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Gift oi

Robert D. Farquhar






(See page 36*


BY .









Made in the United States of America


Copyright, 1916, by Harper & Brothers
Printed in the United States of America






JOAN RANDLE reined in her horse on the
*J crest of the cedar ridge, and with remorse and
dread beginning to knock at her heart she gazed
before her at the wild and looming mountain range.

4 'Jim wasn't fooling me," she said. "He meant
it. He's going straight for the border. . . . Oh, why
did I taunt him!"

It was indeed a wild place, that southern border
of Idaho, and that year was to see the ushering in
of the wildest time probably ever known in the
West. The rush for gold had peopled California
with a horde of lawless men of every kind and class.
And the vigilantes and then the rich strikes in
Idaho had caused a reflux of that dark tide of hu
manity. Strange tales of blood and gold drifted
into the camps, and prospectors and hunters met
with many unknown men.

Joan had quarreled with Jim Cleve, and she was
bitterly regretting it. Joan was twenty years old,
tall, strong, dark. She had been born in Missouri,
where her father had been well-to-do and prominent,
until, like many another man of his day, he had



impeded the passage of a bullet. Then Joan had
become the protegee of an uncle who had responded
to the call of gold; and the latter part of her Hfe had
been spent in the wilds.

She had followed Jim's trail for miles out toward
the range. And now she dismounted to see if his
tracks were as fresh as she had believed. He had
left the little village camp about sunrise. Some one
had seen him riding away and had told Joan. Then
he had tarried on the way, for it was now midday,
Joan pondered. She had become used to his idle
threats and disgusted with his vacillations. That
had been the trouble Jim was amiable, lovable, but
since meeting Joan he had not exhibited any strength
of character. Joan stood beside her horse and looked
away toward the dark mountains. She was daring,
resourceful, used to horses and trails and taking
care of herself; and she did not need any one to
tell her that she had gone far enough. It had been
her hope to come up with Jim. Always he had been
repentant. But this time was different. She re
called his lean, pale face so pale that freckles she
did not know he had showed through and his eyes,
usually so soft and mild, had glinted like steel.
Yes, it had been a bitter, reckless face. What had
she said to him? She tried to recall it.

The night before at twilight Joan had waited for
him. She had given him precedence over the few
other young men of the village, a fact she resent
fully believed he did not appreciate. Jim was un
satisfactory in every way except in the way he
cared for her. And that also for he cared too much.

When Joan thought how Jim loved her, all the


details of that night became vivid. She sat alone
under the spruce- trees near the cabin. The shad
ows thickened, and then lightened under a rising
moon. She heard the low hum of insects, a distant
laugh of some woman of the village, and the murmur
of the brook. Jim was later than usual. Very
likely, as her uncle had hinted, Jim had tarried at
the saloon that had lately disrupted the peace of the
village. The village was growing, and Joan did not
like the change. There were too many strangers,
rough, loud-voiced, drinking men. Once it had been
a pleasure to go to the village store ; now it was an
ordeal. Somehow Jim had seemed to be unfavorably
influenced by these new conditions. Still, he had
never amounted to much. Her resentment, or some
feeling she had, was reaching a climax. She got up
from her seat. She would not wait any longer for
him, and when she did see him it would be to tel]
him a few blunt facts.

Just then there was a slight rustle behind her.
Before she could turn some one seized her in powerful
arms. She was bent backward in a bearish embrace,
so that she could neither struggle nor cry out. A
dark face loomed over hers came closer. Swift
kisses closed her eyes, burned her cheeks, and ended
passionately on her lips. They had some strange
power over her. Then she was released.

Joan staggered back, frightened, outraged. She
was so dazed she did not recognize the man, if indeed
she knew him. But a laugh betrayed him. It was

"You thought I had no nerve," he said. "What
do you think of that?"



Suddenly Joan was blindly furious. She could
have killed him. She had never given him any
right, never made him any promise, never let him
believe she cared. And he had dared ! The hot
blood boiled in her cheeks. She was furious with
him, but intolerably so with herself, because some
how those kisses she had resented gave her unknown
pain and shame. They had sent a shock through all
her being. She thought she hated him.

"You you " she broke out. "Jim Cleve, that
ends you with me!"

"Reckon I never had a beginning with you," he
replied, bitterly. "It was worth a good deal . . .
I'm not sorry. . . . By Heaven I've kissed you!"

He breathed heavily. She could see how pale
he had grown in the shadowy moonlight. She sensed
a difference in him a cool, reckless defiance.

" You'll be sorry," she said. 'Til have nothing to
do with you any more."

"All right. But I'm not, and I won't be sorry."

She wondered whether he had fallen under the
influence of drink. Jim had never cared for liquor,
which virtue was about the only one he possessed.
Remembering his kisses, she knew he had not been
drinking. There was a strangeness about him,
though, that she could not fathom. Had he guessed
his kisses would have that power? If he dared
again ! She trembled, and it was not only rage.
But she would teach him a lesson.

"Joan, I kissed you because I can't be a hang
dog any longer," he said. "I love you and I'm no
good without you. You must care a little for me.
Let's marry. . . . I'll "



*' Never!" she replied, like flint. " You're no good
at all."

"But I am," he protested, with passion. "I used
to do things. But since since I've met you I've
lost my nerve. I'm crazy for you. You let the
other men run after you. Some of them aren't fit
to to Oh, I'm sick all the time! Now it's long
ing and then it's jealousy. Give me a chance, Joan."

"Why?" she queried, coldly. "Why should I?
You're shiftless. You won't work. When you do
find a little gold you squander it. You have nothing
but a gun. You can't do anything but shoot."

"Maybe that '11 come in handy," he said, lightly.

"Jim Cleve, you haven't it in you even to be bad,"
she went on, stingingly.

At that he made a violent gesture. Then he
loomed over her. "Joan Randle, do you mean
that? "he asked.

"I surely do," she responded. At last she had
struck fire from him. The fact was interesting. It
lessened her anger.

"Then I'm so low, so worthless, so spineless that
I can't even be bad?"

"Yes, you are."

"That's what you think of me after I've ruined
myself for love of you?"

She laughed tauntingly. How strange and hot a
glee she felt in hurting him!

"By God, I'll show you!" he cried, hoarsely.

"What will you do, Jim?" she asked, mockingly.

"I'll shake this camp. I'll rustle for the border,
I'll get in with Kells arid Gidden. . . . You'll hear ol
me, Joan Randle!"



These were names of strange, unknown, and wild
men of a growing and terrible legion on the border,,
Out there, somewhere, lived desperados, robbers,
road-agents, murderers. More and more rumor had
brought tidings of them into the once quiet village.
Joan felt a slight cold sinking sensation at her heart.
But this was only a magnificent threat of Jim's. He
could not do such a thing. She would never let
him, even if he could. But after the incomprehen
sible manner of woman, she did not tell him that.

"Bah! You haven't the nerve!" she retorted,
mth another mocking laugh.

Haggard and fierce, he glared down at her a mo
ment, and then without another word he strode
away. Joan was amazed, and a little sick, a little
uncertain, still she did not call him back.

And now at noon of the next day she had tracked
him miles toward the mountains. It was a broad
trail he had taken, one used by prospectors and hunt
ers. There was no danger of her getting lost. What
risk she ran was of meeting some of these border
ruffians that had of late been frequent visitors in the
village. Presently she mounted again and rode down
the ridge. She would go a mile or so farther.

Behind every rock and cedar she expected to find
Jim. Surely he had only threatened her. But she
had taunted him in a way no man could stand, and
if there were any strength of character in him he
would show it now. Her remorse and dread in
creased. After all, he was only a boy only a
couple of years older than she was. Under stress of
feeling he might go to any extreme. Had she mis-



judged him? If she had not, she had at least beets
brutal. But he had dared to kiss her! Every time
she thought of that a tingling, a confusion, a hot
shame went over her. And at length Joan mar
veled to find that out of the affront to her pride, and
the quarrel, and the fact of his going and of her fol
lowing, and especially out of this increasing remorse
ful dread, there had flourished up a strange and re
luctant respect for Jim Cleve.

She climbed another ridge and halted again.
This time she saw a horse and rider down in the
green. Her heart leaped. It must be Jim return
ing. After all, then, he had only threatened. She
felt relieved and glad, yet vaguely sorry. She had
been right in her conviction.

She had not watched long, however, before she
saw that this was not the horse Jim usually rode.
She took the precaution then to hide behind some
bushes, and watched from there. When the horse
man approached closer she discerned that instead of
Jim it was Harvey Roberts, a man of the village and
a good friend of her uncle's. Therefore she rode
out of her covert and hailed him. It was a significant
thing that at sound of her voice Roberts started
suddenly and reached for his gun. Then he recog
nized her.

"Hello, Joan!" he exclaimed, turning her way,
"Reckon you give me a scare. You ain't alone way
out here?"

"Yes. I was trailing Jim when I saw you," she
feplied. "Thought you were Jim."

"Trailin' Jim! What's up?"

"We quarreled. He swore he was going to the



devil. Over on the border! I was mad and told
him to go. ... But I'm sorry now and have been
trying to catch up with him."

"Ahuh! ... So that's Jim's trail. I sure was
wonderin'. Joan, it turns off a few miles back an*
takes the trail for the border. I know. I've been
in there."

Joan glanced up sharply at Roberts. His scarred
and grizzled face seemed grave and he avoided her

"You don't believe Jim '11 really go?" she asked,

"Reckon I do, Joan," he replied, after a pause.
"Jim is just fool enough. He had been gettin' reck-
lessler lately. An', Joan, the times ain't provocatin'
a young feller to be good. Jim had a bad fight the
other night. He about half killed young Bradley.
But I reckon you know."

"I've heard nothing," she replied. "Tell me.
Why did they fight?"

"Report was that Bradley talked oncomplemen-
tary about you."

Joan experienced a sweet, warm rush of blood
another new and strange emotion. She did not like
Bradley. He had been persistent and offensive.

"Why didn't Jim tell me?" she queried, half to

"Reckon he wasn't proud of the shape he left
Bradley in," replied Roberts, with a laugh. "Oome
on, Joan, an' make back tracks for home.

Joan was silent a moment while she looked over
the undulating green ridges toward the great gray
*nd black walls. Something stirred deep within



her. Her father in his youth had been an adven
turer. She felt the thrill and the call of her blood.
And she had been unjust to a man who loved her.

"I'm going after him," she said.

Roberts did not show any surprise. He looked
at the position of the sun. "Reckon we might
overtake him an' get home before sundown," he
said, loconically, as he turned his horse. "We'll
make a short cut across here a few miles, an' strike
his trail. Can't miss it."

Then he set off at a brisk trot and Joan fell in
behind. She had a busy mind, and it was a sign of
her preoccupation that she forgot to thank Roberts.
Presently they struck into a valley, a narrow de
pression between the foot-hills and the ridges, and
here they made faster time. The valley appeared
miles long. Toward the middle of it Roberts called
out to Joan, and, looking down, she saw they had
come up with Jim's trail. Here Roberts put his
mount to a canter, and at that gait they trailed
Jim out of the valley and up a slope which appeared
to be a pass into the mountains. Time flew by for
Joan, because she was always peering ahead in the
hope and expectation of seeing Jim off in the dis
tance. But she had no glimpse of him. Now and
then Roberts would glance around at the westering
sun. The afternoon had far advanced. Joan be
gan to worry about home. She had been so sure
of coming up with Jim and returning early in the
day that she had left no word as to her intentions.
Probably by this time somebody was out looking
for her.

The country grew rougher, rock-strewn, covered



with cedars and patches of pine. Deer crashes
out of the thickets and grouse whirred up from
under the horses. The warmth of the summer
afternoon chilled.

"Reckon we'd better give it up," called Roberts
back to her.

"No no. Go on," replied Joan.

And they urged their horses faster. Finally they
reached the summit of the slope. From that height
they saw down into a round, shallow valley, which
led on, like all the deceptive reaches, to the ranges.
There was water down there. It glinted like red
ribbon in the sunlight. Not a living thing was in
sight. Joan grew more discouraged. It seemed
there was scarcely any hope of overtaking Jim that
day. His trail led off round to the left and grew
difficult to follow. Finally, to make matters
worse, Roberts' s horse slipped in a rocky wash and
lamed himself. He did not want to go on, and,
when urged, could hardly walk.

Roberts got off to examine the injury. "Wai, he
didn't break his leg," he said, which was his man
ner of telling how bad the injury was. "Joan, I
reckon there'll be some worry in' back home to
night. For your horse can't carry double an* I
can't walk."

Joan dismounted. There was water in the wash,
and she helped Roberts bathe the sprained and
swelling joint. In the interest and sympathy of the
moment she forgot her own trouble.

"Reckon we'll have to make camp right here,"
said Roberts, looking around. "Lucky I've a pack
on that saddle, I can make you comfortable. But



we'd better be careful about a fire an' not have one
after dark."

"There's no help for it," replied Joan. "To
morrow we'll go on after Jim. He can't be far
ahead now." She was glad that it was impossible
to return home until the next day.

Roberts took the pack off his horse, and then the
saddle. And he was bending over in the act of
loosening the cinches of Joan's saddle when sud
denly he straightened up with a jerk.

"What's that?"

Joan heard soft, dull thumps on the turf and
then the sharp crack of an unshod hoof upon stone.
Wheeling, she saw three horsemen. They were just
across the wash and coming toward her. One rider
pointed in her direction. Silhouetted against the red
of the sunset they made dark and sinister figures.
Joan glanced apprehensively at Roberts. He was
staring with a look of recognition in his eyes. Under
his breath he muttered a curse. And although Joan
was not certain, she believed that his face had
shaded gray.

The three horsemen halted on the rim of the wash.
One of them was leading a mule that carried a pack
and a deer carcass. Joan had seen many riders ap
parently just like these, but none had ever so subtly
and powerfully affected her.

"Howdy," greeted one of the men.

And then Joan was positive that the face of
Roberts had turned ashen gray,.


" IT ain't you Kells?"

* Roberts' s query was a confirmation of his own
recognition. And the other's laugh was an answer,
if one were needed.

The three horsemen crossed the wash and again
halted, leisurely, as if time was no object. They
were all young, under thirty. The two who had not
spoken were rough-garbed, coarse-featured, and re
sembled in general a dozen men Joan saw every day.
Kells was of a different stamp. Until he looked at
her he reminded her of some one she had known
back in Missouri; after he looked at her she was
aware, in a curious, sickening way, that no such per
son as he had ever before seen her. He was pale,
gray-eyed, intelligent, amiable. He appeared to be
a man who had been a gentleman. But there was
something strange, intangible, immense about hinio
Was that the effect of his presence or of his name?
Kells ! It was only a word to Joan. But it carried
a nameless and terrible suggestion. During the last
year many dark tales had gone from camp to camp
in Idaho some too strange, too horrible for ere*
dence and with every rumor the fame of Kells had
grown, and also a fearful certainty of the rapid
growth of a legion of evil men out on the border



But no one in the village or from any of the camps
ever admitted having seen this Kells. Had fear
kept them silent? Joan was amazed that Roberts
evidently knew this man.

Kells dismounted and offered his hand. Roberts
took it and shook it constrainedly.

4 'Where did we meet last?" asked Kells.

"Reckon it was out of Fresno," replied Roberts,
and it was evident that he tried to hide the effect of
a memory.

Then Kells touched his hat to Joan, giving her
the fleetest kind of a glance. "Rather off the track,
aren't you?" he asked Roberts.

"Reckon we are," replied Roberts, and he began
to lose some of his restraint. His voice sounded
clearer and did not halt. "Been trailin' Miss
Randle's favorite hoss. He's lost. An* we got
farther 'n we had any idee. Then my hoss went
lame. 'Fraid we can't start home to-night."

"Where are you from?"

"Hoadley. Bill Hoadley's town, back thirty miles
or so."

"Well, Roberts, if you've no objection we'll camp
here with you," continued Kells. "We've got some
fresh meat."

With that he addressed a word to his comrades,
and they repaired to a cedar-tree near by, where
they began to unsaddle and unpack.

Then Roberts, bending nearer Joan, as if intent
on his own pack, began to whisper, hoarsely : ' ' That's
Jack Kells, the California road-agent. He's a gun-
fighter a hell-bent rattlesnake. When I saw him
last he had a rope round his neck an* was bein ; led


away to be hanged. I heerd afterward he wa
rescued by pals. Joan, if the idee comes into his
head he'll kill me. I don't know what to do. For
God's sake think of somethin'l . . . Use your
woman's wits! . . . We couldn't be in a wuss fix!"

Joan felt rather unsteady on her feet, so that it
was a relief to sit down. She was cold and sick in
wardly, almost stunned. Some great peril menaced
her. Men like Roberts did not talk that way with
out cause. She was brave; she was not unused to
danger. But this must be a different kind, com
pared with which all she had experienced was but
insignificant. She could not grasp Roberts's inti
mation. Why should he be killed? They had no
gold, no valuables. Even their horses were noth
ing to inspire robbery. It must be that there was
peril to Roberts and to her because she was a girl,,
caught out in the wilds, easy prey for beasts of evil
men. She had heard of such things happening.
Still, she could not believe it possible for her. Rob
erts could protect her. Then this amiable, well-
spoken ICells, he was no Western rough he spoke
like an educated man; surely he would not harm
her. So her mind revolved round fears, conjectures,
possibilities; she could not find her wits. She could
not think how to meet the situation, even had she
divined what the situation was to be.

While she sat there in the shade of a cedar the
men busied themselves with camp duties. None ot
them appeared to pay any attention to Joan. They
talked while they worked, as any other group of
campers might have talked, and jested and laughed,
Kells mttde a fire, and carried water, then broke cedas



boughs for later camp-fire use; one of the strangers
whom they called Bill hobbled the horses; the other
unrolled the pack, spread a tarpaulin, and emptied
the greasy sacks; Roberts made biscuit dough for
the oven.

The sun sank red and a ruddy twilight fell. It
soon passed. Darkness had about set in when
Roberts came over to Joan, carrying bread, coffee,
and venison.

4 'Here's your supper, Joan/' he called, quite loud
and cheerily, and then he whispered: "Mebbe it
ain't so bad. They-all seem friendly. But I'm
scared, Joan. If you jest wasn't so dam' handsome,
or if only he hadn't seen you!"

"Can't we slip off in the dark?" she whispered in

"We might try. But it 'd be no use if they mean
bad. I can't make up my mind yet what's comin'
off. It's all right for you to pretend you're bash
ful. But don't lose your nerve."

Then he returned to the camp-fire. Joan was
hungry. She ate and drank what had been given
her, and that helped her to realize reality. And
although dread abided with her, she grew curious.
Almost she imagined she was fascinated by her
predicament. She had always been an emotional
girl of strong will and self-restraint. She had al
ways longed for she knew not what perhaps
freedom. Certain places had haunted her. She
had felt that something should have happened to
her there. Yet nothing ever had happened. Cer
tain books had obsessed her, even when a child, and
often to her mother's dismay; for these books had



been of wild places and life on the sea, adventure,
and bloodshed. It had always been said of her that
she should have been a boy.

Night settled down black. A pale, narrow cloud,
marked by a train of stars, extended across the
dense blue sky. The wind moaned in the cedars
and roared in the replenished camp-fire. Sparks
flew away into the shadows. And on the puffs of
smoke that blew toward her came the sweet, pun
gent odor of burning cedar. Coyotes barked off
under the brush, and from away on the ridge drifted
the dismal defiance of a wolf.

Camp-life was no new thing to Joan. She had
crossed the plains in a wagon-train, that more than
once had known the long-drawn yell of hostile In
dians. She had prospected anc? hunted in the
mountains with her uncle, weeks at a time. But
never before this night had the wildness, the lonel*
ness, been so vivid to her.

Roberts was on his knees, scouring his oven with
wet sand. His big, shaggy head nodded in the fire
light. He seemed pondering and thick and slow.
There was a burden upon him. The man Bill and
his companion lay back against stones and con
versed low. Kells stood up in the light of the blaze,
He had a pipe at which he took long pulls and then
sent up clouds of smoke. There was nothing im
posing in his build or striking in his face, at that
distance; but it took no second look to see here
was a man remarkably out of the ordinary. Some
kind of power and intensity emanated from him.
From time to time he appeared to glance in Joan's
direction; still, she could not be sure, for his eyes



were but shadows. He had cast aside his coat.
He wore a vest open all the way, and a checked soft
shirt, with a black tie hanging untidily. A broad
belt swung below his hip and in the holster was a
heavy gun. That was a strange place to carry a
gun, Joan thought. It looked awkward to her.
When he walked it might swing round and bump
against his leg. And he certainly would have to
put it some other place when he rode.

"Say, have you got a blanket for that girl?" asked
Kells, removing his pipe from his lips to address

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