The Seven Blue Doves
Another Story of Bulldog Carney
W. A. FRASER
Author of “Owners Up,” “The Three Sapph ires,” etc.
THEY had not been playing more than half-anhour when Bulldog Carney felt there was something wrong with the game. Perhaps it was that he was overtired—that he should have taken advantage of the first bed he had seen in a month, for he had just come in off the trail to Bucking Horse, the little, old, worn-out mining town, perched high in the Rockies on the Canadian side of the border.
From the very first he had been possessed of a mental unrest now habitual with him at poker. His adventurous spirit had always found a risk, a high stake, an absolute sedative; it steadied his nerve— gave him a concentrated enjoyment of pulled-together mental force. But to-night, there was a scent of evil in the room.
A curious room, too, in which to be playing a game of poker for high stakes, for it was the Mounted Police shack at Bucking Horse. But Sergeant Black was away on patrol, or over at Fort Steel, and at such times the key of the log barracks was left with Seth Long at his hotel, the Gold Nugget. And it was Seth who had suggested that they play in the police shack rather than in a room of the hotel.
Carney could not explain to himself why the distrust, why the feeling that everything was not on the level; but he had a curious conviction that someone in the party knew every time he drew cards just what was in his hand; that some one always over-mastered him; and this was a new sensation to Bulldog, for if there ever was a “poker face” he owned it. His steelgray eyes were as steady, as submerged to his will, as the green on a forest tree. And as to the science of the game, with its substructure of nerve, he possessed it in excelsis.
He watched each successive dealer of the cards unobtrusively ; watched hand after hand dealt, and knew that every card had been slipped from the top ; that the shuffle had been clean, a whispering riffle without catch or trick; and the same pack was on the table that they had started with. He had not lost anything to speak of—and here was the hitch, the enigma of it: once he felt that a better hand than his own had been deliberately lain down where he had raised; another time he had been called when a raise would have cost him dear, for he was overheid; twice he had been raised out of it before the draw. He felt that this had been done simply to keep him out of those hands; and both times the Stranger had lost heavily.
SETH LONG had won; but to suspicion that Seth Long could manipulate a card was to imagine a glacier dancing a can-can. Seth was all thumbs; his mind, so to speak, was all thumbs.
Cranford, the Mining Engineer, was different. He was mentality personified; that cürious type; high velocity, delicately balanced, his physical structure of the flexible tenuous quality of spring steel. He might be a dangerous man if roused. Beneath the large dome of his thin Italian-pale face were dreamy black eyes. He was hard to place. He was a mining engineer without a mine to manage. He was somewhat of a promoter—of restless activity. He was in Bucking Horse on some sort of a mine deal about which Carney knew nothing. If he had been a gambler Carney would have considered him the author of the unrest that hung so evilly over the game.
Shipley was a bird of passage, at present nesting in the Gold Nugget Hotel. Carney knew of him just as a machinery man, a seller of compressed-air drills, etc., on commission. He was also a gambler in mine shares, for during the game he had told of a cleanup he had made on the “Gray Goose” stock. The Gray Goose mine was an ill-favored bird, for its stock had had a crooked manipulation. Shipley's face was not confidence-inspiring; its general contour suggested the head-piece of a hawk, with its avaricious curve to the beak. His metallic eyes were querulous; holding little
of the human look. His hands had caught Carney’s eye when he came in to the shack first and drew off a pair of gloves. The fingers were long, and flexible, and soft-skinned. The gloves were the disquieting exhibit, for Carney had known gamblers who wore kid coverings on their hands habitually to preserve the sensitiveness of their finger tips. He also had known gamblers who, ostensibly, had a reputable occupation.
If the Stranger had been winning Carney wouldn’t have been so ready to eliminate him as the villain of the play. He was almost more difficult to allocate than Cranford. He was well dressed—too well dressed for unobservation. His name was Hadley, ánd he was from New York. Beyond the fact that he had six thousand dollars in Seth Long’s iron box, and drank somewhat persistently, little was known of him. His conversation was almost entirely limited to a boyish smile, and an invitation to anybody and everybody to “have a small sensation,” said sensation being a drink.. Once his reticence slipped a cog, and he said something about a gold mine up in the hills that a man, Tacoma Jack, was going to sell him. That was what the six thousand was for; he was going to look at it with Tacoma, and if it were as represented, make the first payment when they returned.
11 HATCHING the Stranger riffle the cards and deal ’’ them with the quiet, easy grace of a club-man, the sensitive tapering fingers slipping the paste across the table as softly as the falling of flower petals, Carney was tempted to doubt, but lifting his gray eyes to the smooth face, the boyish smile laying bare an even set of white teeth, he changed, muttering inwardly, “Too much class.”
It was puzzling; there was something wrong; the game was too erratic for finished poker players; the spirit of uncertainty possessed them all; the drawing to fill was unethical, wayward. Even when Carney had laboriously built up a quèen-full, inwardly something whispered: “What’s the use? If there are better cards out you’ll lose; if not you’ll win little.”
Carney’s own finders were receptive, and he had carefully passed them over the smooth surface of the cards many times; he could swear there was no mark of identification, no pin pricks. The pattern on the back of the cards could contain no geometric key, for it was remarkably simple; seven blue doves were in flight across a blue background that was cross hatched.
Then, all at once, he discovered something. The curve of the doves’ wings were all alike—almost. In a dozen hands he had it. It was an artistic vagary; the right wing of the middle dove was the thousandth part of an inch more acutely angled on the ace ; on the king the right wing of the second dove to the left.
It would have taken a tuition of probably three days
for a man to memorize the whole system, but it was there—which was the main thing. And the next most important factor was that somebody at the table knew the system. Who was it?
Seth had won; but a strong run of luck could have accounted for that, and Seth as a gambler was a joke. The Stranger, if he were a super-crook, hiding behind that juvenile smile, would be quite capable of this interesting chicanery—but he had lost.
Cranford, the Engineer, who had played with the consistent conservativeness of a man sitting in bad luck, was two hundred loser. The man of machinery, Shipley, was two hundred to the good ; he had played a forcing game, and but for having had two flushes beaten by Seth would have been a bigger winner. These two flushes had troubled Carney, for Shipley had drawn two cards each hand. Either he was in great luck, or knew something.
Carney debated this extraordinary thing. His courage was so exquisite that he never made a mistake through over-jealousness in the fomenting of trouble; the easy way was always the brave way, he believed. In the West there was no better key to let loose locked-up passion than to accuse men of cheating at cards; it was the last ditch at which even cowards drew and shot. He took a handkerchief from his pocket, wiped his eyes, and dropped it into his lap. At the next hand he looked at his cards, ran them together on the very edge of the table, dropped one into the handkerchief, placed the other four, neatly compacted, into the discard, and said, “I’m out!”
Then he wiped his eyes again with the handkerchief, and put it back in his packet.
A T the third deal somebody discovered that the pack was shy—a card was missing. Investigation showed that it was the ace of hearts.
A search on the floor failed to discover the ace.
The irritation caused by this incident was subdued.
“I’ll slip over to the hotel and get another pack,” .Seth Long suggested, gathering up the cards and putting them in his pocket.
From the time Carney had discovered the erratic curve to the doves’ wings he had been wanting to ask, “Who owns these cards?” but had realized that it would have led to other things: now the query had
answered itself—they were Seth’s evidently.
'T'HIS decided Carney, and he said: “I’m tired—I’ve
had a long ride to-day.”
He stacked up his chips and added : “I’m shy a
He slid five twenty dollar gold pieces on to the tab*e, and stood up yawning.
“I think I’ll quit, too,” Cranford said. “I’ve played like a wooden man. To tell you the truth, I haven t enjoyed the game—don’t know what’s the matter with
“I’m winner,” Shipley declared, “so I’ll stick with the game; but right now I’d rather shove the two hundred into the pot and cut for it than turn another card, for to play one round with a card shy is a hoodoo to me. I’ve got a superstition about it. It’s come my way twice, and each time there’s been hell.”
The boyish smile that had been hovering about Hadley’s lips suddenly gave place to a hard sneer, and he said: “I’m loser and I don’t want to quit. The
game is young, and, gentlemen, you know what that means.”
Shipley’s black brows drew' together, and he turned on the speaker:
“I haven’t got your money, mister; your losin has been to Seth. I don’t like your yap a little bit. I’ll cut the cards cold for a thousand now, or I’ll make you a present of the two hundred if you need it.”
Carney’s quiet voice hushed into nothingness a damn that had issued from Hadley’s lips; he was saying: “You two gentlemen can’t quarrel over a game of cards that I’ve sat in ; T don’t think you want to, anyway. We’d better just put the game off till to-morrow night.”
“We can’t do that,” Seth objected, “I’ve won Mr. Hadley's money, and if he wants to playI’ve got to stay with him. We’ll square up and start fresh. Anybody wants to draw cards sets in, them as don’t, quits.”
“I’ve got to have my wallet out of your box, Seth, if we're to settle now; besides I want another sensation— this bottle’s dry,” Hadley advised.
“I’ll bring over the cards, your wad, and another bottle,” Long said as he rose.
In three or four minutes he was back again, pulled the cork from a bottle of Scotch whisky, and they all drank.
Then, after passing a leather wallet over to Hadley, he totalled up the accounts.
Hadley was twelve hundred loser.
He took from the wallet this amount in large bills, passed them to Seth, and handed the wallet back saying, with the boy’s smile on his lips: “Here, banker,
put that back in your pocket—you’re responsible. There’s forty-eight hundred there now. If I put it in my pocket I’ll probably forget it, and hang the coat on my bed-post.”
Seth passed two hundred across to Shipley, saying: “That squares you.”
Cranford had shoved his chips in with an I.O.U. for two hundred dollars, saying: “I’ll pay that to-morrow.
I feel as if I had been pall-bearer at. a funeral. When a man is gloomy he shouldn’t sit into any game bigger than checkers.”
Seth now drew from a pocket two packs of cards— the blue-doved cards and a red pack; then he returned the blue cards to his pocket.
Carney viewed this performance curiously. He had been wondering intently whether the new pack would be the same as the one with the blue doves. The red cards carried a diffèrent design, a simple leafy scroll, and Carney washed his mind of the whole oblique thing, mentally absolving himself from further interest.
Seth shuffled the new cards, face up, to take out the joker; having found it, he tore the card in two, threw' it on the floor, and asked: “Now, who’s in?”
“I’ll play for one hour,” Shipley said, with an aggressive crispness: “Then I quit, win or lose; if that doesn’t go I’ll put the two hundred on the table, to Mr. Hadley’s tme hundred, and cut for the pot.”
Curiously this only raised the boy’s smile on Hadley’s face, but inflamed Seth. He turned on Shipley with a coarse raging:
“You talk like a man lookin’ for trouble, mister. Why the hell don’t you sit into the game or take your little bag of marbles and run away home?”
“I’m going,” Carney declared noisily. “My advice to you gentlemen is to cut out the unpleasantness, and play the game.”
Somewhat sullenly Shipley checked an angry retort that had risen to his lips, and, reaching for the rack of poker chips, started to build a little pile in front of him.
CRANFORD followed Carney out, and though his shack lay in the other direction, walked with the latter to the Gold Nugget. Cranford was in a most depressed mood ; he admitted this.
“There was something wrong about that game, Carney,” he asserted. “I knew you felt it—that’s why you quit. I was to go up to Bald Rock on the night train to make a little payment in the morning to se' cure some claims, but now I don’t know. I’m sore on myself for sitting in. I guess I’ve got the gambling bug in me as big as a woodchuck ; I’m easy when I hear the click of poker chips. I lose two hundred there, and while generally, it’s not more than a piker’s bet on anything, just now I’m trying to put something over in the way of a deal, and I’m runnin’ kind of close to the wind, financially. That two hundred may—hell! Don’t think me a squealer, Bulldog. Good night, Bulldog.” Carney stood for ten seconds watching Cranford’s back till it merged into the blur of the night. Then he entered the hotel, almost colliding with Jeanette Holt, who put a hand on his arm and drew him into the dining-room to a seat at a little table.
“Where’s Seth?” she asked.
“Over at the police shack.”
“Mr. Hadley there?”
Again Carney nodded. Then he asked, “Why, Jeanette?”
“I don’t quite know,” she answered wearily. “Seth s moral fibre—if he has any—is becoming like a wornout spring in a clock.” Then her dark eyes searched Carney’s placid gray eyes, and she asked: “Were you playing?”
The girl drew her hand across her eyes as if she were' groping, not for ideas but for vocal vehicle. “And you left before the game was over—why?” “Tired.”
Jeanette put her hand on Carney's that was lying on the table. “Was Seth cheating?”
“Why do you ask that, Jeanette?”
“I’ll tell you. He’s been playing by himself in his room for two or three days. He’s got a pack of cards that I think are crooked.”
“What is this Shipley like, Jeanette? Do you suppose that he brought Seth those cards?”
“I don’t know,” the girl answered; “I don’t like him. He and Seth have played together once or twice.” “They have! Look here, Jeanette, you must keep
what I am going to tell you absolutely to yourself, for I may be entirely wrong in my guess. There "was a marked pack in the game, and I think Seth owned it. This Shipley acted very like a man who was running a bluff of being angry. He and Seth had some words over nothing. It seems to me the quarrel was too gratuitous to be genuine.”
“You think, Bulldog, that Shipley and Seth worked together to win Hadley’s money—he had six thousand in Seth’s strong box?”
“I can’t go that far, even to you, Jeanette. But tomorrow Seth has got to give back to Hadley whatever he has won. I’ve got one of the cards in my pocket, and that will be enough.”
“But if he divides with Shipley?”
“Shipley will have to cough up the stolen money, too, because then the conspiracy will be proven.”
“Yes, Bulldog. I guess if you just tell them to hand the money back, there’ll be no argument. I can go to bed how and sleep,” she added, patting Carney’s hand with her slim fingers. “You see, if Seth got the Stranger’s money away it wouldn’t worry him—the moral aspect, I mean; but somehow it makes it terrible for me. It’s discovering small evil in a man—petty larceny, sneak thieving—that pours sand into a woman’s soul. Good night, Bulldog. I think if I were only your sister I’d be quite satisfied—quite.”
“You are,” Carney said, rising; “we are seven—and you are the other six, Jeanette.”
A S a rule nothing outside of a tangible actuality, such as danger that had to be guarded against, kept Carney from desh'ed slumber; but after he had turned out his light he lay wfide awake for half-anhour, his soul full of the abhorrent repugnance of Seth’s stealing.
Carney’s code was such that he could shake heartily by the hand, or drink with, a man who had held up a train, or fought (even to the death of someone) the Police over a matter of whisky or opium running, if that man were above petty larceny, above stealing from a man who had confidence in him. He lay there suffused with the grim satisfaction of knowing how completely Seth, and possibly Shipley, would be non-plussed when they were forced on the morrow to give up their illgotten gains. That would be a matter purely between Carney and Seth. The problem of how he would return the loot to Hadley without telling him of the marked pack, was not yet solved. Indeed this little mental exercise, like counting sheep, led Carney off into the halls of slumber.
He was brought back from the rest cavern by something that left him sitting bolt upright in bed, correlating the disturbing something with known remembrances of the noise.
“Yes, by gad! it was a shot!”
He was out of bed and at the window. He could have sworn that a shadow had flitted in the dim moonlight along the roadway that lay beyond the police shack; it was so possible, this aftermath of card cheating, a shot and someone fleeing. It was a subconscious conviction that caused him to precipitate himself into his clothes, and slip his gun belt about his waist.
In the hall he met Jeanette, her great mass of black hair rippling over the shoulders from which draped a kimona. The lamp in her hand enhanced the ghastly look of horror that was over her drawn face.
“What’s wrong, Jeanette—was it a shot?”
“Yes! I’ve looked into Seth’s room—he’s not there!” Without speaking Carney tapped on a door almost opposite his own; there was no answer, and he swung it open. Then he closed it and whispered : “Hadley’s
not in, either; fancy, they’re still playing.”
Jeanette pointed a finger to a door farther down the hall. Carney understood. Again he tapped on this door, opened it, peered in, closed it, and coming back to Jeanette whispered; “Shipley’s not there. Fancy it must be all right—they’re still playing. I’ll go over to the shack.”
“I’ll wait till you come back, Bulldog. It isn’t all right. I never felt so oppressed in my life. I know something dreadful has happened—I know it.”
CARNEY touched his fingers gently to the girl’s arm, and manufacturing a smile of reassurance, said blithely: “You’ve eaten a slab of bacon, a la frypan, girl.” Then he was gone.
As he rounded the hotel corner he could see a lighted lamp in a window of the police shack. This was curious; it hurried his pace, for they were not playing at the table.
He threw open the shack door, and stood just within, looking at what he knew was a dead man—Seth Long sprawled on his back on the floor where he had tumbled
from a chair. His shirt front was crimson with blood, just over the heart.
There was .no evidence of a struggle ; but the chair across the table from where Seth had sat was ominously pushed back a little. The red-backed cards were resting on the corner of the table neatly gathered into a pack.
Cool-brained Carney stood just within the door, mentally photographing the interior. The killing had not been over a game that was in pregress, unless the murderer, with super-cunning, had rearranged the tableau. ,
Carney stepped to beside the dead man. Seth’s pistol lay close to his outstretched right hand. Carney picked it up, and broke the cartridges from the cylinder; one was empty; the barrel of the gun was foul.
Seth’s shirt was black and singed; the weapon that killed him had been held close.
Carney’s brain, running with the swift, silent velocity of a spinning top, again thought; was the killer so super-clever that he had discharged Seth’s gun to make it appear suicide?
Subconsciously the marked cards that probably had led up to this murder governed Carney’s next move. He thrust his hand in the pocket of the coat where Seth had put the discarded pack—it was gone. He felt the other pocket—the pack was not there. A quick look over the room, table and all, failed to locate the missing cards. He felt the inside pocket of the coat for the leather wallet that contained Hadley’s money —there was no wallet.
At that instant a sinister feeling of evil caused Carney to stiffen, his eyes to set in a look of wariness; and at the Soft click of a boot against a stone his gun was out, and, without raising, he whipped about.
The flickering uncertain lamplight picked out from the gloom of the night in the open door-way the face of Shipley. Perhaps it was the goblin light, or fear, or malignant satisfaction that caused Shipley’s face to appear grotesquely contorted; his eyes were either gloating, or imbecile-tinged by horror.
“My God! what’s happened, Carney?” he asked. “Don’t cover me, I—I-”
“Come into the light, then,” Carney commanded.
In silent obedience Shipley stepped into the room, and Carney, passing to the door, peered out. Then he closed it, and dropped his gun back into his belt.
“What’s happened?” Shipley repeated. And the . ether, listening with intensity, noticed that the speaker’s voice trembled.
“Where have you come from just now?” Carney asked, ignoring the question.
Shipley drew* a hand across his eyes, as if he would compel back his wandering thoughts, or would blot out the horror of that blood-smeared figure on the floor.
“I went for a walk,” he answered.
“Why—when?” Carney snapped imperiously.
“I quit the game half-an-hour ago, and thought I’d walk over to Cranford’s house; the smoking, and the drinks had give me a headache.”
“Why to Cranford’s house?”
SHIPLEY threw his head up as if he were about to resent the crisp cross-examining; but Bulldog’s gray eyes, always compelling, were now fierce.
“Weil—” Shipley coughed—“I didn’t like the looks of the game to-night; that ace being shy—Didn’t you feel there was something not on the level?”
“I didn’t take that walk to Cranford’s!” The deadliness that had been in the gray eyes was in the voice now. •
“I thought that if Cranford was still up I’d talk it over with him; he’d lost, and I fancied he was sore on the game.”
“What did Cranford say?”
“I didn’t see him. I tapped on his door, and as he didn’t answer I—I thought he was asleep and came back. I saw the door open here, and—” Shipley hesitated.
“Did you leave Seth and Hadley playing?”
“And you didn’t see either of them again?”
“Did you hear a shot?” and Carney pointed toward the bloodstained shirt.
, Shipley looked at Carney and seemed to hesitate. “I heard something ten minutes ago, but thought it was a door slamming. Where’s Hadley—have you seen him? Were you here -when this was done?” “Come on,” Carney said, “we’ll go back to the hotel and round up Hadley.”
As they w^ent out Carney locked the door, the key being still in the lock.
When the two men entered the Gold Nugget, Cairney stepped behind v the' bar and turned up a ’ wall lamp that wás burning low. As he faced kbout he-
gave a start, and then hurried across the room to where a figure huddled in one of the big wooden armchairs. It was Hadley—sound asleep, or pretending to be.
When Carney shook him the sleeper scrambled drunkenly to his feet blinking. Then the boy smile flitted foolishly over his lips, and he mumbled: “I say,
how long ’ve I been asleep—where’s Seth?”
“What are you doing here asleep?” Carney asked, the crisp incisiveness of his voice wakening completely the rather fogged man.
“I sat down to wait for Seth. Guess the whisky made me sleepy-—had a little too much of it.”
“Where did you leave Seth—how long ago?”
“Over at the police shack ; we quit the game and Seth said he’d tidy up for fear the Sergeant’d be back in the morning—throw out the empty bottles, and pick up the cigar stubs and matches, kind of tidy up. I came on to go to bed and—” Hadley spoke haltingly, as though his memory of his progress was still befogged—“when I got here I remembered that he’d got my wallet, and thought I’d sit down and wait so’s to be sure he didn’t forget to put it back in the iron box.”
“Did you have a row with Seth when you breke up the game?”
Hadley flushed. He was in a slightly stupid condition. During his nap the whisky had sullenly subsided, leaving him a touch maudlin, surly.
“I don’t see what right you’ve got to ask that; I guess that’s a matter between two men.”
Carney fastened his piercing eyes on the speaker’s, and shot out with startling suddenness: “Seth Long
has been murdered—do you know that?”
“What-—what—what’re you saying?”
Hadley’s mouth remained open; it was like the gaping mouth of a gasping fish ; his eyes had been startled into a wide, horrified wonder look.
“Seth—murdered!” Then he grinned foolishly. “By God! you Westerners pull seme rough stuff. That’s not good form to spring a joke like that; I’m a tenderfeet, but—”
“Stop it!” Carney snarled; “do you think I’m a damn fool? Seth has been shot through the heart, and you were the last man with him. I want from you all you know. We’ve got to catch the right man, not the wrong man—do you get that, Hadley?”
The fierceness of this tcnic’d the man with a hangover, cleared his fuzzy brain.
“My God! I don’t know anything about it.' I Teft Seth Long at the police shack, and I don’t know anything more about him.”
There was a step on the stairway. Carney turned as Jeanette came through the door. He went to meet her, and turned her back into the hall where he said: “Steady yourself, girl. Something has happened.”
“I know—I heard you; I’m steady.” She put her hand in his, and he pressed it reassuringly. Then he whispered :
“I’m going to leave you with these two men while I get Doctor Anderson, and I want you to see if either of these men leaves the room, or attempts to hide anything—I can’t search them. Do you understand, Jeanette?”
He came back to the room with the girl and said : “I’m going for the coroner, Dr. Anderson, and for your own sakes, gentlemen, I’ll ask you to wait here in this room:—it will be better.”
Then he was gone.
In twenty minutes he was back with Dr. Anderson. On their way to the hotel Carney and the Doctor had gone in to the police shack to make certain, through medical examination, that Seth was dead.
Upon their entry Jeanette had gone upstairs, the Doctor suggesting this.
Dr. Anderson was a Scotchman, absolute, with all that the name implies in canny, conservative, stubborn adherence to things as they are; the apparent consistencies.
Here was a man murdered in cold blood; he was the only one to be considered; he was the wronged party; the others were to be viewed with suspicion until, by process of elimination, they had been cleared of guilt. So there was no doubt whatever but that Carney had as good a claim as any of them to the title of assassin.
In the flurry of it all Carney had not thought of this.
When the three stories had been told, Dr. Anderson said: ■ . ■ .
“Sergeant Black will be back to-mortow, I think, then we’ll take action. I’d advise you gentlemen to remain in statu quo, if I might use the term. There s one thing that ought to be done, though, I think you’ll agree with me that it is advisable for each ipan’s sake.A wallet with a large sum of money has disappeared
from the murdered man’s pocket, and as each one of you will be more or less under suspicion—I’m speaking now just in the way of forecasting what that unsympathetic individual the law, will do—it would be as well for each of you to submit to a search of your person. I have no authority to demand this, but it’s expedient.”
To this the three agreed; Hadley, with a sort of repugnance, and Shipley with, perhaps, an overzealous compliance, Carney thought. There was no trace of the wallet.
Carney had said nothing about the missing cards, but neither were they found.
No pistol was found on Hadley, but a short-barreled gun was discovered in Shipley’s hip pocket.
The Doctor broke the weapon, and his eyebrows drew down in a frown ominously—there' was an empty chamber in the cylinder.
“There’re only five bullets here,” he said, his keen eyes resting on Shipley’s face.
f,Yes, I always load it that -way, leaving the hammer at the empty chamber; so that if it falls and strikes on thç hammer it can’t explode.”
With an “Ugh-huh!” Anderson looked through the barrel. It was of an indeterminate murkiness; this might be due to not having been cleaned for a long time, or a recent discharge.
“I’d better retain this gun, if you don’t mind,” he said.
OHIPLEY agreed to this readily. Then he said, in a ^ hesitating, apologetic way that was really more irritating than if he had blurted it out: “Mr. Carney,
as I have stated, was discovered by me standing over the dead man with a gun ip his hand. I think as this point will certainly be brought up at any examination, that Mr. Carney, in justice to himself, should let the Doctor examine his weapon to see that it has not lately been discharged.”
Carney started, for he fancied there was a direct implication in this. But the Doctor spoke quickly, brusquely. “Most certainly he should—I clean forget ‘ it.”
Carney drew the gun from its leather pccket, broke it, and six lead-nosed .45 shells rolled on the table: not one of the shells had lost its bullet. He passed the gun to Dr. Anderson, who, pointing it toward the light, looked through the barrels.
“As bright as a silver dollar,” he commented, relief in his voice ; “I’m glad we thought of this.”
Carney slipped the Shells back into the cylinder,'and dropped the gun into its holster without comment.
Then the Doctor said: “We can’t do anything to-
night—we’ll only obliterate any tracks and lose good clues. We’ll take it up in the morning. You men have got to clear yourselves so I’d just rest quiet, if I were, you. If we go poking about we’ll have the whole town about our ears, I’m glad that nobody thought it worth while to investigate if they heard the shot.”
“A shot in Bucking Horse doesn’t mean much,” Carney said, “just a drunken miner, or an Indian playing brave.”
It seemed to Carney that Anderson had rather hurried the closing out of the matter, that is, temporarily. It occurred to him that -the Scotchman’s herring-hued eyes were asking him to acquiesce in what was being done.
Carney lingered when Shipley and Hadley had gone to bed.
' The Scotch Doctor had filled a pipe, and Bulldog noticed that as he puffed vigorously at its stem his eyçs had wandered several times to the platoon of black bcttles ranged with military precision behind the bar.
“I’m tired over this devilish thing,” Carney remarked casually, and passing behind the bar he brought out a bottle and two glasses, adding, “Would you mind joining?”’
“I’d like it, man. Good whisky is like good law, a wèe bit of it is very fine, too much of it is as bad as roguery.” ' , _
The Doctor quaffed with zest the liquid, wiped his lips with a florid red handkerchief, took a puff at. the evil-smelling pipe and said:
“Court’s over!-A minute ago I was ‘Jeffries, the Hangin’ Judge,’ and to-morrow, as coroner, I’ll be as veecious no doubt; now, ad interim " (the Doctor was fond of a legal phrase), “I’m going to talk to you, Bulldog, as man to man, because I want your help to pin the right devil. And, besides, I have a soft spot in my heart for Jeanette—perhaps it’s just her Scotch name, I’m not sayin’. In the first place, Bulldog, has it struck yoq that you’re in fair runnin’ to be selected as the man that killed Seth?”
Carney laughed; then he looked quizzically at the speaker .but he .could see that the latter was in deadly earnest.
“Mind,” the Doctor resumed, “personally I know you didn’t do it; that’s because I know you devilish well— you’re too big for such small-brained acts. But the law is a godless machine; its way is like the way of a brick mason—facts are the bricks that make the structure.”
“But the law always searched for the motive, and why should I kill Seth, who was more or less a friend?” “All the worse. As a matter of fact there are more slayings over strained friendships than over the acquisition of gold. But don’t you remember what that foul-mouthed brute, Kootenay Jim, and when Jeanette’s brother was near lynched ?”
Carney stared ; then a little flush crept over his lean tanned face:
“You 'mean, Doctor, about Jeanette and myself?”
Carney nodded, holding himself silent in suppressed bitterness.
“The same evil mouths will repeat that, Bulldog.
And here are the bricks for the law’s building.
Shipley will swear that he found you bending over the murdered man with a gun in one hand searching his pockets. And I noticed, though I didn’t speak of it, there was blood on your hands.”
Startled, Carney looked at his fingers; they were blood-stained. Then he, drew' his gun, saying:
“God! and there’s blood on this thing, too!”
“There is; I saw it on the butt. And though you broke it here before us tonight to show that it hadn’t been discharged, Sergeant Black, while he’s thick-headed, will perhaps have wit enough to say that you were off by yourself when you came for me, and could have cleaned house.”
“And that swine, Shipley—do you suppose he thought of that too?”
“I think he did : I did at the time, though I said nothing. You see, Carney innocent or guilty, he naturally wants to clear himself and he took a chance. If he ’s innocent he may really think that you killed Seth, and hoped to find the proof of it in a smudged gun and an empty shell; and if he’s guilty, he was directing suspicion, towards you, knowing that the clean gun would be nothing in your favor at the examination as you had had the opportunity to put it right» I don’t like the incident, * nor the man’s spirit, but it proves nothing for or against him. Í expect he’s clever enough to know that the last rr. in seen with a murdered man is, de facto, the slayer.”
“As to the matter of the gun,” Carney said. “I’ve an idea Seth was Killed with his own gun. He was in a grouchy mood to-night—he always was a damn fool -—and 'IP may have pulled his gun, in his usual bluffing way, and the other party twisted it out oí his hand and shot him. I only heard one shot.” Carney remained silent for a full minute; then he said:
“One doesn’t care to bring a good woman’s name into anything that’s evil, but I fancy I’d better tell you: Jeanette wras wakened by the shot that wakened me, and we talked in the hall before I went over to the police shack.”
“That’ll be valuable evidence to establish your alibi, Bulldog—in the eyes of the law, in the eyes of the law."
TpHEN the Doctor puffed moodily at his pipe, and •* Carney could read the wnriting on the wall in the irritable little balloons of smoke that went up, the Doctor’s unexpressed meaning that gossips would say Jeanette had sworn falsely to clear him.
“Hadley wras evidently the last man playing cards with Seth, and there was considerable money at stake; that he was still up when the murder wras discovered —these things are against him. Supposing he did shoot Seth, he might have come to the hotel, and seeing a light in the upper hall, and hearing Jeanette mov-
ing about, might have sat in that dark corner till things had quieted down before going to his room.” “Hadley isn’t the kind to commit murder.” “To-night he was another kind of man—he w’as pretty drunk; and the man that’s drunk is like an eng’.ne that had lost the governing balls—he has lost control. And the shock of the murder may have sobered him enough to make him a bit cautious.”
“But Shipley was out, too,” Carney objected.
“Aye, he was; and he’s got a devilish lame story about going to see Cranford. I don’t like his face— it’s avariciously vicious—he’s greedy. But the law’ can’t hang a man for having a bad face; it takes little stock in the physiologist’s point of view.”
Carney sat thinking hard. The full significance of the attached possibilities had been put clearly before him by the astute, canny Scotchman, and he realized
that it was friendship. He was certain the Doctor suspected Shipley.
“I wanted to get shut of yon tw'o,” the Doctor added, presently, “for you’re the man that needs to get this cleared up, and you’re the man can do it, even as you caught Jack the Wolf. Is thei’e any clue that wre can follow’ up before the trail gets cold?”
“There is, Doctor. There w’as a pack of marked cards in Seth’s pocket, and they’re gone.”
“The man that has that pack is the murderer,” Doctor Anderson declared emphatically.
“And the w’allet.”
'T'IIEN Carney explained to the Doctor that the marked pack had evidently belonged to Seth, and told of the change in cards, and the possibility that Shipley had stood in with Seth on the winnings, letting the latter do all the dirty work, perhaps helping Seth’s game along by raising the bet w’hen he knew that Seth held the winning cards.
Again the Doctor consulted his old briar pipe; then he said: “Either
Shipley or somebodj’ was in collusion with Seth, you think?”
“If we could get that man—?”
“Look here, Doctor,” and Carney put his hand on the other’s knee, “whoever has got that money will not try to take it out over the railroad for it was in fifty dollar bills of the Bank of Toronto.”
“I comprehend; the wires, and the police at every important point; a search. Aye, aye! What’ll he do, Bulldog?”
“It’ll go out over the thieves’ highway, down the border trail to Montana or Idaho.”
“My guidness! I think you’re right. Pei’haps before morning somebody may be headin’ south with the loot. If it’s Shipley— I mean, anybody—he may have a colleague to take the money down over the border.”
“Yes, the money; he’ll not try to handle it in Canada for fear of being trapped on the numbers.” “So you might not get the murderer after all,” Anderson said meditatively; “just an accomplice wrho wouldn’t squeal.” “No, not with the money alorte on him we wouldn’t have just what I W’ant, but when we get a man with the marked pack in his pocket that’s the murderer. It was devilish fatalism that made him take that pack, like a man will cling to an old pocket-knife; they’re the tools of his trade, so to speak. And here in the mountains he could not handily come by another pack, perhaps.
“I comprehend. If the slayer goes down that trait he’ll have the marked cards with him still, but if he sends an accomplice the man’ll just have the money on him. Very logical, Bulldog.”
TWICE as they had talked Carney had stepped quickly, silently to the door at the foot of the stairway and listened; now’ he came back, and lowering his voice said: “I get you, Doctor; it’s devilish square of you. I’m clear of this thing. T fancy, as you say, in
Continued on page 68
The Seven Blue Doves
Continued from page 25
the eye of the law, but for a good woman’s sake I’ve got to get the murderer.
“It would be commendable, Carney, if you can.”
“Well, then, give these other men plenty of rope.”
“I comprehend,” and Doctor Anderson nodded his head.
“I’ve got a man—‘Oregon’ he’s known as—down at Big Horn Crossing; he’s there for my work; I’m going to pull out to-night and tell Oregon to search every man that rides the border trail going south.”
“I don’t know whether I can give you
the proper authority. Bulldog—I’ll look it up with the town clerk.”
Carney laughed, a soft throaty chuckle of honest amusement.
Piqued, the Doctor said irritably: “You’re thinkin’, Bulldog, that the little town clerk and myself are somewhat. of a joke as representing authority, eh?” . .
“No, indeed, Doctor. I was thinking of Oregon. He’s got his authority for everything, got it right in his belt; he’ll search his man first and explain afterwards and when he gets the right man he’ll bring him in. First I’m going to make a cast around the police shack with a lantern. Even by its light I may ' pick up some information. I’ll get Jeanette to stake me to a couple of days’ grub; I’ll take some cats for the buckskin, and be back in three days.” “I’ll wait here till you have a look,” the Doctor declared; “there might be some clue you’d be leaving with me to follow' up.”
CARNEY secured a ^reflector lantern.
from a back roonrC and first kneeling down examined the footsteps that had been left in the soft black earth -around the police shack door. He seemed to discover a trail, for he skirted the building, stooping down with the lantern held close to the ground, and once more knelt under a back window. Here there were tracks of a heavy foot; some that indicated that a man had stood for some time there; that sometimes he had been peering in the window, the toe prints almost touching the wall. There were two deeply indented heel marks as if somebody had dropped from the window.
Carney put up his band and tested the lower half of the sash. He could shove it up quite easily. Next he drew a sheet of paper from His pocket—it was really an old letter—and with his pocket knife cut it to fit a footprint that was in the earth. Then he returned to the front door, and with his paper gauge tested the different foot imprints, following them a piece as they led away from the shack. He stood up and rubbed his chin thoughtfully, his brows drawn into a heavy frown of reflection, ending by starting off at a fast pace that carried him to the edge of the little town.
In front of a small log shack he stooped and compared the paper in his hand with some footprints. He seemed puzzled, for there were different boot tracks, and the one—the latest, he judged, for they topped the others—was toeing away from the shack.
He straightened up and knocked on the door. There was no answer. He knocked again loudly; no answer. He shook the door by the iron handle until the latch clattered like a castenet: there was no sound from within. He stepped to a window, tapped on it and called, “Cranford, Cranford!” the gloomed stillness of the shack convinced him that Cranford had gone—perhaps, as he had intimated, to Bald Rock.
He went back and fitted the paper into the topmost tracks, those heading away from the shack. The paper did not seem to fit—not quite; in fact, the other track was closer to the paper gauge.
Back at the hotel he related to Dr. Andersen the result of his trailing.
When he spoke of Cranford’s absence from the shack, the Doctor involuntarily exclaimed: “My God'! that does
complicate matters. I was thinking we might get a double hitch on yon Shipley by proving from Cranford he hadn’t been near the latter’s shack. But now it involves Cranford, if he’s gone. He’s an unlucky devil, that, and I know, on the quiet, that he’s likely to get in trouble over some payments on a mine, they are threatening a suit for misappropriation of funds or something.” “You see, Doctor,” Carney said, “the sooner I block the likely get-away-gate the better.”
“Yes. You pull out as soon as you like. I’ll have a search for Cranford, and I’ll generally keep things in shape till Sergeant Black comes—likely tomorrow he’ll be here. I’ll hold an inquest and, of course, the verdict will be ‘by some one unknown.' I'll say that
you’ve gone to hurry in Sergeant
WHEN the Doctor had gone Carney VY went upstairs to where Jeanette was waiting for him in the little front sitting-room.
With her there was little beyond just the horror of the terrible ending to it. Her life with Seth Long had been a curious one, curious in its absolute emptiness of everything but just an arrangement. There was no affection, no pretense of it. She was like a niece, or even a daughter to Seth; their relationship had been practically on that basis. Her father had been a partner of Long in some of his enterprises, enterprises that had never been much of anything beyond final failure. When his partner had died Seth had assumed charge of the girl. It was perhaps the one redeeming feature in Seth’s ordinary, useless life.
Now Jeanette and Carney hardly touched on the past which they both knew so well, or the future about which, just now, they knew nothing.
Carney explained, as delicately as he could, the situation; the desirability of his clearing his name absolutely, independent of her evidence, by finding the murderer. He really held in his mind a somewhat nebulous theory. He had not confided this fully to Doctor Anderson, nor did he now to Jeanette; just told her that he was going away for two or three days and would be supposed to have gone after the Mounted Policeman.
He told her about the disappearance of the marked pack, and explained how much depended upon the discovery of its present possessor.
IT was within an hour of daybreak when Carney, astride his buckskin, slipped quietly out of Bucking Horse, and took the trail that skirted the tortuous stream toward the south. He had had no sleep, but that didn’t matter; for two or three days and nights at a stretch he could go without sleep when necessary. Perhaps when he spelled for breakfast, as the buckskin fed on the now drying autumn grass, he would snatch a brief half hour of slumber, and again at noon; that would be quite enough.
When the light became strong he examined the trail. There were several tracks; cayuse tracks, the larger footprints of what were called bronchos, the track of pack mules; they were coming and going. But they were cold trails, seemingly not one fresh. Little cobwebs, like gossamer wings, stretched across the sunken bowl-like indentations, and dew sparkled on the silver mesh like jewels in the morning sun.
It was quite ten o’clock when Carney discovered the footprints of a pony that were evidently fresh; here and there the outcupped black earth where the cayuse had cantered glistened fresh in the sunlight.
Carney could not say just where the cayuse had struck the trail he was on. It gave him a depressed feeling. Perhaps the rider carried the loot, and had circled to escape interception. But when Carney came to the cross trail that ran from Fort Steel to Kootenay the cayuse tracks turned to the right toward Kootenay, and he felt a conviction that the rider was not associated with the murder. With that start he would be heading for across the border; he would not make for a Canadian town where he would be in touch with the wires.
Along the border trail there were no fresh tracks.
T T was toward evening when Carney passed through the Valley of the Grizzley’s Bridge—past the gruesome place where Fourteenfoot Johnson had been killed by Jack the Wolf, past where he himself had been caught in the beartrap.
The buckskin remembered it all; he was in a hurry to get beyond it; he clattered over the narrow, winding, up-anddown footpath wdth the eager hasty steps of a fleeing goat, his head swing-
ing nervously, his ’big lop ears weaving back and forth in apprehension.
Well beyond the Valley of the Grizzley’s Bridge, past the dark maw of the cave in which Jack the Wolf had hidden the stolen gold, Carney went, camping in the valley, that had now~ broadened out, when its holding walls of mountain sides had blanketed the light so that he travelled along an obliterated trail, obliterated to all but the buckskin’s finer sense of perception.
At the first, graying of the eastern sky he was up, and after a snatch of breakfast for himself and the buckskin, hurrying south again. No one had passed) in the night for Carney had slept on one side of the trail while the horse fed or rested on the other, with a picket line stretched between them; and there were no fresh tracks.
At. two o’clock he came to the little log shack just this side of the U.S. border where Oregon kept his solitary ward. Nobody had passed, Oregon advised, and Carney gave the old man his instructions, which were to search any passer, and if he had the fifty dollar bills, or the marked cards, hobble him and bring him back to Bucking Horse.
Over a pan of bacon and a pot of strong tea Oregon reported to his superior all their own endeavor, which, in truth, was opium running. That was his office, to drift across the line casually, back and forth, as a prospector, and keep posted as to customs officers; who they were, where the kind hearted ones were, and where the fanatical ones . were; for once Carney had been ambushed, practically illegally, five miles within Canadian territory, and' had had to fight his way out, leaving twenty thousand dollars’ worth of opium in the bands of a tyrannical customs department.
At four o’clock Carney sat the buckskin, and reached down to grasp the band of his lieutenant.
“I’ll tell you, Bulldog,” ithie la/tter said, swinging his eyes down the valley toward, the south-west, “there’s somethin’ brewin’ in the way of weather. My hip is pickin’ a quarrel with that flatnosed bit of lead that’s been nestin’ in a j’int’ until I just natural feel as if somebody’d fresh plugged me.”
CARNEY laughed, for the day was glorious. The valley bed through which wandered, now sluggishly, a green-tinged stream, lay like a glorious Oriental rug, its colors rich-tinted by the warm flood of golden light that hung in the cedar and pine-perfumed air. The lower reaches of the hills on either side were crimson, and gold, and pink, and purple, and emerald green, all softened into a gentle maze like tapestry where the gaillardias and' monkshood, and wolf-willow, and salmonberry and Saskatoon bushes caressed each other in luxurious profusion, their floral bloom preserved in autumn tawny richness lay the dry mountain air.
And this splendor of God’s artistry, this wondrous great tapestry, was hung against the sombre green wall of a pine and fir forest that zig-zagged, and stood in blocks, all up the mountain side like the design of some giant cubist.
Carney laughed and swung his gloved hand in a semi-circle of derision.
„ “Tt’s purty,” Oregon said, “It’s purty but I’ve seen a purty woman, all smilin’ too, break out in a hell of a temper afore you could say ‘hands up.’ My hip don’t never make no mistakes cause it aint got no fancies. It’s a-comin’. You ride like hell, Carney, it’s a-comin’. Say Bulldog, look at that!” And Oregon’s long, lean, not overclean finger pointed to the buckskin’s head: “He knows as
well as I do that the Old Man of the Mountains is cookin’ up somethin’. See ’em mule lug3 of his—see the white of 'that eye? And he aint takin’ in no purty scenery, he’s lookin’ over his shoulder, down off there.” And Oregon stretched a long arm toward the West, toward the home of the blue-green mountains of ice, the glaciers.
“It’s too early for a blizzard,” Carney contended.
“It might be, if they run on schedule time like the trains, but they don’t. I froze to death once in one in September.
I I cone back to "life again, ’cause I'd been ¡ good always; and perhaps, Bulldog, your record mightn't let you out if you I got caught between nere and Buckin’ ! Horse in a real lie-game cf snow hell’ry. j The trail runs mostly up narrow valleys that would pile twenty feet deep, and I reckon, though you don't care overmuch yourself what gener’ly happens, you don’t want to give the bucksk:n a raw deal by gettin’ him into any fool finish. He knows ; he wants to get to a nice little silk-lined sleepin’ box nfore this snoozer hits the mountains. Good-bye, Bulldog, and ride like hell— the buckskin won’t mind ; let him run the show—he knows, the clever little cuss.”
Carney’s slim fingers, though steel, were almost welded together in the heat of the squeeze they got in Oregon's bear-trap of a paw\
The trail here was like a prairie road for the valley was flat and the buckskin accentuated his apprehensive eagerness by whisking away at a sharp canter. Carney could hear, from over his shoulder, the croaking bellow of Oregon who had noticed this :
“He knows, Bulldog. Leave him alone. Lst him run things hisself!”
THOUGH Carney had laughed at Oregon’s gloomy forecast, he knew the old man was weather-wise, that a lifetime spent in the hills and the wide places of earth had tutored him to the varying moods of the elements; that his super-sense was akin to the subtle understanding of animals. So he rode late into the night, sometimes sleeping in the saddle, as the buckskin, with loose rein, picked his way up hill and down dale and along the brink of gorges w:th the surefootedness of a big-horn. He camped beneath a giant pine whose fallen cones and needles had spread a luxurious mattress, and whose balsam, all unstoppered, floated in the air, a perfume that was like a balm of life.
Almost across the trail Carney slent lest the bearer of the loot might slip by in the night.
He had la>n down with one gray blanket over him; he had gone to s^een with a delicious sense of warmth and cosiness; he woke shivering. His eyes opened to a gray light, a faint grav, the steeliness that filtered down into the gloomed valley from a paling sky. A day was being born; the night was dying.
An appalling hush was in the air; the valley was as devoid of sound as though the very trees had died in the night; as if the air itself had been sucked out from between the hills, leaving a void.
The buckskin was up and picking at the tender shoots of a young birch. It had been a half-whinnying snort from the horse that had wakened Carney, for now he repeated it, and threw his head up, the lop ears cocked as though he listened for some break in the horrible stillness, watched for something that was creeping stealthily over the mountains from the w^est.
Carney wet the palm of his hand and held it up. It chilled as though it had been dipped jn evaporating spirits. Looking at the buckskin Oregon’s croak came back:
“He knows: ride lika hell, Bulldog!”
CARNEY rose, and poured a little feed of oats from his bag on a corner of his blanket for the horse. He built a. fire and brewed in a copper pot his tea. Once the shaft of smoke that spiralled lazily upward flickered and swished flat like a streaming wist) of hair; and above, high up in the giant pine harp, a minor string wailed a thin tremulous note. The gray of the morning that had been growing bright now gloomed again as though night had fled backwards before the thing that was in the mountains to the west.
The buckskin shivered; the hairs of his coat stood on end like fur in a bitter cold dav, he snapped at the oats as though he bit at the neck of a stallion; he crushed them in his strong jaws as though he were famished, or ate to save thetn from a thief.
In five minutes the strings of the giant harp above Carney’s head were playing a dirge; the smoke of his fire swirled, and the blaze darted here and there
angrily, like the tongue of a serpent. From far across the valley, from somewhere in the rocky caverns of the mighty hills, came the heavy moans of genii. It was hardly a noise, it was a great oppression, a manifestation of turmoil, of the turmoil of God's majesty, his creation in travail.
Carney quaffed the scalding tea, and raced with the buckskin in the eating of bis food. He become a living thermometer; his chilling blood told him that the temperature was going down, down, down. The day before he had ridden with his coat hung to the horn of his saddle; now a vagrant thought flashed to his buffalo coat in his room at the Gold Nugget.
He saddled the buckskin, and the .horse, at the pinch of the cinch, turned from his oats that were only half-eaten, and held up his head for the bit.
Carney strapped his dunnage to the back of the saddle, mounted, and the buckskin, with the snort of relief, took the trail with eager steps. It wound down to the valley here toward the west, and little needles stabbed at the rider’s eyes and cheeks as though the air were filled with indiscernible diamond dust. It stung; it burned his nostrils; it seemed to penetrate the horse’s lungs, for he gave a snorting cough.
And the full orchestra of the hills was filling the valleys and the canyons with an overture, as if, perched on the snowed slopes of Sauaw Mountain was the hydraulican of Vitruvius, a torrent raging its many throats into unearthly dirge.
Carney’s brain vibrated with this vresaee of the something that had thrilled his horse. In his ears the wailing, sighing, reverberating music seemed to carrv as refrain the words of Oregon: “Ride like hell, Carney! Ride like hell!”
And, as if the command were within the buckskin’s knowing, he raced where the path was good; and where it was bad he scrambled over the stones, and shelving rocks, and projecting roots, with cat-like haste.
IN Carney’s mind was the cave, the worked-out mine tunnel that drove in to the mountain side; the cave that Jack the Wolf had homed in when he murdered the men on the trail; it was two hcurs beyond. If he could make that he and the buckskin would be safe, for the.horse could entier it too.
In the thought of saving his life the buckskin occupied a dual olace; that’s what Oregon had said : he had no right to jeopardize the callant little steed that had saved him more than once with fleet heel and stout heart.
He patted the eager, straining neck in front of him, and, though he spoke aloud, his voice was little more in that valley of echo and reverberation than a whisper: “Good, Patsy boy, we’ll
make it. Don’t fret yourself tired, old sport; we’ll make it—the cave.”
The horse seemed to swing his head reassuringly as though he, too, had in his heart theundying courage that nothing daunted.
Now the invisible cutting dust that had scorched Carney’s face had taken visible form; it was like fierce-driven flour. Across the valley the towering hills were blurred shapes. Carney^s eyelashes were frozen ridges above his eyes; his breath floated away in little clouds of ice; the buckskin coat of the horse had turned to gray.
Sometimes at the turn of a cliff was a false lull as if the storm had been stayed; and then in twenty yards the doors of the frozen north swung again and icy fingers of death gripped man and beast.
And all the time the white prisms were growing larger; closer objects were being blotted out; the prison walls pf ice were coming closer; it was more difficult to breathe; his life blood was growing sluggish ; a chill was suggesting indifference—why fight?
The horse’s feet were muffled by the ghastly white rug, the blizzard was spreading over the earth that the day before had been a cloth of gold; it was like a winding sheet.
Carney could feel the brave little beast falter and lurch as the merciless
snow clutched at his legs where it had swirled into billows.
To the man direction was lost—it was like being above the clouds; but the buckskin held on his way straight and true, fighting, fighting, making the glorious fight that is without fear. To stop, to falter, meant death ; the buckskin knew it; but he was tiring.
Carney unslung his picket line, put the loop around his chest below his arms, fastened it to the saddle horn, leaving a play of eight feet, and' slipping to the ground, clutched the horse’s tail, and patted him on the rump. The buckskin knew; he had checked for five seconds; now he went on again, the weight off his back being a relief.
The change was good; Carney had felt the chill of death creeping over him in the saddle; the deadly chill, the palpitating of the chest that preluded a false warmth that meant the end, the sleep of death. Now the exertion wined his blood; it brought the battling back.
Time, too, like direction, was a haze in the man’s mind. Two hours aw¿iy the cave had been, and surely they had struggled on hcur after hour. It scarce mattered; to draw forth his watch and look was a waste of energy, the vital energy that weighed against his death; an ounce of it wasted was folly; just Gn through the enveloping curtain cf that white wall.
CARNEY had meant to remount the horse when he was warmer, when he himself was tiring; but it would be murder, murder cf the little hero that had fought his battles ever since they had been together. The buckskin’s flanks were pumping spasmodically, like the sides of a bellows; his withers drooped: his head was lew hung: he looked lean and small—scarce mightier than a jackrabbit, knee deep in the shifting sea of snow.
Rut the cave must be near. Carney found himself repeating these words: “The cave is near, the cave is near Patsy; on, boy—the cave is near.” His mind dwelt on the wood that he had left in the cave when he took Jack the Wolf to Bucking Horse; of hów cosy it would be with a bright fire going, and the baffled blizzard“ howling without. Yes. he would make it. Was his life, so full of the wild adventures that he had always won out on, to be blotted out by just a snow storm, just cold?
He took a lofty stand against this. He was possessed of a feeling that it was a combat between the crude elements .and his vical force of mental stamina. If he kept up his courage he would win out, as he always had. It was just Excelsior and Success, just— There was a swirl of oblivion; he had flown through space and collided with another world; there had been some sort of a gross shock; he was alone, floating through space, and passing through snow-laden clouds. There was a restful exhilaration, such as he had felt once when passing under an anesthetic—Nirvana.
Then the cold snout of some abnormal creature in these regions of the beyond pressed against his face. -Gradually, as though waking from a dream—it was the muzzle of the buckskin nosing him back to consciousness. He struggled painfully to his feet. How heavy his legs were; at the bottom of them were leaden-soled diver’s boots. Hós brain not more than half clearing at that, he realized that he and the buckskin had slid from a treacherous shelf of rock, and fallen a dozen feet; the snow, unwittingly kind, catching them in a lap of feathery softness. But for the gallant horse he would have lain there never to rise again of his own volition.
They scrambled back to the trail, he and the little horse, and they were going forward. Oregon’s command wras working out—“Let the buckskin have his own way.”
IF they had been out on the prairie, undoubtedly they would have gone around in a circle—in fact Carney once had done so—and the cold would have been more intense, the sweep of the wind more life-sapping; but here in the valleys in places the snow piled deeper; it was like surf rolling up in billows;
it took the life force out of man and horse. ,
Carney was so wearied by the sustained struggle that was like a man battling the waves, half the time beneath the waters, that his flagged senses became atrophied, numbed, scai-ce tabulating anything but the fact that they still held on toward the cave.
Then he heard a bell. Curious that. Was it all a dream—or was this the real thing: that he was in a merry party, a sleighing party—that they were going to a ball in a stone palace? He could hear a sleigh bell.
Then he was nice and warm. He stretched ¿himself lazily. It was a dream—he was waking.
When he opened his eyes he saw a fire, and the flickering fire-light played
on the stone walls. Beside the fire was sitting a man; behind him something stamped on the stone floor.
He turned his head and saw the buckskin asleep on his feet with low-hung head.
“How d’you feel, Stranger ?” the man at the fire asked, rising up, and coming to his side.
Carney stared ; he was supposed to be back there fighting a> blizzard. And now, remembrance, coursing with langourous speed through his mind, he was in the cave where he had held Jack the Wolf a prisoner.
He sat up and pondered this with groggy slowness.
“Some horse that, Stranger.” The man’s voice that had sounded thinly
sinister had a humanized tone as he said this.
'Carney’s tongue was dry, puckered from the lower vitality. He tried to answer, and, the man, noting this, said: “Take your time, Mister. You’re making the grade all right, all right.. I knowed you was just asleep. Try this dope.”
He poured some hot tea into a tin cup. It tonic’d the tired Carney; it was like oil on the dry bearings of a delicate machine.
“Some April shower,” the man said, piling wood on the fire. “I heerd a horse neigh—it "was kind of a squeal', and my bronch havin’ drifted out to sea ahead of this damn gale, I thinks he’s come back. I heerd his bell, and I makes a fight with ol’ white whiskers—’twan’t more ’n ’bout ten yards at that—and
there’s that danged rat of yours, and he won’t come in to the warm ’cause you’d got pinned agin a boulder and snow; he seemed to know that if he pulled too hard he’d break your danged neck. Then we got you in1—that’s all. Some horse!”
This and the warmth, and the tonic tea brought Carney up to date. He held out his hand.
But a curious metamorphosis in the man startled Carney. He turned surlily to shake up the fire, throwing over' his shoulder; “I aint done nothin’; you've got to thank that little jackrabbit fer pullin you through. I went out after my own bronch.”
“But aint I all right, Stranger?” Carney asked gently, for he had met many men in the waste places with just this curious antipathy to an unknown. Oregon was like that. Men living in the wide outside became like outcast buffalo bulls, in their supersensitiveness —every man was an enemy till he proved himself.
’■PHE man straightened up, and his A eyes, that were set too close together each side of the fin-like nose, rested on Carney in a squinting look of distrust.
“I aint never knowed but one man was all right, and the Mounted Police hounded him till he give up.”
The cave man turned the stem of the pipe he had been smoking toward the horse. “That buckskin with the mule ears belongs to Bulldog Carney. Are you him, or are you a hawse thief?” “How do you know the horse?”
“I got reason a-plenty to know him, He cleaned me out in Walla-Walla when he beat Clatawa; and I guess you’re the racin’ shark that cold-decked us boys with this ringer.”
Now Bulldog knew why the aversion. “I’m Carney,” he admitted, “but it was the gamblers put up the job; I just beat them out.”
“Where d’you come from now? the cave man asked.
“Bailey’s Ferry,” Carney answered in oblique precaution. He noticed that the other hung with peculiar intensity on his answer.
“How lopg was you fightin* that blizzard?”
“Since daylight—when I broke camp. Carney looked at his watch ; it was three o’clock. “How long have I been here?” “A couple of hours. Was you runnin* booze or hop, Bulldog?”
Carney started. Perhaps the cave man was conveying a covert threat, an intimation that he might inform on him. “Don’t let’s talk shop,” he answered.
“I aint got no sore spots on my hide,” the other sneered; “I’m an ordinary damn fool of a gold chaser, and I’ve been up in the Eagle Hills trailin’ a ledge ofauriferous quartz that’s buck-jumpin' acrost the mountains so damn fast I never got a chanct to rope it. I’d astuck her out if the chuck hadn’t petered. When I’ve just got enough sourbelly to see me to the outside I pulled my freight. That’s me, Goldbug Dave.”
I-'HE other’s statements flashed into Carney’s mind a sudden disturbing thought—food ! He, himself, had about one day’s supply—had he it? He turned to his dunnage and saddle that lay where they had been tossed by the cave man when he had stripped them from the horse. His bacon and bannock were gone !
Wheeling, he asked, “Did you see anything of my grub?”
“All that was on your bronch is there, Bulldog. I don’t rob no man’s cache. And all I got’s here.” He held up in one hand a slab of bacon, about four pounds in weight, and in the other a drill bag, in its bottom a round bulge of flour the size of a cocoanut. “That’s got to get me to Bailey’s Ferry,” he added as he dropped them back at the head of his blankets.
A subconscious presentiment of trouble caused Carney, through force of habit, to caress the place where his gun should have been—the pigskin pocket was empty.
The other man bared his teeth; it was like the quiver of a wolf’s lip. “Your Gatt must ’ve kicked out back there in the snow; I see it was gone.”
Bulldog knew this was a lie; he knew
the cave man had taken his gun. He ran his eye over his host’s physical exhibit—when the time came he would get his gun back or appropriate the one so in evidence in the other’s belt. He went back to his dunnage, a thought of the buckskin in his mind; to his joy he found the horse’s oats safe in the bag. This fastened the idea he hnd that the other had stolen his food, for his bacon and bannock had been in the same bag, they could hardly have worked out and the oats remain.
He sat down again, and mentally arranged the situation. He could hear outside the blizzard still raging. He could see in the opening the swirling snow that indeed had gradually raised a barrier, a white gate to their chamber. This kept the intense cold out, a cold that was at least fifty below zero. The snow would lie in the valleys through which the trail wound twenty feet deep in places. They had no snowshoes; he had no food; and Goldbug Dave’s store was only sufficient for a week, with two men eating it.
He knew that there was something in Dàve’s mind; either a bargain, or a fight for the food. They might be imprisoned for a month; a chinook wind might come up the next day, or the day following that would melt the snow with its soft warm kiss like rain washes a Btreet.
Carney was not hungry; the strain •had left him fagged—he was hungry only for rest; and the buckskin, he knew, felt the same desire. ;
He lay down, and had slept two hours when he was wakened by the sweet perfume of frying pork.
CASUALLY he noticed that but one slice of bacon lay in the pan. He watched the cook turn it over and over with the point of his hunting knife, cooking it slowly, economically, hoarding every drop of its vital fat. When the bacon was cooked' the chef lifted it out on the point of his knife and stirred some flour into the gravy, adding water, preparing that delicacy of the trail known as slumgullion.
Dave withdrew the pan and let it rest on the stone floor just beside the fire; then he looked across at Carney, and, catching the gray of his opened eyes, worded the foreboding thought that had been in Carney’s mind before he fell asleep.
“I aint got no call to give you a showdown on this, Bulldog, but I’m goin’ to. When I snaked you in here that didn’t cost me nothin’; anyways you was down and out for the count. Now you’ve come back it aint up to me to throw my chanct away by declarin’ you in on this grub: I’d be a damn fool to do it—I’d be just playin’ agin myself.”
Then he spat in the fire and held the pan over its blaze to warm the slimy mixture.
Carney remained silent, and his host, as if making cut a case for himself continued: “We may be bottled up here for a week, or a month. Two men aint got no chanct on that grub-pile, no chanct.”
“Why don’t you eat it then?” And Carney sat up.
“I could, ’cause it’s mine; but I got a proposition to make:—you can take it or leave it.”
“Spit it out.”
“It’s just this”—the fox eyes shifted uneasily to the little buckskin, and then oack to Carney’s face—“I’ll share this grub if, when it’s gone, you cut in with the bronch.”
CARNEY shivered at this, inwardly;
facially he didn’t twitch an eye; his features were as immobile as though he had just filled a royal flush. The proposition sounded as cold-blooded as if the other man had asked him to slit the throat of a brother for a cannibalistic orgy.
“It’s only ord’nary hawse sense,” Dave added when Carney did not speak; “kept in the snow that meat ’d last us a month. Feeling don’t count when a man’s playin’ fer his life, and that’s what we’re doin’.”
“I’don’t dispute the sense of your proposition, my kind friend,” Carney said in a well-mastered voice: “I’m not hungry just now, and I’ll think it over. I’ve got a sneaking regard for the Tittle
buckskin, but, of course, if I don't get out he’d starve to death anyway.”
“Take your time,” and the owner of the pan pulled it between his legs, ate the slice of baton, arid with a tin spoon lapped up the glutinous mess.
Carney watched this performance, smothering the anger and the hunger that were now battling in him. It was a one-sided argument; the other man had a gun, and Carney knew that he would use it the minute his store of provisions were gone—pei’haps before that. And Carney was determined to make the discussion more equitable. Once he could put a hand on the dictator, the lop-sided argument would true itself up. As to killing the little buckskin that had saved his life—bah! the very idea of it made his fingers twitch for a grasp of the other’s windpipe.
For a long time Carney sat moodily turning over in his mind something; and the other man, having lighted his pipe, sat back against the wall of the cave smoking.
At last Carney speke. “There’s a way out of this.”
“Yes, if a chinook blows up Kettlebelly Valley—there aint no other way. The manna days is all gone by..”
“There’s another way. This is an old worked-out mine we’re in, the Lost Ledge Mine.”
“She’s worked out, right enough. There never was nothin’ but a ieyr stringers of gold—they soon petered out.”
“When the men who were working this mine pulled out they left a lot of heavy truck behind,” Carney continued. “There’s a forge, coal, tools, and, what I’m thinking of, half-a-dozen sets of horse snowshoes back there. I could put a set of those snowshoes on the buckskin and make Bucking Horse in three or four days. He wore them down in the Coeur d’Alenes.”
“If you had the grub,” Dave snapped —“where’re you goirt’ to get that?” “Half of what you’ve got would keep me up that long on short rations.”
“And what about me—where do I come in on> givin’ you half my grub?” “The other half would keep you alive till I could bring a rescue party on snowshoes and dog-train.”
r)AVE sucked at his pipe, pondering this proposition in silence; then he said, as if having made up his mind to do a generous act: “I’ll cut the cards with you—your bronch agin half my chuck. If you win you can try this fool trick, if I win the bronch is mine to do the same thing, or use him to keep us both alive till a chinook blows up.” From an inside pocket of his coat he brought forth a pack of cards, and slid them apart, fan-shaped; on the corner of his blanket.
Carney was almost startled into a betrayal. On the backs of the cards winged seven blue doves. It was the pack that had been stolen from Seth Long’s pocket, and the man that sat behind them was the murderer of Seth Long, Carney knew. Yes, it was the same pack; there was the same slight variation of the wings. In a second Carney had mastered himself.
“I guess it’s fair,” he said hesitatingly: “Let me think it over—I’m fond of
that little cuss, but I guess a man’s life comes first.”
He sat looking into ‘the fire thinking, and if Dave had been a mind reader the gun in his belt would have covered Carney, for the latter was thinking, “There are three aces in that pack and the fourth is in my pocket.”
Then he spoke, shifting closer to the blanket on which the other sat:
“Draw a card, then,” Dave commanded, touching the strung-out pack.
Carney could see the acute-angled wings of the middle dove on a card; he turned it up—it was the ace of diamonds.
“Some draw!” Dave declared. Then he deftly flipped over the ace of spades, adding: “Horse and horse, Bulldog; draw again.”
“Shuffle and spread-eagle them again, for luck,” Carney suggested.
Dave gathered the cards, gave them a riffle, apd swept them along the blanket in a tenuous stream.
cugcu ciuaci LU LIMS IIUUUII ui
blue-doved cards; and the owner of them, a sneer on his lips, craned his head and shoulders forward in a gambler’s eagerness.
Intensity, too, seemed to claim Bulldog; he rested his elbows on his knees and scanned the cards as if he hesitated oyer the risk. There, a little to the right, he discovered the third ace, the only one in the pack. If he turned' that Dave could not tie him again. He knew that the minute that he turned over that card the cave-man would know that he had been double-crossed in his sure thing; his gun would be thrust into Carney’s face; perhaps—once a killer always a killer—he would not hesitate, but would kill.
So Carney let his right hand hover carelessly a little beyond the ace, while his left crept closer to Dave’s right wrist.
“Why don?t you draw your card?” Dave snarled. “What’re you—?”
Carney’s right hand flopped over the ace of clubs, and1 in the same split second his left closed like the jaws of a vise on Dave’s wrist.
“Turn over a card with your left hand, quick!” he commanded.
Dave, as if in the act of obeying, reached for his gun with the left hand; but a twist of the imprisoned wrist, almost tearing his arm from the shoulder-socket, turned him on his back, and his gun was whisked from its pigskin pocket by Carney.
Then Bulldog released the wrist and
TM^nnîanded * ;;^raw that card, quick, or 111 plug you; then we’ll talk!”
Sullenly the other turned the card: aVv m ,mockery it was a “jack.”
•4. Xou, lo,se>” Carney declared. “Now sit bäck there against the wall ”
Cursing Bulldog for a cold-deck sharp, the other sullenly obeyed.
npHEN Carney turned up the end of , Davesu blanket,, and found, as he knew he should, Hadley’s plethoric wallet, and his own six-gun. This proceeding had hushed the other man’s profane denunciation; his eyes held a foreboding look.
ing arney stepped back to the fire, say-
YouYe Tacoma Jack—you’re the man that staked Seth Long to this marked pack.” He drew from his pocket the ace of hearts and' held it up to i acoma s astonished view. “Here’s the missing ace.”
He put it back in his pocket and resumed): ‘That was to rob Hadley,
when you found he was leaving the money in Seth’s strong box while he went with you up into the hills to look at a mine that didn’t exist. If he had taken the money with him he would have been killed instead of Seth. When the game was over that night, Seth signalled you with a lamp in the window, and, when you went in to settle with him, the sight of the money was too m and you Pegged him.”
“It’s a damai lie ! I was up in the mountains and don’t know nothin’ about
You were standing at that back win^be P°l*ce shack when Seth and PLadley were playing alone, and when you shot Seth you were smooth enough not to open the front door for fear someone might be coming and see you, but jumped from the back window.”
Carney took from his pocket the paper templet he had made of the tracks in the mud.
I see from the soles of your gumshoe packs that this gets you.” He held it up.
“It’s all a damned pack of lies, BuIl-> dog; you’ve been chewin’ your own hop. Who s gom’ to swaller that guflf?”
Carney had expected this. He knew Tacoma was of the determined oneidea type; lacking absolute eye-witness evidence he would deny complicity even with a rope around his neck. He realized that with the valley lying twenty feet deep in snow he couldn’t take Tacoma to Bucking Horse; in fact with him that was not the real d'esired point.
If Carney had been a Mounted Policeman, the honor of the force would have demanded that he give up his life trying to land his prisoner; but he was a private individual, trying to keep clean
Continued on page 82
The Seven Blue Doves
Continued from page 78
the name of a woman he had a high regard for—Jeanette Holt. . He wanted a written confession from this man. Bringing in the stolen money and the cards wouldn’t be enough; it might be said that he, himself, had taken these two things and returned them.
E'VEN the punishment of Tacoma J didn’t interest him vitally. Two thieves had combined to rob a stranger, and over a division of the spoil one had been killed—it was not, vitally, Carney’s funeral. Now to gain the confession he stretched a point, saying: “They believe Seth Long. He says you shot him.”
Startled out of his cunning, Tacoma blundered: “That’s a damn lie—Seth’s
as dead’s a herrín’!”
“How do you know, Tacoma?” and Carney smiled.
The other, stunned by his foolish break, spluttered sullenly: “You said’ so yourself.”
“Seth’s dead now, Tacoma, but you were in too much of a hurry to make vour get away. . Dr. Anderson and I found him alive, and he said that you, Tacoma Jack, shot him. That’s why I pulled out on this trail.”
The two men sat in silence for a little. Tacoma knew that Carney was driving at something; he knew that Carney could not take him to Bucking Horse with the trail as it was; the buckskin would have all he could do to carry one man, and without huge moose-hunting snowshoes no man could make half a mile of that trail.
Carney broke the silence : “Yfou
made a one-sided prosposition, Tacoma, when you had the drop on me; now' I’m going to deal. I’d take you in if I didn’t value the little buckskin more than your carcass; I dPn’t give a damn whether you’re hanged or die here. I’m going to cut from that slab of bacon six slices. That’ll keep you alive for six days with a little flour I’ll leave you.
I can make Bucking Horse in three days at most with snowshoes on the buckskin; then I’ll come back for you with a dog-train and a couple of men on snowshoes. You’ve got a gambling chance; it’s like filling a bob-tailed flush—but I’m going to let you draw. If the chin-
ook comes up the valley, kissing this snow, before I get back, you’ll get away ; I’d give even a wolf a fighting chance. But I’ve got to clear a good woman’s name; get that, Tacoma!” and Carney tapped the cards with a forefinger in. emphasis. “You’ve get to sign a confession here in my notebook that you killed Seth Long.”
“I’ll see you in hell first ! It’s a damn trap—I didn’t kill him!”
“As you like. Then you lose your bet on the chinook right now; for I take the money, your gun, your boots, and all the grub"
As Carney with slow deliberation stated the terms Tacoma’s heart sank lower and lower as each article of lifesaving was specified.
“Take your choice, quick!” Carney resumed: “a grub stake for you, and
you bet on the chinook if you sign the confession; if you refuse I make a clean-up. You starve to death here, or die on the trail, even if the chinook comes in two or three days.”
There was an ominous silence. Carney broke it, saying, a sharp determination in his voice: “Decide quick, for
I’m going to hobble you.”
Tacoma knew Bulldog’s reputation: he knew he was up against it. If
Carney took the food—and he would_
he had no chance. The alternative was his only hope.
“Ill sign I got to,” he said, surlily: “you write and I’ll tell just how it hap-‘ pened.”
“You write it yourself—I won’t take a chance on you; you’d swear I forged your signature, but a man can’t forge a whole letter.”
He tossed his notebook and pencil over to the other.
YUHEN Tacoma tossed it back with ' ' a snarling oath, Carney, keeping one eye on the other man, read it. It was a statement that Seth Long and Tacoma Jack had quarrelled over th" money; that Seth, being half drunk, had pulled his gun; that Tacoma had seized Seth’s hand across the table, and in the struggle Seth had been shot with his own gun.
Carney closed his note book, and put
it in his pocket, saying: “This may
be true, Tacoma, or it may not. Personally, I’ve got what I want. If you're laughing -down in your chest that you’ve put one over on Bulldog Carney, forget it. To keep you from making any foul play that might make me plug you I’m going to hobble you. When I pull out in the morning I’ll turn you loose.”
Carney was an artist at twisting a rope securely about a man, and Tacoma placed in the helpless condition of a swathed babe, Carney proceeded to çook himself a nice little dinner off the latter’s bacon. Then he rubbed down the buckskin, melted some snow for a drink for the horse, gave him a feed of oats, and stretched himself on the opposite side, of the fire from Tacoma, saying: “You’re on your good be-
havior, for the minute you start anything you lose your bet on the chinook.”
In the morning when Carney opened his eyes daylight was streaming in through the cave mouth. He blinked wonderingly; the snow wall that had all but closed the entrance, had sagged down like a weary man that had huddled to sleep; and the air that swept in through the opening was soft and balmy, like the gentle breeze of a May day.
Carney rose and pushed his way through the little mound of wet, soggy snow and gazed down the valley. The giant pines that had drooped beneath the weight of their white mantles were now dropping to earth huge masses of snow; the sky above was blue and suffused with gold from a climbing sun. Rocks on the hillside thrust through the white sheet black, wet, gnarled faces, and in the bottom of the valley the stream was gorged with snowwater.
A hundred yards down the trail, where a huge snow-bank leaned against a cliff, the head and neck of a horse stood stiff and rigid out of the white mass. About the neck was a leather strap, from which hung a cow-bell. It was Tacoma’s cayuse frozen stiff, and the bell was the bell that Carney had heard as he was slipping, off into dreamland behind the little buckskin.
CARNEY turned back to where the other man lay, his furtive eyes peeping out from above his blanket— they were like rat eyes.
“You win your bet, Tacoma,” Carney said, “the chinook is here.”
Tacoma had known; he had smelt it; but he had lain there, fear in his heart that now. when it was possible, Bulldog would take him in to Bucking Horse.
“The bargain stands, don’t it, Bulldog?” he asked: “I win on the chinook, don’t I?”
“You do. Tacoma. Bulldog Carney’s stock in trade is that he keeps his word.”
“Yes, I’ve heerd you was some man, Bulldog. If I’d knew you’d pulled into Buckin’ Horse that day, and was in the game, I guess I’d a-played mv hand cif’rent—p’raps it’s kind of lucky for you I didn’t know all that when I drug you in out of the blizzard.”
Carney waited a day for the snow to melt before the hot chinook. It was just before he left that Tacoma asked, like a boy begging for a bite from an apple: “Will you give me back them
cards, Bulldog?—I’d be kind of lost when I'm alone if J didn’t have ’em to riffle.”
“If I gave you the cards, Tacoma, you’d never make the border; Oregon ig waiting down at Big-horn to rope a man with a pack of cards in his pocket that’s got seven blue doves on the back; and I’m not going to cold-deck you. After you pass Oregon you take your own chances of them getting you.”