The Bandit of Hell’s Bend

Chapter IX

Lillian Manill

Edgar Rice Burroughs

“YOU SENT fer me, Miss?” asked Bull, as he stepped into the office the following morning, his hat in his hand, his chaps loose-buckled about his trim hips, his two big six-guns a trifle forward against the need for quick action, the black silk handkerchief falling over the blue shirt that stretched to his deep chest, and his thick, black hair pushed back in an unconscious, half pompadour.

From silver-mounted spurs to heavy hat band he was typical of the West of his day. There was no item of his clothing or equipment the possession of which was not prompted by utilitarian considerations. There was ornamentation, but it was obviously secondary to the strict needs of his calling. Nothing that he wore was shabby, yet it all showed use to an extent that made each article seem a part of the man, as though he had been molded into them. Nothing protruded with stiff awkwardness—even the heavy guns appeared to fit into accustomed hollows and became a part of the man.

The girl, swinging about in her chair to face him, felt a suggestion of stricture in her throat, and she felt mean and small and contemptible as she looked into the eyes of the man she knew loved her and contemplated the thing she was about to do; yet she did not hesitate now that she had, after a night of sleepless deliberation, committed herself to it.

“Yes, I sent for you, Bull,” she replied. “The stage was held up again yesterday as you know. Mack won’t be fit for work again for a long time and I’ve got to have someone to guard the bullion shipments—the fellow who came down with it yesterday has quit. He said he was too young to commit suicide.”

“Yes’m.” said Bull.

“I don’t want you to take any chances, Bull—I would rather lose the gold than have you hurt.”

“I won’t get hurt, Miss.”

“You don’t mind doing it?” she asked.

“O’ course I’m a puncher,” he said; “but I don’t mind doin’ it—not fer you. I told you once thet I’d do anything fer you, Miss, an’ I wasn’t jest talkin’ through my hat.”

“You don’t do everything I ask you to, Bull,” she said, smiling.

“What don’t I do?” he demanded.

“You still call me Miss, and I hate it. You’re more like a brother, Bull, and Miss sounds so formal.” It must have been a woman who first discovered the art of making fire.

A shadow of pain crossed his dark countenance. “Don’t ask too much of me, Miss,” he said quietly as he turned on his heel and started for the doorway. “I go up to the mine today, I suppose?” he threw back over his shoulder.

“Yes, today,” she said, and he was gone.

For a long time Diana Henders was troubled. The assignment she had given Bull troubled her, for it was a tacit admission that she gave credence to Colby’s suspicions. The pain that she had seen reflected in Bull’s face troubled her, as did his parting words and the quiet refusal to call her Diana. She wondered if these had been prompted by a feeling of pique that his love was not returned, or compunction because of a guilty knowledge that he had betrayed her and her father.

Hal Colby had told her that morning of the bag of gold dust Bull had displayed in the poker game the night before, and that troubled her too, for it seemed to bear out more than anything else the suspicions that were forming around him—suspicions that she could see, in the light of bits of circumstantial evidence, were far from groundless.

“I won’t believe it!” she said half aloud. “I won’t believe it!” and then she went for a ride.

All the men had left but Hal Colby and Texas Pete when she reached the corrals; but she did not feel like riding with Hal Colby that morning and so she rode with Texas Pete, much to that young man’s surprise and rapture.


The days dragged along and became weeks, the stage made its two trips a week, the bullion shipments came through regularly and safely and there were no holdups, and then one day Maurice B. Corson and Lillian Manill arrived. The stage took the Bar Y road that day and pulled up before the gate of the ranch house just as Diana Henders and Hal Colby were returning from a trip to the West Ranch. Diana saw Lillian Manill for the first time in her life. The eastern girl was seated between Bill Gatlin, the driver, and Bull. All three were laughing. Evidently they had been enjoying one another’s company.

Diana could not but notice it because it was rarely that Bull laughed. It was Bull who stepped to the wheel and helped her to alight.

Maurice B. Corson emerged from the inside of the coach, through the windows of which Diana could see three other passengers, two of whom she recognized as the Wainrights, and then she dismounted and ran forward to greet her cousin, a handsome, dark-haired girl of about her own age.

Bull, still smiling, raised his hat to Diana. She nodded to him, briefly. For some reason she was vexed with him, but why she did not know. Bull and Colby ran to the boot and dragged off the Corson-Manill baggage, while Lillian presented Corson to Diana. Corson was a young man—a typical New Yorker—in his early thirties.

“Git a move on there, Bull,” shouted Gatlin, “or they’ll think I bin held up agin.”

“I reckon The Black Coyote’s gone out o’ business, fer a while,” said Colby, shooting a quick look at Diana.

Instantly the girl’s loyalty was in arms. “He’s afraid to try it while Bull’s guarding the gold,” she said.

“How much longer you goin’ to keep me on the job?” asked Bull, as he clambered to the seat of the already moving coach. “Mack looks pretty all-fired healthy to me.”

“Just another week or two, Bull,” Diana shouted after him as the stage careened away at full gallop.

“Isn’t he wonderful!” exclaimed Miss Manill. “A real cowboy and the first one I ever talked to!”

“Oh, there are lots of them here,” said Diana, “just as nice as Bull.”

“So I see,” replied Lillian Manill, smiling frankly at Hal Colby, “but Bull, as you call him, is the only one I’ve met.”

“Pardon me!” exclaimed Diana. “This is Mr. Colby, Miss Manill.”

“Oh, you’re the foreman—Mr. Bull told me—how exciting!”

“I’ll bet he didn’t tell you nothin’ good about me,” said Colby.

“He told me about your heroic defense of Diana and my poor uncle,” explained Lillian.

Colby flushed. “If it hadn’t ben fer Bull we’d all ’a’ ben killed,” he said, ashamed.

“Why, he didn’t tell me that,” exclaimed the girl. “He never said he was in the battle, at all.”

“That is just like Bull,” said Diana.

They were walking toward the house, Diana and Colby leading their ponies, and the two Easterners looking interestedly at the various buildings and corrals over which hung the glamour of that irresistible romance which the West and a cattle-ranch always hold for the uninitiated—and for the initiated too, if the truth were but known.

“It is just too wonderful, Mr. Colby,” Lillian confided to the big foreman walking at her side; “but doesn’t it get awful lonesome?”

“We don’t notice it,” he replied. “You know we keep pretty busy all day with a big outfit like this and when night comes around we’re ready to turn in—we don’t have no time to git lonesome.”

“Is this a very big outfit, as you call it?” she asked.

“I reckon they ain’t none much bigger in the territory,” he replied.

“And to think that you are foreman of it! What a wonderful man you must be!”

“Oh, it ain’t nothin’,” he assured her, but he was vastly pleased. Here, indeed, was a young lady of discernment.

“You big men of the great out-doors are always so modest,” she told him, a statement for which he could find no reply. As a matter of fact, though he had never thought of it before, he realized the justice of her assertion, and fully agreed with her.

She was looking now at the trim figure of her cousin, walking ahead of them with Corson. “How becoming that costume is to Diana,” she remarked; “and I suppose she rides wonderfully.”

“She shore does—an’ then some,” he assured her.

“Oh, how I wish I could ride! Do you suppose I could learn?”

“Easy, Miss. It ain’t nothin’, oncet you know how.”

“Do you suppose someone would teach me?” She looked up at him, archly.

“I’d be mighty proud to larn you, Miss.”

“Oh, would you? How wonderful! Can we start right away, tomorrow?”

“You bet we can; but you can’t ride in them things,” he added, looking ruefully at her New York traveling costume.

She laughed gaily. “Oh, my! I didn’t expect to,” she cried. “I am not such a silly as that. I brought my habit with me, of course.”

“Well, I suppose it’s all right,” he said politely; “but you don’t have to bring no habits to Arizony from nowheres—we mostly have enough right here, such as they be—good an’ bad.”

Again her laugh rang out. “You big, funny man!” she cried. “You are poking fun at me just because you think I am a tendershoe—trying to make me believe that you don’t know what a riding habit is. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself teasing poor little me?”

They were passing the bunk-house at the time, where the boys, having scrubbed for supper, were squatting about on their heels watching the newcomers with frank curiosity. After they had passed Shorty gave Texas Pete a shove that sent him sprawling on the ground. “Say,” he said, “did you see them pants?”

“I shore did,” replied Pete, “but you don’t have no call to knock me down an’ git my ridin’ habit all dusty, you goshdinged tendershoe, jest because a guy blows in with funny pants on.”

“Did you see the mug on Colby?” inquired Idaho. “He don’t know a ridin’ habit from the cigarette habit.”

“I reckon he thought she was confessin’ a sin,” said Texas Pete.

“Oh, them pants! Them pants!” moaned Shorty, rocking to and fro on his heels, his long arms wound around his knees. Shorty was six-feet-three and thought Kansas City was on the Atlantic seaboard.

Corson’s keen, quick eyes were taking in the salient features of their immediate surroundings as he walked at Diana’s side toward the two-story adobe ranch house, on two sides of which a broad, covered veranda had been built within recent years. He saw the orderly, well-kept appearance not only of the main buildings, but of the corrals, fences and outbuildings as well. Everything bespoke system and excellent management. It was evidently a well-ordered plant in smooth running condition. He thought of it in terms of eastern factories and found it good.

“You keep things up well here,” he said to Diana Henders. “I want to compliment you.”

“Thank you,” she replied. “It was something that Dad always insisted upon, and of course I have carried out all his policies since his death.”

“What are these buildings—they look like cement, but of course you wouldn’t have that out here. The freight on it would make the cost prohibitive.”

“They are adobe,” she explained, “just big, clay bricks dried in the sun.”

He nodded in understanding. “Nothing much very fancy about the architecture,” he commented, laughing. “The only attempt at ornamentation is that sort of parapet on the roof of the house, with the loopholes in it, and that doesn’t add much to the looks of the place.”

Diana thought that his criticisms were in rather poor taste, and there was something about them that vaguely suggested the air of a man viewing for the first time a property that he had only recently acquired—something proprietorial that she inwardly resented. Outwardly she was polite.

“You would think that it added a lot to the place,” she told him, “if you should ever chance to be here when the Apaches stage a raid—it was never intended to be ornamental.”

He sucked in his breath with a whistling sound. “You don’t mean,” he exclaimed, “that they are so bad you have to live in a fortress?”

“They haven’t been on the warpath in any considerable numbers for a long time,” she assured him; “but that parapet has been used more than once since the house was built, and there is always the chance that it may come in handy again. It may not be beautiful from this side, but I can tell you that it looks mighty good from the other side when there are sneaking Apaches skulking behind every out-house. I know, because I’ve viewed it under those conditions.”

“You think there is any great danger?” he asked her, looking about nervously.

“There is always danger,” she replied, for she saw that he was afraid and a spirit of mischief prompted her to avenge his indelicate criticisms of the home she loved. “It is only a matter of weeks, you know,” she reminded him, “since Dad was killed by Apaches.”

Corson appeared worried and his further scrutiny of the house as they approached it was influenced by other than artistic architectural considerations.

“I see you have heavy shutters at all the windows,” he said. “I suppose you have them closed and fastened every night?”

“Oh, my, no!” she cried, laughing. “We never close them except for dust storms and Indians.”

“But suppose they come unexpectedly?”

“Then we stand a chance of getting dust or Indians in the house.”

“I think you had better have them closed nights while Miss Manill is here.” he said. “I’m afraid she will be very nervous.”

“Oh, your rooms are on the second floor,” she replied, “and you can lock them all up tight—possibly you’ll get enough air from the patio. The nights are always cool, you know, but I’d feel stuffy with all the shutters closed.”

“We’ll see,” was all he said, but there was something about the way he said it that she did not like. In fact, Diana Henders was sure that she was not going to like Mr. Maurice B. Corson at all.

As they sat down to supper an hour later Lillian Manill looked inquiringly at her cousin. “Where is Mr. Colby?” she asked.

“Over at the cook-house eating his supper, I suppose,” replied Diana.

“Don’t he eat with us? He seems such a nice fellow.”

“He is a nice fellow,” replied Diana, “but the boys would rather eat by themselves. Women folks would take away their appetites. You have no idea how we terrify some of them.”

“But Mr. Colby seemed very much at ease,” insisted Lillian.

“Hal is different, but the very fact that he is foreman makes it necessary for him to eat with the other men—it is customary.”

“Mr. Bull seemed at ease too, after I got him started,” continued Lillian. “He isn’t much of a talker, but he didn’t seem a bit afraid of me.”

“Bull is not afraid of anything,” Diana assured her; “but if you got him to talk at all you must exercise a wonderful power over men. I can scarcely ever get a dozen words out of him.”

“Well, I guess I’ve got a way with men,” said Lillian, complacently.

“I’m afraid that you will find that Bull is not very susceptible,” said Diana, with just the vaguest hint of tartness.

“Oh, I don’t know,” replied the other; “he has promised to teach me to ride and shoot.”

Diana ate in silence for several minutes. She was wondering already if she were going to like her cousin. But then, of course she was—how silly of her to think she was not, she concluded.

“I met an old friend on the stage today,” remarked Corson, presently.

Diana raised her eyebrows politely. “How nice,” she said.

“Yes, it was. Haven’t seen him for a couple of years. Nice chap, Jefferson Wainright. Fraternity brother. Of course I was years ahead of him, but I used to see him when I’d go down to Cambridge for the games. His governor’s a nice old chap, too, and got a wad of the long green.”

“So he has told us,” said Diana.

“Oh, you know them? They didn’t mention it.”

“I have met them. Mr. Wainright tried to buy the ranch.”

“Oh, yes, I believe he did mention something of the kind. Why didn’t you sell it to him?”

“His offer was too low, for one reason, and the other is that I do not care to sell my interest.”

Corson and Miss Manill exchanged a quick glance that escaped Diana.

“How much did he offer you?” asked Corson.

“Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.”

“Why that seems a very fair price,” said Corson.

“It is ridiculous, Mr. Corson,” replied Diana, “and if you are at all familiar with Mr. Manill’s business you know it as well as I.”

“I am very familiar with it,” replied the New Yorker. “In fact, from your remarks I imagine that I am much more familiar with it than you.”

“Then you know that the cattle interests alone are worth three times that amount, without considering the mine at all.’.’

Corson shook his head. “I’m afraid that way out here you are too far from the financial center of the country to have a very comprehensive grasp of values. Now, as a matter of fact, the bottom has dropped out of the live-stock market. We’ll be lucky if we make expenses for the next year or so, and it probably never will come back to what it was. And as for the mine, that, of course, is about done. It won’t pay to work it a year from now. If we could get two hundred and fifty thousand dollars for this business we’d be mighty lucky; but I doubt if old Wainright would renew that offer—he’s too shrewd a business man.”

Diana Henders made no reply. She was wondering just how much Maurice B. Corson did know about the live-stock market and the mine. She was inclined to believe that he knew a great deal more than his remarks concerning them would indicate.

At the same hour Mary Donovan’s boarders were gathered about her table. She had other guests this evening in addition to her regular clientele. There were the Wainrights, and Bull was there for supper and breakfast as was usual when the bullion came down from the mine.

It was not a gay company. Mack Harber and Jim Welter looked with suspicion on Bull, an attitude that would have blossomed into open and active hostility could they have gained the support of Gum Smith; but Gum was not searching for trouble. He glowered at his plate and hated Bull. Wildcat Bob inhaled soup and hated Gum Smith.

The Wainrights scarcely raised their eyes from the business of eating for fear of the embarrassment of meeting those of the man who had run the elder Wainright off the Bar Y Ranch—an occurrence which rankled horribly in the breasts of both. Bull, taciturn as usual, ate in silence with something of the mien of a lion feeding among jackals. Mary Donovan hovered in the doorway. Bull laid down his spoon, drank a glass of water and rose from the table.

“Sure an’ won’t ye have another helpin’ o’ puddin’ now, Bull?” urged Mary.

“No, thanks, Mrs. Donovan,” he replied, “I’m plumb full.” He walked past her into the kitchen and out the back door. An almost audible sigh of relief rose from the remaining guests.

“I reckon he thinks he owns the shack,” commented Jim Weller apropos of Bull’s exit through the sacred precincts of Mary Donovan’s kitchen.

“Sure, he could have it fer the askin’, the fine b’y he is,” shot back Mary. “Him a-goin’ out to fetch in wood fer me while the loikes o’ ye, Jim Weller, what ain’t fit to black his boots, sits here and makes remarks about him, ye lazy whelp!” Mr. Weller subsided.

The meal over, the guests departed with the exception of Mack Harber, Jim Weller, and the Wainrights who had congregated on the veranda.

“You don’t seem to like the fellow they call Bull,” remarked the younger Wainright to Weller.

“I didn’t say I didn’t like him an’ I didn’t say I did,” replied Weller, noncommittally.

“Well, I don’t like him,” said Mack, vehemently. “I wouldn’t like my grandmother if she shot me in the belly.”

“You mean that he shot you?” asked Wainright.

“The Black Coyote shot me, an’ if Bull ain’t The Black Coyote my name’s McGinnis.”

“You really think that he has been pulling off these holdups?” demanded the elder Wainright.

“I ain’t the only one what thinks so,” replied Mack. “Everyone, ’most, thinks so, an’ ef we had a decent sheriff that feller’d be behind the bars where he belongs, er strung up to a cottonwood in Hell’s Bend. ’Pears to me like Gum was either in on the deal er afeard of Bull.”

“Gum’s afeard of every one,” said Weller.

“Well,” remarked Jefferson Wainright, senior, “when we come over on this side o’ the hills I calc’late as how things air goin’ to be a heap sight different. There won’t be no more o’ this here funny gunplay stuff. I’m a-goin’ to run all o’ these would—be bad-men out o’ the country.”

“You figgerin’ on cumin’ over here?” asked Mack.

“I certainly am. I’m a-goin’ to buy the whole Bar Y out-fit.”

“The Hell you is!” exclaimed Mack. “I heard that Miss Di wouldn’t sell it to you.”

“She ain’t got nothin’ to say about it. I’m a-goin’ to buy it from the man that’s runnin’ that outfit now, an’ he’s a mighty good business man, too.”

“Who’s that—Colby?”

“No, Colby nothin’—it’s Mr. Corson of Noo York. He’s handlin’ all o’ John Manill’s interests an’ he just come here today with Manill’s daughter. We come over on the stage with them. I was tellin’ Corson of the fine airs that chit of a Henders girl puts on, but things is goin’ to be different now. Corson’s goin’ to close out the estate an’ the holdins here is as good as sold to me already.”

The Bandit of Hell’s Bend - Contents    |     Chapter X - Wildcat Bob Goes Courting

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