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THE LONE STAR RANGER
This is a story about the Texas Plains People By ZANE GREY j CHAPTER XXIII—Continued. I -13 ; **Wal, because there ain't any use ter you to git In bad, too. The gang will ride over here any day. they're friendly I'll light a fire on the hill there, say three nights from to night. If you don't see it thet night you hit the trail. I'll do what I can. Jim Fletcher sticks to his pals. So long, Dodge." j He left Duane in a quandary. This news was black. At the moment Duane did not know which way to turn, but certainly he had no idea (of going back to Bradford. Friction jbetween the two great lieutenants of Cheseldine! Generally such matters (were settled with guns. Dunne gath ered encouragement even from disas ter. If Knell knew anything it was jthat this stranger in Ord, this new (partner of Fletcher's, was no less than 'Buck Duane. Well, It was about time, (thought Duane, that he made use of his name if it were to help him at all. That name had been MacNelly's hope. He had anchored all his scheme to Duane's fame. Duane was tempted to ride off after Fletcher and stay with him. This, however, would hardly be fair to an outlaw who had been fair to him. Duane concluded to await devel opments, and when the' gang rode in to Ord, probably from their various hiding places, he would be there ready to be denounced by Knell. Duane could not see any other culmination of this series of events than a meeting between Knell and himself. If that terminated fatally for Knell there was all probability of Duane's being in no worse situation than he was now. If Poggin took up tiie quarrel ! Here Duane accused himself again—tried in vain to revolt from a judgment that he was only reasoning out excuses to meet these outlaws. Meanwhile, instead of waiting, why not hunt up Cheseldine in his moun tain retreat? The thought no sooner struck Duane than he was hurrying for his horse. In an bout 4 he struck the slope of Mount Ord, and as he climbed he got among broken rocks and cliffs, and was hard put to it to find the trail. He halted at a little side-canyon with grass and water, and here he made çamp. And on this night, lonely like the ones he used to spend in the Nueces gorge, and memorable of them because of a likeness to that old hid ing-place, he felt the pressing return of old haunting things—the past so long ago, wild flights, dead faces— and the places of these were taken by one quiveringly alive, white, tragic, with Its dark, intent, speaking eyes— Ray Longstreth's. j That last memory he yielded to un til he slept. In the morning, satisfied that he had left still fewer tracks than he had followed up this trail, he led his horse up to the head of the canyon, into a narrow crack in low cliffs, and with branches of cedar fenced him in. Then he went back and took up the trail on foot. i Without the horse he made better time. Once, through a wide gateway between great escarpments, he saw the lower country beyond this, vast and ■clear as it lay in his sight, was the «great liver that made the Big Bend, i He rounded a jutting corner, where .view had been shut off, and presently came out upon the rim of a high wall. Beneath, like a green gulf seen through blue haze, lay an amphitheater walled in on the two sides he could see. It lay perhaps a thousand feet below him ; and, plain as all the other features of that wild environment, there shone out a big red stone or adobe cabin, white water shining away between borders, and horses and cattle dotting the levels. It was a peaceful, beautiful scene. Duane could not help grinding his teeth at the thought of rustlers living in quiet end ease. Duane worked half-way down to the level, and, well hidden in a niche, he seated himself to watch both trail and valley. The sun went down behind the wall; and shadows were born in the darker places of the valley. Dhane began to want to get closer to that cabin. Still he lingered. And sudden ly his wide-roving eye caught sight of two horsemen riding up the valley. They must have entered at a point below, round the huge abutment of rock, beyond Duane's range of sight. (Their horses were tired and stopped at the stream for a long drink. ' Duane left his perch, took to the steep trail, and descended as fast as he could without making noise. It did not take him long to reach the valley floor. It was almost level, with deep grass, and here and there clumps of bushes. Twiligh ready thick down there, marked the location of the trail, and then began to slip like a shadow through the grass and from bush to bush. He saw a bright light before he made out the dark outline of the cabin. Then he heard voices, a merry whistle, a coarse song, and the clink of iron cooking utensils. He smelled fragrant wood smoke. He saw mov ing dark figures cross the light Evi dently there was a wide door, or else the fire was out in the open. Duane swerved to the left out of direct line with thq light, and thus was able to see better. Then he advanced noiselessly but swiftly toward the back of the house. There were trees close to the wall. He would make no noise, and he could scarcely be seen—if only there was no watchdog ! But all his outlaw days he had taken risks with only his useless life at stake; now, with that changed, he advanced, stealthy and bold as an Indian. He reached the cover of the trees, knew he was hidden in their shadows, for at few paces' distance he had been able to see only their tops. From there he slipped up to the house and ^eit along the wall with his hands, If a 1 t was al Duane to So to of don't know how long ago—weeks—a stranger rode into Ord an' got down easy-Uke as if he owned the place, He seemed familiar to me. But 1 He came to a little window where light shone through. He peeped in. He saw a room shrouded in shadows, a lamp turned low, a table, chairs. He saw an open door, with bright flare beyond, but could not see the fire. Voices came indistinctly. He went on round that end of the cabin. Fortune favored him. There were bushes, an old shed, a wood-pile, all the cover he needed at that corner. He did not even need to crawl. Before he peered between the rough corner of wall and the bush growing close to It, Duane paused a moment This excitement was different from that he had always felt when pursued. It had no bitterness, no pain, no dread. There was as much danger here, per haps more, yet it was not the same. Then he looked. He saw a bright fire, a red-faced man bending over it, whistling, while he handled a steaming pot. Over him was a roofed shed built against the wall, with two open sides and two supporting posts. If Duane's second m I Ï r u o°oV y o \ \ \ 7 7/ m HA/ I 44*. ) T " ta :ï i O'. Fenced Him In. glance, not so blinded by the sudden bright light, made out other men, three in the shadow, two in the flare, but with backs to him. It's a smoother trail by long odds, but ain't so short as this one right over the mountain," one outlaw was saying. What's eatin' you, Panhandle?" ejaculated another. "Blossom an' me rode from Faraway Springs, where Poggin is with some of the gang. Excuse me, Phil. Shore I didn't see you corné in, an' Boldt never said nothin'." "It took you a long time to get here, but I guess that's Just as well,'' spoke up a smooth, suave voice with a ring in It Longstreth's voice — Cheseldine's voice ! Here they were—Cheseldine, Phil Knell, Blossom Kane, Panhandle Smith, Boldt—how well Duane remem bered the names !—all here, the big men of Cheseldine's gang, except the biggest—Poggin. Duane had holed them, and his sensations of the mo ment deadened sight and sound of what was before him. He sank down, controlling himself, silenced a mount ing exultation, then from a less strain ed position he peered forth again. The outlaws were waiting for sup per. Their conversation might have been that of cowboys in camp, ranch ers at a round-up. Knell sat there, tall, slim, like a boy in years, with his pale, smooth, expressionless face and cold, gray eyes. And Longstreth, who leaned against the wall, handsome, with his dark face and beard like an aristocrat, resembled many a rich Louisiana planter Duahe had met. Panhandle Smith carried pots and pans Into the cabin, and cheerfully called out: "If you gents air hungry fer grub, don't look fer me to feed you with a spoon. The outlaws piled inside, made a great bustle and clatter as they sat to their meal. Like hungry men, they talked little. Duane waited there for a while, then guardedly got up and crept round to the other side of the cabin, After he became used to the dark agnln he ventured to steal along the wall to the window and peeped in. The outlaws were in the first room and could not be seen. Duane waited. The moments dragged endlessly. His heart pound ed. Longstreth entered, turned up the light, and taking a box of cigars from the table, he carried it out. Here, you fellows, go outside and smoke," he said. "Knell, come in now. Let's get it over. He returned, sat down, and lighted a cigar for himself. He put his boot ed feet on the table. Duane saw that the room was com fortably, even luxuriously furnisued. There must have been a good trail, he thought, else how could all that stuff have been packed In there. Then Knell came in and seated himself without any of his chief's ease. He seemed preoccupied and, as always, cold. * »* ». What's wrong, Knell? Why didn't you get here sooner?" queried Long streth. "Poggin ! We're on the outs again." "What for? Get it out of your sys tem so we can go on to the new Job." Well, it began back a ways. I »♦ where in. flare fire. on an cover not from per him the two We looked him over, an' wasn't sure. I left, tryin' to place him In my mind. "What'd he look like?" Rangy, powerful man, white hair over his temples, still, hard face, eyes like knives. The way he packed his guns, the way he walked an' stood an' swung his right hand showed me what he was. You can't fool me on the gun-sharp. An' he had a grand horse, a big black." I've met your man," said Long • • streth. "No !" exclaimed Knell, wonderful to hear surprise expressed by this man that did not in the least show it in his strange physiognomy. Knell laughed a short, grim, hollow laugh. "Boss, this here big gent drifts into Ord again an' makes up to Jim Fletcher. Jim—he up an' takes this stranger to be the fly road-agent an' cottons to him. Got money out of him sure. And that's what stumps me more. What's this man's ga'me? I hap pen to know, boss, that he couldn't have held up No. 6. How do you know?" demanded Longstreth. "Because I did the Job myself." A dark and stormy passion clouded the chief's face. It was H I 'Knell, you're incorrigible. You're Another break like that Did you tell unreliable. queers you with me. Poggin? Yes. Thet's one reason we fell out. He raved. I thought he was goin' to kill me. Several of the boys rode over from Ord, an' one of^ them went to Poggin an' says Jim Fletcher has a new man for the gang. Jim an' Poggin always hit it up together. So until I got on the deal Jim's pard was already in the gang, without Poggin or you ever seein' him. Then I got to figurin' hard. Just where I ever seen that chap? I dug up a lot of old papers from' my kit an' went over them. Letters, pictures, clip pin's, an' all that I guess I had a pretty good notion what I was lookin' for an' who I wanted to make sure ot At last I found it. An' I knew my man. But I didn't spring it on Poggin. I sent Blossom over to Ord with a message calculated to make Jim hump. Poggin got sore, said he'd wait for Jim, an' I could come over here to see you about the new Job. He'd meet me in Ord. Knell had spoken hurriedly and low, now and then with passion. His pale eyes glinted like fire in ice, and now his voice fell to a whisper. "Who do you think Fletcher's new man is?" Who?" demanded Longstreth. "Buck Duane!" »» << 7 *1 ■ Down came Longstreth's boots with a crash, then his body grew rigid. That Nueces outlaw? That two shot ace-of-spades gun-thrower who killed Bland, Alloway—?" with more feeling than the apparent circum stance demanded. Yes; and Hardin, the best one of the Rim Rock fellows—Buck Duane!" * * Longstreth was so ghastly white now that his black mustache seemed outlined against chalk. He eyed his grim lieutenant. They understood each other without more words. It was enough that Buck Duane was there In the Big Bend. Longstreth rose presently and reached for a flask, from which he drank, then offered it to Knell. He waved it aside. Knell," began the chief, slowly, as he wiped his lips, "I gathered you have some grudge against this Buck Duane." "Yes. "Well, ddn't be a do what Poggin or almost any of you men would—don't meet this Buck Duane. I've reason to believe he's a Texas Ranger now. "The hell you say !" exclaimed Knell. Yes. Go to Ord and give Jim Fletcher a hunch. He'll get Poggin, and they'll fix even Buck Duane. All right. I'll do my best. But if I run into Duane—■" "Don't run into him !" Longstreth's voice fairly rang with the force of its passion and command. He wiped his face, drank again from the flask, sat down, resumed his smoking, and, drawing a paper from his vest pocket, he began to study it We'll I'm glad that's settled," he said, evidently referring to the Duane matter. "Now for the new Job. This Is October the eighteenth. On or be fore the twenty-fifth there will be a shipment of gold reach the Rancher's Bank of Val Verde. After you return to Ord give Poggin these orders. Keep the gang quiet. You, Poggin, Kane, Fletcher, Panhandle Smith, and Boldt to be in on the secret and the job. No body else. You'll leqve Ord on the twenty-third, ride cross country by the trail till you get within sight of Mer cer. It's a hundred miles from Brad ford to Val Verde—about the same from Ord. Time your travel to get you near Val Verde on the morning of the twenty-sixth. You won't have to more than trot your horses. At two o'clock in the afternoon, sharp, ride into town and up to the Ranch er's Bank. Val Verde's a pretty big town. Never been any hold-ups there. Town feels safe. Make It a clean, fast, daylight Job. That's all. Have you got the details? Knell did not even ask for the dates fool now and - I I ■ again. Suppose Poggin or me might be detained?" he asked. Longstreth bent a dark glance upon his lieutenant (4 "You never can tell what '11 come off," continued KnelL "I'll do my best CHAPTER XXIV. Like a swift shadow and as noise less Duane stole across the level toward the dark wall of rock. Every nerve was a strung wire. For a little an' while his mind was cluttered and clogged with whirling thoughts, from which, like a flashing scroll, unrolled the long, baffling order of action. The game was now in his hands. He must cross Mount Ord at night. The feat was improbable, but it might be done. He must ride into Bradford, forty miles from the foothills, before eight o'clock next morning. He must tele graph MacNelly to be in Val Verde on the twenty-fifth. He must ride back to Ord to intercept Knell, fuce him, and while the iron was hot strike hard to win Poggin's half-won interest as he had wholly won Fletcher's. Failing that last, he must let the out laws alone to bide their time in Ord, to be free to ride to their new job in Val Verde. I me on In the meantime he must plan to arrest Longstreth. It was a magnificent outline, incredible, alluring, unfathomable in its nameless certainty. He felt like fate. He seemed to be the iron consequences falling upon these doomed outlaws. Under the wall the shadows black, only the tips of trees and crags showing, yet he went straight to the trail. were It was merely a grayness be tween borders of black. He climbed and never stopped. It did not seem steep. His feet might have had eyes. He surmounted the wall, and, looking down into the ebony gulf pierced by one point of light, he lifted a menac ing arm and shook it. Then he strode on, and did not falter till he reached the huge shelving cliffs. Here he lost the trail ; there was none ; but he re membered the shapes, the points, the notches of rock above, reached the ruins of splintered parts and jumbles of broken walls the moon topped the eastern slope of the mountain, and the mystifying black ness he had dreaded changed to magic silver light. It seemed as light as day, only soft, mellow, and the air held a transparent sheen. He ran up the bare ridges and down the smooth slopes, and, like a goat, Jumped from rock to rock. In this light he knew his way, and lost no time looking for a trail. He crossed the divide, and then had nil downhill before him. Swiftly he descended, almost always sure of his memory of the landmarks. He did not remember having studied them in the ascent, yet here they were, even in changed light, familiar to his sight What he had once seen was pictured on his mind. And, true as a deer striking for home, he reached the can yon where he had left his horse. Bul let was quickly and easily found. Duane threw on the saddle and pack, cinched them tight, and resumed the descent. I a Before he ram Hours passed as moments. Duane was equal to his great opportunity. But he could not quell that self in him which reached back over the lapse of lonely, searing years and found the boy In him. Duane knew he was not just right in part of his mind. Small wonder that he was not Insane, he thought! He tramped on downward, his marvelous faculty for covering rough ground and holding to the true course never before even in flight so keen and acute. Yet all the time a spirit was keeping step with him. Thought of Ray Longstreth as he had left her made him weak. He saw her white face, with Its sweet sad lips and the dark eyes so tender and tragic. The moon sloped to the west Shad ows of trees and crags now crossed to the other side of him. The stars dimmed. Then he was out of the rocks, with the dim trail palé at his feet Mounting Bullet he made short work of the long slope and the foothills and J o r O 7 \ m \i>. [nt V a a of 7l I g| Buck Duane!" the rolling land leading down to Ord. The little outlaw camp, with its shacks and cabins and row of houses, lay silent and dark under the paling moon. Duane passed by on the lower trail, headed Into the road, and put Bullet to a gallop. He watched the dying moon, the waning stars, and the east. He had time to spare, so he saved the horse. Knell would be leav ing the rendezvous nbout the time Duane turned back toward Ord. Be tween noon and' suuwt they would meet The night wore on. " be moon sank behind low mountains the west. The stars brightened for a while, then faded. Gray gloom enveloped the world, thickened, lay like smoke over the road. Then shade by shade it lightened, until through the transpar ent obscurity shone a dim light. Duane reached Bradford before dawn. He dismounted some dist ance 11 from the tracks, tied his horse, und then crossed over to the station. He heard the clicking of the telegraph instrument, and it thrilled him. An operator sat Inside reading. When Duane tapped on the window he look ed up with startled glance, then went swiftly to unlock the door. "Hello. Give me paper and pencil. Quick," whispered Duane. With trembling hands the operator complied. Duane wrote out the mes sage he had carefully composed. "Send this—repeat it to make sure— then keep mum. I'll see you again. Good-by." The operator stared, but did not speak a word. Duane left as stealthily and swiftly as he had come. He walked his horse a couple of miles back on the road and then rested him till break of day. * * When Duane swung into the wide, grassy square on the outskirts of Ord he saw a bunch of saddled horses hitched in front of the tavern. He knew what that meant. Luck still favored him. If it would only hold ! But he could ask no more. The rest was a matter of how greatly he could make his power felt. An open conflict against odds lay In the balance. That would be fatal to him, and to avoid it he had to trust to his name and a presence he must make terrible. He knew outlaws. He knew what quali ties held them. He knew what to ex aggerate. There was not an outlaw in sight. The dusty horses had covered distance that morning. As Duane dismounted he heard loud, angry voices inside the tavern. He removed coat and vest, hung them over the pommel. He pack ed two guns, one belted high on the left hip, the other one swinging low on the right side. He neither looked nor listened, but boldly pushed the door and stepped inside. The big room was full of men, and every face pivoted toward him, Knell's pale face flashed into Duane's swift sight ; then Boldt's, then Blossom Kane's, then Panhandle Smith's, then Fletcher's, then others that were fami liar, and last that of Poggin. Though Duane had never seen Poggin or heard him described, he knew him. For he saw a face that was a record of great and evil deeds. There was absolute silence. The outlaws were lined back of a long table upon which were papers, stacks of silver coin, a bundle of bills, and a huge gold-mounted gun. "Are you gents lookin' for me?" asked Duane. He gave his voice all the ringing force and power of which he was capable. And he stepped back, free of anything, with the outlaws all before him. Knell stood quivering, but his face might have been a mask. The other outlaws looked from him to Duane. Jim Fletcher flung up his hands. "My Gawd, Dodge, what'd you bust in here fer?" he said, plaintively, and slowly stepped forward. His action was that of a man true to himself. He meant he had been sponsor for Duane and now he would stand by him. "Back, Fletcher!" called Duane, and his voice made the outlaw jump. "Hold on, Dodge, an' you-all, every body," said Fletcher, seein' I'm in the wrong here." His persuasions did not ease the strain. Let me talk, Go ahead. Talk," said Poggin. Fletcher turned to Duane. "Pard, Pm takin' It on myself thet you meet enemies here when I swore you'd meet friends. It's my fault. Pll stand by you if you let me. No, Jim," replied Duane. But what 'd you come fer without the signal?" burst out Fletcher in distress. He saw nothing but catas trophe in this meeting. "Jim, I ain't pressin' my company none. But when I'm wanted bad—" Fletcher stopped him with a raised hand. Then he turned to Poggin with a rude dignity. "Poggy, he's my pard, an' he's riled. ■ •» NEW TOLSTOY" IN RUSSIA a Litterateurs Have Become Excited Over the Work of Ivan Alexei vltch Bunin. The May issue of the Russkaya Mysl (Moscow), a leading Russian monthly, contains a remarkable re view of a story that had been pub lished In Russia some months ago, ac cording to the American Review of Reviews. The author of the story is Ivan Alexeivitch Bunin, a widely known Russian poet and Its title is "The Gentleman From San Franctsco. It is perhaps no exaggeration to say that no other story that has appeared in Russia in recent years has been ac corded such a warm welcome as "The Gentleman From San Francisco." And this is the more remarkable when one considers that Bunin is by no means a young or unknown figure on the Rus sian literary field. His reputation as a poet of high quality was made long ago. He is now In his late forties. In 1912 the honorary degree of academi cian was conferred upon him, and dur ing the last twenty-five years Russian critics have had opportunity to study Bunin's literary powers and to learn their potentialities and limits. This, however, did not prevent him from taking the literary world by storm with his latest yroduction. The Bulletin of Literature and Life, a monthly of high literary standard, was the first to break to the Russian world in a recent issue the news that Bunin's new story fs nothing like any of his former works. As soon as at tention was attracted to it, the periodi cal press began to write about it, com mending "The Gentleman From San Francisco" In glowing and enthusias *» I never told him u word thet 'd mako him sore. I only said Knell hadn't no more use fer him than fer me. Now, what you say goes in this gang. K never failed you in my life. Here'* my pard. I vouch fer him. Will you stand fer me? There's goin' to be hell if you don't An' us with a big Job on hand!" While Fletcher tolled over his slow, earnest persuasion Duane bad his gaze riveted upon Poggin. There was something leonine about Poggin. He was tawny. He blazed. He seemed beautiful. But looked at closer with glance seeing the physical man, instead of that thing which shone from him, he was of perfect build, with muscles that swelled and rippled, bulging his clothes, with the magnificent head and face of the cruel, fierce, tawny-oyed jaguar. Looking at this strange Poggin, in stinctively divining his abnormal and hideous power, Duane had for the first time in his life the inward quak ! • j o s v] I ÿsJSrmvO ©3 2£j \/> » [f I® 4 % 5 W "Are You Gents Looking for Me?" lng fear of a man. It was like a cold-tongued bell ringing within him and numbing his heart. The old Instinctive firing of blood followed, but did not drive away that fear. He knew. He felt something here deeper than thought could go. And be hated Poggin. That individual had been considering Fletcher's appeaL Jim, I ante up," he said, "an' if Phil doesn't raise us out with a big hand—why, he'll get called, an' your pard can set In the game." Every eye shifted to Knell. He was dead white. He laughed, and anyone hearing that laugh would have realized his intense anger equally with an as surance which made him master of the situation. Poggin, you're a gambler, you are— the ace-high, straight-flush hand of the Big Bend," he said, with stinging scorn. "I'll bet you my roll to a greaser peso that I can deal you a hand you'll be afraid to play." "Phil, you're talkin' wild," growled Poggin, with both advice and menace in his tone. "If there's anything you hate, it's a man who pretends to be somebody else when he's not Thet so?" Poggin nodded in slow-gathering wrath. *. "Well, Jim's new pard—this man Dodge—he's not who he seems. But I know him. An* when I spring MS name on you, Poggin, you'll freeze, an' your hand will be stiff when It ought to be lightnin'—all because you'll realize you've been s tändln' there five minutes—five minutes alive before him !" (TO BE CONTINUED.) tic terms. It became clear to the Rus* sian public that Bunin was just enter ing his golden era, that the creative genius of the poet had just found it self and that the numerous literary productions of Bunin constituted but the ladder of gradual self-perfection that led him to the apogee of his career. And it is in this spirit that A. Derman, a noted critic, writing in the Russkaya Mysl, halls Bunin as a new Tolstoy. Japanese Life Insurance. In a few weeks Japan will start a universal life insurance scheme. Any body can take out $124 or more of in surance without a medical examina tion, Girard writes in the Philadelphia Ledger. However, the estate of a policy hold er who dies within two years of a dis ease other than typhoid, typhus, scarlet fever, diphtheria or plague will be un able to collect the full amount of In surance. The insurance is cheap, and the gov ernment is the insurer. It is expected to encourage thrift and reduce the number of pauperized families. 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