The Bandit of Hell’s Bend

Chapter XIII

The Necktie Party

Edgar Rice Burroughs

WHEN DIANA HENDERS left the dining room after hearing Corson’s explanation of her status as an heir to the estate of her father and uncle she definitely severed relations with the two whom she now firmly believed had entered into a conspiracy to rob her of her all. The following day she ate her meals in the kitchen with Wong to whom she confided her troubles. The old Chinaman listened intently until she was through, then he arose and crossed the kitchen to a cupboard, a crafty smile playing over his wrinkled, yellow countenance.

“Me fixee—me no likum,” he said, as he returned with a phial of white powder in his hand.

“O, Wong! No! No!” cried the girl, grasping instantly the faithful servitor’s intent. “You mustn’t do anything so horrible as that. Promise me that you won’t.”

“All lightee jest samee you say,” he replied with a shrug, and returned the phial to the cupboard.

“I’m going away tonight, Wong,” she told him, “and I want you to promise me that nothing like that will happen while I am away and that you will stay until I return. There is no one else I could trust to look after the house.”

“You clomee backee?”

“Yes, Wong, I’m going to Hendersville tonight so that I can catch the stage for Aldea in the morning. I am going to take the train for Kansas City and consult some of Dad’s friends and get them to recommend a good lawyer. You’ll take care of things for me, Wong?”

“You bletee blootee!”

That afternoon she sent for Hal Colby and told him what Corson had said to her. Colby seemed ill at ease and embarrassed.

“I’m mighty sorry, Di,” he said, “but I don’t see what you kin do about it. If I was you I’d accept half the purchase price. They got you dead-to-rights an’ you won’t make no money fightin’ ’em.”

“Well, I won’t accept it, and I’m surprised that you’d advise me to.”

“It’s only fer your own good, Di,” he assured her. “It ain’t Lillian’s fault that your uncle done your dad outen the property. You cain’t blame her fer wantin’ what was left to her an’ I think it was mighty pretty of her to offer to split with you.”

“I don’t,” she replied, “and I think there is something behind that offer that is not apparent on the face of it. I am going to find out, too. I’m going to Kansas City to hire a lawyer and I’ll want the buckboard and one of the men to drive me to town after supper tonight.”

“I’m plumb sorry, Di, but Corson an’ Lillian have took the buckboard to town already.”

“Then I’ll go on Captain,” she said. “Please have him saddled for me right after supper.”

She packed her traveling dress and other necessary articles in a small bag that could be tied to a saddle, leaving on her buckskin skirt and blouse for the ride to town, and after supper made her way to the corral after waiting a few minutes for Captain to be brought to the house and rather wondering why Hal had neglected to do sir.

To her surprise she discovered that Captain had not even been saddled, and was, as a matter of fact, still running in the pasture a mile from the house. She went to the bunk-house to get one of the men to catch him up, but found it deserted. From there she walked to the cook-house, where she found only the cook setting bread for the morrow.

“Where are all the men?” she asked.

“They’s a dance to Johnson’s tonight an’ some of ’em went there,” he told her. “The rest went to town. Idaho, Shorty an’ Pete went to the dance.”

“Where’s Hal?”

“I reckon he went to town—I ain’t seen him since this arternoon some time.”

“Did Willie go too?”

“No’m, he’s here sommers—hey, Willie! You Willie!”

Willie appeared from the outer dusk. “Oh, Willie,” said Diana, “won’t you please catch Captain up for me and saddle him?”

“You ain’t goin’ to ride tonight all alone, be you?” he asked.

“I’ve got to get to town, Willie, and Hal forgot to tell anyone to ride with me,” she explained.

“Well, I’ll go along with you,” said Willie. “I’ll have the hosses saddled pronto,” and off he ran.

Ten minutes later they were in the saddle and loping through the rapidly falling night toward town.

“I can’t understand how Hal happened to let all the boys go at the same time,” she said, half musingly. “It was never done before and it isn’t safe.”

“Bull wouldn’t never have done it,” said Willie. “Bull was a top-notch foreman.”

“You like Bull?” she asked.

“You bet I do,” declared Willie, emphatically; “don’t you?”

“I like all the boys,” she replied.

“Bull wouldn’t never have left you here alone at night. He set a heap o’ store by you, Miss.” Willie was emboldened to speak freely because of the darkness that would cover any sudden embarrassment he might feel if he went too far. The same darkness covered Diana’s flush—a flush of contrition that she harbored a belief in Bull’s villainy.

Before they entered Hendersville they became aware that something unusual was going on in town. They could hear the hum of excited voices above which rose an occasional shout, and as they rode into the single street they saw a hundred figures surging to and fro before Gum’s Place. A man stood on the veranda of the saloon haranguing the crowd.

“This business has gone fer enough,” he was saying as Diana and Willie paused at the outskirts of the crowd. “It’s high time we put a end to it. You all knows who’s a-doin’ it as well as I do. What we orter do is ride out ’n git him tonight—they’s a bunch o’ cottonwoods where he is right handy an’ we got plenty o’ ropes in the cow-country. Who’s with me?”

Two score voices yelled in savage assurance of their owners’ hearty cooperation.

“Then git your bronchs,” cried the speaker, “an’ we’ll go after him an’ git him!”

Diana saw that the orator was Hal Colby. She turned to one of the men who was remaining as the majority of the others hastened after their ponies.

“What is it all about?” she asked. “What has happened?”

The man looked up at her, and as he recognized her, pulled off his hat awkwardly. “Oh, it’s you, Miss Henders! Well, you see, the stage was held up ag’in today an’ Mack Harber was kilt—it was his first trip since he was wounded that time. It was the first trip, too, since Bull quit guardin’ the gold, an’ a lot o’ the fellers has got it in their heads thet it’s Bull as done it.

“’Tain’t no sech thing!” cried a little old man, near-by, “’tain’t Bull.”

The speaker was Wildcat Bob. “I don’t like to think so neither,” said the first man; “but it shore looks bad fer him—the fellers is all het up. There ain’t one in thet crowd but what would lynch his grin-maw ef he had another drink, an’ they sure hev had plenty—Gum’s bee settin’ ’em up in there fer a couple hours on the house. Never did see Gum so plumb liberal.”

“He’s aimin’ to get someone else to go after The Black Coyote,” said Wildcat Bob, “or he wouldn’t be so doggone liberal with his rot-gut—he couldn’t git up enough nerve ef he drunk a whole distillery.”

“You think they really intend to lynch Bull?” asked the girl.

“They ain’t no two ways about it, Miss,” said the man she had first accosted. “They’re aimin’ to do it an’ I reckon they will. You see they’re pretty sore. Mack tried to put up a little fight an’ this Black Coyote feller bored him plumb between the eyes. Then he takes the gold, cuts all the hosses loose from the stage an’ vamooses. Thet’s why we didn’t hear oil it ’til just a bit ago, cause they didn’t have no way to git to town only hoofin’ it.”

Already the avenging mob was gathering. I hey came whooping, reeling in their saddles. Not one of them, sober, would have gone out after the ex-foreman of the Bar Y, but, drunk, they forget their fear of him, and Diana knew that they would carry out their purpose.

They were going to lynch Bull! It seemed incredible, and yet, could she blame them? Knowing him as she did she had herself half admitted the truth of the rumor of his guilt before, this, the latest outrage, that seemed to fix the responsibility beyond peradventure of a doubt. For the six weeks that Bull had guarded the bullion there had been no holdup, and now on the very first stage day after he had been relieved the depredations had been renewed.

She recalled the fact that he had been seen with Gregorio on the very afternoon of a previous holdup; she recalled the blood upon his shirt that same day—the day that Mary Donovan had fired upon the bandits; she thought of the bag of gold dust that he had displayed at the bunk-house. There seemed no possible avenue of escape from a belief in his guilt.

The yelling avengers were milling around in a circle in front of Gum’s Place, firing off their guns, cursing, shouting. The sheriff appeared on the veranda and raised his hand for silence.

“Ah’m sheriff yere,” he said. “an as an ahm of the law Ah cain’t permit yo-all to go fen to lynch nobody, but Ah can an’ do invite yo-all in to hev a drink on the house befo’ yo go.”

There was a wild shout of approval and a scramble for room at the tie rail. Those who lost out rode their ponies into the saloon, and as the last of them disappeared, Diana. who had lost sight of Willie in the jostle and excitement of the past few minutes, turned her pony about and rode back in the direction from which she had come.

Just beyond the last house she turned abruptly to the left—the Bar Y ranch lay to the right—urged Captain into a lope and started off through the darkness toward the west. Presently she struck a well-defined trail and then with a word and a touch of her spurs she sent Captain into a run. Swiftly the wiry animal sprang through the night while the beating of his mistress’s heart kept time to the rapid fall of his unshod hoofs.

What was she doing? Was she mad? A dozen times Diana Henders repeated those questions to herself, but the only answer was a monotonous cadence that beat upon her brain, reasonless, to the accompaniment of Captain’s flying hoofs:

They shall not kill him! They shall not kill him! They shall not kill him!

Constantly she listened for sounds of the coming of the lynching party, though she knew that she had sufficient start to outdistance them completely, even had Captain not been the fleet and powerful runner that he was. It was ten miles to the West Ranch from Hendersville and Captain made it in thirty minutes that night.

Diana threw herself from the saddle at the gate and crawled through the bars, leaving Captain on wide-stretched feet and with nose to ground blowing after his hard run, knowing that he would not move from the spot for some time. She hastened to the darkened cabin and pounded on the door.

“Bull!” she cried. “Bull!” but there was no answer. Then she opened the door and entered, fumbling around for a table she found it and matches, striking one. The cabin, a one-room affair, was empty. Her ride for nothing! Bull was away, but they would hide in the brush and wait for him to come back and then they would shoot him down in cold blood, and he would never have a chance for his life. If she only knew where he had gone, she might ride out and meet him; but she did not know.

Wait! There was one chance! If he was The Black Coyote he would doubtless come in from the north or the northeast, for in the latter direction lay Hell’s Bend, the scene of his many holdups.

But it wasn’t Bull—it couldn’t be Bull—Bull, of all the men in the world, could never have robbed her, or killed her messenger.

Slowly she returned to Captain, standing with heaving sides and dilated nostrils. The animal staggered a bit as she mounted, but at a touch of the rein he turned and walked out into the sagebrush toward the north. She rode for a quarter of a mile and then she reined in her mount and called the man’s name aloud.

There was no reply and she turned to the east and rode in that direction for a while, now and then calling “Bull!” her voice sounding strange and uncanny in her own ears. In the distance a coyote yapped and wailed.

She turned and rode west to a point beyond the cabin and then back again, establishing a beat where she might hope to intercept the returning Bull before he reached the danger of the ambush. At intervals she called his name aloud, and presently she halted frequently to listen for the coming of the lynchers.

It was a matchless Arizona night. The myriad stars blazing in the blue-black vault of infinite space cast their radiance softly upon vale and height, relieving the darkness with a gentle luminosity that rendered distant objects discernible in mass, if not in form, and because of it Diana saw the black bulk of the approaching horsemen while they were yet a considerable distance away, and, seeing them, dared not call Bull’s name aloud again.

The mob rode silently now—a grim and terrible shadow creeping through the darkness to lay bloody hands upon its prey. A quarter of a mile from the cabin it halted while its members dismounted and, leaving a few to hold the horses, the balance crept stealthily forward on foot.

Diana, too, had dismounted, knowing that she would be less conspicuous thus, and was leading Captain over a circuitous trail toward the north and east. The girl knelt and placed an ear to the ground.

Faintly, as though at a great distance, she heard the rhythmic pounding of a horse’s hoofs. He was coming—loping through the night, Bull was coming—all unconscious of what awaited him there in the darkness. He was riding to his death. She hastened forward a short distance and listened again. If the sounds should be plainer now she would be sure that he was coming from the northeast.

The self-appointed posse crept toward the cabin and according to a general plan imparted to them by Colby, separated into two sections and surrounded it, finally worming their way close in on hands and knees, taking advantage of the cover of the sage to shield them from the sight of the man they believed to be there, then Colby arose and walked boldly to the door. Knocking, he called Bull’s name aloud. There was no response.

“Hey, Bull!” cried Colby again, in a friendly voice, “it’s Hal.” Still no reply. Colby pushed the door open and entered. Of all the motley crew that followed him he alone had the courage to do the thing that he was doing now. He struck a match and lighted a candle that stood on the rude table, embedded in its own grease in the cover of a baking powder can.

A brief survey of the interior showed him that it was untenanted. He extinguished the light and returned to his party where word was passed around that they were to remain quietly in hiding where they were until the quarry carte.


In the meantime a lone horseman had thrown himself from a half-spent pony in the Bar Y ranch yard and seeing a light in the cook-house had burst in upon the astonished cook. “What in all tarnation’s the matter of ye, Wildcat Bob?” he demanded.

“Where’s Bull?” asked the little old man.

“Reckon he’s over at the West Ranch—leastways there’s where he’s supposed to be, why?”

“Warn’t they a gang o’ the boys jest here lookin’ for him?”


A burst of lurid profanity filled the room as Wildcat Bob explained j ust how he felt and what he thought of himself.

“They set out to lynch Bull,” he explained finally, “an’ I supposin’ o’ course thet he was here got away ahead o’ ’em, an’ now, ding-bust my ornery of carcabs, like as not they already got him over at the West Ranch. Where’s the rest o’ the boys? Where’s Texas Pete? You don’t reckon thet critter’s with Colby, do you?”

“Not by a long shot,” replied the cook. “He’d stick up fer Bull ef he massacreed the whole durn county. So’d Shorty an’ Idaho, but they ain’t none o’ ’em here—they’s all down to Johnson’s to a dance.”

“Well,” said Wildcat Bob, “I done my best, which same ain’t no good. Ef I hed a hoss instead o’ a hunk o’ coyote fodder I’d try to git to the West Ranch in time, but I reckon they ain’t no chanct now. Howsumever I’ll do the best I kin. So-long!” and he was gone.

A half-hour later his horse fell dead a mile north of Hendersville while his rider was taking a short cut straight across country for the West Ranch. It was a warm and lurid Wildcat Bob who plodded through the dust of Hendersville’s lone thoroughfare and stopped at the veranda of The Donovan House some time later to be accosted by one of a group gathered there in semi-silent expectancy.

“The saints be praised!” exclaimed Mary Donovan. “Is it a banchee or is it not?”

“It’s worse,” said Bill Gatlin, the stage driver; “it’s Wildcat Bob-walkin’.”

“Did they git the poor b’y?” demanded Mary, whereat the little old gentleman burst forth anew with such a weird variety of oaths that Mr. Jefferson Wainright, Jr., could feel the hot flush that mounted to his ears fairly scorching his skin.

“Ef I ever gits a-hold o’ the blankety, blank, blank thet loaned me that blankety, blank, blank ewenecked, ring-boned, spavined excuse fer a cayuse I’ll cut his heart out,” announced Wildcat Bob in a high falsetto.

Finally Mary Donovan inveigled the facts from him. “Ye done well, Bob, thet ye did,” she assured him. “Shure an’ how was yese to know thet he wasn’t at the home ranch.”

“I shouldn’t think you’d care if they did hang a bandit and murderer,” declared Mr. Jefferson Wainright, Jr.

“Who in the hell told you to think, you durn dude?” screamed Wildcat Bob, reaching for his gun.

Mr. Wainright sought the greater safety of the office, tipping over his chair and almost upsetting Mary Donovan in his haste. “Don’t shoot!” he cried. “Don’t shoot! I meant no offense.”

Wildcat Bob would have followed him within, but Mary Donovan caught him around the waist and pushed him into a chair. “Be ca’m, Robert,” she soothed him.


As Diana arose to her feet after listening close to the ground for the second time she was assured by the increased loudness of the sounds she had heard that the lone rider was rapidly approaching from the northeast and in that direction she again led Captain, intending to mount once more as soon as she had reached what she considered a safe distance from the cabin and the hidden watchers encircling it. She had forged ahead for about five minutes when the way dipped into a shallow swale in which the sagebrush grew to greater size.

Here would be a good place to remount, and with this intention crystallized she wound downward among the scattered brush toward the bottom, when, rounding a particularly high bush, she came suddenly face to face with a man leading a horse.

“Stick ’em up!” whispered the man in a low voice, presenting an evil-looking six-gun at the pit of her stomach.

“Oh, Bull!” she cried in low tones, for she would have known his voice among thousands.

“You?” he cried. “My gawd, Miss, what are you doin’ here?”

“They have come to lynch you, Bull,” she told him. “There are forty or fifty of them lying in the brush around your cabin now. They say that you held up the stage and killed Mack Harber today.”

“And you came to warn me?” His voice sounded far away, as though, groping for a truth he could not grasp, he spoke half to himself.

“You must go away, Bull,” she told him. “You must leave the country.”

He paid no attention to her words. “I seen a light flash fer a minute in the shack,” he said, “an’ so I reckoned I’d hev a look around before I come too close. Thet was why I was walkin’ when I hearn you.

I was just a-goin’ to leave Blazes here an’ go ahead an’ scout aroun’ a bit. Mount up now an’ I’ll take you home.”

“No,” she said, “you get away. I can get home all right—only I have to go to town. I’m stopping at Mary’s tonight.”

“I’ll ride with you,” he insisted.

She knew him well enough to know that he would never let her ride to town alone through the night and so she mounted as he did and together they followed the swale which ran in the general direction of Hendersville.

“You say you’re stoppin’ at Mary’s?” he asked.

“Just for tonight. I’m taking the stage for Aldea in the morning. I’m going to Kansas City to consult a lawyer. They are trying to take the property away from me, Bull,” and then she told him all that had transpired since yesterday.

“You don’t need a lawyer, Miss,” he told her. “What you need is a two-gun man, only you don’t need him, ’cause you got one already. You go back to the ranch an’ come mornin’ there won’t be airy dude or dudess to try to put their brand on nothin’ that belongs to you.”

“Oh, Bull, don’t you understand that you mustn’t do anything like that?” she cried. “It would only make things worse than they are now. Wong wanted to poison them.”

“Good of Wong!” interjected Bull.

“But we can’t make murderers of ourselves just because they are wicked.”

“It ain’t murder to kill a rattle-snake,” he reminded her.

“But promise me that you won’t,” she urged.

“I wouldn’t do nothin’ you didn’t want done, Miss,” he said.

They were nearing town now and could see the lights plainly, shining through the windows and doorways. “You’d better go now, Bull,” she said.

“Not ’til I get you in town safe,” he replied.

“But I’m safe now—it is only a little way, and I’m afraid they might get you if you came in.”

“Shucks, they won’t git me now thet I know they’re after me,” he replied. “Say, Miss,” he exclaimed suddenly, “you ain’t asked me ef it was me kilt Mack.”

She drew herself up proudly. “I’ll never ask you, Bull,” she said.

“But you wouldn’t hev come out to warn me ef you’d thought it,” he suggested.

She was silent for a moment, and then: “Yes, I would, Bull,” she said in a very little voice.

He shrugged his shoulders. “As I told Pete, ef I had done it or ef I hadn’t done it, I’d say I hadn’t, so what’s the use o’ wastin’ breath; but I shore appreciates what you’ve done, Miss.”

“And you will go away?” she asked.

“No,’m, I’ll stay here. I reckon you need me, Miss, from what you’ve told me, so I’ll hang around a spell. I’ll ride over to the ranch o’ nights now an’ then. Ef you happen to hear a meadow-lark settin’ up late after dark you’ll know it’s me.”

“But I’m afraid they’ll get you, Bull, if you stay in the country. They’re terribly angry,” she warned, him.

“They won’t be so keen to find me after they’re sobered up a bit,” he said, with a smile. “Colby’s the only one thet’s got the nerve to go agin’ guns singlehanded.”

“I don’t see why he hates you so,” she said. “I used to think that he liked you.”

“Then all I got to say, Miss, is thet you must be plumb blind,” said Bull.

Diana was evidently not so blind as he thought her, for she flushed deliciously.

“Now you must turn back,” she said. They were almost in town.

“I will, because they mustn’t see you ridin’ in with me,” he replied.

She reined in her horse and held out her hand to him. “Good-bye, Bull,” she said.

He took her slim hand in his and pressed it strongly. “Good-bye—Diana!” said Bull.

She spoke to Captain and moved off toward the little town and the man sat there in the darkness watching her retreating form until it was hidden behind a corner of The Donovan House.

The Bandit of Hell’s Bend - Contents    |     Chapter XIV - Bull Sees Colby

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