CHAPTER X - “A DAMNED POOR APOLOGY FOR A MAN”
The big cattleman from New Mexico
who was talking with the owner of the A T O threw
his leg across the arm of the chair. “The
grass is good on the Pecos this year. Up in Mexico
the cattle look fine.”
“Same here,” agreed Wadley.
“I’m puttin’ ten thousand yearlin’s
on the Canadian.”
A barefoot negro boy appeared at his
elbow with a note. The owner of the A T O ripped
open the envelope and read:
Dear Mr. Wadley:
I was held up last night
by masked men and robbed. They took the
too sick to go farther.
The jaw of the Texas cattleman clamped.
He rose abruptly. “I got business on hand.
A messenger of mine has been robbed of six thousand
dollars.” He turned to the colored boy.
“Where’s the man who gave you this?”
“At the Buffalo Corral, sah.”
Wadley strode from the hotel, flung
himself on a horse, and galloped down the street toward
Young Ridley was lying on a pile of
hay when his employer entered. His heart was
sick with fear and worry. For he knew now that
his lack of boldness had led him into a serious mistake.
He had by his indecision put himself in the power
of Moore, and the chances were that the man was in
collusion with the gang that had held him up.
He had made another mistake in not going directly
to Wadley with the news. The truth was that he
had not the nerve to face his employer. It was
quite on the cards that the old-timer might use a
blacksnake whip on him. So he had taken refuge
in a plea of illness.
The cattleman took one look at him
and understood. He reached down and jerked the
young fellow from the hay as if he had been a child.
The stomach muscles of the boy contracted with fear
and the heart died within him. Clint Wadley in
anger was dangerous. In his youth he had been
a gun-fighter and the habit had never entirely been
“I - I’m ill,” the young
“You’ll be sure enough
ill if you don’t watch out. I’ll gamble
on that. Onload yore tale like shot off’n
a shovel. Quit yore whinin’. I got
no time for it.”
Arthur told his story. The cattleman
fired at him crisp, keen questions. He dragged
from the trembling youth the when, where, and how of
the robbery. What kind of pilgrim was this fellow
Moore? Was he tall? Short? Dark?
Bearded? Young? Old? What were the masked
men like? Did they use any names? Did he
see their horses? Which way did they go?
The messenger made lame answers.
Mostly he could only say, “I don’t know.”
“You’re a damned poor
apology for a man - not worth the powder to
blow you up. You hadn’t the sand to fight
for the money entrusted to you, nor the nerve to face
me after you had lost it. Get out of here. Vamos!
Don’t ever let me hear yore smooth, glib tongue
The words of Wadley stung like hail.
Arthur was thin-skinned; he wanted the good opinion
of all those with whom he came in contact, and especially
that of this man. Like a whipped cur he crept
away and hid himself in the barn loft, alone with
From its window he watched the swift
bustle of preparation for the pursuit. Wadley
himself, big and vigorous to the last masculine inch
of him, was the dominant figure. He gave curt
orders to the members of the posse, arranged for supplies
to be forwarded to a given point, and outlined plans
of action. In the late afternoon the boy in the
loft saw them ride away, a dozen lean, long-bodied
men armed to the limit. With all his heart the
watcher wished he could be like one of them, ready
for any emergency that the rough-and-tumble life of
the frontier might develop.
In every fiber of his jarred being
he was sore. He despised himself for his failure
to measure up to the standard of manhood demanded of
him by his environment. Twice now he had failed.
The memory of his first failure still scorched his
soul. During ghastly hours of many nights he
had lived over that moment when he had shown the white
feather before Ramona Wadley. He had run for
his life and left her alone to face a charging bull.
It was no excuse to plead with himself that he could
have done nothing for her if he had stayed. At
least he could have pushed her to one side and put
himself in the path of the enraged animal. The
loss of the money was different. It had been
due not wholly to lack of nerve, but in part at least
to bad judgment. Surely there was something to
be said for his inexperience. Wadley ought not
to have sent him alone on such an errand, though of
course he had sent him because he was the last man
anybody was likely to suspect of carrying treasure....
Late that night Ridley crept out,
bought supplies, saddled his horse, and slipped into
the wilderness. He was still writhing with self-contempt.
There was a futile longing in his soul for oblivion
to blot out his misery.