Into the dark he rode. Somewhere
in the mountains was Silent, and now alone. In
Dan’s mouth the old salt taste of his own blood
It was a wild chase. He had only
the faintest clues to guide him, yet he managed to
keep close on the trail of the great outlaw. After
several days he rode across a tall red-roan stallion,
a mere wreck of a horse with lean sides and pendant
head and glazed eye. It was a long moment before
Dan recognized Silent’s peerless mount, Red Pete.
The outlaw had changed his exhausted horse for a common
pony. The end of the long trail must be near.
The whole range followed that chase
with breathless interest. It was like the race
of Hector and Achilles around the walls of Troy.
And when they met there would be a duel of giants.
Twice Whistling Dan was sighted. Once Jim Silent
fought a running duel with a posse fresh from Elkhead.
The man hunters were alert, but it was their secret
hope that the two famous outlaws would destroy each
other, but how the wild chase would end no one could
know. At last Buck Daniels rode to tell Kate
Cumberland strange news.
When he stumbled into the ranch house,
Kate and her father rose, white-faced. There
was an expression of waiting terror in their eyes.
“Buck!” cried Joe.
“Hush! Dad,” said Kate. “It
hasn’t come yet! Buck, what has happened?”
“The end of the world has come
for Dan,” he said. “That devil Silent — ”
“Dan,” cried old Joe, and rushed around
the table to Buck.
“Silent has dared Dan to meet
him at three o’clock tomorrow afternoon in Tully’s
saloon in Elkhead! He’s held up four men
in the last twenty-four hours and told them that he’ll
be at Tully’s tomorrow and will expect Dan there!”
“It isn’t possible!”
cried Kate. “That means that Silent is giving
himself up to the law!”
Buck laughed bitterly.
“The law will not put a hand
on them if it thinks that they’ll fight it out
together,” he said.
“There’ll be a crowd in
the saloon, but not a hand will stir to arrest Silent
till after the fight.”
“But Dan won’t go to Tully’s,”
broke in old Joe. “If Silent is crazy enough
to do such a thing, Dan won’t be.”
“He will,” said Kate. “I know!”
“You’ve got to stop him,”
urged Buck. “You’ve got to get to
Elkhead and turn Dan back.”
“Ay,” said Joe, “for
even if he kills Silent, the crowd will tackle him
after the fight — a hundred against one.”
She shook her head.
“You won’t go?”
“Not a step.”
“But Kate, don’t you understand ?”
“I couldn’t turn Dan back.
There is his chance to meet Silent. Do you dream
any one could turn him back?”
The two men were mute.
said Buck at last. “I hoped for a minute
that you could do it, but now I remember the way he
was in that dark shanty up the Bald-eagle Creek.
You can’t turn a wolf from a trail, and Whistling
Dan has never forgotten the taste of his own blood.”
“Kate!” called her father suddenly.
“What’s the matter, honey?”
With bowed head and a faltering step
she was leaving the room. Buck caught old Joe
by the arm and held him back as he would have followed.
“Let her be!” said Buck
sharply. “Maybe she’ll want to see
you at three o’clock tomorrow afternoon, but
until then she’ll want to be alone. There’ll
be ghosts enough with her all the time. You c’n
lay to that.”
Joe Cumberland wiped his glistening forehead.
“There ain’t nothin’ we c’n
do, Buck, but sit an’ wait.”
Buck drew a long breath.
“What devil gave Silent that idea?”
“Jim Silent don’t know what fear is!”
“Any one who’s seen the yaller burn in
Dan’s eyes knows what fear is.”
Cumberland went on: “Every
night Silent has been seein’ them eyes that
glow yaller in the dark. They lie in wait for
him in every shadow. Between dark and dawn he
dies a hundred deaths. He can’t stand it
no more. He’s goin’ to die.
Somethin’ tells him that. But he wants to
die where they’s humans around him, and when
he dies he wants to pull Dan down with him.”
They sat staring at each other for a time.
“If he lives through that fight
with Silent,” said Buck sadly, “the crowd
will jump in on him. Their numbers’ll make
“Then maybe he’d like
a friend to fight by his side,” said Buck simply.
“So long, Joe!”
The old man wrung his hand and then
followed him out to the hitching-rack where Buck’s
“Ain’t Dan got no friends
among the crowd?” asked Cumberland. “Don’t
they give him no thanks for catching the rest of Silent’s
“They give him lots of credit,”
said Buck. “An’ Haines has said a
lot in favour of Dan, explainin’ how the jail
bustin’ took place. Lee is sure provin’
himself a white man. He’s gettin’
well of his wounds and it’s said the Governor
will pardon him. You see, Haines went bad because
the law done him dirt a long time ago, and the Governor
is takin’ that into account.”
“But they’d still want to kill Dan?”
“Half of the boys wouldn’t,”
said Buck. “The other half is all wrought
up over the killings that’s been happenin’
on the range in the last month. Dan is accused
of about an even half of ’em, an’ the friends
of dead men don’t waste no time listenin’
to arguments. They say Dan’s an outlawed
man an’ that they’re goin’ to treat
him like one.”
“Damn them!” groaned Cumberland.
“Don’t Morris’s confession make no
“Morris was lynched before he
had a chance to swear to what he said in Dan’s
favour. Kilduff an’ Jordan an’ Rhinehart
might testify that Dan wasn’t never bought over
by Silent, but they know they’re done for themselves,
an’ they won’t try to help anybody else,
particular the man that put ’em in the hands
of the law. Kilduff has swore that Dan was
bribed by Silent, that he went after Silent not for
revenge, but to get some more money out of him, an’
that the fight in the shanty up at Bald-eagle Creek
was because Silent refused to give Dan any more money.”
“Then there ain’t no hope,”
muttered Cumberland. “But oh, lad, it breaks
my heart to think of Kate! Dan c’n only
die once, but every minute is a death to her!”