The Bandit of Hell’s Bend

Chapter II

The Holdup

Edgar Rice Burroughs

AFTER BREAKFAST the following morning the men were saddling-up listlessly for the day’s work. There was no foreman now and they were hanging about waiting for the boss. Bull sat on the top rail of the corral, idle. He was out of a job. His fellows paid little or no attention to him, but whether from motives of consideration for his feelings, or because they were not interested in him or his troubles a casual observer could not have deduced from their manner.

Unquestionably he had friends among them, but he was a taciturn man and, like all such, did not make friends quickly. Undemonstrative himself, he aroused no show of demonstration in others. His straight black hair, and rather high cheek bones, coupled with a tanned skin, gave him something the appearance of an Indian, a similarity that was further heightened by his natural reserve, while a long, red scar across his jaw accentuated a suggestion of grimness that his countenance possessed in repose.

Texas Pete, saddling his pony directly below him in the corral, was starting the day with a new song.

“I stood at the bar, at The Spread Eagle Bar,
A-drinkin’ a drink whilst I smoked a seegar

“Quittin’, Bull?” he inquired, looking up at the ex-foreman.

“Reckon so,” came the reply.

“When in walks a gent thet I ain’t never see
An’ he lets out a beller an’ then says, says he:”

Texas Pete swung easily into his saddle. “Reckon as how I’ll be pullin’ my freight, too,” he announced. “I been aimin’ to do thet for quite a spell. Where’ll we head fer?”

Bull’s eyes wandered to the front of the ranch house, and as they did so they beheld “the old man” emerging from the office. Behind him came his daughter Diana and Hal Colby. The latter were laughing and talking gaily. Bull could not but notice how close the man leaned toward the girl’s face. What an easy way Colby had with people—especially women.

“Well,” demanded Texas Pete, “if you’re comin’ why don’t you saddle up?”

“Reckon I’ve changed my mind.”

Texas Pete glanced toward the ranch house, following the direction of the other’s eyes, and shrugged his shoulders.

“O, well,” he said, “this ain’t a bad place. Reckon as how I’ll stay on, too, fer a spell.”

Elias Henders and Hal Colby were walking slowly in the direction of the horse corral. The girl had turned and reentered the house. The two men entered the corral and as they did so Bull descended from the fence and approached Henders.

“You don’t happen to need no hands, do you?” he asked the older man.

“I can use you, Bull,” replied Henders with a faint smile. “Thirty-five a month and found.”

The former foreman nodded in acceptance of the terms and, walking toward the bunch of horses huddled at one side of the corral, whistled. Instantly Blazes’ head came up above those of the other animals. With up-pricked ears he regarded his owner for a moment, and then, shouldering his way through the bunch, he walked directly to him.

Elias Henders stopped in the center of the corral and attracted the attention of the men. “Colby here,” he announced, “is the new foreman.”

That was all. There was a moment’s embarrassed silence and then the men resumed their preparations for the work of the day, or, if they were ready, lolled in their saddles rolling cigarettes. Colby went among them assigning the various duties for the day—pretty much routine work with which all were familiar.

“And you, Bull,” he said when he reached the ex-foreman, “I wish you’d ride up to the head of Cottonwood Canyon and see if you can see anything of that bunch of Crazy J cows—I ain’t seen nothin’ of ’em for a week or more.”

It was the longest, hardest assignment of the day, but if Bull was dissatisfied with it he gave no indication. As a matter of fact he probably was content, for he was a hard rider and he liked to be off alone. A trait that had always been a matter for comment and some conjecture.

More than one had asked himself or a neighbor what Bull found to do that took him off by himself so often. There are those who cannot conceive that a man can find pleasure in his own company, or in that of a good horse and the open.

The mouth of Cottonwood Canyon lay a good twenty miles from the ranch and the head of it five miles of rough going farther. It was ten o’clock when Bull suddenly drew rein beside the lone cottonwood that marked the entrance to the canyon and gave it its name.

He sat motionless, listening intently. Faintly, from far up the canyon, came the staccato of rifle shots. How far it was difficult to judge, for the walls of a winding canyon quickly absorb sound. Once convinced—of the direction of their origin, however, the man urged his pony into a gallop, turning his head up the canyon.


As the last of the cow hands loped away from the ranch upon the business of the day Elias Henders turned back toward the office, while Hal Colby caught up two ponies which he saddled and bridled, humming meanwhile a gay little tune. Mounting one, he rode toward the ranch house, leading the other, just as Diana Henders emerged from the interior, making it apparent for whom the led horse was intended.

Taking the reins from Colby, the girl swung into the saddle like a man, and she sat her horse like a man, too, and yet, though she could ride with the best of them, and shoot with the best of them, there was nothing coarse or common about her. Some of the older hands had known her since childhood, yet even that fact, coupled with the proverbial freedom of the eighties in Arizona, never permitted them the same freedom with Diana Henders that most of the few girls in that wild country either overlooked or accepted as a matter of course.

Men did not curse in Diana’s presence, nor did they throw an arm across her slim shoulders, or slap her upon the back in good fellowship, and yet they all worshipped her, and most of them had been violently in love with her. Something within her, inherently fine and noble, kept them at a distance, or rather in their places, for only those men who were hopelessly bashful ever remained at a distance from Diana where there was the slightest chance to be near her.

The men often spoke of her as a thoroughbred, sensing, perhaps, the fine breeding that made her what she was. Elias Henders was one of the Henders of Kentucky, and, like all the males of his line for generations, held a degree from Oxford, which he had entered after graduation from the beloved alma mater of his native state, for the very excellent reason that old Sir John Henders, who had established the American branch of the family, had been an Oxford man and had seen his son and his grandson follow his footsteps.

Twenty-five years before Elias Henders had come west with John Manill, a class-mate and neighbor of Kentucky, and the two young men had entered the cattle business. Their combined capital managed to keep them from the embarrassments and annoyances of a sheriffs sale for some three years, but what with raiding Apaches, poor rail facilities and a distant market, coupled with inexperience, they were at last upon the very brink of bankruptcy when Henders discovered gold on their property. Two years later they were rich men.

Henders returned to Kentucky and married Manill’s sister, and shortly afterwards moved to New York, as it was decided that the best interests of the partnership required an eastern representative. Manill remained in Arizona.

Diana Henders was born in New York City, and when she was about five years old her mother contracted tuberculosis of the lungs. Physicians advising a dry climate, Henders and Manill changed places, Henders taking his family to Arizona and Manill removing to New York with his wife and little daughter. He had married beneath him and unhappily with the result that being both a proud and rather reserved man he had confided nothing to his sister, the wife of his partner and best friend.

When Diana was fifteen her mother had died, and the girl, refusing to leave her father, had abandoned the idea of finishing her education in an eastern college, and Elias Henders, loath to give her up, had acquiesced in her decision. Qualified by education as he was to instruct her, Diana’s training had been carried on under the tutorage of her father, so that at nineteen, though essentially a frontier girl unversed in many of the finer artificialities of social usage, she was yet a young woman of culture and refinement. Her music, which was the delight of her father, she owed to the careful training of her mother as well as to the possession of a grand piano that had come over Raton Pass behind an ox team in the seventies.

Her father, her books, her music and her horses constituted the life of this young girl; her social companions the young vaqueros who rode for her father, and without at least one of whom she was not permitted to ride abroad, since the Apaches were still a menace in the Arizona of that day.

And so it was that this morning she rode out with the new foreman. They walked their horses in silence for a few minutes, the man’s stirrup just behind that of the girl, where he might let his eyes rest upon her profile without detection. The heavy-lashed eye, the short, straight nose, the patrician mouth and chin held the adoring gaze of the young foreman in mute worship; but it was he who, at length, broke the silence.

“You ain’t congratulated me yet, Di, “ he said, “or maybe you didn’t know?”

“Yes, I knew,” she replied, “and I do congratulate you; but I cannot forget that your fortune means another man’s sorrow.”

“It’s his own fault. A man that can’t keep sober can’t be trusted with a job like this.”

“He was a good foreman.”

“Maybe so—I ain’t sayin’ nothin’ about a man that’s down. It seems to me you set a lot of store by him, though; and what do you know about him? You can’t be too careful, Di. There’s lots of bad ’uns in these parts and when a feller never talks none, like him, it’s probably because he’s got something on his mind he don’t want to talk about.”

“I thought he was your friend,” said the girl.

Colby flushed. “He is my friend. I set a lot of store by Bull; but it’s you I’m thinkin’ of—not him or me. I wouldn’t want nothin’ to happen that you’d have to be sorry about.’ .’

“I don’t understand you, Hal.”

He flecked the leg of his chaps with the lash of his quirt. “Oh, pshaw, Di,” he parried, “I don’t want to say nothin’ about a friend. I only want to put you on your guard, that’s all. You know there ain’t nothin’ I wouldn’t do for you—no, not even if it cost me all the friends I got.”

He passed his reins to his right hand and reaching across laid his left across one of hers, which she quickly withdrew.

“Please don’t,” she begged.

“I love you, Di,” he blurted suddenly.

The girl laughed gaily, though not in derision. “All the men think they do. It’s because I’m the only girl within miles and miles.”

“You’re the only girl in the world—for me.”

She turned and looked at him quizzically. He was very handsome. That and his boyish, laughing manner had attracted her to him from the first. There had seemed a frankness and openness about him that appealed to her, and of all the men she knew, only excepting her father, he alone possessed anything approximating poise and selfconfidence in his intercourse with women. The others were either shy and blundering, or loud and coarse, or taciturn sticks like Bull, who seemed to be the only man on the ranch who was not desperately in love with her.

“We’ll talk about something else,” she announced.

“Isn’t there any hope for me?” he asked.

“Why yes,” she assured him. “I hope you will keep on loving me. I love to have people love me.”

“But I don’t want to do all the loving,” he insisted.

“Don’t worry—you’re not. Even the cook is writing poems about me. Of all the foolish men I ever heard of Dad has certainly succeeded in corraling the prize bunch.”

“I don’t care a hang about that red-headed old fool of a cook,” he snapped. “What I want is for you to love me.”

“Oh, well, that’s a horse of another color. Now we will have to change the subject.”

“Please, Di, I’m in earnest,” he pleaded; “won’t you give me a little to hope for?”

“You never can tell about a girl, Hal,” she said.

Her voice was tender and her eyes suddenly soft, and that was as near a promise as he could get.


As Bull urged Blazes up the rough trail of Cottonwood Canyon the continued crack of rifles kept the man apprised of the direction of the origin of the sounds and approximately of their ever lessening distance ahead. Presently he drew rein and, pulling his rifle from its boot, dismounted, dropping the reins upon the ground.

“Stand!” he whispered to Blazes and crept forward stealthily.

The shooting was close ahead now just around the brush-covered shoulder of a rocky hill. The detonations were less frequent. Bull guessed that by now both hunters and hunted were under cover and thus able to take only occasional pot shots at one another’s refuse.

To come upon them directly up the trail in the bottom of the canyon would have been to expose himself to the fire of one side, and possibly of both, for in this untamed country it was easily conceivable that both sides of the controversy might represent interests inimical to those of his employer. With this idea in mind the ex-foreman of the Bar Y Ranch clambered cautiously up the steep side of the hill that hid from his view that part of the canyon lying just beyond.

From the varying qualities of the detonations the man had deduced that five and possibly six rifles were participating in the affair. How they were divided he could not even guess. He would have a look over the crest of the hog-back and if the affair was none of his business he would let the participants fight it out by themselves. Bull, sober, was not a man to seek trouble.

Climbing as noiselessly as possible and keeping the muzzle of his rifle ahead of him he came presently to the crest of the narrow ridge where he pushed his way cautiously through the brush toward the opposite side, passing around an occasional huge outcropping of rock that barred his progress. Presently the brush grew thinner. He could see the opposite wall of the canyon.

A sharp report sounded close below him, just over the brow of the ridge. In front of him a huge outcropping reared its weather-worn surface twenty feet above the brush.

Toward this he crept until he lay concealed behind it. Then, warily, he peered around the up-canyon edge discovering that his hiding place rested upon tire very edge of a steep declivity that dropped perpendicularly into the bottom of the canyon. Almost below him five Apaches were hiding among the rocks arid boulders that filled the bottom of the canyon. Upon the opposite side a single man lay sprawled upon his belly behind another.

Bull could not see his face, hidden as it was beneath a huge sombrero, but he saw that he was garbed after the fashion of a vaquero—he might be either an American or a Mexican. That made no difference now, however, for there were five against him, and the five were Indians. Bull watched for a moment. He saw that the Indians were doing all the firing, and he wondered if the man lying across the canyon was already dead. He did not move.

Cautiously one of the Indians crept from cover as the other four fired rapidly at their victim’s position, then another followed him and the three remaining continued firing, covering the advance of their fellows.

Bull smiled, that grim, saturnine smile of his. There were some red-skins in the vicinity that were due for the surprise of their lives.

The two were working their way across the canyon, taking advantage of every particle of cover. They were quite close to the hiding place of the prone man now—in another moment the three upon Bull’s side of the canyon would cease firing and the two would rush their unconscious quarry and finish him:

Bull raised his rifle to his shoulder. There followed two reports, so close together that it was almost inconceivable that they had come from the same weapon, and the two, who had already risen for the final attack, crumpled among the rocks beneath the blazing sun.

Instantly apprehending their danger, the other three Apaches leaped to their feet and scurried up the canyon, searching new cover as they ran; but it was difficult to find cover from a rifle holding the commanding position that Bull’s held.

It spoke again, and the foremost Indian threw his hands above his head, spun completely around and lunged forward upon his face. The other two dropped behind large boulders.

Bull glanced across the canyon. He saw that the man had raised his head and was attempting to look around the edge of his cover, having evidently become aware that a new voice had entered the grim chorus of the rifles.

“Hit?” shouted Bull.

The man looked in the direction of the voice. “No,” he replied.

“Then why in hell don’t you shoot? There’s only two of them left—they’re up canyon on this side.”

“Out of ammunition,” replied the other.

“Well, you were in a hell of a fix,” mused Bull as he watched the concealment of the two Indians.

“Any more of ’em than this bunch?” he called across to the man.


For a long time there was silence—the quiet and peace that had lain upon this age-old canyon since the Creation—and that would lie upon it forever except as man, the disturber, came occasionally to shatter it.

“I can’t lie here all day,” mused Bull. He crawled forward and looked over the edge of the cliff. There was a sheer drop of forty feet. He shook his head. There was a sharp report and a bullet tore up the dirt beneath him. It was followed instantly by another report from across the canyon.

Bull kept his eyes on the cover of the Indians. Not a sign of them showed. One of them had caught him napping—that was all—and ducked back out of sight after firing, but how was the man across the canyon firing without ammunition?

“I got one then,” came the man’s voice, as though in answer, “but you better lie low—he come near getting you.”

“Thought you didn’t have no ammunition,” Bull called across.

“I crawled out and got the rifle of one of these you potted.”

Bull had worked his way back to his cover and to the brush behind it and now he started up along the ridge in an attempt to get behind the remaining Indian.

A minute or two later he crawled again to the edge of the ridge and there below him and in plain sight the last of the red-skins crouched behind a great boulder. Bull fired and missed, and then the Apache was up and gone, racing for his pony tethered further up the canyon. The white man shrugged, rose to his feet and sought an easy way down into the bed of the canyon.

The other man had seen his action, which betokened that the fight was over,—and as Bull reached the bottom of the cliff he was walking forward to meet him. A peculiar light entered the eyes of each other as they came face to face.

“Ah!” exclaimed the one, “it is Senor Bull.” He spoke now in Spanish.

“Gregorio!” said Bull. “How’d they git you in this fix?”

“I camped just above here last night,” replied the other, “and this morning I walked down with my rifle on the chance of getting an antelope for breakfast. They come on me from above and there you are. They been shootin’ at me since early this morning.” He spoke English with scarce the slightest accent. “You have saved my life, Senor Bull, and Gregorio will not forget that.”

“You haven’t happened to see a bunch of Crazy J cows hereabouts, have you?” inquired Bull, ignoring the other’s expression of gratitude.

“No, Senor, I have not,” replied Gregorio.

“Well, I’ll go get my horse and have a look up toward the head of the canyon, anyway,” and Bull turned and walked down to get Blazes.

Fifteen minutes later, riding up again, he passed Gregorio coming down, the latter having found his pony and his belongings intact at his camp.

“A Dios, Senor,” called Gregorio in passing.

“So long,” returned the American.

At the head of the canyon, where it narrowed to the proportions of a gorge, Bull examined the ground carefully and saw that no cattle had passed that way in many days-;then he turned back and rode down the canyon.

Meanwhile, entering Cottonwood from below, Jim Weller, looking for lost horses, passed Gregorio coming out and, recognizing him, loosened his gun in its holster and kept one eye on the Mexican until he had passed out of sight around the shoulder of the hill that flanked the east side of the entrance to the canyon, for Gregorio bore an unsavory reputation in that part of the country. He was an outlaw with a price upon his head.

“Howsumever,” mused Weller, “I ain’t lost no outlaws—it’s hosses I’m lookin’ for,” and he rode on with a sigh of relief that there was a solid hill between him and Gregorio’s deadly aim. Ten minutes later he met Bull coming down from the head of Cottonwood. The two men drew rein with a nod.

Weller asked about horses, learning from Bull that there was no stock above them in Cottonwood, but he did not mention having met Gregorio. It was obvious to him that the two men could not have been in Cottonwood together without having met and if Bull did not want to mention it it was evident that he had some good reason for not doing so. It was not the custom of the country to pry into the affairs of others. Bull did not mention Gregorio nor did he speak of their brush with the Apaches; but that was because he was an uncommunicative man. ‘

“I think I’ll have a look up Sinkhole Canyon for them hosses,” remarked Weller. Sinkhole was the next canyon west.

“Keep your eyes peeled for them Crazy J cows,” said Bull, “and I’ll ride up Belter’s and if I see your horses I’ll run ’em down onto the flat.”

They separated at the mouth of Cottonwood, Weller riding toward the west, while Bull made his way eastwardly toward Belter’s Canyon which lay in the direction of the home ranch.


Three hours later the semiweekly stage, careening down the North Pass trail, drew up in a cloud of dust at the junction of the Hender’s Mine road at a signal from one of two men sitting in a buckboard. As the stage slowed down one of the men leaped to the ground, and as it came to a stop clambered to the top and took a seat beside the driver who had greeted him with a gruff jest.

The new passenger carried a heavy sack which he deposited between his feet. He also carried a sawed-off shot gun across his knees.

“The Saints be praised!” exclaimed a fat lady with a rich brogue, who occupied a seat inside the coach. “Sure an’ I thought we were after bein’ held up.”

An old gentleman with white whiskers down which a trickle of tobacco juice had cascaded its sienna-hued way reassured her.

“No mum,” he said, “thet’s the messinger from the mine with a bag o’ bullion. This here stage ain’t been held up fer three weeks. No mum, times ain’t what they uset to be with all these newfangled ideas about reform what are spilin’ the country.”

The fat lady looked at him sideways, disdainfully, and gathered her skirts closer about her. The stage lurched on, the horses at a brisk gallop, and as it swung around the next curve the fat lady skidded into the old gentleman’s lap, her bonnet tilting over one eye, rakishly.

“Be off wid ye”’ she exclaimed, glaring at the little old gentleman, as though the fault were all his. She had scarcely regained her own side of the seat when another, and opposite, turn in the road precipitated the old gentleman into her lap.

“Ye spalpeen!” she shrilled, as, placing two fat hands against him, she thrust him violently from her. “Sure, an’ it’s a disgrace, it is, that a poor widdy-lady can’t travel in pace without the loikes o’ ye takin’ advantage o’ her weak an’ unprotected state.”

The little old gentleman, though he had two huge guns strapped at his hips, appeared thoroughly cowed and terrified—so much so, in fact, that he dared not venture even a word of protest at the injustice of her insinuations. From the corners of his weak and watery blue eyes he surveyed her surreptitiously, wiped the back of his perspiring neck with a flamboyant bandana, and shrank farther into the corner of his seat.

A half-hour later the stage swung through the gap at the foot of the pass. Before it lay the rolling uplands through which the road wound down past the Bar Y ranch house and the town of Hendersville on the flat below. The gap was narrow and winding and the road excruciatingly vile, necessitating a much slower pace than the driver had been maintaining since passing the summit.

The horses were walking, the coach lurching from one chuck-hole to another, while clouds of acrid dust arose in almost vapor lightness, enveloping beasts, vehicle and passengers. Through the nebulous curtain rising above the leaders the driver saw suddenly materialize the figures of two men.

“Halt! Stick ’em up!”

The words snapped grimly from the taller of the two. The messenger on the seat beside the driver made a single move to raise his sawed-off shot gun. A six-gun barked and the messenger toppled forward, falling upon the rump of the near wheel-horse. The horse, startled, leaped forward into his collar. The driver attempted to quiet him. The two men moved up beside the stage, one covering the driver and a passenger on top, the other threatening the two inside. The fat lady sat with her arms folded glaring at the bandit. The little old gentleman’s hands touched the top of the stage.

“Stick ’em up!” said the bandit to the fat lady.

She did not move.

“Sure an’ I’ll not stick ’em up an inch fer the loikes o’ yese,” she shrilled; “an’ lucky it is for ye, ye dhirty spalpeen, that Mary Donovan hasn’t the bit ov a gun with her—or that there ain’t a man along to protect a poor, helpless widdy lady,” and she cast a withering glance of scorn in the direction of the little old gentleman, who grew visibly red through the tan of his weather-worn countenance.

The other bandit stepped to the hub of the front wheel, seized the messenger’s bag and stepped down again.

“Don’t move, or look back, for five minutes,” he admonished them, “then pull yer freight.”

The two then backed away up the road behind the stage, keeping it covered with their guns. The messenger lay in the road moaning.

The fat lady unfolded her arms, opened the door and stepped out. “Get back there, you!” called one of the bandits.

“Go to the divil!” retorted Mary Donovan, as she stooped beside the wounded messenger.

The man opened his eyes and looked about, then he essayed to rise and with Mary Donovan’s help came to his feet. “Jest a scratch, me b’y,” she said in a motherly tone as she helped him to the stage. “Ye’ll be all right the mornin’. Git a move on ye inside there, ye ould woman with the artillery,” she yelled at the little old gentleman, “an’ give this b’y a hand in.”

Together they helped the wounded man to a seat.

The bandits were still in sight, but they had not molested her—doubtless because she was a woman and unarmed; but no more had she deposited the messenger upon the seat than she turned upon the old man and wrenched one of his guns from its holster.

“Drive like the divil, Bill,” she cried to the driver, sticking her head out of the window, and as he whipped up his team she turned back toward the two bandits and opened fire on them. They returned the fire, and the fusillade continued until the stage disappeared in a cloud of dust around a curve below the gap, the old gentleman and the passenger on top now taking part in the shooting.

The Bandit of Hell’s Bend - Contents    |     Chapter III - Suspicions

Back    |    Words Home    |    Edgar Rice Burroughs Home    |    Site Info.    |    Feedback