The cowpuncher turned in his chair. He had intended to rise, but at the
sound of that controlled menace he knew that his legs were too weak to
answer that purpose. What he saw was a slender fellow, who stood with
his head somewhat lowered while his eyes peered down from under
contracted brows, as though the light were hurting them. His feet were
braced apart and his hands dropped lightly on his hips - the very picture
of a man ready to spring into action.
Under the great brush of his moustache, Lawlor set his teeth, but he was
instantly at ease; for if the sight of the stranger shook him to the
very centre, the other was even more obviously shocked by what he saw.
The hands dropped limp from his hips and dangled idly at his sides; his
body straightened almost with a jerk, as though he had been struck
violently, and now, instead of that searching look, he was blinking down
at his host. Lawlor rose and extended a broad hand and an even broader
smile; he was proud of the strength which had suddenly returned to his
"H'ware ye, stranger? Sure glad to see you."
The other accepted the proffered hand automatically, like one moving in
"Are you Drew?"
He still held the hand as if he were fearful of the vision escaping
without that sensible bondage.
"William Drew is right. Sit down. Make yourself to home."
"Thanks!" breathed the other and as if that breath expelled with it all
his strength he slumped into a chair and sat with a fascinated eye glued
to his host.
Lawlor had time to mark now the signs of long and severe travelling
which the other bore, streaks of mud that disfigured him from heel to
shoulder; and his face was somewhat drawn like a man who has gone to
"William Drew!" he repeated, more to himself than to Lawlor, and the
latter formed a silent prayer of gratitude that he was _not_ William
"I'm forgetting myself," went on the tenderfoot, with a ghost of a
smile. "My name is Bard - Anthony Bard."
His glance narrowed again, and this time Lawlor, remembering his part,
pretended to start with surprise.
"Yes. Anthony Bard."
"Glad to know you. You ain't by any chance related to a John Bard?"
"Had a partner once by that name. Good old John Bard!"
He shook his head, as though overcome by recollections.
"I've heard something about you and your partner, Mr. Drew."
"In fact, it seems to be a rather unusual story."
"Well, it ain't common. John Bard! I'll tell the world there was a man."
"Yes, he was."
"He must have been," answered Anthony, "from all that I've heard of him.
I'm interested in what I scrape together about him. You see, he carries
the same name."
"That's nacheral. How long since you ate?"
"The hell! Starved?"
"It's near chow-time. Will you eat now or wait for the reg'lar spread?"
"I think I can wait, thank you."
"A little drink right now to help you along, eh?" He strode over and
opened the door. "Hey! Shorty!"
For answer there came only the wail of an old pirate song.
"Oh, my name's Sam'l Hall - Sam'l Hall;
My name's Sam'l Hall - Sam'l Hall.
My name is Sam'l Hall,
And I hate you one an' all,
You're a gang of muckers all -
Damn your eyes!"
"Listen!" said Lawlor, turning to his guest with a deprecating wave of
the hand. "A cook what sings! Which in the old days I wouldn't have had
a bum like that around my place, but there ain't no choosin' now."
The voice from the kitchen rolled out louder:
"I killed a man, they said, so they said;
I killed a man, they said, so they said.
I killed a man they said,
For I hit 'im on the head,
And I left him there for dead -
Damn your eyes!"
"Hey! Shorty Kilrain!" bellowed the aggravated host.
He turned to Bard.
"What'd you do with a bum like that for a cook?"
"Pay him wages and keep him around to sing songs. I like this one.
"They put me in the quad - in the quad;
They put me in the quad - in the quad.
They put me in the quad,
They chained me to a rod,
And they left me there, by God -
Damn your eyes!"
"Kilrain, come here and make it fast or I'll damn your eyes!"
He explained to Bard: "Got to be hard with these fellers or you never
get nowhere with 'em."
"Yo ho!" answered the voice of the singer, and approached booming:
"The parson he did come, he did come;
The parson he did come - did come.
The parson he did come,
He looked almighty glum,
He talked of kingdom come - .
Damn your eyes!"
Shorty loomed in the doorway and caught his hand to his forehead in a
nautical salute. He had one bad eye, and now it squinted as villainously
as if he were the real _Sam'l Hall_.
"Righto sir. What'll you have, mate?"
"Don't mate me, you igner'nt sweepin' of the South Sea, but trot up some
red-eye - and gallop."
The ex-sailor shifted his quid so that it stuck far out in the opposite
cheek with such violence of pressure that a little spot of white
appeared through the tan of the skin. He regarded Lawlor for a silent
moment with bodeful eyes.
"What the hell are you lookin' at?" roared the other. "On your way!"
The features of Kilrain twitched spasmodically.
Another salute, and he was off, his voice coming back less and less
"So up the rope I'll go, I will go;
So up the rope I'll go - I'll go.
So up the rope I'll go
With the crowd all down below
Yelling, 'Sam, I told you so!'
Damn their eyes!"
HAIR LIKE THE SUNSHINE
"Well," grumbled Lawlor, settling back comfortably into his chair, "one
of these days I'm goin' to clean out my whole gang and put in a new one.
They maybe won't be any better but they can't be any wuss."
Nevertheless, he did not seem in the least downhearted, but apparently
had some difficulty in restraining his broad grin.
The voice of the grim cook returned:
"I'll see Nelly in the crowd, in the crowd;
I'll see Nelly in the crowd, in the crowd;
I'll see Nelly in the crowd,
And I'll holler to her loud:
'Hey, Nelly, ain't you proud -
Damn your eyes?'"
"I ask you," cried Lawlor, with freshly risen wrath, "is that any way to
go around talkin' about women?"
"Not talking. He's singing," answered Bard. "Let him alone."
The thunder of their burly Ganymede's singing rose and echoed about
"And this shall be my knell, be my knell;
And this shall be my knell - my knell.
And this shall be my knell:
'Sam, I hope you go to hell,
Sam, I hope you sizzle well -
Damn your eyes!'"
Shorty Kilrain appeared in the doorway, his mouth wide on the last,
long, wailing note.
"Shorty," said Lawlor, with a sort of hopeless sadness, "ain't you never
been educated to sing no better songs than that?"
"Why, you old, grey-headed - " began Shorty, and then stopped short and
hitched his trousers violently.
Lawlor pushed the bottle of whisky and glass toward Bard.
"Help yourself." And to Kilrain, who was leaving the room: "Come back
"Well?" snarled the sailor, half turning at the door.
"While I'm runnin' this here ranch you're goin' to have manners, see?"
"If manners was like your whiskers," said the unabashed Shorty, "it'd
take me nigh onto thirty years to get 'em."
And he winked at Bard for sympathy.
Lawlor smashed his fist on the table.
"What I say is, are you running this ranch or am I?"
"Well?" growled Kilrain.
"If you was a kid you'd have your mouth washed out with soap."
The eyes of Shorty bulged.
"It ought to be done now, but there ain't no one I'd give such dirty
work to. What you're going to do is stand right here and show us you
know how to sing a decent song in a decent way. That there song of yours
didn't leave nothin' sacred untouched, from parsons and jails to women
and the gallows. Stand over there and sing."
The eyes of the sailor filmed over with cold hate.
"Was I hired to punch cattle," he said, "or make a blasted, roarin' fool
out of myself?"
"You was hired," answered Lawlor softly, as he filled his glass to the
brim with the old rye whisky, "to be a cook, and you're the rottenest
hash-slinger that ever served cold dough for biscuits; a blasted,
roarin' fool you've already made out of yourself by singin' that song. I
want another one to get the sound of that out of my ears. Tune up!"
Thoughts of murder, ill-concealed, whitened the face of the sailor.
"Some day - " he began hoarsely, and then stopped. For a vision came to
him of blithe mornings when he should sit on the top of the corral fence
rolling a cigarette, while some other puncher went into the herd and
roped and saddled his horse.
"D'you mean this - Drew?" he asked, with an odd emphasis.
"D'you think I'm talking for fun?"
"What'll I sing?" he asked in a voice which was reduced to a faint
whisper by rage.
"I dunno," mused Lawlor, "but maybe it ought to lie between 'Alice, Ben
Bolt,' and 'Annie Laurie.' What d'you choose, partner?"
He turned to Bard.
"'Alice, Ben Bolt,' by all means. I don't think he could manage the
"Start!" commanded Lawlor.
The sailor closed his eyes, tilted back his head, twisted his face to a
hideous grimace, and then opening his shapeless mouth emitted a
tremendous wail which took shape in the following words:
"Oh, don't you remember sweet Alice, Ben Bolt,
Sweet Alice, with hair like the sunshine - "
"Shut up!" roared Lawlor.
It required a moment for Shorty to unkink the congested muscles of his
"What the hell's the matter now?" he inquired.
"Whoever heard of 'hair like the sunshine'? There ain't no such thing
possible. 'Hair so brown,' that's what the song says. Shorty, we got
more feelin' for our ears than to let you go on singin' an' showin' your
ignerance. G'wan back to the kitchen!"
Kilrain drew a long breath, regarded Lawlor again with that considerate,
expectant eye, and then turned on his heel and strode from the room.
Back to Bard came fragments of tremendous cursing of an epic breadth and
a world-wide inclusiveness.
"Got to do things like this once in a while to keep 'em under my thumb,"
Lawlor explained genially.
With all his might Bard was struggling to reconcile this big-handed
vulgarian with his mental picture of the man who could write for an
epitaph: "Here sleeps Joan, the wife of William Drew. She chose this
place for rest." But the two ideas were not inclusive.
He said aloud: "Aren't you afraid that that black-eyed fellow will run a
knife between your ribs one of these dark nights?"
"Who? My ribs?" exclaimed Lawlor, nevertheless stirring somewhat
uneasily in his chair. "Nope, they know that I'm William Drew. They may
be hard, but they know I'm harder."
"Oh," drawled the other, and his eyes held with uncomfortable steadiness
on the rosy face of Lawlor. "I understand."
To cover his confusion Lawlor seized his glass.
"Here's to you - drinkin' deep."
And he tossed off the mighty potion. Bard had poured only a few drops
into his glass; he had too much sympathy for his empty stomach to do
more. His host leaned back, coughing, with tears of pleasure in his
"Damn me!" he breathed reverently. "I ain't touched stuff like this in
"Is this a new stock?" inquired Bard, apparently puzzled.
"This?" said Lawlor, recalling his position with a start. "Sure it is;
brand new. Yep, stuff ain't been in more'n five days. Smooth, ain't it?
Medicine, that's what I call it; a gentleman's drink - goes down like
Observing a rather quizzical light in the eyes of Bard, he felt that he
had probably been making a few missteps, and being warmed greatly at the
heart by the whisky, he launched forth in a new phase of the
"THE CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON"
"Speakin' of hard cattlemen," he said, "I could maybe tell you a few
"No doubt of it," smiled Anthony. "I presume it would take a _very_ hard
man to handle this crowd."
"Fairly hard," nodded the redoubtable Lawlor, "but they ain't nothin' to
the men that used to ride the range in the old days."
"Nope. One of them men - why, he'd eat a dozen like Kilrain and think
nothin' of it. Them was the sort I learned to ride the range with."
"I've heard something about a fight which you and John Bard had against
the Piotto gang. Care to tell me anything of it?"
Lawlor lolled easily back in his chair and balanced a second large drink
between thumb and forefinger.
"There ain't no harm in talk, son; sure I'll tell you about it. What
d'you want to know?"
"The way Bard fought - the way you both fought."
He closed his eyes like one who strives to recollect; he was, in fact,
carefully recalling the skeleton of facts which Drew had told him
earlier in the day.
"Six months, me and Bard had been trailin' Piotto, damn his old soul!
Bard - he'd of quit cold a couple of times, but I kept him at it."
"John Bard would have quit?" asked Anthony softly.
"Sure. He was a big man, was Bard, but he didn't have none too much
"Go on," nodded Anthony.
"Six months, I say, we was ridin' day and night and wearin' out a hoss
about every week of that time. Then we got jest a hint from a bartender
that maybe the Piottos was nearby in that section.
"It didn't need no more than a hint for us to get busy on the trail. We
hit a circle through the mountains - it was over near Twin Rivers where
the ground ain't got a level stretch of a hundred yards in a whole day's
ridin'. And along about evenin' of the second day we come to the house
of Tom Shaw, a squatter.
"Bard would of passed the house up, because he knew Shaw and said there
wasn't nothin' crooked about him, but I didn't trust nobody in them
days - and I ain't changed a pile since."
"That," remarked Anthony, "is an example I think I shall follow."
"Eh?" said Lawlor, somewhat blankly. "Well, we rode up on the blind side
of the house - from the north, see, got off, and sneaked around to the
east end of the shack. The windows was covered with cloths on the
inside, which didn't make me none too sure about Shaw havin' no dealin's
with crooks. It ain't ordinary for a feller to be so savin' on light.
Pretty soon we found a tear in one of the cloths, and lookin' through
that we seen old Piotto sittin' beside Tom Shaw with his daughter on the
"We went back to the north side of the house and figured out different
ways of tacklin' the job. There was only the two of us, see, and the
fellers inside that house was all cut out for man-killers. How would you
have gone after 'em, son?"
"Opened the door, I suppose, and started shooting," said Bard, "if I had
The other stared at him.
"You heard this story before?"
"Not this part."
"Well, that was jest what we done. First off, it sounds like a fool way
of tacklin' them; but when you think twice it was the best of all. They
never was expectin' anybody fool enough to walk right into that room and
start fightin'. We went back and had a look at the door.
"It wasn't none too husky. John Bard, he tried the latch, soft, but the
thing was locked, and when he pulled there was a snap.
"'Who's there?' hollers someone inside.
"We froze ag'in' the side of the house, lookin' at each other pretty
"'Nobody's there,' sings out the voice of old Piotto. 'We can trust Tom
Shaw, jest because he knows that if he double-crossed us he'd be the
first man to die.'
"And we heard Tom say, sort of quaverin': 'God's sake, boys, what d'you
think I am?'
"'Now,' says Bard, and we put our shoulders to the door, and takes our
guns in our hands - we each had two.
"The door went down like nothin', because we was both husky fellers in
them days, and as she smashed in the fall upset two of the boys sittin'
closest and gave 'em no chance on a quick draw. The rest of 'em was too
paralyzed at first, except old Piotto. He pulled his gun, but what he
shot was Tom Shaw, who jest leaned forward in his chair and crumpled up
"We went at 'em, pumpin' lead. It wasn't no fight at first and half of
'em was down before they had their guns workin'. But when the real hell
started it wasn't no fireside story, I'll tell a man. We had the jump on
'em, but they meant business. I dropped to the floor and lay on my side,
shootin'; Bard, he followered suit. They went down like tenpins till our
guns were empty. Then we up and rushed what was left of 'em - Piotto and
his daughter. Bard makes a pass to knock the gun out of the hand of Joan
and wallops her on the head instead. Down she goes. I finished Piotto
with my bare hands."
"Broke his back, eh?"
"Me? Whoever heard of breakin' a man's back? Ha, ha, ha! You been
hearin' fairy tales, son. Nope, I choked the old rat."
"Were you badly hurt?"
Lawlor searched his memory hastily; there was no information on this
"Couple of grazes," he said, dismissing the subject with a tolerant wave
of the hand. "Nothin' worth talkin' of."
"I see," nodded Bard.
It occurred to Lawlor that his guest was taking the narrative in a
remarkably philosophic spirit. He reviewed his telling of the story
hastily and could find nothing that jarred.
He concluded: "That was the way of livin' in them days. They ain't no
more - they ain't no more!"
"And now," said Anthony, "the only excitement you get is out of
books - and running the labourers?"
He had picked up the book which Lawlor had just laid down.
"Oh, I read a bit now and then," said the cowpuncher easily, "but I
ain't much on booklearnin'."
Bard was turning the pages slowly. The title, whose meaning dawned
slowly on his astonished mind as a sunset comes in winter over a grey
landscape, was The Critique of Pure Reason. He turned the book over and
over in his hands. It was well thumbed.
He asked, controlling his voice: "Are you fond of Kant?"
"Eh?" queried the other.
"Fond of this book?"
"Yep, that's one of my favourites. But I ain't much on any books."
"However," said Bard, "the story of this is interesting."
"It is. There's some great stuff in it," mumbled Lawlor, trying to
squint at the title, which he had quite overlooked during the daze in
which he first picked it up.
Bard laid the book aside and out of sight.
"And I like the characters, don't you? Some very close work done with
"Yep, there's a lot of narrow escapes."
"Exactly. I'm glad that we agree about books."
"So'm I. Feller can kill a lot of time chinning about books."
"Yes, I suppose a good many people have killed time over this book."
And as he smiled genially upon the cowpuncher, Bard felt a great relief
sweep over him, a mighty gladness that this was not Drew - that this
looselipped gabbler was not the man who had written the epitaph over the
tomb of Joan Piotto. He lied about the book; he had lied about it all.
And knowing that this was not Drew, he felt suddenly as if someone were
watching him from behind, someone large and grey and stern of eye, like
the giant who had spoken to him so long before in the arena at Madison
A game was being played with him, and behind that game must be Drew
himself; all Bard could do was to wait for developments.
The familiar, booming voice of Shorty Kilrain echoed through the house:
And the loud clangour of a bell supported the invitation.
"Chow-time," breathed Lawlor heavily, like one relieved at the end of a
hard shift of work. "I figure you ain't sorry, son?"
"No," answered Bard, "but it's too bad to break off this talk. I've
learned a lot."
"You first," said Lawlor at the door.
"I've been taught to let an older man go first," said Bard, smiling
pleasantly. "After you, sir."
"Any way you want it, Bard," answered Lawlor, but as he led the way down
the hall he was saying to himself, through his stiffly mumbling lips:
"He knows! Calamity was right; there's going to be hell poppin' before
He lengthened his stride going down the long hall to the dining-room,
and entering, he found the cowpunchers about to take their places around
the big table. Straight toward the head to the big chair he stalked, and
paused an instant beside little Duffy. Their interchange of whispers was
like a muffled rapid-fire, for they had to finish before young Bard, now
just entering the room, could reach them and take his designated chair
at the right of Lawlor.
"He knows," muttered Lawlor.
"Hell! Then it's all up?"
"No; keep bluffin'; wait. How's everything?"
"Gregory ain't come in, but Drew may put him wise before he gets inside
"You done all I could expect," said Lawlor aloud as Bard came up, "but
to-morrow go back on the same job and try to get something definite."
To Bard: "Here's your place, partner. Just been tellin' Duffy, there on
your right, about some work. Some of the doggies have been rustled
lately and we're on their trail."
They took their places, and Bard surveyed the room carefully, as an
actor who stands in the wings and surveys the stage on which he is soon
to step and play a great part; for in Anthony there was a gathering
sense of impending disaster and action. What he saw was a long, low
apartment, the bare rafters overhead browned by the kitchen smoke, which
even now was rolling in from the wide door at the end of the room - the
thick, oily smoke of burnt meat mingled with steam and the nameless
vapours of a great oven.
There was no semblance of a decoration on the walls; the boards were not
even painted. It was strictly a place for use, not pleasure. The food
itself which Shorty Kilrain and Calamity Ben now brought on was
distinctly utilitarian rather than appetizing. The pi√®ce de resistance
was a monstrous platter heaped high with beefsteak, not the inviting
meat of a restaurant in a civilized city, but thin, brown slabs, fried
dry throughout. The real nourishment was in the gravy in which the steak
swam. In a dish of even more amazing proportions was a vast heap of
potatoes boiled with their jackets on. Lawlor commenced loading the
stack of plates before him, each with a slab and a potato or two.
Meantime from a number of big coffee pots a stream of a liquid, bitter as
lye and black as night, was poured into the tin cups. Yet the cattlemen
about the table settled themselves for the meal with a pleasant
expectation fully equal to that of the most seasoned gourmand in a
The peculiar cowboy's squint - a frowning of the brow and a compression
of the thin lips - relaxed. That frown came from the steady effort to
shade the eyes from the white-hot sunlight; the compression of the lips
was due to a determination to admit none of the air, laden with alkali
dust, except through the nostrils. It grew in time into a perpetual
grimace, so that the expression of an old range rider is that of a man
steeling himself to pass through some grim ordeal.
Now as they relaxed, Anthony perceived first of all that most of the
grimness passed away from the narrowed eyes and they lighted instead
with good-humoured banter, though of a weary nature. One by one, they
cast off ten years of age; the lines rubbed out; the jaws which had
thrust out grew normal; the leaning heads straightened and went back.
They paid not the slightest attention to the newcomer, talking easily
among themselves, but Anthony was certain that at least some of them
were thinking of him. If they said nothing, their thoughts were the
In fact, in the meantime little Duffy had passed on to the next man, in
a side mutter, the significant phrase: "He knows!" It went from lip to
lip like a watchword passing along a line of sentinels. Each man heard
it imperturbably, completed the sentence he was speaking before, or
maintained his original silence through a pause, and then repeated it to
his right-hand neighbour. Their demeanour did not alter perceptibly,
except that the laughter, perhaps, became a little more uproarious, and
they were sitting straighter in their chairs, their eyes brighter.
All they knew was that Drew had impressed on them that Bard must not
leave that room in command of his six-shooter or even of his hands. He
must be bound securely. The working out of the details of execution he
had left to their own ingenuity. It might have seemed a little thing to
do to greener fellows, but every one of these men was an experienced