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come right on. Have a trace of his cattle thief. Ned (Ranger)."
"But I thought Ned wasn't letting me know about the herd, Pablo. Did Manuel say anything else?"
"Si, Senor, Manuel say 'Mister Gleason must go right down. You tell "em, Pablo'."
Gleason hesitated a moment, tapped the note against the saddle, and looked down at Pablo who was obediently awaiting orders.
"You go, Senor?"
"Yes. I'm hitting the road tonight. Right now, Pablo. Let me have the stuff." And he reached down and pulled the package of clothing to the saddle. "Tell Nela, I'll be sending her a message when I'll be making the trail to return. She'll understand." And Gleason touched the reins to his horse.
"Adois! Senor. I fix 'em all right." He was on the veranda again.
As the lower gate closed some sparks fell over it. He puffed on his pipe in the drizzle that covered him.
"Stay with it, Pal. We've got to pass that cut pretty quickly. We'll call it quits at Ned's cabin and you'll have all the rest you ever want. It's not so long now."
They jolted on together. The snow had started to melt into a slidy slush but the horse found herself equal to the journey. Gleason looked at his watch by the light his dimly burning pipe afforded.
"Quarter to three!" They were swinging into the snow-bound section, and timber was strewn in shattered bits on either side of the trail. The path was open but uncertain. They wandered somewhat slowly, until voices reached them.
"We've made it, Pal. A bit more and we'll be under the roof at Ned's." No sooner had Gleason spoken than they were winding past driftwood and shattered trees that the blast had cast aside, and he heard the Mexican lingo floating across the cold air to him. He now began to recognize the way and before many minutes was on the homeward stretch into the Ranger's
land. Before him a light and a few more yards and they were standing in his yard in a pool of slush and rain.
"Who goes there?" It was the ranger himself.
"Carter Gleason!" He had not finished repeating his name when Ned approached him.
"Mean work, Mister Gleason. We had a devil of a time forcing her open but you've found us able, I guess."
"More than able, Ned. It's mighty fine of you, old man, but how about the herd. You're good to have kept me unawares. I'd a gone crazy if I'd a known it sooner. Nela told me just tonight. What about them?" Gleason had alighted and was nervously confused. He led his horse back to the stable, accompanied by the ranger, and having found it shelter for the night, they dropped back to the cabin. They entered and placed themselves on the couch before the open fire.
Gleason looked at his watch again. "Don't know what makes me watch my time all the while—I've been keeping my eye on that watch a dozen or more times tonight."
Ned glanced at the alarm clock in the corner, instinctively. 'Three A. M." "You've got to work fast, Mister Gleason, can you do it?"
"Work fast, what do you mean, Ned?"
"I mean that we got a trace of that cattle thief up here tonight. I 'phoned Manuel to give you the word. Did you get it?"
"Sure I got the message, but what about it?" Gleason was plainly alarmed.
"Well, it's a fellow that's been hanging out down below at Arrowhead. A flashy fellow. He's been prowling around these parts pretending to buy a ranch and we traced him up to the second ranch today where that new rancher just came in, and he was making arrangements to unload your whole herd on him. He acted like he was your agent. I sent one of my boys to head him off, but he's a slick fellow. Not much of a mountaineer, for he had a hard time dodging us on his horse, but he slipped us up, I'm ashamed to admit. He told the rancher up there that he was returning on the three-thirty limited, that west-bound train this morning, and would take the money with him. Your cattle are up there, all corralled, safe and sound, but that scoundrel's somewhere down below. He didn't have time to get the money. We slipped in on him just as he was closing the deal. I wanted you to come on down tonight just for the reason that I want you to get him before he flys the coop. Will you do it?"
Gleason was sharply aroused and confused beyond discussion. "Who is he, Ned? Did you get his name?"
"Nope, don't know his name. But he told the rancher that there was a woman down at Arrowhead that was waiting for him—maybe his wife, we don't know—and that he'd have to close the deal up and hurry back 'cause she was waiting on him. They had to make that train."
They were talking fast now. Ned was up and starting for the door. Gleason after him. "You gotta travel fast, Mister Gleason. You've gotta get that fellow."
Gleason stopped short and put his hand on Ned's shoulder, looking him squarely in the eye. "Wait a minute, Ned! Before I go what about this woman? What was her name?"
"Dunno, Mister Gleason. What difference does that make? Come along."
Gleason stood still. He was reservedly determined in his answer and slower in his speech.
"It makes a lot of difference, Ned. I've got to know that."
"Well, he intimated something to the rancher about her coming up to meet some big rancher and that they were to be married shortly at the hotel below. He explained about some old romance that sprung up a long time ago, and ventured that he was here to beat the other man's time. He put on a lot of airs about being a prosperous cattle owner when he brought your herd in there."
Gleason had reeled back to the
couch again, then across the room to the telephone. "So, that's his game, is it? The dirty thief. Take my cattle —then take my girl?" He hesitated, for he had composure under his manly self-control.
"What do you mean, Mister Gleason, do you know this fellow?"
Gleason was silent. He had rung a number on the automatic. He waited for response. "Know him? I couldn't miss him on that description."
The ranger watched him intently and pricked up his ears for the conversation.
"Hello—Hello!" Gleason was squirming. "Is this Arrowhead? Yes, yes. Well, this is Carter Gleason." He clicked the receiver. "He's gone, Ned. He's gone." Gleason was desperate. He listened furtively with his mouth against the telephone. He looked at his watch. "Three-thirteen A. M." Then he clutched the receiver as he heard the voice at the other end of the wire. "Yes, this is Car-t—" he did1 not finish. "A message for me —read it—yes read—quickly." It came over the wire to him.
"When you get this well be hitting the ties for the city. Be a sport and take the litle joke. I did you a good turn and moved your cattle farther up the range. She is going to be my wife.—Graham Glenn."
Gleason snapped the receiver against its rack. He was awkwardly dizzy, but he pulled himself together. His face was white as a sheet and his teeth were set against his pinched lips.
"He's double crossed me, Ned. That fellow's forcing my hand. It's three-fifteen. I've got to make that three-thirty at San Ber'do. We've got to, Ned, we've got to." Gleason was infuriated with his nervous tension.
Ned had already opened the door and motioned Gleason toward him. "Come along, Lad. He can't beat two sons of the low Sierras."
A minute later and they were tearing the tarpaulin from the powerful Curtis biplane that lay anxiously propped for the mission it was headed for.
"Climb in, Mister Gleason. Bundle up!" He had already climbed in. The ranger spun the engine. It hummed a powerful tune against the drizzle and breeze. He likewise found his place, and behind the wheel.
"Wait a second. Who's that prowling up back there?" And Gleason motioned toward the shanty.
"Oh, that's just old man Bell. He's the sheriff of these parts now. Came down to help us get this guy."
"Hey there! Old man Bell!" Gleason was calling his loudest.
Bell approached on a run. "What do you want of him, Mister Gleason?"
Gleason was on his feet, had the sheriff around the waist and hoisted him into the biplane.
"Let 'er go, Sheriff!" It was Gleason that hollered.
With a burst they shot off into the snapping air that caught them. Ned, Mister Gleason and Sheriff Bell were hitting the air for the three-thirty west-bound Limited.
When Graham Glenn and the girl had made their departure from the Arrowhead Hotel and rolled down the road a ways from the illuminated hostelry they fell to talking in a more detailed manner.
"How long did it take you to make the trip up on the stage this evening, Gladys?"
"About three hours, Graham. It was very wet on the grade and we had to take it easy in places."
"We can make it better than that. We've got to. Our train goes at three-thirty. We'll speed ahead." And he put his foot on the gas.
"Our train?" She laughed, for his expression seemed odd. She looked forward, as though frightened with the move.
"Why, of course, our train." She said nothing; now she was watching him closely for they were driving rather rapidly.
"Tell me something, Graham. How does it happen that you were not more surprised to see me, when I spoke to the doctor tonight?"
"Because I was looking for you."
"Looking for me? What do you mean?" She was curious.
"Yes. Looking for you. I knew you would come to me when you heard of my misfortune."
"But how did you know I was there?"
"I follow the papers. Three days ago I read of your return from abroad; your intended journey to Arrowhead, and then your—well, you know the rest. And then I got to thinking of our love affair some many moons ago. I figured it all out. He never liked me. I always hated him. He's not the right man for you. You want someone that's got an established way about them—not a slinking mountaineer— you—"
"Don't. That's enough, Graham. If you're going to talk that way, I shall get right out in this rain and travel every step of the way to the hotel."
"You can't do that. You promised the doctor you would help me catch my train. Now you're going to do it." He sat closer to her, guiding the car with his left hand. His arm stole about her and he hugged her tightly to him. She screamed.
"Graham Glenn, you'll stop that! I came along to help you—it doesn't look as though you were very helpless now does it?" She was truly frightened but with some composure.
"The doctor might have thought it. I never felt healthier in all my life. I could have made this journey a dozen times tonight, but I managed it so that we would make it together. You're going down with me. He'll find out soon enough when he hits the hotel tomorrow." He was sitting closer to her now and speaking his words emphatically.
"Find out what? What do you mean?"
"The note. I left that note with the page, addressed to him. He'll retrace his steps quick enough when he finds you've promised to be my wife." She swooned. Then realizing her situation, sat rigidly upright, turned slightly in the seat and shot a piercing look at him. She was dazed and terrified, but she was herself.
"He's out of luck. Snowed-in tighter than a trap, but he'll make the hotel by the time we make the city— and when he does, he'll have the one big surprise of his young life." Glenn laughed cynically.
She was losing ground. She felt herself reel, then regained her senses, and resolved to fight her way through. "How can you do that? You've no way to force me into this. I'll show you." Her teeth locked in defiance.
He laughed again. Then spoke more decidedly. "Oh, I guess I can. We'll see about that." A train whistle sounded from afar. "Do you hear that? That's the west-bound Limited now. It's crossing the Cajon Pass; perhaps on the down-grade from Summitt. It's a fast race but we'll make it." He talked with graceful confidence.
She was unstrung with words and thoughts. "You'll be sorry for this. You can't do this." Her expressions were clearly nerve wrought and shaky.
"Oh, yes, I can. He's on that train right now, and he'll do the little deed —you wait and see."
"Whose on that train? What do you mean?"
"The minister from Devore. He's an old friend of mine—we went to college together. I wired him the word and he's flagged the Limited—probably what she blew her whistle for a while ago."
The car rolled on; the grade was almost finished. It was still drizzling and the wind-shield was covered with dew. They swung down and out of the last canyon. He held his wristwatch down against the light on the dash-board. "Three A. M. and twenty miles to go. That means work." He threw on more gas and the car slid and tossed over the bumpy gulches. She was frightened, although she said nothing. As they wheeled around a sharp corner that brought them out upon the highway he heaved a sigh of relief, and he chuckled lowly. It was lowly too, for she cast her weary eyes
at him, and her mouth twitched and she pushed herself to the far side of the seat. She wished she might jump out, but she was unwrought and powerless. He held the speedometer at forty and fairly slid down the splattered highway. The lights of the village were more discernible.
She spoke. "Who else knows this?"
"He does—perhaps. I dropped a word, unintentionally at a ranch house up above. But the snow-bound are out of luck up there. Maybe it was his house that slid the cliff—it was in that direction." His remarks were heartless. They had their desired effect, for she was coldly excited.
They wheeled around another curve. Far ahead the searchlight of the Limited lighted up the darkened roadbed. "That's the one—see it?" And he pointed exultantly toward the oncoming train. "We'll have to step to make it. She crosses the road a mile down here. We've gotta cross that grade first or we miss the train." He stepped with cowardly bravado on the throttle and the car jumped forward anew. She was thinking. They crawled closer and closer to the approaching train. The whistle sounded—clearer now, and the lights of the cars were visible. At right angles they were making even time. He was bent on crossing first— to make the switchback and reach the station on time. He placed his watch before the dash light again. She was watching him. The whistle blew more vibrantly. An idea struck her, as he pulled his arm back from the wheel. She was frenzied, the train but twenty yards away. Down went her hand to the dashboard and the lights of the machine flashed out.
"Look out—my God!" he screamed a terrified shriek, instinctively snapping his feet to the clutch and brakes. Her hand was on the limousine door. It opened, and she shut her eyes as she heard the crash. She had jumped —she knew not where. The car had met the oncoming engine on its own terms.
"What do you suppose that is down