[Frontispiece: "_'Tom!' she breathed. 'Tom! you do think I betrayed you
WILLIAM PATTERSON WHITE
"_Hidden Trails,_" "_The Owner of the Lazy D,_" "_Lynch Lawyers_."
RALPH PALLEN COLEMAN
A. L. BURT COMPANY
Publishers New York
Published by arrangement
with Doubleday, Page & Company
COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, INCLUDING THAT OF
TRANSLATION INTO FOREIGN LANGUAGES,
INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN
TO MY CAPE MAY COUSINS
DOROTHY, BESS, AND MARION
I. Tom Loudon
II. At the Bar S
III. Shots on Pack-Saddle
IV. The Skinned Cattle
V. Their Own Deceivings
VI. Pestilent Fellows
VII. Paradise Bend
VIII. The Amazing Mackenzie
IX. Authors of Confusion
X. The Horse Thief
XII. Scotty Advises
XIII. The Dance
XIV. A Determined Woman
XV. A Hidden Trail
XVI. Kate is Helpful
XVII. Mrs. Burr Relieves Her Mind
XVIII. A Murder and a Killing
XX. The Railroad Corral
XXI. The Judge's Office
XXII. Under the Ridge
XXIII. The Smoke of Conflict
XXIV. Before the Dawn
XXV. Trail's End
"And don't forget that ribbon!" called Kate Saltoun from the
ranch-house door. "And don't lose the sample!"
"I won't!" shouted Tom Loudon, turning in his saddle. "I'll get her
just like you said! Don't you worry any!"
He waved his hat to Kate, faced about, and put his horse to a lope.
"Is it likely now I'd forget?" he muttered. "We'd do more'n that for
her, wouldn't we, fellah?"
The horse, a long-legged chestnut
named Ranger, turned back one ear.
He was accustomed to being questioned, was Ranger. Tom Loudon loved
him. He had bought him a five-year-old from the 88 ranch the year
before, and he would allow no one save Kate Saltoun to ride him. For
the sun and the moon, in the estimation
of Tom Loudon, rose and set in
the black eyes of Kate Saltoun, the exceedingly
handsome daughter of
John T. Saltoun, the owner of the great Bar S ranch.
This day Loudon was riding into Farewell for the ranch mail, and Kate
had commissioned him to do an errand
for her. To serve his lady was
joy to Loudon. He did not believe that she was aware of his state of
mind. A flirt was Kate, and a charming
one. She played with a man as
a cat plays with a mouse. At which pleasant sport Kate was an adept.
But Loudon realized nothing of all this. Shrewd and penetrative in his
business, where Kate was concerned
he saw nothing but the obvious.
Where the trail snaked over Indian Ridge, ten miles from the ranch
house, Loudon pulled up in front of a lone pine tree. On the trunk of
the pine a notice was tacked. Which notice set forth briefly
hundred dollars' reward
was offered for the person or persons of the
unknown miscreant or miscreants who were depleting the herds of the Bar
S and the Cross-in-a-box outfits. It was signed by Sheriff Block.
Who the miscreants were no one knew with certainty. But strange tales
were told of the 88 punchers. It was whispered that they carried
running-irons on their saddles. Certainly they displayed, when riding
the range, a marked aversion to the company of men from the other
The remains of small fires had been found time and again in draws
bordering the 88 range, and once a fire-marked cinch-ring had been
picked up. As the jimmy and bunch of skeleton
keys in a man's pocket
so are the running-iron and the extra cinch-ring under a puncher's
saddle-skirts. They indicate a criminal
tendency; specifically, in the
latter case, a whole-hearted willingness
to brand the cattle of one's
Loudon read the notice of reward, slow contempt
curling his lips.
"Signs," he said, gently. "Signs----! What we need is
Vigilantes--Vigilantes an' a bale o' rope!"
He turned in his saddle
and looked back over the way he had come.
Fifty miles to the south the Frying Pan Mountains lay in a cool, blue,
From where Loudon sat on his horse to the Frying Pans stretched the
rolling range, cut by a thin, kinked strip of cottonwoods marking the
course of a wandering river, pockmarked with draws and shallow
blotched with clumps of pine and tamarack, and humped with knolls and
sprawling hills. The meandering stream
was the Lazy, and all the land
in sight, and beyond for that matter, was the famous Lazy River country
held by three great ranches, the Cross-in-a-box, the Bar S, and the 88.
Of these the 88 was the largest and the farthest
west of the three, its
eastern line running
along the high-bluffed banks of the Falling Horse,
which emptied into the Lazy some ten miles from the 88 ranch house.
East of the 88 lay the Bar S, and east of the Bar S was the
Cross-in-a-box. The two latter ranches owned the better grazing, the
more broken country lying within the borders of the 88 ranch.
Beyond the 88 range, across the Falling Horse, were the Three Sisters
Mountains, a wild and jumbled tangle
of peaks and narrow valleys where
and the bear and the mountain lion lived and had their
beings. East of the Lazy River country lay the Double Diamond A and
the Hog-pen outfits; north and south stretched other ranches, but all
the ranges ended where the Three Sisters began.
Loudon swung his gaze westward, then slowly his eyes slid around and
fastened on the little brown dots that were the ranch buildings of the
Bar S. He shook his head gently
and sighed helplessly.
He was thinking partly
of Kate and partly
of her father, the gray old
man who owned the Bar S and would believe nothing evil of his
neighbours, the hard-riding 88 boys. Loudon was morally certain that
forty cows within the last three months had transferred their
allegiance from Bar S to 88, and he had hinted as much to Mr. Saltoun.
But the latter had laughed him to scorn and insisted that only a few
cows had been taken and that the lifting was the work of independent
rustlers, or perhaps of one of the other ranches. Nevertheless, in
response to the repeated
urging of his foreman, Bill Rainey, Mr.
Saltoun had joined with the Cross-in-a-box in offering
Loudon was well aware of the reason for Mr. Saltoun's fatuous
blindness. That reason was Sam Blakely, the 88 manager, who came often
to the Bar S ranch and spent many hours in the company of Kate. Mr.
Saltoun did not believe that a dog would bite the hand that fed him.
But it all depends on the breed of dog. And Blakely was the wrong
"He shore is a pup," Loudon said, softly, "an' yellow at that. He'd
steal the moccasins off a dead Injun. An' Block would help him, the
Then, being young, Loudon practised the road-agent's spin on the notice
tacked on the pine tree, and planted three accurate
in the same spot.
"Here, you! What yuh doin'?" rasped a grating
voice in Loudon's
Loudon turned an unhurried head. Ten yards distant a tall man,
black-bearded, of a disagreeable
cast of countenance, was leaning
forward across an outcrop.
"I asked yuh what yuh was doin'?" repeated
the peevish individual,
glaring at Loudon.
"I heard yuh the first time, Sheriff," replied Loudon, placidly. "I
was just figurin' whether to tell yuh I was shoein' a horse or catchin'
butterflies. Which answer would yuh like best?"
"Yuh think yo're mighty
funny, Tom Loudon, but I tell yuh flat if yuh
don't go slow 'round here I'll find a quick way o' knockin' yore horns
"Yuh don't say. When yuh goin' to begin?"
Loudon beamed upon the sheriff, his gun held with studied
Sheriff Block walked from behind his breastwork, his eyes watchful, his
thumbs carefully hooked
in the armholes of his vest.
"That notice ain't no target," he grunted, halting beside the pine tree.
"It is now," remarked Loudon, genially.
"It won't be no more."
"O' course not, Sheriff. I wouldn't think o' shootin' at it if you say
no. It's a right pretty piece o' readin'. Did yuh write it all
The sheriff's eyes became suddenly blank and fixed. His right thumb
"I only fired three shots," observed Loudon, the muzzle
on the pit of the sheriff's stomach.
The sheriff's right thumb rehooked itself hurriedly. His frame relaxed.
"Yuh shouldn't get mad over a joke," continued Loudon. "It's plumb
foolish. Been hidin' behind that rock long?"
"I wasn't hidin' behind it. I was down in the draw, an' I seen you
a-readin' the notice, an' I come up."
Loudon's gray eyes twinkled. He knew that the sheriff
lied. He knew
that Block had heard his comments on Blakely and his own worshipful
person, but evidently
did not consider this an opportune
time for taking
"So yuh come up, did yuh? Guess yuh thought it was one o' the rustlers
driftin' in to see what reward
was out for him, didn't yuh? But don't
get downhearted. Maybe one'll come siftin' along yet. Why don't yuh
camp here, Sheriff? It'll be easier than ridin' the range for 'em, an'
a heap healthier. Now, Sheriff, remember what I said about gettin'
red-headed. Say, between friends, an' I won't tell even the little
hoss, who do you guess is doin' the rustlin'?"
"If I knowed," growled the sheriff, "his name'd be wrote on the notice."
"Would it? I was just wonderin'. Habit I got."
"Don't you fret none about them rustlers. I'll get 'em if it takes ten
"Make it twenty, Sheriff. They'll keep right on electin' yuh."
"Do yuh mean to say the rustlers elected me?" exploded the sheriff.
"O' course not," chided Loudon, gently. "Now what made yuh think I
"Well, yuh said----" began the sheriff.
"I said 'they,'" interrupted Loudon. "You said 'rustlers'. Stay in
the saddle, Sheriff. You'll stub your toe sometime
if yuh keep on
a-travellin' one jump ahead o' the hoss."
"Yo're ---- smart for a cow-punch."
"It is a cinch to fool most of 'em, ain't it--especially when yo're a
Loudon's eyes were wide open and child-like in their gray blandness.
But the sheriff
did not mistake his man. Block knew that if his hand
dropped, a bullet
would neatly perforate his abdomen. The sheriff
not a coward, but he had sense enough not to force an issue. He could
afford to wait.
"I'll see yuh again," said the sheriff, harshly, and strode
down the slope.
Loudon watched him until he vanished among the pines a hundred yards
below. Then Loudon touched his horse with the spur and rode on, chin
on shoulder, hands busy reloading his six-shooter. Three minutes later
Loudon saw the sheriff, mounted on his big black stallion, issue from
the wood. The great horse scrambled up the hillside, gained the trail,
and headed south.
"Bet he's goin' to the 88," said Loudon. "I'd give ten dollars to know
what Block was roostin' behind that rock for. Gawd! I shore would
admire to be Sheriff o' Fort Creek County for thirty days!"
Eleven miles from Indian Ridge he topped a rise and saw below him
Farewell's straggly street, flanked by several false-fronted saloons,
two stores, one hotel leaning slightly
askew, and a few unkempt houses,
the whole encircled by the twinkling pickets of innumerable
He rode along the street, fetlock-deep in dust, and stopped at the
hotel corral. Freeing Ranger of the saddle
and bridle, he opened the
gate and slapped the chestnut
on the hip.
"Go on in, fellah," said Loudon. "Yore dinner's a-comin'."
He walked around to the front of the hotel. Under the wooden
beefy, red-faced citizen was dozing in a chair tilted back against the
wall. Loudon tapped the snoring individual on the shoulder. The
sleeper awoke gaspingly, his eyes winking. The chair settled on four
legs with a crash.
"Howdy, Bill," said Loudon, gravely.
"Howdy, Tom," gurgled the other.
"Hoss in the corral an' me here, Bill. Feeds for two."
"Sure. We've done et, but you go in an' holler for Lize. She'll fix
The fat landlord
waddled stableward and Loudon entered the hotel. A
partition that did not reach the ceiling divided the sleeping
apartments from the dining room. Carelessly hanging
over the partition
were two shirts and someone's chaps.
The whole floor slanted, for, as has been said, the hotel leaned
sidewise. The long table in the dining room, covered with cracked
scaling oilcloth, was held unsteadily upright
by three legs and a
Loudon, quite untouched
by this scene of shiftlessness, hooked
chair with his foot, dropped his hat on the floor, and sat down.
"Oh, Mis' Lainey!" he called.
voice, somewhat softened by distance and a closed door,
instantly began to make oration
to the effect that if any lazy chunker
of a puncher thought he was to eat any food he was very much mistaken.
The door banged open. A slatternly, scrawny woman appeared in the
doorway. She was still talking. But the clacking tongue changed its