The Bandit of Hell’s Bend

Chapter XVII

The Black Coyote

Edgar Rice Burroughs

WITH THE COMING of morning Diana Henders’ mind had, to some extent at least, emerged from the chaos of conflicting emotions that had obstructed reasonable consideration of her plans for the immediate future. It had been her intention to ride forthwith to Hendersville and confront Corson and Lillian with the proofs of their perfidy, but now saner reflection counseled more rational procedure. The law now was all upon her side, the proofs were all in her hands. It was beyond their power to harm her. She would continue in the even tenor of her ways, directing the affairs of the ranch and mine, as though they did not exist. When they made a move she would be prepared to meet it.

She spent an hour before breakfast in the office writing diligently and then she sent for Texas Pete. When he arrived she handed him an envelope.

“Take this to Aldea, Pete,” she said, “and mail it on the first eastbound train. I can’t trust to the stage—it is held up too often—and, Pete, I am sending you because I know that I can trust you to get to Aldea as quickly as you can without letting anything interfere. It means a great deal to me, Pete.”

“I’ll git it there,” said Texas Pete, and she knew that he would.

Ten minutes later she glanced through the doorway of the kitchen, where she was talking with Wong, and saw a cloud of dust streaking swiftly northward toward Hell’s Bend Pass, across country in an beeline. Roads and trails were not for such as Texas Pete when speed was paramount.

The day, occupied by the normal duties of the ranch, passed without unusual incident. There was no word from Corson. The next day came, brought Texas Pete back from Aldea, and went its way with the infinite procession of other yesterdays, and still no word from Corson. By this time Diana was about convinced that the New Yorker, appreciating what the theft of his letter must mean to him, had abandoned his scheme and that doubtless the stage that arrived in Hendersville today would carry him and his accomplice back to Aldea and an eastbound train.

Her mind was occupied with such satisfactory imaginings that morning when the office doorway was darkened by the figure of a man. Looking up she saw Gum Smith standing with hat in hand.

“Mo’nin’, Miss,” he greeted her.

Diana nodded, wondering what Gum Smith could be doing on the Bar Y, a place where he had always been notoriously unwelcome.

“Ah’ve came on a mos’ onpleasant duty, Miss,” he explained. “As sheriff o’ this yere county it is mah duty to serve yoall with notice to vacate this property by noon tomorrer, as the rightful an’ lawful owners wishes to occupy same.”

“You mean Mr. Corson and Miss Manill?” inquired Diana, sweetly.

“Yes, Miss, an’ they hopes they won’t be no trouble. They’s willin’ to do the right thing by yo, ef yo moves off peaceable-like an’ pronto.”

“Would you mind taking a note to Mr. Corson for me?” she asked. “I think I can convince him that he is making a mistake.”

Gum Smith would be glad to accommodate her. He said so, but he also advised her, as “a friend of her father,” to make her preparations for early departure, since Mr. Corson’s patience was exhausted and he had determined to take drastic action to possess himself of the ranch, as Miss Manill’s agent.

When Mr. Maurice B. Corson read that note an hour later he swore in a most unseemly manner. He did not divulge its contents to the Wainrights, but he went into executive session with Gum Smith and Hal Colby from which he did not emerge for an hour. A short time later the sheriff, accompanied by a dozen deputies, rode out of Hendersville and some time thereafter Corson, Lillian Manill and the Wainrights drove off in the latter’s buckboard which Diana had sent in to them the morning after their hasty departure from the Bar Y.

The ranch was deserted that afternoon, except for a couple of laborers, the white cook at the cook-house and Wong at the residence. Texas Pete and his vaqueros were spread over a vast principality occupied with the various duties of their calling. Idaho had been left at home, in accordance with time-honored custom, to act as body guard for Diana should she wish to ride abroad, which she had wished to do, and they were both off to the southeast somewhere, in the direction of the Johnson Ranch.

It was a lazy afternoon. The air vibrated with heat. But in one corner of the kitchen, far from the stove, which was now out, there was a cool corner, or rather, one less like inferno. Here stood a long table that had once graced the dining room, and upon it at full length, supine, lay Wong, asleep, his long pipe with its tiny brass bowl still clutched in onedepending hand.

He was aroused by the sound of voices in the front of the house. He opened his eyes, sat up and listened. There was a woman’s voice among those of men, but it was not the voice of “Mlissee Dli.” Wong arose and walked toward the office. He stopped where he could observe the interior without being observed. His slanting, oriental eyes narrowed at what they saw. There were Corson and Miss Manill, the two Wainrights and Gum Smith. Corson was going through Elias Henders’ desk as though it belonged to him. Presently, after having examined many papers, he evidently found what he wanted, for there was a look of relief upon his face as he stuffed them into an inside pocket of his coat after a superficial glance.

The elder Wainright was continually glancing through the doorway with an air of extreme nervousness. “You think it is perfectly safe, Sheriff?” he demanded.

“Of course it is, Wainright,” snapped Corson. “We’ve got the law on our side, I tell you, and enough men out there to back it up. As soon as her men find we mean business they won’t bother us as long as she isn’t here to egg them on, and most of them would just as soon work for us anyway when they find Colby is coming back as foreman—a lot of them are his friends.”

“I don’t see why Colby didn’t come along with us now,” grumbled Wainright.

“He wanted to wait until we were settled in our ownership and then we could hire whom we pleased as foreman,” said Corson. “I see how he feels about it and it will help to make him stronger with the men and with the neighbors if he hasn’t taken any part in the eviction. It’ll be better for us in the long run, for we are going to need all the friends we can get in the county.”

“I am afraid we are,” agreed Wainright. “I hope you will fire that Texas Pete and the ones they call Shorty an’ Idaho the very first thing you do. I don’t like ’em.”

“That’s about the first thing I intend doing as soon as they get in,” replied Corson. “Just now we’d better look up that damned insolent Chink and tell him how many are going to be here for dinner, or supper, or whatever they call it out here.”

Wong tiptoed silently and swiftly to the kitchen, where Lillian Manill found him a moment later and imparted her orders to him.

An hour later Texas Pete rode into the ranch yard with his men. He was met at the corrals by a fellow he recognized as an habitue of Gum’s Place—one Ward, by name.

“Evenin’,” said Ward.

“Evenin’,” replied Texas Pete. “Wotinell are you doin’ here, Ward?”

“They wants you, Shorty an’ Idaho up to the office.”

“Who wants us?”

“Miss Henders an’ the people she’s sold out to.”

“Sold out, hell!” exclaimed Pete.

“Go on up an’ ask ’em.”

“I shore will. Come on Shorty. Idaho must be aroun’ the bunk-house somewheres.” The two men started for the office. At the bunk-house they looked for Idaho, but he was not there, so they went on without him. As they approached the house they saw three men lolling on the veranda outside the office door. They were not Bar Y men. Inside they saw Corson sitting at the desk. He motioned them to enter.

“Come in, boys,” he said, pleasantly.

As they entered the three men behind them rose and drew their six-guns and at the same instant three others just within the office covered them with theirs.

“Put ’em up!” they were advised, and Texas Pete and Shorty, being men of discretion, put them up. While they had them up one of the gentlemen in their rear relieved them of their weapons.

“Now look here, boys,” said Corson, not unpleasantly, “we have no quarrel with you and we don’t want any, but you’re rather quick with your guns and we took this means of insuring an amicable interview. Mr. Wainright, Miss Manill and I are now owners of the Bar Y Ranch. Miss Henders, realizing that she had no claim, has vacated the premises and turned them over to us. We shall not need your services any longer. We shall give you a month’s wages and escort you as far as town, where your weapons will be turned over to you; but I want to warn you that you are not to return to the Bar Y. If you do I shall see that the law takes its full course with you.”

“Where’s Miss Henders?” demanded Texas Pete. “She has left the ranch,” replied Corson. “I do not know her exact plans, but I think she went directly to Aldea to take the train for the East.”

“I don’t know her exact plans neither,” said Texas Pete, “but I know you are a damn liar. You got the drop on me an’ Shorty, an’ we goes to town as you says, but if the rest that you have told us ain’t straight we’re comin’ back agin. An’ when we do it’s a-goin’ to be gosh-almighty onpleasant fer dudes in these parts. Sabe?”

“If you show your faces around here again you’ll be shot on sight,” said Corson. “We’ve got the men and the money to run this ranch as we see fit, and we mean business. The old, disgraceful, lawless days are about over in this country, and there won’t be any place for bad-men like you two.”

“No, Pete,” said Shorty, “we’re did fer, our time’s up, they ain’t no more place fer us ’an a jackrabbit. We’re a-goin’ to hev a new brand o’ bad-men now—the kind they raise in Noo York that wears funny pants an’ robs orphants.”

“Take them to town, boys,” said Corson, addressing his own men, “and then come back here. You’ve all got jobs here on the Bar Y, and one of the first duties you have is to shoot bad-men on sight, if they show up around the ranch.”

Texas Pete and Shorty turned and walked out with their escort, and shortly after, still under guard, were loping away in the direction of Hendersville.


The stage came down the pass with a load of passengers that day and among them was a lawyer from Aldea imported by Corson and Wainright to draw up the papers that would make one-third the Bar Y property Wainright’s and place a hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars in the hands of Corson and Lillian Manill.

At the mine it stopped and took on the messenger with the bullion. Then to the crack of Bill Gatlin’s whip it lurched onward toward the gap, Bill was discoursing to a tenderfoot who had remarked on the dry appearance of the country that he had seen, stretching away as far as the eye could reach, from the summit to the pass.

“I should hate to be caught out there alone,” said the young man. “I’m afraid I’d starve to death.”

“Why that wouldn’t be nothin’,” observed Bill. “That wouldn’t be nothin’ at all. Why back in the seventies when I was ridin’ fer the Lazy H outfit in Montana I was chasin’ a critter one day when my pony stepped in a badger hole an’ after turnin’ three complete somersaults lights plumb on his feet an’ starts across country scared stiff, which would a’ben all right ef it hadn’t a’ben that the last somersault shuck me clean outen the saddle, an’ by cracky it was jest my durn luck that my foot caught in the stirrup an’ that ornery critter up an’ drags me. He was so sceart that he never much more’n slowed up fer three days. Yes, sir, he drug me fer three days an’ nights, an’ all I hed to eat was when he drug me through a strawberry patch an’ all I hed to drink was when he drug me through a river. No, sir, after thet it wouldn’t seem bad at all to be left out nowheres in no country.”

The tenderfoot looked at Bill with deep and reverent awe, but he said nothing. The stage bumped over the uneven road, lurching drunkenly around curves. A masked man waited silently behind the boulders at the south end of the gap. He appeared nervous, turning often to glance back into the chapparal from which he had emerged a few moments before. “I wonder where in hell Gregorio is,” he muttered, half aloud, “he told me last night that he would be here before me.”

The stage drew nearer. Bill Gatlin reined his team to a walk at the first deep chuck-hole at the entrance to the gap. The horses moved slowly, picking their way and sometimes stumbling in the deep dust-filled cavities that made this short stretch of scarce fifty yards the most notorious piece of road within a hundred miles.

The lone highwayman could wait no longer for his accomplice—he must essay the thing alone. He stepped forward to intercept the slow-moving stage and as he did so a noise behind him attracted his attention, and a single backward glance revealed to him a masked man and the familiar habiliments of Gregorio. He breathed a quick sigh of relief, motioned to his accomplice to hurry, and moved forward with the second man now close at his heels.

Bill Gatlin and the messenger were not surprised when the two men stepped into the middle of the gap and held them up. They would have been surprised under ordinary circumstances, but today they had been forewarned that there would doubtless be an attempted holdup on account of the unusually valuable gold shipment, which was being used as a lure to trap The Black Coyote, and they had been warned to offer no resistance since Hal Colby had agreed to take the notorious robber if the matter was left entirely in his hands without any interference whatsoever. All of which pleased Bill Gatlin and the messenger immensely, since it relieved them both of most of the danger and all the responsibility. Not only did Bill Gatlin show no surprise at the appearance of the two masked figures, but, as a matter of fact, he was already stopping his team as they appeared, and had his hands in the air almost as soon as the command left the lips of the foremost of them. As usual the Mexican kept the driver and messenger covered while The Black Coyote approached the stage to obtain the gold, but this time the second robber followed his principal more closely than had formerly been his custom. The Coyote menaced the passengers with his weapons, seeing that they kept their hands elevated, and then with Gregorio on the watch behind him he slipped both his guns back into their holsters and reached up to take the bags of gold away from the messenger.

He had placed one foot on the hub of the front wheel to raise himself to a height that would enable him to reach the precious pouches when his confederate stepped quickly toward him, shoved the muzzles of his guns into The Black Coyote’s back, and ordered him to put up his hands.

“Step down and put ’em up,” he said. “You’re through.”

“Durn my hide!” exclaimed Bill Gatlin. “Hays pretty cute. I thought he was Gregorio all the time. He’s got Bull to rights this time.”

The Black Coyote stepped back from the stage with a growl. “You dirty greaser, you,” he cried. “I’ll get you for this, Gregorio.”

The latter nodded to the messenger. “Get down and get his guns,” he said, and when the man had done so, “Now yank off his mask.”

The messenger jerked the black silk handkerchief from the face of The Black Coyote with a single quick movement, and then stepped back suddenly, his eyes wide with surprise. “Colby!” he ejaculated.

Bill Gatlin almost swallowed his quid of tobacco. “Well I’ll be hornswaggled!” he exclaimed, and then to the second robber, “an’ you was Gregorio all the time an’ I mistook you fer Colby. The joke sure is on me, an’ the drinks too.”

“They are,” agreed the second robber. He shoved one of his guns into his holster and removed his own mask.

“Well now I will be hornswaggled,” murmured Bill Gatlin—“ef it ain’t Bull!”

“Keep him covered,” said Bull to the messenger, “While I get our horses.”

Colby glared sullenly at Bull as the latter walked back up the road to get the horses, but he said nothing. He was still half-dazed from the surprise of seeing Bull disguised as Gregorio, for even to the latter’s guns Bull wore the entire outfit of the Mexican, and when Bull returned, riding Gregorio’s and leading Colby’s animal, The Black Coyote eyed him as though he still doubted his identity.

Bull drew rein beside him and nodded toward Colby’s horse. “Climb aboard,” he said. Colby mounted and Bull tossed the noose of his reata around his prisoner’s neck, drawing up the slack until the honda touched the collar of the man’s shirt.

“Pull yer freight, Colby,” said Bull, and the two started off down the road toward Hendersville. A moment later the stage passed them.

“Want me to stay along with you in case you need any help?” called Bill Gatlin.

“I won’t want no help,” said Bull.

As the stage grew away from them, concealing itself in its own dust, a swarthy rider galloped up to Bull and Colby, reining in a blazed-face chestnut beside them. It was Gregorio. Colby glared at the Mexican.

“You—you—” he shouted.

“Shut up, Colby,” Bull interrupted him. “You got what was comin’ to you. It’ll learn you not to ditch a pal.”

Gregorio had dismounted and was stripping his outer garments and Bull followed his example. As they exchanged clothing and horses they joked together over the days work, which they considered good. Gregorio swung himself into his saddle first.

“A Dios, Senor Bull!” he cried with a wave of his hand. “Perhaps in a few days Gregorio comes out of the hills, eh?”

“I’ll fix that up when I git through with this business, Gregorio,” replied the American. “In the meantime just lay low.”

“And I will work with you for the Bar Y Rancho?” inquired the Mexican.

“If I do, Gregorio. So-long!”

“A Dios, Senor!” and Gregorio wheeled his pony back toward the hills.

“Thet greaser’s whiter’n some white men,” said Bull.

When he trotted into Hendersville a few minutes behind the stage he found that already the news had spread and a crowd, gathered about the stage in front of The Donovan House, surrounded him and his prisoner.

“Durn his hide!” exclaimed one who had been fore most among the posse that had ridden forth to hang Bull only a short time before, “I knew right along ’twarn’t Bull. I allus said they was something shady about thet there Colby feller.”

Bull had but just drawn rein when. Texas Pete and Shorty rode up, safely delivered in town by their escort and having reclaimed their guns which had been emptied of cartridges and dropped in the road at the edge, of town while the escort galloped quickly out of range toward the Bar Y.

Texas Pete had no time for questions. His quick eyes took in the scene at a glance and possibly he guessed the explanation, or caught it from the comments of the crowd, but another and more important matter occupied his thoughts as he forced his pony to Bull’s side.

“Have you saw anything of Miss Di?” he asked. “Is she here in town?”

“I don’t know. Why?”

“She ain’t on the Bar Y Corson says she’s sold out an’ left fer Aldea,” replied Texas Pete.

“Corson’s a liar,” snapped Bull. He turned toward the veranda Of The Donovan House where he espied the proprietress. “Mrs. Donovan!” he called to her, “is Miss Henders in town?”

“She is not, Bull,” replied Mary Donovan.

Bull turned his eyes toward the crowd until they alighted upon a man he knew bore a decent reputation—one who was not affiliated with Gum Smith or his gang.

“Thompson,” he called, “you take Colby an’ keep him ’til I git back. Don’t let Gum Smith git his hands on him, an’ shoot Colby if he makes any funny plays. Git down offen your horse, Colby. Take him, Thompson. Come on boys!” and with Texas Pete and Shorty at his pony’s heels he started on a run for the Bar Y. As they raced along, now neck and neck, Texas Pete jerked his head back in the general direction of Hendersville. “What was it all about?” he inquired.

“I jest runded up The Black Coyote,” replied Bull.


Bull nodded. “I ben suspicionin’ him,” he said, “fer a long time back, but I couldn’t never call the turn on him. Then I runs onto Gregorio while I’m hidin’ out up Coyote Canyon. Him an’ Colby ben workin’ together all along, but it seems lately the greaser’s found out Colbys plannin’ on doublecrossin’ him an’ goin’ south with all the swag. This was to be his last job, an’ Colby fixed it someway to have a big shipment of gold today, so Gregorio an’ me fixes it an’ swaps clothes an’ horses an’ I takes the greaser’s place. Colby never got onto it at all. He thinks I was the greaser plumb up to the minute I yanks off the mask.”

“I thought Gregorio didn’t have no use fer you, Bull,” said Shorty.

“I done him a good turn a spell back.” That was all he said about the fight with the Apaches in Cottonwood Canyon, where he had risked his life to save the Mexican’s.

They rode on in silence for a while. The ranch buildings, nestling among the trees, were visible in the distance when Texas Pete called attention to a speck among the sagebrush far to the southeast. To an untrained eye it was scarcely appreciable.

“There’s a saddled cayuse,” he said. “What fer is it doin’ out yender?”

Bull strained his eyes in the direction of the animal. “Looks like the L-O sorrel Idaho used to ride,” he said.

“Idaho was left home with Miss Di,” said Pete.

As one man the three reined toward the distant pony and with loosened reins tore over the powdery earth, bounding in and out and over the brush like so many nimble-footed jack-rabbits. Blazes, outdistancing the other ponies, reached the L-O sorrel first. Bull threw himself from his saddle and kneeled beside the prostrate form of a man, half hidden in the brush. It was Idaho. As Bull lifted his head he opened his eyes. He looked at Bull in a bewildered way for a moment, the expression of his face denoting a concentrated effort to recall his mental faculties. Then Texas Pete and Shorty reined in beside him in a cloud of dust and profanity.

“Where’s the boss?” demanded Pete.

“What you loafin’ out here fer?” inquired Shorty.

Slowly Idaho sat up, assisted by Bull. He looked at the reins looped about his wrist. He felt of his side and brought his hand away covered with blood.

“I done the best I could,” he said, “but they was too many of them.”

“Where’s the boss, you ornery side-winder?” yelled Texas Pete. “Who’s ‘them’? What hev they done with her?”

“They was all masked,” said Idaho. “I didn’t know no more after they creased me. I dunno what they done with her. Help me aboard thet cayuse, you bow-legged flannel mouth, an’ we’ll pull our freight an’ find her, ’stid o’ sittin’ round here listenin’ to your yap,”

Pete, who had dismounted, helped Idaho, almost tenderly, into the saddle.

“You better beat it fer town,” he said. “You ain’t much good nohow an’ with a .45 between your ribs you ain’t no good whatsumever.”

“Shut up!” Idaho admonished him. “If I was perforated like a salt cellar I’d be wuth two o’ you.” He reeled a little in the saddle, but shook himself and straightened up. It was evident that he was weak from shock and loss of blood, and that he was suffering pain beside.

“You’d better go back, Idaho,” said Bull. “You ain’t in no shape to ride at all an’ I reckon we got some hard ridin’ ahead o’ us.”

“Go back, you damn fool,” said Texas Pete, who, under the cloak of rough and almost brutal badinage, had sought to hide his real concern for his friend’s welfare.

“Go chase yerselves,” replied Idaho. “I’m goin’ with you.”

They wasted no more time in argument, but started a wide circle, looking for the tracks of the abductors. They found sufficient evidence to convince them that there had been upward of a dozen horsemen concerned in the work, which corroborated Idaho’s statement, and that approximately half of these had ridden directly in the direction of the Bar Y, while the others had taken a southerly route. It was the latter trail they elected to follow after Bull discovered upon it the imprint of an iron shoe, and as Captain, being tender in front, had recently had his forefeet shod it was safe to assume that they had taken Diana Henders this way.

They rode fast, for dusk was already on them, and when, a short time later, it became too dark to distinguish the trail from the saddle they were often compelled to stop and dismount, and, upon several occasions, strike matches to make sure that they were still on the right track. Their progress was, therefore, necessarily slow. Toward midnight they lost the trail completely. It was there they left Idaho, too weak from loss of blood to continue.

The Bandit of Hell’s Bend - Contents    |     Chapter XVIII - Through the Night

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