one who even suspicions, and his mouth is shut. It makes me laugh to
think how easily the fools were gulled. We've got a clear field if you
will only let me play the game out in my own way. Do I get the money?"
He must have acceded, for his voice no longer rose to a high pitch.
Presently, when the orchestra began playing again. Miss Donovan and
Willis judged the pair were giving their attention to the dinner.
Finally, after an hour had passed, Cavendish emerged from the booth,
went to the check-room, and hurriedly left the cafÃ©. Waiting only long
enough to satisfy herself that Cavendish was gone, Celeste La Rue
herself emerged from the booth and paused for a moment beside its
bamboo curtains. Then turning suddenly, she made her way, not toward
the exit of the cafÃ©, but to another small booth near the check-room,
and into this she disappeared.
But before she had started this short journey, a yellow piece of paper,
closely folded, slipped from her belt where it had been tucked.
"It's the telegram! The one of which they were speaking." Miss
Donovan's voice whispered dramatically as her eyes swept the tiny clue
within their ambit.
Willis started. He almost sprung from the booth to pick it up, but the
girl withheld him with a pressure of the hand.
"Not yet," she begged. "Wait until we see who leaves the other booth
into which La Rue just went."
And Willis fell back into the seat, his pulse pounding. Presently,
with startled eyes, they beheld Celeste la Rue leave the booth, and
then five minutes later a well-dressed man, a suave, youthful man with
a head inclined toward baldness.
"Enright!" muttered Willis.
"Enright," echoed Miss Donovan, "and, Jerry, our hunch was right. He
and La Rue are playing Cavendish - and for something big. But now is
our time to get the telegram. Quick - before the waiter returns."
At her words Willis was out of the booth. As Miss Donovan watched, she
saw him pass by the folded evidence. What was wrong? But,
no - suddenly she saw his handkerchief drop, saw him an instant later
turn and pick it up, and with it the telegram. Disappearing in the
direction of the men's room, he returned a moment later, paid the
check, and with Miss Donovan on his arm left the cafÃ©.
Outside, and three blocks away from Steinway's, they paused under an
arc-light, and with shaking hands Willis showed her the message. There
in the flickering rays the girl read its torn and yet enlightening
lorado, May 19, 1915.
him safe. Report and collect.
come with roll Monday sure
've seen papers. Remember Haskell.
"It's terribly cryptic, Jerry," she said to the other, "but two things
we know from it."
"One is that La Rue's going to blow the burg some day - soon."
"The other, that 'Ned' is Ned Beaton, the man mentioned back there in
Steinway's. Whatever his connection is, we don't know. I think we had
better go to Farriss, don't you?"
"A good hunch," Willis replied, taking her arm. "And let's move on it
quick. One of us may have to hop to Colorado if Farriss thinks well of
what we've dug up."
"I hope it's you - you've worked hard," said Miss Donovan.
"But you got the big clue of it all - the telegram," gallantly returned
her companion, as he raised his arm to signal a passing cab which would
take them to the Star office.
Once there, in their enthusiasm they upset the custom of the office and
broke into Farriss's fullest hour, dragged him from his slot in the
copy desk and into his private office, which he rarely used. There,
into his impatient ears they dinned the story of what they had just
learned, ending up by passing him the telegram.
For a mere instant he glanced at them, then his lips began to move.
"Beaton - Ned - Ned Beaton - Ned Beaton," he mused, and then sat bolt
upright in his chair, while he banged the desk with a round, hard fist.
"Hell's bells!" he ejaculated. "You've run across something. I know
that name. I know the man. Ned Beaton is a 'gun,' and he pulled his
first job when I was doing 'police' in Philadelphia for the _Record_.
Well, well, my children, this is splendid! And what next?"
"But, Mr. Farriss, where is he?" put in Stella Donovan. "Where was the
message sent from? Colorado, yes, but where in Colorado? That's the
thing to find out."
"I thought it might be the last word in the message - Haskell," ventured
Mr. Farriss paused a moment, then,
"Boy!" he yelled through the open door.
"Boy, get me an atlas here quick, or I'll hang your hair on a
A young hopeful, frightened into frenzy, obeyed with alacrity, and
Farriss, seizing the atlas from his hand, thumbed it until he found a
map of Colorado. Together the three pored over it.
"There it is!" Stella Donovan cried suddenly. "Down toward the bottom.
Looks like desert country."
"Pretty dry place for Celeste," laughed Willis. "I might call her up
and kid her about it if - - "
Farriss looked at him sourly. "You might get a raise in salary," he
snapped sharply, "if you'd keep your mind on the job. What you can do
is call up, say you're the detective bureau, and ask carelessly about
Beaton. That'll throw a scare into her. You've got her number?"
"Riverside 7683," Willis said in a businesslike voice. "The Beecher
apartments. I'll try it."
He disappeared into the clattering local room, to return a moment
later, white of face, bright of eye, and with lips parted.
"What's the dope?" Farriss shot at him.
"Nothing!" cried the excited young man. "Nothing except that fifteen
minutes ago Celeste La Rue kissed the Beecher apartments good-bye and,
with trunk, puff, and toothbrush, beat it."
"To Haskell," added the city editor, "or my hair is pink. And by God,
I believe there's a story there. What's more, I believe we can get it.
It's blind chance, but we'll take it."
"Let Mr. Willis - - " began Miss Donovan.
"Mind your own business, Stella," commanded Farriss, "and see that your
hat's on straight. Because within half an hour you're going to draw on
the night cashier for five hundred dollars and pack your little
portmanteau for Haskell."
Willis's face fell. "Can't I go, too?" he began, but Farriss silenced
him on the instant.
"Kid," he said sharply but kindly, "you're too good a hound for the
desert. The city needs you here - and, dammit, you keep on sniffing."
Turning to the unsettled girl beside him, he went on briskly:
"Work guardedly; query us when you have to; be sure of your facts, and
consign your soul to God. Do I see you moving?"
And when Farriss looked again he did.
CHAPTER VII: MISS DONOVAN ARRIVES
When the long overland train paused a moment before the ancient box car
that served as the depot for the town of Haskell, nestled in the gulch
half a mile away, it deposited Miss Stella Donovan almost in the arms
of Carson, the station-agent, and he, wary of the wiles of women and
the ethics of society, promptly turned her over to Jim Westcott, who
had come down to inquire if the station-agent held a telegram for
him - a telegram that he expected from the East.
"She oughtn't to hike to the Timmons House alone, Jim," Carson said.
"This yere is pay-day up at the big mines, an' the boys are havin' a
hell of a time. That's them yellin' down yonder, and they're mighty
likely to mix up with the Bar X gang before mornin', bein' how the
liquor is runnin' like blood in the streets o' Lundun, and there's half
a mile between 'em."
In view of these disclosures, Miss Donovan welcomed the courteous
acquiescence of Westcott, whom she judged to be a man of thirty-one,
with force and character - these written in the lines of his big body
and his square, kind face.
"I'm Miss Stella Donovan of New York," she said directly.
"And I," he returned, with hat off in the deepening gloom, "am Jim
Westcott, who plugs away at a mining claim over yonder."
"There!" laughed the girl frankly. "We're introduced. And I suppose
we can start for the Timmons House."
As her words trailed off there came again the sound of yelling, sharp
cries, and revolver shots from the gulch below where lights twinkled
Laughing warmly, Westcott picked up her valise, threw a "So-long" to
Carson, and with Miss Donovan close behind him, began making for the
distant lights of the Timmons House. As they followed the road, which
paralleled a whispering stream, the girl began to draw him out
skilfully, and was amazed to find that for all of his rough appearance
he was excellently educated and a gentleman of taste. Finally the
reason came out.
"I'm a college man," he explained proudly. "So was my partner - same
class. But one can't always remain in the admirable East, and three
years ago he and I came here prospecting. Actually struck some
pay-dirt in the hills yonder, too, but it sort of petered out on us."
"Oh, I'm sorry." Miss Donovan's condolence was genuine.
"We lost the ore streak. It was broken in two by some upheaval of
nature. We were still trying to find it when my partner's father died
and he went East to claim the fortune that was left. I couldn't work
alone, so I drifted away, and didn't come back until about four months
ago, when I restaked the claim and went to work again."
"You had persistence, Mr. Westcott," the girl laughed.
"It was rewarded. I struck the vein again - when my last dollar was
gone. That was a month ago, I wired my old partner for help, but - - "
He stopped, listening intently.
They were nearing a small bridge over Bear Creek, the sounds of
Haskell's revellers growing nearer and louder. Suddenly they heard an
oath and a shot, and the next moment a wild rider, lashing a foaming
horse with a stinging quirt, was upon them. Westcott barely had time
to swing the girl to safety as the tornado flew past.
"The drunken fool!" he muttered quietly. "A puncher riding for camp.
There will be more up ahead probably."
His little act of heroism drew the man strangely near to Miss Donovan,
and as they hurried along in the silent night she felt that above all
he was dependable, as if, too, she had known him months, aye years,
instead of a scant hour. And in this strange country she needed a
"Now that I've laid bare my past," he was saying, "don't you think you
might tell me why you are here?"
The girl stiffened. To say that she was from the New York _Star_ would
close many avenues of information to her. No, the thing to do was to
adopt some "stall" that would enable her to idle about as much as she
chose. Then the mad horseman gave her the idea.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, "I forgot I hadn't mentioned it. I'm assigned by
_Scribbler's Magazine_ to do an article on 'The Old West, Is It Really
Gone?' and, Mr. Westcott, I think I have a lovely start."
A few moments later she thanked Providence for her precaution, for her
companion resumed the story of his mining claim.
"It's mighty funny I haven't heard from that partner. It isn't like
him not to answer my wire. That's why I've waited every night at the
depot. No, it's not like 'Pep,' even if he does take his leisure at
the College Club."
Miss Donovan's spine tingled at the mention of the name: "Pep," she
murmured, trying to be calm. "What was his other name?"
"Cavendish," Westcott replied. "Frederick Cavendish."
A gasp almost escaped the girl's lips. Here, within an hour, she had
linked the many Eastern dues of the Cavendish affair with one in the
West. Was ever a girl so lucky? And immediately her brain began to
work furiously as she walked along.
A sudden turn about the base of a large cliff brought them to Haskell,
a single street running up the broadening valley, lined mostly with
shacks, although a few more pretentious buildings were scattered here
and there, while an occasional tent flapped its discoloured canvas in
the night wind. There were no street lamps, and only a short stretch
of wooden sidewalk, but lights blazed in various windows, shedding
illumination without, and revealing an animated scene.
They went forward, Westcott, in spite of his confident words, watchful
and silent, the valise in one hand, the other grasping her arm. The
narrow stretch of sidewalk was jammed with men, surging in and out
through the open door of a saloon, and the two held to the middle of
the road, which was lined with horses tied to long poles. Men reeled
out into the street, and occasionally the sharp crack of some
frolicsome revolver punctuated the hoarse shouts and bursts of drunken
laughter. No other woman was visible, yet, apparently, no particular
attention was paid to their progress. But the stream of men thickened
perceptibly, until Westcott was obliged to shoulder them aside
good-humouredly in order to open a passage. The girl, glancing in
through the open doors, saw crowded bar-rooms, and eager groups about
gambling tables. One place dazzlingly lighted was evidently a
dance-hall, but so densely jammed with humanity she could not
distinguish the dancers. A blare of music, however, proved the
presence of a band within. She felt the increasing pressure of her
"Can we get through?"
"Sure; some crowd, though. 'Tisn't often as bad as this; miners and
punchers all paid off at once." He released her arm, and suddenly
gripped the shoulder of a man passing. He was the town marshal.
"Say, Dan, I reckon this is your busy night, but I wish you'd help me
run this lady through as far as Timmons; this bunch of long-horns
appear to be milling, and we're plum stalled."
The man turned and stared at them. Short, stockily built, appearing at
first view almost grotesque under the broad brim of his hat, Stella,
recognising the marshal, was conscious only of a clean-shaven face, a
square jaw, and a pair of stern blue eyes.
"Oh, is that you, Jim?" he asked briefly. "Lord, I don't see why a big
boob like you should need a guardian. The lady? Pardon me, madam,"
and he touched his hat. "Stand back there, you fellows. Come on,
The little marshal knew his business, and it was also evident that the
crowd knew the little marshal. Drunk and quarrelsome as many of them
were, they made way - the more obstreperous sullenly, but the majority
in a spirit of rough good humour. The time had not come for war
against authority, and even the most reckless were fully aware that
there was a law-and-order party in Haskell, ready and willing to back
their officer to the limit. Few were drunk enough as yet to openly
defy his authority and face the result, as most of them had previously
seen him in action. To the girl it was all terrifying enough - the
rough, hairy faces, the muttered threats, the occasional oath, the
jostling figures - but the two men, one on each side of her, accepted
the situation coolly enough, neither touching the revolver at his belt,
but, sternly thrusting aside those in their way, they pressed straight
through the surging mass in the man-crowded lobby of the disreputable
The building itself was a barnlike structure, unpainted, but with a
rude, unfinished veranda in front. One end contained a saloon, crowded
with patrons, but the office, revealed in the glare of a smoky lamp,
disclosed a few occupants, a group of men about a card-table.
At the desk, wide-eyed with excitement, Miss Donovan took a
service-worn pen proffered by landlord Pete Timmons, whose grey
whiskers were as unkempt as his hotel, and registered her name.
"A telegram came to-day for you, ma'am," Peter said in a cracked voice,
and tossed it over.
Miss Donovan tore it open. It was from Farriss. It read:
If any clues, advise immediately. Willis digging hard. Letter of
The girl folded the message, thrust it in her jacket-pocket, then
turning to the marshal and Westcott, gave each a firm hand.
"You've both been more than kind," she said gratefully.
"Hell, ma'am," Dan deprecated, "that warn't nothin'!" And he hurried
into the street as loud cries sounded outside.
"Good night, Miss Donovan," Westcott said simply. "If you are ever
frightened or in need of a friend, call on me. I'll be in town two
days yet, and after that Pete here can get word to me." Then, with an
admiring, honest gaze, he searched her eyes a moment before he turned
and strolled toward the rude cigar-case.
"All right, now, ma'am?" Pete Timmons said, picking, up her valise.
The girl nodded, and together they went up the rude stairs to her room
where Timmons paused at the door.
"Well, I'm glad you're here," he said, moving away. "We've been
waitin' for you to show. I may be wrong, ma'am, but I'd bet my belt
that you're the lady that's been expected by Ned Beaton."
"You're mistaken," she replied shortly.
As she heard him clatter down the stairs, Miss Stella Donovan of the
New York _Star_ knew that her visit would not be in vain.
CHAPTER VIII: A GANG OF ENEMIES
The miner waited, leaning against the desk. His eyes had followed the
slender figure moving after the rotund Timmons up the uncarpeted stairs
until it had vanished amid the shadows of the second story. He smiled
quietly in imagination of her first astonished view of the interior of
room eighteen, and recalled to mind a vivid picture of its
adornments - the bare wood walls, the springless bed, the crack-nosed
pitcher standing disconsolate in a blue wash-basin of tin; the little
round mirror in a once-gilt frame with a bullet-hole through its
centre, and the strip of dingy rag-carpet on the floor - all this
suddenly displayed by the yellowish flame of a small hand-lamp left
sitting on the window ledge.
Timmons came down the stairs, and bustled in back of the desk, eager to
"Lady a friend o' yours, Jim?" he asked. "If I'd a knowed she wus
comin' I'd a saved a better room."
"I have never seen her until to-night, Pete. She got off the train,
and Carson asked me to escort her up-town - it was dark, you know. How
did she like the palatial apartment?"
"Well, she didn't say nothin'; just sorter looked around. I reckon
she's a good sport, all right. What do ye suppose she's come yere for?"
"Not the slightest idea; I take it that's her business."
"Sure; but a feller can't help wonderin', can he? Donovan," he mused,
peering at the name; "that's Irish, I take it - hey?"
"Suspiciously so; you are some detective, Pete. I'll give you another
clue - her eyes are Irish grey."
He sauntered across to the stove, and stood looking idly at the
card-players, blue wreaths of tobacco smoke circling up from the bowl
of his pipe. Some one opened the street door, letting in a babel of
noise, and walked heavily across the office floor. Westcott turned
about to observe the newcomer. He was a burly, red-faced man, who had
evidently been drinking heavily, yet was not greatly under the
influence of liquor, dressed in a checked suit of good cut and fashion,
but hardly in the best of taste. His hat, a Stetson, was pushed back
on his head, and an unlighted cigar was clinched tightly between his
teeth. He bore all the earmarks of a commercial traveller of a certain
sort - a domineering personality, making up by sheer nerve what he might
lack in brains. But for his words the miner would have given the
fellow no further thought.
"Say, Timmons," he burst forth noisily, and striding over to the desk,
"the marshal tells me a dame blew in from New York to-night - is she
The landlord shoved the book forward, with one finger on the last
"Yep," he said shortly, "but she ain't the one you was lookin' for - I
asked her that, furst thing."
"Stella Donovan - huh! That's no name ever I heard; what's she look
"Like a lady, I reckon; I ain't seen one fer quite a spell now."
"Dark or light?"
"Waal, sorter medium, I should say; brown hair with a bit o' red in it,
an' a pair o' grey eyes full of fun - some girl, to my notion."
The questioner struck his fist on the wood sharply.
"Well, what the devil do you suppose such a woman has come to this hole
clear from New York for, Timmons? What's her game, anyhow?"
"Blessed if I know," and the proprietor seated himself on a high stool.
"I didn't ask no questions like that; maybe the gent by the stove there
might give yer all the information yer want. He brought her up from
the dapoo, an' kin talk English. Say, Jim, this yere is a short horn
frum New York, named Beaton, an' he seems ter be powerfully interested
in skirts - Beaton, Mr. Jim Westcott."
The two men looked at each other, the miner stepping slightly forward,
and knocking the ashes out of his pipe. Beaton laughed, assuming a
semblance of good nature.
"My questions were prompted solely by curiosity," he explained,
evidently not wholly at ease. "I was expecting a young woman, and
thought this new arrival might prove to be my friend."
"Hardly," returned Westcott dryly. "As the landlord informed you, Miss
Donovan is a lady."
If he expected this shot to take effect he was disappointed, for the
grin never left Beaton's face.
"Ah, a good joke; a very good joke, indeed. But you misunderstand;
this is altogether a business matter. This young woman whom I expect
is coming here on a mining deal - it is not a love affair at all, I
Westcott's eyes sparkled, yet without merriment.
"Quite pleased to be so assured," he answered carelessly. "In what
manner can I satisfy your curiosity? You have already been informed, I
believe, that the person relative to whom you inquire is a Miss Stella
Donovan, of New York; that she has the appearance and manners of a
lady, and possesses brown hair and grey eyes. Is there anything more?"
"Why, no - certainly not."
"I thought possibly you might care to question me regarding my
acquaintance with the young woman?" Westcott went on, his voice
hardening slightly. "If so, I have not the slightest objection to
telling you that it consists entirely of acting as her escort from the
station to the hotel. I do not know why she is here, how long she
intends staying, or what her purpose may be. Indeed, there is only one
fact I do know which may be of interest to you."
Beaton, surprised by the language of the other, remained silent, his
face turning purple, as a suspicion came to him that he was being made
a fool of.
"It is this, my friend - who she is, what she is, and why she happens to
be here, is none of your damn business, and if you so much as mention
her name again in my presence you are going to regret it to your dying
day. That's all."
Beaton, glancing about at the uplifted faces of the card-players, chose
to assume an air of indifference, which scarcely accorded with the
anger in his eyes.
"Ah, come now," he blurted forth, "I didn't mean anything; there's no
harm done - let's have a drink, and be friends."
Westcott shook his head.
"No, I think not," he said slowly. "I'm not much of a drinking man
myself, and when I do I choose my own company. But let me tell you
something, Beaton, for your own good. I know your style, and you are
mighty apt to get into trouble out here if you use any Bowery tactics."
"Yes; you claim to live in New York, and you possess all the earmarks
of the East-Side bad man. There is nothing keeping you now from
roughing it with me but the sight of this gun in my belt, and a
suspicion in your mind that I may know how to use it. That suspicion
is correct. Moreover, you will discover this same ability more or less
prevalent throughout this section. However, I am not looking for
trouble; I am trying to avoid it. I haven't sought your company; I do
not want to know you. Now you go back to your bar-room where you will
find plenty of your own kind to associate with. It's going to be
dangerous for you to hang around here any longer."
Beaton felt the steady eyes upon him, but was carrying enough liquor to
make him reckless. Still his was naturally the instinct of the New
York gunman, seeking for some adventure. He stepped backward, feigning
a laugh, watchful to catch Westcott off his guard.
"All right, then," he said, "I'll go get the drink; you can't bluff me."
Westcott's knowledge of the class alone brought to him the man's
purpose. Beaton's hand was in the pocket of his coat, and, as he
turned, apparently to leave the room, the cloth bulged. With one leap
forward the miner was at his throat. There was a report, a flash of
flame, the speeding bullet striking the stove, and the next instant
Beaton, his hand still helplessly imprisoned within the coat-pocket,
was hurled back across the card-table, the players scattering to get