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The Round-Up: A Romance of Arizona; Novelized from Edmund Day's Melodrama

Marion Mills Miller, Edmund Day, and John Murray

  Produced by Dianne Bean. HTML version by Al Haines.


  A Romance of Arizona

  Novelized from Edmund Day's Melodrama


  John Murray and Marion Mills Miller


  I. The Cactus Cross II. The Heart of a Girl III. A Woman's Loyalty IV. The Hold-up V. Hoover Bows to Hymen VI. A Tangled Web VII. Josephine Opens the Sluices VIII. The Sky Pilot IX. What God Hath Joined Together X. The Piano XI. Accusation and Confession XII. The Land of Dead Things XIII. The Atonement XIV. The Round-up XV. Peruna Pulls His Freight XVI. Death of McKee, Disappointed Desperado XVII. A New Deal XVIII. Jack!



  The Cactus Cross

  Down an old trail in the Ghost Range in northwestern Mexico, justacross the Arizona border, a mounted prospector wound his way, hishorse carefully picking its steps among the broken granite blocks whichhad tumbled upon the ancient path from the mountain wall above. Aburro followed, laden heavily with pack, bed-roll, pick, frying-pan,and battered coffee-pot, yet stepping along sure-footedly as themountain-sheep that first formed the trail ages ago, and whosepetrified hoof-prints still remain to afford footing for the scarcelylarger hoofs of the pack-animal.

  An awful stillness hung over the scene, that was broken only by theclick of hoofs of horse and burro upon the rocks, and the clatter ofthe loose stones they dislodged that rolled and skipped down the side.Not a breath of air was stirring, and the sun blazed down from thezenith with such fierce and direct radiation that the wayfarer needednot to observe the shadows to note its exact position in the heavens.Singly among the broken blocks, and in banks along the ledges, thecactus had burst under the heat, as it were, into the spontaneouscombustion of flowery flame. To the traveler passing beside them theirred blooms blazed with the irritating superfluity of a torch-lightprocession at noonday.

  The trail leads down to a flat ledge which overlooks the desert, andwhich is the observatory whither countless generations ofmountain-sheep have been wont to resort to survey the strange worldbeneath them--with what purpose and what feelings, it remains for someimaginative writer of animal-stories to inform us. From the ledge tothe valley below the trail is free from obstructions, and broader, morebeaten, and less devious than above, indicating that it has been formedby the generations of men toiling up from the valley to the naturalwatch-tower on the heights. Reaching the ledge, the prospector foundthat what seemed from the angle above to be an irregular pile of largeboulders was an artificial fortification, the highest wall being towardthe mountains. Entering the enclosure the prospector dismounted,relieved his horse of its saddle and his burro of its pack, andproceeded to prepare his midday meal. Looking for the best place wherehe might light a fire, he observed, in the most protected corner, aflat stone, marked by fire, and near it, in the rocky ground, apot-hole, evidently formed for grinding maize. The ashes of ancientfires were scattered about, and in cleaning them off his new-foundhearth the man discovered a potsherd, apparently of a native olla orwater-jar, and a chipped fragment of flint, too small to indicatewhether it had formed part of an Indian arrowhead or had dropped froman old flintlock musket.

  "Lucky strike!" observed the prospector. "I was down to my lastmatch." And, gathering some mesquit brush for fuel, and rubbing a deadbranch into tinder, he drew out a knife and, rapidly and repeatedlystriking the back of its blade with the flint, produced a stream ofsparks, which fell on the tinder. Blowing the while, he started aflame. When the fire was ready the man shook his canteen. "Preciouslittle drink left," he said. "I wish that potsherd carried water asthe flint-chip does fire. However, there's lots of cactus around here,and they're natural water-jars. My knife may get me a drink out of thedesert's thorns, as well as kindle a fire from its stones. And righthere's my watermelon, the bisnaga, the first one I've found in months,"he exclaimed, going over to the edge of the cliff, above the level ofwhich peered the fat head of a cactus covered with spines that werebarbed like a fish-hook. Its short tap-root was fixed in a crevice afew feet below the parapet. Lying on the edge of the cliff, the mansliced off the top of the cactus, and began jabbing into its interior,breaking down the fibrous walls of the water-cells, of which thetop-heavy plant is almost entirely composed. In a few moments he arose.

  "Now I can empty my canteen in the coffee-pot, sure of a fresh supplyof water by the time I am ready to mosey along."

  He filled the pot, set it on the fire, and then pressed the uncorkedand empty canteen down into the macerated interior of the bisnaga.

  While his coffee was boiling, the prospector continued his examinationof the fortification, beginning, in the manner of his kind, with themore minute "signs," and ending with what, to a tourist, would havebeen the first and only subject of observation--the view. On the innerside of the large boulder in the wall he discerned, the faint outlineof a cross, painted with red ochre.

  Scraping with his pick beneath the rock, to see if the emblem was thesign of hidden treasure or relic, he unearthed a rattlesnake.

  Before it could strike, with a quick fling of his tool he sent thereptile whirling high in the air toward the precipice. But from theclump of cactus growth along the parapet arose a sahuaro, withbranching arms, and against this the snake was flung. Wrapped aroundthe thorny top by the momentum of the cast, it hung, hissing andrattling with pain and hatred.

  The prospector looked up at the impaled rattlesnake with a smile.

  Reminiscences of Sunday-school flashed across his mind.

  "Gee, I'm a regular Moses," he ejaculated. "First I bring water fromthe face of the rock, and then I lift up the serpent in the wilderness.The year I've spent in the mountains and desert seem like forty to me,and now, at last, I have a sight of the Promised Land. God, what amagnificent view!"

  Dropping his pick, he stretched out his arms with instinctivesymbolization of the wide prospect, and expression of an exile'syearning for his native land.

  "Over there is God's country, sure enough," he continued, giving thetrite phrase a reverential tone, which he had not used in his firstexpression of the name of Deity. "Thank Him, the parallel with oldMoses stops right here. Many a time I thought I would never get out ofthe mountains alive, and that my grave would be unmarked by so much asa boulder with a red cross upon it. But now, before night, I'll beback in the States, and in three more days at home on the ranch. Ipromised to return in a year, and I'll make good to the hour. I suredid hate to leave that strike, though, after all the hard luck I hadbeen having. Sixty dollars a day, and growing richer. But the lasthorn was blowing. No tobacco, six matches, and nothing left of thebacon but rinds. Well, the gold is there and the claim'll bringwhatever I choose to ask for it. And Echo shall have a home as good asAllen Hacienda, and a ranch as fine as Bar One--yes, by God, it'll beBar None, my ranch!"

  Out of the sea of molten air that stretched before him, that nebulouschaos of quivering bars and belts of heated atmosphere which remainsabove the desert as a memorial of the first stage of the entireplanet's existence, the imagination of the prospector created aparadise of his own. There took shape before his eyes a Mexicanhacienda, larger and more beautiful even than that of Echo's father,the beau-ideal of a home to his limited fancy. And on the piazza infront, covered with flowering vines, there stood awaiting him theslender figure of a woman, with outstretched arms and dark eyes, tenderwith yearning love.

  "Echo--Echo Allen!" he murmured, fondly repeating the name. "No, notEcho
Allen, but Echo Lane, for Dick Lane has redeemed his promise, andreturns to claim you as his own."

  As he gazed upon the shimmering heat waves which distorted anddisplaced the objects within and beneath them, a group of horsemensuddenly appeared to him in the distance, and as suddenly vanished inthin air.

  "Rurales!" ejaculated Lane. "I wonder if they are chasing Apaches?That infernal mirage gives you no idea of distance or direction. Ifthe red devils have got away from Crook and slipped by these Greaserrangers over the border, they'll sure be making straight for the GhostRange, and by this very trail. If so, I'm at the best place on it tomeet them, and here I stay till the coast is clear." Turning to thered cross on the rock, he reflected: "Perhaps, after all, it's a caseof 'Nebo's lonely mountain.'"

  Lane had hardly reached this conclusion before he found it justified bythe sight of a mounted Apache in the regalia of war emerging from ahidden dip in the trail below the fortification. Lane dropped behindthe parapet, evidently before he was observed, as the steadilyincreasing number and loudness of the hoof-beats on the rocky trailindicated to the listener.

  Crawling back to his horse and burro, he made them lie down against theupper wall, and picketed them with short lengths of rope to the ground,for he foresaw that danger could come only from the mountainside.Taking his Winchester, he returned to the parapet, and, half-seated,half-reclining behind it, opened fire on the unsuspecting Apaches. Theleader, shot through the head, fell from his horse, which reared andbacked wildly down the trail. Other bullets must have found theirbillets also, but, because of the confusion which ensued among theIndians, the prospector was unable to tell how many of them he had putout of action. In a flash every rider had leaped off his horse, and,protecting himself by its body, was scrambling with his mount to theprotecting declivity in the rear. The prospector was sorely tempted topump his cartridges into the group as it poured back over the rim ofthe hollow, but he desisted from the useless slaughter of horses alone,knowing that he could be attacked only on foot, and that every one ofhis slender store of cartridges must find a human mark if he wouldreturn to the States alive. "They've got to put me out of businessbefore they can go on," he ruminated. "An Apache is a good deal of acoward when he's fighting for pleasure, but just corner him, and, greatsnakes and spittin' wildcats, what a game he does put up! I must savemy cartridges; for one thing's sure, they won't waste any of theirs.They're not as good shots as white men, for ammunition is too scarcewith them for use in gun practise; so they won't fire till they've gotme dead to rights. Let me see; there's about a dozen left in theparty, and I have fifteen cartridges--that's three in reserve for myown outfit, if some of the others fail to get their men. Those reddevils enjoy skinning an animal alive as much as torturing a man, andyou can bet they won't save me any bullets by shooting Nance and Jinny."

  Reasoning that the Indians would not dare to attack by way of the opentrail in front, and that it would take some time for them to make thedetour necessary to approach him from above, since they would have toleave their ponies below and climb on hands and knees over juttingledges and around broken granite blocks, Lane coolly proceeded to drinkhis coffee, and eat his lunch of hard bread and cold bacon-rind. Afterhe had finished, he gave a lump of sugar to each of his animals, andpressed his cheek with an affectionate hug against the side of hishorse's head.

  "Old girl," he said. "I'm sorry we can't take a parting drink, for I'mafraid neither of us will reach our next water-hole. But you can counton me that the red devils won't get you."

  Then, going to his pack, he undid it, and took out a double handful ofyellow nuggets and a number of canvas bags. These he deposited in thepot-hole, and, prying up the flat stone of the fireplace, laid it overthem, and covered the stone with embers.

  "It's a ten to one shot that they finish me," he reflected; "but thewages I've paid for by a year of hard work and absence from her side,stay just as near Echo Allen as I can bring them alive, and, if there'sany truth in what they say about spirits disclosing in dreams the placeof buried treasure, with the chance of my getting them to her after Iam dead."

  Taking the useless boulders from the edge of the cliff, but carefully,so as not to expose himself to the fire of the Apaches, he piled themon top of the upper wall in such a fashion as to form little turrets.He left an opening in each, through which he could observe, in turn,each point of the compass whence danger might be expected, and couldfire his Winchester without exposing himself. Then he began going frompost to post on a continuous round of self-imposed sentinel duty. "IfI could only climb the sahuaro," he thought, "and fly my red shirt as aflag, to let the Rurales know I've flanked the enemy, it might hurrythem along in time to put a crimp in these devils before they get me.But it'll have to be 'Hold the Fort' without any 'Oh, Say Can You See?'business. Anyhow, I'm flying the rattlesnake flag of Bunker Hill,'Don't Tread on Me!' Whether the Rurales see it or not, I've savedtheir hides. If the Apaches had got to this fort first, gee, how theywould have crumpled up the Greasers as they came along the trail!"

  Rendered thirsty by his exertions, Lane remembered the canteen in thebisnaga, which he had forgotten among his other preparations fordefense. He cautiously reached his hand over the ledge, and securedthe precious vessel, but, as he was withdrawing it, PING! came a bulletthrough the canteen, knocking it out of his hand. As it fell clatteringdown the side of the ledge, he groaned: "Damned good shooting! They'veprobably left their best marksman below with the ponies. No hope forescape on that side. Well, there's some consolation in the thought thatthey'll undoubtedly finish me before I get too damned thirsty. Glad itwasn't my hand."

  Although the period he spent waiting for the attack was less than anhour by his watch, it seemed to last so long that he had hopes that theRurales would appear in time to rescue him. His spirits rose with theprospect. Looking about him at the walls, the fireplace, and the redcross, he reflected: "I am not the first man, or even the first whiteman, that has withstood an attack in this place." In imagination heconstructed the history of the fort. Here, in ages remote, a tribe ofIndians, defeated and driven to the mountains had constructed anoutpost against their enemies of the plain, but these had captured thestronghold, and fortified it against its former occupants. Later, aband of Spanish gold-seekers had made a stand here against natives whomthey had roused against them by oppression. Or, perhaps, as indicatedby the cross, it had afforded refuge to the Mission Fathers, thoseheroic souls who had faced the horrors of the infernolike desert intheir saintly efforts to convert its fiendish inhabitants.

  With the symbol of Christianity in his mind, Lane turned toward thegiant cactus, which he had heretofore regarded chiefly in the aspect ofa flagpole, and saw in its columnar trunk and opposing branches adistinct resemblance to a cross. The plant was dead, and dry as punk.Suddenly there flashed into his mind a hideous suggestion. More cruelthan even the Romans, the inventors of crucifixion, the Apaches arewont to bind their captives to these dead cacti, which supply at oncescourging thorns, binding stake, and consuming fuel, and, kindling afire at the top, leave it to burn slowly down to the victim, and, longbefore it despatches him, to twist his body and limbs into what appearto the Apache sense of humor to be exquisitely ludicrous contortions.

  With his mind occupied by these horrible apprehensions, Lane looked atthe rattlesnake upon the sahuaro whose struggles by this time haddiminished to a movement of the tail.

  "Poor old rattler," he thought. "I wish I could spare a cartridge toput you out of your misery."

  At length, as Lane peered up the mountainside, he saw a bush on a ledgea little to the left of the trail quiver, as if stirred by a passingbreath of wind. He aimed his Winchester through a crack in the wall atthe spot, and when a moment later an Apache rose up from the ground andleaped toward the shelter of a rock below, Lane fired, and the savagefell crumpling. Like an echo of the explosion a rifle on the rightspoke, and a bullet struck the rock by Lane's head. He marked the spotwhence the shot came, and quickly ran to anoth
er part of the wall.From here he saw the edge of an Indian's thigh exposed by the side ofthe boulder he had noted. CRACK! went Lane's Winchester; the leg wassuddenly withdrawn, and at the same moment a head appeared on the otherside of the rock, as if the Indian had stretched himself involuntarily.CRACK! again, and Lane had got his man.

  "Two shots to an Indian is expensive," thought the prospector,"otherwise this game of tip-jack would be very interesting."

  There was a cry in the Apache tongue, and suddenly nine half-nakedbodies arose from behind rocks and bushes extending in an irregularcrescent above the fort, and rushed forward ten, fifteen, and eventwenty, yards to the next cover. Lane did not count number or distanceat the time, but he figured these out in his next period of waitingfrom the photograph flashed on his subconscious mind. At the time ofthe rush he was otherwise occupied. CRACK! CRACK! and two of theIndians fell dead in mid-career. CRACK! and a third crawled, wounded,to the cover he had almost safely attained. CRACK! and aneagle-feather in the head of the fourth Indian shot at was cut off atthe stem, and fell forward on the rock behind which its wearer haddropped just in time to save his life. There was an answering volleyfrom the rifles of the remaining Apaches, which was directed againstthe lookout of loose stones from which the prospector's fire had come.One of the bullets penetrated the opening and plowed a furrow throughLane's scalp, toppling him to his knees. He scrambled quickly to hisfeet, and, hastily pressing his long hair back from his forehead, tostanch the bleeding wound, sought the protection the middle lookout.He congratulated himself.

  "Lucky for me they didn't follow the first rush immediately with asecond. Now I know to wait for their signal. Six, and possibly sevenof them, are left, and they will storm my works in two more attempts.Here they come!"

  The call again sounded. Six Apaches leaped forward, and from the rockthat concealed the wounded warrior, a shot rang out in advance of thefirst discharge from Lane's Winchester. The Indian's bullet scored thetop of the turret, and filled the eyes of the man behind it withpowdered stone. The prospector, already dazed by his wound, firedwildly, and missed his mark. Quickly recovering himself, he fired againand again, severely wounding two Apaches. These lay clawing the groundwithin twenty yards of the wall. The four remaining Indians weresafely concealed at the same distance, protected no less by thefortification than by the loose boulders behind which they crouched forthe final spring. Lane realized the fact that his next shots, to beeffective, must be at a downward angle, and to fire them he must exposehimself.

  "This is my finish," he thought to himself. "Better be killedinstantly than tortured. I hope all four will hit me. Good-by,Jinny"--CRACK! went his rifle. "Good-by, Nance"--CRACK! again.

  At the two shots, surmising that the prospector had shot himself andhis horse, the Apaches did not wait for the signal, but sprang forwardand climbed upon the wall before Lane had had time to mount it. Two ofthem he shot as they leaped down within the enclosure. As he reversedhis Winchester to kill himself with the last cartridge, he noted thatthe two remaining Apaches had dropped their rifles and were leapingupon him to take him alive.

  He brought his clubbed weapon down upon the head of one of them,crushing his skull. At the same instant Lane was borne to the groundby the other Apache, who, seizing him by the throat, began throttlinghim into insensibility. In desperation, Lane bethought himself of thecliff, and, by a mighty effort, whirled over upon his captor toward theprecipice. The ground sloped slightly in that direction, and thecombatants rolled over and over to the very edge of the cliff, wherethe Indian, for the first time realizing that the prospector's purposewas to hurl both of them to destruction, loosened his hold upon theprospector's throat that he might use his hands to brace himselfagainst the otherwise inevitable plunge into the valley below. In aninstant Lane's hands were at the Indian's throat, and in another turnhe was uppermost, and kneeling upon his foe at the very verge of theprecipice.

  Both combatants were now thoroughly exhausted. Lane concentrated allhis remaining strength in throttling the savage. But, just as thetense form beneath him grew lax with evident unconsciousness, and headfell limply back, extending over the edge of cliff, his own head wasjerked violently backward by a noose cast around his lacerated neck.

  When Lane recovered consciousness he found himself lying on his back,bound hand and foot by a lariat, and looking up into a grinning facethat he recognized.

  "Buck McKee!" he gasped. "This is certainly white of you consideringthe circumstances of our last meeting. Did you come with the Rurales?"

  "Hell, no! I come ahead of 'em. In fact, Dick Lane, you air jist aleetle bit off in your idees about which party I belong to. When youdamned me fer a thievin' half-breed, and run me off the range, an' toleme to go to the Injun's, whar I belonged, I tuk yer advice. I'm whatyou might call the rear-guard of the outfit you've jist been havin'your shootin'-match with. Or I was the rear-guard, for you've wipedout the whole dam' battalion, so fur as I can see. Served 'em rightfur detailin' me, the only decent shooter in the bunch, to watch thehorses. I got one shot in as it wuz. Well, as the last of the outfit,I own a string of ten ponies. All I need now to set up in business isto have some prospector who hain't long to live, leave me his littlepile uv dust an' nuggets, an' the claims he's located back in themountains. You look a leetle mite like the man. It'll save vallibletime if you make yer dear friend, Buck McKee, administrater uv yerestate without too much persuadin'. You had some objection oncet to myslittin' a calf's tongue. Well, you needn't be scared just yet.That's the last thing I'll do to you. Come, where's your cache? Iknow you've got one hereabouts, fer I foun' signs of the dust in yourpack."

  Lane set his teeth in a firm resolutions not to say a word. The tauntsof his captor were harder to bear in silence than the prospects oftorture.

  "Stubborn, hey? Well, we'll try a little 'Pache persuadin'." And therenegade dragged his helpless captive up to the thorny sahuaro, andbound his back against it with the dead horse's bridle. McKee searchedthrough Lane's pockets until he found a match.

  "Last one, hey? Kinder 'propriate. Las' drink from the old canteen,las' ca'tridge, last look at the scenery, and las' will an' testyment.Oh, time's precious, but I'll spare you enough to map out in yer mindjes' where them claims is located. The Rurales won't be along fer anhour yet, if they hain't turned back after our other party."

  McKee pulled off Lane's boots. "It 'ain't decent fer a man to die with'em on," he said. He then kindled a fire on the stone, beneath which,if he but knew it, lay the treasure he sought. He returned with aburning brand to the captive. For the first time he observed the snakeimpaled on the sahuaro, writhing but feebly. "Hullo, ole rattler," heexclaimed; "here's somethin' to stir you up;" and he tossed the brandupon the top of the cactus.

  Taking another burning stick from the fire, he applied it to the solesof his victim's feet. Lane writhed and groaned under the excruciatingtorture, but uttered no word or cry. McKee brought other brands, andbegan piling them about his captive's feet.

  In the meantime the sahuaro had caught fire at the top, and was burningdown through the interior. A thin column of smoke rose straight aboveit in the still air. The Rurales in the valley below, who had reachedthe beginning of the ascending trail, and were on the point of givingup the pursuit, saw the smoke, and, inferred that the Apaches, eitherthrough overconfidence or because of their superstitious fear of themountains, which they supposed inhabited by spirits, had camped on theedge of the valley, and were signaling to their other party.Accordingly the Mexicans renewed the chase with increased vigor.

  As McKee bent over his captive's feet, piling against them the burningends of the sticks, the rattlesnake on the sahuaro, incited by the fireabove, struggled free from the impaling thorns by a desperate effort,and dropped on the back of the half-breed. It struck its fangs intohis neck. McKee, springing up with an energy that scattered the stickshe was piling, tore the reptile loose, hurled it upon the ground, andstamped it into the earth. Then he pi
cked up one of the brands andwith it cauterized the wound. All the while he was cursingvolubly--the snake, himself, and even Dick Lane, who was now lying in adead faint caused by the torture.

  "Damn such a prospector! Not a drop of whisky in his outfit! I'd slithis tongue fer him if he wasn't already done fer. I must keepmovin'--movin', or I'm a dead man. I must hustle along to themountains, leadin' my horse. Up there I'll find yarbs to curesnake-bite that my Cherokee grandmother showed me. The Rurales willhave to get the other ponies but some day I'll come back after Lane'scache."

  A half-hour later the Mexican guards appeared upon the scene, andunbound Lane's unconscious form from the sahuaro, which the fire hadconsumed to a foot of his bowed head. They deluged his face and back,and bathed his tortured feet with the contents of their canteens, andbrought him back to life, but, alas! not to reason.

  Six months later there limped out of Chihuahua hospital a dischargedpatient, wry-necked, crook-backed, with drawn features, and hair andbeard streaked with gray. It was Dick Lane, restored to old physicalstrength, so far as the distortion of his spine, caused by his torture,permitted, and to the full possession of his mental faculties. Hemounted one of the captured ponies, and rode off with the proceeds ofthe sales of the others in his pocket, to purchase provisions for areturn to his prospecting.

  Before plunging into the wilderness he wrote a letter:

  Chihuahua, Mexico

  "Mr. John Payson, "Sweetwater Ranch, "Florence, Arizona Territory, U.S.A.

  "Dear Jack: I have been sick and out of my head in the hospital herefor the last six months. Just about the time you all were expecting mehome, I had a run in with the Apaches. And who do you think was withthem? Buck McKee, the half-breed that I ran off the range two yearsago for tongue-slitting. After I had done for all the rest, he got me,and--well, the story's too long to write. I rather think McKee hasmade off with the gold I had cached just before the fight. I'm goingback to see, and if he did, I'll hustle around to find a buyer for oneof my claims. I don't want to sell my big mine, Jack. I tell you Istruck it rich!--but that story can wait till I get back. Your loancan't, though, so expect to receive $3,000 by express some time beforeI put in an appearance. I hope you got the mortgage renewed at the endof the year. If my failure to show up then has caused you trouble,you'll forgive me, old fellow, I know, under the circumstances. I'llmake it up to you. I owe you everything. You're the best friend a manever had. That's why I'm writing to you instead of to Uncle Jim, for Iwant you to do me another friendly service. Just break it gently toEcho Allen that I'm alive and well though pretty badly damaged by thatrenegade McKee and tell her that it wasn't my fault I wasn't home theday I promised. She'll forgive me, I know, and be patient a whilelonger. It's all for her sake I'm staying away. Give her the letter Ienclose.

  "Your old bunkie, Dick Lane"