out of the way. All the pent-up dislike in Westcott's heart found
expression in action; the despicable trick wrought him to a sudden
fury, yet even then there came to him no thought of killing the fellow,
no memory even of the loaded gun at his hip. He wanted to choke him,
strike him with his hands.
"You dirty coward," he muttered fiercely. "So you thought the pocket
trick was a new one out here, did you? Come, give the gun up! Oh! so
there is some fight left in you? Then let's settle it here."
It was a struggle between two big, strong men - the one desperate,
unscrupulous, brutal; the other angry enough, but retaining
self-control. They crashed onto the floor, Westcott still retaining
the advantage of position, and twice he struck, driving his clenched
fist home. Suddenly he became aware that some one had jerked his
revolver from its holster, and, almost at the same instant a hard hand
gripped the neck-band of his shirt and tore him loose from Beaton.
"Here, now - enough of that, Jim," said a voice sternly, and his hands
arose instinctively as he recognised the gleam of two drawn weapons
fronting him. "Help Beaton up, Joe. Now, look yere, Mr. Bully
Westcott," and the speaker shook his gun threateningly. "As it
happens, you have jumped on a friend o' ours, an' we naturally propose
to take a hand in this game - you know me!"
Westcott nodded, an unpleasant smile on his lips.
"I do, Lacy," he said coolly, "and that if there is any dirty work
going on in this camp, it is quite probable you and your gang are in
it. So, this New Yorker is a protégé of yours?"
"That's none of your business; we're here for fair play."
"Since when? Now listen; you've got me covered, and that is my gun
which Moore has in his hand. I cannot fight you alone and unarmed; but
I can talk yet."
"I reckon yer can, if that's goin' ter do yer eny good."
"So the La Rosita Mining Company is about to be revived, is it?
Eastern capital becoming interested. I've heard rumours of that for a
week past. What's the idea? struck anything?"
Lacy, a long, rangy fellow, with a heavy moustache, and a scar over one
eye, partially concealed by his hat brim, grinned at the others as
though at a good joke.
"No, nuthin' particular as yet," he answered; "but you hev', an' I
reckon thet's just about as good. Tryin' ter keep it dark, wasn't yer?
Never even thought we'd caught on."
"Oh, yes, I did; you flatter yourselves. I caught one of your
stool-pigeons up the gulch yesterday, and more than ten days ago Moore
and Edson made a trip into my tunnel while I happened to be away; they
forgot to hide their trail. I knew what you were up to, and you can
all of you look for a fight."
"When your partner gets out here, I suppose," sneered Lacy.
"He'll be here."
"Oh, will he? Well, he's a hell of a while coming. You wired him a
month ago, and yer've written him twice since. Oh, I've got the cases
on you, all right, Westcott. I know you haven't got a cent left to go
on with, and nowhere to get eny except through him." He laughed.
"Ain't that right? Well, then, yer chances look mighty slim ter me
just at present, ol'-timer. However, there's no fight on yet; will yer
behave yerself, an' let this man Beaton alone if I hand yer back yer
"There is no choice left me."
"Sure; that's sensible enough; give it to him, Moore."
He broke the chamber, shaking the cartridges out into his palm; then
handed the emptied weapon over to Westcott. His manner was purposely
insulting, but the latter stood with lips firmly set, realising his
"Now, then, go on over thar an' sit down," continued Lacy. "Maybe, if
yer wait long enough, that partner o' yours might blow in. I got some
curiosity myself as to why that girl showed up ter-night under yer
guidance, an' why yer so keen ter fight about her, Jim; but I reckon
we'll clear that up ter-morrow without makin' yer talk."
"You mean to question Miss Donovan?"
"Hell, no; just keep an eye on her. 'Tain't likely she's in Haskell
just fer the climate. Come on, boys, let's liquor. Big Jim Westcott
has his claws cut, and it's Beaton's turn to spend a little."
Westcott sat quietly in the chair as they filed out; then took the pipe
from his pocket and filled it slowly. He realised his defeat, his
helplessness, but his mind was already busy with the future.
Timmons came out from behind the desk a bit solicitous.
"Hurt eny?" he asked. "Didn't wing yer, or nuthin'?"
"No; the stove got the bullet. He shot through his pocket."
"Whut's all the row about?"
"Oh, not much, Timmons; this is my affair," and Westcott lit his pipe
with apparent indifference. "Lacy and I have got two mining claims
tapping the same lead, that's all. There's been a bit o' feeling
between us for some time. I reckon it's got to be fought out, now."
"Then yer've really struck ore?"
"And the young woman? Hes she got enything ter do with it?"
"Not a thing, Timmons; but I want to keep her out of the hands of that
bunch. Give me a lamp and I'll go up-stairs and think this game out."
CHAPTER IX: A NIGHT AND A MORNING
Stella Donovan never forgot the miseries of her first night in Haskell.
When old man Timmons finally left her, after placing the flaring lamp
on a chair, and went pattering back down the bare hall, she glanced
shudderingly about at her unpleasant surroundings, none too pleased
with the turn of events.
The room was scarcely large enough to contain the few articles of
furniture absolutely required. Its walls were of unplaned plank
occasionally failing to meet, and the only covering to the floor was a
dingy strip of rag-carpet. The bed was a cot, shapeless, and propped
up on one side by the iron leg of some veranda bench, while the open
window looked out into the street. There was a bolt, not appearing
particularly secure, with which Miss Donovan immediately locked the
door before venturing across to take a glance without.
The view was hardly reassuring, as the single street was still the
scene of pandemonium, the saloon and dance-hall almost directly
opposite, operating in full blast. Oaths and ribald laughter assailed
her ears, while directly beneath, although out of her view, a quarrel
threatened to lead to serious consequences. She pulled down the window
to shut out these sounds, but the room became so stuffy and hot without
even this slight ventilation, as to oblige her opening it again. As a
compromise she hauled down the curtain, a green paper affair, torn
badly, and which occasionally flapped in the wind with a startling
The bed-clothing, once turned back and inspected, was of a nature to
prevent the girl from disrobing; but finally she lay down, seeking such
rest as was possible, after turning the flickering flames of the lamp
as low as she dared, and then finally blowing it out altogether. The
glare from the street crept in through the cracks in the curtain,
playing in fantastic light and shadow across ceiling and wall, while
the infernal din never ceased.
Sleep was not to be attained, although she closed her eyes and muffled
her ears. The misshapen bed brought no comfort to her tired body, for
no matter how she adjusted herself, the result was practically the
same. Not even her mind rested.
Miss Donovan was not naturally of a nervous disposition. She had been
brought up very largely to rely upon herself, and life had never been
sufficiently easy for her to find time in which to cultivate nerves.
Her newspaper training had been somewhat strenuous, and had won her a
reputation in New York for unusual fearlessness and devotion to duty.
Yet this situation was so utterly different, and so entirely
unexpected, that she confessed to herself she would be very glad to be
safely out of it.
A revolver shot rang out sharply from one of the rooms below, followed
by the sound of loud voices, and a noise of struggle. The startled
girl sat upright on the cot, listening, but the disturbance ceased
almost immediately, and she finally lay down again, her heart still
beating wildly. Her thoughts, never still, wandered over the events of
the evening - the arrival at Haskell station, the strange meeting with
Westcott, and the sudden revelation that he was the partner of
The big, good-natured miner had interested her from the first as
representing a perfect type of her preconceived ideal of the real
Westerner. She had liked the firm character of his face, the quiet,
thoughtful way in which he acted, the whole unobtrusive bearing of the
man. Then, as they had walked that long mile together in the darkness,
she had learned things about him - little glimpses of his past, and of
dawning hopes - which only served to increase her confidence. Already
he had awakened her trust; she felt convinced that if she needed
friendship, advice, even actual assistance, here was one whom she could
The racket outside died away slowly. She heard various guests return
to their rooms, staggering along the hall and fumbling at their doors;
voices echoed here and there, and one fellow, mistaking his domicile
entirely, struggled with her latch in a vain endeavour to gain
entrance. She was upon her feet, when companions arrived and led the
invader elsewhere, their loud laughter dying away in the distance. It
was long after this before nature finally conquered and the girl slept
outstretched on the hard cot, the first faint grey of dawn already
visible in the eastern sky.
She was young, though, and she awoke rested and refreshed, in spite of
the fact that her body ached at first from the discomfort of the cot.
The sunlight rested in a sheet of gold on her drawn curtain, and the
silence of the morning, following so unexpectedly the dismal racket of
the night, seemed to fairly shock her into consciousness. Could this
be Haskell? Could this indeed be the inferno into which she had been
precipitated from the train in the darkness of the evening before? She
stared about at the bare, board walls, the bullet-scarred mirror, the
cracked pitcher, before she could fully reassure herself; then stepped
upon the disreputable rug, and crossed to the open window.
Haskell at nine in the morning bore but slight resemblance to that same
environment during the hours of darkness - especially on a night
immediately following pay-day at the mines. As Miss Donovan, now
thoroughly awake, and obsessed by the memory of those past hours of
horror, cautiously drew aside the corner of torn curtain, and gazed
down upon the deserted street below, she could scarcely accept the
evidence of her own eyes.
True, there were many proofs visible of the wild riot of the evening
before - torn papers, emptied bottles, a shattered sign or two, an
oil-lamp blown into bits by some well-directed shot, a bat lying in the
middle of the road, and a dejected pony or two, still at the
hitching-rack, waiting a delayed rider. But, except for these mute
reminiscences of past frolic, the long street seemed utterly dead, the
doors of saloons and dance-halls closed, the dust swirling back and
forth to puffs of wind, the only moving object visible being a gaunt,
yellow dog trotting soberly past.
However, it was not upon this view of desolation that Miss Donovan's
eyes clung. They had taken all this in at a glance, startled, scarcely
comprehending, but the next instant wandered to the marvellous scene
revealed beyond that squalid street, and those miserable shacks, to the
green beauty of the outspread valley, and the wondrous vista of
mountain peaks beyond.
She straightened up, emitting a swift breath of delight, as her
wide-open eyes surveyed the marvellous scene of mingled loveliness and
grandeur. The stream, curving like a great snake, gleamed amid the
acres of green grass, its swift waters sparkling in the sun. Here and
there it would dip down between high banks, or disappear for a moment
behind a clump of willows, only to reappear in broader volume. Beyond,
seemingly at no distance at all, yet bordered by miles of turf and
desert, the patches of vivid green interspersed with the darker
colouring of spruce, and the outcropping of brown rocks, the towering
peaks of a great mountain-chain swept up into the clear blue of the
sky, black almost to their summits, which were dazzling with the white
of unmelted snow. Marvellous, awe-inspiring as the picture was in
itself alone, it was rendered even more wonderful when contrasted with
the ugly squalidness of the town below, its tents and shacks sprawling
across the flat, the sunlight revealing its dust and desolation.
The girl's first exclamation of delight died away as she observed these
works of man projected against this screen of nature's building; yet
her eyes dwelt lovingly for some time on the far-flung line of
mountains, before she finally released the green shade, and shut out
the scene. Her toilet was a matter of but a few minutes, although she
took occasion to slip on a fresh waist, and to brighten up the shoes,
somewhat soiled by the tramp through the thick dust the evening before.
Indeed, it was a very charming young woman, her dress and appearance
quite sufficiently Eastern, who finally ventured out into the rough
hall, and down the single flight of stairs. The hotel was silent,
except for the heavy breathing of a sleeper in one of the rooms she
passed, and a melancholy-looking Chinaman, apparently engaged in
chamber work at the further end of the hall. Timmons was alone in the
office, playing with a shaggy dog, and the floor remained unswept,
while a broken chair still bore evidence of the debauch of the previous
night. The landlord greeted her rather sullenly, his eyes heavy and
red from lack of sleep.
"Morning," he said, without attempting to rise. "Lie down thar,
Towser; the lady don't likely want yer nosin' around. Yer a bit late
fer breakfast; it's ginerally over with by eight o'clock."
"I am not at all hungry," she answered. "Is it far to the post-office?"
"'Bout two blocks, ter yer right. If yer intendin' ter stay yere, ye
better have yer mail sent ter the hotel."
"Thank you; I'll see. I do not know yet the length of my stay."
"Are ye yere on business?"
"Partly; but it may require only a few days."
"Waal, if yer do stay over, maybe I kin fix yer up a bit more
comfortable-like. Thar'll be some drummers a goin' out to-day, I
"Thank you very much; I'll let you know what I decide the moment I know
myself. Is that a hunting-dog?"
"Bones mostly," he responded gloomily, but stroking the animal's head.
"Leastwise, he ain't been trained none. I just naturally like a darg
round fer company - they sorter seem homelike."
She passed out into the bright sunshine, and clear mountain air. The
board-walk ended at the corner of the hotel, but a narrow cinder-patch
continued down that side of the street for some distance. The houses
were scattered, the vacant spaces between grown up to weeds, and more
or less ornamented by tin cans, and as she advanced she encountered
only two pedestrians - a cowboy, so drunk that he hung desperately to
the upper board of a fence in order to let her pass, staring at her as
if she was some vision, and a burly fellow in a checked suit, with some
mail in his hand, who stopped after they had passed each other, and
gazed back at her as though more than ordinarily interested. From the
hotel stoop he watched until she vanished within the general store,
which contained the post-office.
Through the rude window the clerk pushed a plain manila envelope into
her outstretched hand. Evidently from the thinness of the letter,
Farriss had but few instructions to give and, thrusting the unopened
missive into her hand-bag, she retraced her steps to her room.
There she vented a startled gasp. The suitcase which she had left
closed upon the floor was open - wide open - its contents disarranged.
Some one had rummaged it thoroughly. And Miss Donovan knew that she
was under suspicion.
CHAPTER X: AT A NEW ANGLE
The knowledge that she was thus being spied upon gave the girl a sudden
thrill, but not of fear. Instead it served to strengthen her resolve.
There had been nothing in her valise to show who she really was, or why
she was in Haskell, and consequently, if any vague suspicion had been
aroused as to her presence in that community, the searchers had
discovered no proof by this rifling of her bag.
She examined the room thoroughly, and glanced out into the still,
deserted hall before bolting the door. The cracks in the wall were
scarcely wide enough to be dangerous, yet she took the precaution of
shrinking back into the darkest corner before opening her hand-bag and
extracting the letter. It bore a typewritten address, with no
suspicious characteristics about the envelope, the return card
(typewritten also) being the home address of Farriss.
Farriss's letter contained nothing of interest except the fact that
Enright had also left for the West. He instructed her to be on the
lookout for him in Haskell, added a line or two of suggestions, and
ordered her to proceed with caution, as her quest might prove to be a
Miss Donovan tore the letter into small bits, wrapping the fragments in
a handkerchief until she could throw them safely away. For some time
she stood motionless at the window, looking out, but seeing nothing,
her mind busy with the problem. She thought rapidly and clearly, more
than ordinarily eager to solve this mystery. She was a newspaperwoman,
and the strange story in which she was involved appealed to her
imagination, yet its appeal was far more effective in a purely personal
way. It was Frederick Cavendish who had formerly been the partner of
Jim Westcott. This was why no answer had come to the telegrams and
letters the latter had sent East. What had become of them? Had they
fallen into the hands of these others? Was this the true reason for
Beaton's presence in Haskell, and also why the La Rue woman had been
hastily sent for? She was not quite ready to accept that theory; the
occasion hardly seemed important enough by itself alone.
Westcott's discovery was not even proven yet; its value had not been
definitely established; it was of comparatively small importance
contrasted with the known wealth left by the murdered man in the East.
No, there must be some other cause for this sudden visit to Colorado.
But what? She gave little credence to the vague suspicions advanced by
Valois; that was altogether too impossible, too melodramatic, this
thought of the substitution of some other body. It might be done, of
course; indeed, she had a dim remembrance of having read of such a case
somewhere, but there could be no object attained in this affair.
Frederick dead, apparently killed by a burglar in his own apartments,
was quite understandable: but kidnapped and still alive, another body
substituted for his, resembling him sufficiently to be unrecognised as
a fraud, would be a perfectly senseless procedure. No doubt there had
been a crime committed, its object the attainment of money, but without
question the cost had been the life of Frederick Cavendish.
Yet why was the man Beaton out here? For what purpose had he wired the
La Rue woman to join him? And why had some one already entered her
room and examined the contents of Stella Donovan's bag? To these
queries there seemed to be no satisfactory answers. She must consult
with Westcott, and await an opportunity to make the acquaintance of
Celeste La Rue.
She was still there, her elbows on the window-ledge, her face half
concealed in the hollow of her hands, so lost in thought as to be
oblivious to the flight of time, when the harsh clang of the
dinner-bell from the porch below aroused her to a sense of hunger.
Ten minutes later Timmons, guiltless of any coat, but temporarily
laying aside his pipe as a special act of courtesy, escorted her into
the dining-room and seated her at a table between the two front
windows. Evidently this was reserved for the more distinguished
guests - travelling men and those paying regular day rates - for its only
other occupant was the individual in the check suit whom she vaguely
remembered passing on the street a few hours before.
The two long tables occupying the centre of the room were already well
filled with hungry men indiscriminately attired, not a few coatless and
with rolled-up sleeves, as though they had hurried in from work at the
first sound of the gong. These paid little attention to her entrance,
except to stare curiously as she crossed the floor in Timmons's wake,
and immediately afterward again devoted themselves noisily to their
A waitress, a red-haired, slovenly girl, with an impediment in her
speech, took her order and disappeared in the direction of the kitchen,
and Miss Donovan discreetly lifted her eyes to observe the man sitting
nearly opposite. He was not prepossessing, yet she instantly
recognised his type, and the probability that he would address her if
the slightest opportunity occurred. Beneath lowered lashes she studied
the fellow - the prominent jaw and thick lips shadowed by a closely
trimmed moustache; the small eyes beneath overhanging brows; the heavy
hair brushed back from a rather low forehead, and the short, stubby
fingers grasping knife and fork.
If he is a drummer, she thought, his line would be whisky; then, almost
as suddenly, it occurred to her that perhaps he may prove to be Ned
Beaton, and she drew in her breath sharply, determined to break the ice.
The waitress spread out the various dishes before her, and she glanced
at them hopelessly. As she lifted her gaze she met that of her
_vis-à-vis_ fairly, and managed to smile.
"Some chuck," he said in an attempt at good-fellowship, "but not to
remind you of the Waldorf-Astoria."
"I should say not," she answered, testing one of her dishes cautiously.
"But why associate me with New York?"
"You can't hide those things in a joint like this. Besides, that's the
way you registered."
"Oh, so you've looked me up."
"Well, naturally," he explained, as though with a dim idea that an
explanation was required, "I took a squint at the register; then I
became more interested, for I'm from little old New York myself."
"You are? Selling goods on the road away out here?"
"Not me; that ain't my line at all. I've got a considerable mining
deal on up the cañon. I'll earn every dollar I'll make, though, eating
this grub. Believe me, I'd like to be back by the Hudson right now."
"You've been here some time, then?"
"'Bout a month altogether, but not here in Haskell all that time. When
did you leave New York?"
"Oh, more than a week ago," she lied gracefully.
He stroked his moustache.
"Then I suppose you haven't much late New York news? Nothing
startling, I mean?"
"No; only what has been reported in the Western papers. I do not
recall anything particularly interesting." She dropped her eyes to her
plate and busied herself with a piece of tough beef. "The usual
murders, of course, and things of that kind."
There was a moment's silence, then the man laughed as though slightly
ill at ease.
"These fellows out here think they are a pretty tough lot," he said
grimly, "but there are plenty of boys back on the East Side who could
show them a few tricks. You know that part of the old town?"
"Not very well," she admitted with apparent regret, "but of course I
read a good bit about it in the papers - the desperate characters,
gunmen, and all those the police have so much trouble with. Are those
stories really true?"
"There ain't a third of them ever told," and he leaned forward, quite
at his ease again. "I have some business interests down that way, and
so hear a good deal of what is going on at first hand. A New York
gunman is so much worse than these amateurs out here there ain't no
comparison. Why, I know a case - - "
He stopped suddenly and took a sip of coffee.
"Tell me about it."
"'Tisn't anything to interest you, and, besides, it wouldn't sound well
here at the table; some other time, maybe, when you and I get better
acquainted. What ever brought a girl like you down in here?"
"I'm a feature writer; I'm doing a series on the West for
_Scribbler's_," she told him. "I visit New Mexico next, but I'm after
something else besides a description of mountains and men; I'm also
going to hunt up an old friend interested in mining, who told me if I
ever got out this way I must look him up.
"I haven't seen him for years. He was continually singing this