valley's charms, and so here I am. And I'm planning a great surprise
on him. And, of course, I'm literally drinking in atmosphere - to say
nothing of local colour, which seems mostly to be men and revolvers."
The man opposite wet his lips with his tongue in an effort to speak,
but the girl was busy eating and apparently paid no attention. Her
calm indifference convinced him that her words were entirely innocent,
and his audacity returned.
"Well," he ventured, "do you agree with this prospector friend?"
"The scenery, you mean?" glancing up brightly. "Why, it is wonderful,
of course, and I am not at all sorry having made the journey, although
it hardly compares with Tennessee Pass or Silver Plume. Still, you
know, it will be pleasant to tell Mr. Cavendish when I go back that I
He choked and his face seemed to whiten suddenly.
"Mr. Cavendish?" he gasped. "Of New York? Not the one that was
It was her turn to stare across the table, her eyes wide with horror,
which she simulated excellently.
"Killed! Has a man by that name been killed lately in New York? It
was Frederick Cavendish I referred to." Her pretence was admirable.
He was silent, realising lie had already said too much; the red had
come back into his cheeks, but his hand shook as it rested clenched on
"Tell me," she insisted, "has he been killed? How do you know?"
Her earnestness, her perfect acting, convinced him. It was a mere
coincidence, he thought, that this name should have cropped up between
them, but, now that it had, he must explain the whole affair so as not
to arouse suspicion. He cleared his throat and compelled his eyes to
meet those across the table.
"Well, I don't know much about it, only what I read," he began, feeling
for words. "But that was the name; I remembered it as soon as you
spoke, and that the papers said he had been mining in Colorado before
he came into money. He was found dead in his apartments, apparently
killed by a burglar who had rifled his safe."
"Is this true? Why have I never heard? When did it happen?"
"It must have been a month ago."
"But how did you learn these particulars? You have been West that
length of time."
"I read about it in a New York paper," he answered a trifle sullenly.
"It was sent to me."
She sat with her chin in the palm of one hand, watching him from
beneath the shadow of lowered lashes, but his eyes were bent downward
at his plate.
"Are you through?" he questioned suddenly.
"Yes; this - this awful news has robbed me of all appetite."
Neither had noticed Westcott as he entered the room, but his first
glance about revealed their presence, and without an instant of
hesitancy the big miner crossed the room and approached the table where
the two were sitting.
Beaton, as though anticipating trouble, arose to his feet, but Westcott
merely drew back a vacant chair and seated himself, his eyes ignoring
the presence of the man and seeking the uplifted face of the girl
"I hope I do not interrupt," he said pleasantly. "I had reason to
suppose you were unacquainted with Mr. Beaton here."
"What reason?" her surprised tone slightly indignant.
"I believe the gentleman so informed me. It chanced that we had a
slight controversy last night."
"Over his curiosity regarding you - who you were; your presence here."
She pushed back her chair and stood up.
"A natural curiosity enough, surely. And you felt important enough to
rebuke him on my behalf? Is that what I am to understand?"
"Why," he explained, startled by her strange manner, "I informed him
that it was none of his business, and that if he mentioned your name in
my presence again there was liable to be trouble. We scrapped it out."
"You - you scrapped it out? You mean there was a fight over me - a
barroom squabble over me?"
"Not in the barroom; in the hotel office. Beaton drew a gun, and I had
to slug him."
"But the affair originated over me - my name was brought into it?" she
insisted. "You actually threatened him because he asked about me?"
"I reckon that was about how it started," he admitted slowly. "You
see, I rather thought I was a sorter friend of yours, and that I ought
to stand up for you."
"Did - did this man say anything against me?"
"No - not exactly; he - he just asked questions."
Her eyes were scornful, angry,
"Indeed! Well, permit me to say, Mr. Westcott, that I choose my own
friends, and am perfectly competent to defend my own character. This
closes our acquaintanceship."
She moved about the end of the table, and touched Beaton's sleeve with
"Would you escort me to the foot of the stairs?" she asked, her voice
softening. "We will leave this belligerent individual to his own
Neither of them glanced back, the girl still speaking as they
disappeared, but Westcott turned in his chair to watch them cross the
room. He had no sense of anger, no desire to retaliate, but he felt
dazed and as though the whole world was suddenly turned upside down.
So she really belonged with that outfit, did she? Well, it was a good
joke on him.
The waitress spoke to him twice before he was sufficiently aroused to
give his order.
CHAPTER XI: DEAD OR ALIVE
Before Westcott finished his meal his mood had changed to tolerant
amusement. That the girl had deliberately deceived him was plain,
enough, revealed now in both her manner and words. What her true
purpose might have been in apparently seeking his friendship at first
could not now be conjectured - indeed, made little difference - but it
was clear enough she really belonged to the Lacy crowd, and had no more
use for him.
Westcott was sorry for the turn things had taken; he made no attempt to
disguise this from his own mind. He was beginning to like Miss
Donovan, to think about her, to feel a distinct interest in her. Some
way she had impressed him deeply as a young woman of character and
unusual charm - a breath out of the East to arouse his imagination and
memory. He had begun to hope for a friendship which would endure, and
now - the house of cards fell at a single touch.
He could scarcely comprehend the situation; how a girl of her apparent
refinement and gentility could ever be attracted by a rough, brutal
type such as Ned Beaton so evidently was. Why, the man's lack of taste
in dress, the expression of his face, his ungrammatical language,
stamped him as belonging to a distinctly lower order.
There surely must be some other cause drawing them together. Yet,
whatever it was, there was no doubt but that he had been very properly
snubbed. Her words stung; yet it was the manner in which she had
looked at him and swept past at Beaton's side which hurt the most. Oh,
well, an enemy more or less made small difference in his life; he would
laugh at it and forget. She had made her choice of companionship, and
it was just as well, probably, that the affair had gone no further
before he discovered the sort of girl she really was.
Westcott reached this decision and the outer office at the same time,
exchanged a careless word or two with Timmons, and finally purchased a
cigar and retired to one corner to peruse an old newspaper. It was not
so easy to read, however, for the news failed to interest or keep his
mind from wandering widely. Soon he was staring out through the
unwashed window, oblivious to everything but his own thoughts.
Who was this Beaton, and what connection could he have with Bill Lacy's
gang? The row last night had revealed a mutual interest between the
men, but what was its nature? To Westcott's judgment the burly New
Yorker did not resemble an Eastern speculator in mining property; he
was far more typical of a Bowery rough - a tool rather than an employer
in the commission of crime.
Lacy's purpose he believed he understood to some extent - a claim that
it was an extension of the La Rosita vein which Westcott had tapped in
his recent discovery. There had been bad blood between them for some
time - threats of violence, and rumours of lawsuits. No doubt Lacy
would resort to any dirty trick to get him out of the way and gain
control of the property. But he had no personal fear of Lacy: not, at
least, if he could once get the backing of Cavendish's money. But
these other people - Beaton, Miss Donovan, and still another expected to
arrive soon from the East - how were they connected with the deal?
How were they involved in the controversy? Had Lacy organised a
company and got hold of some money in New York? It might be possible,
and yet neither the man nor the woman impressed him as financiers
risking fortunes in the exploitation of mines. The problem was
unsolvable; the only thing he could do was guard his property and wait
until they showed their hand. If he could only hear from Fred
Cavendish - -
He was so deeply engrossed in these thoughts, the smoked-out cigar
substituted by a pipe, that he remained unaware that Timmons had left
the office, or that the Chinese man-of-all-work had silently tiptoed
down the stairs and was cautiously peering in through the open doorway
to make sure the coast was clear. Assured as to this, the wily
Oriental sidled noiselessly across the floor and paused beside him.
"Zis Meester Vest-c-ott?" he asked softly.
The miner looked up at the implacable face in surprise, lowering his
"That's my name, John; what is it?"
The messenger shook a folded paper out of his sleeve, thrust it into
the other's hand hastily, and, with a hurried glance about, started to
glide away as silently as he had come. Westcott stared at the note,
which was unaddressed.
"Sure this is for me, John?"
"Ally same sure - for Meester Vest-c-ott."
He vanished into the dark hall, and there was the faint clatter of his
shoes on the stairs.
Westcott, fully aroused, cast his glance about the deserted room, and
unfolded the paper which had been left in his fingers. His eyes took
in the few penciled words instantly.
Do not be angry. I had the best of reasons. Meet me near the lower
bridge at three o'clock. Very important.
He read the lines over again, his lips emitting a low whistle, his eyes
darkening with sudden appreciation. Slowly he tore the paper into
strips, crossed the room, and flung the remnants into the stove. It
had been a trick, then, a bit of play-acting! But had it? Was not
this rather the real fraud - this sudden change of heart? Perhaps
something had occurred to cause the girl to realise that she had made a
mistake; to awaken her to a knowledge that a pretence at friendship
would serve her cause better than an open break.
This note might have a sinister purpose; be intended to deceive. No!
He would not believe this. All his old lurking faith in her came back
in a flash of revelation. He would continue to believe in her, trust
her, feel that some worthy purpose had influenced her strange action.
And, above all, he would be at the lower bridge on the hour set. He
was at the desk when Timmons returned.
"What do I owe you, old man?"
He paid the bill jokingly and in the best of humour, careful to tell
the proprietor that he was leaving for his mine and might not return
for several days. He possessed confidence that Timmons would make no
secret of this in Haskell after his departure. He was glad to notice
that Beaton observed him as he passed the Good Luck Saloon and went
tramping down the dusty road. He never glanced back until he turned
into the north trail at the edge of town; there the path dropped
suddenly toward the bed of the creek, and he was concealed from view.
In the rock shadow he paused, chuckling grimly as he observed the New
Yorker cross the street to the hotel, hastening, no doubt, to interview
There was a crooked trail along the bank of the stream which joined the
main road at the west end of the lower bridge. It led up the caÃ±on
amid rocks and cedars, causing it to assume a strangely tortuous
course, and its lower end was shadowed by overhanging willows. Along
this Westcott lingered at the hour set, watchful of the road leading
The only carriage belonging to the town livery passed soon after his
arrival, evidently bound for the station, and from his covert he
recognised Beaton lolling carelessly in the back seat. This must mean
that the man expected arrivals on the afternoon train, important
arrivals whom he desired to honour. There was no sign, however, of
Miss Donovan; the time was up, yet with no evidence of her approach.
Westcott waited patiently, arguing to himself that her delay might be
caused by her wish to get Beaton well out of the way before she
ventured to leave the hotel. At last he strode down the path to the
bridge, and saw her leaning over the rail, staring at the ripples below.
"Why," he exclaimed in surprise, "how long have you been here?"
"Several minutes," and she turned to face him. "I waited until the
carriage passed before coming onto the bridge. I took the foot-path
from the hotel."
"Oh, I see - from the other way. I was waiting in the trail below. You
saw who was in the carriage?"
"Beaton - yes," quietly. "He expects some friends, and wishes me to
meet them - Eastern people, you know."
Her indifference ruffled his temper, aroused his suspicion of her
"You sent for me; there is some explanation, no doubt?"
The lady smiled, lifting her eyes to his face.
"There is," she answered. "A perfectly satisfactory one, I believe;
but this place is too prominent, as I have a rather long story to tell.
Beaton and his friends will be returning soon."
"There is a rock seat below, just beyond the clump of willows, quite
out of sight from the road," he suggested. "Perhaps you would go with
"What trail is that?"
"It leads to mines up the caÃ±on, my own included, but is not greatly
travelled; the main trail is farther east."
She walked to the edge of the bridge, and permitted him to assist her
down the steep bank. There was something of reserve about her manner,
which prevented Westcott from feeling altogether at ease. In his own
mind he began once more to question her purpose, to doubt the sincerity
of her intentions. She appeared different from the frankly outspoken
girl of the night before. Neither broke the silence between them until
they reached the flat boulder and had found seats in the shelter of
overhanging trees. She sat a moment, her eyes on the water, her cheeks
shadowed by the wide brim of her hat, and Westcott noted the almost
perfect contour of her face silhouetted against the green leaves. She
turned toward him questioningly.
"I was very rude," she said, "but you will forgive me when I explain
the cause. I had to act as I did or else lose my hold entirely on that
man - you understand?"
"I do not need to understand," he answered gallantly. "It is enough
that you say so."
"No, it is not enough. I value your friendship, Mr. Westcott, and I
need your advice. I find myself confronting a very complicated case
under unfamiliar conditions. I hardly know what to do."
"You may feel confidence in me."
"Oh, I do; indeed, you cannot realise how thoroughly I trust you," and
impulsively she touched his hand with her own. "That is why I wrote
you to meet me here - so I could tell you the whole story."
He waited, his eyes on her face.
"I received my letter this morning - the letter I told you I expected,
containing my instructions. They - they relate to this man Ned Beaton
and the woman he expects on this train."
"Your instructions?" he echoed doubtfully. "You mean you have been
sent after these people on some criminal matter? You are a detective?"
There must have been a tone of distrust to his voice, for she turned
and faced him defiantly.
"No; not that. Listen: I am a newspaperwoman, a special writer on the
New York _Star_." She paused, her cheeks flushing with nervousness.
"It - it was very strange that I met you first of all, for - for it seems
that the case is of personal interest to you."
"To me! Why, that is hardly likely, if it originated in New York."
"It did" - she drew in a sharp breath - "for it originated in the murder
of Frederick Cavendish."
"The murder of Cavendish! He has been killed?"
"Yes; at least that is what every one believes, except possibly one
man - his former valet. His body was found lying dead on the floor of
his private apartment, the door of his safe open, the money and papers
missing. The coroner's jury brought in a verdict of murder on these
"And the murderer?"
"Left no clue; it was believed to be the work of a burglar."
"But when was this?"
She gave the date, and he studied over it.
"The same day he should have received my telegram," he said gravely.
"That's why the poor fellow never answered." He turned to her
suddenly. "But what became of my others," he asked, "and of all the
letters I wrote?"
"That is exactly what I want to learn. They must have been delivered
to his cousin, John Cavendish. I'll tell you all I know, and then
perhaps, between us, we may be able to figure it out."
Briefly and clearly, she set before him the facts she and Willis had
been able to gather: the will, the connection between Enright and John
Cavendish, the quarrel between John and Frederick, the visit of John to
Enright's office, the suspicion of Valois that the murdered man was not
Cavendish, and, finally, the conversation overheard in Steinway's, the
torn telegram, and the meeting between Celeste La Rue and Enright.
When she had finished, Westcott sat, chin in hand, turning the evidence
over in his mind. "Do you believe Frederick Cavendish is dead?" he
Westcott struck his hand down on the rock, his eyes glowing dangerously.
"Well, I don't!" he exclaimed. "I believe he is alive! My theory is
that this was all carefully arranged, but that circumstances compelled
them to act quickly, and before they were entirely ready. Two
unexpected occurrences hurried them into action."
She leaned forward, stirred by his earnestness.
"The quarrel in the restaurant, leading to the making of the will," he
answered gravely, "and my telegram. The two things fit together
exactly. He must have received my first message that same night. In
my judgment he was glad of some excuse to leave New York and determined
to take the first train West. His quarrel with John, coupled with his
disgust of the company he kept, caused him to draw up this will
hurriedly. He left the club intending to pack up and take the first
"And was killed before he could do so?"
"Possibly; but if that dead man had no scar on his chest, he was not
Frederick Cavendish; he was an impostor; some poor victim deliberately
substituted because of his facial resemblance. Tell me, if it was Fred
who was murdered, what became of the money he was known to have in his
private safe? What became of the original copy of the will he had in
his pocket when he left the club?"
She shook her head, convinced that his argument had force.
"I - I do not know."
"Yet these things are true, are they not? No money, no will was found.
There is but one reason possible, unless others entered after the
murder and stole these things. My belief is that Fred returned to his
apartments, took what money he required, packed his valise, and
departed without a word to any one. He often did things like
that - hastily, on the spur of the moment."
"But what happened afterward?"
"The rest is all theory. I do not know, but I'll make a guess. In
some way the conspirators learned what had occurred, but not in time to
intercept his departure; yet they had everything ready for action, and
realised this was the opportunity. Frederick had disappeared leaving
no trace behind; they could attend to him later, intercept him,
perhaps - - Wait! Keep still. There comes the carriage from the
He drew her back into the denser undergrowth and they looked out
through the leaves to where the road circled in toward the bridge. The
hoof-beats of horses alone broke the silence.
CHAPTER XII: VIEWED FROM BOTH SIDES
The team trotted on to the bridge, and then slowed down to a walk. Above
the dull reverberation of hoofs the listeners below could hear the sound
of voices, and an echo of rather forced laughter. Then the carriage
emerged into full view. Beside the driver it contained three
passengers - Beaton on the front seat, his face turned backward toward the
two behind, a man and a woman. Westcott and Miss Donovan, peering
through the screen of leaves, caught only a swift glimpse of their
faces - the man middle-aged, inclined to stoutness, with an unusually red
face, smoking viciously at a cigar, the woman young and decidedly blonde,
with stray locks of hair blowing about her face, and a vivacious manner.
The carriage rolled on to the smooth road, and the driver touched up the
horses with his whip, the lowered back curtain shutting off the view.
The girl seized Westcott's arm while she directed his gaze with her free
hand. "Look!" she cried. "The woman is La Rue. And the man - the man is
Enright! He is the lawyer I told you of, the one whose hand is not clear
in this affair. And he is here!"
"Good!" Westcott exclaimed. "I'm glad they're both here. It means that
there will be more to observe, and it means that there will be
action - and that, too, quick! They are out here for a definite purpose
which must soon be disclosed. And, Miss Donovan, I may be a little
rock-worn and a little bit out of style, but I think their presence here
has something to do with the whereabouts of Fred Cavendish."
The girl looked straight into his honest, clear eyes. His remark opened
a vast field for speculation. "You think he is alive then?" she said
earnestly. "It is an interesting hypothesis. Perhaps - perhaps he may be
in this neighbourhood, even. And that," she added, her Irish eyes
alight, "would be more interesting still."
"I hadn't finished my argument when that carriage appeared," Westcott
answered. "Do you remember? Well, that might be the answer. Beaton has
been in this neighbourhood ever since about the time of that murder in
New York. Nobody knows what his business is, but he is hand-in-glove
with Bill Lacy and his gang. Lacy, besides running a saloon, pretends to
be a mining speculator, but it is my opinion there is nothing he wouldn't
do for money, if he considered the game safe. And now, with everything
quiet in the East, and no thought that there is any suspicion remaining,
Beaton sends for the woman to join him here. Why? Because there is some
job to be done too big for him to tackle alone. He's merely a gunman; he
can do the strong-arm stuff, all right, but lacks brains. There is a
problem out here requiring a little intellect; and it is my guess it is
how to dispose of Cavendish until they can get away safely with the swag."
"Exactly! That would be a stake worth playing for."
"It certainly would; and, as I figure it out, that is their game. John
Cavendish is merely the catspaw. Right now there is nothing for them to
do but wait until the boy gets full possession of the property; then
they'll put the screws on him good and proper. Meantime Frederick must
be kept out of sight - must remain dead."
"I wonder how this was ever planned out - if it be true?"
"It must have originated in some cunning, criminal brain," he admitted
thoughtfully. "Not Beaton's, surely; and, while she is probably much
brighter, I am inclined to think the girl is merely acting under orders.
There is somebody connected with this scheme higher up - a master
Miss Donovan was no fool; newspaper work had taught her to suspect men of
intellect, and that nothing, however wicked, low or depraved, was beyond
"Enright!" she said definitely. "Obviously now. I've thought so from
the first. But always he worked so carefully, so guardedly, that
sometimes I have doubted. But now I say without qualifications - Enright,
smooth Mr. Enright, late of New York."
"That's my bet," Westcott agreed, his hand on her shoulder, forgetful of
his intense earnestness, "Enright is the only one who could do it, and he
has schemed so as to get John into a hole where he dare not emit a sound,
no matter what they do to him. Do you see? If the boy breathes a
suspicion he'll be indicted for murder. If they can only succeed in
keeping Frederick safely out of sight until after the court awards the
property to his heir, they can milk John at their leisure. It's a