Chapter IV
Royal Beaudry Hears a Call

A BOW-LEGGED little man with the spurs still jingling on his heels sauntered down one side of the old plaza. He passed a train of fagot-laden burros in charge of two Mexican boys from Tesuque, the sides and back of each diminished mule so packed with firewood that it was a comical caricature of a beruffed Elizabethan dame. Into the plaza narrow, twisted streets of adobe rambled carelessly. One of these led to the San Miguel Mission, said to be the oldest church in the United States.

An entire side of the square was occupied by a long, one-story adobe structure. This was the Governor's Palace. For three hundred years it had been the seat of turbulent and tragic history. Its solid walls had withstood many a siege and had stifled the cries of dozens of tortured prisoners. The mail-clad Spanish explorers Penelosa and De Salivar had from here set out across the desert on their search for gold and glory. In one of its rooms the last Mexican governor had dictated his defiance to General Kearny just just before the Stars and Stripes fluttered from its flagpole. The Spaniard, the Indian, the Mexican, and the American in turn had written here in action the romance of the Southwest.

The little man was of the outdoors. His soft gray creased hat, the sun-tan on his face and neck, the direct steadiness of the blue eyes with the fine lines at the corners, were evidence enough even if he had not carried in the wrinkles of his corduroy suit about seven pounds of white powdered New Mexico.

He strolled down the sidewalk in front of the Palace, the while he chewed tobacco absent-mindedly. There was something very much on his mind, so that it was by chance alone that his eye lit on a new tin sign tacked to the wall. He squinted at it incredulously. His mind digested the information it contained while his jaws worked steadily.

The sign read:—




For those who preferred another language, a second announcement appeared below the first:—



"Sure, and it must be the boy himself," said the little man aloud.

He opened the door and walked in.

A young man sat reading with his heels crossed on the top of a desk. A large calf-bound volume was open before him, but the book in the hands of the youth looked less formidable. It bore the title, "Adventures of Sherlock Holmes." The budding lawyer flashed a startled glance at his caller and slid Dr. Watson's hero into an open drawer.

The visitor grinned and remarked with a just perceptible Irish accent: "’Tis a good book. I've read it myself."

The embryo Blackstone blushed. "Say, are you a client?" he asked.


"Gee! I was afraid you were my first. I like your looks. I'd hate for you to have the bad luck to get me for your lawyer." He laughed, boyishly. There was a very engaging quality about his candor.

The Irishman shot an abrupt question at him. "Are you John Beaudry's son—him that was fighting sheriff of Washington County twenty years ago?"

A hint of apprehension flickered into the eyes of the young man. "Yes," he said.

"Your father was a gr-reat man, the gamest officer that ever the Big Creek country saw. Me name is Patrick Ryan."

"Glad to meet any friend of my father, Mr. Ryan." Roy Beaudry offered his hand. His fine eyes glowed.

"Wait," warned the little cowpuncher grimly. "I'm no liar, whativer else I've been. Mebbe you 'll be glad you 've met me—an' mebbe you won't. First off, I was no friend of your father. I trailed with the Rutherford outfit them days. It's all long past and I 'll tell youse straight that he just missed me in the round-up that sent two of our bunch to the pen."

In the heart of young Beaudry a dull premonition of evil stirred. His hand fell limply. Why had this man come out of the dead past to seek him? His panic-stricken eyes clung as though fascinated to those of Ryan.

"Do you mean … that you were a rustler?"

Ryan looked full at him. "You 've said it. I was a wild young colt thim days, full of the divil and all. But remimber this. I held no grudge at Jack Beaudry. That's what he was elected for—to put me and my sort out of business. Why should I hate him because he was man enough to do it?"

"That's not what some of your friends thought."

"You 're right, worse luck. I was out on the range when it happened. I 'll say this for Hal Rutherford. He was full of bad whiskey when your father was murdered. … But that ended it for me. I broke with the Huerfano gang outfit and I 've run straight iver since."

"Why have you come to me? What do you want?" asked the young lawyer, his throat dry.

"I need your help."

"What for? Why should I give it? I don't know you."

"It's not for mysilf that I want it. There's a friend of your father in trouble. When I saw the sign with your name on it I came in to tell you."

"What sort of trouble?"

"That's a long story. Did you iver hear of Dave Dingwell?"

"Yes. I 've never met him, but he put me through law school."

"Howcome that?"

"I was living in Denver with my aunt. A letter came from Mr. Dingwell offering to pay the expenses of my education. He said he owed that much to my father."

"Well, then, Dave Dingwell has disappeared off the earth."

"What do you mean—disappeared?" asked Roy.

"He walked out of the Legal Tender Saloon one night and no friend of his has seen him since. That was last Tuesday."

"Is that all? He may have gone hunting—or to Denver—or Los Angeles."

"No, he did n't do any one of the three. He was either murdered or else hid out in the hills by them that had a reason for it."

"Do you suspect some one?"

"I do," answered Ryan promptly. "If he was killed, two tinhorn gamblers did it. If he's under guard in the hills, the Rutherford gang have got him."

"The Rutherfords, the same ones that—?"

"The ver-ry same—Hal and Buck and a brood of young hellions they have raised."

"But why should they kidnap Mr. Dingwell? If they had anything against him, why would n't they kill him?"

"If the Rutherfords have got him it is because he knows something they want to know. Listen, and I 'll tell you what I think."

The Irishman drew up a chair and told Beaudry the story of that night in the Legal Tender as far as he could piece it together. He had talked with one of the poker-players, the man that owned the curio store, and from him had gathered all he could remember of the talk between Dingwell and Rutherford.

"Get these points, lad," Ryan went on. "Dave comes to town from a long day's ride. He tells Rutherford that he has been prospecting and has found gold in Lonesome Park. Nothing to that. Dave is a cattleman, not a prospector. Rutherford knows that as well as I do. But he falls right in with Dingwell's story. He offers to go partners with Dave on his gold mine—keeps talking about it—insists on going in with him."

"I don't see anything in that," said Roy.

"You will presently. Keep it in mind that there was n't any gold mine and could n't have been. That talk was a blind to cover something else. Good enough. Now chew on this awhile. Dave sent a Mexican to bring the sheriff, but Sweeney did n't come. He explained that he wanted to go partners with Sweeney about this gold-mine proposition. If he was talking about a real gold mine, that is teetotally unreasonable. Nobody would pick Sweeney for a partner. He's a fathead and Dave worked against him before election. But Sweeney is sheriff of Washington County. Get that?"

"I suppose you mean that Dingwell had something on the Rutherfords and was going to turn them over to the law."

"You 're getting warm, boy. Does the hold-up of the Pacific Flyer help you any?"

Roy drew a long breath of surprise. "You mean the Western Express robbery two weeks ago?"

"Sure I mean that. Say the Rutherford outfit did that job."

"And that Dingwell got evidence of it. But then they would kill him." The heart of the young man sank. He had a warm place in it for this unknown friend who had paid his law-school expenses.

"You're forgetting about the gold mine Dave claimed to have found in Lonesome Park. Suppose he was hunting strays and saw them cache their loot somewhere. Suppose he dug it up. Say they knew he had it, but did n't know where he had taken it. They could n't kill him. They would have to hold him prisoner till they could make him tell where it was."

The young lawyer shook his head. "Too many ifs. Each one makes a weak joint in your argument. Put them all together and it is full of holes. Possible, but extremely improbable."

An eager excitement flashed in the blue eyes of the Irishman.

"You're looking at the thing wrong end to. Get a grip on your facts first. The Western Express Company was robbed of twenty thousand dollars and the robbers were run into the hills. The Rutherford outfit is the very gang to pull off that hold-up. Dave tells Hal Rutherford, the leader of the tribe, that he has sent for the sheriff. Hal tries to get him to call it off. Dave talks about a gold mine he has found and Rutherford tries to fix up a deal with him. There's no if about any of that, me young Sherlock Holmes."

"No, you've built up a case. But there's a stronger case already built for us, is n't there? Dingwell exposed the gamblers Blair and Smith, knocked one of them cold, made them dig up a lot of money, and drove them out of town. They left, swearing vengeance. He rides away, and he is never seen again. The natural assumption is that they lay in wait for him and killed him."

"Then where is the body?"

"Lying out in the cactus somewhere — or buried in the sand."

"That would n't be a bad guess — if it was n't for another bit of testimony that came in to show that Dave was alive five hours after he left the Legal Tender. A sheepherder on the Creosote Flats heard the sound of horses' hoofs early next morning. He looked out of his tent and saw three horses. Two of the riders carried rifles. The third rode between them. He did n't carry any gun. They were a couple of hundred yards away and the herder did n't recognize any of the men. But it looked to him like the man without the gun was a prisoner."

"Well, what does that prove?"

"If the man in the middle was Dave—and that's the hunch I'm betting on to the limit—it lets out the tinhorns. Their play would be to kill and make a quick getaway. There would n't be any object in their taking a prisoner away off to the Flats. If this man was Dave, Blair and Smith are eliminated from the list of suspects. That leaves the Rutherfords."

"But you don't know that this was Dingwell."

"That's where you come in, me brave Sherlock. Dave's friends can't move to help him. You see, they 're all known men. It might be the end of Dave if they lifted a finger. But you 're not known to the Rutherfords. You slip in over Wagon Wheel Gap to Huerfano Park, pick up what you can, and come out to Battle Butte with your news."

"You mean—spy on them?"

"Of coorse."

"But what if they suspected me?"

"Then your heirs at law would collect the insurance," Ryan told him composedly.

Excuses poured out of young Beaudry one on top of another. "No, I can't go. I won't mix up in it. It's not my affair. Besides, I can't get away from my business."

"I see your business keeps you jumping," dryly commented the Irishman. "And you know best whether it's your affair."

Beaudry could have stood it better if the man had railed at him, if he had put up an argument to show why he must come to the aid of the friend who had helped him. This cool, contemptuous dismissal of him stung. He began to pace the room in rising excitement.

"I hate that country up there. I 've got no use for it. It killed my mother just as surely as it did my father. I left there when I was a child, but I 'll never forget that dreadful day seventeen years ago. Sometimes I wake in bed out of some devil's nightmare and live it over. Why should I go back to that bloody battleground? Has n't it cost me enough already? It's easy for you to come and tell me to go to Huerfano Park—"

"Hold your horses, Mr. Beaudry. I'm not tellin' you to go. I 've laid the facts before ye. Go or stay as you please."

"That's all very well," snapped back the young man. "But I know what you 'll think of me if I don't go."

"What you 'll think of yourself matters more. I have n't got to live with ye for forty years."

Roy Beaudry writhed. He was sensitive and high-strung. Temperamentally he coveted the good opinion of those about him. Moreover, he wanted to deserve it. No man had ever spoken to him in just the tone of this little Irish cowpuncher, who had come out of nowhere into his life and brought to him his first big problem for decision. Even though the man had confessed himself a rustler, the young lawyer could not escape his judgment. Pat Ryan might have ridden on many lawless trails in his youth, but the dynamic spark of self-respect still burned in his soul. He was a man, every inch of his five-foot three.

"I want to live at peace," the boy went on hotly. "Huerfano Park is still in the dark ages. I'm no gunman. I stand for law and order. This is the day of civilization. Why should I embroil myself with a lot of murderous outlaws when what I want is to sit here and make friends—?"

The Irishman hammered his fist on the table and exploded. "Then sit here, damn ye! But why the hell should any one want to make friends with a white-livered pup like you? I thought you was Jack Beaudry's son, but I 'll niver believe it. Jack did n't sit on a padded chair and talk about law and order. By God, no! He went out with a six-gun and made them. No gamer, whiter man ever strapped a forty-four to his hip. He niver talked about what it would cost him to go through for his friends. He just went the limit without any guff."

Ryan jingled out of the room in hot scorn and left one young peace advocate in a turmoil of emotion.

Young Beaudry did not need to discuss with himself the ethics of the situation. A clear call had come to him on behalf of the man who had been his best friend, even though he had never met him. He must answer that call, or he must turn his back on it. Sophistry would not help at all. There were no excuses his own mind would accept.

But Royal Beaudry had been timid from his childhood. He had inherited fear. The shadow of it had always stretched toward him. His cheeks burned with shame to recall that it had not been a week since he had looked under the bed at night before getting in to make sure nobody was hidden there. What was the use of blinking the truth? He was a born coward. It was the skeleton in the closet of his soul. His schooldays had been haunted by the ghost of

"Then sit here, damn ye!"

dread. Never in his life had he played truant, though he had admired beyond measure the reckless little dare-devils who took their fun and paid for it. He had contrived to avoid fights with his mates and thrashings from the teachers. On the one occasion when public opinion had driven him to put up his fists, he had been saved from disgrace only because the bully against whom he had turned proved to be an arrant craven.

He remembered how he had been induced to go out and try for the football team at the university. His fellows knew him as a fair gymnast and a crack tennis player. He was muscular, well-built, and fast on his feet, almost perfectly put together for a halfback. On the second day of practice he had shirked a hard tackle, though it happened that nobody suspected the truth but himself. Next morning he turned in his suit with the plea that he had promised his aunt not to play.

Now trepidation was at his throat again, and there was no escape from a choice that would put a label on him. It had been his right to play football or not as he pleased. But this was different. A summons had come to his loyalty, to the fundamental manhood of him. If he left David Dingwell to his fate, he could never look at himself again in the glass without knowing that he was facing a dastard.

The trouble was that he had too much imagination. As a child he had conjured dragons out of the darkness that had no existence except in his hectic fancy. So it was now. He had only to give his mind play to see himself helpless in the hands of the Rutherfords.

But he was essentially stanch and generous. Fate had played him a scurvy trick in making him a trembler, but he knew it was not in him to turn his back on Dingwell. No matter how much he might rebel and squirm he would have to come to time in the end.

After a wretched afternoon he hunted up Ryan at his hotel.

"When do you want me to start?" he asked sharply.

The little cowpuncher was sitting in the lobby reading a newspaper. He took one look at the harassed youth and jumped up.

"Say, you 're all right. Put her there."

Royal's cold hand met the rough one of Ryan. The shrewd eyes of the Irishman judged the other.

"I knew youse could n't be a quitter and John Beaudry's son," he continued. "Why, come to that, the sooner you start the quicker."

"I 'll have to change my name."

"Sure you will. And you'd better peddle something—insurance, or lightning rods, or 'The Royal Gall'ry of Po'try 'n Art' or—"

"'Life of the James and Younger Brothers.' That ought to sell well with the Rutherfords," suggested Roy satirically, trying to rise to the occasion.

"Jess Tighe and Dan Meldrum don't need any pointers from the James Boys."

"Tighe and Meldrum— Who are they?"

"Meldrum is a coyote your father trapped and sent to the pen. He's a bad actor for fair. And Tighe—well, if you put a hole in his head you'd blow out the brains of the Rutherford gang. For hiven's sake don't let Jess know who you are. All of sivinteen years he's been a cripple on crutches, and 't was your father that laid him up the day of his death. He's a rivingeful divil is Jess."

Beaudry made no comment. It seemed to him that his heart was of chilled lead.