"I don't intend to ride on."
He felt the clash of her will on his, even like flint against steel,
whenever they spoke, and he began to wonder what spark would start a
fire. It made him think of a game of poker, in a way, for he never knew
what the next instant would place in his hands while the cards of chance
were shuffled and dealt. Tired? There was a subtle, scoffing challenge
hidden somewhere in that word.
"No, but I don't intend to go any farther from Drew."
Her smile grew more pronounced; she even looked to him with a frank
amusement, for apparently she would not take him seriously.
"If I were you, he'd be the last man I'd want to be near."
"I suppose you would."
As if she picked up the gauntlet, she turned squarely on the bunk and
"You're going to hit the trail in an hour, understand?"
It delighted him - set him thrilling with excitement to feel her open
anger and the grip of her will against his; he had to force a frown in
order to conceal a smile.
"If I do, it will be to ride back toward Drew."
Her lips parted to make an angry retort, and then he watched her steel
herself with patience, like a mother teaching an old lesson to a child.
"D'you know what you'd be like, wanderin' around these mountains without
"Like a kid in a dark, lonesome room. You'd travel in a circle and fall
into their hands in a day."
She was still patient.
"Follow me close, Bard. I mean that if you don't do what I say I'll cut
loose and leave you alone here."
He was silent, enjoying her sternness, glad to have roused her, no
matter what the consequences; knowing that each second heightened the
Apparently she interpreted his speechlessness in a different way. She
said after a moment: "That sounds like quittin' cold on you. I won't do
it unless you try some fool thing like riding back toward Drew."
He waited again as long as he dared, then: "Don't you see that the last
thing I want is to keep you with me?"
There was no pleasure in that climax. She sat with parted lips, her
hands clasped tightly in her lap, staring at him. He became as vividly
conscious of her femininity as he had been when she laughed in the dark.
There was the same sustained pulsing, vital emotion in this silence.
He explained hastily: "A girl's reputation is a fragile thing, Sally."
And she recovered herself with a start, but not before he saw and
understood. It was as if, in the midst of an exciting hand, with the
wagers running high, he had seen her cards and knew that his own hand
was higher. The pleasant sense of mastery made a warmth through him.
"Meaning that they'd talk about me? Bard, they've already said enough
things about me to fill a book - notes and all, with a bunch of pictures
thrown in. What I can't live down I fight down, and no man never says
the same thing twice about me. It ain't healthy. If that's all that
bothers you, close your eyes and let me lead you out of this mess."
He hunted about for some other way to draw her out. After all, it was an
old, old game. He had played it before many a time; though the setting
and the lights had been different the play was always the same - a man,
and a woman.
She was explaining: "And it is a mess. Maybe you could get out after
droppin' Calamity, because it was partly self-defence, but there ain't
nothin' between here and God that can get you off from liftin' a hoss.
No, sir, not even returning the hoss won't do no good. I know! The only
thing is speed - and a thousand miles east of here you can stop ridin'."
He found the thing to say, and he made his voice earnest and low to give
the words wing and sharpness; it was like the hum of the bow string
after the arrow is launched, so tense was the tremor of his tone.
"There are two reasons why I can't leave. The first is Drew. I must get
back to him."
"Why d'you want Drew? Let me tell you, Bard, he's a bigger job than ten
tenderfeet like you could handle. Why, mothers scare their babies asleep
by tellin' of the things that William Drew has done."
"I can't tell you why. In fact, I don't altogether know the complete why
and wherefore. It's enough that I have to meet him and finish him!"
Her fingers interlaced and gripped; he wondered at their slenderness;
and leaning back so that his face fell under a slant, black shadow, he
enjoyed the flame of the firelight, turning her brown hair to amber and
gold. White and round and smooth and perfect was the column of her
throat, and it trembled with the stir of her voice.
"The most fool idea I ever heard. Sounds like something in a dream - a
nightmare. What d'you want to do, Anthony, make yourself famous? You
will be, all right; they'll put up your tombstone by a public
He would not answer, sure of himself; waiting, tingling with enjoyment.
As he expected, she said: "Go on; is the other reason as good as that
Making his expression grim, he leaned suddenly forward, and though the
width of the room separated them, she drew back a little, as though the
shadow of his coming cast a forewarning shade across her. He heard her
breath catch, and as if some impalpable and joyous spirit rushed to meet
and mingle with his, something from her, a spirit as warm as the fire,
as faintly, keenly sweet as an air from a night-dark, unseen garden
blowing in his face.
"The other reason is you, Sally Fortune. You can't go with me as far as
I must go; and I can't leave you behind."
Ah, there it was! He had fumbled at the keys of the organ in the dark;
he had spread his fingers amply and pressed down; behold, back from the
cathedral lofts echoed a rising music of surpassing beauty. Like the
organist, he sank back again in the shadow and wondered at the phrase of
melody. Surely he had not created it? Then what? God, perhaps. For her
lips parted to a smile that was suggested rather than seen, a tender,
womanly sweetness that played about her mouth; and a light came in her
eyes that would never wholly die from them. Afterward he would feel
shame for what he had done, but now he was wholly wrapped in the new
thing that had been born in her, like a bird striving to fly in the
teeth of a great storm, and giving back with reeling, drumming wings, a
beautiful and touching sight.
Her lips framed words that made no sound. Truly, she was making a
gallant struggle. Then she said: "Anthony!" She was pale with the
struggle, now, but she rose bravely to her part. She even laughed,
though it fell short like an arrow dropping in front of the target.
"Listen, Bard, you make a pretty good imitation of Samson, but I ain't
cut out for any Delilah. If I'm holding you here, why, cut and run and
She drew a long breath and went on more confidently: "It ain't any use;
I'm not cut out for any man - I'd so much rather be - free. I've tried to
get interested in others, but it never works."
She laughed again, more surely, and with a certain hardness like the
ringing of metal against metal, or the after rhythm from the peal of a
bell. With deft, flying fingers she rolled a cigarette, lighted it, and
sat down cross-legged.
Through the first outward puff of smoke went these words: "The only
thing that's a woman about me is skirts. That's straight."
Yet he knew that his power was besieging her on every side. Her power
seemed gone, and she was like a rare flower in the hollow of his hand;
all that he had to do was to close his fingers, and - He despised himself
for it, but he could not resist. Moreover, he half counted on her pride
to make her break away.
"Then if it's hopeless, Sally Fortune, go now."
She answered, with an upward tilt of her chin: "Don't be a fool,
Anthony. If I can't be a woman to you, at least I can be a pal - the best
you've had in these parts. Nope, I'll see you through. Better saddle
now - "
"And start back for Drew?"
There was the thrust that made her start, as if the knife went through
"Are you such a plumb fool as that?"
"Go now, Sally. I tell you, it's no use. I won't leave the trail of
It was only the outward stretch of her arm, only the extension of her
hand, palm up, but it was as if her whole nature expanded toward him in
"Oh, Anthony, if you care for me, don't stay in reach of Drew! You're
breaking - "
She stopped and closed her eyes.
"Breakin' all the rules, like any tenderfoot would be expected to do."
She glanced at him, wistful, to see whether or not she had smoothed it
over; his face was a blank.
"You won't go?"
He insisted cruelly: "Why?"
"Because - because - well, can I leave a baby alone near a fire? Not me!"
Her voice changed. The light and the life was gone from it, but not all
the music. It was low, a little hoarse.
"I guess we can stay here tonight without no danger. And in the
morning - well, the morning can take care of itself. I'm going to turn
He rose obediently and stood at the door, facing the night. From behind
came the rustle of clothes, and the sense of her followed and surrounded
and stood at his shoulder calling to him to turn. He had won, but he
began to wonder if it had not been a Pyrrhic victory.
At length: "All right, Anthony. It's your turn."
She was lying on her side, facing the wall, a little heap of clothes on
the foot of her bunk, and the lithe lines of her body something to be
guessed at - sensed beneath the heavy blanket. He slipped into his own
bunk and lay a moment watching the heavy drift of shadows across the
ceiling. He strove to think, but the waves of light and dark blotted
from his mind all except the feeling of her nearness, that indefinable
power keen as the fragrance of a garden, which had never quite become
disentangled from his spirit. She was there, so close. If he called,
she would answer; if she answered - - -
He turned to the wall, shut his eyes, and closed his mind with a Spartan
effort. His breathing came heavily, regularly, like one who slept or one
who is running. Over that sound he caught at length another light
rustling, and then the faint creak as she crossed the crazy floor. He
made his face calm - forced his breath to grow more soft and regular.
Then, as if a shadow in which there is warmth had crossed him, he knew
that she was leaning above him, close, closer; he could hear her breath.
In a rush of tenderness, he forgot her beauty of eyes and round, strong
throat, and supple body - he forgot, and was immersed, like an eagle
winging into a radiant sunset cloud, in a sense only of her being, quite
divorced from the flesh, the mysterious rare power which made her Sally
Fortune, and would not change no matter what body might contain it.
It was blindingly intense, and when his senses cleared he knew that she
was gone. He felt as if he had awakened from a night full of dreams more
vivid than life - dreams which left him too weak to cope with reality.
For a time he dared not move. He was feeling for himself like a man who
fumbles his way down a dark passage dangerous with obstructions. At last
it was as if his hand touched the knob of a door; he swung it open,
entered a room full of dazzling light - himself. He shrank back from it;
closed his eyes against what he might see.
All he knew, then, was an overpowering will to see her. He turned, inch
by inch, little degree by degree, knowing that if, when he turned, he
looked into her eyes, the end would rush upon them, overwhelm them,
carry them along like straws on the flooding river. At last his head was
turned; he looked.
She lay on her back, smiling as she slept. One arm hung down from the
bunk and the graceful fingers trailed, palm up, on the floor, curling a
little, as if she had just relaxed her grasp on something. And down past
her shoulder, half covering the whiteness of her arm, fled the torrent
of brown hair, with the firelight playing through it like a sunlit mist.
He rose, and dressed with a deadly caution, for he knew that he must go
at once, partly for her sake that he must be seen apart from her this
night - partly because he knew that he must leave and never come back.
He had hit upon the distinctive feature of the girl - a purity as thin
and clear as the air of the uplands in which she drew breath. He stooped
and smoothed down the blankets of his bunk, for no trace of him must be
seen if any other man should come during this night. He would go far
away - see and be seen - apart from Sally Fortune. He picked up his
Before he departed he leaned low above her as she must have done above
him, until the dark shadow of lashes was tremulous against her cheek.
Then he straightened and stole step by step across the floor, to the
door, to the night; all the myriad small white eyes of the heavens
looked down to him in hushed surprise.
When he was at the old Drew place before, Logan had told him of Jerry
Wood's place, five miles to the north among the hills; and to this he
now directed his horse, riding at a merciless speed, as if he strove to
gain, from the swift succession of rocks and trees that whirled past
him, new thoughts to supplant the ones which already occupied him.
He reached in a short time a little rise of ground below which stretched
a darkly wooded hollow, and in the midst the trees gave back from a
small house, a two-storied affair, with not a light showing. He wished
to announce himself and his name at this place under the pretence of
asking harbourage for the brief remainder of the night. The news of what
he had done at Drew's place could not have travelled before him to
Wood's house; but the next day it would be sure to come, and Wood could
say that he had seen Bard - alone - the previous night. It would be a
sufficient shield for the name of Sally Fortune in that incurious
So he banged loudly at the door.
Eventually a light showed in an upper window and a voice cried: "Who's
"Who the devil is Anthony Bard?"
"Lost in the hills. Can you give me a place to sleep for the rest of the
night? I'm about done up."
"Wait a minute."
Voices stirred in the upper part of the house; the lantern disappeared;
steps sounded, descending the stairs, and then the door was unbarred and
held a cautious inch ajar. The ray of light jumped out at Bard like an
Evidently a brief survey convinced Jerry Wood that the stranger was no
more than what he pretended. He opened the door wide and stepped back.
Bard moved inside, taking off his hat.
"How'd you happen to be lost in the hills?"
"I'm a bit of a stranger around here, you see."
The other surveyed him with a growing grin.
"I guess maybe you are. Sure, we'll put you up for the night. Where's
He went out and raised the lantern above his head to look. The light
shone back from the lustrous wide eyes of the grey.
Wood turned to Bard.
"Seems to me I've seen that hoss."
"Yes. I bought it from Duffy out at Drew's place."
"Oh! Friend of Mr. Drew?"
Half a life spent on the mountain-desert had not been enough to remove
from Drew that distinguishing title of respect. The range has more great
men than it has "misters."
"Not exactly a friend," answered Bard.
"Sail right. Long's you know him, you're as good as gold with me. Come
on along to the barn and we'll knock down a feed for the hoss."
He chuckled as he led the way.
"For that matter, there ain't any I know that can say they're friends to
William Drew, though there's plenty that would like to if they thought
they could get away with it. How's he lookin'?"
"Why, big and grey."
"Sure. He never changes none. Time and years don't mean nothin' to Drew.
He started bein' a man when most of us is in short pants; he'll keep on
bein' a man till he goes out. He ain't got many friends - real ones - but
I don't know of any enemies, neither. All the time he's been on the
range Drew has never done a crooked piece of work. Every decent man on
the range would take his word ag'in' - well, ag'in' the Bible, for that
They reached the barn at the end of this encomium, and Bard unsaddled
his horse. The other watched him critically.
"Know somethin' about hosses, eh?"
"When I seen you, I put you down for a tenderfoot. Don't mind, do you?
The way you talked put me out."
"For that matter, I suppose I am a tenderfoot."
"Speakin' of tenderfoots, I heard of one over to Eldara the other night
that raised considerable hell. You ain't him, are you?"
He lifted the lantern again and fixed his keen eyes on Bard.
"However," he went on, lowering the lantern with an apologetic laugh,
"I'm standin' here askin' questions and chatterin' like a woman, and
what you're thinkin' of is bed, eh? Come on with me."
Upstairs in the house he found Bard a corner room with a pile of straw
in the corner by way of a mattress. There he spread out some blankets,
wished his guest a good sleep, and departed.
Left to himself, Anthony stretched out flat on his back. It had been a
wild, hard day, but he felt not the slightest touch of weariness; all he
wished was to relax his muscles for a few moments. Moreover, he must be
away from the house with the dawn-first, because Sally Fortune might
waken, guess where he had gone, and follow him; secondly because the
news of what had happened at Drew's place might reach Wood at any hour.
So he lay trying to fight the thought of Sally from his mind and
concentrate on some way of getting back to Drew without riding the
gauntlet of the law.
The sleep which stole upon him came by slow degrees; or, rather, he was
not fully asleep, when a sound outside the house roused him to sharp
consciousness compared with which his drowsiness had been a sleep.
It was a knocking at the door, not loud, but repeated. At the same time
he heard Jerry Wood cursing softly in a neighbouring room, and then the
telltale creak of bedsprings.
The host was rousing himself a second time that night. Or, rather, it
was morning now, for when Anthony sat up he saw that the hills were
stepping out of the shadows of the night, black, ugly shapes revealed by
a grey background of the sky. A window went up noisily.
"Am I runnin' a hotel?" roared Jerry Wood. "Ain't I to have no sleep no
more? Who are ye?"
A lowered, muttering voice answered.
"All right," said Jerry, changing his tone at once. "I'll come down."
His steps descended the noisy stairs rapidly; the door creaked. Then
voices began again outside the house, an indistinct mumble, rising to
one sharp height in an exclamation.
Almost at once steps again sounded on the stairs, but softly now. Bard
went quietly to the door, locked it, and stole back to the window. Below
it extended the roof of a shed, joining the main body of the house only
a few feet under his window and sloping to what could not have been a
dangerous distance from the ground. He raised the window-sash.
Yet he waited, something as he had waited for Sally Fortune to speak
earlier in the night, with a sense of danger, but a danger which
thrilled and delighted him. No game of polo could match suspense like
this. Besides, he would be foolish to go before he was sure.
The walls were gaping with cracks that carried the sounds, and now he
heard a sibilant whisper with a perfect clearness.
"This is the room."
There was a click as the lock was tried.
"Locked, damn it!"
"Shut up, Butch. Jerry, have you got a bar, or anything? We'll pry it
down and break in on him before he can get in action."
"You're a fool, McNamara. That feller don't take a wink to get into
action. Sure he didn't hear you when you hollered out the window? That
was a fool move, Wood."
"I don't think he heard. There wasn't any sound from his room when I
passed it goin' downstairs. Think of the nerve of this bird comin' here
to roost after what he done."
"He didn't think we'd follow him so fast."
But Anthony waited for no more. He slipped out on the roof of the shed,
lowered himself hand below hand to the edge, and dropped lightly to the
The grey, at his coming, flattened back its ears, as though it knew that
more hard work was coming, but he saddled rapidly, led it outside, and
rode a short distance into the forest. There he stopped.
His course lay due north, and then a swerve to the side and a straight
course west for the ranch of William Drew. If the hounds of the law were
so close on his trace, they certainly would never suspect him of
doubling back in this manner, and he would have the rancher to himself
when he arrived.
Yet still he did not start the grey forward to the north. For to the
south lay Sally Fortune, and at the thought of her a singular hollowness
came about his heart, a loneliness, not for himself, but for her. Yes,
in a strange way all self was blotted from his emotion.
It would be a surrender to turn back - now.
And like a defeated man who rides in a lost cause, he swung the grey to
the south and rode back over the trail, his head bowed.
"TODO ES PERDO"
It was not long after the departure of Bard that Sally Fortune awoke.
For a step had creaked on the floor, and she looked up to find Steve
Nash standing in the centre of the room with the firelight gloomily
about him; behind, blocking the door with his squat figure, stood Shorty
"Where's your side-kicker?" asked Nash. "Where's Bard?"
And looking across the room, she saw that the other bunk was empty. She
raised her arms quickly, as if to stifle a yawn, and sat up in the bunk,
holding the blanket close about her shoulders. The face she showed to
Nash was calmly contemptuous.
"The bird seems to be flown, eh?" she queried.
"Where is he?" he repeated, and made a step nearer.
She knew at last that her power over him as a woman was gone; she caught
the danger of his tone, saw it in the steadiness of the eyes he fixed
upon her. Behind was a great, vague feeling of loss, the old hollowness
about the heart. It made her reckless of consequences; and when Nash
asked, "Is he hangin' around behind the corner, maybe?" she cried:
"If he was that close you'd have sense enough to run, Steve."
The snarl of Nash showed his teeth.
"Out with it. The tenderfoot ain't left his woman fur away. Where's he
gone? Who's he gone to shoot in the back? Where's the hoss he started
out to rustle?"
"Kind of peeved, Nash, eh?"
One step more he made, towering above her.
"I've done bein' polite, Sally. I've asked you a question."
"And I've answered you: I don't know."
"Sally, I'm patient; I don't mean no wrong to you. What you've been to
me I'm goin' to bust myself tryin' to forget; but don't lie to me now."
Such a far greater woe kept up a throbbing ache in the hollow of her
throat that now she laughed, laughed slowly, deliberately. He leaned,
caught her wrist in a crushing pressure.
"You demon; you she-devil!"
She whirled out of the bunk, the blanket caught about her like the toga
of some ancient Roman girl; and as she moved she had swept up something
heavy and bright from the floor.
All this, and still his grip was on her left arm.
"Drop your hand, Nash."
With a falling of the heart, she knew that he did not fear her gun;
instead, a light of pleasure gleamed in his eyes and his lower jaw
She would never forget his face as he looked that moment.
"Will you tell me?"
"I'll see you in hell first."
By that wrist he drew her resistlessly toward him, and his other arm
went about her and crushed her close; hate, shame, rage, love were in
the contorted face above her. She pressed the muzzle of her revolver
against his side.
"You're in beckoning distance of that hell, Steve!"
"You she-wolf - shoot and be damned! I'd live long enough to strangle
"You know me, Steve; don't be a fool."
"Know you? Nobody knows you. And God Almighty, Sally, I love you worse'n
ever; love the very way you hate me. Come here!"
He jerked her closer still, leaned; and she remembered then that
Anthony had never kissed her. She said:
"You're safe; you know he can't see you."
He threw her from him and stood snarling like a dog growling for the
bone it fears to touch because there may be poison in the taste - a
starving dog, and a bone full of toothsome marrow which has only to be
crushed in order that it may be enjoyed.
"I'm wishin' nothin' more than that he could see me."
"Then you're a worse fool than I took you for, Steve. You know he'd go
through ten like you."
"There ain't no man has gone through me yet."