Old man King, red eyed with wrath,
had gone out after the cattle rustlers in his own
direct fashion, seeking to follow the trail of running
steers through the mountain passes, his eye hard, his
rifle ready, his mind eager to suspect any man to
whom that trail might lead. But he found only
confused tracks which ran toward the state border line
and which vanished before even his sharp eyes, leading
Young Bud King, his own anger little
less than his father’s, went forth on another
trail, not after the running steers but after a man.
And he went to the town of Dead Man’s Alley.
Mentally he had made his list of the men to whom one
might look to for the commission of the crime which
had driven the Bar X outfit to action. Being no
man’s fool, young King planned to go first to
the source of the stream, as it were, and thence to
travel downward seeking to see who had muddied the
waters. And his “one chief bet” was
that the source was in Hill’s Corners.
The result of Bud King’s investigations,
so far as he was concerned, was little different from
that of his father’s and negligible. But
his journey to the town of the bad name was of vast
importance to others.
Winifred Waverly, upon the morning
after the dance, came down late to her breakfast,
and found that Pollard had waited for her. Although
he was not in the habit of offering her this little
courtesy, she thought nothing of it at first, having
enough of other matters in her brain, perplexing her.
But before the meal was over she knew why Henry Pollard
had waited for her.
It was plain to her that he realized
that some real importance might be attached to the
matter of her having seen Buck Thornton last night,
of having danced and talked with him. On the
ride home he had not referred to the cattle man nor
had she. Now, in great seeming carelessness but
with his eyes keen upon her, he spoke lightly of the
dance, mentioned that he had seen Thornton talking
to one of the men at the schoolhouse door and wondered
why he had gone so early.
She managed to look at him innocently
and to say carelessly as he had spoken:
“I had a dance with him.
He didn’t say anything about leaving so soon.”
She even achieved a little laugh which sounded quite
natural, ending, “He seemed rather put out that
I did not receive him like an old friend!”
“You did not accuse him of having robbed you?”
“Not in so many words,”
quietly. “But I was certainly not polite
to him! For a little I thought that he was going
to return your money to me.”
“Why?” Pollard asked sharply,
and now she was sure of his readiness to suspect her
of holding back something from him.
“He said,” she went on,
her interest seeming chiefly for her bacon and eggs,
“that he was returning something to me I had
left at the cabin at Harte’s place. I couldn’t
think of anything but your money.”
“What was it?”
“A spur rowel. It had been
loose for several days, and dropped out in the cabin.
He brought it back to me.”
From this they passed on to speak
of other incidents of the dance and of other people,
but the girl saw that her uncle’s interest waned
with the change of topic. Then, her heart fluttering
in spite of her, but her voice steady enough, Winifred
“I think I’ll go for a
little ride after breakfast. My horse needs the
exercise, and,” she added laughingly, “so
“Good idea,” he returned,
nodding his approval. But then he asked which
way she was riding, and finally volunteered to go with
her, assuring her smilingly that he had nothing of
importance to do, and adding gravely, that he would
feel safer if she were not out alone in this rough
So he rode with her and after an hour
of swift galloping out toward the mountains, for the
most part in silence, they came back to the town.
Pollard left her at his own gate and rode back through
the street, “to see a man.” But he
returned almost immediately and for the rest of the
day did not leave the house. It was a long day
for the girl, filled with restlessness and a sense
of being spied upon, of being watched almost every
moment by her uncle. And before the day was done,
there had come with the other emotions a little thrill
of positive, personal fear.
It was midafternoon. The silence
here at this far end of the street hung heavy and
oppressive. She had gone up and down stairs half
a dozen aimless times, eager for something to do.
The long hours had been hers for reflection, and after
weighing the hundred little incidents of these last
few weeks, now there was no faintest shadow of a doubt
that Henry Pollard was at least guilty of criminal
complicity in a scheme to send an innocent man to
the penitentiary if not to the gallows; she was more
than half persuaded that Pollard was in some way seeking
to shield himself by using Thornton as a scapegoat;
she had got to the point where she began to wonder
if Henry Pollard and Ben Broderick shared share and
share alike both in the profits of these crimes and
in their actual commission.
She came down stairs for a book, having
at last finished the one in her room, resigned to
inactivity for another day, perhaps for two or three
days, until her uncle’s watch upon her movements
was less keen and suspicious. She reflected that
if she read something she might coax her thoughts
away from considerations which he could not understand
in their entirety, and which terrified her when she
thought that she did understand.
In her quest she passed down the hall
and to Pollard’s office at the front of the
house. The room was by no means private; she had
gone into it many times before; sometimes it was used
as a sitting room. She had thought that her uncle
was in it, but when she came to the open door she
saw that it was empty.
She went to the long table at which
Pollard wrote his few letters. Upon one end of
it, at the far end from the pen and ink, were some
books and old magazines, piled carelessly. Yesterday
she had seen here a fairly recent novel the title
of which promised her an interesting story. A
glance showed her the book, lying open, where Pollard
had evidently been reading it. And in the same
careless glance she saw something else which sent
the blood into her face and made her turn swiftly,
apprehensively, toward the door.
There, beside Pollard’s chair,
was his waste paper basket, filled to overflowing
with crumpled papers. And, thrusting upward through
the papers, catching her eye because the papers were
white and it was another colour, was a long, yellow
envelope. An envelope exactly like the one in
which Mr. Templeton had put the bank notes she was
to carry to her uncle!
Obeying her swift impulse she stepped
to the basket and drew the envelope out. It was
not only like the one she knew, yellow and cloth lined,
but it was the same one! She knew that beyond
a hint of doubt. For she remembered how, while
sealing the thing for her, Mr. Templeton had laid
it down on his table, upon his ink-wet pen, how he
had carelessly blotted it. And here was the blot!
She came swiftly around the table.
Her back was toward the open door. And....
Henry Pollard was standing behind
her, watching her! She did not see him, she could
not be sure that she had heard his soft step on the
hall carpet, but she knew that he was there.
She seemed to sense his presence with the subtle sixth