William MacLeod Raine.

Bucky O'Connor online

. (page 1 of 18)
Online LibraryWilliam MacLeod RaineBucky O'Connor → online text (page 1 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Produced by Mary Starr


A Tale of the Unfenced Border

By William MacLeod Raine

To My Brother



I write your name on this page that you may know we hold you not less in
our thoughts because you have heard and answered again the call of the
frozen North, have for the time disappeared, swallowed in some of its
untrodden wilds. As in those old days of 59 Below On Bonanza, the long
Winter night will be of interminable length. Armed with this note of
introduction then, Bucky O'Connor offers himself, with the best bow
of one Adventurer to another, as a companion to while away some few of
those lonely hours.

March, 1910, Denver.



1. Enter "Bear-Trap" Collins
2. Taxation Without Representation
3. The Sheriff Introduces Himself
4. A Bluff is Called
5. Bucky Entertains
6. Bucky Makes a Discovery
7. In the Land of Revolutions
8. First Blood!
9. "Adore Has Only One D"
10. The Hold-Up of the M. C. P. Flyer
11. "Stone Walls Do Not a Prison Make"
12. A Clean White Man's Option
13. Bucky's First-Rate Reasons
14. Le Roi Est Mort; Vive Le Roi
15. In the Secret Chamber
16. Juan Valdez Scores
17. Hidden Valley
18. A Dinner for Three
19. A Villon of the Desert
20. Back to God's Country
21. The Wolf Pack
22. For a Good Reason


She had been aware of him from the moment of his spectacular entrance,
though no slightest sign of interest manifested itself in her indolent,
incurious eyes. Indeed, his abundant and picturesque area was so vivid
that it would have been difficult not to feel his presence anywhere, let
alone on a journey so monotonous as this was proving to be.

It had been at a water-tank, near Socorro, that the Limited, churning
furiously through brown Arizona in pursuit of a lost half-hour,
jarred to a sudden halt that shook sleep from the drowsy eyes of bored
passengers. Through the window of her Pullman the young woman in Section
3 had glimpsed a bevy of angry train officials eddying around a sturdy
figure in the center, whose strong, lean head rose confidently above the
press. There was the momentary whirl of a scuffle, out of the tangle
of which shot a brakeman as if propelled from a catapult. The circle
parted, brushed aside by a pair of lean shoulders, muscular and broad.
Yet a few moments and the owner of the shoulders led down the aisle to
the vacant section opposite her a procession whose tail was composed of
protesting trainmen.

"You had no right to flag the train, Sheriff Collins, and you'll have
to get off; that's all there is to it," the conductor was explaining

"Oh, that's all right," returned the offender with easy good nature,
making himself at home in Section 4. "Tell the company to send in its
bill. No use jawing about it."

"You'll have to get off, sir."

"That's right - at Tucson."

"No, sir. You'll have to get off here. I have no authority to let you

"Didn't I hear you say the train was late? Don't you think you'd arrive
earlier at the end of your run if your choo-choo got to puffing?"

"You'll have to get off, sir."

"I hate to disoblige," murmured the owner of the jingling spurs, the
dusty corduroys, and the big, gray hat, putting his feet leisurely on
the cushion in front of him. "But doesn't it occur to you that you are a
man of one idea?"

"This is the Coast Limited. It doesn't stop for anybody - not even for
the president of the road."

"You don't say! Well, I ce'tainly appreciate the honor you did me in
stopping to take me on." His slight drawl was quite devoid of concern.

"But you had no right to flag the train. Can't you understand ANYTHING?"
groaned the conductor.

"You explain it again to me, sonny. I'm surely thick in the haid,"
soothed the intruder, and listened with bland good-humor to the
official's flow of protest.

"Well - well! Disrupted the whole transcontinental traffic, didn't I? And
me so innocent, too. Now, this is how I figured it out. Here's me in
a hurry to get to Tucson. Here comes your train a-foggin' - also and
likewise hittin' the high spots for Tucson. Seemed like we ought to
travel in company, and I was some dubious she'd forget to stop unless I
flagged her. Wherefore, I aired my bandanna in the summer breeze."

"But you don't understand." The conductor began to explain anew as to a
dull child. "It's against the law. You'll get into trouble."

"Put me in the calaboose, will they?"

"It's no joke."

"Well, it does seem to be worrying you," Mr. Collins conceded. "Don't
mind me. Free your mind proper."

The conductor, glancing about nervously, noticed that passengers were
smiling broadly. His official dignity was being chopped to mince-meat.
Back came his harassed gaze to the imperturbable Collins with the brown,
sun-baked face and the eyes blue and untroubled as an Arizona sky. Out
of a holster attached to the sagging belt that circled the corduroy
trousers above his hips gleamed the butt of a revolver. But in the
last analysis the weapon of the occasion was purely a moral one. The
situation was one not covered in the company's rule book, and in the
absence of explicit orders the trainman felt himself unequal to that
unwavering gaze and careless poise. Wherefore, he retreated, muttering
threats of what the company would do.

"Now, if I had only known it was against the law. My thick haid's always
roping trouble for me," the plainsman confided to the Pullman conductor,
with twinkling eyes.

That official unbent. "Talking about thick heads, I'm glad my porter
has one. If it weren't iron-plated and copper-riveted he'd be needing a
doctor now, the way you stood him on it."

"No, did I? Ce'tainly an accident. The nigger must have been in my way
as I climbed into the car. Took the kink out of his hair, you say? Here,
Sam!" He tossed a bill to the porter, who was rolling affronted eyes at
him. "Do you reckon this is big enough to plaster your injured feelings,

The white smile flashed at him by the porter was a receipt for indemnity
paid in full.

Sheriff Collins' perception of his neighbor across the aisle was more
frank in its interest than the girl's had been of him. The level,
fearless gaze of the outdoors West looked at her unabashed, appreciating
swiftly her points as they impinged themselves upon his admiration. The
long, lithe lines of the slim, supple body, the languid grace missing
hauteur only because that seemed scarce worth while, the unconscious
pride of self that fails to be offensive only in a young woman so well
equipped with good looks as this one indubitably was the rider of the
plains had appraised them all before his eyes dismissed her from his
consideration and began a casual inspection of the other passengers.

Inside of half an hour he had made himself persona grata to everybody
in the car except his dark-eyed neighbor across the way. That this
dispenser of smiles and cigars decided to leave her out in the
distribution of his attentions perhaps spoke well for his discernment.
Certainly responsiveness to the geniality of casual fellow passengers
did not impress Mr. Collins as likely to be an outstanding, quality in
her. But with the drummer from Chicago, the young mining engineer going
to Sonora, the two shy little English children just in front of him
traveling to meet their father in California, he found intuitively
common ground of interest. Even Major Mackenzie, the engineer in charge
of the large irrigation project being built by a company in southern
Arizona, relaxed at one of the plainsman's humorous tales.

It was after Collins had half-depopulated the car by leading the more
jovial spirits back in search of liquid refreshments that an urbane
clergyman, now of Boston but formerly of Pekin, Illinois, professedly
much interested in the sheriff's touch-and-go manner as presumably quite
characteristic of the West, dropped into the vacant seat beside Major

"And who might our energetic friend be?" he asked, with an ingratiating

The young woman in front of them turned her head ever so slightly to

"Val Collins is his name," said the major. "Sometimes called 'Bear-trap
Collins.' He has always lived on the frontier. At least, I met him
twelve years ago when he was riding mail between Aravaipa and Mesa. He
was a boy then, certainly not over eighteen, but in a desperate fight
he had killed two men who tried to hold up the mail. Cow-puncher,
stage-driver, miner, trapper, sheriff, rough rider, politician - he's
past master at them all."

"And why the appellation of 'Bear-trap,' may I ask?" The smack of pulpit
oratory was not often missing in the edifying discourse of the Reverend
Peter Melancthon Brooks.

"Well, sir, that's a story. He was trapping in the Tetons about five
years ago thirty miles from the nearest ranch-house. One day, while
he was setting a bear-trap, a slide of snow plunged down from the tree
branches above and freed the spring, catching his hand between its jaws.
With his feet and his other hand he tried to open that trap for four
hours, without the slightest success. There was not one chance in a
million of help from outside. In point of fact, Collins had not seen a
human being for a month. There was only one thing to do, and he did it."

"And that was?"

"You probably noticed that he wears a glove over his left hand. The
reason, sir, is that he has an artificial hand."

"You mean - " The Reverend Peter paused to lengthen his delicious thrill
of horror.

"Yes, sir. That's just what I mean. He hacked his hand off at the wrist
with his hunting-knife."

"Why, the man's a hero!" cried the clergyman, with unction.

Mackenzie flung him a disgusted look. "We don't go much on heroes out
here. He's game, if that's what you mean. And able, too. Bucky O'Connor
himself isn't any smarter at following a trail."

"And who is Bucky O'Connor?"

"He's the man that just ran down Fernendez. Think I'll have a smoke,
sir. Care to join me?"

But the Pekin-Bostonian preferred to stay and jot down in his note-book
the story of the bear-trap, to be used later as a sermon illustration.
This may have been the reason he did not catch the quick look that
passed without the slightest flicker of the eyelids between Major
Mackenzie and the young woman in Section 3. It was as if the old officer
had wired her a message in some code the cipher of which was known only
to them.

But the sheriff, returning at the head of his cohorts, caught it,
and wondered what meaning might lie back of that swift glance. Major
Mackenzie and this dark-eyed beauty posed before others as strangers,
yet between them lay some freemasonry of understanding to which he had
not the key.

Collins did not know that the aloofness in the eyes of Miss
Wainwright - he had seen the name on her suit-case - gave way to horror
when her glance fell on his gloved hand. She had a swift, shuddering
vision of a grim-faced man, jaws set like a vise, hacking at his
wrist with a hunting-knife. But the engaging impudence of his eye, the
rollicking laughter in his voice, shut out the picture instantly.

The young man resumed his seat, and Miss Wainwright her listless
inspection of the flying stretches of brown desert. Dusk was beginning
to fall, and the porter presently lit the lamps. Collins bought a
magazine from the newsboy and relapsed into it, but before he was well
adjusted to reading the Limited pounded to a second unscheduled halt.

Instantly the magazine was thrown aside and Collins' curly head thrust
out of the window. Presently the head reappeared, simultaneously with
the crack of a revolver, the first of a detonating fusillade.

"Another of your impatient citizens eager to utilize the unspeakable
convenience of rapid transit," suggested the clergyman, with ponderous

"No, sir; nothing so illegal," smiled the cattleman, a whimsical light
in his daredevil eyes. He leaned forward and whispered a word to the
little girl in front of him, who at once led her younger brother back to
his section.

"I had hoped it would prove to be more diverting experience for a
tenderfoot," condescended the gentleman of the cloth.

"It's ce'tainly a pleasure to be able to gratify you, sir. You'll be
right pleased to know that it is a train hold-up." He waved his hand
toward the door, and at the word, as if waiting for his cue, a masked
man appeared at the end of the passage with a revolver in each hand.


"Hands up!"

There was a ring of crisp menace in the sinister voice that was a spur
to obedience. The unanimous show of hands voted "Aye" with a hasty
precision that no amount of drill could have compassed.

It was a situation that might have made for laughter had there been
spectators to appreciate. But of whatever amusement was to be had one
of the victims seemed to hold a monopoly. Collins, his arm around the
English children by way of comfort, offered a sardonic smile at the
consternation his announcement and its fulfillment had created, but none
of his fellow passengers were in the humor to respond.

The shock of an earthquake could not have blanched ruddy faces more
surely. The Chicago drummer, fat and florid, had disappeared completely
behind a buttress of the company's upholstery.

"God bless my soul!" gasped the Pekin-Bostonian, dropping his eyeglass
and his accent at the same moment. The dismay in his face found a
reflection all over the car. Miss Wainwright's hand clutched at her
breast for an instant, and her color ebbed till her lips were ashen, but
her neighbor across the aisle noticed that her eyes were steady and her
figure tense.

"Scared stiff, but game," was his mental comment.

"Gents to the right and ladies to the left; line up against the walls;
everybody waltz." called the man behind the guns, with grim humor.

The passengers fell into line as directed, Collins with the rest.

"You're calling this dance, son; it's your say-so, I guess," he

"Keep still, or I'll shoot you full of holes," growled the autocrat of
the artillery.

"Why, sure! Ain't you the real thing in Jesse Jameses?" soothed the

At the sound of Collins' voice, the masked man had started perceptibly,
and his right hand had jumped forward an inch or two to cover the
speaker more definitely. Thereafter, no matter what else engaged his
attention, the gleaming eyes behind the red bandanna never wandered
for a moment from the big plainsman. He was taking no risks, for he
remembered the saying current in Arizona, that after Collins' hardware
got into action there was nothing left to do but plant the deceased and
collect the insurance. He had personal reasons to know the fundamental
accuracy of the colloquialism.

The train-conductor fussed up to the masked outlaw with a ludicrous
attempt at authority. "You can't rob the passengers on this train. I'm
not responsible for the express-car, but the coaches - "

A bullet almost grazed his ear and shattered a window on its way to the

"Drift, you red-haired son of a Mexican?" ordered the man behind the
red bandanna. "Git back to that seat real prompt. This here's taxation
without representation."

The conductor drifted as per suggestion.

The minutes ticked themselves away in a tense strain marked by pounding
hearts. The outlaw stood at the end of the aisle, watching the sheriff

"Why doesn't the music begin?" volunteered Collins, by way of
conversation, and quoted: "On with the dance. Let joy be unconfined."

A dull explosion answered his question. The bandits were blowing open
the safe in the express-car with dynamite, pending which the looting of
the passengers was at a standstill.

A second masked figure joined his companion at the end of the passage
and held a hurried conversation with him. Fragments of their low-voiced
talk came to Collins.

"Only thirty thousand in the express-car. Not a red cent on the old man

"Where's the rest?" The irritation in the newcomer's voice was

Collins slewed his head and raked him with keen eyes that missed not
a detail. He was certain that he had never seen the man before, yet
he knew at once that the trim, wiry figure, so clean of build and so
gallant of bearing, could belong only to Wolf Leroy, the most ruthless
outlaw of the Southwest. It was written in his jaunty insolence, in the
flashing eyes. He was a handsome fellow, white-toothed, black-haired,
lithely tigerish, with masterful mouth and eyes of steel, so far as one
might judge behind the white mask he wore. Alert, cruel, fearless
from the head to the heel of him, he looked the very devil to lead an
enterprise so lawless and so desperate as this. His vigilant eyes swept
contemptuously up and down the car, rested for a moment on the young
woman in Section 3, and came back to his partner.

"Bah! A flock of sheep - tamest bunch of spring lambs we ever struck.
I'll send Scott in to go through them. If anybody gets gay, drop him."
And the outlaw turned on his heel.

Another of the highwaymen took his place, a stout, squat figure in the
flannel shirt, spurs, and chaps of a cow-puncher. It took no second
glance to tell Collins this bandy-legged fellow had been a rider of the

"Come, gentlemen, get a move on you," Collins implored. "This train's
due at Tucson by eight o'clock. We're more than an hour late now. I'm
holding down the job of sheriff in that same town, and I'm awful anxious
to get a posse out after a bunch of train-robbers. So burn the wind, and
go through the car on the jump. Help yourself to anything you find. Who
steals my purse takes trash. 'Tis something, nothing. 'Twas mine; 'tis
his. That's right, you'll find my roll in that left-hand pocket. I hate
to have you take that gun, though. I meant to run you down with that
same old Colt's reliable. Oh, well, just as you say. No, those kids get
a free pass. They're going out to meet papa at Los Angeles, boys. See?"

Collins' running fire of comment had at least the effect of restoring
the color to some cheeks that had been washed white and of snatching
from the outlaws some portion of their sense of dominating the
situation. But there was a veiled vigilance in his eyes that belied his
easy impudence.

"That lady across the aisle gets a pass, too, boys," continued the
sheriff. "She's scared stiff now, and you won't bother her, if you're
white men. Her watch and purse are on the seat. Take them, if you want
them, and let it go at that."

Miss Wainwright listened to this dialogue silently. She stood before
them cool and imperious and unwavering, but her face was bloodless and
the pulse in her beautiful soft throat fluttered like a caged bird.

"Who's doing this job?" demanded one of the hold-ups, wheeling savagely
on the impassive officer "Did I say we were going to bother the lady?
Who's doing this job, Mr. Sheriff?"

"You are. I'd hate to be messing the job like you - holding up the wrong
train by mistake." This was a shot in the dark, and it did not quite
hit the bull's-eye. "I wouldn't trust you boys to rob a hen-roost,
the amateur way you go at it. When you get through, you'll all go to
drinking like blue blotters. I know your kind - hell-bent to spend what
you cash in, and every mother's son of you in the pen or with his toes
turned up inside of a month."

"Who'll put us there?" gruffly demanded the bowlegged one.

Collins smiled at him with confidence superb "Mebbe I will - and if I
don't Bucky O'Connor will - those of you that are left alive when you
go through shooting each other in the back. Oh, I see your finish to a

"Cheese it, or I'll bump you off." The first out law drove his gun into
the sheriff's ribs.

"That's all right. You don't need to punctuate that remark. I line up
with the sky-pilot and chew the cud of silence. I merely wanted to frame
up to you how this thing's going to turn out. Don't come back at me and
say I didn't warn you, sonnie."

"You make my head ache," snarled the bandy-legged outlaw sourly, as he
passed down with his sack, accumulating tribute as he passed down the
aisle with his sack, accumulating tribute as he went.

The red-kerchiefed robber whooped when they came to the car conductor.
"Dig up, Mr. Pullman. Go way down into your jeans. It's a right smart
pleasure to divert the plunder of your bloated corporation back to the
people. What! Only fifty-seven dollars. Oh, dig deeper, Mr. Pullman."

The drummer contributed to the sack eighty-four dollars, a diamond ring,
and a gold watch. His hands were trembling so that they played a tattoo
on the sloping ceiling above him.

"What's the matter, Fatty? Got a chill?" inquired one of the robbers, as
he deftly swept the plunder into the sack.

"For - God's sake - don't shoot. I have - a wife - and five children," he
stammered, with chattering teeth.

"No race suicide for Fatty. But whyfor do they let a sick man like you
travel all by his lone?"

"I don't know - I - Please turn that weapon another way."

"Plumb chuck full of malaria," soliloquized the owner of the weapon,
playfully running its business end over the Chicago man's anatomy.
"Shakes worse'n a pair of dice. Here, Fatty. Load up with quinine and
whisky. It's sure good for chills." The man behind the bandanna gravely
handed his victim back a dollar. "Write me if it cures you. Now for the
sky-pilot. No white chips on this plate, parson. It's a contribution to
the needy heathen. You want to be generous. How much do you say?"

The man of the cloth reluctantly said thirty dollars, a Lincoln penny,
and a silver-plated watch inherited from his fathers. The watch was
declined with thanks, the money accepted without.

The Pullman porter came into the car under compulsion of a revolver in
the hand of a fourth outlaw, one in a black mask. His trembling finger
pointed out the satchel and suit-case of Major Mackenzie, and under
orders he carried out the baggage belonging to the irrigation engineer.
Collin observed that the bandit in the black mask was so nervous that
the revolver in his hand quivered like an aspen in the wind. He was
slenderer and much shorter than the Mexican, so that the sheriff decided
he was a mere boy.

It was just after he had left that three shots in rapid succession rang
out in the still night air.

The red-bandannaed one and his companion, who had apparently been
waiting for the signal, retreated backward to the end of the car, still
keeping the passengers covered. They flung rapidly two or three bullets
through the roof, and under cover of the smoke slipped out into the
night. A moment later came the thud of galloping horses, more shots,
and, when the patter of hoofs had died away - silence.

The sheriff was the first to break it. He thrust his brown hands deep
into his pockets and laughed - laughed with the joyous, rollicking
abandon of a tickled schoolboy.

"Hysterics?" ventured the mining engineer sympathetically.

Collins wiped his eyes. "Call 'em anything you like. What pleases me is
that the reverend gentleman should have had this diverting experience
so prompt after he was wishing for it." He turned, with concern, to
the clergyman. "Satisfied, sir? Did our little entertainment please, or
wasn't it up to the mark?"

But the transported native of Pekin was game. "I'm quite satisfied, if
you are. I think the affair cost you a hundred dollars or so more than
it did me."

"That's right," agreed the sheriff heartily. "But I don't grudge it - not
a cent of it. The show was worth the price of admission."

The car conductor had a broadside ready for him. "Seems to me you shot
off your mouth more than you did that big gun of yours, Mr. Sheriff."

Collins laughed, and clapped him on the back. "That's right. I'm a
regular phonograph, when you wind me up." He did not think it necessary
to explain that he had talked to make the outlaws talk, and that he had
noted the quality of their voices so carefully that he would know them
again among a thousand. Also he had observed - other things - the garb
of each of the men he had seen, their weapons, their manner, and their
individual peculiarities.

The clanking car took up the rhythm of the rails as the delayed train
plunged forward once more into the night. Again the clack of tongues,
set free from fear, buzzed eagerly. The glow of the afterclap of danger
was on them, and in the warm excitement each forgot the paralyzing fear

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryWilliam MacLeod RaineBucky O'Connor → online text (page 1 of 18)