blasphemy, but not the slightest overconfidence
Bostwick's relief was inordinate. "Then what is
the next thing to do?"
"Wait for Lawrence," said the gambler. Then
he suddenly rose. "No, we can't afford the time.
He might be a week. You'll have to go get him to
" Where is he, then ?" Bostwick was eager enough
to be at work.
" Way out south, on a survey," answered McCoppet.
"You'd better take that car of yours, with a couple
of men I'll send along, and fetch him back mighty
?ronto. We can't let a deal like this look raw.
he sooner he runs that reservation line, the better
things will appear."
Bostwick too had risen. "Will your men know
where to find him ?''
"If he's still on the map," said the gambler.
"You leave that to me. Better go see about your
car to-night. I've got to get out anil keep active.
I'll hustle your men and your outfit. See you again
if anything turns up important. Meantime, is your
money in the bank?"
" It's in the bank. "
"Right," said McCoppet. "Goodnight."
THE following day in Goldite was one of occur
rences all more or less intimately connected
with the affairs of Van and Beth. Bostwick suc
ceeded in making an early start to the southward
in his car. McCoppet had provided not only a couple
of men as guides to the field where Lawrence was
working, but also a tent, provisions, and blankets,
should occasion arise for their use.
Beth was informed by her fiance that word had
arrived from her brother, to whom Searle said he
meant to go. The business of buying Glenville's
mine, he said, required unexpected despatch. Per
haps both he and Glen might return by the end of the
By that morning's train the body of Culver was
shipped away, and the camp began to forget him.
The Sheriff was after Cay use.
Early in the afternoon the body of the girl who had
never been known in Goldite by any name save that
of Queeny, was buried in a hillside, already called in
to requisition as a final resting place for such as suc
cumbed in the mining camp, too far from friends, or
too far lost, to be carried to the world outside the
mountains. Half a dozen women attended the
somewhat meager rites. There was one mourner
only, the man who had run to summon Van, and
later had waited by the door.
AT four o'clock "The Goldite News" appeared in
"**? the streets of the camp. It contained much orig
inal matter, or so at least it claimed. The account of
the murder of Culver, the death of Queeny, and
the threatened lynching of Van Buren, made a
highly sensational story. It was given the promi
nent place; for the editor was proud to have made
it so full in a time he deemed rather short. On the
second page was a tale less tragic.
It was, according to one of its many subheadings,
a "humorous outcrop concerning two maids and a
man." It related, with many gay sallies of "wit,"
how Van had piloted J. Searle Bostwick into the
hands of the convicts, recently escaped, packed off
his charges, Miss Beth Kent and her maid, and
brought them to Goldite by way of the Monte
Cristo mine, in time to behold the discomfited en
trance of the said J. Searle Bostwick in prisoner's
attire. Bostwick was described as having been "on
his ear" toward Van ever since.
In the main the account was fairly accurate.
Gettysburg, Napoleon, and old Dave had overtalked
during certain liquefying processes. The matter was
out beyond repair.
Mrs. Dick was prompt in pouncing on the story;
hence Beth was soon presented with a copy. In the
natural annoyance she felt when it was read, there
was one consolation at least: Searle was away, to
begone perhaps two or three days. He might not
see the article, which would soon be forgotten in the
To culminate the day's events, that evening Elsa
ran away. She went with a "gentleman" lodger,
after having been married by a Justice of Peace.
"DETH discovered her loss too late to interfere. She
felt herself alone indeed, with Bostwick away, her
brother off in the desert, and Van? She refused to
think of Van. Fortunately, Mrs. Dick was more
than merely a friend; she was a stanch little warrior,
protector, and champion, to anger whom was un
healthy. Despite the landlady's attitude of friendli
ness, however, Beth felt wretchedly alone. It was a
terrible place. She was cooped up all day within
the lodging house, since the street full of men was
more than she cared to encounter, and with life all
about her, and wonderful days spreading one after
another across the wide open land, her liberties were
fairly in a cage.
From time to time she thought of the horse await
ing her order at the hay yard. She tried to con
vince herself that she would never accept or ride the
animal. She was certain she resented everything
Van had done. She felt the warmest indignation
at herself for breaking into bits of song, for glowing
to the tips of her ears, for letting her heart leap wild
ly in her breast, whenever she thought of the horse
Two days went by, and she chafed at all restraint.
No word had come from Bostwick, none from Glen?
and not a sign from the Laughing Water claim.
From the latter she said to herself she wished no
sign. But Searle had no right to leave her thus and
neglect her in every respect!
?THE morning of the third long day Mrs. Dick
brought her two thin letters. One had been
mailed in Goldite, by a messenger down from the
Laughing Water claim. It came from Van. He
had written the briefest of notes:
Just to send my love. I want you to wear my nugget.
Folded into the paper was a spray of wild peach
Beth tried to think her blushes were those of
indignation, which likewise caused the beat of her
heart to go mad. But her hand fluttered prettily
up to her breast, where the nugget was pinned inside
her waist. Also his letter must have been hard to
understand; she read it seventeen times.
Then she presently turned to the other. The en
velop was addressed in typewriter characters; but
the writing inside she knew; her brother Glen's.
Dear Old Sis.?Say, what in the dickens are you doing
out here in the mines,?by all that's holy!?and what's
all this story in "The Goldite News "about one Bronson Van
Buren doing the benevolent brigand stunt with you and
your maid, and shunting Searle off with the cons? Why
couldn't you let a grubber know you were hiking out here
to the desert? Why all this elaborate surprise, this news
paper wireless to your fond and lonesome? What's the
matter with your writing hand? Is this Van brigand hold
ing them both?
What's the matter with Searle? I wrote him two or
three eons ago. when he might have been of assistance. Now
I'm doing my little old eight hours a day in an effort to sink
down to China. I'm on the blink, in a way; but not for
long, for this is the land where Opportunity walks night
and day to thump on your door, and I'll grab her by the
Hut me!?working as a common miner! Though I've
got a few days off to go and look at a claim with a friend of
mine; so you needn't answer till you hear again. But if
Searle is dead, why don't he say so? I only touched him
for a few odd dollars,?I needed only a grubstake; fifty
would have done the trick,?and he doesn't come through.
And nobody writes. I guess it's me for the Prodigal; but
when I get next to the fatted calf, I'll get inside and eat
my way out by way of his hoofs and horns.
Why couldn't you and Searle and the maid come down
and have a look at me?working? It's worth it! Come
on! Maybe it's easier than writing.
Yours for the rights of labor. Glen.
Astonished by the contents of this communication,
Beth read it again, in no little bewilderment, to make
sure she had made no mistake. Xo letter from her
self? No word from Searle ? Xo answer to Glen's re
quest for money? And he had asked for only a "few
odd dollars"? There must be something wrong.
He had sent the most urgent requirement for sixty
thousand dollars. And she herself had written at
once. Searle had assured her that he had sent him
word by special messenger. Starlig!.. was less than
a long day's ride away. Glen had already had time
to see that account in the paper and write.
She had no suspicions of Bostwick. She had seen
Glen's letter and read it for herself. And Searle
had responded immediately with an offer to lend her
brother thirty thousand dollars. There must be
some mistake. Glen might be keeping his news and
plans from herself, as men so often do from all their
women relatives. Searle might even have overlooked
the importance of keeping Glen fully posted, intend
ing to go so soon to Starlight. Her own letter might
have been miscarried.
She tried to fashion explanations; but they would
not entirely fit. Searle had been gone three days.
He had gone before "The Goldite Xews" was issued.
The paper had arrived at Glen's while the man in his
car had failed.
For a moment she sickened with the reflection that
Searle might once more have fallen captive to the
convicts still at large?with all the money. Then she
presently assured herself that any news so sinister as
this would have come very promptly to Goldite.
It was all too much to understand, unless Glen was
ill or out of his reason. His two letters, the one to
Searle and this one to herself, were so utterly con
flicting! She gave it up. It was not to be solved
from such a distance. Moreover, Glen wrote that he
was off on a trip, and asked her to wait before reply
ing. It was irritating, all this waiting alone here in
Goldite; but there seemed to be nothing else to do.
T^HE long morning passed, and she fretted. In
* the afternoon "The Goldite Xews" broke its
record. It printed an extra, a single sheet, in glaring
type, announcing the capture of the convicts. By
a bold and daring coup, it said, the entire herd of
criminals, all half starved and weakened by priva
tions, had been rounded up and transported back to
prison. Unfortunately, the report was slightly in
accurate. Matt Barger, the leader in the prison
delivery, and the most desperate man in the lot, had
escaped the posse's vigilance, with at least two of his
fellows. Of this important factor in the welcome
story of the posse's work, Goldite was ignorant, and
doomed to be in ignorance for a week.
'X'HE news to Beth was a source of great relief; but
her troubles in other directions were fated to in
crease. That evening three men called formally;
formally, that is to say, in so far as dressing in their
best was concerned anil putting on their "company
manners." But Beth and courtship were their ob
jects, a fact that developed somewhat crudely with
the smallest possible delay.
One of these persons, Billy Stitts by name, was
fairly unobjectionable as a human being, since he was
a quaint, slow witted, birdlike little creature, fullv
sixty years old and clearly harmless. The others
were as frankly in pursuit of a mate as any two
Beth was frightened when the purport of their
visit Hashed upon her. She felt a certain sense of
helplessness. Mrs. I)ick was too busy to be con
stantly present; Elsa was gone; the ways of such
a place were new and wholly alarming. She felt
when she made her escape from the three that her
safety was by no means assured. Her room was
her only retreat. Except for Mrs. Dick, there was
not another woman in the house. She was wholly
surrounded by men,?a rough, womanless lot whose
excitements, passions, and emotions were subjected
to changes constantly, as well as to heats, by the life
all around them in the mines.
That night was her first of real terror. Every
noise in the building, and some in the streets, made
her start awake like a hunted doe, with imaginings of
the most awful description. She scarcely slept at all
The following day old Billy Stitts called again very
shortly after breakfast. He proved such an amiable,
womanly old chap that he was almost a comfort to
the girl She sent him to the postoffice, for a possible
letter from Glen. He went with all the pleasure and
alacrity of a faithful dog, apologizing most exuber
antly on his return for the fact that, no letter had
She remained in the house all day. The afternoon
brought the two rough suitors of the night before,
and two more equally crude. Mrs. Dick, to Betli's
intense uneasiness, regarded the matter as one to be
expected and quite in accord with reason and proper
regulations. A good looking girl in camp, and her
men folks all giving her the go-by?and what could
you expect? Moreover, as some of these would-be
courtiers were husky and in line for Fortune's smile,
with chances as good as any other man's, she might
do worse than let them come and hear what they had
to say. It was no girl's need to be neglected as
Searle and Van were patently neglecting Beth!
rT,HIS was the stage in which Beth at length began
to meditate on Spartan remedies. It was not to
be endured! Xo word had come from Searle. The
world might have swallowed him up. She was sick
of him; sick of his ways of neglect. And as for Van?
There was no one to whom she could turn, unless
it was Glen. If only she could flee to her brother!
She thought about it earnestly. She wished to
think it possible She tried to plan the way.
Her horse was at the hay yard. Starlight was
only one day off in the desert. The convicts were
no longer about. If only she could ride there?even
alone! An early start, a little urging of the pony,
she could far.cv the journey accomplished with the
utmost ease; then scornful defiance, both of Bost
wick and Van.
But a woman riding in this lawless land alone!
She was utterly disheartened, disillusioned, at that
It would be no less than madness. And yet it seemed
as if she must go. Searle's silence, coupled with con
ditions here, was absolutely intolerable.
With plans decidedly hazy, nothing but a wild,
bright dream really clear, she questioned Billy
Stitts concerning the roads. He was familiar with
every route in miles, whether roadway, trail, or
"course by compass," as he termed trackless cruising
in the desert. He gave her directions with the
utmost minutiae of detail as to every highway to
Starlight. He drew her a plan. She was sure that,
after much confusion, she could have ridden to Star
light in the dark. What branches of the road to
shun, which trails to choose, possibly for gaining
time, what places lo water a famishing horse,?all
these and more she learned with feverish interest.
"Now a man would do this," and "A man would
do that," said Billy time after time, till a new, fantas
tic notion came bounding full fledged into Beth's
anxious brain and almost made her laugh with de
light. She could dress as a man and ride as a man
and be absolutely safe on the journey! She knew
a dozen unusual arts for dyeing the skin and con
cealing the hair and making the hands look rough.
Make-up in private theatricals, at professional hands,
she had learned with exceptional thoroughness.
She would need a suit of khaki, miner's boots, a
soft big hat, and a flannel shirt. They were all to
be had at the store She could order her horse to be
saddled for a man. She could readily dress and escape
unseen from the house. In a word, she could do the
The plan possessed her utterly. It sent her blood
bounding through her veins. Her face was flushed
with excitement. She loved adventure?and this
would be something to do!
Nevertheless, despite all her plans, she had no
real intention of attempting a scheme so mad. Sub
consciously she confessed to herself that it was just
the merest idle flight, not a thing to be actually ven
tured, or even entertained.
That night, when she was more beset, more wor
ried, than before, however, desperation was coming
upon her. The plan she had made no longer seemed
the mere caprice of one in pursuit of pleasure; it
appeared to be the only possible respite from con
ditions no longer to be borne.
HEX the morning came, after a night of mental
torture and bodily fear, her patience had been
strained to the point of breaking, and resolve was
steeling her courage.
The word that should have come from Searle was
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