glad to go down to the Bar Double G with you, and say thanks for the chance.”
He had dismounted when they first reached the pass. Now she swung to the saddle and he climbed behind her. They reached presently one of the nomadic trails of the cattle country which wander leisurely around hills and over gulches along the line of least resistance. This brought them to a main traveled road leading to the ranch.
They rode in silence until the pasture fence was passed.
“What am I to tell them your name is?” she asked stiffly.
He took his time to answer. “Tom Morse is a good name, don’t you think? How would T. L. Morse do?”
She offered no comment, but sat in front of him, unresponsive as the sphinx. The rigor of her flat back told him that, though she might have to keep his shameful secret for the sake of her own, he could not presume upon it the least in the world.
Melissy turned the horse over to a little Mexican 33 boy and they were just mounting the steps of the porch when a young man cantered up to the house. Lean and muscular and sunbaked, he looked out of cool, gray eyes upon a man’s world that had often put him through the acid test. The plain, cactus-torn chaps, flannel shirt open at the sinewy throat, dusty, wide-brimmed hat, revolver peeping from its leather pocket on the thigh: every detail contributed to the impression of efficiency he created. Even the one touch of swagger about him, the blue silk kerchief knotted loosely around his neck, lent color to his virile competency.
He dragged his horse to a standstill and leaped off at the same instant. “Evenin’, ’Lissie.”
She was busy lacing her shoe and did not look up. He guessed that he was being snubbed and into his eyes came a gleam of fun. A day later than he had promised, Jack Flatray was of opinion that he was being punished for tardiness.
Casually he explained. “Couldn’t make it any sooner. Burke had a hurry-up job that took us into the hills. Fellow by the name of Bellamy, wanted for murder at Nemo, Arkansas, had been tracked to Mesa. A message came over the wires to arrest him. When Burke sent me to his room he had lit out, taken a swift hike into the hills. Must a-had some warning, for he didn’t even wait for a horse.”
The dilated eyes of the girl went past the deputy to the man she had rescued. He was leaning 34 against one of the porch posts, tense and rigid, on his face the look of the hunted brought to bay.
“And did you find him?” she asked mechanically of the deputy.
“We found him. He had been trampled to death by a cattle stampede.”
Her mind groped blindly for an explanation. Her woman’s instinct told her that the man panting on the porch within six feet of the officer was the criminal wanted. There must be a mistake somewhere.
“Did you identify him?”
“I guess there is no doubt about it. His papers and belongings all showed he was our man.”
“Oh!” The excitement of his news had for a moment thawed her, but a dignified aloofness showed again in her manner. “If you want to see father you’ll find him in the corral, Mr. Flatray.”
“Well, I don’t know as I’m looking for him awful hard,” the blue kerchiefed youth smiled genially. “Anyway, I can wait a few minutes if I have to.”
“Yes.” She turned away indifferently. “I’ll show you your room, Mr. Morse.”
The deputy watched them disappear into the house with astonishment printed on his face. He had ridden twenty-seven miles to see Melissy Lee and he had not quite expected this sort of a greeting.
“If that don’t beat the Dutch. Looks like I’ll do my callin’ on the old man after all, maybe,” he murmured with a grin.