get Foy first. Dick said 
he wouldn t do it -he d go along to help ar 
rest Foy, but that s all he d do. The sheriff 
and Joe went out together for a powwow. 
The sheriff came back alone, black as thun 
der him and Dick rode off together " 

The sheriff sprang to his feet, his heavy 
face bloated and blotched with terror. 

" He cursed me; he tried to pull his gun ! " 
he wailed. His eyes protruded, glaring; one 
hand clutched at his throat, the other spread 
out before him as he tottered, stumbling. 
"Oh, my God! "he sobbed. 

That will do nicely," said Anastacio. 

You re guilty as hell ! I ll put your own 

handcuffs on you. Oddly enough, the law 

144 The Desire of the Moth 

provides that when it is necessary to arrest 
the sheriff the duty falls to the coroner. It 
is very appropriate. You must pardon me, 
Mr. Lisner, if I seem unsympathetic. Dick 
Marr was your friend! And you have not 
been entirely fair with Foy, I fear. . . . 
Creagan, we ll hold you and Joe for com 
plicity and for conspiracy in Foy s case. 
We ll arrest Applegate, too, when we get to 
camp. He ll be awfully vexed." 

" What! " shrieked the sheriff, raising his 
manacled hands. "Liar! Murderer!" 

" So Applegate s not dead ? Well, I m just 
as well pleased," said Pringle. 

" Not even hurt badly. I was after the 
Man Lower Down. What the Major told 
me was that the Barelas were at the ranch 
more than enough to hold Lisner s crowd 
down. They come at daylight. I was expect 
ing that, and waiting. As I told you, that s 
the best thing I do waiting." 

The Desire of the Moth 145 

"But how did you know?" demanded 
Breslin, puzzled. 

" I didn t know, for sure. I had a hunch 
and I played it. So I killed poor Apple- 
gate temporarily. It worked out just right 
and nothing to carry." 

" One of the mainest matters with the 
widely-known world," said Pringle wearily, 
" is that people won t play their hunches. 
They haven t spunk enough to believe what 
they know. Let me spell it out for you in 
words of two cylinders, Breslin : You saw 
that I knew Creagan and Applegate, while 
they positively refused to know me at any 
price; you heard the sheriff deny that I was 
at the Gadsden House before I d claimed 
anything of the sort. Of course you didn t 
know anything about the fight at the Gadsden 
House, but that was enough to show you 
something wasn t right, just the same. You 
had all the material to build a nice plump 

146 The Desire of the Moth 

hunch. It all went over your head. You put 
me in mind of the lightning bug: 

" The lightning bug is brilliant, 

But it hasn t any mind; 
It wanders through creation 
With its headlight on behind. 

" Come on let s move. I m fair dead for 

Just a minute!" said Anastacio. "I 
want to call your attention to the big dust off 
in the north. I ve been watching it half an 
hour. That dust, if I m not mistaken, is the 
Bar Cross coming; they ve heard the news! " 

" So, Mr. Lisner, you hadn t a chance to 
get by with it," said Pringle slowly and 
thoughtfully. " If I hadn t balked you, the 
Barelas stood ready; if the Barelas failed, 
yonder big dust was on the way; half your 
own posse would have turned on you for 
half a guess at the truth. It s a real nice 
little world and it hates a lie. A good 

The Desire of the Moth 147 

many people lay their fine-drawn plans, but 
they mostly don t come off ! Men are but 
dust, they tell us. Magnificent dust! This 
nice little old world of ours, in the long 
run, is going right. You can t beat the 
Game ! Once, yes or twice not in the long 
run. The Percentage is all against you. You 
can t beat the Game ! " 

" It s up to you, Sheriff," said Anastacio 
briskly. " I can turn you over to the Bar 
Cross outfit and they ll hang you now; or I 
can turn you over to the Barelas and you 
will be hung later. Dick Marr was your 
friend ! Take your choice. You go on down, 
Pringle, while the sheriff is looking over the 
relative advantages of the two propositions. 
I think Miss Vorhis may have something to 
say to you." 

She came to meet him ; Foy and the Major 
waited by the horses. 

148 The Desire of the Moth 

"John!" she said. "Faithful John!" 
She sought his hands. 

" There now, honey don t take on so ! 
Don t! It s all right! You know what the 
poet says: 

" Cast your bread upon the waters 

And you may live to say: 

Oh, how I wish I had the crust 

That once I threw away! 

Her throat was pulsing swiftly; her eyes 
were brimming with tears, bruised for lost 

"Dearest and kindest friend! When I 
think what you have done for me that you 
faced shame worse than death guarded by 
unprovable honor John ! John ! " 

" Why, you mustn t, honey you mustn t 
do that! Why, Stella, you re crying for 
me! You mustn t do that, Little Next 

" If you had been killed, taking Chris or 

The Desire of the Moth 149 

after you gave him up no one but me would 
have ever believed but that you meant it." 
"But you believed, Stella?" 
" Oh, I knew! I knew!" 
" Even when you first heard of it? " 
" I never doubted you not one instant ! I 
knew what you meant to do. You knew 
I loved him. The led horse was for you. I 
thought Chris would be gone. Why, John 
Wesley, I have known you all my life ! You 
couldn t do that! You couldn t! Oh, kiss 
me, kiss me faithful John ! " 

But he bent and kissed her hands lest, 
looking into his eyes, she should read in the 
book of his life one long, long chapter that 
bore her name. 




"Fair fellow, said Sir Ector, knowest thou not 
in this country any adventures that be here nigh 
hand? Sir, said the forester, , . . strike upon 
that basin with the butt of thy spear thrice, and 
soon after thou shall hear new tidings, and else hast 
thou the fairest grace that many a year had ever 
knight that passed through this forest. . . . Then 
anon Sir Ector beat on the basin as he were wood. 

Chapter I 
"Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit ffof 

STEVE THOMPSON had sold his cat 
tle. El Paso is (was) the Monte Car 
lo of America. Therefore The syllogism 
may be imperfectly stated, but the conclu 
sion is sound. Perhaps there is a premise 
suppressed or overlooked somewhere. 

Cash in hand, well fortified with paving 
material, Thompson descended on the Gate 

154 The Come On 

City. At the expiration of thirty-six blame 
less hours he perceived that he was looking 
through a glass darkly, in the Business 
Man s Club, intently regarding a neatly-let 
tered placard which ambiguously advised 
all concerned in this wise: 




A back-room door was opened. A burst 
of merriment smote across the loneliness. A" 
head appeared. The tip of its nose quiv 

"Hey, old-timer! Will you walk into my 
parlor?" it jeered. 

Steve walked over with dignity and firmly 
closed the door, closing it, through sheer 
inadvertence, from the inside. A shout of 
welcome greeted him. 

With one exception the Transient they 

The Come On 

were all old friends; the Stockman, the 
Judge, alike darkly attractive; the supple- 
handed Merchant, with curly hair and nose; 
and the strong quiet figure of the Eminent 
Person. A wight of high renown and na 
tional, this last, who had attained to his 
present bad Eminence through superior 
longevity. As he was still in the prime of 
life, it should perhaps be explained that his 
longevity was purely comparative, as con 
trasted with that of a number of gentlemen, 
eminent in the same line, who had been a 
trifle dilatory at critical moments, to them 

The Merchant, sometime Banker-by-night, 
as now, began evening up chip-stacks. 
"How much?" he queried. The Judge and 
the Eminent Person hitched along to make 
room between them. 

"I m not playing to-night," Steve began. 

156 The Come On 

He was cut short by a torrent of scoffing 
advice and information. 

"Only one hundred to come in -all you 
got to get out." 

"Another victim !" 

"Bet em high and sleep in the streets!" 

"Table stakes. Cuter goes for aces and 

"Just give us what you can spare handy 
and go to bed. You ll save money and 

"Straight flush the best hand. * 

"All ties go to the sweaters." 

"A man and his money are soon parted!" 

"You play the first hand for fun, and all 
the rest of the night to get even !" Thus, 
and more also, the Five in hilarious chorus. 

"Any man caught bluffing loses the pot," 
added the Eminent Person, gravely admoni 
tory. "And a Lalla-Cooler can only be 
played once a night." 

The Come On 1157 

"Nary a play play I," said Steve aggriev- 
edly. "I stole just one measly horse and 
every one s called me a horse-thief ever 
since. But I ve played poker, lo! these 
many years, and no one ever called me a 
gambler once. The best I get is, Clear out, 
you blamed sucker. Come back when you 
grow a new fleece! and when I get home 
the wind moans down the chimney, 
O-o-o-gh-h ! wha-a-t have you do-o-one with 
your summer s w-a-A-a-ges!" 

"Aw, sit down you re delay in* the 
game," said the Stockman. The Banker 
shoved over three stacks of patriotically as 
sorted colors and made a memorandum. 
The Five howled mockery and derision, the 
cards danced and beckoned luringly in the 
mellow lamplight, the Judge pulled his coat- 
tail, the Major Premise tugged. Steve sat 
down, pulling his sombrero over his eyes. 

"He that runneth after fools shall have 

158 The Come On 

property enough," he quoted inaccurately. 
"I ll have some of your black hides on the 
fence by morning." 

The cards running to him, it was not long 
before Steve doubled his "come-in" several 
times on quite ordinary hands, largely be 
cause his capital was so small that he could 
not be bluffed out. The betting was fierce 
and furious. Steve, "on velvet," played 
brilliantly. But he was in fast company 
too fast for his modest means. The Tran 
sient seemed to have a bottomless purse. 
The Stockman had cattle on a thousand 
hills, the Merchant habitually sold goods at 

As for the Judge his fine Italian hand 
was distinctly traceable in the frenzied re 
plies to frenzied attacks upon certain fren 
zied financial transactions of his chief, a 
frenzied but by no means verdant copper 
magnate, to whom he, the Judge, was Pro- 

The Come On 159 

cureur-General, adviser legal and otherwise. 
The Judge took no thought for the morrow, 
unless his frequently expressed resolve not 
to go home till that date may be so re 

The Eminent Person, a Republican for 
Revenue Only, had been awarded a remu 
nerative Federal position as a tribute to his 
ambidextrous versatility in the life strenu 
ous, and his known prowess as a "Stand- 

Upon all these things Steve reflected. 
With caution, some caution, and again cau 
tion, a goodly sum might well be abstracted 
from these reckless and capricious persons; 
provided always that he had money on the 
table to play a good hand for what it was 

For long his luck held good. Having in 
creased his gains manyfold, he was (being 
quite a natural person) naturally incensed 

160 The Come On 

that they were not more. Yielding to his 
half-formed resolve, he dug up his herd 
of cattle and put them on the table. "I am 
now prepared to grab old Opportunity by 
the scalp-lock," he announced. 

He played on with varying success. Pres 
ently, holding aces up, and being persistently 
crosslifted by the Eminent One and the 
Judge, after a one-card draw all around, he 
became obsessed with the fixed idea that 
they were both bluffing and afraid to show 
down. When this delusion was dispelled, 
he noted with chagrin that the spoils of 
Egypt had departed, taking with them some 
plenty of real money. 

That was the turning-point. By midnight 
he was hoarse with repeating, parrot-wise, 
"That s good give me another stack." His 
persistent losses won him sympathy, even 
from these hardened plungers. 

"Bad luck, old man sure!" purred the 

The Come On 161 

consolatory Stockman, raking the pot. "I 
drawed out on you. Sometimes the cards 
run against a fellow a long time, that way, 
and then turn right around and get worse." 

"Don t you worry about me," retorted 
Steve. "You re liable to go home talking to 
yourself, yet, if the cards break even." 

In the early stages of the game Steve 
had been nervous and restless from the fever 
in his blood. Now he was smiling, easy, se 
rene, his mind working smoothly, like a well- 
oiled machine. Collecting all his forces, 
counting the chances coolly, he played a 
steady, consistent game. 

The reckless plunging ceased so far as it 
was against him. The others, for most part, 
merely called his tentative bets with wary 
respect. Men of his type are never so for 
midable as in defeat. Things had come to 
such a pass that many good hands netted 
him little or nothing. Then came a rally; 

li 62 The Come On 

his pile crept slowly up until he was nearly 

With twenty dollars each in a jackpot, the 
Eminent Person dealing, the Stockman mod 
estly opened for two hundred. The Tran 
sient stayed, as did the Merchant and the 
Judge, the latter mildly stating that he would 
lie low and let some one else play his hand. 
Steve stayed. 

"Happy as the dealer in a big jackpot," 
warbled the Eminent Person. "And now 
we will take an observation." He scruti 
nized his cards, contributed his quota, and 
raised for double the amount. "I ll just 
play the Judge s hand for him," he re 
marked blandly. The Stockman cheerfully 
re-raised five hundred. 

The Transient, momentarily low in funds, 
stayed for all he had before him. "I ve got 
a show for this much," he said, pushing back 
the side money. "And a pretty good one. 

The Come On 163 

Bet your fool heads off ! YouVe got to beat 
a hectic flush to finger this pot!" 

The Merchant laid down three sevens, of 
diamonds, spades and clubs. "Any one got 
the seven of hearts ?" he wondered. The 
Judge called. Steve, squeezing his hand 
carefully, drew out the seven of hearts, 
flashed it at the Merchant, replaced it, and 

The Eminent Person, after due consider 
ation, saw the five hundred and raised it to 
a thousand. "To dissuade you all from 
drawing out on me," he explained, stroking 
his mustache with deliberate care. 

The Stockman called without comment. 
The Judge hesitated, swore ferociously, and 
finally called. 

Steve squeezed his cards with both 
hands for a final corroborative inspection, 
scratched his head and rolled his eye sol 
emnly around the festal board. 

164 The Come On 

"Eleven hundred dollars of my good coin 
in there now, and here I sit between the 
devil and the deep, blue sea. One thousand 
bucks. Much money. Ugh ! One thousand 
days, each day of twenty-four golden hours 
set with twenty near-diamond minutes 1 Well I 
I sure hate to give you fellows this good 

"Steve s got one of them things!" sur 
mised the Stockman. 

"A fellow does hate to lay down a bob 
tail straight flush when there s such a chance 
for action if he fills," chimed in the Emi 
nent dealer. 

"It s face up, Steve. You d just as well 
show us. My boy, you ought to wear a 
mustache," said the Judge, critically. "Your 
lips get pale and give you away when you 
try to screw your courage up. Of course, 
you ve got a sweet, little, rosebud mouth; 

The Come On 165 

but you need a big, ox-horn mustache in this 


"Don t show it, Steve," advised the Stock 
man. "I judge his Honor s got one of them 
same things his black self. You might both 
fill and you don t want to let him see how 
high yours is." 

"If I only don t fill the wrong way," said 
Steve. "Want to split the pot or save stakes 
with me, Judge?" 

"That would be a foolish caper. If I fill 
I mean," the Judge corrected himself has 
tily "I mean, I ve got the money won now, 
unless you draw out, and that s a 52 to i 

"Me, too," said the dealer. "We both 
got it won. But I ll save out a hundred 
with you, Steve. That ll pay your bills and 
take you home." 

"That ll be nine hundred to draw cards 
for a chance at nine thousand and action on 

1 66 The Come On 

what I got left. Faint heart never won a 
jackpot Here goes nothin !" said Steve, 
pushing the money in. "One from the top, 
when you get to me. If I bet after the 
draw, you all needn t call unless you re a 
mind to." 

"Got that side money and pot straight?" 
queried the dealer lightly. "All right?" He 
stretched out a long left arm and flipped the 
cards from the pack with a jerk of the wrist. 
"Cards and spades? (Tin pat, myself, of 
course.) Cards to you? None? Certainly. 
None to you, and one to you, one to you, 
none " 

Steve s card, spinning round as it came, 
turned over and lay face up on the table 
the three of hearts. (Laymen will please 
recall that, as already specified, a straight 
flush was, in this game, the Best.) As the 
dealer was sliding the next card off to re- 

The Come On 167 

place it, Steve caught the thin glint of a red 
8 on the corner. 

With a motion inconceivably swift he was 
on his feet, his left hand over the pack. 
"Hold on I" he cried. "Look at this !" He 
made a motion as if to spread out the four 
cards he had retained, checked himself and 
glared, crouching. 

"Sit down, Steve. Don t be a fool," said 
the Stockman. "You know you ve no right 
to an exposed card, and you know he didn t 
go to do it." 

Steve bunched his four cards carefully and 
laid them on the table, face down. "Cer 
tainly not. Oh, no ! He didn t go to do it. 
But he did it, just the same," he said bitter 
ly. "Now, look here! I don t think there s 
anything wrong not for a minute. Noth 
ing worse n dumb, idiotic thumb-hand-sided- 
ness. I specially don t want no one else to 
get mixed up in this," with a glance at the 

1 68 The Come On 

Stockman. "So you and the Judge needn t 
feel called upon to act as seconds. But I m 
vexed. I m vexed just about nine thousand 
dollars worth, likely much more, if my hand 
hadn t been tipped. Mira!" addressing the 
dealer, who sat quietly holding the pack in 
his left hand, his right resting on the table. 
"I ve a right to call for my card turned up, 
haven t I ?" 

"Sure thing," said the dealer equably. 

"All right, then. One bad turn deserves 
another. But plenty cuidado! If any card 
but the eight of hearts turns up, protect 
yourself, or somebody s widow ll be in a po 
sition to collect life insurance, and I ain t 
married! Turn her over." He leaned 
lightly on the table with both hands. Their 
eyes met in a level gaze. 

"Let her zip!" said the Eminent Person. 
Without hesitation he dropped the card over. 
No slightest motion from either man, no re- 

The Come On 169 

laxing of those interlocked eyes. A catch 
ing of breaths 

"The eight of hearts!" This in concert 
by the quartette of undisinterested witnesses. 

The two Principals looked down, then. 
That the Eminent Person s free hand had 
remained passive throughout bore eloquent 
testimony to nerve and integrity alike. Nev 
ertheless, he now ran that hand slowly 
through his hair and wiped his forehead. 
"That was one long five seconds most a 
week, I guess. Did you ever see such a 
plumb dam-fool break in your whole life?" 
he said, appealingly, to the crowd. 

"I guess," said Steve sagely, pushing the 
eight-spot in with his other cards "I guess 
if you d separated from a thousand big 
round dollars to draw a card and then got it 
turned over, you wouldn t have cared a 
whoop if your left eye was out, either. It is 

170 The Come On 

v/arm, ain t it?" He sat down with a sigh 
of relief. 

The Stockman bunched his cards idly and 
tapped the table with them. The Judge 
was casually examining the chandelier with 
interest and approval. Presently, he looked 
down and around. 

"Oh, thunder! What are you waiting 
for, Thompson? I pass, of course !" he said 

Steve shoved in his pile. "As I men 
tioned a while ago, you re not obliged to call 
this," he said demurely. "Just suit your 

One card at a time, with thumb and fore 
finger, the Eminent Person turned over his 
hand with careful adjustment and alignment. 
After much delay, he symmetrically ar 
ranged an Ace-full, face up, and regarded it 
with profound attention. 

"That was a right good-looking hand, too 

Tne Come On 171 

before the draw," he remarked at last, 
sweeping them into the discard. 

"Ye-es," assented the Stockman, mildly 
dubious. "It might have taken second mon 
ey maybe." He tossed in four deuces. 

The Transient spread out a club flush. 
"Do you know?" he said confidentially "do 
you know, I was actually glad to see that 
hand when I first picked it up?" 

"Won t you fellows never learn to play 
poker?" said the Judge severely. "Why 
don t you stay out till you get something?" 
He laid his hand down. "Four tens and 
most five ! The Curse of Scotland and For 
ty Miles of Railroad! For-ty miles, before 
the draw and gone into the hands of a de 

"Oh!" Leaning over, Steve touched the 
ten of spades lightly. "So that s why I 
couldn t fill my hand!" he remarked inno 

172 The Come On 

"Get outl" snorted the Judge. "No use 
throwing good money after bad. I wouldn t 
call you, not if I had five tens !" 

He slammed in his hand. The Eminent 
Person thoughtfully took out the hundred 
he had saved. "Some one press the button, 
and I ll do the rest," said Steve. He re 
moved the side-money, placidly ignoring the 
"pot" of some fifteen hundred dollars, for 
which the Transient, having his money all 
in, was entitled to a showdown. 

The Transient s jaw dropped in unaffected 
amazement. Dealer and Stockman drummed 
their fingers on the table unconcernedly. And 
the Judge saw a great light. 

"You, Thompson!" he roared. "Turn 
over that hand ! I feel that you have treat 
ed this Court with the greatest contempti- 
bility!" He pawed the discard with fran 
tic haste, producing the seven of hearts. 

The Come On 173 

"Why, you pink-cheeked, dewy-eyed catama 
ran! What have you got, anyway? * 

"Why, Judge," said Steve earnestly, "I ve 
got a strong case of circumstantial evidence." 
He turned over the eight of hearts; then, 
after a pause, the ace, king, queen and jack 
of spades; and resumed the stacking of his 
chips. "I discarded that seven of hearts," 
he said, smiling at the Merchant. 

A howl of joyous admiration went up; the 
Transient raked in the pot. 

"The Crime of the Century!" bellowed 
the Judge. "I m the victim of the Accom 
plished Fact! Cash my checks! I m going 
to join the Ladies Aid!" 

"Aw, shut up," gasped the Transient. 
"No sleep till morn where youth and booty 
meetsh! Give ush nother deck!" 

But Steve, having stacked his chips, fold 
ed the bills and put them in his pocket. 

"What s the matter with you, you old 

174 The Come On 

fool?" demanded the Eminent Person af 
fectionately. "You can t quit now." 

Steve rose, bowing to right and left, 
spreading his hand over his heart. "Deeply 
as I regret and, as I might say, deplore, to 
quit a good easy game," he declaimed, "I 
must now remove myself from your big 
midst. For a Lalla-Cooler can only be 
played once in one night. Besides, I ve al 
ways heard that no man ever quit ahead of 
the game, and I m going to prove the rule. 
I will never play another card, never no 

"What not in your whole life?" said the 
Stockman, chin on hand, raising his eye 
brows at the last word. 

"Oh in my whole life!" admitted Steve. 
He drew a dollar from his pocket, balanced 
it on his thumb, and continued: "We will 
now invoke the arbitrament of chance to de 
cide the destinies of nations. Heads, I or- 

The Come On 175 

der an assortment of vines and fig trees, go 
back to the Jornado and become a cattle- 
king. Tails, I proceed to New-York-on-the- 
Hudson, by the Ess-Pee at 3:15 this A. M. 
presently, and arouse that somnolent city 
from its Rip Van Winkle." 

The coin went spinning to the ceiling. 
"Tails!" said the Merchant, picking it up. 
"I must warn my friends on Wall Street. 
Hello! this is a bad dollar!" 

"I ll keep it for a souvenir of the joyful 
occasion," said Steve. "Just one more now, 
and we ll all go home!" 

"Hold on, you abandoned profligate!" 
said the Judge. "You don t know any one 
in the Big Burgh, do you? Thought not. 
Without there ! Ho, varlet !" He thumped 
on the table, demanding writing materials. 
"I ll fix you out. Give you a letter to a firm 
of mining experts I m in touch with." 

After an interval devoted to refreshments, 

176 The Come On 

the Judge read with all the pride of author 

Messrs. Atwood, Strange & Atwood, 
25 Broad Street, New York City. 

This will introduce to you Mr. Stephen 
Thompson, of Dundee, New Mexico. You 
will kindly consider yourself in loco parentis 
to him, charging same to my account. 

On presentation of this letter, please pay 
Mr. Thompson s fine or go his bail, as the 
case may be, furnish him with pocket-money 
and a ticket home, and see him safely on the 
right train. 

Should the matter be more serious, wire me 
at once. Periodical insanity can be readily 
proved. He has just recovered from a 
paroxysm at this writing. He is subject to 
these attacks whenever his wishes are 
crossed, having been raised a pet. There- 

The Come On ; i77 

fore, you will be doing yourself a great fa 
vor by acceding to any request he may make, 
however unreasonable it may seem. It is 
unlucky to oppose or thwart him; but he is 
amenable to kindness. Kindly apprize mu 
nicipal and Federal authorities for the pres 
ervation of public safety. t Your loss is our 
eternal gain. 

During the ensuing applause he signed 
this production. Steve pocketed it gravely. 
"Thank you," he said. "When I get down, 
to husks I ll look up my locoed parent." 

"The Bird of Time," said the Transient 
vociferously, "hash but a little way to flutter.; 
Cash inl The bird ish on the wing! To- 
morro sh tangle to the winds reshign. Come, 
all ye midnight roish-roishterers ! A few 
more kindly cupsh for Auld Lang Shine. 
Then let ush eshcort thish highwayman to 

178 The Come On 

the gatesh of the city and cash him forth to 
outer darknesh! Let ush shing! 

/ stood on a flush at midnight, 

When my money was nearly gone, 

And two moonsh rosh over the city 

Where there shouldn t have been but one. 

In Ohio, one of rough appearance, clad in 
a fire-new, ready-made suit, began to per 
vade Thompson s car; restlessly rushing 
from one side to the other in conscientious 
effort to see all there was to be seen ; finally 
taking to the vestibule as affording better 
conveniences for observations. He was, 
however, not so absorbed in the scenery but 
that he took sharp note of the cowboy s un 
sophisticated garb and guileless mien. Later, 
when Steve went into the smoker, he struck 
up acquaintance with him; initiated by the 
mere demand for a light, continued through 

The Come On [179 

community of interest, as both being evi 
dently non-urban. 

A voluble and open-hearted person, the 
stranger, displaying much specie during their 
not infrequent visits to the buffet for refresh 
ment of the jocund grape, where they vied 
with each other in liberality, and one who 
nai vely imparted his private history without 
reticence. A lumberman, who had risen 
from the ranks; a Non-Com. of Industry, 
so to speak, who, having made his pile, was 
now, impelled by filial piety, revisiting 
his old New England Home. 

This touching confidence so ingratiated 
the bluff and hearty son of toil to the un 
suspicious cowboy, that he, in turn, began 
to ooze information at every pore. Steve 
Thompson was his name; miner of Butte, 
Montana. He had, after years of struggle 
and defeat, made a lucky strike. He had 
bonded his mine to New York parties the 

ii8o The Come On 

Copper-bottom, just to the left of the High 
Line Trail from Anaconda to Philipsburgh ; 
receiving $10,000 down for a quarter inter 
est, giving option on two-thirds remainder 
for $50,000, if, after six months develop 
ment work, the mine justified its promise. It 
had proved all his fancy painted it; he was 
on his way to the big town, to be paid the 
balance on the sixteenth, at the office of 
where is that letter? Oh, yes, here it is 
"Atwood, Strange & Atwood, 25 Broad St." 
retaining a one-fourth interest. He was 
going to see the sights. Possibly he would 
take a trip round the world. 

Incited by judicious interest of his auditor, 
he prattled on and on, till the lumberman 
(Dick Barton, the name of him) was pos 
sessed with the salient points of his past, 
present and future; embellished by a flood 
of detail and personal reminiscence. It is to 
be regretted that the main points were inao 

The Come On 181 

curate and apocryphal, the collateral details 
gratuitous improvisations, introduced for the 
sake of local color. 

"For," Steve reasoned, "evidently this 
party is a seeker after knowledge; it is bet 
ter to siphon than to be pumped. Doubtless 
it will be as bread upon the waters." 

Freely did he gush and freely buy (the 
bulk of his money, in large bills, was safely 
wadded at the bottom of the six-shooter 
^cabbard under his arm, his .45 on guard 
but his well-filled billhook was much in evi 
dence). So thoroughly charmed was Barton 
that he lamented loud and long that he and 
his new acquaintance might not have their 
first view of the metropolis in company. But 
he had promised his aged parents to come 
to them directly, by way of Albany. How 
ever, he was a day ahead of his schedule; 
neither of them had seen Niagara; if 
Thompson would excuse him, he would write 

1 82 The Come On 

his father, that the letter would go on to 
herald the hour of his coming. Then they 
both would take one day s lay-over at Buf 
falo, visiting the famous cataract entirely at 
his, Barton s, expense. Thence, exchanging 
addresses, on their respective ways, to meet 
in Manhattan later. To which Thompson 
agreed with cordiality. 

The letter Barton mailed at Buffalo was 


The Arlington N. Y. 

Chapter II 

"A goodly, portly man, . faith, and ct corpulent: 
of a cheerful look, a pleasing eye, and a most noble 
carriage; and, as I think, his age some fifty, or by r 
lady, inclining to three score" 

IT had been a good morning, thought 
Mendenhall. If only more citizens like 
this big, talkative, prosperous looking 
stranger would settle in Elmsdale! Over a 
thousand dollars worth in one bill not bad, 
that, for a little rural New York town. 
Moreover, the stranger had evinced a taste 
in his selection of furniture and carpets 
scarcely to be expected from his slightly 
overdressed appearance and his loud, domi 
nating talk. His choice had been always 
swift and certain, wholly unaffected by 
prices. Obviously, a self-made man, with a 
long purse, this. 


184 The Come On 

The big man threw up his hands in mock 
surrender. Time King s X nuff!" he 
bellowed, a pervading and infectious smile 
spreading over his broad, jovial, smooth- 
shaven face. "Police! Nine eleven 
twelve hundred, sixty-eight. I ll pay you 
a hundred to bind the No, I ll just pay 
you now and have done with it. Don t 
want the stuff delivered till some time next 
week, though. Wife ll run up to-morrow 
or next day to take her choice of the two 
houses I ve been looking at. Then, paper- 
hanging, mantels, plumbing and all that 
Make it even twelve-fifty?" he demanded, 
pen poised in a plump, white hand, eying 
the dealer with shrewd expectancy. 

"Certainly, certainly," Mendenhall mur 
mured, rubbing his hands with a thought of 
future custom. 

Scratch-tch-ch ! The check was made out 
with a flourish. "Here you are. I ll come 

The Come On 185 

round when I m ready and tell you where 
to send the stuff. By the way, where do 
you bank? Want to send in checks for 

"At the Farmers 1 and Citizens , mostly. 
The First National is right around the cor 
ner, first turn to your left. Thank you very 
much, Mr." he glanced at the check 
"Mr. Britt Mr. N. C. Britt. I hope for 
the pleasure of your better acquaintance, 
Mr. Britt." 

"Oh, you will!" laughed Britt. "Nice 
little town, here. If I like it as well a year 
from now as I do to-day I ll stick!. Time 
for an old fellow like me to settle down. 
I ve worked hard all my life. But I ve got 
enough. What s the good of more? No 
dying in the harness for mine. I want to 
retire, as they call it, and let the young 
bucks do the work." 

"Oh, you re not an old man," protested 

1 86 The Come On 

Mendenhall with reason. "Your amazing 

vitality your energetic " Britt pulled 

at his luxuriant white hair. 

"Oh, good enough for an old has-been!" 
He laughed with pardonable vanity. 
"Pretty hearty yet, owing to having lived 
a clean and wholesome life, thank God; but 
aging, sir aging. The evil days draw 
nigh F He shook his head with a sober 
air, which at once gave way to the satis 
fied smile habitual on his round, contented 
face. Briskly, he consulted a heavy gold 
repeater, replacing it with the quick move 
ment of one to whom seconds are valuable. 
"Well, well! Twelve-thirty! Been here 
all morning, picking and choosing! Take 
luncheon with me? No? All right see 
you later! * He swung out through the 

Turning the corner, he crossed the street 
to the First National, bounced in and pre- 

The Come On 187 

sented himself at the teller s window, light 
ing a cigar, puffing like a tugboat. "To 
open a small account two of em. Checks 
for collection," he announced. Tone and 
manner were breezily self-assertive; the 
president, from his desk, turned and looked. 
He indorsed, blotting with a swift dab, and 
a final fillip through the window. "Chi 
cago, thirty-three hundred credit to Britt 
& Stratton. Here s our signature. Den 
ver, eight hundred, to private account H. E. 
Stratton. He ll be here next week. I ll 
bring him around and identify. Draw on 
this by Wednesday? Good! Gimme check 
book. Excuse haste; yours truly!" He 
popped out. 

The president smiled. "An original 
character, apparently," he said. "He 
doesn t aim to let grass grow under his 

1 88 The Come On 

Between two and three Britt bustled into 
Mendenhall s, making for the office. 

"Oh, I say!" he puffed, as Mendenhall 
rose. "Banked that check yet?" 

"Not yet," replied the other sedately. 
"It is our custom to send the day s checks 
for deposit just before three. Nothing 
wrong, I trust?" 

Britt dropped into a chair, mopping his 
face. "Oh, no, nothing wrong; but I m 
afraid I ve made a little mistake. I m not 
a good business man not systematic 
though I worry along. Like the young 
wife s bookkeeping Received fifty dol 
lars from John spent it all. Fact is, I 
never entirely got over the days when a 
very short memory was enough to keep 
track of all my transactions. Always for 
getting to fill out my stubs," he explained. 
"So I don t remember what bank I checked 
on. But I m pretty sure twas the Com- 

The Come On 189 

mercial, and my balance there is low not 
enough to cover your bill, I m thinking." 
He leaned back, his portly sides shaking 
with merriment "By Jove!" he roared. 
"It would have been a good joke on me if 
I hadn t remembered. Nice introduction to 
a town where I expect to make my home. 
Oh, well, even so, you had the furniture 
safe in your warehouse. Guess you 
wouldn t have been much scared, eh?" He 
poked Mendenhall playfully with a stubby 
finger. "Well, let s see about it." 

Secretly, the other resented the familiar 
ity, deprecated the boisterous publicity with 
which the stranger saw fit to do business. 
Business, with Mendenhall, was a matter 
for dignified and strictly private conference. 
With stately precision he took up the neat 
bundle of checks which he had just indorsed, 
ran them over, slipped one from under the 
rubber band, and scanned it with great de- 

190 The Come On 

liberation. He could not afford to offend a 
good customer, but he could thus subtly re 
buke such hasty and slipshod methods. 

"Yes, it is on the Commercial." He held 
it out inquiringly. 

"Thought so I" snorted the other. 
"Dolt! Imbecile! Ass! I ll apply for a. 
guardian. Fix you out this time!" He 
whipped out fountain pen and checkbook. 
"National Trust Company (guess I ve got 
enough there). Pay to J. C. Mendenhall 
& Co. how much was that?" 

He took the check from the unresisting 
Mendenhall, spread it out on the desk with 
a sprawling gesture, tore it to strips with 
the same impetuous vehemence, and threw 
it in the waste-basket. After this brief 
outburst of anger his good humor returned. 
"Twelve-fifty. Here you are. No mistake 
this time. Say, old man, that s the drinks on 
me come along!" 

The Come On 191 

"Thank you, I never drink," returned 
Mendenhall primly. He had not relished 
the roughness with which the other had 
snatched the check from him, though making 
allowance for the natural annoyance of one 
who had been betrayed into a mortifying 

"All the better, all the better. Seldom 
do myself, but sometimes Have a ci 
gar? No? Well, I must toddle along!" 

It may here be mentioned that during 
his moment of impulsive vexation Mr. Britt 
had inconsiderately substituted for the 
"Commercial" check another, precisely sim 
ilar save for the important particular that 
it lacked the Mendenhall indorsement. The 
original had slipped between the leaves of 
Britt s check book, under cover of his large 
hands. Those hands were most expert in 
various amusing and adroit feats of leger 
demain, though Mr. Britt s modesty led 

192 The Come On 

him to a becoming, if unusual, reticence 
in this regard. The substitute, as we have 
seen, was in the waste-basket. 

Just before three Britt ran heavily up 
the steps of the First National, puffing 
down the corridor, cocking a hasty eye at 
the clock as he came. 

"Hey, there, sonny! I was almost too 
late, wasn t I?" was his irreverent greet 
ing to the cashier. "Time to cash this be 
fore closing up?" he demanded breathless 
ly, but with unabated cheerfulness. He 
flopped the check over. "Mendenhall s in 
dorsement. Hi! Mr. President! Just a 
minute ! I m a stranger here, but if you ll 
let us slip in at a side door I ll trot around 
and fetch Mendenhall. Need this money 

The president took the check from the in 
dignant young cashier, nodded at the fa 
miliar signature with the cabalistic peculiari- 

The Come On 193 

ties which attested its authenticity, glanced 
indulgently at the bobbing white head in 
window, with difficulty suppressing a smile. 

"It will not be necessary, Mr. Mr. 
Britt," he said courteously. "Not necessary 
at all. You have an account here, I be 

"It won t be here long," retorted Britt, 
with garrulous good nature. "Draw it all 
out next week. Eleven, twelve and fifty. 
Thanks to you. There goes the clock. 
Good day!" 

"Quite an odd character, that Mr. 
Britt?" said the president casually at the 
club that night. "Boyish old chap." 

"Yes, isn t he?" said Mendenhall, fold- 
ing his paper. "I sold him a pretty stiff bill 
of goods this morning. Warmish, I take it. 
He s going to settle here." 

"Friend of yours?" 

"Oh, no, I never saw him before." 

194 The Come On 

"Why, you indorsed his check for twelve 
hundred and fifty," said the president, in 
terested, but not alarmed. Doubtless the 
man had references. Besides, his face was 
a letter of credit in itself. 

"Oh, yes," said Mendenhall unsuspicious 
ly, thinking of the check sent to the Farm 
ers and Citizens Bank. The president, 
thinking of the other, was fully reassured, 
and was about to pass on. Here the mat 
ter might have dropped, and would in most 
cases. But Mendenhall, a methodical and 
careful man, wished to vindicate his busi 
ness prudence by explaining that he had 
taken no risk in indorsing for a stranger, 
since he retained possession of the goods. 

The rest is too painful. 

"I do not rhyme for that dull wight" 
who does not foresee that New York, Chi 
cago and Denver checks were returned in 
due course, legibly inscribed with the sad- 

The Come On 195 

dest words of tongue or pen, "No funds." 
Or that Mr. Britt fully justified his self- 
given reputation for absence of mind by 
neglecting to call for his furniture. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Britt unostentatiously 
absented his body as well, taking the trol 
ley for an inland village. At the time of 
Mendenhall s interview with the president 
he was speeding southward across country 
in a livery rig, catching the Lackawanna lo 
cal for Binghamton about the time the wires 
were working and he was being searched 
for on all Lehigh Valley trains. 

"Hello, Kirkland!" he said to the night 
clerk at the Arlington. "Back again, like 
a bad sixpence ! Have my trunk sent up, 
will you? No no supper!" 

"Letter for you, Mr. Mitchell. Just 
came," said the clerk respectfully. "So we 
were expecting you. Haven t seen you for 
a long time." 

196 The Come On 

Britt-Mitchell thrust the letter in his 
pocket unopened. "It ll keep till morning. 
I m for bed. Good-night, Frank." 

He turned in, weary with his exertions 
to be sure, but with the pleasing conscious 
ness that 

. . . some one done 
Has earned a night s repose. 

Elmsdale never learned these particulars, 
however. His genial and expansive smile 
and the unobtrusive manner of his fading 
away are there vaguely associated with Che 
shire Puss, of joyful memory, whose disap 
pearance, like his, began with the end of 
the tale. 

Chapter III 

"Therms a franklin in the wilds of Kent, hath 
brought three hundred marks with him in gold 
. . . a kind of auditor! 

IT was quite late when Britt-MitcheJl 
arose like a giant refreshed. First 
ringing for breakfast, he bathed and shaved 
and arrayed himself carefully in glad ha 
biliments of quiet taste and cut, in which 
he bore slight resemblance to the rough- 
and-ready Britt of Elmsdale. 

Sitting indolently sideways to the table, 
his feet on a chair, he discussed an ex 
cellent breakfast leisurely, as one at peace 
with the world. His paper was propped 
before him; he chuckled as he read. Break 
fast finished, he pulled his coffee over, lit a 
cigar and puffed luxuriously. Not till then 

198 The Come On 

did he open the letter taken from the dis 
carded coat of yesterday. It read: 

Well, old man, I am sending you an easy 
one. Crack him hard for me. He s the 
rankest sucker yet. I was going to work 
the Scholar s Gambit on him, but he ll get 
his hooks on a whole bunch of money when 
he gets down town, so I turn him over to 
you. Fifty thou. to be paid hijn by At- 
wood, Strange & Atwood. You know of 
them Mining Engineers and Experts, 25 
Broad. Let him get the boodle and hand 
him a sour one. 

Name, Steve Thompson, en route to New 
York. Section 5, Sleeper Tonawanda, 
Phoebe Snow. Brown, smooth-shaved, 
hand-me-down suit, cowboy hat. From 
Butte, Montana. Has sold his mine, the 
Copper-bottom (on right of trail northeast 

The Come On 199 

of Anaconda). Former partner, Frank 
Short, killed by powder explosion at Boze- 
man, two years ago. Appendix subjoined 
with partial list of his friends, details about 
his mine, his ten years of unsuccessful pros 
pecting, etc. Am not so explicit as usual, 
because he is such a big-mouthed damfool 
he ll tell you all he knows before you get to 
Hoboken. Also I am in some haste. I am 
to take him to Niagara with me to give you 
time to get this and join him at Bingham- 
ton, if you are there as planned. If not, I 
have wired Jim to meet train at Hoboken 
and keep in touch with him till you come, 
scraping acquaintance if necessary. Then 
he can disappear and leave you to put the 
kibosh on him. Jim is all right, but he lacks 
your magnetism, and your light, firm touch. 
You can beat us all putting up a blue front. 


2OO The Come On 

Mr. Mitchell rose to instant action. In a 
very few minutes his trunk was packed, his 
bill paid. He then hied him in haste to 
the Carnegie Library, where, till train time, 
he fairly saturated himself with informa 
tion concerning Butte and vicinity. 

When the train pulled out from Bingham- 
ton, Mitchell sat across the aisle from 
Thompson, deep in his paper. A visorless 
black cap adorned his head, beneath which 
flowed his reverend white hair; rimless eye 
glasses imparted to his unimpeachable re 
spectability an eminently aristocratic air. 
These glasses he wiped carefully from time 
to time with a white silk handkerchief, 
which he laid across his ample knees, re 
suming his reading, oblivious to all else. 

The paper was laid aside and the big 
man became immersed in a magazine. The 
handkerchief slipped from his knees into the 
aisle. Thompson politely restored it. 

The Come On 201 

"Thank you, young man, thank you," 
said Britt. Then a puzzled look came over 
his brow. Polishing the glasses he took an 
other sharp look. He leaned across the 

"I beg your pardon," he said, with state 
ly courtesy. "But I am sure I have met 
you somewhere. No, don t tell me. Par 
don an old man s harmless vanity, but it is 
my weakness to make my memory do its 
work unaided, when possible. I have a fa 
mous memory generally, and yours is not a 
face to be easily forgotten. Let me see not 
in New York, I think Philadelphia 
Washington? No you would be from the 
West, by your hat. LJm-m-Omaha Chica 
go, St. Louis? Buttef" he said, with a re 
sounding thwack on his knee. "Butte! 
Where every prospect pleases, and only 
man is vile !" 

"Right you are," said the Westerner, well 

2O2 The Come On 

pleased. "I seem to remember you, too." 
"I have it!" said Mitchell. "Don t re- 
member your name but you re the very 
man Judge Harney pointed out to me as the 
unluckiest prospector in Montana. Said 
you could locate a claim bounded on all 
sides by paying property and gopher 
through to China without ever striking ore." 
"May I come over there and talk?" said 
Steve. "Mighty glad to see some one from 
my town. You didn t live there though, or 
I should have met you." 

"Certainly," said Mitchell, making room. 
"Glad to have you. Live there? Oh, no, 
I only made a couple of trips. Some asso 
ciates of mine were in with Miles Finlen 
you know him, I reckon? on the Bird s- 
eye proposition, and I took a flyer with 
them," he explained. "I lost out. Dropped 
several dollars." His face lit up with com 
fortable good-humor. "It was a good mine, 

The Come On 203 

but it got tied up in the courts. Let me see 
what did Harney call you Townsend, 

"Thompson," said Steve, smiling. "Steve 

"So it was so it was. Well, I was get 
ting close. Glad to meet you, Mr. Thomp 
son. That is my name." He handed over 
a bit of pasteboard, inscribed: 


"On Vesey Street now, just south of Bar 
clay Street Ferry. I ll jot down the num 
ber you want to come round and look me 
up. Sorry I can t ask you to use my house 
for headquarters. Wife s away to Bar 
Harbor for the summer, and I m camping 
out in a hotel. Tell you what, though 
you put up at my caravanserai the Cor 
nucopia good house, treat you well. I ll 

204 The Come On 

be busy a day or so catching up after my 
trip up-state, but after that I ll show you 
around. But perhaps youVe been here be 

"Not I," said Steve. "My first trip. 
Haven t been out of Montana since I was a 
kid. I m sure glad to meet a friend so 

soon. * 

"Lots of Montana people here," said 
Mitchell cheerily. "We ll look em up. 
Probably find some of your old friends. 
People here from everywhere. Say Judge 
Harney got into a bad mix-up, didn t he? 
That young Charley Clark is a devil. I ve 
met him up here." With this he launched 
into a discussion of Butte, with inquiries as 
to various figures of local prominence, from 
which Steve was fain to escape by turning 
the talk on his final good luck, the sale of 
his mine and his rosy prospects. For 
Mitchell had "crammed up" on Butte indus- 

The Come On 205 

triously. Steve lacked his facilities, his sole 
source of information being certain long- 
past campfire tales of Neighbor Jones. 

"Made it at last, did you? Glad to hear 
it. Can t keep a good man down, as the 
whale said to Jonah," said Mitchell heart 
ily. " But with all thy getting, get under 
standing, " he quoted with unctuous benev 
olence. "The city is full of traps for the 
unwary. You can t be too careful, young 
man. Don t be drawn into gambling, or 
drinking, or fast company, or you ll be 
robbed before you know it. Watch out for 
pickpockets, and, above all, be chary of 
making acquaintance with strangers. They re 
sly down here, my boy devilish sly. Have 
you any friends in town? If you have, get 
them to go around with you till you learn 
the ropes." 

"Don t know a soul but you," said Steve 
truthfully. "But I have a letter here to the 

206 The Come On 

people who are putting the sale through. 
Do you know these people?" 

"Atwood, Strange & Atwood," Mitchell 
read. "A good, reliable firm. I don t know 
them, but I know of em. They will advise 
you just as I do." 

"But," objected Steve, "I want to see a 
good time. That s what I come for. For 
instance, I want to see the races. And nat 
urally, I want to put up a few dollars to 
make it interesting." 

"Bad business bad business," admon 
ished the elder man wisely. "I don t ob 
ject to a quiet game of cards myself, among 
friends, and for modest stakes. But I can t 
afford to do anything to hurt my business 
reputation. Let a man of small means, 
like myself, play the ponies, or affect shady 
company, and what happens? All the banks 
know it at once, and shut down on loans in- 

The Come On 207 

stanter. They keep tab on all business men 

"What s your line?" said Steve, im 

"Mainly buying on commission for Mexi 
can and South American trade though I 
handle a good many orders for country 
dealers, too," replied Mitchell. "My spe 
cialty is agricultural implements, barbed 
wire, machinery and iron stuff generally, for 
the export trade. There s things about it 
would surprise you. Why, such things, 
farm machinery more especially, retail in 
Buenos Ayres at from 40 to 60 per cent, 
of what they do here, after paying freight 
charges and a snug commission to me." 

"How can they do it?" asked Steve, in 

Mitchell plunged into an explanation of 
the workings of the tariff and its effect on 
home prices. He had it at his fingers 1 end. 

2o8 The Come On 

Under his skillful hands the dry subject 
became really interesting, embellished with 
a wealth of illustration and anecdote. He 
was still deep in his exposition, when, be 
yond Scranton, a hand was laid on his arm. 
A dapper, little, dark man, with twinkling, 
black eyes and pointed black beard, stood 
in the aisle. 

"Well, Mitchell !" he said, with an affec 
tionate pat. "Still riding your hobby?" 

The fat man jumped up, beaming. "Lor- 
ing! by all that s holy! Let me make you 
acquainted with my friend. Mr. Thomp 
son Mr. Loring. Mr. Loring is one of 
our rising young artists." 

"The rising young artist," said Loring 
with a flash of white teeth, "is trying to get 
up a whist game, to pass away the time. 
Will you gentlemen assist?" He turned 
aside in a paroxysm of coughing. 

"Certainly, certainly that is, if Mr. 

The Come On 209 

Thompson plays. That s a bad cough 

you ve got there, Loring." 

"Yes caught cold fishing," said the ar 
tist. "Will you join us, Mr. Thompson?" 

"Glad to," said that worthy. "Only my 
game is bumble-puppy. You can hardly call 
it whist. Who s the fourth?" 

"Yet to be found," laughed Loring. After 
a few rebuffs they picked up a drummer, 
and adjourned to the smoker, buying a deck 
from the train boy. The little dark man 
and Steve played against the other two, a 
suitcase on their knees serving as a table. 
They played a rubber. Steve verified his 
statements as to his style of play. 

"Well, that s enough nearly in," said 
Loring, as they drew near their destination. 

"Yes, indeed. I must go back to my car. 
We ve had a pleasant game," said the 
fourth man, taking his leave. 

"Have a smoke you ll find these A! I," 

2io The Come On 

said the artist. "Say, Mitchell, I ve learned 
a new trick to illustrate the old saying that 
the hand is quicker than the eye." Sticking 
a cigar in the corner of his mouth, he ran 
over the cards swiftly, took out the two red 
jacks, and held them up, one in each hand, 
backs toward himself, faces to Mitchell and 

"Now," he said, "you can put these two 
jacks in the deck wherever you wish, shuf 
fle them all you please, let me give them 
just one riffle, and you ll find them both to 
gether. He put his handkerchief to his lips 
and turned away to cough, laying the two 
jacks face downward on the table. 

With a nudge to Steve, Mitchell threw 
the jack of hearts under Loring s seat, where 
it lay, face up, substituting therefor the five 
of clubs from the top of the deck. 

Loring held the cards up again. "There 
are the two jacks, gentlemen: the two in- 

The Come On 211 

separable jacks. Put them in for your 
selves, and watch me close!" 

Steve took the five of clubs and put it in 
the middle. Mitchell put in the jack of dia 
monds. Both shuffled. Loring cut the pack 
into two equal parts, using only the extreme 
tip ends of his fingers, and shoved them to 
gether in the same fashion. Balancing the 
deck on the open palm of his left hand, he 
turned the cards carefully with his right 
thumb and forefinger, keeping up a running 
fire of comment. 

"Now watch me ! This trick won t work 
with any other cards but the jacks. The rea 
son is easy to see. Where you find one 
knave there s always another close by. Birds 
of a feather flock together, you know. Ah I 
here we are !" He turned over the knave of 
diamonds, and laid the deck down. "Now," 
he said to Mitchell, "what ll you bet the next 
card isn t the knave of hearts?" Here he 

212 The Come On 

was again attacked by that excruciating 

As he turned away Mitchell slyly turned 
up the corner of the next card, winking at 
Steve. It was the five of clubs. Evidently 
Loring had done the trick right, except for 
the substituted card. 

"I ll bet you five hundred dollars!" said 
Mitchell jubilantly. He drew out a billhook 
and shook a handful of notes at the artist. 
"A thousand, if you like!" 

"Nobody wants to rob you, Mitchell," 
laughed Loring. "Put up your money. I 
don t need it. I ll do the trick, of course." 
Steve was laughing immoderately. 

"Rob me! Go ahead! You re welcome !" 
said Mitchell, riotously radiant. He waved 
the bills before Loring s eyes. "Money 
talks ! Yah ! You haven t the nerve to bet 
on it," he taunted, his knee touching Steve s 
under the table. 

The Come On 213, 

Loring s black eyes snapped maliciously. 
"Oh, well, you insist on it," he said. "I ve 
warned you now, remember ! No rebate on 
this. How much?" He pulled out a fat 
rubber-banded roll and began stripping bills 
from the outside. 

"A thousand all you want!" shouted 
Mitchell, in high glee. "Getting on, Thomp 

Steve, still laughing, shook his head. "I ll 
be stakeholder," he said in a choking voice. 

The black-eyed man shot a malevolent 
glance at him as they put up the money in 
his hands. For he had a supernumerary jack 
of hearts, neatly palmed, to turn up if Steve 
"bit." This quickly disappeared, however, 
or rather did not appear at all. With an ex 
pectant smile the artist turned up from the 
top of the deck the five of clubs. He looked 
at it in stupefied amazement, which, if not 
real, was well invented. 

214 The Come On 

Mitchell roared and pounded the suitcase. , 
"Oh, Loring!" he gasped, drying his eyes. 
"You will teach an old dog new tricks, will 
you? My stars, but you re easy!" He took 
the cash from the grinning stakeholder, 
counted out Loring s half and pushed it over 
to that much discomfited gentleman. "I don t 
want to rob you!" he quoted mockingly. 
"But if I had time I d have kept you on the 
anxious seat a while. There s your jack of 
hearts, under your feet I" 

"Why, you fat, old swindler ! You white- 
headed outrage you you Foxy Grandpa!" 
cried Loring in blushing chagrin not wholly 
dissembled, either. "I ought to make you eat 
it. Come, have a drink." He led the way, 
the others following with gibe and jeer. 

"Why didn t you bet with him, Thomp 
son?" demanded Mitchell, still shaking with 
Homeric laughter. "Say, I should have kept 

The Come On 215 

his money, by good rights. Twould have 
been the joke of the season I" 

Steve raised his glass. "I would," he re 
plied innocently, "but I knew you d give it 
back, anyhow, so what s the use among 
friends? If it had been a stranger, now, I d 
a 1 hopped on the band-wagon too quick. I 
like a little easy money as well as anybody. 
Well, here s to our next meeting!" 

"Hello I" said Mitchell. "Here s the tun- 
nel and Hoboken. Let s go back to our be 
longings. Now, Thompson, business first 
and pleasure after, you know. You take the 
Barclay Street boat. If I don t get time to 
see you before noon to-morrow you run up 
to the office and see me. It s only a block 
from the Cornucopia. I ve got to go the 
other way, and so does Loring at least his 
studio s uptown. I say, Loring, tell Mr. 
Thompson what s doing at the theatres. 
That s in your line." 

216 The Come On 

Loring named several plays, recommend 
ing one as particularly good. In the waiting- 
room they parted with warm handshakings 
and great good-will. 

"Do you suppose he s wise?" said Loring, 
on the ferry. 

Mitchell guffawed. "That bumpkin? 
Not he. The poor, dumb idiot took it all 
as a practical joke among friends. Nat 
urally, just as he said, he thought I d give 
you your money back. Glad you had pres 
ence of mind enough to go on through with 
the five-spot. It s fine business to be able to 
think on your feet, especially for us moon- 
minions. Good thing it turned out the way 
it did. He s got perfect confidence in me 
now he s seen me tried, and knows I m 
straight. We ll get more out of him in the 
long run." He explained Steve s mining 
expectations at length. 

"I don t like it much," said Loring. "It s 

The Come On 217 

a bad sign. My experience is that it s hard 
to overreach a man that isn t on the hog 
himself. When they re eager to annex 
something dishonestly you get em every 
time. Maybe you ll lose him. Why didn t 
you stay with him? He may not go to the 
Cornucopia at all." 

"Oh, yes, he will!" said Mitchell con- 
dently. "I am going to play him for all he s 
worth, and I want him to feel sure I m O. 
K. It might make him suspicious if I kept 
at his coat tails. Plenty of time. I won t 
even look him up to-morrow. Rig the old 
joint as my office, and wait there till he 
hunts me up. Let him make all the ad 
vances, d ye see? Teach him bridge, on 
the square, at night. Let him win a little 
just enough to keep him satisfied with him 
self you?\\ see. Wait till he draws his 
wad, and we ll throw the gaff in him to the 
queen s taste. If he won t nibble at one hooli 

2i 8 The Come On 

try another. But, I say, Billy, you ll have 
to furnish the scads for bait, in case he don t 
rise to something easy. I know you re flush 
from that Manning job." 

Meantime, with unspoiled and sparkling 
eye, the inlander saw, broad sweeping be 
fore him, mist-bordered, dream-vast, dim- 
seen beneath the lowering sky, the magic 
city whose pulsings send and call a nation s 

The salt tang of the sea was in his nos 
trils; greetings, many-keyed, hoarse-whistled 
by plying craft, were in his ears; creamy- 
foamed wakes of turbulent keels, swift-sent 
or laboring, boiled their swirling splendor 
against the black water. Mysterious, cou- 
chant, straining, the bulwarked city rode the 
waves; a mighty ship, her funnels the great 
buildings beyond, where sullen streamers of 
smoke trailed motionless and darkling; the 

The Come On 219 

indescribable, multitudinous hum of the 
city s blended voices for purring of monster 
engines, deep in her hold; bold and high, 
her restless prow swung seaward in majes 
tic curve, impatient to beat to open main. 

This simple young man actually found 
impressiveness, glamour, even beauty, in this 
eye-filling canvas; the crowding of crashing 
lights and interwoven shadows, massed, in 
numerable, bewildering; the turmoil of con 
fused and broken line, sprawled with tre 
mendous carelessness for a giant s delight. 

Plainer proof of his utter unsophistica- 
tion could not be. For it is traditional with, 
all "correct" and well-informed folk that 
New York is hopelessly ugly. It gives one 
such a superior air to disprize with easy 
scorn this greatest of the Gateways of the 

Chapter IV 

"A good plot, good friends, and full of expecta 
tion: an excellent plot, very good friends." 

STEVE went, not to a theatre, but to 
bed. In the morning, after a few in 
quiries, he sauntered round to get his bear 
ings. He made these explorations afoot, 
opining that, at first, the use of street cars 
or the "L" would tend to confuse his orien 
tation. He contented himself with locat 
ing 25 Broad Street, without presenting his 
letter. Incidentally, he left most of his cash 
in a safe-deposit drawer. "For," he mused, 
"the touching attachment of my open-hand 
ed, prepossessing friend may not always ad 
here to the lofty plane recognized by busi 
ness ethics. He may, at any time, abandon 
the refined and artistic methods of high fi- 

The Come On 221 

nance for primitive, crude and direct means 
unworthy of his talents. The safe side of a 
safe is the inside of a safe." 

So back by the water-front, where he 
spent a pleasant and interesting forenoon. 
At one o clock there were still no signs of 
Mitchell. So Steve, Mahomet-like, sought 
his office. 

The mise-en-scene was admirable. A well- 
littered desk, two phones, code-book, direc 
tory, typewriter, file-books, a busy book 
keeper, a fair stenographer no detail was 
omitted. Mitchell, pacing the floor, paused 
in his dictation to give him a cheerful greet 

"Hello, Thompson up already? Just sit 
down till I m through here, will you? Most 
done. How d you like to walk around the 
docks? That ought to interest you. All 
right thought it would. I ve got some 
business at No. 4. Make yourself at home. 

222 The Come On 

There s the papers Ready, Miss Stanley?" 
Clearing his throat, he put a hand under his 
coat-tails and resumed dictation: 

" Melquiades Sandoval y Hijos, Monte- 
vidio. Gentlemen: Your order shipped to 
day by steamer Escobar as per your esteemed 
favor of the 5th. Invoices inclosed. In the 
item of mowing machines, was unable to fill 
order with Nonpareil as desired. Have 
taken liberty of substituting fifty Micas, the 
Mica being the same in every respect except 
the name plate. In fact, the two firms, with 
others, have a "gentleman s agreement" 
sharing patents, keeping up separate plants 
only to preserve the appearance of compe 
tition. (Confound it excuse me, Miss 
Stanley there s my hobby again. Shouldn t 
have said that, but let it go.) Trusting you, 
will find this satisfactory in every particu 
lar, and hoping to be favored by your future 
orders, I am, etc. Got that? Next! 

The Come On 223 

" Brown, Small & VanRiper, Hartford, 
Ct. Gentlemen: Inclosed find my check 
for $27,000, to be used in the matter we 
discussed the other day. Kindly send pa 
pers to my lawyers, Reed, Reed, Perkins & 

" Am sorry I cannot more largely avail 
myself of the privilege so kindly extended 
me. At the present, however, my capital is 
tied up in various enterprises, and I am real 
ly crowding myself to raise this. Thanking 
you for past favors, etc. Here s the last. 
Mr. Joseph Yates, Rehobeth Beach, Dela 
ware. Dear old Joe: Sorry to hear of 
your undeserved bad luck. While not ex 
actly a financial Napoleon these days, I am 
able to accommodate you, and glad to do 
so. Have not forgotten the time you helped 
me out of a mighty tight place. Draw on 
me for $10,000 through the Marine. Take 
your time for repayment. If this is not 

224 The Come On 

enough, let me know. Kind regards to the 
wife and take care of yourself, old man. 
In haste, your old friend 

"Pound those off, Miss Stanley. Jim" 
this to the silently industrious bookkeeper 
"how much have we got at the Marine?" 

After swift search in a little black book 
the bookkeeper looked up "Seven thousand 
six hundred-twenty, sir," he replied respect 

"I ll give you enough to make out ten 
thousand to honor old Joe s draft," rumi 
nated Mitchell, twirling the safe-knobs deft 
ly. "You take it round and deposit it. On 
your way back jack Stevens up about those 
plows. Tell him if he don t get em round 
on time he loses one big customer and 
that s me." Counting out the required 
amount, he stuffed the slight remainder in 
his pocket, slammed shut the safe, signed his 

The Come On 225 

letters briskly, and took up his hat. "Come 
on, Thompson, we ll be off." 

"Now then," he resumed, in the elevator, 
"IVe got to go down to slip No. 4, to see 
about some stuff I m shipping to Mexico. 
Walk or ride? It s only a little ways." 

"Let s walk, then," said Steve. "You 
can tell me about the boats as we go. That s 
what takes my eye. What s that big one 
coming in?" 

"Rotterdammer. The one behind her is 
a coaster Menacho, Puig & Co. Look up 
stream there s a big Cunarder just swing 
ing out. Hello, there s the Rosenthal and 
Montoya stuff now!" 

A string of heavily-laden drays moved 
slowly down the rock-paved street. "Lights 
out! Protect yourself!" thought Steve. "I 
feel a presentiment that there ll be a heavy 
transportation bill on that stuff and that my 
friend won t have enough cash to settle it. 

226 The Come On 

Perhaps he will accept a temporary accom 
modation from me. Thompson, he pays the 
freight nit!" 

This unworthy suspicion proved unfound 
ed. As they watched the rumbling wagons 
they were joined by one of businesslike ap 
pearance and swift step. 

"Going down, Mitchell? That s your 
Argentine freights, I suppose? At least, I 
recognize your foreman. " 

Mitchell introduced him: Mr. Archibald, 
of the Bowring and Archibald line, in the 
coastwise and southern trade. 

"Just going down to your place, Archie. 
We were going to walk, but if you re in a 
hurry " 

"Not at all. Have a cigar ?" said the 
pseudo-Archibald urbanely. 

"You can show my young friend over the 
boats, if you will," said Mitchell. "Rank 
inlander, Thompson. Rather look at a boat 

The Come On 227 

than eat. Been talking boat, boat, boat to 
me ever since we left the office." 

"Happy to do so," said the merchant- 
mariner. "You d better take a little trip 
with us, Mr. Thompson say a run down 
to Havana. Any friend of Mr. 
Mitchell s " 

A young man came tearing across the 
street at a great rate. "Mitchell!" he 
shouted. "Mitchell! Look here!" He 
thrust a telegram into Mitchell s hand. 
"Just reached me by A. D. T. from the 
Carlton. Let me have some money, will 
you? About three thousand. Just got time 
to catch the next Pennsylvania train and 
make connections at Baltimore." 

Mitchell spread out the yellow slip and 
read it aloud. "H m! Tonce de Leon St 
Augustine Florida John E Bickford The 
Carlton New York Come at once Father 
worse Doctor orders to Egypt Jennie. Why 

228 The Come On 

sure, my boy. Here s what cash I got, and 
I ll give you a check. Too bad, too bad! 
By George, I hope your dad pulls through. 
What! Blame it, I mean dammit, I ve come 
off without my checkbook. Got yours, 

Archie patted his pockets. "No, I 
haven t. Left it in the office. Got a couple 
of hundred cash you re welcome to, though." 

The young man looked nervously at his 
watch. Mitchell turned hesitatingly toward 
Thompson. But the Westerner did not wait 
for an appeal to his generosity. He volun 
teered, eager to oblige a man of such large 
affairs as his substantial friend. 

"I ll write you a check. You can just run 
in to the nearest bank with me and indorse 
it, Mr. Mitchell. Sorry I haven t the cash 
with me." Thus Steve, his clumsy innocence 
eluding the toils with all the grace of an 
agile hippopotamus. 

The Come On 229 

The grafters glanced at each other. But 
Mitchell was equal to the emergency. 

"No need to bother you, Mr. Thompson, 
thanks, all the same," he said suavely. 
"Archibald, just give me what youVe got 
and I ll run over to Jersey City with John. 
Traffic Manager of the Pennsylvania is a 
friend of mine. If he s in his office I ll get 
it of him. Otherwise, I ll start John on, 
and wire balance to him at St. Augustine 
when I get back. Wait a minute, John. 
Got plenty of time to catch the boat. Look 
here, Archie you re not busy, are you? 1 

"I m always busy," said the shipowner 
gayly, "but no more so to-day than any 
other day. Why?" 

"Oh, well, you can get off. I promised 
Thompson, here, to do him the honors, and 
now I ve got to help John out. Oh, you two 
are not acquainted, are you? Excuse me! 
Mr. Archibald, Mr. Bickford Mr. Thomp- 

230 The Come On 

son, Mr. Bickford. Mr. Bickford s father 
was a dear old friend of mine. Once very 
wealthy, too, but has had reverses. Bless 
me, how I do ramble on! Old age, sir, old 
age ! Osier was half right. Now, Archie, 
phone up to your office that you re unavoid 
ably detained and all the rest of it, like a 
good fellow, and take my place as cicerone. 
Never mind your dinky little boats take 
him up and show him the big fellows the 
ocean greyhounds." 

"But," objected Archibald, "I ve got to go 
down to the office to get some money. 
You ve broke me, you shanghaier." 

"So I have, so I have!" He peeled off a 
hundred-dollar-bill, ignoring Steve s protest. 
"That enough? I ll fix John up, some way. 
You re at Mr. Thompson s orders. Mind, 
his money isn t any good. I pay for both 
of you. Wish it was more, but you see how 
I m hooked up. You ll have a better time 

The Come On 231 

with a young fellow like Archie than you 
would with an old fogy like me, anyhow. 
Here, we ll be left!" He made for the fer 
ry slips with the anxious Bickford. 

Thus did the wily Mr. Mitchell justify 
his headship. In these profuse strains of 
unpremeditated art, apparently the merest 
of rambling commonplace, he had plainly 
conveyed to his henchmen that, though foiled 
by the countryman s straightforward single- 
mindedness, they were not to adopt a policy 
of scuttle, but persevere in the paths of man 
ifest destiny to benevolent assimilation; at 
the same time adroitly extricating his embar 
rassed lieutenant from a very present pre 
dicament. Because "Archibald" felt a cer 
tain reluctance about accompanying Steve to 
Pier Number 4 in the capacity of owner, 
for the sufficiently obvious reason that he 
might be summarily kicked off. Such a con 
tretemps might give cause for conjecture 

232 The Come On 

even in one so green as his companion, re 
flected Archie. 

He saluted with easy grace. "Orders, 
captain? Happy to oblige. My friend s 
friend is my friend." 

Steve saw the big steamships. Thence, at 
his artless suggestion, they went to Brooklyn 
Bridge. Followed rides on the Subway and 
Elevated, a viewing of skyscrapers and such 
innocent and exhilarating delights. Noting 
Archibald s well-groomed and natty appear 
ance, Steve naively asked his advice in mat 
ters sartorial, purchasing much raiment and 
leaving an order with a fashionable tailor. 
But, after an amazing dinner at an uptown 
house of call, Archibald took the reins into 
his own guidance, and led him forth to quite 
other distractions in the agricultural quar 
ter of the city, where that popular and ever- 
blooming cereal, wild oats, is sown by night 
and by day. 

The Come On 233 

Behind them the plausible Mr. Mitchell 
and his old friend s son held high commune. 

"Why, the lantern-jawed, bug-eyed, rub 
ber-necked, double-jointed, knock-kneed, 
splay-foot, hair-lipped, putty-brained country 
Jake! Did you see him sidestep that?" de 
manded the aggrieved Bickford, forgetting, 
in his pique, his stricken father. "What you 
want to do to him is to sandbag him, give 
him knockout drops, stab him under the fifth 

rib! He s too elusive the devil-sent " 

He was proceeding to further particulars 
when Mitchell checked him. 

"I want you to bear in mind that this is 
no strong-arm gang, and I m neither dip 
nor climber." His emphasis was withering. 
"My credit is involved in this affair now, 
and I m going through with it. If he d had 
the dough with him he d handed it out just 
like he did the check. He floundered out 
through pure, unadulterated innocence. I ll 

234 The Come On 

land him yet. Next time I won t leave the 
shirt to his back. I tried him with covetous- 
ness. I ve tried him with distress. Now 
I ll tempt him with a business opportunity 
one that he ll have to have cash for. Keep 
your eye on your uncle. He ll see you 

The next day being Sunday, Mitchell took 
the cowboy to the Speedway, and back 
through Central Park, in an auto, frankly 

"I can hardly afford to set up one," he 
confided. "And anyway, I haven t much 
leisure. Of course, when a good fellow like 
you comes along I can take a day off, once in 
a way. But generally my nose is down to 
the grindstone." 

On their way home he pointed out a fine 
building, ornamented with a "To Let" sign 
in the window. "There s a place I used to 
own, Thompson," he said. "Belongs to a 

The Come On 235 

friend of mine, young Post. One of the best 
families but, poor fellow, he s in trouble 
now." He dismissed the subject with a be 
nevolent sigh. "Would you like to go in and 
look at it? The caretaker will show it to 
you. He ll think you re a prospective buyer. 
You needn t tell him so, but then again you 
needn t tell him any different. There s no 
harm and it s well worth seeing." 

Thompson, nothing loth, agreed. It was 
a fine house, as Mitchell had guessed. 

"Gracious!" said Steve, when the inspec 
tion was over. "What s such a house 

"I sold it for forty thousand. It s worth 

more now." 

Steve gazed at him wide-eyed. "My! I 
shouldn t have thought it worth that much." 
(It was, in fact, worth a great deal more.) 

"It s the ground that makes it cost so," 
explained Mitchell. "That s why the value 

236 The Come On 

has increased. The house itself is not worth 
as much as when I had it, but land values are 
coming up by leaps and bounds. Young 
man, the ground valuation alone of the six 
square miles adjoining Central Park is more 
than the value of all real estate in the great 
commonwealth of Missouri. And it is going 
higher every year." 

"I don t understand it," said Steve, much 

"Do you understand the philosophy of an 
artesian well? Yes? Then you understand 
this. Every farm cleared, every acre plant 
ed, every mine developed, every baby born, 
enhances the value of all city property and 
New York s got the biggest standpipe. The 
back country soaks up the rain and it is de 
livered conveniently at our doors through 
underground channels, between the unleak- 
ing walls that confine its flow; our price on 
the surplus you have to sell and our price 

The Come On 237 

on the necessities you buy. Every city taps 
this flow, be the pipe large or small; and as 
I said before, New York has the biggest 

"We ve got the money. So you may do 
the work and we allow you to get enough 
to sustain life, and just as little more as pos 
sible. Sell at our price, buy at our price 
we ve got you coming and going. You can t 
get away. 

"You re poor, you take what you can get 
to pay your debts. That keeps down prices 
on what you sell. YouVe got families, 
you ve got to play. Yes, yes, quite right, 
the rules are not entirely fair; we ll revise 
them to-morrow, maybe, some time. Let 
you do it? Tut, tut, no, no! Why, you 
object to em! That won t do at all. Let 
the rules be revised by their friends and 
beneficiaries, to-morrow, next day, by and 
by; busy to-day, stockholders meeting, divi- 

238 The Come On 

dend declared, good-by! You 1 re virtually 
peons. Fourth of July, elections and war 
times you re the sovereign people, Tommy 
this and Tommy-rot; but for all practical 
purposes you re peons. 

"We re rich, we can afford a scratch-my- 
back-and-I ll-scratch-yours tariff that keeps 
our prices up arbitrarily, that takes fifty 
dollars out of your pockets to put in ours 
for every dollar it puts into the national 

"If the tariff was repealed," said Steve 
diffidently, "if we raised money for the 
National Government, just as we do for 
county government " 

"Hush-sh!" said Mitchell, shocked. 
"That s High Treason that s Unconstitu 
tional ! Some one will hear you ! Then 
there s another. You sell at a sacrifice to 
pay your debts. If we get in debt that s ex 
actly what we won t do. A poor man goes 

The Come On 239 

broke, but a rich man goes bankrupt. Ever 
think of that? 

"That baby I spoke of will grow up, pro 
duce corn, cotton, cattle or copper, maybe - 
but the net result of his life will be to enrich 
the rich. If, by any means industry, op 
portunity, invention, speculation, dishonesty, 
chance or inheritance he gets on top, then 
the workers will be working for him by the 
same law. The fact remains that every dol 
lar s worth of betterment in the country in 
creases the value of city property one dol 
lar, without effort to the owner. A city is 
an artesian well. Take it from me, Thomp 
son, a man of your ability ought to make 
connections and get your little tin pail un 

Chapter V 

"A man so various that he seemed to be 
Not one, but all mankind s epitome." 

THOMPSON sat in his room alone, 
meditating on Mitchell, statesman and 
Political Economist. On the table lay his 
letter of introduction and his bad "Souvenir" 

"The meeting will please come to order!" 
he said, rapping the table smartly. "The 
Gentleman from Montana has the floor." 

"I move you, Mr. Chairman," said the 
Gentleman from Montana, "that the letter 
of introduction be laid upon the table, and 
that this House do now go into Committee 
of putting the other fellows in the Hole." 

No objection being heard, this was done. 
Steve stared at the tabled letter with a puz- 


zled frown. 


The Come On 241: 

"Gentlemen, the Chair awaits your pleas 
ure," he announced, at last. "Have you any 
suggestions to make?" 

The Gentleman from Montana again ob 
tained recognition. 

"Mr. Speaker, I see here present an exy 
member, my alter ego, Mr. Reuben Rubber- 
Neck, who once parted with six months 
wages on another man s game. Mr. Rub 
ber-Neck is a graduate of the celebrated and 
expensive school of Experience, of which it 
is written that a large and influential class 
will learn of no other. As an ex-Member, 
he is entitled to the privilege of the floor. I, 
for one, would like to have his counsels at 
this juncture." 

Thus appealed to, Mr. Rubber-Neck got 
stumblingly to his feet with a gawky and 
timid demeanor. 

"Mr. Chairman, it is not a theory but a 
hell of a condition that confronts us," he 

242 The Come On 

said, uncertainly. "I think that we should 
use the letter so providentially er um 
provided to make friends with the mammon 
of righteousness. Two heads are proverbi 
ally better than one, if one is an Expert. 
It behooves us, for the sake of the near and 
dear kinsmen, the Mark brothers, that we 
should so bear ourselves toward our gener 
ous hosts as to make them feel that they 
have entertained a devil unawares. Avenge 
now the innumerable wrongs of me and my 
likes. Before deciding on our line of action, 
however, I should like to hear from a 
learned gentleman in our midst, whose brain 
is ever fertile in expedients. I refer to the 
only one of us who has been through college 
in at the front door and out the back. I 
call on the representative of the class of 
Naughty-naughty !" 

He sat down amid vociferous cries of 
"Hear! Hear!" 

The Come On 243 

The Bookman arose gracefully. "While 
I thank the gentleman who has preceded me 
for his encomiums," he said, with depreca 
tory modesty, "yet I can lay no claim for 
scholastic honors, owing to an unfortunate 
difference of opinion with the Faculty in the 
scorching question of turning state s evidence 
concerning the ebullition of class feeling, in 
which I was implicated by a black eye or so. 

I fought the good fight, I kept the faith, but 


I did not finish my course. But to return 
to our sheep. 

"In every crisis, I have always found 
precedent for action in the words of the 
immortal Swan of Avon. What does Will 
say? He says: 

Put monetf in thy purse! 

"Follows naturally the advice of the mel 
ancholy Dane, bearing directly on the case 
in hand : 

244 The Come On 

Let It work. 

For tis the sport to see the engineer- 
Hoist with his own petard 

: " Again, 

Look on this picture, then on that! 
The counterfeit. 

" Where is that counterfeit, anyhow? * He 
took from his pocket a good silver dollar, 
compared it thoughtfully with the bad one 
on the table, and continued. 

"What else? Why, this: 

Art thou not horribly afeared? . . . Could the 
world pick thee three such enemies again as that 
fend Douglas, that spirit Percy, and that devil 

"Having thus pointed out the danger, he 
plainly indicates the remedy: 

Where shall I find one that will steal well? Of 
for a fine thief of the age of two-or-three and 
twenty! I am heinously unprovided. 

The Come On 245 

"Gentlemen, in my opinion we need three 
things. First, the services of a skillful and 
discreet silversmith. Second, a pair of eye 
glasses fitted with a powerful microscopic 
lens, able to distinguish good from evil. 
Third, a confederate who can steal well, 
such as we can doubtless find in or about 
Broad Street. By these simple and feasible 
means we shall be enabled to whip-saw our 
redoubtable opponents or, to use the local 
term, give em the double-cross. 

He sat down amid boisterous applause. 

"The Watch-dog of the Treasury!" said 
Steve icily. The Watch-dog stood apologeti 
cally, twisting nervous fingers together. "It 
strikes me, Mr. Speaker," he stammered, 
"that my eminent colleague might aptly have 
quoted from the same high authority two 
maxims in praise of prudence, discretion 
is the better part of valor, he says, and also, 

246 The Come On 

He who fights and runs away 
Will live to fight another day? 

"It appears to me the part of pru 
dence " 

Here he was howled down by disapprov 
ing groans. 

"The Chair will take great pleasure in 
recognizing the Gentleman from New Mex 
ico," suggested Steve, with a gracious nod. 

Wildcat Thompson, cowboy, sprang to his 
feet; lithe, active, eager. Swiftness, alert 
ness, poise, certainty were in every line of his 
splendid body. His was the assured, re 
sourceful bearing of the man of action, 
whose hands have kept his head, contrasting 
sharply with the Miner s heavy and tenta 
tive slowness, the awkward self-conscious 
ness of the Easy One, the Objector s furtive 
and apprehensive manner, or the Near-Col 
legian s languid affectation of dilettantism. 

"Be a sport!" He threw out a hand, his 

The Come On 247 

confident voice ringing with decision. "We 
are seven! (or at least we will be when we 
pick up a financier at Atwood s). Get to 
gether! Let us adopt our learned brother s 
ingenious device. Should fraud fail, we can. 
always fall back on 

the simple plan 

That each should take who hath the power 
And he should keep that can. 

"As alternative, or, I should say, as re 
serve, I offer this!" A swift gleam of 
silver and steel: he laid a cocked .45 beside 
the other exhibits. 

"The sword of Brennus! Woe to the 
vanquished!" murmured the School-man, 
when the cheering had abated. "Mr. Chair 
man, the amendment is accepted." 

The entire meeting then lit a cigarette. 

The Chair arose, using the six-shooter as 
gavel. "Gentlemen, have you anything more 

248 The Come On 

to offer? If not will you hear the question? 
Is it the sense of this meeting that united 
we fall upon this infamous coalition with 
the jaw bone of an ass and get their money; 
dishonestly if we can, and if not, then by 
main strength and awkwardness? Those in 
favor of the motion will please rise. I am 
unanimous, and it is so ordered. This reso 
lution will be spread all over the minutes, 
right off. The Chair will appoint as com 
mittee to get a move on, Mr. Stephen 
Thompson of Montana; the earnest Shake 
spearian student, Mr. Thompson-Stephen; 
Mr. Wildcat Thompson of New Mexico; 
and myself. Having no further use for a 
sucker or a quitter, the other two gentlemen 
may go to the devil, and I hereby stand ad 

So saying, he gathered up his resources 
and departed. 

The Come On 249 

At a later hour Steve presented himself 
in a body to the senior Atwood, with his let 
ter from the Judge as credentials. 

Bless my soul!" ejaculated that person, 
when he had read a few lines. His eyes 
dropped to the signature. "Oh the 
Judge!" he said, enlightened, and read on, 

He wheeled his chair around. "Well, 
Mr. Thompson, what is it fine or bail?" 
he queried. 

"I want to borrow a man," Steve began 
mildly. Here he was interrupted. The 
ante-room door opened. One entered no, 
floated in faultlessly arrayed, with an air 
at once languid and gloomy. 

"Wyatt!" said Atwood, cordially. "Man! 
You re good for sore eyes ! What fair wind 
blows you here?" 

Wyatt sank into a chair. "Doldwums. 
Nothing at all," he said listlessly. "Mewest 

250 The Come On 

chawnce, I assuah you. Fawct is, I was er 
howwidly boahed, y know. It s no good. 
All of it!" He spread out his immaculate 
pink palm in a comprehensive gesture. "All 
wot ! Dinnahs and dawnces and bwidge, the 
hawse-show and ah all the west of it. 
Vahnity fawr, y know. If you have what- 
evah you want diwectly, of cow se you cawnt 
want anything you daunt have, y know. 
Doocid unpleasant. I find myself like the 
boy that wanted to leah n to shivah and 
shake, y 1 know. Needin the excitement of 
what this fellah ah at Washington, y 
know PToosevelt! of what Woosevelt 
calls the stwenuous life. Saht in the club 
thinkin it ovah, and decided to sally fowth 
to seek adventuah " 

"Adventure ! You ?" Atwood threw baclc 
his head and roared. 

" adventuah. In a hansom," returned 
the new-comer placidly. "So the dwivah 

The Come On 251 

ahsked me Whah to? y know. I was feel- 
in nawsty enough, so I told him To 
pwugatowy! like that! He was ah a 
vewy litewal-minded puhson." There was a 
faint flicker of amusement in his gray eyes. 
"He ah bwought me to the Stock Ex 
change. Aftah I got out, y know, I we- 
membahed that you ah did something 
heah. So I thought I d just wun ovah and 
see you." He relapsed into moody silence. 

"YouVe come to the right shop, I do be 
lieve/ said Atwood. "Mr. Thompson, let 
me make you acquainted with my old friend 

"Chawmed, I m suah!" muttered Wyatt, 
adjusting his monocle. 

"You have probably heard of him," pur 
sued Atwood. "He appears regularly in 
the Sunday Supplements as a Horrible Ex 
ample Anson Walworth Wyatt, nephew to 
his uncle. But for all he seems such a silly, 

252 The Come On 

supercilious ass, he s a good old chap at 
heart, a weal lion in an ass-skin. Mr. 
Thompson, have I permission to share this 
letter with my friend?" 

"Why not?" said Steve. 

"This is a Western man s business letter," 
explained Atwood. The clubman listened 
with a well-bred stony stare. 

"Aw!" he said. "How vewy extwaohdi- 

"Now, old fellow, Mr. Thompson was 
just about to negotiate the loan of a man 
from me when you came. Here we have 
the adventure seeking the man, and the man 
seeking the adventure. It sounds promising. 
Of course, I shall expect a commission both 
ways. Now give us your plans and specifi 
cations, Mr. Thompson." 

"I want to borrow a young man, as I said 
before, of good appearance" with a glance 
at Wyatt s sumptuous apparel "and some 

The Come On 253 

little brains" another and a sharper glance. 
"One who will obey orders if he breaks own 
ers, who will stand without being tied, and 
who doesn t especially care whether school 
keeps or not. I would particularly request 
that he leave his money, his memory, ac 
quired good habits, if any, and his con 
science, in your safe -keeping till he is re 

"That sounds like the makings of a pretty 
adventure, Wyatt," said Atwood, delighted. 
"Are you for loan, old chap?" 

Wyatt laid his affectation aside. "That 
depends on the interest, the security, and 
length of the term. It certainly appears, from 
your very flattering description, that you 
were searching for me, Mr. Thompson." 
His eyes were dancing. 

"Interest from the word Go. The secur 
ity s all right, too, if you take a gun," said 
Steve reassuringly. "You might get a long 

254 The Come On 

term, but it can be avoided with luck and 
good management. I think the parties con 
cerned will hardly make a complaint." 

"You are not contemplating anything il 
legal, I trust?" Atwood was enjoying him 
self to the full. 

"I don t know. Really hadn t given it 
much attention," returned the Committee, 
simply. "But now you mention it, I think 
probably I am." 

"Will you allow my accomplice and myself 
to use your private room for executive ses 
sion?" asked Wyatt. 


"But why don t you have them arrested?" 

"Arrested? O no!" cried Steve, in pained 
surprise. "That wouldn t be fair. That 
isn t done! Besides, don t you see, that 
wouldn t hurt their feelings like this?" 

"I see," said Wyatt. "I m your man. 
And I say, old chap, before I go back to my 

The Come On 255 

Cholly-talk again, advise me. Would I look 
any more idiotic, do you think, if I should 
suck my cane? I don t want to disappoint 

any one 

"I would not," said Steve. "You re too 
good to be true, without that." 

"Wouldn t you naturally suppose," sighed 
Wyatt, "that people would know that no 
man could be as big a fool as I am, unless 
he did it on purpose? But they don t. They, 
swallow it, hook, bob and sinker!" 

Chapter VI 

"If the bowl had been stronger 
My tale had been longer" 

STEVE entered Mitchell s office with the 
painful uprightness and precise carriage 
of one who has lunched not wisely but rather 
too well. His speech, too, was of ponder 
ous brevity. The man of affairs chided him 
with fatherly kindness. 

"This won t do, my boy this won t do. 
I like you, Thompson. I m sorry I m 
pained to see this. Don t go in for this sort 
of thing, or your good fortune will prove 
a curse in disguise." 

Steve hung his head, muttering something 
incoherent about not being used to wine and 
that he d soon get over it. 

The Come On 257 

"Oh, young men will be young men, I sup 
pose," sighed Mitchell tolerantly. "Tell you 
what. Archibald s going for a spin over to 
East New York. I ll just phone him to 
drop by on his way and take us along. Fresh 
air ll do you good." 

Steve assented, and fell to poring over the 
immense wall map of New York with pre 
ternatural gravity. 

But Mitchell s benevolent plan was 
doomed to be frustrated. Hardly had 
Archibald arrived and the employees been 
dismissed, when the sordid, busy, money- 
making city intruded in the person of Loring. 

There were merry greetings all around. 
The artist was much pleased to renew his 
acquaintance with Thompson, to whom he 
had taken a fancy. Loring, it seemed, was 
an old friend of Archibald s and was 
promptly invited to make one of the party. 

"Oh, I can t," demurred Loring. "And I 

258 The Come On 

hate to spoil sport, but I ve got a good thing 
which must be put through to-night or not 
at all. I ran in to get Mitchell to handle it 
for me. IVe got the opportunity, but not 
the wherewithal." He made the candid ad 
mission with a delightful smile. 

"I fear that you are leaning on a mighty 
nearly broken reed," said Mitchell. "I m all 
tied up in money matters this week. But spit 
it out, anyhow. I ve got six or seven thou 
sand loose. If it s more than that perhaps 
Archie can swing it if it s a safe proposi 


"Safe as United States bonds, and good 
for thirty per cent, profit. Come back, 
Thompson!" Steve was making for the 
cloor, with apologies. "You re not in the 
way a bit. Sit down, man! Your six thou 
sand won t be a starter, Joe. I ve got some 
four thousand myself, in red, red gold. All 
I have in the world wish it was more." His 

The Come On 259 

blithe insouciance was irresistibly charming. 

"Get down to business, old fellow," said 
Archibald. " What s the lay?" 

"This is all confidential, between gentle 
men, you understand?" All nodded. "You 
know young Post is in hiding? Well, I ve 
been in touch with him all along. He s tired 
of skulking and wants me to sell that house 
his mother left him, strictly on the Q. T. 
He s got a chance to slip away on a private 
yacht to-night. Said I could have all I could 
get over thirty thousand. It s worth fifty, 
at least. I know where I could get forty- 
five, but I dare not approach those people 
now, because they are unfriendly to Post 
and would make him trouble. Once he is 
safely away " He waved his hand. 

"That ought to be a good thing," said 
Archibald thoughtfully. "It rents for six 
thousand a year, and values going up. I ve 
a good mind to go into it for a permanent 

260 The Come On 

investment. Let s see he d want spot cash, 
wouldn t he?" 

"Naturally. Cash on the nail. He could 
hardly afford to be identified, you know." 

""Can t raise that much to-day," said the 
shipowner. "Maybe, by borrowing from 
my partner, I could get enough to pool with 
you and Mitchell. What s your proposi 
tion? About cutting profits, I mean." 

"I think I should have ten per cent, net, 
besides the proportionate earning of my 
four thousand for giving you fellows the 
first chance. There s plenty would jump 
at it." 

"That s fair enough," said Archibald. 
"Mr. Thompson, you will excuse us? Our 
trip will only be postponed. I ll have to fly 
around to rustle ready money. I ll see 
Bowring first." 

"Hold on," said Mitchell. "Why don t 

The Come On 261 

you let my friend in on this? He s got the 
scads, and he s a good fellow." 

"Oh, he would have to go and see the 
place," objected Archibald, his eye evident 
ly on the main chance. 

"No, he won t. We looked it over yes 
terday. I showed it to him because I used 
to live there. Don t be selfish, Archie. 
There s plenty of chances for you to make 
money. Get your pail, Thompson!" 

"We-11," said Archibald grudgingly. "So 
long as it s not sure that Bowring can spare 
me the money, let him take over a third if 
he wants to." 

"Sure I do," grinned the prospective buy 
er, highly elated, "and much obliged to you, 
too, Mr. Archibald. 

"That s all right," said that person gruff 
ly. "Now then, Loring, come out of it! 
Time s flying. Where? When? How? 

262 The Come On 

Never saw an artist yet that could think on 
straight lines," he grumbled. 

"All of you get your money, meet at 
Mitchell s rooms. I ll let Post know and 
join you there later. We ll wait till dark, 
get a tried and acquitted notary of my ac 
quaintance, slip around to Post s lair after 
dark and do the deed. I ll stand a ripping 
dinner for the bunch out of my ten per cent. 
Put deed on record to-morrow morning. 
That ll give him start enough. Is that all 

"Clear as a bell. I m off!" said Archi 

"Archie s a good sort, but he does hate to 
let a dollar get by him." The artist laughed 
indulgently. "I say, Thompson, did you see 
how he stuck on letting you have a whack at 

"Where do you bank?" inquired MitchelL 
Steve told him where his money was depose 

The Come On 263 

ited. Mitchell shook his head. "I was 
hoping we would go the same way, but I 
go uptown." 

Ten minutes after they left the industri 
ous bookkeeper returned with navvies and 
draymen, and removed the office furniture 
to parts unknown. 

When the four financiers got together in 
Mitchell s room Steve proposed to continue 
his lessons in the fascinating game of bridge. 

He drank freely and his game was the 
apotheosis of bumble-puppy. Archibald, his 
partner, was much irritated by his stupidity. 

A bellboy came to the door. A gentle 
man in the parlor would like to see Mr. 

Mr. Thompson looked at the card. "Mr. 
3V. W. Wyatt," he announced sneeringly. 
"You can tell Mr. A. W. Wyatt, if he wants 

264 The Come On 

to see me, he can just naturally mosey him 
self up here." 

"Not the A. W. Wyatt Anson Wai- 
worth Wyatt?" asked Loring. "I know 
him I mean, I know him by sight." 

"I believe it is," said Steve with surly in 
difference. "If you know him, you know 
an overbearing jabberwock. He s head 
devil of the push that bought the Copper- 
bottom and I don t like his style even a lit 
tle bit. He seems to think I m the dirt under 
his feet. I ll show him. 7 know what he 
wants, and that s the other fourth of my 
mine." He thumped the table viciously. 
"He ll pay for all he gets from me y I ll tell 
you that." 

Mr. Wyatt was ushered in; irreproach 
able, flawless, exquisite. ("It s him!" 
breathed Loring.) He remained standing, 
hat in hand, fitted his glass with vacuous 
care and surveyed the room with deliberate- 

The Come On 265 

ly insolent scrutiny. Thompson kept his 
seat, fairly prickling with antagonism. The 
others rose with exemplary good breeding. 

"Aw!" said the newcomer, after an elo 
quent pause. "Mistah er Townsend, 
cawn I have a few moments of quite pwi- 
vate convehsation with you?" 

"No, you cawnt!" retorted Thompson 
truculently. "Sit down, boys, Sit down, I 
say! These gentlemen are my friends. 
Anything you got to say? If there is, say 
it. And my name s Thompson, if you 

"Aw! what an extwemely wemahkable 
ahttitude !" Wyatt fixed his monocle on the 
offending miner with bland and exasperat 
ing condescension. "Weally, you quite in- 
tewest me, y know! I appwoach you, quite 
civilly, y* know, with an offah decidedly to 
youah ahdvahntage, Mistah ah Tomlin- 
son, and you tweat it " 

266 The Come On 

"Thompson!! By Heavens, you say Tom- 
linson again and I ll pound your face into* 
shape!" roared the misnamed one, jumping 
up. Mitchell and Loring vainly tried to 
quiet him. 

"Weally, I shall be obwiged to wefeh you 
to my lawyehs " Wyatt began. 

"Refer me you animated outrage you 
libel ! Turn me loose, you fellows I / don t 
want to see you or your durn lawyers! I 
know what you want, well enough. You 
want to bamboozle me into selling my in 
terest in the Copper-bottom for less than 
it s worth. Here s my last word to you 
Mr. ah White I If you want my fourth 
at forty thousand, to-day, all right. It s 
worth more it s paid from the grass-roots 
down. But that ll make me the round six 
figures, and that s enough. 7 can make 
money / know my little way about," he 
boasted, with insufferable complacency. 

The Come On 267 

"Nobody left me my pile! Put up or shut 

"Mr. Wyatt," said Mitchell, "pardon 
me, but may I suggest that you call at a 
more favorable time?" He made, behind 
Thompson s back, the motion significant of 
an emptied glass. 

"Aw! I see I see! Thawnks awfully 
for the hint. Good-evening, gentlemen 
and ah Mistah Tomkins !" 

Thompson broke away, shaking his fist in 
Wyatt s face. "Say that again and I ll 
brain you pawdon me, I should say, I ll 
smash your head in. Thompson s my name 
T-h-o-m-p-s-o-n, Thompson! And 
you trade with me, now or never !" 

"You see, gentlemen?" Wyatt appealed. 
"Mistah ah Tawmson, I offahed you 
twenty-five thousand on my own wesponsi- 
bility, as a ah business pwoposition. My 
< ah associawates in this undehtaking aw 

268 The Come On 

all fwiends, quite congenwial, y know, and 
I felt suah they would sanction that. I do 
not cyah to go futheh lengths without ah 
a confewence with them, as I believe that 
pwice quite ahmple, y know. But if I could 
awwange fo an option " 

"You pay me twenty thousand, cash, in 
this room, at eight o clock to-night, and I ll 
give you an option for one week at forty 
thousand," persisted the morose miner. 
"After that, the price goes up." 

"Fifty pehcentum down on an option I 
This is uttehly unpwecedented, y know. I 
must wemonstwate, weally!" 

"It s all the option you ll get from me, 
you jackanapes." He snapped contemptu 
ous fingers under Wyatt s nose. 

Wyatt buttoned his coat with dignity. 
"Weally, this pahsses all bounds !" he ejacu 
lated. "Gentlemen, I accept this ah 
puhson s offeh. I cannot enduah such an 

The Come On 269 

associwate. You ah all witnesses. May I 
ahsk you-ah names, and may I wequest 
youah pwesence to-night, both to ensuah the 
ar fulfillment of the vehbal contwact 
which you have heahd, and to pwevent the 
wepetition of this scandalous scene?" He 
opened the door. "Aw wevoah, gentle 
men !" By this time he was in the elevator. 
From this coign of vantage he sent a Parth 
ian shaft. 

"Till eight o clock, Mistah ah Tom- 

The three held the raging Thompson 
with some mutual dishevelment. They 
soothed him with flattery, stayed him with 
flagons, for he yearned for blood with a 
great yearning. 

"Listen to your friends, boy," urged 
Mitchell. "Take his money, and don t do 
anything you ll be sorry for. Make out 
your papers and pay no attention to what 

270 The Come On 

he says. Come, brace up! It ll be time 
for dinner in a jiffy. Promise us not to 
drink any more, and not to make any trou 
ble, or we ll phone him not to come." 

Steve allowed himself to be pacified at 
last, but he regarded his mitigators with a 
malignant eye. 

"Here s what I owe you on bridge, 
Mitchell twenty-three dollars," he said 
sullenly. "Archibald can settle with Loring. 
I don t want no dinner I m going to 

"Oh, come on now, that s a good fellow," 
purred Mitchell, picking up the two bills 
and the coins. "Say, old man you haven t 
turned counterfeiter, have you?" he said 
good-naturedly. "This one s N. G." 

Steve took it clumsily. "It s no such 
thing," he blurted. "Good as gold. Take 
it or leave it. I don t care." 

"Oh, very well," said Mitchell, humoring 

The Come On 271 

him. Then he reflected. The indications 
were that their projected coup might fail if 
Steve s surly humor kept up. Why not im 
prove the shining hour? The coin was ob 
viously bad. 

"I ll take it before it gets you into trou 
ble," he insinuated. 

Steve lurched to his feet, thrusting an un- 
decorative face over the table. "You think 
it s bad?" he queried darkly. "You think 
I m a fool?" He flung a packet of bills on 
the table. "Cover that, if you dare," he 
said. "There s the money for the Post 
place ten thousand dollars. It says that s 
a good dollar. Put up or shut up!" 

"You ll lose your money!" warned 
Mitchell. "Then you ll say I took advan 
tage of you." 

"I know what you think," said Steve 
shrewdly. "You think I m drunk, but I m 
not. / know a good thing when I see it. 

272 The Come On 

Don t you don t you lose no sleep about 
me. I m I m all right, you bet! Now 
what ll you do or take water?" he fleered. 

Surreptitiously Loring had tried the coin 
with his penknife during this controversy. 
The metal was quite soft the knife left a 
great scar, which he flashed at Mitchell. 

"Well if you insist," said Mitchell re 
luctantly. He counted out ten one-thousand- 
dollar bills. "Who ll be the judge?" 

"Anybody. Archie. I ve got you skinned 
a mile anyway." 

"I am sorry, Mr. Thompson," said Archi 
bald, "but this dollar seems to be pewter, 
or something of that general description. 
Aw, give him back his money, Mitchell 
he s drinking. 

"I won t!" said Mitchell stubbornly. 
"He forced me into it. He wouldn t have 
given it back to me if I d lost." 

"Sure I wouldn t," assented Steve. "I m 

The Come On 273 

no boy. / play for keeps, me. Don t be so 
fast, if you please. This money ain t won 
yet. Cut into that dollar! I was from 
Missouri before ever I saw Montana." 

"Cut it, Loring," said Mitchell. "Show; 

Loring scratched it with the penknife 
point. "You see? soft as cheese rotten," 
he said. And then the knife struck some 
thing hard. A chill crept over him. Stu 
pefied, he scraped the base metal back, re 
vealing a portion of an irrefutably good 

The dismayed rascals looked up. In 
Thompson s hand a large, businesslike gun 
wavered portentously from one head to the 

"Go on!" he admonished. His tone was 
not particularly pleasant. "Peel her off! 
Yah! You puling infants! You cheap, 
trading-stamp crooks!" He raked off the 

274 The Come On 

money. "Be tran-tranquil ! You doddering 
idiots, I d shoot your heads off for two bits! 
Try to rob a countryman, will you? Why, 
gentle shepherds all, I ve been on to such 
curves as yours ever since Hec was a pup ! 
You and your scout Loring and your Bick- 
ford and your Post!" he scoffed. "Don t 
open your heads. Bah! Here, you 
skunks!" He threw an ostentatiously bad 
dollar on the table. "Take that, and break 
even if you can. That patronizing half- 
baked tailor s dummy that called me out of 
my name will be back bimeby, with his 
pockets full. I d like to see him taken down 
a peg, but I dassent spoil the sale of my 
mine. Tell him I m in bed, full, but ll be 
out in an hour or so. He ll come again to 
buy me out. Hates me like poison, he does. 
If you can get him to bite, go it! But I 
doubt if you ll find even that saphead as 
rank as you three wise guys. Anyway, I 

The Come On 275 

don t want to see him while I feel this way. 
My head aches, and I suppose there s some 
sort of law against shooting the likes of 
him or you. I m leavin for another ho 
tel, right now. Don t you fellows bother 
me if you value your hides. If you can skin 
that puppy, why, sic em, Towse ! and the 
devil take the hindmost! Oh, you Smart 

He backed out with a traditional wiggle 
of his fingers. 

It is to be regretted that the stringent 
regulations of the postal authorities will not 
permit us any report of the heart-to-heart 
talk that followed his departure, other than 
the baldest summary. It was marked by 
earnestness, sincerity, even by some petu 
lance, interspersed with frank and spirited 
repartee. Mutual recrimination resulted. 

Subdued and chastened, Mr. Mitchell was 
reduced to the ranks; Loring, by virtue of 

276 The Come On 

his own and Mitchell s vote, replacing him. 
Archibald s preference was for a third per 
son still namely, himself and he acqui 
esced with ill grace. 

They had but little over ten thousand dol 
lars remaining for the return match; and 
this, as Loring pointed out with just indig 
nation, would only put them even. They 
knew that Wyatt would have at least twice 
that much with him. So they scurried forth 
and made such good use of the scant time 
left them, by borrowing, by squeezing both 
Bickford and the hard-working bookkeeper, 
and by resource to certain nest-eggs laid by 
for case of extreme urgency (known among 
themselves as "fix money"), they scraped 
together some six thousand more. The 
"ripping" dinner went untasted. They were 
hardened, but human. 

All ravages of carking care were 
smoothed away, and they were disposed in 

The Come On 277 

luxuriant and contented ease when Wyatt 

"Aw, gentlemen, I am punctual, you see 1" 
he announced gayly. "It is weally vewy 
kind of you to be so obliging I m suah. Is 
the ah mining puhson in?" 

Mr. Loring, speaking for the trio, affably 
regretted that their young friend was not, 
in fact, at his best during Mr. Wyatt s pre 
vious call. They had remonstrated with 
him for his injurious conduct. At present 
he was sleeping off the effects of his slight 
exhilaration: they thought it would not be 
at all judicious to disturb him: they felt 
sure that, on awakening, he would prove 
amenable to reason. Meanwhile, the night 
was young; if Mr. Wyatt cared to join them 
in a friendly rubber they would be delighted. 

"Chawmed, I m suahl" said Wyatt. "I 
do not desiah any contwovewsy with that 
vewy wuffianly puhson while he is ah 

278 The Come On 

wuffled. So I shall wait and shall be happy 
to join you." 

The score was close; it was only through 
ingenious manipulation by their opponents 
that Wyatt and his partner were forced to 
win a small sum. 

"Weally, gentlemen," drawled Wyatt, 
looking at his watch, "I shall be fowced to 
leave you. I have an engagement at eleven, 
and I weally feah ouah Mr. Townshend will 
be, as I might say, hors de combat foh the 
night. I have to thawnk you fow a vewy 
agweeable evening, nevahtheless." 

He was carelessly sweeping the money in 
to his pocket when Mitchell, his partner, 
checked him. 

"I beg your pardon, but is that not a bad 
dollar?" he said. 

"Oh, no mattah no consequence at all, I 
assuah you," said Wyatt liberally. He 
would have pocketed the piece, but Loring, 

The Come On 279 

who had paid it, gave him another, and 
flung the slighted coin over to Mitchell. 

"If you re so set on this dollar being 
bad," he said angrily, "I ll bet you what you 
dare it s not bad." 

"Done with you for twenty!" Mitchell 
covered it promptly. 

Loring drew out a handful of bills. 
"Here you are. Any one else want any of 
this?" he inquired captiously. 

Archibald shook his head and laughed. 
Wyatt screwed his monocle into his eye, re 
garded both sides of the coin attentively, and 
laid it down. 

"Quite bad, I assuah you," he said. "I 
should pwonounce it about the wohst speci 
men extahnt." 

"Maybe you d like to bet on it?" said 
Loring, flaunting the big bills. 

Wyatt was evidently nettled. "Weally, 
you aw wong I assuah you," he said stiffly. 

280 The Come On 

"If you aw pawdon me quite able to lose 
that money without ah inconvenience I am 
weady to covah it, at least, as fah as what 
I have with me goes." 

"Done!" said Loring. This was not so 
bad, after all. 

"How much? . . . Aw! Seventeen thou 
sand. Exactly. The bet is made, gentlemen. 
I ah propose that we wing the bell foh 
the pwopwietah and, shahl we say, the clahk, 
to act as judge and stakeholdeh." 

"That will be satisfactory," said Loring. 
"Allow me, in turn, to make a suggestion, 
Mr. Wyatt. Put the money in your bill- 
book, hand it to the stakeholder, and let him 
give it, unopened, to the winner. Of course, 
you will first take out your other money. 
There is no heed for them to know that 
more than a trivial sum is at stake. We do 
not want to court unpleasant notoriety." 

The Come On 28 1, 

"Quite twue! An excellent suggestion," 
said Wyatt gravely. He proceeded to put 
it in effect. 

The summoned dignitaries arrived, the 
situation was explained, and Wyatt, handing 
the money to the proprietor and the ques 
tionable dollar to the clerk, requested judg 

The clerk looked at the coin, rubbed it, 
rang it. It gave out a dull and leaden sound. 

"Bad, beyond a doubt," he said. 

"Try it with your knife," said Loring 

The clerk complied. By mischance he 
bore on too hard. The knife went through 
to the table. 

>A sound of mirth swept to them. With 
horror frozen on their faces, the three ras 
cals were aware of Thompson, leaning in 
the doorway unmistakably sober, given 

282 The Come On 

up to reprehensible levity, holding out a 
bright tin pail with an expectant air. 

Let us give even the devil his due. For 
Mitchell laughed. 



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